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.
Based on historical gold-oil ratios, oil appears extraordinarily cheap right now.
One way to establish if a commodity or asset is relatively expensive or inexpensive is to price it in something other than a fiat currency--for example, gold. Gold goes up and down in value relative to other commodities and fiat currencies, so it is itself a volatile yardstick. Nonetheless, it provides a useful measure of the relative value of gold and whatever is being measured in gold--in this case, oil. The prices listed are approximate, i.e. rounded to averages in...
Winston Churchill famously said of Russian foreign policy that it was "...a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma." What people leave out is what followed. Churchill offered an answer: "... perhaps there is a key. That key is Russian national interest."
And so it is.
Like most crises, the crisis Russia is experiencing is over-determined, in the sense there ar...
Those who took advantage of markets at Fib levels were rewarded. However, this looked more a 'dead cat' style bounce than a genuine bottom forming low. This can of course change, and one thing I will want to see is narrow action near today's high. Volume was a little light, but with Christmas fast approaching I would expect this trend to continue.
The S&P inched above 2,009, but I would like to see any subsequent weakness hold the 38.2% Fib level at 1,989.
The Nasdaq offered itself more as a support bounce, with a picture perfect play off its 38.2% Fib level. Unlike the S&P, volume did climb in confirmed accumulation. The next upside c...
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Stocks have needed a reason to take a breather and pull back in this long-standing ultra-bullish climate, with strong economic data and seasonality providing impressive tailwinds -- and plummeting oil prices certainly have given it to them. But this minor pullback was fully expected and indeed desirable for market health. The future remains bright for the U.S. economy and corporate profits despite the collapse in oil, and now the overbought technical condition has been relieved. While most sectors are gathering fundamental support and our sector rotation model remains bullish, the Energy sector looks fundamentally weak and continues to ran...
Stocks got off to a rocky start on the first trading day in December, with the S&P 500 Index slipping just below 2050 on Monday. Based on one large bullish SPX options trade executed on Wednesday, however, such price action is not likely to break the trend of strong gains observed in the benchmark index since mid-October. It looks like one options market participant purchased 25,000 of the 31Dec’14 2105/2115 call spreads at a net premium of $2.70 each. The trade cost $6.75mm to put on, and represents the maximum potential loss on the position should the 2105 calls expire worthless at the end of December. The call spread could reap profits of as much as $7.30 per spread, or $18.25mm, in the event that the SPX ends the year above 2115. The index would need to rally 2.0% over the current level...
I officially bought 250 shares of EZCH at $18.76 and sold 300 shares of IGT at $17.09 in Market Shadows' Virtual Portfolio yesterday (Fri. 11-21).
Click here for Thursday's post where I was thinking about buying EZCH. After further reading, I decided to add it to the virtual portfolio and to sell IGT and several other stocks, which we'll be saying goodbye to next week.
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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...
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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