It’s hard as a bankruptcy lawyer not to focus on negative economic news, especially when it deals with the ability of common Americans to pay that last bastion of assumable debt — the mortgage.  Today’s front page article in Chicago’s Sunday Tribune, titled "Mortgage defaults on rise," informs of the following rather depressing facts:

  • Foreclosures on home mortgages are on the way up.
  • In Illinois during the first three months of 2006 nearly 13,700 properties entered foreclosure, up 32 percent from the fourth quarter of 2005.
  • The numbers are grimmer elsewhere in the Midwest, with Michigan and Ohio together recording 45,000 mortgages entering some stage of foreclosure in the first quarter of 2006, representing increases of 91 percent and 39 percent, respectively, compared with last year’s fourth quarter.
  • Nationally, foreclosures are up 38 percent, higher than in any quarter of last year.
  • Things could get far worse when $2.7 trillion in ARM’s reset over the next 18 months.

Recently, I came across this well-focused blog, The Foreclosure Report, which offers the following recent posts to show that the dramatically increasing trend in foreclosures is not limited to the midwest, but is affecting every region:

The prime culprit for all this pain:  loose lending, particularly at the subprime level (a problem discussed here).  The Tribune article cites to the Community Bank of Elmhurst’s own Bill Gooch, its CEO, who said he thought that lending policies are playing a role in the foreclosure trend as "some financial institutions, competing fiercely for business, are making mortgages available to marginal borrowers."  "People think they have to loosen their restrictions, their guidelines, their policies," he said.  Similar sentiments have been widely reported elsewhere.
Meanwhile, we learned on Friday that the University of Michigan’s Survey of Consumers reported that its index of consumer confidence fell to 79.1 in May from 87.4 in April, the biggest drop since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit last year.  As the site’s charts and tables show, that’s about as low as it gets.  The squeeze continues.
Good luck all, and have a safe holiday.
© Steve Jakubowski 2006