Tag Archives: housing crash

Financial Market Collapse: Not an “IF” But A “When?”

“’DON’T PANIC!!!!’ Just 6.9% off of the most offensive valuation extreme in history.” – Tweet from John Hussman, Hussman Funds

The above quote from John Hussman was a shot at the financial media, which was freaking out over the sell-off in the stock market on Wednesday and Thursday last week. As stock bubbles become more irrational, the rationalizations concocted to explain why stocks are still cheap and can go higher become more outrageous. The financial media was devised to function as a “credible” conduit for Wall Street’s deceitful, if not often fraudulent, sales-pitch.

Perhaps the biggest fraud in the last 10 years perpetrated on investors was the Dodd-Frank financial “reform” legislation. The Dodd-Frank Act was promoted by the Obama Government as legislation that would protect the public from the risky and often fraudulent business practices of the big financial institutions – primarily the Too Big To Fail Banks. It was supposed to prevent another 2008 financial crisis (de facto financial collapse).

However, in effect, the Act made it easier for big banks to disguise or hide their predatory business operations. Ten years later it is glaringly apparent to anyone who bothers to study the facts, that Dodd-frank has been nothing of short of a catastrophic failure. Debt, and especially risky debt, is at record levels at every level of the economic system (Government, corporate, individual). OTC derivatives are at higher levels than 2008. This is without adjusting for accounting changes that enabled banks to understate their derivatives risk exposure. The stock market bubble is the most extreme in history by most measures and housing prices as a ratio to household income are at an all-time record level.

A lot of skeletons in the closet suddenly pop out of “hiding” when the stock market has a week like this past week. An article published by Bloomberg titled, “A $1 trillion Powder Keg Threatens the Corporate Bond Market” highlights the fact that corporate America took advantage of the Fed’s money printing to issue a record amount of debt. Over the last couple of years, the credit quality of this debt has deteriorated. More than 50% of the “investment grade” debt is rated at the lowest level of investment grade (Moody’s Baa3/S&P BBB-).

However, the ratings tell only half the story. Just like the last time around, the credit rating agencies have been over-rating much of this debt. In other words, a growing portion of the debt that is judged investment grade by the ratings agencies likely would have been given junk bond ratings 20 years ago. In fact, FTI Consulting (a global business advisory firm) concluded based on its research that corporate credit quality as measured by ratings distribution is far weaker than at the previous cycle peaks in 2000 and 2007. FTI goes as far as to assert, “it isn’t even close.”

I’ll note that FTI’s work is based using corporate credit ratings as given. However, because credit ratings agencies once again have become scandalously lenient in assigning ratings, there are consequences from relying on the judgment of those who are getting paid by the same companies they rate. In reality, the overall credit quality of corporate debt is likely even worse than FTI has determined.

The debt “skeleton” is a scary one. But even worse is the derivatives “skeleton.” This one not only hides in the closet but, thanks to regulatory “reform,” it’s been stashed in the attic above the closet. An article appeared in the Asia Times a few days ago titled, “Has The Derivatives Volcano Already Begun To Erupt?” I doubt this one will be reprinted by the Wall Street Journal or Barron’s. This article goes into the details about the imminent risk of foreign exchange derivatives to the global financial system. There’s a notional amount of $90 trillion in FX derivatives outstanding, which is up from $60 trillion in 2010.

Many of you have heard about the growing dollar “shortage” in Europe and Japan. Foreign entities issue dollar-denominated debt but transact in local currency. FX derivatives enable these entities to swap local currency for dollars with banks. However, these banks have to borrow the dollars. European banks are now running out of capacity to borrow dollars, a natural economic consequence of the reckless financial risks that these banks have taken, as enabled by the Central Bank money printing.

As it becomes more difficult for European and Japanese banks to borrow dollars, it drives up the cost to hedge local currency/dollar swaps. Compounding this, U.S. banks with exposure to the European banks are required to put up more reserves against their exposure, which in turn acts to tighten credit availability.  It’s a vicious self-perpetuating circle that is more than partially responsible for driving 10yr and 30yr Treasury bond yields higher recently.  Perhaps this explains why the direction of the Dow/SPX and the 10-yr Treasury have been moving in correlation for the past few weeks rather than inversely.

But it’s not just FX derivatives. There’s been $10’s of trillions on credit default swaps underwritten in the last 8 years. The swaps are based on the value of debt securities. For instance, Tesla bonds or home mortgage securities. As the economy deteriorates, the ability of debtors to service their debt becomes compromised and the market value of the debt declines. As delinquencies turn into defaults, credit default swaps are exercised. If the counter-party is unable to pay (AIG/Goldman in 2008), the credit default swap blows up.

And thus the fuse on the global derivatives bomb is lit. The global web of derivatives is extremely fragile and highly dependent on the value of the assets and securities used as collateral. As the asset values decline, more collateral is required (a “collateral call”). As defaults by those required to post more collateral occur, the fuses that have been lit begin to hit gunpowder. This is how the 2008 financial crisis was ignited.

In fact, given the financial turmoil in Italy, India and several other important emerging market countries, I find it hard to believe that we have not seen evidence yet of FX derivative accidents connected to those situations. My best guess is that the Central Banks have been able to diffuse derivative problems thus-far. However, the drop in the stock market on Wednesday surely must have triggered some equity-related derivatives mishaps. At some point, the derivative fires will become too large s they  ignite from unforeseen sources – i.e.the derivatives skeletons come down from hiding in the attic – and that’s when the real fun begins, at least if you are short the market.

I would suggest that the anticipation of an unavoidable derivatives-driven crisis is the reason high-profile market realists like Jim Rogers and Peter Schiff have recently issued warnings that the coming economic and financial crisis will be much worse than what hit in 2008.

The Housing Market Goes Down The Drain

The Denver Post published an article last week titled, “Major cold front slams Denver housing market in September” (note, weather-wise, September was one of the warmest and driest in many years). Single-family home sales in September plunged 30.5% from August and 21.7% from September 2017. Condo sales fell off a cliff, dropping 43% from August and 17.3% from August 2017. Normally inventory drops slightly in September. This year inventory in September soared. The median price of homes sold fell 3.8%. The article said the high-end of the market – homes worth over $1 million – fell 44.4% from August to September.

In terms of economic trends, Denver historically has been representative of the same
economic and demographic trends nationwide. Based on subscriber emails and articles I’ve read from around the country, the activity in the housing market nationwide is similar to Denver’s.

New home sales for August, which were released last week, showed another year-over-year decline on a SAAR basis and missed the Street’s expectations. In addition, the 627,000 SAAR print for July was revised down 3% from 627,000 to 608,000. Revisions for June and July together were taken down by 39,000. The fact that new homebuilders are sitting on a near-record level of inventory (measured both by value and units) contradicts the NAR’s contention that home sales are declining because of a lack of affordable inventory. Recent results from lower-end, lower-priced homes (Beazer, DR Horton and Pulte) show demand for “affordable” homes is waning.

One indicator supporting my view is the response of KBH’s stock after it reported earnings on September 25th . The past several quarters KBH stock staged a multi-day rally after it reported earnings.  Although KBH reported a revenue and net income “beat” and spiked up at the open the next day, the stock closed down 3% from Tuesday’s close.  KBH’s stock closed 5.8% lower on the week.

While KBH’s revenues, operation income and units delivered showed impressive gains over the same quarter last year, its new orders showed very little growth and the value of the new orders declined year-over-year for the quarter. Furthermore, the Company’s order cancellation rate increased to 26% from 25% in the year earlier quarter. While KBH’s income statement looks impressive in the “rear-view” mirror, the operating statistics that give us insight into future quarters are showing a definitive slow-down.

KBH is trading at a 14x P/E ratio. Historically, homebuilders trade with a 5-8x P/E when they actually manage to generate “E.” I believe it’s safe to assume that KBH’s earnings will decline for at least the next several quarters. This means that KBH’s stock price will drop from both lower earnings and P/E ratio compression. In fact, I believe this will occur with all the homebuilder stocks.

KBH stock is down 37% from high in mid-January this year. I believe over the next 12-24 months, the stock price will be at least cut in half.

The commentary above is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal. My subscribers and I have made easy money shorting KBH and other homebuilders. This week I feature a little-known homebuilder and explain why its disclosure last week shoots a hole in the National Association of Realtors’ propaganda that the falling home sales is attributable to low inventory. I also feature two other great short ideas – one in retail and one in auto finance. You can learn more about this newsletter here:   Short Seller’s Journal information.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fed’s Everything Bubble And The Inevitable Asset Crash

Do not mistake outcomes for control – remember, there is no such thing as control – there are only probabilities. – Christopher Cole, Artemis Capital

Central Banks globally have created a massive fiat currency fueled asset bubble.  Stock markets are the largest of these bubbles – a bubble  made worse by the Fed’s attempt to harness the “power” of HFT-driven algo trading.  At least for now, the Fed can “control” the stock market by pushing the buttons that unleash hedge fund black box momentum-chasing and retail ETF  buy orders whenever the market is about to head south quickly.

However, the ability to push the stock market higher without a statistically meaningful correction is a statistical “tail-event” in and of itself. The probability that the Fed can continue to control the market like this becomes infinitesimally small. The market becomes like a like a coiled spring. The laws of probability tell us this “spring” is pointing down.

The Fed announced in no uncertain terms that it was going to begin “normalizing” – whatever “normalize” means – its balance sheet beginning in October.  Going back to 1955, the furthest back in time for which the data is readily accessible, the Fed Funds rate has averaged around 6%.  But for the last 9 years, the Fed Funds rate has averaged near-zero.  Back in May 2013 Ben Bernanke threatened the markets with his “taper” speech.  More than four years later the Fed Funds rate is by far closer to near-zero than it is to the 62-year Fed Funds rate average.  Can you imagine what would happen to the stock market if the Fed actually “normalized” its monetary policy by yanking the Fed Funds rate up to its 62-year average of 6%?

In September the Fed announced that it would begin reducing its balance sheet by $10 billion per month starting in October. Before the Fed began printing money unfettered in 2008, its balance sheet was approximately $900 billion.  If we define “normalize” as reducing the Fed’s balance back down to $900 billion, it would take 30 years at $10 billion per month. But wait, the Fed’s balance sheet is going the wrong way.  It has increased in October by $10 billion (at least thru the week ending October 18th).  So much for normalizing.

The Fed is stuck. It has created its own financial Frankenstein. Neither can it continue hiking interest rates nor can it  “normalize” its balance sheet without causing systemically adverse consequences.  The laws of probability and randomness – both of which are closely intertwined – tell us that, at some point, the Fed will lose control of the system regardless of whether or not it decides to keep rates low and maintain the size, more or less, of its balance sheet.

Jason Burack invited me onto his Wall Street For Mainstreet podcast to discuss the Fed’s “Everything Bubble,” why the Fed can’t “normalize” its balance sheet and the unavoidable adverse consequences coming at the system:

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