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.
Traders, bloggers, media talking heads, and pundits of all stripes went into a feverish sweat as they anticipated the comments of Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen at the annual economic summit held in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. When Yellen, arguably the most dovish Fed Chairman in history, uttered, “I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened in recent months,” an endless stream of commentators used this opportunity to spout out a never-ending stream of predictions describing the looming consequences of such a potential rate increase.
As I’ve stated before, the Fed receives both too much blame and too much credit for...
Only two of the eight equity indexes on our global watch list posted week-over-week gains in our latest update, same as last week. The two Eurozone indexes, France's CAC and Germany's DAXK, were the two who finished in the green, a shift from the Asian advance the previous week, when the Shanghai and Hang Seng were the sole gainers. In fact, the Shanghai Composite did a complete flip from its 1.88% gain the previous week to its -1.22% finish on Friday. The average of the eight improved fractionally from -0.56% the previous week to -0.39% for the latest.
A Closer Look at the Last Four Weeks
The tables below provide a concise overview of performance comparisons over the past four weeks for these eight major indexes. We'...
Negative rates should be integral part of central bank policy options … Central banks should make negative interest rates a fully integrated part of monetary policy in order to respond effectively to future recessions, according to an academic paper presented on Friday to some of the world’s top central bankers. “It is only a matter of time before another cyclical downturn calls for aggressive negative nominal interest rate policy actions,” concludes Marvin Goodfriend, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University and a former po...
Before-tax corporate earnings fell 4.9 percent in the second quarter from a year earlier, the fifth consecutive decline and the worst streak since the end of the recession in mid-2009, Commerce Department figures showed on Friday.
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Epizyme was founded in 2007, and trying to create drugs to treat patient's cancer by focusing on genetically-linked differences between normal and cancer cells. Cancer areas of focus include leukemia, Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and breast cancer. One of the Epizme cofounders, H. Robert Horvitz, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 2002 for "discoveries concerning genetic regulation of organ development and programmed cell death."
Before discussing the drug targets of Epizyme, understanding epigenetics is crucial to comprehend the company's goals.
Genetic components are the DNA sequences that are 'inherited.' Some of these genes are stronger than others in their expression (e.g., eye color). Yet, some genes turn on or off due to external factors (environmental), and it is und...
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