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)
The Great Depression did not represent the failure of capitalism or some inherent suicidal tendency of the free market to plunge into cyclical depression - absent the constant ministrations of the state through monetary, fiscal, tax and regulatory interventions. Instead, the Great Depression was a unique historical occurrence - the delayed consequence of the monumental folly of the Great War, abetted by the financial deformations spawned by modern central banking. But ironically, the “failure of capitalism” explanation of the Great Depression is exactly what enabled the Warfare State to thrive and dominate the rest of the 20th century because it gave birth to what have become its twin handmaidens - Keynesian economics and monetary central planning. Together, these two doctrines eroded and eventually destroyed the great policy barrier - that is, the old-time religion of balanced budgets - that had kept America a relatively peaceful Republic until 1914. The good Ben (Franklin that is) said,” Sir you have a Republic if you can keep it”. We apparently haven’t.
One of the things that this era of American history will be known for is conspicuous consumption. Even though many of us won't admit it, the truth is that almost all of us want a nice vehicle and a large home. They say that "everything is bigger in Texas", but the same could be said for the entire nation as a whole. We live in a debt-based system which is incredibly fragile. We experienced this firsthand during the last financial crisis. But we just can't help ourselves. We have always got to have more...
- 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)
Destroy the market's ability to price assets, risk and credit, and you take away the essential information participants need to make rational, informed decisions. By crushing the market's ability to generate accurate pricing information to save the Status Quo from necessary repricing and reforms, the Fed and the Federal government have generated enormously destructive unintended consequences that will not respond to additional politically expedient fixes. All the other central planning fixes around the world share the same fatal flaw.
You can smell this one coming a mile away... the ECB is now energetically trying to revive the a market for asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) - the very kind of “toxic-waste” that allegedly nearly took down the financial system during the panic of September 2008. The ECB would have you believe that getting more “liquidity” into the bank loan market for such things as credit card advances, auto paper and small business loans will somehow cause Europe’s debt-besotted businesses and consumers to start borrowing again - thereby reversing the mild (and constructive) trend toward debt reduction that has caused euro area bank loans to decline by about 3% over the past year. What they are really up to, however, is money-printing and snookering the German sound money camp.
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)
There's not much good news for housing these days. For a little while, the Fed's suppression of interest rates juiced housing enough to distract Americans from weak job creation and stagnant real wages. Don't have a job? No problem! Just borrow against the appreciation of your house to feed your family. But Yellen's interest rate wand looks to be out of magic. The government had a pipe dream of white picket fences for everyone. But Americans can't refinance their way to wealth. Especially in the Greater Depression.
Everything (all 110 slides of it) you wanted to know about the GSEs but were afraid to ask... (with Bill Ackman's biased long perspective)