The financial crisis is surely a touchy subject at the Fed, where the biggest PR challenge is “bubble blowing” criticism from those of us who aren’t on the payroll (directly or indirectly). But Foote, Gerardi and Willen are, of course, on the payroll. They tell us there’s little else that can be said about the origins of the crisis, because any “honest economist” will admit to not understanding bubbles... " Unfortunately, the study of bubbles is too young to provide much guidance on this point. For now, we have no choice but to plead ignorance, and we believe that all honest economists should do the same." This smells to us like a strategy of gently acknowledging criticism (of the Fed’s interest rate policies), while at the same time attempting to neutralize it.
While the BLS may be searching far and wide for evidence of hedonically-adjusted "core" inflation, and not finding it anywhere (expect in assets, housing prices, food and energy, but apparently all America buys every day are LCD TVs and iPads), one place where not even the BLS can hide what is clear and present "inflation" is college grade point averages, and especially grades for humanities courses, where as the saying goes pretty much everyone is "above average." And, as JPM adds, "Soon, colleges will have to “turn the dial up to 11” or else everyone will have the maximum GPA." Well, in a society where the push is to make everyone equal, it would only be fair for everyone to get the exact same perfect grades...
Key events in the week ahead with implications for early 2014.
With even Bank of England head Mark Carney admitting UK housing prices may be a little bubbley (and affordability plumbing new depths), RT reports that a hostel in east London has come up with the ingenious idea, to try and solve homelessness amid soaring rents in the British capital, of converting a shipping container from China into a tiny low cost home for hard up and desperate Londoners. The boxes, called mYpads, cost GBP75 per week - around one-quarter of the rent of most distant yet commutable borough in London - and are affordable for even those on minimum wage.
“In 1960, about one in four renters paid more than 30% of income for housing. Today, one in two are cost burdened,” according to a new study (ironically) by Harvard University. As Bloomberg BusinessWeek's Peter Coy notes, the availability of apartments, especially cheaper ones, hasn’t nearly kept up with demand, and the problem has worsened since the 2007-09 recession. Remarkably, the number or people with severe cost burdens (paying over 50% of income to rent) is up by 2.5 million in just four years, to 11.3 million; and as usual, the pinch is hardest on the poor. The share of cost-burdened renters increased by a stunning 12 percentage points between 2000 and 2010, the largest jump in any decade dating back at least to 1960.
"The shale oil plays are going to be probably much less than a 10-year flash in the pan. They are very dependent on a lot of different things, including low interest rates and the ability to keep borrowing - which could turn around very quickly. Lower oil prices would tend to do the same thing. But even if you hypothesize that we can keep the low interest rates and that the oil price will stay up there, under the best of circumstances, the Barnett data says they probably will not go for very long... And so these companies put together optimistic financial statements that have the benefit of these extremely low interest rates. They keep adding debt onto debt onto debt. How long can they continue to get more debt to finance this whole operation? It's not a model that anybody who is very sensible would follow."
Faith in the current system is as high as it has ever been, and folks don't want to hear otherwise. If you're one of those people who thinks it prudent to have intelligent discussion on some of these risks -- that maybe the future may turn out to be less than 100% awesome in every dimension -- you're probably finding yourself standing alone at cocktail parties these days. A helpful question to ask yourself is: if I could talk to my 2009 self, what would s/he advise me to do? Don't put yourself in a position to relearn that lesson so soon after the last bubble. Exercise the wisdom to look like an idiot today.
China's GDP is about to undergo the same magic that US GDP received earlier in the year. The "Chinese system of National Accounts" will see five significant adjustments that are expected to (surprise) boost the size of the nation's estimate of its GDP. The National Bureau of Statistics is considering making the changes to reflect the latest economic and social developments and implement the reform guidelines unveiled at the 3rd Plenum recently. From the addition of research and development - intellectual properrty - (just as the US did) to including mark-to-market changes (read rises) in employee stock options and real estate in consumption data, the Chinese appear dead set on making a once-unbelievably goal-seeked number into an entirely fantastical representation of reality (which of course enables moar higher manipulation as to avoid any debt-to-gdp hurdles that the real world might see as a concern).
The soon-to-be-confirmed Mr. Chairwoman had plenty to say - none of which came as a great surprise. Overall we scored her comments 32 Dovish to 18 Hawkish (which fits with all pre-conceved ideas about the size of her index-finger in relation to the 'print' button). A few cherubs include:
- *YELLEN SAYS BENEFITS OF QE STILL EXCEED THE COSTS
- *YELLEN SAYS QE `CANNOT CONTINUE FOREVER'
- *YELLEN DOESN'T SEE ASSET BUBBLE IN HOUSING PRICES
- *YELLEN SAYS QE IS NOT AIMED AT HELPING TO FINANCE U.S. DEFICIT
- *YELLEN: NO ONE HAS A GOOD MODEL ON WHAT INFLUENCES GOLD PRICES
She covered fiscal policy, regulation, gold, income inequality, and bubbles; but it was her admission late in the Q&A that "real" unemployment is around 10% that perhaps leaves the most room for moar...
Ben Bernanke is participating in an IMF panel with Larry Summers, Ken Rogoff, and fromer Bank of Israel chief Stan Fischer... Full speech below...
Yes... a rating agency - the same entity that enabled the last housing market crash - just warned of a housing bubble. How the times have changed - maybe it is different this time?
There are people in the world that go to work every day to end up stating the damn obvious.
There was some hilarious news overnight: such that supposedly Spain's GDP rose 0.1% in Q3 thus ending a 2+ year recession. There is no point to even comment on this "recovery" - we will merely remind that starving your economy of imports for the sake of generating a GDP-boosting trade surplus, while consumption declines, solves nothing and point readers to charts of Spanish non-performing loans, housing prices, and unemployment, oh and the massive Bad Bank of course, and leave it at that. In terms of real news, futures are lower following a drubbing in Asia over the previously discussed concerns over tighter Chinese monetary policy. Amusingly, as Reuters notes, this has hit global shares still high on hopes of extended U.S. stimulus on Wednesday, when the dollar tentatively steadied at an eight-month low after its latest slide. The immediate casualty is the USDJPY, which continues to slide and is approaching the 200SMA. In short: fears that China may have resumed tapering have offset yesterday's hope that "horrible" job numbers mean no Fed tapering until mid-2014.... New Normal fundamentals.
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: