The “biggest risk to global financial stability”
Why do the debt crisis in Cyprus and the subsequent "bail-in" confiscation of bank depositors' money matter? They matter for two reasons: 1. The banking/debt crisis in Cyprus shares many characteristics with other banking/debt crises. 2. The official Eurozone resolution of the crisis--the "bail-in" confiscation of 60% of bank depositors' cash in an involuntary exchange for shares in the bank (which are unlikely to have any future value)--may provide a template for future official resolutions of other banking/debt crises. In other words, since the banking/debt crisis in Cyprus is hardly unique, we can anticipate the resolution (confiscation of deposits) may be applied elsewhere.
With the meaningless focus on such distracting noise as daily POMOs, will/won't the Fed taper, how many shorts will the Fed's Markets desk squeeze today, and how massive will the second Fed housing bubble be, it is easy to lose sight of the big picture, namely just where is the debt juggernaut that is the US, heading? Conveniently, the US debt clock has a "time machine" function that extrapolates, at current rates of change, what the key metrics behind the US economic facade will look like.
Sometimes you see something that is from a credible source and you are so dumbfounded you don’t know what to think. Yesterday's raly-inducing WSJ' Jon Hiselnrath is one such example. If the Fed believes the market is worried about a rate hike, it would be downright terrifying how out of touch the Central Bank. Our explanation for the move in short rates is the loss of confidence in the Central Bank and its policy making process. The Fed’s balance sheet and Quantitative Easing program has become a Frankenstein monster over which the Central Bank is losing control. QE1 started during a crisis and was either incredibly successful or well-timed. It is often forgotten that the S&P 500 dropped another 22% in the first 3 months of QE1. QE1 had an Exit Strategy, a plan, a time frame and a reason. QE3 has no Exit Strategy, no plan, time frame, no expected level of job creation and no known end. As such, forecasting is nearly impossible in a policy by whim environment, especially when the key decision maker is likely to leave.
We first discussed the possibility of state and local governments using eminent domain to 'save us' from further housing issues a year ago but now the NY Fed has gone one step further with an academic-based justification for why this process is not a "zero-sum-game" and will render all stakeholders better off. We can hear echoes of "trust us" in this commentary as the authors explain how multiple valuation methods will be used to ascertain "fair-value" - which has always worked so well in the past - and that we have "little to fear" from the resultant long-term contraction in liquidity or credit as bubbles can only inflate during times of easy credit availability (and that will never happen!) Paying for all this? Don't worry - resources to fund purchases of loans/liens can be raised from public, private sources or a combination of the two. It seems to us that MBS holders will not be happy, consumers hurt as mortgage costs would rise (this 'risk' has to be priced in), and taxpayers unhappy as this is yet another transfer payment scheme to bailout underwater loans.
What assets will the core/Empire protect? Those of the core. What will be sacrificed? The periphery.
The 2011 actions of the FDIC ending the safe harbor for true sales locked in a solution to TBTF
For a long time we have been seeking a chart that captures the pure essence of America's transition into its "new normal" mutant clone, in which record high stock markets coexist with record high foodstamp usage; in which record public debt amounts coexist with record low interest rates; in which the Fed is responsible for 20% of the US GDP but which is forgiven if it means the second coming of a housing bubble giving people the false hope of another "flip that house" get rich scheme. We believe we have found it. On the chart below we show the number of US manufacturing workers over the past decade (currently at levels first seen in 1941) on one axis; and the number of bar and restaurant employees - currently at an all time high - on the other. For those asking, in the past year the US has added 366,700 "food service and drinking places" employees and a whopping... 41,000 manufacturing workers.
Following widespread discussion of the impact that Wall Street investors (gorging on the Fed's free-money extravaganza) have had on home prices, today's final straw for Blackstone appears to be the New York Times' editorial suggesting/blaming them (and others) for driving up the prices of single family homes and reducing the supply of affordable housing for first-time home owners. Blackstone decided to hit back with some of its own version of real estate truthiness via its' blog and why it is "proud of what it is doing in the housing market." So here are the six reasons that Blackstone believes laying the blame for housing bubble 2.0 at their (them being Wall Street) feet is wrong (and a few short responses to their perspective).
The problem is central banks have created a vast pool of credit-money that is far larger than the pool of sound investment opportunities. Why are asset bubbles constantly popping up around the globe? The answer is actually quite simple. Asset bubbles are now so ubiquitous that we've habituated to extraordinary excesses as the New Normal; the stock market of the world's third largest economy (Japan) can rise by 60% in a matter of months and this is met with enthusiasm rather than horror: oh goody, another bubblicious rise to catch on the way up and then dump before it pops. Have you seen the futures for 'roo bellies and bat guano? To the moon, Baby! The key feature of the New Normal bubbles is that they are finance-driven: the secular market demand for housing (new homes and rental housing) in post-bubble markets such as Phoenix has not skyrocketed; the huge leaps in housing valuations are driven by finance, i.e. huge pools of cheap credit seeking a yield somewhere, anywhere:
This morning's 11.5% week-over-week plunge in mortgage applications is the fourth week of fading demand in a row as it appears the bloom is very much off the rose of the second-coming of the housing bubble. This makes it the worst plunge in mortgage applications since June 2009 and the lowest level of activity since December 2011. Wondering how this is possible? We explained in detail here but this collapse in mortgage demand fits perfectly with Mark Hanson's insights that a number of "large private mortgage bankers had mass layoffs last Friday to the tune of 25% to 50% of their operations staff." This all feels very deja vu all over again.
Housing Bubble Pop Alert: Colony Pulls IPO On "Market Conditions", Blue Mountain Rushes To Cash Out Of Own-To-RentSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/04/2013 23:08 -0400
Here is a simple way to test if the last year of housing market gains have been due to a real, fundamental, consumer-led recovery, or nothing but the latest iteration of the Fed's money bubble machine manifesting itself in the place of least du jour resistance - houses: Assume rising interest rates.
The airwaves are full of stories of economic recovery. One trumpeted recently has been the rapid recovery in housing, at least as measured in prices. The problem is, a good portion of the rebound in house prices in many markets has less to do with renewed optimism, new jobs, and rising wages, and more to do with big money investors fueled by the ultra-cheap money policies of the Fed. It seems entirely wrong that the Fed bailed out big banks and made money excessively cheap for institutions, and that this is being used to price ordinary people out of the housing market. Said another way, the Fed prints fake money out of thin air, and some companies use that same money to buy real things like houses and then rent them out to real people trying to live real lives. At the same time, we are also beginning to see the very same hedge funds that have re-inflated these prices slink out of the market now that the party is kicking into higher gear – all while new buyers are increasingly having to abandon prudence to buy into markets where the fundamentals simply aren't there to merit it. Didn't we just learn a few short years ago how this all ends?
While it isn't news to regular readers, the fact that one of the key pillars of the "housing recovery" (the other three being foreign oligarchs parking cash in the US courtesy of an Anti Money Laundering regulation-exempt NAR, foreclosure stuffing and, of course, the Fed's $40 billion in monthly MBS purchases) have been the very biggest Wall Street firms (many of whom had to be bailed out the last time the housing bubble burst) who have also become the biggest institutional landlords "using other people's very cheap money" to buy up tens of thousands of properties, appears to still be lost on the larger population. Intuitively this is to be expected: in a world in which the restoration of confidence that a New Normal, in which everything is centrally-planned, is somehow comparable to life as it used to be before Bernanke, is critical to Ben's (and the administration's) reflationary succession planning. As such perpetuating the myth of a housing recovery has been absolutely essential. Which is why we were surprised to see an article in the very much mainstream, and pro-administration policies NYT, exposing just this facet of the new housing bubble, reflated by those with access to cheap credit, and which has seen the vast majority of the population completely locked out.