This post by Jill Schlesinger originally appeared on CBS' MoneyWatch.com.
Last week, the housing news was all doom and gloom. Today, the National Association of Realtors said pending home sales ticked up last month. Which is it? Take a clue from Punxsutawney Phil, who saw his shadow today - we have a lot more than six weeks to go before housing recovers.
The Washington Post reports that a wave of foreclosures is about to sweep the nation, causing potential losses at the The Federal Housing Administration (FHA). "About 9.1 percent of FHA borrowers had missed at least three payments as of December, up from 6.5 percent a year ago, the agency's figures show."
The FHA doesn't issue mortgages, but it insures them. The agency ran afoul during the housing boom, when it insured homebuyers who never should have gotten loans in the first place. The unwind of the housing and credit bubbles has brought the US homeownership rate to early-2000 levels.
That's why the government is working overtime to prop up the housing market with the Fed's $1.25 trillion purchases of mortgage-backed securities and the first time homebuyer tax credit. Without these Herculean efforts, the housing market would be even worse off.
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