Commercial Real Estate
The current illusion of recovery is a result mainly of windfalls to the financial asset owning upper strata, the explosion of transfer payments funded with borrowed public money and another supply-side bubble - this time in the energy sector and its suppliers and infrastructure. But that’s not real growth or wealth. Indeed, the desultory truth about the latter is better revealed by the fact that the American economy is not even maintaining its 20th century level of breadwinner jobs. And the real state of affairs is further testified to by the lamentable trend in real median household incomes. That figure - not distorted by the bubble at the top of the income ladder - is still lower than it was two decades ago. So much for the Keynesian rap. Yet that’s about all that underpins the latest Wall Street rip.
- Citigroup is pleased: Obama signs $1.1 trillion government spending bill (Reuters)
- Oil holds below $60 as OPEC, Russia keep pumping (Reuters)
- 5 Things to watch at the December Fed Meeting (WSJ)
- Russia Tries Emergency Steps for 2nd Day to Stem Ruble Rout (BBG)
- Ruble crisis could shake Putin's grip on power (Reuters)
- Apple Curbs Russia Sales as McDonald’s Lifts Prices (BBG)
- Traders Betting Russia’s Next Move Will Be to Sell Gold (BBG)
- China Warms to a More Flexible Yuan (WSJ)
If there's one absolute truism we hear again and again, it's that central banks are desperately trying to create inflation. Perversely, their easy-money policies actually generation the exact opposite: deflation. Financial and risk bubbles don't pop in a vacuum--all the phantom collateral constructed with mal-invested free money for financiers will also implode.
Blackstone's well-timed IPO in 2007 was almost the perfect top-tick indicator as 'the smart money' private-equity guys cashed out into the public markets at peak euphoria. Earlier this year we noted that, among others, Blackstone was drastically ratcheting down purchases (and in fact selling what it could) US residential real estate - and with it withdrew the only pillar holding up the housing market. And now, in the biggest deal in 7 years, Blackstone is dumping a $3.5 billion commercial real estate portfolio. Given the recent declines in CMBX pricing, perhaps, once again, Blackstone is calling the top in another bubble...
If you ever needed proof that the financial press has been completely indoctrinated in the cult of Keynesian central banking consider the following...
While the Fed and the BOJ were by far the biggest news of the past week, explicitly admitting that the world simply can not exist without one central bank passing the monetization torch to someone else, a surprising, and scare for its shareholders, development took place when REIT American Realty Capital Properties, with a then-market cap of over $10 billion, announced, under the cover of the Fed ending QE3, that it had overstated its adjusted funds from operation, a cash flow key metric used by REITs, from the first- and second-quarters of 2014.As the WSJ reminds us, while the amount of money involved, some $23 million, was "relatively small", the irregularities resulted in the resignation of the company’s chief financial officer, Brian Block, and chief accounting officer, Lisa McAlister.The result: a crash in the stock that wiped out nearly 30% or nearly $4 billion in market cap.
QE has finally come to an end, but public comprehension of the immense fraud it embodied has not even started. In stopping QE after a massive spree of monetization, the Fed is actually taking a tiny step toward liberating the interest rate and re-establishing honest finance. But don’t bother to inform our monetary politburo. As soon as the current massive financial bubble begins to burst, it will doubtless invent some new excuse to resume central bank balance sheet expansion and therefore fraudulent finance. But this time may be different. Perhaps even the central banks have reached the limits of credibility - that is, their own equivalent of peak debt.
The last time the stock market reached a fevered peak and began to wobble unexpectedly was August 2007. Markets were most definitely not in the classic “price discovery” business. Instead, the stock market had discovered the “goldilocks economy." But what is profoundly different this time is that the Fed is out of dry powder. Its can’t slash the discount rate as Bernanke did in August 2007 or continuously reduce it federal funds target on a trip from 6% all the way down to zero. Nor can it resort to massive balance sheet expansion. That card has been played and a replay would only spook the market even more. So this time is different. The gamblers are scampering around the casino fixing to buy the dip as soon as white smoke wafts from the Eccles Building. But none is coming. For the first time in 25- years, the Wall Street gamblers are home alone.
- Turkey says Syria town about to fall as Islamic State advances (Reuters)
- Only now? Growth worries grip stocks, oil (Reuters)
- Hong Kong Protest Leaders ‘Furious’ at Agenda for Talks (BBG)
- Earthquake Damages Thousands of Homes in Southern China (BBG)
- Keystone Be Darned: Canada Finds Oil Route Around Obama (BBG)
- Where Is North Korea's 31-Year-Old Leader? (BusinessWeek)
- Australia to Revise Employment Data (WSJ)
- Americans Living Longer as Fewer Die From Heart Disease, Cancer (BBG)
- A 401(k) Conundrum: Can You Make Cash Pile Last for Life? (BBG)
- China Services Sector Slows in September (WSJ)
Credit Suisse warns of a self-fuelling feedback loop of rising risks and costs to the Scottish financial and sovereign sectors, and a steady migration of capital, activity, jobs and taxes if the Scots vote "Yes". However, if the vote is a close "no", they warn "the cat is out of the bag," and risk remains.
The term “jobless recovery” is itself an oxymoron since the main function of any economic advance is to broaden participation. Thus a “jobless recovery” is nothing of the sort, indicating more so the re-arranging of numbers rather than full achievement – the hallmarks of redistribution.
As financialism spreads, so does disharmony, not just in function but in breaking correlations among economic accounts and statistics that were once seemingly so unconquerable.
Janet Yellen has essentially confirmed QE’s demise; good riddance. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the final end of QE in America, just as it hasn’t been the end time after time in Japan (and perhaps now Europe treading down the same ill-received road). The secular stagnation theory, that we think has been fully absorbed in certainly Yellen’s FOMC, sees little gain from it because, as they assume, the lackluster economy is due to this mysterious decline in the “natural rate of interest.” Therefore QE in the fourth iteration accomplishes far less toward that goal, especially with diminishing impacts on expectations in the real economy, other than create bubbles of activity (“reach for yield”) that always end badly. What Krugman and Summers call for is a massive bubble of biblical proportions that “shocks” the economy out of this mysterious rut, to “push inflation substantially higher, and keep it there.” In other words, Abenomics in America. Japanification is becoming universal, and the more these appeals to generic activity and waste continue, the tighter its “mysterious” grip.
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...