Urkel Economy! US Consumer Confidence Lowest In Decades Thanks To Rising Prices (Home Buying Conditions Fall To 60)

This is the Steve Urkel economy where The Federal Reserve and Federal government screw everything up with their policies (or follicies) and say “Whoops! Did I do that?”

(Bloomberg) — U.S. consumer sentiment rose slightly in early September but remained close to a near-decade low, while buying conditions deteriorated to their worst since 1980 because of high prices.

The University of Michigan’s preliminary sentiment index edged up to 71 from 70.3 in August, data released Friday showed. The figure trailed the median estimate of 72 in a Bloomberg survey of economists.

Buying conditions for household durables, homes and motor vehicles all fell to the lowest in decades. The report said the declines were due to complaints about high prices. Consumers expect inflation to rise 4.7% over the coming year, matching the highest since 2008.

September’s UMich Buying Conditions for Houses fell to 60 … thanks to superheated house prices.

I can just picture Fed Chair Jerome Powell channeling Steve Urkel and saying “Whoops!! Did I do that?”

Iron Ore Futures Stumble Amid China’s Evergrande Meltdown (US Propane Up 78% Since Biden Elected President)

Let’s get ready to stumble!

Iron Ore futures are down a whopping 4.66% today as China real estate developer Evergrande plunges into insolvency. And Evergrande’s bond that matures in 2022 sinks to $29.50.

Other commodities are also sinking. One of the only commodities that is increasing today is ICE NBP Natural Gas.

And that is a shame is your rely on propane for heating, since propane prices has risen 78% since the election of “Delaware Joe” Biden as President.

Thanks a lot, Joe and Congress!

Covid Blues! 1.6 Million Loans Remain In Forbearance With FHA/VA Leading (Fannie Mae Reports $7.2 Billion In Net Income In Q2 Report)

The Covid epidemic hit the single-family mortgage market hard in early 2020, leading mortgage lenders and servicers to offer FORBEARANCE to borrowers who were having trouble making their mortgage payments due to loss of hours or a loss of job.

Black Knight offers an excellent summary of the forbearance data.

The good news? Active forbearance plans are much lower today than at their peak after the Covid epidemic struck in early 2020 with active forbearance plans peaking in May 2020.

Forbearance plans are due to expire in

What is forbearance, you ask? Forbearance is when a mortgage servicer or lender allows a borrower to temporarily pay their mortgage at a lower payment or pause paying your mortgage. The borrower will have to pay the payment reduction or the paused payments back later.

Despite forbearance, Fannie Mae still reported $7.2 billion in net income in Q2 2021. Notice the difference between single-family SDQ and the SDQ rate without forbearance. Freddie Mac reported $3.7 billion in Q2 2021 net income.

Here is a look at Fannie Mae’s net income over the past year and SDQ rates.

Under the existing seller/servicer eligibility requirements, the Agency SDQ Rate is defined as 100 multiplied by (the UPB of mortgage loans 90 days or more delinquent or in foreclosure for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae/Total UPB of mortgage loans serviced for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Ginnie Mae). Beginning with the financial quarter ending Jun. 30, 2020, the Agency SDQ Rate will include an adjustment for mortgage loans in a COVID-19-related forbearance plan that are 90 days or more delinquent and were current at the inception of the COVID-19-related forbearance plan. The UPB of such mortgage loans shall be multiplied by .30 and added to the UPB for SDQ mortgage loans for the purposes of determining the numerator in the calculation of the Agency SDQ Rate.

Retail REITs TRIPLE Whammy: House Bubble Burst, Online Shopping, COVID

It is tough to operate a retail Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) in the face of the triple whammy that hit retail shopping. First, there was the housing bubble/subprime crisis of 2008-2009. Then there was the advent of on-line shopping, then COVID.

I look at the NAREIT retail index and two retail REITs for comparison: Simon Property Group and Washington REIT. And as a proxy for online shopping, I compare them to Amazon. Both Washington REIT and the NAREIT retail index were at loft valuations at the peak of the housing bubble, but crashed with the onset of the housing bubble burst and ensuing financial crisis. But following The Great Recession, both recovered by 2016 (along with Simon Property Group which actually far exceeded their pre-Great Recession peak.

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But then retail mall disaster struck. In the form of on-line shopping. I use Amazon to represent on-line shopping. While NAREIT Retail and Simon fell from their 2016 peak, Washington REIT got clobbered.

Then Covid struck. When combined with on-line shopping and fear mongering by Anthony Fauci, retail REITs got hit hard. But all three have rebounded slightly since their nadir in 2020.

An interesting case study is Glimcher REIT, a formerly privately-held commercial real estate development company from Columbus Ohio. Like other retail REITs, Glimcher was crushed by the financial crisis and Great Recession. Glimcher’s share price fought back to $14.06 per share (down considerably from $29.28 in February 2007).

Washington Prime Group Inc. acquired Glimcher Realty Trust for $4.3 Billion in stock and cash Including the assumption of Glimcher’s debt. Right as on-line shopping took off. And the Covid struck a death blow leaving Washington Prime trading at $0.98. Washington REIT is transforming into a multifamily REIT given the overbuilding of DC area office space and the triple whammy of retail centers.

Retail REITs have almost recovered from Covid, thanks to the massive monetary stimulus from The Federal Reserve. Not to mention fiscal stimulus from DC.

Yup, a triple whammy has hit retail REITs with some faring better than others.

But the NAREIT RESIDENTIAL Index has exploded with Fed stimulus.

Well done, Pazuzu Powell!

China’s Most Insolvent Property Developer, Evergrande, Won’t Be Able To Make Interest Payments (China’s Lehman Moment?)

According to Bloomberg, Chinese authorities told major lenders to China Evergrande Group not to expect interest payments due next week on bank loans, which takes the cash-strapped developer a step closer the nation’s largest modern-day restructurings, and guarantees that China’s “Lehman Moment” is now just a matter of days, if not hours.

According to Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development told banks in a meeting this week that Evergrande won’t be able to pay its debt obligations due on Sept. 20, and instead most of Evergrande’s working capital in now being used to resume construction on existing projects, the housing ministry told bankers, according to a Bloomberg source.

And since nonpayment of interest and principal will represent an event of default, the company is unlikely to make any subsequent interest, or principal, payments either since it will have already default even though Bloomberg claims that “Evergrande is still discussing the possibility of getting extensions and rolling over some loans.” It won’t, especially since the developer will also miss a principal payment on at least one loan next week, which means it’s game over.

China Evergrande Group may undergo one of the country’s biggest-ever debt restructurings, if the developer’s distressed-level bond prices are any indication.

Singapore LLC, also predicts Evergrande may default and enter restructuring. That risk is being priced in, with many of Evergrande’s dollar bonds trading near 30 cents.


Debt delinquencies at developers the size of Evergrande are so rare in China that investors, analysts and regulators would only have a few case studies to go on. Kaisa Group Holdings Ltd. in 2015 became the first Chinese builder to default on dollar bonds. The restructuring of another, China Fortune Land Development Co., is currently under negotiation.

Do I detect a trend in Evergrande’s US stock price?

Update: China has a variation of the Wuhan Flu and it is spreading throughout other Chinese property developers after Evergrande’s main unit (onshore real estate) said that trading in all of its onshore bonds would be suspended on Sept 16 to ensure fair information disclosure following a downgrade to A from AA (which in China is viewed as the lowest investment grade rating) by China Chengxin International.

US Workers Made Only 8 Cents More Per Hour, Inflation-Adjusted, Than In January 1973 (While Real Home Prices Soar)

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics released their Real Earnings Report for August yesterday. And is it pretty depressing for US workers.

  • Real average hourly earnings for all employees increased 0.4 percent from July to August, seasonally adjusted. This result stems from an increase of 0.6 percent in average hourly earnings combined with an increase of 0.3 percent in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U). 
  • Real average weekly earnings increased 0.3 percent over the month due to the change in real average hourly earnings combined with no change in the average workweek.  

If we look at REAL US housing prices versus REAL average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees, we can see waves of imbalance between the two measures (also known as “bubbles”). Such as today.

But the real horror chart is the following (courtesy of Mish). It shows that real hourly earnings have barely changed since January 1973.

Of course, labor outsourcing to lower labor cost countries is the chief culprit. Karsten Manufacturing, maker of Ping golf clubs, no longer makes their castings in Phoenix AZ thanks, in part, to EPA regulations. Ping clubheads are now made in Asia.

August US Inflation At 5.3% YoY, Real Avg Hourly Earnings At -0.9% (Gasoline Up 42.7% YoY, Used Cars And Trucks Up 31.9% YoY, Home Prices Up 18.6% YoY)

US inflation remained about the same in August as it was in July. CPI YoY fell ever so slightly from 5.4% in July to 5.3% in August. Real hourly earnings remain negative.

The source of consumer inflation? Gasoline prices rose 42.7% YoY while used cars and trucks rose 31.9% YoY.

Shelter rose 2.8% YoY. That is odd since the Case-Shiller national price index is growing at a torrid 18.61% YoY pace and the Zillow Rent Index YoY has recovered to a sizzling 9.24% YoY pace.

The YoY heatmap of inflation.

However, with the exception of home prices and rent, we are seeing a slowing of used car, foodstuffs and regular gas prices over the summer.

Yikes! Time to trim The Fed’s asset purchases!!

NY Fed Survey Of Consumer Expectations Points To 5.2% Inflation In One Year (Too Bad Hourly Wages Are Growing At 4.3%!)

US inflation is run, runaway.

Americans are expecting a record surge in inflation over the next few years, according to a new report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

In its August Survey of Consumer Expectations, the bank said Monday that respondents see inflation a year from now at 5.2%, up from 4.9% the prior month. Three years from now, it is expected to be at 4%, up from 3.7% in July. Both readings mark record-high readings for data that goes back to 2013.

It is a shame that in that last reading that the CPI YoY exceeded Average Hourly Earnings YoY by a 5.4% to 4.3% margin.

Yes, inflation is hot, hot, hot and consumers are feeling it.

U.S. Banks’ Loans and Leases Hit Historic Low (Residential Real Estate Loans Hit Historic Low As Percentage Of Total Bank Assets)

US bank loans and leases are slowing, yet The Federal Reserve has helped keep their stock values elevated thanks to the extraordinary monetary stimulus.

(Bloomberg) — U.S. banks’ loans and leases dropped to 47.15% of total assets in the week to Sept. 1 from 47.24% the week before, according to the Fed

Total assets increased to $22.19 trillion from $22.10 trillion

The share of safe assets — virtually riskless investments such as cash, Treasuries, and securities effectively guaranteed by the U.S. government — increased to 51.2% of total assets from 51.0%


Loans and leases as a percentage of deposits were unchanged at 59.7%
Cash was the highest as a percentage of total assets since January 2015
Residential real-estate loans hit a historic low as a percentage of total assets at 10.0%

Commercial real-estate loans were the lowest as a percentage of total assets since August 2015
Consumer loans were the lowest as a percentage of total assets since May
Commercial and industrial loans were the lowest as a percentage of total assets since June 2012

Only in this deranged, hyper-stimulated market can bank stocks be soaring despite slowing loan and lease growth.

Palm Beach Developer Tries To Flip Island Mansion For $120 Million, 41% More Than It Sold For In July

From ZeroHedge:

The South Florida housing market is sizzling with hot money from the North East, pushing up homes values sky high over the last year. One example of the mania is in Palm Beach, where a private island was bought in July and was relisted months later for a whopping 41% premium, according to WSJ

One of Miami’s top real estate developers, Todd Michael Glaser, is taking advantage of the bubble, fueled by Wall Street bankers and other elites who have the economic mobility to leave the Northeast for the Sunshine State. 

Glaser purchased 10 Tarpon Way, also known as 10 Tarpon Isle, for approximately $85 million in July and has since relisted the tiny 2.5-acre island for $120 million, or $35 million more than he paid a few months ago. The island was created by dredging crews in the 1930s and is only accessible by bridge. Glaser bought the island from private investor William M. Toll and his wife, Eileen, who paid $7.6 million for the property in 1998.

Tarpon Island 

The real estate developer said potential buyers have two options: pay the $120 million now or wait ten months for a new renovation for $200 million. 

Concept Drawing Of New Renovation

He said with all the hot money flowing into the Palm Beach area, “a $100 million house isn’t that crazy anymore, believe it or not,” adding that in the last 18 months, eight $100 million homes have been sold. 

If a potential buyer wants to wait ten months and pay an additional $80 million. The developer will completely redesign the mansion by doubling it to 25,000 sqft, with 14 bedrooms, in addition to a hair salon, gym, and spa. A new pool, octagonal tennis pavilion, and a golf practice area will be installed on the outside. 

Some ask how long will this speculation fever last as the Federal Reserve could embark on tapering its extensive bond-buying program later this year or early 2022. 

One real estate expert believes the peak of the South Florida housing market could be nearing:

Dr. Ken Johnson, a real estate economist with Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business, told local news WPLG that a peak in the housing cycle could have already arrived, but he believes a crash is not in the mix because demand still outpaces supply. 

It remains to be seen if some greater fool will pay the $120 million for the island mansion or $200 million tens months later after renovations. 

Time for The Fed to start tapering the punchbowl?

Greater fools?