Yellen’s acting routine is worthy of an Academy Award. In her role, she plays a caring, sweet, grandmotherly type figure all concerned about the poor and middle-class, when reality points to a career as a staunch, frontline protector of the bankster oligarchy.
Tonight's round of baffle 'em with bullshit is courtesy of a diverging AsiaPacific economic picture that is anything but supportive of the 'reality' being painted by China's official PMI (which printed at 51.0 as per expectations at 2014 highs) followed by HSBC China PMI which missed its flash estimate (with employment dropping to 8mo lows). South Korea PMI collapsed to 10-month lows; Aussie PMI faded further into contraction at 48.9; and then Japan's Tankan dramatically missed expectations, tumbling to 9-month lows (only to be followed by a 51.1 Japan print (3-month highs). Just to complete the "picture", Chinese home prices fell for the first time in over 2 years. The result, USDJPY rallies and Nikkei 225 soars 200 points... baffled?
Market extremes generally share a common formula. One part reality is blended with one part misguided perception (typically extrapolating recent trends as if they are driven by some reliable and permanent mechanism), and often one part pure delusion (typically in the form of a colorful hallucination with elves, gnomes and dancing mushrooms all singing in harmony that reliable valuation measures no longer matter). This time is not different.
Those who have lost trust in Wall Street or actively hate it and everything it stands for (neofeudalism, unbridled greed, the corruption and collusion of the revolving door between the state and Wall Street, etc.) will never change their minds and hand their money to Wall Street to play with. If the primary assets held by Boomers (houses and stocks) both decline for these fundamental reasons, there may be relatively little wealth left to pass on to Gen-Y... if Gen-Y avoids bank debt/mortgages, buying conspicuous consumption luxury goods on credit and investing in Wall Street's scams and skims, this generational lack of demand for housing, stocks and luxury goods will effectively crash the sky-high valuations of these assets. These factors suggest a generational bet against banks, Wall Street, housing and luxury retail stocks.
Borrowing heavily from Albert Edwards "Ice Age" analogy of our new normal, PIMCO's Bill Gross, after explaining why he does not have a cell phone, discusses the "frigidly low" levels of "The New Neutral" in this week's letter. Confirming Ben Bernanke's "not in my lifetime" promise for low rates and a lack of normalization, Gross explains that the "the new neutral" real policy rate will be close to 0% as opposed to 2-3% (just as in Japan) leaving an increasingly small incremental rise in rates as potentially responsible for popping the bubble. Gross concludes, "if 'The New Neutral' rates stay low, it supports current prices of financial assets. They would appear to be less bubbly," clearly defending the valuation of bonds knowing that he can't expose stocks as 'bubbly' without exposing his firm to more outflows.
The housing "recovery" since 2010 can be summarized in four phrases: diminishing returns, unprecedented central state/bank intervention, unintended consequences, end-game. The unintended consequences of the Fed's unprecedented interventions will rip the heart and lungs out of the housing market
After the crisis, many expected that the blameworthy would be punished or at the least be required to return their ill-gotten gains—but they weren’t, and they didn’t. Many thought that those who were injured would be made whole, but most weren’t. And many hoped that there would be a restoration of the financial safety rules to ensure that industry leaders could no longer gamble the equity of their firms to the point of ruin. This didn’t happen, but it’s not too late. It is useful, then, to identify the persistent myths about the causes of the financial crisis and the resulting Dodd-Frank reform legislation and related implementation...."Plenty of people saw it coming, and said so. The problem wasn’t seeing, it was listening."
A simple way of grasping the precarious situation China has found itself in is with this useful diagram which summarizes the negative loop that China's economy (which essentially means housing market which as SocGen recently explained is indirectly responsible for 80% of local GDP) could fall into should the government not promptly move to address the emerging dangerous situation, i.e., resume aggressive easing.
The Greenspan Housing Bubble Lives On: 20 Million Homeowners Can’t Trade-Up Because They Are Still UnderwaterSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/20/2014 20:16 -0500
One of the most deplorable aspects of Greenspan’s monetary central planning was the lame proposition that financial bubbles can’t be detected, and that the job of central banks is to wait until they crash and then flood the market with liquidity to contain the damage. In short, China didn’t “save ” America into a housing crisis; the Greenspan Fed printed America into a cheap debt binge that ended up impairing the residential housing market for years to come. In any event, for those Millennials who do manage to accumulate a down payment by the time they are in their early 30s there is precious little starter home inventory available. The Greenspan mortgage debt serfs from the previous generation are blocking the way. Monetary central banking is an economy wrecker. Here is just one more smoking gun of proof.
"You’re picking up pennies on a train track. You are not getting paid much but you are sure that there will be a very negative surprise at some point. The risk / reward profile is as bad as ’07." - Portfolio manager speaking to Citigroup
You would think that with all the surefire bets in housing that people would be dialing up their realtors and heading out every weekend to make those lustful multiple offers presented in PowerPoint format on properties. Yet the overall market data shows a different story. The house horniest of them all, investors, are clearly pulling out of markets including sunny and inflated California. Apparently home prices do matter when making investment decisions. Cash strapped hormonal buyers will keep on buying but housing prices are set on the margin. That margin is becoming razor thin on current volume. I find it interesting that the biggest housing supporter of them all, the National Association of Realtors is also somewhat tepid on this recovery. Why? Because home sales volume is pathetic. Keep in mind they make money on selling and buying. Volume is key. Their model doesn’t work so well with banks holding onto properties like Gollum holding onto the ring and the foreclosure process being dragged out like the forever college student enjoying year 10 at Santa Monica City College. You see this overarching trend occurring in many metro areas across the country. Investors have been propping up the market since 2008. They are now slowly pulling back. You are also starting to see a convergence of analysts putting out their predictions on how overvalued housing is and backing it up with mountains of data. The other side of the argument points to prices. Sure, they’ve gone up but value is created by actual price and that is sort of the point. The answer as always isn’t so simple but using your thinking cap it is important to understand that housing is not a “no brainer” decision in this market.
"New starts contracted 15% yoy (vs. -21.9% yoy in March); property sales fell 14.3% yoy (vs. -7.5% yoy); and land sales (by area) plunged 20.5% yoy (vs. -16.9% yoy previously). ... the housing market situation has undoubtedly turned quite gloomy. There has been a constant news stream of falling property prices everywhere, even in the 1-tier cities. A number of local governments, as we expected, have started to ease policy locally, especially relaxation of the home-purchase restrictions." - Soc Gen
There's not much good news for housing these days. For a little while, the Fed's suppression of interest rates juiced housing enough to distract Americans from weak job creation and stagnant real wages. Don't have a job? No problem! Just borrow against the appreciation of your house to feed your family. But Yellen's interest rate wand looks to be out of magic. The government had a pipe dream of white picket fences for everyone. But Americans can't refinance their way to wealth. Especially in the Greater Depression.
I do have a heightened sense of alertness to what may be in store should the hubris of the current market run fail to permeate into forecasts and expectation announcements over the coming months.
Simply put, there is overwhelming evidence of inflation during the decade long era in which the central bankers have been braying about “deflation”. What is more worrisome, David Stockman presents some startling evidence of the complicity of the government statistical mills in using the inflation that is not seen (i.e. “imputed”) to dilute and obscure the inflation that is seen (i.e. utility bills).