As noted earlier when we said that Jamie Dimon (who just happens to be one of two Class A directors at the NY Fed) just showed the Fed who is boss, the Fed has now been "forced" to release the Stress Test results today at 4:30 pm instead of as previously scheduled on March 15. Jamie Dimon is now officially defining the Fed's timetable. This is all in jest of course: Dimon would never do anything without preauthorization from Bill Dudley, which means that even as the FOMC statement was a big yawn, the JPM release less than an hour later was planned purely to ramp stocks into the close on the lack of a definitive promise by the Fed to keep printing. Well played gents.
Could housing prices be stabilizing?
China had a massive surge in its demand for commodities over the past decade, fueled by its housing boom and infrastructure investment boom. From 2000 to 2010, China’s imports (in value terms) of iron ore surged by 42.5 times, thermal coal 248 times and copper 16.2 times. During the same period, its production (in quantity terms) for aluminum jumped by 441.8%, cement 219.5% and steel 396.0%. It is the biggest consumer in virtually all commodity categories in the world. In Credit Suisse's view, China was the key factor behind the global commodity supercycle. After a period of economic slowdown, all eyes are on China, hoping that the middle kingdom can return to its might in commodity demand. CS cuts through all the cyclical factors and asks whether China's mighty demand for commodities will return in the medium term - their answer is 'No'. As the economy shifts its growth engines away from infrastructure, construction and exports toward consumption, especially service consumption, the propensity of demand for commodities is bound to decline. Getting a massage simply does not use as much steel as building an airport.
In a previous report, Headwinds for Housing, I examined structural reasons why the much-anticipated recovery in housing valuations and sales has failed to materialize. In Searching for the Bottom in Home Prices, I addressed the Washington and Federal Reserve policies that have attempted to boost the housing market. In this third series, let’s explore this question: is housing now an attractive investment? At least some people think so, as investors are accounting for around 25% of recent home sales. Superficially, housing looks potentially attractive as an investment. Mortgage rates are at historic lows, prices have declined about one-third from the bubble top (and even more in some markets), and alternative investments, such as Treasury bonds, are paying such low returns that when inflation is factored in, they're essentially negative. On the “not so fast” side of the ledger, there is a bulge of distressed inventory still working its way through the “hose” of the marketplace, as owners are withholding foreclosed and underwater homes from the market in hopes of higher prices ahead. The uncertainties of the MERS/robosigning Foreclosuregate mortgage issues offer a very real impediment to the market discovering price and risk. And massive Federal intervention to prop up demand with cheap mortgages and low down payments has introduced another uncertainty: What happens to prices if this unprecedented intervention ever declines? Last, the obvious correlation between housing and the economy remains an open question: Is the economy recovering robustly enough to boost demand for housing, or is it still wallowing in a low-growth environment that isn’t particularly positive for housing?
Could Sweden or Finland be the scene of the next European financial crisis? It is actually far likelier than most people realize. While the world has been laser-focused on the woes of the heavily-indebted PIIGS nations for the last couple of years, property markets in Northern and Western European countries have been bubbling up to dizzying new heights in a repeat performance of the very property bubbles that caused the global financial crisis in the first place. Nordic and Western European countries such as Norway and Switzerland have attracted strong investment inflows due to their perceived economic safe-haven statuses, serving to further inflate these countries’ preexisting property bubbles that had expanded from the mid-1990s until 2008. With their overheated economies and ballooning property bubbles, today’s safe-haven European countries may very well be tomorrow’s Greeces and Italys.
When all else fails, pretend it's all good. Like what Australia did, following the just released announcement by the RBA that it is keeping the cash rate unchanged at 4.25% on expectations of a 25 bps rate cut. Which begs the question: is China re-exporting the lagging US inflation it imported over 2011? So it appears to Glenn Stevens, who just said that "Commodity prices declined for some months to be noticeably off their peaks, but over the past couple of months have risen somewhat and remain at quite high levels." Or maybe they are not pretending and inflation is still alive and very much real? It also means that Chinese inflation continues to be far higher than what is represented, but we probably will just take the PBoC's word for that. Or not, and wonder: did the RBA just catch the PBOC lying about its subdued inflation? And if that is the case, does anyone really wonder why that very elusive RRR-cut is coming with the same certainty as the Greek creditor deal? Either way, the AUDJPY spikes by 80 pips on the news, however briefly, and if the traditional linkage between the AUDJPY and the market is preserved, it should have a favorable impact on risk as it means at least one hotbed of inflation remains. On the other hand, it also means that Chinese easing is a long way off... and in a market defined solely by hopes for central bank intervention this is not good. And amusingly, just as we write this, Bloomberg release a note that the PBOC is draining funds: "China’s money market rates rose after PBOC resumed fund drain via a repo operation, showing it remained cautious toward policy easing." Translation: "Hopes for a near-term RRR cut could be dashed, Credit Agricole CIB strategist Frances Cheung writes in note to clients." Oops. Furthermore, the PBOC did 26 billion yuan in repos, meaning it is set to conduct a net liquidity withdrawal for this week according to Credit Agricole. Withrawing liquidity when the market expects RRR cuts? Fughetaboutit. (and reread the Grice piece on why only idiots define inflation by the CPI or the PCE).
Luckily they are easy to spot: the demagogues, the manipulators and the hired claqueurs. Unfortunately, there is no lack of media willing to provide a platform to perform their insidious game. “We need more, not less, government spending to get us out of our unemployment trap. And the wrong-headed, ill-informed obsession with debt is standing in its way.”How can a Nobel-prize carrying economist, who is presumably smart, write such nonsense? “He knows better”, says Jim Rickards (author of “Currency Wars”). And that makes Krugman so dangerous. Decision makers will reference his “debt does not matter” mantra over and over again – until it’s over. Thank you, Mayfly. You really understand debt – and how to make others believe it doesn’t matter.
Since 2008 and the bursting of the great credit bubble, central banks have been printing money hand over fist in a desperate attempt to generate the inflation they feel is necessary to drag the world out of a perceived deflationary spiral. The chart (left) shows the growth in ‘assets’ of G-3 Central Banks over the last 17 months alone, during which time, they have increased by 32%. To date, the level of the various benchmark CPI indicators would suggest there have been no deleterious effects, but just because the results aren’t showing up where those in charge of measuring them are LOOKING, doesn’t mean they aren’t showing up at all. Look at food prices across Asia. Look at housing prices in Hong Kong. Look at fuel prices in Nigeria. Look at heating costs in the UK. Look at gold.
The Case Shillers are shilling that the market is still weakening. But that's just not the Case.
Listen to the Landlord in Chief lay out his REO to LBO plan live and in stereo. Since everyone will end up paying for it, directly or indirectly, sooner or later it probably is relevant.
Call Your State Attorney General and "Just Say No"