August 31, 2017

Perspective

WP – A close-up view of the flooding in Houston – Denise Lu, Aaron Williams, Dan Keating, Jack Gillum and Laris Karklis 8/29

WSJ – Harvey’s Test: Businesses Struggle With Flawed Insurance as Floods Multiply 8/29

WSJ – Harvey Makes Landfall in Louisiana as Waters Keep Rising in Texas – Russell Gold, Dan Frosch, Ben Kesling, and Christopher Matthews 8/30

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – Five charts show why millennials are worse off than their parents – Lauren Leatherby 8/29

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Tracy Alloway – Major Bubbles Since 1990 vs Bitcoin 8/30

Real Estate

Freddie Mac: What is Causing the Lean Inventory of Houses? – July 2017

  • “The price of land (acquisition and preparation for construction) has risen more rapidly than the price of the structures built on the land. This trend has driven up the share of land cost as a proportion of house price. Since the cost of land is largely a fixed cost in a building project, the increase in the cost of land tends to make entry-level housing less profitable and thus tilts development toward higher-end housing.”
  • “Over the last three decades, land-use regulations have become more burdensome in the U.S., making developable land costlier. As an example, in areas with strict land-use regulation, builders face long delays in obtaining permit approvals. In New Orleans, where regulation is relatively lenient, permit approval is received in 3.5 months on average. In Honolulu, where regulations are particularly strict, permit approval takes around 17 months on average. The 2016 White House Report on land use regulation argues that lengthy approval processes have reduced the ability to respond to growing housing demand in many markets.”

China

FT – Credit default swaps are storing up trouble for China – Joe Zhang 8/29

  • “The China Financing Guarantee Association, a quasi-governmental body that regulates the guarantee companies (in other words, the issuers of the swaps), says it has 194 member institutions, though their ranks have thinned in recent years. Many guarantee companies have simply not bothered to become members of this club.”
  • “In a parallel with the American obsession with home ownership that led to the formation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the federal housing finance agencies, the Chinese government has in the past few decades done its best to promote small and medium-sized enterprises by providing them with credit guarantees. Tens of thousands of state-owned, private and hybrid guarantee companies have come into being.”
  • “And just like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, China’s guarantee companies are all thinly capitalized. This is due partly to the misconception that a third-party guarantee is sufficient for SMEs to tap commercial credit.”
  • “Mispricing in China’s CDS market is severe and chronic. The guarantee companies typically charge only 2-3% to the borrowers, but assume the full risk of their loan delinquency. When the economy was growing fast, from the 1980s through to the early 2010s, these guarantee fees seemed like manna from heaven — so much free money. But when the economy began to slow from 2012 onwards, default rates rose, and many guarantee companies disappeared.”
  • “Unlike CDS in the US, credit guarantees in China have the following deficiency: usually, they cannot be traded. Some observers argue this is probably an advantage for the industry because it forces deal originators to ‘eat what they cook’, minimizing irresponsibility and recklessness in their origination process.”
  • “It is estimated that the total size of China’s market for such instruments is more than $500bn, excluding the credit enhancement these guarantee companies provide to SMEs’ bond sales and asset-backed securities. But no one knows the size of the market for sure.”
  • “Why should this story be of interest to the Chinese public and, indeed, to outside observers? Because it is key to understanding the strange longevity of China’s credit bubble.”
  • “It is true that the country’s credit market is far too big, but against the doomsday scenarios some analysts have painted, it has refused to burst because of the many non-bank financial institutions that have served as plumbers for the banks.”
  • “China’s economic slowdown in the past five years has decimated its microcredit sector and, to a lesser extent, the trust companies. Their destruction has also helped shield the commercial banks.”

India

Bloomberg Quint – RBI Annual Report: 99% of Demonetized Currency Returned – Ira Dugal 8/30

  • “Indian citizens deposited almost all the currency that was scrapped during demonetization, shows data released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) as part of its annual report. The government’s abrupt decision to withdraw legal tender status for Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, announced on November 8, 2016, was intended to extinguish so-called black money from the economy and curtail the problem of counterfeit notes. The fact that almost all the scrapped currency has been returned puts paid to both those arguments.”
  • “According to the report, specified bank notes (SBNs), or notes that were demonetized, worth Rs 15.28 lakh crore had been received as of June 30, 2017. When demonetization was announced, the currency in circulation stood at Rs 17.97 lakh crore. 86% of this, or Rs 15.45 lakh crore, was rendered invalid by demonetization.”

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