Tag Archives: mortgage bubble

“Never Let A Good Crisis Go To Waste” – And Short AMZN

The “crisis” quote above originated with Winston Churchill. Several U.S. politicians have referenced it since then (most recently Rahm Emanuel when he was Obama’s Chief of Staff). I’m sure the Wall Street snake-oil salesmen and economic propagandists are more than happy to attribute the deteriorating economic numbers to the hurricanes that hit Houston and southwestern Florida.

Retail sales for August were released a week ago Friday and showed a 0.2% decline from July. This is even worse than that headline number implies because July’s nonsensical 0.6% increase was revised lower by 50% to 0.3% (and it’s still an over-estimate).

Before you attribute the drop in August retail sales to Hurricane Harvey, consider two things: 1) Wall St was looking for a 0.1% increase and that consensus estimate would have taken into account any affects on sales in the Houston area in late August; 2) Building materials and supplies should have increased from July as Houston and Florida residents purchased supplies to reinforce residences and businesses. As it turns out, building supplies and material sales declined from July to August, at least according to the Census Bureau’s assessment. Furthermore, online spending dropped 1.1%. Finally, the number vs. July was boosted by gasoline sales, which were said to have risen 2.5%. But this is a nominal number (not adjusted by inflation) and higher gasoline prices, i.e. inflation, caused by Harvey are the reason gasoline sales were 2.5% higher in August than July.

Too be sure, the retail sales overall were slightly affected by Harvey. But the back-to-school spending is said to have been unusually weak this year and AMZN’s Prime Day no doubt pulled some August online sales into July. However, back-to-school spending reflects the deteriorating financial condition of the middle class. I have no doubts in making the assertion that the factors listed in the previous paragraph which would have boosted sales in August because of Harvey offset significantly any drop in retail sales in the Houston area during the hurricane.

Note – John Williams published his analysis of retail sales and it agrees with my analysis above (Shadowstats.com): Net of Hurricane Harvey Effects – Headline Economic Numbers Still Were Miserable, Suggestive of Recession – Hurricane Impact on August Activity: Mixed, Probably Net-Neutral for Retail Sales – August Real [inflation-adjusted] Retail Sales Declined by 0.61% (-0.61%) in the Month, Plunged by 1.24% (-1.24%).

The Fed Continues To Target Stock Prices. The Dow and the SPX continue to hit new all-time highs every week. At this point there’s no explanation for this other than the fact that, according to the latest Fed data, the Fed’s balance sheet increased by $18 billion two weeks ago. This means that the Fed pushed $18 billion into the banking system, which translates into up $180 billion in total leverage (the reserve ratio on high-powered bank reserves is 10:1).

The good news – for Short Seller’s Journal subscribers – is that, despite this overt market intervention, a large portion of the stocks in the SPX are trading below their 200 dma:

The chart above shows the percentage of stocks in the SPX trading above their 200 dma. In March nearly 80% of the stocks were above the 200 dma. By late August the number was down to 54%. Currently 60% are trading above the 200 dma, which means 40% are trading below.

It’s uglier for the entire stock market, as only 43.5% of the stocks in the NYSE are trading above their 200 dma, which means that 56.5% are trading below the 200 dma. This explains why neither the Nasdaq nor the Russell 2000 were able to close at new all-time highs.

Without the Fed’s direct support of the stock market, there’s no question in my mind that the stock market would be crashing. Perhaps more frightening is the increasing amount of debt being added throughout the U.S. financial system. The debt ceiling limit was suspended until December. The amount of Treasury debt outstanding jumped over $300 billion to over $20 trillion the day the ceiling was suspended. John Maynard Keynes’ macro economic model was one in which Governments could stimulate economic growth through debt-financed deficit spending. But once the economy was in growth mode, the Government was supposed to operate at a surplus and pay down the debt. Never did Keynes state that it was acceptable to incur deficit spending and debt to infinity, which is the current course of the U.S. Government.

Trump has suggested removing the debt ceiling. I’m certain it was “trial balloon” to see how vocal the opposition to this idea would be. The Democratic leaders love the idea. I have not heard much resistance from the Republicans. My bet is that by this time next year, or maybe even by the end of the year, there will not be a debt-ceiling on the amount of money the Government can borrow. In truth, this is no different than giving the Government an unlimited printing press.

Corporate high yield debt issuance has exploded globally, as you can see from the chart to the right, which shows the amount of junk bond debt issuance annually on a trailing twelve month basis. Globally the amount outstanding has increased by more than 400%. Close to 60% of this issuance has occurred in the U.S. In conjunction with this, U.S. corporate debt hits an all-time high every month. Most of this debt is being used either to re-purchase stock or over-pay for acquisitions (see the AMZN/Whole Foods deal).

Currently the amount of debt issued to complete acquisitions as a ratio of Debt/EBITDA is at an all-time high, with 80% of all deals incurring a Debt/EBITDA of 5x or higher. The last time this ratio hit an all-time high was, you guess it, in 2007. As an example, let’s look at AMZN’s acquistion of Whole Foods. AMZN issued $16 billion of debt in conjunction with its acquisition of Whole Foods. No one discussed this, but the Debt/EBITDA used in the transaction was 13x. Whole Foods operating income plunged 25% in the first 9 months of 2017 vs the first nine months of 2016.

A 13x multiple outright for a retail food business with rapidly declining operating income is an absurd multiple. That the market let AMZN issue debt in an amount of 13x Whole Food’s EBITDA is outright insane. What happened to all that “free cash flow” that Amazon supposedly generates? According to Bezos, it was $9.6 billion on a trailing twelve month basis at the end of Q2. If so, why did AMZN need to issue $17 billion in debt?  We know that the truth (see previous analysis on AMZN) is that AMZN does not, in fact, generate free cash flow but burns cash on a quarterly basis. Currently AMZN is busy slashing prices at Whole Foods, which will drive WF’s operating margin from 4.5% toward zero. This is the same model that is used in AMZN’s e-commerce business, which incurred an operating loss in Q2.

In my view, AMZN continues to be one of the best short ideas on the board – the graph below is as of last Friday (Sept 15th) when AMZN closed at $986, Short Seller Journal subscribers were given some put option ideas as alternatives to shorting AMZN outright (click to enlarge):

The chart above is a 1-yr daily. Technical analysis adherents would see the head and shoulders formation I’ve highlighted in AMZN’s chart. This is potentially quite bearish. Despite the Dow and SPX hitting a series of all-time highs this month, AMZN has not come within 5% of its all-time high on July 26th ($1052 close). It traded up to $1083 intra-day the next day before closing below the previous day’s close and then dropped its Q2 earnings bombshell when the market closed. Based on its $986 close this past Friday, it’s 9% below its July 27th intra-day high-tick. Some might say that’s “halfway to bear market territory.”

AMZN lost $31 last week despite the SPX hitting a record high on Wednesday. This negative divergence is bearish.  In addition, Walmart has taken off the gloves and is directly attacking AMZN’s e-commerce business model.  WMT offers 2-day free shipping on millions of items without the requirement of spending money upfront to join a “membership.”  WMT is also running television ads during prime time which attack some of AMZN’s marketing gimmicks.

Some other bearish technical indicators, a highlighted above: 1) Since the end of July, the volume on down days in the stock price has been higher than the the volume on up days; 2) The RSI has been declining gradually since early April; 3) the MACD (bottom panel) has been declining steadily since early June. All three of these indicators reflect large institutional and/or hedge funds selling their positions.

The stock is sitting precariously on its 50 dma (yellow line above). I would not be surprised to see it test its 200 dma, currently $904, before it reports Q3 earnings. If you want to speculate on this possibility, the October 6th weekly $920 – $930 puts, depending on how much premium you want to pay, might be a good bet. You might also want to out another week to the October 20th series. One caveat is that AMZN will no doubt manipulate its numbers using merger and acquisition accounting gimmicks, which give the acquiring a window in which to egregiously manipulate GAAP numbers. I don’t know if the market will “see” through this or not. But based on the performance of the stock since AMZN dropped its Q2 earnings bombshell, I’d say the stock on “on a short leash.”

The above commentary and analysis is directly from last week’s Short Seller’s Journal. If you would like to find out more about this service, please click here:  Short Seller’s Journal subscription info.

The Government Is Desperate To Re-Stimulate Housing Sales

The Fed printed $2.5 trillion to prop up the mortgage market and the Government “refurbished” all of the mortgage programs it sponsors (Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, FHA, VHA, USDA) in a way that positioned the Government/taxpayer as the new subprime lender of choice.  The two programs combined inflated a new housing bubble – one that ended up fueling housing price inflation  more than sales volume.   The FHA program was the first program to replace the collapsed subprime mortgage lenders of the mid-2000’s with a 3.5% down payment program. It’s market share of mortgage underwriting rocketed from 2% in 2008 to around 20% currently.

As home sales began to falter in mid-2014, the Government rolled out a revision to the Fannie and Freddie programs in early 2015 that reduced the down payment requirement from 5% to 3% and reduced the monthly cost of mortgage insurance.  The VHA and, believe it or not, the USDA (U.S. Dept of Agriculture) programs provide low interest rate mortgages with zero down payment.

Fannie and Freddie permit the borrower to “borrow” the down payment or receive down payment assistance from a home seller willing make price/fee concessions in an amount up to the 3% down payment.  In other words, under FNM/FRE, a homebuyer can close a conventional FNM/FRE mortgage with zero down payment.   These alterations to the taxpayer guaranteed mortgage programs provided another short-term bounce in home sales volume and sent home prices soaring.

The housing market is headed south again.  Just in time, the Government is making it even easier for a potential buyer to load up more debt to leverage into the American dream. Fannie Mae is raising the debt-to-income ratio on its 3% down payment product from 43% to 50%.  DTI is the total household monthly debt payments divided by pre-tax income. While the credit standards are not quite as insane as during the last housing bubble, the current mortgage underwriting standards facilitated by the Government do not allow any cushion for household financial instability. This is especially true considering more than 50% of all households can’t write a $500 check to cover an emergency.

The latest iteration from the Government  reeks of desperation.  But wait, it gets even better. Some mortgage companies are now offering a 1% down payment mortgage that includes a 2% “gift” from the mortgage company in order to conform to the 3% FNM/FRE underwriting convention. The mortgage lender pays the 2% portion of the down payment.

However, this is not a free lunch “gift.” The mortgage lender assesses a higher rate of interest to the borrower than would be otherwise available from a standard FNM/FRE 3% down-payment mortgage. The mortgage lender, as the servicer of the mortgage, keeps the difference between the interest rate on the mortgage paid by the borrower and the amount of interest payment “passed-thru” to FNM or FRE. Over the life of the mortgage, assuming the borrower does not default, the mortgage company makes substantially more than was “gifted” to the borrower.

If a homebuyer does not have enough capital to make a 3% down payment, the odds are that the buyer also does not have the financial strength to maintain the cost of home ownership. Home-buyers who are “gifted” 2% of their down-payment do not need down-payment assistance, they need earning assistance.

This is going to end badly, especially for the taxpayer.  Obama promised after his mult-trillion dollar Wall Street bailout that the Government would not bail out the banks again. This “promise” guarantees that it will happen again.  Only this time the source of financial nuclear melt-down will be many:  mortgages, auto loans, unsecured household debt (credit cards) and student loans.   Oh ya, then there’s the derivatives. The sell-off in the banking sector since March 1st reflects the market’s awareness of the rising degree of risk lurking in the financial system from an orgy of reckless debt creation.

I don’t know when the this giant Ponzi bubble will blow, no one does, I just know that it will be worse than 2008 when it does blow.  The balloon latex is stretched so tight at this point that any systemic “vibration” not anticipated by the Fed could impale the thing.

The above commentary was partially excerpted from IRD’s latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal.  Two financial sector stocks and one auto sector stock, all three of which have been falling and could easily get cut in half from their current level by year-end with or without a market “accident” were presented.  To find about more, click here:  SSJ Subscriber Information. 

I look forward to any and every SSJ. Especially at the moment as I really do think your work and thesis on how this plays out is being more than validated at the moment with the ongoing dismal data coming out, both here in the U.K, and in the U.S – James

 

New Home Sales Plunge 11.4% In April

So much for the jump in the builder’s confidence index reported last week.  The Government reported a literal plunge in new home sales in April.   Not only did the seasonally manipulated adjusted annualized sales rate drop 11.4% from March, it was 6% below Wall Street’s consensus estimate.

Analysts and perma-bulls were scratching their head after the housing starts report showed an unexpected drop last week after a “bullish” builder’s sentiment report the prior day.

The Housing Market index, which used to be called the Builder Sentiment index, registered a 70 reading, 2 points above the prior month’s reading and 2 points above the expected reading (68). The funny thing about this “sentiment” index is that it is often followed the next day by a negative housing starts report.  Always follow the money to get to the truth. The housing starts report released last Tuesday showed an unexpected 2.6% drop in April. This was below the expected increase of 6.7% and follows a 6.6% drop in March. Starts have dropped now in 3 of the last 4 months. So much for the high reading in builder sentiment.

This is the seasonal period of the year when starts should be at their highest. I would suggest that there’s a few factors affecting the declining rate at which builders are starting new single-family and multi-family homes.

First, the 2-month decline in housing starts and permits reflects new homebuilders’ true expectations about the housing market because starts and permits require spending money vs. answering questions on how they feel about the market.  Housing starts are dropping because homebuilders are sensing an underlying weakness in the market for new homes. Let me explain.

Most of the housing sale activity is occurring in the under $500k price segment, where flippers represent a fairly high proportion of the activity. When a flipper completes a successful round-trip trade, the sale shows up twice in statistics even though only one trade occurred to an end-user. The existing home sales number is thus overstated to the extent that a certain percentage of sales are flips. The true “organic” rate of homes sales – “organic” defined as a purchase by an actual end-user (owner/occupant) of the home – is occurring at a much lower rate than is reflected in the NAR’s numbers.

Although the average price of a new construction home is slightly under $400k, the flippers do not generally play with new homes because it’s harder to mark-up the price of a new home when there’s 15 identical homes in a community offered at the builder’s price. Flippers do buy into pre-constructed condominiums but they need the building sell-out in order to flip at a profit. Many of these “investors” are now stuck with condo purchases on Miami and New York that are declining in value by the day. The same dynamic will spread across the country. Because flipper purchases are not part of the new home sales market, homebuilders are feeling the actual underlying structural market weakness in the housing market that is not yet apparent in the existing home sales market, specifically in the under $500k segment. This structure weakness is attributable to the fact that pool of potential homebuyers who can meet the low-bar test of the latest FNM/FRE quasi-subprime taxpayer-backed mortgage programs has largely dried up.

Second, in breaking down the builder sentiment metric, “foot-traffic” was running 25 points below the trailing sales rate metric (51 on the foot-traffic vs. 76 on the “current sales” components of the index) In other words, potential future sales are expected to be lower than the trailing run-rate in sales. This reinforces the analysis above. It also fits my thesis that the available “pool” of potential “end-user” buyers has been largely tapped. This is why builders are starting less home and multi-family units. The only way the Government/Fed can hope to “juice” the demand for homes will be to further interfere in the market and figure out a mortgage program that will enable no down payment, interest-only mortgages to people with poor credit, which is why the Government is looking at allowing millennials to take out 125-130% loan to value mortgages with your money.  We saw how well that worked in 2008.

Finally, starts for both single-family and multi-family units have been dropping. The multi-family start decline is easy to figure out. Most large metropolitan areas have been flooded with new multi-family facilities and even more are being built. I see this all around the metro-Denver area and I’ve been getting subscriber emails describing the same condition around the country. Here’s how the dynamic will play out, again just like in the 2007-2010 period. The extreme oversupply of apartments and condos will force drastic drops in rent and asking prices for new apartments and condos to the point at which it will be much cheaper to rent than to buy. This in turn will reduce rents on single-family homes, which will reduce the amount an investor/flipper is willing to pay for an existing home. Moreover, it will greatly reduce the “organic” demand for single-family homes, as potential buyers opt to rent rather than take on a big mortgage. All of a sudden there’s a big oversupply of existing homes on the market.

The quintessential example of this is NYC. I have been detailing the rabid oversupply of commercial and multi-family properties in NYC in past issues. The dollar-value of property sales in NYC in Q1 2017 plummeted 58% compared to Q1 2016. It was the lowest sales volume in six years in NYC. Nationwide, property sales dropped 18% in Q1 according Real Capital Analytics. According to an article published by Bloomberg News, landlords are cutting rents and condo prices and lenders are pulling back capital. Again, this is just like the 2007-2008 period in NYC and I expect this dynamic to spread across the country over the next 3-6 months.

This is exactly what happened in 2008 as the financial crisis was hitting. I would suggest that we’re on the cusp of this scenario repeating. Mortgage applications (refi and purchase) have declined in 6 out of the last 9 weeks, including a 2.7% drop in purchase mortgages last week. Please note: this is the seasonal portion of the year in which mortgage purchase applications should be rising every week.

The generally misunderstood nature of housing oversupply is that it happens gradually and then all at once. That’s how the market for “illiquid” assets tends to behave (homes, exotic-asset backed securities, low-quality junk bonds, muni bonds, etc). The housing market tends to go from “very easy to sell a home” to “very easy to buy a home.” You do not want to have just signed a contract when homes are “easy to buy” because the next house on your block is going to sell for a lot lower than the amount you just paid. But you do want to be short homebuilders when homes become “very easy to buy.”

The above analysis is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal.  My subscribers are making money shorting stocks in selected sectors which have been diverging negatively from the Dow/S&P 500 for quite some time.  One example is Ralph Lauren (RL), recommended as short last August at $108.  It’s trading now at $67.71, down 59.% in less than a year.  You can find out more about subscribing here:  Short Seller’s Journal information.

On The Home-Stretch To Collapse

The warning signs are there but very few look for them or want to see them. But it’s a dynamic in which once you see it you can’t “unsee” it. A teacher I know told me this morning that Colorado school districts are quietly cutting staff across all districts. The only reason this would be occurring is that the State is projecting a decline in tax revenues. The only reason tax revenues would be declining is because economic activity is slowing or contracting. And Colorado supposedly has one of the more “vibrant” State economies.

The soaring level of “hope” that, for some unexplainable reason, accompanied the election of Trump is now crashing. The so-called “hard data” which somewhat measures the level of economic activity never moved higher in order to justify the optimism – an optimism tragically seeded in ignorance. As an example, the Kansas City Fed released its economic survey today. The composite index crashed from 20 to 7. Not surprisingly, Wall Street snake-oil salesmen – otherwise known as “economists” – were expecting a reading of 17 on the index.

As for individual components of the index, the average workweek and number of employees dropped; the production component of the index fell precipitously; and new orders collapsed. In fact, new orders expectations fell below the pre-Trump level. The six-month outlook metric – aka the hope index – plunged to its lowest level since November.

The truth is that all of the regional Fed economic activity surveys were largely driven by “hope,” which registered in the form of new orders for goods that will sit on the shelves of car dealers and non-food retailers and in the form of “expectations” about the level of economic activity in six months.

But there has not been any follow-through in form of actual growth in economic activity to justify the unrealistic level of “hope.” Real disposable income and the real level of retail/auto sales have been declining on the way to a tail-spin plunge. Any pulsations in final retail sales and home purchases have been fueled by the parabolic issuance of sub-prime quality debt. In fact, an increasing percentage of home purchases are from aspiring flippers. We are at the point in the cycle, just like 2007-2008, in which many of these flipper purchases will never end up with end-users and instead will land on bank balance sheets.

Auto sales through the end of March were down 10% since the beginning of 2017, resulting in the steepest decline in auto sales since 2009.  New car inventory at some of the biggest auto dealers around Denver is spilling over into the giant parking lots at vacant malls as OEMs push overproduction onto the dealer network.   Once the debt capacity of those still buying pick-up trucks at record incentive pricing hits the wall, the auto industry will see a spectacular cliff-dive.  The Government is too broke to provide the “cash for clunker” safety-net put in place in 2010.

In addition to trillions in printed (electronically generated) currency, the Fed has been able to fabricate the illusion of economic growth with an enormous amount of credit creation.   Credit is debt-issuance.   The part about debt that is conveniently overlooked by economists is that borrowed money behaves like printed money until it has to be repaid. The problem is that most debt created in the U.S. is never repaid.  For instance, the level of outstanding Government debt has been increasing every day since before Nixon closed the gold window.  This is not “debt” in the traditional sense of a loan that gets repaid.  This is money printing.

Consumer  and corporate debt levels have been rising in parabolic fashion and are at all-time highs.  Given that large chunks of this debt will never be repaid, just like in 2008-2009, the issuance of this debt is the same as printed money.  Amusingly, though not surprisingly, the Fed stopped reporting the total amount of debt outstanding in the system (Government + Corporate + Household) on March 25, 2016.  On that day the total debt outstanding was $63.5 trillion.  It’s likely well over $65 trillion by now.   That debt, until it’s repaid, is no different that printed currency.

This would be great in a pretend world in which debt could be issued to borrowers ad infinitum.  It would be the proverbial money tree on which free lunches blossomed for everyone forever.  Unfortunately, debt can not be issued in increasing amounts to eternity. Currently it would appear as if the non-Government borrower segment of the debt statistic has reached its borrowing capacity.   It happens gradually then all at once.   The United States is getting close to the “all at once” stage.

This is why the Deep State has resorted to the last stage of history’s Empiric life-cycle curve:  when all else fails start a war…

 

What Will Catch The Falling Housing Market Knife This Time?

“There’s so much inventory, and that influx is hitting across all price points, even studios.” – director of leasing at Douglas Elliman (NYC). NYC was one of the first markets hit hard in 2007-2008.

For awhile, any weakness in the NYC housing market was attributed exclusively to the high end. I am on record stating that price dynamic would spread to all price segments. It’s not rocket-science, it’s simple supply/demand/price economics. Studio rents in NYC dropped the most on record in February. This same dynamic is also beginning to happen in many of the other hottest cities across the country. To compound the spreading price weakness in the rental market, a record number of new units will hit the markets coast to coast over the next two years. It would be a mistake to assume that price weakness in the apartment market will not affect the home rental market. Again, the laws of supply, demand, price, income and substitution will once again invade the entire housing market and take sales volume and prices lower.

Eventually the housing market implosion that occurred in 2008 will repeat, only this time it will likely be worse. Why? Because the institutional money that soaked up most of the foreclosed inventory are either fully invested in the asset class or outright selling down their buy-to-rent portfolios. Where will the money come from to catch the falling housing knife again?

Interest rates were dropped from 5% in 2008 to zero percent. This created a reservoir of cheap capital with which to fund new homebuyers with marginal credit. The cheap money and reduced requirements to qualify for a Government-backed mortgage (FHA, FNM, FRE) transformed a subprime borrower in 2008 into a prime/conventional buyer by 2015. While it may not look exactly like the junk mortgages issued by the likes of Countrywide et al during the big housing bubble, most of the low-to-no-to-borrowed down payment agency mortgages issued to the average homebuyer look quite similar in terms of absolute debt to income and income to monthly payment ratios. Just like more than 50% of American households are unable to write a $500 emergency payment check, many of the new homeowners in the last 2-3 years are living on the edge of defaulting on either their car payment, their mortgage payment or both.

A fairly large proportion of the home “buyers” over the last couple of years have been mom and pop speculators looking to “get in” on flipping or buying and renting. A large percentage of that cohort has been using debt to finance their flips/investments. When the music stops, many of these buyers will be left without a buyer or renter. Again, this is similar to the dynamic that unfolded in the housing market leading up to the 2008 collapse.

The above analysis is an excerpt from the latest Short Seller’s Journal, released earlier today.  There’s a lot more information and analysis, most of it not found in your primary alternative media websites or in the mainstream media.  The issue also has two primary short ideas and a couple other ongoing short trades highlighted plus ideas for using options.  SSJ is a weekly, email-delivery based subscription service.  Subscribers also have the option of subscribing to the Mining Stock Journal for half-price.  To learn more, click here:   Short Seller’s Journal

The Apartment Glut Cometh – Adios Housing Market

Driving by the west-side border of downtown Denver (on I-25), I can count 9 cranes in air plus one semi-finished high-rise building.  What’s amusing about this is that there’s already an oversupply of rental apartments and condos as the 1-2 month free + free parking incentives reflect.   What will happen when all these new projects hit the market?

This is not unique to Denver.   I witnessed it first-hand in New York City over the holidays. Douglas Elliman, the high profile NYC real estate brokerage, issued a report which showed that NYC real estate prices plunged in Q4, with the median sales price dropping nearly 9% from Q3. Days on the market increased 14.6% and the number of sales dropped 3.7% I can recall from the demise of the big housing bubble that the impending housing bust started first in NYC.  I remember walking around NYC in late 2006 and seeing several apartment complexes under construction on which work had been abandoned. I would
suggest that the current bubble is already popping in several bubble areas per this canceled contract data: LINK.  I also am confident that the weakness that is developing in NYC will soon spread to the rest of the country.  – from the  Jan 15th Short Seller’s Journal

Miami was the leading indicator of the demise of the mid-2000’s housing bubble.  An apartment glut quickly appeared as speculators took almost free money and put deposits on apartments being built by reckless builders.  Builders always get reckless when other people’s money is cheap. Greenspan and Bernanke made sure there was plenty of cheap capital for developers.   Wolf Richter details the current apartment market implosion occurring in Miami – LINK – and coming to city near you soon.

Ditto for San Francisco/Bay Area, which was right behind Miami during the big housing bubble and is concomitantly blowing up with Miami.  The SF/Bay Area market was driven by big foreign money laundering and a massive private equity tech bubble in Palo Alto. The foreign money has dried up and the PE tech bubble is fading quickly.  It’s like the cheap money rug has been pulled out from under reckless speculators and developers.  Mark Hanson describes the situation here:  Adios SF Housing Market.

Even some of the industry associations are starting to report the truth -something we’ll NEVER get from the National Association of Realtors, as the National Multifamily Housing Council reported a week ago that, “weaker conditions are evident across all sectors of the apartment industry.”  Its sales volume index dropped for the second quarter in a row.

At the same time that a glut in apartment/condo buildings is appearing everywhere, the luxury high-end market is falling apart as well, the latter of which was also a leading feature of the demise of the big housing bubble. Douglas Elliman reported recently, “that prices in the Hamptons real estate market dropped nearly 30% in Q4, with sales volume down 14.5% But in the luxury end of the market – homes with an average price of $7 million – prices were down 42.6% in Q4. This is an all-out crash in housing in one of the most high-end areas of the country. This is exactly what began occurring in 2006/2007 in the Hamptons.

CNBC reported last week that “luxury home sales continued to slump in Q4.” It cited the
Hamptons but also Aspen and Beverly Hills. I reported in SSJ a few months ago that Aspen
was starting to go into a price freefall. Prices and volume started collapsing in the summer.
Apparently in Q4 sales volume fell another 25% and prices were down another 11%. Beverly Hills sales volume plummeted 33%, though prices were flat. Again, the affects of the bursting big mid-2000’s real estate bubble was first felt in these same markets.

Record low mortgage rates combined with the U.S. Government’s providing the easiest, most accessible borrowing terms and credit standards in the GSE program history has enabled the greatest misallocation of financial resources in history.  It’s been manifest in every asset class but is particularly prevalent in stocks and the housing market.  While it may be somewhat easy to unload stocks when they are dropping out of the sky, housing is a different matter.  It’s easy to sell a home when the buying frenzy is rampant.  But as the market begins to head south, the entire real estate becomes “offered with no bid,” meaning that everyone stuck with an “investment” is looking to dump and buyers scatter like cockroaches when the kitchen light is switched on.

The home construction market is over-ripe with short opportunities.  I have been focusing on the sector (plus retail and autos) in the Short Seller’s Journal.  Since August,  shorting the retailers has been a lay-up.

In the SSJ, I present in detail the ways in which the industry associations, Wall Street – with the help of mainstream media cheerleading – distort the facts about the housing and auto markets.    As the reality of what I described above sinks in to the market, the price path of least resistance for home builders, home construction suppliers and auto-related equities will be down.   The same is true for the companies that provide financing to these industries.

In every issue of the Short Seller’s Journal I provide what I believe somewhat unique market analysis and commentary along with dependable research sources to back-up my assertions.  I also typically provide at least 2 or 3 short ideas, accompanied by suggestions for using options (although I first and foremost recommend shorting stocks outright).  I also disclose when I’m trading an idea presented, including which options contract if applicable.   You can subscribe to the weekly newsletter with this link:  Short Seller’s Journal

You certainly do provide research and with that, Value. But also… YOU actually are there responding to emails which says a TON about you, your commitment to your products, company, and us….the subscribers. For that, I thank you.  – Subscriber, Larry

 

The Air Is Releasing From The Hope Bubble

The post-election run-up in stocks was fueled purely by “hope and change” energy.  Now that Trump has assumed the mantle, reality will hit like an icy shower.  The non-“alternative facts” about the economy continue to show contraction in real economic activity.   The retail sales report for December was an utter disaster, especially if you strip out gasoline and autos.

The price of gasoline rose in December, which raised the nominal level of gasoline sales but inflation-adjusted is another matter.  With autos, as it turns out based on measurable dealer inventories, a large portion of the auto “sales” were deliveries to dealers financed by “floor financing programs” and not actual sales to end-users.

I found a curious chart and commentary in today’s “Daily Shot.”  I love this report because the author wears rose-colored glasses and puts a positive spin on any and all U.S. data.  Today he had this graph:

This was presented as a positive. But let’s review the facts. It took $4 trillion in money printing – over $2 trillion of which went directly into the mortgage market – a few trillion in Government subsidies to the housing market including the bail-out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the artificial imposition of record low interest rates and the re-stimulation of the subprime mortgage market in the form of Government-backed FHA and VHA mortgages in order to move the single-family home turnover rate back up to the “long run average.” Think about that for a moment:  it took several trillion dollars of direct housing market stimulus to move the needle on the home turnover rate up just a couple percentage points to its “long run average.”

But what happens now?  Now that interest rates are rising, the printed money has worked its way through the system and mortgage default, delinquency and foreclosure rates are beginning rise again, what will happen to the line on that graph?  Of course, it will head south – quickly and likely below the low it hit in 2010 –  unless the Fed re-ups its money printing and the Government throws even more subsidies behind housing.  But all that is going to do is put people into homes who otherwise can’t afford them.

The Philly Fed business outlook index hit a 2-year high, however, the prices paid sub-index drove a large part of this at it soared to its highest level since Feb 2012. In addition, the “expectations” for prices received dropped. This would imply that gross and profit margins are expected to drop. In addition, the average workweek sub-index dropped.

Now, there’s two big caveats with this reports, and of course the mainstream media and even ZH did not bother to peruse the entire report from the Philly Fed website but SSJ did bother. First, the survey used to construct the index measures primarily future expectations. There’s clearly a high degree of “hope” associated with the Trump stock market rally. I expect a big reversal of this sentiment over the next three months. Second, the Philly Fed incorporated “new seasonal adjustment factors” into the report. This was disclosed in the actual report for January. As with all seasonal adjustment calculations, the Philly Fed does not disclose its methodology for calculating the adjustments but they are likely designed to overestimate seasonal factors and therefore overestimate the index level calculations. – From the latest Short Seller’s Journal

In the latest Short Seller’s Journal, I take apart the latest economic hopium-infused economic reports and provide several short-sell ideas to take advantage of facts, which will eventually emerge and take stocks lower.  The “air” leaking out of the Trump bubble and it will translate into many profit-making trades in the stock market from shorting stocks or buying puts.  The SSJ is a weekly report dedicated to helping subscribers make money on the historically overvalued stock market.  You can subscribe using this link:  Short Seller’s Journal.  It’s monthly with no minimum time commitment.

Dave Kranzler provides excellent and indepth research in making his case to go long or short with options to play if you choose.  I look forward to getting his mining journal and short sellers journal in my inbox which include new ideas as well as updates on
previous ideas as market conditions change. I agree with his overall outlook on the market as my gut tells me something is wrong and since I’m not a market analyst I rely on Dave’s
experience to help me decipher what is really happening though his journals as well as his articles and interviews which are easily found on youtube. Thanks Dave for all you do and the personal attention and dedication to your subscribers.  – subscriber “Keith”

 

Jim Cramer’s Christmas Gift To Short-Sellers

Wall Street’s best contrarian indicator has spoken. Jim Cramer issued a strong buy on the Dow last Wednesday. He references the “generals” that are “leading the charge” higher in the stock market.   He sees no end in sight to current move in market leaders. Those will prove, once again for Cramer, famous last words.   It will be more like Custard making his last stand.

Perhaps the most amusing section of his maniacal diatribe was his assertion that Goldman Sachs (GS) and JP Morgan (JPM) are “cheap” because of Trump. A colleague and I were, serendipitously discussing GS as a great short idea last week. Cramer is a bona fide lunatic who must relish the thought of leading the retail stock lemmings to slaughter. The financials have gone parabolic since the election and now the hedge funds who whisper sweet nothings into Cramer’s ear need an exit.   Please don’t give up your chair to the sound of CNBC’s Pied Piper.

The puts on JPM and GS are loaded with premium. I don’t want to recommend any specific put ideas.   If you have an interest in shorting shares, GS and JPM are among the best shorts in the Dow right now.

That was an excerpt from the latest issue of the Short Seller’s Journal.   Shorts are working again.   Four of the five short ideas in last week’s SSJ were down for the week (one was unchanged) – one retail idea was down 13.6% and the puts recommended were up 400%.  In fact, most of the short ideas since early August have been working, some better than others, with one them down nearly 40% since early August.

Beneath the facade of the Dow and the SPX, many stocks and sectors are down for year. For instance, the DJ Home Construction index is down 11.1% from its 52-week high early this year.  It’s 52% below its all-time high in July 2005.  The current SSJ presents an home construction-related stock that is technically and fundamentally set-up to fall off a cliff.  I also presented my for favorite homebuilder shorts along with put option ideas.

The SSJ is a weekly subscription-based newsletter.  It’s billed on monthly recurring basis with no required minimum subscription period.  Each issue is delivered to your email in-box and has at least 2 or 3 short ideas plus put option ideas.   New subscribers will receive a handful of the most recent issues plus a complimentary copy of the Mining Stock Journal.  SSJ subscribers can subscribe to the MSJ for half-price.  You can get more information and a subscription here:  Short Seller’s Journal subscription link.

A Bearish Signal From Housing Stocks

The yield on the 10-yr Treasury has blown out 109 basis points since July 3rd – 70 basis points since October 30th.   30yr fixed rate mortgage rates for 20% down payment buyers with a credit score of at least 720 are up 90 basis points since October 1st.

Interestingly, the Dow Jones Home Construction index has diverged from the S&P 500. While the DJUSHB index is up since election night, it has been lagging the S&P 500 since the beginning of the year:

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The graph above is a 1yr daily which compares the ROR on the SPX with that of the DJ Home Construction Index.  I use the DJUSHB because it has the heaviest weighting in homebuilders of any of the real estate indices. As you can see, the DJUSHB has been in a downtrend since late August, almost as if stock investors were anticipating the big spike in interest rates that started about 6 weeks later. You can see that, while the volume in the DJUSHB spiked on December 5th, it’s been declining steadily since then. The SPX volume spiked up on December 5th and has maintained roughly the same daily level since then. Note: volume often precedes price direction.

Here’s another interesting graphic sourced from the Mortgage Bankers Association:

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The data is through December 2nd, as mortgage application data lags by a week.  As you can see, mortgage application volume – both refinance and purchase – has been negative to highly negative in 9 of the last 12 weeks.

A report by Corelogic was released today that asserted that foreclosures had fallen to “bubble-era” lows.  This is not unexpected.  Historically low rates have enabled a lot mortgagees who were in trouble to defer their problems by refinancing.  Unfortunately, the Marketwatch author of the article did not do thorough research – also not unexpected.

As it turns out, mortgage delinquency rates are quickly rising:

Black Knight Financial Services, which provides data and analytics to the mortgage industry, released its Mortgage Monitor report for October. It reported that the 30+ day delinquency rate had risen “unexpectedly” by nearly 2%. The overall national delinquency rate is now up to 4.35%. It also reported a quarterly decline in purchase mortgage lending. The highest degree of slowing is among borrowers with 740+ credit scores. The 740+ segment has accounted for 2/3’s of all of the purchase volume – Short Seller’s Journal – December 11, 2016

Even more interesting, it was reported by RealtyTrac last week that home foreclosures in the U.S. increased 27% in October from September. It was the largest month to month percentage increase in foreclosures since August 2007. Foreclosures in Colorado soared
64%, which partially explains the rising inventory I’m seeing (with my own eyes). Foreclosure starts were up 25% from September, the biggest monthly increase since December 2008.

Finally, again just like the mid-2000’s housing bubble, NYC is showing definitive signs that its housing market is crumbling very quickly. Landlord rent concessions soared 24% in October, more than double the 10.4% concession rate in October 2015. Typical concessions include one free month or payment of broker fees at lease signing. Days to lease an apartment on average increased 15% over 2015 in October to 46 days. And inventory listings are up 23% year over year. Note: in the big housing bubble, NYC was one of the first markets to pop.  Short Seller’s Journal – November 13, 2016

Finally, I saw an idiotic article in some rag called “The Sovereign Daily Investor”   that was promoting the notion that another big boom in housing was about to occur because of a surge in buying by millennials.   Unfortunately, the dope who wrote this article forgot to find data that would verify proof of concept.  On the other hand, here’s actual data that applies heavily to the millennial demographic:

The Fed reported on Wednesday that household debt had hit a near-record $12.35 trillion led by new all-time highs in student loan debt ($1.28 trillion) and a new all-time high in auto loans ($1.14 trillion). 11% of aggregate student loan debt was 90+ days delinquent or in default at the end of Q3 2016. Fitch has projected that it expects the subprime auto loan default rate to hit 10% by the end of the year. At the time of the report, it was at 9%.  – Short Seller’s Journal – December 4, 2016.

The point here is that the millennial demographic is overburdened with student loan, auto loan and personal loan debt.  In addition, it’s becoming increasingly hard to find post-college full-time employment that pays enough to support the cost of home ownership, especially with the mortgage payments associated with a 3% down payment mortgage.   This is the dynamic that has fueled the rental market boom (and soon the rental housing bust).

Speaking of which, Blackstone, the largest player in the buy-to-rent game, quietly filed an IPO of its housing rental portfolio about a week ago.  If Blackstone thought there was more value to be squeezed out of its portfolio – i.e. that housing prices and rents had more upside – it would have waited longer to file.  I’m sure that Blackstone would love to get this IPO priced and its equity stake in this business unloaded on to the public before the market cracks.

The housing market data tends to be lagged and extremely massaged by the most widely followed housing data reporters – National Association of Realtors and the Government’s Census Bureau (existing and new home sales reports).  The reports from these two sources are highly unstable, subject to big revisions that go unnoticed and entirely unreliable.   But the fundamental statistics cited above will soon be filtering through the earnings reports of the companies in the DJ Home Construction Index.  I would suggest that the market has already sniffed this out, which explains why the DJUSHB is diverging from the S&P 500 negatively in both direction and volume.

The Short Seller’s Journal is a subscription-based, weekly publication.  I present in-depth detailed data, analysis and insight that is not presented by the mainstream financial media and often not found on alternative media websites.  I also present short-sell ideas, including recommendations for using options.   Despite the run-up in the broad market indices, there’s stocks everyday that blow-up.  Last Restoration Hardware plunged 18% after reporting its earnings.   You can subscribe to the Short Seller’s Journal by clicking on this link:  SSJ Subscription.   It’s monthly recurring and there is not a minimum number of months required.

Guest Appearance On Crush The Street: Central Banks Are Losing Control

Kenneth Ameduri invited me on to his Crush The Street podcast show last week.  We chatted about gold & silver, the FOMC and interest rates, the US Dollar vs the Japanese Yen, emerging markets (investing in Russia), and the reasons now is a great time to buy mining stocks.

That’s really what I think the game is that is going on: it’s to keep the share prices going up so that insiders can bail.

You can access Kenneth’s website here: Crush The Street.

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