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“The Fed’s Monetary Punchbowl Is Fueling Rampant Home Price Appreciation”: AEI

“The Fed’s Monetary Punchbowl Is Fueling Rampant Home Price Appreciation”: AEI

“There is no justification” for continuing the purchases of mortgage-backed securities. The Fed is “misdiagnosing its impact on the housing market.” Pressure rises on the Fed to back off, in face of market craziness.

During the press conference following the FOMC meeting last week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell was asked by different reporters about the craziness going on in the stock market, the chaotic thingy with GameStop, corporate debt, and the housing market.

The fact that he was asked several times about the exuberant nuttiness in asset prices shows that by now everyone has picked up on it. And people are increasingly incredulous that the Fed would continue with its monetary policies in face of these markets.

Powell brushed off the GameStop thingy and gave his usual it’s-not-our-fault and it’s-never-ever-our-fault justifications for the exuberant nuttiness in the markets. The near-0% interest rates and $3 trillion in QE in just a few months had nothing to do with anything, but the drivers of the nuttiness have been the “expectations about vaccines” and “fiscal policy,” he said (transcript). “Those are the news items that have been driving asset values in recent months.”

Upon hearing this, people globally were just rolling up their eyes. And a reporter challenged him softly about the housing market – the 9% surge in prices from already lofty levels. “Are you concerned about a bubble forming there yet? And is there a price increase that you’re looking at where it might change the level of mortgage-backed securities the Fed is buying?”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fed Goes Nuts with Repos & T-Bills but Sheds Mortgage Backed Securities

Fed Goes Nuts with Repos & T-Bills but Sheds Mortgage Backed Securities

The fastest increase in assets for any two-month period since the post-Lehman freak show in late 2008 and early 2009.

Total assets on the Fed’s balance sheet, released today, jumped by $94 billion over the past month through November 6, to $4.04 trillion, after having jumped $184 billion in September. Over those two months combined, as the Fed got suckered by the repo market, it piled $278 billion onto it balance sheet, the fastest increase since the post-Lehman month in late 2008 and early 2009, when all heck had broken loose – this is how crazy the Fed has gotten trying to bail out the crybabies on Wall Street:

Repos

In response to the repo market blowout that recommenced in mid-September, the New York Fed jumped back into the repo market with both feet. Back in the day, it used to conduct repo operations routinely as its standard way of controlling short-term interest rates. But during the Financial Crisis, the Fed switched from repo operations to emergency bailout loans, zero-interest-rate policy, QE, and paying interest on excess reserves. Repos were no longer needed to control short-term rates and were abandoned.

Then in September, as repo rates spiked, the New York Fed dragged its big gun back out of the shed. With the repurchase agreements, the Fed buys Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, or Ginnie Mae, and hands out cash. When the securities mature, the counter parties are required to take back the securities and return the cash plus interest to the Fed.

Since then, the New York Fed has engaged in two types of repo operations: Overnight repurchase agreements that unwind the next business day; and multi-day repo operations, such as 14-day repos, that unwind at maturity, such as after 14 days.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Is This Downturn A Repeat of 2008?

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Is This Downturn A Repeat of 2008?

Crashes differ, so be cautious about your assumptions

Even people who don’t follow the stock market closely are aware that the global economy is weakening and appears to be heading into recession.

For those who track the stock market, the signs are ominous: the U.S. was the last major market to notch gains this year and in October the U.S. market followed the rest of the global markets into an extended slide which has yet to end.

Just as sobering, key sectors such as oil, banking and utilities have crashed with alarming ferocity, reaching oversold levels last seen in 2008 as the global financial system was melting down.

These sectors crashing sends an unmistakable signal: the global economy is heading into a potentially severe recession and assets will not be rising in value in a recessionary environment. So better to sell risk-assets like stocks now rather than later, and rotate the money into safe assets such as Treasury bonds.

And indeed, households now own more Treasuries than the Federal Reserve–a remarkable shift in risk appetite.

Many other indicators of recession are in the news: auto and home sales and global trade are all slumping.

Are we in a repeat of the global financial meltdown and recession of 2008-09? The sharp drop in equities is certainly reminiscent of 2008. Indeed, the December decline is the worst in a decade. Or are we entering a different kind of recession, the equivalent of uncharted waters?

And if we are entering a recession, what can central banks and governments do to ease the financial pain and damage? We can’t be sure of much, but we can be relatively confident central banks and states will respond to the cries to “do something.”  This poses two questions: what actions can central banks/states take, and will those policies work or will they backfire and make the recession worse?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mortgage Rates May Hit 6% Sooner, as Fed Sheds Mortgage-Backed Securities, But What Will that Do to Housing Bubble 2?

Mortgage Rates May Hit 6% Sooner, as Fed Sheds Mortgage-Backed Securities, But What Will that Do to Housing Bubble 2?

Mortgage rates are climbing faster than the 10-year Treasury yield.

The average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) and a 20% down-payment rose to 5.17% for the latest reporting week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association(MBA) today. This is the highest average rate since September 2009 (chart via Investing.com):

Many people with smaller down payments and/or lower credit ratings are already paying quite a bit more. Top-tier borrowers pay less.

Thus, mortgage rates have moved a little closer to the next line in the sand, 6%, which is still historically low. At that point, the interest rate would be back where it had been in December 2008, when the Fed was unleashing its program of interest rate repression even for long-dated maturities via QE that later included the purchase of mortgaged-backed securities (MBS), which helped push down mortgage rates further.

Now the Fed is shedding Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities, and we’re starting to see the impact on mortgage rates: The difference (spread) between the 10-year yield and the interest rate of the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has widened sharply.

Since the beginning of the year:

  • The 30-year mortgage interest rate has risen 95 basis points, or nearly 1 percentage point (from 4.22% to 5.17%).
  • The 10-year Treasury yield has risen 71 basis points (from 2.46% to 3.17%)
  • The spread between the two has widened from 176 basis points on at the beginning of January to 200 basis points now.

In other words, mortgage rates are climbing faster than the 10-year Treasury yield, now that the Fed has begun the shed mortgage-backed securities. This is expected. It’s part of the QE unwind – it’s part of the Fed exiting the mortgage market and pulling its support out from under it.

But 6% is still low:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Fed’s QE Unwind Hits $321 Billion

The Fed’s QE Unwind Hits $321 Billion

The “up to” exacts its pound of flesh.

Over the four-week period from October 3 through October 31, the Federal Reserve shed $35 billion in assets, according to the Fed’s weekly balance sheet released Thursday afternoon. This brought the balance sheet to $4,140 billion, the lowest since February 12, 2014. Since October 2017, when the Fed began its QE unwind, or “balance sheet normalization,” it has now shed $321 billion:

The Fed acquired Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) as part of QE, which ended in 2014. Between the end of QE and the beginning of the QE Unwind in October 2017, the Fed replaced maturing securities with new securities to keep their levels roughly the same. In October last year, the Fed kicked off the QE unwind and began shedding those securities. But the balance sheet also reflects the Fed’s other activities, and the amount of its total assets is always higher than the sum of Treasury securities and MBS it holds.

October was a new milestone: the QE unwind left the ramp-up phase and entered the cruising-speed phase, according to the Fed’s plan. In the cruising-speed phase, the Fed is scheduled to shed “up to” $30 billion in Treasuries and “up to” $20 billion in MBS a month, for a total of “up to” $50 billion a month.

From October 3 through October 31, the Fed’s holdings of Treasury Securities fell by $23.8 billion to $2,270 billion, the lowest since February 19, 2014. Since the beginning of the QE-Unwind, the Fed has shed $195 billion in Treasuries:

The “up to” exacts its pound of flesh

The plan calls for shedding “up to” $30 billion in Treasury securities in October. But the Fed shed only $23.8 billion. Why?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Weekly Commentary: Approaching the 10-year Anniversary

Weekly Commentary: Approaching the 10-year Anniversary

We’re rapidly Approaching the 10-year Anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis. Exactly one decade ago to the day (September 7, 2008), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into government receivership. And for at least a decade, there has been nothing more than talk of reforming the government-sponsored-enterprises.
It’s worth noting that total GSE (MBS and debt) Securities ended Q3 2008 at $8.070 TN, having about doubled from year 2000. The government agencies were integral to the mortgage finance Bubble – fundamental to liquidity excess, pricing distortions (finance and housing), general financial market misperceptions and the misallocation of resources. GSE Securities did contract post-crisis, reaching a low of $7.544 TN during Q1 2012. Since then, with crisis memories fading and new priorities appearing, GSE Securities expanded $1.341 TN to a record $8.874 TN. Of that growth, $970 billion has come during the past three years, as financial markets boomed and the economy gathered momentum. A lesson not learned.

Scores of lessons from the crisis went unheeded. The Financial Times’ Gillian Tett was the star journalist from the mortgage finance Bubble period. I read with keen interest her piece this week, “Five Surprising Outcomes of the Financial Crisis – We Learnt the Dangers Posed by ‘Too Big to Fail’ Banks but Now They Are Even bigger.”

Tett’s article is worthy of extended excerpts: “What are these surprises? Start with the issue of debt. Ten years ago, investors and financial institutions re-learnt the hard way that excess leverage can be dangerous. So it seemed natural to think that debt would decline, as chastened lenders and borrowers ran scared. Not so. The American mortgage market did experience deleveraging. So did the bank and hedge fund sectors. But overall global debt has surged: last year it was 217% of gross domestic product, nearly 40 percentage points higher – not lower – than 2007.”
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Weekly Commentary: Approaching the 10-year Anniversary

Weekly Commentary: Approaching the 10-year Anniversary

We’re rapidly Approaching the 10-year Anniversary of the 2008 financial crisis. Exactly one decade ago to the day (September 7, 2008), Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were placed into government receivership. And for at least a decade, there has been nothing more than talk of reforming the government-sponsored-enterprises.
It’s worth noting that total GSE (MBS and debt) Securities ended Q3 2008 at $8.070 TN, having about doubled from year 2000. The government agencies were integral to the mortgage finance Bubble – fundamental to liquidity excess, pricing distortions (finance and housing), general financial market misperceptions and the misallocation of resources. GSE Securities did contract post-crisis, reaching a low of $7.544 TN during Q1 2012. Since then, with crisis memories fading and new priorities appearing, GSE Securities expanded $1.341 TN to a record $8.874 TN. Of that growth, $970 billion has come during the past three years, as financial markets boomed and the economy gathered momentum. A lesson not learned.Scores of lessons from the crisis went unheeded. The Financial Times’ Gillian Tett was the star journalist from the mortgage finance Bubble period. I read with keen interest her piece this week, “Five Surprising Outcomes of the Financial Crisis – We Learnt the Dangers Posed by ‘Too Big to Fail’ Banks but Now They Are Even bigger.”

Tett’s article is worthy of extended excerpts: “What are these surprises? Start with the issue of debt. Ten years ago, investors and financial institutions re-learnt the hard way that excess leverage can be dangerous. So it seemed natural to think that debt would decline, as chastened lenders and borrowers ran scared. Not so. The American mortgage market did experience deleveraging. So did the bank and hedge fund sectors. But overall global debt has surged: last year it was 217% of gross domestic product, nearly 40 percentage points higher – not lower – than 2007.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Too Clever By Half


The smartest animals on my farm aren’t my bees (although they possess the genius of the algorithm). It’s not the horses or the goats or even the dogs. The barn cat is pretty smart, but only in fairly limited circumstances, and the house cats are useless. Obviously it’s not the sheep or the chickens. Nope, the smartest animals on my farm aren’t really on my farm at all. They’re the coyotes who live in the woods.

My favorite example? We have a really big invisible fence for the dogs … covers about five acres. Yes, my farm is a great place to be a dog. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the technology of the invisible fence, it’s a buried wire that transmits a signal to a receiver placed on your dog’s collar. When the dog gets close to the wire, the receiver starts to beep, and when the dog gets all the way to the “fence” boundary, the receiver generates a small electric zap. I know, I know … it’s negative reinforcement and it’s a shock collar and all that. Don’t care. It’s fantastic for us and our dogs. But whether it’s a smart dog like Maggie the German Shepherd or a … shall we say … “special” dog like Sam the Sheltie, after a few weeks (Maggie) or a few hours (Sam) they will forget where the fence exists if they stop wearing the collar.

Not so the coyotes.

The coyotes know *exactly* where the invisible fence begins and ends, without the benefit of *ever* wearing a shock collar. How do I know? Because they intentionally leave their scat on their side of the invisible fence, creating a demilitarized zone as precise and as well-observed as anything on the Korean peninsula.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

QE…The Gift That Just Kept Giving…Is Now Taking 

QE…The Gift That Just Kept Giving…Is Now Taking 

I know the Federal Reserve doesn’t effectively create money or directly monetize.  I know this because then Fed chief, Ben Bernanke, told us so (HERE).  But still, something has me wondering about that exchange, now almost a decade ago.  The simplest of math.

The plan to utilize quantitative easing and avoid direct monetization went like this.  The Fed would digitally conjure “money” to buy the US Treasury bonds and Mortgage Backed Securities (remove assets from the market) from the big banks.  However, the Fed would force those banks to deposit the newly conjured “money” at the Federal Reserve.  This would avoid the trillions of newly created dollars from going in search of the remaining assets (particularly levered from somewhere between 5x’s to 10x’s…turning a trillion into five to 10 trillion…or more).

The chart below shows the Federal Reserve balance sheet (red line) and the quantity of those newly created dollars that the recipients of those dollars, the banks, deposited at the Federal Reserve (blue line).  But the green line is the quantity of newly created dollars that have “leaked” out…also known as “monetized”.

The interplay of QE and excess reserves resulted in the peak QE impact taking effect long after QE was tapered and had ceased (chart below).  The trillions in assets remaining with the Fed, but the new cash no longer under lock and key at the Fed.

The impact of $800+ billion of pure monetization from late 2014 through year end 2016 was spectacular.  In the hands of the largest banks (multiplied by “conservative” leverage somewhere between 5 to 10x’s) easily amounting to trillions in new cash looking for assets.  A “bull market” beyond belief should not have been surprising.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Deutsche Bank Collapse: The Most Important Bank In Europe Is Facing A Major ‘Liquidity Event’

Deutsche Bank Collapse: The Most Important Bank In Europe Is Facing A Major ‘Liquidity Event’

toilet-paper-stock-market-collapse-public-domainThe largest and most important bank in the largest and most important economy in Europe is imploding right in front of our eyes.  Deutsche Bank is the 11th biggest bank on the entire planet, and due to the enormous exposure to derivatives that it has, it has been called “the world’s most dangerous bank“.  Over the past year, I have repeatedly warned that Deutsche Bank is heading for disaster and is a likely candidate to be “the next Lehman Brothers”.  If you would like to review, you can do so herehere and here.  On September 16th, the Wall Street Journal reportedthat the U.S. Department of Justice wanted 14 billion dollars from Deutsche Bank to settle a case related to the mis-handling of mortgage-backed securities during the last financial crisis.  As a result of that announcement, confidence in the bank has been greatly shaken, the stock price has fallen to record lows, and analysts are warning that Deutsche Bank may be facing a “liquidity event” unlike anything that we have seen since the collapse of Lehman Brothers back in 2008.

At one point on Friday, Deutsche Bank stock fell below the 10 euro mark for the first time ever before bouncing back a bit.  A completely unverified rumor that was spreading on Twitter that claimed that Deutsche Bank would settle with the Department of Justice for only 5.4 billion dollars was the reason for the bounce.

But the size of the fine is not really the issue now.  Shares of Deutsche Bank have fallen by more than half so far in 2016, and this latest episode seems to have been the final straw for the deeply troubled financial institution.  Old sources of liquidity are being cut off, and nobody wants to be the idiot that offers Deutsche Bank a new source of liquidity at this point.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Here’s Why Housing Must be Propped Up

Here’s Why Housing Must be Propped Up

If housing tanks, the last prop under the veneer of middle class wealth collapses.

The Powers That Be have gone to extraordinary lengths to prop up housing by whatever means are necessary since the collapse of the housing bubble in 2008: the Federal Reserve has pushed mortgages rates down by buying mortgage-backed securities, the federal housing agencies (FHA, VA) have issued millions of low-down payment loans, and the federal government has essentially taken over the mortgage industry, backing 90+% of all mortgage loans.

Why is the status quo so keen on propping up housing? If we examine this chart of U.S. and Chinese household assets, we understand why Chinese authorities would be keen to prop up housing values–75% of China’s household assets are in real estate. Meanwhile, U.S. household assets are predominantly financial:

So why are U.S. authorities going all out to prop up housing if it represents such a modest share of total household wealth? I see two dynamics at work.

The majority of household assets are owned by the top 10%, and this includes the majority of financial assets. The top .1% own 22% of all U.S. household wealth, the top 1% own 35% and the top 10% own 75%.

Households below the top 10% may have financial assets such as insurance policies, 401K accounts or pensions funded by employers, but a house is typically the largest store of value the household owns.

If you want to make the top 1% and top 10% happy, you prop up stocks and bonds. if you want to make the 60% of the populace who own a home happy, you prop up housing.

2. Housing is the only real source of the wealth effect for households below the top 10%.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Two Outs in the Bottom of the Ninth

Two Outs in the Bottom of the Ninth

The housing market peaked in 2005 and proceeded to crash over the next five years, with existing home sales falling 50%, new home sales falling 75%, and national home prices falling 30%. A funny thing happened after the peak. Wall Street banks accelerated the issuance of subprime mortgages to hyper-speed. The executives of these banks knew housing had peaked, but insatiable greed consumed them as they purposely doled out billions in no-doc liar loans as a necessary ingredient in their CDOs of mass destruction.

The millions in upfront fees, along with their lack of conscience in bribing Moody’s and S&P to get AAA ratings on toxic waste, while selling the derivatives to clients and shorting them at the same time, in order to enrich executives with multi-million dollar compensation packages, overrode any thoughts of risk management, consequences, or  the impact on homeowners, investors, or taxpayers. The housing boom began as a natural reaction to the Federal Reserve suppressing interest rates to, at the time, ridiculously low levels from 2001 through 2004 (child’s play compared to the last six years).

Greenspan created the atmosphere for the greatest mal-investment in world history. As he raised rates from 2004 through 2006, the titans of finance on Wall Street should have scaled back their risk taking and prepared for the inevitable bursting of the bubble. Instead, they were blinded by unadulterated greed, as the legitimate home buyer pool dried up, and they purposely peddled “exotic” mortgages to dupes who weren’t capable of making the first payment. This is what happens at the end of Fed induced bubbles. Irrationality, insanity, recklessness, delusion, and willful disregard for reason, common sense, historical data and truth lead to tremendous pain, suffering, and financial losses.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Who Runs the Fed?

Who Runs the Fed?

Ben Bernanke, 2011. (Shirley Li/Medill DC via Flickr)

The 2008 financial crisis challenged many orthodox assumptions in finance and economics, including the proper role and accountability of central banks. The U.S. Federal Reserve, commonly known as the Fed, is the world’s most powerful central bank.

One major source of Federal Reserve power is its role as “lender of last resort,” lending directly to commercial banks through its so-called discount lending window. Traditionally, only commercial banks had access to the Fed’s discount lending since non-bank financial institutions were not subject to the same reserve and capital requirements as those imposed on banks. The other major source of the Fed’s power is its ability to purchase short-term Treasury securities. These restrictions on Fed lending and asset purchases helped support the central bank’s political independence from Congress and the White House by ensuring that Fed policy was socially neutral and did not favor particular sections of financial markets or particular private constituencies. But as the Federal Reserve’s lending and asset purchase powers expanded in unprecedented ways in 2008, these traditional restrictions were swept aside, exposing the flaws of central bank independence.

The Fed is also able to create money—U.S. dollars, also known as Federal Reserve notes—which means there is virtually no limit to the amount of money it can lend and no limit to the volume of assets it can purchase without adding to public-sector borrowing or deficits. During the 2008–2009 financial crisis, the Fed extended more than $16 trillion in low interest loans to all kinds of financial institutions in distress, including borrowers who traditionally lacked access to its discount window such as hedge funds and foreign commercial banks and central banks. Also, beginning in 2008, the Fed launched several asset purchase programs, known as “quantitative easing” (or QE), to purchase more than $3.5 trillion in U.S. Treasury securities and mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

 

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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