Real estate

Frontrunning: August 9

  • JPMorgan Nears Settlement With SEC on London Whale Loss (BBG)
  • Without even a wristslap: Iksil to face no U.S. charges in 'Whale' probe (Reuters)
  • China’s Credit Expansion Slows as Li Curbs Shadow Banking (BBG)
  • China slowdown shows signs of abating (FT), even as...
  • Australia central bank Lowers Growth Outlook as Economy Transitions From Mining (BBG)
  • SAC Business Plan Goes to Judge, Plan Would Allow Firm to Maintain Business Operations but Restrict Its Ability to Move Assets (WSJ)
  • Another buyer of Herbalife? - Norway’s oil fund plans to turn active (FT)
  • Mark Carney plays down scepticism over interest rate policy (FT)
  • Orders Evaporate for Celebrity Perfumes (WSJ)

David Stockman: Hedge Funds, Prime Brokers, And The Whirligig of Wall Street Finance

As David Stockman, Reagan's infamous Budget Director, writes in his bestseller, The Great Deformation: The Corruption Of Capitalism In America – "the last thing hedge funds do is hedge."  The hedge fund complex is "not so much a conventional industry as it is a giant moveable trade": Wall Street trading desks frequently morph into independent hedge fund partnerships, and senior hedge funds often sire “cubs” and then sons of cubs. The protean ability of this arrangement to spawn, fund, and replicate successful momentum trades cannot be overstated, and has "generated trillions of permanent momentum-chasing capital." Ultimately, he warns, "apologists for the Fed’s evisceration of the capital markets could not see... they had unleashed the financial furies in the violent momentum trading modus operandi of the hedge fund casino."

If Housing Is Booming - Why Do We Need Another Fix

President Obama recently stopped in Phoenix to deliver his latest diatribe on how he is going to fix the economy.  Yes, that is correct, another round of "campaign speeches" that, as has been the hallmark of this Administration to date, have generally wound up mired in an abyss of a broken congressional system.  What really struck me, however, was his comprehensive plan designed to further boost the housing market. Another housing bailout program is the last thing we need. It's time to stop trying to fix what is broken by trying to cure the symptoms rather than the disease.

Outraged Bondholders Sue "Brazen" Eminently Domaining California Town

While the likes of PIMCO, BlackRock, DoubleLine, and Wells Fargo are major RMBS holders, their reasons for seeking a court order to block Richmond, California's Eminent Domain seizure of mortgages are applicable (and should be worrisome) for all US citizens. As we have noted previously, the asset managers warn that the Mortgage Resolution Partners actions will "seriously harm average Americans, including pension members, other retirees and individual savers through a brazen scheme to abuse government powers for its own profit." While the Richmond Mayor stands by her decision, the investors argue that this plan is unconstitutional and discriminatory - sounds just about right in our new normal.

Frontrunning: August 8

  • Fukushima: "300 metric tons of contaminated water were likely leaking into the ocean daily" (WSJ)
  • Unexpected strength in China trade data eases some gloom (Reuters) - actually, perfectly expected data fakery
  • Pimco, BlackRock Seek to Bar California Mortgage Seizures (BBG)
  • How will Amazon's Bezos change The Washington Post? (Reuters)
  • Montreal Maine Railway Files for Bankruptcy After Crash (BBG)
  • Fed Belongs to Everybody as Public Says It’s Our Money in Crisis (BBG)
  • Local Russian TV channel broadcasts rare critical segment about Putin (Reuters)
  • Loeb’s Reinsurer With No U.S. Staff Gains From Obama’s Jobs Act (BBG)
  • As Berlusconi star fades, daughter Marina tipped as new leader (Reuters)
  • Detroit Rattles Muni Market (WSJ)

If You Have An IRA, You Need To Know This...

It’s long been a common approach for government sliding into insolvency to confiscate wealth from their own citizens. Charles I of England infamously commandeered 200,000 pounds of his own citizens’ gold right before the English Civil War in 1638. Roosevelt confiscated his entire nation’s gold holdings roughly three centuries later. And of course, Cyprus raided domestic bank accounts earlier this year in a desperate attempt to bail-in the national banking system. It’s foolish to think that these things cannot happen, especially when you look at the numbers. This is why we are concerned that the IRS is refusing to issue tax ID numbers for single-member LLCs that are owned by an IRA... which is the specific structure that US taxpayers need to create in order to ship their retirement savings overseas.

On Economic Illiteracy, And Bulls' "Stopped-Clock" Fallacies

For many years before 2007-9 a few analysts have warned that rising consumer credit in the US and peripheral Europe was unsustainable. They warned that rising debt to support misallocated investment in China was also unsustainable. They warned that soaring US mortgages backed by little more than the hope that land prices could only rise would lead to a real estate crisis. They warned that commodity-exporting countries that did not hedge their bets would find themselves in serious trouble when commodity prices collapsed. Of course you could not have had a bubble unless the majority of analysts disagreed with these warnings, and most analysts did indeed disagree. So what happened when the warnings turned out to be right? The former bulls immediately trotted out the stopped-clock analogy. The reason the worriers turned out to be right, they earnestly explained, is that they are perma-bears, and as everyone knows a stopped clock will always be right twice a day... As China’s growth continues to slow and as its debt problems become obvious to even the most bullish, the stopped clock analogy is working overtime.

Guest Post: Trying To Stay Sane In An Insane World - Part 2

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.

Did China Just Fire The First Salvo Towards A New Gold Standard?

In a somewhat shockingly blunt comment from the mouthpiece of Chinese officialdom, Yao Yudong of the PBoC's monetary policy committee has called for a new Bretton Woods system to strengthen the management of global liquidity. In an article in the China Securities Journal, Yao called for more power to the IMF as international copperation and supervision are needed. While comments seem somewhat barbed towards the rest of the world's currency devaluers, given China's growing physical gold demand and the fixed-exchange-rate peg that 'Bretton Woods' represents, and contrary to prevailing misconceptions that the SDR may be the currency of the future, China just may opt to have its own hard asset backed optionality for the future; suggesting the new 'bancor' would be the barbarous relic (or perhaps worse for the US, the Renminbi). Of course, the writing has been on the wall for China's push to end the dollar reserve supremacy for over two years as we have dutifully noted - since no 'world reserve currency' lasts forever.

Guest Post: Why Another Great Real Estate Crash Is Coming

There are very few segments of the U.S. economy that are more heavily affected by interest rates than the real estate market is.  When mortgage rates reached all-time low levels late last year, it fueled a little "mini-bubble" in housing which was greatly celebrated by the mainstream media.  Unfortunately, the tide is now turning. 

The Smartest Money Has Two Words Of Advice: "Sell Now" (And Is Doing Just That)

Yesterday, in the aftermath of first Apollo then Blackstone, it was the turn of that third mega Private Equity shop, Fortress, to "say that now is the time to exit investments as stocks rally and interest rates start to rise. "This is a better time for selling our existing investments than making new investments," Pete Briger, who oversee the New York-based firm's $12.5 billion business said on a call with investors yesterday. "There’s been more uncertainty that’s been fed into the markets." Ironically, this is precisely the opposite of what one will hear on the mainstream media, but such is life: for every smart money seller, there must be a willing sheep led to the slaughter.

Guest Post: Why Oil Could Move Higher... Much Higher

The conventional wisdom of the moment is that a weakening global economy will push the cost of commodities such as oil down as demand stagnates. This makes perfect sense in terms of physical supply and demand, but this ignores the consequences of financial demand and capital flows. The total financial wealth sloshing around the world is approximately $160 trillion. If some relatively modest percentage of this money enters the commodity sector (and more specifically, oil) as a low-risk opportunity, this flow would drive the price of oil higher on its own, regardless of end-user demand and deflationary forces. If we grasp that financial demand is equivalent to end-user demand, we understand why oil could climb to $125/barrel or even higher despite a physical surplus.