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When Does A Housing Slump Become A Bust?

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Guest wrongmove

When Does a Housing Slump Become a Bust?

"MANY Americans fear the consequences of a housing bust, but few know what one would really look like.

Think about it for a moment. How far do housing prices have to fall before a slump becomes a bust? In the stock market, we have a pretty good idea what a crash is. Among stock market experts, there is a consensus that a 10 percent decline in a major index is a correction while a 20 percent decline is more significant: a crash or a bear market, depending on the time involved. For the macro economy, there is also agreed-upon terminology. For example, a recession means two consecutive quarters of declining gross domestic product.

But when it comes to declines in housing prices, there is no such framework. As experts debate whether we’re headed for a housing bust, you’d think that we should at least be able to define it.

The problem is that economists haven’t agreed on a definition. In part, that’s because severe declines in housing prices tend to be rare events, not a common subject for discussion. The last really big decline in national housing prices occurred more than 70 years ago, during the Great Depression. Another reason is that the data measuring the housing market is far more opaque than that for the stock market.

But let’s work with the data we have. Start with the worst housing market on record. During the 1930s, housing prices fell sharply across the nation. According to the S.& P./Case-Shiller home price index, a measure of national housing prices, the average price of a home fell 24 percent from 1929 to 1933. .........."

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