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Bernanke: Tight Credit Continues to Hamper Recovery

Negative equity, tight mortgage credit, and an overhang of foreclosed properties conspire to delay a full-fledged housing rebound and economic recovery, ""Federal Reserve"":http://www.federalreserve.gov/ chairman Ben Bernanke said Friday.

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Addressing an international show convened by the ""National Association of Home Builders"":http://www.nahb.org/ in Orlando, Florida, the central banker tied problems in job growth and household finance to downward pressure from market forces in the housing sector.

Bernanke said that the ""state of housing and mortgage markets may... be holding back the recovery of our financial system and the normalization of credit conditions.""

He highlighted a wave of mortgage delinquencies that stay high despite a surge between 2007 and 2009, ""imposing losses on lenders, mortgage insurers, and

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investors,"" signaling their ramifications for household equity and job growth in the broader economy.

He also said that the inability ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô or unwillingness ├â┬ó├óÔÇÜ┬¼├óÔé¼┼ô of lenders to lend puts the brakes on much-needed activity by first-time and repeat homebuyers.

""[C]urrent lending practices appear to reflect, in part, obstacles that are limiting or preventing lending even to creditworthy households,"" he said.

Bernanke cited a contraction in mortgage credit outstanding for U.S. homes by about 13 percent, with mortgage originators ""reluctant"" to lend to otherwise eligible borrowers able to meet underwriting standards set by GSEs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

He said that fewer than half of lenders offer mortgages to borrowers, even those with FICO scores of 620 and down payments of 10 percent.

The central banker attributed a dry spell for mortgage credit to several possibilities, including the inability of some borrowers to secure private insurance, concerns by lenders about delinquent mortgages, and uncertainty over representations and warranties.

He said that ""[p]otential first-time homebuyers have been disproportionately affected by the very tight conditions in mortgage markets,"" with the number of young adults obtaining their first mortgages at lower points now than in the past decade.

Bernanke said the Fed would likely continue to explore incentives available to the central bank in the form of monetary policy changes.

About Author: Ryan Schuette

Ryan Schuette is a journalist, cartoonist, and social entrepreneur with several years of experience in real-estate news, international reporting, and business management. He currently lives in the Washington, D.C., area, where he freelances for DS News and MReport.
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