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Commentary

Commentary: Summers Time?

With Ben Bernanke set to leave his post as Federal Reserve chairman next January, we could be set for a history-making appointment. Lawrence Summers' appointment would appear to be justified looking solely at his resume, but it was at Harvard he may have shown his true colors. Janet Yellen is considered a ""dove"" on the Federal Open Market Committee--more concerned with unemployment than inflation and thus less likely to press for higher interest rates.

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Commentary: REO Isn’t Dead

Is it possible that we have turned the corner on the real estate crisis? Some economic indicators seem to be pointing in that direction. Inasmuch as there are tangible measurements, which have evolved into positive forecast discussions, we are not out of the woods just yet. The foreclosure process remains in the spotlight. Shortly after the 2010 robo-signing issue materialized and was reported on every news channel imaginable, REO sales throughout the country began a downward spiral. Although the robo-signing issue seems to have been addressed, there are many states that still have a cumbersome foreclosure process.

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Commentary: Solving the Wrong Problem

President Obama is trying to solve the wrong problem by calling, as he did in his speech in Phoenix, for the end of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as we know it. To be sure, Fannie and Freddie were not the hallmarks of responsibility in the mortgage meltdown, but have gotten a bad rap. For all their housing expertise, they missed all the signals of the housing bubble (but then again so did Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan and his successor Ben S. Bernanke who dismissed it when the first signs of the meltdown emerged). Instead of suggesting replacing Fannie and Freddie to restore the nation's housing markets, the president should be proposing to return them to their original charters.

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Commentary: Disappointing Jobs Report? Says Who?

""Beauty,"" Lew Wallace, the author of ""Ben Hur,"" once wrote, ""is altogether in the eye of the beholder."" So, it seems, is ""disappointment""-- at least when it comes to describing or characterizing the employment report for July, which showed 162,000 new payroll jobs and a drop in the unemployment to 7.4 percent. The disappointment came not from the unemployment rate--the lowest since September 2008--but from the creation of ""only"" 162,000 jobs. To be sure, the people who are ""disappointed"" are those forecasters who predicted more jobs would be created.

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Commentary: Magical Mystery Tour

President Obama embarked this week on a series of speeches designed to highlight the nation’s continued economic stress. The immediate response and from both ends of the political spectrum was to decry his efforts as same-old, same-old. And, it is true the President has made this pitch before, emphasizing that the significant progress has made is not enough.

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Commentary: Walking the Walk

The nation's home builders celebrated Tuesday with the release of July's Housing Market Index, which showed a six-point jump in the measure of builder confidence on the heels of a seven-point jump one month earlier. In the last three months, confidence--as measured by the index--is up 16 points, or almost 40 percent. With giddy numbers like these, one would think builders would rush to break ground--or at least file the paperwork to do so, but they're not.

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Commentary: Fed Celebrates; Wall Street Parties

Ben Bernanke was up at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) to celebrate the Federal Reserve's 100th birthday. Despite being chairman of the Fed, instead of receiving a birthday gift, he gave a birthday gift--and Wall Street partied. Bernanke was generous in comments to the beleaguered housing sector when he listed his reasons for optimism about the economy. But Bernanke saved his biggest boost for stock investors when he made clear the Federal Reserve has no intention of abruptly raising interest rates or cutting back on its $85 billion a month bond purchase program.

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Commentary: Unintended Consequences

Legislators heard--or perhaps misheard--customers when they grumbled about ATM fees and clamped down even though there is a logical argument for them. Now, a new fee opportunity for major banks comes in the form of pay cards--debit cards loaded with your take-home pay each time you get paid. Workers must pay a fee to access their own wages and may be charged a fee for not using the card. The pay cards slither under, over, or around the definitions resulting from Dodd Frank for fees banks are permitted to charge for credit and debit cards or even for store cards.

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Commentary: Drumbeats of a Coming Slowdown

The reaction to Thursday's report on personal income and spending for May was generally positive. Personal income rose 0.5 percent from April--five times what was expected--and personal consumption expenditures (or PCE) were up 0.3 percent, matching economist forecasts.

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Commentary: We’re Forever Seeing Bubbles

The recent jump in home prices has led to speculation that the rapid surge in home prices could be the sign of a new housing bubble similar to the one that led to the Great Recession. Is it? The not-so-short answer is, not yet. An increase in prices itself does not signal a bubble. An unsustainable increase, not supported by other data, however, would. In the run-up to the 2006 collapse, the higher prices--which had been trending up for four years--led to a sharp uptick in construction wholly unsupported by demographics.

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