Hot and Cold in the Housing Market

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Byline: Jamie Dettmer, INSIGHT

Hot and Cold in The Housing Market

The good news is that increases in mortgage rates in July failed to slow the housing market and that sales of previously owned homes rose to a record in the month. Home resales totaled 6.12 million at an annual pace during the month, up 5 percent from June's 5.83 million rate and the third increase in the last four months.

But the not-so-good news is that there were anecdotal reports from realtors in August of the market going wobbly in parts of the country with housing prices reportedly sliding in some Southern and Midwestern states by about 10 percent. The National Association of Realtors acknowledges that July probably was a peak month and that sales are likely to slow between 4 and 5 percent later this year. In short, home buying, which spurs purchases of related items such as furniture and appliances, is unlikely to get stronger. David Lereah, the Washington-based group's chief economist, says he expects to see a slowing of price appreciation to the low single digits.

Previously owned homes account for 85 percent of the residential real-estate market and new homes the remainder.

Because of the highly active first half of the year, 2003 is likely to be the strongest ever recorded for the industry. But the rise in interest rates already has slowed the mortgage-refinancing sector. And the Federal Reserve can do little about it mortgage rates are pegged to long-term securities such as 10-year Treasury notes, whose yields have risen because investors fear higher inflation.

Getty and Germany

Apiece of unpleasant history: According to newly released British intelligence documents, Texas oil billionaire Jean Paul Getty was at the heart of a conspiracy to provide support to Adolf Hitler's Germany early in World War II. The documents, just declassified at the National Archives in London, link Getty to a shadowy network of financiers who supplied Nazi Germany with fuel in defiance of a British blockade. Getty's "Suspect Persons" file was prepared, according to The Observer of London, by the British Security Coordination team in New York run by William Stephenson, Winston Churchill's secret envoy to President Franklin Roosevelt.

The dossier was compiled after a banker who worked for Hermann G|ring was arrested in Trinidad in October 1941 for shifting Nazi funds out of Europe. It states: "Getty, controller of Mission Oil Corp., which holds German patents licensed by IG Farben and Standard Oil of New Jersey subsidiaries, returned from Europe in November 1939 talking breezily about his 'old friend' Hitler. Later he was said to have sold 1,000,000 barrels of oil to Germany for delivery via Russia. …