The real estate industry announces the housing recovery is finally underway every year. 2012 is no different from previous years: various positive data points are duly cherry-picked (multiple offers are back in West Hollywood, sales are up year-over-year in Las Vegas, inventory is down, etc.) to back up the claim the "bottom is in" and the recovery in sales and prices is rock-solid. We understand the industry's extreme self-interest in attempting to re-inflate housing, but let's begin with the obvious question: what's the housing recovery based on? The standard answer is of course "super-low mortgage rates, courtesy of the Federal Reserve." But people need a sufficient income to qualify to own a house, regardless of rates, so let's look at income by age, and focus on the key homebuying ages of 25 to 44. The only age group whose incomes continued rising during the past five years is the over 65 cohort--the very group who is "downsizing" or selling their homes to live in assisted living. The key homebuying cohorts have seen their incomes plummet since the housing bubble popped.
The rating agencies have lots of problems, but they are not to blame for the financial crisis. The regulators and investors are the ones who deserve the blame. The agencies have too much influence, but it’s been given to them by the regulators. Clearly Europe is trying to get rid of rating agencies to be aggressive, but the situation has to change. For too long, laziness has driven regulatory policy. Too much emphasis has been put on ratings, and the safety at the high end has been dramatically exaggerated. One thing virtually every banking crisis has in common, is when a previously “safe” or AAA asset, that carried minimal capital charges deteriorates. The sub-prime mortgage market and European Sovereign debt are just two of the most recent examples. We need a realistic regulatory framework like the one we discuss in regulatory-capital-size-and-how-you-use-it-both-matter. What the EU is doing is probably even worse than the existing framework, but the idea of diminishing the role of rating agencies is a good one.
Spain is toast. I’ve already assessed that none of the key players (the IMF, the ECB, the EFSF, or the ESM) has the firepower to prop up Spain whose real capital needs are more in the ballpark of €300 billion -€500 billion. Thus, it’s GAME OVER for the EU. Sure it may take a while for this to manifest as politicians offer various hair-brained schemes to attempt to put off the inevitable debt collapse, but that debt collapse is coming and it will hit before the end of 2012.
For our quote of the day, we go to none other than the Fed's favorite mouthpiece, the WSJ's Jon Hilsenrath:
Fed officials have been frustrated in the past year that low interest rate policies haven't reached enough Americans to spur stronger growth, the way economics textbooks say low rates should... Multiply the fruit of cheap credit across millions of households—with healthy portions of interest savings spent on goods and services—and the U.S. should be recovering more quickly, according to textbook economics.
No... not the textbooks... Does this mean... Economics 101 is... nothing but one epic lie, based on Ponzi assumptions which work in a world of constant and gradual leveraging, and completely fall apart in a deleveraging world such as the one we have now?
Leading all others “by the nose through the ring.”
If anyone is wondering why the darling stock of Bill Ackman and Whitney Tilson, for whom every collapse of JCP is a buying gift from god, namely JCPenney, is plunging after hours, it is because the company's president, Michael Francis, hired October 4, 2011, has just quit. To wit: "J. C. Penney Company, Inc. ("jcpenney") (JCP) today announced that Michael Francis will be leaving the Company, effective today. Chief Executive Officer Ron Johnson will assume direct responsibility and oversight of the company's marketing and merchandising functions." And to think that just 9 months ago the company CEO Ron Johnson announced, that "I am thrilled to welcome Michael to our team... He is an extremely talented executive with the vision and courage to re-imagine the department store experience. His ability to innovate and deep understanding of the industry will be invaluable as we set out to transform J.C. Penney into America's favorite store." And while his ability to do anything else appears to have been a dud, his ability to read the fine print in his contract, especially where it talks about his perks, was second to none. Because despite leaving just 9 months after his hiring, Francis is entitled to collect a whopping $9 million in pro-rated signing bonus (alongside $100,000/month in salary): all in all - a tidy package of $10 million for shooting the breeze while observing a sinking retail ship. Not bad for a company whose stock has just plunged to September 2010 levels.
While everyone else is focusing on the Greek elections, the REAL issues pertaining to the EU (namely where the funding for Spain’s bailout as well as future bailouts will come from) continues to be ignored. Indeed, no one seems to be asking THE key question regarding the EU: Just WHERE is the money for this bailout going to come from?
Happy Father's Day!
Just What Is Mario Draghi Hiding? ECB Declines To Respond To Bloomberg FOIA Request On Greek-Goldman SwapsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 06/14/2012 13:38 -0400
Back in February 2010, in the aftermath of the discovery that none other than Goldman Sachs had facilitated for nearly a decade the masking of the true magnitude of non-Maastricht conforming Greek debt, Zero Hedge first identified the prospectus for a Goldman underwritten swap agreement securitization titled Titlos PLC. We titled the analysis "Is Titlos PLC The Downgrade Catalyst Trigger Which Will Destroy Greece?" because for all intents and purposes it was: at that time a rating agency downgrade of the country would lead to a chain of events which would make billions in assets ineligible for ECB collateral, forcing a massive margin call on the National Bank of Greece, which likely would have precipitated a Greek default there and then. But that is irrelevant for the time being: what is relevant is Titlos itself, and what Bloomberg did after we posted the analysis. It appears that in following in the footsteps of Mark Pittman, Bloomberg sued the ECB under Freedom of Information rules requesting "access to two internal papers drafted for the central bank’s six-member Executive Board. They show how Greece used swaps to hide its borrowings, according to a March 3, 2010, note attached to the papers and obtained by Bloomberg News. The first document is entitled “The impact on government deficit and debt from off-market swaps: the Greek case.” The second reviews Titlos Plc, a securitization that allowed National Bank of Greece SA, the country’s biggest lender, to exchange swaps on Greek government debt for funding from the ECB, the Executive Board said in the cover note. The ECB's response: "The European Central Bank said it can’t release files showing how Greece may have used derivatives to hide its borrowings because disclosure could still inflame the crisis threatening the future of the single currency." Maybe. But what is far more likely is that the reason why the ECB, headed by none other than former Goldmanite Mario Draghi, is desperate to keep these documents secret is for another reason. A very simple reason:
Mario Draghi - 2002-2005: Vice Chairman and Managing Director at Goldman Sachs International
I’m sure many of you may be asking yourselves, “Well, how likely is this counterparty run to happen today?”Submitted by Reggie Middleton on 06/14/2012 07:48 -0400
As Predicted Last Year, The French and the Greeks Are In A Race For The Biggest Bank Run! Each stock showcased has led the drop as well...
There was a time in 2011 when every European auction, particularly those in Spain and Italy, was followed with great interest due to a morbid fascination that it may well be their last. In 2012 this time has come much faster than last year. Earlier Italy sold a total of €4.5 billion in 3, 7and 8 year bonds which was at the top end of the range of expected issuance. The problem was in the unsustainable yields this debt sold for:
- €3 billion in 2015 bonds, B/C 1.59 vs 1.52 in May 14, yield soared to 5.30% vs 3.91% a month ago
- €627 million in 2019 bonds, B/C dropped from 2.27 on April 27 to 1.99; yield soared from 5.21% to 6.10%
- €873 million in 2020 bonds, B/C dropped from 2.08% on May 14 to 1.66%, yield soared from 5.33% to 6.13%
"Stocks off just shy of 1%, which erases most of yesterday’s gains, which erased most of Monday’s losses. After tomorrow, will you be able to say that Thursday’s gains erased most of Wednesday’s losses, which erased most of Tuesday’s gains, which had erased most of Monday’s losses? With apathy running high and conviction low, that sounds just as reasonable as anything else."
Halfway into the year, my warnings on the FIRE sector are starting to come into there own. The first look, banks and bank stock analysts!