You know it's a bubble when... A listing has appeared online advertising a single bed in a house in London where the mattress is located in the kitchen.
Real Estate is a highly “illiquid” asset class ‘most of the time’. It always has been and always will be. However, some times, such as now - and from 2003 to 2007 as a prime example - when liquidity is flowing like water, Real Estate’s illiquidity is masked. Speculators can do no wrong. Simply having access to short-term or mortgage capital to purchase Real Estate guaranties a double-digit return. This continues until one day, suddenly, it doesn’t; and, the snap-back to the true, historical illiquid nature of the Real Estate sector happens suddenly and is amplified at first. This creates a snowball effect from which both house supply and illiquidity surge at the same time. Price then becomes the liquidity fulcrum and will drop, relentlessly ripping speculators faces off, until capital begins to view the asset class as a relative value once again.
At the core, a healthy housing market is one where owner-occupied buyers dominate the bulk of home sales. That is simply not the case. This is how you have well paid tech workers in San Francisco cramming into a 2-bedroom apartment like a clown car simply to get by. One thing that is certain from the overall trend is that larger investors are pulling back from the market dramatically.
There's never been a better time to be a home flipper. Not only are average returns at all-time highs (you can double your money in Baltimore), you can even obtain cheap financing from Wall Street as opposed to dealing with pesky local banks. Better still, there's a very good chance you won't have to deal with annoying aspiring homeowners because according to RealtyTrac, the percentage of flipped homes sold to other "investors" is at a four-year high.
To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, anyone who wants the government and Federal Reserve to create a housing recovery, deserves to get it good and hard, like a four by four to the side of their head. Subprime mortgages, subprime auto loans, and subprime student loans driven by preposterously low interest rates are the liquefying foundation of this fake economic recovery. Most rational people would agree that loaning money to people who will eventually default is not a good idea. But it is the underpinning of everything the Fed and government apparatchiks have done to keep this farce going a little while longer. It will not end well – Again.
Nowhere is the new normal more evident than the frenzied hording of so-called "trophy homes" by the world's 1800 billionaires. As Bloomberg reports, the ultra-luxury housing market is scaling new heights as a record number of properties around the world command prices topping $100 million. Demand is growing among affluent Americans and Europeans; billionaires from unstable economies, such as Russia and Middle Eastern countries; and buyers from mainland China, who were barred from investing overseas before 2012. Why - simple (to them?)... "They’re a scarce commodity. And they’re better than gold because you can boast about it."
In every inflating bubble, there’s usually two camps. The first group points out various metrics suggesting something is inherently unsustainable, while the second reiterates that this time, it is different. After all, if everyone always agreed on these things, then no one would do the buying to perpetuate the bubble’s expansion. The Canadian housing bubble has been no exception to this, and the war of words is starting to heat up.
We heard from several central banks in the last few days, and what they had to say was just one more reminder that we are in a Hill Street Blues financial world. So, hey, let’s be careful out there - and then some!
"It seems logical to assume that absent a major international economic accident, the current Fed is bound and determined to continue stimulating asset prices until we once again have a fully-fledged bubble," GMO's Jeremy Grantham says, reiterating his stance that S&P 2250 marks the point where investors should start to get worried.
JP Morgan’s massive silver buying brings to mind the Hunt Brothers' attempt to corner the silver market in the late 1970s. The Texas oil-tycoons tried to corner the silver market by accumulating a massive silver futures position. Ted Butler has estimated that JP Morgan may currently hold far more than their official figure of 55 million ounces.
Nearly two months ago we explained "How Beijing Is Responding To A Soaring Dollar, And Why QE In China Is Now Inevitable" in which we said that "once China, that final quasi-Western nation, proceeds to engage in outright monetization of its debt, then and only then will the terminal phase of the global currency wars start." We may not have long to wait because just hours ago, MarketNews first among the wire services hinted at what we suggested was the endgame: PBOC DISCUSSING DIRECT PURCHASES OF LOCAL GOVT BONDS: MNI
"...the ladder that has supported the move to record high U.S. corporate profit margins is beginning to snap. It may be a long way down."
As we observed yesterday when we showed that if comparing the collapse in China's housing market with that of the US following their respective peaks then China is already a recession, we added that "as shown in the chart below [China] has recently engaged in several easing steps, with many more to come according to the sell-side consensus." Sure enough, just a few hours later, the PBOC announced its second Reserve Requirement Ratio (RRR) for all banks since February 4, when China had its first industry-wide RRR cut since May 2012. The move will be effective Monday, April 20.
If one compares the history of the Chinese and US housing bubbles, one observes that it was when US housing had dropped by about 6% following their all time highs in November 2005, that the US entered a recession. This is precisely where China is now: a 6.1% drop following the all time high peak in January of 2014. If the last US recession is any indication, the Chinese economy is now contracting! So much for hopes of 7% GDP growth this year.
Let’s talk about idiots. Somewhere out there, some absurdly well-paid banker just placed his investors’ capital in yet another financial instrument which is guaranteed to lose money: Australian government debt. For the first time in Australia, every single one of the 47 bidders offered a price so high that it implies a negative interest rate. Sadly, there are plenty of similarities between today’s negative interest rates and the early 2000s housing bubble. Only a fool believes that this time is different.