Category Archives: Housing Market

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.

Homebuilder Stocks: A Short-Seller’s ATM

Someone or some entity – likely a hedge fund – bought 4500 September $35-strike puts on XHB on Thursday last week when XHB was trading just above $39. That’s a $225,000 speculative bet that the XHB drops more than 15% by mid-September.

This morning Toll Brothers stock plunged over 7% this morning after reporting its FY Q2 earnings, missing the Wall Street brain trust consensus estimates on both revenues and income. Deliveries are slowing down, expenses are soaring (energy and lumber)and asset write-downs are accelerating. On top of this, TOL’s debt and inventory levels continue to rise.

Typical of developers, TOL will continue to use other people’s money to speculate on real estate until the market crashes, leaving creditors and shareholders holding the bag. The Company bought back 1.8 million shares. TOL has repurchased 6.2 million in its fiscal YTD. Into this buyback, insiders have dumped nearly 800,000 shares. Not one share was purchased by insiders.

I’ve been recommending shorting the homebuilders in my Short Seller’s Journal for several months. Many of my subscribers and I are making a lot money with both short term scalps and longer term puts. The best part of about this is that very few market players trade the homebuilders. This makes it easier to take advantage of inefficient price-discovery. As an example, Zack’s Equity Research was looking for an upside surprise and spike-up in the stock as recently as yesterday.

TOL’s contract cancellation rate, which has been historically well below average, rose substantially (at least for TOL) in its latest quarter, as explained by Aaron Layman, of Aaron Layman Properts:   TOL Trips On Higher Cancellation Rate.

The homebuilders are historically overvalued, especially in relation to the level of unit sales, which are still about  50% below the peak in 2005.  They also have a lot more debt and inventory relative to the unit rate of sales.  Shorting the homebuilders is the easiest area of the market to make money right now.

You can learn the truth the about the condition of the housing market and why homebuilders are down double-digits percentages this year by clicking here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.   In addition to shorting shares, I make suggestion on using puts and market timing (I use puts).  I also report every put trade I make in each issue.

 

WTF Just Happened? Gold, The Dollar And Interest Rates

What’s going on with gold, the dollar and interest rates – especially gold?  All of the variables that fundamentally support much higher gold prices are lined up perfectly.  Why isn’t gold moving higher?  The popular narrative in the mainstream financial media would leave one to believe that the dollar is soaring.  Eric and Dave put a big dent in that notion.  Additionally, in a long-term historical context, the recent rise in interest rates is tiny, yet marginally higher interest are already wreaking havoc on the economy (retail, auto and home sales).   What’s going to happen to the economy when the 10-yr Treasury hits 4%, which is still well below its long-run historical norm? (click on image to enlarge)

Eric Dubin and Dave Kranzler dig into these topics in the next episode of WTF Just Happened (WTF Just Happened is a produced in association with Wall St. For Main Street – Eric Dubin may be reached at  Facebook.com/EricDubin):

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.

Are The Wheels Coming Off The System?

The dollar is said to be “soaring,” though I take issue with that characterization for now (see the chart below);  10-yr Treasury yields are also rising, though the yield on the 10-yr is only up about 67 basis points if you measure from January 1, 2017.  What’s really going on?

Ten years of money printing by the Federal Reserve has removed true price discovery from the markets.  The best evidence is the inexorable rise in the stock market despite the fact that corporate earnings have been driven largely by share buybacks and GAAP accounting gimmicks.  Measuring stock values  on the basis of revenue and revenue growth multiples would reveal the most overvalued stock market in U.S. history.

Now that the Fed has stopped printing money used to buy Treasury issuance and prop up the banks, the system is vulnerable to relatively small increases in interest rates.  20 years ago, when I was trading junk bonds on Wall St, a 60 basis point rise in the 10yr or a 200 basis point rise in the dollar index would have be a non-event.  Now those types of moves permeate the current market and policy narrative.

In fact, the Fed is terrified by the Frankenstein stock market is has created to the extent that, since the sharp decline in August 2015, the Fed steps in to prevent the inevitable crash when a draw-down in the Dow/SPX approaches 10%.

With the dollar moving higher, gold is has been sluggish. Now the price is being attacked aggressively in the paper gold derivatives market.  The propaganda is that a rising dollar and rising rates are negative for gold.  However, gold had one of its best rate or return periods from mid-2005 to mid-2006 while the dollar was spiking higher.  More troubling, the trading pattern in gold and the dollar reminds me of the same pattern in 2008 – just before the de facto financial system collapse hit the hardest (click on image to enlarge):

The economy has been in a recession for most households below the top 1% in wealth and income. This chart is one of many examples showing that most households are not even fortunate enough to be living on the economic gerbil wheel. Instead, they are sliding backwards downhill in their debt/lease-saddled vehicle and the brakes are about to go out:

I would argue that the rising dollar – an concomitantly the obvious official attack on the price of gold – is the signal that the wheels are coming off the system. The Government issued nearly half-a-trillion dollars in Treasuries in Q1, thanks to the soaring defense and entitlement budget  combined with the massive tax cuts. The spending deficit and the flood of Treasury issuance is going to get worse from there and well beyond the CBO’s sanguine projections.

Throw in soaring oil and gasoline prices and rising household debt delinquency/default rates against a backdrop of stagnant wages and an accelerating ratio of household debt service payments to personal income and it’s pretty obvious that the wheels are coming off the system.

The U.S. economic and financial system is an enormously fraudulently Ponzi scheme in which record levels of money printing and credit creation have acted as temporary bandages placed over gaping cancerous economic wounds that are soon going to start hemorrhaging.

The homebuilders are already in a bear market, like the one that started in mid-2005 in the same stocks about 18 months before the stock market started heading south in 2007. My Short Seller’s Journal subscribers and I are raking in a small fortune shorting and buying puts on homebuilder stocks. As an example, I recommended shorting Hovnanian (HOV) at $2.88 in early January. It’s trading at $1.78 as I write this – a 38.2% ROR in 4 months. Anyone get that with AMZN in the last 4 months? You can learn more about the SSJ here: Short Seller’s Journal.

Sparks Fly Toward The Debt Powder Keg

The stock market has gone 74 days without making a new high but that hasn’t stopped the bulls from boasting about how it is up or flat six days in a row. I still say to sell into strength – David Rosenberg, Gluskin-Sheff

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.

Theoretically, the Trump tax cuts will add about $90 per month of extra after-tax income for the average household. However, the average price of gasoline has risen close to 40% over the last year (it cost me $45 to fill my tank last week 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 Fed reported consumer credit for March last week. Consumer credit is primarily credit card, auto and student loan debt. The 3.6% SAAR (Seasonally Adjusted Annualized Rate) rate of increase over February was the slowest growth rate in consumer debt since September. Credit card debt outstanding actually dropped 3% (SAAR). But the 6% growth in non-revolving debt – auto/student loans – rose 6% (SAAR). Given the double-digit increase in truck sales in March, which offset the double digit decline in sedan sales, it’s safe to speculate that the increase in consumer credit during March was primarily loans to “buy” trucks/SUVs.

Remember, the average light truck/SUV sales ticket is about $13k more than for a sedan, which means that the average size of auto loans in March increased significantly during March. This is a horrifying thought in my opinion. Here’s why (original chart source was Wolfstreet.com):

As you can see, the rate of subprime 60-day-plus delinquencies is nearly 6%, which is substantially higher than during the peak financial crisis years. Why is this not directly affecting the system yet? It is but we’re not seeing it because the banks are still sitting on unused “excess reserves” – pain killers – that were given to them by the Fed’s QE program. The excess reserves act to “buffer” the banks from debt defaults, which in turn enables the banks to defer taking these auto loans into foreclosure and writing them off. But this will only serve to defer the inevitable:  debt defaults in quantities that will far exceed the amount of debt that blew up in the 2008 financial crisis.  Bank excess reserves are down 13% since August 2017.

I knew at the time that the Fed’s QE program was a part of the Fed’s strategy to build a “cushion” into bank balance sheets for the next time around. The only problem is that the size of the debt bomb has grown disproportionately to the size of the “cushion” and it’s only a matter of time before debt defaults blow a big hole in bank balance sheets.

Here’s the other problem with the statistic above. The regulators, along with FICO, lowered the bar on differentiating between prime and subprime. Despite the supposed effort to tighten lending standards since 2008, it’s just as easy to get a loan now as it was in 2007 and the variables that differentiate sub-prime from prime have blurred. I witnessed this first-hand when I accompanied a friend to buy a near-new car from a major Audi dealer in Denver. Based on monthly income, I advised him to buy a less expensive car. But Wells Fargo was more than happy to make the loan with very little money down relative to the cost of the car. No proof of income disclosure was necessary despite being self-employed. The friend’s credit rating is a questionable mid-600’s

This is the type of loan transaction that occurs 1000’s of times each day at car dealers across the country. If we had gone to one of the seedy “finance any credit” used car dealers, getting the loan would have been even easier because those car brokers also use credit unions and other non-bank private capital “pools” like Credit Acceptance Corporation (CACC) and Exeter Finance (private).

Student loans are not worth discussing because no one else does. Someone with a student loan outstanding can easily put the loan into “deferment” or “forbearance,” which makes it difficult to assess the true delinquency/default rate on the $1.53 trillion amount outstanding (as of the end of March). However, I have seen estimates that the real rate of serious delinquency is more like 40%. Most borrowers who defer or request forbearance do so because they can’t make current payments. Again, this is one of the bigger “white elephants” that is visible but not discussed (the $21+ trillion of Treasury debt is another white elephant).

The debt bubble and implosion will push homebuilder stocks off the cliff.   Several of my subscribers plus myself are raking in money shorting and buying puts on homebuilders stocks.  I took 50% profits on the puts I bought late last week.

The commentary above is an excerpt from last Sunday’s Short Seller’s Journal. My Short Seller’s Journal is a unique newsletter that presents the alternative to the “bull” case. It also presents short ideas, along with put strategies, every week. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

 

Subprime Mortgages: The Dog Returns To Its Vomit

Other people’s money is always more fun to play with recklessly than your own.  As such there’s been a quiet escalation in number of  private capital pools offering mortgage (and auto) financing to subprime quality borrowers.  “Special Circumstance Lending” is one such lender in Denver.  It constantly runs ads on Denver radio.

The proprietor of Special Circumstance Lending was an aggressive participant in the junk mortgage underwriting business and dumped more than his fair share of subprime crap into the Wall Street mortgage securitization scheme that led to “The Big Short.” SCL doesn’t need to see your tax returns.  It will give you a mortgage based on bank account statements.

The big Wall Street banks appear to have retreated from risky mortgage lending.  But have they? Though new regulations are intended to limit the amount risk the big banks take underwriting mortgages , the banks instead extend large lines of credit to private “non-bank” mortgage lenders, like Exeter Finance.  The average credit score of Exeter underwritten paper is 570.   If Exeter doesn’t get repaid, the big banks extending the funds to underwrite that garbage won’t get repaid.

The Government, via Fannie Mae and  Freddie Mac, has been underwriting de-facto  subprime mortgages – though they are still labeled “prime” for securitization purposes – for a couple of years.  Let’s face it, a 3% down payment mortgage – where the 3% does not have to come from the pocket of the homebuyer – with a 50% DTI (50% of pre-tax monthly income is used to service debt) is not a prime-grade piece of paper. I don’t care what the credit score is attached to that underwriting.

But Freddie Mac is taking it one step further down the sewer. A Short Seller’s Journal subscriber who is involved with an investment fund that invests in difficult financings sent me the flyer he received for the new Freddie Mac dog vomit mortgage:  “I occasionally process residential mortgages, so I stay on top of the underwriting guidelines…As of July 29, you can buy a single family / condo (there has to be a first time homebuyer on the deed), with ZERO DOWN AND A 620 CREDIT SCORE, WITH NO INCOME RESTRICTIONS. I had a stroke when I read that!”

There is no minimum borrower contribution from borrower personal funds.  Furthermore, borrowers who put down 5% do not have to have a credit score.

The mortgages now offered by the Federal Government are beginning to look and smell like the same sub-prime sewage that was proliferated by Countrywide, Wash Mutual, etc in the mid-2000’s.  True, as of yet we have not seen a widespread issuance of the adjustable-rate ticking time bombs that triggered the financial crisis. But the U.S. Government, using your taxpayer dollars, has become the new subprime lender of first resort for first time homebuyers who have little financial capability of supporting the cost of home ownership for an extended period of time.

Like the dog returning to its vomit, the U.S. financial system has returned to the business of underwriting the next financial crisis.   Only this time around the Federal Government is providing a large share of the “rope” with which new homebuyers will eventually hang themselves.  The financial explosion that is going occur will be worse than 2008 because the average household has significantly more debt relative to income now, with more than 75% of all households living from paycheck to paycheck.  One small hiccup in the economy will trigger an avalanche of debt defaults.

Despite what seems like a strong housing market and buoyant stock market, the XHB homebuilder ETF is down 15.4% since mid-January. Many individual homebuilder stocks are down a lot more. My subscribers and I are making a small fortune shorting and trading puts on homebuilder stocks.  You can learn more about my subscription newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

 

Homebuilder Stocks Are In A “Bear Market”

I strongly believe that labeling the condition of the stock market based on arbitrary “percentage changes” up or down is absurd.  But then again most attributes of the current stock market are sublimely ridiculous, if not outright Orwellian.

But, what the heck. If down 20% is how you want to define a “bear market,” then a portfolio of Lennar (LEN, down 24%), Beazer (BZH, down 24%) and KB Homes (KBH, down 22%) are in definitive bear markets and heading lower, as are several other homebuilder stocks. This is a fact that intentionally goes unreported by Wall Street and Wall Street’s hand-puppet, the mainstream financial media (CNBC, Fox Biz, Bloomberg, Wall St Journal, Marketwatch, etc).

Homebuilders maliciously exploit a GAAP loophole that enables them to remove “interest expense” from the SEC-filed income statement. This artificially boosts reported GAAP and non-GAAP net income/earnings per share. I review this using Beazer as an example in the last issue of the Short Seller’s Journal.

The nature of the “bull market” in housing is widely misunderstood. As such, the easiest area of the market to make money shorting stocks is the homebuilding sector. I can say with certainty that 80% of the money I’m making shorting stocks is with homebuilder puts. It’s a boring sector but the percentages moves in these stocks makes it easy to “scalp” profits and to set-up low risk, highly profitable long term short positions.

 

Right now homebuilders are behaving like an ATM machine for short-sellers.

The Short Seller’s Journal is a unique weekly newsletter that provides truth-seeking insight on the economy and presents ideas for making money shorting stocks (including put option and capital management strategies). Learn how to use the homebuilders as your own ATM here: Short Seller’s Journal.

Amazon And Tesla Reflect Deep Fraud Throughout The Financial System

Not much needs to be said about Tesla.  Elon Musk’s performance on the Company’s conference call speaks for itself.  He basically told the lemming analysts who have been the Company’s Wall Street carnival barkers to go have sex with themselves in response to questions looking for highly relevant details on Model 3 sales projections and Capex spending requirements.

I believe Musk is mentally unstable if not mildly insane.  He would do the world a favor if he gathered up what’s left of his wealth and disappeared into the sunset.  When Tesla collapses, I hope analysts like Morgan Stanley’s Andrew Jonas are taken to court by class-action hungry lawyers.  My response to something like that would be justified schadenfreude.

Amazon is similar story on a grander scale of accounting fraud and fantasy promotion. AMZN reported its Q1 numbers Thursday after the close. It “smashed” the consensus earnings estimate by a couple dollars, reporting a questionable $3.27 per share. I’m convinced that Jeff Bezos is nothing more than an ingenious scam-artist of savant proportions, as this is the second quarter in a row in which AMZN reported over $3/share when the Street was looking for mid-$1 per share earnings.

I bring this to your attention because there’s something highly suspicious about the way Bezos is managing the forecasts he gives to Street analysts. Every company under the sun in this country typically “guides” analysts to within a few pennies, nickels or dimes of the actual EPS that will be presented. For the Street to miss this badly on estimates for AMZN two quarters in a row tells me that Bezos is intentionally misleading the analyst community, which typically hounds a company up until the day before earnings are released. Food for thought there.

I don’t want to spend the time dissecting AMZN’s numbers this quarter in the way I have in
past issues. This is because the earnings manipulation formula remains constant. One interesting detail that Wall St. will ignore is the fact that AMZN’s cost of fulfillment as a percentage of product sales increased to 24.6% vs 19.7% in Q1 2017. It cost 25 cents per dollar of e-commerce revenue vs 20 cents per dollar of revenue a year ago to deliver an item from the warehouse shelf to the buyer’s door-step. Apparently all of the money Bezos spends on fulfillment centers ($2.3 billion in Q1) is not reducing the cost of delivery as promised.

The financial media flooded the airwaves with hype when Bezos announced that AMZN Prime had 100 million subscribers. However, the fact that the cost of fulfillment increased 500 basis points as percent of revenue generated tells us that AMZN is losing even more on an operating business on Prime memberships. I love ordering $10 items that are delivered in 2-days because I know that AMZN loses money on that transaction.

For “product sales” in aggregate (e-commerce + Whole Foods + the portfolio of crappy little service businesses) the operating margin increased to 1.16% of sales vs. 0.3% of sales in Q1 2017. HOWEVER, in acquiring Whole Foods, AMZN folded a 5% operating margin business into its revenue stream. It should have been expected that AMZN’s operating margin would increase this year. I’m surprised that folding in a 5% business did not boost AMZN’s operating margin even more. See the cost of fulfillment. In effect, Bezos used positive cash flow from WFM to subsidize the growing cost of Prime fulfillment. I also suspect that Bezos will be running WFM’s margins into the ground in an effort to boost revenues. The prices of WFM’s house-label brands were slashed immediately. AMZN’s stock is driven off of revenue growth and Bezos does not care if that means sacrificing profitability.

What’s mind-blowing is that big investors have let him get away with this business model for nearly two decades.  If the Fed and the Government had not printed trillions starting in 2008, Amazon’s grand experiment would have expired.  More than any company or business on earth, Amazon is emblematic of a fiat currency system that has gone off the rails combined with Government-enabled fraud of historic proportions.

So far, AMZN has not segmented the revenues from the WFM business in its footnotes. I doubt this will occur despite the fact that it would help stock analysts understand AMZN’s business model. Again, the conclusion to be made is that Bezos will push WFM’s operating margins toward zero, which is consistent with the e-commerce model. Hiding WFM’s numbers by folding them into “product sales” will enable Bezos to promote the idea that Whole Foods is value-added to AMZN’s “profitability.” In truth, I believe WFM was acquired for its cash – $4.4 billion at the time of the acquisition – and for the ability to hide the declining e-commerce margins for a year or two.

In terms of GAAP free cash flow, AMZN burned $4.2 billion in cash in Q1 compared to $3.6
billion in Q1 2017. Again, this metric helps to prove my point that Bezos sacrifices cash flow in order to generate sales growth. Not only does AMZN now have $24.2 billion in long term debt on its balance sheet, it has $22.2 billion in “other liabilities.” This account is predominantly long-term capital and finance lease obligations. This is a deceptive form of debt financing, as these leases behave exactly like debt in every respect except name. One of the reasons AMZN will present “Free Cash Flow” at the beginning of its earnings slide show every quarter is because it excludes the repayment of these leases from the Bezos FCF metric. However, I noticed that AMZN now sticks a half-page explanation in its SEC financial filings that explains why its FCF metric is not true GAAP free cash flow. A half-page!

In effect, AMZN’s true long term debt commitment is $46.4 billion. Funny thing about that, AMZN’s book value is $31.4 billion. One of the GAAP manipulations that AMZN used to boost its reported EPS is it folded most of the cost of acquiring WFM into “Goodwill.” Why? Because goodwill is no longer required to be amortized as an expense into the income statement. For presentation purposes, this serves to increase EPS because it removes a GAAP expense. Companies now instruct their accountants to push the limit on dumping acquisition costs into “goodwill.” But most of the $13 billion in goodwill on AMZN’s balance sheet was the cost of acquiring WFM, which required that AMZN raise $16 billion in debt.

Regardless of whether or not WFM is profitable for AMZN over the long term, AMZN will still have to repay the debt used to buy WFM. In other words, the amount thrown into “goodwill” is still an expense that has be paid for. For now, AMZN has funded that expense with debt. If the capital markets are not cooperative, AMZN will eventually have a problem refinancing this debt.

In summary, the genius of Bezos is that he’s figured out how to generate huge revenue growth while getting away with limited to no profitability. Yes, he can report GAAP net income now, but AMZN still bleeds billions of dollars every quarter. It’s no coincidence that Bezos’ scam mushroomed along with the trillions printed by the Fed tat was used to reflate the securities markets. For now, Bezos can get away with telling his fairytale and raising money in the stock and debt markets. But eventually this merry-go-round will stop working.

The tragic aspect to all of this is that a lot of trusting retail investors are going to get annihilated on the money they’ve placed with so-called “professional” money managers. I don’t know  how long it will take for the truth about Amazon to be widely understood, but Tesla will likely be a bankrupt, barring some unforeseeable miracle, within two years.  Perhaps worse is that the fact that people appointed to the Government agencies set up to prevent blatant wide-scale systemic financial fraud like this now look the other way.  It seems the “paychecks” they get from the likes of Musk and Bezos far exceed their Government pay-scale…

When you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed.  – Francisco D’Anconia “Money Speech” from “Atlas Shrugged”

The Fed Successfully Destroyed The U.S. Housing Market

What concerns me is when people put their hard-earned money into housing or any other supposed store of value thinking that the sky is the limit. We are living in an age of epic distortions, misinformation and outright fraud. – Aaron Layman, Dallas-based Realtor, member of the Dallas and Houston MLS boards and a housing market analyst

The propaganda about a hot economy, “overheated” housing market and tight labor market is just one of several Big Lies being promoted by politicians and business leaders. The article below references a comment made by a money manager about the housing market “overheating.” But the housing market isn’t overheating. What’s overheating is the amount of “conforming” mortgage debt underwritten by the Federal Government on behalf of taxpayer. I’ll have more to say about this tomorrow.

The transformation of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the FHA and the VHA into the new subprime debt provider has caused a shortage of homes under $500k, or under $600k in “high price” zones. But there’s an oversupply of homes north of $700k in most areas (the Silicon Valley area notwithstanding). But more on this tomorrow.

A colleague and email acquaintance, Aaron Layman, is a realtor in Houston who has been uniquely outspoken about the degree to which the current housing market is unhealthy and dysfunctional. I say “uniquely” because 99.9% of all realtors would sell a roach motel trap to cockroaches if they knew that they could get the cockroach qualified for a Taxpayer-backed mortgage to make that particular purchase (“hey man, this is a good value and prices are only going higher”).

Aaron has written a blog post which details the manner in which the Fed has destroyed the housing market and economy:

If you are out shopping for a home during this summer selling season and you are having a difficult time finding a good property at a reasonable price, be sure to thank the folks at the Fed for their fine work. Destroying a market takes some effort, particularly if you account for all of the PR necessary to cover your tracks. The Federal Reserve and their army of economists have created another fine mess in the U.S. housing market, destroying real price discovery and distorting the real value of a home which is end-user shelter.

Please use this link to read the entire essay – it’s worth your time:  The Fed Has Destroyed The Housing Market