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Bad News For The Housing Market Continues To Pile Up

I remember vividly the scene in The Big Short when a housing broker was driving the “Steve Eisman” group around California’s “Inland Empire.”  Home prices were dropping and the vista was littered with “for sale” signs.  The broker remarked awkwardly, “the market is going through small valley right now.”  Successful realtors can look anyone in the eyes and present a small nuclear bomb as a box of Godiva chocolates.

The National Association of Realtors’ chief “economist,” Larry Yun, has been pleading for more than a year that declining existing home sales is caused by low inventory. But this is mere propaganda.  I’ve presented a chart more than once on this site from the Fed’s database (FRED) which shows that sales volume and inventory is inversely correlated.

Redfin released its”Housing Demand Index” through June on August 1st. It fell nearly 1% from May and was 9.6% lower in June 2018 than 2017. The number of people requesting tours fell 6.1% compared to June 2017 and 15% fewer made offers on homes. This is despite noting that inventory levels surged in the hottest markets in which RDFN operates. This index is representative of demographic trends nationwide, as RDFN operates in the largest metropolitan areas outside of New York City. The Index covers 15 metropolitan areas.

Demand is falling because pool of potential homebuyers who can qualify for one of the Government’s subprime mortgage programs has dried up like Lake Mead. This was evident in this week’s existing and new home sales reports, both of which showed home sales falling month to month and year over year. Both numbers were well below the expectations of Wall Street’s brain trust. Existing home inventory on an outright basis (not the highly massaged “months supply” basis) is 9% above the average inventory level in 2015 and 31% above the outright inventory for 2017. New home sales dropped “unexpectedly” from June to July despite the fact that June’s original headline report was revised lower. New home sales according to the Census Bureau have declined 3 out of the last 4 months.

The Dow Jones Home Construction Index is down 22.6% since mid-January. Some homebuilder stocks are down over 30% since then. The homebuilder stocks are in a bear market based on the “20%” decree. This is a fact that is not reported at all in the mainstream media. The homebuilder stocks peaked in July 2005 and were in a tail-spin well before it became obvious to all that the mid-2000’s bubble had popped. I doubt it will take 18-24 months from January 2018 before it becomes apparent to most that the housing market is in trouble.

My subscribers and I have been raking in easy money shorting the homebuilder stocks. I will be updating the my short ideas – including ideas for using puts – in Sunday’s issue after TOL’s numbers triggered a one-day spike up in the DJUSHB. I’ll also be updating the Tesla saga. You can learn more about this newsletter service here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

More Evidence The Economy Is Deteriorating

“Financial-market and economic prospects remain far shy of the hype and headlines, amidst tanking consumer optimism and negative revisions to recent reporting.” – John Williams, Shadowstats.com

The economy may seem like it’s doing well if you are part of the upper 10% demographic. Though, in reality, for most of the upper 10%, doing “well” has been a function of having easy access to credit. NASA Federal Credit Union is offering 0% down, 0% mortgage insurance for mortgages up to $2.5 million.

Someone I know suggested the tax cut stimulus had run its course. But the narrative that the tax cuts would stimulate economic activity was pure propaganda. The tax cuts stimulated $1 trillion in expected share buybacks and put more money in the pockets of corporate insiders and billionaires. The average middle class household spent its tax cut money on more expensive gasoline and food. Since the tax cut took effect, auto sales and home sales have declined. Retail sales have been mixed. However, it’s difficult to distinguish between statistical manipulation and inflation. I would argue that, net of real inflation and Census Bureau statistical games, real retail sales have been declining.

As an example, last week Black Box Intelligence released July restaurant sales. While comparable store sales were up 0.54% over July 2017, comparable restaurant traffic was down 1.8%. On a rolling three months, comp sales are up 0.46% but comparable traffic is down nearly 2%. With traffic declining, especially a faster rate relative to the small increase in sales, it means the sales “growth” is entirely a function of price inflation. If Black Box Intelligence could control it’s data for price increases, it would show that there is no question that real sales are declining. I have been loathe to recommend shorting restaurant stocks because, for some reason, the hedge funds love them.

On Wednesday last week, the Government reported July retail sales, which were “up” 0.5% vs June. However, June’s 0.5% “gain” was revised sharply lower to 0.2%. Revising the previous month lower to make the headline number for the reported month appear higher is a mathematical gimmick that the Government uses frequently. As an example of the questionable quality of the retail sales report, the Government reports that sales at motor-vehicle and parts dealers rose 0.2% from June to July. But the auto industry itself reported a 4% decline in sales from June to July. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which report is more reliable…

Housing starts for July, reported last Thursday, showed an 8% decline from June’s number. June’s number was revised lower from the original number reported. No surprise there, at least for me. The report missed the Wall Street brain trust’s expectations by a wide margin for the second month in row. The downward revision to June makes the report even worse. Additionally, housing starts are now down year-over-year for the second month in a row.

This report followed last Wednesday’s mortgage applications report which showed a decline in purchase applications for the 5th week in a row. The housing starts number continues to throw cold water on the “low inventory” narrative. While there still may some areas of housing market strength in the $500,000 and below price bucket, the mortgage purchase applications data has been mostly negative since April, which reflects deteriorating home sales. This reality is “magnified” by the fact that home sales have declining during what should be the strongest seasonal period of the year for home sales.

Lending Tree, Zillow Group and Redfin are “derivatives” of housing market activity. They reflect web searches, foot traffic and sales associated with mortgages and home sales. Lending Tree stock is down nearly 42% late January. Zillow stock is down 26% since mid-June. Redfin is down 39.5% since the beginning of the year, including an 18.5% plunge two weeks ago. unequivocally, these three stocks reflect the popping of the housing bubble. The Short Seller Journal recommended shorting all three of these stocks before their big declines.

Normally I’m hesitant to discuss the regional Fed economic surveys because they are skewed by their expectations/outlook (hope/sentiment) components. However, the Philly Fed survey for August was notable because it reinforced my view that the economy and the “hope” for a better economy is fading quickly. The overall index crashed to 11.9 from 25.7 in July. This is lower than just before the Trump election, when “hope” soared. Wall Street was expecting a 22.5 reading on the index. The new orders, work week and employment components plunged. Shipments dropped, inventories rose and prices paid fell. This report reflects the view that economy is much weaker than is conveyed by the political propaganda coming form DC.

I don’t know what it will take to cause a plunge in the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq but, as we’ve seen with homebuilder stocks, there’s a lot of opportunity to make money on economic reality in the lesser-followed sectors of the stock market.

Myself and my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers have been raking in easy money shorting the homebuilder sector and, of late, Tesla.  I’ve been including detailed analysis of Tesla, why it will likely be out of business within 2 years and ideas for using puts to short the stock.  You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

That egomaniac [Elon Musk] just paid for my new landscaping. LOL! Cashed in on some Jan 2019 100 & 200 puts for a 175% gain. Should be interesting to see how and how long this debacle plays on. – subscriber feedback.

The Comex Gold Short Position

I felt compelled to clarify the commentary out “there” discussing the non-commercial short position in gold.  An interviewee on one of the widely viewed precious metals and economic websites referenced the record “speculator” short position in Comex gold futures.

In my opinion this is misleading because it is the “managed money” segment of the non-commercial “speculator” trader category in the CFTC’s COT report that encompasses the entire net short position (click image to enlarge):

The image above shows the latest disaggregated COT report. The disaggregated COT report debuted in October 2009.  Disaggregated data was made available going back to June 13, 2006. Previously the report was separated into “Commericials, large speculators and non-reportables.” The large speculators were the “managed money and other reportables.” The “managed money” is primarily hedge funds. No one outside of the Comex operators can say exactly what the “other reportable” category is (many attempts have been made to get clarification over the years). It’s likely larger pools of non-institutional capital like family office money and wealthy foundations. The “non-reportable” category is retail accounts.

I will note that when JP Morgan was caught and fined for mis-reporting the Comex silver futures trades it clears, the bank was caught stuffing trades that belonged in the “swap dealer” account into the “other reportable” account.

This clarification is important to point out for two reasons. First, as you can see, in the non-commercial trader accounts,  the hedge funds comprise the entire amount of the non-commercial/non-bank net short position. The Other Reportables and Non-Reportables are net long. In fact, the Other Reportables increased its net long position last week.

Second, not only is the hedge fund net short position at a record level, the “Swap Dealer” (i.e. the banks) account is close to an all-time net long position at 31,259 contracts. Based on the historical disaggregated spreadsheet maintained by my business partner, the only time the bank net long position was larger was a two-week period in December 2015 (12/15 – 32,550 and 12/22 – 31,692) and a two-week period in July 2017.  However, during the July 2017 period, when the swap dealers were net long at a record level, it was also accompanied by a net long position by the hedge funds.   Overall the commercial category in mid-July 2017 was still short over 70,000 contracts (the “producer/merchant/processor/user” commercial category includes bank positions that are theoretically not used to hedge).

I wanted to clarify the issue with the COT report because it’s important to note that the banks are almost always right with their gold futures positioning and the hedge funds are almost always wrong. The implication of this is obvious.

I discuss the significance of the net long/net short positioning by the banks and the hedge funds in Comex gold futures with Trevor Hall of Clear Creek Digital in our collaborative project, Mining Stock Daily (click on image below to listen – this was recorded before Friday’s COT report was released):

Mining Stock Daily can also be accessed using Amazon Alexa, Google podcasts and Apple i-Tunes.

Gold And Silver: Similar To 2008

In 2008, gold was taken from $1020 to $700 and silver was pounded from $21 to  $7 during the period of time that Bear Stearns, Lehman and the U.S. financial system was collapsing.  The precious metals were behaving inversely to what would have been expected as the global financial system melted down.   Massive Central Bank intervention was at play.

Currently the prices of gold and silver are being dismantled by what appears to be massive hedge fund shorting of Comex paper gold.  As of last Tuesday, the “managed money” trader category as detailed in the Commitment of Traders report showed that the hedge funds were short a record amount of paper gold.

As of yesterday the open interest in Comex paper gold was about 17,000 contracts higher than the open interest shown in last week’s COT report.  This represents another 1.7 million ozs – or 48 tonnes – of paper gold that has been dumped on the market.  It is highly probable, if not a certainty, that most of the increase in short interest is attributable to hedge fund algos chasing the paper price of gold lower.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) has been actively intervening in the physical gold market during July, as detailed by Robert Lambourne, a consultant to GATA:

Use of gold swaps and gold derivatives by the Bank for International Settlements, the gold broker for most central banks, increased by about 17 percent in July, according to the bank’s monthly report…The BIS’ July Statement of Account gives summary information on its use of gold swaps and gold-related derivatives in the month. The information is not sufficient to calculate a precise amount of gold-related derivatives, including swaps, but the bank’s total estimated exposure as of July 31 was about 485 tonnes of gold versus about 413 tonnes as of June 30.

That is an increase of about 72 tonnes or 17 percent. The increase came as there increasingly appeared to be a correlation between the gold price and the valuation of the Chinese yuan, both of which fell substantially during the month.

The BIS refuses to explain what it is doing in the gold market and for whom, engendering suspicion that it is helping one or more of its members to manipulate the currency markets through deception.  To place the bank’s use of gold swaps in context, its current exposure of 485 tonnes is higher than the gold reserves of all but 10 countries. (documentation and links: BIS gold market intervention increased by 17% in July)

While visible evidence of a declining gold price can be seen with Comex futures prices and the daily London gold price “fix,” the BIS is operating in the physical market to increase the supply of physical gold available for bullion banks on the hook to deliver physical gold to the countries buying large quantities of physical gold on a daily basis.  As long as the BIS can ensure the flow of physical gold remains uninterrupted, the demand for physical gold will not offset the effort to take-down the price of gold in the paper derivatives markets.

The effort to push down  the price of gold is to silence the alarm gold provides to signal global systemic distress. It’s not just the emerging market economies  and China. The U.S. economy, based on all the private sector data I dig up an analyze on a daily basis, hit a wall sometime between March and May.

This is most evident in the housing market nationwide, which  has been rapidly deteriorating (notwithstanding a few areas that may still have some flaming embers of activity).  Just one supporting data-point is  mortgage purchase applications, which have declined each week over the past 5 weeks. This is not a good omen for the housing market during the seasonally peak selling months. We know it’s not an inventory issue because inventory across the country in all price segments has been rising in most areas and soaring in some of the hottest areas.

While today’s headline retail sales number shows a 0.5% increase in July over June, the “increase” was manufactured for headline purposes by a large downward revision of June’s retail sales numbers. Furthermore, the headline number is a nominal number. Net of true price inflation, retail sales declined. There are other problematic inconsistencies between the Census Bureau-generated numbers and the actual numbers as reported by private-sector companies.

The bottom line is that the prices of gold and silver are being systematically taken down as a mechanism to help cover up the fact that a large-scale financial crisis is going to hit the global financial system. I don’t know the timing, but I would suggest that the EM currency melt-down that began in South America and has spread to the eastern hemisphere represents a series of earthquakes that  are generating a “tsunami.”

While I’m loathe to forecast a price-bottom for gold and the timing of the forthcoming systemic crisis, I would suggest that anyone who is shaken out of their gold, silver and mining stocks right now will regret selling when looking back a year from now.

My Short Seller’s Journal subscribers and I continue to rake in easy money shorting the homebuilder sector. Two of my short-sell picks, Zillow Group and Redfin, have been annihilated in price over the last week. In the last issue I also laid out why Tesla is technically insolvent and likely will be irrelevant as a company within 12-18 months. You can learn more about this weekly newsletter here: Short Seller’s Journal information.

Housing Heads South – Precious Metals Getting Ready To Soar

“We’re now forecasting slower revenue growth for the third quarter based on an unexpected drop in Redfin’s bookings growth in the past three weeks, slowing traffic growth in a weakening real estate market.” – CEO of Redfin (RDFN) on the earnings conference call. Redfin stock plunged 22% after it reported its latest quarter this past Thursday after the market closed. I’ve been recommending RDFN as a short for several months in my Short Seller’s Journal.

I joined Elijah Johnson and Eric Dubin on SD Bullion’s weekly Metals & Markets podcast  to discuss the popping housing market bubble and to explain why the risk of missing a big move higher in the precious metals market is much greater than the risk of more downside from here:

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I just released my latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal in which I explain why Tesla’s days may be numbered and I offer ideas for speculating that TSLA goes to zero sometime in the next two years. I also update my homebuilder short-sell ideas. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

WTF Just Happened: Gold Forms A Bottom And 420-Time For Elon Musk

Perhaps the most baffling aspect of the Elon Musk “Funding Secured” tweet is the number of financial media outlets and so-called “analysts” that are taking it seriously. The idea is a complete joke. Any valuation in excess of potential asset value minus the debt and other liabilities (included in “liabilities” will soon be a flood of lawsuits). Some bucket-shop stock analysts issued reports explaining why a buyout of Tesla could occur at an even higher price. We’re beginning wonder if the Tesla buyout idiocy will mark the end of the valuation insanity that has permeated the entire U.S. stock market…Meanwhile, hedge funds assumed a record short position in Comex paper gold futures. This along with the worst sentiment toward the precious metals since early 2001 and late 2015 suggest the potential for a bottom in gold, silver and mining shares.

In this episode of “WTF Just Happened?” we discuss these issues plus offer a view on the correlation between the dollar-price of gold and the $/yuan (WTF Just Happened is a produced in association with Wall St. For Main Street – Eric Dubin may be reached at  Facebook.com/EricDubin):

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Tesla is on its way to bankruptcy.  I don’t know how long it will take that to occur but the Company will be insolvent if it can’t raise money before the end of the year.  I explain why a buyout of the Company is next to impossible in the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal and offer several ideas for using put options to express a bearish view of Tesla stock.

Visit these links to learn more about the Investment Research Dynamic’s  Mining Stock Journal and Short Seller’s Journal.   

Elon Musk Turns U.S. Capital Markets Into A Complete Farce

“Nobody, when they’re looking at a privatization, dangles this way and does this sort of teasing dance of choreography. Somebody only does this when they are trying to distract us with a shiny new thing…There’s a lot of problems here. He can’t afford to build the new factory that he says he wants to build. This is a distracting strategy like attacking the press” – Jeffery Sonnenfeld, Yale School of Management on CNBC

Elon Musk has turned the U.S. capital markets into a complete farce. He’s made of mockery of the fact that the regulators no longer enforce rule of law. The idea that any financial institution on earth would fund the largest leveraged buyout in history at a level that values Tesla on par with Volkswagen – the world’s larges car manufacturer – is beyond absurd.

We should hope and pray that some truth-seeking entity will hold Musk accountable for what is likely a highly fraudulent claim. Or, then again, perhaps Musk took one of his flying automobiles and went to Mars on Monday to “secure funding” from his Martian financiers.

A careful dissection of Tesla’s latest 10-Q reveals a Company with negative working capital and an unmanageable level of debt and other fixed commitments headed for eventual insolvency.

Beyond ranting about the obvious here, I’m posting an insightful, if not poignant, comment from a friend and colleague:

I am pretty amazed/disgusted that we haven’t come to terms (as a society) with social media. It is in this grey area where leaders of Government and corporations can walk a tight rope of truth/fiction without any consequence or regard for the affect of the immorality and illegality.  Narcissistic psychopaths like Musk utilize cult of personality to harness the power of the hopelessly ignorant looking for a guru; looking for a reason to justify their worst impulses and implausible fantasies. From a social science standpoint: it is interesting. From a person of the society: it is mindblowingly frightening.

Tesla’s Phony Quarterly Numbers

Tesla reported its Q2 numbers this past Wednesday. It reported $4 billion in revenue, up 43.4% year over year. Its net loss widened to $742 million, or $4.22 per share (some of you may have seen lower net loss and loss per share numbers but the numbers I’m using come directly from the SEC-filed 8-K, which means those are the “official” numbers).

The market was excited and the stock soared because the cash “burn” was lower than expected and Elon Musk reassured everyone that the Company is still on track to show positive net income and cash flow in Q3 and Q4. I can assure you that you have a better chance of standing on the eastern shoreline of Egypt and seeing the Red Sea part for Moses.

The cash balance of $2.23 billion that is presented on TSLA’s balance sheet was higher than expected – with an alleged implication that TSLA burned less cash than expected. But this was accounting sleight of hand. TSLA achieved this feat by stiffing its suppliers as evidenced by the ballooning of the accounts payable entry on the balance sheet. From Q4 2017 to Q1 2018, TSLA’s accounts payable rose $213 million, or 8.2%, to $2.603 billion. But from Q1 to Q2 this year, TSLA’s payables rose $427 million, or 16.4%.

In other words, TSLA slowed down the rate at which is pays suppliers by a considerable amount, which enables TSLA to hold the cash it owes to suppliers on its balance sheet, thereby giving the appearance of a higher cash balance.

Netting out customer deposits of $942 million, TSLA actually only has $1.29 billion in cash. That said, there are some other balance sheet items on the liability side of the balance sheet that increased and will require the use of cash, like “other long term liabilities,” that I won’t be able to analyze until the 10-Q is filed, which is when I can study the footnotes. Furthermore, the 8-K does not contain a full statement of cash flows – it’s missing the details of the “cash from operations” – which will enable me to determine other areas on its balance sheet TSLA stretched in order keep cash net of deposits above $1 billion.

All of that said, I have discovered a clever manner in which TSLA has rigged its financials to look better than they should by keeping cash expenditures it will have to incur off the income statement and balance sheet in Q2. To my knowledge, I am the only analyst who has figured out this devious form of accounting manipulation.

The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal, which was released today.  Tesla shares several traits with Enron and some parallels with Bernie Madoff.  Elon Musk is a gifted con-man.

In the latest Short Seller’s Journal I layout the methodical manner in which Musk’s financial architects manage to defer cash expenditures for the purpose of making the Q2 financials appear better than expected.  I suspect the scam was used to set-up an attempt to raise more money later this year.  You can learn more about my newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Trading Action In Gold

There’s no question in my mind that the intervention in the gold market is similar to the intervention that occurred in 2008 ahead of the financial crisis. However, I believe that,
because of the massive physical off-take in the eastern hemisphere, the western Central
Banks and bullion banks will be unable to push the price gold down on the same scale as it
was taken down in 2008 from March to October. Currently, gold is 15% above the low it hit at the end of 2015. It’s 7% above the interim low it hit at the end of 2016.

As of last week, money managers (hedge funds primarily) held the biggest net-short position in futures and options in records going back to 2006. A measure of gold volatility is near the lowest since January.

My good friend and colleague, Chris Marcus, invited me onto his podcast show that he produces for Miles Franklin.  We discuss the gold market, the deterioration U.S. economy and the reasons I believe that the trading action in gold and silver is preceding another financial collapse similar to 2008 only worse:

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In the latest issue of the Mining Stock Journal, which was released this afternoon, I present data that suggests the current decline in the price of gold is beginning to bottom and is setting up for a big move in to the fall. Also discuss my view of the theory that China has pegged the price of gold to the yuan and I present a gold stock idea that has dropped price to a level that makes it “stupid cheap.” You can learn more about this newsletter here: Mining Stock Journal information