Category Archives: Housing Market

The Economy Is Collapsing Under The Unbearable Weight Of Debt

“Those who see no Lehman-like episode on the horizon did not see the last one.” – highly regarded writer, George Will, in a National Review article titled, “America Is Overdue For Another Economic Disaster”

Lost in the largely meaningless political Kabuki theatre being staged on Capitol Hill is the fact that the economy is deteriorating. Real average weekly earnings in July declined for production and non-supervisory workers. It was down 0.01% from June to July and down 0.22% from July 2017. For all employees, real average hourly earnings declined 0.20% from June to July but was flat year over year.

Real earnings is not a statistic discussed in the mainstream financial media, but it reflects the ability of the average household to consume non-discretionary goods and services. It also reflects the ability and willingness of the average household to borrow.

The U.S. economy’s appearance of wealth creation and economic growth has been fully dependent on debt creation since 2009. As the graphic from John Williams’ Shadowstats.com shows, the rate of growth in real consumer credit outstanding is approach zero (no growth):

The chart above shows the year-over-year growth rate of real consumer credit outstanding with and without student loans. As you can see, ex-student loans (blue line) the rate of growth in outstanding consumer debt (not including mortgage debt) is close to zero. The increase in consumer credit reported for June (the latest month for which data is available) was $10.2 billion vs $16 billion expected. It was down from May’s increase of $24.6 billion. The perceived growth in GDP is inextricably tied to the growth rate in the use of debt. The near-zero growth rate in consumer credit is thus consistent with the view that the U.S. economy is weaker than the promotional propaganda flowing from Wall Street and DC.

“Student Loans Are Starting To Bite The Economy” – That was title of a Bloomberg article last week. With $1.4 trillion outstanding, student loans are the second largest category of household debt after mortgages. 22.4% of all households carry student debt. 44.8% of households in the 18-34 age demographic carry student debt – that’s up from 18.6% in 2001.

Not discussed by the article is the estimated that 40% of borrowers will default on their loans by 2023. The current 90-day “official” delinquency rate is 11.2%. But this number is highly deceptive because 30% of all student loans are in deferment or forbearance. These loans are put into “remission” for many reasons but the most common is that it enables the borrower who can’t make payments to defer the stopwatch on delinquency/default.

While it’s possible that the student loan problem is affecting potential demand from potential homebuyers, most people who have student debt also have credit card and auto debt. So it’s not clear that student loan debt alone has affected the ability of first-time buers (18-34 age cohort) to buy a home.

Rather, I would argue that it’s the accumulation of debt since 2012 that is affecting all areas of the economy:

As you can see in the chart above, total household debt through the end of March 2018 – which means the debt level is even higher now – is considerably higher than the previous peak at the end of Q3 2008. Not shown is a graph I constructed on the FRED site that added nominal GDP. The rate of growth in household debt has sharply surpassed the rate of growth in GDP since Q3 2015.

This is why the economy is stalling. This is why the housing and auto markets are now in definitive contraction. It has nothing to do with the trade war or low housing inventory. It has everything to do with an economic system that is losing its ability to support the massive amount of debt that has been issued since the last financial crisis (de facto collapse).

The weekly economic reports – both Government and private sector – continue to reflect a downturn in economic activity. Moreover, the reports almost always are below the hyped-up expectations of Wall Street’s brain trust. The chart below reflects the irrational optimism of anyone chasing stocks higher (primarily hedge fund algos):

As you can see, since the middle of August, the 30-yr Treasury yield has negatively diverged from the S&P 500 after being tightly correlated for the first two weeks of August. The spread between the 2yr and 10yr treasury is at its lowest since August 2007.

The Treasury curve “flattens” when the short end of the curve rises relative to the long end. The curve flattens when the market has decided that the Fed is wrong on its policy of raising the Fed Funds rates because the economy is slowing down. Large Treasury buyers pile into 10yr and 30yr Treasuries on the expectation that a deteriorating economy will force the Fed to reverse course and lower rates again. The chart above reflects the market reacting to the steady flow of negative economic reports.

If the Fed is right, we should see the 30yr yield “catch up” to the SPX. Conversely, if the market is right, the chart above is yet another warning sign of an eventual stock market “accident.” I have no doubt that the Fed is wrong. That said, the Fed has painted itself into a corner on rates. Contrary to the Fed’s public propaganda of “low inflation,” the Fed is well aware of the true rate of inflation – inflation created by the Fed’s monetary policy since 2008. If the Fed does not act to tighten monetary conditions, price inflation will continue to accelerate and inflict serious damage to the U.S. economy.

The commentary above is from the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. I explain why the housing market is heading south quickly, update my homebuilder short ideas and discuss Tesla. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

Bad News For The Housing Market Continues To Pile Up

I remember vividly the scene in The Big Short when a housing broker was driving the “Steve Eisman” group around California’s “Inland Empire.”  Home prices were dropping and the vista was littered with “for sale” signs.  The broker remarked awkwardly, “the market is going through small valley right now.”  Successful realtors can look anyone in the eyes and present a small nuclear bomb as a box of Godiva chocolates.

The National Association of Realtors’ chief “economist,” Larry Yun, has been pleading for more than a year that declining existing home sales is caused by low inventory. But this is mere propaganda.  I’ve presented a chart more than once on this site from the Fed’s database (FRED) which shows that sales volume and inventory is inversely correlated.

Redfin released its”Housing Demand Index” through June on August 1st. It fell nearly 1% from May and was 9.6% lower in June 2018 than 2017. The number of people requesting tours fell 6.1% compared to June 2017 and 15% fewer made offers on homes. This is despite noting that inventory levels surged in the hottest markets in which RDFN operates. This index is representative of demographic trends nationwide, as RDFN operates in the largest metropolitan areas outside of New York City. The Index covers 15 metropolitan areas.

Demand is falling because pool of potential homebuyers who can qualify for one of the Government’s subprime mortgage programs has dried up like Lake Mead. This was evident in this week’s existing and new home sales reports, both of which showed home sales falling month to month and year over year. Both numbers were well below the expectations of Wall Street’s brain trust. Existing home inventory on an outright basis (not the highly massaged “months supply” basis) is 9% above the average inventory level in 2015 and 31% above the outright inventory for 2017. New home sales dropped “unexpectedly” from June to July despite the fact that June’s original headline report was revised lower. New home sales according to the Census Bureau have declined 3 out of the last 4 months.

The Dow Jones Home Construction Index is down 22.6% since mid-January. Some homebuilder stocks are down over 30% since then. The homebuilder stocks are in a bear market based on the “20%” decree. This is a fact that is not reported at all in the mainstream media. The homebuilder stocks peaked in July 2005 and were in a tail-spin well before it became obvious to all that the mid-2000’s bubble had popped. I doubt it will take 18-24 months from January 2018 before it becomes apparent to most that the housing market is in trouble.

My subscribers and I have been raking in easy money shorting the homebuilder stocks. I will be updating the my short ideas – including ideas for using puts – in Sunday’s issue after TOL’s numbers triggered a one-day spike up in the DJUSHB. I’ll also be updating the Tesla saga. You can learn more about this newsletter service here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

More Evidence The Economy Is Deteriorating

“Financial-market and economic prospects remain far shy of the hype and headlines, amidst tanking consumer optimism and negative revisions to recent reporting.” – John Williams, Shadowstats.com

The economy may seem like it’s doing well if you are part of the upper 10% demographic. Though, in reality, for most of the upper 10%, doing “well” has been a function of having easy access to credit. NASA Federal Credit Union is offering 0% down, 0% mortgage insurance for mortgages up to $2.5 million.

Someone I know suggested the tax cut stimulus had run its course. But the narrative that the tax cuts would stimulate economic activity was pure propaganda. The tax cuts stimulated $1 trillion in expected share buybacks and put more money in the pockets of corporate insiders and billionaires. The average middle class household spent its tax cut money on more expensive gasoline and food. Since the tax cut took effect, auto sales and home sales have declined. Retail sales have been mixed. However, it’s difficult to distinguish between statistical manipulation and inflation. I would argue that, net of real inflation and Census Bureau statistical games, real retail sales have been declining.

As an example, last week Black Box Intelligence released July restaurant sales. While comparable store sales were up 0.54% over July 2017, comparable restaurant traffic was down 1.8%. On a rolling three months, comp sales are up 0.46% but comparable traffic is down nearly 2%. With traffic declining, especially a faster rate relative to the small increase in sales, it means the sales “growth” is entirely a function of price inflation. If Black Box Intelligence could control it’s data for price increases, it would show that there is no question that real sales are declining. I have been loathe to recommend shorting restaurant stocks because, for some reason, the hedge funds love them.

On Wednesday last week, the Government reported July retail sales, which were “up” 0.5% vs June. However, June’s 0.5% “gain” was revised sharply lower to 0.2%. Revising the previous month lower to make the headline number for the reported month appear higher is a mathematical gimmick that the Government uses frequently. As an example of the questionable quality of the retail sales report, the Government reports that sales at motor-vehicle and parts dealers rose 0.2% from June to July. But the auto industry itself reported a 4% decline in sales from June to July. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which report is more reliable…

Housing starts for July, reported last Thursday, showed an 8% decline from June’s number. June’s number was revised lower from the original number reported. No surprise there, at least for me. The report missed the Wall Street brain trust’s expectations by a wide margin for the second month in row. The downward revision to June makes the report even worse. Additionally, housing starts are now down year-over-year for the second month in a row.

This report followed last Wednesday’s mortgage applications report which showed a decline in purchase applications for the 5th week in a row. The housing starts number continues to throw cold water on the “low inventory” narrative. While there still may some areas of housing market strength in the $500,000 and below price bucket, the mortgage purchase applications data has been mostly negative since April, which reflects deteriorating home sales. This reality is “magnified” by the fact that home sales have declining during what should be the strongest seasonal period of the year for home sales.

Lending Tree, Zillow Group and Redfin are “derivatives” of housing market activity. They reflect web searches, foot traffic and sales associated with mortgages and home sales. Lending Tree stock is down nearly 42% late January. Zillow stock is down 26% since mid-June. Redfin is down 39.5% since the beginning of the year, including an 18.5% plunge two weeks ago. unequivocally, these three stocks reflect the popping of the housing bubble. The Short Seller Journal recommended shorting all three of these stocks before their big declines.

Normally I’m hesitant to discuss the regional Fed economic surveys because they are skewed by their expectations/outlook (hope/sentiment) components. However, the Philly Fed survey for August was notable because it reinforced my view that the economy and the “hope” for a better economy is fading quickly. The overall index crashed to 11.9 from 25.7 in July. This is lower than just before the Trump election, when “hope” soared. Wall Street was expecting a 22.5 reading on the index. The new orders, work week and employment components plunged. Shipments dropped, inventories rose and prices paid fell. This report reflects the view that economy is much weaker than is conveyed by the political propaganda coming form DC.

I don’t know what it will take to cause a plunge in the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq but, as we’ve seen with homebuilder stocks, there’s a lot of opportunity to make money on economic reality in the lesser-followed sectors of the stock market.

Myself and my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers have been raking in easy money shorting the homebuilder sector and, of late, Tesla.  I’ve been including detailed analysis of Tesla, why it will likely be out of business within 2 years and ideas for using puts to short the stock.  You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

That egomaniac [Elon Musk] just paid for my new landscaping. LOL! Cashed in on some Jan 2019 100 & 200 puts for a 175% gain. Should be interesting to see how and how long this debacle plays on. – subscriber feedback.

Gold And Silver: Similar To 2008

In 2008, gold was taken from $1020 to $700 and silver was pounded from $21 to  $7 during the period of time that Bear Stearns, Lehman and the U.S. financial system was collapsing.  The precious metals were behaving inversely to what would have been expected as the global financial system melted down.   Massive Central Bank intervention was at play.

Currently the prices of gold and silver are being dismantled by what appears to be massive hedge fund shorting of Comex paper gold.  As of last Tuesday, the “managed money” trader category as detailed in the Commitment of Traders report showed that the hedge funds were short a record amount of paper gold.

As of yesterday the open interest in Comex paper gold was about 17,000 contracts higher than the open interest shown in last week’s COT report.  This represents another 1.7 million ozs – or 48 tonnes – of paper gold that has been dumped on the market.  It is highly probable, if not a certainty, that most of the increase in short interest is attributable to hedge fund algos chasing the paper price of gold lower.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) has been actively intervening in the physical gold market during July, as detailed by Robert Lambourne, a consultant to GATA:

Use of gold swaps and gold derivatives by the Bank for International Settlements, the gold broker for most central banks, increased by about 17 percent in July, according to the bank’s monthly report…The BIS’ July Statement of Account gives summary information on its use of gold swaps and gold-related derivatives in the month. The information is not sufficient to calculate a precise amount of gold-related derivatives, including swaps, but the bank’s total estimated exposure as of July 31 was about 485 tonnes of gold versus about 413 tonnes as of June 30.

That is an increase of about 72 tonnes or 17 percent. The increase came as there increasingly appeared to be a correlation between the gold price and the valuation of the Chinese yuan, both of which fell substantially during the month.

The BIS refuses to explain what it is doing in the gold market and for whom, engendering suspicion that it is helping one or more of its members to manipulate the currency markets through deception.  To place the bank’s use of gold swaps in context, its current exposure of 485 tonnes is higher than the gold reserves of all but 10 countries. (documentation and links: BIS gold market intervention increased by 17% in July)

While visible evidence of a declining gold price can be seen with Comex futures prices and the daily London gold price “fix,” the BIS is operating in the physical market to increase the supply of physical gold available for bullion banks on the hook to deliver physical gold to the countries buying large quantities of physical gold on a daily basis.  As long as the BIS can ensure the flow of physical gold remains uninterrupted, the demand for physical gold will not offset the effort to take-down the price of gold in the paper derivatives markets.

The effort to push down  the price of gold is to silence the alarm gold provides to signal global systemic distress. It’s not just the emerging market economies  and China. The U.S. economy, based on all the private sector data I dig up an analyze on a daily basis, hit a wall sometime between March and May.

This is most evident in the housing market nationwide, which  has been rapidly deteriorating (notwithstanding a few areas that may still have some flaming embers of activity).  Just one supporting data-point is  mortgage purchase applications, which have declined each week over the past 5 weeks. This is not a good omen for the housing market during the seasonally peak selling months. We know it’s not an inventory issue because inventory across the country in all price segments has been rising in most areas and soaring in some of the hottest areas.

While today’s headline retail sales number shows a 0.5% increase in July over June, the “increase” was manufactured for headline purposes by a large downward revision of June’s retail sales numbers. Furthermore, the headline number is a nominal number. Net of true price inflation, retail sales declined. There are other problematic inconsistencies between the Census Bureau-generated numbers and the actual numbers as reported by private-sector companies.

The bottom line is that the prices of gold and silver are being systematically taken down as a mechanism to help cover up the fact that a large-scale financial crisis is going to hit the global financial system. I don’t know the timing, but I would suggest that the EM currency melt-down that began in South America and has spread to the eastern hemisphere represents a series of earthquakes that  are generating a “tsunami.”

While I’m loathe to forecast a price-bottom for gold and the timing of the forthcoming systemic crisis, I would suggest that anyone who is shaken out of their gold, silver and mining stocks right now will regret selling when looking back a year from now.

My Short Seller’s Journal subscribers and I continue to rake in easy money shorting the homebuilder sector. Two of my short-sell picks, Zillow Group and Redfin, have been annihilated in price over the last week. In the last issue I also laid out why Tesla is technically insolvent and likely will be irrelevant as a company within 12-18 months. You can learn more about this weekly newsletter here: Short Seller’s Journal information.

Housing Heads South – Precious Metals Getting Ready To Soar

“We’re now forecasting slower revenue growth for the third quarter based on an unexpected drop in Redfin’s bookings growth in the past three weeks, slowing traffic growth in a weakening real estate market.” – CEO of Redfin (RDFN) on the earnings conference call. Redfin stock plunged 22% after it reported its latest quarter this past Thursday after the market closed. I’ve been recommending RDFN as a short for several months in my Short Seller’s Journal.

I joined Elijah Johnson and Eric Dubin on SD Bullion’s weekly Metals & Markets podcast  to discuss the popping housing market bubble and to explain why the risk of missing a big move higher in the precious metals market is much greater than the risk of more downside from here:

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I just released my latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal in which I explain why Tesla’s days may be numbered and I offer ideas for speculating that TSLA goes to zero sometime in the next two years. I also update my homebuilder short-sell ideas. You can learn more about this newsletter here:  Short Seller’s Journal information

WTF Just Happened: Gold Forms A Bottom And 420-Time For Elon Musk

Perhaps the most baffling aspect of the Elon Musk “Funding Secured” tweet is the number of financial media outlets and so-called “analysts” that are taking it seriously. The idea is a complete joke. Any valuation in excess of potential asset value minus the debt and other liabilities (included in “liabilities” will soon be a flood of lawsuits). Some bucket-shop stock analysts issued reports explaining why a buyout of Tesla could occur at an even higher price. We’re beginning wonder if the Tesla buyout idiocy will mark the end of the valuation insanity that has permeated the entire U.S. stock market…Meanwhile, hedge funds assumed a record short position in Comex paper gold futures. This along with the worst sentiment toward the precious metals since early 2001 and late 2015 suggest the potential for a bottom in gold, silver and mining shares.

In this episode of “WTF Just Happened?” we discuss these issues plus offer a view on the correlation between the dollar-price of gold and the $/yuan (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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Tesla is on its way to bankruptcy.  I don’t know how long it will take that to occur but the Company will be insolvent if it can’t raise money before the end of the year.  I explain why a buyout of the Company is next to impossible in the next issue of the Short Seller’s Journal and offer several ideas for using put options to express a bearish view of Tesla stock.

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

The Trading Action In Gold

There’s no question in my mind that the intervention in the gold market is similar to the intervention that occurred in 2008 ahead of the financial crisis. However, I believe that,
because of the massive physical off-take in the eastern hemisphere, the western Central
Banks and bullion banks will be unable to push the price gold down on the same scale as it
was taken down in 2008 from March to October. Currently, gold is 15% above the low it hit at the end of 2015. It’s 7% above the interim low it hit at the end of 2016.

As of last week, money managers (hedge funds primarily) held the biggest net-short position in futures and options in records going back to 2006. A measure of gold volatility is near the lowest since January.

My good friend and colleague, Chris Marcus, invited me onto his podcast show that he produces for Miles Franklin.  We discuss the gold market, the deterioration U.S. economy and the reasons I believe that the trading action in gold and silver is preceding another financial collapse similar to 2008 only worse:

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In the latest issue of the Mining Stock Journal, which was released this afternoon, I present data that suggests the current decline in the price of gold is beginning to bottom and is setting up for a big move in to the fall. Also discuss my view of the theory that China has pegged the price of gold to the yuan and I present a gold stock idea that has dropped price to a level that makes it “stupid cheap.” You can learn more about this newsletter here: Mining Stock Journal information

Wash, Rinse, Repeat: The Big Short Mortgages Are Back

This almost makes me wonder if Angelo Mozilo is running NASA Federal Credit Union.

A Short Seller’s Journal subscriber heard an ad for this mortgage product on his local radio in Atlanta. NASA Federal Credit Union is offering 0% down payment, 0% PMI (Private Mortgage Insurance. “This is unique because conventional lenders will normally require PMI when your down payment is less than 20% of the home purchase price. So, if that down payment was keeping you from getting into your new home, talk to a mortgage loan professional at NASA Federal!”

Fast closing guaranteed. If you don’t close by the contract data, NASA Federal will give you $1000 toward closing costs. Jumbo Mortgages are included in this offering.

The only thing guaranteed about this product is that a large percentage of the borrowers will eventually default.  With 0% down, the borrower is going to be underwater by at least 10% after all closing costs are factored into the equation.

What could possibly go wrong?  Lending Tree stock, which reflects loan demand, primarily from potential homebuyers shopping online for mortgages, is down 42% since early February:

Lending Tree reported that mortgage products revenue fell 9% from Q1 and 6% from a year ago when it reported its earnings yesterday. Easy-money mortgages offered by the Government have fueled home price inflation. TREE’s numbers tell us that mortgage activity is rapidly declining, which means that homebuyer demand is declining. NASA Federal is offering a subprime product at the top of the market in a desperate attempt to stimulate its mortgage underwriting fees. I can only wonder if the proprietors are counting on another Taxpayer bailout of the banks this time around…

I presented Lending Tree as a short idea to my Short Seller Journal subscribers in early June at $260. In the next issue I’ll update my view on TREE and how to play it with put and call options. One subscriber emailed me yesterday to report that he shorted August $300 calls for $2.92 when I suggested the idea in June and covered them for a dime. You can learn more about this newsletter service here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

The Q2 GDP Farce, The Big Short 2.0 And Gold

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its “advance” estimate of Q2 GDP on Friday. The Government would have us believe that the U.S. economic growth accelerated to a 4.1 annualized growth rate in Q2. Other than the fact that a one-time jump in soybean exports ahead of the trade war contributed to 25% of the alleged 4.1% growth, nothing about the report is credible. (excerpt from the latest issue of the  Short Seller’s Journal)

Total home sales in SoCal were down over 11% year over year in June (as reported by the California Association of Realtors).   With housing, as goes SoCal, so goes the rest of the nation.  The homebuilders are the short seller’s gift that keeps on giving.

Silver Doctors invited me on the Weekly Metals & Markets podcast to discuss the GDP report, the housing market and gold:

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I just released my weekly issue of the Short Seller’s Journal. In this issue I present more stunning housing market collapse data, I discuss AMZN’s latest earnings report and I talk about Steve “The Big Short” Eisman’s latest short position, which has been one of my SSJ recommendations for a several months.  You can learn more about this newsletter service here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

Adios Housing Bubble

The homebuilder and related stocks are in an “official” bear market.  For a short-seller it’s the perfect scenario, as the decline in homebuilder stocks has received little to no attention from the mainstream financial media.  The current bubble is a “price bubble” that was fueled by the $2.5 trillion of printed money dumped into the housing market by the Fed and de facto subprime mortgages underwritten by the Government (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VHA, USDA).

Prices are beginning to fall in many markets and inventory is rapidly increasing.  Many of the new listings are flippers who soon will become desperate to unload.  This is how the mid-2000’s market collapse was triggered.

Meanwhile, the housing market stocks began to collapse in mid-2005 – an omen ignored most.  It would appear that history will once again repeat.  And the homebuilders have a long way still to fall:

My Short Seller Journal subscribers and I are making easy money shorting the homebuilder stocks. I called Hovnanian at the beginning of the year at $2.88. It’s currently trading at $1.53. The homebuilder stocks provide opportunities for profitable short term trades plus positioning for long term short-sell “investing.” In last week’s issue I discussed a strategy for navigating yesterday’s earnings reports for DHI, PHM and BZH. We are already making money on these ideas. You can learn more about this newsletter service here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.