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.
The side effects of Negative Interest Rate Policies in Europe and Japan — what we’ve come to call the NIRP absurdity — are becoming numerous and legendary, and they’re fanning out across the globe, far beyond the NIRP countries.
I have recently posted a piece in which I tried to debunk a few popular myths about modern warfare. Judging by many comments which I received in response to this post, I have to say that the myths in question are still alive and well and that I clearly failed to convince many readers. What I propose to do today, is to look at what Russia is really doing in response to the growing ...
The most widely-reported result of the recent G-7 meeting was Japan’s attempt to convince the other major economies to admit that a crisis is imminent and take appropriately radical steps. The response seems to have been a bunch of blank stares. As India’s Business Standard noted:
G7 pact offers minimal cover for Abenomics reset A Group of Seven compromise offers minimal cover for Shinzo Abe. The Japanese prime minister’s plan to revitalize the world’s third-largest economy needs fresh impetus. Abe didn’t get as much international backing as he might have liked from hosting the rich nations’ club. But, the summit communique can, just about, be spun his way.
Seven of the eight indexes on our world watch list posted gains over the past week, up from five the week before, and the average of the eight was an impressive 2.60%. India's SENSEX was the outstanding out performer with a 5.34% surge, and three indexes, France's CAC 40, the Hong Kong's Hang Seng and Germany's DAXK closed the week with gains in the mid-three percents. China's Shanghai was the sole loser with its fractional 0.16% decline. Japan's Nikkei had the second worse performance with a modest gain of 0.59%. Incidentally, the Nikkei about 4% below its late January close when the Bank of Japan adopted its negative interest rate policy.
The rally in mining stocks since the first of the year has been very impressive.
The rally has taken Gold Miners ETF GDX up to test the 23% retracement of the collapse over the past 5-years. At the same time it is hitting the 23% level, two other resistance lines are being put to a test, with momentum at the highest levels in the past 5-years.
Graham Media Group, Inc., a Graham Holdings Company (NYSE: GHC) subsidiary, said it struck a deal with Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Inc. and Media General, Inc. to purchase WCWJ, a CW affiliate television station in Jacksonville, Florida and WSLS, an NBC affiliate television station in Roanoke, Virginia for $60 million in cash and the assumption of certain liabilities.
The agreement to acquire Nextar Broadcasting included pension obligations. Graham Media Group, Inc. would continue to operate both stations under their current network affiliations.
Graham Media said the acquisition is subject to approval by the FCC, other regulatory appr...
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Do you remember when you were growing up and all your friends were allowed Atari game consoles but you weren’t?
Well, I do and the things seemed as foreign to me as Venus. Mostly because the little time I managed to spend on the gaming consoles when my friends weren’t hogging them I found it all a bit silly. I never “got” computer games, and to this day still have poor comprehension of things like Angry Birds.
I suspect that many people around the world view Bitcoin in the same way as I view Angry Birds: with mild amusement and a general lack of understanding as to what the hell all the fuss is about.
I was thinking of this since a buddy of mine recently started ...
After a three-year bull run that more than quadrupled its value by its peak last July, IBD’s Medical-Biomed/Biotech Industry Group plunged 50% by early February, hurt by backlashes against high drug prices and mergers that seek to lower corporate taxes.
Although we try to stay focused on finding and managing promising trade ideas, the comments in the comment section sometimes take a political turn (for access, try PSW — click here!). So today, Jean Luc writes,
The GOP debate last night was just unreal – are these people running to be president of the US or to lead a college fraternity! Comparing tool size? The only guy that looks semi-sane is Kasich. The other guys are just like 3 jackals right now.
And something else – if Trump is the candidate, that little Romney speech yesterday is probably already being made into a commercial. And all these little snippets from the debate will also make some nice ads! If you are a conservative, you have to be scared now.
Phil writes back,
I was expecting them to start throwing poop at each other &n...
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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