October 28th, 2009
02:43 PM ET

Financial Dispatch: Housing picture remains murky

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/money/galleries/2009/real_estate/0910/gallery.foreclosures_worst_cities/images/mcallen_tx.jpg caption="McAllen, Texas has the fastest-growing foreclosure rate of any city in the country"]

Andrew Torgan
CNN Financial News Producer

It’s a busy day on the housing front, with the latest looks a both new homes sales and foreclosures out. And the latest information paints a somewhat troubling picture.

Foreclosure rates are easing in some of the hardest-hit areas in the U.S, but the plague is beginning to expand into new metro areas.

RealtyTrac today released its list of cities with the biggest foreclosure problems during the third quarter. As expected, towns in California, Florida and Nevada dominated the top 10, with Las Vegas taking the top spot with a rate of 1 in 20 homes.

There was a bright spot though: Half of the cities in the top 10 showed year-over-year declines in their foreclosure rates.

But if Las Vegas was the big loser, Reno was hot on its heels. The No. 9 city posted an 80% gain in foreclosures. And Boise, ID cracked the top 20 for the first time as foreclosures jumped 141%, while Provo, UT rose 120%.

Separately, sales of newly-built homes fell unexpectedly in September after rising for five straight months.

The Commerce Dept. said new home sales fell 3.6% to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 402,000 last month, from a downwardly revised rate of 417,000 in August. It was the first time new home sales declined since March.

One economist attributed most of the decline to the potential expiration of the $8,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers, which is set to expire at the end of November unless Congress takes action.

Unemployment in cities eases in September

While the nation's unemployment rate climbed to a 26-year high last month, severe unemployment in the nation's metropolitan areas eased, according to the latest government figures.

The Labor Department said 117 of 372 metropolitan areas surveyed had unemployment rates of at least 10% in September, down from 129 cities in August. The number of areas with unemployment rates higher than 15% fell to 13 in last month from 16 metro areas in August.

The national unemployment rate rose to a seasonally adjusted 9.8% in September. Economists expect that national rate to rise to 9.9% when the Labor Dept. releases its October jobs report on November 6.

Overall, 133 cities in the report had unemployment rates above the non-seasonally adjusted national figure of 9.5%, while 232 reported jobless rates below it, and 7 areas had the same rate.

Three areas in Michigan posted jobless rates higher than 15%, and Detroit again took the overall top spot among metro areas with 1 million or more people at 17.3%, up from 17% in August.

GMAC seeking yet another lifeline

Will the third bailout be the charm for GMAC?

The troubled auto and mortgage lender is looking for a third round of federal assistance.

As part of this spring's stress tests of the nation's largest banks, the government told GMAC to raise at least $5.6 billion from private investors by November 9. GMAC confirmed Wednesday that it is working with regulators to strengthen its finances.

"GMAC is working with the Federal Reserve regarding the remaining capital requirements related to the stress test results," spokeswoman Gina Proia said. "We fully intend to comply with the requirement for additional capital related to the stress test."

If regulators were to inject enough capital to fill the stress test hole, taxpayers could end up owning more than half of the company. The Treasury Department already owns more than a third of GMAC, thanks to $13.5 billion in capital injections in December and May.

Geithner says more bailout paybacks are coming

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Tuesday he expects a wave of banks to return government bailout money to taxpayers soon.

"It will depend on the institution, but for major banks in the country I think that money will come back relatively quickly," he said.

Speaking before the annual meeting of Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association in New York, Geithner offered few details on when those repayments could happen and from which companies.

Lenders that received taxpayer aid under the Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program (or TARP) have already returned nearly $71 billion to taxpayers, helped by renewed interest by private investors in the banking industry.

Still, some $134 billion remains invested in hundreds of community and regional banks, as well big bailout recipients such as Citigroup and Bank of America.

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Filed under: Andrew Torgan • Economy • Finance
soundoff (One Response)
  1. Mari

    Considering what the Banks have gotten away with, that Wall Street was betting on the amount of foreclosures, and that people bought homes they could not afford....... is anyone surprised?

    We need tough banking regulations now, or we will see this repeated!

    October 28, 2009 at 7:35 pm |