The last time the housing bubble popped, the "frontier" marginal market of Las Vegas was the first harbinger of what was about to come. It is that again, and as real estate expert Mark Hanson explains, "Las Vegas housing demand has crashed." This is hardly an auspicious sign for the rest of the epically reflated housing market which as we have been tirelelessly pointing out for the past two years, has not recovered, but has merely had its 4th dead cat bounce on the back of i) the implicit bank subsidy of foreclosure stuffing, ii) money laundering by "all cash" foreign buyers using the NAR's anti-money laundering exemption loophole, and iii) private equity zero cost of credit REO-to-Rent programs which are now in their last days.
Inflating serial asset bubbles is no substitute for rising real incomes. Why are we stuck with an economy that only generates serial credit/asset bubbles that crash with catastrophic consequences? The answer is actually fairly straightforward.
We had wondered what would happen once private equity players decided enough was enough and foreign oligarchs finished their real estate money laundering transactions. Well, we might be about to find out. According to RealtyTrac, foreclosures for homes worth $5 million or more are up 61% this year despite the fact that overall foreclosures are down 23%. The question is, does this merely represent holdouts from the prior housing bubble, or is it a sign of things to come? Only time will tell.
As a distant but interested observer of history and investment markets, Marc Faber is fascinated how major events that arose from longer-term trends are often explained by short-term causes.; and more often than not, bailouts (short-term fixes) create larger problems down the road, and that the authorities should use them only very rarely and with great caution. Faber sides with J.R. Hicks, who maintained that “really catastrophic depression” is likely to occur “when there is profound monetary instability — when the rot in the monetary system goes very deep”. Simply put, a financial crisis doesn’t happen accidentally, but follows after a prolonged period of excesses (expansionary monetary policies and/or fiscal policies leading to excessive credit growth and excessive speculation). The problem lies in timing the onset of the crisis.
Back in September 2012 when we, correctly, suggested that one of the main drivers of demand (and increasingly becoming the only one) for US housing, especially in the mid and high-end, was foreigners - particularly of the oligarch persuasion - who come to the US to park their embezzled and otherwise ill-gotten funds, courtesy of the NAR's anti-money laundering exemptions, which means that they can buy any house, sight unseen, cash upfront (recall that a record 60% of all home purchases are all cash, which explains why mortgage bankers are being fired by the thousands left and right), no questions asked. One thing we made very clear, though, is that since one never actually buys the real estate, but merely rents it from Uncle Sam (or any other Development Market host nation), there is little preventing the host from cranking up the tax system, or outright changing it, when the need to raise funds strikes. After all what rights do criminal foreigners with multi-million homes in New York (or San Fran, or London, or any other major metropolis that is the target of offshore capital) actually have. Which is why, over a year after this prediction, we find that if not the US (yet) then certainly London, where the housing bubble is greater than anything seen in the US thanks to Russian and Asian hot money, is doing just this.
- America’s Role as Consumer of Last Resort Goes Missing (BBG)
- Holiday sales sag despite blitz of deals (WSJ)
- Abe Support Falls Below 50% for First Time Amid Secrecy Drive (BBG)
- U.S. airlines give China flight plans for defense zone (Reuters), while Japan: no change to airlines' notification policy when flying in East China Sea zone (Reuters)
- Thai protesters seek to topple PM after clashes (Reuters)
- Hilton Seeks as Much as $2.4 Billion in Biggest Hotel IPO (BBG)
- Biden on delicate mission to defuse tensions in East Asia (Reuters)
- Fed eyes financial system weak link (WSJ)
- Pentagon in line of fire in US budget war (FT)
- China’s monetary squeeze collides with housing bubble (FT)
Many believe that government and its partner the Federal Reserve are wise and strong enough to avoid this crash. If printing money and spending money were a solution, there would be no poverty anywhere in the world. Even the poorest country has a government and can afford a printing press. Thus far there has been no collapse. However, that is equivalent to the man who jumps off the Empire State building and is heard to say as he flashes by the fortieth floor: “So far, so good.” His fate was sealed when he jumped. Similarly, so is our economy’s. Economics has its own gravity. A complete cleansing of the mal-investments, distorted incentives and regulatory burdens must occur before a true recovery can take place.
There are a couple of disturbing points that came out of her take on bubbles and the rationale behind not tapering a mere 10 or 15 Billion dollars given the monthly commitment of 85 Billion in Fed Purchases every month.
You can’t overstate the baleful effects for Americans of living in the tortured landscapes and townscapes we created for ourselves in the past century. This fiasco of cartoon suburbia, overgrown metroplexes, trashed small cities and abandoned small towns, and the gruesome connective tissue of roadways, commercial smarm, and free parking is the toxic medium of everyday life in this country. Its corrosive omnipresence induces a general failure of conscious awareness that it works implacably at every moment to diminish our lives. It is both the expression of our collapsed values and a self-reinforcing malady collapsing our values further. The worse it gets, the worse we become. The citizens who do recognize their own discomfort in this geography of nowhere generally articulate it as a response to “ugliness.” This is only part of the story. The effects actually run much deeper.
A hungover America slowly wakes up from a day of society-mandated consumption and purchasing excess to engage in even more Fed-mandated excess in the equity markets. The only difference is that while the "90%" was engaged in the former and depleting their equity, and savings, accounts in the process, far less than 10% will be doing the latter. Overnight attention was drawn to the rapidly escalating territorial dispute between China and Japan, now in the air, Bitcoin's brief surge above the price of an ounce of gold, and the ejection of the Holland from the AAA Eurozone club (where only Germany and Finland remain), following an S&P downgrade of the Netherlands from AAA to AA+, which however had been largely priced in long ago (and was coupled with an upgrade of Spain from negative to stable outlook, as well as an upgrade of Spain from CCC+ to B-). Europe surprised pleasantly on both the inflation (better than expected) and unemployment rate (dropped from an all time high of 12.2% to 12.1%), even if youth unemployment rose to fresh record highs.
It would likely also deal another blow to the U.S property market and the fragile U.S economy. JP Morgan, Bank of America and Wells Fargo appear to be most exposed - meaning that either taxpayers will again be asked to bail out banks or more likely the coming bail-in regime will confiscate cash from depositors.
If you thought you had seen it all when it comes to sob stories of the “super rich” following the comparison of the criticisms of banker bonuses to the lynching of black people in the south by AIG’s CEO in September, think again. The latest groveling, inane defense of the “super rich” comes from none other than the gatekeeper of the largest oligarch whorehouse on planet earth. The Mayor of London, Mr. Boris Johnson. Now we warn you, do not read the following Op-Ed on a full stomach. The vapid, nonsensical, Onion-like prose may very well induce fits of nausea and uncontrolled regurgitation. This is quite frankly one of the worst things we have ever read. It echoes like a sort of grandiose ass-kissing ritual one would have encountered in a Middle Age court from an aspiring manservant of the realm, desperately trying to rapidly advance a coupe of notches up the social strata of some decadent feudal kingdom. Simply put, Boris Johnson should be ashamed to show his face in public after writing such disingenuous garbage.
It’s interesting, disturbing and pathetic that this article emerged so shortly after we highlighted the fact that there is about to be a huge, and potentially disruptive reset in home equity loans over the next several years. So while we are still dealing with the ramifications of the prior housing bubble and the HELOCs associated with that debacle, we are right back at it. Extracting additional equity from another phony housing bubble to remodel homes that likely aren’t worth anywhere near what people think once private equity and money laundering oligarchs are done with their binge buying. As we have said many times before, QE makes a society lose its mind.
A great many long refuted Keynesian shibboleths keep being resurrected in Krugman's fantasy-land, where economic laws are magically suspended, virtue becomes vice and bubbles and the expropriation of savers the best ways to grow the economy. According to Paul Krugman, saving is evil and savers should therefore be forcibly deprived of positive interest returns. This echoes the 'euthanasia of the rentier' demanded by Keynes, who is the most prominent source of the erroneous underconsumption theory Krugman is propagating. Similar to John Law and scores of inflationists since then, he believes that economic growth is driven by 'spending' and consumption. This is putting the cart before the horse. We don't deny that inflation and deficit spending can create a temporary illusory sense of prosperity by diverting scarce resources from wealth-generating toward wealth-consuming activities. It should however be obvious that this can only lead to severe long term economic problems. Finally it should be pointed out that the idea that economic laws are somehow 'different' in periods of economic contraction is a cop-out mainly designed to prevent people from asking an obvious question: if deficit spending and inflation are so great, why not always pursue them?
The story making the rounds these days is that the USA’s industrial economy is on the rise again; that the housing market has “recovered;” that (according to Meredith Whitney) the “central corridor” of the nation (Texas to Minnesota) is the second coming of Japan in the 1960s; that we have more oil than we know what to do with; that the nation has bred a super-race of intrepid entrepreneurial risk-takers like unto no other society in history; and finally that whatever else we are or are not, America is the cleanest shirt in the laundry basket of Mother Earth.
This is all horseshit of course, being smoked in the New York Fed’s crack pipe.