Housing Prices

Guest Post: Why We’re Light Years Away From Solving Our Problems

It’s been said that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again but to expect a different result. On that basis, the western world’s economic policymakers are clearly certifiable. They cut rates. It does nothing. So they cut rates again. And again. They in debt future generations to ‘stimulate’ the economy. It does nothing. So they stimulate again. And again. Nothing that central banksters or politicians have done since the 2008 global financial crisis has fundamentally changed economic conditions. Yet they keep applying the same remedies, drawn from the same old Keynesian playbook. The false premise which guides their decisions is that we can all grow wealthy by borrowing and consuming, instead of by producing and saving. People have been sold this lie for more than a generation. It is embedded in social DNA. In the current western economic system, you are rewarded for going into debt with all sorts of tax deductions. Save money, on the other hand, and you are punished through taxation and inflation. The incentives are all wrong; it’s no wonder that people have over-borrowed and overspent given that the system is so blatantly slanted to promote such behavior.

On Attacking Austrian Economics

Josh Barro of Bloomberg has an interesting theory.  According to him, conservatives in modern day America have become so infatuated with the school of Austrian economics that they no longer listen to reason.  It is because of this diehard obsession that they reject all empirical evidence and refuse to change their favorable views of laissez faire capitalism following the financial crisis.  Basically, because the conservative movement is so smitten with the works of Ludwig von Mises and F.A. Hayek, they see no need to pose any intellectual challenge to the idea that the economy desperately needs to be guided along by an “always knows best” government; much like a parent to a child.  CNN and Newsweek contributor David Frum has jumped on board with Barro and levels the same critique of conservatives while complaining that not enough of them follow Milton Friedman anymore.

To put this as nicely as possible, Barro and Frum aren’t just incorrect; they have put their embarrassingly ignorant understandings of Austrian economics on full display for all to see.

Spain Formally Comes A Begging

While the world has known for over two weeks that the Spanish banking system is insolvent and locked out of global liquidity, the country was reticent about formally bowing down to Germany and announcing in proper protocol that it was broke. Until a few hours ago, when Spain's Economy Minister Luis de Guindos Monday sent a letter to Eurogroup President Jean-Claude Juncker, as expected, formally requesting aid to assist with the recapitalization of Spanish banks that need it, the ministry said in a statement. Sadly, at this point we can all just sit back and await for the next Spanish bailout letter demanding more cash, because, as we have explained on several occasions, the ultimate funding need of Spanish banks will be well over €100 billion, as further confirmed overnight by another analysis from Open Europe, which notes the patenly obvious: "Up to mid-2015 Spain faces funding needs of €547.5bn, over half its GDP and a large majority of its debt."

Guest Post: The Housing Recovery - Based On What?

The real estate industry announces the housing recovery is finally underway every year. 2012 is no different from previous years: various positive data points are duly cherry-picked (multiple offers are back in West Hollywood, sales are up year-over-year in Las Vegas, inventory is down, etc.) to back up the claim the "bottom is in" and the recovery in sales and prices is rock-solid. We understand the industry's extreme self-interest in attempting to re-inflate housing, but let's begin with the obvious question: what's the housing recovery based on? The standard answer is of course "super-low mortgage rates, courtesy of the Federal Reserve."  But people need a sufficient income to qualify to own a house, regardless of rates, so let's look at income by age, and focus on the key homebuying ages of 25 to 44. The only age group whose incomes continued rising during the past five years is the over 65 cohort--the very group who is "downsizing" or selling their homes to live in assisted living. The key homebuying cohorts have seen their incomes plummet since the housing bubble popped.

Moody's Downgrades Five Dutch Banks By 1-2 Notches

While we await the Moody's downgrade of the Spanish banking system, which we can only attribute to a lack of outsourced Indian talent, since three banks are now rated higher than the sovereign, Moody's decided to give a little present to our Dutch readers by downgrading 5 of their biggest banks: Rabobank Nederland, (2 notches to A2) for ING Bank N.V., (2 notches to A2) for ABN AMRO Bank N.V. (2 notches to A2), and for LeasePlan Corporation N.V. (2 notches to Baa2). The long-term debt and deposit ratings for SNS Bank N.V. were downgraded by one notch to Baa2. And yes, this means that the US banks (looking at your Margin Stanley) are likely next.

S&P: "Spanish Home Prices To Drop Another 25%"

For all the news out of Spain: tumbling sovereign bonds, bailed out banking sector, there really is just one driver of everything: the same one many have been warning about for years: the artificially inflated valuation of the Spanish housing sector. Because the only reason why banks are suddenly finding that their assets are worth much less than previously expected, is because it is now impossible for local banks to keep the real-estate "assets" on their books at marks-to-model (read par) as the bulk of them have long since become impaired, delinquent or outright defaulted.... Which is the worst news for holders of Spanish bonds, now that the entire banking sector is effectively pari passu with the sovereign debt courtesy of priming ESM debt: recall that every incremental dollar, or in this case, euro, of bank capital deficiency will be one more priming bailout euro behind. Effectively there is now an inverse relationship between the Spanish housing sector and the country's sovereign bonds. And for those who are still naively are clutching to Spanish bonds, even as they tumble to all time lows (that's the local law, as opposed to the legal arbitrage trade we have been promoting and which today is making even more money), we have some bad news: that perpetual of optimists, S&P, just said that the Spanish housing sector has, wait for it, another 25% to drop!

This means a comparable drop in store for Spanish bonds and all the related securities in Europe, which courtesy of the bailout are all now daisy-chained.

Frontrunning: June 14

  • Greek Banks Under Pressure (WSJ)
  • France Seeks Eurozone Stability Package (FT)
  • Germany Dashes Eurozone Expectations (FT)
  • Geithner Says European Leaders Know They Must Do More (Bloomberg)
  • In Athens, Party Aims to Delay Austerity (WSJ)
  • Rajoy Battles ECB for Loans; Monti Appeals for EU Action (Bloomberg)
  • Nokia Slashes 10,000 Jobs, Cuts Outlook (WSJ)
  • H-1B Visas Hit the Cap, Sending Companies to Plan B (Businessweek)
  • Swiss National Bank Vows to Defend Currency Floor (WSJ)
  • Euro Crisis Deeper With Moody’s Downgrading Spain, Cyprus (Bloomberg)
  • When all else fails... Truckers As Leading Indicator Show Stable U.S. Economic Growth (Bloomberg)

March Case Shiller Misses Expectations: Housing Set For Quadruple Dip

Following the now long-gone LTRO induced risk ramp through March, many of the C-grade economists out there predicted that housing would bottom in March (this time for real) and it would be smooth sailing from there. Alas, the just released March Case Shiller data puts this latest speculation very much in doubt (once again), following a miss of consensus expectations in the Top 20 Composite of a 0.20% increase, printing at half that, or 0.09%, and more importantly, a decline from the February rate of increase, which was 0.15%. The non-seasonally adjusted number declined by 0.03%, the 7th consecutive drop in a row. All this begs the question: did housing just quadruple dip, with a February local extreme in the Sequential rate of change. As the chart below shows, we had comparable peaks in the summer of 2009, in April 2010, and again in April 2011, following which the downward slide resumed every single time once the temporary benefits of monetary and fiscal easing subsided. Also, recall that March was the last month receiving benefits of a record warm winter: in effect a mini demand pull program. And now comes the hangover. Bottom line: based on a broad index, housing is about to decline once again, and make a total joke out of all those who, yet again, made "bold" annual housing bottom predictions.

Daily US Opening News And Market Re-Cap: May 22

UK CPI this morning came in weaker than expected at 3.0% Y/Y in April, weighed by a fall in air fares, alcohol, clothes and sea transport, according to the ONS. The release saw aggressive selling of GBP in the currency market and has underpinned the rise in gilt futures. Alongside the 26th month low in UK CPI the IMF also issued their latest assessment on the UK economy and said further policy easing is required and that the Bank could cut its interest rate from the current 0.5% level. In other market moving news a Greek government source said that Greek banks are to receive a EUR 18bln recapitalisation down payment this Friday which initially saw the EUR and stock futures rally, however, the move was short lived as it became clear that the payment is scheduled as part of the bailout programme for Greece. Elsewhere, Fitch made a surprise announcement and downgraded the Japanese sovereign rating by two notches to A+, outlook negative. The move means Fitch has the lowest rating for Japan of the three main rating agencies so we remain vigilant for any comments from S&P and Moody’s today.

Frontrunning: May 22

  • Hilsenrath: Fed Pondering Why Inflation and Deflation Threats Ebbed (WSJ)
  • The Naivete: France to push for eurozone bonds (FT)
  • The rebuke: Merkel Says She Won’t Shy From Clash With Hollande at EU Summit (Bloomberg)
  • The Euro-love: Hollande's euro arguments "nonsense": Austria's Fekter (Reuters)
  • Obama Campaign Does Damage Control After Dems Question Anti-Bain Strategy (ABC)
  • Greece: four major banks recapitalized by Friday (L'Echo)... and if they aren't?
  • China to fast-track infrastructure investments (Reuters)... because China needs more cement
  • Jeeps Sell for $189,750 as China Demand Offsets Tariffs (Bloomberg)
  • As Facebook’s Stock Struggles, Fingers Start Pointing (NYT)
  • Facebook 11% Drop Means Morgan Stanley Gets Blame (Bloomberg)

Ron Paul: "Central Bankers Are Intellectually Bankrupt"

Likely glowing from his glorious victory (h/t Trish Regan) over Krugman in Bloomberg's recent Paul vs Paul debate, Rep. Ron Paul destroys the central-planning arrogance of Bernanke and his ilk in an Op-Ed released by the FT today.

Control of the world’s economy has been placed in the hands of a banking cartel, which holds great danger for all of us. True prosperity requires sound money, increased productivity, and increased savings and investment. The world is awash in US dollars, and a currency crisis involving the world’s reserve currency would be an unprecedented catastrophe. No amount of monetary expansion can solve our current financial problems, but it can make those problems much worse.