Commercial Real Estate
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.
The point isn't that "the Fed can't do that;" the point is that the Fed cannot create a bid in bidless markets that lasts beyond its own buying. The Fed can buy half the U.S. stock market, all the student loans, all the subprime auto loans, all the defaulted CRE and residential mortgages, and every other worthless asset in America. But that won't create a real bid for any of those assets, once they are revealed as worthless. The nuclear option won't fix anything, because it is fundamentally the wrong tool for the wrong job. Holders of disintegrating assets will be delighted to sell the assets to the Fed, of course, but that won't fix what's fundamentally broken in the American and global economies; it will simply allow the transfer of impaired assets from the financial sector and speculators to the Fed.
If it seems like it was exactly a year ago that turmoiling retailer Radioshack shut down 500 stores due to lack of consumer interest in its wares (and or consumer disposable cash), it is because it was. So how does Radioshack demonstrate its morbid sense of humor on the one year anniversary of said announcement? Well, by closing another 500, or about 12% of the retailer's total 4500 outlets currently in existence. The WSJ reports that the company which once was the butt of all LBO-rumor jokes (and still is, only this time in the context of an M&A-rumor with JCPenney and/or the Joseph A. Wearhouse joint venture), is "planning to close around 500 stores in the coming months as the electronics retailer continues working with advisers to restructure the company."
The forest (the economy) can only remain vibrant and healthy if the dead wood is burned off in bankruptcy and insolvency. Retail commercial real estate is over-built and over-leveraged. If it is allowed to burn off as Nature intended, we can finally move forward.
The decay of the "build it and they will come" model of commercial real estate is gathering speed for a simple systemic reason: the decline is self-reinforcing in several critical ways. Before we start the analysis, let's ask a basic question: How much of the stuff and services purchased at retail outlets, malls, strip malls, etc. is absolutely necessary and how much is excess consumption? Conventional "Growth by any means" Cargo Cultists such as Paul Krugman never ask this basic question, because the answer (very little is essential, most is excess consumption) undermines the entire narrative that all growth is good, even the most marginal, unsustainable, wasteful and fiscally imprudent. I've captured the essence of retail in America with this photo:
China's Epic Offshore Wealth Revealed: How Chinese Oligarchs Quietly Parked Up To $4 Trillion In The CaribbeanSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/21/2014 21:02 -0400
"Close relatives of China’s top leaders have held secretive offshore companies in tax havens that helped shroud the Communist elite’s wealth, a leaked cache of documents reveals" the ICIJ's latest offshore weawlth expose begins. In addition to the usual list of who, what, where, why and when, we learn that once again the two largest Swiss banks are about to be embroiled in yet another money laundering scandal, this time involving the parking of wealth belonging to China's aristocracy - including its princelings - in various Caribbean, mostly British Virgin Island, tax havens. What is notable, if not unexpected, is just how pervasive the parking of offshore capital has been, and confirms that it is not inflow of money that the PBOC has to be afraid of when its internationalizes the Yuan, it is the outflow that will be far more worrysome. But the biggest stunner is the sheer size of the wealth transfer: according to ICIJ estimate, up to $4 trillion in "untraced assets" may have left China since 2000. These are truly epic numbers.
All this boils down to one simple question: can the top 10% (roughly 11 million households) support the billions of square feet of retail space that were added in the 2000s? If the answer is no, as it clearly is, then the retail CRE sector is doomed to implode. Let's try a second simple question: what's holding the retail CRE sector up? Answer: leases that will soon expire or be voided by insolvency, bankruptcy, etc. as retailers close stores and shutter their businesses. One last question: who's holding all the immense debt that's piled on top of this soon-to-collapse sector? The domino of retail CRE will not fall in isolation; it will topple the domino of debt next to it, and that will topple the lenders who are bankrupted by the implosion of retail-CRE debt. And once that domino falls, it will take what's left of the nation's illusory financial stability down with it.
After Seven Lean Years, Part 2: US Commercial Real Estate: The Present Position And Future ProspectsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/20/2014 16:32 -0400
The first installment of our series on U.S. real estate by correspondent Mark G. focused on residential real estate. In Part 2, Mark explains why the commercial real estate (CRE) market is set to implode. The fundamentals of demographics, stagnant household income and an overbuilt retail sector eroded by eCommerce support only one conclusion: commercial real estate in the U.S. will implode as retail sales and profits weaken.
After Seven Lean Years, Part 1: US Residential Real Estate: The Present Position And Future ProspectsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2014 10:24 -0400
In the last 8+ years, housing has proceeded through a cycle of bubble-bust-echo-bubble: now the echo bubble is crumbling, for all the same reasons the 2006-7 bubble burst: a prosperity based on asset bubbles and low interest rates is a phantom prosperity that cannot last.
Worried about being priced out of the housing market once again? Concerned that longer-term fixed rates will rise? It seems the general public, guided by the always full of fiduciary duty - mortgage broker - has reverted to old habits and is charging back into Adjustable-Rate Mortgages. As The LA Times reports, ARMs, which all but vanished during the housing bust, are back - accounting for 11.2% of homes purchased in November (double that of the year before)! While not the Option Arms of yesteryear, it would appear people, pushing for lower monthly payments, remain completely oblivious to the word "adjustable" when they shift their risk to the shorter-end. Though, as the 'experts' continue to tell us, rising rates won't affect housing negatively - not at all...