Wed 27th: mortgage prices improving, and who owns 9.4% of Wells Fargo?

February 27th, 2008 · No Comments


Last night I was reading about OFHEO’s housing report while my son was trying to figure out how he was going to spend $5 million (the amount that was promised to him by his new internet friend, who is a Nigerian prince looking to move $50 million into this country through someone’s bank account, and will happily pay 10%). I suggested that he use the money to shore up property values here in California. “Pockets of Strength Remain; Coasts, Midwest Show Biggest Declines” were the headlines of OHFEO’s seasonally-adjusted purchase-only house price index. U.S. home prices fell in the fourth quarter of 2007, and were 1.3% lower on a seasonally-adjusted basis in the fourth quarter than in the third quarter of 2007. “Although prices for home purchases in the quarter fell in every state except Maine, only 16 states plus the District of Columbia showed price declines for the full year 2007,” said the report. “However, both OFHEO’s purchase-only index and the all-transactions index show relatively greater house price stability than do other nationwide house price indexes. That may reflect, in part, the greater stability in the prime, conforming mortgage market served by the Enterprises than in other segments of the mortgage market,” said Jim Lockhart.

If you hear “Wells Fargo is holding for you on line 3!” is that a bad thing? Perhaps not. Wells Fargo chairman Dick Kovacevich said last week that they have plans to acquire larger banks than it has previously bought. Wells could acquire up to 15 companies in the upcoming year. Kovacevich told Bloomberg News that declining prices have helped. Warren Buffett seems to like both Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp: as of the end of 2007, Berkshire Hathaway had upped its stake in Wells by 331.4 million shares, valued at close to $9 billion, so Buffett now owns 9.4% of Wells Fargo. (Wells is the o