Category Archives: Housing Market

The Virus Crisis Exposed The Financial Markets’ Black Hole

The biggest bill of sale sold to the public after the great financial crisis was that the legislation enacted forced the banks to maintain a higher level of integrity in their business dealings. But nothing could be further from the truth. The various pieces of legislation enacted after the 2008 de facto banking system collapse ultimately made it easier for the TBTF banks to move their fiat currency-based Ponzi scheme off-balance-sheet.

Over the last 10 years a massive Rube Goldberg credit market black hole has formed. Point of note: the Fed is injecting printed money into the banking system at a faster rate now than at any time after 2008.

While the coronavirus to be sure is the “black swan” that pricked the stock bubble, market forces eventually would have accomplished the same result. The Fed started bailing out the banking system in September, printing half a trillion dollars to save the banks well before anyone had ever heard of coronavirus or Covid-19. As it turns out, the Fed was also bailing out hedge funds. Powell knew back in September that a massive credit problem was starting to bubble up.

Chris Marcus of Arcadia Economics and I try to put some context on the current market crisis that was triggered by coronavirus but was an eventuality anyway:

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Coming Soon: More Money Printing And Higher Gold Prices

Two economic reports were released which demonstrate that the money printing is not helping the economy. In the fourth quarter of 2019, U.S. household debt pushed over $14 trillion, reaching an all-time record high. This was fueled by a surge in mortgage and credit card debt. Much of the the new mortgage debt consisted of cash out” refis, which helped exacerbate the last housing bubble/collapse.

Second, the U.S. Treasury announced that the Government spending deficit for January was $32.6 billion. This was considerably worse than the $11.5 billion deficit expected. The cumulative deficit for the first four months of the Government’s Fiscal 2020 year (which starts in October), surged to $389 billion, or an annualized rate of $1.16 trillion. The four month cumulative total was 25% higher than a year ago and was the widest since the same four month period of time in 2011.

Make no mistake, the Fed is printing money to keep the fragile financial system glued together and to monetize new Government debt issuance. The economy will continue to contract with or without the help of coronavirus. The Fed knows this, which is why several Fed officials including Jay Powell are already telegraphing more money printing.

The good news is that you can benefit from this – or at least protect your wealth – by moving a significant amount of your investible money into physical gold and silver that you safekeep yourself. I joined up with Arcadia Economics to discuss why the Fed is compelled to further crank up the printing press:

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a minimum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Gold Signaling A Financial System Disaster Will Hit

And it’s not just gold. The Fed is already hinting that more money printing is coming.  Powell suggested at his semi-annual Congressional testimony that QE would be used in the next recession.  A couple other Fed officials this week confirmed that the FOMC is preparing to crank up the printing press even more than it has been running since mid-September.

But why does the Fed feel compelled to warn us that more money printing/currency devaluation is coming if, as Powell told Congress, “the economy is in a good place?”

To begin with, money printing is not stimulating economic growth. The economy has been sliding into contraction for quite some time. Since the “repo” operations began, that pace of contraction has increased.

Make no mistake, the Fed is printing money for two reasons. First and foremost to plug the widening chasms in bank balance sheets brought on by taking on highly risky lending and derivatives risks.  This why the bank excess reserve account has drained steadily since late 2014:

Why was QE restarted? This article partially explains the reason:  Banks Stuck With Billions In Risky Leveraged Loans As Investors Flee The formal term for this is “moral hazard.”  The second reason is to monetize the flood of new Treasury issuance that began in the fall of 2019. Currently the Fed’s Treasury holdings are nearly as high as its peak during  of the first period of money printing (QE1-3).

Yes, the appearance of coronavirus is going to exacerbate the systemic problems engulfing the world. But Corona has NOTHING to do with the fact that the U.S. is overleveraged at every level of the economic system (Government, corporate, household) and China, Japan, and  EU are overleveraged at the Government and corporate level.

EU and U.S banks are  highly stressed from holding non-performing assets (subprime loans primarily) compounded by derivatives connected to those assets, which are deteriorating rapidly in value. The global economy was sliding into a nasty recession well before corona hit the scene. Corona merely will hasten the inevitable. The that fact that the global economy can’t withstand this particular exogenous shock reflects the extent to which the global economic/financial system was already headed toward the cliff.

With the stock market broken (i.e. its price discovery mechanism removed by Central Bank money printing), gold soaring despite heavy intervention attempts, the 30-yr Treasury bond yield hitting an all-time low and the Fed telegraphing even more money printing is coming, something really ugly is going to surface and cause financial system destruction similar to what occurred in 2008 – only this time it will be worse.

For now my front-runner in the race to collapse is HSBC. Deutsche Bank seems to have been somewhat stabilized from massive intervention by the ECB, Bundesbank and German Government (though that “appearance” of stabilization likely is deceptive). Judging from its stock chart, which has woefully underperformed the sector since mid-2018 and has substantially underperformed DB since mid-December, HSBC appears to be on the ropes. It may be more insolvent than DB now.  HSBC is loaded up on overvalued, illiquid Hong Kong real estate loans among many other reckless investments.

I think whatever coming at us is going to make things unpleasant for everyone. But you can help protect your financial situation by buying physical gold and silver that you safekeep yourself.  Gold broke out in a major way in mid-June. It sniffed out the systemic problems starting to surface well ahead of the reimplementation of money printing in September.

Gold raced to a 6-year, 11-month high last week. It’s only a matter of time before it assaults the previous all-time high of $1900. Though inexplicably underperforming gold, silver is percolating to make a move like the current move in palladium. And last but not least, the junior mining stocks are setting up for a move that will make the current tech-mania bubble seem tame.

The Fake News Economy

The stock market is becoming increasingly disconnected from underlying main street reality. Corporate profits have been declining since the third quarter of 2018. However, pre-tax corporate profits have been declining since the Q3 2014 (this data is available on the St. Louis Fed FRED website). Real corporate profits (adjusted for CPI and including inventory write-downs and capex) are the lowest since the financial crisis. Remarkably, rather than the usual “hockey stick” forecasts, Wall St analysts have revised lower their consensus earnings estimates for the Dow Jones Industrials. In fact, per the chart above, I think you can say that Wall Street’s forward EPS estimates have gone off a cliff.

The “narrative” architects and fairytale spinners are desperately looking for evidence to fit their “consumer is still healthy/economy still fine” propaganda. But a look under “the hood,” starting with the employment report, reveals a reality that is in stark contrast to the manipulated headline numbers.

There’s no b.s. like the BLS (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The BLS publishes the monthly non-farm payroll report.  Predictably, the headline number reporting that 225k “jobs” created was well above the consensus forecast of 160k. But the benchmark revision removed 514,000 jobs reported to have been created between April 2018 and March 2019. This is visually what it looks like when 20% of the prior year’s job “growth” is erased:

The black line shows the number of jobs originally reported between April 2018 and March 2019. The light blue line shows the revised data. The two lines are lined up prior to April 2018 reflecting prior benchmark revisions, which is why they’re in sync. A large portion of the revision came from the BLS’ seasonal “adjustments” model over-estimating job creation related to consumer spending, primarily the retail sector and leisure/hospitality.

The benchmark revision does not apply to the current report, which is largely not credible. As an example, the BLS attributed 44,000 new jobs to construction. But the December construction spending report showed 0.2% decline from November. Private construction spending was 0.1% below November.

The total value of construction spending in 2019 was 0.3% below 2018. Private construction spending for the entire year in 2019 was 2.5% below 2018, with residential construction 4.7% below 2018. Removing construction inflation from the numbers, private residential construction spending in 2019 fell 8.8% from 2018 (per John Williams’ Shadowstats.com).

I glean three conclusions from the construction spending data. First, the BLS attribution for 44k new construction jobs in January is egregiously incorrect. No way construction firms are hiring with construction spending in decline. Recall I mentioned in the last issue (the Short Seller’s Journal) that Caterpillar’s CEO had forecast a further decline in residential construction spending in 2020.

Second, without the increase in Government spending, the decline in construction spending would have been worse. Third, per the CAT CEO’s outlook for lower residential spending in 2020 (and I’m certain his view is derived from residential construction equipment orders) it would seem that homebuilders are not backing their optimism per the homebuilder sentiment report with real money if they are planning to spend less in 2020 than they did in 2019.

Notwithstanding the BLS fantasy employment report this past Friday, here’s a good leading indicator of labor market weakness:

When businesses start reducing payroll to cut expenses in response to expected business weakness, the temp labor goes first. You’ll note that this data series went negative briefly in 2015,  but recovered somewhat. In all probability businesses responded to the Trump election hopium and the stimulative effect from Trump’s massive corporate tax cut. But businesses prematurely implemented expansion and capex spending and now they’re back to using cash for stock buybacks into which insiders are selling.

While December retail sales, released in mid-January, showed a 0.3% increase over November, ex-autos retail holiday spending was slightly better than expected. December retail sales not including autos increased 0.7%. However, if you exclude gasoline and auto sales, retail spending increased 0.5%. Auto sales took a hit in December (predictably) and gasoline price inflation boosted the headline number. Surprisingly, considering all of the hoopla in the mainstream financial media about “strong” online sales for the holidays, online sales only increased 0.2%.

Underlying the “good” holiday retail sales number, is a troubling reality. The Fed reported this past Friday (Feb 7th) that consumer credit soared by $22.1 billion in December ($15 billion was the consensus forecast). Most of that increase is attributable to credit card spending, which accounted for $12.6 billion of the $22 billion. This was the biggest one-month jump in credit card debt since 1998. Total consumer credit outstanding hit a record $4.2 trillion in December.

What makes this statistic even more troubling is the fact that credit card delinquency and default rates are starting to accelerate per the Discover Financial (DFS) data I presented in January 26th SSJ issue. PNC Bank (PNC) also reported rising credit delinquencies and charge-offs when it reported its Q4. Its stock tanked 7% over the next eight trading days. Credit Acceptance Corporation (CACC – subprime auto loans) reported rising delinquencies, defaults and charge-offs on January 30th. It’s stock fell 8.1% the next day though it’s recouped about half of that loss through Friday (Feb 7th).

The chart above shows CPI-adjusted retail sales (blue line) vs consumer credit outstanding (red line) for the last 5 years. CPI-adjusted retail sales declined slightly in 2019, which means “unit volume” declined slightly, while consumer credit continued to rise. Now imagine if a real inflation adjustment was applied to retail sales instead of the phony CPI. Real retail sales would show a decline in 2019. The chart above is not a “friend” of perma-bulls and economic fantasy promoters, which is probably why you will never see a chart like that in the mainstream financial media.

Target (TGT, $115) said its same-store-sales were up just 1.4% during the holidays vs 5.7% a year ago. Toy sales were flat, electronics sales were down 6% and home items sales were down 1% (apparel was up 5%, food/beverage up 3% and beauty items up 7%). Macy’s, Kohl’s and JC Penney all reported same-store-sales declines for the holiday period. Macy’s announced earlier this past week that it was going to cut 2,000 jobs and shutter 125 stores.

While it’s clear e-commerce is slowly taking market share from brick/mortar, the latter’s troubles are derived primarily from the deteriorating financial condition of the average household. A study released this past week from a survey taken in late November showed that nearly 70% of all respondents said they had less than $1,000 in savings.

The economy is contracting in most sectors. Any area of the economy that still has pulse is being driven by debt issuance.  Any media reports or official proclamations that the economy is “doing  well” are nothing more than fake news and propaganda.

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The commentary above is  excerpted from the February 9th is of the Short Seller’s Journal. Each weekly issue contains macro economic analysis, market analysis, and short ideas.  I  To learn more about this short-sell focused newsletter, click here:  Short Seller’s Journal info

The Stock Market, Gold, Silver, Mining Stocks And Tesla

The stock market has become a powerful political and economic propaganda tool. It’s hard to dispute the idea that economy is not “in a good place” or “booming” when the Dow goes up 100 points or more everyday. Trump understands this and has been coercive in the Fed’s decision to loosen monetary policy and re-start the money printing press. Ironically, Trump tweeted this in 2012 (as sourced by northmantrader.com):

Make no mistake, the economy nearly every sector of the economy is contracting  except consumer spending and defense spending, both of which are being driven by record levels of consumer and Government debt.

Meanwhile, the precious metals sector is getting ready for another move higher and, according to Factset, currently 45% of all research analysts either have a sell or underweight (which is diplomatic “sell”). Silver Liberties invited me onto this podcast to have some fun and discuss these topics:

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a minimum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Tesla, Gold And Coronavirus – Fraud And Global Depression

To say the current stock market is in a bubble is an insult to the word “bubble.” Tesla experienced an insanely idiotic stock price move after reporting “shock and awe” headline numbers for revenue and EPS which “beat” estimates – estimates that had been lowered by analysts throughout 2019. But as always there’s plenty of dirt in the details which point to a reality that is far different than is represented by headline numbers and Tesla’s highly orchestrated earnings presentation.

There’s just no telling when this Electric Tulip will inevitably crash. But, as with any investment bubble the popping will happen suddenly and unexpectedly, when the bulls are convinced that the upside is limitless and the bears are in a state of terror.

Meanwhile, the physical gold market which underlies the complicated web of paper gold derivatives continues to push the gold price higher despite aggressive efforts by the western Central Bank and bullion bank price management team. In fact, data from the BIS indicates that the BIS had a heavy hand in the effort to cap the price-rise of gold during January using its physical gold swap and leasing transactions.

Paul at Silver Doctors invited me onto its podcast to discuss these issues

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a minimum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Fake News And The “Healthy Economy” Myth

The “narrative” architects and fairytale spinners are desperately looking for evidence to fit their “consumer is still healthy / economy still fine” propaganda. The hype over strong holiday sales was premature if not fraudulent, as data-manipulators appear to have taken the growth in online holiday sales and projected it across the entire retail sales spectrum. I guess they overlooked the fact that online sales took market share from brick/mortar stores.

Despite the plethora of data showing that U.S. manufacturing was down last year, real retails sales are declining, restaurant traffic – including delivered food – has been contracting almost every month for two years and most households are over-bloated with debt, the Fed continues to insist that the economy is healthy with “sustainable moderate growth.” This is sheer and nonsense and the Fed knows it, which is why the Fed printed over $400 billion and tossed it at the financial system.

Chris Marcus – Arcadia Economics – and I discuss the truths underlying the U.S’ fake news economy:

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You can learn more about  Investment Research Dynamics newsletters by following these links (note: a minimum subscription period beyond the 1st month is not required):  Short Seller’s Journal subscription information   –   Mining Stock Journal subscription information

Printed Money Blowing The Bubbles Even Bigger

The total US stock market valuation  at $33.9 trillion is 157.4% of the last reported GDP. It’s the highest market valuation ever. The more the policy-makers try to pump and jawbone the market higher, the worse the consequences will be on the downside when the rug is pulled out from under stocks. The trigger could be anything. Eventually the market will acknowledge and accept the fact that the economy is getting worse and earnings will continue to decline. But fundamental reality is just one of many possible catalysts that will cause a painful drop in the stock market.

For now the rising stock market is shaping the Wall Street narrative being  transmitted through the mainstream media that the economy is in good shape. Funny thing about that – the stock market is not the real economy. But this is:

To be sure, rising stock prices enhance the wealth and spending capacity of the top 1% who own stocks outside of their retirement funds. But that wealth does not “trickle down” to the average middle class household (everyone below the top 1% wealth demographic). Let’s look briefly at some facts.

I’ve been making the case for quite some time that freight shipping volume is a valuable tool by which to gauge the relative level of economic activity:

The Cass freight shipment volume index tanked nearly 8% YoY in December. This number includes the growth in online shopping fulfillment deliveries and would have been worse if online shopping was not taking market share from brick/mortar stores. The index has fallen to its December 2009 level, which is part of the time period that the NBER has declared the economy to be in a recession.

The Cass data is reinforced by the sharp decline in the Baltic Dry Index. The BDI measures global ocean freight shipment activity and is considered a leading indicator for global commodities and raw materials demand. This includes incoming/outgoing vessels to and from the U.S. Not only is the global economy, including the U.S. growing weaker, the IMF has slashed its global economic growth outlook for 2020 and 2021.

The Conference Board’s Leading Economic Index released Thursday showed a 0.3% drop vs the 0.2% decline expected. The index has now declined in five of the last six months of 2019. Without the large run-up in the stock market, the index would have fallen even more. Rising unemployment claims (hmmm…) were the largest contributor to the decline. YoY for December the index gained just 0.1% – the weakest YoY change since November 2009.

One of the false narratives being promoted by talking heads and Wall St. is the idea that the consumer is still strong. Wrong. Consumer spending over and above necessities is being driven by the easiest access to credit in my lifetime. Evidence of this is the rapid growth in auto, credit card and personal loans. And in fact more than a third of all households report using credit cards to make ends meet every month.

But as evidence of the deteriorating condition of the consumer’s financial health, Discover’s (DFS) stock plunged 11.1% on Friday despite “beating” earnings estimates. The dagger in Discover’s quarter was loan charge-offs, which jumped to 4% of the outstanding balance. This is the highest charge-off rate since DFS’ charge-off rate peaked at 5% during the financial crisis. Delinquency rates are also accelerating. On a YoY basis for Q4, 30+ day delinquencies were up 11% while 90+ day delinquencies jumped 13%. For credit card loans, 30+ day delinquencies were up 14% and 90+ day delinquencies soared 15%.

In fact, loan loss reserves are starting to rise at a double-digit rate at many banks and finance companies. The average consumer is stretched, a fact that shows up in the numbers that never get reported in the mainstream media or Wall Street. The last time bank financials evidence rising consumer borrowing distress like this was in late 2007. We know how that played out. This time around the bubbles are bigger, the fraud is better disguised and households and policy-makers are even less prepared for the inevitable.

This is why gold is up 24% since May 2019, outperforming the stock market and most other financialized or commodity investments. No, it has very little to do, if anything, with coronavirus fear. But it’s why the western Central Bank and bullion bank gold price managers are having a difficult time containing the rising price.

The Housing Bubble: They Keep Pushing The System Until It Breaks

The mortgage regulators are stretching the removal of mortgage qualifications to the limit in an effort to keep the housing party going. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CPFB) is recommending the removal of the DTI as a factor in qualified mortgage underwriting. Ironically, tighter mortgage finance regulations were the purpose for the formation of  the CPFB in the first place. Wash, rinse, repeat. I have no doubt the mortgage and housing market is headed for another catastrophe.

Note that Blackstone, one of the first companies to dive head first into the buy-to-rent market, recently dumped the rest of its shares in Invitation Homes – one of the large single family rental operators which Blackstone took public in 2017.

Phil Kennedy (Kennedy Financial) hosted Aaron Layman – one of the rare realtors willing to discuss the truth (Aaron Layman Properties), Jimmy Morrison – who produced “The Bubble,” an impressive film housing bubble/collapse – and me to discuss why the housing market will implode again – we also include a brief discussion of gold and silver and why the precious metals sector is going to a lot higher:

QE Madness: Is It Worse Now Than In 2008?

Unequivocally, the “repo” operations by the Fed is “QE.” Well, let’s just call it what it is because “QE” was coined in place of “money printing.”  The socially correct posture to assume on Wall Street and in DC at the Fed is to label the current bout of money printing “repo operations.”  In fact, based on all of the underlying data I scour daily, let’s just cut to the chase and call this a de facto banking system bailout.

The technical details on why the “plumbing” in the banking system is getting “clogged” is mere surface analysis.  The underlying systemic problems are similar to the problems that pulled the rug out from under the financial system in 2008.  Bank assets, specifically subprime lending assets, are melting down again.

We’ve seen this movie before and the “regulators” were supposed to have blocked the banks from engaging in financial pornography. But, of course, just like teenagers who discover Pornhub, the greedy bankers undeterred by superficial legislation and an absence of independent regulatory oversight (every senior regulatory official has either worked on Wall Street or worked a law firms who get paid to keep Wall Street bankers out of jail) couldn’t help themselves.  CLO’s, 100% LTV lending, non-income verification consumer loans and OTC derivatives with orgasmic fees have re-emerged in full force.

As an example, Citibank is now sitting on top of nearly $1 trillion in credit default swaps – see this, which has the appropriate links:  Citibank CDS.   The article notes that:  “the New York Fed secretly hid from the public’s view that it had funneled $2.5 trillion (yes, trillion) to Citigroup and its trading units from December 2007 to at least July 21, 2010. That last information only became public after more than two years of court battles with the Fed.”

In the minutes released from the last FOMC meeting, the Fed is now discussing extending the money printing operations to April. Imagine that, what started as giving corporations a little help to pay quarterly taxes in September has morphed into and is on its way to half a trillion dollars of printed money handed over to the banks. Doesn’t seem strange that all the money created for corporate tax payments has not  found its way into the Treasury Department’s bank account? How do we know?  Because  a large portion of the money printed has financed new Treasury debt issuance.

Wall Street on Parade is making a motivated, if not valiant, effort to dredge up the truth with regard to to re-start of the Fed’s massive money printing operation. But I hope the Martens are not holding their breath on getting a response without an expensive legal battle:

On October 2, 2019 we filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the New York Fed. We requested “emails or any other forms of written correspondence from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to JPMorgan Chase or any of its subsidiaries or affiliates containing any of the following words or phrases: ‘repo,’ ‘repurchase agreements,’ ‘overnight lending,’ or ‘reserves'”…

Our FOIA request was acknowledged by the New York Fed as received on October 2. We should have had a meaningful response on November 1. Instead, we received an email advising that we would not hear further from the New York Fed until December 5, 2019…Instead of the mandated 10-day extension that is allowed under law, we were given more than a month-long extension. On December 5, the New York Fed emailed us to say it was extending the time to respond to January 9. – Fed Balance Sheet Explosion

Make no mistake, the melt-up in the stock market, the majority of which is confined to just a handful of stocks – AAPL, MSFT plus a few insanely overvalued unicorn-type stocks (TSLA, SHOP, etc) – does not reflect a “booming economy.” Rather, it’s evidence that the financial and economic system is melting down beneath the propaganda.  With its bailout policies, the Fed has made a complete mess of the financial markets. And it’s worse this time  than it was in 2008.

Aside from some select shorts in stocks like TSLA and AAPL, buying gold and silver (physical bullion not paper derivatives – yes, GLD is a derivative) and mining stocks is the no-brainer trade of 2020.