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Genworth: Mortgage Demand Stunted By Economic Uncertainty

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Home buyers worldwide stand ready to re-enter the housing market but are most often held back by weak consumer confidence, according to a survey commissioned by mortgage insurer Genworth Financial Inc. (GNW). Housing markets in the U.S. and many other countries have languished after the sector's crash in 2008. U.S. residential construction activity remains weak, while fixed mortgage rates fell for the eighth straight week amid a stream of downbeat economic news, according to data from Freddie Mac (FMCC). Genworth's first International Mortgage Trends Report said consumers' worries about personal finances and instability in the property market tended to prevent them from buying, though the specific reasons varied across nations. The report surveyed more than 9,000 current and aspiring homebuyers in eight countries, including Australia, India, Mexico and the U.S. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. respondents said now is a good time to buy a home but were concerned about how the nation's economy will perform in the next year as falling home prices impact their personal finances. Consumers in emerging-market economies, meanwhile were less comfortable with accumulating debt than their developed-economy counterparts, the report said. Borrowers in India and Mexico were more likely to save up by living with parents and grandparents, while respondents in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada and Australia usually ranked concerns over rising gasoline and utility costs above the cost of housing. Affordability issues have pushed up the average age of first-time home buyers in all countries except India over the past 40 years, Genworth said. The average age of a U.S. first-time homebuyer rose from to 31.6 in the 2000s, up from 27.3 during the 1970s. Respondents still showed widespread support for mortgage insurance as homebuyers and investors become more aware of its value, the report said. In the U.S., 88% of respondents said private mortgage insurance helps them buy a home with a smaller down payment. -By Drew FitzGerald, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2909;

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