What could go wrong with the housing 'recovery' in 2013? To answer this question, we need to understand that housing is the key component a middle class squeezed by historically high debt loads, stagnant incomes, and a net worth largely dependent on their home. In response, Central Planners have pulled out all the stops to reflate housing as the only available means to spark a broad-based “wealth effect” that would support higher spending and an expansion of household debt. This returns us to the key question: Are all these Central Planning interventions sustainable, or might they falter in 2013? Once markets become dependent on intervention and support to price risk and assets, they are intrinsically vulnerable to any reduction in that support. Should these supports diminish or lose their effectiveness, it will be sink-or-swim for housing. Either organic demand rises without subsidies and lenders originate mortgages without agency guarantees, or the market could resume the fall in valuations Central Planning halted in 2009.
I really need to stop being so pessimistic. I’m getting richer by the day. My home value is rising at a rate of 1% per month according to the National Association of Realtors. At that rate, my house will be worth $1 million in less than 10 years. Every mainstream media newspaper, magazine, and news channel is telling me the “strong” housing recovery is propelling the economy and creating millions of new jobs. Keynesian economists, Wall Street bankers, government apparatchiks and housing trade organizations are all in agreement that the wealth effect from rising home prices will be the jumpstart our economy needs to get back to the glory days of 2005. Who am I to argue with such honorable men with degrees from Ivy League schools and a track record of unquestioned accuracy as we can see in the chart below? These are the facts. But why trust facts when you can believe Baghdad Ben and the NAR? It’s always the best time to buy.
Who fares better in retirement, pensioners or folks who saved up their own respective nest eggs? If you look at the numbers, you might be surprised to learn who's really "living large" after retirement.
And by "you", we mean of course the average American worker, who according to the Census Bureau averaged a full-time income of $4,400 per month, and whose plight has been documented extensively as making less and less on an inflation-adjusted basis every year, having an ever older average age, putting off retirement indefinitely, and whose lifestyle continues to deteriorate in line with the progressive elimination of the US middle class. But for every million or so disenfranchised workers, there are a few hundred lucky ones, in this particular case interns who work at companies that pay better than the average American worker. So if you are tired of making next to minimum wage, here is your chance to start afresh as an intern with zero experience at one of these 25 companies, while probably making more than the current jobs pays.
It’s Valentine’s Day – a unique combination of Hallmark Holiday, celebration of romantic love, and source of self-loathing angst, all depending on your personal situation. And in that Rorschach test located in the local drugstore’s greeting card aisle, ConvergEx's Nick Colas finds some useful lessons about investing and economic development. Most divorced Americans remarry, for example, within four years of the end of their first marriage. Any surprise that investors are looking to hitch up with stocks again, some six years after that messy divorce in 2007? More scientifically, the brain functions of people in love use the same bits of the cranium as we all light up when assessing the pros and cons of a given investment. “Don’t fall in love with your positions” is good advice. A central observation to a lot of Nick's work: investing isn’t any different from many of the other decisions we make in our lives. Love, heartache, winning investments, losing positions – it matters not. Our decisions in life all filter through the same personality. There’s an old saying: “What does every bad relationship you’ve ever had share in common? You.” More optimistically, all the good ones have the same feature.
The economic collapse is not a single event. The economic collapse has been happening, it is is happening right now, and it will continue to happen. Yes, there will be times when our decline will be punctuated by moments of great crisis, but that will be the exception rather than the rule. A lot of people that write about "the economic collapse" hype it up as if it will be some huge "event" that will happen very rapidly and then once it is all over we will rebuild. Unfortunately, that is not how the real world works. We are living in the greatest debt bubble in the history of the world, and once it completely bursts there will be no going back to how things were before. But other than that, everything is rainbows and lollipops, right?
Over two years ago (and reiterated last year) Zero Hedge first wrote on what was and is an undisputed transition within the US labor force: a shift from full-time to temp, or part-time labor, with virtually no contractual or welfare benefits, and where workers are lucky to get minimum wage. This is because in the "New Normal" where copious amounts of structural slack are pervasive due precisely to the Fed's constant flawed micromanagement of the economy, the US has now become an "employers' market." Furthermore, we were the first to make the critical distinction that it is absolutely not all about the quantity of jobs, but much more importantly, the quality of the new jobs being created. However, just like 99% of the general public, and all of the mainstream media, has an inborn genetic disorder preventing it from grasping the distinction between nominal and real, so these two critical aspects of the US jobs market languished unperturbed. Until now, two years later, when we are happy to see that the mainstream media has finally caught up with what our readers knew in December 2010.
Yet another government data release, yet another epic case of baffle with BS. As expected (and as pretweeted by us) The headline Durable goods orders was a massive 4.6% increase M/M, rising to $230.7 billion from $220.7 billion, the biggest beat to expectations of a 2.0% headline print since December 2011. A key reason for this was the ridiculous 56.4% explosion in Nondefense aircraft and part from $5.1 billion to $7.9 billion, while Nondefense aircraft soared by 10.1% to $14 billion. Excluding this incredibly volatile data set, the headline number would have been a miss, and will likely be revised lower next month, because the primary driver of the boost was Boeing, which said it had received 183 orders in December, compared to 124 in November. One wonders how many of these fully cancelable orders were for the Dreamliner. Ah details. And more details: the only consistent series that matters for a credible Capital Expenditure picture without monthly aberations, is the orders of Non-defense Capital Goods excluding Aircraft category, which rose by a whopping 0.2% month over month. But more importantly, looking at this on a Year over Year basis, as this is a seasonal series and looking at it on a sequential basis makes zero sense, we just experienced a whopping -4.3%, negating the transitory 1.5% Y/Y bounce posted in November, and resuming the downward glideslope in the key corporate CapEx indicator.
The purpose of asset purchases by the Fed might no longer be improvements in the real economy, but rather a more subtle financing of U.S. government deficits. However, in the long run, expanding the money supply inevitably leads to inflationary pressures. Luckily for the Fed and the U.S. government, there is so much slack in the labour market that inflation might be years away. And, if we are right about the long run unemployment rate being structurally higher, then the Fed has all the room it needs to continue Quantitative Easing (QE) to infinity. This might allow them to continue to hide the true financial position of the government for many years to come. Nonetheless, the rising GAAP deficit and the sheer size of the U.S. Federal Government’s liabilities to its citizens makes it clear that one day or another, services (health care, social security) will have to be cut. Financial alchemy can hide reality, but it does not provide any tangible services. Europe’s (unresolved) experience with its debt crisis provides an insightful window into the future. Austerity measures in Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece have caused tremendous pain to their citizens (25% unemployment rates) and wreaked havoc in their economies (double digit retail sales declines). Are we going to ignore the obvious?
We could bore readers with the details of the just announced New Homes Sales data from the Census Bureau, which put a somewhat largish dent in the "undisputed" housing recovery fairytale taking place in America (perhaps in the Hamptons, and triplexes in Manhattan where the NAR continues to launder Chinese and Russian oligarch money).... or we could just show this chart of the non-seasonally adjusted, unannualized New Home Sales in the past decade, and ask: just where is this recovery everyone keeps on talking about?
The optimism over the housing recovery has gotten well ahead of the underlying fundamentals. While the belief was that the Government, and Fed's, interventions would ignite the housing market creating an self-perpetuating recovery in the economy - it did not turn out that way. Today, these repeated intrusions are having a diminished rate of return and the risk now is that interest rates rise shutting potential homebuyers out of the market. It is likely that in 2013 housing will begin to stabilize at historically low levels and the economic contribution will remain fairly weak. The downside risk to that view is the impact of higher taxes, stagnant wage growth, re-defaults of the 6-million modifications and workouts, elevated defaults of underwater homeowners and a slowdown of speculative investment due to reduced profit margins. While many hopes have been pinned on the 2012 stimulus fueled, China investing, and supply-deprived housing recovery as "the" driver of economic growth in 2013 - the data suggest that may be quite a bit of wishful thinking.
Holding a PhD does not automatically walk you into even a decent paying job any more.
Just as we saw with UMich, it appears the hope for change is wearing thin among the people. Today's Consumer Confidence data missed by its biggest margin in 7 months, dropped below the year's average, and saw the largest 2-month drop in over 15 months. All age cohorts lost confidence with the eldest most and it appears those earning over $35k are also beginning to worry (as those between $35k and $15k seem more confident). Over 40% expect stock prices to decline and it is expectations that have plummeted from a hope-filled 80.9 to a 13-month low of 66.5. In other news, we got the November New Homes Sales report from the Census Bureau. On the surface the number was good, but like the initial claims dats, below the surface its not as pretty - on an unadjusted, unannualized basis, November saw a tiny 27K houses sold - lowest since Feb 2012. In fact, the only thing that really did soar was the number of homes for sale at the end of the period which rose to 151K: the highest since November of 2011.
As a start, identify the trends.