Category Archives: Housing Market

April Retail Sales Soiled The Bed Sheets

Perhaps the perma-bullish Wall Street analysts should contribute to retail sales by stocking up on Depends – like the Merrill Lynch analyst who forecast retail sales to climb 0.7% ex-autos. Retail sales, preliminarily, were said to have declined 0.2% from March.   The “core” retail sales group – retail sales not including autos and gasoline – were flat. Wall Street’s finest expected a consensus 0.4% gain.

I say “preliminarily” above because, if you scan the Census Bureau’s report you’ll note “asterisks” in several major line items.

This means that “advance” numbers were not available for those retail sales categories.  Thus, the CB guesstimates the number based on past numbers for that category.  It also means the Census Bureau can overestimate that category for headline purposes with the intent to revise lower in future reports.

Retail sales numbers are reported on a nominal basis.  If they were to be adjusted by a real rate of inflation, the month to month decline from April likely would have approached at least one half of one percent.

Funny thing about the guesstimate for new car dealer sales.  The OEM’s report actual deliveries to new dealers every month.  I would have to believe that new car dealers have highly automated sales tracking software. It would seem that the Census Bureau should be able to have a fairly accurate data sample and estimate for April new car dealer sales well before the middle of the following month. But using the (*) enables the Government to manipulate the number into a favorable outcome for the “advance” report.

We know that the average household – i.e the 80-90% of all households – are struggling under the weight of record monthly debt service requirements on a record amount of consumer debt. This plight is made worse by the fact that real wages are declining.  Not to judge Wall Street analysts harshly (said sarcastically), but it should be obvious that retail sales were going to show a decline in April.  Imagine how bad the actual number must be if the Government has to release a guesstimated report showing a nominal decline.

In my weekly Short Seller’s Journal, I present detailed analysis of weekly economic reports. In addition, I provide specific short ideas along with suggestions for using options to short stocks synthetically. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

Global Synchronized Depression: Buy Gold And Silver Not Copper

It’s not “different this time.” The steep, prolonged yield curve inversion reflects the onset of a deep global economic contraction which is now being confirmed by leading indicators such as semiconductor and auto sales.  At some point the Fed is going to be forced by the market to cut the Fed Funds rate, as the 1yr Treasury is now yielding less than the Fed  Funds target rate. In addition, the yield curve is inverted from 1yr out to 7yrs, with a steep inversion between the 1yr and 3yr Treasurys.  It won’t take much flinching from the Fed to ignite a rally in the metals.  In addition, the investor sentiment as measured by MarketVane is about as low as I’ve seen it in a long time (34% bullish for both gold and silver).

We are headed into a severe global recession with or w/out a trade agreement. To be sure, over the next 10-20 years, it’s likely the price of copper will move higher. But if my view plays out, a severe recession will cause a sharp drop in the demand for copper and other base metals relative to the demand over the last 10-15 years. This in turn will push out the current supply/demand forecasts for copper by several years and drive the price of copper lower.

Trevor Hall and I discuss the global economy, the intense western Central Bank gold price manipulation activity and the factors that will drive the price of real money – gold and silver – higher and commodities like copper lower in our latest Mining Stock Daily podcast – click here or on the graphic below:

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a miniumum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Actual Home Sales Are Tanking – Here’s Proof

The National Association of Realtors (NAR – existing home sales reports) and the Census Bureau (new home sales reports) report monthly sales on a “seasonally adjusted annualized rate” basis (SAAR). Notwithstanding the reliability – or lack thereof – of the “seasonal adjustments,” it would seem absurd to report monthly home sales on an annualized rate basis.

To the extent the NAR and Census Bureau’s data sausage-grinder is fed inaccurate data and thereby vomits a bad monthly “adjusted” number, annualizing that result magnifies the error. As it turns out, when sales are declining, the regression models used to “seasonally adjust” the data collected overstates actual sales (year over year monthly existing home sales have declined 13 months in a row).

A better measure of real homes sales is to look at actual numbers from companies in the business of pimping used homes or building and selling new homes. Realogy (RLGY) is the perfect laboratory rat for existing home sales. Realogy is the leading provider of real estate services in the U.S. under the brand names of Coldwell Banker, ERA, Sotheby’s, and a few others. Its shares plunged 15% on Thursday as losses from Q4 accelerated in Q1. Revenue declined 9% year-over-year vs a 6.2% in drop in Q4. The culprit was a 4% drop in transaction volume. The actual “same store sales” decline was likely larger because RLGY’s Q1 numbers are skewed by the acquisition and franchising of Corcoran, making the this quarter’s year/year comps irrelevant.

If any business reflects the true condition of the housing market, it’s RLGY. Existing home sales represent 90% of total home sales and RLGY is the largest real estate brokerage concern in the country. Yes, some select areas may still be showing “red embers” of activity. But most of the country is headed into what will ultimately be a severe housing recession. RLGY was down another 8.7% on Friday. It’s now down 33% since reporting its numbers last week.

RLGY may still be worth shorting here. It’s bleeding cash. It lost $135 million on an earnings before taxes basis (the income statement did not show operating income as line item). Its operations burned $103 million. The Company added an additional $100mm in debt, which now stands at $3.3 billion. The bond issue which it floated in Q4 had a coupon of 9.375% – a triple-C rated yield. Triple-c rated companies typically have a high probability of eventually going bankrupt. The tangible book value of the company – i.e. subtracting goodwill – is negative $1.6 billion. I wouldn’t touch RLGY’s bonds any more than I would touch TSLA’s or NFLX’s bonds. RLGY is on track to run out of cash by the end of September.

In the new home sales arena, Beazer (BZH) stock has plunged 18.4% since reporting its latest quarterly numbers on Friday. BZH’s closings were down over 10%, revenue down 4.6% and its gross margin plummeted (sales incentives to move inventory). Even adding back the write-down of California inventory, BZH’s net income was nearly cut in half and new orders were down close to 8% in the first 6 months vs 2018.

Note: it looks like homebuilders will begin the inventory write-down cycle again. It starts slowly and snowballs into an avalanche. So much for the “tight inventory” narrative that shoved down our gullet the NAR’s little con-artist, Larry Yun.

In my weekly Short Seller’s Journal, I present detailed analysis of the housing market, pulling back the curtain of lies used by industry pimps to hide the truth. In addition, I provide specific short ideas along with suggestions for using options to short stocks synthetically. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

Massive Asset Bubbles And Cheap Gold And Silver

Notwithstanding today’s absurdly phony and propagandistic employment report, it’s becoming more apparent by the week that the Fed and the U.S. Government are once again preparing to print more money. I don’t know when the Fed will revert to more QE but I would argue that the intense effort by the banks to use the Comex as a conduit to control the price of gold is a probable signal – just like in 2008 from March to October. Several FOMC officials have already hinted at the possibility of employing “radical” policy measures to keep the system from falling apart.

Silver Liberties invited on its podcast to discuss the extreme overvaluation of financial “assets” and the extreme undervaluation of real money – gold and silver – and the related derivative of real money – mining stocks.

The Historical Stock Bubble And Undervalued Gold And Silver

When the hedge fund algos inevitably turn the other way and unload stocks, a meaningful amount of the capital that leaves the stock market will likely rush into gold and silver.  The record hedge fund net short position on the Comex will add fuel to the move in gold/silver.

James Anderson of Silver Doctors/SD Bullion invited me to discuss the largest stock bubble in U.S. history and why gold is extremely undervalued relative to the U.S. dollar.  (Note:  at the 20:44 mark I reference China’s foreign reserves to be $1.2 trillion. This is the dollar amount of China’s reserves; China’s total foreign reserve is $3 trillion).

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a miniumum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Gold And Silver May Be Setting Up For A Big Move

Gold and silver are historically undervalued relative to the stock and bond markets. The junior mining stocks overall are at their most undervalued relative to the price of gold since 2001. Gold’s relative performance during the quarter, when the stock market had its best quarterly performance in many decades, is evidence of the underlying strength building in the precious metals sector.

Furthermore, the stock market is an accident waiting to happen. By several traditional financial metrics, the current stock market is at its most extreme valuation level in history. This will not end well for those who have not positioned their portfolio in advance of the economic and financial hurricane that is beginning to “move onshore.”

Bill Powers invited on to his Mining Stock Education podcast to discuss the precious metals sector and the economy:

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a miniumum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

The Divergence Between Stocks And Reality Is Insane

“They may try to run this poor thing straight up and over a cliff. Recall the 2000 top was in March but they briefly ran it back in Sep 00. Ditto in Oct 07. When warning signs are ignored, the endings are abrupt. Maintain safety nets, but don’t assume stupidity has limits.” – John Hussman

This is the nastiest bear market rally that I have seen in my over 34 years of experience as a  financial markets professional. It would be a mistake to make the assumption that there has  not been some official intervention to help the stock market recover from the December sell-off.

Rob Kientz of goldsilverpros.com – a relatively new website that focuses on gold and silver market news and research – and I had a conversation about the extreme negative divergence between the economy and the stock market. And, of course, we discussed gold, silver and mining stocks:

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If you are interested in ideas for taking advantage of the inevitable systemic reset that  will hit the U.S. financial and economic system, check out either of these newsletters:   Short Seller’s Journal  information and more about the Mining Stock Journal here:   Mining Stock Journal information.

Larry Kudlow Wants A 50 b.p. Cut In Fed Funds – Why?

The stock market has been rising relentlessly since Christmas, riding on a crest of increasingly bearish economic reports. Maybe the hedge fund algos are anticipating that the Fed will soon start cutting rates. Data indicates foreigners and retail investors are pulling cash from U.S. stocks. This for me implies that the market is being pushed higher by hedge fund computer algos reacting to any bullish words that appear in news headlines. For example, this week Trump and Kudlow have opportunistically dropped “optimistic” reports connected to trade war negotiations which trigger an instantaneous spike up in stock futures.

“U.S. economy continues to weaken more sharply and quickly than widely acknowledged” – John Williams, Shadowstats.com, Bulletin Endition #5

The real economy continues to deteriorate, both globally and in the U.S. At some point the stock market is going to “catch down” to this reality.

The graphic above shows Citigroup’s Economic Data Change index. It measures data releases relative to their 1-yr history. A positive reading means data releases have been stronger than their year average. A negative reading means data releases have been worse than their 1-yr average. The index has been negative since the spring of 2018 and is currently well south of -200, its worst level since 2009.

The Treasury yield curve inversion continued to steepen last week. It blows my mind that mainstream media and Wall Street analysts continue to advise that it’s different this time. I would advise heeding the message in this chart:

I’m not sure how any analyst who expects to be taken seriously can look at the graphic above and try to explain that an inverted yield curve this time around is irrelevant. As you can see, the last two times the Treasury curve inverted to an extreme degree, the stock bubbles began to collapse shortly thereafter.

The data in the chart above is two weeks old. The current inversion is now nearly as extreme as the previous two extreme inversions. This is not to suggest that the stock market will go off the cliff next week. There’s typically a time-lag between when the yield curve inverts and when the stock market reacts to the reality reflected in an inverted curve. Prior to the great financial crisis, the yield curve began to invert in the summer of 2006. However, before the tech bubble popped, the yield curve inversion coincided with the crash in the Nasdaq.

Another chart that I believe reflects some of the information conveyed by the inverted yield curve is this graphic from the Fed showing personal interest payments. Just like in 2000 and 2008, households once again have taken on an unmanageable level of debt service expense:

Obviously the chart above is highly correlated with stock market tops…

The Conference Board’s measure of consumer confidence dropped in March, with the Present Situation index plunging to an 11-month low. It was the biggest monthly drop in the Present Situation index since April 2008. What’s interesting about this drop in confidence is that, historically, there’s been an extraordinarily high correlation between the directional movement in the S&P 500 and consumer confidence. The move in the stock market over the last three months would have suggested that consumer confidence should be soaring.

The Cass Freight Index for February declined for the third straight month. Even the perma-bullish publishers of the Cass newsletter expressed that the index “is beginning to give us cause for concern.” The chart of the index has literally fallen off a cliff. Meanwhile, the cost of shipping continues to rise. So much for the “no inflation” narrative. The Cass Index is, in general, considered a useful economic indicator. Perhaps this is why Kudlow wants an immediate cut in the Fed Funds rate?

Recession Fears Fading? ROFLMAO

The news headlines explained the sudden jump in the S&P futures this morning by stating that “recession fears had faded.”  Just like that. Overnight.  I guess the fact that the housing starts report showed a 9% sequential drop in housing starts last month and and a year-over-year 10% plunge means that the housing market is no longer considered part of the economy.

That report was followed by a highly negative March consumer confidence report which included that largest drop in the “present situation” index since 2008.  What’s stunning about this report is that consumer confidence usually is highly correlated with the directional movement of the S&P 500. Obviously this would have suggested that consumer confidence should be soaring.

I explained to my Short Seller Journal subscribers that, once it became obvious the Fed would eventually have to start cutting rates and resuming QE, the stock market might sell-off. I think that’s what we saw on Friday. The “tell-tale” is the inversion in the Treasury yield curve. It’s now inverted out to 7 years when measured between the 1-yr and 7-yr rate. On Friday early the spread between the 3-month T-Bill and the 10-yr Treasury yield inverted. This has occurred on six occasions over the last 50 years. Each time an “officially declared” recession followed lasting an average of 311 days.

The yield curve inversion is a very powerful signal that economy is in far worse shape than any Fed or Government official is willing to admit. the Treasury yield curve “discounts” economic growth expectations. An upward sloping yield curve is the sign that the bond market expects healthy economic growth and potential price inflation. An inverted curve is just the opposite. If you hear or read any analysis that “it’s different this time,” please ignore it. It’s not different.

The inverted yield curve is broadcasting a recession. For many households, this country has been in a recession since 2008. That’s why debt levels have soared as easy access to credit has enabled 80% of American households to maintain their standard of living. The yield curve is telling us that credit availability will tighten considerably and the recession will hit the rest of us. This is what Friday’s stock market was about, notwithstanding the overtly obvious intervention to keep the S&P 500 above the 2800 level on Monday and today.

Without a doubt, through the “magic” of “seasonal adjustments” imposed on monthly data we might get some statistically generated economic reports which will be construed by the propagandists as showing “green shoots.” Run, run as far away as possible from this analysis. The average household has debt bulging from every orifice. In fact, the entire U.S. economic system is bursting at the seams from an 8-year debt binge. It’s not a question of “if” the economy will collapse, it’s more a matter of “when.”

The U.S. Economy Is In Big Trouble

“You’ve really seen the limits of monetary and fiscal policy in its ability to extend out a long boom period.” – Josh Friedman, Co-Chairman of Canyon Partners (a “deep value,” credit-driven hedge fund)

The Fed’s abrupt policy reversal says it all. No more rate hikes (yes, one is “scheduled” for 2020 but that’s fake news) and the balance sheet run-off is being “tapered” but will stop in September. Do not be surprised if it ends sooner. Listening to Powell explain the decision or reading the statement released is a waste of time. The truth is reflected in the deed. The motive is an attempt to prevent the onset economic and financial chaos. It’s really as simple as that. See Occam’s Razor if you need an explanation.

As the market began to sell-off in March, the Fed’s FOMC foot soldiers began to discuss further easing of monetary policy and hinted at the possibility, if necessary, of introducing “radical” monetary policies. This references Bernanke’s speech ahead of the roll-out QE1. Before QE1 was implemented, Bernanke said that it was meant to be a temporary solution to an extreme crisis. Eight-and-a-half years and $4.5 trillion later, the Fed is going to end its balance sheet reduction program after little more than a 10% reversal of QE and it’s hinting at re-starting QE. Make no mistake, the 60 Minutes propaganda hit-job was a thinly veiled effort to prop up the stock market and instill confidence in the Fed’s policies.

Economic data is showing further negative divergence from the rally in the stock market. The Census Bureau finally released January new home sales, which showed a 6.9% drop from December. Remember, the data behind the report is seasonally adjusted and converted to an annualized rate. This theoretically removes the seasonal effects of lower home sales in December and January. The Census Bureau (questionably) revised December’s sales up to 652k SAAR from 621k SAAR. But January’s SAAR was still 2.3% below the original number reported. New home sales are tanking despite the fact that median sales price was 3.7% below January 2018 and inventory soared 18%.

LGI Homes reported that in January it deliveries declined year-over-year (and sequentially) and Toll Brothers reported a shocking 24% in new orders. None of the homebuilders are willing to give forward guidance.  LGI’s average sale price is well below $200k, so “affordability” and “supply” are not the problem (it’s the economy, stupid).

The upward revision to December’s new home sales report is questionable because it does not fit the mortgage purchase application data as reported in December. New homes sales are recorded when a contract is signed. 90% of all new construction homes are purchased with a mortgage. If purchase applications are dropping, it is 99% certain that new home sales are dropping. With the November number revised down 599k, and mortgage purchase applications falling almost every week in December, it’s 99% likely that new home sales at best were flat from November to December. In other words, the original Census Bureau guesstimate was probably closer to the truth.

The chart to the right shows the year-over-year change in the number of new homes (yr/yr change in the number of units as estimated by the Census Bureau) sold for each month. I added the downward sloping trend channel to help illustrate the general decline in new home sales. As you can see, the trend began declining in early 2015.

Recall that it was in January 2015 that Fannie Mae and Feddie Mac began reducing the qualification requirements for Government-backed “conforming” mortgages, starting with reducing the down payment requirement from 5% to 3%. For the next three years, the Government continued to lower this bar to expand the pool of potential homebuyers and reduce the monthly payment burden. This was on top of the Fed artificially taking interest rates down to all-time lows. In other words, the powers that be connected to the housing market and the policy-makers at the Fed and the Government knew that the housing market was growing weak and have gone to great lengths in an attempt to defer a housing market disaster. Short of making 0% down payments a standard feature of Government-guaranteed mortgage programs, I’m not sure what else can be done help put homebuyers into homes they can’t afford.

I do expect, at the very least, that we might see a “statistical” bounce in the numbers to show up over the couple of existing and new home sale reports (starting with February’s numbers). Both the NAR and the Government will likely “stretch” seasonal adjustments imposed on the data to squeeze out reports which show gains plus it looks like purchase mortgage applications may have bounced a bit in February and March, though the data was “choppy” (i.e. positive one week and negative the next).

E-commerce sales for Q4 reported last week showed a 2% annualized growth rate, down from 2.6% in Q3. Q3 was revised lower from the 3.1% originally reported. This partially explains why South Korea’s exports were down 19.1% last month, German industrial production was down 3.3%, China auto sales tanked 15% and Japan’s tool orders plummeted 29.3%. The global economy is at its weakest since the financial crisis.

It would be a mistake to believe that the U.S. is not contributing to this. The Empire State manufacturing survey index fell to 3.7 in March from 8.8 in February. Wall Street’s finest were looking for an index reading of 10. New orders are their weakest since May 2017. Like the Philly Fed survey index, this index has been in general downtrend since mid-2017. The downward slope of the trendline steepened starting around June 2018. Industrial production for February was said to have nudged up 0.1% from January. But this was attributable to a weather-related boost for utilities. The manufacturing index fell 0.4%. Wall Street was thinking both indices would rise 0.4%. Oops.

The economy is over-leveraged with debt at every level to an extreme and the Fed knows it. Economic activity is beginning  to head off of a cliff. The Fed knows that too. The Fed has access to much more in-depth, thorough and accurate data than is made available to the public. While it’s not obvious from its public posture, the Fed knows the system is in trouble. The Fed’s abrupt policy reversal is an act of admission. I would say the odds that the Fed starts printing money again before the end of 2019 is better than 50/50 now. The “smartest” money is moving quickly into cash. Corporate insiders are unloading shares at a record pace. It’s better to look stupid now than to be one a bagholder later.