At the heart of the problem is the fact that the Federal Reserve’s manipulation of the money supply prevents interest rates from telling the truth: How much are people really choosing to save out of income, and therefore how much of the society’s resources — land, labor, capital — are really available to support sustainable investment activities in the longer run? What is the real cost of borrowing, independent of Fed distortions of interest rates, so businessmen could make realistic and fair estimates about which investment projects might be truly profitable, without the unnecessary risk of being drawn into unsustainable bubble ventures? All that government produces from its interventions, regulations, and manipulations is false signals and bad information.
What if it had gone differently? What if, six years ago, in the throes of the financial crisis, the political leaders in D.C. had decided that enough was enough, and they were going to seize the opportunity to make real and meaningful positive changes?
The stories make you want to take all of your money out of the stock market and put it in your mattress!
The failure to understand money is shared by all nations and transcends politics and parties. The destructive monetary expansion undertaken during the Democratic administration of Barack Obama by then Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke began in a Republican administration under Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan. Republican Richard Nixon’s historic ending of the gold standard was a response to forces set in motion by the weak dollar policy of Democrat Lyndon Johnson. For more than 40 years, one policy mistake has followed the next. Each one has made things worse. What they don’t understand is that money does not “create” economic activity.
Among this week's most notable moves was the decompression of high-yield credit spreads to near 9 month wides (and continued outflows). What went notably-under-reported by the mainstream media, however, was an even bigger selloff in US mortgage bonds. While JPMorgan is unable to see "any fundamental reason" for the plunge in prices, the worrying indication from the magnitude of the drop relative to volumes is that liquidity has evaporated. As Bloomberg notes, with dealer inventories sold down (due to new regulations that make repo and agency securities unpalatable), they have no way to 'smooth' the selling when investors want to exit positions. Weakness of this magnitude when the 10Y gained only 2bps on the week is a big wake-up call that traders are looking for the exits from housing debt and the door is very narrow.
- Moscow fights back after sanctions; battle rages near Ukraine crash site (Reuters)
- On Hold: Merkel Gives Putin a Blunt Message (WSJ)
- Argentina’s Default Clock Runs Out as Debt Talks Collapse (BBG)
- Argentina braces for market reaction to second default in 12 years (Reuters)
- Banco Espirito Santo Plunges After Posting 3.6 Billion-Euro Loss (BBG)
- Adidas Plunges After Cutting Forecast on Russia, Golf (BBG)
- GOP Says Lerner Emails Show Bias Against Conservatives (WSJ)
- Londoners Cashing in Flee to Suburbs as Home Rally Wanes (BBG)
- BNP Paribas Reports Record $5.79 Billion Quarterly Loss (WSJ)
- Swiss Banks Send U.S. Client Data Before Cascade of Settlements (BBG)
- Putin Sows Doubt Among Stock Bears Burned by 29% Rebound (BBG)
The Phoenix housing market has a special place in the heart of housing bubble watchers: together with Las Vegas and various California MSAs, this is the place where the last housing bubble was born and subsequently died a gruesome death which nearly brought down the entire financial system. Which is why the monthly WP Carey report on the Greater Phoenix Housing Market is of peculiar interest for those who want to catch a leading glimpse into the overall state of the bubble US housing market. As hoped, this month's letter does not disappoint. What we find is that while equilibrium prices have been largely flat month over month, and are up 6% on an average square foot basis from a year ago, something very bad is happening with a key component of the pricing calculation: demand has fallen off a cliff.
This is a big deal. On the heels of our pointing out the surge in Treasury fails (following extensive detailing of the market's massive collateral shortage at the hands of the unmerciful Fed's buying programs), various 'strategists' wrote thinly-veiled attempts to calm market concerns that the repo market (the glue that holds risk assets together) was FUBAR. Even the Fed itself sent missives opining that their cunning Reverse-Repo facility would solve the problems and everyone should go back to the important business of BTFATHing... They are wrong - all of them - as yet again the Fed shows its ignorance of how the world works (just as it did in 2007/8 with the same shadow markets). As JPMorgan warns (not some tin-foil-hat-wearing blogger with an ax to grind) "the Fed’s reverse repo facility does little to alleviate the UST scarcity induced by the Federal Reserves’ QE programs coupled with a declining government deficit." The end result, they note, is "higher susceptibility of the repo market to collateral shortages" and thus dramatically higher financial fragility - the opposite of what the Fed 'hopes' for.
- Carl Icahn says 'time to be cautious' on U.S. stocks (Reuters)
- Banco Espirito Santo Lifts Lid on Exposure to Group (BBG)
- Slowing Customer Traffic Worries U.S. Retailers (WSJ)
- Insurgents enter military base northeast of Baghdad (Reuters)
- Obama tells Israel U.S. ready to help end hostilities (Reuters)
- Japan economics minister warns of premature QE exit, sees room for more easing (Reuters)
- Greek Banks See Quadrupling of Housing Loans by Next Year (BBG) ... to fund buybacks like in the US?
- Piggy Banks Being Raided Signal Swedish Housing Dilemma (BBG)
- London Seeks New Spenders as Russians Skip $719 Champagne (BBG)
- U.S. sets new import duties on Chinese solar products (Reuters)
- U.S.-China Solar-Products Dispute Heats Up (WSJ)
- China Mulls Offshore Yuan Gold Trade in Free Trade Zone (BBG)
- Insider-Trading Probe Could Snarl a Deal for Icahn (WSJ)
- KCG Holdings Suspects Its Trading Code Was Stolen (WSJ)
- ‘Period. Full Stop’ Is the New ‘At the End of the Day’ (BBG)
- Draghi not so goof for bonds: Investors Flag Risk of ECB Disappointing After Europe Bond Rally (BBG)
- But great for stocks: Equity Traders See Draghi Turning Throttle Up on Rally (BBG)
After the crisis, many expected that the blameworthy would be punished or at the least be required to return their ill-gotten gains—but they weren’t, and they didn’t. Many thought that those who were injured would be made whole, but most weren’t. And many hoped that there would be a restoration of the financial safety rules to ensure that industry leaders could no longer gamble the equity of their firms to the point of ruin. This didn’t happen, but it’s not too late. It is useful, then, to identify the persistent myths about the causes of the financial crisis and the resulting Dodd-Frank reform legislation and related implementation...."Plenty of people saw it coming, and said so. The problem wasn’t seeing, it was listening."
More than half a decade after the collapse, and with talking heads proclaiming the recovery as strong as ever and the Fed remarking on the housing market's foundational pillar to that recovery, BlackRock's CEO Larry Fink has a few words of warning for the exuberant - the US housing market is "structurally more unsound" today that before the last financial crisis. As the data comes in weaker and weaker, despite hopes for a post-weather bounce, the fact that the US housing market is "more dependent on Fannie and Freddie than we were before the crisis," is a problem for the US taxpayer and - unlike Mel Watt's 'free credit for everyone' approach to expanding the GSE's role, Fink says with strong underwriting standards, ownership of affordable homes can again become a foundation for American families. So Watt's easy 'Subprime 2.0' or Fink's hard 'American Dream'.
- Bank of England sees 'no housing bubble' (Independent)
- ‘If the euro falls, Europe falls’ (FT)
- India's pro-business Modi storms to historic election win (Reuters)
- Global Growth Worries Climb (WSJ)
- Bitcoin Foundation hit by resignations over new director (Reuters)
- Blackstone Goes All In After the Flop (WSJ)
- SAC's Steinberg loses bid for insider trading acquittal (Reuters)
- Beats Satan: Republicans Paint Reid as Bogeyman in 2014 Senate Races (BBG)
- Tech Firms, Small Startups Object to Paying for Internet 'Fast Lanes' (WSJ) - but they just provide liquidity
- U.S. Warns Russia of Sanctions as Ukraine Troops Advance (BBG)
- Major U.S. hedge funds sold 'momentum' Internet names in first-quarter (Reuters)
In his first major speech since The White House got their 'flexible' man in to manage the GSEs, Mel Watt outlined his strategic plan for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Predicated on the maintenance of liquidity, competition, and resilience of the national housing finance market, Watt's remarkably blind to the past proposal will, as CNBC's Rick Santelli warns, create Subprime 2.0. Easing lending standards, not lowering limits, and raising the possibility of principal reduction seems to do anything but reduce taxpayer risk and merely creates more perverse incentives. Santelli steams, as the orthodox monetary policy channel of the last 30 years continues to be pumped ever higher, "immense fiscal and monetary stimulus has gotten us nowhere." As we suspect Rich might have concluded... Watt the fuck!? "if you believe any of this, you have to be crazy after what we've been through."
- Vietnam mobs set fire to foreign factories in anti-China riots (Reuters)
- Recession-Baby Millennials Scarred by U.S. Downturn Spurn Stocks (BBG)
- U.S. Agents Start Hunting for Sanctioned Russians’ ‘Shiny Toys’ (BBG)
- Russia moves to oust US from International Space Station (FT)
- China Central Bank Calls for Faster Home Lending in Slump (BBG)
- Geithner Must Give S&P Documents in U.S. Fraud Suit (BBG)
- Samsung's 'crown prince' in focus as father hospitalized (Reuters)
- Yahoo buys mobile 'self-destruct' messaging app Blink only to shut it down (Reuters)
- Goldman’s Twitter banker joins hedge fund (FT)
- Keyword being "unexpectedly": Sony Unexpectedly Forecasts Loss Amid PC Restructuring Costs (BBG)