2010 was quite a year, wasn’t it? 2010 will be remembered for a lot of things, but for those living in the United States, one of the main things that last year will be remembered for is economic decline. The number of foreclosure filings set a new record, the number of home repossessions set a new record, the number of bankruptcies went up again, the number of Americans that became so discouraged that they simply quit looking for work reached a new all-time high and the number of Americans on food stamps kept setting a brand new record every single month. Meanwhile, U.S. government debt reached record highs, state government debt reached record highs and local government debt reached record highs. What a mess! In fact, even many of the "good" economic records that were set during 2010 were indications of underlying economic weakness. For example, the price of gold set an all-time record during 2010, but one of the primary reasons for the increase in the price of gold was that the U.S. dollar was rapidly losing value. Most Americans had been hoping that 2010 would be the beginning of better times, but unfortunately economic conditions just kept getting worse.
So will things improve in 2011? That would be nice, but at this point there are not a whole lot of reasons to be optimistic about the economy. The truth is that we are trapped in a period of long-term economic decline and we are now paying the price for decades of horrible decisions.
Amazingly, many of our politicians and many in the mainstream media have declared that "the recession is over" and that the U.S. economy is steadily improving now.
Well, if anyone tries to tell you that the economy got better in 2010, just show them the statistics below. That should shut them up for a while.
The following are 20 new economic records that were set during 2010….
The November Mortgage Monitor report released by Lender Processing Services, Inc. (LPS) shows that the volume of loans moving to REO continued to drop as moratoria further delayed foreclosure sales. While the 90+ delinquency category has steadily declined, the number of loans moving to seriously delinquent status beyond 90 days far outpaced the number of foreclosure starts. Nearly 2.2 million loans are 90 days or more delinquent but not yet in foreclosure.
Foreclosure inventories also continued to rise for the fifth straight month as delinquent accounts are referred for foreclosure, but the sale of foreclosure properties continued to decline. When compared to January 2008 levels, the foreclosure inventory of Jumbo Prime loans is nearly seven times higher; the inventory of Agency Prime loans is nearly six times higher; and the foreclosure inventory of Option ARM loans is approaching five times the inventory in January 2008.
The report also shows that one-third of loans that are 90 days or more delinquent have not made a payment in a year; however, the number of new problem loans declined nearly 5.4 percent from October, which is opposite of the seasonality trend that typically impacts new delinquencies this time of year. Self-cures for loans one to two months delinquent increased in November to a six-month high.
In the month of November, 261,153 loans were referred to foreclosure, which represents a 0.7% month-over-month decline. The total number of delinquent loans is nearly 2.1 times historical averages – and foreclosure inventory is currently at 7.7 times historical averages.
As reported in LPS’ First Look release, other key results from LPS’ latest Mortgage Monitor report include:
Total U.S. loan delinquency rate: 9.02 percent
Total U.S. foreclosure inventory rate: 4.08 percent
Total U.S. non-current* loan rate: 13.10 percent
States with most non-current* loans: Florida, Nevada, Mississippi, Georgia, New Jersey
States with fewest non-current* loans: North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Montana
Charts From The Report
The report is 34 pages long. Inquiring minds may wish to give it a closer look. Here are a few select charts.
The foreclosure crisis isn’t just about lost documents. It’s about trust—and a clash over who gets stuck with $1.1 trillion in losses say BusinessWeek writers Peter Coy, Paul M. Barrett and Chad Terhune in a comprehensive 7 page article called Mortgage Mess: Shredding the Dream.
The article kicks off with a high-profile case of Joseph Lents who has been in default for 8 years and is still living in his home because no one can come up with the note. Such cases are extremely rare, yet highly publicized as if they widely occur.
The article continues with a discussion about MERS including this interesting comment:
"The Florida Bankers Assn. told the state Supreme Court last year that in many cases the physical document was deliberately eliminated to avoid confusion immediately upon its conversion to an electronic file."
Then there is the issue of LPS, America’s biggest mortgage-and-foreclosure outsourcing firm.
"LPS supplies much of the digital plumbing for the convoluted home-finance system. At the start of 2010 it said its computer programs were handling 28 million loans with a total principal balance of more than $4.7 trillion—or more than half the nation’s outstanding mortgage balances."
Because of robo-signings and other questionable practices the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa and the state of Florida are investigating whether LPS and affiliated companies have fabricated documents and faked signatures.
LPS employees "seem to be creating and manufacturing ‘bogus assignments’ of mortgage in order that foreclosures may go through more quickly and efficiently," the Florida Attorney General’s Office says in an online description of its civil investigation.
To keep the paperwork moving, LPS uses a variety of incentives. Top-performing workers receive monthLY "Drive for Pride" awards that sometimes include $500 in company stock and a spot in an underground parking garage. LPS also devised a coding system to grade outside foreclosure attorneys based on their speed in completing tasks. Fast-acting attorneys receive green ratings; slower lawyers are labeled yellow or red and may receive fewer assignments. "Bill will move quickly and expect you to be there to pull your weight," says Jerry Mallot, executive vice-president of the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. "I wouldn’t call the environment at his company kind and genteel."
This October, millions of Americans are going to watch horror movies and read horror stories because they enjoy being frightened. Well, if you really want to be scared, you should just check out the real horror story unfolding right before our eyes – the U.S. economic meltdown. It seems like more bad news for the U.S. economy comes out almost every single day now. Unfortunately, things are about to get a whole lot worse. The mainstream media has been treating "Foreclosuregate" as if it is a minor nuisance, but the truth is that the lid is about to be publicly lifted on years and years of massive fraud in the U.S. mortgage industry, and this thing has the potential to cause economic chaos that is absolutely unprecedented. Over the past several days, expert after expert has been coming forward and warning that this crisis could completely and totally paralyze the mortgage industry in the United States. If that happens, it will be essentially like pulling the plug on the U.S. economic recovery.
Not that there was going to be a recovery anyway. The truth is that economic statistic after economic statistic has been pointing to incredible trouble for the U.S. economy.
For example, the U.S. government just announced that the U.S. trade deficit went up again in August. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. trade deficit was $46.3 billion during August, which was up significantly from $42.6 billion in July.
So how much coverage did this get in the mainstream media?
Well, just about none.
We have gotten so used to horrific trade deficits that it isn’t even news anymore.
But these trade deficits are absolutely killing our economy.
How long do you think that the U.S. economy can keep shelling out 40 or 50 billion more dollars than we take in every single month?
If you look at the countries around the world that have become very wealthy, almost all of them have gotten that way by trading with the United States.
Meanwhile, many of our once great manufacturing cities are turning into open sewers.
Every single politician in the United States should be talking about the trade deficit.
But hardly any of them are.
Is it because Americans have all become so dumbed-down that we don’t understand these things anymore, or is it because we are so…
The foreclosure fraud crisis seems to escalate with each passing now. It is being reported that all 50 U.S. states have launched a joint investigation into alleged fraud in the mortgage industry. This is a huge story that is not going to go away any time soon. The truth is that it would be hard to understate the amount of fraud that has gone on in the U.S. mortgage industry, and we are watching events unfold that could potentially rip the U.S. economy to shreds. Many are now referring to this crisis as "Foreclosure-Gate", and already it is shaping up to be the worst thing that has ever happened to the U.S. mortgage industry. At this point, it seems inevitable that some financial institutions will go under as a result of this mess. In fact, by the end of this thing we might see a whole bunch of lending institutions crash and burn. This crisis is very hard to describe because it is just so darn complicated, but it is worth it to try to dig into this thing and understand what is going on because it has the potential to absolutely decimate the entire U.S. mortgage industry.
The truth is that there was fraud going on in every segment of the mortgage industry over the past decade. Predatory lending institutions were aggressively signing consumers up for mortgages that they knew they could never repay. Many consumers were also committing fraud because a lot of them also knew that they could never possibly repay the mortgages. These bad mortgages were fraudulently bundled up and securitized, and these securitized financial instruments were fraudulently marketed as solid investments. Those who certified that these junk securities were "AAA rated" also committed fraud. Then these securities were traded at lightning speed all over the globe and a ton of mortgage paperwork became "lost" or "missing".
The foreclosure crisis is heating up. Will it all come crashing down, or can we find a way out of the mess? **This is Part 3 in a series giving a basic explanation of the current foreclosure fraud crisis. You can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Right now the foreclosure system has shut down as a result of the banks’ own voluntary actions. There is currently a debate over whether or not the current foreclosure fraud crisis could explode into a systemic risk problem that imperils the larger financial sector and economy, and if so what that would look like.
No matter what happens, the uncertainty about notes and what is currently going on with the foreclosure crisis is terrible for the economy. Getting to the heart of this problem so that negotiations can be worked out is important for getting the economy going again. There is little reason to trust whatever the servicers and the banks conclude at the end of the month, and the market will know that. Only the government can credibly clear the air as to what the legal situation is with the notes and the securitizations.
But I want to get some unlikely but dangerous scenarios on the table in which this blows up. Bangs, not whimpers. The kind where Congress is pressured to act over a weekend. I had a discussion with Adam Levitin about how this could explode into a systemic problem.
Title Insurance Market Breaks Down
The first scenario involves title insurance, specifically a situation wherein title insurers decide to take a month off from writing title insurance even on performing and current loans to investigate what is going on with note transfers.
If that happened, there would be no mortgage sales (except for those involving cash) in the country. The system would simply stop. Everyone with an interest, from realtors to Wall Street to construction to huge sections of the economy, would face a major crisis from this short-term pinch. There would be a call for Congress to step in immediately.
You can tell that the title insurance market, which is largely concentrated and also holding very little capital to deal with a nationwide crisis,…
For most Americans, the economic collapse is something that is happening to someone else. Most of us have become so isolated from each other and so self-involved that unless something is directly affecting us or a close family member than we really don’t feel it. But even though most of us enjoy a much closer relationship with our television sets than we do with our neighbors at this point, it is quickly becoming undeniable that a fundamental shift is taking place in society. Perhaps you noticed it when two or three foreclosure signs went up on your street. Or perhaps it got your attention when that nice fellow down the street lost his job, and he and his family seemingly just disappeared from the neighborhood one day. The Census Bureau made front page headlines all over the nation this week when they announced that one out of every seven Americans was living in poverty in 2009. Every single day more Americans are getting sucked out of the middle class and into soul-crushing poverty.
Unfortunately, most Americans don’t really care because it has not affected them yet.
But this year, millions more Americans will discover that the music has stopped playing and they are left without a seat at the table.
Meanwhile, neither political party has a workable solution. They just like to point fingers and blame each other.
The Democrats blame Bush for all the poverty and advocate expanding programs for the poor. Not that there is anything wrong with a safety net. But the "safety net" was never meant to hold 50 million people on Medicaid and 40 million people on food stamps. The number of Americans on food stamps has more than…
One of Pat’s reasons was that "the HAMP modifications will have a failure rate of at least 75%. That is due to the Debt Ratios that the mods are approved at. In Feb, the mean ratio was 59.8%. In Mar, it was 62.7%, which to increase that much, most every Mar approval was far above the 62.7 number."
In this article, Pat discusses the HAMP loan modification program in more detail.
Over the last year, I have been watching the HAMP modification program with great interest. I have wanted to believe that the Federal Government would actually put into place a loan modification program that would help homeowners, though I knew that this was likely false hope. The results are now in, at least in my opinion.
HAMP is a fraud. Nothing else can be said otherwise. The Government has once again put into place a program that will not help homeowners. Instead, HAMP modifications will end up postponing homes foreclosures for a period of time for modified loans, but, most will end up losing the home in the end, except for a “very” lucky few who actually make it. I cannot believe that the Government expected anything other than the HAMP program would end up being a failure. To understand what to expect, we must look inside the numbers.
In March, the February results for HAMP were released. Key points of the update were:
* 1.3 million total trial modification offers.
* Almost 1.1 million trial modifications have begun since the program began.
* 72,000 new trial modifications started in February.
* More than 170,000 permanent modifications granted to date.
* 91,800 other permanent modifications offered and awaiting acceptance.
* 0.9% permanent modifications cancelled
* 8.8% total modifications cancelled, 88,663 total
RealtyTrac is out this morning with a year-end look at foreclosures. I think it is a terrible report.
There is the usual bad news from the worst hit areas.
-1 in 8 homes in Vegas was in foreclosure. How is it that the MSM has convinced us that things have gotten better there? They have not.
-Cali and Arizona are looking at ten percent default rates. And this has been going on for a few years now.
-A substantial part of South Florida has one home in ten in default. In Marco Island/Naples the rate is 6.5%. That blows my mind. I know this area. It is deep pocket. At least it used to be.
-The real shocker to me was Provo Utah and Boise ID. The default rates are up 100% from two years ago. This was not supposed to be happening in places like this.
There is a nationwide problem of defaults. The people in Boise are feeling the same pain as Stockton. Every time that a default happens it devalues other properties. I have real estate interests around the country and I can tell you that things are dead. There was a time when a buyer would look at a home and ask, “How big is the lot?” Today the question is, “Does the bank have title and are they desperate to sell?”.
There is not going to be a recovery in housing until the defaults have been stabilized at manageable levels. The broad economy is not going anywhere either. There is no plan on the table to stop what is surely coming. The government programs have delayed things by an average of nine months. That means that most of the millions of government sponsored ReFi’s from 2009 will blow up this year. We paid a bundle for those ReFi’s. They cost us last year, we will pay again for them this year. Little has been accomplished.
I know that there are many out there who will say, “Let price discovery rule!” You may be right. I don’t know anymore. We are paying a big price in time and treasure with what we have been doing. However, the policy of, “Let the chips fall” scares me. It is like a giant sucking noise. It is far away but getting closer.
I was struck by the following announcement from Fannie Mae.
Being the nice guys that they are, Fannie is giving homeowners a few more days before they get tossed on the street. I have not seen that the other D.C mortgage lenders have followed Fannie’s lead, but I am sure they will. Freddie Mac, FHA, FDIC and the Federal Home Loan banks are also “nice” guys who are also in the foreclosure business.
I agree with this decision. What’s the sense of chucking people out in the cold over the holidays? We are supposed to be a compassionate people with a compassionate government. I am not sure that those who get this two-week reprieve will really be enjoying the Christmas spirit. Waiting for the axe to fall does not fit in with the plum pudding and presents thing.
Assume that all of the lenders followed Fannie’s lead and suspended foreclosures from the 19th to the 3rd. That would be a pretty big deal. The number of foreclosure has now reached a level of 11,000 per day. So this break in the action by the lenders would defer as many as 160,000 homes from foreclosure. But that is only for two weeks. It just means the January/February numbers will have a bulge.
The 2009 foreclosure will come in around 4mm. Up from 2.2mm in 2008. In the period 1950-2000 the foreclosure rate averaged less than 1% of all mortgages. In 2010 foreclosures could be 7%. There is nothing normal about our current conditions.
It is certain that there is more bad news in front of us on this issue. Washington has introduced the HAMP and HARP programs in the last year to combat the tide of foreclosures. There has also been pressure by regulators and even the White House on the private sector lenders to avoid foreclosures. These efforts have reduced the numbers, but the real impact is to pass the trash to a future period. We know that 60% of restructured mortgages re-default in less than one year. There is no second chance at this. That 60% is going to hit a wall sometime in 2010.
By any account the US is the wealthiest country in the world. We are also the most indebted. Two years ago
Note from dshort: The commentary below is my standard monthly update. However, I'm taking this one with the proverbial grain of salt ... make that "road" salt. As the BLS points out in employment report FAQs, "Unusually severe weather is more likely to have an impact on average weekly hours than on employment." We see that impact in the third chart below. Next month should see a rebound in average hours per week.
Here is a look at two key numbers in today's monthly employment report for February
Average Hourly Earnings
Average Weekly Hours
The government has been tracking the data for Production and Nonsupervisory Employees for decades. But coverage of Total Private Employees only dates from March 2006.
Let's examine the broader series, which goes back far enough to show the trend since before th...
Despite stocks being at record highs, sell-side strategists proclaiming today's jobs report as great, and the Fed comfortable tapering in the face of transitory weather-related macro weakness, the following chart suggests all is not well... Echoing Irving Fisher, it appears we have reached a permanently high plateau in the duration of unemployment in America...
The Global X Social Media Index ETF (Ticker: SOCL) touched fresh record highs on Thursday morning, surprising no one given the top three holdings of the Fund are Hong Kong-based Tencent Holdings (12.678%), Facebook Inc. (12.506%) and LinkedIn Corp. (8.166%), which are up 130%, 160% and 22%, respectively, since this time last year. The SOCL reflects the performance of companies involved in the social media industry, including companies that provide social networking, file sharing and other web-based media applications. Shares in the ETF rose 1.3% today to a new high of $23.00, and have soared approximately 65% since this time last year.
Today brought three better than expected economic releases from Construction Spending, ISM Manufacturing, and Personal Income. The ISM figure was quite unexpected and Personal Income was well above expectations. If we ignore for a moment that the Final GDP reading for Q4 was lowered on Friday (which may or may not have been primarily caused by severe weather), we have had a week of better than expected economic numbers. Corporate earnings have also continued to exceed forecasts, albeit with a bit more cautious guidance.
Of course, none of that matters when the “war drums” start beating. Russia and the Ukraine are engaged in a serious game of “chicken” with a bear in the hen house. The Russian ruble has borne the brunt of the damage so far with a double digit drop today again...
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Ladies and Gentlemen, hobos and tramps,
Cross-eyed mosquitoes, and Bow-legged ants,
I come before you, To stand behind you,
To tell you something, I know nothing about.
And so the circus begins in Union Square, San Francisco for this weeks JP Morgan Healthcare Conference. Will the momentum from 2013, which carried the S&P Spider Biotech ETF to all time highs, carry on in 2014? The Biotech ETF beat the S&P by better than 3 points.
As I noted in my previous post, Biotechs Galore - IPOs and More, biotechs were rushing to IPOs so that venture capitalists could unwind their holdings (funds are usually 5-7 years), as well as take advantage of the opportune moment...
Welcome to the fouth update of the IRA Virtual Portfolio. First I am going to summarize the current state of the Portfolio then I will get into all the activity we had during September expiration.
Profit and Loss – Net of closed positions the portfolio is up a total of $769
Market Commentary – Last expiration I said, "I would like to put a total of $20,000 to work by the end of SEP expiration. If the VIX pops up to around 20 I plan to put about $50,000 total to work." The market didn't quite reach the goal but I did manage to deploy $15,000 of buying power. I still feel the market is too high and expect a correction during October. If the vix pops up to around 20 I still plan to put about $50,000 to work. If a correction doesn't happen I still plan to have a total of $25,000 in buying power put to work by October expiration. Now on to the act...
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