Friday, August 3, 2007

Credit Market Fall-Out #16 – The Problems Have Now Come Full Circle – Back to the Lender

The article in the WSJ discusses how the lenders are tightening their underwriting criteria. The credit market fall-out has now come full circle. First the credit markets had troubles with some of the CDOs due to losses in the mortgage market. Next the investors refused to buy any CDOs going forward without stricter terms. Now this has spilled over into the lending market. If someone will not buy the loan from the lender, the lender will not do the deal.

Jittery home-mortgage lenders are cutting off credit or raising interest rates for a growing portion of Americans, extending well beyond the market for subprime loans for people with the weakest credit records.

This worsening credit crunch threatens to put further pressure on the housing market, where prices are flat to declining in much of the country.

Lenders say they are being forced to raise interest rates and stop offering certain loans because mortgage-bond investors have lost their appetite for a broad range of mortgages considered risky. That includes those dubbed Alt-A, a category between prime and subprime that often involves borrowers who don't fully document their income or assets, or those buying investment properties. . . . .

The fright among investors is forcing lenders to go back to more-conservative practices that were the norm before the housing boom of the first half of this decade. Many now are focusing on loans to borrowers who are willing to document their income, can make a down payment of at least 5% and have a history of paying bills on time.

Alt-A loans accounted for about 13% of U.S. home loans granted last year, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, and subprime loans about 20%. Industry executives have said subprime lending is likely to shrink by more than 50% this year, and now much of the Alt-A market is vanishing too.

This credit squeeze "will further crimp the effective demand for housing, and will make the late summer home-sales season even worse than the dismal spring season," said Thomas Lawler, a housing economist in Vienna, Va.

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