by ilene - October 17th, 2010 8:13 pm
Courtesy of Mish
Because of losses in construction and manufacturing, unemployment has taken its toll on more men than women. Please consider More Wives Head for Work
Angela Patterson is working as an insurance agent in New York while her husband looks for construction jobs in North Carolina. Diana Gomez had been staying home to care for an ill daughter. When her husband lost his job, she became an administrative assistant in a dentist’s office. Michelle, a social worker and mother of three young children in Baltimore, who asked that her last name not be used, switched from part-time to full-time work when her husband was laid off last year. She kept to that schedule after he found work earlier this year—at two-thirds his former salary.
They are the reluctant breadwinners: Women who wanted to stay home until their income suddenly became critical to the well-being of their families. In some cases they are increasing their hours to keep the bills paid. Others are taking up employment for the first time as their husbands struggle to find work. With the anemic recovery keeping the job outlook uncertain, the accelerated gender shift is likely to stick, creating new challenges for U.S. families.
In a study published this September in the journal Family Relations, researchers Marybeth J. Mattingly and Kristin E. Smith of the University of New Hampshire found that wives were more likely to enter the job market or increase their hours when their husbands were out of work between May 2007 and May 2008 than when their husbands were out of work amid prosperity four years earlier. These women were also three times more likely to enter the labor force than women whose husbands were working and 51 percent more likely to increase their hours. Smith says difficult times may push women to take jobs they wouldn’t consider when the economy is strong. "They have to work," she says. "As families lose their primary breadwinner, they’re making ends meet with a lower-earning spouse."
By now, the impact of the recession on the American male is well chronicled: Men accounted for more than 71 percent of the job losses as sectors like manufacturing and construction were crushed. Even when job losses spread to traditionally female-friendly areas like retail and education, women continued to fare better. The
32% of Homeowners Expect Home Prices to Drop Next Year, Highest Short-Term Pessimism Ever; Recognition Phase Underway
by ilene - October 16th, 2010 11:27 pm
32% of Homeowners Expect Home Prices to Drop Next Year, Highest Short-Term Pessimism Ever; Recognition Phase Underway
Courtesy of Mish
Rasmussen Reports recently released an interesting survey that shows Homeowners Are More Pessimistic Than Ever About the Short-Term Housing Market
A new Rasmussen Reports survey finds that 32% expect the value of their home to decrease over the next year, the highest finding since Rasmussen Reports began asking the question regularly in December 2008.
Just 21% believe the value of their home will go up over the next year.
Looking longer term, people are feeling a bit better. Fifty-two percent (52%) of homeowners say the value of their home will increase over the next five years, the highest level of optimism measured since May.
For the second month in a row, only 55% of homeowners say their home is worth more than their mortgage. A third (33%), however, report that the mortgage is bigger than the home value.
Over half of Americans know someone who has lost their home because they could not pay their mortgage, but just 20% believe that when banks foreclose on a home, it’s generally due to unfair lending practices.
Some will look at the survey results and see a contrarian indicator. I rather doubt it. I do not think we bottom until homeowners sour on long-term optimism.
Given current conditions, housing inventory, shadow inventory, another jobless "recovery", and changing social attitudes from younger generations, home prices will likely stay depressed for a while.
So instead of the survey being a contrarian indicator, I view these attitudes as part of the recognition phase. Consumers are starting to realize the economic headwinds and what that will do to housing prices in the short-term, even if they have not yet figured out the long-term demographic mess.
Time and Price is the Only Legitimate Cure
The most encouraging sign in the report is that "a majority of Americans continue to oppose any government intervention in the housing market."
The only legitimate cure for what ails housing is price and time. Prices need to fall to the point there is genuine demand. When that happens, the bottom will be in, although appreciation off that bottom will be quite slow.
In the meantime, the Fed’s misguided attempt to prop up prices, in conjunction with all the interference by Congress, just stretches out the bottoming timeline.
by ilene - October 16th, 2010 12:54 am
Here’s another great article on the frauds at the heart of the mortgage and banking sectors. – Ilene
Courtesy of Charles Hugh Smith, Of Two Minds
The system for financing mortgages and regulating that financing has failed, completely and utterly. The mortgage and real estate markets are now in collapse.
Yesterday I wrote about how positive feedback loops lead to collapse. Welcome to the U.S. housing and mortgage markets. As I have documented here numerous times, the entire U.S. mortgage market has already been socialized: 99% of all mortgages are backed by the three FFFs--Fannie, Freddie and FHA--and the Federal Reserve has purchased a staggering $1.2 trillion in mortgage-backed assets in the past year or so to maintain the illusion that there is a market for mortgage-backed securities.
There is, but only because the mortgages are backed by the Federal Government and propped up by the Federal Reserve.
The mortgage market is completely dependent on government guarantees and quasi-Government purchases of securitized mortgages. If the mortgage market were truly socialized, then the Central State would own the banks which originate, service and own the mortgages.
But then the private owners and managers of the "too big to fail" banks would not be reaping hundreds of billions in profits and bonuses. And since the banking industry has effectively captured the processes of governance (that is, Congress and the various regulatory agencies), then what we have is a system of private ownership of the revenue and profits generated by the mortgage industry and public absorption of the risks and losses.
Could anything be sweeter for the big banks? No.
The incestuous nature of the system is breathtaking. The Fed creates the credit which enables the mortgages, the Treasury guarantees the mortgages via Fannie, Freddie and FHA, the Fed buys the mortgages ($1.3 trillion in mortgages are on their balance sheet) and the private banks collect the fees and profits.
One of the core tenets of the Survival+ critique is the State/Financial Plutocracy partnership. There are many examples of this partnership (crony capitalism in which the State is the "enforcer" which collects the national income and distributes it to its private-sector cronies), but perhaps none so blatant and pure as the mortgage/banking sector.
by ilene - October 15th, 2010 3:36 pm
Courtesy of Mish
Lower interest rates are not typically synonymous with rising inflation, but Bernanke foolishly thinks he can get that magic pair with the power of persuasion in conjunction with Quantitative Easing.
Please consider Fed Considers Raising Inflation Expectations to Boost Economy
Federal Reserve policy makers may want Americans to expect inflation to accelerate in the future so they spend more of their money now.
Central bankers, seeking ways to boost flagging growth after lowering interest rates almost to zero and buying $1.7 trillion of securities, are weighing strategies for raising inflation expectations as well as expanding the balance sheet by purchasing Treasuries, according to minutes of the Fed’s Sept. 21 meeting released yesterday.
Some Fed officials are concerned that expectations of lower inflation will become self-fulfilling, damping demand by increasing borrowing costs in real terms, the minutes said. By encouraging Americans to believe prices will start rising at a faster pace, the Fed would reduce inflation-adjusted interest rates and stimulate the economy. Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in 2003 that Japan could beat deflation by using a “publicly announced, gradually rising price-level target.”
“The Fed is on the verge of actively targeting a higher inflation rate,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist at Miller Tabak & Co. in New York. U.S. stocks advanced, sending benchmark indexes to five-month highs, the dollar fell and gold declined for the first time in three days after the minutes were released.
Trying to raise inflation expectations is untested in the U.S. The policy may backfire if actual inflation drifts higher than the Fed would like, potentially eroding gains won in the early 1980s by former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker, who raised interest rates as high as 20 percent to subdue prices.
Jim O’Sullivan, global chief economist at MF Global Ltd. in New York, said in a Bloomberg Television interview that the biggest risk is “boosting long-term inflation expectations more than they lower real interest rates.”
The FOMC could adopt a combination of inflation targeting and price-level targeting to get inflation expectations up, said Mark Gertler, a New York University economist and research co-author with Bernanke.
The Fed could restate its commitment to keep inflation rising annually at around 1.7 percent to 2 percent. At the same time, the FOMC could announce some
by ilene - October 9th, 2010 1:22 am
Courtesy of JESSE’S CAFÉ AMÉRICAIN
‘This is the biggest fraud in the history of the capital markets’
By Ezra Klein
Janet Tavakoli is the founder and president of Tavakoli Structured Finance Inc. She sounded some of the earliest warnings on the structured finance market, leading the University of Chicago to profile her as a "Structured Success," and Business Week to call her "The Cassandra of Credit Derivatives." We spoke this afternoon about the turmoil in the housing market, and an edited transcript of our conversation follows.
Ezra Klein: What’s happening here? Why are we suddenly faced with a crisis that wasn’t apparent two weeks ago?
Janet Tavakoli: This is the biggest fraud in the history of the capital markets. And it’s not something that happened last week. It happened when these loans were originated, in some cases years ago. Loans have representations and warranties that have to be met. In the past, you had a certain period of time, 60 to 90 days, where you sort through these loans and, if they’re bad, you kick them back. If the documentation wasn’t correct, you’d kick it back. If you found the incomes of the buyers had been overstated, or the houses had been appraised at twice their worth, you’d kick it back. But that didn’t happen here. And it turned out there were loan files that were missing required documentation. Part of putting the deal together is that the securitization professional, and in this case that’s banks like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan, has to watch for this stuff. It’s called perfecting the security interest, and it’s not optional.
EK: And how much danger are the banks themselves in?
JT: When we had the financial crisis, the first thing the banks did was run to Congress and ask for accounting relief. They asked to be able to avoid pricing this stuff at the price where people would buy them. So no one can tell you the size of the hole in these balance sheets. We’ve thrown a lot of money at it. TARP was just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve given them guarantees on debts, low-cost funding from the Fed. But a lot of these mortgages just cannot be saved. Had we acknowledged this problem in 2005, we could’ve cleaned it up
by ilene - October 5th, 2010 9:58 pm
Last evening at twilight I was driving my rent-a-car up Interstate Five north of Seattle with a vivid testicular fear of being trapped in the very metaphor of a failing society racing into a dark future. All around me loomed the monuments of an out-of-control financial credit Moloch – the tilt-up chain store boxes with their giant logos glowing against the distant craggy peaks of the Cascades (many of them active volcanoes which, like Mt. Saint Helens, might blow their tops any day). At every compass point sprawled the McHousing pods of American dream mortgage time-bombs silently blowing families to financial smithereens, and banks with them, including, incidentally last Friday, the state of Washington’s own Shoreline Bank just off I-5 north of Seattle, seized by the FDIC. My way was lighted, as darkness finally stole in, by the endlessly replicated dispensaries of fast food-dom (pizza-burgers-chicken-fries-and-shakes) provoking this nation of overfed clowns to ever-greater feats of gluttony, medical catastrophe, and bankruptcy. And, of course, these were my fellow-travelers in the perpetual stream of cars plying this great thoroughfare of the tragic western littoral, burning up gasoline that had traveled all the way from the sands of Abqaiq or from some sweltering platform off the Niger Delta, where dangerous, angry, armed men in Zodiac boats plot mayhem nearby among the mangrove thickets. Not to mention the row-upon-row of idle cars parked in the lagoons surrounding the countless malls and strip-malls and auto dealerships that flanked I-5 for fifty miles north of Seattle. Cars, cars, cars, as far as the eye could see where the sodium-vapor lamps cut through the crepuscular murk. Sasquatch was a no-show. But Sasquatch don’t drive.
This was the week when the US housing fiasco got even more extra-special interesting as the Bank of America suspended mortgage foreclosures in twenty-three states, and the Connecticut Attorney General (Richard Blumenthal, who is running for Chris Dodd’s senate seat) declared a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures (a political ploy do ya think?). Also of interest, Ally Financial suspended foreclosures in twenty-three states – and note, by the way, that Ally is the mutant offspring of the bailed-out General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC), which also spawned the infamous DiTech Mortgage finance company (remember those non-stop TV commercials a few years back) which specialized in jumbo…
by ilene - September 28th, 2010 12:43 pm
Courtesy of The Pragmatic Capitalist
Apparently I am not the only one who took issue with David Tepper’s comments that the
“Too bad we weren’t invited as a guest on CNBC last Friday to engage in a friendly debate with this portfolio manager because he didn’t outline the third scenario, either because he doesn’t believe it or he just plain didn’t contemplate it or he’s simply not positioned for it. That third scenario is that the economy weakens to such an extent that the Fed does indeed re-engage in QE, but that it does not work. So the “E” goes down and the P/E multiple does not expand. Maybe it even contracts since it already has spent the past number of years reverting to the mean as are so many other market and macro variables (for example, the dividend yield, savings rate, homeownership rate and debt ratios). In this scenario, the stock market does not go up; it goes down.
Is it possible that QE2 won’t work? The answer is yes. How do we know? Well, because the first round of QE didn’t work. After all, if it had worked, the Fed obviously would not be openly contemplating the second round of balance sheet expansion. If the objective was narrow in terms of bringing mortgage spreads in from sky-high levels, well, on that basis, it did help.”
I don’t entirely agree here. QE1 worked because we were in a different environment. The problem Bernanke was targeting in 2009 was one of bank balance sheets. Bank balance sheets were loaded with toxic assets so replacing these assets with cash was most certainly beneficial. It eliminated much of the risk associated with the banking system. As Bernanke said at the time, the point of QE was to alleviate pressures in the credit markets. As we can see from credit spreads he certainly succeeded in this regard. But this is no longer the environment we are in. As I said last week there are no bank balance sheets to fix. There is no…
by ilene - September 28th, 2010 2:19 am
The following is Part I to David DeGraw’s new book, “The Road Through 2012: Revolution or World War III.” This is the second installment to a new seven-part series that we will be posting throughout the next few weeks. You can read the introduction to the book here. To be notified via email of new postings from this series, subscribe here.
Editor’s Note: The following is Part I to David DeGraw’s new book, “The Road Through 2012: Revolution or World War III.” This is the second installment to a new seven-part series that we will be posting throughout the next few weeks. You can read the introduction to the book here. To be notified via email of new postings from this series, subscribe here.
When we analyze our current crisis, focusing on the past few years of economic activity blinds us to the history and context that are vital to understanding the root cause. What we have been experiencing is not the result of an unforeseen economic crash that appeared out of the blue with the collapse of the housing market. It was certainly not brought on by people who bought homes they couldn’t afford. To frame this crisis around a debate on economic theory misses the point entirely. To even blame it on greedy bankers,…
by ilene - September 26th, 2010 5:49 pm
Courtesy of John Lounsbury writing at Credit Writedowns
How far are we from a bottom in U.S. home prices? There are many estimates that there could be another 10% or more for the national average and median prices to decline. This author estimated that 2010 had a most probable decline around 11% from December 2009, with further declines possible in 2011. Little decline has actually been seen as prices are quite near where they were nine months ago. However, in the past couple of months predictions of further price declines have increased. Two weeks ago I pointed out that the outlook for home prices may be degrading.
20% Price Decline to the Bottom?
Barry Ritholtz provides the following chart, originally from the New York Times, but updated for The Big Picture by Steve Barry.
For larger image, click on graph.
This decline is certainly within the possible limits I have discussed earlier in the year (see here and here) but the projection curve drawn by Steve Barry shows a much more gradual drop to the bottom than I have envisioned. I estimate that he is showing another 3.5 to 4 years to get 90% of the way there and 5-6 years to fully bottom out. My thinking has been that the drop to the final bottom will be much quicker, driven by the weight of foreclosures over the next one to two years. However, current market conditions are causing me to reconsider.
Could Housing Go Below “Normal”?
What has not been considered by either Barry or me is the recurrence of another depression for housing, such as occurred from WW I to WW II. What sort of economic disaster would cause home prices to decline 55% to 60% from here? That is what would happen if the decline reproduced the 1920 bottom.
Or, asking a different question: What sort of economic disaster would result if home prices declined 55% to 60% from here? In such severe deflation, most mortgagors would default and every mortgage lender would be insolvent. There would be no future TARP or other shenanigan that could accommodate that eventuality. This will be discussed further later in the article.
Under Water Mortgages
Calculated Risk has an excellent post about underwater mortgages. CR states that 4.1 million homeowners owe 50% or more than their house…
by ilene - September 23rd, 2010 9:40 pm
and Keep Its Economic Surplus for Itself
Courtesy of Michael Hudson
CDES Conference, Brasilia, September 17, 2010
I would like to place this seminar’s topic, ‘Global Governance,’in the context of global control, which is what ‘governance’ is mainly about. The word (from Latin gubernari, cognate to the Greek root kyber) means ‘steering’. The question is, toward what goal is the world economy steering?
That obviously depends on who is doing the steering. It almost always has been the most powerful nations that organize the world in ways that transfer income and property to themselves. From the Roman Empire through modern Europe such transfers took mainly the form of military seizure and tribute. The Norman conquerors endowed themselves as a landed aristocracy extracting rent from the populace, as did the Nordic conquerors of France and other countries. Europe later took resources by colonial conquest, increasingly via local client oligarchies.
The post-1945 mode of global integration has outlived its early promise. It has become exploitative rather than supportive of capital investment, public infrastructure and living standards.
In the sphere of trade, countries need to rebuild their self-sufficiency in food grains and other basic needs. In the financial sphere, the ability of banks to create credit (loans) at almost no cost on their computer keyboards has led North America and Europe to become debt ridden, and now seeks to move into Brazil and other BRIC countries by financing buyouts or lending against their natural resources, real estate, basic infrastructure and industry. Speculators, arbitrageurs and financial institutions using “free money” see these economies as easy pickings. But by obliging countries to defend themselves financially, their predatory credit creation is ending the era of free capital movements.
Does Brazil really need inflows of foreign credit for domestic spending when it can create this at home? Foreign lending ends up in its central bank, which invests its reserves in US Treasury and Euro bonds that yield low returns and whose international value is likely to decline against the BRIC currencies. So accepting credit and buyout “capital inflows” from the North provides a “free lunch” for key-currency issuers of dollars and Euros, but does not help local economies much.
The natural history of debt and financialization