Tag: Tropical Storm Harvey

September 19, 2017

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – Big Tech makes vast gains at our expense – Rana Foroohar 9/17

  • “Data-driven companies have a license to print money, with few restrictions.”

Bloomberg – The Way Humans Get Electricity Is About to Change Forever – 9/13

Markets / Economy

WSJ – New Data Shows Retirees Are on the Move, But Young Folks Are a Different Story  – Andrew Van Dam and Paul Overberg 9/15

Health / Medicine

BuzzFeed – Harvey Damaged 13 Toxic Waste Sites. It Could Take Years to Know The True Health Risks. – Nidhi Subbaraman and Peter Aldhous 9/3

Shipping

FT – Container shipping: surf’s up – Lex 9/17

  • “If only investors in shipping had the equivalent of a mariner’s tide tables. They can see where the low water mark in share prices lies, but must divine for themselves how high the waters might now rise.”
  • “In this particular cycle, the ebb lasted a long time after container lines ordered too many ships and then struggled to fill them. The low point was probably last autumn, when Korean line Hanjin filed for bankruptcy.”
  • “The market has improved markedly since then. Industry volume growth is expected to hit 5% this year, from 3.8% last year. Scrapping rates have picked up, while new capacity on order is finally falling. Such newfound discipline might last longer than in previous cycles because consolidation has increased the market share of the top six operators to almost two-thirds, from two-fifths in 2013. Four alliances have become three. In other industries — airlines, for instance — concentration of this sort led to greater self-control.”
  • “Such developments have not gone unnoticed. Antitrust regulators have raised concerns about the shrinking number of alliances and their control over certain routes. And the Dax global shipping index has risen 15% (in dollar terms) since January.”

September 13, 2017

Perspective

WSJ – Irma Leaves 6.7 Million Florida Utility Customers in the Dark – Erin Ailworth 9/11

NYT – Houston’s Floodwaters Are Tainted With Toxins, Testing Shows – Sheila Kaplan and Jack Healy 9/11

  • “It is not clear how far the toxic waters have spread. But Fire Chief Samuel Peña of Houston said over the weekend that there had been breaches at numerous waste treatment plants. The Environmental Protection Agency said on Monday that 40 of 1,219 such plants in the area were not working.”
  • “The results of The Times’s testing were troubling. Water flowing down Briarhills Parkway in the Houston Energy Corridor contained Escherichia coli, a measure of fecal contamination, at a level more than four times that considered safe.”

NYT – In Houston After the Storm, a City Split in Two – Jack Healy 9/8

  • “Life in Houston now comes with a twinge of survivor’s guilt for those in dry neighborhoods, and envy among those still dealing with floodwater.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

WSJ – Why the Markets Keeps Going Up and What Would Bring It Down – Justin Lahart 9/12

  • “Big, fast-growing companies have led the recent rally, and that should continue-but when it ends, get out fast.”

WEF & Business Insider – A neuroscientist who studies decision-making reveals the most important choice you can make – Chris Weller 8/4

  • Spoiler alert, it’s who you surround yourself with.

Markets / Economy

FT – US companies transformed into 800lb gorilla in bond market – Eric Platt, Nicole Bullock, and Alexandra Scaggs 9/12

  • “Thirty US companies together have more than $800bn of fixed-income investments, according to a Financial Times analysis of their most recent filings with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.”
  • “Their holdings of Treasuries, corporate, agency and municipal debt, as well as asset- and mortgage-backed securities, means they collectively have more firepower in debt and credit markets than high-profile asset managers including AllianceBernstein, Invesco and Franklin Templeton.”
  • “’They are asset managers in their own right,’ Ramaswamy Variankaval, head of JPMorgan’s corporate finance advisory group, said of the companies.”
  • “A reluctance by American multi-nationals to repatriate profits generated overseas has pushed the size of the US corporate cash piles to more than $2tn, a rise of 50% over the past decade and more than double the levels at the turn of the century, according to the Federal Reserve.”
  • “In total, the 30 companies, which include venerable household names like Ford, Coca-Cola and Boeing, have more than $1.2tn in cash, cash equivalents, marketable securities and investments, according to the FT analysis.”
  • “The 30 companies have amassed a portfolio of more than $400bn of US corporate bonds, representing nearly 5% of the outstanding market.”
  • “They compete for such debt alongside pension funds, sovereign wealth funds and other investors, helping to drive down borrowing costs for corporate America.”
  • Seems self-serving to an extent…

Finance

WSJ – China to Shut Bitcoin Exchanges – Chao Deng and Paul Vigna 9/11

  • “The policy shift in the world’s No. 2 economy shows how nations are wrestling with bitcoin and its place in the financial system. In China, specifically, the government’s attack on bitcoin comes amid a focus on preventing capital from fleeing to digital currencies.”
  • “After a Chinese news organization Friday reported on China’s commercial-trading ban, Bitcoin slid around 10% to $4,186, from levels above $4,600 on Thursday, according to research site CoinDesk. It has hovered around that level since, closing Monday at $4,211.”
  • “China has long been a major hub for bitcoin, which was created by an anonymous programmer during the depths of the 2008 financial crisis as an alternative to official currencies. Much of the world’s bitcoin is mined—created through powerful algorithms—in China. As recently as this past January, before new rules damped trading in the country, more than 80% of global bitcoin activity took place in yuan.”
  • “The stakes for Beijing grew as prices of virtual currencies like bitcoin soared, adding to the risk that Chinese investors would continue to speculate and expose themselves to big losses. Analysts and investors attribute the sharp rise in bitcoin last year to Chinese investors, who began buying it up while at the same time selling the yuan amid worries that the Chinese currency would weaken.”
  • “While China in the past accounted for the bulk of global bitcoin trading activity, the country’s share has dropped dramatically since the government started making moves to cool the market.”
  • “In April, Japan’s Financial Services Agency implemented rules that recognized bitcoin as a payment method. Since then, Japan has become the top market for bitcoin trading, accounting for almost half of global volumes. The U.S. share of trading has jumped to above 25% from 5% over the past year.”

Health / Medicine

NYT – New Gene-Therapy Treatments Will Carry Whopping Price Tags – Gina Kolata 9/11

  • “The first gene therapy treatment in the United States was approved recently by the Food and Drug Administration, heralding a new era in medicine that is coming faster than most realize — and that perhaps few can afford.”
  • “The treatment, Kymriah, made by Novartis, is spectacularly effective against a rare form of leukemia, bringing remissions when all conventional options have failed. It will cost $475,000.”
  • “With gene therapy, scientists seek to treat or prevent disease by modifying cellular DNA. Many such treatments are in the wings: There are 34 in the final stages of testing necessary for F.D.A. approval, and another 470 in initial clinical trials, according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, an advocacy group.”
  • “The therapies are aimed at extremely rare diseases with few patients; most are meant to cure with a single injection or procedure. But the costs, like that of Kymriah, are expected to be astronomical, alarming medical researchers and economists.”
  • “One drug, to prevent blindness in those with a rare genetic disease, for example, is expected to cost between $700,000 and $900,000 per patient on average, noted Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, director of the program on regulation, therapeutics and law at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.”
  • “Drug makers argue that the prices ought to reflect the value of a curative treatment to the patient. Dr. Kesselheim and other experts are far from convinced.”
  • “Elizabeth Pingpank, a spokeswoman for Bluebird Bio, which is developing several gene therapies, said the company realizes its prices will be a challenge.”
  • “Bluebird and several other companies have set up a consortium with academics to try to figure out novel ways to enable insurers to pay the expected high prices.”
  • “’We recognize that most payers in the U.S. are not currently set up to support one-time therapies that generate long-term transformative benefits,’ Ms. Pingpank said.”
  • “Indeed, health care executives already are rushing to develop new payment models.”
  • “’It’s amazing how many think this is in the future,’ said Dr. Steve Miller, chief medical officer at Express Scripts, said of the looming payment problem. ‘This is right now.’”
  • “The idea favored by Dr. Miller and others is to pay for these novel drugs as you might a mortgage on a house.”
  • “An insurer would pay a large fraction up front, when the patient is treated, and then make regular payments until the entire bill is paid — or the disease returns.”
  • “That would require an unprecedented type of cooperation among insurers. Patients often change insurers, and there is no benefit to a new insurer in continuing payments for an injection that a patient had long ago — even if it was curative.”

China

WSJ – Daily Shot: Natixis – Cross Border M&A Deals by Chinese Corporates 9-12

FT – China’s biggest banks ban new North Korean accounts – Yuan Yang and Xinning Liu 9/11

  • “China’s biggest banks have banned North Koreans from opening new accounts in an unprecedented move to clamp down on financial flows with the country’s unruly neighbor.”
  • “Multiple bank branches, including those of the country’s top four lenders, told the Financial Times they had imposed a freeze on new accounts for North Korean people and companies. Some are going even further, saying they are ‘cleaning out’ existing accounts held by North Koreans by forbidding new deposits.”
  • “The moves give weight to the theory that since Pyongyang’s sixth and most powerful nuclear test this month, policy hawks in Beijing have gained the upper hand in an internal debate over whether to toughen sanctions against the Kim Jong Un regime.”
  • “The measures go further even than what has been agreed internationally.”

Europe

WSJ – Daily Shot: Europace German House Price Index 9-11

September 8, 2017

Perspective

WSJ – Daily Shot: US Auto Fuel Efficiency 9/7

NYT – An Enormous, Urgent Task: Hauling Away Harvey’s Debris – John Schwartz and Alan Blinder 9/6

  • “Of all the challenges that southeast Texas faces after Hurricane Harvey, few will linger longer or more visibly than the millions of pounds of debris already crowding curbs and edging onto streets. The cleanup, needed from northeast Houston’s neighborhoods to the wealthy suburbs southwest of the city, will take months and cost billions of dollars.”
  • “At the same time, Houston officials are asking residents to separate their Harvey-related waste into five piles: appliances; electronics; construction and demolition debris; household hazardous waste; and vegetative debris. A look at these streets suggested that few people seemed to be heeding the city’s pleas.”
  • “Other cities have been through this battle with a storm’s leavings. After floodwaters inundated East Baton Rouge Parish, La., last year, crews collected about two million cubic yards of debris. Superstorm Sandy, in 2012, led to about six million cubic yards of debris in New York State — the equivalent of four Empire State Buildings, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Katrina left behind 38 million cubic yards. Getting the stuff gone is a long process. It was only last month that Baton Rouge finished the debris removal process it organized in the wake of last year’s flooding there.”
  • “In Houston, where city officials say that some eight million cubic yards of debris will need to be hauled away, collection is farther along in some neighborhoods than in others.”
  • “The job of deciding how to move these mountains has been left to county and local officials, who hire debris removal companies to help them dig out. FEMA will reimburse the local governments for 90% of the cost.”

Economist – How government policy exacerbates hurricanes like Harvey 9/2

  • “The bad news is that storms and floods still account for almost three-quarters of weather-related disasters, and they are becoming more common. According to the Munich Re, a reinsurer, their number around the world has increased from about 200 in 1980 to over 600 last year. Harvey was the third ‘500-year’ storm to strike Houston since 1979.”
  • In regard to encouraging less than desirable behavior, “the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has been forced to borrow because it fails to charge enough to cover its risk of losses. Underpricing encourages the building of new houses and discourages existing owners from renovating or moving out. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, houses that repeatedly flood account for 1% of NFIP’s properties but 25-30% of its claims.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Economist – Lexington: Our columnist bids farewell 9/7

  • “After five years, which included reporting trips to 46 states, this Lexington offers some parting thoughts on American politics.”

Economist – How to provide a protein-rich diet to a growing population 8/31

  • “What goes onto people’s plates matters. So does what gets fed to animals.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Goldman Sachs – Ownership of US equity market since 1945 9/7

NYT – Milestone for BMI: More Than $1 Billion in Music Royalties – Ben Sisario 9/7

  • “The organization, whose hundreds of thousands of members include stars like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Sting, announced on Thursday that it had $1.13 billion in revenue and distributed $1.02 billion in royalties during its most recent fiscal year, which ended in June. BMI and other performing rights organizations, like its rival Ascap, collect money whenever songs are played on the radio, streamed online or piped into a restaurant.”

Real Estate

Bloomberg Quint – India Trumps Hong Kong as No. 1 for Home-Price Gains in Asia – Pooja Thakur 9/6

  • But when you look at the last 5 years…

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: Global High-Yield (HY) Corporate Bond Issuance 9/7

Bloomberg – Bennett Goodman Builds $95 Billion Credit Machine – Nabila Ahmed, Sridhar Natarajan, and David Carey 9/5

China

WSJ – China’s Bad Banks Show It Still Has a Big Bad Loan Problem – Anjani Trivedi 9/7

  • “There are Chinese banks and then there are China’s bad banks. To understand just how worrying the country’s bad-loan problem has become, it’s worth taking a look at the latter.”
  • “China Cinda Asset Management , the second-largest of four asset managers set up in the 1990s to clean up China’s then already large pile of souring loans, is still at it two decades on, managing and restructuring distressed assets offloaded by banks. The company’s latest results offer a lens into the rapidly deteriorating asset quality in China, that’s at odds with the relatively rosy picture of China painted for investors by its near-7% growth and corporate profits that have surged to multiyear highs.”
  • “The current pace at which Cinda is acquiring distressed assets is far outpacing the rate at which it can dispose of these assets. That has pushed down the price at which it can sell bad-loan portfolios to close to 20 cents on the dollar from 30 cents this time last year. Its income from disposing bad assets dropped 64% on the year, with returns on restructured assets falling to 8.7%in the first half from 10.6% a year ago. Losses from impairments on its assets more than doubled in the first half, driven by a more-than 10-fold increase in provisions.”
  • “These trends suggest China’s bad-loan problem is rather more severe than investors would guess from looking at the big banks’ results: The likes of ICBC and Bank of China actually reported improving nonperforming loan ratios in the first half. One reason they were able to do so is that they have been offloading bad assets to the likes of Cinda, which picks up around 60% of its distressed assets from the big banks.”

Japan

Bloomberg – Japanese Companies Cut Bonuses, Pushing Overall Wages Lower – Yuko Takeo and Yoshiaki Nohara 9/5

Russia

FT – Russia seeks to close Ukraine’s window to the west – Jeffery Mankoff and Jonathan Hillman 9/6

  • “Last month, Russia completed a railway that bypasses Ukraine. The project was entrusted to a special military unit and completed a year ahead of schedule, underscoring its importance to the Kremlin. It is the latest of several Russian-led infrastructure projects that, coupled with the devastation wrought by the conflict with Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region, risk turning Ukraine, historically a bridge between east and west, into an island.”
  • “Isolation from emerging east-west connectivity could be one of the most enduring and most damaging consequences of the war for Ukraine, one that both Kiev and its western partners need to pay more attention to overcoming.”
  • “A UN assessment in November 2014 found that 53 bridges, 45 road sections, and 190 railway facilities had been damaged. Altogether, infrastructure losses were estimated at $440m, and while some repairs have been carried out, funding constraints and security challenges have limited reconstruction.”
  • “For both sides in the conflict, altering patterns of trade and transit is a means of shaping Ukraine’s political and economic destiny. While military forces have destroyed critical infrastructure such as bridges and railways, the governments in both Kiev and Moscow are building new connections that will re-orientate trade flows.”

South America

WSJ – Daily Shot: Brazilian CPI YoY Change 9/7

  • “Brazil’s CPI was lower than expected, which solidified the expectations for another rate cut.”

August 31, 2017

Perspective

FT – Taxpayers face lion’s share of $50bn storm Harvey bill – Alistair Gray 8/30

  • “Tropical storm Harvey is shaping up to be one of the three costliest natural disasters in modern US history.”
  • “As the system encircles the devastated region for a sixth consecutive day, some forecasters warn it may prove even more financially ruinous than superstorm Sandy and be topped only by Hurricane Katrina.”
  • “This time, however, the insurance industry — traditionally the backstop in tough times — is expected to avoid picking up much of the tab as many householders lack cover for flooding. Taxpayers are likely to cover a big chunk of the loss, but how much support the state will provide is far from clear.”
  • “Gary Martucci, director at the rating agency Standard & Poor’s, described the storm as ‘unique’ in that it released so much rainfall while its winds caused a small proportion of the devastation. Flood damage is particularly difficult to assess, not least because it makes it harder for loss adjusters to access stricken properties.”
  • “Many homeowners will not, in any case, be covered as standard US home insurance policies exclude flood damage. For decades the industry has been unprepared to underwrite flood risk because of the potential for catastrophic losses.”
  • “Householders can get cover from a government-backed scheme, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), but only about one in six properties in the county in which Houston is located has the protection, according to Larry Greenberg, insurance analyst at Janney Montgomery.”
  • “Lawyers predict protracted disputes over insurance coverage — on issues ranging from the definition of flood damage to whether or not a property was rendered inaccessible.”
  • “Mr. Pasich (Kirk Pasich, attorney), who represents corporate policyholders, expects battles for years to come. ‘Some of the litigation that came out of Katrina is still going on,’ he said.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Bloomberg – Kushners’ China Deal Flop Was Part of Much Bigger Hunt for Cash – David Kocieniewski and Caleb Melby 8/31

MarketWatch – Amazon is actually the weakest of the big U.S. retailers, Moody’s says – Ciara Linnane 8/31

  • “The perception that as soon as Amazon enters a product category, it immediately wins is also flawed, said the analyst. While Amazon is clearly disruptive, it does not dominate any category in which it operates.”
  • Well maybe not ‘any’…very few companies have figured out the hype game so well (except for maybe Tesla and Bitcoin).

Project Syndicate – Odious Ratings for Public Debt – Ricardo Hausmann and Ugo Panizza 8/30

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: ADP – US Job Creation by Category 8/31

Real Estate

FT – Harvey floods prompt alert on risk of mortgage bond defaults – Joe Rennison 8/30

  • “Tropical storm Harvey has put up to $30bn of securitized commercial mortgages on the watch list of analysts and investors, as damage from the disaster has heightened the risk of defaults.”
  • “Morningstar Credit Ratings said 1,529 properties, with an outstanding mortgage balance of $19.4bn could be affected. The majority of the properties are in Harris County, which has suffered from severe floods since Harvey hit Texas as a hurricane on Friday.”
  • “Data company Trepp cast a wider geographical net and put the universe of affected loans at a larger $29.6bn across 2,200 properties.”
  • “Fitch Ratings estimates $10.4bn of loans in bonds it has provided credit ratings to could be impaired.”
  • “’The storm could add long-term uncertainty to the performance of the properties if homes are damaged and residents . . . are unable to move back promptly,’ Fitch said.”
  • “The risk centers on properties that may be uninsured against flood. The widespread impact of the hurricane means that properties outside traditional flood zones could be affected, said analysts. Other risks include the possibility that flooding may have left undamaged properties stranded. For example, a hotel may be open but if people cannot reach it, then it will suffer.”
  • “But Mr. Clancy (Manus Clancy, head of research at Trepp) added that damage from previous storms, such as from Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy, had resulted in little knock-on effect to commercial mortgage-backed securities. Traders and analysts said there had been little noticeable effect in markets, with bonds trading without impairment on Wednesday.”
  • “’The market has not reacted in a way to assume assets will be written off,’ said Mr Clancy. ‘People want to know their Houston exposure but they are expecting there will be enough insurance proceeds to cover the value of the bonds.’”

FT – ‘Nonprime has a nice ring to it’: the return of the high-risk mortgage – Ben McLannahan 8/30

Energy

FT – Storm Harvey exposes Achilles heel for global energy market – Gregory Meyer and Jude Webber 8/31

  • “’It’s a major event. It’s going to impact both domestic and world markets,’ says John Auers, executive vice-president at Turner Mason, a consultancy.”
  • “The shale drilling boom catapulted the US into the top tier of oil and gas producers in the past decade. Refineries clustered in Texas and Louisiana have expanded and now export about 4m barrels per day of refined fuel overseas.”
  • “The US’s new status as an energy powerhouse has created a more flexible, diverse, and arguably resilient world fuel market.”
  • “But Harvey is exposing an Achilles heel: the concentration of US energy assets in a low-lying, hurricane-prone coastal corridor makes the world more exposed to local weather.”
  • “The immediate effects of the storm have been to knock out more than 3m barrels per day of oil refining capacity, or 16% of the US total, according to S&P Global Platts. Among the refineries to close was the nation’s largest, Motiva in Port Arthur, Texas, where nearly four feet of rain fell.”
  • “’There are huge amounts of US products that are not being delivered,’ says Olivier Jakob of Petromatrix, a Swiss-based consultancy. ‘The US is exporting so much compared to before, this is a major disruption for world oil flows.’”
  • “The Gulf’s energy industry may well recover quickly from Harvey, but the Atlantic hurricane season has months to go. On Thursday a storm named Irma was forecast to blow into the Caribbean as a major hurricane.”

FT – European fuel armada heads for US after tropical storm Harvey – David Sheppard 8/30

  • “A flotilla of European fuel tankers is preparing to sail to the US in the wake of tropical storm Harvey, as oil traders rush to replace supplies of petrol knocked out by the worst storm to hit Texas in 50 years.”
  • “Shipbrokers in London said almost 40 cargoes of petrol had been booked or were being negotiated so far this week, well up on the usual volume, and traders were asking for flexibility to deliver either to the Atlantic seaboard or the Gulf Coast depending on when ports may reopen.”
  • “Tanker earnings for the transatlantic route, a proxy for demand, have soared almost six-fold in the past week, shipbrokers said, rising to more than $20,000 a day for the benchmark voyage, from $3,500 a week ago. The total number of shipments could still change because not all voyages are arranged through brokers, and some still being discussed may not be finalized. About 25 have already been fixed or are expected to be in the coming days.”

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: S&P Global Market Intelligence – BB/BB- Spreads 8/31

WSJ – Daily Shot: S&P Global Market Intelligence – B+/B Spreads 8/31

WSJ – Daily Shot: S&P Global Market Intelligence – Debt Buyers 8/31

  • “This chart shows banks pulling out of corporate leveraged loans, as institutions (such as BDCs, CLOs, credit funds, hedge funds, etc.) pile into the market.”

China

Bloomberg – China’s $2 Trillion of Shadow Lending Throws Focus on Rust Belt – Jun Luo and Alfred Liu 8/29

  • “By analyzing 237 Chinese banks, many of them small and unlisted regional lenders, Bedford casts a new spotlight on underground financing and the risks it poses to the nation’s $35 trillion banking industry. Shadow loans grew almost 15 percent to 14.1 trillion yuan ($2.3 trillion) by December from a year earlier, equal to about 19% of economic output, he estimates.”
  • “’This is a sleeper issue,’ Bedford wrote. ‘The remarkable level of concentration in regional banks in rust-belt region banks, combined with evidence that these assets are increasingly being used to roll over loans to existing borrowers as well as being swapped between banks without a clear transfer of risk are alarming.’”
  • “Accounting for this financing, Chinese banks’ nonperforming loans could be three times higher than the official published level, he said.”
  • “By recording such lending under ‘investment receivables’ rather than ‘loans’ on their financial statements, banks were able to disguise what is in effect lending, to get around regulatory lending curbs or heavy reliance on wholesale funding. Such financial engineering also enabled some lenders to overstate their capital adequacy ratios, understate nonperforming loans and reduce provision charges.”

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.”