Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Q4 2012: Mortgage Equity Withdrawal less negative

by Bill McBride on 3/12/2013 03:41:00 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.

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 little MEW right now - and normal principal payments and debt cancellation.

For Q4 2012, the Net Equity Extraction was minus $34 billion, or a negative 1.1% of Disposable Personal Income (DPI). This is the smallest negative "MEW" since Q1 2009. This is not seasonally adjusted.

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

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.

There are smaller seasonal swings right now, perhaps because there is a little actual MEW (this is heavily impacted by debt cancellation right now).

The Fed's Flow of Funds report showed that the amount of mortgage debt outstanding declined slowly in Q4. Mortgage debt has declined by $1.2 trillion since the peak. This decline is mostly because of debt cancellation per foreclosures and short sales, and some from modifications. There has also been some reduction in mortgage debt as homeowners paid down their mortgages so they could refinance. With residential investment increasing, and a slower rate of debt cancellation, it is possible that MEW will turn positive again in the next few quarters.

For reference:

Dr. James Kennedy also has a new method for calculating equity extraction: "A Simple Method for Estimating Gross Equity Extracted from Housing Wealth". Here is a companion spread sheet (the above uses my simple method).

For those interested in the last Kennedy data included in the graph, the spreadsheet from the Fed is available here.