Category Archives: Housing Market

Greatest Stock Bubble In History

Anyone who can’t see a dangerous bubble should not be managing, analyzing or trading stocks. Even Hellen Keller could figure out what is going here:

It’s not easy shorting the market right now – for now – but there have been plenty of short-term opportunities to “scalp” stocks using short term puts. I cover both short term trading ideas and long term positioning ideas.  You can learn more  about this newsletter here:      Short Seller’s Journal information.

“SSJ  provides outstanding practical advice for translating a company’s bottom line fundamentals into $$’s. Whether you’re a buy and hold long term investor or short term trader (or both), you’ll find all kinds of helpful advice on portfolio management, asset allocation and short term/long term options strategies. Really can’t recommend SSJ enough! Thanks Dave for your great service!” – subscriber “John”

A Massive Bubble In Retail Stocks

Retail, especially the “concept” retailers, are going parabolic. It makes no sense given the declining rate of personal consumption, retail sales, etc. The kinkiest names like RH, RL and W are going up like the dot.com stocks went up in late 1999/early 2000. The move in these stocks reflects either mindless optimism or momentum-rampaging by hedge fund bots – or both. The hedge fund trading flow can turn on a dime and go the other way. I suspect this will happen and, as it does, squeeze even more mindless optimism out of the market.

The cost of gasoline has to be hammering disposable income for most households. On top of this is the rising cost of monthly debt service for the average household.  Non-essential consumerism is dying on a vine.

Fundamentally the retail sector is not recovering. If anything, the economic variables which support retail sales are deteriorating. I think some of the shares caught a bid on better than expected earnings derived from the one-time bump in GAAP non-cash income from the tax law changes reported by numerous companies in Q1. I just don’t see how it’s possible, given the negative wage, consumption, credit and retail sales reports that the sector has “recovered.”

In just the last eight trading days, XRT has outperformed both the Dow and S&P 500 by a significant margin. It has all indications of a blow-off top in process. You can see that, with industry fundamentals deteriorating, XRT’s current level now exceeds the top it hit at the end of January, which is when the stock market drop began. The RSI has run back into “overbought” status.

Some of the “kinkiest” retail concept stocks, like Lululemon (LULU), Five Below (FIVE) and Restoration Hardware (RH), soared after reporting the customary, well-orchestrated GAAP/non-GAAP earnings “beat.”  Of course, RH’s revenues declined year over year for the quarter it just reported.  But it used debt plus cash generated from reducing inventories to buyback $1 billion worth of shares in the last 12 months.  Yes, of course, insiders greedily sold shares into the buybacks. (Note: If insiders were working for shareholders other than themselves, companies would pay large, one-time special dividends to ALL shareholders rather than buyback shares to goose the stock price)

The retail stocks are setting up a great opportunity for bears like me to make a lot of money shorting the most egregiously overvalued shares in the sector.  Timing is always an issue.  But complacency has enveloped the stock market once again, as hedge funds have settled back to aggressively shorting volatility.

It won’t take much to tip the market over again.  Only this time around I expect the low-close of February 8th (2,581 on the SPX) to be exceeded to the downside by a considerable margin.

The above commentary was partially excerpted from the the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal.  It’s not easy shorting the market right now – for now – but there have been plenty of short-term opportunities to “scalp” stocks using short term puts. I cover both short term trading ideas and long term positioning ideas.  You can learn more  about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

 

Consumer Spending Contraction: Two Charts That Horrify Keynesians

“While the decline in housing activity has been significant and will probably continue for a while longer, I think the concerns we used to hear about the possibility of a devastating collapse—one that might be big enough to cause a recession in the U.S. economy—have been largely allayed…” – Janet Yellen 1/22/07

The propaganda is always laid on the heaviest just ahead of The Fall.  The employment report showing sub-4%, with nearly 96 million working age people not considered part of the labor Force, is possibly the penultimate fabrication.

Consumer spending is more than 70% of the GDP.  A toxic consequence of the Fed’s money printing and near-zero interest rate policy over the last 10 years is the artificial inflation of economic activity fueled by indiscriminate credit creation.

But now the majority of American households, over 75% of which do not have enough cash in the bank to cover an emergency expense, have become over-bloated from gorging at the Fed’s debt trough.

As credit usage slows down or contracts, the economy will go off Bernank’s Cliff much sooner than Helicopter Ben’s 2020 forecast.

The chart above is the year-over-year percentage change in total consumer credit outstanding. Not only is the growth rate decelerating, credit card debt usage is beginning to contract. This the collective prose from the mainstream media is that households are paying down credit card debt with tax savings. But, again, this is a lie. For most households, the increase in the cost of gasoline more than offsets the $90/month the average taxpayer is saving in taxes.

The second chart shows that the growth rate in auto debt fell off Bernanke’s Cliff in early 2017. While the growth rate in the amount of auto debt has appeared to have stabilized – for now – there’s been  a decline in the underlying growth rate in unit sales. This is because the mix of vehicles sold has shifted toward more trucks, which carry a higher sticker price and thus require a bigger auto loan.  Larger loans per vehicle sold, less total units sold.

The Keynesian economic model – as it is applied in the current era to stimulate consumer spending – requires debt issuance to increase at an increasing rate. But as you can see, the rate of credit usage is decreasing. The affects are already reflected by a rapid slow-down in retail, auto and home sales. Most American households are saturated with debt.

The real fun begins as many of these households begin to default. In fact, the delinquency and default rate, in what is supposed to be a healthy economy, on subprime credit card loans and auto debt already exceeds the delinquency/default rate in 2008. Perhaps Bernanke’s Cliff is just around the next bend in the trail…

Another Blow-Off Top In Stocks?

And just like  that, the  VIX index crashes right back to where it was before the late-January 10% drop in the stock market – a reflection that the remaining stock market speculators and hedge fund bots have been completely cleansed of any fear impulse that hit daytrader keyboards in the first quarter of 2018:

Hedge funds went from insanely short VIX futures to long VIX futures after the market had dropped 10% and the VIX soared. They were slaughtered on their shorts, now they are getting bludgeoned on their long position. But guess what?  They went net short again about  four days ago.  Selling volatility again at the bottom of the volatility index.  Not a good omen for perma-bulls.

The Dow has recovered about 56% of the decline that occurred from January 26th to March 23rd. Correction over and on to higher highs? Possibly. The Russell 2000 broke out to all-time highs starting in mid-May. The Nasdaq hit an all-time high Tuesday. Everything appears to be heading higher…or is it?

The Dow is being driven primarily by Boeing (BA), Microsoft (MSFT), Caterpillar (CAT) and United Health. On Tuesday, I calculated by hand that the big move higher by AMZN was responsible for 43% of the performance in the S&P 500. If AMZN had just been flat that day, the SPX would have closed lower from Monday instead of up 8 pts. By all indicators, the move in the Russell is being driven by a short-squeeze. TSLA was up $28 – 9.6% – yesterday because Elon Musk whispered the phrase, “Model 3 production target,” into the ears of the romance-starved Tesla bulls. Also known as a “shot of short-squeeze Viagra.”

When the market was plunging earlier in the year, the hedge fund bots shifted from insanely long to recklessly short.  Now they are being squeezed.

The Italian debt and Latin American currency crises have not only not gone away but they are getting worse.  As long as the reports don’t hit the headlines, the problems do not exist for moronic daytraders and hedge fund computer program news spiders.

Economically in the U.S. the bold propaganda-laced, heavily “adjusted” Government-manufactured economic reports continue to diverge from the economic and financial reality on Main Street.  Housing, auto and retail sales are deteriorating now as the majority of U.S. households have found themselves stuffed like a French goose readied for foie gras production.

Of course, the smart money is not hanging around for Part Two of what’s to come.  The “smart money index” shows that professional money is leaving the stock market at a rate that has only been equaled in the last 20 years in 2000 and 2008…

There’s no telling how much longer this insanity can persist this time around.  But it brings to mind Hemingway’s description of how to bankrupt as conveyed in “The Sun Also Rises” – “Two ways: gradually then suddenly.”

By the way.  Keep an eye on gold. The majority of the market looking to the sky for stocks and down over the cliff for gold, we could get a surprise move higher in precious metals and mining stocks.

U.S. Labor Market Reports: Someone Is Lying

The propaganda laced with bold lies is enveloping the media. The JOLTS report (Job Openings and Labor Turnover)  released today alleges that the number of job openings in April hit a record.   Of course, the April number was based on large revisions to previous data.  The number reported is also “seasonally adjusted” and predicated on statistical inferences.   In fact, 6.7 million allegedly vacant jobs is not only an all-time high but it also exceeds the number of “unemployed” in the Government’s monthly employment “report.”

How do we know both the reported job vacancies and unemployed are an outright fabrication?  Because wages would be soaring.  It’s simple supply/demand economics.  According to the Government, the demand for employees far exceeds the supply of workers.  But if this were case, the price of workers would be rising quickly.  It’s not.

Last Friday the Government reported Friday morning that the economy added 223,000 jobs, exceeding the Wall St. estimate of 190k. I go from general indifference to outright disgust with the payroll report. But Friday’s report was jaw-dropping horrification. Early Monday before the report hit the tape, Trump – who was briefed on the numbers Thursday evening – tweeted that he was “looking forward to seeing the employment numbers at 8:30 a.m.” I assumed the day before that the report would be rigged, but that confirmed it.

Here’s the problem with the 3.8% narrative: a “tight” labor market at theoretic “full employment is not confirmed by the “price of labor” – i.e. wages.

A 4% unemployment rate is considered “full employment.” The alleged unemployment rate has been running at 4% or lower for several months. But this story-line is not confirmed by wage growth. If the economy were at full employment accompanied by a “tight labor market,” wages should be soaring. Not only is wage growth dropping toward zero, it’s lower than the average wage growth shown in the chart going back to 1998.

The numbers and narrative as presented by the Government are simply not credible. The BLS statisticians removed another 170k from the labor force. The number of working age people not counted as part of the labor rose to 95.92 million – an all-time high. The labor force participation rate is 62.7%. Outside of Sept 2015-November 2015, this is the lowest level for the labor force participation rate since February 1978. Back then most families had one wage-earner per household.

Additionally, there are 102 total working age people who are either unemployed (6.1 million) or “not in labor force” (95.9 million). That’s 31.3% of the total U.S. population (Census Bureau: 2017 U.S. population 325.7 million). Of the 155 million people reported to be employed, 27 million are part-time. This means 39.2% of the total U.S. population works full-time, assuming that number is remotely accurate. Good luck to the Government keeping the Social Security Trust funded…

As for the most glaringly fraudulent aspect of the report, the BLS reports that “retail trade” was the 2nd largest producer of jobs in May. How is that heavenly possible? Retail sales are sagging and serial bankruptcies in brick/mortar retailing are dumping retail labor onto the market. There are other glaring inconsistencies with economic reality on Main Street. One number, however, that might be realistic: Health care/social assistance is credited with providing 31.7k new jobs. That is possible because the category is primarily Government jobs.

One last point. The birth/death model – which is reported before seasonal adjustments – is credited with throwing in 215,000 jobs into the total pool, which is then statistically “adjusted.” The BLS statistical sausage grinder spit out 223k jobs, of which the Birth/Death model contributed the majority on a non-adjusted basis. It’s just not a credible statistic. As we know, the Govt uses the birth/death “model” as a “plug” to create jobs that exist only on paper.

The chart above is the employment-population ratio. It shows the number of people “employed” as a ratio of the total working-age population. Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, the current employment-population ratio is the lowest going back to 1985. The ratio appears currently to be peaking. As it turns out, the four previous peaks in this ratio were followed by an economic/financial crisis and a severe stock market sell-off. My guess is that you will not see this graphic presented on CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg or any of the other mainstream financial media outlets.

Economic Collapse, Overvalued Stocks And The Stealth Bull Market In Gold

The narrative that the economy continues to improve is a myth, if not intentional mendacious propaganda. The economy can’t possibly improve with the average household living from paycheck to paycheck while trying to service hopeless levels of debt. In fact, the economy will continue to deteriorate from the perspective of every household below the top 1% in terms of income and wealth. The average price of gasoline has risen close to 50% over the last year (it cost me $48 to fill my tank today vs about $32 a year ago). For most households, the tax cut “windfall” will be largely absorbed by the increasing cost to fill the gas tank, which is going to continue rising. The highly promoted economic boost from the tax cuts will, instead, end up as a transfer payment to oil companies.

The rising cost of gasoline will offset, if not more than offset, the tax benefit for the average household from the Trump tax cut. But rising fuel costs will affect the cost structure of the entire economy. Furthermore, unless businesses can successfully pass-thru higher costs connected to high the er fuel costs, corporate earnings will take an unexpected hit. Rising energy costs will hit AMZN especially hard, as 25% of its cost structure is the cost of fulfillment (it’s probably higher because GAAP accounting enables AMZN to bury some of the cost in the inventory account, which then becomes part of “cost of sales”).

Gold is holding up well vs. the dollar. The dollar is at its highest since mid-November and the price of gold is trading 2% higher than it was at in November. Also, don’t overlook that the Fed began its snail-paced interest rate hike cycle at the end of 2015. Gold hit $1030 when the Fed began to tighten monetary policy. I thought gold was supposed to trade inversely with interest rates (note sarcasm). Gold is up nearly 30% since the Fed began nudging rates higher. Despite that it might currently “feel” like the price of gold is going nowhere, beneath the surface gold (and silver) have been staging a very powerful bull market pattern.

Kerry Lutz invited me onto his Financial Survival Network Podcast to discuss these issues and more. We have a good time catching up on a diverse number of topics – Click on the link below to listen or download:

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

WTF Just Happened? Elites Scramble to Disable the Italian Economic Landmine

Italy is financially disintegrating.  The banking world would not care except for one small detail:  If Italy defaults in its debt obligations, it will set off a daisy-chain of OTC derivative credit default swap defaults resembling a financial nuclear holocaust.  This chart of Deutsche Bank’s stock price reflects the growing risk of this event:

Deutsche Bank has been hitting all-time lows since its listing on the NYSE in October 2001. The systemic risk posed by a financial collapse of Deutsche Bank is enormous. Yet, it should be allowed to occur to prevent the continued transfer of U.S. and European taxpayer money to fund DB’s payroll and large bonuses. The schizophrenic volatility of the stock markets is further reflection of the underlying financial volcano in danger of erupting.

In the latest episode of WTF Just Happened, Eric Dubin and Dave Kranzler discuss ongoing financial collapse of Italy and the likely method employed by the Fed, ECB, and BIS to keep the banking system corpse on life support (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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Visit these links to learn more about the Investment Research Dynamic’s Mining Stock Journal and Short Seller’s Journal.  I recommended Almadex Minerals at 28 cents in April 2016 – it closed Friday at $1.13.  I recommended shorting Hovnanian at $2.88 in January  – it closed at $1.89 on Friday and has been as low as $1.70.

No Virginia: The Falling Housing Market Isn’t About Tight Inventory

The National Association of Realtors released its monthly  “Pending” home sale report for April this morning.  It fell 1.3% from March.  The Wall Street analytic “brain trust” was looking for a 0.4% gain.  The housing data is repetitively coming in well below Wall Street forecasts. This is emblematic of the unrealistic amount of “hope” built into the psychology of the American investor, who wants badly to believe anything he is told by “experts.”  A cynic might say it’s adverse denial of reality…

The NAR’s chief pimp, Larry Yun, once again is blaming the bad numbers on shortages of homes across the country.  This narrative is the pinnacle of mendacity.  Too be sure, in certain “hot” areas, there is a shortage of sub-$500k homes.  Blame the Government, which has made available Taxpayer-backed mortgages to anyone who can fog a mirror – see this article, for instance.  And blame the flippers, who are snapping up low-priced homes on the hope that they can turn it around and sell it to one of the fog-the-mirror buyers using a Government subsidized mortgage.

In truth, a recent survey showed that more than 50% of the inventory nationwide is in the high-priced (over $750k) price segment.  And prices are falling in most markets in this category, led by New York City (all five boroughs), which is starting to get decimated.

XHB is an ETF that tracks the S&P Homebuilders Select Industry Index. Lowes and Home Depot are the largest holdings. Pulte (PHM), NVR Inc (NVR) and DR Horton (DHI) are the next three largest holdings. Like the DJUSBH, it’s a mix of homebuilders and housing market-related stocks (building construction suppliers, etc).

Recently there’s been some extraordinarily large put positions purchased on XHB (XHB closed at $39.11 on Friday). For instance, on Monday and Tuesday last week, someone bought 2,200 and 2,500 June 15th $40-strike puts. There’s 4,551 June 15th $38-strike put open interest as well. These numbers substantially outnumber the open call options for the June 15th expiry. There’s 15,033 of open interest in the September $35’s, with 4,400 of those purchased this past Thursday. The largest September call open interest is 1,393 $42’s.

The point here is that some entities – probably a few hedge funds – are making a rather large bearish bet on the housing sector. It’s hard to know if the puts are being used to speculate or as a hedge. Either way, the sheer volume of puts purchased reflects heavy bearish sentiment toward the sector.

Peak flipping? I also strongly suspect that the NAR skews its data-sample toward the lower-price market segment. In other words, if it included a higher percentage of over $750k homes in its data-collection and sales calculation, the existing home sales number for April would have been lower. It’s the magic of statistics. I would also suggest that there was probably some sales “pulled forward” out of fear of rising interest rates. Typically there’s a surge in homebuying when interest rates begin to rise. Certainly the mortgage brokers are pitching the “buy now before rates go higher” story.

On a seasonal basis, home sales should be rising from March to April, even on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate basis. Furthermore, the prospect for May – assuming the NAR does not pull any statistical chicanery – is not good. How do I know? Because mortgage purchase applications have been down 5 weeks in a row. Four of the past five weeks, purchase apps were down 2% each week and one week was down 0.2%. This is why the XHB is down 15.6% since peaking in late January. Some of the homebuilders I’ve been recommending as shorts are down north of 20%. They still have a long way to drop.

My Short Seller Subscribers and I are raking in easy money shorting and buying puts on individual homebuilders. I discuss timing and options strategies. I also disclose my trades.  I also present data and analysis that you won’t find in the mainstream or alternative media.  You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

SSJ provides outstanding practical advice for translating a company’s bottom line fundamentals into $$’s. Whether you’re a buy and hold long term investor or short term trader (or both), you’ll find all kinds of helpful advice on portfolio management, asset allocation and short term/long term options strategies. Really can’t recommend SSJ enough! Thanks Dave for your great service!   – John

Getting Rich On Taxpayer-Backed Subprime Mortgages

A branch manager gets home loans for borrowers with weak credit or low incomes—and taxpayers back him up.Bloomberg.com

Bloomberg News featured a story today that I find to be an outrage. It seems that some punk kid in Houston – Angelo Christian – has recreated the Jordan Belfort story (“The Wolf Wall Street”) using subprime quality, Government-backed mortgage.

The Government now guarantees mortgages which require no money from the buyer’s pocket for a down payment, a 50% DTI (monthly total debt payments = 50% of pre-tax personal income), no income restrictions and will finance down to a 580 credit score. Someone with a 580 score has a track record of debt default, serial delinquency and, quite likely, a recent bankruptcy:

This would-be homeowner has a 596 credit score, putting him in the subprime range. His car has been repossessed, something that would likely disqualify him at the Bank of America branch next door.

“Usually a repo that’s like three years old, we’re not really going to sweat that,” he assures the caller. “We’re pretty lenient here.” He steers his prospect to several $400,000 homes with swimming pools. “Have your wife check that out,” he says, referring to a remodeled kitchen with granite countertops. “She’s going to love it.”

Christian works for American Financial Network, which underwrites, funds and services the entire spectrum of Taxpayer-guaranteed mortgage programs:  Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VHA and USDA (yes, the USDA guarantees “rural area” zero-percent down mortgages).  AFN receives fees up to 5% – or $15,000 – a on $300,000 mortgage.  This in and of itself is an outrage because it takes zero skill to underwrite a Government-backed mortgage.

“Zero-skill,” that is, unless fraud is involved.  I’m not accusing AFN of fraudulent activity, however, as we witnessed during the Big Short housing bubble, fraud was oozing from every crevice in the U.S. mortgage underwriting industry.   And subprime mortgages pumped and dumped by a character like Angelo Christian are usually the standard breeding ground for unscrupulous behavior.

Even Bloomberg expressed skepticism:  “This kind of lending echoes the subprime mortgage boom that preceded the credit crisis of 2008.”

In civil fraud complaints, the Department of Justice has accused many companies, including Quicken and Freedom Mortgage, of improperly underwriting FHA loans and then filing claims for government insurance after borrowers defaulted. In 2016, Freedom Mortgage settled for $113 million, without admitting liability.

Angelo Christian and American Financial Network use Taxpayer guarantees to underwrite mortgages with an elevated probability of default and yet, they bear zero risk.  They pocket a big fee-skim upfront and face no consequences when the 580 FICO score borrower declares bankruptcy – again.  Just for the record, after accounting for a 0-3% down payment plus all transactions costs – which approximate 10% of the cost of the home – these mortgages are upside-down vs. the value of the “net” value of the house at close.  Not a good business deal for the Taxpayers.  

FHA loans are now experiencing a 30-day or more delinquency rate with nearly 10% of its loans.  Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac combined wrote-down over $15 billion worth of loans in Q4 2017.  They required a $4 billion cash infusion from the Government (taxpayer) as a result of both accounting and cash losses.

This is going to get worse.   But until this collapses again – and it will – mortgage brokers like Angelo Christian are proliferating.  They employ a salesmanship resembling that of dirty boulevard used car salesmen (“we finance any credit / bankruptcy o.k.”) as a means of transferring a massive amount of money from the Taxpayer to their own pockets.

I would urge everyone to read this Bloomberg article so you can read about how Angelo uses taxpayer-funded fees to pay for his fancy sports cars in exchange for pushing subprime mortgages destined to blow-up onto people who have no hope of supporting the cost of home ownership on a sustainable basis.

 

Gold And Silver Are Extremely Undervalued

Patrick Vierra of Singapore Bullion invited me to discuss precious metals, the stock market and the fiat currency-fueled asset bubbles that will blow-up sooner or later.  I explain why investing in gold requires a long term perspective on investing and wealth preservation, why gold and mining stocks are extremely undervalued right now and why the world wants out of the U.S. dollar.

Singapore Bullion is Singapore-based bullion dealer and bullion storage facility with a wide-array of products and services – the podcast is ad-free:

01:37 Gold – A Long Term Perspective
08:14 Was 2015 the bottom for gold price?
13:14 Gold – One of the Best Performing Assets
14:45 Bullion vs Mining Stocks
17:10 Gold is very undervalued right now
19:20 The COMEX cycle that impacts the gold price
21:47 Silver will outperform gold
25:00 How overvalued are the stock markets
30:11 How every U.S pension funds will ‘blow up’
32:40 The ratio of paper to physical gold
35:01 Housing bubble rearing its head again
39:51 “Trump loves debt!”
41:09 Fed rate hike to prick the housing bubble?
45:25 The world wants out of the dollar

You can learn more about my research and stock idea newsletters here:

MINING STOCK JOURNAL                                     SHORT SELLER’S JOURNAL

The Mining Stock Journal is twice per month, every other Thursday evening. The Short Seller’s Journal is weekly, every Sunday evening. The last mining stock purchase recommendation (May 17th issue) is up 10.5% in the last five trading days. It’s going higher – a lot higher.  My Short Seller’s Journal subscribers have been raking in the profits in my homebuilder short ideas.