After an almost uninterrupted period of decline over the last few years, US home prices now have some positive momentum. For one, the S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities has seen its highest increase in more than two years. In addition, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon recently stated that his bank was seeing a surge in mortgage applications. And perhaps most importantly, the National Association of Realtors has reported that the nation’s inventory of homes on the market has dropped to its lowest level since March 2006, while the median home price is 11.3% higher than a year ago. These are definitely good signs for housing. But remember, nothing goes up or down in a straight line. Just like a stock market that suffers a serious crash, housing has been due for an upward correction. But it is a false premise to conflate ‘rebound’ with full blown ‘recovery’. The market could just as easily improve, then decline once again in a few months’ time. Positive data is great, but doesn’t necessarily portend long-term growth.
"Obama/Romney, Romney/Obama – the most important election of our lifetime? Fact is they’re all the same – bought and paid for with the same money. Ours is a country of the SuperPAC, by the SuperPAC, and for the SuperPAC. The “people” are merely election-day pawns, pulling a Democratic or Republican lever that will deliver the same results every four years. “Change you can believe in?” I bought that one hook, line and sinker in 2008 during the last vestige of my disappearing middle age optimism. We got a more intelligent President, but we hardly got change. Healthcare dominated by corporate interests – what’s new? Financial regulation dominated by Wall Street – what’s new? Continuing pointless foreign wars – what’s new? I’ll tell you what isn’t new. Our two-party system continues to play ping pong with the American people, and the electorate is that white little ball going back and forth over the net. This side’s better – no, that one looks best. Elephants/Donkeys, Donkeys/Elephants. Perhaps the most farcical aspect of it all is that the choice between the two seems to occupy most of our time. Instead of digging in and digging out of this mess on a community level, we sit in front of our flat screens and watch endless debates about red and blue state theologies or listen to demagogues like Rush Limbaugh or his ex-cable counterpart Keith Olbermann."
Or to put in another way, by Christmas we may very well see Case-Shiller and other indicators of home prices headed back down, erasing the gains made in housing during 1H 2012.
Between stagnating incomes and centrally-planned spillovers into housing and transportation costs, workers in this country are increasingly pressured to move to more 'all-in affordable' areas (if they can). As a recent study by the Center for Housing Policy shows, the housing and transportation cost burdens of moderate income households living in the 25 largest metro areas problem is getting worse; moderate-income households pay a disproportionate share; Moderate-income homeowners carry heavier cost burdens than renters; and the combined burden of housing and transportation costs is greatest where costs are out of sync with local incomes - not always the places with the highest absolute costs. Of course QE is designed to 'help' homeowners... and yet the middle-class continues to be squeezed.
Chinese economic data has in general been surprising to the downside in recent weeks - in opposition to the positive (seasonally adjusted awesomeness) of US data. However, for tonight's entertainment we have GDP at 7.4% YoY - perfectly in line with expectations (but the 7th consecutive quarter of slowing growth), Industrial Production beat modestly, Retail Sales beat handsomely (biggest beat in 18 months), and FAI beat...
- *CHINA 3Q GDP RISES 7.4% VS ECONOMISTS' EST. 7.4% :NBSZ CH
- *CHINA SEPT. INDUSTRIAL OUTPUT RISES 9.2% VS 9% ECONOMISTS' EST.
- *CHINA JAN.-SEPT. FIXED-ASSET INVESTMENT UP 20.5% VS EST. 20.2%
- *CHINA SEPT. RETAIL SALES RISE 14.2% FROM YEAR EARLIER
So, no new stimulus coming anytime soon - leaving Bernanke and Draghi all alone (and the latter is stuck waiting for Rajoy to say 'Si'). AUD lurched violently up and down; US equity futures are unmoved; and Treasury yields rose perhaps 1bps.
It feels different this time. It also 'looks' different this time in that our 'recovery' just is not bouncing back from its Friedman-ite 'plucked' level to rise phoenix-like back to Potential GDP - as it is 'supposed' to. In an excellent two-part animated series, Stanford's John 'Rule' Taylor and Russ Roberts discuss this recovery's differences along many variables including GDP trend reversion, percent of the population that is working and, economic growth overall. They then go on to discuss potential reasons for this sluggish recovery; the ongoing slump in construction employment, the effect of housing prices on saving and spending decisions by households, and this recovery's having been preceded by a financial crisis. Taylor rejects these arguments, arguing instead that the sluggish recovery can be explained by poor economic policy decisions made by the Bush and the Obama administrations. Simple, clear, 20 minutes of Sunday evening preparation for the week.
The nature of what is ‘legal’ has become a truly bizarre concept these days. Developed nations of the west have hundreds of thousands of pages of rules, codes, regulations, laws, decrees, executive orders, etc., many of which are contradictory, archaic, and incomprehensible. Across these ‘free’ nations, the law is selectively enforced, selectively applied, and completely set aside whenever it pleases the state. As such, even the most harmless of activities (operating a lemonade stand, collecting rainwater, etc.) can be cast as illegal… while the direct theft of people’s wealth through taxes and manipulation of the currency is considered legal. There is no morality anymore in the law. And even still, whatever few activities may still be considered ‘legal’ are subject to consequences if the enforcers simply decide they don’t like it.
The policy of the Status Quo since 2008 boils down to this assumption: if we prop up an artificial economy long enough, it will magically become real. This is an extraordinary assumption: that the process of artifice will result in artifice becoming real. This is the equivalent of a dysfunctional family presenting an artificial facade of happiness to the external world and expecting that fraud to conjure up real happiness. We all know it doesn't work that way; rather, the dysfunctional family that expends its resources supporting a phony facade is living a lie that only increases its instability. The U.S. economy is riddled with artifice: millions of people who recently generated income from their labor have gamed the system and are now "disabled for life." Millions more are living in a bank-enabled fantasy of free housing. Millions more are living off borrowed money: student loans, money the government has borrowed and dispensed as transfer payments, etc. Assets are artificially propped up lest a banking sector with insufficient collateral be revealed as structurally insolvent. It's not difficult to predict an eventual spike of instability in such a system; the only difficulty is predicting the date of the instability. Hiding a broken, dysfunctional economy behind a facade of artifice and illusion can't fix what's broken, it only adds to the system's systemic instability as resources that could have gone to actually fix things are squandered on propping up phony facades of "growth" and "health."
The overnight session has been dead, leading to continued trading on the two regurgitated rumors appearing overnight, one coming from the FT that the EU is in "fresh" talks over a Spanish rescue plan - something which is not news, but is merely the occasional catalyst to get algos snapping up EURUSD and to keep it from sliding far below the 1.3000 barrier. This rumor has subsequently been swatted down later when Italy's undersecretary of finance, Gianfranco Polillo, in an interview in Rome, repeated what has been known to most for over two months, namely that Italy and Spain won’t request bailouts unless there a new surge in bond yields (just as we explained first thing in August), and adding that "There won’t be any nation that voluntarily, with a preemptive move, even if rationally justified, would go to an international body and say -- ‘I give up my national sovereignty." A surprising moment of lucidity and truth for a European. Naturally the reemergence of the rumor is supposed to draw attention away from the real news, which is that broke Catalonia is ever closer to bluffing its independence in exchange for a bailout, or else. The other real news is that as Confidencial reported, the Spanish government has asked Santander, Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and CaixaBank to take 30% stake in the Spanish bad bank, something which will hardly make shareholders in these companies happy for the simple reason that no bank in Spain is "not bad" if the current rate of deposit outflows continues. Finally, a second rumor appearing late yesterday is that Greek lenders are considering a new Greek bond haircut. This too has since been refuted when German Finance Ministry spokesman Martin Kotthaus told reporters in Berlin at a regular press conference that this report is without basis. In other words, as we said, rumors refuted, leaving us with essentially no real news overnight.
Pump it up, until you can feel it, Pump it up, when you don't really need it...
We will explore how QE and the new Fed plan might work- might work...So far what the Fed is putting in front of us and what Paul Krugman has written about are two wholly differnt things. It makes me wonder if there is any stucture behind QE besdies prayer...
Spanish Debt, Bank Borrowings Soar To Highest In Decades As Home Prices Fall By Most Ever While GDP ShrinksSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 09/14/2012 07:57 -0400
If only the Fed or ECB could print another Spain with the same facility that they engage in currency destruction, (and make no mistake: yesterday's "open-ended" Fed easing, is today's ECB "open-ended" intervention, is tomorrow's BOJ, is Sunday's PBOC, etc.), now might be the time. Because things in Spain, no matter what one is told, are getting progressively worse. The reason: on one hand the continuing surge in regions and total debt, both of which jumped in Q2, on the other hand Spanish bank borrowings from the ECB soared to €389 billion in August, a new record, and up from €376 billion, just as TARGET2 liabilities rose to a new record of €429 billion as well, explaining where that surge in German TARGET2 claims went, on the third hand housing prices collapsed by 14.4% in Q2, the most ever, and tying all the hands together was that the Spanish economy contracted. But please ignore the details. Focus on the important things, such as the surge in the Ibex, the S&P, consumer confidence, gold, crude, etc, however long these continue. Because unless there is such a thing as a free lunch, with every incremental injection, all Bernanke proves is that the underlying reality is far worse than what is telegraphed to the people.
What took Ben Bernanke sixty minutes of mumbling about tools, word-twisting, and data-manipulating to kinda-sorta admit - that in fact he is lost; Ron Paul eloquently expresses in 25 seconds in this Bloomberg TV clip. Noting that "we are creating money out of thin air," Paul sums up Bernanke's position perfectly "We've Lost Control!" From mal-investment to Bernanke's frustration and the unintended consequences, the full 5-minute interview is a must-watch.
Today's ZH articles in audio summary! "I remember 9/11 quite clearly. I was only a small tower at the time..." 8pm Everyday @ New York Time.
I have often identified Keynesian economists and the Federal Reserve as cargo cults. After the U.S. won World War II in the Pacific Theater, its forces left huge stockpiles of goods behind on remote South Pacific islands because it wasn’t worth taking it all back to America. After the Americans left, some islanders, nostalgic for the seemingly endless fleet of ships loaded with technological goodies, started Cargo Cults that believed magical rituals and incantations would bring the ships of “free” wealth back. Some mimicked technology by painting radio dials on rocks and using the phantom radio to “call back” the “free wealth” ships. The Keynesians are like deluded members of a Cargo Cult. They ignore the reality of debt, rising interest payments and the resulting debt-serfdom in their belief that money spent indiscriminately on friction, fraud, speculation and malinvestment will magically call back the fleet of rapid growth. To the Keynesian, a Bridge to Nowhere is equally worthy of borrowed money as a high-tech factory. They are unable to distinguish between sterile sand and fertilizer, and unable to grasp the fact that ever-rising debt leaves America a nation of wealthy banks and increasingly impoverished debt-serfs.