Home Values Down $1.7 Trillion in 2010

Zillow, which tracks U.S. housing values at a fairly granular level, said that houses nationwide will lose an aggregate of $1.7 trillion in value during 2010. That compares unfavorably with the $1 trillion in home values that evaporated in 2009.

December 10, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Zillow, which tracks U.S. housing values at a fairly granular level, said that houses nationwide will lose an aggregate of $1.7 trillion in value during 2010. That compares unfavorably with the $1 trillion in home values that evaporated in 2009.

Naturally, some markets have suffered more from home value declines than others in the 12 months from October 2009 to October 2010–and not necessary the usual suspects. Atlanta, for instance, lost 14.5 percent in total value during that period. Seattle lost 11.6 percent and Minneapolis-St. Paul lost 8.8 percent. Then again, some of the usual suspects did show up on the loser list: Phoenix, down 13 percent year-over-year, and Miami-Fort Lauderdale, down 15.4 percent since last year, for example.

According to Zillow, some $9 trillion in hypothetical home values have vanished since the peak of the bubble in mid-2006. It’s an awe-inspiring number, even if mostly a financial chimera. That’s equal (roughly) to the total economic output of two Chinas, or three Germanys, or France and the UK combined and then doubled.

Debit Card Cap Details Coming Soon

Retailers have long been pining for, and pushing for, caps on the transaction fees that banks charge them when a customer uses a debit card, and it’s finally going to come to pass in the near future. Such caps were authorized by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which passed in July, but it’s up to the Federal Reserve to propose the rules. The central bank might do so next week.

The fees are supposed to be “reasonable and proportional” to what it costs to process a transaction, according to Dodd-Frank. Naturally, banks and retailers have different definitions of “reasonable and proportional,” and are awaiting the Fed’s decision. Roughly $20 billion in annual fees (by some estimates) are at stake.

It’s a period of uncertainty for most of the financial industry these days because of Dodd-Frank rulemaking, which has only just begun. According to the law firm of Davis Polk & Wardell L.L.P., the new law requires 243 rulemakings and 67 studies. “The legislation is complicated and contains substantial ambiguities, many of which will not be resolved until regulations are adopted, and even then, many questions are likely to persist,” wrote Margaret E. Tahyar, a partner and member of the New York Financial Institutions Group in the firm, last summer.

Weekly Jobs Report Not So Bad

After November’s crummy jobs numbers, considerable attention was paid to Thursday’s report about initial unemployment claims for the week ending Dec. 4. Turns out that things weren’t that bad: the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 421,000, a decrease of 17,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 438,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

Then again, the four-week moving average, a less volatile assessment of unemployment claims than the week-to-week froth, was 427,500 in the latest week, down only a smidgen from the prior week’s revised average of 431,500.

Wall Street turned in a mixed day on Thursday, going nowhere fast. The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2.42 points, or a scant 0.02 percent. But the S&P 500 gained 0.38 percent, and the Nasdaq was up 0.29 percent.