Posts Tagged ‘real estate’

California as bell weather… (deflation at work)

December 12, 2009

This is what deflation does. It forces you to sell assets to cover your liabilities.

Trouble is of course that in a deflationary environment, sellers have trouble finding buyers and, when they do, sellers find that their property fetches far less then they estimated and hoped for.

It will be interesting to see how California fares because all other US States will have to follow suit as, indeed, will all Western countries.

http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/permalink/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20091211005524&newsLang=en

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Even more proof the secular inflationary cycle has ended…

November 1, 2009

Via the team at Zero Hedge

http://www.zerohedge.com/article/guest-post-dear-prudence-wont-you-come-out-play

Read the entire post and look at the graphs. This is just more proof that traditional monetary policy has lost traction and that government is “pushing on” the proverbial “string”.

Important excerpts:

It should be no surprise to anyone that household debt outstanding fell again in 2Q (the latest Fed Flow of Funds data), making this now three quarters in a row of household net debt contraction.  The important character fingerprint in the 2Q period being that debt contraction at the household level accelerated. […] Household sector credit contraction is a first in post War history (emphasis added).

[…]

If households are paying debt down, then something has to be given up for that balance sheet reconciliation decision.  And the give up is consumption.  Although you may not realize this, and this is clearly one of the key reasons why the long tenured Street truism suggests no one bet against the US consumer, personal consumption in nominal dollars has actually increased during each and every recession of the last six decades (at least).  Each and every recession until the present, that is. […]  Lastly, we believe it’s also important perspective to remember that in our current circumstances, households have been treated to some of the lowest interest rates of a lifetime and consumer product price weakness has been pronounced.  Yet still zip in terms of consumption gains 19 months into official recession territory.

 

All I can say, is that you should be accumulating gold and silver bullion.

 

Where we are today (a follow up to “Background of my contention”)

September 26, 2009

Hindsight can at times be rewarding even though one may not benefit from it.

When I began this blog, one of the first essays I wrote was: “Background of my contention – the how and why“. This piece was partly a venting exercise partly an honest explanation of how I arrived at the very personal conclusion that we are being set up for a world war. In this piece also, I state that I had already predicted doom once in the lead up to the Millennium and that, apparently, I had been wrong.

Today, in hindsight, I can say that I was certainly wrong. Nonetheless, I wasn’t wrong in the essence of my prediction as much as on the time line and the quality of the dynamic.

Ten years on, I am somewhat more informed on a number of aspects of the political and economic dynamics that I really was not aware of back then. First and foremost, “doom” is not an event. This is not something like the earth being struck by a meteorite bringing sudden total devastation. What I failed to realize then was that “doom” as I meant it, that is, a decline in wealth, breakdown of social order and, eventually, a world war, is a process. Granted, back then my construct did not contemplate a world war but I could see that a number of segments of society were being inexorably squeezed financially (very often willingly) and, for the life of me, I could not see the logic in the attitude of government nor, indeed, in the attitude of individuals.

Today, I am rather proud to show off this graph:

S and Prelative

That is a chart of the S&P going back to 1980. It is a “relative” chart as opposed to a “nominal” chart. The nominal chart looks like this:

S and P nominal

To understand the difference between the two charts and to understand the importance of the first chart, you must have a grasp of our monetary system.

If you’ve read some of the posts on this blog, my pet peeve is our monetary system. Globally today, we are all pretty much on what is known as a Fiat Monetary System. The defining characteristic of fiat currencies is that the value of each currency is predicated on the value of all the other currencies instead than on the intrinsic value that is related to the economy.

Very briefly, we only really have three choices in life. We can barter, we can adopt a monetary system that is based on some sort of intrinsic value (i.e. in ancient times they used salt, gold, silver or copper) or we can adopt a “fiat” monetary system.

Barter works fine but is too slow, too cumbersome and not flexible.

Value based money is great but is too slow. That is because as the economy expands the monetary base should expand too. But in a value based monetary system, you must locate, extract, convey, refine and distribute more ore before you can expand the money base. Hence the cost and time hurdles.

Fiat money is a fantastic concept. A fiat monetary system has no apparent material cost and certainly no temporal constraints because the money is created as needed by political mandate. In theory, fiat money could allow government to expand or contract the monetary base in real time as dictated by economic conditions. The concept is truly revolutionary and could be very efficient…

… if it weren’t for politics… to be exact, if it weren’t for Democracy…

The combination of fiat money and Democracy virtually guarantees that the monetary base will never be reduced regardless of economic conditions. Thus, in a fiat monetary system, inflation, defined as an increase in credit and money, is guaranteed.

And that’s where the cookie crumbles.

By adopting a fiat monetary system, government implicitly chooses to push inflation faster than underlying economic growth. If that were not the case, then we could very safely make do with a value based monetary system.

However, inflation is a devious beast. Inflation is exponential in nature and limited mathematically. Exponential because you need progressively greater degrees of inflation to obtain the same result (GDP growth) and limited because once the inflation component of GDP outstrips wealth creation, real wealth declines in aggregate until even the geometric expansion of inflation no longer has an effect on the expansion of GDP.

Thus, as government artificially pushes inflation into the system, not only does real wealth diminish but the credit markets expand accordingly. The consequence is that real (i.e. intrinsic) value gradually loses ground to “financial” value. The point at which underlying economic activity or intrinsic value no longer suffice to service the interest on the debt, that is the point at which inflation can no longer be expanded.

To see whether inflation is a deliberate policy of state, we can look at interest rates. Like the choice of monetary system, the power to set interest rates in the USA is given to an independent entity that acts unilaterally and arbitrarily; that is, the Federal Reserve sets interest rates as it sees fit. Manipulating interest rates is the most basic way to induce inflation in a monetary system. The next graph shows the interest rate trend for the past 30 years:

FRED Graph
There you have it. The US government has deliberately and artificially induced inflation into the system. For more on this dynamic, you can look up this previous post.
So now, why is the first chart above so important.
We’ve established and proved that by choosing a fiat monetary system government chooses, all be it unwittingly by and large, to push inflation faster than economic growth (GDP).
What remains to be proven is whether inflation can be infinite or not.
Economic  thought and theory of the past century have been predominantly Keynesian and advocate just that; there is no limit to the quantity of inflation that can be induced by the monetary authorities.
However, if that were the case, then one would expect a degree of direct correlation between inflation and GDP growth. In other words, if truly the effect of inflation could be infinite, then we would expect that a constant rate of credit and money expansion would always correspond to the same rate of GDP growth. Let’s see:
This graph portrays the expansion of Government debt since 1980
FRED Graph

This graph portrays the expansion of individual household debt since 1980
FRED Graph

By my count, since 1980 government debt has expanded from roughly US$1Trillion to about US$12Trillion or an increase of well over 1000% – during the same period of time, household debt has increased from about US$1Trillion to about US$14Trillion or an increase of well over 1200%

So, since 1980, government and household debt has increased from about US$2Trillion to, at the peak a few months back, US$25Trillion… or an increase of about 1250% combined.

And what, you may ask, did we get for our very notable effort?

FRED Graph
Since 1980, GDP has expanded from about US$6Trillion to about US$14Trillion…. or, by my count… drum roll… an increase of just over 100%
What???? … Surely, you may think, we have saved the rest?
Let’s see what government data says about what has been saved in the graph below:
FRED Graph

And there you have it. As interest rates are manipulated lower, the government deliberately induces us to spend money first by using our savings then by taking on debt.

We have now objectively established that opting for a fiat monetary system is inherently and by necessity inflationary AND we have demonstrated how you always need greater degrees of inflation in order to induce the same rate of GDP growth.

Lets turn back to the first chart and let me tell you why it is so important.

Inflation induces an increase in the monetary price of goods and services hence of GDP. The inflation component of GDP progression is not due to an increase in productivity or intrinsic quality or tangible wealth; it is purely a financial phenomenon i.e. you devalue the currency so you increase the monetary price of goods or services.

Progressively greater degrees of inflation over decades also stimulate credit growth.

The trouble is that credit requires collateral; real intrinsically valuable collateral.

At the start of the cycle households and corporations pledge progressively all intrinsically valuable collateral. When that’s done, the financial sector has to come up with creative ways to keep extending credit to society. This is the point at which inflation begins to crop up in fewer and fewer sectors of the economy and, as the dynamic progresses towards its logical end, will be found mostly in the stock market and financial sector.

This is the point at which financial value begins to outstrip “real” value. A case in point of this dynamic is the alphabet soup of derivatives tied to the real estate market. The RE bubble was one of the last bubbles of the inflationary dynamic. When the RE sector started catching fire, real assets had already been pledged or destroyed since a long time. Thus, the RE bubble really got going on purely financial gimmickry where mortgages worth $1 gave rise to CDOs or MBSs worth $30, 40, 50 and in some cases $80 (i.e. Fannie Mae).

But gimmickry still needs a return on investment. Thus, you can only push gimmickry for as long as you can service the debt it depends upon. The moment the underlying economy no longer generates sufficient income to service the debt, the gimmicks have to be unwound.

And this is where people and corporations have been caught short.

Thanks to excessively inflationary policies and willful disregard of regulation, the gimmicks have gone on far too long and have generated financial value worth several orders of magnitude the underlying wealth. The BIS in its June 2009 biannual report estimates that total outstanding derivatives are worth US$500Trillion… that’s FIVE HUNDRED TRILLION DOLLARS worth of gimmickry as opposed to a world economy estimated at US$50Trillion and dropping very fast.

As far as I am concerned, this is the limit of the inflationary dynamic.

The reason the first chart is important is that it shows how disproportionate financial value as represented by the S&P has gone compared to real intrinsic value as represented by gold.

Was I wrong to predict doom in 2000? Yes I was in the sense that at the time I expected a quick degradation of social and economic conditions. But I was not wrong in the sense that it truly was the turning point that tipped us in what I think is going to be a dark age for civilization that will very likely take us into a world war.

A final observation. Emerging from WWII as victors and as the only country with any manufacturing capacity left standing, the USA were able to put their excess industrial capacity to rebuild global infrastructure thus taking care of one of the problems that caused the great depression in the first place. As the USA than went on to push still greater amounts of inflation into the US Dollar monetary system, by the late 60s their currency hit the buffers. Once again, as the instigators of the Marshall plan and as the then hegemon, the USA were able to sweep under the carpet their monetary problems by convincing other nations to abandon gold as reserve asset in favor of the US currency. In fact, still today, the  US$ is is the reserve currency and the currency used in most transactions.

Must read – Karl Denninger

August 20, 2009

And here is proof of government complicity in illegal and criminal deception.

http://market-ticker.org/archives/1352-We-Need-RTC-II-NOW.html

Really?! I like the odds of taking the other side of this bet

August 2, 2009

Just posting this article so I can refer back to it five years from now.

Welcome to the bottom: housing begins slow rebound

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/Welcome-to-the-bottom-Housing-apf-3190332284.html?x=0&sec=topStories&pos=1&asset=&ccode=

Deflation, deflation, deflation…

August 1, 2009

… leading to… revolution or world war…

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aBevuxMdwyDU

http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aM5.JQngUK44

http://finance.yahoo.com/banking-budgeting/article/107445/after-rescue-new-weakness-seen-at-aig.html?sec=topStories&pos=5&asset=&ccode=

World Bank warns of deflation spiral

July 16, 2009

For someone that takes pride in seeing things that others can’t, this piece of news is unsettling. It is unsettling on many fronts. First, because the one rule of thumb I follow is that whatever an official entity declares, the opposite is likely true. So it is unsettling that an official should be allowed to make remarks that pertain to the true state of the economy because it now shakes the foundations of my theory. Furthermore, it is unsettling because of the specific declaration made by this official that points to war; namely, I am referring to this pearl:

” Significant excess capacity has been built up and unless this issue is addressed, we will face a deflationary spiral and the crisis will become protracted

If you have read any of my rants on this blog, you are aware that excess industrial capacity is the logical consequence of the adoption of a fiat monetary system. By extension, you are also aware that excess industrial capacity can only be maintained for as long as the debt burden can be expanded. Therefore, you are aware that once the debt burden can no longer be expanded, then pricing power is lost; thus earning streams are compromised, thus unemployment rises, thus further impinging revenue streams thus, eventually, compromising government revenues (taxes). Once government is bankrupt and significant swathes of the population are out of a job and potentially hungry, any self respecting government will resort to the only honorable thing to do in these circumstances… they’ll start a war.

Anyway, the only way excess industrial capacity can be taken off line is by destroying it… and there is only one way to destroy industrial capacity.

Got bullion?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financetopics/financialcrisis/5836488/World-Bank-warns-of-deflation-spiral.html

Notice however the inanity of the statement towards the bottom half of the article. Monetary authorities are being chastized because they have no indulged in sufficient quantitative easing.

Excess industrial capacity comes about exactly because governments induce much greater quantities of credit and money into the system in the first place. So, if excess industrial capacity is now identified as the problem, then what is the point of inducing even more money and credit into the system?

Which, incidentally, was exactly GM’s problem for the past decade. GM became such a bloated zombie company to the point that they were losing an average of US$2000 on every single vehicle they sold…. Which begged the question. Why would GM want to sell more vehicles at all????

What the PPIP program is all about…

July 16, 2009

For a refresher on what the PPIP is, read this.

Below, is Dr Housing Bubble’s dispassionate assessment by the numbers of what is coming down the pike… and what is very likely to be stuffed into the PPIP to make this a memorable rape fest; so memorable in fact, that generations will talk about it for centuries to come.

By now I am at a total loss as to why people in Spain, Ireland, Germany, France, England or the USA should not already be up in arms. We are being set up for economic and social failure of biblical proportions and it is being perpetrated in broad daylight… and through it all, the outcome of the latest American Idol competition is still top most of people’s worries…

Got bullion?

http://www.zerohedge.com/article/alternative-paper-mortgages-next-trillion-dollar-housing-problem

Debt Deflation the Reason Why Government Economic Stimulus is Doomed to Fail

July 15, 2009

… and here is the mathematical proof for the more nerdy amongst you…

This is a secular change we are living. During the next decade, people will have to get accustomed to an entirely different environment socially as well as economically. Deflation will truly make most people believe they now live in a a topsy-turvy world”… including such luminaries as Warrent Buffet whose portfolio is entirely geared towards continued inflation. Regarding Mr. Buffet, unless he should change his portfolio mix, I think he is in for quite a surprise over the next few years.

http://www.marketoracle.co.uk/Article12008.html

Geithner: Improvements coming faster than expected

July 15, 2009

Truth or wishful thinking? I don’t know, I am only posting this crock of shit so that I may refer back to it a year from now

Excerpt:

“In the United States, the rate of decline in economic activity has slowed, business and consumer confidence has started to improve, housing markets have begun to stabilize, the cost of credit has fallen significantly and credit markets are opening up,” Geithner said in remarks prepared for delivery in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.”

If I may be so bold, that is entirely Mr. Geithner’s opinion. The key word here being “opinion” as it most definitely is not fact as attested by a housing market that is still declining (as is commercial real estate I might add); the cost of credit default swaps is widening and, at any rate, the cost of mortgages has moved up significantly in the past three months which, I might add, is contrary to what Geithner and Bernanke wish; and as a direct consequence of the latter, credit markets have most certainly NOT opened up.

But he is Geithner and I am me. He certainly carries a lot more weight than I do.

Time will tell

http://www.marketwatch.com/story/geithner-economy-mending-faster-than-expected