A Robust Plague

Here’s what CNNMoney.com just published: “Foreclosures: ‘Worst three months of all time’”

We would expect to see a sensible observation like that from CNN, but the staff writer’s followup was proof that he/she (and the editor) “know only what they read in the other newspapers”.

“Despite signs of broader economic recovery, (the) number of foreclosure filings hit a record high in the third quarter – a sign the plague is still spreading”, the report began.

How in the world can that staff writer (and the editor) subscribe to the nonsense that there are “signs of broader economic recovery”, and in the same breath state that foreclosure filings are “a sign the plague is still spreading”?

Nowhere in the report does CNN offer examples of those “signs of broader economic recovery”, of course, because there are none. The economy is in free fall, and the rest of the report bears this out.

Rick Sharga, a spokesman for Realty Trac, an online marketer of foreclosed homes, is quoted as saying that, “They were the worst three months of all time”.

According to the data provided by Mr. Sharga and Realty Trac, during that three-month period 937,840 homes received a foreclosure letter – whether a default notice, auction notice or bank repossession, the Realty Trac report said. That means that one in every 136 U.S. homes were in foreclosure, which is a 5% increase from the second quarter and a 23% jump over the third quarter of 2008. So far this year, according to Realty Trac, lenders have repossessed 623,852 homes.

Even in tranquil Vermont, it was noted, where the foreclosure crisis has barely brushed the housing market, foreclosure filings jumped nearly 170% compared with the third quarter of 2008.

And there’s no end in sight. The foreclosure crisis may not diminish anytime soon, Mr. Sharga intimated. “The fastest growing area is in the 180 days late-plus category, the most seriously delinquent borrowers. It’s going to be a lingering problem.”

Because lender and government actions have delayed many filings, Mr. Sharga said, the Realty Trac statistics may understate the depth of the foreclosure mess. As a result, because so many delinquencies have not been accounted for in the foreclosure tallies, the crisis may not end quickly, and because there are so many delinquencies, the banks will be slow to take back their properties and put the repossessed homes back on the market. “It’s hard to envision the banks putting millions of properties up for sale and cratering prices,” he said.

Is this supposed to be one of the “signs of broader economic recovery”?

Tell that to the millions of delinquent, unemployed (and hungry) Americans.