Are We There Yet?

Are we there yet? Children ask that question endlessly on a long car trip. Federal Reserve officials are asking it about their drive to curb inflation.

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“You’ve got to admit it’s getting better.” An increasing number of economists are beginning to hum that Beatles tune, as the statistics pointing to an improving economy multiply. Economists remain divided on whether the recession has needed or is nearing an end. But a growing consensus holds that the worst of the downturn is behind us. A consensus is also forming around a less encouraging view: The recovery will be painfully slow, made more painful by the expectation that conditions should be better than they are likely to be in the near term.

How’s this for a term you haven’t heard recently in connection with the housing market: “Improvement?” It has cropped up recently in the comments of analysts, describing what is still a decidedly mixed bag of statistics that are neither as bad as they have been nor as good as industry executives and government policy-makers would like them to be.

As foreclosure rates continue to rise and loan modifications fall short of projections, pressure is intensifying on the Obama Administration — to push lenders and servicers harder — and on lenders and servicers (from several directions) to do more than they have done and are doing to help struggling borrowers avoid foreclosure.

In a decision that surprised just about everyone, the U.S. Supreme Court rebuffed the Comptroller of the Currency’s expansive federal preemption claim, ruling that states have the authority to enforce their consumer protection laws against national banks.