- The Washington Times - Monday, March 23, 2009

President Obama on Monday heralded glimmers of hope in the housing market, which has been the financial sector at the center of the current economic crisis.

Housing sales jumped 5.1 percent in February from the month prior, the National Association of Realtors announced Monday, though they also said that prices are continuing to decline and sales are overall still weak.

Mr. Obama pointed to low interest rates for home loans as evidence of progress. The low rates, however, are in large part the result of rate cuts by the Federal Reserve, which acts independently of the White House.

The president’s comments came after a meeting with Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner. Mr. Obama portrayed the Treasury’s public-private partnership plan to unfreeze credit markets as part of a larger plan that he said is starting to have an effect.

“Because of the work that’s already been done, you are starting to see glimmers of hope in the housing market and stabilization may be taking place,” Mr. Obama said. “Mortgage rates are at a very, very low level and you’re starting to see some activity in the housing market.”

Current rates for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage loan are below five percent.

Mr. Geithner also said Monday that the lowered interest rates are a good sign.

“Actions over the last several months by the Federal Reserve and these initiatives by this administration are already starting to make a difference. They have helped to bring mortgage interest rates near historic lows,” Mr. Geithner wrote in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece.

Mr. Geithner said there has been a 30 percent increase in mortgage refinancings.

“Millions of Americans are taking advantage of the lower rates. This is good for homeowners, and it’s good for the economy,” he said.

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