Category Archives: Housing Market

WTF Just Happened? Stock Market Ignores Escalating Trade War & Spent US Consumer

Every month Government, corporate and household debt hits a new all-time high. The entire financial system is heading down an unsustainable path of debt issuance. The delinquency rate for auto and credit card debt is already at levels last seen in late 2008. The only reason the banks are not on the ropes – yet – is because they are still sitting on most of the liquidity the Fed injected into the banking system from 2009 to 2015.

This “slush fund for a rainy day” has been declining. As this money flows into the economic system, it’s starting to ignite inflation. Even the monthly Government-generated CPI and PPI reports, which are highly manipulated to minimize the true inflation rate, are starting to show rising inflation. Of course, with wage growth stagnant, the average household disposable income level is dwindling rapidly, which is why the personal savings rate is at a historically low level and revolving credit use is at an all-time.

Consumer sentiment has been trending lower off a recent peak. While the media puppets explain that trade war headlines are weighting consumers expectation, in truth consumer sentiment is falling because the average household is suffocating from the crushing weight of debt and a diminished ability to service that debt because real disposable income is declining. In most areas, home prices are falling. In fact, the home buying sentiment component of the U of Michigan sentiment survey is at its lowest level since 2008.

In this episode of WTF Just Happened?, we discuss these issues plus whether or not gold is forming a tradable bottom here (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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I recommended Arizona Mining in May 2016 at  $1.26 to my Mining Stock Journal subscribers.  It was acquired for $1.3 billion, or $4.65/share.  My subscribers and I are making a small fortune shorting homebuilders plus this week’s issue features an idea that is the ultimate contrarian play.

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

The Real Data Show The Real Economy Hit A Wall

The economy is melting down – the only support for the Propaganda Narrative of a “booming economy” is a rising stock market. Without a doubt Trump has ordered the Working Group on Financial Markets – AKA “the Plunge Protection Team” – to push stocks higher for now so insiders can unload.

The huge jump in credit card debt reported yesterday by the Fed was received as “good news” for consumer spending. However, this is typical  technical color vomit served up through the mainstream financial media by Establishment “economists” and Wall Street. The likely explanation is that the average consumer is now forced to use revolving credit in order to maintain the current lifestyle.  This assertion is reinforced by the fact that the latest data from Transunion show that personal loans hit a record high in Q1 2018.

The homebuilder sector is in trouble. A Colorado-based credit union is now offering 0-percent down payment mortgages. Credit Union of Colorado will underwrite the 3% down payment FNM/FRE mortgage product and it will cover the remaining 3% of a home’s cost by giving the “buyer” an interest-free loan that is repayable at a future date or through a refinancing. The bank is charging 0.375% more for the mortgage than the rate for a 3% down payment conforming mortgage. The bank is betting the value of these homes will rise enough to cover the 3% down payment loan through a refinancing.  This is a de facto zero-down payment mortgage sponsored by the Government. 

I am certain that this product reflects the fact that banks are getting desperate for mortgage fees because the pool of borrowers who can qualify for FNM/FRE/FHA loans has dried up. The economy hit a wall in the last month or two and it’s going to crush the housing market. By the end of the summer it will be impossible for the NAR and the media puppets to blame low sales on low inventory.

In fact, recent reports from around the country show that home listings are soaring. This includes Seattle, where King County reported a 43% jump in single-family home listings in June, and Orange County (SoCal), which saw a 218% jump in home listings YTD. A 10% drop in contracts in Orange Country was also reported (The Orange County Register). In Denver, new rate of new listings exceeds contract signings now by a considerable amount.

The June employment report continues to show a “tight labor market.” This is utter nonsense given that over 95 million working age people are no longer consider part of the “labor force” using the methodology devised to compute unemployment by the Government. Again, “however…”

…the “tight labor market” narrative is not confirmed by help-wanted advertising. Help-wanted advertising is considered an accurate indicator of broad economy. The Conference Board has been tracking help-wanted advertising going back to 1919.  Formal tracking of help-wanted advertising shifted from tracking ads in printed media to tracking help-wanted ads online in 2005.

The Conference Board’s Help-Wanted Online Advertising for June declined 3.7% from May. May was down 2.1% from April. April was down 1.4%. The May and April declines were revised lower in the latest report from the original reports. New ads were down 4.6% in June from June 2017. The total number of ads were down 5.7% year-over-year for June.

The fact that help-wanted ads as tracked by the Conference Board are declining sharply month-to-month and year-over-year reinforces my view (and I’m not alone in this view) that the real economy – as opposed to the “fake news” economy reported in the mainstream media – is contracting.

A portion of the above commentary is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. My subscribers and I are making easy money shorting the home construction sector as well as other select stocks. This includes specific ideas for using put options plus market timing. You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal information

The Housing Market: A Bigger Bubble Than 2008 Is Popping

The XHB homebuilder ETF is decisively below three key moving averages after it knifed below its 50 dma last week.  KB Homes reported a big earnings and revenue “beat” on Thursday after the market closed.  The stock soared as much as 9% on Friday.  Per the advice I gave my subscribers about shorting the inevitable price-spike in the stock,  I shorted the stock Friday mid-day (July and August at-the-money puts).  The stock is down 6% from its high Friday and is back below all of its key moving averages (21, 50, 200).

Several subscribers have emailed me today to report big gains on put options purchased Friday.   When a stock sells off like this after “beating” Wall St estimates and raising guidance, it’s a very bearish signal.  I’ve identified the best homebuilders to short and I provide guidance on timing and the use of put options.

Housing is dropping and it’s demand-driven, not supply-driven – All three housing market reports released two weeks ago showed industry deterioration. The homebuilder “sentiment” index for May, now known as the “housing market” index for some reason, showed its 4th decline since the index peaked in December. The index level of 68 in May was 10 points below Wall Street’s expectation. The index is a “soft data” report, measuring primarily homebuilder assessment of “foot traffic” (showings) and builder sentiment.

While the housing starts report for May showed an increase over April’s report, the permits number plunged. Arguably the housing starts report is among the least reliable of the housing reports because of the way in which a “start” is defined (put a shovel in the ground, that’s a “start”). On the other hand, permits filed might reflect builder outlook. To further complicate the analysis, the report can be “lumpy” depending on the distribution between multi-family starts/permits and single family home starts/permits.

A good friend of mine in North Carolina was looking at the Denver apartment rental market earlier this week and was shocked at the high level of vacancies. I would suggest this is similar in most larger cities. It also means that multi-family building construction will likely drop off precipitously over the next 12 months.

Existing home sales for May reported Wednesday showed the second straight month-to- month drop and the third straight month of year-over-year declines. The headline SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate) number – 5.43 million – missed Wall Street’s forecast for 5.5 million. April’s number was revised lower. Once again the NAR chief spin-meister blames the drop on low inventory. But this is outright nonsense. The month’s supply for May increased from April and, at 4.1 months, is above the average month’s supply for the trailing 12 months. It’s also above the average months supply number for all of 2017. If low inventory is holding back pent-up demand, then May sales should have soared, especially given that May is historically one of the best months seasonally for home sales. The not seasonally adjusted number for May was 3.4% below May 2017.

The primary reason for declining home sales, as I’ve postulated in several past issues, is the shrinking pool of buyers who can afford to support the monthly cost of home ownership. The Government lowered the bar for its taxpayer-backed mortgage programs every year since 2014. It lowered the down-payment requirement, broadened the definition of what constitutes a down-payment (as an example, seller concessions can be counted as part of a down-payment) thereby reducing even further the amount of cash required from a buyer’s bank account at closing, it cut mortgage insurance fees and it lowered income and credit score restrictions. After all this, the Government is running out of people into whom it can stuff 0-3% down payment, 50% DTI mortgages in order to keep the housing market propped up.

A lot of short term (buy and rent for 1-2 years and then flip) investors and flippers are holding homes that will come on the market as home prices fall. The majority of the MLS notices I receive for the zip codes in Denver I track are “price change” notices. All of them are price reductions. Whereas a year ago the price reductions were concentrated in the high-priced homes, now the price reductions are spread evenly across all price “buckets.” Denver was one of the first hot markets to crack in the mid-2000’s bubble and I’m certain what I’m seeing in Denver is occurring across the country in most mid to large metropolitan areas. Yes, I’m sure there’s a few exceptions but, in general, high prices, rising mortgage rates and stagnant wages are like poison darts being thrown at the housing bubble.

The analysis above is an excerpt from the June 24th Short Seller’s Journal.   My subscribers and I are making a small fortune shorting homebuilders and homebuilder-related stocks.  I will adding a couple other sectors in up-coming issues that are ready to shorted aggressively.  You can learn more about this service by following this link:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Yield Curve Is The Economy’s Canary In A Coal Mine

The economy has hit a wall and is now sliding down it. I don’t care what bullish propaganda may or may not be bubbling up in the headlines from the financial media and Wall Street, the hard numbers I look at everyday show accelerating economic weakness. The fact that my view is contrary to mainstream consensus and political propaganda reinforces my conviction that my view about the economy is correct.

As an example of the ongoing underlying systemic decay and collapse conveyed by this week’s title, it was announced that General Electric would be removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average index and replaced by Walgreen’s. GE was an original member of the index starting in 1896 and was a continuous member since  1907.

GE is an original equipment manufacturer and industrial product innovator. It’s products are used in broad array of applications at all levels of the economy globally.  It is considered a “GDP company.” GE was iconic of American innovation and economic dominance. Walgreen’s is a consumer products reseller that sells pharmaceuticals and junk. Emblematic of the entire system, GE has suffocated itself with poor management which guided the company into a cess-pool of financial leverage and hidden derivatives.

As expressed in past issues (the Short Seller’s Journal), I don’t put a lot of stock in the regional Fed economic surveys, which are heavily shaded by “hope” and “expectation” metrics that are used to inflate the overall index level. These are so-called “soft” data reports. But now even the “outlook” and “expectations” measurements are falling quickly (see last week’s Philly Fed report). The Trump “hope premium” that inflated the stock market starting in November 2016 has left the building.

Something wicked this way comes:  Notwithstanding mainstream media rationalizations to the contrary, a flattening of the yield curve always always always precedes a contraction in economic activity (aka “a recession”). Always. Don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise. An “inverted” yield curve occurs when short term yields exceed long term yields. When the yield curve inverts, it means something wicked is going to hit the financial and economic system.

Prior to the financial crisis in 2008, the yield curve was inverted for short periods of time during 2007. The most simple explanation for why inversion occurs is that performance-driven capital flows from riskier investments into the the longer end of the Treasury curve, driving the yield on the long end below the short end. The expectation is that the Fed will be forced to cut short term rates drastically – thereby driving the short-end lower, which in turn pulls the entire yield curve lower (the yield curve “shifts” down). This gives investors in the long-end a better rate-of-return performance on their capital than holding short term Treasuries for safety. The Fed’s dilemma will be complicated by the fact that it does not have much room to cut rates in order to combat a deep recession.

Studies have shown that curve inversions precede a recession anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. I would argue that, stripping away the affects of inflation and data manipulation, real economic activity has been somewhat recessionary for several years. The massive intervention in the Treasury market by the Fed, ECB and Bank of Japan has muted the true price discovery mechanism of the Treasury curve. The curve has been barely upward sloping for quite some time relative to history.  This could indeed be history’s equivalent of an inverted curve. That being the case, if an inversion occurs despite the Fed’s attempts to prevent it, it means that whatever is going to hit the U.S. and global financial and economic system is going to be worse than what occurred in 2008.

A note on gold and silver: The massive take-down in the price of gold and silver, which is occurring primarily during the trading hours of the LBMA and the Comex – both of which are paper derivative markets – is quite similar to the take-down that occurred in the metals preceding the collapse of Bear and Lehman in 2008. It is imperative that the price of gold’s function as a warning signal is de-fused in order to keep the public wallowing in ignorance – just like in 2008.  But keep an eye on the stock prices of Deutsche Bank, Goldman and Morgan Stanley – as well as the Treasury yield curve…

Paul Craig Roberts: “How Long Can The Federal Reserve Stave Off the Inevitable?”

IRD Note: The average household is bloated with debt, housing prices have peaked, many public pensions are on the verge of collapse in spite of 9-years of rising stock, bond and alternative asset values. But all of this was built on a foundation of debt, fraud and corruption. Dr. Paul Craig Roberts asks, “does the Fed have another ‘rabbit’ to pull out its hat?…

When are America’s global corporations and Wall Street going to sit down with President Trump and explain to him that his trade war is not with China but with them? The biggest chunk of America’s trade deficit with China is the offshored production of America’s global corporations. When the corporations bring the products that they produce in China to the US consumer market, the products are classified as imports from China.

Six years ago when I was writing The Failure of Laissez Faire Capitalism, I concluded on the evidence that half of US imports from China consist of the offshored production of US corporations. Offshoring is a substantial benefit to US corporations because of much lower labor and compliance costs. Profits, executive bonuses, and shareholders’ capital gains receive a large boost from offshoring. The costs of these benefits for a few fall on the many—the former American employees who formerly had a middle class income and expectations for their children.

In my book, I cited evidence that during the first decade of the 21st century “the US lost 54,621 factories, and manufacturing employment fell by 5 million employees. Over the decade, the number of larger factories (those employing 1,000 or more employees) declined by 40 percent. US factories employing 500-1,000 workers declined by 44 percent; those employing between 250-500 workers declined by 37 percent, and those employing between 100-250 workers shrunk by 30 percent. These losses are net of new start-ups. Not all the losses are due to offshoring. Some are the result of business failures” (p. 100).

In other words, to put it in the most simple and clear terms, millions of Americans lost their middle class jobs not because China played unfairly, but because American corporations betrayed the American people and exported their jobs. “Making America great again” means dealing with these corporations, not with China. When Trump learns this, assuming anyone will tell him, will he back off China and take on the American global corporations?

The loss of middle class jobs has had a dire effect on the hopes and expectations of Americans, on the American economy, on the finances of cities and states and, thereby, on their ability to meet pension obligations and provide public services, and on the tax base for Social Security and Medicare, thus threatening these important elements of the American consensus. In short, the greedy corporate elite have benefitted themselves at enormous cost to the American people and to the economic and social stability of the United States.

The job loss from offshoring also has had a huge and dire impact on Federal Reserve policy. With the decline in income growth, the US economy stalled. The Federal Reserve under Alan Greenspan substituted an expansion in consumer credit for the missing growth in consumer income in order to maintain aggregate consumer demand. Instead of wage increases, Greenspan relied on an increase in consumer debt to fuel the economy.

The credit expansion and consequent rise in real estate prices, together with the deregulation of the banking system, especially the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, produced the real estate bubble and the fraud and mortgage-backed derivatives that gave us the 2007-08 financial crash.

The Federal Reserve responded to the crash not by bailing out consumer debt but by bailing out the debt of its only constituency—the big banks.

Click here to read the rest: Paul Craig Roberts/Fed

With Sentiment In The Gutter, Will Gold Stage A Rally?

A week ago Friday, the metals got clocked hard. It was a drive-by “paper gold” shooting on the Comex which took place after most of the rest of the world had gone home for the weekend. On Monday, the Hulbert Gold Stock Newsletter Index fell to zero. On Tuesday it dropped to negative 2.7. The HGNSI is an index that measures newsletters which make trading recommendations on mining stocks. A negative reading means, overall, the newsletters are net short in terms of position recommendations. Zero and negative readings are typically highly correlated with bottoms.

Since I’ve been following the HGNSI (since 2005), it has been a remarkably accurate contrarian signal. However, it does not offer any information on the timing of a move higher. That, of course, is always the money question. What I can say, however, is that if you have cash to put to work in the sector now is a good time start slowly buying into your favorite ideas.

There’s a growing feeling among long-time gold investors like myself that precious metals will potentially stage a surprise move higher in the near future. Note how I do not define “near future.” This is because Central Bank intervention makes it next to impossible to forecast over the “near future.” It’s this way now with all markets, not just gold and silver.

My friend and colleague, Chris Marcus of Arcadia Economics, invited me onto his podcast to discuss the precious metals market, stock market, Deutsche Bank and the general economy:

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Visit these links to learn more about the Investment Research Dynamic’s  Mining Stock Journal and  Short Seller’s JournalThe mining stocks are historically cheap and percolating for a big move higher.  My subscribers and I are making a lot of money shorting and buying puts on homebuilders and I’ve updated my recommendations ahead of this week’s earnings reports from Lennar and KB Home.

Something Wicked Comes This Way…

Craig “Turd Ferguson” Hemke (TF Metals Report) invited me to discuss the possibility that global financial system, including and especially the U.S. financial system is heading into another black hole like 2008.   In this conversation we discuss the signs that are pointing in this direction.  (To download, right click and “save as”)

To learn more about the Short Seller’s/Mining Stock Journals, click on either link (note, subscribers to both Journals receive 50% off on the second Journal):

  SHORT SELLER’S JOURNAL    /    MINING STOCK JOURNAL

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…