We have been warning for years that as a result of the Fed's disastrous policies, America's middle class is being disintegrated and US adults are surviving only thanks to insurmountable debtloads. But not even we had an appreciation of how serious the problem truly was. We now know, and it is a shocker: according to new research by the Urban Institute, about 77 million Americans have a debt in collections.
But it was supposed to be the weather? S&P/Case-Shiller home prices dropped in May and missed expectations for the 2nd month in a row. Against a forecast rise on 0.3%, prices dropped in May by 0.3% - the biggest drop since December 2011. It appears we are going to need more Chinese hot money flow buyers. Of note, while in April Case-Shiller reported only 5 cities out of the tracked 20 posting sequential price declines, in May this number has soared to 14. And so the fourth dead cat bounce in housing appears to be over.
Less than four weeks after starting his new job, Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela already has a serious challenge to deal with: empty grocery shelves. This is largely a self-inflicted wound that was bound to happen.
Fresh on the heels of his victory in May, the then President-elect announced that one of his first orders would be to regulate prices for staple food products. He followed through on his promise, establishing price controls on certain brands of roughly two dozen items like chicken, rice, eggs, and bread. And within a matter of weeks, many grocery store shelves are already empty, at least for the regulated items. It’s not quite Venezuela or Cuba where it can be downright impossible to buy a roll of toilet paper. But it’s more proof that price controls almost always backfire.
More basic suggestions for those who are seeking shelter from the coming storms of global financial crisis and recession (part 1 here).
- Bubble Paranoia Setting in as S&P 500 Surge Stirs Angst (BBG)
- But how will math PhDs determine "fair value" - Wall Street Techs Take Secrets to Next Job at Their Peril (BBG)
- U.S., EU Escalate Russia Sanctions as Putin Holds Firm (Bloomberg)
- Australia Becomes First Developed Nation to Repeal Carbon Tax (WSJ)
- Gaza humanitarian truce goes into force, hours after tunnel clash (Reuters)
- Barclays, Deutsche Bank Said to Face U.S. Senate Hearing (BBG)
- ECB Asset Buying Far Off and May Not Come, Hansson Says (BBG)
- Time Warner win would make Murdoch U.S. media king (Reuters)
- Costly Vertex Drug Is Denied, and Medicaid Patients Sue (WSJ)
- China Rallying for All Wrong Reasons to Top-Rated Analyst (BBG)
- GM recalls some cars with problematic switches; judges others safe (Reuters)
When scientists start using phrases such as "the worst drought" and "as bad as you can imagine" to describe what is going on in the western half of the country, you know that things are bad. Thanks to an epic drought that never seems to end, we are witnessing the beginning of a water crisis that most people never even dreamed was possible in this day and age. The following are 20 signs that the stunning drought is starting to become apocalyptic...
When we broke the story of China's "secret" money laundering into US real estate scheme, we said "So what happens next? Assuming there is the anticipated resulting backlash and crackdown on Chinese banks, which will finally enforce the $50K/year outflow limitation, this could well be the worst possible news not only for Chinese inflation, which suddenly - no longer having a convenient outlet for the unprecedented liquidity formed in the country every month - is set to soar, but also for the ultra-luxury housing in the US. Because without the Chinese bid in a market in which the Chinese are the biggest marginal buyer scooping up real estate across the land, sight unseen, and paid for in laundered cash (which the NAR blissfully does not need to know about due to its AML exemptions), watch as suddenly the 4th dead cat bounce in US housing since the Lehman failure rediscovers just how painful gravity really is." What we forgot to add is that virtually every other financial mainstream outlet would promptly pick up on the story even as the original source back in China took its secrets to the grace. Metaphorically speaking, we hope...
The UBS trading floor in Stamford, CT was dubbed (by Guinness World Records) the largest in the world. But now... as the WSJ reports, there are virtually no traders shouting into their phones or staring at terminals. UBS's cavernous floor is taken up mostly by back-office, legal and technology staffers, according to people familiar with the bank. Simply put, a deep slump in trading activity in everything from stocks and bonds to currencies is changing the face of Wall Street. Today's markets are "boring," rants a senior credit trader; "It's been absolutely dead," warns another adding, "When you go a day or two and don't have a trade on the tape, it's frustrating," as stock trading in the second quarter fell 43.6% from second-quarter 2009 levels to their lowest level since 2007.
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.
Two weeks ago we highlighted just how "screwed" Las Vegas is due to the catastrophic drought that is occurring (combined with almost total ignorance that this is a problem). As Bloomberg's James Nash reports, about 55% of Nevada, already the nation’s driest state, is under “extreme’’ or “exceptional’’ drought conditions, the worst grades on the U.S. Drought Monitor; but recently the situation has got even worse. Lake Mead, the man-made reservoir that supplies 90 percent of the water for 2 million people in the Las Vegas area, has been reduced by drought to the lowest level since it was filled in 1937, according to the federal government who explained "It concerns us all very much," as it is a resource used by 3 states. Simply put, The shortfall is endangering water supplies to the residents and 43 million annual visitors to the driest metropolitan area in the country.
"Here in one of the "fly-over" zones of America - 200 miles north of New York City - the financial economy is mythical realm like Shangri-La and the real economy is somewhere between the toilet and a rat hole. Under the tyranny of chain stores, there really is no true local commercial economy. The few jobs here are menial and nearly superfluous to the automatic workings of the giant companies..." Never has a society entered an epochal transition with such unpreparedness. Never has a society appeared so childishly decadent.
While Las Vegas faces an existential crisis (and appears to be ignoring it), California regulators are starting to clamp down on water waste. As WSJ reports, about 60 California cities and agencies have imposed mandatory water-use cutbacks, some as high as 50%. In many cases, the rules are enforced by charging higher fees for excess usage. In others, inspectors are deployed to crack down on scofflaws. Sacramento - the state's capital - is among the worst offenders and most heavily 'policed' as a team of 40 inspectors have handed out2,444 notices year-to-date, with fines of up to $1,000 for repeat offenders. Neighbors are encouraged to whistleblow - there has been 7,604 water-use complaints; but not everyone is embracing the change as lawn repair is down 40% - "The propaganda dictates we haven't much choice... It's either do it or you die."
The smart money had a goal, which it now reached via the “multiplier effect.”
An odd thing has been happening in the last few months. Since the Chinese government began to crackdown on 'junkets' and 'corruption', Macau - the hub for Chinese billionaires to smuggle their money out of China - has seen revenues disappointing. So much in fact that, as Reuters reports, gambling revenue in Macau fell 3.7% in June on an annual basis, the first decline in more than four years. It could be coincidence, however, that as Macau has seen growth collapse, Las Vegas has seen Baccarat (the preferred game of China's rich) surge. In May, as Macau growth slumped, Las Vegas Baccarat surged over 85%. While slots (the staple indicator of the 99% in America) continues to decline (-4.4% in May), it seems rich foreigners are finding creative new ways to wash their money out of China.
We've been excited about agriculture for quite some time but this is just nuts. Literally.