An optimistic take on housing and mortgages

There is one glimmer of hope in all the financial gloom; it appears that most of the air is out of the housing bubble.  This post by Calculated Risk (blog here, post here) does a nice job of tracing how far we’ve come down from the housing peak.  While he’s appropriately worried, his take is that

[t]here are huge and scary downside risks today, but I’m actually more sanguine now than I was in 2005. If you think back to 2005, we were standing at the precipice, and there was no where to go but over the cliff.

Of course, even if you buy this argument, we still have far to fall in other markets.  After all, the US stock market hit it’s all-time high in 2007 — a year ago today, in fact — so there’s likely more pain ahead in equities.  Also, the commercial market is dodgy at best, as we at SAP found out late last quarter. 

But at least the froth has been blown off where this all started, the housing and mortgage markets.  It’s a start.

Leadership and Strategy in the Bubble

I just commented on a post by Scott Berinato over at washingtonpost.com (here).  Per my comment, it was a strong, link-rich post that pulled together a lot of threads.

As promised, I did take a closer look at Umair Haque’s piece on “Saving Strategy from the Strategists” (here).  I still think he’s seeing a strategy disconnect that isn’t there, but with an additional twist.  Yes, the expanded definition of “too big to fail” made inflating the bubble a perfectly rational (if not legitimate or public-minded) approach for many players. 

The twist is that the security blanket the Feds provides infantilizes financial industry strategic thinking — especially during serious easing cycles.  As the feeding trough gets crowded and frenzied, a firm’s strategy becomes very basic:

  1. Push hard to get your snout in.
  2. Lobby hard to ensure you’re not the one institution the Feds will make an example of.
  3. Settle in for a long meal.

As I said before, what does “the long run” mean when much of the financial industry expects Uncle Sam to keep filling the trough, even if/when things went south?

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