Crazy busy ... thoughts on housing starts ... and more
* First, the mortgage credit problems felled the small lenders. Now, those problems are spreading up the food chain. Here are a couple of stories (Reuters, AP) on what's happening at Countrywide Financial, the biggest mortgage lender in the U.S.
* The latest batch of housing data -- on July starts and building permits -- was ugly. Starts dropped 6.1% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.381 million from 1.47 million in June. Building permit issuance fell 2.8% to a 1.373 million SAAR from 1.413 million. Economists polled by Bloomberg expected starts and permits to both come in at 1.4 million.
* The Japanese yen, a key measure of greed and fear, is soaring. That's a sign of wholesale panic ... and the unwinding of the so-called "yen carry trade." This Bloomberg story has more on the topic.
* I said that I'd be closely watching volatility gauges like the VXO to determine when the worst of the selling squall was over. Needless to say, these gauges continue to rise -- implying the worst of the turmoil could still be ahead of us.