With Ben Bernanke clearly running amok, my spouse and I are leaving no stone unturned in our new determination not to afford our mortgage.
After all, the Federal Reserve chairman leaves us no choice. If he and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC ) have their way, the amount owed on homes by those who clearly shouldn't be in them in the first place would be reduced. But because, as regular as rain, we send off a check to cover the principal, interest, and property taxes on our little grass shack, our loan value won't even be considered for reduction. Such a country!
According to Tuesday's Wall Street Journal, Bernanke, speaking to a gathering of independent community bankers, called on "lenders to aid struggling homeowners by reducing their principal." At the same time, he apparently "endorsed a bigger role for the federal government in backing such mortgages."
It also appears that Bank of America has been secretly lobbying members of Congress for some sort of mortgage bailout. The large Charlotte-based bank is in the process of buying Countrywide (NYSE: CFC ) , the nation's largest mortgage lender, which has been pummeled by the lending apocalypse.
We can only wonder whether B of A will go through with its purchase, if the politicos into whose ears it's whispering tell it "nyet" regarding what effectively is a request for taxpayers' help with the acquisition. But given the nature of Congress, a reaction of that type probably isn't likely. Such a country!
However, Bernanke is apparently treading on ground already being tended to by the private sector -- and without the involvement of your dollars or mine: JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM ) , the best-run of the nation's big banks (in my assessment), has said that it's "begun to review the feasibility of principal reductions for pooled loans."
Nevertheless, the Journal again quotes a study by Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS ) , Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS ) , and a pair of academics to the effect that 7% of home borrowers had negative equity at the end of 2006. A rise to 21% -- assuming an expected 15% slide in home prices -- would push the total amount of mortgage debt "under water" to $2.6 trillion.
But this isn't a purely bash Ben Bernanke piece. My investment takeaway is to underscore for my Foolish friends that, despite halting efforts by the likes of Lennar (NYSE: LEN ) and Pulte (NYSE: PHM ) this year to gain share price altitude, a total solution to housing's woes remains far off in the future.
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