The Dollar Losing Ground As The World’s Reserve Currency

Australia and China have announced that they will trade with each other without using the U.S. Dollar.  China and Russia will chip away at the Dollar’s reserve currency status by establishing direct payment in their own currencies with one trading partner after another.  When the world no longer considers the Dollar a necessary reserve currency, we will be in big trouble.  We will no longer be able to endlessly print money and kick the can further down the road.  That will be the end game for the fiat currency system that has been in place since Bretton Woods.

In a previous article by David Stockton on this blog, he makes the following statement about Richard Nixon, which I completely agree with:

“When Richard M. Nixon essentially defaulted on the nation’s debt obligations by finally ending the convertibility of gold to the dollar. That one act — arguably a sin graver than Watergate — meant the end of national financial discipline and the start of a four-decade spree during which we have lived high on the hog, running a cumulative $8 trillion current-account deficit.”

The following is an article that appeared in zerohedge.com that demonstrates how the world is changing and how the U.S. Dollar is unlikely to remain the worlds reserve currency.

Continue reading “The Dollar Losing Ground As The World’s Reserve Currency”

Keeping the Housing Bubble Inflated

It should be abundantly clear and obvious that thegovernment and Wall Street want nothing more than to keep home prices inflated and are sticking out a giant middle finger to the majority of Americans.

You might have missed the glorious news that our stunningly cunning Senate decided to reinstate the heightened loan limits for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the FHA (aka the entire stinking mortgage market).  Of course the lobbying arms of the housing industry went gaga for this policy even though it keeps prices further inflated in bubble states like California and New York.  Good job politicians, I’m sure the checks from the FIRE industry will come in just in time for the 2012 election!

Since our politicians care so deeply about working Americans, they are also examining a push at giving residential visas to foreigners looking to buy at least $500,000 in real estate.  Forget about the fact that the median home in the U.S. costs more like $170,000 to $180,000.  Then we have the Federal Reserve artificially keeping mortgage rates at historic lows and you hit the trifecta of housing welfare for expensive bubble ridden states while the overall economy falters.

Continue reading “Keeping the Housing Bubble Inflated”

The Worst Housing Crash Since the Great Depression

This is reposted from an article at DoctorHousingBubble.com.

The worst housing crash since the Great Depression just got worse. What happens when home values pop in other bubble metro areas? New home sales fall 82 percent from peak versus 80 percent during the Great Depression

This is likely to be the first ever global economic disaster caused by real estate sponsored by big banks.  During the Great Depression real estate values collapsed as the economy contracted and millions lost their jobs.  That is the typical pattern of real estate bubbles bursting.  Something in the economy creates a vision of a new paradigm and money starts flowing into real estate as a consequence of this euphoria.  This happened inJapan as their economy and stock market frothed over with mania.  There is no time in history that the entire world from the U.S. to Canada to Australia to Spain to China suddenly went into a massive trance and believed that real estate suddenly would carry the weight of every single economy forward.  Of course what we are seeing is the unraveling of this system.  The bubble has burst.  Yet the banking system that relied on real estate as their game of choice in the casino cannot come to terms with reality because it would render them insolvent (which they are by the way).  So instead, the charade continues yet the public is catching on to this mass deception.  What happens when the worst housing crash since the Great Depression gets worse?

Deepest fall in new home sales ever

new home sales

There is little demand for new home sales because the public with weak incomes and an economy that is still struggling has little appetite for overpriced homes.  Even if the appetite were there, the incomes are certainly not.  The juice that kept the game going was debt.  As we have seen with the debt ceiling bread and circus we might be reaching a limit in regards to what we can take on without adding on subsequent real growth.  I know when the contraction started occurring some could not envision the correction lasting longer than a year or two.  People have been conditioned to quick changes and have a hard time realizing that the housing market of the 2000s was a historical mania.  That is it.  It is done for a generation just like Tulip mania or any other mass delusion.  The fact that home prices are now inching closer to early 2000 price levels simply does not jive with the religion many believe.  During the Great Depression, new home sales fell 80 percent from peak to trough.  In this crisis we have fallen 82 percent.

The chart above is rather startling but makes sense given that we have 6 million homes lingering in theshadow inventory.  The way banks are leaking out inventory we are bound to have a lost decade (or two) in our books.  Unless something radically changes the policy is to bleed the productive economy for the ill-gotten gains of the big bankers running this country.  This is why after trillions of dollars funneled to the banking sector little has been done in terms of boosting incomes or home prices.  Where do you think the money went?  It certainly didn’t go to adding jobs:

civilian population employment ratio

This is a troubling chart.  The civilian employment-population ratio is a better measure of employment success in our economy.  We are now back to early 1980s levels.  What is more troubling is the jump from the early 1950s on had to two with the rise of two income households.  The two main driving forces for this reversal are a poor economy and demographics.  How can people look at these trends and think things will reverse?  Even if things do change the demographic change is built into the system.  Some point to wealthy immigrants as the catalyst for rising home prices but we are unable at the moment to provide quality jobs to the masses of the unemployed.  Unless we find an age reversing pill this trend is sticking around for years.  There are limits in life even though Hollywood and Wall Street would like to convince people otherwise.

Bubble still going on in many U.S. areas

The general collapse in home values has left many believing that the housing market has reached a trough simply by default.  That may be the case in many states where home values never really had excessive bubbles yet many highly populated metro areas are still in significant bubbles.  When these bubbles burst financial losses will be large yet again and you can expect the financial system to dig deep into the pockets of struggling Americans.  What happens when these places pop as they will?  Let us look at some of those overpriced regions:

most overpriced metro cities in united states

Source:  Fiserv

This data is current and you can see even after major price corrections these areas are overvalued.  On both coasts, these bubbles still rage but California is still the leader in bubble metro areas.  Folks are delusional thinking this is sustainable.  These bubbles will pop.  It can happen quickly or drag out for years.  The above ratios are flat out unsustainable.  Just take a look at the median home price to median income ratio.  This will pop.  In addition, many of these areas have high unemployment rates.  Take a look at San Diego that nearly has a double-digit unemployment rate for the county.

What is important to also note is that these prices have already fallen by 10, 20, and even 30 percent in many cases from their peak.  They are still inflated.  The shadow inventory in these markets is dramatic.  At a certain point reality will need to be faced and when that day comes, you will see prices moving lower.  That is the only way out or we can grow household incomes and double it in the next few years but do you see that happening?  I would love to see evidence that our financial system would reward productive behavior instead of putting all the money into the hands of the banking system that largely operates like a vampire on the productive side of the economy.  We do need banks, but investment banks should be spun off and allowed to make their own non-systemic destabilizing bets.  At the moment the financial system is simply looking for ways to pilfer funds from the majority of Americans.  If they could find a method to profit from slamming Americans lower they would do it.  Many a hedge fund made billions by gambling and speculating on the failure of American homeowners.

So what happens next?  It is an interesting side note that during the typically hot summer selling season with mortgage rates at all-time lows that home sales are weak.  Why?  At a certain point it boils down to income.  Many that have their brains cleansed by the 1984 media machine think that just because many people have luxury cars or dress a certain way they are wealthy.  They are not. The data does not back up this phony studio set and many are starting to realize that the financial Wizard of Oz is more smoke and mirrors than anything real or tangible.  Certainly there is tremendous wealth in the country but not enough to support entire metro areas with inflated prices.  Just because the mainstream press isn’t reporting this next bubble bursting doesn’t mean it won’t happen.  Heck, they didn’t start talking about the most obvious housing bubble in generations until it blew up in their face.

A Housing Apocalypse is Coming

A Housing Apocapyse is Coming

Source:  Dr. Housing Bubble

There will be no sustainable housing recovery until the shadow inventory is cleared out.  As of April with the latest data close to 6.4 million loans are delinquent or in foreclosure.  This is a massive number of homes.  What is downright disturbing of the 2.2 million homes in foreclosure you have 675,000 homes (31 percent of the pool) that have not made a payment in over two years.  That is right, two full years.  Apparently one-third of the bank’s strategy in dealing with foreclosures is simply to ignore missed payments.  Glad it took them giant bailouts and four years to figure that one out.  The housing crisis strategy is really a banking-centric one and that is why nothing has really been resolved since the crisis started.  Banks are dictating the movement going forward so the idea of keeping prices inflated is simply one to protect banking interests.  Since the market has very little desire for inflated real estate, banks just slip it under the rug for another day.  Keep in mind that many Americans are seeing lower wages so lower home prices are actually good for their bottom line since it eats away less of their hard earned income.  Plus, one-third own their home outright and another 30 percent rent.  So this idea of keeping home prices high just for the sake of keeping them high is a ploy that comes out of the suspension of mark-to-market logic.  Do people finally get that home prices have to fall to reflect local area incomes?

The state of distress in U.S. housing

First, it is probably useful to get a sense of the entire potential shadow inventory out in the market:

us home foreclosures

Source:  Calculated Risk

According to CR we have the following:

-2.24 million loans less than 90 days delinquent.
-1.96 million loans 90+ days delinquent.
-2.18 million loans in foreclosure process.

-For a total of 6.39 million loans delinquent or in foreclosure in April.

That is a large number of homes.  Now keep in mind many foreclosures are now starting to make their way onto the MLS since banks are actually taking full possession of the homes (although the reality that 675,000 people have not made a single payment in two years tells you where things stand).  Think about the above data; you have roughly 600,000 to 800,000 as current REOs (all the way through the foreclosure process) but you also have 675,000+ people in foreclosure who haven’t made a payment in two years:

loans in foreclosure

I’ve seen some pundits argue that many of these loans will cure.  We know for a hardcore fact that if you are behind on your payments for two years it is likely that your home is going to move from the shadow inventory into the REO pipeline.  This also doesn’t examine the fact that we have close to 2.2 million homes in foreclosure.  How many have made no payment in one year?  Keep in mind we are only looking at the foreclosure category so far.  So the entire U.S. banking system is being overwhelmed with 600,000 to 800,000 active REOs yet we have that many in foreclosure without two years of payments.  Here is a good estimate of REO data in the U.S.

LawlerSelectedREO

Source:  Tom Lawler via Calcualted Risk

The above doesn’t cover the entire universe of REOs but does a good job.  I went ahead and took a quick look at active foreclosures in the state of California and found the following:

calif foreclosures

calif foreclosures2

Depending on what data source you look at California has roughly 80,000 to 89,000 homes that are REOs and ready for sale.  That still leaves another 600,000 to 700,000 REOs across the country that need to be sold.  You also have to wonder of the 675,000 foreclosures with two years of missed payments how many are in massively overpriced bubble states like California or New York?  Well I can tell you that California currently has 157,000 homes in the foreclosure process that have yet to go REO.  The bottom line is you have a massive pipeline of distressed properties waiting to make their entrance on the MLS stage.

And the foreclosures will work through the system like a rabbit filtering through a python.  We have another 4.2 million homes delinquent where the foreclosure process hasn’t even started (1.96 million of the loans 90+ days late).  Don’t fool yourself because many of these will end up as REOs at some point (could be years down the road given the absurd timeline we are experiencing).  It can’t be stated enough that keeping the process slow and providing banks with trillions of dollars of bailout money is simply a method of clogging the financial pipes so the FIRE economy can figure out what other sector to gut and inflate into a bubble.  In the end it is the taxpayer that will foot the bill unless something radical changes.

I wanted to draw the current distress universe to show how little of the shadow inventory is being shown to the public:

foreclosures q2 2011

The bars are drawn to scale to show actual magnitude relative to other buckets.  The only homes the public is viewing are those in the purple box above.  But look at what we have coming down the pipeline.  Things don’t seem to be changing so it is looking more and more likely that we will witness a Japan like real estate market with zombie banks walking the Earth in search of easy capital brains.

It is extremely troubling that we have so much money being lobbed at the banks with such horrible results.  But what do you expect?  Someone was going to pay for this decade long orgy in real estate.  As it turns out it is the prudent public and middle class.  The people living rent free are simply the other side of the coin to the morally bankrupt financial sector.  We have to go back to watching archived films to remember a time when banking and finance actually carried a positive connotation.

I’m curious to know how many people are living in million dollar homes rent free.  We’ve seen homes in foreclosure in Beverly Hills so it is certainly happening and readers have sent over confirmation of this in their own neighborhoods.  Talk about a giant mess.  The New York Times had an interesting graph showing how long it would take to move 872,000 foreclosures:

timeline to clear foreclosures

Source:  New York Times

It would take roughly 40 months to clear the current foreclosure inventory (aka the tiny blue rectangle in our earlier chart).  And more will be coming into the pipeline but banks are trying to make their speculative gains in other bubbles to soften the blow here.  After all, they wouldn’t want to spoil the trillions in loot they have stolen from Americans.

Watch out for the Muni-Bond Bubble

Nicole Gelinas wrote an excellent article in City Journal about the possibility of a coming bubble-burst in the muni-bond market.

The financial crisis has exploded plenty of long-held beliefs, including the idea that mortgage debt is a risk-free investment. But nothing has shaken the articles of faith that underpin another massive debt market: municipal bonds. Investors in municipal bonds don’t have to worry about a thing, the thinking goes, because the states and cities that issue them will do anything to avoid reneging on their obligations—and even if they fail, surely Washington will step in and save investors from big losses.

These are dangerous assumptions. Just as with mortgages, the very fact that investors place unlimited faith in a market could eventually destroy that market. If investors believe that they take no risk, they will lend states and cities far too much—so much that these borrowers won’t be able to repay their obligations while maintaining a reasonable level of public services. The investors, then, could help bankrupt state and local governments—and take massive losses in the process. To avoid that scenario, investors must take a long, hard look at what they’re doing. Where state and local finances are untenable, they should stop throwing good money after bad.

He explains that there is good reason to be concerned about the muni-bond market. Plummeting tax revenues, and lack of will to cut expenditures on the part of local governments can mean a looming insolvency. Yet the rating agencies still consider muni-bonds low risk. “We do not expect that states will default on general-obligation debt, even under the most stressed economic conditions,” analysts at Moody’s, one of the three major credit ratings agencies, wrote in a February 2010 report. As for cities and towns, “we expect very few defaults in this sector given the tools that local governments have at their disposal.” The firm’s chief competitor, Standard and Poor’s, agrees.

They consider the bonds low risk because they feel the municipalities will do whatever they have to in order to avoid default. They also feel that municipalities have an endless source of funds to repay debt. They can always increase taxes to pay bond debt service.

But, can they?

Continue reading “Watch out for the Muni-Bond Bubble”

9 Leadership Mistakes to Avoid as We Rebuild Real Estate

RISMEDIA, February 25, 2010—With 2010 expected to be another slow year for real estate, many industry executives and analysts are wondering what additional steps—beyond cost cutting and downsizing—can be taken to weather the turbulent times.

The answer, according to Bill Ferguson, author of the new book Keepers of the Castle: Real Estate Executives on Leadership and Management, is actually quite simple. Only leadership—strong, balanced, and experienced leadership at the executive level—will pull the industry through to the next upcycle. Continue reading “9 Leadership Mistakes to Avoid as We Rebuild Real Estate”

The Coming Great Recession of 2011 – 2012

The American Spectator published an article written by James Srodes titled, “The Great Recession of 2011-2012”

Mr. Srodes hits the nail on the head.  He explains why, despite the rosy projections you read in the morning newspaper, we are headed for worse times in the next couple of years.  I don’t want to be a doomsayer, or create a sense of pessimism.  I just think the old adage that to be forewarned is to be forearmed is a good one.

I am not going to summarize the article here.  It is a very well-written and logically presented.  It is important to read it in its entirety.  I suggest you go here and do just that.  And then arrange your finances so that you will still be standing when we hit 2013.

While he writes about all the reasons 2011 and 2012 will be very difficult years financially for most Americans, he doesn’t mention one other factor that will contribute to the downturn.  There are billions of dollars of commercial mortgages that will mature in the next 18 months.  The borrowers will not be able to refinance those loans without contributing substantial cash equity.  As a hypothetical example, a borrower who borrowed $21 Million (70%) on a shopping center that was valued at $30 Million in 2006, will likely now find that he can only refinance 60% of a revalued asset now worth $25 Million.  That means he will only be able to get a new loan of $15 million to pay off a $21 Million loan.  He will either have to come up with $6 Million in additional equity, or run the risk of losing his property.  That bubble is still ahead of us and will make the bursting of the home mortgage bubble seem like a minor glitch.

All the signs are there.  You just have to read them.

Go to the American Spectator and read the whole article.