Saturday, June 12, 2010

Q1 2010: Mortgage Equity Withdrawal strongly Negative

by Bill McBride on 6/12/2010 01:15:00 PM

Note: This is not Mortgage Equity Withdrawal (MEW) data from the Fed. The last MEW data from Fed economist Dr. Kennedy was for Q4 2008. My thanks to Jim Kennedy and the other Fed contributors for the previous MEW updates. For those interested in the last Kennedy data, here is a post, and the spreadsheet from the Fed is available here.

The following data is calculated from the Fed's Flow of Funds data and the BEA supplement data on single family structure investment. This is an aggregate number, and is a combination of homeowners extracting equity (hence the name "MEW", but there is very little MEW right now!), normal principal payments and debt cancellation.

Mortgage Equity Withdrawal Click on graph for larger image in new window.

For Q1 2010, the Net Equity Extraction was a record low of minus $122 billion, or a negative 4.4% of Disposable Personal Income (DPI). This is not seasonally adjusted.

This graph shows the net equity extraction, or mortgage equity withdrawal (MEW), results, using the Flow of Funds (and BEA data) compared to the Kennedy-Greenspan method.

The Fed's Flow of Funds report showed that the amount of mortgage debt outstanding declined sharply in Q1, and this was probably mostly because of debt cancellation per foreclosure sales, and some from modifications, and partially due to homeowners paying down their mortgages as opposed to borrowing more. Note: most homeowners pay down their principal a little each month unless they have an IO or Neg AM loan, so with no new borrowing, equity extraction would always be slightly negative.

Mark Whitehouse at the WSJ argues: Default, Not Thrift, Pares U.S. Debt

The falling debt burden conjures up images of a nation seeking to repent after a decade of profligacy, conscientiously paying down mortgages and credit-card balances. That may be true in some cases, but it’s not the norm. In fact, people are making much more progress in shedding their debts by defaulting on mortgages and reneging on credit cards.
I think that is correct - most of the decline in mortgage debt outstanding is probably because of debt cancellations via foreclosures, short sales, and some modifications.