Manhattan Home Sales Tumble Most Since 2009 as Buyers Walk

Home sales in Manhattan plunged by the most since the recession as buyers at all price levels drove hard bargains and were in no rush to close deals.

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  • Haggling gets more aggressive for listings at all price points
  • ‘People are very anxious about overpaying,’ brokerage CEO says

Sales of all condos and co-ops fell 25 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier to 2,180, according to a report Tuesday by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. It was the biggest annual decline since the second quarter of 2009, when Manhattan’s property market froze in the wake of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc.’s bankruptcy filing and the global financial crisis that followed.

The drop in sales spanned from the highest reaches of the luxury market to workaday studios and one-bedrooms. Buyers, who have noticed that home prices are no longer climbing as sharply as they have been, are realizing they can afford to be picky. Rising borrowing costs and new federal limits on tax deductions for mortgage interest and state and local levies also are making homeownership more expensive, giving shoppers even more reasons to push back on a listing’s price — or walk away.

While just a few years ago, bidding wars were the norm, “there’s nothing out there today that points to prices going up, and in many buyers’ minds, they point to being flat,” said Pamela Liebman, chief executive officer of brokerage Corcoran Group. “They’re now aggressive in the opposite way: putting in very low offers and seeing what concessions they can get from the sellers.”

Corcoran Group released its own Manhattan market report Tuesday, showing an 11 percent decrease in completed purchases and a 10 percent drop in sales that are pending.

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For sellers, to reach a deal in the first quarter was to accept a lower offer. Fifty-two percent of all sales that closed in the period were for less than the last asking price, according to Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman. Buyers agreed to pay the asking price in 38 percent of deals, but often that figure had already been reduced. Combined, the share of deals without a premium was the biggest since the end of 2012.

“Even with New York real estate prices, you do hit a point in which resistance sets in,” said Frederick Peters, CEO of brokerage Warburg Realty. “People are very anxious about overpaying.”

Peters said that these days, he gets dozens of emails a day announcing price reductions for listings. And buyers are haggling over all deals, no matter how small. In a recent sale of a two-bedroom home handled by his firm, a buyer who agreed to pay $1.5 million — after the seller cut the asking price — suddenly demanded an extra $100,000 discount before signing the contract. They agreed to meet halfway, Peters said.

Buyers also are finding value in co-ops, which in Manhattan tend to be priced lower than condos. Resale co-ops were the only category to have an increase in sales in the quarter, rising 2 percent to 1,486 deals, according to Corcoran Group. Sales of previously owned condos, on the other hand, fell 12 percent as their owners clung to prices near their record highs, the brokerage said.

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The median price of all sales that closed in the quarter was $1.095 million, down 5.2 percent from a year earlier, brokerage Town Residential said in its own report. Three-bedroom apartments saw the biggest drop, with a decline of 7 percent to a median of $3.82 million, the firm said.

Prices fell the most in the lower Manhattan neighborhoods of Battery Park City and the Financial District, where the median slid 15 percent from a year earlier to $1.21 million, according to Corcoran Group. On the Upper West Side, the median dropped 8 percent to $1.1 million.

Neither new developments nor resales were spared from buyer apathy. Purchases of newly constructed condos, which continue to proliferate on the market, plummeted 54 percent in the quarter to 259, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said. Sales of previously owned apartments dropped 18 percent to 1,921.

The plunge in transactions is actually a good thing, in that it may serve as a wake-up call for more sellers to scale back their price expectations, said Steven James, Douglas Elliman’s CEO for the New York City region.

“It sends the sellers a signal that you have to get more reasonable if you want my buy,” James said. “It’s like buyers said, ‘I’ve told you all along, but you wouldn’t listen! Now I have your attention, so let’s talk.”

Video Link

Source: By Oshrat Carmiel | Bloomberg

 

 

 

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Economists Who Push Inflation Stunned That Rising Home Prices Have Put Buyers Deeper Into Debt

Once again, when the government intervenes – this time in housing – the left hand is starting a fire that the right hand is trying to put out. Rising prices for homes are once again pricing out prime borrowers and nobody can “figure out” why this is happening.

It is news like this article reported this morning by the Wall Street Journal that continues to perpetuate the hilarious notion of Keynesian economics as giving a job to one man digging a hole and another job to another man filling it, simply so that they both have jobs.

There is nothing funnier (or sadder) than “economists” struggling to understand how housing prices got so high and why people are taking on more debt in order to purchase them. However, that is the great mystery that the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday morning, making note of the fact that people are “stretching“ in order to purchase homes. What’s the solution to this problem? How about just easing lending standards again? After all, what could go wrong?

Apparently blind to the obvious – that forced inflation could amazingly make things more expensive relative to income – “economists” have hilariously blamed this price/debt delta on lack of supply. Of course, no one has mentioned the credit worthiness of borrowers getting worse or the fact that homes prices are being manipulated in order to offer home ownership to people who otherwise may not be in the market.

More Americans are stretching to buy homes, the latest sign that rising prices are making homeownership more difficult for a broad swath of potential buyers.

Roughly one in five conventional mortgage loans made this winter went to borrowers spending more than 45% of their monthly incomes on their mortgage payment and other debts, the highest proportion since the housing crisis, according to new data from mortgage-data tracker CoreLogic Inc. That was almost triple the proportion of such loans made in 2016 and the first half of 2017, CoreLogic said.

Economists said rising debt levels are a symptom of a market in which home prices are rising sharply in relation to incomes, driven in part by a historic lack of supply that is forcing prices higher.

The “lack of supply” argument is just wonderful – a bunch of “economists” finding a basic free market capitalism solution to a problem that has nothing to do with free market capitalism. Perhaps “economists” can also argue that building more, despite the lack of prime borrower demand, will also have the added benefit of puffing up GDP. From there, it’s only a couple more steps down the primrose path that leads to China’s ghost cities.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/chart1_0_0.jpg?itok=X7gskNoZ

And of course, people are worried that we could have a “weak selling season” upcoming. In a free market economy, weakness is necessary and normal. In Keynesian theory, it’s the devil incarnate. The Wall Street Journal continued:

Real-estate agents worry that buyers’ weariness from being priced out of the market could make this one of the weakest spring selling seasons in recent years.

Consumers are growing more optimistic about the economy and their personal financial prospects but less hopeful that now is the right time to buy a home, according to results of a survey released in late March by the National Association of Realtors.

At the same time, the average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage has risen to 4.40% as of last week from 3.95% at the beginning of the year, according to Freddie Macputting still more pressure on affordability.

These factors “are working against affordability and that’s why you get the pressure to ease credit standards,” said Doug Duncan, chief economist at Fannie Mae. He said that pressure has to be balanced against the potential toll if underqualified buyers eventually default on their mortgages.

CoreLogic studied home-purchase loans that generally meet standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federally sponsored providers of 30-year mortgage financing.

The amount of these loans packaged and sold by Fannie and Freddie increased 73% in the second half of 2017, compared with the first half of the year, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry research group. In that same period, overall new mortgages rose 15%.

As if the signs weren’t clear enough that manipulating the economy and manipulating the housing market has a detrimental effect, the article continued that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are “experimenting with how to make homeownership more affordable, including backing loans made by lenders who agree to help pay down a buyer’s student debt“. Sure, solve one government subsidized shit show (student loan debt) with another one!

Is it any wonder that the entire supply and demand environment for housing has been thrown completely out of order?  On one hand, the government wants to make housing affordable so that everybody can have it, which closely resembles socialism. On the other hand, they are targeting prices to rise 2% every single year and claim that this is normal and healthy economic policy that we should all be buying into and applauding. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing!

We were on this case back in October 2017 when we wrote an article pointing out that home prices had again eclipsed their highest point prior to the financial crisis. We knew this was coming. We at the time that the ratio of the trailing twelve month averages of median new home sale prices to median household income in the U.S. had risen to an all time high of 5.454, which following revisions in the data for new home sale prices, was recorded in July 2017. The initial value for September 2017 is 5.437.

In other words, the median new home in the US has never been more unaffordable in terms of current income.

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Here we are 6 months later and “economists” are just figuring this out. What’s wrong with this picture?

What’s really happening is clear. Instead of letting the free market determine the pricing and availability of housing, the government has continued to try and manipulate the market in order to give everyone a house. This is simply going to lead to the same type of behavior that led Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to fail during the housing crisis.

If we are going to have free market capitalism, the reality of the situation is that not everybody is going to own a house.

Furthermore, while there are many benefits to owning a house, there are also many reasons why people rent. Peter Schiff, for instance, often makes the case that renting is generally worth it because you’re saving yourself on upkeep and it allows you to be flexible with where you live and when you have the opportunity to move. He himself rents property for these reasons, which he often notes in his podcast. Sure, there are some benefits of homeownership, namely that a homeowner is supposed to be building equity in something, but looking again at the situation we are in today, is it worth investing in the equity of a home that might see its price crash significantly again, similar to the way housing prices did in 2008?

The government is creating both the problem and the solution here and instead of trying to continually fix the housing market, they should just keep their nose out of it and allow the free market to determine who should own a house and at what price. Call us crazy, but we don’t think that’s going to happen.

Source: ZeroHedge

Global Debt Hits Record $237 Trillion, Up $21TN In 2017

Last June ZH reported that according to the Institute of International Finance – perhaps best known for its periodic and concerning reports summarizing global leverage statistics – as of the end of 2016, in a period of so-called “coordinated growth”, global debt hit a new all time high of $217 trillion, over 327% of global GDP, and up $50 trillion over the past decade.

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Six months later, on January 4, 2018, the IIF released another global debt analysis, which disclosed that global debt rose to a record $233 trillion at the end of Q3 of 2017 between $63Tn in government, $58Tn in financial, $68TN in non-financial and $44Tn in household sectors, a total increase of $16 trillion increase in just 9 months.

Now, according to its latest quarterly update, the IIF has calculated that global debt rose another $4 trillion in the past quarter, to a record $237 trillion in the fourth quarter of 2017, and more than $70 trillion higher from a decade earlier, and up roughly $20 trillion in 2017 alone.

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The IIF report, which also sources data from the IMF and BIS, found that the share of global debt remains well above 300% of global GDP, with mature market, i.e., DM, debt/GDP now at 382%. The silver lining: that number was slightly below recent levels, as increasing GDP growth in DMs helped reduce the debt-to-GDP ratio. However, this was more than offset by a surge in debt in emerging markets, where total debt/GDP is now well above 200%.

The good news, if only temporarily, is that on a consolidated basis, global debt/GDP fell for the fifth consecutive quarter as global growth accelerated: the ratio is now around 317.8%, or 4% points below the all time high hit in Q43 2016. To be sure, even a modest slowdown in GDP growth, let alone a contraction, will promptly send the ratio surging to new all time highs.

So what was the culprit for this unprecedented debt surge? Central banks of course.

“Still-low global rates continue to support unprecedented levels of debt accumulation,” officials from the IIF said in a release.

As the report also notes, among mature markets, household debt as a percentage of GDP hit all-time highs in Belgium, Canada, France, Luxembourg, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, which – as Bloomberg correctly notes – That’s a worrying signal, with interest rates beginning to rise globally. Ireland and Italy are the only major countries where household debt as a percentage of GDP is below 50 percent.

IIF representatives also highlighted the weaker U.S. dollar as having “masked longer-term concerns about debt sustainability, particularly in emerging markets.” The reduction in debt to GDP came mainly from developed markets, such as the United States and Western Europe, but was an overall trend with 36 of the 49 countries in the survey’s sample recording a drop in debt-to-GDP.

Among emerging markets, household debt to GDP is approaching parity in South Korea at 94.6 percent.

Finally, the report also found that U.S. government debt is now 99% of GDP as a sector. With the United States expected to record a $1 trillion budget deficit by 2020, according to the latest just released CBO forecast, the US should cross 100% debt/GDP in the next few months…

Source: ZeroHedge

Trade Wars Just Beginning… In A Fight Over An Indefinitely Shrinking Pie

From a growth perspective, it doesn’t matter if the world is 7.5 million or 7.5 billion persons…it only matters how many more there are from one year to the next.  Economic growth (or the ability to consume more…not produce more) is about the annual growth of the population among those with the income, savings, and access to credit (or governmental social pass-through programs).  That’s what this trade war is all about and why it’s just beginning.  First it was a fight for decelerating growth…but now it’s about a shrinking pool of consumers.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/download%20%281%29_3.png?itok=DO2GUo09

Nowhere is this decline in potential consumers more acute than East Asia (China, Japan, N/S Korea, Taiwan, plus some minor others).  I have previously detailed China’s situation HERE but the chart below shows the broader East Asia total under 60 year old population (blue line) and annual change in red columns.  Peak growth in the under 60yr/old population (consumer base) took place way back in 1969, annually adding 22 million potential consumers.  As recently as 1988, an echo peak added 19 million annually but the deceleration of growth since ’88 has been inexorable.  Then in 2009, decelerating growth turned to decline and the decline will continue indefinitely.  What began as a gentle decline is about to turn into progressively larger tumult.  By 2030, the under 60yr/old population will be 9% smaller than present.  East Asia’s domestic consumer driven market is collapsing in real time and it’s reliance on exports greater than ever.

The chart below shows the total 0-65 year old global population (minus Africa and India…blue line) and the annual change in that population in the red columns.  Why excluding Africa/India?  Because they represent nearly all global population growth, consume less than 10% of the global exports, and haven’t the income, savings, or access to credit to consume relative to the rest of the world.  Growth (x-Africa/India) peaked in 1988, annually adding 52 million prime consumers.  However, the annual growth of that population has decelerated by 2/3rds to “just” 17 million in 2018.  Before 2030, the under 65 year old population will peak and begin shrinking.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/download%20%282%29_3.png?itok=_EGpOR1Q

Simply put, West and East are fighting over a soon to be shrinking pie.  Of course, individual companies will perform better than others…but on a macro basis, global demand will be falling indefinitely aside from the debt and monetization schemes  federal governments and central bankers can conjure.

From an asset appreciation viewpoint, consider the decelerating (and soon to be declining consumer population) vs. accelerating asset appreciation.  The chart below shows the same annual under 65yr/old population growth (x-Africa/India) versus the fast rising Wilshire 5000 (all publicly traded US equities, yellow line) and global debt (red line).

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Next, consider the decelerating annual global population growth (as a percentage of total population x-Africa/India) versus the supposed infinite 7.5% appreciation of assets (chart shows the Wilshire 5000 continuously growing at 7.5%) versus fast decelerating consumer growth. Clearly, anticipated asset appreciation is all about rising debt and monetization…not organic growth.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/download%20%284%29_3.png?itok=hxWOLOs9

Finally, a peek at the situation in the US. The chart below shows fast decelerating annual growth of the under 65 year old US population as a % of total population (black line), the ebullient Wilshire 5000 (shaded red area), actual and anticipated 7.5% appreciation of US stocks from 1970 through 2025 (dashed yellow line), and total disposable personal income representing the actual economy (blue line).

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/download%20%284%29_3.png?itok=hxWOLOs9

Infinite growth  models are running headlong into very finite limits.  Invest accordingly.

Source: ZeroHedge

Subprime Auto Implosion Surge as Lenders Start Dropping Like Flies

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We are in the midst of watching the subprime auto lending bubble burst in its entirety. Smaller subprime auto lenders are starting to implode, and we all know what comes next: the larger companies go bust, inciting real capitulation. 

In addition to our coverage out just days ago  talking about how the subprime bubble has burst and, since then has been crunched even further and additional reports today are showing that smaller subprime lenders are starting to simply implode after being faced with losses and defaults. In addition, Bloomberg reported this morning that there have been allegations of fraud and under reporting losses, tactics that are clearly reminiscent of ➹ throw a dart at any financial crisis/bubble burst over the last 30 years:

Growing numbers of small subprime auto lenders are closing or shutting down after loan losses and slim margins spur banks and private equity owners to cut off funding.

Summit Financial Corp., a Plantation, Florida-based subprime car finance company, filed for bankruptcy late last month after lenders including Bank of America Corp. said it had misreported losses from soured loans. And a creditor to Spring Tree Lending, an Atlanta-based subprime auto lender, filed to force the company into bankruptcy last week, after a separate group of investors accused the company of fraud. Private equity-backed Pelican Auto Finance, which specialized in “deep subprime” borrowers, finished winding down last month after seeing its profit margins shrink.

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Article continues:

The pain among smaller lenders has parallels with the subprime mortgage crisis last decade, when the demise of finance companies like Ownit Mortgage and Sebring Capital Partners were a harbinger that bigger losses for the financial system were coming. In both cases, rising interest rates helped trigger more loan losses.

“There’s been a lot of generosity and not a lot of discretion on the part of lenders and investors,” said Chris Gillock, a banker at Colonnade Advisors, which advises companies on subprime auto investments. “There’s going to be more capitulation.”

Representatives for Spring Tree didn’t respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Summit said “restructuring in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding is the best strategy to ensure its long term success” and the company is working with its vendors and lenders to meet its obligations.

Astonishingly and ridiculously, the article goes on to talk about this implosion as if it was expected to happen and as if it’s what would have happened during the normal course of business if ridiculous debt and engineered interest rates weren’t a mainstay of current economic policy:

This time around, the financial system’s losses are expected to be much more manageable, because auto lending is a smaller business relative to mortgages, and Wall Street hasn’t packaged as many of the loans into complicated securities and derivatives. As of the end of September, there were about $280 billion of subprime auto loans outstanding, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, compared with around $1.3 trillion in subprime mortgage debt at the start of 2007. There isn’t a standardized definition of subprime borrowers, though it generally encompasses borrowers with FICO credit scores below 600 to 640 on an 850 point scale.

Take, for example, this gem of cognitive dissonance:

“When you think about the effects of housing versus autos, they’re a lot different,” said Kevin Barker, a stock analyst covering specialty finance companies at Piper Jaffray & Co. Losses tend to be less severe for car loans because they are smaller than mortgages and borrowers pay them down faster, he said, and the collateral is easier to repossess. With home loans, in many states foreclosures require a lengthy court process.

As we all saw from the housing crisis, the smaller shops are usually the first ones to go. The law of large numbers plays to the advantage of bigger corporations and usually buys them more time. The bigger the company, the more the government and institutions care if it goes bust. Smaller companies come and go like it’s nothing, because they have no tangible effect on major financial institutions or the US economy. However, this generally only exacerbates the size of the ticking time bomb to come.

In early March of this year, we posted our “Signs of the Peak: 10 Charts Reveal an Auto Bubble on the Brink“. Our timing couldn’t have been better. In that article we pointed out that the key data which seems to suggest that the auto bubble may have run its course comes from the following charts which reveal that traditional banks and finance companies are starting to aggressively slash their share of new auto originations while OEM captives are being forced to pick up the slack in an effort to keep their ponzi schemes going just a little longer.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/exp%205_0.jpg?itok=6WTTYXWh

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/jesus_0.png?itok=z7_xZNro

And while some can claim that this is just a natural result of healthy competition between lenders, what is likely causing sleepless nights at banks who have tens of billions in outstanding loans, is the coming tsunami of lease returns which will lead to a shock repricing for both car prices and existing LTVs once the millions in new cars come back to dealer lots…

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user5/imageroot/2014/05/cars%201.jpg(Where the worlds unsold cars go to die)

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/2016.12.09%20-%20Auto%20Lease%20Volume_0.JPG?itok=LKLfieyY

We have seen this bubble coming from a mile away. 

Also, just as we expected, between record prices (courtesy of what until recently was easy, cheap debt), record loan terms, and rising rates, shoppers with shaky credit and tight budgets have suddenly been squeezed out of the market. In fact in the first two months of this year, sales were flat among the highest-rated borrowers, while deliveries to those with subprime scores slumped 9 percent, according to J.D. Power.

https://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/inline-images/subprime%20jd%20power_0.jpg?itok=vThqskJd

Confirming our observations, Bloomberg notes that while lenders took chances on consumers with lower FICO scores after the recession, partially on the notion that borrowers prioritize car payments ahead of other expenses, several financial companies started to tighten their standards more than a year ago. The result is a surge in the amount of captive financing shown in the chart above, which as we warned is the clearest indication yet of the popping car bubble.

We also predicted back in December of last year that certain PE firms would start to feel the pain of their subprime auto bets.

However, no one wants to make the point that subprime auto also followed in the footsteps of the financial crisis because it was a bubble that was engineered due to the Fed making it easy to take on cheap debt in order to fuel our nonsense “recovery”.

The continued focus on borrowing and spending, instead of saving and under consumption, will ensure not only that these bubbles continue to happen going forward, but they will get larger in size as time progresses.

Source: ZeroHedge

World’s Hottest Shopping City Becoming A Ghost Town

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If you want to see the future of locally owned storefront retailing in America, walk nine blocks along Broadway from 57th to 48th Street and count the stores.

The total number comes to precisely one — a tiny shop to buy drones.

That’s right: On a nine-block stretch of what’s arguably the world’s most famous avenue, steps south of the bustling Time Warner Center and the planned new Nordstrom department store, lies a shopping wasteland.

Yes, there are bank branches, restaurants, fast-food outlets, theaters, Duane Reades, a vitamin shop and a few tourist-targeted “discount” stores. But mainly there are oodles of empty spaces covered with signs touting SUPERB CORNER RETAIL OPPORTUNITY.

The same crisis blights the rest of Manhattan. The people invested in storefront retailing — real-estate developers, landlords and retail companies themselves — tell us not to worry. It’s a “transitional” situation that will right itself over time. Authoritative-sounding surveys by real-estate and retail companies claim that Manhattan’s overall vacancy is only just 10 percent.

But they are all wrong. Bricks-and-mortar retail is shrinking so swiftly and on such a wide scale, it’s going to require big changes in how we plan our new buildings and our cities — although nobody wants to admit it.

Even the most profitable, can-do-no-wrong global chains are feeling the heat right now. H&M found itself unexpectedly sitting on $4.3 billion in unsold merchandise, The New York Times reported last month.

Why? Shopping from home or on a smartphone is a lot easier than shopping in a store. The ease of buying sweaters and light bulbs online trumps the thrill of people-watching in stores where slow-moving sales clerks take 15 minutes to ring up a $25 tie on balky computers.

Amazon makes it easier to return goods that don’t live up to expectations than it often is to buy things in stores. Clerks have no idea what’s in stock. Fashion goods displayed on shelves are chosen by too-young buyers with their minds more on the current Instagram trend than on customers’ needs.

I now buy many of my clothes from Charles Tyrwhitt online. Many more products offered there fit me than in their stores, where shirts seem cut for skeletons.

And yet, it’s scary to think that one of the city’s great pleasures, window-shopping — which also ensures vibrant, crime-deterring sidewalk life — will become a thing of the past except at certain locations.

At this rate, we face a future where streets will be mostly dark at sidewalk level for miles on end. Third Avenue in the East 60s, Broadway north of Lincoln Center, many blocks in the supposedly thriving Meatpacking District are halfway there already.

Amazon and other online-buying services now account for 9.1 percent of all national retail sales — soaring from just 5.1 percent at the end of 2011, according to the US Census Bureau. Does anyone doubt that it will rise further? Yet real-estate developers are adding to the surplus by putting millions of square feet of retail space into big new Manhattan mixed-use projects from the far West Side to Delancey Street. Just about every individual new office tower, apartment building and hotel opens with “prime” retail space in search of tenants. Super-luxury condo tower 432 Park Ave. has leased less than one-fifth of its store space after three years of trying.

Few retailers can afford to pay more than $250 per square foot annually in rent — yet landlords persist in asking $400 a square foot and up to $2,000 a square foot in prime zones like Fifth Avenue and Times Square.

Mayor de Blasio wants to fine landlords who keep spaces empty until they find tenants who’ll pay astronomical rents. But there’s no fair way to judge who’s actually guilty. Would he punish the owners of the small corner building at 1330 Third Ave. at East 76th Street, who slashed the “ask” from $420,000 a year in 2016 to $360,000 in April 2017 and still can’t find a tenant?

New York’s vacancy crisis is due to the same factors that wiped out malls and chain stores across the United States: the rise of online shopping, private-equity takeovers that saddled retailers with too much debt, and shoppers’ changing tastes.

Only a few grasp the true scope of the problem. Vornado Realty Trust titan Steven Roth said we can only cure the national plague through “the closing and evaporation” of up to 30 percent of the weakest space — which would take five years.

Most others see no evil. So what if JC Penney, Sears, Kmart, Macy’s, Toys ‘R’ Us, The Limited, American Apparel, BCBG, Payless Shoes, J Crew, Banana Republic and Gap have closed (or plan to close soon) thousands of stores across the US, including many in New York City?

We’re told that although sportswear and appliance stores don’t appeal much to millennials, their places are being taken up by fancy coffee places, “fast-casual” eateries serving the same green salads, and gyms and spas. “Experiential” retail — a term that can mean almost anything — will also help plug the gaps.

But munching spots and health clubs can’t come close to filling spaces that sportswear, houseware and bookstores are leaving behind.

We can still avoid becoming a retail ghost town like many of the country’s malls. But to increase demand for our dark storefronts, the city must roll back zoning rules in some neighborhoods that require even more retail in new buildings whether there’s demand for them or not. We should discourage the inclusion of acres of retail in giant new complexes that only add to the glut.

Otherwise, the whole town will look like Broadway in the 50s — a corridor of salad bars and dark windows.

Source: By Steve Cuozzo | New York Post

Blockchain Remains A Solution In Search Of A Problem… For Now

Wall Street rethinks blockchain projects as euphoria meets reality

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Wall Street has been much more excited about the system underpinning bitcoin than the cryptocurrency itself, but the global financial industry has not yet been able to do much with the technology known as blockchain.

Reuters has found several blockchain projects launched by major financial institutions that have been shelved, as development of the technology enters a hype-meets-reality phase.

The casualties include projects by the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation (DTCC), BNP Paribas SA (BNPP.PA) and SIX Group, Reuters has found.

These were among the wave of blockchain tests touted by the financial industry over the past few years, as firms bet the new technology would displace much of the sector’s infrastructure, cutting out middlemen, speeding transactions and reducing costs for things like securities and payments processing.

Yet as some projects were developed, companies pulled back for various reasons – from costs to industry readiness, underscoring that, for all its potential, blockchain is still in its early days.

DTCC, known as Wall Street’s bookkeeper, recently put the brakes on a blockchain system for the clearing and settlement of repurchase, or repo, agreement transactions, said Murray Pozmanter, head of clearing agency services at the DTCC.

The project, which had successfully tested with startup Digital Asset Holdings (DA), was shelved because banks and other potential users believed the same results could be achieved more cheaply using current technology, he said.

“Basically, it became a solution in search of a problem,” he said.

Post-trade services provider, SIX Securities Services, a unit of the group that operates Switzerland’s stock exchange, has also decided not take into production a prototype built by DA for the processing of securities, SIX spokesman Jürg Schneider, told Reuters.

“We wanted to go into another direction,” Schneider said.

The partnership with DA, run by former JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) executive Blythe Masters, was announced in 2016.

French bank BNP Paribas in 2016 said its securities services division had partnered with startups including SmartAngels to build a platform for private small businesses to manage their securities.

The bank stopped work on the project, and will instead team up with other financial institutions on another blockchain initiative called LiquidShare, said a source familiar with the matter. “Creating an enterprise-wide robust blockchain platform requires the full cooperation of the whole post trade ecosystem,” the source said.

PROOFS OF CONCEPT

The DTCC, BNP Paribas and SIX tests were among a barrage of blockchain “proofs of concept” announced with great fanfare by financial institutions.

“A large part of the problem has been expectation management, or rather lack thereof by many vendors and large consultancies that made claims that could not be fulfilled in the time spans they had said on stage at fintech events,” said Tim Swanson, founder of technology advisory Post Oak Labs.

Reuters reported last week JPMorgan was considering spinning off its marquee blockchain project Quorum. In July a partnership between settlement provider Euroclear and startup Paxos to develop a blockchain service was dissolved.

Still, other projects are moving forward.

 

Pozmanter said the DTCC is still examining another project with DA and that it is close to testing a blockchain-based trade information warehouse set to launch next year.

“We’re still bullish on the technology,” Pozmanter said.

The repo test with DA “met all its stated goals” and led to a new project that DTCC is examining, said DA spokeswoman Vera Newhouse.

SIX is working on a blockchain project with Nasdaq (NDAQ.O) and Australia’s stock exchange ASX Ltd (ASX.AX) said in December that DA will help replace its registry, settlement and clearing system, By  one of the most ambitious projects to receive a green light.

Source: By Anna Irrera &  John McCrank | Reuters