The week kicks off with a proposal announced by President Obama on Sunday February 21 to give the federal government the ability to block excessive rate increases by healthcare insurance providers in advance of the White House healthcare summit scheduled for Thursday February 25.
Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) as chairman of the Senate banking committee is expected to introduce a financial industry re-regulation bill this week that would make the Treasury secretary chief of a regulatory council charged with monitoring systemic risk. Giving such oversight power to a Cabinet member would be a significant departure from the current system where independent regulators operate with autonomy and do not serve at the pleasure of the chief executive.
The S&P/Case-Shiller home price index which tracks monthly changes in the value of residential real estate in 20 metropolitan regions across the U.S. is scheduled for release on Tuesday February 23. The data is reported monthly with a two-month lag, meaning that this week’s release will be for December 2009.
That release will be followed two days later on February 25 with the latest Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI) data on single-family housing, using information provided by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The House Price Index is derived from transactions involving conforming conventional mortgages purchased or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. In contrast to other house price indexes, the sample is limited by the ceiling amount for conforming loans purchased by these government-sponsored enterprises (GSE). The loan limit in 2007 was $417,000. The limit was raised temporarily in February 2008 to as much as $729,750 in high cost areas of the country. The loan limit for 2009 was $417,000 for one-unit homes in most areas, but could be up to $625,500 in certain high cost areas in the continental United States. Mortgages insured by the FHA, VA, or other federal entities are excluded because they are not “conventional” loans. The FHFA House Price Index is a repeat transactions measure. It compares prices or appraised values for similar houses. But markets focus on the report’s purchase-only index.
On Friday February 26, the Bureau of Economic Analysis will release its GDP figures for 2009′s fourth quarter. Initial estimates for the quarter indicated annualized growth for the economy of 5.7%, reportedly the highest rate in six years.