Category Archives: Housing Market

Existing Home Sales Tank This Summer: Fact vs Fiction

Existing home sales declined nearly 2% in June from May on a SAAR basis (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate).   (SAAR is the statistically manipulated metric used by industry organizations and the Government to spin bad monthly economic data into an annualized metric that hides the ugly truth).

Here is the NAR-spun fiction:  “Closings were down in most of the country last month because interested buyers are being tripped up by supply that remains stuck at a meager level and price growth that’s straining their budget…” – Larry Yun chief “economist” for the National Association of Homebuilders.

This has been Yun’s narrative since home sales volume began to decline last year.  His headline mantra of low inventory is mindlessly regurgitated by Wall Street and the financial media. But here’s what the truth looks like (click to enlarge):

Going back to 1999, this data sourced from the Fed, who sourced it from the NAR, shows an inverse correlation between inventory and sales. In other words, low inventory drives sales higher.  Conversely, as inventory rises, sales drops.  You’ll note that the chart does not go past 2015.  This  is because, for some reason, the Fed purged its database of existing home inventory prior to June 2016.  There’s a gap in inventory between mid-2015 and mid-2016.  However, there is this (click to enlarge):

I hate to call Larry Yun a “liar” because it sounds unprofessional. But what else am I supposed to call him when the data completely contradicts the narrative he shovels from his propaganda port-o-let into the public domain? I have no choice.

AS you can see, from 1999 to mid-2015 and from mid-2016 to present, inventory and sales are inversely correlated.

This has been the worst selling season for the housing market’s peak sales months since 2011.  In 2011 the Fed was dumping trillions into the housing market and mortgage finance system.   To make this morning’s report worse, mortgage rates have been declining at a steep rate since the end of December.  Near-record low rates, combined with near-zero percent down payment Government-guaranteed mortgages combined with the lowest credit-approval standards since 2007 combined with the peak selling months should have catapulted home sales much higher this year.

Here’s the problem:  the factors listed above have tapped out the available pool of homebuyers who qualify for a near-zero downpayment, low-credit rating Government-backed mortgage:

The graphic above shows the average household mortgage payment as a percentage of disposable personal income (after-tax income). The graphic above is for those households with 20% down payment mortgages. As you can see, that ratio is at an all-time high. It’s far worse for households with 3% down payment mortgages.  Either the Government will have to roll-out a program that directly subsidizes the households who still want to over-pay for a home but can’t afford the mortgage payment let alone the cost of home ownership – i.e. helicopter money – or the housing the market is getting ready to head south.  This won’t end well either way.

As for the inventory narrative.  New homebuilders are bulging with inventory.  How do I know? Because I look at the actual balance sheet numbers of most of the publicly traded homebuilders every quarter.  Newly built homes sitting in various stages of completion or sitting complete but completely empty often are not listed in the MLS system.  There’s a rather large “shadow inventory” of new homes gathering dust.  This fact is reflected in the fact that the rate of housing starts has been declining for most of the past 8 months.   There’s plenty of new home inventory and homebuilders are open to price negotiation. This is evident from the declining gross margins at almost every homebuilder.

This is the type of analysis that is presented in the Short Seller’s Journal.  I research and dig up data and present facts that will never be reported by Wall Street, industry associations and the financial media.  This is why my subscribers were short Beazer (BZH) at $14.99 on May 21st.  It’s currently at $13.39 but has been as low as $12.  It’s headed much lower.  Despite the Dow et al hitting new highs, there’s a large universe of stocks that are plumbing 52-week and all-time lows.  You can find out details about the SSJ here: Short Seller’s Journal information.   In the latest issue I present an in-depth analysis of Netflix’s accounting and show why it’s a Ponzi scheme.

Bonds Are Currencies – A Derivative Of Currencies

I saw a thought-provoking retweet on Mark Yusko’s twitter feed and I wanted to clarify the idea conveyed:  “When bonds yields nothing, they aren’t much different than currencies.”

This comment is somewhat misleading because bonds are indeed a derivative of currencies. It’s basic financial economics that Mark Yusko learned in the same Robert Leftwich finance course at U of Chicago that I took.

The tweet references sovereign-issued bonds. Sovereign bonds are simply a sovereign’s currency issued to investors who are willing to bear the “time value” risk connected to the sovereign, where “time value risk” is the sum of “credit risk” – the risk of getting repaid – and “opportunity cost” – the foregone cost of spending that capital now or investing it in an alternative asset that might yield more.

Together, in a free market, those two costs equal the interest rate of a sovereign bond. From there, all bonds that are priced off the sovereign bond curve are 2nd order derivatives of a sovereign currency. In that sense all bonds are a derivative of currencies.

Quantitative easing – when a Central Bank prints money and uses that money to buy sovereign bonds for the purpose of controlling interest rates – removes the market’s ability to price “time value risk.” Western sovereign bonds have been driven down to zero – below zero on a real interest rate basis. Western sovereign bonds arethereby simply interchangeable with a country’s currency. There’s almost no difference between holding cash or holding a 30-day T-bill , or even a 2-yr Note, other than the inconvenience and transaction cost of buying and selling the bond.

The point of this is to reflect on the fact that bonds are indeed currencies – currencies with the added feature of time value risk. An investor buying the bond is willing to exchange current spending/consumption in order to lend money to the sovereign issuer.  The interest rate is the amount paid to bear the time value risk. The interest earned is paid in more of the sovereign currency.

QE has destroyed the market’s natural function of pricing time value risk into the capital markets which in turn has reduced most bond investments to the equivalent of holding currency in the pocket sans the benefit of compensation for bearing time value risk. This has in turn forced a flood of money of Biblical proportions into the the non-currency assets that are moving higher at the greatest velocity – primarily stocks. Right now primarily tech stocks.

Eventually the QE intervention will fail – it always fails and history has confirmed this fact ad nauseum. When that failure occurs, and I believe that point of failure is closer than most are willing to accept, there will be an asset crash of Biblical proportions.

Is more difficult to see the truth or accept the truth?…

This Feels Like the Action in 2008 Right Before the Collapse

Doc asked me last minute to fill-in for Eric Dubin, who’s M.I.A. somewhere on the shoreline of southern France, on Silver Doctor’s Metals and Markets weekly podcast. Among other topics we discussed why the current trading action in the precious metals paper market feels very similar to trading in the spring/summer of 2008 – ahead of the great financial collapse crisis and why the Fed/bullion banks are making it obvious that they seek  to scare investors away from buying precious metals with their “shock and awe” price-takedowns.

But one big difference between now and 2008 is that these “zip-line” vertical drops in the paper are being met with aggressive buying from the eastern hemisphere physical buyers, thereby limiting the size, intensity and duration of the price-hits.

As of the latest COT report release Friday which details the constituent trader positions through last Tuesday, the trader positions are moving toward a highly bullish set-up for gold and silver. In silver, the hedge funds are now net short silver futures and the swap-dealer segment of the bullion bank positioning is net long. In gold, the hedge funds have aggressively reduced their net long position and the swap dealers are long to a relatively large degree. Historically, this position shift has preceded major bottoms.

In the latest Mining Stock Journal, I present a silver producer who’s stock that was ruthlessly taken recently. I review the details in-depth, including my conversation with the CEO, and discuss why this is an opportunity to buy into a major producing company at irrationally low price level based on the facts of the situation. I also lay-out the call options I put into the fund I manage in large quantities to bet that my assessment has good probability of being correct. You can find out more about subscribing here:   Mining Stock Journal info.

After subscribing to Brent Cook for 3 months, I was underwhelmed.  Resubscribed to you a few weeks back and sure am glad I did so. You are one the few straight shooters still out there. Keep up the great work. I think we are right on the cusp of a serious market break, thus the war drums.  – subscriber “Chris

The First Horse Out Of A Burning Barn Gets Scorched The Least

From a Short Seller’s Journal Subscriber:   I just read the piece on Denver homes and the idea of taking a lower price.   $100,000 less jumped out.   We are selling our overpriced turkey in the clouds in a posh area of Nevada where stupid money goes to die.

Our contract price is $115,000 less than an appraisal done 4 months ago. All the realtors think that prices in the hills will continue upwards. I know better and locales like this are primed for a very ugly drop. That’s our reason for taking $115,000 less than appraisal value

The first horse out of a burning barn gets scortched the least .  Thank you for that tip Worth the price of the newsletter times 10 or 20…

[Note:   He’s referencing the July 9th issue of Short Seller’s Journal, in which discussed the high-end housing areas in Denver with respect to nothing moving but that a $100k price drop by the first seller will move that house and then re-price the entire market.  Homes are like junk bonds – they go from being “illiquid” on the offered side to being “illiquid” on the bid side until someone initiates “step-function” pricing to force the first real trade and define where the bid side cares]

FYI:  $CMG closed at $395 today.  I recommended shorting it in the May 2nd issue at $475. That’s a 17.8% unannualized ROR  in about 10 weeks.  The subscribers who bought puts did even better…

Illinois On The Brink? The Whole Country Is On The Brink

The biggest problem facing Illinois is the public pension fund problem.  I don’t care what the “official” number is for the degree to which it is underfunded.  I can guarantee that even without marking-to-real-market the illiquid investments like private equity funds, derivatives, commercial real estate trusts and other assets that do not have truly visible markets, collectively the public pension system in Illinois is at least 60-70% underfunded.   Then apply a realistic assumed actuarial rate of return on assets, which would be lower than the current assumption (likely 7.5% ad infinitum) and the underfunding goes to 80%. The problem is unsolvable without a complete and drastic restructuring.

I was in a Lyft ride today and the driver happened to be from the northwest suburban area of Chicago.  There’s a lot bad things happening in that State that are not reported in the mainstream media.  All road public road work has been halted except toll roads.  The gun violence has worked its way from the South Side up through downtown into the Gold Coast neighborhood and is winding its way north.

He said that his old house at peak prices in northwest burbs was worth over $500k.   The current resident has it offered for $250k.   Housing and real estate prices are plunging.   He has a good friend who consults with Sears and the expectation is that SHLD could file bankruptcy any day (Short Seller Journal subscribers were shown this idea on April 2, 2017 at $11.49 – it’s been as low as $6.20 since then).

It’s not just Illinois.  The entire system is crumbling beneath the surface.  As long as the mainstream media isn’t reporting the truth, the “truth” can’t be that bad, can it?  The truth is worse than any of us can possibly know.

There’s a 1%/99% in this country that’s different than the assumed meaning for that term. For 99% of the population, economic reality and systemic truth has been covered up and kicked down the road for so long that this segment of the populace is willing to believe there may well be a such thing as a “free lunch.”  To 99%’ers, it’s inconceivable that the grim-reaper could or ever would show up to collect.  Of the 1%, a small percentage not part of the insider elite can see most of the truth and can imagine that the whole truth is far worse than what can be perceived from publicly available information.  The balance of the 1% are the insiders.

I stated in 2003, after watching the tech bubble collapse and the housing bubble inflate, that the inside elitists were going to keep the system propped up with printed money and easy credit until they had swept every last crumb of middle class wealth off the table and into their own pockets.  I also said that nation’s retirement assets would be last crumbs remaining.  Enabling pension underfunding is another form of debt used to confiscate wealth.  That’s why the catastrophic underfunding of pensions was allowed to persist.

For purposes of my analysis, anyone who does not have enough money in the form of cash in hand to buy a Federal politician or buy the direct phone number to the Oval Office is “middle class.”  There’s plenty of douche-bags running around with assets worth 8-figures but they don’t have enough spare change to buy their way in to the elitists’ card game.

We are at the point where the last crumbs are being swept off the table.  It looks like Illinois will be the first to fall but there will be several others that follow.  Part of the motivation by the Fed/Government to hold up the stock market like it has been doing is to keep the big State pension funds propped up for proper looting – like a prize-fighter being held up under the shoulders after passing out in order to deliver more punches to the face.

I suspect the time at which the system will be allowed to collapse is not too far off.  The only question for me is whether or not the “Mad Max” scenario engulfs the country before the outbreak of World War 3…

Why Was Gold Slammed And The Dow/SPX Pushed Higher?

Something ugly could be hitting the financial/economic system soon. To blatantly hit gold like this when no one is around is a sign of desperation. The FANGS had an brutal reversal today despite the squeeze higher in the broad indices. TSLA soared early on Elon Musk’s shameless puffery – which often borders on outright fraud – and reversed to the downside, while the SPX and Dow were being pushed higher by the Plunge Protection Team.  Both indices closed well of their higher.  Auto sales for June were once again well below expectations.  GM’s inventory soared despite a stated goal to reduce it inventory from over 110 days to 70.  A lot of workers will lose their jobs.  Household debt – mortgage, auto, credit card – will go unpaid…

The Trump Presidency is floating on the fumes of questionable sanity as an impeachment Bill is being sponsored in the House by 25 Reps. The case to be made that Trump is not mentally competent enough to have his index finger on the red button that launches nukes at Russia grows stronger by the day.

Doc and Eric Dubin invited me on to their weekly Money and Markets weekly market recap/analysis to discuss – today notwithstanding – very interesting trading action in the gold/silver paper “markets” in the west and the physical, real markets in the eastern hemisphere:

CLICK ON EITHER BANNER BELOW TO LEARN MORE ABOUT EACH

New Home Sale Reporting Borders On Fake News

Headline monthly reporting of New Home Sales remained of no substance, short term, as seen most frequently here with massive, unstable and continuously shifting revisions to recent history, along with statistically – insignificant monthly and annual changes that just as easily could be a gain or a loss.  – John Williams, Shadow Government Statistics

If anyone has the credibility and knowledge to excoriate the Government’s new home sales reporting, it’s John Williams.  The Census Bureau’s data collection has been marred historically with scandals and severe unreliability.  The reporting for new home sales is a great example.

New home sales represent about 10% of total home sales – i.e. the National Association of Realtors has about 9-times more homes for which to account than the Government.  And yet, the monthly reporting of new home sales has considerably more variability and less statistical reliability.  It is subject to  much greater revisions than existing home sales. How is this even possible considering the task of tabulating new homes sold is far easier than counting existing home sales?

Today’s report is a perfect example.  The Census Bureau reports that new home sales increased 2.9% over April. Yet, at the 90% level of confidence, new home sales might have been anywhere from down 10% to up 15%.   Care to place a wager on real number considering that spread?   April’s number was revised upward by 24k, on a SAAR basis.

Speaking of the SAAR calculation, it’s amusing to look at what that can do to the number. The seasonally adjusted annualized rate number takes a statistical sample, which in and of itself is highly unreliable, and puts it through the Government’s X-13ARIMA-SEATS statistical sausage grinder.  Then it takes the output and converts it into an annualized rate metric. Each step of the way errors in the data collection sample are multiplied.

I’ve never understood why the housing industry doesn’t just work on creating reliable monthly data samples that can be used to estimate sales for a given month and then simply compare the sales to the same month the previous year. There is no need to manufacture seasonal adjustments because the year over year monthly comparison is cleansed of any possibly unique seasonality for a specific month.  Go figure…

To make matters worse, new home sales are based on contracts signed.  Often a down payment, and almost always financing, are not yet in place.  The contract cancellation percentage rate for new homes typically runs in the mid-to-high teens. By the way the Census Bureau does not incorporate cancellations into its data or its historical revisions.

To demonstrate how the seasonal adjustments magically transform monthly data into many more thousands of annualized rate sales, consider this:  the not seasonally adjusted number – which is presented at the bottom of the CB’s report and never discussed by the media or Wall Street, is 58,000.  In increase of one thousand homes over April’s not adjusted number.  And yet, the reported headline fake news number – the SAAR for May – wants us to believe that 610k homes were sold on an annualized rate basis, an increase of 17k SAAR over April.  It’s nothing short of idiotic, especially considering that the reported average sales price was 10% higher in May vs. April.  You can peruse the report here:  May New Home “Sales.”

One last point, if today’s reported number is even remotely correct, how come homebuilders have been cutting back on housing starts for the last 3 months?  The last time starts declined three consecutive months was late 2008.  In short, the new home sales report for May is, in all probability, borderline fake news.  At the very least, it’s yet another form of Government propaganda aimed at creating the illusion that the economy is stronger than reality.

The next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal – published Sunday evening – will focus on the housing market, which is getting ready to head south – possibly at a shocking rate.  Unfortunately, lenders, homebuyers, and the Government failed to learn from the previous housing bubble and now all the attributes of the previous housing bubble top are emerging. I will be reviewing the market in-depth and presenting some ideas to take advantage of historically overvalued homebuilder stocks.

The stock I featured in early April is down 13.2% through today despite a 6.5% rise in the Dow Jones Home Construction index during the same time-period. This particular company will eventually choke to death on debt.  The Short Seller’s Journal is a unique subscription and you can learn more about the Short Seller’s Journal here:  LINK

The Housing Market Bubble Is Popping

As with all other highly manipulated data, the financial media has a blind bias toward the “bullish” story attached to the housing market. Understandable, as the National Association of Realtors spends more on special interest interest lobbying in Congress than any other financial sector lobby interest, including Wall Street banks.

New home sales were down last month, according to the Census Bureau, 11.3% and missed Wall Street’s soothsayer estimates by a rural mile. Strange, that report, given that new homebuilder sentiment is bubbling along a record highs. Existing home sales were down 2.3%. You’ll note that the numbers reported by the Census Bureau and NAR are “SAAR” – seasonally adjusted annualized rates. There is considerable room for data manipulation and regression model bias when a monthly data sample is “seasonally adjusted/manipulated” and then annualized.  You’ll also note that mortgage rates have dropped considerably from their December highs and May is one of the seasonally strongest months for home sales.

It’s becoming pretty clear to me that the housing market’s “Roman candle” has lost its upward thrust and is poised to fall back to earth. I believe it could happen shockingly fast. Fannie Mae released its home purchase sentiment index, which FNM says is the most detailed of its kind.

The report contained some “eyebrow-raising” results. The percentage of Americans who say it’s a good time buy a home net of those who say it’s a bad time to buy a home fell 8 percent to 27% – a record low for this survey. At the same time the percentage of those who say its a good time sell net of those who say its a bad to sell rose to 32% – also a new survey high. In other words, homeowners on average are better sellers than buyers of homes relative to anytime since Fannie Mae has been compiling these statistics (June 2010).

Currently the prevailing propaganda promoted by the National Association of Realtors’ chief “economist” is that home sales are sagging because of “low inventory.” He’s been all over this fairytale like a dog in heat. The problem for him is that the narrative does not fit the actual data – data compiled by the National Association of Realtors – thereby rendering it “fake news:”

The graph above shows home inventory plotted against existing home sales from 1999 to 2015 (note:  when I tried to update the graph to include current data, I discovered that the Fed had removed all existing home sales data prior to 2013).   As you can see, up until Larry Yun decided to make stuff up about the factors which drive home sales, there is an inverse correlation between inventory and the level of home sales (i.e. low inventory = rising sales and vice versa).   I’m not making this up, it’s displayed right there in the data that used to be accessible at the St Louis Fed website.

Furthermore, if you “follow the money” in terms of new homebuilder new housing starts, you’ll discover that housing starts have dropped three months in a row. The last time this occurred was in June 2008.   IF low inventory is the cause of sagging home sales – as Larry Yun would like you to believe – then how come new homebuilders are starting less homes? If there’s a true shortage of homes, homebuilders should be starting  as many new units as they can as rapidly  as possible.

Although the Dow Jones Home Construction Index is near a 52-week high – it’s still 40% below it’s all-time high hit in 2005.  Undoubtedly it’s being dragged reluctantly higher by the S&P 500, Dow, Nasdaq and Tesla.   Despite this, I presented a homebuilder short idea to subscribers of the Short Seller’s Journal that is down 13.6% since  I presented it May 19th.  It’s been down as much as 24.2% in that time period.   It is headed to $7 or lower, likely before Christmas.  I also  presented another not well followed idea that could easily get cut in half by the end of the year.

The next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal will focus on the housing market.  I’ll discuss housing market data that tends to get covered up by Wall Street and the media. I have been collecting some compelling data to support the argument that the housing market is rolling over…you can find out more about subscribing here:  Short Seller’s Journal info.

In the latest issue released yesterday, I also reviewed Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods:

I just read it and the analysis on Amazon is awesome. This has the potential to be the short of year when the hype wanes and reality sets in – subscriber, Andreas

Has The Fed Actually Raised Rates This Year?

The answer is debatable but it depends on, exactly, to which rates you are referring.  The Fed has “raised,” more like “nudged,” the Fed Funds target rate about 50 basis points (one-half of one percent) this year.  That is, the Fed’s “target rate” for the Fed Funds rate was raised slightly at the end of two of the four FOMC meetings this year from 50 to 75 basis points up to 1 – 1.25%.  Wow.

But this is just one out of many interest rate benchmarks in the financial system.  The 10-yr Treasury yield – which is a key funding benchmark for a wide range of credit instruments including mortgages, municipal and corporate bonds, has declined 30 basis points this year.  Thus, for certain borrowers, the Fed has effectively lowered the cost of borrowing (I’m ignoring the “credit spread” effect, which is issuer-specific).

Moreover, the spread between the 1-month Treasury Bill and the 10-yr Treasury has declined this year from 193 basis points to 125 basis points – a 68 basis point drop in the cost funding for borrowers who have access to the highly “engineered” derivative products that enable these borrowers to take advantage the shape of the yield curve in order to lower their cost of borrowing:

In the graph above, the top blue line is the yield on the 10-yr Treasury bond and the bottom line is the rate on the 1-month T-bill.  As you can see the spread between the two has narrowed considerably.

Thus, I would place the news reports that the Fed has “raised in rates” in the category of “Propaganda,” if not outright “Fake News.”

One has to wonder if the Fed’s motives in orchestrating that graph above are intentional. On the one hand it can make the superficial claim that it is raising rates for all the reasons stated in the vomit that is mistaken for words coming from Janet Yellen’s mouth;  but on the other hand, effectively, the Fed has managed to lower interest rates for a widespread cohort of longer term borrowers.

Furthermore, this illusion of “tighter” monetary policy serves the purpose of supporting the idea of a strong dollar and enabling a highly orchestrated – albeit temporary – manipulated hit on the gold price using paper gold derivatives.

To borrow a term from Jim Sinclair, the idea that the Fed has “raised rates” is nothing more than propaganda for the primary purpose of “MOPE” – Management Of Perception Economics.  On that count, I give the Fed an A+.