Spooked by declining home prices and rising delinquencies/foreclosures, lenders are now becoming more restrictive when issuing residential loans, approaching levels not seen since the post-S&L crisis of the early 1990s. The Federal Reserve's most recent Survey of Senior Loan Officers indicates that roughly 16 percent of respondents tightened credit standards in the first quarter of 2007. The graph below illustrates the strict tightening that took place during the housing market downturn in the early 1990s, as well as the lax guidelines that prevailed from 2004 through 2006. Our grading system of the economy and the housing market is a "bell curve" model, with statistics at an all-time high receiving an "A," statistics near the long-term average receiving a "C," and the worst times ever receiving an "F." In this grading system, it is OK to be a "C" student. Here is our current report card: Economic Growth: C Expansion within the U.S. economy is slowing, as evidenced by the recent...
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