HW’s Top Stories of 2008

As we come to the close of the year, it’s always a time to look back. For those subscribers now receiving the latest issue of HousingWire Magazine, you’ll likely note that our editorial team spent a fair amount of time in the current issue piecing together the events of the past two years that made the modern financial crisis what it is. We’ve also sifted through all of the millions upon millions of page views that HousingWire served this year, and found the ten most-read stories during the past twelve months. The list might surprise you, but it also serves as a reminder of some of the more interesting markers for a year that won’t soon be forgotten. 1. JP Morgan’s Dimon: Prime Mortgages Look “Terrible”, July 17, 2008 Our most-read story this year comes because we were simply paying close attention to a conference call in mid-July, and picked up on what may be one of the best short quotes of the year from infamous straight-shooter Jamie Dimon: “Prime looks terrible … and we’re sorry, and there’s nothing else we can say.” That quote eventually became a staple in nearly every story involving JPM and mortgages written by the financial press since. 2. Conforming Limits Boosted: President Bush Signs H.R. 5140, February 13, 2008 The passage of the Economic Stimulus Act was something of a watershed, because it signaled that government was going to lean much more heavily on intervention into the nation’s mortgage markets in an attempt to stanch some of the still-emerging problems affecting the broader financial marketplace. HW’s story was among the first to caution that the “new conforming limits” weren’t going to be a widespread phenomena, as so many realtors and loan officers had hoped at the time. 3. Fitch: It’s Not Over Yet, Not By a Long Shot, March 20, 2008 Back in March, a little wear-out was setting in over subprime mania in the financial press — this report from Fitch Ratings was a jolting reminder that the nation’s mortgage crisis wasn’t anywhere near petering out, no matter how tired some were becoming of the subject. HW was among the first to cover the presentation, which was only made available on a conference call. 4. IndyMac: Mini Bank Run, Thanks to Schumer, July 1, 2008 You know, we kind of miss the old IndyMac, with CEO Michael Perry’s exuberance, and the company’s corporate blog — show us another bank that’s pulled that sort of panache off in the media relations space. There are still those, apparently, that wonder if Schumer really did have it in for Indy; we don’t think so here at HW. Rather, a bevy of poorly-performing Alt-A mortgages were more than enough to do the trick. But the heated exchanges between Senator and corporate entity were certainly entertaining to write about, nonetheless. 5. Primed for Trouble: Pace of Mortgage Distress Shifts to Prime Borrowers, June 5, 2008 While the rest of the financial press was focused on the aggregate numbers in the MBA’s quarterly delinquency study, we dove in and found early evidence of a troubling shift in delinquency patterns towards prime borrowers. Readers rewarded us for our attention to detail by reading the story incessantly when we first published it. Back in June, it’s worth reminding readers that nobody was really talking about this, as common-knowledge as the concept seems to have become at this point. 6. Merrill Rumored to be Planning Layoffs, Facing Huge Writedown, March 25, 2008 There was a lot of news about Merrill during the year. This little story — the shortest in our top 10 — managed to strike a nerve with jittery Streeters just coming to terms with the new reality of layoffs and job cutbacks. Of course, the layoffs have got much bigger and worse than the 300 discussed in this story since March: Citi and BofA alone are going to cut more than 50,000 employees at this point. 7. As Housing Act Passes Congress, Questions Emerge, July 26, 2008 When the bill that created the much-ballyhooed Hope for Homeowners mortgage program passed Congress in late July, we were among the first to question whether the program — designed as a refinancing tool for troubled homeowners — would be ready by Oct. 1. We also used the story as an early chance to highlight the issue of servicer advances, something you’ll be reading much more about in 2009. 8. Fitch Warns on Option ARMs; “High Defaults Await”, Sept. 2, 2008 Most of the financial press seemed to have missed this story when it first broke, which explains why this story about option ARMs ended up making the top 10 despite being only a few months old. It’s now common hat that option ARMs are problematic, but it wasn’t a given even a few short months ago, outside of a few core analysts. 9. Second Liens Still Lurking at Wells Fargo, July 16, 2008 When Wells Fargo reported second quarter results that beat the Street, we weren’t convinced, and cautioned investors about the bank’s $84B in home equity loans. More than a few analysts took notice, something our editorial team here is pretty proud of. 10. A defense borne of hubris, or stupidity, June 23, 2008 One of HW’s BuzzPosts makes the top 10, as we skewered North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad for an attempted defense of receiving a preferred mortgage through the “Friends of Angelo” program. Honorable mention here goes to a December 4 story that wondered aloud about a Treasury plan to snap up MBS and push primary mortgage rates down to 4.5 percent — that story led the way for a wealth of stories in the broader press that now cover whether the proposed program will actually work. Despite it being only a few weeks old, it already ranks in the top 20 for the year in terms of stories read here on HousingWire. Write to Paul Jackson at

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