Signs the Recession Is Still With Us

Foreclosures at record highs; home sales still declining

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  • Risk-Based Oversight of Investment Advisors Even if the SEC had a larger budget and more resources, it is doubtful that the Commission would have the resources to regularly examine all RIAs. Therefore, the SEC is likely to continue relying on risk-based oversight to fulfill its mission of protecting investors.
  • Client Commission Practices and Soft Dollars RIAs should always evaluate whether the products and services they receive from broker-dealers are appropriate. The SEC suggested that an RIA’s failure to stay within the scope of the Section 28(e) safe harbor may violate the advisor’s fiduciary duty to clients, so RIAs must evaluate their soft dollar relationships on a regular basis to ensure they are disclosed properly and that they do not negatively impact the best execution of clients’ transactions.

Three recent reports indicate that the housing market is still in serious trouble. On April 24, the Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development reported that new home sales in March declined 0.6% from February 2009, and was off 30.6% from sales of new one-family houses in March 2008. The report estimated there was a 10.7-month supply of new homes for sale.

On April 23, the National Association of Realtors reported a 3% decline in March in existing single-family home sales from February. At a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.57 million units, existing home sales were down 7.1% from March 2008. NAR did estimate that inventories of existing homes declined 1.7%, but that inventory rose slightly to 9.8 months. With the oversupply, home prices fell again in March, NAR said, with the national median price in March of $175,200 representing a 12.4% decline from March 2008.

Finally, RealtyTrac reported April 16 that foreclosures around the country increased 17% in March over the prior month--to 341,180 foreclosure filings--or 46% higher than in March 2008. For the first quarter of 2009, default notices, auction sale notices, and bank repossessions increased 9% to 803,489 properties from the fourth quarter of 2008, and almost 24% from 2008's first quarter. That number represents one out of every 159 housing units, RealtyTrac reported in its U.S. Foreclosure Market Report for Q1 2009.

Five states accounted for almost 60% of the foreclosure activity in the first quarter--California, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, and Illinois--with Nevada seeing one in every 27 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in the quarter.

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