Is a $400,000 house with NINJA loan normal? How about a $200,000 REO with missing appliances, a dead yard, a long list of maintenance and no financing? Maybe normal is a $300,000 flip after the flipper fixed everything and colored up the yard, and did some upgrades to the interior. Some may suggest that normal is more like a $300,000 sale with a 5.5% fixed rate and 20% down. Then again, it may be more normal if this $300,000 sale is financed with a 3.5% down FHA loan at 4%. Of course, all of the above is actually referring to the same house. So what is normal? At the moment, we know prices are going up in certain markets, and so are sales. Mortgage rates are higher now than when QE3 started in September 2012. Investors are gobbling up everything in sight in their favored target markets. As an example, they are buying 30% of the houses in Southern California, 38% in Phoenix and 53% in Vegas. First time buyers do not stand a chance. The percentage of home ownership is declining. Are policy makers happy with these results? Are these intended or unintended consequences of public policies?
To those who have already submitted their applications to launder their cash buy an apartment or better yet, have already wired the money to purchase any of the still to be built residences at 432 Park, the 84-story giant that is set to become the tallest residential building in the Western hemisphere, congratulations. Although that is technically inappropriate: for full effect we would have to say "congratulations" in the buyers' native tongue, be it Russian, Mandarin, Spanish or Arabic, because it sure won't be English in the ongoing scramble to park trillions in cash away from a global banking system now hell bent on confiscating it, especially away from Europe's insolvent and massively levered banks as shown yesterday, and in the Cyprus template aftermath, the cleanest dirty shirt has once again emerged as midtown Manhattan real estate just as we said would happen last September. However, to call the emerging, full-blown panic scramble to park cash sight unseen, with zero regard for asking price "a bubble", would a slap in the face of all calm, cool and collected bubbles everywhere. Because any time someone is willing to pay $95 million for a non-duplex one-floor apartment, $44.8 million for a 4-bedroom apartment, $10 million for a two-bedroom, or a paltry $3.9 million for a maid's quarters studio (no really), something far more profound is going on beneath the surface than a simple asset bubble.
There have been quite a few bold predictions, since the beginning of the year, that the dollar was set to soar and that the great "bond bull market" was dead. The primary thesis behind these views was that the economy was set to strengthen and inflation would begin to seep its way back into the system. Furthermore, the "Great Rotation" of bonds into stocks, on the back of said economic strength, would push interest rates substantially higher. While we have no doubt that at some point down the road that inflation will become an issue, interest rates will rise and the dollar will strengthen - it just won't be anytime soon. A wave of "disinflation" is currently engulfing the globe. The deflationary pressures that weigh on the consumer and the economy are likely going to keep downward pressure on rates for some time to come as the Fed comes to realize that they have been caught in the same "liquidity trap" that has plagued Japan for a generation. The real concern for investors, and individuals, is the actual economy.
It was less than a month ago that the new Italian government of the pseudotechnocrat Letta, of Bilderberg 2012 and Aspen Institute fame, was voted in by a majority of the PD and the PDL parties (the latter agreeing so Berlusconi would get an extension of his much needed political immunity from assorted prison sentences). It may not last too long. As Reuters reports, it took just 20 days for Letta's approval rating to plunge by 25%, dropping from 43% at the start of the month to 34%, according to an SWG institute poll. It would appear the Italian people (unlike their Japanese peers who at least according to government-controlled media data could not be happier with PM Abe, supposedly because of the bubblelicious 50% rise in the Nikkei225 year to date, even though under 20% are actually invested in the stock market making one wonder just how credible polling, and all other data in Japan actually is) don't have Mrs. Watanabe's childish fascination wth soaring stock bubbles, sexy bonds, mini skirts and 2% inflation bras, and instead demand real economic results. Which also means the protests are back.
My guess is that in 2-3 years most folks in the country are going to hate Obamacare, but it it will be impossible to get rid of by then.
Read 'Em and Weep
As Europe ends another week comfortably in the green (near all-time highs) - the short answer - not many...as the region's longest recession in history rolls on...
On one hand we have bad Hilsenrath sending mixed messages saying the Fed may taper sooner (with good Hilsenrath chiming in days later, adding it may be later after all), depending on whether HY bonds hit 4% YTM by EOD or mid next week at the latest. On the other, even resolute Fed doves are whispering that a tapering may occur as soon the summer, so in a few months, and halt QE by year end. Bottom line - confusion. So who better to arbitrate than the firm that runs it all, Goldman Sachs, and its chief economist Jan Hatzius, who issues the following Q&A on "tapering." His view: "not yet." Then again, Goldman is the consummate (ab)user of dodecatuple reverse psychology, so if Goldman says "all clear" the natural response should be just as clear.
The middle class American worker is in danger of becoming an endangered species. The politicians are not telling you the truth, and the mainstream media is certainly not telling you the truth, but the reality is that there is nothing but bad news on the horizon for workers in the United States. The American people inherited the greatest economic machine in the history of the world, and we have wrecked it. Decades of very foolish decisions have resulted in the period of steady economic decline that we are experiencing now. Today, American workers are living in an economy that is rapidly declining, and their jobs are steadily being stolen by robots, computers and foreign workers that live in countries where it is legal to pay slave labor wages. Politicians from both political parties refuse to do anything to stop the bleeding because they think that the status quo is working just great. So don't expect things to get better any time soon. The following are 10 charts that demonstrate the slow, agonizing death of the American worker...
While there are a plethora of Wall Street analysts calling for much higher levels for the S&P 500; most of these calls are based simply on the belief that the current trajectory must continue indefinitely. While you certainly cannot "fight the Fed" the underlying fundamentals and economics that support the markets long term are not present for the party. What is very important to understand, and can be clearly seen in the chart below, is that despite repeated calls for "ever rising" stock markets in the past eventually left investors devastated. Markets do not, and cannot, continue indefinitely in one direction. Unfortunately, for most individuals, by the time they realize what is happening it will likely be far too late to act. Could the catalyst be 'language' changes from the FOMC as they see bubbles and froth in high-yield credit and margined stocks?
In a world in which fundamentals no longer drive risk prices (that task is left to central banks, and HFT stop hunts and momentum ignition patterns) or anything for that matter, it only makes sense that the day on which Japan posted a better than expected annualized, adjusted Q1 GDP of 3.5% compared to the expected 2.7% that the Nikkei would be down, following days of relentless surges higher. Of course, Japan's GDP wasn't really the stellar result many portrayed it to be, with the sequential rise coming in at 0.9%, just modestly higher than the 0.7% expected, although when reporting actual, nominal figures, it was up by just 0.4%, or below the 0.5% expected, meaning the entire annualized beat came from the gratuitous fudging of the deflator which was far lower than the -0.9% expected at -1.2%: so higher than expected deflation leading to an adjustment which implies more inflation - a perfect Keynesian mess. In other words, yet another largely made up number designed exclusively to stimulate "confidence" in the economy and to get the Japanese population to spend, even with wages stagnant and hardly rising in line with the "adjusted" growth. And since none of the above matters with risk levels set entirely by FX rates, in this case the USDJPY, the early strength in the Yen is what caused the Japanese stock market to close red.
It’s amazing what people can trick themselves into believing and even shout about when you tell them exactly what they want to hear. It was disappointing to see Brad DeLong’s latest defense of Fed policy, which was published this past weekend and trumpeted far and wide by like-minded bloggers. If you take DeLong’s word for it, you would think that the only policy risk that concerns hedge fund managers is a return to full employment. He suggests that these managers criticize existing policy only because they’ve made bad bets that are losing money, while they naively expect the Fed’s “political masters” to bail them out. Well, every one of these claims is blatantly false. DeLong’s story is irresponsible and arrogant, really. And since he flouts the truth in his worst articles and ignores half the picture in much of the rest, we’ll take a stab here at a more balanced summary of the pros and cons of the Fed’s current policies. We’ll try to capture the discussion that’s occurring within the investment community that DeLong ridicules. Firstly, the benefits of existing policies are well understood. Monetary stimulus has certainly contributed to the meager growth of recent years. And jobs that are preserved in the near-term have helped to mitigate the rise in long-term unemployment, which can weigh on the economy for years to come. These are the primary benefits of monetary stimulus, and we don’t recall any hedge fund managers disputing them. But the ultimate success or failure of today’s policies won’t be determined by these benefits alone – there are many delayed effects and unintended consequences. Here are seven long-term risks that aren’t mentioned in DeLong’s article...
Like an infectious disease without a cure, the contagion within Europe widens its grasp…
The greatest disconnect in the world today is the underlying economies of the world and the markets; all of the markets. This river is wide and getting wider given the money that the central banks are pushing downstream. The flood has reached all of the markets, Real Estate, the banks, many corporations, any and all borrowers with our incredibly low interest rates, but it has had little impact on the Main Streets of the planet. There is, in fact, a bubble of epic proportion.
Confirming that in a world in which either commercial or central banks have to be constantly be churning out debt, and in a world in which Europe is doing neither (with European commercial loan growth posting sequential declines across the board, and the ECB's balance sheet still declining although likely not for long), "growth" as defined by conventional standards, is impossible, we got today's European Q1 GDP data. Not only was it bad, but it was even worse than most had expected.