Category Archives: Uncategorized

How Low Will The SMART Money Flow Index Go!! (Lowest Since 1995)

(Lowest Since 1995)

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Source: Confounded Interest

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U.S. Mint Runs Out Of Silver Eagle Bullion Coins Following Demand Spike

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Recent downturns in gold prices and silver prices have spurred a dramatic increase in both old and new bullion buyers snapping up physical precious metals at perceived low valuations.

For many decades now, the US Mint American Silver Eagle coin has remained the #1 choice for most physical silver bullion buyers worldwide.

In terms of annual sales volumes and total US dollars sold versus other silver bullion government mint and private mint competitors, the 1 oz American Silver Eagle coin is still the most highly purchased form of silver bullion worldwide (find updated US Mint sales data here).

Not surprising, with this recent downturn in precious metal prices, available silver bullion inventories are beginning to sell out and back order.

We foresaw and wrote about this shrinking silver bullion supply situation coming a weeks ago in SD Bullion’s new research blog.

Thus today, the following communication issued by the US Mint’s Branch Chief was not surprising to us:

Date: Wed, 5 Sep 2018

Subject: 2018 American Eagle Silver Bullion Coins Temporarily Sold Out

This is to inform you that due to recent increased demand, the United States Mint has temporarily sold out of its inventories of 2018 American Eagle Silver Bullion Coins.

All orders received prior to this communication shall be honored and settled according to pre-agreed upon value date arrangements.

The United States Mint is in the process of producing additional 2018 American Eagle Silver Bullion Coins. We will make these coins available for sale shortly.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Jack A. Szczerban

Branch Chief, Bullion Directorate

United States Mint

Of course this latest US Mint sell out only pertains to Silver Eagle coins.

US Mint American Gold Eagle coin supplies still stand at reasonable, albeit recently lightened levels.

For seasoned bullion buyers, this latest sell out of US Mint 1 oz American Silver Eagle Coins is not a new phenomenon.

We have seen this happen in various years past, including periods of bullion product rationing, sell outs, etc.

What is different this time around is the low Silver Eagle coin volumes being sold by the US Mint month on month, compared to somewhat recent years of 2009 through 2016.

See below,

https://www.silverdoctors.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/US-Mint-silver-eagle-coin-sale-sellout-Silver-Doctors.png

It appears like much of our industry, perhaps the US Mint has cut down on staffing, even silver planchet inventory levels, and other resources required to meet this latest spike in silver bullion product demand.

Typical to past US Mint silver sell outs and coin rationings, product and price premiums usually also increase in order to meet the silver bullion supply demand equilibrium. Smart bullion dealers are not going to sell out of their shrinking inventories without a reasonable profit to match. 

You can see various 1 oz American Silver Eagle coin premium price over spot spikes in the following chart below.

https://www.silverdoctors.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/US-Mint-silver-eagle-sellout-coin-premiums-Silver-Doctors.png

The price premiums spike coincide with the fall 2008 fiasco where virtually any and all bullion dealers ran out of bullion inventories, the early 2013 allocation rationing, and the middle 2015 sell out and order shut down.

Historically price premium spikes for American Silver Eagles tend to flow into other silver bullion product premiums. In other words, if the price premiums for Silver Eagles pops higher, you can expect various price increases and sellouts in competing silver bullion products to also ensue.

US Mint American Eagle Bullion Program 2010 Amendment

Yet even most industry onlookers and bullion buyers do not know that a small change to US law was made in 2010. It allows the Secretary of the US Treasury by fiat, and not outright public demand per say, to alone determine what quantities of American Silver Eagle coin supplies are sufficient to meet ongoing demand.

Pre 2010 amendment and law change:

(e)Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary shall mint and issue, in quantities sufficient to meet public demand,

Post 2010 law change:

(e)Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Secretary shall mint and issue, in qualities and quantities that the Secretary determines are sufficient to meet public demand,

We do not expect the recent sell out of Silver Eagle coins to the be the highest priority of Secretary of the Treasury at the moment.

Bullion buyers should expect further silver bullion supply constraints both currently and ahead, especially if silver spot prices dip into the $13 or $12 oz zone some respected technical analysts have been calling for weeks / months in advance.

The following US Mint Silver Eagle coin annual sales chart encompassed the entire history of the US Mint American Eagle Bullion Coin Program. As you can see, the 2008 global financial crisis took the program to another level entirely.

https://www.silverdoctors.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/US-Mint-Silver-Eagle-sellout-annual-silver-eagle-coin-sales-1986-2018-Silver-Doctors.png

Even 10 years after the greatest financial crisis started, the worst since the 1929 depression, there are still both new and an already established base of silver bullion buyers who continue to aggressively buy silver bullion on spot price dips.

This recent US Mint sell out is just one example of that fact.

The following US Mint tour video was cut in 2014, but it’s still applicable to the way in which the American Silver Eagle coins are produced today. The only real difference is that the US Mint is currently selling less than ½ the volume it was then, yet still having issues meeting demand spikes in the short term.

More than likely the US Mint is currently dealing with a shortfall of silver planchets on hand.

The silver used in the program does not have to be mined in the USA as that law too was amended many years back. The US Mint does use silver coin planchet suppliers from Australia as well as domestic suppliers like the Sunshine Mint.

In terms of silver bullion on hand, don’t expect the Secretary of the US Treasury to have any available as they rely on private silver planchet suppliers and ‘just in time’ delivery for their program.

As most bullion buyers know, en masse the US government figuratively sold silver out in 1964.

The fact that the US government’s often clunky silver bullion coin program remains the largest in the world, illustrates just how tiny the silver bullion industry remains in the grand scope of global finance and economic financialization.

Sneaky law amendments aside, it does not take much silver bullion demand to break the industry’s small supply demand equilibrium.

Source: by James Anderson | SilverDoctors.com

 

Disaster Is Inevitable When America’s Stock Market Bubble Bursts – Smart Money Is Focused On Trade

(Forbes) Despite the volatility and brief correction earlier this year, the U.S. stock market is back to making record highs in the past couple weeks. To many observers, this market now seems downright bulletproof as it keeps going higher and higher as it has for nearly a decade in direct defiance of the naysayers’ warnings. Unfortunately, this unusual market strength is not evidence of a strong, organic economy, but of an extremely unhealthy, artificial bubble economy that will end in a crisis that will be even worse than we experienced in 2008. In this report, I will show a wide variety of charts that prove how unsustainable the current bull market is.

Since the Great Recession low in March 2009, the S&P 500 stock index has gained over 300%, taking it nearly 80% higher than its 2007 peak:

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2Fsp500-2-3.jpg

The small cap Russell 2000 index and the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite Index are up even more than the S&P 500 since 2009 – nearly 400% and 500% respectively:

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2Fpercentincrease-1.jpg

The reason for America’s stock market and economic bubbles is quite simple: ultra-cheap credit/ultra-low interest rates. As I explained in a Forbes piece last week, ultra-low interest rates help to create bubbles in the following ways:

  • Investors can borrow cheaply to speculate in assets (ex: cheap mortgages for property speculation and low margin costs for trading stocks)
  • By making it cheaper to borrow to conduct share buybacks, dividend increases, and mergers & acquisitions
  • By discouraging the holding of cash in the bank versus speculating in riskier asset markets
  • By encouraging higher rates of inflation, which helps to support assets like stocks and real estate
  • By encouraging more borrowing by consumers, businesses, and governments

The chart below shows how U.S. interest rates (the Fed Funds Rate, 10-Year Treasury yields, and Aaa corporate bond yields) have remained at record low levels for a record period of time since the Great Recession:

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FUSRates-2.jpg

U.S. monetary policy has been incredibly loose since the Great Recession, which can be seen in the chart of real interest rates (the Fed Funds Rate minus the inflation rate). The mid-2000s housing bubble and the current “Everything Bubble” both formed during periods of negative real interest rates. (Note: “Everything Bubble” is a term that I’ve coined to describe a dangerous bubble that has been inflating in a wide variety of countries, industries, and assets – please visit my website to learn more.)

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FRealFedFundsRate.jpg

The Taylor Rule is a model created by economist John Taylor to help estimate the best level for central bank-set interest rates such as the Fed Funds Rate. If the Fed Funds Rate is much lower than the Taylor Rule model (this signifies loose monetary conditions), there is a high risk of inflation and the formation of bubbles. If the Fed Funds Rate is much higher than the Taylor Rule model, however, there is a risk that tight monetary policy will stifle the economy.

Comparing the Fed Funds Rate to the Taylor Rule model is helpful for visually gauging how loose or tight U.S. monetary conditions are:

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FTaylorRule1-1.jpg

Subtracting the Taylor Rule model from the Fed Funds Rate quantifies how loose (when the difference is negative), tight (when the difference is positive), or neutral U.S. monetary policy is:

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FTaylorRule2-1-1.jpg

Low interest rates/low bond yields have enabled a corporate borrowing spree in which total outstanding non-financial U.S. corporate debt surged by over $2.5 trillion, or 40% from its peak in 2008. The recent borrowing boom caused total outstanding U.S. corporate debt to rise to over 45% of GDP, which is even worse than the level reached during the past several credit cycles. (Read my recent U.S. corporate debt bubble report to learn more).

U.S. corporations have been using much of their borrowed capital to buy back their own stock, increase dividends, and fund mergers and acquisitions – activities that are known for boosting stock prices and executive bonuses. Unfortunately, U.S. corporations have been focusing on these activities that reward shareholders in the short-term, while neglecting longer-term business investments – hubristic behavior that is typical during a bubble. The chart below shows how share buybacks and dividends paid increased dramatically since 2009:

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2Fbuybacks-1.jpg

Another Federal Reserve policy (aside from the ultra-low Fed Funds Rate) has helped to inflate the U.S. stock market bubble since 2009: quantitative easing or QE. When executing QE policy, the Federal Reserve creates new money “out of thin air” (in digital form) and uses it to buy Treasury bonds or other assets, which pumps liquidity into the financial system. QE helps to push bond prices higher and bond yields/interest rates lower throughout the economy. QE has another indirect effect: it causes stock prices to surge (because low rates boost stocks), as the chart below shows:

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FFedBalanceSheetvsSP500-2.jpg

As touched upon earlier, low interest rates encourage stock speculators to borrow money from their brokers in the form of margin loans. These speculators then ride the bull market higher while letting the leverage from the margin loans boost their returns. This strategy can be highly profitable – until the market turns and amplifies their losses, that is.

There is a general tendency for speculators to use margin most aggressively just before the market’s peak, and the current bull market/bubble appears to be no exception. During the dot-com bubble and housing bubble stock market cycles, margin debt peaked at roughly 2.75% of GDP. In the current stock market bubble, however, margin debt is nearly at 3% of GDP, which is quite concerning. The heavy use of margin at the end of a long bull market exacerbates the eventual downturn because traders are forced to sell their shares to avoid or satisfy margin calls.

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FSP500vsMarginGDP.jpg

In the latter days of a bull market or bubble, retail investors are typically the most aggressively positioned in stocks. Sadly, these small investors tend to be wrong at the most important market turning points. Retail investors currently have the highest allocation to stocks (blue line) and the lowest cash holdings (orange line) since the Dot-com bubble, which is a worrisome sign. These same investors were the most cautious in 2002/2003 and 2009, which was the start of two powerful bull markets.

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2Fallocation.jpg

The chart below shows the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), which is considered to be a “fear gauge” of U.S. stock investors. The VIX stayed very low during the housing bubble era and it has been acting similarly for the past eight years as the “Everything Bubble” inflated. During both bubbles, the VIX stayed low because the Fed backstopped the financial markets and economy with its aggressive monetary policies (this is known as the “Fed Put“).

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FVIX-1.jpg

The next chart shows the St. Louis Fed Financial Stress Index, which is a barometer for the level of stress in the U.S. financial system. It goes without saying that less stress is better, but only to a point – when the index remains at extremely low levels due to the backstopping of the financial markets by the Fed, it can be indicative of the formation of a dangerous bubble. Ironically, when that bubble bursts, financial stress spikes. Periods of very low financial stress foreshadow periods of very high financial stress – the calm before the financial storm, basically. The Financial Stress Index remained at extremely low levels during the housing bubble era and is following the same pattern during the “Everything Bubble.”

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2Ffinancialstress-1.jpg

High-yield (or “junk”) bond spreads are another barometer of investor fear or complacency. When high-yield bond spreads stay at very low levels in a central bank-manipulated environment like ours, it often indicates that a dangerous bubble is forming (it indicates complacency). The high-yield spread was unusually low during the dot-com bubble and housing bubble, and is following the same pattern during the current “Everything Bubble.”

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FJunkSpread.jpg

In a bubble, the stock market becomes overpriced relative to its underlying fundamentals such as earnings, revenues, assets, book value, etc. The current bubble cycle is no different: the U.S. stock market is as overvalued as it was at major generational peaks. According to the cyclically-adjusted price-to-earnings ratio (a smoothed price-to-earnings ratio), the U.S. stock market is more overvalued than it was in 1929, right before the stock market crash and Great Depression:

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FCAPE-3-2.jpg

Tobin’s Q ratio (the total U.S. stock market value divided by the total replacement cost of assets) is another broad market valuation measure that confirms that the stock market is overvalued like it was at prior generational peaks:

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FTobinsQRatio-1.jpg

The fact that the S&P 500’s dividend yield is at such low levels is more evidence that the market is overvalued (high market valuations lead to low dividend yields and vice versa). Though dividend payout ratios have been declining over time in addition, that is certainly not the only reason why dividend yields are so low, contrary to popular belief. Extremely high market valuations are the other rarely discussed reason why yields are so low.

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FDividend-1.jpg

The chart below shows U.S. after tax corporate profits as a percentage of the gross national product (GNP), which is a measure of how profitable American corporations are. Thanks to ultra-cheap credit, asset bubbles, and financial engineering, U.S. corporations have been much more profitable since the early-2000s than they have been for most of the 20th century (9% vs. the 6.6% average since 1947).

Unfortunately, U.S. corporate profitability is likely to revert to the mean because unusually high corporate profit margins are typically unsustainable, as economist Milton Friedman explained. The eventual mean reversion of U.S. corporate profitability will hurt the earnings of public corporations, which is very worrisome considering how overpriced stocks are relative to earnings.

https://thumbor.forbes.com/thumbor/960x0/https%3A%2F%2Fblogs-images.forbes.com%2Fjessecolombo%2Ffiles%2F2018%2F08%2FProfitMargins.jpg

During stock market bubbles, the overall market tends to be led by a smaller group of high-performing “story stocks” that capture the investing public’s attention, make early investors rich, and light the fires of greed and envy in practically everyone else. During the late-1990s dot-com bubble, the “story stocks” were tech stocks like Amazon.com, Intel, Cisco, eBay, etc. During the housing bubble era, it was home builder stocks like Hovanian, D.R. Horton, Lennar, mortgage lenders, and alternative energy companies like First Solar, to name a few examples.

In the current stock market bubble, the market is being led by a group of stocks nicknamed FAANG, which is an acronym for Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google (now known as Alphabet Inc.). The chart below compares the performance of the FAANG stocks to the S&P 500 during the bull market that began in March 2009. Though the S&P 500 has risen over 300%, the FAANGs put the broad market index to shame: Apple is up over 1,000%, Amazon has surged more than 2,000%, and Netflix has rocketed over 6,000%.

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After so many years of strong and consistent performance, many investors now view the FAANGs as “can’t lose” stocks that will keep going “up, up, up!” as a function of time. Unfortunately, this is a dangerous line of thinking that has ruined countless investors in prior bubbles. Today’s FAANG phenomenon is very similar to the Nifty Fifty group of high-performing blue-chip stocks during the 1960s and early-1970s bull market. The Nifty Fifty were seen as “one decision” stocks (the only decision necessary was to buy) because investors thought they would keep rising virtually forever.

Investors tend to become most bullish and heavily invested in leading stocks such as the FAANGs or Nifty Fifty right before the market cycle turns. When the leading stocks finally fall during a bear market, they usually fall very hard, as Nifty Fifty investors experienced in the 1973-1974 bear market. The eventual unwinding of the FAANG stock boom/bubble is going to burn many investors, including institutional investors who have gorged on these stocks in recent years. 

How The Stock Market Bubble Will Pop

To keep it simple, the current U.S. stock market bubble will pop due to the ending of the conditions that created it in the first place: cheap credit/loose monetary conditions. The Federal Reserve inflated the stock market bubble via its record low Fed Funds Rate and quantitative easing programs, and the central bank is now raising interest rates and reversing its QE programs by shrinking its balance sheet. What the Fed giveth, the Fed taketh away.

The Fed claims to be able to engineer a “soft landing,” but that virtually never happens in reality. It’s even less likely to happen in this current bubble cycle because of how long it has gone on and how distorted the financial markets and economy have become due to ultra-cheap credit conditions.

I’m from the same school of thought as billionaire fund manager Jeff Gundlach, who believes that the Fed will keep hiking interest rates until “something breaks.” In the last economic cycle from roughly 2002 to 2007, it was the subprime mortgage industry that broke first, and in the current cycle, I believe that corporate bonds are likely to break first, which would then spill over into the U.S. stock market (please read my corporate debt bubble report in Forbes to learn more).

The Fed Funds Rate chart below shows how the last two recessions and bubble bursts occurred after rate hike cycles; a repeat performance is likely once rates are hiked high enough. Because of the record debt burden in the U.S., interest rates do not have to rise nearly as high as in prior cycles to cause a recession or financial crisis this time around. In addition to raising interest rates, the Fed is now conducting its quantitative tightening (QT) policy that shrinks its balance sheet by $40 billion per month, which will eventually contribute to the popping of the stock market bubble.

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The 10-Year/2-Year U.S. Treasury bond spread is a helpful tool for determining how close a recession likely is. This spread is an extremely accurate indicator, having warned about every U.S. recession in the past half-century, including the Great Recession. When the spread is between 0% and 1%, it is in the “recession warning zone” because it signifies that the economic cycle is maturing and that a recession is likely just a few years away. When the spread drops below 0% (this is known as an inverted yield curve), a recession is likely to occur within the next year or so. 

As the chart below shows, the 10-Year/2-Year U.S. Treasury bond spread is already deep into the “Warning Zone” and heading toward the “Recession Zone” at an alarming rate – not exactly a comforting thought considering how overvalued and inflated the U.S. stock market is, not to mention how indebted the U.S. economy is.

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Although I err conservative/libertarian politically, I do not believe that President Trump can prevent the ultimate popping of the U.S. stock market bubble and “Everything Bubble.” One of the reasons why is that this bubble is truly global and the U.S. President has no control over the economies of China, Australia, Canada, etc. The popping of a massive global bubble outside of the U.S. is enough to create a bear market and recession within the U.S.

Also, as the charts in this report show, our stock market bubble was inflating years before Trump became president. I believe that this bubble was slated to crash to regardless of who became president – it could have been Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, or Marco Rubio. Even Donald Trump called the stock market a “big, fat, ugly bubble” right before the election. Concerningly, even though the stock market bubble is approximately 30% larger than when Trump warned about it, Trump is no longer calling it a “bubble,” and is actually praising it each time it hits another record.

Many optimists expect President Trump’s tax reform plan to result in a powerful boom that creates millions of new jobs and supercharges economic growth, which would help the stock market grow into its lofty valuations. Unfortunately, this thinking is not grounded in reality or math. As my boss Lance Roberts explained, “there will be no economic boom” (Part 1Part 2) because our economy is too debt-laden to grow the way it did back in the 1980s during the Reagan Boom or at other times during the 20th century.

As shown in this report, the U.S. stock market is currently trading at extremely precarious levels and it won’t take much to topple the whole house of cards. Once again, the Federal Reserve, which was responsible for creating the disastrous Dot-com bubble and housing bubble, has inflated yet another extremely dangerous bubble in its attempt to force the economy to grow after the Great Recession. History has proven time and time again that market meddling by central banks leads to massive market distortions and eventual crises. As a society, we have not learned the lessons that we were supposed to learn from 1999 and 2008, therefore we are doomed to repeat them.

The purpose of this report is to warn society of the path that we are on and the risks that we are facing. I am not necessarily calling the market’s top right here and right now. I am fully aware that this stock market bubble can continue inflating to even more extreme heights before it pops. I warn about bubbles as an activist, but I approach tactical investing in a slightly different manner (because shorting or selling too early leads to under performance, etc.). As a professional investor, I believe in following the market’s trend instead of fighting it – even if I’m skeptical of the underlying forces that are driving it. Of course, when that trend fundamentally changes, that’s when I believe in shifting to an even more cautious and conservative stance for our clients and myself.

Source: by Jesse Colombo | Forbes

Learn about Trumps latest moves on trade negotiations with Canada and Mexico…

Starter Homes Are Most Expensive Since Just Before The Last Housing Crash

There is a simple reason why the US housing market is headed for its “broadest slowdown in years“: prices for housing are just too high, a new report suggests. Which is odd considering the conventionally accepted narrative that “rising prices are better for everybody.”

According to a new report from the National Association of Realtors, prices for starter homes are the highest they have been since 2008, just prior to the collapse of the housing market, and when Ben Bernanke infamously said that there is no housing bubble and that “we’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis” and therefore we’ll never have one. The housing market suffered its worst crash on record shortly after.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/start%20home%20prices.jpg?itok=v1ikaudQ

In the second quarter, first time buyers needed 23% of their income in order to afford a typical entry-level home; this was up from 21% in the year prior, and the highest in the past decade.

This, of course, should surprise nobody as price gains in the housing market have long outpaced wages; in fact in most markets the average home price increase is double the growth in hourly earnings.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/Case%20Shiller%20feb%202018_0.jpg

Now, with the housing market starting to show signs of cooling off, those bearing the brunt of the increases are buyers at the low-end of the market and in areas where supplies are the tightest. This has probably not been helped along by the volatile cost of commodities like lumber which have been impacted by Canadian tariffs, among others.

On top of that, rising interest rates are making mortgage prohibitively expensive for a broad section of the population.

“When prices go up at the entry level, that’s where the affordability issue is most acute,” Wells Fargo economist Charles Dougherty told Bloomberg. “People are hesitant to stretch the amount they’re willing to pay.”

The most expensive markets in the United States were San Francisco and New York City, where Bloomberg reported that the median household needed 65% of its income to buy a house in the second quarter of this year. Similar statistics followed in Los Angeles and Miami, where those numbers were 59% and 55%, respectively.

Perhaps a better way of saying this is that no mere mortal can actually afford to buy there, and the only buyers are members of the 0.01% or those who have an extremely generous mortgage lender.

None of this housing information is discussed at length by the FOMC or the government, which find no problem with a near record number of people getting priced out of the market. Nobody will be surprised when, as prices continue to rise, we are “surprised” by the next housing crisis.

This news comes just days after we reported layoffs taking place at Wells Fargo as a result of the slumping housing market and slower mortgage applications, as a result of collapsing mortgage loan demand. Last Friday, Wells Fargo announced it was cutting 638 mortgage employees as the nation’s largest home lender is hit by a crippling slowdown in the business.

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“After carefully evaluating market conditions and consumer needs, we are reducing to better align with current volumes,” Wells Fargo spokesman Tom Goyda said in an emailed statement according to Bloomberg.

As we reported back in March that the “Bank Sector Is In Peril As Refi Activity Crashes Amid Rising Rates” and as interest rates have continued to rise, Wells Fargo has been contending with the end of a refinancing boom that helped push profits to a record.

Source: ZeroHedge

Kushner Family Sells 666 Fifth Avenue Office Tower To Brookfield

Brookfield Asset Management has agreed to purchase the lease the office portion of 666 Fifth Ave. in midtown Manhattan from the Kushner family, the WSJ reported.

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“Given Brookfield’s experience in successfully redeveloping and repositioning major office assets in New York and other cities around the world, we are well placed to capitalize on that opportunity,” Ric Clark, Brookfield Property Group’s chairman, said in a statement.

The infamous “devil” tower with the “666” sign on the entrance, has been under scrutiny because Jared Kushner is married to Ivanka Trump, and is a senior adviser to the president. When the Kushner Cos acquired the building in 2007 for $1.8 billion, it represented a New York commercial real estate record and was made when Kushner was taking a leadership role in the business. It remained precarious for years, and potential deals became complicated after Mr. Kushner took the senior White House job.

While terms of the deal weren’t disclosed in a statement Friday, the WSJ notes that the proceeds would give the family enough to pay off the more than $1.1 billion of debt on the building and buy out its partner, Vornado Realty Trust, for $120 million so it can transfer 666 Fifth to Brookfield unencumbered.

The sale means that the Kushner family likely won’t make any money on its investment in 666 Fifth Ave.

In recent years, the building hasn’t been generating enough money to pay its debt service. Jared Kushner had already sold his stake in 666 Fifth to a trust controlled by other family members to avoid potential conflicts. Still, the talks between Anbang and his father ignited criticism that Kushner might use his position to help his family salvage its investment.

Brookfield, which is buying the property through one of its private-equity funds, also plans to invest more than $600 million in overhauling the 39-story building, giving it a new lobby, façade and mechanical systems, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The building has seen its rental payments suffer in recent years due to a relatively high vacancy rate but is viewed in real-estate circles as having potential due to its prime location on Fifth Avenue between 52nd and 53rd Streets.

The structure of the deal is different from what Brookfield and Kushner Cos. discussed in the spring. Back then, Brookfield was considering a deal in which it would essentially acquire Vornado’s 49.5% stake in the property and become partners with the Kushner family.

One of the uncertainties about the Brookfield purchase of the 99-year lease is how much of the current debt on the building is going to be repaid. In the 2011 restructuring, the debt was carved into two pieces—a senior piece and a junior piece. The senior piece is worth $1.1 billion and the junior piece has increased since 2011 to over $300 million, because interest on it has been accruing.

Kushner executives have been arguing that only the senior debt on the building has to be repaid, partly because 666 Fifth isn’t worth the total $1.4 billion of debt on the building.

The recent history of the building is remarkable.

The property has taken numerous twists, both financial and political. Kushner Cos. sold a controlling stake in the retail space for more than $500 million a few years after it purchased the tower in 2007, using most of the proceeds to repay debt.

But that wasn’t enough to shore up the property in the post-crash years. In 2011, Kushner Cos. renegotiated what was then $1.2 billion in debt and brought in Vornado as a 49.5% partner.

In 2017, soon after Mr. Trump took office, Mr. Kushner’s father, Charles Kushner, was negotiating with Anbang Insurance Group, a Chinese insurer with connections to Beijing government. The elder Mr. Kushner’s plan at the time was to use Anbang’s capital in a $7.5 billion plan to convert 666 Fifth Ave. into a 1,400-foot-tall mixed use skyscraper with retail, hotel and condominiums.

Soon after, the Anbang talks soon collapsed. Since then, Kushner Cos. has steered clear of any deals with sovereign funds, a decision which has made the firm rein in its ambitious plans for the site. The family also faced a deadline: the debt on the building needs to be repaid next year.

And thanks to Brookfield, that will no longer be Jared’s problem any more.

Source: ZeroHedge

The Exorbitant Cost Of Getting Ahead In Life

Some 84 percent of Americans claim that a higher education is a very or extremely important factor for getting ahead in life, according to the National Center for public policy and Higher Education.

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So, it’s worth the exorbitant cost, but not everyone can pay, and outsized costs in the U.S. are giving much of the rest of the developed world the higher education advantage.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), people with a Bachelor’s Degree earn around 64 percent more per week than those with a high school diploma, and around 40 percent more than those with an Associate’s Degree. In turn, those with an Associate’s degree earn around 17 percent more than those with a high school diploma.

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The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says that college graduates overall earn 80 percent more than those without a degree.

There’s also job security to consider.

Individuals with college degrees have a lower average unemployment rates than those with only high school educations. Among people aged 25 and over, the lowest unemployment rates occur in those with the highest degrees.

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From this perspective, it’s no surprise that students are willing to bite the bullet and take on a ton of debt to finance education.

About three-fourths of students who attend four-year colleges graduate with loan debt. And this number is up from about half of students three decades ago.

The average student loan debt for Class of 2017 graduates was $39,400, up 6 percent from the previous year. Over 44 million Americans now hold over $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, according to Student Loan Hero.

According to College Board, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2017–2018 school year was $34,740 at private colleges, $9,970 for state residents at public colleges, and $25,620 for out-of-state residents attending public universities.

The U.S. is one of the most expensive places to go obtain a higher education, but there are pricier venues, too.

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If you want a free higher education, try Europe—specifically Germany and Sweden. Denmark, too, doles out an allowance of about $900 a month to students to cover their living expenses. But don’t try to study in the UK on the cheap. The UK is the most expensive country in Europe, with college tuition coming in at an average of $12,414.

In Australia, graduates don’t pay anything on their loans until they earn about $40,000 a year, and then they only pay between 4 percent and 8 percent of their income, which is automatically deducted from their bank accounts, reducing the chances of default.

For Japan—a country that sees more than half of its population go to college—the highly respected University of Tokyo only costs about $4,700 a year for undergraduates, thanks to government subsidies. The Japanese government spends almost $8,750 a year per student because it sees the massive value in having a highly educated citizenry.

For Americans, while student loans may still be a good investment overall, the idea of taking a lifetime to pay off the debt may become increasingly unattractive. And it’s only going to get worse, according to JPMorgan, which predicts that by 2035 the cost of attending a four-year private college will top $487,000.

Source: ZeroHedge

Bank of America Contributed To $102 Million Ponzi Scheme: lawsuit

Plaintiffs charged that BofA lent the scheme an air of legitimacy and provided critical support

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Bank of America Corp. was accused in a lawsuit of providing more than 100 accounts used to perpetrate what the U.S. regulators called a $102 million Ponzi scheme.

The class-action suit filed on behalf of people who lost money follows a complaint last week by the Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that five men and three companies defrauded more than 600 investors.

One of the alleged ringleaders once commissioned a song about himself for a party in Las Vegas with lyrics celebrating his $10,000 suits and his partner’s affinity for champagne, according to Monday’s complaint in federal court in Ocala, Florida.

The brother and sister who sued to recover losses from their late father’s investment claim the fraudsters “could not have perpetuated their scheme without the knowing assistance of their primary banking institution, Bank of America, which lent the scheme an air of legitimacy and provided critical support, including at times when the scheme would have otherwise collapsed,” according to the complaint.

Bank of America spokesman Bill Halldin had no immediate comment on the suit.

The lender is accused of failing to spot suspicious activity, including deposits of hundreds of thousands of dollars into accounts with relatively small, negative or nonexistent balances, followed by transfers within the same week to other accounts or investors seeking to cash out.

The architects of the scheme promised they would put investor funds into profitable and perhaps dividend-paying companies, according to the SEC. But they spent $20 million from the investment pool to enrich themselves, made $38.5 million in “Ponzi-like payments” and transferred much of the rest away from the companies that were supposed to receive the money, the regulator said.

Source: Investment News