Breaking News This Morning ...
Obama Said to Pick Mel Watt to Run FHFA: Watt, a Democratic congressman from North Carolina, would be the agency's first official director since 2009. Ed DeMarco has toiled as the acting director since then, and his policies have been unpopular with the administration, Democrats, and housing and consumer advocates. A formal announcement is expected today, various anonymice told their preferred media outlets. Bloomberg, Huffington Post, Politico
Receiving Wide Coverage ...
The Housing Rebound: Home prices in major metro areas rose 9.3% in February from a year earlier, the biggest increase in seven years, according to the Case-Shiller figures released Tuesday. Demand is strong and inventory is tight, despite the so-so economic recovery. Low interest rates are helping to fuel the demand, of course, but the Journal reports concern that "traditional buyers, facing still-stringent mortgage-lending standards, are being squeezed out because investors are able to make winning bids by offering to pay in cash." Meanwhile, "supplies have dwindled as banks have pushed fewer homes through foreclosure and because many homeowners are either unable or unwilling to sell." Wall Street Journal, Washington Post
Wall Street Journal
"IRS Widens Its Hunt of Offshore Accounts" — The taxman is using the food chain approach. "Instead of pursuing foreign bank records directly, the IRS got court authorization to serve a 'John Doe' summons on Wells Fargo, where Barbados-based FirstCaribbean International Bank … maintained a U.S. account." Expect more of this, the story says.
"Ahead of the Tape" previews Visa's fiscal second-quarter results, due out after the closing bell today.
"Fed weighs tighter cap on bank leverage" — Everyone, it seems, wants a higher leverage ratio for U.S. banks than Basel III's 3%, though not all would go as far as the Brown-Vitter bill's 15% requirement for megabanks. "Some senior Fed officials believe a higher ratio could be justified as a backstop to the risk-based Basel requirements. … A majority of officials at both the FDIC board and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency … are also in favour of going further."
The "Lex" column offers a crisp, concise summary of the too-big-to-fail debate. The writers suggest shareholders might have a better shot at breaking up the big banks than legislators.
New York Times
More cross-border regulatory intrigue, this time in the derivatives field: CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler has been engaged in a "bitter" fight with the banking lobby, lawmakers and overseas regulators (who have complained to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew). At issue is "an agency proposal, intended to go into full effect as early as mid-July, that would require overseas offices of American-based banks, foreign institutions and hedge funds to turn over information on foreign trades if they involve United States customers, or are guaranteed by a financial institution with American ties."
Here's a Q&A with Doug Lebda, the founder of LendingTree.
"Why the Fed probably won't expand QE on Wednesday." Among other reasons, "Fed leaders have been sensitive to the risk that through the quantitative easing they could completely take over the market for U.S. Treasury debt," squeezing out investors and thus causing permanent damage to a critical market.