Commercial Real Estate
China's own Big Apple may be rotting from the core. A new central business district modeled after New York City is going up in Tianjin but the project is in jeopardy. While the growth of China's ghost cities of entirely derelict and unlived-in residential real estate have become anathema; the story of the nation's 'if we build it they will come' commercial real estate bubble has been less exposed but is no less incredible. As Bloomberg reports, China’s project to build a replica Manhattan is taking shape against a backdrop of vacant office towers and unfinished hotels, underscoring the risks to a slowing economy from the nation’s unprecedented investment boom. Stunningly, the development has failed to attract tenants since the first building was finished in 2010 leaving one commercial real estate investor to proclaim, "Investing here won’t be better than throwing money into the water... There will be no way out - it will be very difficult to find the next buyer."
When all the dust settles, Palo Alto is definitely going to look a lot more modern than it did when I first moved here. All I can say, though, is that when the current bubble finally bursts, whether it's next month or next decade, there are going to be an awfully lot of expensive, empty, class A office buildings situated around town, holding nothing but the memories of ping-pong games past.
Over 1 in 5 homes (with $674 billion of mortgages) in China stand empty... and if you think that urbanization will fix that, as WSJ reports, a 10 percentage point rise in the urbanization rate (already at 54%) would result in only a 2.6% drop in vacancy rates. China has a major over-supply issue thanks to property developers who had rushed into the market to build homes, which have been a popular investment as prices seemed bound to keep rising. But now, as Vanke recently warned, things are changing and "the golden era" of China's property market are over. The vacancy rate of sold residential homes in urban areas reached 22.4% in 2013 and as new home prices are slashed to move product, a 30% drop would leave 11.2% of Chinese homes underwater on their mortgages...
- Canada Aims to Sell Its Oil Beyond U.S (WSJ)
- ECB Unanimity May Prove Fleeting (WSJ)
- Chinese military spending exceeds $145 billion, drones advanced: U.S. (Reuters)
- France to sell 10 warships to Russia next? BNP Executive Firings Sought by Top New York Bank Regulator Amid Probe (BBG)
- Vodafone says governments have direct access to eavesdrop in some countries (Reuters)
- Home Price Gains of 20% Vanish as Hottest Markets Cool (BBG)
- G-7 Heads Warn Moscow Before Facing Putin (WSJ)
- Barclays Fine Spurs U.K. Scrutiny of Derivatives Conflict (BBG)
- "Or Costs" - Obama Says Putin Running Out of Time Over Ukraine (BBG)
- Banca Monte Paschi Falls After Offering New Stock at 35.5% Discount (BBG)
Western strategists and talking heads, we are sure, will know better and continue to pitch China as the renewed engine of growth in the world and that everything will be fine... but when the country's largest property developer says, the "golden era" for China’s property market has passed, adding that "The period in which everybody makes money out of property is gone," perhaps it is time to listen? Of course, we are sure there will be an orderly exit (just as there was in CNY last night which crumbled to 19-month lows) but as China Vanke Co's Yu Liang warns, "the phase where 'whoever buys makes money' is gone." Property sepculators are frustrated that the government won't bail them out "are they tryng to kill us?" as one analyst notes "this downturn is more serious than 2008."
Rinat Akhmetov - Ukraine's richest man with an estimated worth of $11.4 billion - has, as Reuters reports, acquired almost feudal status in the industrial hub of Donetsk in the past 20 years - but the separatist rebellions there have altered the dynamics of power. This is not acceptable to the billionaire and so he has demanded his miners and metalworkers join police on patrol on Mariupol. As pro-Russian rebels declaring independence seized public buildings across the steel and coal belt which is the basis of his colossal fortune, he issued repeated written statements in support of a united Ukraine... but the media-shy 47-year-old, who has a workforce of 300,000 people on his payroll in the Donbass, has to tread carefully around local sensitivities and has avoided specifically condemning the action of the separatists.
It is not coincidental that the middle class and small business are both in decline. Entrepreneurial enterprise and small business have long been stepping stones to middle class incomes and generational wealth, i.e. wealth that is passed down to future generations rather than consumed. As the headwinds to entrepreneurial enterprise and small business rise, the pathway to middle class prosperity narrows.
In this brave New Normal world, a Chinese contraction is somehow expected to be offset by a rebound in Europe's worst economies, because following China's latest PMI miss, overnight we were told of beats in the Service PMI in Spain (56.5, vs Exp. 54.0, a 7 year high sending the Spanish 10 Year to fresh sub 3% lows), Italy at 51.1, vs Exp. 50.5, also pushing Italian yields to record lows, and France 50.4 (Exp. 50.3). We would speculate that macro events such as these, as fabricated as they may be, are relevant or even market-moving, but they aren't - all that matters is what the JPY and VIX traders at the NY Fed do in a low volume tape, usually in the last 30 minutes of the trading day. And since the trading day today happens to be a Tuesday, and nothing ever goes down on a Tuesday, the outcome is pretty much clear, and not even the absolutely abysmal Barclays earnings report has any chance of denting the latest rigged and manufactured low-volume levitation.
- Putin playing the long game over Russian kin in Ukraine (Reuters)
- U.S.-Russia Relations Come Full Circle After Ukraine (WSJ)
- Japan PM makes offering to Yasukuni Shrine, angers China, South Korea (Reuters)
- In Gold Miners' Talks, Scale Is Crucial: Combined Barrick-Newmont Would Be Able to Trim Costs (WSJ)
- SEC Said to Weigh Shining Light on Brokers’ Stock Routing (BBG)... and protmply unweigh it
- Exelon Beating Facebook in S&P 500 After Valuation Scare (BBG)
- Court Case May Help Define 'Insider Trading' (WSJ)
- Spanish banks face tough rivalry in small companies bet (Reuters)
Dondero had quite a "track record" of illegal trading activity before he was finally busted for one last time engaging in HFT spoofing. However, it is not his FINRA brokercheck record that is of interest, but the fact that back in 2007, in the first ever CNBC Million-Dollar challenge, it was none other than Dondero who almost won. And yes, he nearly manipulated his way to the $1 million prize money then too. Only, the way he did fudged his winning percentage was not as most other competition participants had, by abusing the widely known system glitch that allowed contestants to see which stocks were rising in after-hours trading and then to buy those stocks at the lower, 4 p.m. EST closing price, but using a far more devious scheme. One which is reminiscent of the crime that last week just ended his trading career in the real world as well.
Market consensus is that deflation remains the greatest threat to the global economy. But that's ignoring signs of impending inflation, particularly in the US.
- Russia says expects answers on NATO troops in eastern Europe (Reuters)
- Dealers say GM customer anxiety rising, sales may take hit (Reuters)
- China Unveils Mini-Stimulus Measure (WSJ)
- Londoners Priced Out of Housing Blame Foreigners (BBG)
- New earthquake in Chile prompts tsunami alerts (Reuters)
- Ukrainian Billionaire Charged by U.S. With Bribe Scheme (BBG)
- Chinese Investments in U.S. Commercial Real Estate Surges (BBG)
- Old Math Casts Doubt on Accuracy of Oil Reserve Estimates (BBG)
- US secretly created 'Cuban Twitter' to stir unrest (AP)
There’s good propaganda and bad propaganda. Bad propaganda is generally crude, amateurish Judy Miller “mobile weapons lab-type” nonsense that figures that people are so stupid they’ll believe anything that appears in “the paper of record.” Good propaganda, on the other hand, uses factual, sometimes documented material in a coordinated campaign with the other major media to cobble-together a narrative that is credible, but false. The so called Fed’s transcripts, which were released last week, fall into the latter category... But while the conversations between the members are accurately recorded, they don’t tell the gist of the story or provide the context that’s needed to grasp the bigger picture. Instead, they’re used to portray the members of the Fed as affable, well-meaning bunglers who did the best they could in ‘very trying circumstances’. While this is effective propaganda, it’s basically a lie, mainly because it diverts attention from the Fed’s role in crashing the financial system, preventing the remedies that were needed from being implemented (nationalizing the giant Wall Street banks), and coercing Congress into approving gigantic, economy-killing bailouts which shifted trillions of dollars to insolvent financial institutions that should have been euthanized. What I’m saying is that the Fed’s transcripts are, perhaps, the greatest propaganda coup of our time.
Bill Ackman helped rescue General Growth Properties (GGP) - the US 2nd largest shopping mall operator - from bankruptcy in 2009/10 as the company collapsed in the financial crisis. Ackman "turned $60 million into $1.6 billion" in the process but, according to Bloomberg, has now exited his entire position, dumping his final 28 million share back to the company via a buyback. The spin, of course, is that it's right to take profits and that GGP is now 'a much different company than it was then." However, given Ackman's knowledge of JCP (and perhaps RSH), we can't help but wonder, given all the exuberance about Fed tapering must mean the recovery is here and sustainable - just why Ackman would unload it all at such a pivotal time in the US economy...?
An "Austrian" Bill Gross Warns: "The Days Of Getting Rich Quickly Are Over... Getting Rich Slowly May Be As Well"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 02/05/2014 14:03 -0400
If readers ignore the rest from the latest monthly insight from Bill Gross of PIMCO, they should at least read the following insight which we agree with wholeheartedly: "our PIMCO word of the month is to be “careful.” Bull markets are either caused by or accompanied by credit expansion. With credit growth slowing due in part to lower government deficits, and QE now tapering which will slow velocity, the U.S. and other similarly credit-based economies may find that future growth is not as robust as the IMF and other model-driven forecasters might assume. Perhaps the whisper word of “deflation” at Davos these past few weeks was a reflection of that.... don’t be a pig in today’s or any day’s future asset markets. The days of getting rich quickly are over, and the days of getting rich slowly may be as well. Most medieval, perhaps." Where have we read this recently? Why in An “Austrian View” Approach To Equity Prices in particular and the bulk of Austrian economics in general. Which means that following the TBAC, i.e. the committee that really runs the US, none other than the manager of the world's largest bond fund has now moved over to the Austrian side. Welcome.