Real estate

Beware The Looming "Wave Of Disaster" From Home Equity Payment Resets

Of all the screwed up, misallocated parts of the U.S. economy, the housing market continues to be one of the biggest potential train wrecks. While the extent of the insanity in residential real estate should be clear following the peak insanity yesterday, there are other potential problems just on the horizon. One of these was written about over the weekend in the LA Times. In a nutshell, the next several years will start to see principal payments added to interest only payments on a large amount of second mortgages taken out during the boom years. The estimate is that $30 billion in home equity lines will reset next year, $53 billion in 2015, and then ultimately soaring to $111 billion in 2018 - a looming “wave of disaster” because large numbers of borrowers will be unable to handle the higher payments. This will force banks to either foreclose, refinance the borrower or modify their loans.

Frontrunning: November 13

  • Desperate Philippine typhoon survivors loot, dig up water pipes (Reuters)
  • Fading Japanese market momentum frustrates investors (FT)
  • China's meager aid to the Philippines could dent its image (Reuters)
  • Headline du jour: Granted 'decisive' role, Chinese markets decide to slide (Reuters)
  • Central Banks Risk Asset Bubbles in Battle With Deflation Danger (BBG)
  • Navy Ship Plan Faces Pentagon Budget Cutters (WSJ)
  • Investors pitch to take over much of Fannie and Freddie (FT)
  • To expand Khamenei’s grip on the economy, Iran stretched its laws (Reuters)
  • Short sellers bet that gunmaker shares are no long shot (FT)
  • Deflation threat in Europe may prompt investment rethink (Reuters)

Peak Insanity: Retail Investors Are Making Direct Subprime Loans In A Reach For Yield

Being somewhat conscious human beings in a world in which our “leaders” have completely lost their minds can be challenging at times. One side effect of this condition is a certain emotional numbness when it comes to reacting to new events occurring in the world around you. It’s simply hard to shock us these days, but every now and then it does happen. The following article had us literally shaking our heads the entire time. If this isn’t peak insanity, we do not want to know what is.

Meet The Firm Whose $95 Billion In Assets Keeps Iran's Ayatollah In Power

Bloomberg may be in hot water for scuttling an article that "might anger China" as exposed over the weekend, but that was only after winning investigative prizes for its series of reports exposing the epic wealth of China top ruling families in 2012: a topic that has received prominence at a time when the forced wealth redistribution plans of developed and developing nations, usually originated by these same uber-wealthy families, is all the rage. Another country, whose oligarchic wealth had largely escaped press scrutiny, was Iran. At least until today, when in a six month investigation culminating in a three-part report on the assets of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Reuters exposed Setad, an Iranian company that manages and sells property on order from the Imam. In a nutshell, the company has built up its wealth by seizing thousands of properties from Iranian citizens. According to the investigation, Setad’s assets are worth $95 billion – 40 percent more than Iran’s total 2012 oil exports. It is this confiscated "wealth" that has allowed the Iranian clergy, and especially the Ayatollah, to preserve their power over the years.

Mystery Behind Spanish Banks' Extend-And-Pretend "Bad Debt Miracle" Revealed

One of the mysteries surrounding the insolvent, and already once bailed out Spanish banking sector, has been the question why reported bad loans - sharply rising as they may be - are still as relatively low as they are currently, considering the nation's near highest in the Eurozone unemployment rate, and in comparison to such even more insolvent European nations as Greece, Cyprus and Slovenia. Courtesy of the just completed bank earnings season, and a WSJ report, we now know why: it turns out that for the past several years, instead of accurately designating non-performing loans, banks would constantly "refinance" bad loans making them appear viable even though banks have known full well there would be zero recoveries on those loans. In fact, as the story below describes, banks would even go so far as making additional loans whose proceeds would be just to pay interest on the existing NPLs - a morbid debt pyramid scheme, which when it collapses, no amount of EFSF, ESM or any other acronym-based bailout, will be able to make the country's irreparably damaged banks appear even remotely viable.

Guest Post: China's "383" Reform Roadmap

Reforms are the only way to avoid systemic crisis, rebalance the economy, and unleash growth potential. Barclays notes that government, SOE, factor price and fiscal reform are most needed, though progress is likely to be faster on financial, tax and social security reform. Hopes are high, raising the risk of disappointment, but most think the government will try to meet expectations. History shows that economic growth tends to be lower after major third plenum meetings. This is because structural reforms, while good in the longer term, tend to slow growth in the near term. In advance of its release, the Development Research Center of the State Council, China’s official think tank, presented its own reform proposal – the so-called “383 plan” – which offers a glimpse of the direction that the reforms will take.

Frontrunning: November 11

  • Philippines Left Reeling in Wake of Storm (WSJ)
  • Khamenei controls massive financial empire built on property seizures (RTRS)
  • Race to Bottom Resumes as Central Bankers Ease Anew (BBG)
  • U.S. Postal Service to deliver Amazon packages on Sundays  (LA Times)
  • Obama Stocks Among Best After Re-Election as Rally Tested (BBG)
  • Health-Law Rollout Weighs on Obama's Ratings, Agenda (WSJ)
  • Twitter in Celebrity Spat With Facebook as Rivalry Builds (BBG)
  • Iran deputy industry minister shot dead (AFP)
  • Financier of Taliban-linked group shot dead in Pakistan (RTRS)
  • Obama: The Lonely Guy (Vanity Fair)

Peter Schiff On Janet Yellen's Mission Impossible

Most market watchers expect that Janet Yellen will grapple with two major tasks once she takes the helm at the Federal Reserve in 2014: deciding on the appropriate timing and intensity of the Fed's quantitative easing taper strategy, and unwinding the Fed's enormous $4 trillion balance sheet (without creating huge losses in the value of its portfolio). In reality both assignments are far more difficult than just about anyone understands or admits.

Guest Post: How China Can Cause The Death Of The Dollar And The Entire U.S. Financial System

The death of the dollar is coming, and it will probably be China that pulls the trigger.  What you are about to read is understood by only a very small fraction of all Americans.  Right now, the U.S. dollar is the de facto reserve currency of the planet.  Most global trade is conducted in U.S. dollars, and almost all oil is sold for U.S. dollars.  More than 60 percent of all global foreign exchange reserves are held in U.S. dollars, and far more U.S. dollars are actually used outside of the United States than inside of it.  As will be described below, this has given the United States some tremendous economic advantages, and most Americans have no idea how much their current standard of living depends on the dollar remaining the reserve currency of the world.  Unfortunately, thanks to reckless money printing by the Federal Reserve and the reckless accumulation of debt by the federal government, the status of the dollar as the reserve currency of the world is now in great jeopardy.

Bill Fleckenstein Blasts "The Price Of Everything Is Out Of Whack"

"People are, once again, being fooled," fears Bill Fleckenstein in this brief CNBC clip, warning that investors buying into the stock market at all-time highs here are making a grave error. Investors are ignoring fundamentals at their peril, "in the stock mania in 1999, people were bullish because stocks were going up. In 2007, people were bullish because stocks and real estate were going up. They didn't look ask - Why are they going up? Is this sustainable? Is this healthy? - and in both cases, it was not." In the current environment, the bubble Fleckenstein points to is powered not by tech stocks or real estate, but by the Fed's quantitative easing program. But, he warns, the Fed is losing control of one key market...

 

October Housing Traffic Weakest In Two Years On "Broad-Based" Housing Market Slowdown

In case the world needed any additional proof that the latest housing bubble (not our words, Fitch's) was on its last legs, it came earlier today from Credit Suisse' Dan Oppenheim who in his monthly survey of real estate agents observed that October was "another weak month" for traffic, with "pricing power fading as sluggish demand persists." This naturally focuses on the increasingly smaller component of buyers who buy for the sake of owning and living in a home instead of flipping it to another greater fool (preferably from China or Russia, just looking to park their stolen cash abroad). Quantifying the ongoing deflation of the bubble, Oppenheim notes that the "weakness was again broad-based, and particularly acute in Seattle, Orlando, Baltimore and Sacramento.... Our buyer traffic index fell to 28 in October from 36 in September, indicating weaker levels below agents’ expectations (any reading below 50). This is the lowest level since September 2011."

Frontrunning: November 8

  • Fed Anxiety Rises as QE Raises Risk of Loss With Political Cost (BBG)
  • Iran Nuclear Deal Expected as Early as Friday (WSJ)
  • Israel rejects mooted interim Iran nuclear deal, Kerry heads to talks (Reuters)
  • JPMorgan Banker Backed $200 Million Madoff Loan in 2008 (BBG)
  • Unleashing the food nazis - FDA Says Trans Fats Aren't Safe in Food (WSJ)
  • Draghi Aggression Shows Pledges Backed by Rate Surprise (BBG)
  • S&P Cuts France's Credit Rating by One Notch to Double-A (WSJ)
  • S&P criticises France’s high tax rates for stifling growth (FT)
  • Payroll Gains in U.S. Probably Cooled Amid Government Shutdown (BBG)

Marc Faber Warns "Karl Marx Was Right"

Readers should consider carefully the fundamental difference between a “real economy” and a “financial economy.” In a real economy, the debt and equity markets as a percentage of GDP are small and are principally designed to channel savings into investments. In a financial economy or “monetary-driven economy,” the capital market is far larger than GDP and channels savings not only into investments, but also continuously into colossal speculative bubbles. It would seem to me that Karl Marx might prove to have been right in his contention that crises become more and more destructive as the capitalistic system matures (and as the “financial economy” referred to earlier grows like a cancer) and that the ultimate breakdown will occur in a final crisis that will be so disastrous as to set fire to the framework of our capitalistic society.