Category Archives: Housing Market

The Big Money Grab Is “On” As Middle America Collapses

The stock market rejoices the House passage of the tax “reform” Bill as the Dow shot up 187 points and the S&P 500 spiked up 21. The Nasdaq soared 1.3%, retracing its 3-day decline in one day. The tax bill is nothing more than a massive redirect of money flow from the Treasury Department to Corporate America and billionaires. The middle class will not receive any tax relief from the Bill but it will shoulder the burden of the several trillion dollars extra in Treasury debt that will be required to finance the tax cuts for the wealthy. The tax “reform” will have, at best, no effect on GDP.   It will likely be detrimental to real economic output.

The Big Money Grab is “on” at the highest levels of of Wall St., DC, Corporate America, the Judiciary and State/local Govt. These people are grabbing from a dying carcass as fast and greedily as possible.  The elitists are operating free from any fear of the Rule of Law.  That particular nuisance does not apply to “them” – only to “us.” They don’t even try to hide their grand scale theft anymore because the protocol in place to prevent them from doing this is now on their side. This is the section in Atlas Shrugged leading up to the big implosion.

“When you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed.” – Atlas Shrugged

Speaking of the economy, as with inflation the GDP report does not reflect the true level of real economic activity in the U.S. because the Government report is not designed to measure real economic output. Instead, the GDP is yet another Government economic report constructed with blatant statistical manipulation and outright fraudulent data sampling. How am I so certain of this? The “tell” on the true condition of the economy lies with the fact that Fed is “normalizing” neither interest rates nor its balance sheet. In fact, if the Fed were to “normalize” monetary policy, it would quickly hike the Fed funds rate up closer to 6% and it would be reducing its balance sheet and removing at least the $2.1 trillion in printed cash sitting in the banks’ excess reserve account.  The problem is that this “normalization” would pop the enormous asset bubble created from money printing.  It would also interrupt the ongoing wealth confiscation.

Elijah Johnson at Silver Doctors invited to discuss the above issues as well as the stock, bond and housing bubbles. And of course gold and mining stocks:

I’ll be releasing the latest issue of my Mining Stock Journal this evening. It will have an emerging junior gold exploration company that has been described at “Gold Standard Ventures 2.0.” You can find out more information here:   Mining Stock Journal info.

Gresham’s Law meets its Minsky Moment

There’s a reason that the Fed pursues these actions and it’s not a conspiracy theory. When unlimited cash hits a limited supply of assets, whether paper or hard, this inflationary deluge boosts taxable asset values by 100-1000%, fattening the coffers of the tax collectors. 

While it’s no secret that the Fed, along all global Central Banks, are supporting their respective financial systems by capping interest rates with “QE” (also known as “money printing”), the yield on the 10-yr Treasury has risen 36 basis points in two months from 2.04% in September to 2.40% currently. There have not been any Fed rate hikes during that time period. The yield on the 2-yr Treasury has jumped from 1.26% in early September to 1.66% currently. A 40 basis point jump, 32% increase, in rates in two months.

This is not due to a “reversal” in QE. Why? Because through this past Thursday, the Fed’s balance sheet has increased in size by over $7 billion since the Fed “threatened” to unwind QE starting in October. The bond market is sniffing hints of an acceleration in the general price level of goods and services, aka “inflation.”

I wanted to post this comment from my blog post the other day because this person uses an expressive writing style to convey incisively the uneasy truth about the financial and economic system in the U.S.:

Bankers are moral lepers, the financial equivalent of hookers and blow. You can never get enough of the moral debauchery in that world.

When a shit box tiny house, half the size of my man cave, goes for $50,000 less than my entire home in Reno, the end is nigh. $2,000 a square foot for a studio? What effing moron would pay that. Don’t answer. We know someone did. I pity the fool.

Bitcoin 7000, DOW 23,500, studios for $550,000 are all a result of the Greenspan /Bernanke/Yellen  QEpocalypse.

The flood of faux FIAT creates the same Cantillion effect as the flood of gold and silver from the new world that inflated the values of assets in the old world and decimated those outside the ring of prosperity created by that effect.

And that was when gold and silver were real money. But do you think gold and silver can catch a break today? Nope, not a chance.

There’s a reason that the Fed pursues these actions and it’s not a conspiracy theory. When unlimited cash hits a limited supply of assets, whether paper or hard, this inflationary deluge boosts taxable asset values by 100-1000%, fattening the coffers of the tax collectors. No accident there.

You would think this might solve some fiscal woes at the local and state level by boosting tax receipts by a few hundred percent. Nope, not happening there either.

The states and cities created their own PONZI schemes with underfunded overly generous pension plans. Even a moron could get a better return in those funds but now they are out there with their begging bowls.

The County of Maui just raised it’s property taxes 42% to pay for pension plan deficits. A senator from Ohio wants to use funds from treasury bonds to bail out their public pension deficits.

As we see asset prices sky rocket, the demands from the public sector grow even faster than tax revenues and asset inflation will handle. Gresham’s Law meets its Minsky Moment and none too soon.

And don’t even get me started about Social Security. Just let me get mine before the whole shit show collapses.

The Size Of The Financial Avalanche Coming Grows Larger

Inflation vs deflation. The true economic definition of “inflation” is the rate of increase in the money supply in excess of the rate of increase in wealth output. Inflation is monetary in nature. Rising prices are the manifestation of inflation. Someone I follow on Twitter posted an ingenious example from which to conceptualize the true concept of inflation using the game of Monopoly:

The players all start out with reasonable amounts of money to speculate on real estate. As the game proceeds, players collect $200 by simply passing Go and use this money to speculate on real estate. By the end of the game, only $500 dollar bills are worth anything, the whole thing blows up, and most players end up destitute. In a twist of irony, an original game board sells for about $50,000.

A fixed amount of real estate and continuously increasing money supply, with “passing Go” functioning as the game’s monetary printing press. The monopoly analogy is readily applied to the current real estate market. The Fed tossed roughly $2 trillion into the mortgage market, which in turn has fueled the greatest U.S. housing bubble in history. The most absurd example I saw last week is a 264 sq ft studio in Los Angeles listed on 10/26 for $550,000. The seller bought it a year ago for $335,000. This is the degree to which Fed money printing and easy access Government guaranteed mortgages have distorted the system.

Here is monetary inflation as it is showing up in the stock market and housing markets:

The graphic above shows rampant credit-induced monetary inflation. On the left, home prices nationally are measured by the Case Shiller index going back the 1980’s. On the right is the S&P 500 going back to 1930. According to the Fed, real median household income has increased 5% between 2008 and the present. In contrast, based on Case Shiller, home prices nationally have soared 34% in the same time period.  Expressed as a ratio of average price to average household income, home prices are, at all-time highs in the U.S. This is the manifestation of rampant inflation in credit availability enabled by the mortgage “QE.” This growth rate in money and credit supply has far exceeded the tiny growth rate in average household income since 2008.

The stock market reflects the monetary inflation of the G3 Central Banks, primarily, plus global Central Bank balance sheet expansion. Please note that “balance sheet expansion” is the politically polite term for “money printing.” The meteoric rise in stock prices have never been more disconnected from the negligible rate of growth in nominal GDP since 2008. Real GDP has been, arguably, negative if a realistic inflation rate were used in the Government’s GDP deflator.

Inflation is not showing up in the Government CPI report because the Government does not measure inflation. The Government’s basket of goods is constantly juggled in order to de-emphasize the rising cost of goods and services considered to be necessities. In addition to the increasing cost of necessities like gasoline, health insurance and food, inflation is showing up in monetary assets. This is because a large portion of the money printed remains “inside” the banking system as “excess reserves” held at the Fed by banks. This capital is transmitted as de fact money supply via the creation credit mechanisms in the various forms of debt and derivatives. The eventual asset sale avalanche grows larger by the day.

Do not believe for one split-second that the U.S. has reached some sort of plateau of economic nirvana that will self-perpetuate. To begin with, it would require another round of even more money printing just to sustain the current bubble level. Read the inflation example above if that idea is still not clear. In 1927, John Maynard Keynes stated, “we will not have any more crashes in our time.” In the October 16, 1929 issue of The New York Times, famous economist and investor, Irving Fisher, stated that “stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. I do not feel there will be soon if ever a 50 or 60 point break from present levels, such as (bears) have predicted. I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher within a few months.” Two weeks later the stock market crashed.

The above commentary is from last week’s Short Seller’s Journal. Speaking of the housing market, admittedly my homebuilder short positions are crawling up my pant-leg with fangs as the housing stocks have entered into the last stage of a parabolic “Roman candle” apex and burn-out. The homebuilders appear to be cheap relative to the SPX on a PE ratio basis – approximately an 18x average PE for homebuilders vs a 32x Case Shiller PE for the SPX.  However,  in relation to their underlying sales rate, earnings and balance sheet, the homebuilder stocks are more overvalued now than at the last peak in 2005.

While the homebuilders are are squeezing higher, I presented two “derivative” ideas in recent issues of the Short Seller’s Journal:  Zillow Group (ZG) at $50 in late June and Redfin (RDFN) at $28 in late September.  ZG just lost $40 today and RDFN is down to $21 (25% gain in 6 weeks). Both ZG and RDFN are “derivatives” to homebuilders because they derive most of their revenues from housing market-related ads, primarily real estate listings. Their revenues as such are “derived” from housing market sales activity. These stocks are overvalued outright. But as home sales volume declines, the revenue/income generating capability of the ZG/RDFN business model will evaporate quickly.  With home sales volume rolling over, the decline in the stock prices of ZG and RDFN relative to the “bubble squeeze” in homebuilder stocks validates my thesis.

If you want to learn more about opportunities to exploit this historically overvalued stock market and access fact-based market analysis, click here: Short Seller’s Journal info.

As A Dog Returns To Its Vomit, Stock Jockeys Return To The Ponzi Stocks

Bull markets are born on pessimism, grow on skepticism, mature on optimism, and die on euphoria. – Sir John Templeton

I’ve always admired John Templeton. Not as the “father” of the modern mutual fund but because I considered him to have been one of the most intelligent thinkers in at least my lifetime (55 years). In 2003 he gave an interview from his retirement “perch” in the Bahamas to one of the financial media organizations. He stated at the time that he would not invest in the U.S. housing market until “home prices go down to one-tenth of the highest price homeowners paid.” Imagine what he would say today…

“As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly” (Proverbs 26:11). That proverb is particularly applicable to today’s “everything bubble,” especially stocks and housing. The current en vogue is to compare today’s market to 1987, when the Dow crashed 22.5% in one day. Honestly, I don’t think it matters whether you use 1929, 1987,
2000 or 2007. By just about any conceivable financial metric, the current stock market is the most overvalued, and thereby the most dangerous, in U.S. history. The other “vomit” to which analysts “returneth” are the attempts to explain why today’s extreme valuations are “different” from the extreme overvaluations at previous pre-crash market tops. I find the “interest rates are record lows now” to be the most amusing.

On Friday, the momentum-chasing hedge funds and retail daytraders couldn’t get enough of the FAANGs (FB, AMZN, AAPL, NFLX, GOOG) + MSFT. AMZN’s stock ran up $128, or 13.2%, which was still less than AMZN’s biggest one-day percentage jump of 26.8% on October 23, 2009.  AMZN’s stock price has been highly correlated with  amount of money printed by the “G3” (U.S./Japan /EU) Central Bank money printing machine.  But since July, AMZN’s stock began to diverge negatively from the growth path of G3 money supply. The FANGs in general had been losing steam starting in June. AMZN was particularly weak after it reported that big loss in July. It took one absurd headline “beat” for AMZN to “catch back up” into correlation with the growth line of G3 money printing (FYI, the Fed’s balance increase slightly in October, despite the announcement that it would be reduced by at least $10 billion in October).

The stock market will head south quickly sooner or later. The “curtain” is being “pulled back”on stock Ponzi schemes one by one. The truths about Tesla (TSLA) are beginning to emerge in public finally. Eventually the stock market will take a hard look behind the Amazon (AMZN) curtain. Ponzi schemes can flourish during periods of bubble inflation. But when bubbles deflate, Ponzi schemes fail. It’s no coincidence that Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme fell apart in late 2008 (he admitted guilt in December 2008). It began to become unmanageable during 2007, when the stock market started to head south. Eventually it will become impossible to cover up fundamental facts from the investing public. Fundamental facts about the economy, corporate earnings and the financial system. That’s when the rush toward the exits will commence.

The above commentary/analysis is from the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. In that issue I review AMZN’s Q3 financials in-depth. This includes excerpts from the SEC-filed 10-Q used to demonstrate why Jeff Bezos’ LTM “Free Cash Flow” of $8.05 billion is a Ponzi number and the true GAAP Free Cash Flow is -$3.9 billion. AMZN is a cash-burning furnace and I prove it. To find out more about this and other ideas for shorting this bloated stock market, click here: Short Seller’s Journal information.

“Party Like It’s 1999” (or 2008 or 1987 or 1929)

To paraphrase the highly regarded fund manager and notable bear, John Hussman, you can look like an idiot before a Bubble pops or after it’s popped.

I guess I’m squarely in the camp of looking like an idiot before the bubble pops. I might watch “The Big Short Again” for some “moral fortitude.” With history’s stamp of approval on my side, all I can do is shake my head and chuckle. As soon as the Dow crossed over 23,000 on Wednesday, the “experts” on bubblevision began speculating how long it would take for the Dow to hit 24k. I was actively trading and shorting dot.com stocks in late 1999 and the curent environment feels almost exactly like it felt then. Wake up everyday and wait for Maria Bartiromo to breath the name of a dot.com stock you were short and watch it spike up 10-20% on her signal. The Nasdaq ran from 2,966 to 4,698 – 1,700 pts or 58% – in 4 months. It was painful holding shorts but very rewarding after the brief period of “suffocation.”

It feels like the market could go into a final parabolic lift-off to its final peak before the inevitable. The non-commericial (i.e. retail) short-interest in the VIX – meaning retail investors are “selling” volatility – hit another all-time high this past week. This a massive and reckless bet against any possibility of any abrupt downside in the market. It reflects unbridled hubris. Don’t forget, smart money and banks are taking the other side of this bet.

To think that any Trump tax reform bill that might get passed will improve the fundamentals of the economy and lead to higher corporate earnings is absurd. The tax bill proposal is nothing more than a huge windfall for the wealthy (as in, 8-figure net worth and above) and Corporate America. The plan is, on balance neutral to negative for the average middle class household. Although it doubles the standard deduction, it eliminates the deduction for state and local taxes, which means you’ll lose the deduction for property taxes. It also will steer a large portion of middle class homeowners away from itemizing deductions, which means it will marginalize or eliminate the ability to use mortgage interest as a deduction. Corporations of course will benefit the most – as the tax rate would be lowered from 35% to 20% – because they throw the most money at Congress.

It’s estimated that the tax plan would cost the Government $6 trillion in revenues over the next 10 years. At $600 billion per year, this would have doubled the “official” spending deficit for FY 2017 (Note: if you include the debt issuance that was deferred until the debt limit ceiling was suspended – a little more than $300 billion – the amount debt that would have been issued by the Government in FY 2017 would have been about $1 trillion. This number is the actual spending deficit).

In short, even if some sort of “compromise” legislation is passed, the tax “reform” would do little more than shift trillions from revenue going to the Government to cash flow going into the pockets of Corporate America and the upper 1% (and really the upper 0.5%). That said, any notion that the stock market melt-up this past week is connected to the tax reform effort is idiotic. This is because it will add $100’s of billions per year in Government debt issuance requirements and will do little, if anything, to stimulate economic activity.

On the contrary, the stock market behavior is attributable to the last-gasp capitulation that characterized the coup de grace phase of any previous stock market bubble. This includes the re-surfacing of phrases like, “it’s different this time,” “it’s a new economic paradigm,” “stocks have reached a permanent plateau,” etc. CNBC even featured a graphic last week which showed Bitcoin as having a P/E ratio. Sheer madness.

It’s different this time? – As much as I hate to listen to radio ads when I’m driving (I listen to the local sports talk-radio programming and normally switch to music during the 5 min ad breaks), in the past several weeks I’ve been listening to the commercial breaks. The reason for this is that radio ads often reflect the current local trends in demand for services /products. Starting in late summer, frequent ad spots have been occupied by: 1) a service that offers IRS back-tax settlement services; 2) numerous mortgage brokers pitching “use your house as an ATM and take-out home equity loans to pay-down credit card debt and have money for the holidays;” 3) “make fast money” home-flipping seminars.

In terms of middle-class demographic trends, Colorado has always been regarded as a leading indicator for most of the country between the coasts. The IRS tax settlement service ads tell me that the middle class has run out of disposable income: can’t pay taxes owed, credit card debt is too high, and is worried about holidays. I’ve been discussing this development for quite some time. The tax thing is self-explanatory. There’s likely similar companies/law firms all over the country running ads pitching tax settlement services. Wage-earners will under-withhold their paycheck taxes to help cover current spending and hope that year-end bonuses, or whatever luck fate might have in store, will enable them to pay what they owe when they file.

The “use your house as an ATM” ad is disturbing. This was an idea originally proposed by Greenspan in 2002 and put aggressively into action from 2004 to 2008. In 2004 Greenspan advocated using adjustable rate mortgages. How did that end up? The reason it won’t go on for another four years is that households are stretched on their Debt-To-Income profile (pretax income to debt service ratio) relative to the 2004-2008 period. Household debt – auto/credit card/student loan + mortgage – already exceeds the 2008 peak. Back then, home values were rising right up until late 2007/early 2008. Currently, in most markets home prices are starting to drop (this was occurring by late summer, so it’s not just “seasonal,” which is an argument you might hear). I’m starting to get email notices of homes listed in every price segment that are dropping their offer price up to and over 10%. This includes apartments in the under $400k price-segment (according to the NAR, the average price of existing home sales declined 2.7% from August to September – more on existing home sales below).

As enough home sales are closed with price drops greater than 10%, the fun begins. As I’ve detailed in previous issues, an increasing percentage of buyers right now are flippers (those radio ads are occurring for a reason). Enough people have decided that they “don’t want to miss out” on the “easy money” being made flipping homes. Guess what? They’ve missed out. The majority of flippers who have purchased in the last 3-6 months that have not been listed or are listed but just sitting are soon going to be looking for buyer bids to sell into. The problems will start when the flippers who used debt to buy their “day-trade” discover that the current “bid side” for their home is below the amount of debt used to buy the house.

Just like upward momentum in stock and home prices induces daytraders and flippers respectively to chase prices up in anticipation that someone will readily be willing to pay them even more, falling prices in stocks and homes generates motivated selling and scares away buyers. With homes it’s slightly different. Falling stock prices tend to generate selling volume that “forces” the market lower quickly. With stocks, there will be short-sellers who provide some liquidity to sellers as the shorts cover on the way down.

Housing, on the other hand, goes from a “liquid market” in rising markets to an ‘illiquid market” in falling markets. A home is a “chunky, high-ticket” item that takes time to close. In falling markets, the value of a home declines measurably before the buyer closes. Because of this, buyers will disappear until the market appears to have stabilized. Unlike stocks, homes can’t be shorted, which means there are no buyers looking to take a profit on a bet the market would fall. Often price falls in a “step function.” By this I mean there will be price-gaps to downside in the market as buyer “bids” disappear completely (i.e. bid-side volume vanishes).

I’m seeing this dynamic in the over $1,000,000 market in Denver. I have friend who lives in a high-priced neighborhood in south Denver (Heritage Hills). He had his house on the market for close to a year and couldn’t move it at a price that was in-line with comps (he’s a licensed real estate agent). The problem is that homes were not selling in his ‘hood. I told him if he marked it down $100k he could probably move it. He said he would wait for the market to improve and took it off the market. That was in July. It’s too late. Homes over $1mm are being reduced in price in $100,000 “chunks” now. I’ve gotten several “price change alerts” for homes around Denver listed during the summer that are lowering their offer in $100k steps. Some of them have been lowered already 15-20% from their original listing price. It gets worse.

One of the Short Seller Journal subscribers who lives in the south Denver metro area sent me a note about a home he has been watching in Castle Rock, which is about 35 minutes south of downtown Denver in a very pretty area along the foothills. The area ranges from cookie cutter middle class neighborhoods to a high-end, exclusive country club community. It was one of the hottest bubble areas in the mid-2000s bubble. He showed me a home that was listed in May for $1.39 million. Since then it’s been taken down $400k in four price changes. The last price cut was $200k.

This is an example of extreme “step function” price drops. Maybe the house was over-priced to begin with, but not by nearly 30%. The original offer price has to be based loosely on comps or no listing broker would touch it. It’s on its fourth listing agent. Last summer (2016) it’s quite likely this house would have moved somewhere near the offer price. He also told me that he’s seeing more pre-foreclosure and foreclosure activity in the homes around $1,000,000 in that area. This is how it starts and I’m certain this is not the only area around the country where this is starting to occur.

GE Brings Good Things To Short-Sellers

GE hit $8 in 2008. If you short the stock with some patience, this stock is, in my opinion, a low-risk bet that it will at least drop 50% over the next 12-18 months. – January 29, 2017 issue of  Short Seller’s Journal

General Electric has been a no-brain’er short this year.  I recommended it as short on January 29th.    The “legendary” Jack Welch practically invented corporate financial engineering and  accounting manipulation as we know it today (sorry if you are under 35 managing money and don’t know who Jack Welch or what accounting manipulation is).

So imagine my shock when GE has been reporting earnings “misses” for several quarters, including the most recent.  GE must be the only company in the S&P 500 that can’t seem to beat Wall Street’s quarterly ritual of essentially laying an earnings “bar” on the ground over which companies “proudly” step each quarter.  On the other hand, it’s likely an indicator of just how bad the real  numbers are at GE.  I guess Welch’s legacy is finally haunting the Company.  And for Halloween investors might be getting a dividend cut in their “treat bag” from GE.

Back at the end of January I said this in the Short Seller’s Journal:

For it’s latest quarter, operating earnings dropped year over year despite a slight year over year increase in revenues for the quarter. It’s operating earnings also dropped for the first nine months of 2016 vs. same period in 2015. For the first 9 months of 2016, GE’s operations burned cash, although they’ll attribute that to “discontinued” operations, which burned $5.3 billion for the period.

Companies often classify money-losing businesses as “discontinued” with the intent to sell them. But until the disco’d businesses are sold, GE has to live with them. This is yet another earnings management technique, as GE can then separate out the “discontinued” business numbers from the “continuing operations” for as long as GE still controls the disco’d businesses. This enables GE to present an earnings number that does not include the losses associated with the disco’d businesses. It thereby enables GE to present a managed “GAAP” earnings metric that is significantly higher than the true earnings of GE’s operations.

GE reported its Q4 earnings on January 20th. It has not filed a 10Q yet but it “met” earnings expectations and missed sales. The oil-related business is one of the heavy weights on GE’s operations. Despite “meeting” estimates and a rosy analyst spin on the earnings report, the stock dropped 4.7% over the next two days, diverging very negatively from the Dow, which moved higher, up and over 20k.

You can see from the chart on the previous page that GE plunged below its 50 and 200 dma’s and failed to trade back up to the 200 dma while the Dow was hitting 20,000. This is a very bearish chart and it looks like big funds are dumping their shares. This is a more “conservative” short-sell play but the stock could easily drop 50% over the next 12-18 months.

Wall Street has finally begun to downgrade its earnings forecasts and stock price targets on GE.  I guess better late than never but anyone who listened to Wall Street in January expecting GE to be at $40 now is having a hard time sitting down without pain.

On the other hand, GE brings good things to short-sellers.  There’s stocks that are falling out of bed every day.  In the latest issue released yesterday, I presented a home construction supply company who’s stock has gone parabolic that, based on the fundamentals, is more of a lay-up short than GE seemed back in January.  You find out more about the Short Seller’s Journal by clicking here:  Short Seller’s Journal info.

This was emailed to me yesterday from a subscriber: “Sometimes I grow weary about short selling in this market, and then you come up with one good one, that shows me it really can fall down. I almost gave up on FCAU [SSJ’s recommendation to short Fiat Chrysler in the Sept 24th issue], but did not. Keep up the good work!”

The Fed’s Everything Bubble And The Inevitable Asset Crash

Do not mistake outcomes for control – remember, there is no such thing as control – there are only probabilities. – Christopher Cole, Artemis Capital

Central Banks globally have created a massive fiat currency fueled asset bubble.  Stock markets are the largest of these bubbles – a bubble  made worse by the Fed’s attempt to harness the “power” of HFT-driven algo trading.  At least for now, the Fed can “control” the stock market by pushing the buttons that unleash hedge fund black box momentum-chasing and retail ETF  buy orders whenever the market is about to head south quickly.

However, the ability to push the stock market higher without a statistically meaningful correction is a statistical “tail-event” in and of itself. The probability that the Fed can continue to control the market like this becomes infinitesimally small. The market becomes like a like a coiled spring. The laws of probability tell us this “spring” is pointing down.

The Fed announced in no uncertain terms that it was going to begin “normalizing” – whatever “normalize” means – its balance sheet beginning in October.  Going back to 1955, the furthest back in time for which the data is readily accessible, the Fed Funds rate has averaged around 6%.  But for the last 9 years, the Fed Funds rate has averaged near-zero.  Back in May 2013 Ben Bernanke threatened the markets with his “taper” speech.  More than four years later the Fed Funds rate is by far closer to near-zero than it is to the 62-year Fed Funds rate average.  Can you imagine what would happen to the stock market if the Fed actually “normalized” its monetary policy by yanking the Fed Funds rate up to its 62-year average of 6%?

In September the Fed announced that it would begin reducing its balance sheet by $10 billion per month starting in October. Before the Fed began printing money unfettered in 2008, its balance sheet was approximately $900 billion.  If we define “normalize” as reducing the Fed’s balance back down to $900 billion, it would take 30 years at $10 billion per month. But wait, the Fed’s balance sheet is going the wrong way.  It has increased in October by $10 billion (at least thru the week ending October 18th).  So much for normalizing.

The Fed is stuck. It has created its own financial Frankenstein. Neither can it continue hiking interest rates nor can it  “normalize” its balance sheet without causing systemically adverse consequences.  The laws of probability and randomness – both of which are closely intertwined – tell us that, at some point, the Fed will lose control of the system regardless of whether or not it decides to keep rates low and maintain the size, more or less, of its balance sheet.

Jason Burack invited me onto his Wall Street For Mainstreet podcast to discuss the Fed’s “Everything Bubble,” why the Fed can’t “normalize” its balance sheet and the unavoidable adverse consequences coming at the system:

 MINING STOCK JOURNAL                           –                SHORT SELLER’S JOURNAL

The Big Short 2.0: The NAR Whiffed Badly This Month

Based on the National Association of Realtor’s “Seasonally Adjusted” Annualized Rate (SAAR) metric, home sales were said to have ticked up 0.7% in September from August. On a SAAR basis they declined 1.5% from September 2016.  In his customary effort to glaze the pig’s lips with lipstick, NAR chief “economist” and salesman, Larry Yun, asserted that sales would have been stronger but for the hurricanes that hit Florida and Texas.

This guy should do some better vetting of the data before he tries to spin a story. The Houston Association of Realtors was out a week earlier stating that Houston home sales were up 14% in September from August and up 4.2% from September 2016. Yun’s fairytale is a stunning contrast to what is being reported from Houston. But it illustrates the fact that the data on housing the NAR reports is highly suspect.

As I’ve been detailing for years, the NAR’s existing home sales report is highly manipulated and flawed.  It works well for the industry and the media in rising markets, but the real estate market has rolled over and is preparing to head south.  Likely rather quickly.  As it turns out, the September existing home sales report released Friday reinforces my view that the market is starting to topple over.  I go over the details in the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal, with a couple examples which foreshadow a collapse in the over $1,000,000 price segment of the market.  This in turn will affect the entire market.  I always suspected that the “Big Short 2.0” would start at the high-end.  An example outside of Colorado can found here:  Greenwich Sales Plunge.

Four weeks ago I presented a housing-related stock as a short good idea.  The stock is down nearly 10% in four weeks.   How can this be?  Isn’t the housing market hot?  It will be going much lower.  This week I’ll be featuring a housing industry supplier stock that went parabolic and will soon go “cliff dive.”  If you want to find out more about this subscription service, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal info.

I love your Short Seller’s Journal. Keep up the great work – recent new subscriber

Get Ready To Party Like It’s 2008

Apparently Treasury Secretary, ex-Goldman Sachs banker Steven Mnuchin, has threatened Congress with stock crash if Congress doesn’t pass a tax reform Bill.  His reason is that the stock market surge since the election was based on the hopes of a big tax cut.  This reminds me of 2008, when then-Treasury Secretary, ex-Goldman Sachs CEO, Henry Paulson, and Fed Chairman, Ben Bernanke, paraded in front of Congress and threatened a complete systemic collapse if Congress didn’t authorize an $800 billion bailout of the biggest banks.

The U.S. financial system is experiencing an asset “bubble” that is unprecedented in history. This is a bubble that has been fueled by an unprecedented amount of Central Bank money printing and credit creation. As you are well aware, the Fed printed more than $4 trillion dollars of currency that was used to buy Treasury bonds and mortgage securities. But it has also enabled an unprecedented amount of credit creation. This credit availability has further fueled the rampant inflation in asset prices – specifically stocks, bonds and housing, the price of which now exceeds the levels seen in 2008 right before the great financial crisis.

However, you might not be aware that Central Banks outside of the U.S. continue printing money that is being used to buy stocks and risky bonds. The Bank of Japan now owns more than 75% of that nation’s stock ETFs. The Swiss National Bank holds over $80 billion worth of U.S. stocks, $17 billion of which were purchased in 2017. The European Central Bank, in addition to buying member country sovereign-issued debt is now buying corporate bonds, some of which are non-investment grade.

The table to the right shows the YTD performance of the US dollar vs. major currencies and the gold price vs major currencies. The dollar has appreciated in value YTD vs. alternative fiat currencies. More than anything, this represents the false sense of “hope” that was engendered by the election of Trump. As you can see from the right side of the table, gold is also up YTD vs every major currency. Note that gold has appreciated the most vs. the U.S. dollar. The performance of gold vs. fiat currencies reflects the fact that Central Banks globally are devaluing their currencies by printing currency and sovereign debt in increasing quantities. The rise vs. the dollar also reflects the expectation that the Fed and the Treasury might be printing even more currency and Treasury debt at some point in the next 6-12 months. This is despite the posturing by the Fed about “reducing” the size of its balance sheet, which is nothing more than scripted rhetoric.

“We have the worst revival of an economy since the Great Depression. And believe me: we’re in a bubble right now.” Donald Trump, from a Presidential campaign speech

Margin debt is at a record high. At $551 billion, it’s double the amount of margin debt outstanding at the peak of the tech bubble in 2000. It’s 45% greater than the amount of margin debt outstanding at the peak of the 2007 bubble.

Stock investors and house-flippers in the U.S. now make investment decisions based on the premise that, no matter what fundamental development or new event occurs, the market will always go up. “It’s different this time” has crept back into the rationale. The markets are particularly dangerous now. The concept of “risk” has been completely removed from investment equation.

This dynamic is the direct result of the money printing and credit creation which has enabled the Fed to keep interest rates near zero. The law economics tells us that increasing the supply of “good” without a corresponding increase in demand for that good results in a falling price. This is why interest rates are near zero. The Fed and the Government have increased the supply of currency via printing and issuing credit. Investors , in turn, are taking that near-zero cost of currency and credit and throwing it recklessly in all assets, but specifically stocks and homes.

Currently, anyone who puts their money into the stock, bond and housing markets in search of making money is doing nothing other than gambling recklessly on the certainty of the outcome of two highly inter-related events: 1) the willingness of Central Banks to continue pushing the price of assets higher with printed money; 2) the continued participation of investors who are willing to pay more than the previous investor to make the same bet. Most asset-price chasing buyers have no idea that they are doing nothing more than sitting at a giant casino table game.

The current bubble has been created by a record level of money printing and debt creation globally. Unfortunately, the upward velocity of rising asset prices has seduced investors to recklessly abandon all notion of risk. Based on several studies on investor cash holdings as a percentage of their overall portfolio (cash on the sidelines), investors are “all-in.” One would have to be brain-dead to not acknowledge that global Central Bank money-printing has caused the current “everything” asset bubble. But it’s a “fear of missing out” that has driven investors to pile blindly into stocks with zero regard for fundamental value. Even pensions funds, according to someone I know who works at a pension fund, have pushed equity allocations to the limit.

For the most part, Central Banks are now posturing as if they are going to stop printing money and, in some cases, “shrink” the size of their balance sheet (i.e. reverse “quantitative easing”). To the extent that the first chart above (SPX futures) reflects a combination of Central Bank money printing and investors going “all-in” on stocks (record low cash levels), IF the Central Banks simply stop printing money and do not shrink their balance sheets, who will be left to buy stocks when the selling begins?  If they do shrink their balance sheets, the central banks will start the selling as they have to sell their holdings in order to shrink their balance sheets.

Largest Asset Bubble In History – It’s Not Different This Time

The current asset bubble has been created by a record level of money printing and debt creation globally. Unfortunately, the upward velocity of rising asset prices has seduced investors to recklessly abandon all notion of risk. One would have to be brain-dead to not acknowledge that global Central Bank money-printing has caused the current “everything” asset bubble. Current data that tracks the cash and investment allocation levels shows that investors – and this includes hedge funds and pensions, not just retail/high net worth – are “all in.” IF the Central Banks simply stop printing money and do not shrink their balance sheets who will be left to buy stocks when the selling begins?

Silver Doctors invited me onto their weekly money/metals podcast to discuss why the catalysts driving fiat-currency-based paper assets to historical valuations will unwind and will ultimately drive gold to a valuation level higher by several multiples than the current price. Eventually gold will not be measured in terms of dollars and possibly not in terms of any fiat currency:

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