Have nothing to do with the [evil] things that people do, things that belong to the darkness. Instead, bring them out to the light... [For] when all things are brought out into the light, then their true nature is clearly revealed...

-Ephesians 5:11-13

Tag Archives: Real Estate

China’s Stock Market Continues Its Sharp Decline

This article appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, July 8, 2015:

As predicted, the Chinese stock market accelerated its decline on Wednesday despite efforts by Chinese government officials to slow it.

The combination of over-leveraged investors with little prior experience about the prudent use of margin to buy stocks has turned the decline of the Chinese stock market into a rout. Closing on Wednesday at 3,507, the Shanghai Index has lost one-third of its value just since June 12 when it hit 5,178. The smaller Shenzhen Composite, made up of smaller technology stocks, is down 40 percent.

Jeremy Warner, economics commentator and assistant editor at London’s Daily Telegraph, viewed the carnage and remarked:

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China Export Shipping Declines by Two-thirds

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Thursday, May 7, 2015: 

Two weeks ago the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index (SCFI), which tracks shipping rates from Shanghai to the world, fell off a cliff: down a breath-taking 67 percent from a year ago. Wolf Richter thought it was a statistical fluke.

It was no fluke. In the next two weeks the SCFI for Northern Europe fell another 14 percent, an all-time low. Wrote Richter: “Something big is going on in the China-Europe trade.”

The collapse is being echoed by other indexes reflecting the breathtaking decline in China’s exports. For example

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China’s Economic Bubble Ready to Burst?

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, March 13, 2015: 

 

The latest numbers out of China no longer mask its economic decline. Chinese industrial production “slowed at its sharpest rate in the first two months of the year since the global financial crisis” shouted the Financial Times on Wednesday.

Wang Tao, UBS’ chief economist on the Chinese economy, was dour: “Today’s disappointing data release highlights just how quickly domestic demand is deteriorating as the ongoing [real estate] downturn continues to spread its negative impact through the economy.”

In China that impact is huge,

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China’s Economy Headed for a Hard Landing

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, February 9, 2015:

The China bubble is imploding at an accelerating rate and has caught Wall Street economists off guard, according to the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

Why they should be surprised is hard to fathom, given the predictions offered for months on end about the ending of the great Chinese economic “miracle.” As recently as three weeks ago, Minxin Pei, professor at Claremont McKenna College and professional observer of the Chinese economy, said, “If the official Chinese data should be believed at all … China’s GDP growth at 7.4% in 2014 … could have been worse.”

Indeed, it probably was.

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Economic Forecasting is a Dangerous Business

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Monday, February 9, 2015:

English: New York Yankees catcher Yogi Berra i...

Yogi Berra

Nearly everyone has an opinion about forecasting and its dangers. Some, like Yogi Berra, will tell you, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Others, like John Kenneth Galbraith, will say, “The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable.” Still others will warn about setting either the exact event, or its timing. Do either one, they say, but not both.

Apparently the forecasters enlisted by the Wall Street Journal last week to give their best estimates of growth in China weren’t listening, or didn’t care. Or perhaps they believe in Keynesian miracles alongside those of the Tooth Fairy.

Nevertheless, when asked about import and export growth in China for the month of January, they missed reality by a country mile. The Journal tallied up the results and their seers and prognosticators concluded that

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China Stock Market Off Sharply After Regulatory Crackdown

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Monday, January 19, 2015:

Chateau Lafite Rothschild Label for the 1999 v...

Chateau Lafite Rothschild Label for the 1999 vintage

During Monday’s session, stocks traded on the Shanghai stock market fell to their lowest level since June 2008, losing nearly eight percent.

Hardest hit were three brokerages that have been heavily involved in allowing Chinese small investors to open margin accounts, through which investors are able to borrow a portion of the money needed to buy securities, using the securities as collateral. When many of them were unable to settle their accounts, rather than forcing margin calls (a demand by a broker that an investor deposit further cash or securities to cover possible losses), the brokerage houses simply allowed them to

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Underlying Economic Indicators Confirm Dow’s Record Run

This article first appeared online at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, December 24, 2014:

 

With the Santa Claus rally driving stocks to new all-time highs, the normally restrained Wall Street Journal found itself describing the economy “in a sweet spot of growth, sustained hiring and falling unemployment, stirring optimism that a post-recession breakout has arrived.”

Investopedia explains the cause of the usual rally in stocks toward the end of each year this way:

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China’s Economy Now Number One? Not Quite

This article first appeared at TheNewAmerican.com on Friday, October 10, 2014: 

English: Roadside billboard of Deng Xiaoping a...

English: Roadside billboard of Deng Xiaoping at the entrance of the Lychee Park in Shenzhen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Following the announcement by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that China’s economy has just surpassed that of the United States, headline writers and establishment economists had a field day. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Business Insider, “China Just Overtook the US as the World’s Largest Economy,” while London’s Daily Mail chortled, “America Usurped: China Becomes World’s Largest Economy — Putting USA in Second Place for the First Time in 142 Years.”

A cursory glance at the charts and graphs provided by these worthies shows the size of the U.S. economy at $17.4 trillion by the end of this year compared to China’s, which is predicted to be $17.6 trillion. The IMF estimated that as recently as 2005 China’s economy was less than half that of the United States, and forecast that

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Texas 7, California Nothing

This article was first published at TheNewAmerican.com on Wednesday, July 9, 2014:

Moving Day.

Moving to Texas from California

One would think the good doctor is running for Congress from Texas, but he’s not. He’s running to boot a hard-left Democrat who’s been representing the 24th District in California for 15 years by touting all the good things Texas has been doing compared to California. In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, Dr. Brad Allen, a pediatric heart surgeon from Paso Robles, wrote:

As a Californian, I am pained to say that three of the nation’s five fastest-growing cities – and seven of the top 15 – are in Texas.

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Another Investigation Confirms Harry Reid’s Long History of Corruption

Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from ...

Harry Reid (D-NV), United States Senator from Nevada and Majority Leader of the United States Senate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The seemingly impervious Teflon-proof senior Senator from Nevada, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, has been forced to respond to charges made in a two-part investigation into his self-dealings at RealClearPolitics published last week. The initial investigation was filled with corruption charges and responses from Reid’s PR people in a failed attempt to deflect them. In the past such charges were simply ignored and passed off. Reid was willing to let time pass and memories fade. Not this time, apparently.

Adam 0’Neal led off with

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Job One for New Mayor: Turn New York into Detroit

This article first appeared at The McAlvany Intelligence Advisor on Thursday, January 2nd, 2014:

Progressive mouthpieces like ABC News and the New York Times could hardly contain their glee over the election of one of their own to the mayor’s office: Bill de Blasio. ABC News hailed de Blasio “as the face of a progressive movement that pledges a significant realignment of the nation’s largest city … that is poised to enact sweeping changes to the city …”, while the Times delighted to note that

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Another Obamacare Surprise: Estate Recovery

Just as Sofia Prins and Gary Balhorn were about to sign their application for free coverage under Washington State’s Medicaid program – freshly expanded under Obamacare – Sofia began reading the fine print: if you’re over age 55, the state of Washington will

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Home Ownership Rates Continue to Fall; New Plans to Reflate Underway

When the Census Bureau announced on Tuesday that the rate of homeownership in the US continued its nearly 9-year decline, pundits were quick to lay the blame on higher lending requirements, bankers reluctant to make loans, increasing interest rates and a weak economy with slow job growth. In addition, young people are living at home longer due to student loan debt and poor job prospects. As a result, according to the Census Bureau, rental rates are climbing as families needing a place to live have few other options.

Having fallen from the peak of 69 percent reached in 2004, current home ownership has dropped to 65 percent, back to where it was in 1995. Robert Schiller, economics professor at Yale, thinks the rate will continue to fall further.

Home prices are increasing not because of demand by new buyers but because of investors seeing the opportunities in buying distressed properties and turning them into rentals. In some places in the country one out of every two home purchases are paid for in cash.

But something else is afoot: fewer citizens are buying into the notion that home ownership makes economic sense and is equivalent to a savings plan that can be turned into income in later years. As Emily Badger noted at The Atlantic Cities, “We have traditionally considered homeownership to be a sign of the health of the economy. But some of these people who would have been homeowners 10 years ago … have concluded that they would rather rent [today]…”

Some have no doubt been so badly mauled financially in the recession that they have few options. Others have long memories and remember the pain and suffering they endured as a result of deliberate government policies instituted to make homeownership possible to millions of unqualified buyers.

One of those with long memories is Henry Cisneros, a key player in developing the “National Homeownership Strategy” while he was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under Bill Clinton. Unanimously confirmed by the Senate, Cisneros took over at HUD in January, 1993 and by 1997 had boosted the US homeownership rate from 63.7 percent to 65.7 percent. Even after leaving office, his strategies continued blowing up the real estate bubble so that by the time Clinton left office in 2001 home ownership was at 67.5 percent on its way to peaking during the summer and fall of 2004.

In a remarkably candid and forthright article about Cisneros’ role in creating the real estate bubble, The New York Times told the story of a compassionate government bureaucrat with big dreams of providing home ownership to people who couldn’t afford them under current rules. So he changed the rules and invited bankers, realtors and homebuilders to participate in the party guaranteed by taxpayers. In 2008 as he contemplated the damage he had wrought while head of HUD, Cisneros claimed that his intentions were honorable, at least in the beginning, but that his plans to provide low-interest loans and much weaker underwriting requirements through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were hijacked by “unscrupulous participants – bankers, brokers, secondary market people. The country is paying for that, and families are hurt because we … did not draw line.” He expressed regret that his efforts had not only lured people into homes they couldn’t afford, but that his policies ultimately ejected them from those homes as a result. He said, “I’ve been waiting for someone to put all the blame on my doorstep.”

His strategy was to lower underwriting standards by allowing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to require less documentation and approve higher debt to income levels than normal. He reduced down payment requirements from 20 percent to 10 percent, and then to 5 percent, then down to 3 percent and ultimately to 0 percent. His strategy allowed these unqualified buyers to cover their closing costs with another loan, putting them into a home with truly nothing out of the own pockets. Lenders were happy with the new rules as the US taxpayer stood behind the loans bought by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Cisneros created a monster.

Once the ball got rolling, it was impossible to stop or even slow down. Said Cisneros:

You think you have a finely tuned instrument that you can use to say: Stop! We’re at 69 percent homeownership. We should go no further. There are people who should remain renters.

But you really are given a sledgehammer and an ax. They are blunt tools.

I’m not sure you can regulate when we’re talking about an entire nation of 300 million people and this behavior becomes viral.

Cisneros drank his own Kool-Aid. He joined with a major homebuilder to develop a housing project in San Antonio, Texas which made him wealthy but which turned sour during the collapse.

Those lessons are about to be learned again as there are new efforts to reflate the ownership bubble. Under the Dodd-Frank Act there’s something called the Qualified Mortgage Rule (QMR) which requires lenders to keep part of the loans they make in their own portfolios – they must have “skin in the game” to reduce the chances of another bubble. But more than 50 organizations tied to the real estate industry are advocating a softening of that rule, putting more government money into the market, with less risk to the lenders. One of those supporting such softening is Sarah Rosen Wartell, president of the Urban Institute, who sounds an awful lot like Cisneros:

I’m not suggesting indiscriminate access to home ownership, but there are many borrowers who are capable of demonstrating the capacity to pay…

[They include] those who had a job loss or foreclosure, in many cases through no fault of their own [and a result are] being shut out of a rising market.

Gary Thomas, the president of the National Association of Homebuilders, expressed his delight at the softening of the rules:

If what we’re heard about the [weakening of] the proposed QMR rule is true, the we are very pleased that the agencies are moving towards a broad definition that will benefit the American people by ensuring access to safe, affordable options for buying a home.

And then of course there’s the inevitable college professor who hasn’t learned from history, or from Cisneros. Christopher Mayer, professor of real estate at Columbia Business School, exulted:

Having a path that people can become a homeowner is an important path. And it’s really important for middle to lower-income folks who have a hard time saving…

At present efforts to reflate the real estate bubble through relaxing underwriting requirements and low-interest loans don’t appear to be working very well. But Washington has a mission where past experience and lessons and pain and hardship don’t matter. The Cisneros mentality remains alive and well in Foggy Bottom.

 

 

 

Central Banks’ bubble is bursting, sending markets down worldwide

When the Japanese stock market lost more than 6 percent of its value on Wednesday in a massive selloff, pundits jumped on the move to try to explain what happened, and what it all means. Evan Lucas, a market strategist at IG Markets, wrote:

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Snopes Misses Larger Story on Sales of Post Offices by California Sen. Feinstein’s Husband’s Company

When George Miller, writing for the Ventura County Tea Party on May 22nd, complained about the blatant conflict of interest that appeared in the report that California Senator Dianne Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, was in charge of selling off, on an exclusive basis, some 50 post office buildings belonging to the US Postal Service, he didn’t know that Snopes had already

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The China party is over, says the Wall Street Journal

And it’s about time, too!  The Journal is just a little late to notice what’s happening, and has been happening, over there for at least the last two years.

Let’s put things into perspective.

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3 percent down payment mortgages are back

You probably saw it on the news last night: Fannie Mae turned a profit last quarter, the first profit since the real estate bubble burst in 2007. Yahoo explains why:

Lenders are increasingly approving

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The gap between Wall Street and Main Street widens

On Thursday, the last trading day of the first quarter of 2013, the Standard and Poor’s index of 500 stocks – the S&P 500 – closed  at 1569, four points above where it traded in October, 2007, just before it plummeted to 676 in March, 2009. With that news the sigh of relief on Wall Street was nearly audible. CNNMoney gushed:

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Corrupt Former Detroit Mayor Convicted on 24 Counts of Racketeering, Fraud, Extortion and more

When it was announced on Monday that former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (along with his father Bernard and his friend Bobby Ferguson, a general contractor) had been convicted on 24 counts of racketeering, fraud and extortion, the New York Times failed to mention that it could have been a lot worse. He might have been convicted of

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Michigan Governor Snyder Declares Detroit a Fiscal Disaster

On the surface, Friday’s announcement by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder that Detroit’s financial situation was so grievous that a special emergency financial manager (EFM) would have to be appointed to take over from the city council appeared to be the end of the line for a once great city.

A city that was once the fifth largest and wealthiest in the country, Detroit has apparently 

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Many of the articles on Light from the Right first appeared on either The New American or the McAlvany Intelligence Advisor.

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