Given his track record, Alan Greenspan's publication of a guide to economic forecasting will likely prove as successful as Lance Armstrong's guide to drug-free cycling. As Bloomberg reports, Greenspan's new book "The Map and the Territory" is about as credible as art history by Mr. Magoo; as it pretends to tackle the subject of forecasting while saying next to nothing about the author’s historic failure to reduce the risks leading to the crisis, which he calls "almost universally unanticipated." Bloomberg's Daniel Akst sums it up best with his concluding sentence: "'The Map and the Territory' is an infuriating book, one that will leave readers wondering how its author could have come all this way and yet remain so hopelessly lost." Indeed...
I like Professor Shiller and respect his work. Really, I do, but... Massive bubbles, the sort of the proportion of the 2008 crisis, are nigh impossible to miss if you can add single digits successfully and are able to keep your eyes open for a few minutes at a time. Yes, I truly do feel its that simple. I saw the property bubble over a year in advance, cashed out and came back in shorting - all for a very profitable round trip. Was I a genius soothsayer? Well, maybe in my own mind, but the reality of the situation is I was simply paying attention. Let's recap:
If you listen to TV commentators, you’ve been told the worst is behind us. Growth is picking up, and Europe is coming out of its slumber. No one seems to be concerned that this tepid below-2-percent growth is being entirely fed by the central bank’s massive money printing. It’s a “growth at any price” policy. How quickly we forget. We currently fear Fed tapering, as we should. Yet, we should be even more fearful that it doesn’t taper. Today, we really have a dreaded choice of losing an arm now or two arms and a leg tomorrow. Because the price distortions have been massive, the adjustment will be horrendous. Government policy makers and government economists simply do not understand the critical role of prices in helping discovery and coordination.
Och-Ziff were perhaps a little early but used the last 10 months to unwind their real estate and exit the landlord business as the hedge-fund sponsored echo-bubble in housing rolled over into the mainstream. "American-Homes-4-Rent"'s IPO suggested a scramble to exit. With 60% of home purchases now being cash-only (explains the ongoing and massive layoffs in the mortgage business not just due to rate-driven weakening of demand), it is therefore a concern when one of the biggest funds playing in this space - OakTree Capital - announces plan to exit the buy-to-rent trade - selling roughly 500 fully-leased homes. As Reuters notes, it is yet another indication that early investors are looking to cash-out on the "recovery" in U.S. housing prices. Who will be left holding the bag this time?
On the heels of President Obama’s signing of a measure keeping federally subsidized student loans at a relatively low rate through 2015, Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi exposes how the high price of U.S. college tuition and the federal expansion of student debt to pay for it pose a major threat to the economy. In his new article, Taibbi writes: "The dirty secret of American higher education is that student-loan interest rates are almost irrelevant. It’s not the cost of the loan that’s the problem, it’s the principal - the appallingly high tuition costs that have been soaring at two to three times the rate of inflation, an irrational upward trajectory eerily reminiscent of skyrocketing housing prices in the years before 2008." As Democracy Now notes, during the following interview with Taibbi, "...throw off the mystery and what you’ll uncover is a shameful and oppressive outrage that for years now has been systematically perpetrated against a generation of young adults." The federal government is poised to make $185 billion over the next 10 years on student loans, with no way out for the young borrowers: "Even gamblers can declare bankruptcy, but kids who enter into student loans will never, ever be able to get out of this debt."
“We have to turn the page on the bubble-and-bust mentality that created this mess,” President Obama stated authoritatively in his weekend radio address... but do not get too excited by the possibility of a real end to the Keynesian experiment and a return to 'free' markets for the President, in his oh-so-not-trying-to-start-a-class-warfare-battle way, blames bubbles not on Central banks (who have done "an outstanding job") but on the skewed distribution of income. As Bloomberg reports, Obama states “When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy." The problem with his way of thinking is best described by the status quo defender Sarah Bloom Raskin who offered up this insight into what the manipulation of market interest rates gives us, "asset bubbles are a feature of our financial landscape." So there it is, a feature (not a bug) that the President wants to get rid of (and yet wants to maintain the illusion that unrealized profit (and debt) is wealth).
The housing market. It would be the done-thing normally to imagine that one might learn from mistakes that have been made in the past; and not only learn from them, but make sure that they don’t happen again.
As David Stockman, Reagan's infamous Budget Director, writes in his bestseller, The Great Deformation: The Corruption Of Capitalism In America – "the last thing hedge funds do is hedge." The hedge fund complex is "not so much a conventional industry as it is a giant moveable trade": Wall Street trading desks frequently morph into independent hedge fund partnerships, and senior hedge funds often sire “cubs” and then sons of cubs. The protean ability of this arrangement to spawn, fund, and replicate successful momentum trades cannot be overstated, and has "generated trillions of permanent momentum-chasing capital." Ultimately, he warns, "apologists for the Fed’s evisceration of the capital markets could not see... they had unleashed the financial furies in the violent momentum trading modus operandi of the hedge fund casino."
In May 22 testimony to the Joint Economic Committee of Congress, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke issued another of many similar positive interpretations of central bank policy. Yet again, he continued to argue that quantitative easing has decreased long-term interest rates and produced other benefits. The Fed's polices have not produced the much-promised re-acceleration in economic growth. The standard of living - defined as median household income - has fallen back to the level of 1995. The best approach would be for the Fed to recognize the failure of QE and end the program immediately, thereby allowing price distortions in the markets to correct themselves. By ending the illusion that the Fed can take constructive actions, this might even serve to force federal government leaders to deal with the growing fiscal policy imbalances. Otherwise, debt levels will continue to build and serve to further limit the potential for economic growth.
According to the index the construction of the world’s tallest buildings have always coincided with the great slumps and recessions that we have gone through in history.
This insane world was created through decades of bad decisions, believing in false prophets, choosing current consumption over sustainable long-term savings based growth, electing corruptible men who promised voters entitlements that were mathematically impossible to deliver, the disintegration of a sense of civic and community obligation and a gradual degradation of the national intelligence and character. There is a common denominator in all the bubbles created over the last century – Wall Street bankers and their puppets at the Federal Reserve. Fractional reserve banking, control of a fiat currency by a privately owned central bank, and an economy dependent upon ever increasing levels of debt are nothing more than ingredients of a Ponzi scheme that will ultimately implode and destroy the worldwide financial system. Since 1913 we have been enduring the largest fraud and embezzlement scheme in world history, but the law of diminishing returns is revealing the plot and illuminating the culprits. Bernanke and his cronies have proven themselves to be highly educated one trick pony protectors of the status quo. Bernanke will eventually roll craps. When he does, the collapse will be epic and 2008 will seem like a walk in the park.
Rising home prices, especially in major cities, are prompting a growing chorus of discontent among ordinary Chinese. Our Japanese friends would no doubt feel more than hint of nostalgia should they visit Beijing. For just like the famous Japanese “bubble economy” of the late 1980s, Beijing has been virtually turned into one big construction site with constantly changing streetscapes. The real estate industry may have played a role in China’s economic development, but it appears to have been for the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. In the long term, the trade-off seems poor. For that, not just the general manager, but the premier too needs to take responsibility.
Here We Go Again: Step Aside RMBS, Rent-Backed Securities Are Here, And With Them The Beginning Of The EndSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 07/30/2013 17:03 -0400
Earlier today, when we reported that median asking rents in the US had just hit an all time high, we had a thought: how long until the hedge funds that also double down as landlords decide to bypass the simple collection the rental cash flows, and instead collateralize the actual underlying "securities"? One look at the chart below - which compares the median asking "for sale" price in black and the median rent in red - shows why. The last time there was a great divergence (to the benefit of housing), Wall Street spawned an entire Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities industry where Paulson, Goldman willing sellers would package mortgages, often-times synthetically, slice them up in tranches of assorted riskiness, and sell them to willing idiots yield-starved buyers. As everyone knows, that particular securitization bubble ended with the bankruptcy of Lehman, the bailout of AIG and the near collapse of the financial system. As it turns out, the answer to our original question was "a few hours" because securitizations are back, baby, and this time they are scarier and riskier than ever.
Anyone who believes that housing is back in a big way needs to take a look at homebuilder stocks.
Despite the actions and protestations of the central-planners, Chinese home prices have now risen year-over-year for the sixth month in a row and June (at +6.8%) is the fastest rate since January 2011. As Reuters reports, the incessant rise in property prices across 70 major cities hides the real bubbles in Beijing (+12.9% year-over-year) and Shanghai (+11.9%) which, as we noted in detail previously, reflects the apparently unstoppable exogenous hot money (credit) flows that the rest-of-the-world's-central-bankers are pumping into the markets. China's near four-year-old campaign to temper home prices has also been partly undone by strong demand and short supply, and by a rush of efforts by local Chinese governments to sell land to raise revenues but things could escalate as one analyst notes, "faced with the dilemma of how to lower housing prices without exacerbating the economic slowdown, the Chinese government may assess second-quarter results before introducing tougher measures."