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 16:03 -0500
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."
From Bill Gross: "In trying to be specific about which conditions would prompt a tapering of QE, the Fed tilted overrisked investors to one side of an overloaded and overlevered boat. Everyone was looking for lifeboats on the starboard side of the ship, and selling begat more selling, even in Treasuries. While the Fed’s move may ultimately be better understood or even praised, it no doubt induced market panic. Without the presence of a “Bernanke Put” or the promise of a continuing program of QE check writing, investors found the lifeboats dysfunctional. They could only sell to themselves and almost all of them had too much risk. A band somewhere on the upper deck began to play “Nearer, My God, to Thee.”"
Gold has gone down Friday to under $1, 200 an ounce and that means it’s reached its lowest point for the past three years. Worse than that: it’s been the worst quarterly performance for gold for 45 years!
Chinese investors are holding their collective breaths to see if the banking crisis predicted two years ago by renowned Chinese economist Li Zuojun will come to fruition in the next couple of months. Li's astounding accuracy in predicting China's economy has led to him earning the nickname "China's most successful doomsayer." Though far from perfect, a lot of what he said here rings true, but the interesting insight is that he forecasts that the incoming regime will want to take its lumps early, in 2013, so as to minimize blame ("it was the old crew’s fault") and maximize praise for subsequent recovery... He notes three other drivers (aside from this political one) including external flows and credit expansion and fears social instability should the status quo be maintained.
As we pointed out here, the impact on both 'real' housing affordability of surging mortgage rates is extremely significant for the so-called 'housing recovery' but as Charles Hugh-Smith notes, there is a more insidious (inflation-like) effect (aside from the consumer-confidence sapping one we described here). Rising mortgage rates reduce household purchasing power just like higher taxes and inflation. That means there is less household income to spend on other things, and that's not good for "growth."
Bill Gross, of PIMCO and serious bond duration pain, finally comes clean: the man who has been criticizing the Fed for years for one after another misguided policy (all of which ultimately culminate with the New York Fed's markets desk going "wave it in" this or that) to the point where he began sounding like a Zero Hedge broken record, opines on the taper. And it is here that Bill's colors truly shine through: "We agree that QE must end. It has distorted incentives and inflated asset prices to artificial levels. But we think the Fed’s plan may be too hasty." In other words, please let me have my Fed and central-planning criticizing cake (but don't actually enact my free market suggestions) and let me eat my management fees too (and no monthly redemptions please). And there you have it: populist critic by day, pandering P&L defender by night.
It's been quite a morning. Beats across the board at the macro headline level. Housing (prices and sales), check; Durable Goods, check; Confidence, check; Richmond Fed, check. So why are stocks not surging?
The mere mention that tapering was even possible, combined with the Chairman's fairly sunny disposition (perhaps caused by the realization that the real mess will likely be his successor's problem to clean up) was enough to convince the market that the post-QE world was at hand. This conclusion is wrong. Although many haven't yet realized it, the financial markets are stuck in a "Waiting for Godot" era in which the change in policy that all are straining to see, will never in fact arrive. Most fail to grasp the degree to which the "recovery" will stall without the $85 billion per month that the Fed is currently pumping into the economy. Of course, when the Fed is forced to make this concession, it should be obvious to a critical mass that the recovery is a sham.
We have warned a number of times that China is a ticking time-bomb (and the PBoC finds itself between a housing-bubble rock and reflationary liquidity injection hard place) but the collapse of trust in the interbank funding markets suggests things are coming to a head quickly. The problem the administration has is re-surging house prices and a clear bubble in credit (as BofAML notes that they suspect that May housing numbers might have under-reported the true momentum in the market since local governments are pressured to control local prices) that they would like to control (as opposed to exaggerate with stimulus). As we noted here, while the PBOC may prefer to be more selective with their liquidity injections (read bank 'saves' like ICBC last night) due to the preference to control the housing bubble, when they finally fold and enter the liquidity market wholesale, the wave of reflation will rapidly follow (and so will the prices of precious metals and commodities).