In the early hours of yesterday morning European Union politicians struck a deal on legislation to create a single agency to handle failing banks and bail-ins in the Eurozone. It is important to realise that not just the EU but also the UK, the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and most G20 nations all have plans for bail-ins. Prepare accordingly ...
Look who is warning us again about the great harm conspiracy theories are doing to the minds of impressionable citizens everywhere: Cass Sunstein has emerged at Bloomberg, to once again plead for 'correction' of the many conspiracy theories that are disseminated on that pesky new medium, the intertubes, seemingly without inhibition. Contrary to the infamous paper in which he described how to precisely combat the spreading of false information that lacks the government's seal of approval, he doesn't list his favored censorship and disinformation techniques outright this time, but it is certainly implied that 'something must be done'. Mr. Sunstein's concern with 'conspiracy theories' is all about preserving the State's perceived right to rule by letting nothing intrude on the notion that politicians and bureaucrats are 'disembodied spirits solely devoted to the public good' rather than people who pursue their own personal interests.
Yesterday's news from the NAR that in February all cash transactions accounted for 35% of all existing home purchases, up from 33% in January, not to mention that 73% of speculators paid "all cash", caught some by surprise. But what this data ignores are new home purchases, where while single-family sales have been muted as expected considering the plunge in mortgage applications, multi-family unit growth - where investors hope to play the tail end of the popping rental bubble - has been stunning, and where multi-fam permits have soared to the highest since 2008. So how does the history of "all cash" home purchases in the US look before and after the arrival of the 2008 post-Lehman "New Normal." The answer is shown in the chart below.
Dropping Like Flies: Largest Steel Maker In China's Shanxi Province Defaults On CNY 3 Billion In DebtSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 03/20/2014 08:09 -0500
When we started discussing the upcoming onslaught of corporate defaults in "Minsky Moment" China, now that the bankruptcy seal has been broken, we warned that the worst is about to come. Well, it's coming. Overnight, Hong Kong's The Standard reported that in addition to the solar, coal and real-estate developer companies that are on everyone's radar as potential future bankruptcy candidates, one can also add steel makers to the list, with its report that Highsee Group, the largest private steel makers in Shanxi province has defaulted on CNY3 billion of debt, unable to repay its bonds on time.
One of the primary drivers of the real estate bubble in the past several years, particularly in the ultra-luxury segment, were megawealthy Chinese buyers, seeking to park their cash into the safety of offshore real estate where it was deemed inaccessible to mainland regulators and overseers, tracking just where the Chinese record credit bubble would end up. Some, such as us, called it "hot money laundering", and together with foreclosure stuffing and institutional flipping (of rental units and otherwise), we said this was the third leg of the recent US housing bubble. However, while the impact of Chinese buying in the US has been tangible, it has paled in comparison with the epic Chinese buying frenzy in other offshore metropolitan centers like London and Hong Kong. This is understandable: after all as Chuck Prince famously said in 2007, just before the first US mega-bubble burst, "as long as the music is playing, you've got to get up and dance." In China, the music just ended.
Computer programs are obsolete before they even get put on the market and it’s been that way for years now. There’s also the added bonus of actually making sure that the buyers keep buying and always want the latest.
"All the Trumans – the economists, fund managers, traders, market pundits –know at some level that the environment in which they operate is not what it seems on the surface…. But the zeitgeist is so damn pleasant, the days so resplendent, the mood so euphoric, the returns so irresistible, that no one wants it to end."
Klarman is here referring to the waning days of this third and greatest financial bubble of this century. But David Stockman's take is that the crack-up boom now nearing its dénouement marks not merely the season finale of still another Fed-induced cycle of financial asset inflation, but, in fact, portends the demise of an entire era of bubble finance.
As we explained in great detail recently, the abundance of so-called cash-on-the-sidelines is a fallacy, but even more critically the we showed the belief that these 'IOUs of past economic activity' would immediately translate into efforts to deploy them into future economic activity is also entirely false. Simply put, there is no relationship between corporate cash and subsequent capital expenditure, nor is the level of capital expenditure even well-correlated with the level of real interest rates. At this point, as John Hussman explains, it should be clear that the mere existence of a mountain of IOUs related to past economic activity is not enough to provoke future economic activity. What matters instead is the same thing that always matters: Are the resources of the economy being directed toward productive uses that satisfy the needs of others?
From a strictly empirical perspective, the Keynesian theory is a disaster. Positivism wise, it’s a smoldering train wreck. You would be hard-pressed to comb through historical data and find great instances where government intervention succeeded in lowering employment without creating the conditions for another downturn further down the line. No matter how you spin it, Keynesianism is nothing but snake oil sold to susceptible political figures. Its practitioners feign using the scientific method. But they are driven just as much by logical theory as those haughty Austrian school economists who deduce truth from self-evident axioms. The only difference is that one theory is correct. And if the Keynesians want to keep pulling up data to make their case, they are standing on awfully flimsy ground.
The whole story about how private equity firms and hedge funds have steamrolled into the residential home market to become this decade’s slumlords is a story we covered long before mainstream media even knew it was happening. We first identified the trend in January of last year in one of my most popular posts of 2013: America Meet Your New Slumlord: Wall Street. Since then, we've done my best to cover the various twists and turns in this fascinating and disturbing saga. With all that in mind, let’s now take a look at the latest article from Bloomberg, which points out that Blackstone’s home purchases have plunged 70% from their peak last year. Perhaps they overestimated the rental cash flow potential of indebted youth living in their parents’ basements?
Simple: just don't pay the mortgage. Because here is what happens next: shortly thereafter foreclosure proceedings will begin and at some point, far in the distant future, the bank will finally complete the foreclosure process, claiming the property and putting it on the block with intent to resell (or simply raze it). How far in the future? According to RealtyTrac, the average duration of the foreclosure process for zombie foreclosures is an average of a record 1,031 days. Or just shy of 3 years.
Does anything about 2014 remind you of 2008? The long lists of visible stress in the global financial system and the almost laughably hollow assurances that there are no bubbles, everything is under control, etc. etc. etc. certainly remind me of the late-2007-early 2008 period when the subprime mortgage meltdown was already visible and officialdom from Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan on down were mounting the bully pulpit at every opportunity to declare that there was no bubble in housing and the system was easily able to handle little things like defaulting mortgages. The party, once again, is clearly ending and raises the question: "If asset bubbles no longer boost full-time employment or incomes across the board, what is the broad-based, “social good” justification for inflating them?"
It’s safe to say that America — especially the American media and Wall Street firms — has fallen in love with real estate again. But, this time around it’s not ‘all of America’ like the last time; when the most exotic mortgage loans known to mankind turned every ma and pa end-user homeowner into a raging speculator. One has to look no further than the generationally low level of purchase loan applications — with rates at generational lows — to realize something isn’t ‘normal’ about this housing market. Rather, controlling this housing market over the past three years has been a small, unorthodox slice of the population that “invests” in real estate using tractor-trailer trucks full of cash-money slopping around the financial system put into play specifically for this purpose. Over the past few years so much cash-money has been deployed into the housing sector by unorthodox parties, that in many regions ma and pa end-user hasn’t stood a chance to buy. Especially, if they need a mortgage loan, which of course presents numerous risks to the seller vs the all-cash buyer.... We could be back in a house-price bubble right now and not even realize it. And also because everybody is looking at the wrong thing…house prices. Sound confusing? It’s not, really.
To believe that the housing bubble caused the 2008 crash was is to ignore its origin in Federal Reserve policies that forced investors to reach for yield. Tragically, the Federal Reserve has done the same thing again – starving investors of safe returns, and promoting a reach for yield into increasingly elevated and speculative assets. Thinking about the crisis only from the perspective of housing, investors and policy-makers have allowed the same process to play out more broadly in the equity market. On a quantitative basis, the overvaluation of the equity market is greater percentage-wise, and greater dollar-wise, than the overvaluation of housing in 2006-2007. Impatient, crowd-following investors are all too willing to wastefully scatter seeds onto this parched desert, thinking that this is their only chance to sow. To wait patiently in the expectation of fertile soil and rain is not an act of pessimism, but an act of optimism and informed experience.
Will London's current property bubble play out to be one of the most costly ever and end up costing UK and foreign investors billions?