Plunging rents are great news for renters, but they’re lousy news for homeowners. Aaron Task and I discussed this issue on TechTicker this morning:
The vacancy rate for rental apartments in the U.S. is now 7.8% and climbing, says the Wall Street Journal. This is the highest vacancy rate in 23 years.
Worse, the vacancy rate is expected to keep climbing through the winter, ultimately hitting the highest rate on record.
This is good news for renters and bad news for landlords. It’s also bad news for anyone who owns and would like to sell a house.
Why are rising rental vacancies bad news for homeowners?
Because rising vacancies put pressure on rents, as landlords have to cut prices to woo a smaller pool of tenants. As rents drop, meanwhile, one of the key measures of house-price value--the price-to-rent ratio--also changes, and not for the good.
All else being equal, when rents drop, the "Housing P/E ratio" — price to rent — increases as rents decrease. This is the same thing that would happen to the P/E ratio of a stock if the company’s earnings began to shrink.
The more the rent/earnings shrink, the more expensive the house or company is as a multiple of the rent/earnings.
Will people suddenly refuse to pay as much for houses because the price-to-rent ratio rises a bit? No. But they may decide to rent instead of buy, which will remove some demand from the housing market. And, this, in turn, will put pressure on house prices.
The chart below from Calculated Risk illustrates the price-to-rent ratio over the past 15 years. As you can see, it got way out of whack during the peak bubble years and has now fallen back within the realm of normal. As rents fall, however, the ratio will start rising again.
That is, unless house prices fall, too, which is the more likely scenario.
Outside experts hired by Wells Fargo to pour through its books are reportedly shocked at the bank’s exposure to derivatives trades it took on when it acquired Wachovia may trigger huge losses at the bank, Teri Buhl reports at BankImplode.com
It appears that Wachovia wrote credit default swaps on the junior tranches of commercial mortgage backed securities it was selling, which means that it is on the hook for losses in the riskiest CMBS tranches it sold. Wells itself might not even know the size of its exposure, Buhl reports.
According to sources currently working out these loans at Wells Fargo when selling tranches of commercial mortgage-backed securities below the super senior tranche, Wachovia promised to pay the buyer’s risk premium by writing credit default swap contracts against these subordinate bonds. Should the junior tranches eventually default, then the bank is on the hook. Dan Alpert of Westwood Capital says these were practices that he saw going on in the market at large.
Alpert says in reference to how he saw CMBS trades get done, “These guys would say ‘We’ll just take back that silly credit risk you’re worried about.’ Of course that was a nice increase to earnings when they got the security sold. The bank made money at the time.”
Buhl points out that investors might be caught off-guard if Wells has to start paying out on the swaps it sold. Wells, like most banks, almost certainly holds the credit default swap liabilities off balance sheet and most likely does not recognize them as a loss until they actually have to pay, Buhl writes. Wells says it carefully monitors its derivatives exposure. "We have provided extensive transparent disclosures on our derivatives in our 2008 annual report beginning on page 132,” Wells says.
Here’s Wells own calculation of its derivatives exposure as of the day it closed the Wachovia deal.
But it seems fair to wonder if Wells really understood all of the derivatives exposure it took on when it acquired Wachovia. Buhl wonders if Wells really has enough capital set aside to handle the derivatives liability.
…So could Wells really have enough capital to handle the liability of credit
One year after America’s brush with economic catastrophe, there’s plenty of looking back at the bubbles that caused financial chaos.
But what’s next?
There are surely dangerous economic bubbles forming as we speak. As Alan Greenspan warned this week, "They [financial crises] are all different, but they have one fundamental source," he said. "That is the unquenchable capability of human beings when confronted with long periods of prosperity to presume that it will continue."
The trick, of course, is spotting them. By definition, most people don’t spot a bubble before they form and burst.
Good news! The rate of the price decline in the housing crash has finally begun to ease.
Bad news! Prices are still falling 18% year over year.
Specifically, in April, according to the Case Shiller index, the rate of decline in nationwide house prices eased slightly in April--to 18% from 19% in March. The rate of decline has hovered around 19%-20% for the last several months. And prices have now declined a staggering 33%-34% from the peak.
As we’ve noted over this period, before house prices can start recovering, they have to stop falling. And the first step toward prices stopping falling is a decline in the RATE at which they are falling. And we are finally beginning to see that.
But we’re still talking about an astonishing rate of collapse. And we’re still looking at a peak-to-trough decline of at least 40% and probably closer to 50% nationwide, which would be unprecedented. And even today, with prices down 33%-34% from the peak, prices are still above fair value.
So the folks who use this slight moderation in the rate of decline to spin tales of a "bottom" or, worse, a "recovery" are smoking something. Prices have at least another 10%-15% to fall, and they’ll likely be falling for at least another year or two.
Here’s the small uptick in the rate of decline:
Prices have now rolled back to mid-2003 levels. They’ll likely be back to 2000 levels before we’re through.
And here’s the positive spin from the S&P press release (always look on the bright side!):
The 10-City and 20-City Composites declined 18.0% and 18.1%, respectively, in April compared to the same month in 2008. These are improvements over their returns reported for March, down 18.7% for both indices. For the past three months, the 10-City and 20-City Composites have recorded an improvement in annual returns. Record annual declines were reported for both indices with their respective January data, -19.4% for the 10-City Composite and 19.0% for the 20-City Composite.
“The pace of decline in residential real estate slowed in April,” says David M. Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor’s. “In addition to the 10-City and 20-City Composites, 13
The housing market is crashing, and it’s taking us, our banks, our economy, and our government down with it. Why? Because of the debt! The value of our houses is plummeting, but the value of our debt is staying just the same.
You knew that already. What you didn’t maybe know, or at least fully appreciate, is exactly what’s happening in the mortgage market that’s causing all this hideousness.
In the book, Whitney lays out the whole mortgage disaster in pictorial form, and he has been kind enough to allow us to reprint some of his charts here. If you’d like to see updated, interactive versions, please visit www.moremortgagemeltdown.com. Or just head over to Amazon and buy the book.
This is a non-trading topic, but I wanted to post it during trading hours so as many eyes can see it as possible. Feel free to contact me directly at email@example.com with any questions.
Last fall there was some discussion on the PSW board regarding setting up a YouCaring donation page for a PSW member, Shadowfax. Since then, we have been looking into ways to help get him additional medical services and to pay down his medical debts. After following those leads, we are ready to move ahead with the YouCaring site. (Link is posted below.) Any help you can give will be greatly appreciated; not only to help aid in his medical bill debt, but to also show what a great community this group is.
Europe was in rally mode when the US markets opened, and the EURO STOXX 50 would subsequently close with a 2.19% gain. The S&P 500 opened at its intraday low, up 0.28%, and headed higher through the day to its 2.02% high in the final hour. Its closing gain of 1.96% was its best one-day performance since its 2.18% surge on October 10th of last year. The popular financial press attibutes today's gain to speculation more ECB stimulus and the strong Apple-earnings effect.
The yield on the 10-year Note closed at 2.23%, up 3 bps from yesterday's close.
Here is a 15-minute chart of the past five sessions.
Here is a daily chart of the index. In yesterday's update I pointed out the proximity of the close to the 200-day price moving average. It certainly offered no resistance today, and volume was 23% above its 50...
Here's an interesting video from the recent James Grant Conference. The title of this year's conference is Investing Opportunistically, Separating the Beta from the Alpha.
The first five minutes are introductions and attendee notes you may wish to skip over. The opening speech was by Marc Seidner, CFA at GMO, on inflation expectations.
Note: you may have to click on the play arrow twice to start the video.
Last year at this time a majority thought tightening was inevitable and bonds were attractively priced for those who thought otherwise now, tightening in Europe and Japan is totally priced out and even in the US, inflation expectations are down as noted by forward yield curves.
Seidner commented that 100% of strategists were negative on bonds heading into 2014 but I can name a couple exceptions, not...
Last week brought even more stock market weakness and volatility as the selloff became self-perpetuating, with nobody mid-day on Wednesday wanting to be the last guy left holding equities. Hedge funds and other weak holders exacerbated the situation. But the extreme volatility and panic selling finally led some bulls (along with many corporate insiders) to summon a little backbone and buy into weakness, and the market finished the week on a high note, with continued momentum likely into the first part of this week.
Despite concerns about global economic growth and a persistent lack of inflation, especially given all the global quantitative easing, fundamentals for U.S. stocks still look good, and I believe this overdue correction ultimately will shape up to be a great buying opportunity -- i.e., th...
Now that bitcoin has subsided from speculative bubble to functioning currency (see the price chart below), it’s safe for non-speculators to explore the whole “cryptocurrency” thing. So…is bitcoin or one of its growing list of competitors a useful addition to the average person’s array of bank accounts and credit cards — or is it a replacement for most of those things? And how does one make this transition?
With his usual excellent timing, London-based financial writer/actor/stand-up comic Dominic Frisby has just released Bitcoin: The Future of Money? in which he explains all this in terms most readers will have no tr...
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What do falling energy prices mean for the US consumer? Sober Look writes a brief yet thorough overview of the consequences of the correction in the price of crude oil. There are good aspects, particularly for the consumer, bad aspects, and out-right ugly possibilities. For more on this subject, read James Hamilton's How will Saudi Arabia respond to lower oil prices? In previous eras, Saudi Arabia would tighten the supply to help increase prices, but in this "game of chicken," the rules m...
Shares in Apple (Ticker: AAPL) are near their highs of the session in the final hour of trading on Wednesday, adding to the muted gains seen earlier in the day, following the release of the September FOMC meeting minutes and after activist investor and Apple shareholder Carl Icahn tweeted, “Tmrw we’ll be sending an open letter to @tim_cook. Believe it will be interesting.” Icahn’s tweet hit the ether at 2:33 pm ET and was met with a spike in volume in Apple shares. The stock is currently up 2.0% on the day at $100.75 as of 3:15 pm ET.
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Well PSW Subscribers....I am still here, barely. From my last post a few months ago to now, nothing has changed much, but there are a few bargins out there that as investors, should be put on the watch list (again) and if so desired....buy a small amount.
First, the media is on a tear against biotechs/pharma, ripping companies for their drug prices. Gilead's HepC drug, Sovaldi, is priced at $84K for the 12-week treatment. Pundits were screaming bloody murder that it was a total rip off, but when one investigates the other drugs out there, and the consequences of not taking Sovaldi vs. another drug combinations, then things become clearer. For instance, Olysio (JNJ) is about $66,000 for a 12-week treatment, but is approved for fewer types of patients AND...
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