New Normal

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The Stunning History Of "All Cash" Home Purchases In The US





Yesterday's news from the NAR that in February all cash transactions accounted for 35% of all existing home purchases, up from 33% in January, not to mention that 73% of speculators paid "all cash", caught some by surprise. But what this data ignores are new home purchases, where while single-family sales have been muted as expected considering the plunge in mortgage applications, multi-family unit growth - where investors hope to play the tail end of the popping rental bubble - has been stunning, and where multi-fam permits have soared to the highest since 2008. So how does the history of "all cash" home purchases in the US look before and after the arrival of the 2008 post-Lehman "New Normal." The answer is shown in the chart below.

 
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When Even Goldman Complains About HFT





For the past five years we have been complaining about the two-tiered, and broken, market resulting from the near-ubiquitous presence of HFT trading strategies, where fundamentals have been tossed into the trash, and where quote churning, packet stuffing and not to mention, momentum ignition, put on candid display just before market open today when the Emini was ramped in a vertical line straight up taking the S&P to new all time highs, have become the only trading strategies that matter. Why? Because algos were in a panic buying mode as other algos were in a panic buying mode, and so reflexively on. The SEC long ignored our complaints, even after the HFT-precipitated flash crash, which we had warned apriori would happen, in a market as broken and manipulated as the one the Fed and the algos have unleashed. This changed recently when NY AG Schneiderman finally decided to "look into things" following the release of Virtu's ridiculous prop trading profits when the firm, in its IPO prospectus, announced it had made money on 1327 of 1328 trading days. However, when even Goldman Sachs begins complaining about HFT, it may be time to fire all those 20-some year old math PhDs who devies your trading algorithms.

 
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NY Attorney General Probing HFT "Fairness & Predatory Behavior": Did He Just Kill The Virtu IPO?





It seems the blatant unveiling of the HFT market's Holy Grail trading - Virtu (1 loss in 1238 days) - has raised some attention as Bloomberg reports, NY AG Eric Schneiderman has opened a broad investigation into whether U.S. stock exchanges and alternative venues provide high-frequency traders with improper advantages. As one European lawmaker noted, "the area of high-frequency trading is lacking suitable regulation," and Schneiderman warned "this new breed of predatory behavior gives a small segment of the industry an enormous advantage over all other competitors."  We wonder how this will affect Virtu's IPO given regulation is risk factor #1!

 
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How To Live Mortgage Free For Up To Three Years





Simple: just don't pay the mortgage. Because here is what happens next: shortly thereafter foreclosure proceedings will begin and at some point, far in the distant future, the bank will finally complete the foreclosure process, claiming the property and putting it on the block with intent to resell (or simply raze it). How far in the future? According to RealtyTrac, the average duration of the foreclosure process for zombie foreclosures is an average of a record 1,031 days. Or just shy of 3 years.

 
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Crimea Bank Runs Begin As "Bail-In" Risks Arise





While the sight of Russian flags, pro-Russian troops, and Russian navy ships in Crimea is now a day-to-day thing; this morning brings a new normal for the eastern Ukraine region - long lines at bank ATMs as the bank runs have begun. We noted last night the dreaded inversion of Ukraine's yield curve, the greater-than-50% yields on 3-month Ukraine government debt, and the pressures on local bank debt maturities as the ability to garner dollars cost-effectively was becoming a problem but on the heels of concerns by the head of the central bank that moving cash in Crimea was difficult, ATM withdrawal limits have been cut. People in long ATM lines are reported to be concerned because "banks are closing" but it is Deutsche Bank's comments this morning that raised many an eyebrow as they suggest that Ukraine's debt is pricing in a "burden-sharing" haircut for bondholders (which as we have seen in the past - in Cyprus - can quickly ripple up the capital structure and become a depositor haircut).

 
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Stocks Retrace Putin Gains As Copper And Yen-Carry Crash





Just before the European close, copper prices on the LME (and US futures) began to crack on rumors that another China corporate had defaulted. This plunge was accompanied by a collapsed in AUD and rumors across desks were a levered fund unwind (which appears some China-commodity play) was responsible. While many would like to believe that fundamentals matter, today made it clear they don't as AUDJPY weakness dragged stocks lower tick-for-tick. A brief moment of hope in the early-afternoon - where VIX was slammed lower as momentum away from carry was sparked  failed and stocks continued to slide, retracing a considerable amount of post-Putin gains. Bonds and gold were bid (after the latter suffered early) as WTI crude slipped back under $100 and copper was crushed.

 

 
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The Hiringless Non-Recovery In Full Farce





The chart below shows that while there has traditionally been near 100% correlation between the 1 year cumulative change in payrolls, and the monthly amount of job hires, in the New Normal this is anything but true. The simple explanation: the only reason why it "seems" things have gotten back to normal, is not because there is hiring, but because companies have put a freeze on terminations, and with quality jobs few and far between, workers still refuse to leave existing jobs voluntarily, further confirmed by the Quits print which just dropped to 2.375MM, the lowest since October as confidence in finding a better paying job has rapidly evaporated. Perhaps the snow is to blame for that too?

 
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The Holy Grail Of Trading Has Been Found: HFT Firm Reveals 1 Losing Trading Day In 1238 Days Of Trading





Think JPM's 0 trading day losses in 2013 was impressive? Prepare to have your mind blown. The chart below shows the chart of daily net trading income by High Frequency Trading titan Virtu, taken from its just filed IPO prospectus. The punchline: in 4 years of trading Virtu has had one, one, day in which it lost money. Let that sink in: one trading loss day and 1237 days of profits. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Holy Grail of the New Normal broken, manipulated markets.

 
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America's Most Overvalued Companies Are...





Over the weekend we reported that even Goldman has now highlighted what has been clear to most, but certainly not the Fed, for quite some time: stocks are in such an epic bubble, with many of the key valuation metrics notably EV/sales, off the charts and at all time highs, that even Goldman's own clients are asking "When does the party end?" Goldman Sachs was kind enough to point out that while buying into undervalued stocks at this record high market junction may be a safe bet, the alternative, going long the most overvalued stocks usually ends in tears. So just what are these most overvalued stocks? To answer this question David Kostin screens for those Russell 1000 companies with the highest EV/Sales ratios, and finds 40 companies, with a ratio between 10x and 875x (median of 15x compared to the overall Russell's 2x), that fit the bill. The answer - the list of the America's most overvalued companies - is shown in the table below.

 
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Europe Weakens Again As Investors Seek The Safety Of... Portuguese Stocks!





European sovereign bond spreads have not batted an eyelid during the recent Russia-Ukraine crisis... and why should they, Draghi will do "whatever it takes." Even HY credit in Europe is holding up - despite an ugly squeeze wider on Friday (chatter that positioning in very long credit). But with Europe's VIX above 20, the broad European stock index is now below pre-Putin levels. What is perhaps most stunning is that while investors have piled out of German, Swiss, and French stocks in the last few days, they have backed-up-the-truck in "new normal" safe-haven Portugal. The reason proferred by some - Portugal is further from Ukraine (and less dependent on Russia's gas) - which of course is the critical swing factor for an economy that remains crushed aside from trade with Germany.

 
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Warning Shots Fired At OSCE Mission In Crimea; Russia Warns Of Treaty Force Majeure Over "Unfriendly NATO Threats"





Perhaps it is time to finally admit that anyone who thought Putin's Tuesday press conference, which the market so jubilantly assumed was a case of "blinking" and de-escalating tensions with the west, was wrong. If there is still any confusion, following yesterday's news that Gazprom officially threatened Ukraine with cutting off its gas supplies, as well as the storming of a Ukraine base by Russian troops - luckily with no shots fired so far - then today's developments should any remaining doubts. Moments ago AP reported that as the latest, third in a row, group of OSCE inspectors tried to enter Ukraine, they were not only barred from doing so, but warnings shots were fired to emphasize the point by pro-Russian forces.

 
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Student And Car Loans Account For 102% Of All New February Consumer Credit





Another month down, another month in which US consumers deleveraged by paying down their credit cards. Although that is not exactly correct: as we showed recently, the New Normal source of credit has nothing to do with revolving debt, or credit cards, or any other old normal notions, and everything to do with student debt, which is used for everything except paying for tuition. That, and car loans of course. Sure enough, in February, of the $13.7 billion in new loans created, $13.9 billion, or 102% of all, was there to fund student and car loans. And looking further back at the data over the past year, of the $172 billion in new consumer debt, a stunning 96% has gone to new student and car loans.

 
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Barack Obama's List Of "20 Things Kids Need To Know" About Using Money





The following charts are a summary taken from the "Money as you Grow" presentation prepared by the President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability (created by executive order). What it highlights are "20 Things kids need to know to live financially smart lives" and is Barack Obama's personal advice to children ages 3 through 18+ on how they should spend their money. The list, which includes among it such brilliant advice as "you may have to wait before you can buy something you want", "it can be cost and dangerous to share information online" (with the NSA), "putting money in a savings account will protect and pay you interest", "the sooner you save, the faster your money can grow from compound interest", "your first paycheck may seem smaller than expected since money is taken out for taxes", "you should use a credit card only if you can pay the money owed in full each month", and of course "you need health insurance" has been pulled straight from Bizarro Day, and literally redefines New Normal humor since everything it recommends is the opposite of how the real world now works.

 
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481 Barclays Employees Paid Over 1 Million Pounds In 2013, Increase Of 53 From 2012 Despite Losses, Mass Layoffs





It was less than a month ago when Barclays announced it would fire 12,000 workers after posting abysmal earnings with Q4 banking income crashing 37% and overall income sliding 9%. So, one would think, its employees would be punished with lower pay - those that are lucky enough to keep their jobs of course. One would be wrong. Reuters just reported that 481 of Barclays employees were paid 1 million pounds ($1.7 million) or more last year, 53 more than in the year before, and most of them were based in the United States. Barcalys' immutable rationale - fear of losing the traders to a better-paying competitor. Like who - is the Fed hiring again?

 
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