Category Archives: Financial Markets

Why Mark Cuban’s Comments On Gold Make Me Want To Buy More

Below is a must-read essay from a friend and colleague of mine, Chris Marcus, who is a former options trader (Wharton MBA) that now lives in Denver.  Many of you may not be aware, but Mark Cuban made his fortune the old fashioned way – he was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Cuban owned Broadcast.com (a relic of the 1990’s tech bubble).  Yahoo.com used tech bubble stock “wampum” to acquire Broadcast.com.  Broadcast.com was no longer around a few years later.

If anyone knows how to get lucky off a worthless asset, it’s Mark Cuban.  Currently he spends his time running the Dallas Mavericks into the ground.   Chris Marcus eloquently presents the counter-argument to Mark Cuban’s absurd comments about gold in a Kitco.com interview.

During my time training to be an equity options trader, the shop I worked for required that I log 100 hours of poker training. Under the belief that there are great similarities between the decision-making required for poker, and that required for successfully trading the financial markets.

Along those lines, there was a particular lesson that always stood out to me. That while the numbers and percentages are important in both sciences, understanding the people you are playing against is equally, if not a more important element of the game.

Because you might think you’re right, and the person you’re trading against might think they’re right. But if you can identify why they’re wrong and spot the flaw in their thinking, that can really arm you with some confidence in your bet.

If you’ve seen the movie The Big Short, you may remember the scene where right before one of the funds was getting ready to increase the size of their bet against the mortgage industry, they were a little bit concerned.

But to ease those fears, the Deutsche Bank character played by Ryan Gosling took the fund managers to meet the people they were actually trading against. Because once they heard how the people they were trading against were completely caught up in the mania and missing the bigger picture, it gave them the confidence to pile on their trade in even bigger size.

Along those lines, for those investing in gold and silver, there were some interesting recent comments from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. That are somewhat reflective of the mainstream view of gold, and similar to the rhetoric you hear out of the central banks.

Which in my own personal opinion comes as extremely fantastic news for those who own precious metals and wonder whether there is still upside to the pricing.

Cuban was interviewed by Daniela Cambone of kitco.com. And with all due respect to Mr. Cuban, some of his answers were so far detached from the reality I’m living in that the more I heard him talk, the more I was tempted to dial Andy Schectman and buy more gold.

Consider the following:

Cambone: Where do you think are some of the safest bets for your money right now?

Cuban: If you need safe, just put the money in the bank.  (Editor side note – seems safe to say at this point that Cuban likely hasn’t been reading Von Mises during halftime at the Mavs games).

Cambone: Gold, up 2.5% for the first quarter. I know in the past you’ve seen it as a speculative bet. How do you see it today?

Cuban: I hate gold. Gold is a religion. There’s some fundamental value to gold, but everything else…it’s a collectible.

Cambone: Well hate is a strong word. The miners too?

Cuban: Individually as people, I heard they’re great people (he says giggling). But as an investment, hate is not strong enough. Hate with an extreme prejudice.

Cambone: So you don’t see gold as money.

Cuban: I do not see it as an alternative to currency. No not at all.

Cambone: Do you feel the same about silver, palladium, or platinum?

Cuban: I don’t know those others as well. But those are pretty much based off their intrinsic value as much as I can tell.

Cambone: So you’re in the camp of gold is just a pet rock.

Cuban: Pretty much. But I’d buy a pet rock first.

Mark Cuban Says Gold And Bitcoin Are Equally Useless – Part 1  – Ironically in 2016 in response to market turmoil, Cuban bought call options on gold. At the time he explained how “when traders don’t know what to do, they go where everybody is, and I thought there was a good chance that would be gold.”

Which makes his current comments all the more baffling. Although perhaps Cuban doesn’t see any cause for concern with rising interest rates and foreign creditors walking away from the dollar system.

Ultimately what Cuban thinks about gold may be irrelevant. Yet to the degree that there are many in the markets who share a similar line of thinking, it’s worth registering that if you own gold, this profile and argument is essentially what you’re betting against.

Personally I receive it as great news. Because in my career, the best trades are not when a person thinks they’re right and puts the trade on. But when a person thinks they’re right, knows why the other person is betting against them, and can spot the flaw in that person’s logic.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether Cuban’s argument makes much sense. But his views are generally reflective of what the anti-gold crowd is thinking, and it makes me feel better than ever about owning physical gold and silver. (Article LINK)

Subprime Mortgages Come Roaring Back…

…Only this time around they are sponsored by the U.S. Government and guaranteed explicitly  by the Taxpayers.  I say “explicitly” because Government agency-issued mortgages are directly guaranteed.  In 2008, the Government bailed out the banks who had issued subprime mortgages and related derivatives, but the Taxpayer never signed up for the multi-trillion dollar bailout, which largely transferred wealth from the middle class taxpayer to the Too Big To Fail bank executives.

In an attempt to off-set the falling velocity in the housing market, taxpayer-backed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have reduced their credit standards on guaranteed conventional mortgages several times over the last 3 years. In 2015 they reduced the down payment requirement to 3% from 5%. In addition, they reduced the amount mortgage insurance required on mortgages with less than 10% down. Then they allowed “soft dollar” contributions to count as part of the 3% down payment, like seller concessions or realtor commission concessions. They also allowed homebuyers to use loans from other sources to fund the down payment. In this manner, a homebuyer could prospectively buy a home with a taxpayer-guaranteed mortgage using no cash out pocket.

Then last June (2017) Fannie and Freddie raised the Debt To Income (DTI) ratio from 45% to 50%. DTI is the ratio of monthly debt payments (all forms of household debt payments) to the borrower’s monthly gross income. A borrower with a DTI of 50%, including the new mortgage, is using 50% of monthly net income to make debt payments (mortgage, credit cart, auto, student loans, personal loans).

The chart on the right shows the spike-up in the number of conventional mortgages issued by Fannie and Freddie once the DTI was raised (source: Corelogic w/my edits). As you can see, before the DTI was raised the number of mortgages issued with a DTI over 45% was one in twenty. After the change, the one in five new mortgages backed by the taxpayer were issued to homebuyers with a DTI over 45%. This is, by far, the highest level of high-DTI mortgages since the financial crisis.

But the story gets worse. The Urban Institute conducted a study of high DTI mortgages and discovered that 25% of all Fannie Mae mortgages issued to borrowers with a credit score below 700 had a DTI over 45% in just the first two months of 2018. This is up from 19% a year earlier. This is after Fannie Mae reported a $6.5 billion loss in Q4 2017 that the taxpayers will cover. The Government raised the DTI in order to stimulate home sales by inducing households, who could otherwise not afford the monthly cost of home ownership, into taking on even more debt to purchase a home. The majority of these home “buyers” will ultimately default and the taxpayer will get the privilege of eating the loss.

Zillow Group Is Now Flipping Homes? – Zillow Group stock plunged as much as 11% on Friday after it announced that it would be adding home flipping to its home-listing services. Clearly the market was spooked by this announcement – and for good reason. The plan will significantly raise ZG’s risk profile and will require the assumption of $10’s of millions in debt, depending on the number of homes ZG holds on its balance sheet any given time. It’s plan now forecasts holding up to 1,000 homes by year-end.

ZG stock is extraordinarily overvalued.   The Company released its Q4 and full-year 2017 earnings on February 8th and the numbers had little affect on ZG’s stock. ZG continues to generate operating and net losses. It incurred a $174 million intangibles write-down in Q4 2017 that was related to its 2015 acquisition of Trulia. While the Company and Wall St. analysts will remove this write-down as “non-recurring, non-cash,” it is indeed a write-down that occurred to an asset for which Zillow overpaid by at least $174 million. As the housing market fades, ZG will likely incur bigger write-downs of its “intangibles and goodwill,” which represents 85% of ZG’s book value.

The move into home-flipping signals, at least in my view, that ZG has determined that its current business model will never be profitable. The decision to test  home flipping in Phoenix and Vegas can be seen as desperate attempt to generate income. Ironically, in the last housing bubble, flippers in those two markets were decimated. I don’t see how this will end well for ZG, especially now that Congress is exploring rules changes to Fannie and Freddie that will raise the cost of conventional mortgages. The conventional mortgage user is the prime market for home flippers and now the average conventional mortgage applicant has de facto sub-prime credit.

By the way, just for the record, on average and in general, home prices are coming down quickly in most markets.  Case Shiller is severely lagged data and it emphasizes price gains from flips.  Robert Shiller used to admit to these facts publicly. Now he’s a bubble cheerleader like everyone else who sold out.

Taxpayer:  Get ready to eat more losses on the housing and mortgage market.

The commenetary above is from my latest Short Seller’s Journal. For the past several issues I have been focusing on both short-term and long-term homebuilder short ideas. Several of my subscribers have told me they are making double-digit percentage gains on the ideas presented. You can learn more about this unique newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

“LEN! Bagged another 30% on April $60 puts.  Of course took some profits and added more to other ideas” – subscriber email last week

Tesla (TSLA): “It’s Not A Lie If You Believe It”

TSLA stock has levitated on statements from Elon Musk that TSL A would be cash flow positive by Q3, an announcement that TSLA would roll out a Model Y “crossover” SUV by November 2019 and the reiteration of ambitious Model 3 production milestones. All three will never happen.

Elon Musk’s attorneys must be giving Elon the same advise given to Jerry Seinfeld by George just before Jerry took a polygraph test: “Elon, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it it.”

It looks like reality is catching up to TSLA and TSLA is going into a death spiral.  An amended complaint to an existing class-action suit against the Company, Musk and the CFO was filed. The suit accuses Musk and the CFO of knowingly making false and misleading public statements with regard to production and quality targets for all of TSLA’s models. The amended complaint includes testimony from several former employees.  The amended allegations give the lawsuit far sharper teeth than the original court filing. When I find the time, I’m going to read the entire court filing.

In addition, recently a judge denied Elon Musk’s request to dismiss a class-action suit stemming from TSLA’s acquistion of Solar CIty (which is turning into a disaster) against Musk and TSLA’s board

As for TSLA generating positive cash flow by Q3 and avoiding the need to raise more money, I found an analysis of TSLA’s current liabilities which shows TSLA’s current cash position is worse than it appears.

At the end of 2017, TSLA showed a cash balance of $3.3 billion. Of that, 25% or $840 million is refundable customer deposits. Another $1.3 billion is current payables which are due over the next few months. This includes $753 million owed for equipment, $378 million in payroll and $185 million in taxes payable. Netting out customer deposits and the accrued payables, TSLA’s net cash position at the end of 2017 was $1.3 billion.

TSLA’s current assets minus current liabilities showed a working capital deficit of $1.1 billion at year-end. TSLA generates a cash loss on every vehicle sold. It’s highly likely that TSLA’s cash net of current cash payable obligations is now well under $1 billion. Elon Musk must have taken LSD before he made the announcement that TSLA would be operating cash flow positive and would not need to raise money in 2018.

Although nothing would surprise anymore in this market, I just don’t see how TSLA breaks higher from the current chart formation. Lawsuits are piling up. Last week the NTSB kicked TSLA out of its participation in the NTSB’s investigation of that fatal accident involving a Tesla in California. The NTSB stated that TSLA violated agency protocols. Consumer Union, the consumer advocacy division of Consumer Reports, issued a report last week which stated that Tesla needs to improve the safety of its autopilot. On top of all of this, I’m convinced that Elon Musk, based on his erratic and volatile behavior, is certifiably insane.

Syria: What Just Happened?

This essay on the ramifications of the United States’ Deep State missile attack on Syria.  The OPCW – Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons – is an independent organization formed to implement the provisions of the Chemical Weapons Convention.  There’s 192 member states, including the U.S. and Russia.

Russia sponsored a resolution in the U.N. for the U.N. to endorse the OPCW’s investigation of the alleged chemical attack in Syria.  Not surprisingly, the U.S. blocked the U.N. from endorsing the mission, which will still proceed as planned.  I would have  thought the U.S. would have led call for an independent investigation…

Eric Zeusse of the Strategic Culture Foundation writes:

So: what is at stake here from the OPCW investigation is not only the international legitimacy of Syria’s Government, but the international legitimacy of the Governments that invaded it on April 13th. These are extremely high stakes, even if no court in the world will possess the authority to adjudicate the guilt — either if the US and its allies lied, or if the Syrian Government lied.

The entire article is worth a perusal: Syria: What Just Happened?

As for the U.S. Government’s Deep State: Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive. – Sir Walter Scott

Insane Valuations On Top Of Insane Leverage

The recent stock market volatility reflects the beginning of a massive down-side revaluation in stocks. In fact, it will precipitate a shocking revaluation of all assets, especially those like housing in which the price is driven by an unchecked ability to use debt to make the “investment.” This unfettered and unprecedented asset inflation is resting precariously on a stool that is about to have its legs kicked out from under it.

The primary reason the U.S. is now holding a losing hand at the global economic and geopolitical “poker table” is that this country has been committing too many sins for too long for there not to be a price to be paid. With bankrupt Governments (State and Federal), a bankrupt pension system, a broken healthcare system, all-time high corporate and household debt levels and a broken political and legal system, the U.S. is slowly collapsing. This is the “perfect storm” for which you want to own plenty of gold, silver and related stocks.

Eric Dubin and I are producing a new podcast called, “WTF Just Happened?” The inaugural show discusses the topics mentioned above:

“WTF Just Happened?” w/ Dave Kranzer and Eric Dubin is produced in association with Wall Street For Main Street       –       Follow  Eric here: http://www.facebook.com/EricDubin

This Is A Slippery Slope

First, does California State Senator, Richard Pan, hate the United States?  He is sponsoring a Bill in California that would effectively censor the internet.  Not withstanding fact that this proposed legislation stands in violation of Amendments 1, 5 and 14 of the United States Constitution, if passed it would impose State-sponsored censorship of the citizens of California.   Perhaps if Pan hates the United States and everything this country used to stand for, he should move back to the country of his ancestral origin where he might feel more comfortable.

Citizens  in a democracy have a responsibility to stay informed and conduct their own fact-checking.  Unfortunately, the majority of Americans have grown comfortable hearing headline sound-bytes on cable news media or seeing headlines in newspapers and assuming those are valid of evidence of fact. This is when freedoms and rights are in danger of removal.

Every mainstream media source in the U.S. recently has been required to retract news reports that were originally taken for granted as truth.   I shudder to think to of the number of Americans who still believe Russia rigged Trump’s victory or Russia poisoned Skirpal or Assad is spraying his citizens with gas.  All of these “facts” completely lack any shred of real evidence beyond propagandistic U.S. hear-say reports.

Furthermore, Pan’s Bill would establish State-sponsored “fact checkers” before anything could be posted on the internet.  This one is curious.  Why would anyone in this country trust the State?  Who would fact-check the fact checkers?  This part of the legislation would rip open a wide berth for State-sponsored tyranny.  Again, if Pan feels more comfortable in this type of system, please go back from whence your family came.

The First Amendment is supposed to guarantee free speech.  That means that anyone can say or write anything for public consumption.   What if the assertion or statement is false? Liable and slander laws have been implemented as a check and balance.  This falls under Constitutional Amendments 5 and 14, which guarantee “Due Process of Law.”  Pan’s proposed legislation stands in direct violation of the Due Process Clause that is contained in two separate Constitutional Amendments.  That reinforces the importance the Founding Fathers placed on the concept of “innocent until proven guilty.”  And that Due Process is to occur in a Court of Law, not in some back office of a State Administration building.

I just finished reading “Red Notice,” which documents the horrors of State-enabled tyranny, terrorism and corruption in Russia.  This is what happens in a country which does not have an overriding body of laws that are based on Rule of Law.  Pan’s Bill, if passed, would circumvent the Rule of Law held sacred by the Framers of the Constitution.

If Trump wants to demonstrate that he wants to Make America Great Again, perhaps he should take actions to destroy Pan’s Bill and show Pan the door back to Pan’s land of native origin.

Constitutional Amendment 1:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances”

Constitutional Amendment 5:  “No Person…be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;”

Constitutional Amendment 14 (this one specifically applies to Pan’s Bill):   “… No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Is War By Proxy With Russia Inevitable?

The U.K. refuses to release for independent examination any of the evidence that would link the Skirpal poisoning to Russia.  As such, we can only assume that Russia was meant to be the scapegoat.  Same deal with the chemical attack in Syria.   There’s a complete lack of evidence that would connect the incident to any specific perpetrator.  But the U.S. seems satisfied that a case built on no-evidence hear-say and western media headlines proves the allegations.

Amazingly, some of neo-cons at Fox News are now questioning the legitimacy and motives for U.S. belligerence toward Russia using Syria as the “host.” Tucker Carlson went nuts on the idea, which is surprising because Fox typically is pro-war against anyone and anything without bona fide cause and for any reason:

Perhaps of more concern is the analysis presented by Paul Craig Roberts, who has a little more experience in DC politics and Government policy advisement than anyone in the cable media:

No sign this morning of Washington coming to its senses. Zero Hedge reports that Trump is canceling his trip to Peru’s Summit of the Americas in order to oversee the US attack on Syria. If the attack is real and not merely a hit at an unimportant target for PR effect, war could be upon us…”War With Russia Approaching” and “On The Threshold Of War.”

Let’s hope saner minds somehow prevail in DC, though I’m not sure where those brain cells might reside. With a debt-riddled and a larger “explosion” than the one that hit in 2008 percolating throughout the U.S. financial system, it seems that Washington’s policy alternative of choice is, “when all else fails, start a war.”

The insane intra-day and inter-day volatility in the stock market is the primary signal that the system is spinning out of control.  The “trade war” narrative is strictly cosmetic.  The market turmoil reflects the conflict between the extreme inert overvaluation of financial assets and the money sloshing around in the hands of perma-bullish traders who never experienced a market collapse.  The drum-beat of war – trade and military – is meant to deflect the public’s attention from the underlying economic reality.

I would suggest that this is why gold is moving higher despite the overt effort by the Fed/banks to suppress the price and  the overwhelming negative investor sentiment toward gold.

Is The Silver COT Bullish?

There’s been an abundance of commentary on the net long position of the “Swap Dealers” in Comex silver futures per the COT report.  As of the latest COT report, the Swap Dealers are net long almost 22k silver contracts.  This is unprecedented.  At the same time, the “Large Speculators,” the majority of which is comprised of the “managed money” (hedge funds) sub-component, are net short nearly 17k silver contracts.  The data my business partner tracks goes back to April 2004.  In that period of time, the Large Speculator category has never been short until February 2018.

On the surface, the silver COT report appears to be extraordinarily bullish. However, there’s a bigger picture not discussed by “COT” analysts that includes the other segment of the large “Commercial” category and the COT structure of gold.

The other “commercial” segment includes producers of silver, commercial “users” of silver (jewelers) and “merchants.”  It would be naive to assume that the Comex banks do not throw a large percentage of their gold/silver short positions in to the this category.  That would be within the CFTC regulations.  Hell, JP Morgan was fined a little over $650k a few years when it was caught by the CFTC putting a portion of its trades into the “speculator” category of trader.  This was not within regulations.  $650k is a joke and would not deter Jamie Dimon from speeding on the Long Island Expressway let alone manipulating the silver market.

Currently the “Commercial” segment per the latest COT report is net short  2.6k contracts.  Again, this is by far the lowest net short position in the Commercial category going back to at least April 2004 and likely ever.  The closest the net short position has been before now was for the June 3,  2014 COT report, when the Commercial category net short in silver was down to 9.6k.   Back then silver was trading at $18.80.  It bounced briefly to $21 by early July then headed lower from there.

While the silver COT appears to be exceptionally bullish, it needs to be analyzed in the context of the gold COT structure.  The gold COT structure currently, based on historical statistics, is neutral but trending toward bullish.  I looked at data going back to the beginning of the current bull market cycle in the metals, which is commonly considered to be early-December 2015.

From the beginning of December to the latest COT report, the average large spec net long position in gold is 171k. The high was 315k (bearish) and the low was 9.7k (very bullish).  For the Commercials as a whole, the average net short during that time period is 209k contracts.  The high was 340k (bearish) and the low was 2.9k (very bullish).  The low net short  in gold for the commercials banks occurred in the December  1, 2015 COT report.  This also corresponded with the low print in the large spec net long.  This type of COT structure is the most bullish for both gold and silver.

Currently, the large specs are net long 166.5k gold contracts and the commercials are net short 188.8k contracts. You can see vs the averages over the time period that this is still neutral to bearish, but it’s trending in the direction of becoming bullish.

The other element for a bullish gold COT structure is open interest.  A high open interest tends to correlate with a bearish COT structure – i.e. a  high commercial  bank net short – and a low relative o/i correlates with a cyclical low-point in gold.  From December 2015 to present, the average o/i in gold has been 492k contracts.  The high was 652k and the low was 357k.  The net short of the commercials as percentage of the total o/i at the low-point in total o/i was 0.74% – again in the December 1, 2015 COT report.  Currently the open interest is 493k which is about average.  The commercial short position as percentage of total o/i is 38%.  Again, about average for the time period.

I have noticed that the last two moves higher over the last two years have occurred with the total gold o/i in the 420-440k range.  This would suggest that, minimally, the open interest needs to drop by 60-70k contracts before the gold COT structure can be considered favorable for a rally in the price of gold.

On average and  in general, gold and silver are highly correlated in their directional movements, especially over long periods of time.  Since 2001, it’s been my experience that major moves higher in the precious metals sector begin with gold taking off and tend to end with silver outperforming gold by a substantial margin.  The numbers presented above would suggest that both gold and silver will not be set-up to embark on a major move higher until the both the total open interest in gold and the net short position in gold of the commercials banks declines by another 60-70k contracts.

In the context of my analysis and my view on methods used by the banks to manipulate the paper price of gold and silver on the Comex, in my pinion the silver COT report – though remarkably bullish on a stand-alone basis – is not as bullish as some analysts are presenting when both the gold and silver COTs are considered in tandem.  At this point, I believe gold will lead both metals higher when the next big move begins. Once that move is underway, I’m highly confident silver contract short-covering by the hedge funds will send silver soaring.

Why Trump Won: People Vote Their Wallets

This commentary is emphatically not an endorsement of Trump as President.  I have not voted since 1992 because, when the system gives the public a Hobson’s Choice, voting is pointless.

An  age-old adage states that “people vote with their wallets.”  The chart below suggests that this adage held true in 2016:

The graphic above (sourced from Northman Trader) was prepared by Deutsche Bank and the data is from the Fed. It shows that, since 2007 through 2016, U.S. median household net worth declined between 2007 and 2016 for all income groups except the top 10%.

Given that a Democrat occupied the Oval Office between 2008-2016, and given that the economic condition of 90% of all households declined during that period, it follows logically that empty promises of a Republican sounded better to the general population of voters than the empty promises of a Democrat.

In other words, the “deplorables” didn’t vote for Trump because they wanted a wall between the U.S. and Mexico or they wanted to nuke North Korea off the map, they voted for a Republican because the previous Democrat took money from their savings account.

The rest of the propaganda and rhetoric  connected to the 2016 election, which was elevated to previously unforeseen levels of absurdity, was little more than unholy entertainment that served to agitate the masses.  These two graphs explain a lot about the outcome of the 2016 “election.”

The Housing Market Is Heading South

A subscriber from Canada emailed me last night about the Canadian housing market: “Toronto and Vancouver sales down 40% and 30% YoY respectively. Prices are still up in Vancouver but down 14% in Toronto. I don’t know how prices stay up if the volume continues to trend down. Canadians are even more levered than Americans I believe. This is going to get ugly before it’s all over.”

The only part I disagree is Canadians being more levered than Americans. The average first time buyer in the U.S. can buy a Fannie/Freddie guaranteed mortgage financed home with zero down as long as the credit score is north of 570. “Zero down?” you ask. Yes zero down. Now included in the down payment is any amount of concessions tossed in by the seller. Soft dollars. Fannie and Freddie are already asking for “bail out” money from the Government after posting big losses. Fannie posted a $6.5 billion loss in Q4. How is that possible if the housing market is healthy? It’s the sign that the average homebuyer is overleveraged.

Now I’m hearing ads all-day long (sports radio) for 100% cash-out refis, home equity loans, purchase and refi mortgages for buyers who don’t even have FICO ratings. “Past bankruptcy” is okay. “Simon Black” (his nom de plume) wrote a piece the other day accusing the bankers of being idiots for letting the subprime debt issuance get out of control again. He’s wrong. It’s the Taxpayers who are idiots for rolling over every time the Government bails out the bankers. Quite frankly, if I lacked morals and ethics, I’d rather be on the bankers’ side of this trade. They make massive bonuses underwriting all of the nuclear waste and then pay themselves even bigger bonuses when the debt blows up and the Taxpayers bail them out. Who’s the “dumb-ass,” Simon?

Homebuilder stocks are a low-risk shorting proposition.
A subscriber asked me about the 10yr Treasury yield, which for now appears to be headed lower, and if a significant drop in the 10yr yield would stimulate home sales.

That’s a great question. Mortgage rates are a function, generally, of the 10yr Treasury yield and risk premium. As the risk of repayment increases, mortgage spreads increase. The LIBOR-OIS spread reflects the market’s rising fear of repayment risk.  I just noticed that the 30-yr mortgage rate at Wells Fargo – 2nd largest mortgage lender – has not changed much in the last few weeks despite the decline in the 10yr yield.

Part of my argument is that the general credit quality, and ability to make any down payment, in the remaining pool of potential first time buyers is dwindling. In other words a large portion of under 35’s, who make up most of the 1st time buyer cohort and who are in the “pool” of potential homebuyers, do not have the ability financially to support home ownership. In the last 2 months, the percentage of 1st time buyers in the NAR’s existing home sales report has started to decline.

New homes on average are more expensive than existing home resales. This fact makes my argument even more compelling. We saw this in KBH’s FY Q1 2018 numbers, which showed flat home deliveries vs Q1 2017. Homebuilders are also getting squeezed by commodity inflation (lumber and other materials), which lowers gross margins.

I saw a study that showed the annual rate of change in real wages, where “real wages” is calculated using a “real” inflation rate, is declining. Furthermore, most of the nominal wage gains are concentrated in the upper 20% of the workforce. The lower 80% of wage-earners are experiencing year over year declining wage growth.

The conclusion here is that a majority of those in the labor that would like to buy a home can not afford to make the purchase. In fact, a study by ATTOM (a leading housing market data aggregator) showed that the average worker can not afford the median-priced home in 70% of U.S. counties. The relative cost of mortgage interest is only part of this equation, which means lower mortgage rates based on a falling 10yr yield would likely not stimulate home buying at this point.

I think the only factors that can possibly stimulate home sales would be if the Government takes the FNM/FRE down payment requirement to zero and directly subsidizes the interest rate paid. I’d be surprised if either of those two events occur.

P.S. – just for the record, Lennar’s real earnings yesterday were substantially worse than the headline GAAP-manipulated EPS that ignited the rally in the homebuilder sector. I’ll be reviewing LEN’s numbers in Sunday’s Short Seller’s Journal and showing why the reported GAAP numbers were highly deceptive. I’ll also suggest ideas to take advantage of this knowledge.