home prices

Signs Of The Time, Part 86

Back in 2007 when I was running Boom2Bust.com, “The Most Hated Blog On Wall Street,” I came across an article which illustrated just how ridiculous the housing bubble had gotten. Several California homeowners were asked about future price appreciation for their homes. Most, if not all, had wildly optimistic expectations about how much their properties would be “worth” down the road.

Fast forward to July 24, 2015, and Robert Shiller, the Yale professor who correctly-called the “dot-com” and housing busts, wrote the following in a New York Times piece entitled “The Housing Market Still Isn’t Rational”:

Extravagant expectations do lurk in parts of the market. In the 2015 Yale School of Management survey of recent home buyers that Karl Case of Wellesley College, Anne Thompson of Dodge Data and Analytics and I direct, our preliminary results confirmed the overall Pulsenomics conclusion yet found that some people have strikingly unrealistic expectations.

In San Francisco, for example, we found that while the median expectation for annual home price increases over the next 10 years was only 5 percent, a quarter of the respondents said they thought prices would increase each year by 10 percent or more. That would mean a net 150 percent increase in a decade. These people are apparently not thinking about the supply response that so big a price increase would generate. People like this could bid prices in some places so high that eventually the local market will collapse…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“The Nastiest Wife on Television”
Uploaded April 11, 2006.
And we all know what happened to housing right after that…
YouTube Video

Irrational exuberance is alive and well, it seems. You can read Dr. Shiller’s entire article on the Times site here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Jeremy Grantham: Fed Hell-Bent On Stimulating Asset Prices Until ‘Fully-Fledged Bubble’ Forms

Jeremy Grantham, the British-born investment strategist and founder/former chairman of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. (oversees $118 billion in client assets as of March 31, 2015), has just released his latest investment letter on the GMO website. Writing about the first quarter of 2015, Grantham, whose individual clients have included current Secretary of State John Kerry and former Vice President Dick Cheney, focused on U.S. economic growth and the bubble-blowing Federal Reserve. Regarding growth, Grantham wrote:

I am still just about certain about three things: first, our secular growth rate in the U.S. is indeed about 1.5% (at least as stated in traditional GDP accounting, wherein expensive barrels of oil increase GDP; perhaps closer to 1% in real life); second, economists move their estimates slowly and carefully in order to stay near the pack and minimize career risk (despite the recent IMF heroics); and third, that we do not like to give or receive bad news and, when in doubt, we tend to be optimistic…

On the Federal Reserve and asset bubbles, Grantham noted:

In the Greenspan/ Bernanke/Yellen Era, the Fed historically did not stop its asset price pushing until fully-fledged bubbles had occurred, as they did in U.S. growth stocks in 2000 and in U.S. housing in 2006. Both of these were in fact stunning three-sigma events, by far the biggest equity bubble and housing bubble in U.S. history. Yellen, like both of her predecessors, has bragged about the Fed’s role in pushing up asset prices in order to get a wealth effect. Thus far, she seems to also share their view on feeling no responsibility to interfere with any asset bubble that may form. For me, recognizing the power of the Fed to move assets (although desperately limited power to boost the economy), it seems logical to assume that absent a major international economic accident, the current Fed is bound and determined to continue stimulating asset prices until we once again have a fully-fledged bubble. And we are not there yet

To remind you, we at GMO still believe that bubble territory for the S&P 500 is about 2250…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The S&P 500 finished up today at 2,114.

Back on August 4, 2014, I blogged about Grantham’s second quarter 2014 letter, in which he predicted:

I am still a believer that the Fed will engineer a fully-fledged bubble (S&P 500 over 2250) before a very serious decline…

Grantham’s other forecasts in his latest letter on the GMO website included:

• U.S. Economic Cycle- “Still seems only middle-aged, despite its measured long duration”

• U.S. Housing Market- “In terms of houses built is still way below the old average, and house prices are only around long-term fair value; there is room for improvement in both in the next two years.”

• U.S. Stock Market Correction- “We could easily, of course, have a normal, modest bear market, down 10-20%, given all of the global troubles we have. If we do, then the odds of this super-cycle bull market lasting until the election would go from pretty good to even better.”

As I’ve highlighted on the “Crash Prophets” page, Jeremy Grantham has an incredible knack for identifying changes in the direction of the stock market. He also nailed the economic crisis late last decade. However, I don’t know how what kind of track record he has with correctly-calling the economic and housing cycles. I guess I’ll just have to see how these two pan out.

An update to the “7-Year Asset Class Real Return Forecasts” chart was also provided in “Are We the Stranded Asset?”, which can be viewed in its entirety on the GMO website here (.pdf format; starts p. 7).

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Peter Schiff: U.S. Headed For ‘Major Economic Crisis’ Centered On Dollar

Euro Pacific Capital CEO/Chief Global Strategist Peter Schiff appeared on CNBC World Monday. Schiff, who correctly-called the housing bubble/crash and financial crisis late last decade, warned viewers:

What people have to understand, is because of the Fed and their prior policy mistakes of keeping interest rates at zero, of all this quantitative easing, they have screwed up this economy so badly, that if the Fed were to raise interest rates at any point, they would precipitate a worse financial crisis than the one they caused in 2008. And so we’re not going to get a rate hike, no matter what they say. We’re going to get QE 4, and the next crisis is going to be a dollar crisis…

I think without another dose of QE the bubble is going to pop and we’ll be back in recession. And so to prevent that from happening, and to postpone the day of reckoning, we will get QE 4…

And if you look at the enormity of the debt on the federal balance sheet, on corporate balance sheets, look at real estate prices, the banking sector. You know, all those banks that we’re too big to fail in 2008 are much bigger now than they ever were and they’re very susceptible to even a slight increase in interest rates, which is why the Fed won’t raise them. But you’re right- it’s not going to go on for another six years. We’re going to have a major economic crisis center around the U.S. dollar long before that six-year time period can expire.


“FOMC Rate Hike Hints are a Bluff”
YouTube Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Peter Schiff Says Stock, Housing Markets Down If QE 4 Not Launched In 2015

“The U.S. economy entered 2015 on the most robust streak of consumer spending in years, yet when the first growth figures for 2014 came out Friday they underscored the lack of vigor in the current expansion.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of goods and services produced across the U.S., notched an annual growth rate of 2.4% for 2014, the government said Friday, just a touch better than the sluggish average of the nearly six-year-old recovery—and far from the 4% growth of the late 1990s. Fourth-quarter GDP was 2.6%, roughly half the summer’s blowout 5% pace, which was aided in part by a spree of military purchases that wasn’t repeated.

The report offered both hope and red flags for the world’s largest economy…”

The Wall Street Journal website, January 30, 2015

Euro Pacific Capital CEO Peter Schiff discussed the latest U.S. GDP numbers in his January 30, 2015, entry on The Schiff Report vlog on YouTube.com. Schiff told viewers:

Ultimately, what I think has to happen- and it hasn’t happened yet- is that people are going to have to connect these dots, and get their arms around the fact that the U.S. economy is not nearly as prosperous. That this recovery is not legitimate, and that it cannot sustain itself. I mean, how can anybody believe- if you believed that the stimulus worked, if you believe that quantitative easing and zero-percent interest rates stimulated the economy, then how can you take away the stimulus and have the economy perform better without the stimulus than it did with the stimulus? You would have to acknowledge that if you took away the stimulus, you’re going to get less growth. And that’s what’s going to happen. Yet everybody expects more growth…

The only question in my mind is- how long is the Federal Reserve going to maintain the pretense of economic growth and pretend that it stands ready to raise interest rates at some point, when it really is planning on launching QE 4 that will be larger than what they’re doing in Europe. If they don’t launch QE 4 this year, I think the stock market will be down. And not only will the stock market be down, the real estate market will be down. And remember, both the stock market and the housing market are the twin pillars upon which this phony recovery was built. And for those people who think that we’re going to have more economic growth in 2015- 3 percent economic growth which I think is still the consensus in 2015- how is that going to happen? Without any quantitative easing. With rate hikes later in the year. With a falling stock market. With a falling real estate market. You’re going to have the wealth effect working in reverse. In fact, they announced today that the homeownership rate just hit a brand-new 20-year low. And the Fed hasn’t even started to raise rates yet. How is this phony bubble economy going to grow faster under those conditions, than it did last year under the ideal monetary conditions? It can’t. And that is the dichotomy, the inconsistency, that nobody seems to be able to grasp.


“GDP Growth Slows Sharply in 4th Quarter: 2015 to be Worse”
YouTube Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Robert Shiller On Housing: ‘I Feel A Little Bit Of Anxiety About The Market’

When I want to get an idea of where the U.S. housing market is heading, I turn to Robert Shiller, the Yale professor who correctly-called the “dot-com” and housing busts. And these days, the “crash prophet” is a bit anxious about residential real estate. Dr. Shiller appeared on CNBC this morning, and told viewers the following:

I look at the market as looking on track with expectations but fragile. I worry that- one thing I’ve learned in forecasting home prices is that they’re different from stock prices. If the rate of appreciation is very steady and if it starts slowing down, that could be a sign of a turning point. I’m not calling a turning point yet, but I feel a little bit of anxiety about the market.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“Robert Shiller: Housing market fragile”
CNBC Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)

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Tuesday, December 30th, 2014 Crash Prophets, Housing No Comments

Institutional Investors In Chicago-Area Homes On Verge Of Cashing Out?

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about the Chicago-area housing market on Survival And Prosperity. But my Sunday paper contained two articles that shed some light on one reason the Chicagoland residential real estate market has been rebounding the last couple of years, and why recent price appreciation looks endangered. First, Mary Ellen Podmolik wrote in yesterday’s Chicago Tribune:

By one estimate, institutional buyers that acquire distressed homes and convert them into rentals bought about 9,500 properties in the Chicago area in a 32-month period that ended in August…

But several housing markets, including Chicago’s, are considered prime places for institutional buyers to cash out if they choose, walking away with tidy profits, according to an analysis by RealtyTrac…

Institutional investors, defined as buyers who acquired 10 or more homes during a year, spent an average of $161,252 to acquire a home here, and that home now has an average market value of $210,126, according to RealtyTrac. That’s a gain of 30 percent. Meanwhile, the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index puts the Chicago area’s home price gain between January 2012 and this past September at 22 percent

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Now, a few pages into the Tribune’s “Real Estate” section, Mary Umberger wrote:

The last one out should turn off the lights. The housing-research firm RealtyTrac says Orlando, Fla., is primed to see the horde of investors who bought up houses during the downturn start heading for the exits. They’ve made their profits, according to the researchers, who calculated that the investment properties’ values increased by 23 percent since January 2012. Price increases in that market are beginning to slow, suggesting that a sell-off may be coming, particularly from the so-called institutional investors who bought foreclosures by the dozens — even by the hundreds — when prices were ebbing. (In addition, RealtyTrac suggested that institutional investors soon may be similarly heading for the doors in Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis; Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and in Jacksonville and Brevard County, Fla.)

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

It’s my opinion that the Federal Reserve is still desperately trying to re-inflate the housing bubble (among others) from the last decade. I don’t think this economic “recovery” is on as solid ground as Washington, the Fed, and others want the rest of America to believe. I expect additional stimulus in the coming year(s), and nominal asset prices could remain elevated/go higher as a result. Housing included. So there may not be a mass exodus of institutional investors from residential real estate right around the corner. Of course, something else could always spook these guys and have them running for the exits. Time will tell…


Infamous Housing Bubble TV Commercial
YouTube Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

Sources:

Podmolik, Mary Ellen, “Investors find fewer bargains in Chicago housing market.” Chicago Tribune. 23 Dec. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/ct-mre-1228-podmolik-homefront-20141222-column.html). 29 Dec. 2014.

Umberger, Mary. “Florida housing trends may be an early-market barometer.” Chicago Tribune. 22 Dec. 2014. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/sc-cons-1225-umberger-20141222-column.html). 29 Dec. 2014.

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Illinois Named Worst-Run State In America In 2014

“‘We don’t have the time to mess around. We are in deep, deep trouble financially,’ [Illinois Governor-elect Bruce] Rauner told a meeting of the Illinois Farm Bureau at a downtown Chicago hotel. ‘The next 24 months are going to be rough. And I apologize. I ain’t going to be Mr. Popularity for a little while. That’s OK. Four years from now I think, though, everybody will appreciate what we did.’”

Chicago Tribune website, December 8, 2014

Talk about lists you don’t want to be on. In 2012 and 2013, Illinois was the 3rd worst-run state in the annual best- and worst-run states in America survey conducted by New York City-based financial news and opinion organization 24/7 Wall St.

So how did the “Land of Lincoln” fare in 2014? From the 24/7 Wall St. website on December 3:

How well run is your state? Assessing a state’s management quality is hardly easy. The current economic climate and standard of living in any given state are not only the results of policy choices and developments that occurred in the last few years, but can also be affected by decisions made decades ago, and by forces outside a state’s control.

Each year, 24/7 Wall St. attempts to answer this question by surveying various aspects of each state. To determine how well states are managed, we examine key financial ratios, as well as social and economic outcomes. This year, North Dakota is the best-run state in the country for the third consecutive year, while Illinois replaced California as the worst-run state

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Ouch. Worst part is, the people who brought us this mess are the same ones still in charge, more or less. It will be interesting to see how much of a difference Governor-elect Rauner- who ran on the Republican ticket- can make in the Democrat-controlled state.

24/7 Wall St. went into more detail about my home state’s latest “honor.” From the piece:

Illinois is the worst-run state in the nation. Like many other low-ranked states, more people left Illinois than moved there. Illinois lost more than 137,000 residents due to migration between the middle of 2010 and July 2013. A poor housing market may partly explain the exodus. Median home values fell 16.2% between 2009 and 2013, the second largest drop nationwide. Illinois has extremely poor finances by many measures. Just 39.3% of Illinois’ pension liabilities were funded as of 2013, worse than any other state. Further, the state’s reserves are estimated at just 0.5% of its general fund expenditure, the second lowest reserves rate nationwide. Both Moody’s and S&P gave Illinois the worst credit ratings of any state, at A3 and A- respectively. According to Moody’s, the state’s rating reflects its low fund balances and high pension obligations, as well as its “chronic use of payment deferrals to manage operating fund cash.”

As for our neighbors, Indiana is ranked 28th and Wisconsin comes in at 26th in 2014- down from 19th and 21st- respectively.

That’s quite a hit (9 places) the Hoosiers took from last year. Wonder what’s behind the drop?

Curious as to where 24/7 Wall St. ranked your state in 2014? Head on over to their website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Peter Schiff On Direction Of Interest Rates, Housing, And Gold

Last Friday, “crash prophet” Peter Schiff added a new entry to his YouTube video blog- The Schiff Report. The CEO/Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital warned viewers that the Federal Reserve is bluffing about raising interest rates. Schiff- who correctly-called the bursting of the housing bubble in addition to the 2008 economic crisis- also touched on the direction of the residential real estate market and gold. On interest rates and housing, he pointed out:

The risk is that the Fed doesn’t tighten at all, which is exactly what’s going to happen, because they can’t tighten. If the Fed actually tightens, the recovery is over. The recovery that is supposedly giving them the confidence to raise rates- it can’t exist if they raise rates. In fact, if the Fed could raise rates, they would have already raised them. I mean, it’s been over five years. They’re still at zero. And they’re saying rate hikes are a year way maybe. Why? If the economy is recovering, why can’t the Fed raise rates? Because if the Fed raised rates, we’d be right back in recession. Because it’s a phony recovery. That’s what people have to understand. It’s not real. It’s only here as long as the Fed can artificially sustain it, which she might. The minute they raise interest rates, that party’s over. The stock market’s going down. The real estate market’s going down.

And by the way, we had a plethora of negative numbers all week for the housing market. You could put a fork in this phony housing recovery, because it’s done. The market is going down. Housing prices are heading back down. Housing activity is slowing. I think a lot of layoffs are coming in construction because this market’s grinding to a halt…

The Fed is bluffing. This is all bark and no bite. It is impossible for the Fed to raise interest rates. If they could do it, they would have already done it. If they raise interest rates now, they destroy the very recovery that the low interest rates created. The problem is, if it isn’t a real recovery, it’s phony. If it was real, it wouldn’t need the Fed to support it. The only reason it does need the Fed’s support is because it’s imaginary. It’s phony. Because the actual economy is getting worse.

What the Fed is doing to goose the stock market, and the real estate market, to create this phony wealth effect, is undermining legitimate wealth creation. All the money we’re borrowing to spend is interfering with legitimate, genuine economic growth. And we’re just digging ourselves into a bigger and bigger hole…

The problem is, we’re going to have the next recession, and the Fed’s still going to be at zero. They’re still going to have this bloated balance sheet. And again, it’s not that the Fed is never going to raise rates. They’re just not going to do it voluntarily. They’re not going to do it as a decision. They’re not going to do it until they have to. And it’s not going to be a strong economy that’s going to force them to raise rates. Because I don’t care how strong the economic data is- they ain’t going to raise rates. And it doesn’t matter how bad the inflation data is- they’re still not going to raise rates. They’re not going to raise rates until the dollar collapses. Until foreigners no longer want to hold the dollar, because they understand the predicament that the Fed is in. They understand that it is QE forever. That it is all just talk. There is no exit strategy. There never was. Because exit is too painful. This is the end game of QE. This is the all in. This is the overdose.

On gold, Schiff predicted:

Janet Yellen is not going to wage war against inflation. She has already surrendered to inflation. It’s just that a lot of people haven’t figured that out yet. So, because people think that Janet Yellen might raise interest rates sooner rather than later because of inflation, they sold gold. If they knew the truth, that Janet Yellen isn’t going to care about the inflation, that’s she’s just going to let it get worse because she is too afraid to challenge inflation for fear of what it will do to the economy, to the stock market, to the housing market, the job market. So she is going to allow inflation to not only continue, but accelerate. And that is what’s good for gold.


“Ending QE is Bad, Not Ending it is Worse”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Does Robert Shiller See ‘Froth’ In U.S. Housing And Stocks?

I first blogged about Robert Shiller, the Yale professor credited with correctly-calling the “dot-com” and housing busts, on Survival And Prosperity way back on December 29, 2010. I wrote:

Back when the housing bubble was fully-inflated, I happened to catch a CNBC special on housing in which Robert Shiller, an economics professor at Yale University and co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, appeared with a number of individuals tied to the housing industry. When it was Professor Shiller’s turn to speak, he warned that there was a bubble in residential real estate.

The other panel members subsequently ripped Shiller a new one.

Subsequently, those panelists were made to look like major asses as the bubble turned into a bust, while Dr. Shiller was vindicated.

So what does Shiller think of the recent run-ups in U.S. stock and housing prices?

You make the call.

From a piece he penned and which appeared on The Guardian (UK) website Tuesday:

We have had only three salient global crises in the last century: 1929-33, 1980-82, and 2007-9. These events appear to be more than just larger versions of the more frequent small fluctuations that we often see, and that Stock and Watson analysed. But, with only three observations, it is hard to understand these events.

All seemed to have something to do with speculative price movements that surprised most observers and were never really explained, even years after the fact. They also had something to do with government policymakers’ mistakes. For example, the 1980-82 crisis was triggered by an oil price spike caused by the Iran-Iraq war. But all of them were related to asset-price bubbles that burst, leading to financial collapse.

Those who warn of grave dangers if speculative price increases are allowed to continue unimpeded are right to do so, even if they cannot prove that there is any cause for concern. The warnings might help prevent the booms that we are now seeing from continuing much longer and becoming more dangerous

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Personally, I think Robert Shiller may see the current housing and stock market booms as being “frothy.” Consider what I noted back on December 1, 2013- the last time I really brought him up on this blog:

These days, Dr. Shiller is worried about U.S. stocks once more. Madeline Chambers reported on Reuters.com this morning:

An American who won this year’s Nobel Prize for economics believes sharp rises in equity and property prices could lead to a dangerous financial bubble and may end badly, he told a German magazine.

Robert Shiller, who won the esteemed award with two other Americans for research into market prices and asset bubbles, pinpointed the U.S. stock market and Brazilian property market as areas of concern.

“I am not yet sounding the alarm. But in many countries stock exchanges are at a high level and prices have risen sharply in some property markets,” Shiller told Sunday’s Der Spiegel magazine. “That could end badly,” he said.

I am most worried about the boom in the U.S. stock market. Also because our economy is still weak and vulnerable,” he said, describing the financial and technology sectors as overvalued.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

And now, several months later, as I keep reading/hearing the term “new all-time record” in the financial mainstream media outlets?

Yep. I’d venture to guess he’d say frothy- at the very least.

You can read his entire piece on The Guardian website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Record Net Worth Result Of Fed Blowing Bubbles In Housing, Stocks?

I was surfing the Internet last night when I read something about Americans’ net worth making a comeback. Neil Shah reported on The Wall Street Journal website Thursday:

Americans’ wealth hit the highest level ever last year, according to data released Thursday, reflecting a surge in the value of stocks and homes that has boosted the most affluent U.S. households.

The net worth of U.S. households and nonprofit organizations rose 14% last year, or almost $10 trillion, to $80.7 trillion, the highest on record, according to a Federal Reserve report released Thursday. Even adjusted for inflation using the Fed’s preferred gauge of prices, U.S. household net worth—the value of homes, stocks and other assets minus debts and other liabilities—hit a fresh record…

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

I can’t say I’m surprised to hear of this rebound in net worth. After all, Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff has been warning for a couple of years now that the Federal Reserve is inflating new asset bubbles via tremendous amounts of stimulus (quantitative easing) to spark some sort of economic recovery in the wake of the bursting of the housing bubble and global financial crisis that reared its head in the fall of 2008. I blogged back on September 18, 2012:

In his September 14 entry on the The Schiff Report YouTube video blog, Schiff, who correctly-predicted the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble and 2008 global economic crisis, explained to viewers what QE3 was really about:

This is the plan that Ben Bernanke has. Ben Bernanke’s plan to revive the U.S. economy, and create jobs, is to inflate another housing bubble. That’s it. That’s what the Fed’s got. That’s what it came up with. As if the last housing bubble worked out so well for the economy, that the Fed wants an encore…

How is another housing bubble going to solve anything. Now one thing that Ben Bernanke hasn’t figured out yet- it ain’t gonna work. No matter how much he tries, no matter how much air he blows in to that housing market, he’s not going to reflate that bubble. There are simply too many holes in it, and there is no precedent for relating a busted bubble. More likely, all that cheap money is going to go someplace else…

Schiff asserted the Federal Reserve was trying to inflate another housing bubble.

Instead, there’s suggestions both housing and the stock market look “frothy” these days.

Suppose the Fed did in fact want to inflate new asset bubbles. If the central bank aimed to spread the wealth around in an attempt to jump-start the economy, it doesn’t seem to be happening. Shah noted in that WSJ article:

But the rebound, while powerful, has been tilted in a way that limits the upside for the broader U.S. economy and is increasingly leaving behind many middle- and lower-income Americans…

That means that even as wealth increases, it’s increasingly going to the affluent.

In addition to the affluent, much of the wealth surge is going to older Americans. Both groups are less likely to spend their gains and more likely to save, Mr. Emmons said. Meanwhile, sheer demographics—the retirement of the baby boomers and America’s aging population—are increasing the ranks of the nation’s savers.

The upshot: While American households overall are getting wealthier, the benefits for the economy may prove limited until such improvements reach more people.

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

“The benefits for the economy may prove limited until such improvements reach more people.”

I fear another financial crisis will have paid us a visit before such prosperity is achieved.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Source:

Shah, Neil “U.S. Household Net Worth Hits Record High.” The Wall Street Journal. 6 Mar. 2014. (link). 7 Mar. 2014.

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Quote- No, Headlines- For The Week

Something different for readers this week. Instead of a quote, here’s two news headlines which made my eyes roll upon spotting them this weekend…

“Dow 20,000 here we come: It’s different this time”

-MarketWatch.com, November 22, 2013

“It’s different this time.”

I’ve lost count how many times I’ve heard this phrase uttered over the years as some asset bubble was being inflated.

It’s not just me either.

From Michael Kling on the Moneynews website back on May 23, 2013:

Time and again, as stock prices continue rising to unsustainable heights, stock enthusiasts have preached, “This time is different.”

And it’s not just stocks either.

From Charles Hugh Smith on LewRockwell.com this past Halloween:

Defenders of current real estate valuations can draw upon an array of justifications, but they boil down to the same one used to justify valuations in every asset bubble: this time it’s different.

As for my two cents? Like I commented on a Chicago Tribune article last week, it’s my belief that after the economic crisis reared it’s ugly head in the fall of 2008, home prices nose-dived, and the “Great Recession” took hold, Washington and the Fed only managed to paper over the situation and monetary policy was designed to inflate a new asset bubble (or two, what the hell) to “save” the U.S. economy and larger financial system. Subsequently, we find ourselves immersed in QE Infinity and what some of those who correctly-predicted the “Panic of ’08” and housing crash see as new bubbles forming in residential real estate and equities.

I don’t envision this ending well.

Speaking of the Tribune, here’s another headline that made me cackle in disbelief.

“Breakthrough deal curbs Iran’s nuclear activity”

Chicago Tribune website, November 24, 2013

All I can say about this hopium-infused headline is that I expect one of two scenarios down the road:

1. Downtown Tehran packed to the gills as the Islamic Republic of Iran parades its first nuclear weapon for the entire world to see. Those in the know understand state actors in this region of the world can only salivate over the prospect of having a nuke in their arsenal- Iran included. Realpolitik, people.

2. A mushroom cloud over an Israeli or U.S. city. If the technology/opportunity presents itself, an electromagnetic pulse originating from a nuclear device detonated in the atmosphere over one of these countries (more bang for the buck).

Of course, all bets are off over these two scenarios taking place if some one (the Israelis?) take out Iran’s growing nuclear capabilities with military force.

Question is, is that even possible anymore given the time Iran has had?

Again, there’s others who think the claim that the interim pact reached betwen Iran and China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Russia, and the United States “curbs Iran’s nuclear activity” is one big joke.

Enter Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, “the world’s foremost value investor” with a net worth of $20 billion as of March 2013 according to Forbes magazine. Here’s what the Saudi royal had to say about a potential deal with Iran. From Jeffrey Goldberg on Bloomberg.com Friday night:

“There’s no confidence in the Obama administration doing the right thing with Iran,” he told me, with a directness that would make Benjamin Netanyahu blush. “We’re really concerned — Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East countries — about this.”

It is quite something for a Saudi royal to state baldly that his country is part of a tacit alliance with Israel, but Saudi leaders, like Israel’s leaders, are frantic with worry that an overeager Obama will accede to Iran’s desire to become a threshold state, one whose nuclear program is so advanced that it would only need several weeks to assemble a deliverable weapon. Alwaleed, like Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, believes that Iran, in its ongoing negotiations with the world’s major powers, will pocket whatever sanctions relief it gets without committing to ending its nuclear program. “Why are they offering relief?” he asked. “Keep the pressure on. Sanctions are what brought about the negotiations to begin with! Why not keep the pressure up?”

Obama, Alwaleed says, is a man who is in desperate political straits and needs a victory — any victory — to right his presidency. “Obama is in so much of a rush to have a deal with Iran,” he said. “He wants anything. He’s so wounded. It’s very scary. Look, the 2014 elections are going to begin. Within two stamonths they’re going to start campaigning. Thirty-nine members of his own party in the House have already moved away from him on Obamacare. That’s scary for him.”

(Editor’s note: Italics added for emphasis)

Note Goldberg’s headline for his Bloomberg piece:

“Iran Is Playing Obama, Says Saavy Saudi Prince”

Iran is “playing” Obama and many others, judging by the buzz being reported in the mainstream media this Sunday.

Not me. I just can’t see Dow 20,000 being sustained just yet or Iran’s nuclear aspirations being curbed through diplomacy any time soon.

Sources:

Kling, Michael. “New Yorker: No Stock Bubble- This Time Is Different.” Moneynews.com. 23 May 2013. (http://www.moneynews.com/InvestingAnalysis/stock-market-bubble-different/2013/05/23/id/506002). 24 May 2013.

Smith, Charles Hugh. “What Real Estate Bubble? Oh, You Mean the One That’s Bigger Than the 2007 Bubble?” LewRockwell.com. 31 Oct. 2013. (http://www.lewrockwell.com/2013/10/charles-hugh-smith/what-real-estate-bubble/). 24 Nov. 2013.

Goldberg, Jeffrey. “Iran Is Playing Obama, Says Savvy Saudi Prince.” Bloomberg.com. 22 Nov. 2013. (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-11-22/iran-is-playing-obama-says-savvy-saudi-prince.html). 24 Nov. 2013.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Over 35 Percent Of Chicago-Area Homeowners With Mortgages Still ‘Underwater’ Last Quarter

Back when the U.S. housing bubble was rapidly-inflating in the early- to mid- 2000s, a number of my “contemporaries” here in the Chicagoland area decided to take the plunge and buy homes.

They just didn’t expect that plunge to also include local housing prices.

Many of these individuals took out mortgages, and as the values of their single-family residences plummeted in the subsequent years, they soon went “underwater,” meaning they owed more on their loans than their properties were worth.

Well, the “Underwater People” (not to be confused with the album by The Samples or local band by the same name who I used to go watch in the 90s) are still here, contributing to a depressed Chicago-area housing market in which single-family home prices were down in June about 28 percent from their peak in September 2006 (S&P/Case-Shiller data), according to ChicagoRealEstateDaily.com on August 27.

This past Sunday, I spotted the following about underwater mortgages in my Chicago Tribune. Mary Ellen Podmolik wrote:

A lack of inventory is frustrating potential Chicago-area homebuyers, and a report last week from Zillow explains why some homeowners might like to sell their properties but can’t. Despite improving home values, 35.4 percent of Chicago-area homeowners with a mortgage were underwater at the end of June, meaning they owed more on their loan than the home was worth, Zillow said. That means those homeowners would have to sell their properties through a bank-approved short sale.

I took a look at the Zillow data this morning, and the picture it painted of the Chicago-area housing market isn’t very pretty as it concerns negative equity. From their August 29 press release for the just-published Second Quarter Zillow Negative Equity Report:

• Percent of homeowners with mortgages in negative equity in Q2 2013= 35.4% (Podmolik already noted)
• “Effective” negative equity rate, including homeowners with 20 percent or less equity in Q2 2013= 50.7%
• Forecasted negative equity rate in Q2 2014= 33.2%

A little improvement being predicted for next year.

One more glimmer of hope for Chicago’s “Underwater People” that I spotted in that press release:

Minimum number of homeowners expected to be freed from negative equity by Q2 2014= 38,268

Of course, these projections assume Fed funny money keeps flowing and blowing up the prices of real estate and paper assets.

You can read that entire press release from Seatlle-based Zillow- which discussed the negative equity rate nationwide- on their website here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

Sources:

“Home prices up for 8th straight month.” ChicagoRealEstateDaily.com. 27 Aug. 2013. (http://www.chicagorealestatedaily.com/article/20130827/CRED0701/130829853/home-prices-up-for-8th-straight-month). 4 Sep. 2013.

Podmolik, Mary Ellen. “Problems still rampant in mortgage servicing industry.” Chicago Tribune. 30 Aug. 2013. (http://www.chicagotribune.com/classified/realestate/ct-mre-0901-podmolik-homefront-20130830,0,7902179.column). 4 Sep. 2013.

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CNBC Tries Calling Out Peter Schiff Over Gold Price

Anyone remember those “Peter Schiff Was Right” YouTube.com videos that went viral right after the U.S. housing bubble popped and the global economic crisis really reared its ugly head in the fall of 2008?

Here’s probably the most popular one out there.

Well, I’m convinced a clip or more of Thursday’s installment of the CNBC show Futures Now, hosted by CNBC Reporter Jackie DeAngelis, will be included in a future “Peter Schiff Was Right About Gold” YouTube video. From an exchange between DeAngelis and the CEO and chief global strategist of Euro Pacific Capital:

SCHIFF: You’re talking about investors’ demand for gold going down. I would disagree. Because I own a gold company too, Euro Pacific Precious Metals. And we’ve never had more demand from our clients in the history of my company than we have now. I would say speculators, speculative demand, is what went down. I think a lot of people who came late to the gold rally were speculating in gold. They were simply buying it because the price was rising. They wanted to hop on that train. They use ETFs. They use futures markets. So I think the speculators have been flushed from the market in this pullback. But the investors- they’re still there. Because all of the reasons they’ve been buying gold for the past 10 or 12 years- those reasons have never been stronger. And so investor demand continues. We’ve flushed away the speculative demand. But I think the speculators will come back in the next rally.
DEANGELIS: Alright. Well, Peter, let’s step back for a second because you kind of jumped in there on the conversation we were having and I definitely appreciate your opinion on that. But I want to talk about the gold price that we’re looking at right now. $1,383.60. That is the price that we’re looking at at this point. We’ve had you on the show multiple times before, you said that gold was going to skyrocket, you say it’s going to be a bumpy ride and you can’t tell us exactly how we’re going to get there. But tell me today, Peter, why have you gotten it wrong?

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

SCHIFF: I don’t think I have gotten it wrong. You just said I said it would be a bumpy ride. Look, it’s been bumpy, but I’ve been on this ride since gold was under $300 an ounce. It’s not like gold is down from that point. It’s off its highs. But I think what’s going on right now is you’ve got a false narrative out there that the U.S. economy is improving. It’s not. All the data points have been negative. A deluge of negative data came out today. The only evidence of a rebounding economy, is the stock market going up, or the real estate market going up. But that’s not because the economy is sound. That’s because of all the cheap money created by the Fed. That’s the same reason why stock and real estate prices were going up in 2006 or 2007. It is a bubble. The economy, meanwhile, is actually getting worse. And all this talk about the Fed getting ready to take away the punch bowl is all talk. They’re going to spike it even more. They’re going to up the size of QE. But people who are speculating of an early end are getting it wrong. Gold is going through a correction. All bull markets have a correction. It is a buying opportunity.


“Schiff: Gold a Generational Buy”
CNBC Video

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Robert Shiller: 10 Years From Now, ‘Home Prices Will Be About Where They Are Now, In Real Terms’

I can’t believe it’s been 8 months since I last blogged about Yale economist and housing expert Robert Shiller. Back on September 18, I wrote that Dr. Shiller, who was out there in the mid-2000s warning anyone who would listen about the housing bubble and subsequent crash, wasn’t sure residential real estate in the United States had bottomed-out just yet, noting there already had been 4 attempts at a housing recovery since the subprime crisis struck.

On April 30, Robert Shiller appeared on Yahoo! Finance’s business show The Daily Ticker. Speaking to host Henry Blodget, Dr. Shiller had this to say about where he thought home prices were heading:

BLODGET: And so you have studied home prices going back hundreds of years. You’ve watched the bubble form here. You called the top of that. You called the crash. What do you think will happen to house prices over the next 5 to 10 years?
SHILLER: Yeah, well I wrote several New York Times columns about this. I think it’s hard to say. It could go up. It could go down. You know, in the 20th century, typically, in a decade, real inflation-corrected home prices went up 15 percent or down 15 percent. Usually not because of any bubble or anything like that. It’s just supply and demand, right? The existing home stock might be in the wrong location and the economy is moving somewhere else. So it loses value. Or, then it might be some new interest in owning a home. These things are hard to predict.

But my guess that is, 10 years from now, home prices will be about where they are now, in real terms.

Dr. Shiller also had this nugget for real estate investors:

So it looks like there’s a tilt toward rentals. What that suggests to me that if you want to invest in housing, you want to look toward housing that is suitable for conversion to rental.

You can watch the entire interview on the Yahoo! Finance site here.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Wednesday, May 15th, 2013 Bubbles, Housing, Inflation, Investing No Comments

Redfin CEO Identifies Most- And Least-Vulnerable Metro Housing Markets To Experience Another Bubble

Last week in my Sunday paper, I spotted yet another great article by Chicago Tribune real estate reporter Mary Umberger. It was an interview with Glenn Kelman, chief executive officer of Redfin, a real estate brokerage doing business in 20 U.S. housing markets.

Apparently, Redfin recently ranked 15 major metropolitan areas it perceived as most- and least-vulnerable to experiencing another housing bubble. Kelman told Umberger:

We’ve looked at several factors: income to home-price ratios, ratios of sale price to listing price, the frequency of flips (resales within 18 months of purchase), incidences of bidding wars, and rates of going under contract within two weeks of listing.

From looking at those things, we think there are four markets that are in mini-bubble territory, at risk of price correction: Washington, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco.

At the other end of the list, the least likely to see a correction is Atlanta, followed closely by Chicago, Las Vegas and Dallas.

A new housing bubble. Something I’m starting to hear more of these days.

Anyone remember “crash prophet” Peter Schiff’s warning from last September? I blogged on September 18, 2012:

In his September 14 entry on the The Schiff Report YouTube video blog, Schiff, who correctly-predicted the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble and 2008 global economic crisis, explained to viewers what QE3 was really about:

This is the plan that Ben Bernanke has. Ben Bernanke’s plan to revive the U.S. economy, and create jobs, is to inflate another housing bubble. That’s it. That’s what the Fed’s got. That’s what it came up with. As if the last housing bubble worked out so well for the economy, that the Fed wants an encore.

You can read Umberger’s entire exchange with Redfin’s Kelman on the Tribune website here. Interesting stuff.

By Christopher E. Hill, Editor
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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