Commercial Real Estate
After Seven Lean Years, Part 1: US Residential Real Estate: The Present Position And Future ProspectsSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/13/2014 09:24 -0500
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...
Over the past two weeks, Trust Preferred (or TruPS) CDOs have gained prominent attention as a result of being the first, and so far only, security that the recently implemented and largely watered-down, Volcker Rule has frowned upon, and leading various regional banks, such as Zions, to liquidate the offending asset while booking substantial losses. But... what are TruPS CDOs, and just how big (or small) of an issue is a potential wholesale liquidation in the market? Courtesy of the Philly Fed we now have the extended answer.
Investors from multi-billion dollar hedge funds to individuals buying as few as 10 properties have acquired more than 1 million homes across the U.S. in the past three years, transforming a mom-and-pop business into one of Wall Street's hottest investments. As we noted here, Blackstone Group LP alone has acquired more than 40,000 properties in 14 cities to become the largest single-family landlord in the country. As Bloomberg notes, the new landlords are transforming the way Americans live and accumulate wealth. But while Wall Street is becoming America's largest residential landlord, it appears China wants to get paid for commercial properties... and Detroit.
In fitting with the pre-holiday theme, and the moribund liquidity theme of the past few months and years, there was little of note in the overnight session with few event catalysts to guide futures beside the topping out EURJPY. Chinese stocks closed a shade of red following news local banks might be coming under further scrutiny on their lending/accounting practices - the Chinese banking regulator has drafted rules restricting banks from using resale or repurchase agreements to move assets off their balance sheets as a way to sidestep loan-to-deposit ratios that constrain loan growth. The return of the nightly Japanese jawboning of the Yen did little to boost sentiment, as the Nikkei closed down 104 points to 15515. Japan has gotten to the point where merely talking a weaker Yen will no longer work, and the BOJ will actually have to do something - something which the ECB, whose currency is at a 4 year high against Japan, may not like.
A great many long refuted Keynesian shibboleths keep being resurrected in Krugman's fantasy-land, where economic laws are magically suspended, virtue becomes vice and bubbles and the expropriation of savers the best ways to grow the economy. According to Paul Krugman, saving is evil and savers should therefore be forcibly deprived of positive interest returns. This echoes the 'euthanasia of the rentier' demanded by Keynes, who is the most prominent source of the erroneous underconsumption theory Krugman is propagating. Similar to John Law and scores of inflationists since then, he believes that economic growth is driven by 'spending' and consumption. This is putting the cart before the horse. We don't deny that inflation and deficit spending can create a temporary illusory sense of prosperity by diverting scarce resources from wealth-generating toward wealth-consuming activities. It should however be obvious that this can only lead to severe long term economic problems. Finally it should be pointed out that the idea that economic laws are somehow 'different' in periods of economic contraction is a cop-out mainly designed to prevent people from asking an obvious question: if deficit spending and inflation are so great, why not always pursue them?
Pushing the neo-liberal argument further than it wants to go, with interesting results.
If one was a foreigner visiting for the first time, one would think Space Available was the hot new retailer in the country. Thousands of Space Available signs dot the bleak landscape, as office buildings, strip malls, and industrial complexes wither and die. At least the Chinese "Space Available" sign manufacturers are doing well. The only buildings doing brisk business are the food banks and homeless shelters. However, reports like the recent one from SNL Financial – Branch Networks Continue to Shrink - are emblematic of the mal-investment spurred by the Federal Reserve easy money policies, zero interest rates, and QEternity... In a truly free, non-manipulated market the weak would be culled, new dynamic competitors would fill the void, and consumers would benefit. However, extending debt payment schedules of the largest zombie entities and pretending you will get paid has been the mantra of the insolvent zombie Wall Street banks since 2009.
"Every American family deserves a false sense of security," said Chris Reppto, a risk analyst for Citigroup in New York. "Once we have a bubble to provide a fragile foundation, we can begin building pyramid scheme on top of pyramid scheme, and before we know it, the financial situation will return to normal." Despite the overwhelming support for a new bubble among investors, some in Washington are critical of the idea, calling continued reliance on bubble-based economics a mistake. Regardless of the outcome of this week's congressional hearings, however, one thing will remain certain: The calls for a new bubble are only going to get louder. "America needs another bubble," said Chicago investor Bob Taiken. "At this point, bubbles are the only thing keeping us afloat."
- US Blasts Germany's Economic Policies (WSJ)
- Citigroup, JPMorgan Said to Put Currency Dealers on Leave (BBG)
- Watchdog: Syria Destroys Chemical-Arms Equipment (WSJ)
- Kynikos Alumni Start Hedge Fund Betting on Declining Stocks (BBG)
- China state media calls for stern action after Tiananmen attack (RTRS)
- IMF warns of financial shock risk to Africa (FT)
- Insurers Oppose Obamacare Extension as Danger to Profits (BBG)
- BoJ content to ignore Fed tapering and go its own way (FT)
- U.S. attorney wants DOJ to take civil action against BofA (RTRS)
- NSA Fallout Hits AT&T's Ambitions In Europe (WSJ)
Two days after Spain reported its first positive sequential GDP print (unclear just how adjusted the definition of GDP was to get to this watershed moment after 9 quarters of declines) and a day after it unemployment supposedly dropped more than expected (what was left unsaid is that the Spanish working age population dropped 85,200 in Q3 and -279,000 YoY and that of the 39,500 "jump" in Q3 employed people, virtually all were self-employed or temps while employees on permanent contracts were down by 146,300), the 5 second attention span investing herd is now convinced the housing market in Spain has dropped. This was "formalized" after billionaire Bill Gates invested $155 million, also known as pocket change, in Spain's infrastructure group Fomento de Construcciones & Contratas. Surely, if anyone knows how to time housing market turns it is the guy who brought us MS-DOS 3.1. Unfortunately, the mythical housing bottom may have been just that - mythical - following news that Spain's bad bank (oh yeah - lest we forget, Spain has a wonderful rug under which it can hide all insolvent bank NPLs) failed to attract high enough bids in its first sale of commercial real estate and will cut the size of the portfolio being offered to make it easier to sell, according to Bloomberg which cited three people familiar with the matter.
David Stockman, author of The Great Deformation, summarizes the last quarter century thus: What has been growing is the wealth of the rich, the remit of the state, the girth of Wall Street, the debt burden of the people, the prosperity of the beltway and the sway of the three great branches of government - that is, the warfare state, the welfare state and the central bank...
What is flailing is the vast expanse of the Main Street economy where the great majority have experienced stagnant living standards, rising job insecurity, failure to accumulate material savings, rapidly approach old age and the certainty of a Hobbesian future where, inexorably, taxes will rise and social benefits will be cut...
He calls this condition "Sundown in America".
- Government Shuts Down as Congress Misses Deadline (WSJ); Shutdown starts, 1 million workers on unpaid leave (Reuters); Government Shutdown Begins as Deadlocked Congress Flails (BBG)
- This is not The Onion: Stocks Rise on U.S. Government Shutdown (BBG)
- Pentagon chief says shutdown hurts U.S. credibility with allies (Reuters)
- In historic step, Japan PM hikes tax; will cushion blow to economy (Reuters)
- Obama Says He Won’t Give Into ‘Ideological’ Budget Demand (BBG)
- More part-time warehouse workers: Amazon to Hire 70,000 Workers for the Holidays (WSJ)
- Less full-time legitimate workers: Merck to fire 8,500 workers (BBG)
- Education cuts hit America’s poor (FT)
- Euro-Zone Factory Growth Slows (WSJ)
- Watchdog Warns EU Not to Water Down Insurance Rules (Reuters)
Almost 4 years ago, The FT's Mike Mackenzie penned a very prophetic article explaining exactly the dilemma the Fed is now facing: "No matter how bulled up the equity market becomes, should data improve, the Fed is likely to remain very cautious, mindful that it needs to keep the bond market happy. Becoming the buyer of last resort in the past year resulted in the Fed crossing an important line in the bond market." The full piece is well worth a read as a reminder that plenty of people saw this coming, Mackenzie concludes: "the eventual end of QE will be a messier affair than perhaps many investors care to think. And one that bodes ill for the dollar and US fiscal policy down the road."
It’s often argued that they don’t a bell at the top. I would argue that we numerous bells ringing in the financial markets today.