There was something for everyone in the just released July Case-Shiller house price index. On one hand, on a year over year basis, the NSA Composite 20 city index rose 12.39% in July, up from 12.07% in June, and in line with expectations of a 12.40% increase. This was the highest annual price increase since the start of the great financial crisis. On the other hand, the same Composite-20 Index increased by just 0.62% in July on a SA M/M basis, missing expectations of a 0.80% increase, and down from the 0.88% increase in June. This was the third consecutive miss on a M/M basis, and while the Case-Shiller index continues to still rise, the momentum as can be seen in the chart below, is starting to fade, with the monthly increase posting at the lowest rate since September of 2012 when the rise was 0.52%.
Everything was proceeding according to central-plan with a gradual rise in risk and a decline in the USD until 4 am Eastern, when the German IFO Business Climate data was released and missed across the board (107.7 vs Exp. 108.0; Current assessment 111.4 vs Exp. 112.5; Expectations 104.2 Exp.104.0), reminding everyone now that Merkel is cemented for the near future, the immediate prerogative for Europe is to get the EUR lower, one way or another. A returning bid to the dollar also has pushed 10 Year yields under 2.70%, while once again sending various EM currencies sliding, and bringing back cross asset volatility to a world whose Sharpe ratio over the past several months has plummeted into negative territory. Increasing concerns about a government shutdown (misplaced) will likely prevent a solid bid from developing under markets.
Bubbles are on a lot of minds lately. Bonds. Housing. Stocks. Are any of these in a bubble? How do we decide? Both the stock market and the dollar price of gold are influenced by monetary creation. As long as money continues to be created, we should expect both to increase in price. There have been times in the past when the money blew up the stock market much more rapidly than gold, and if that were to happen again, there may be an arbitrage opportunity. Such does not appear to be the case today. In a time of monetary or credit creation, there are opportunities to preserve wealth through investments in productive enterprises as well as gold. Unfortunately, it is difficult to distinguish between enterprises that are truly productive and those which merely look productive as long as the credits keep flowing.
The July statement from the FOMC presented the following snapshot of the economy, "Information received since the Federal Open Market Committee met in June suggests that economic activity expanded at a modest pace during the first half of the year. Labor market conditions have shown further improvement in recent months..." but as Stone McCarthy notes, tomorrow's FOMC post-meeting statement could well be less upbeat in tone, with hints of a slowing in the pace of improvements in the labor market, housing, consumer and business spending, and inflation remaining well below the 2% goal. A look at the housing and spending data certainly raises eyebrows but it is clear that the Fed remains cornered by deficits, sentiment, technicals, and international ire.
Investors need to stop listening to the happy talk coming from the economists, and start focusing on what banks and other lenders are saying and doing operationally to adjust for the mortgage market of 2014 and beyond.
With the Case-Shiller 20-City index up double-digits for the 4th straight month, Bob Shiller has some choice words for the CNBC interviewers about the 'housing recovery'. "Housing is a market with momentum," he notes, "and right now, the momentum is up;" but he adds that while house prices are 'recovering', he remains much less sanguine about this recent move. But it is once he has explained the potential concerns that may weigh on the housing market that Shiller comes into his own as he explains "none of this is real, the housing market has gotten very speculative."
Must see clip as Shiller scoffs at the current sentiment, the resurgence of 'flipping', and that the housing market is "driven by irrational exuberance."
A quiet week to send off August ahead of a deluge of key data next week and as the fateful Septembr 18 FOMC announcement approaches. Still, quite a few macro events to keep track of.
Wonder why the Fed and the banks are so desperate to reflate the second housing bubble, to the delight of flippers and taxpayer consequences (deja vu) be damned? Simple: as Goldman points out in a note released last night, "without the boost from housing, real GDP growth would fall below 1% this year." That's the revised GDP by the way, the one that now includes iTunes song sales and underfunded pension plans in the sumtotal. Which in reality means that ex housing, GDP would almost certainly be negative. So the bigger question is what happens to housing which has already seen a shock to the system following the surge in interest rates in the past month and which hobbled both homebuilders and mortgage applications? This is what Goldman sees there: "On house prices, we have started to see the first signs of deceleration and expect a slowdown from the 10%+ pace observed over the past year. Our bottom-up house price model projects 4-5% annual growth rate in the next two years." Alas, since prices moves from top and bottom inflection point never happen in a straight line as everyone rushes to buy, or sell as the case may be, resulting in a skewed and pronounced move, once the reality seeps in that the artificial housing 'recovery' is over, watch what happens when everyone rushes for the door. That goes for GDP as well.
Guess which city this chart represents.
While the market's eyes were fixed on the near record slide in Japanese Industrial Production (even as its ears glazed over the latest commentary rerun from Aso) which did however lead to a 1.53% jump in the PenNikkeiStock market on hope of more stimulus to get floundering Abenomics back on track, the most important news from the overnight session is that the PBOC's love affair with its own tapering may have come and gone after the central bank came, looked at the surge in 7 day market repo rates, and unwilling to risk another mid-June episode where SHIBOR exploded to the mid-25% range, for the first first time since February injected RMB17 billion through a 7-day reverse repo. The PBOC also announced it would cut the RRR in the earthquake-hit Lushan area. And with that the illusion of a firm and resolute PBOC is shattered, however it did result in a tiny 0.7% bounce in the SHCOMP.
After a slow start in the week, there is a substantial pick up with announcements from the FOMC, ECB and BOE (as well as monetary policy updates from the RBI, RBA, Israel, and Czech Republic) with the possibility, if not probability, of a Fed update on tapering expectations. On Wednesday we get the much expected wholesale GDP revision which will boost "growth data" all the way back to 1929 and is expected to push current GDP as much as 3% higher, and on Friday is the "most important NFP payroll number" (at least since the last one, and before the next one), where the consensus expects a +183K print, and 7.5% unemployment. All this while earnings season comes to a close.
You might think that we have been living in a post-bubble world since the collapse in 2006 of the biggest-ever worldwide real-estate bubble and the end of a major worldwide stock-market bubble the following year. But talk of bubbles keeps reappearing – new or continuing housing bubbles in many countries, a new global stock-market bubble, a long-term bond-market bubble in the United States and other countries, an oil-price bubble, a gold bubble, and so on. Speculative bubbles do not end like a short story, novel, or play. There is no final denouement that brings all the strands of a narrative into an impressive final conclusion. In the real world, we never know when the story is over.
Some thoughts on why US auto sales are at their strongest pace since prior to the crisis, while EU auto sales are at 20 year lows.
- Scalpel in Hand, Chinese Premier Li Stirs Reform Hopes (Reuters)
- Obama Sets Conditions for Keystone Pipeline Go-Ahead (FT)
- World’s Most Indebted Households Face Rate Pain (BBG)
- SAC Probers Weighing 'Willful Blindness' Tack (WSJ)
- Draghi Says ECB Ready to Act, Calls for Investment Over Tax (BBG)
- U.S. Tops China for Foreign Investment (WSJ)
- Basel Presses Ahead With Plans to Limit Bank Borrowing (FT)
- Gillard Ousted as Australia PM by Rival Rudd (FT)
- Japan Economic Strength Will Show in Stocks, Nishimura Says (BBG)
Once again it is all about central banks, with early negative sentiment heading into Asian trading - following the disappointing announcement from the PBOC about "ample liquidity" leading to the 6th consecutive drop in the Shanghai Composite while the PenNikkeiStock index tumbled yet again - completely erased and flipped as Mario Draghi spoke, although not to explain his involvement with the latest European derivative window-dressing scandal, but to announce that he is, once again, "ready to act" (supposedly through the OMT, which despite the best hopes to the contrary, still DOES NOT OFFICIALLY EXIST) and that while it is up to government to raise growth potentials, growth would "partly come from accommodative policy." In other words, ignore all BIS warnings, for Europe's unaccountable Goldmanite overlord Mario Draghi continues to promise more morphined Koolaid (read record Goldman bonuses) to any banker that comes knocking.