When observing the trends in the housing market, one has two choices: i) listen to the bulls who keep repeating that "housing has bottomed", a common refrain which has been repeated every single year for the past four, or ii) look at the facts. We touched briefly on the facts earlier today when we presented the latest housing starts data:construction of single family residences remains 46 percent below the long-term trend; the more volatile multifamily houses is 15 percent below trend and demand for new homes 47 percent below. This is indicative of reluctance by households to make long-term investments due to fear of another downturn in housing prices. Bloomberg summarizes this succinctly: "This historically weak demand for new homes is inhibiting the recovery of demand for construction workers as well, about 2.3 million of whom remain without work." But the best visual representation of the housing "non-bottom" comes courtesy of the following chart of homes in negative or near-negative equity, which via Bloomberg Brief, is soared in Q4, and is now back to Q1 2010 level at over 13.5 million. What this means is that the foreclosure backlog and the shadow inventory of houses on the market could be as large as 13.5 million in the future, which translates into one simple word: supply.
Eventually — because the costs of the deleveraging trap makes organicy growth very difficult — the debt will either be forgiven, inflated or defaulted away. Endless rounds of tepid QE (which is debt additive, and so adds to the debt problem) just postpone that difficult decision. The deleveraging trap preserves the value of past debts at the cost of future growth. Under the harsh discipline of a gold standard, such prevarication is not possible. Without the ability to inflate, overleveraged banks, individuals and governments would default on their debt. Income would rapidly fall, and economies would likely deflate and become severely depressed. Yet liquidation is not all bad. The example of 1907 — prior to the era of central banking — illustrates this. Although liquidation episodes are painful, the clear benefit is that a big crash and depression clears out old debt. Under the present regimes, the weight of old debt remains a burden to the economy.
As markets continue to yo-yo and commentators deliver mixed forecasts, investors are faced with some tough decisions and have a number of important questions that need answering. On a daily basis we are asked what’s happening with oil prices alongside questions on China’s slowdown, why global trade will collapse if Romney wins, why investors should get out of stocks, why the Eurozone is doomed, and why we need to get rid of fractional reserve lending. Answering these and more, Mike Shedlock's in-depth interview concludes: "The gold standard did one thing for sure. It limited trade imbalances. Once Nixon took the United States off the gold standard, the U.S. trade deficit soared (along with the exportation of manufacturing jobs). To fix the problems of the U.S. losing jobs to China, to South Korea, to India, and other places, we need to put a gold standard back in place, not enact tariffs."
- Schäuble View on Eurozone at Odds With US (FT)
- Juncker: Euro zone leaders, ECB to act on Euro (Reuters)
- German Banks Cut Back Periphery Lending (FT)
- Monetary Policy Role in EU Debt Crisis Limited: Zoellick (CNBC)
- Bond Trading Loses Some Swagger Amid Upheaval (NYT)
- As first reported on ZH, Deflation Dismissed by Bond Measure Amid QE3 Anticipation (Bloomberg)
- Record Cash Collides With Yen as Topix Valuation Nearing Low (Bloomberg) - but, but, all the cash on the sidelines...
- Greek Leaders Agree Most Cuts, Lenders Stay On – Source (Reuters)
- Chinese Investment in US 'set for record year' (China Daily)
While it would appear that all news is good news; good news (or no news) is better news; and old-news is the best news; here is your one stop summary of all the notable bullish and bearish events in the past seven days.
It has been a tempestuous week where good is bad, worse is better, but European news is to be sold. Here is your one stop summary of all the notable bullish and bearish events in the past seven days.
10,000 baby boomers are retiring per day. This two decade trend has only started but will certainly have an impact on the housing situation moving forward. In most economic reports the boom and bust of the housing market was not factored into the equation. Many boomers will downsize or sell as they age. This is just a matter of demographics. While trends are harder to predict, we know that 10,000 baby boomers will be retiring on a daily basis for well over a decade. What does this do to housing? The challenge we will face is that the younger home buying generation is less affluent and more in debt prior to purchasing a home. Instead of growing households, we saw over 2 million young adults move back home to live with their parents. So much for household formation taking up all that excess demand. The recipe for the moment has been to constrain inventory and artificially push rates lower but this has done very little to increase actual financial security. What happens when millions of baby boomers retire?
Middle East situation not really in the prices, as the tension in Syria is growing to new heights.
IMF annual review of EZ policies pitches a lot of already pitched ideas (QE, etc etc). No news
Nothing crisp from Ben – outside comments that “Europe is not close to having a long term solution”… Thanks for the thumb up!
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.