Tag: Canada

June 21, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

FT – China gains entry to MSCI’s $1.6tn emerging markets benchmark – Jennifer Hughes and Nicole Bullock 6/20

  • “Chinese stocks have gained direct entry to MSCI’s global benchmark equity index for the first time, marking a milestone in Beijing’s efforts to draw international funds into the world’s second-largest market.”
  • “The move means mainland stocks, known as A-shares, will next year be included in MSCI’s flagship emerging markets index, obliging the estimated $1.6tn of investment funds that track the index to buy mainland equities.”
  • “China’s domestic equity and bond markets are the second- and third-largest in the world, respectively, yet foreigners hold just roughly 2% of each. Three previous proposals by MSCI to include mainland stocks were rebuffed by the index provider’s stakeholders — mostly large asset managers.”

Perspective

WSJ – Daily Shot: Tax Foundation – Massachusetts’s Proposed Soda Tax 6/20

Economist – Finland tests an unconditional basic income 6/20

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Economist – Electoral victory will make France’s president a potent force 6/17

  • “But he will still have to face down a challenge from the street.”

Medium – One does not simply become successful – Timi Lliev 6/4

  • Good post with links to some useful tools (mind mapping and vision boards)

WSJ – The Fed’s Poor Record on Soft Landings – Justin Lahart 6/19

  • “The only time the Fed really succeeded in executing a soft landing, according to most economists, was when it raised rates through 1994. In the mid-1960s and mid-1980s it had a couple of qualified successes. Its other tightening cycles over the past 60 years were followed by recessions, though in some cases a recession was necessary to wipe out inflation.”

Economist – The rebellion of Venezuela’s top prosecutor 6/20

  • “Ms. Ortega’s rebellion and Mr. Ramirez’s resignation are a sure sign that the regime has lost moral authority even among some of its most fervent supporters. As misery and anger grow, disenchantment within the regime will spread. Its power to coerce may then begin to weaken.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: BMO – Bloomberg Economic Surprise Index 6/20

WSJ – Daily Shot: BMO – S&P 500 Earnings & Dividend Growth v. Index Total Return 6/20

Energy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bloomberg Intelligence – OPEC Nations Production Changes 6/20

Environment / Science

Honolulu Star-Advertiser – Astronomers find more Earth-like planets – Jim Borg 6/20

  • “At a news conference Monday at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, Calif., the Kepler space telescope team released a catalog of 219 new planet candidates, including 10 that are near-Earth size and orbiting in their star’s “Goldilocks zone” – neither too hot nor too cold – where liquid water could exist.”

Canada

Economist – The lessons from Canada’s attempts to curb its house-price boom 6/17

  • “In its twice-yearly health-check on the financial system, published this month, the Bank of Canada concluded that ‘extrapolative expectations’ are a feature of the market. In other words, people are buying because they hope, or fear, that prices will keep rising.”
  • “Common to all these cities are buyers from emerging markets, notably China, who have helped to drive a wedge between the price of homes and the local fundamentals of incomes and rental payments. They are willing to pay above the odds to secure a safe place for their savings. Though fairly small in number, their presence is enough to inflate bubbles.”
  • “Canada’s housing market thus opens a window on a tragic flaw in the global economy. In only a few decades China has mastered the manufacture of high-quality goods. But it takes far longer to be able to manufacture safe stores of value. Instead, their affluent citizens seek out rich-country assets, including houses. This fundamental mismatch limits the ability of policymakers to stop bubbles from inflating.”
  • Thing is, “the demand from emerging markets for safe assets will not soon diminish. Recent history shows that big run-ups in property prices often reverse suddenly. Better to batten down the hatches now in case the weather turns bad.”

China

FT – China property tax languishes as vested interests block reform – Gabriel Wildau 6/19

  • “As Chinese authorities struggle to contain runaway home prices, a long-awaited plan for a property tax has stalled, the latest sign of entrenched interests impeding efforts to transform the country’s growth model.” 
  • “The average price of a Shenzhen home last year was 41 times the average income, against 29 in London, 23 in Tokyo and 15 in New York, according to Macquarie Securities. Since late last year, 45 Chinese cities have introduced purchase limits and other measures in an attempt to cool rising property prices.”
  • “For years, economists have advocated for China to move away from administrative tools like purchase bans in favor of a property tax. Top Communist party leaders committed to imposing a property tax in a landmark blueprint for economic reform approved in November 2013.” 
  • “By imposing an annual levy on home ownership, a property tax would reduce the appeal of housing as a speculative investment. While the merits of property taxes in general are a matter of debate among economists, few doubt that is sorely needed in China, where 50m homes lie empty, according to the China Household Finance Survey conducted by researchers from Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu.”
  • “Yet market observers say there is little prospect of the government implementing a tax within the next few years — at the annual session of China’s rubber-stamp parliament in March it was announced that legislation for the levy was not on the agenda this year.” 
  • “’Among well-informed economists in the government, establishing a property tax has been consensus for a long, long time,’ says Gan Li, director of the CHFS and professor of economics at Texas A&M University. ‘The concern is politics. No one wants to be blamed for bursting the housing bubble.’” 
  • “China’s home ownership rate is 87%, according to the survey — creating a large and powerful constituency opposing a property tax. In the US, the rate is only 64%, according to census data.” 
  • “A survey by FT Confidential Research, an independent research service owned by the Financial Times, found that 28% of families in medium-sized and large cities own a home that is vacant. Chinese investors have long favored housing over the volatile stock market and low-yielding bond market, and capital controls limit households’ ability to buy foreign assets.”

Bloomberg – China’s Workers are Saying Goodbye to Double-Digit Pay Raises 6/19

Still good though…

South America

FT – OAS fails to pass resolution condemning Venezuela’s Maduro – Jude Webber 6/19

  • “Twenty countries of the Organization of American States backed a resolution condemning Mr Maduro’s unpopular plans to convene a constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution on July 30 – falling short of the two-thirds majority needed. A rival proposal, backed by Caribbean countries, also failed to pass after hours of talks and bickering over procedural matters at the body’s general assembly in the Caribbean resort of Cancún.”
  • “’The crisis is real,’ Honduras’ foreign minister María Dolores Agüero told the meeting. ‘It cannot be that under the doctrine of non-intervention the alternative is to do nothing.’”

June 13, 2017

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – Bulls, Bears & Charlatans – Ben Carlson 6/11

  • “A market crash is always a possibility. But using scare tactics to get people out of the markets (or keep them in) isn’t helpful to anyone.”

NYT – Stop Pretending You’re Not Rich – Richard Reeves 6/10

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Change in U.S. Retail Jobs 6/12

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: Canadian Real Estate Assoc. – Home resales above $1 million 6/12

WSJ – Does Anyone Remember How to Make a Subprime Mortgage? – Kirsten Grind 6/12

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: Capital Economics – 10-Year Gov’t Bond Yields 6/12

  • “Take a look at this Capital Economics forecast for German government bond yields – a 1.75% increase in 2.5 years. Note that a 1% increase in the 10-year German yield will result in nearly a 10% mark-to-market loss. Time to short these bonds?”

 

June 7, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

WSJ – Chinese Banks Face Up to Funding Squeeze – Anjani Trivedi 6/5

  • “Household deposits—long the backbone of China’s economy, funding inexorable loan growth—are fleeing: Around 1.2 trillion yuan ($176 billion) left the banking system last month. Meanwhile, growth in corporate deposits has slowed, reducing the rise in deposits overall to a crawl.”
  • “The exodus is proving a double whammy for China’s banks. Not only are they losing a stable source of funding, they are also bearing the brunt of higher costs to raise cash as financial conditions tighten.”
  • “Much of the money pulled out of conventional deposits is being invested in the rapidly multiplying population of investment funds, which offer higher rates. Yu’e Bao, run by Alibaba-backed Ant Financial, has become one of the world’s biggest money-market funds—with $165 billion under management—offering investors a 7-day annualized rate of over 4%.”
  • “Ironically, it and other funds are achieving such returns by investing in financing tools issued by banks. When China liberalized deposit rates in 2015, banks started churning out new investment products, including so-called negotiable certificates of deposit. Issuance of these short-term products in April totaled $180 billion, up 60% from a year earlier. Their relatively high rates—up to 4% or 5%—have made them attractive to money-market funds like Yu’e Bao.”
  • “But the upshot for banks is that stable deposits on which they pay just 1.5%—the benchmark rate—are being converted into flighty funds on which they must pay up to 5%. And even this source of funding may dry up. Last month, Yu’e Bao capped the size of new investments, likely under pressure from regulators alarmed at its rapid growth.”

Perspective

FT – Beer sales slide as global alcohol consumption falls – Scheherazade Daneshkhu 6/3

  • “The global market for alcoholic drinks contracted 1.3% last year, which was steeper than the average fall of 0.3% in the previous five years, according to figures from the International Wine and Spirits Research, the London-based industry group.”
  • “Alexander Smith, editor of IWSR magazine, said the drop was surprising given an improving global economy and the usually close correlation between global growth rates and drinking alcohol.”
  • “Global gross domestic product rose 3.1% last year, according to the International Monetary Fund, which forecasts a further improvement to 3.6% this year.”
  • “Beer sales fell 1.8%, compared with a five-year average decline of 0.6%. This was mainly because of weakness in China, the world’s biggest beer market by volumes, though sales in other large beer markets, such as Brazil and Russia which have both been in recession, were down.”
  • “In the US, ‘2017 is shaping up to be the worst year for beer volumes since 2009, when total industry volumes were down 2%’, according to Trevor Stirling, analyst at Bernstein.”
  • However, “the IWSR said it expected the alcohol industry to return to growth this year, predicting a rise in consumption of 0.8% until 2021, driven by whisky.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

The Irrelevant Investor – Satisfaction Yield – Michael Batnick 6/6

  • “The utilitarian benefit of two investments are identical when they yield an identical return, but the satisfaction yield, reflecting expressive and emotional benefits, varies by the paths of identical returns.”
  • “The fact that the return of principal under different scenarios can evoke such different emotions tells us a lot about why investor behavior is the most important factor in determining success or failure.”

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: Wells Fargo – Origin of Foreign Capital buying US Real Estate 6/5

Bloomberg – Americans Are Pouring Money Into Their Homes Like It’s the 1990s – Vince Golle 6/6

Energy

Bloomberg – ‘Gas Apocalypse’ Looms Amid Power Plant Construction Boom – Naureen Malik and Brian Eckhouse 5/23

  • “The Marcellus Shale formation has added lots of supply to a major power grid, but demand is growing slowly.”

NYT – The Biggest, Strangest ‘Batteries’ – Diane Cardwell and Andrew Roberts 6/3

Africa

NYT – Nigeria’s Afrobeats Music Scene Is Booming, but Profits Go to Pirates – Dionne Searcey 6/3

  • “Artists across the world battle illegal sales of their work. But Nigeria’s piracy problem is so ingrained that music thieves worry about rip-offs of their rip-offs, slapping warning labels on pirated CDs to insist that ‘lending is not allowed.'”

Canada

FT – Toronto house price fall signals market is cooling – Ben McLannahan 6/5

  • “According to sales data released on Monday by the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average sale price for all home types in the Greater Toronto Area was C$863,910 ($640,674) in May, a drop of 6.2% from C$920,791 in April. The number of home sales fell by 12% over the month, while listings were up 19%.”
  • “Talk of tackling rapid price appreciation appears to have ‘changed market psychology’, said Jean-François Perrault, chief economist at Scotiabank in Toronto. ‘The benefits of holding on to a property, if you’re a speculator, have probably peaked. I think we’re moving to a healthier market.’”
  • A change from one month to the next does not make a trend. Keep your eye on this.

China

Economist – A provincial shuffle shows the power of China’s president 5/27

WSJ – Here’s How a Chinese Tech Firm Borrowed $2.1 Billion in a Hurry – Ryan McMorrow 6/3

  • “LeEco, a catchall name for a variety of businesses controlled by the internet tycoon Jia Yueting, poses little threat by itself to China’s financial system. But a review of the company’s finances shows the extent of the opaque ways Chinese firms can use to raise money — and how failures could ripple through the system.”

FT – China’s new graduates hit by falling wages – Tom Hancock 6/4

India

FT – India Inc walks a banking tightrope – Simon Mundy and Amy Kazmin 6/4

  • “A wave of defaults by struggling infrastructure companies, and others that borrowed heavily during much of the past decade, has left India’s public-sector banks saddled with a huge and growing bad loan burden that represents one of the most serious long-term threats to the country’s economic growth.”
  • “Even after the 1990s liberalization that allowed the entry of new private-sector banks, the state-owned lenders still hold more than two-thirds of banking sector assets. Impaired loans now account for 17.8% of assets, and well over 20% at several banks. As these banks now reel under the weight of $186bn in stressed assets, loan growth in the country has fallen dramatically, to 5.1% in the financial year ending in March — the slowest pace for 63 years — while corporate investment fell in three out of four quarters last year.”

South America

Economist – Bello: Argentina’s new, honest inflation statistics 5/25

  • “The end of bogus accounting.”

Other Links

BBC – How air conditioning changed the world – Tim Harford 6/5

May 29, 2017

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Value Walk – Paul Singer Warns Of A World At Risk – Mark Melin 5/27

  • “When the average investor looks at the world, all they see is a placid market where asset prices rise in value regardless of the harrowing market event. North Korea increasingly provokes its Asian neighbors and defies US President Donald Trump, the markets move higher. After moving higher on hopes of a Trump legislative agenda, when such hopes are dashed, stocks dash higher. When in Europe for G20 and G7 meetings, Trump hints he may not support Article 7 of the NATO Treaty that calls for defense of allied nations during attack, the market breaks into new highs. What’s next? The Iranians launching a nuclear attack on their neighbors lifting the S&P 500 past the 3000 level?”

FT – Is China’s economy turning Japanese? – Leo Lewis, Tom Mitchell and Yuan Yang 5/28

Markets / Economy

Business Insider – Iconic hedge fund manager Seth Klarman says investors are missing huge risks – Rachael Levy 5/26

  • “When share prices are low, as they were in the fall of 2008 into early 2009, actual risk is usually quite muted while perception of risk is very high. By contrast, when securities prices are high, as they are today, the perception of risk is muted, but the risks to investors are quite elevated.”

Energy 

FT – Saudi Arabia and Russia stuck in unlikely oil alliance – Anjli Raval and David Sheppard 5/26

  • “Saudi Arabia and Russia are essentially now co-pilots of this operation and they’ve made it clear there will be no going back to chasing market share.” – Helima Croft, RBC Capital Markets

Finance

Investment News – Report predicts $400 trillion retirement savings gap by 2050 – Bloomberg News 5/26

  • “Longer life spans and disappointing investment returns will help create a $400 trillion retirement-savings shortfall in about three decades, a figure more than five times the size of the global economy, according to a World Economic Forum report.”

Canada

WSJ – Canada’s Banks Can’t Dodge Housing Risks Forever – Aaron Back 5/25

China

FT – China arrests 44 over $140m online scam – Alice Woodhouse 5/26

  • “Chinese police said they have dismantled a nationwide scam that tricked 93,000 people into investing capital to unfreeze assets taken overseas by the Nationalist government in 1949.”

FT – Regulator urges China banks to save ailing companies – Gabriel Wildau 5/25

  • “The bank regulator in a rust-belt Chinese province has urged regional lenders to roll over maturing loans to struggling coal and steel companies, a policy that cuts against the Communist party’s pledge to shut down ‘zombie’ enterprises.”

May 19, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

FT – Chinese insurer warns of defaults as ban on new products bites – Gabriel Wildau and Nan Ma 5/17

  • “One of China’s largest insurers has warned of mass defaults and social unrest unless the regulator lifts a ban on its issuance of new products, the latest sign of stress in the industry caused by a crackdown on financial risk.”
  • “In a letter to China’s insurance regulator seen by the Financial Times, Foresea Life Insurance warns that the company expects Rmb60bn ($8.7bn) in redemptions this year and might be unable to meet payouts unless it is able to sell new products.” 
  • “In December, the China Insurance Regulatory Commission banned Foresea for three months from applying to sell new products. In February, the agency banned Foresea chairman Yao Zhenhua, China’s fourth-richest man, from the industry for 10 years.”
  • “Foresea is a unit of Baoneng Group, a property and financial conglomerate that Mr Yao also chairs. Baoneng made headlines last year by attempting a hostile takeover of China Vanke, one of China’s largest residential developers.” 
  • “Baoneng has used the sale of so-called ‘universal insurance’ products to finance its stake in Vanke and other listed companies. Such policies are, essentially, investment vehicles offering high yields and guaranteed payouts on maturities. Distributed through banks, they bear little resemblance to traditional insurance, which pays out only in the event of a risk incident such as death, illness, or accident.”
  • “Deregulation of the insurance industry in recent years has led to the sharp rise of universal insurance sales, which has helped groups such as Foresea and Anbang Insurance Group to grow.”
  • “Foresea’s premiums soared from Rmb32bn in 2014 to Rmb100bn last year but tumbled 61% in the first quarter this year. The date of Foresea’s letter indicates that, by late April, the regulator had not yet approved new Foresea products, despite the expiration of the three-month ban.”
  • “Beyond Foresea, the CIRC has moved to contain universal insurance in recent months, amid President Xi Jinping’s call to curb financial risk. Analysts warn that the high yields offered by universal insurance force issuers to take risks in order to earn the returns necessary to meet promised payouts.” 
  • “Many universal insurance products ostensibly carry long durations of five or even 10 years but the policies often include generous redemption terms, enabling investors to cash out of the products with minimal penalties.” 
  • “Foresea’s warning that mass redemptions could leave the group unable to meet payouts highlights the liquidity risk created by taking on short-term liabilities to purchase long-term, illiquid assets.”
  • “This month, the CIRC imposed a similar three-month ban on Anbang and accused the group of ‘wreaking havoc’ in the market with aggressive sales tactics. The agency specifically criticized Anbang for selling products with short maturities.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – Murder case highlights property money trail from China to US – Leslie Hook and Lucy Hornby 5/17

  • “A record bail posted in a California court for one of the accused in a murder case has thrown the spotlight on a property fortune that traces its roots to the Chinese military, in a graphic illustration of how money made in China has flooded overseas real estate markets.” 
  • “Tiffany Li is a Chinese-American heiress accused of ordering a hit on her ex-boyfriend in San Mateo county, a leafy suburb of San Francisco where Teslas are more common than violent crime. In April she posted $4m in cash and $62m in California property as bail — among the highest ever posted in the US.”

Real Estate

Bloomberg – Real Estate Deals Vanish in New York – Sarah Mulholland 5/18

  • “In New York City, first-quarter property sales plummeted 58%, to $4.3 billion, compared with a year earlier, according to data from brokerage Cushman & Wakefield Inc. It marked the lowest quarterly sales volume in six years. Nationwide, the picture wasn’t much better. Sales dropped 18%, research firm Real Capital Analytic Inc. found.”

WSJ – Mall Owners Flex Hidden Muscles Over Lenders – Esther Fung 5/16

  • “At a time when retailers are closing thousands of stores across the U.S., some lenders are deciding to renegotiate loans backing malls—and suffer guaranteed losses—rather than run the risk of being stuck owning or operating the malls themselves.”
  • “Shopping mall owner Washington Prime Group last June defaulted on an $87.3 million loan backing Mesa Mall in Grand Junction, Colo., and turned the keys over to creditors.”
  • “Rather than operate the mall, the creditors quickly sold the property—right back to Washington Prime—at a lower price. Late last month, Washington Prime told investors it had repurchased the mall and secured a discounted payoff of the original loan for $63 million.”
  • “The Mesa Mall deal is among the first known instances of mall landlords securing discounted payoffs rather than walking away entirely, but more such deals could be in the offing. In the past 12 months, 318 loans backing retail real estate suffered losses totaling $1.85 billion, with the percentage of lost principal reaching 43.3%, according to data from Trepp LLC, a real-estate data provider.”
  • “Discounted payoffs are warranted in some situations, analysts said. Many malls with otherwise viable business operations are still carrying debts made during the boom years of 2006 and 2007, often at inflated valuations.”

Energy

FT – The Big Green Bang: how renewable energy became unstoppable – Pilita Clark 5/18

  • “These advances have become too significant for the oil and gas industry to ignore. In the first three months of this year, the heads of some of the world’s largest oil companies have spoken of a ‘global transformation’ (Saudi Aramco) that is ‘unstoppable’ (Royal Dutch Shell) and ‘reshaping the energy industry” (Statoil). Isabelle Kocher, chief executive of French power and gas group Engie, calls it a new ‘industrial revolution’ that will ‘bring about a profound change in the way we behave’.”
  • “None of this means the problem of climate change has been solved, or that fossil fuels will vanish in the near future. Oil, gas and coal still account for about 86% of the energy keeping the world’s lights on, cars running and homes warm — a share that has barely changed in 25 years. Coal and gas-fired power plants are still being built, especially in the developing world where 1.2bn people lack electricity.”
  • “Modern renewables, in contrast, are growing from a tiny base and are often less dependable than dirtier power generators that do not rely on the weather. Wind and solar power accounted for a puny 4.4% of global electricity in 2015, and big battery systems can only store enough power to satisfy a few seconds of global electricity demand, says the International Energy Agency. Electric vehicle sales last year were just 0.9% of all vehicles sold, according to the EV-Volumes consultancy.”
  • “But the emerging energy transition is already causing trouble for companies around the world, from write downs and shrinking sales to sliding share prices and wholesale break-ups:”
    • “In sunny Nevada, casino companies are unplugging from the state utility. NV Energy lost nearly 6% of its customer base virtually overnight in October after MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts agreed to pay a combined $103m to defect and buy their power elsewhere. MGM cited “the sharp decline in the cost of renewable energy” as a primary driver of its decision. Caesars later did a $47.5m deal to quit.”
  • “When the definitive history of the energy transition is written, the taxpayers of Germany will deserve their own chapter. They bankrolled the green energy revolution known as the Energiewende, pioneering generous subsidies nearly 20 years ago that helped drive renewables up from 9% of Germany’s electricity mix in 2004 to 32% last year.”
  • “As other European nations — and some US states — boarded the green power wagon, it kindled a wave of demand for wind turbines and solar panels that helped drive costs down worldwide. Solar’s price fall was especially steep after a Chinese manufacturing boom spurred global over-supply.”
  • “The result was doubly miserable for conventional fossil fuel generating companies: renewables crowded them out while simultaneously driving down wholesale power prices, causing billions of euros in losses.”
  • “’Renewables have reached a tipping point globally,’ says Simon Virley, head of power and utilities at KPMG. ‘A subsidy-free future is now in reach for a number of technologies and geographies.'”
  • “None of this means the future of clean energy will be entirely smooth. Indeed, its very success poses a raft of questions for governments that some have barely contemplated.”
  • “Chief among them: what to do with power markets that were never designed for millions of people turning their rooftops into mini power stations?”
  • “How to pay for upgrading grids to cope with the influx of all this renewable power? What to do about incumbent companies calling for the brakes to be slammed on to protect them from green power incursions? Then there is Mr. Trump, who is seeking to unwind the clean power policies of his predecessor.”
  • “In the rest of the world, however, the future of green power appears assured. So much so that an industry that has spent years on the defensive is beginning to show a rising sense of confidence.”
  • “’Fossil fuels have lost,’ says Eddie O’Connor, chief executive of Ireland’s Mainstream Renewable Power. ‘The rest of the world just doesn’t know it yet.’”

Asia – excluding China and Japan

FT- Thai junta nears third year and settles in for longer stay – Michael Peel 5/18

  • “Thailand’s ruling generals were supposed to quit within barely 18 months but they seem more firmly entrenched than ever as they prepare to celebrate the third anniversary of their May 2014 coup.”
  • “A country once among the more democratic in a mostly authoritarian region is now in its longest spell under hardline military rule for decades – and, as the junta flaunts a 20-year ‘reform’ plan, it seems more and more like the new normal.”

Canada

Economist – The end of Canada’s housing boom? 5/18

April 28, 2017

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

  • ZeroHedge – Canada’s Housing Bubble Explodes As Its Biggest Mortgage Lender Crashes Most In History – Tyler Durden 4/27
    • “Call it Canada’s ‘New Century’ moment.”
    • “We first introduced readers to the company we said was the ‘tip of the iceberg in Canada’s magnificent housing bubble‘ nearly two years ago, in July 2015 when we exposed a major problem that we predicted would haunt Home Capital Group, Canada’s largest non-bank mortgage lender: liar loans in particular, and a generally overzealous lending business model with little regard for fundamentals. In the interim period, many other voices – most prominently noted short-seller Marc Cohodes – would constantly remind traders and investors about the threat posed by HCG.”
    • “Today, all those warnings came true, when the stock of Home Capital Group cratered by over 60%, its biggest drop on record, after the company disclosed that it struck an emergency liquidity arrangement for a C$2 billion ($1.5 billion) credit line to counter evaporating deposits at terms that will leave the alternative mortgage lender unable to meet financial targets, and worse, may leave it insolvent in very short notice.”
    • “As part of this inevitable outcome, one which presages the company’s eventual disintegration and likely liquidation, Bloomberg reports that the non-binding rescue loan with an unnamed counterparty will be secured by a portfolio of mortgage loans originated by Home Trust, the Toronto-based firm said in a statement Wednesday. Home Capital shares dropped by 61% in Toronto to the lowest since 2003, dragging down other home lenders. Equitable Group Inc. fell 17%, Street Capital Group Inc. fell 13%, while First National Financial Corp. declined 7.6%. In short, the Canadian mortgage bubble has finally burst.”

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg Businessweek – Zombie Nation: In Japan, Zero Public Companies Went Bust in 2016 – Jason Clenfield 4/4

  • “Corporate Japan achieved a rare feat in the fiscal year that ended in March. Not one of its almost 4,000 publicly-traded firms filed for bankruptcy protection.”
  • But they’re not alone.
  • “In China, roughly 10% of the country’s publicly-traded companies are ‘among the walking dead,’ being kept alive by continuous support from government and banks, according to research by He Fan, an economist at Beijing’s Renmin University.”
  • “Across much of Europe, inefficient bankruptcy laws are partly to blame for rising numbers of undead companies. The problem is especially acute in Italy, where zombies represent 6% of all businesses, double the rate in 2007, according to the OECD report.”
  • “A 2016 academic paper co-authored by University of Maryland economist John Haltiwanger showed the rate of business start-ups has been falling steadily since the 1980s. The drop has been so steep since the financial crisis that in some recent years more U.S. companies have closed than opened-there’s destruction but not much creation.” Referencing Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter’s concept of ‘creative destruction.’
  • “Paul Donovan, global chief economist at UBS Wealth Management in London, says that cheap credit has made business around the world less efficient, and that the real walking dead will remain hidden until borrowing costs begin to climb.”

Real Estate

Bloomberg – Robots May Help Build Your Next Home and Fill the Labor Gap – Prashant Gopal and Heather Perlberg 4/17

WSJ – The Hedge Fund Manager Who’s Shorting America’s Malls – Serena Ng and Esther Fung 4/26

WSJ – S&P’s Warning: Here Are 10 Public Retailers Most in Danger of Default – Khadeeja Safdar 4/26

  • “The number of bankruptcies so far this year has already come close to the total in 2016, with 14 retailers filing compared with 18 last year, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence.”
  • Further, “researchers at S&P Global Market Intelligence last week released a list of 10 publicly traded retailers they consider most at risk of default within the next 12 months.”
    • Sears Holdings Corp.
    • DGSE Companies Inc.
    • Appliance Recycling Center of America Inc.
    • The Bon-Ton Stores Inc.
    • Bebe Stores Inc.
    • Destination XL Group Inc.
    • Perfumania Holdings Inc.
    • Fenix Parts Inc.
    • Tailored Brands Inc.
    • Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores Inc.

Finance

WSJ – There’s Trouble in Capital One’s Wallet 4/26

  • “Credit losses aren’t at dangerous levels, though the rising charges are a bit worrisome given the strong jobs market. More concerning is the inability of Capital One to predict its own losses. Investors should be on guard for more nasty surprises from the entire credit-card industry.”

Bloomberg – Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Wary of Auto Loans, Pack Them in Bonds – Matt Scully 4/27

  • “Depending whose money they’re using, Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. either love subprime car loans or fear them.”
  • “Both banks have grown more reluctant to make new subprime loans using money from their own balance sheets. Wells Fargo tightened its underwriting standards and slashed the volume of all loans it made to car buyers in the first quarter by 29% after greater numbers of borrowers fell behind on payments. JPMorgan’s consumer and community banking head Gordon Smith earlier this year said the bank had cut its new lending for subprime auto loans ‘dramatically.'”

China

The Real Deal – Rumors circulate of Chinese government detaining Anbang chief Wu Xiaohui – EB Solomont and Cathaleen Chen 4/26

  • “According to the media reports, the investigation into Wu is connected to a $14.5 billion loan the Anbang chairman allegedly obtained illegally from Minsheng Bank. Wu used the illegal loan to invest in the stock market, the reports say. He may also have partly funded Anbang’s acquisitions with the loan, according to the reports.”
  • Oh by the way, “in January 2015, Reuters reported that Anbang had upped its stake in Mingsheng, the country’s largest private lender, to nearly 20%.”
  • Isn’t there a conflict of interest there?

Other Links

Bloomberg Businessweek – How a Gift of Coke Shares Helped Make These Colleges Richer – Janet Lorin 4/20

Bloomberg Businessweek – This Lawsuit Goes to 11 – Robert Kolker 4/20

March 10 – March 16, 2017

Toronto housing market – heads up, your peak has been called. Sometimes money just needs a home (in a foreign country).

First, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!  

Headlines

FT – China tries to restrict access to foreign children’s books 3/10. Hearts and minds.

Bloomberg – Saudi Arabia Says It Has Reversed a Third of Its Production Cuts 3/14. The Kingdom is losing patience with the free loaders.

WSJ – Home Builder Confidence Jumps to Highest Since 2005 3/15. Just like that…

Special Reports / Opinion Pieces

Briefs

  • The team at the Economist put together an interesting article on whether Venezuela’s dictatorship will survive?
    • “Venezuelans are suffering privation previously unheard of in what was once South America’s richest country. According to a study by three universities, 82% of households now live in poverty. That compares with 48% in 1998, when Chavez came to power. The rise in poverty follows Venezuela’s biggest-ever oil windfall. Of the $1tn the regime received in oil revenue, perhaps a quarter was stolen by insiders, according to the International Crisis Group, a think-tank. Infant mortality is rising, and Venezuelans are needlessly dying because of the shortage of medicines. Those who can, leave; perhaps 2m Venezuelans now live abroad.”
    • “To remain in power, Mr. Maduro’s state-socialist regime is extinguishing democracy.”
    • “His new hardline vice-president, Tareck El Aissami, heads a ‘national anti-coup command.'”
  • Jeevan Vasagar and Gabriel Wildau of the Financial Times covered the hiccup (China capital controls) in the large real estate development project named Forest City at the edge of Malaysia next to Singapore.
    • Resulting from capital controls in China, Chinese property developer “Country Garden has closed its showrooms in mainland China for its flagship $100bn Forest City development” at the southern tip of Malaysia.
    • The project which is scheduled to have its first move-ins next year, is projected to take two decades to develop and will house 700,000 people. The hiccup is that mainland Chinese have accounted for 70% of the buyers to-date.
    • To give a sense of the marketing message, “above the main reception desk [in Shanghai], the project appealed directly to investors looking to move money abroad with the slogan, ‘Preferred selection for overseas asset allocation. Forest City, adjacent to Singapore.'”
    • Bottom line, “capital control measures appear to be having an impact. Outbound foreign direct investment from China tumbled by 36% in January, including an 84% decline in outbound real estate investment by companies.”
  • Alistair Gray and Robin Wigglesworth of the Financial Times highlighted the delicate path the Fed walks in regard to mortgage-backed bonds.
    • “Fed officials have put markets on notice that they are thinking about reducing the central bank’s $1.76tn portfolio of mortgage-backed securities, amassed through its crisis-fighting quantitative easing program, but have so far provided few details.”
    • “Fed policymakers are widely expected to raise interest rates by another quarter point, but investors and analysts are also anxiously awaiting any further clues on what the US central bank plans to do with its $4.5tn balance sheet.”
    • “The Fed unveiled its mortgage-backed assets scheme at the height of the crisis in November 2008 and began the purchases soon after. Its MBS holdings have since swelled to account for almost a fifth of the entire $8.9tn market. Every month the central bank still buys billions of dollars worth of MBS as it reinvests the proceeds of maturing securities.”
    • Michael Fratantoni, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association expects “all things being equal, just the removal of the ongoing purchases would push up mortgage rates relative to Treasury yields by at least 10 basis points.”
    • It is to be seen how the Fed unwinds itself and how the markets react – get ready.
  • Sarah Mulholland of Bloomberg covered a recent interview with billionaire real estate investor Richard LeFrak and his position that NYC apartment rents need to drop as much as 15%.
    • “Apartment rents in cities such as New York and San Francisco will need to fall as much as 15% for a glut of high-end developments to be absorbed, according to billionaire real estate investor Richard LeFrak.”
    • “New York landlords are already feeling the pinch as renters take advantage of a flood of new buildings to negotiate concessions and price cuts. Rents fell last month for Manhattan apartments of all sizes, the first across-the-board decline in at least four years, as property owners compromised to keep units from going empty.”

Graphics

MarketWatch – The No. 1 stock of the bull market… and 39 others that soared 1,000% – Sue Chang 3/11

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bespoke Investment – S&P 500 Trading Days Since Last 1%+ Decline – 3/13

WSJ – Daily Shot: Natixis – China vs Europe Credit Expansion 2005 – 2016 – 3/13

NYT – The Fed’s Era of Easy Money Is Ending – Neil Irwin 3/13

WSJ – Asset Manager Deal Wave Has Just Begun – Aaron Back 3/14

WSJ – Daily Shot: The falling cost of US shale production 3/14

WSJ – Daily Shot: Pension Partners – Global Central Bank Policy Rates 3/15

WSJ – Daily Shot: National Association of Home Builders Optimism Index 3/15

Metrocosm – The Global Extremes of Population Density – Max Galka 7/22/15

  • “Only 5% of the world’s population lives in the entire blue region. For comparison, the same number of people live in the small red region.”

FT – Chinese private equity: look elsewhere – Lex 3/15

Featured

*Note: bold emphasis is mine, italic sections are from the articles.

Toronto’s Housing Bubble Has 24 Months to Live: BMO. Daniel Tencer. Huffington Post Canada. 13 Mar. 2017.

“Desperate homebuyers, take a two-year breather. Housing speculators, take warning.”

“Toronto’s house-price juggernaut is two years away from the sort of peak it reached in 1989, when a housing bubble burst in the city, BMO Economics says.”

“‘At the rate we’re now going with 20% year-on-year price increases, assuming stable mortgage rates and continued income growth, we’ll be at 1989 valuation levels in about 24 months,’ senior economist Robert Kavcic wrote in a note last week.”

Presumably that would imply that Toronto will get there faster if mortgage rates rise and income growth slows/flatlines.

“Toronto’s average house price jumped 27.7% in February from a year earlier, to $859,186. Single-family homes soared to $1.57 million on average, a jump of nearly 30% in a year.”

“The 1989 housing market peak led to a seven-year period of house price declines in Toronto, with prices falling 39% from their 1989 peak by 1996.”

“The most common explanation given by real estate industry insiders for Toronto’s rising house prices is that there is a shortage of housing supply in the quickly-growing city. That’s the argument used by the Ontario Real Estate Association to call for looser density requirements and looser restrictions on urban sprawl.”

However, looser restrictions won’t relieve pressure in the short-term. At this point “house prices are being driven upwards not by a real shortage but by ‘powerful expectational dynamics’ – the belief that prices will continue rising, causing people to rush buying homes.”

Animal spirits…

Searching for sanctuary – Foreign buyers push up global house prices. Economist. 11 Mar. 2017.

One of the offshoots of globalization is that while capital flows generally where it will attain its best return, it also flows to where it feels safe.

“In some places, foreign investment has led to a construction boom. In Miami apartments are being built in numbers not seen since the financial crisis, financed in part by Venezuelan money. Australia lets foreigners invest only in new-build properties, and they do: 26,000 new flats are due on the market in Sydney and Melbourne over the next 18 months. In London 45,000 homes have been built since 2014 – the highest rate in ten years – but locals grumble many are pads for footloose foreigners.”

“In many of these countries affordability looks stretched. The Economist gauges house prices against two measures: rents and income. If, over the long run, prices rise faster than the revenue a property might generate or the household earnings that service a mortgage, they may be unsustainable. By these measures house prices in Australia, Canada and New Zealand look high. In America as a whole, housing is fairly valued, but in San Francisco and Seattle it is 20% overpriced.”

“Haven investors may disregard affordability measures. Property can either be a bolthole [place where you can escape to and hide] or earn an income; in many supply-constrained cities its value may rise rapidly; even if not, the risks may be lower than at home… A study in 2016 found that increased political risk in places such as Greece and Syria explained 8% of the variation in London’s house prices since 1998.”

“Policymakers may well scratch their heads [and they do]. It is difficult both to make housing more affordable for a country’s own citizens and to encourage foreigners to buy. Britain has in fact tried to curb foreign enthusiasm with higher taxes, and by publishing a registry of 100,000 British homes owned by foreign companies – a potential embarrassment for some.”

“But unintended consequences lurk. After a 15% levy on purchases from abroad was introduced in the Canadian city of Vancouver last August, the number of foreign buyers dropped by 80%. That helped dampen house-price inflation there but pushed up demand in nearby Victoria. It also deterred highly skilled immigrants. The levy will soon be amended to exclude foreigners on skilled-work visas.”

At times it can be hard to understand how property markets can continue to rise despite a seeming lack of buyers at price points necessary to bring new product to market. Bottom line, people have different motivations for the things they do and spend their money on (even if it means losing some of it).

Other Interesting Articles

Bloomberg Businessweek

The Economist

 

FT – Cheesegrater price expected to spur City of London property sales 3/12

FT – Investors switch tack on distressed Europe debt 3/13

FT – Clampdown puts brakes on Chinese house price boom 3/13

FT – China real estate investment grows at fastest pace in 2 years 3/13

Huff Post (Canada) – Realtor Promises ‘Goldmine’ In Listing Proving Toronto’s Gone Nuts 3/8

Investment News – Investors accuse Nicholas Schorsch of plundering RCAP for own gain 3/10

NYT – After $225 Billion in Deals Last Year, China Reins In Overseas Investment 3/12

NYT – Kushners, Trump In-Laws, Weigh $400 Million Deal With Chinese Firm 3/14

NYT – China Pushes Legal Overhaul That Would Bolster State Power 3/15

WSJ – Hoteliers Cast Airbnb as Fast-Growing Professional Rival 3/9

WSJ – Chinese Banks’ Latest Funding Trick Gets Scrutiny It Deserves 3/13

WSJ – A Split Decision for Neiman Marcus Debt Holders 3/14

WSJ – China’s Amazing Disappearing, Reappearing Infrastructure 3/14

WSJ – As Retailers Go Silent, Big Data Fills the Void 3/15

WSJ – Housing Market Madness: Denver is Now a Worse Deal Than San Francisco For Tech Workers 3/16