Tag Archives: Home sales

Recession Fears Fading? ROFLMAO

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Stock Market Is Back In Idiot-Mode Again

I don’t know if it was the intent of the Fed, but Jerome Powell has managed to trigger a rush into stocks more frenzied than the one that engulfed the last days of the dot.com/techbubble. The vertical ascent since Christmas in the Dow/SPX is unprecedented on a percentage basis over an 8-week period of time. All sense of logic, sound analysis and fear of risk has disappeared. I don’t know how much longer this move will last, but it will likely be followed by a spectacular reversal.

What I can say with 100% certainty is that the stock market continues to dislocate from economic reality. This is a situation that will be corrected sooner or later, with the stock market re-pricing significantly lower to a level that better reflects the deterioration in both the global and U.S. economy.

A perfect example of this is housing starts, which were released today for December and showed an 11.2% drop from November. The better comparison is the 11% plunge from December 2017, as “seasonal [statistical] adjustments” are used to obfuscate the real data trends month to month. The year/year comp is somewhat “cleansed” from “seasonal” manipulation adjustments.

The mainstream media is already putting a positive spin the starts number by explaining that permits rose. A permit is not indicative of a future start. Homebuilders have been loading up on land, as tends to happen at the end of housing cycles. A permit is a cheap “option” to initiate a start if the market picks up. In fact, starts should be increasing right now. It takes 3-5 months to build the average priced new home. If homebuilders truly thought that the market was going to improve, housing starts should be increasing in November/December in anticipation of peak selling season in June.

Funny thing about the housing starts commentary.  Most homebuilders are sitting on a record level of inventory.  An example is LGI Homes, which just reported this morning.  LGI’s  year-end inventory soared 34% from year-end 2017.  The Company financed most of this with debt.  Home closings for 2018 were up 11% but decelerated during the year and new orders were down in January 2019 vs 2018.  Given the big jump in existing home inventory during the 2nd half of 2018, it’s safe to say that most homebuilders will likely try to work off existing inventory before starting new homes in excess of what is sold.

The housing market and all the related economic activity connected to building, selling, and financing home sales represents  20-25% of the GDP.  Inflating the money supply and dropping interest rates is not a valid method of stimulating economic activity when most households are over-burdened with debt, living paycheck to paycheck and depleting savings just to remain on the gerbil wheel.

Notwithstanding the propaganda coming from policy makers, Wall Street and the hand-puppet mainstream media, the economy is sinking.  The current spike in the stock market is nothing more than a rabid bear market rally of historic proportions. The stock market is not trading higher on fundamentals or hedge funds plowing investment capital back into the market (away from algo-based momentum trading).

According to data tracked by Goldman Sachs, hedge fund exposure to the stock market is well below levels registered during the last 18 months. As it turns out, corporate stock buybacks and short-covering are driving stocks higher. Buybacks YTD are tracking 91% higher than the same period last year. Short interest in the S&P 500 is now at the lowest level since 2007. The stocks that have performed the best since Christmas are the most heavily shorted stocks.

We’re not hearing anymore whining about the hedge fund computers dictating the direction of the market as was commonplace during the December sell-off. But when this market rolls over and rips in reverse, the Leon Cooperman’s of the world will be spilling tears all over the Wall Street Journal and CNBC complaining about hedge fund algos driving stocks lower. Funny thing, that…

The commentary above is partially excerpted from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. This is a weekly subscription service which analyzes economic data and trends in support of ideas for shorting market sectors and individual stocks, including ideas for using options. You can learn more about this here: Short Seller’s Journal information.

As The Fed Reflates The Stock Bubble The Economy Crumbles

I get a kick out of these billionaires and centimillionaires, like Kyle Bass yesterday, who appear on financial television to look the viewer in the eye and tell them that economy is booming.  Kyle Bass doesn’t expect a mild recession until mid-2020. Hmmm – explain that rationale to the 78%+ households who are living paycheck to paycheck, bloated with a record level of debt and barely enough savings to cover a small emergency.

After dining on a lunch fit for Elizabethan royalty with Trump, Jerome Powell decided it was a good idea to make an attempt at reflating the stock bubble. After going vertical starting December 26th, the Dow had been moving sideways since January 18th, possibly getting ready to tip over. The FOMC took care of that with its policy directive on January 30th, two hours before the stock market closed. Notwithstanding the Fed’s efforts to reflate the stock bubble – or at least an attempt to prevent the stock market from succumbing to the gravity of deteriorating fundamentals – at some point the stock market is going to head south abruptly again. That might be the move that precipitates the renewal of money printing.

Contrary to the official propaganda the economy must be in far worse shape than can be gleaned from the publicly available data if the Fed is willing to stop nudging rates higher a quarter of a point at a time and hint at the possibility of more money printing “if needed.” Remember, the Fed has access to much more detailed and accurate data than is made available to the public, including Wall Street. The Fed sees something in the numbers that sent them retreating abruptly and quickly from any attempt to tighten monetary policy.

For me, this graphic conveys the economic reality as well as any economic report:

The chart above shows the Wall Street analyst consensus earnings growth rate for each quarter in 2019. Over the last three months, the analyst consensus EPS forecast has been reduced 8% to almost no earnings growth expected in Q1 2019. Keep in mind that analyst forecasts are based on management “guidance.” The nearest next quarter always has the sharpest pencil applied to projections because corporate CFO’s have most of the numbers that go into “guidance.” As you can see, earnings growth rate projections have deteriorated precipitously for all four quarters. The little “U” turn in Q4 is the obligatory “hockey stick” of optimism forecast.

Perhaps one of the best “grass roots” fundamental indicators is the mood of small businesses, considered the back-bone of the U.S. economy. After hitting a peak reading of 120 in 2018, the Small Business Confidence Index fell of a cliff in January to 95. The index is compiled by Vistage Worldwide, which compiles a monthly survey of 765 small businesses. Just 14% expect the economy to improve this year and 36% expect it to get worse. For the first time since the 2016 election, small businesses were more pessimistic about their own financial prospects than they were a year earlier, including plans for hiring and investment.

The Vistage measure of small business “confidence” was reinforced by the National Federation of Independent Businesses confidence index which plunged to its lowest level since Trump elected. It seems the “hope” that was infused into the American psyche and which drove the stock market to nose-bleed valuation levels starting in November 2016 has leaked out of the bubble. The Fed will not be able to replace that hot air with money printing.

I would argue that small businesses are a reflection of the sentiment and financial condition of the average household, as these businesses are typically locally-based service and retail businesses. The sharp drop in confidence in small businesses correlates with the sharp drop in the Conference Board’s consumer confidence numbers.

The negative economic data flowing from the private sector thus reflects a much different reality than is represented by the sharp rally in the stock market since Christmas and the general level of the stock market. At some point, the stock market will “catch down” to reality. This move will likely occur just as abruptly and quickly as the rally of the last 6 weeks.

It’s Lose-Lose For The Fed And For Everyone

A friend asked me today what I thought Powell should do.  I said, “the system is screwed. It ultimately doesn’t matter what anyone does.   The money printing, credit creation and artificially low interest rates over the last 10 years has fueled the most egregious misallocation of capital in history of the universe.”

Eventually the Fed/Central Banks will print trillions more – 10x more than the last time around. If they don’t this thing collapses. It won’t matter if interest rates are zero or 10%. You can’t force economic activity if there’s no demand and you’ve devalued the currency by printing it until its worth next to nothing and people are toting around piles of cash in a wheelbarrow worth more than the mountain of $100 bills inside the wheelbarrow.

The price of oil is down another $3.50 today to $46.50. That reflects a global economy that is cratering, including and especially in the U.S. Most people will listen to the perma-bullish Wall Streeters, money managers and meat-with-mouths on bubblevision preach “hope.”

Anyone who can remove their retirement funds from their 401k or IRA and doesn’t is an idiot. Anyone thinking about selling their home but is waiting for the market to “climb out of this small valley in the market” will regret not selling now.

Forget Powell. What can you do? There is no asset that stands on equal footing with gold. You either own it or you do not.

“You have to choose between trusting to the natural stability of gold and the natural stability of the honesty and intelligence of the members of the government. And, with due respect to these gentlemen, I advise you, as long as the capitalist system lasts, to vote for gold.” – George Bernard Shaw

The Housing Market Is Sliding Down The Wall It Hit In Late August

A couple of my subscribers emailed me expressing frustration over the fact that their recent homebuilder puts are either not moving higher or losing value despite the sell-off in the overall stock market. There’s two factors. First, the homebuilder sector has dropped well over 30% since late January. To an extent there may be some seller’s fatigue. At some point there will be short term rally that could generate at 15-25% bounce in the sector. I believe that rally will occur from a lower level on the DJUSHB currently, but it’s always a risk if you are short.

The second factor is the abrupt move in the 10yr Treasury yield from 3.25% down to 2.85%. This move occurred in four weeks. This is a big move in that period of time. Hedge fund algos are programmed to buy homebuilders when interest rates drop on the premise that lower rates stimulate home sales. It’s really that simplistically knee-jerk. That’s why the Dow can fall 400 points and the homebuilders remain flat or even move higher (stocks fall and the money flows into Treasuries which drives yields lower and homebuilders higher). Since the stock market began dropping in late October, the DJUSHB has moved from 595 to as high as 683 intra-day on November 28th. I’m surprised it didn’t bounce over 700. The move from 595 to a high-close of 686 on November 29th. This is nearly a 15% bounce. The DJUSHB closed at 643 this past Friday, down 5.6% from the 686 close.

But lower rates in the current context are not going to be a benefit for home sales. The mini-crash in the 10yr yield, combined with the flat yield curve, reflects a weak economy growing weaker. Potential homebuyers, in conjunction with the tightening credit market discussed above, are going to find it hard to qualify for a mortgage. Many no longer have the ability to make even a 3% down payment. Two weeks ago on Friday, when the stock market began to tank, the DJUSHB was up as much 14 points from Friday’s close. The DJUSHB closed down 8 points (1.2%) for the day. This was with the 10yr yield closing at its lowest yield since August 31st. On that day, the DJUSHB closed at 768. With the DJUSHB at 661, it’s 14% below where it was trading the last time the 10yr hit 2.85%.

Reinforcing my assertions above about the financial condition of prospective middle class homebuyers, The U of Michigan released its December consumer sentiment index on Friday. While the overall index was flat vs November, the future expectations component (the “hope” index) fell to its lowest level since December 2017. However, the homebuying conditions index fell to its lowest in 10 years. Recall that the homebuilders sentiment index for November plunged.

The graph below shows what’s going with builders in terms of actual economics. The chart plots the ratio of homebuilding permits to completions. Permits can be a fluff number because a homebuilder does not have put up much money to file a building permit. But completions reflects both demand and a homebuilder’s willingness to build spec homes (homes without buyer orders). A falling ratio indicates falling demand from buyers, rising order cancellation rates and risk aversion from homebuilders.

Another indication of the air flowing out of the housing bubble is the bidding war indicator. A subscriber sent me an article from the Seattle Times on the stunning drop in multiple bids for the same home across the country in the previously hottest bubble areas. In February 2018 in Seattle, for instance, 81.4% of listed homes had multiple bids. By November that number plunged to 21.5%, the lowest percentage of multiple bids on homes for sale in the history of the metric (Redfin began tracking this data in 2011). Other cities that made the top-10 list by Redfin include Boston, L.A., San Diego, Washington DC, Denver, Portland, Austin – all included in any list of the hottest bubble markets over the last 5 years.

The bottom line: We may have just seen the first real bear market counter-trend rally in the builders when the DJUSHB jumped 15% over three months. If the 10yr continues to drift lower, we might see one more push higher.

The above commentary is an excerpt from a recent Short Seller’s Journal.  The latest issue has a short idea related to new housing starts that has at least 50% downside.  To learn more about this newsletter, click here:   Short Seller’s Journal information

The Trade War Shuffle And The Fukushima Stock Market

The market is already fading quickly  from the turbo-boost it was given by the announcement that China and Trump reached a “truce” on Trump’s Trade War – whatever “truce” means.   Last week the stock market opened red or deeply red on several days, only to be saved by a combination of the repetitious good cop/bad bad cop routine between Trump and Kudlow with regard to the potential for a trade war settlement with China and what has been dubbed the introduction of the “Powell Put,” in reference to the speech on monetary policy given by Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, at the Economic Club of New York on Wednesday.

It’s become obvious to many that Trump predicates the “success” of his Presidency on the fate of the stock market. This despite the fact that he referred to the stock market as a “big fat ugly bubble” when he was campaigning.  The Dow was at 17,000 then. If it was a big fat ugly bubble back then, what is it now with the Dow at 25,700? If you ask me, it’s the stock market equivalent of Fukushima just before the nuclear facility’s melt-down.

Last week and today are a continuation of a violent short-squeeze, short-covering move as well as momentum chasing and a temporary infusion of optimism. I believe the market misinterpreted Powell’s speech. While he said the Fed would raise rates to “just below a neutral rate level,” he never specified the actual level of Fed Funds that the Fed would consider to be neutral (neither inflationary or too tight).

I believe the trade negotiations with China have an ice cube’s chance in hell of succeeding. The ability to artificially stimulate economic activity with a flood of debt has lost traction. The global economy, including and especially the U.S. economy (note: the DJ Home Construction index quickly went red after an opening gap up), is contracting. Trump and China will never reach an agreement on how to share the shrinking global economic pie.

While Trump might be able to temporarily bounce the stock market with misguided tweets reflecting trade war optimism, even he can’t successfully fight the Laws of Economics. His other war, the war on the Fed, will be his Waterloo. The Fed has no choice but to continue feigning a serious rate-hike policy. Otherwise the dollar will fall quickly and foreigners will balk at buying new Treasury issuance.

For now, Trump seems to think he can cut taxes and hike Government spending without limitation. But wait and see what happens to the long-end of the Treasury curve as it tries to absorb the next trillion in new Treasury issuance if the dollar falls off a cliff.  Currently, the U.S. Treasury is on a trajectory to issue somewhere between $1.7 trillion and $2 trillion in new bonds this year.

Despite the big move higher in the major stock indices, the underlying technicals of the stock market further deteriorated. For instance, every day last week many more stocks hit new 52-week lows than hit new 52-week highs on the NYSE. As an example, on Wednesday when the Dow jumped 618 points, there were 15 news 52-week lows vs just 1 new 52-week high. The Smart Money Flow index continues to head south, quickly.

For now it looks like the Dow is going to do another “turtle head” above its 50 dma (see the chart above) like the one in early November. The Dow was up as much as 442 points right after the open today, as amateur traders pumped up on the adrenaline of false hopes couldn’t buy stocks fast enough. As I write this, the Dow is up just 140 points. I suspect the smart money will once again come in the last hour and unload more shares onto poor day-traders doing their best impression of Oliver Twist groveling for porridge.

Powell Just Signaled That The Next Crisis Is Here

Housing and auto sales appear to have hit a wall over the last 8-12 weeks.  To be sure, online holiday sales jumped significantly year over year, but brick-n-mortar sales were flat. The problem there:  e-commerce is only about 10% of total retail sales.  We won’t know until January how retail sales fared this holiday season.  I know that, away from Wall Street carnival barkers, the retail industry is braced for disappointing holiday sales this year.

A subscriber asked my opinion on how and when a stock market collapse might play out. Here’s my response: “With the degree to which Central Banks now intervene in the markets, it’s very difficult if not impossible to make timing predictions. I would argue that, on a real inflation-adjusted GDP basis, the economy never recovered from 2008. I’m not alone in that assessment. A global economic decline likely started in 2008 but has been covered up by the extreme amount of money printed and credit created.

It’s really more of a question of when will the markets reflect or catch up to the underlying real fundamentals? We’re seeing the reality reflected in the extreme divergence in wealth and income between the upper 1% and the rest. In fact, the median middle class household has gone backwards economically since 2008. That fact is reflected in the decline of real average wages and the record level of household debt taken on in order for these households to pretend like they are at least been running place.”

The steep drop in housing and auto sales are signaling that the average household is up to its eyeballs in debt. Auto and credit card delinquency rates are starting to climb rapidly. Subprime auto debt delinquencies rates now exceed the delinquency rates in 2008/2009.

The Truth is in the details – Despite the large number of jobs supposedly created in October and YTD, the wage withholding data published by the Treasury does not support the number of new jobs as claimed by the Government. YTD wage-earner tax withholding has increased only 0.1% from 2017. This number is what it is. It would be difficult to manipulate. Despite the Trump tax cut, which really provided just a marginal benefit to wage-earners and thus only a slight negative effect on wage-earner tax withholding, the 0.1% increase is well below what should have been the growth rate in wage withholding given the alleged growth in wages and jobs. Also, most of the alleged jobs created in October were the product of the highly questionable “birth/death model” used to estimate the number of businesses opened and closed during the month. The point here is that true unemployment, notwithstanding the Labor Force Participation Rate, is much higher than the Government would like us to believe.

Fed Chairman Jerome Powell signaled today that the well-telegraphed December rate hike is likely the last in this cycle of rate-hikes, though he intimates the possibility of one hike in 2019. More likely, by the time the first FOMC meeting rolls around in 2019, the economy will be in a tail-spin, with debt and derivative bombs detonating. And it’s a good bet Trump will be looking to sign an Executive Order abolishing the Fed and giving the Treasury the authority to print money. The $3.3 billion pension bailout proposal circulating Congress will morph into $30 billion and then $300 billion proposal. 2008 redux. If you’re long the stock market, enjoy this short-squeeze bounce while it lasts…

Stock, Bond, and Real Estate Bubbles Are Popping – Got Gold?

“I don’t know how this whole thing is going unwind – I just think it’s not going to be pleasant for any of us, even if you own gold and silver.  I think owning gold and silver gives you a chance to survive financially and see what it’s going to look like on the other side of what is coming…”

My good friend and colleague, Chris Marcus, invited me on to his Stockpulse podcast to discuss the financial markets, economy and precious metals.  In the course of the discussion, I offer my view of the Bank of England’s refusal to send back to Venezuela the gold the BoE is  “safekeeping” for Venezuela.

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

Treasury Debt And Gold Will Soar As The Economy Tanks

“People have to remember, mining stocks are like tech stocks where everybody and their car or Uber driver piles into them when they’re moving higher. It’s not a well-followed, well-understood sector which is what I like about it because it means there’s plenty of opportunities to make a lot money in stocks that don’t end up featured on CNBC or everybody’s favorite newsletter.”

Elijah Johnson of Silver Doctor’s (silverdoctors.com) invited me on his podcast to discuss the fast-approaching economic crisis and my outlook for the precious metals sector:

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I’ll be presenting a detailed analysis of the COT report plus a larger cap silver stock that has had the crap beat out of it but has tremendous upside potential in my next issue of the Mining Stock Journal. You can learn more about the Mining Stock Journal here:  Mining Stock Journal information

Housing Market Collapse: Gradually Then Suddenly

“How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
– “The Sun Also Rises” – Hemingway

Zillow Group stock plunged 24% this morning after reporting Q3 numbers that missed revenue and net income estimates. In addition, the Company revised Q4 lower. ZG is down 52% after hitting hitting an all-time high of $65 in mid-June.

Zillow Group is sort of a “derivative” of the housing market. It “derives” its revenues from all activities related to home sales – realtor commissions, advertising, mortgage fees, internet search traffic, flipping, investing, rentals.  As such, the plight of Zillow foreshadows the plight of the entire housing market.

The Dow Jones Home Construction index is down 35% since January 22nd. The housing stocks have been in a bear market – at least as defined by the financial media – for several months. It’s amusing to note that the financial media conveniently ignores this fact. It’s as if there’s a hidden regulation that forbids financial reporters from reporting anything negative about the economy and markets.

But the data I analyze and present to my Short Seller’s Journal subscribers shows that the housing market has been contracting for several months. And it’s not about the moronic “low inventory” narrative promoted by the snake-oil salesman at the National Association of Realtors and aggressively propagated by the media. Inventory, especially for lower-priced new construction homes, has been rising quickly this year.

More negative data was released just this morning, as the Mortgage Bankers Association reported that its purchase mortgage index dropped 5% from a week ago. This data is “seasonally adjusted” for those of you looking to apply the seasonality spin.

Purchase mortgage applications are a leading indicator of future home sale closings.  The data has been trending highly negative since April this year.

I presented Zillow as a short idea in my Short Seller’s Journal earlier this year when the stock was in the $50’s. While Wall Street analysts were selling housing market bull-spin, I was digging into Zillow’s numbers and concluded that ZG was eventually going to experience a “come to Jesus” moment.  In last week’s issue I presented another housing market “derivative” stock that has at least $100 of downside (and likely more).

Similarly, while most homebuilder stocks are down over 30% from their January highs, there’s a bigger bloodbath coming in the near future.  Data I receive from subscribers around the country show that home sales in some of the previously hottest bubble markets were down 20-30% in October.

I expect that the housing market “re-adjustment” will be more severe this time in comparison to the “Big Short” mid-2000’s market collapse.  Because the housing market and all the economic activity connected to home sale activity is about 25% of GDP, a housing market collapse will translate into general economic collapse that will be worse than the recession associated with “Great Financial Crisis.”