Financial FAQs

The Federal Reserve just released the Q2 2013 Household Debt Service and Financial Obligations Ratios. The overall Debt Service Ratio decreased in Q2 2013, and is just above the record low set in Q4 2012 thanks to very low interest rates. The homeowner’s financial obligation ratio for consumer debt increased slightly in Q2 (omitting mortgage debt), and is back to levels last seen in early 1995.

These ratios show the percent of disposable personal income (DPI) dedicated to debt service (DSR) and financial obligations (FOR) for households, says Calculated Risk.

The household debt service ratio (DSR) is an estimate of the ratio of debt payments to disposable personal income. Debt payments consist of the estimated required payments on outstanding mortgage and consumer debt.

Also, the financial obligations ratio (FOR) adds automobile lease payments, rental payments on tenant-occupied property, homeowners’ insurance, and property tax payments to the debt service ratio.

This is a very good sign for higher employment and economic growth in 2014, which shows the Fed’s QE3 quantitative easing program that is keeping interest rates at record lows is bearing results.

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Graph: Calculated Risk

Also the homeowner’s financial obligation ratio for mortgages (blue line in graph) is at a new record low.  This ratio increased rapidly during the housing bubble, and continued to increase until 2008. With falling interest rates, and less mortgage debt (mostly due to foreclosures), the mortgage ratio has declined to an all time low, said the Federal Reserve report.

This is while Fannie Mae also just reported that the Single-Family Serious Delinquency rate declined in September to 2.55 percent from 2.61 percent in August, while Freddie Mac’s serious delinquency rate declined in September to 2.58 percent from 2.64 percent in August.

Fannie Mae’s serious delinquency rate is down from 3.41 percent in September 2012, and this is the lowest level since December 2008. Its serious delinquency rate peaked in February 2010 at 5.59 percent, believe it or not.

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Graph: Calculated Risk

So can we say that real estate is out of danger of falling back into recession? Probably, but Congress and Obama haven’t resolved the fate of Fannie and Freddie that guarantee some 90 percent of mortgages originated today. The U.S. Treasury is still holding them in conservatorship when they are making record profits, and putting those profits into general coffers, rather than paying off the $180 billion in debt incurred by them during the Great Recession and busted housing bubble.

That is not a good sign, what with the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau now policing mortgages with ever more stringent regulations, such as Qualified Mortgages, that is restricting mortgage lending. So indications are good for more growth in consumer spending this year, but prospects for housing in 2014 are still questionable.

Harlan Green © 2013

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