Real estate

"Sentimentals" Versus Fundamentals

We would be the first to espouse the view that, in speculative markets, the 'sentimentals' can long trump the fundamentals, but there is a counterpoint to such a projection, not that many wish to countenance it. The dispiriting truth is that some of the steam has already gone out of the US and were this to continue to be the case, given that esteemed institution’s pathological aversion to short-term difficulty, the Fed's "taper" might yet prove an all too short-lived gesture in the direction of a belated restoration of monetary sanity. As the following 3 charts suggest, equity 'sentimental' valuations are at extremes and fundamentals are deteriorating rapidly, making for an uncomfortable rock- and hard-place-straddle for a Fed that faces 4 reasons it has to Taper (sentiment, deficits, technicals, and international resentment).

When Printing Money Loses Its Magic

The magic was the magnificent illusion that money printing increased wealth. It certainly looked that way, despite all the common-sense interpretation that would have you believe that it doesn't. But that's the beauty of a wonderfully performed magic trick. Something impossible seems to happen. You know it can't happen, but it looks like it did, and what's the harm in letting yourself believe? Assuming that the goal is reducing unemployment... it really was a wonderful 50 years. Pumping out money increased the labor force participation rate from about 59% in 1960 to 67% by about 2000 by creating jobs in military procurement, lobbying, and (as we went through successive bubbles) brokerages and finance, government, home construction, real estate sales, retail, etc. Now the losses in manufacturing and primary wealth creation are overwhelming the jobs created in the FIRE economy, and the US looks to be heading back to the golden era of the 50s, with labor force participation back below 60%. Too bad they'll all be low-paying jobs.

NAR Finally Admits Rising Rates Crippling Housing

Pending home sales missed expectations for the first time in 3 months, falling 1.26% MoM (vs a 0.0% expectation). This forward-looking measure of housing based on actual contract signings suggests that all the anecdotal evidence of an artificial echo-boom in real estate coming to an end. With the West down 4.9% and Northeast down 6.5% MoM (the biggest 3-month drop in 3 years), even the much-vaunted fair-and-balanced National Association of Realtors are forced to admit that "higher mortgage interest rates and rising home prices are impacting monthly contract activity." Whocouldanode?

Frontrunning: August 28

  • Merkel Blames SPD’s Schroeder for Letting Greece Into Euro (BBG)
  • U.S. Bank Legal Bills Exceed $100 Billion (BBG)
  • U.K. to Request U.N. Action to Protect Syrians From Chemical Weapons  (WSJ) - and Russia to veto any decision
  • U.N. inspectors in new Syria mission as West prepares to strike (Reuters)
  • Emerging-Market Rout Intensifies on Syria Jitters (WSJ)
  • Rebels Without a Leader Show Limit to U.S. Role in Syria War (BBG)
  • Anger at IRS Powers Tea-Party Comeback (WSJ)
  • China has much at risk but no reach in Middle East (Reuters)
  • 'London Whale' Penalties Put at $500 Million to $600 Million (WSJ)
  • U.S. lawmaker says 'compelling' evidence of Syrian chemical attack (Reuters)

Welcome To The Housing Recovery: Rents Are Rising, Incomes Are Falling

While central planning has seemingly achieved its goal, they have merely created another bubble. A bubble in which fundamentals will have their day and a completely unsustainable societal situation has emerged. Rising rents and falling incomes. For example, in Minnesota we find that “since 2000, rents have risen about 6 percent statewide, but renter incomes have dropped about 17 percent.

Guest Post: 1987 Redux

Let’s see. Consumers are carrying more debt than they did in 2007. Corporations are carrying more debt than they did in 2007. The Federal government is carrying 60% more debt than it did in 2007. Cities and States are carrying more debt than they did in 2007. Interest rates have jumped by 80% in the last three months. The economy is clearly in recession, as retailer after retailer reports horrific results. Stocks are as overvalued as they were in 1929, 2000, and 2007. China is experiencing a real estate collapse. Japan is experiencing a cultural/economic/societal collapse. The Middle East is awash in blood. The European Union is held together by lies, delusion and false promises. What could possibly go wrong?

Frontrunning: August 23

  • Lew warns Congress to strike debt ceiling deal (FT)
  • Central-Bank Moves Blur the View (WSJ)
  • Brazil, Indonesia launch measures to shore up their currencies (FT)
  • More mainstream media reminded about Fukushima - Radioactive ground water under Fukushima nears sea (AP)
  • Fukushima inspectors 'careless', Japan agency says, as nuclear crisis grows (Reuters)
  • New York Banker Arrested on Rape Charges in East Hampton (NYT)
  • This time they mean business, for real: CFTC Moves to Rein In High-Speed Traders (WSJ)
  • Britain operates secret monitoring station in Middle East (Reuters)
  • Moody’s considers downgrading top US banks (FT)
  • China's Bo calls wife mad after she testifies against him (Reuters)
  • JPMorgan Sub-New Normal Growth Seen Vexing Next Fed Chief (BBG)
  • SEC calls for cooling-off period for more staff (Reuters)

The Grand Experiment: Offloading Risk Onto The State

From the historical perspective, concentrating virtually all systemic risk into the state is a Grand Experiment. Cheap, abundant oil, expanding working-age populations and rapidly increasing productivity conjured the illusion that the state was large enough and powerful enough to absorb infinite risk with no real consequence. The problem is the state's ability to tax/print/borrow money to cover payouts and losses is not infinite. Having transferred virtually all systemic risks to the state, we presume the state is so large and powerful that a virtually limitless amount of risk can be piled onto the state with no consequences. Offloading risk onto the state does not make the risk vanish; it simply concentrates the risk of collapse into the state itself.

Private Banker: "Is There Any Good News?"

“Is there any good news?”

You bet.

The good news is that this fraudulent system of unchecked, unbacked paper currency is finally coming to an end.

Is Jackson Hole's 'Agenda-Less' Agenda To Taper Treasuries Before MBS?

There is still no official public schedule for the Kansas City Fed's annual Jackson Hole Economic Symposium, anticipated to begin on Thursday. However, as we noted previously, the schedule will not include a keynote address from a high-ranking Federal Reserve official. Furthermore, as Goldman notes, in contrast to tradition, Chairman Bernanke will not be in attendance (Yellen will but Summer won't). However, Jackson Hole has historically been an event where the latest thinking on monetary policy has been debated by academics and central bankers, and this year will be no different. Perhaps, Goldman points out, most interestingly, some of the research to be presented finds that MBS purchases had a disproportionate effect on depressing MBS yields, while Treasury purchases did not seem to have a similar benefit - perhaps hinting at the form the 'taper' will take.

Frontrunning: August 20

  • So no great rotation into EM? Capital Flows Back to U.S. as Markets Slump Across Asia (BBG)
  • Muslim Brotherhood leader arrested in Egypt (Reuters)
  • Allies Thwart America in Egypt: Israel, Saudis and U.A.E. Support Military Moves (WSJ)
  • Dear Bloomberg: when you buy the loans of a distressed retailer, you are not betting on a rebound, you are betting on being the fulcrum security in a bankruptcy: Kyle Bass Said to Bet on J.C. Penney Comeback With Loan Purchase (BBG)
  • Bubbles Bloom Anew in Desert as Buyers Wager on Las Vegas (BBG)
  • Britain rejects Spanish request for Gibraltar talks (Reuters)
  • U.K. Mortgage Lending Rises to Highest Since Lehman Collapse (BBG)
  • Pension Funds Dispute Math in Detroit Bankruptcy (WSJ)
  • Christie Says Gayness Inborn as He Signs Therapy Measure (BBG)

The Bubble Watcher-In-Chief Speaks: "No More Bubbles"

We have to turn the page on the bubble-and-bust mentality that created this mess,” President Obama stated authoritatively in his weekend radio address... but do not get too excited by the possibility of a real end to the Keynesian experiment and a return to 'free' markets for the President, in his oh-so-not-trying-to-start-a-class-warfare-battle way, blames bubbles not on Central banks (who have done "an outstanding job") but on the skewed distribution of income. As Bloomberg reports, Obama states “When wealth concentrates at the very top, it can inflate unstable bubbles that threaten the economy." The problem with his way of thinking is best described by the status quo defender Sarah Bloom Raskin who offered up this insight into what the manipulation of market interest rates gives us, "asset bubbles are a feature of our financial landscape." So there it is, a feature (not a bug) that the President wants to get rid of (and yet wants to maintain the illusion that unrealized profit (and debt) is wealth).