Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Perfect Storm

Many of you have been asking me about housing lately via e-mail and in the comments section. I thought today was a perfect day to discuss it because I believe we are now seeing the makings of a Perfect Storm for whats left of the housing market at the end of the year.

It all starts in the bond market.

Lets take a look at some stats. First of all, lets take a look at the treasury auction today:

Quick Take:

The bid to cover wasn't bad but look at the lack of participation by the inderects(China and the other FCB's)! Only $5 billion of the $35 billion auction was bought be the world. This is pathetic and very frightening. It tells you that they are running for the hills when it comes to buying our treasury debt!

China has been warning for weeks that they planned on diversifying out of treasuries. Folks, if we lose the indirect bidders we are going to start seeing failed bond auctions. At that point the economy will be toast.

You gotta wonder if the pullback we saw today and after hours is a result of the banks backing off on buying equities because they needed the liquidity to sell the auction. Things are getting dicey!

Fed Announces Record Treasury Sales Next Week

We also got this pleasant piece of news from the Treasury today:

"Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Treasury plans to sell a record $75 billion in its quarterly auctions of debt next week and also indicated plans to expand inflation-indexed securities next year as it finances unprecedented budget deficits.

The Treasury plans to auction $37 billion in three-year notes on Aug. 11, $23 billion in 10-year notes Aug. 12 and $15 billion in 30-year bonds Aug. 13. The amounts matched the median forecast of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg News."

So how did bonds like all of this news? As you can see not very much. Treasuries sold off hard late in the day:

My Take:

The credit markets look absolutely horrifying folks. It appears the world is quietly backing away from our treasuries as we continue to issue ridiculous amounts of debt. there is not enough money in the world to soak up $75 billion a week unless we start printing. BTW, the dollar was down once again today.

This is going to force lending rates to soar which will result in further pressure on housing prices.

Even the banks are finally starting to catch up on how bad this crisis is. Take a look at Deutsche Bank's gloomy housing report:

"Aug. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Almost half of U.S. homeowners with a mortgage are likely to owe more than their properties are worth before the housing recession ends, Deutsche Bank AG said.

The percentage of “underwater” loans may rise to 48 percent, or 25 million homes, as prices drop through the first quarter of 2011, Karen Weaver and Ying Shen, analysts in New York at Deutsche Bank, wrote in a report today.

“Borrowers may also ‘ruthlessly’ or strategically default even without such life events,” they wrote.

Seven markets in states with the fastest appreciation during the five-year housing boom -- including Fort Lauderdale and Miami, Florida; Merced and Modesto, California; and Las Vegas -- may find 90 percent of borrowers underwater, according to the report.

Home prices will decline another 14 percent on average, the analysts wrote."

Final Take:

What can I say folks I am speechless. If you bought at the top you might as well just walk away now. Save yourself the grief and pressure of trying to come up with that $4000 every month to pay the mortgage on your McMansion.

It will most likely be worth 50% of what it was when you bought at the peak when this is all said and done. It will be even worse in the bubble areas mentioned above.

The Bottom Line:

Trying to chase down a foreclosure at this point is still a fools game. The speculators are once again flying into the stock market thinking the recession is over(yeah riiiight). This is probably carrying over into the housing market to a point.

Whats further threatening the housing market is the fact that the first time buyer home credit expires at the end of the year.

I spoke to a mortgage analyst at a large financial firm and he explained to me that in some areas, 90% of the deals they are doing are first time home buyers who are taking advantage of the $8000 tax credit.

He also explained to me that jumbo loans now require 20-30% down payments because no one wants to touch the paper. Minimum credit scores for all mortgages are also rising. Fannie/Freddie now want a 700 credit score. FHA now wants 620 up from 580. This sharply shrinks the potential pool of buyers.

The real estate market according to this analyst is absolutely petrified as to what happens to the housing market when this tax credit disappears.

That's the problem with stimulus folks. Its a one time high similar to what a crack head experiences after he shoots up. The problem is the high wears off and the fundamentals once again appear.

Whats frightening here as this "high" wears off at the end of the year, the fundementals will be significantly worse. IMO, we will be heading straight into The Perfect Storm which is:

Higher lending rates as a result of our Ponzi style deficits

Elimination of the Tax Credit at the end of 2009

Millions of current homeowners begin walking away

Rapidly Rising Defaults leading to further foreclosures on current loans

Even tighter lending standards requiring higher down payments and better credit scores.

Rising foreclosure inventories as banks continue to flood the market with their "Shadow Inventory"

Still want to buy after reading all this? I hope not but good luck if you do! If you MUST buy, stay on the lower end (under300k) because the inventories aren't that bad.

WARNING: I suspect inventories in this price range will rise sharply once again at the end of '09. I say this because the tax credit focused on this end of the market because first time buyers usually buy the lower end.

Stay on the sidelines folks. The housing time bomb is about to explode, and my guess is the fireworks start to go off when the tax credit disappears at the end of the year.

I think you will see a very different housing market down the road with much lower prices even several years from now.


Anonymous said...

"This is going to force lending rates to soar which will result in further pressure on housing prices."

It depends. If the rise is due to pricing in risk, then yes housing will fall. However, if the rise is due to pricing in of inflation, then we will see what we saw in the 1970s - 15% interest rates and home prices rising by 7-8-10% a year.

The key here is to watch gold. If it starts skyrocketing, you can guess its pricing in inflation in which case housing is not going to fall further due to high interest. However, if gold stays constrained while rates rise, housing prices could be in for a world of hurt.

Jeff said...


Yeah inflation is the wild card.

The problem is we don't have rising wages like we did in the '70's. They are declining.

so if rates go to 15%. Buyers will only be able to qualify for half as much money. Don't forget lending standards are also tightening which will make it worse.

The bubble values in real estate would then immediately collapse.

500k houses would sell for be puked up at 250k simply based on wages and tighter lending standards.

Once the housing bubble popped and prices got back down to the historical 3-1 house price versus income ratio you could then see annual increases like you describe.

the bubble will have to pop first because homes are no longer affordable.

CT-Hilltopper said...

The bond market scenario is scary.

So that means I could owe Jeff a thousand bucks.

I have a rent party. I ask a couple of friends for money. Still don't have a thousand bucks.

But I have a kick ass printer in my basement, so I print Jeff the remainder of the money I owe him. PRESTO! Jeff has his thousand bucks. (and I go to jail)

Good Lord! I know it's not exactly the same thing, but it's close enough.


Jeff said...


It sure is.

I thought for sure the Fed would go the deflation route and let this thing collapse.

After seeing today's issuance you can't help but think they are going the inflation route. Meanwhile wages are collapsing at the same time.

Can you say social chaos?

getyourselfconnected said...

Great article again.

The government is trying to spend as much as possibel to get consumers back to their bubble level consumption. The race is will bonds fail to get sold before the average consumer goes nuts again at the mall. What happens if the consumer stops trying to go where the government wants them too? Anyone have a plan B?

Referenced your article as well tonight.

What? No crazy birthday party stories?

Anonymous said...

Speaking of perfect storms (this is slightly off topic, but I thought I'd bring it up) I read a couple of things recently that compare Argentina's debt crisis earlier in the decade to what we are going through ( and

After nearly crapping my pants, I started wondering what I can do if we find ourselves in a year-long bank holiday.

First thought, put some cash under the mattress to cover things for a while. Second, buy some gold.

But how? Gold etfs? Precious metal mutual funds? If we find ourselves in a year-long bank holiday with limited access to our checking accounts, will the money I move from my fund company's money mkt acct into a gold, metal or commodities fund still be around a year later?

I'm starting to believe that US debt default is the only way out (it will be blamed on someone else, of course. probably on the Chinese selling their reserves). If so, what next?

Jeff said...


Glad u liked the post.

Plan B is to buy a gun and protect yourself!

I agree with u. The consumer isn't coming back!

Herb said...

If mortgage rates go up to historic norms (8-9%) the number of people that will no longer be able to afford their adjustable rate mortgages will sky rocket. This will cause another wave of foreclosures and more downward pressure on housing prices.

The Fed must keep interest rates low at all costs.

Jeff said...


I have read a lot about Argentina and the similiarities are amazing.

I did an Argentina post on here a few months ago.

whats so striking about Argentina is how fast their currency collapsed. It was a matter of a couple of weeks.

The dollar really has me scared.

I think we may be heading towards default as well. I'll be curious to see how these $75 billion in auctions go next week.

It could be ugly!

Jeff said...


Thats how I see it too with rates. There are still so many option arm resets that haven't taken place yet and will default if rates soar.

The problem is the Fed is out of options in terms of keeping rates low. they are already QE'ing and buying MBS.

I don't think they can do anything with rates at this point because we are so broke. there are no bullets left in the gun to fire.

Scary times for sure.

Anonymous said...

So Jeff, it seems you disagree with the shamalysts whom you quoted in hat you feel their estimate of a further 14% drop in home prices may be optimistic? also would you please clarify when you say you "thought the gov't would go the deflation route but after today's issuance think now the inflation route"?

Jeff said...


If 48% of homes are underwater in 2011 as they estimate then 14% is a pipedream.

Regarding inflation/deflation: YOu can have price inflation and asset deflation at the same time.

Its a confusing issue and many try to say its one side or the other. This simply isn't the case.

Housing drops sharply in my view because no one has the ability to borrow the amount needed to buy the house because salaries are shrinking.

However, as the dollar falls, anything in dollar denominated assets will rise in cost.

I can't see house inflation. Not after they basically tripled in value in the bubble areas from 2000-2007.

I could be wrong. Just my opinion. No one has the ability to lend that amount of money. Until someone can solve this problem for me in an inflationary environment, I think housing tanks.