News: Real Estate, Insurance, Economics. Mar. 25, 2014.

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Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) Houses Under 500 Square Feet for Rent | Zillow Blog

2) The US Housing Market is Still "Flat on its Back" | Global Research

3) Global Energy Thirst Threatens Water Supplies, UN Says – Businessweek

4) SEATTLE: Sheriff: 3 [now 25 & counting] killed in big Washington state mudslide | National | The News Tribune

5) Catching a GLIMPSE of the Milky Way – YouTube

6) Janet Yellen didn't gaffe | Felix Salmon

7) Statement on Dissenting Vote at March 19, 2014, Meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee – Messages – Publications & Papers | The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

8) NASA | Landsat Tracks Urban Change and Flood Risk – YouTube

9) Wind More Favorable Than Solar For Grid-Scale Storage, Study Finds – IEEE Spectrum

10) George Soros' INET: An institute to improve the world or a Trojan horse of the financial oligarchy? | Real-World Economics Review Blog

11) Bullish consumers, rising home prices brighten U.S. growth picture | Reuters

12) Chinese real estate: Slowdown seen by most analysts—and maybe a big one

13) Is Houston headed for a real estate bubble? – Prime Property

14) UPDATE 4-Germany's Bundesbank opens door to QE in Europe | Reuters

15) BP Whiting crude oil Lake Michigan spill – chicagotribune.com

  1.    Houses Under 500 Square Feet for Rent | Zillow Blog

    In The Hamptons, even a small vacation rental is on the pricey side. In July, this 300-square-foot cottage is available for $13,000 a month. It's also being offered in August through Labor Day for $15,000, and from Memorial Day to Labor Day for $25,000. The home has 1 bedroom and 1 full bath, a washer and dryer and a private brick patio.

    Add your comment.


  2.    The US Housing Market is Still "Flat on its Back" | Global Research

    Mike Whitney doesn't think Freddie Mac's Vice President and Chief Economist Frank Nothaft's projections for the economy are correct.

    Get a load of this chart from DataQuick's National Home Sales Snapshot. It'll tell you everything [you] need to know about housing.

    As you can see, prices are flatlining or drifting lower while sales are sinking like a stone. That's the whole ball of wax, isn't it?

    Sure, sales will increase in the spring (as they always do), but judging by the sharp dropoff in last year's hottest markets, this could be the crappiest spring selling season since the crash.

    Why?

    Because prices are too high, rates are too high, "organic" demand is too weak, credit is too tight, and the pool of potential buyers has shrunk to the size of a walnut, that's why.

    Sales are dropping because millions of people are underwater on their mortgages and can't afford to move. Millions more are stuck in their homes and aren't paying anything at all. Millions more have student debt up to their eyeballs and will probably never own a home. And millions more still can't find a job. That's why home sales are plunging, because the economy stinks. It's that simple. Sure, the market got a nice little bump from Bernanke's $4 trillion liquidity-surge. Big whoop. Besides, that was 2012-2013. Today things are different. Today the Fed is winding down QE and there's even talk of rate-hike. How do you think that's going to impact sales?

    … if you want to fix housing, you have to fix the economy. And if you want to fix the economy; you have to put people back to work and pay them a fair wage. It's that simple.

    We lean heavily in Mike's direction on this but really hope we're wrong.

    Add your comment.


  3.    Global Energy Thirst Threatens Water Supplies, UN Says – Businessweek

    Energy production will increasingly strain water resources in the coming decades even as more than 1 billion of the planet's 7 billion people already lack access to both, according to a United Nations report.

    "There is an increasing potential for serious conflict between power generation, other water users and environmental considerations," said the UN World Water Development Report published today that focused on water and energy. Ninety percent of power generation is "water-intensive," it said.

    Shale gas and oil production as well as biofuels "can pose significant risks" to water resources, pitting energy producers against farmers, factories and providers of drinking and sanitation services, the agency said ….

    Add your comment.


  4.    SEATTLE: Sheriff: 3 killed in big Washington state mudslide | National | The News Tribune

    A massive landslide of mud, trees and rocks in rural Washington killed three people on Saturday, critically injured an infant and several others, and destroyed six houses, authorities said.

    UPDATE: The death toll and number of missing continues to rise.

    Add your comment.


  5.    Catching a GLIMPSE of the Milky Way – YouTube

    This is what we call real-estate photography.

    Welcome home! This is our Milky Way galaxy as you've never seen it before. Ten years in the making, this is the clearest infrared panorama of our galactic home ever made, courtesy of NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

    Add your comment.


  6.    Janet Yellen didn't gaffe | Felix Salmon

    It appears that Felix Salmon has come down on the minority side of our speculations about Janet Yellen's press-conference statement.

    It's become received opinion that Janet Yellen made a "rookie gaffe" in her first press conference as Fed chair, thereby "rattling markets". She didn't.

    We think he's probably right that it was deliberate forward guidance, but whether she's making the right choices about tapering still remains to be seen. We think she is not. Rising mortgage rates in the face of other bad data on the US economy, China, etc., may be screaming out that the US is in for a rude awakening/recession or at least strong slowdown.

    Add your comment.


  7.    Statement on Dissenting Vote at March 19, 2014, Meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee – Messages – Publications & Papers | The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

    What Narayana Kocherlakota, President, Minneapolis Fed, would liked to have seen coming out of the last FOMC statement:

    … the Committee anticipates keeping the fed funds rate in its current range at least until the unemployment rate has fallen below 5.5 percent, as long as the one-to-two-year-ahead outlook for PCE inflation remains below 2 1/4 percent, longer-term inflation expectations remain well-anchored, and possible risks to financial stability remain well-contained.

    We've actually lowered our unemployment target from 5 to 4.5 (@ 3+% inflation if necessary). We are also very concerned about the quality/pay scale of the new jobs provided.

    Add your comment.


  8.    NASA | Landsat Tracks Urban Change and Flood Risk – YouTube

    Landsat data, which can identify areas of urbanization, are used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a key indicator of sites where the agency should further investigate the potential for flooding. With its archive of images capturing sprawling cities and new developments, Landsat can help FEMA track how building and construction is impacting an area's landscape

    Earth-observing Landsat satellites have been capturing images of the planet's surface since 1972. Landsat 8 is the newest satellite in the program, a joint effort between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. It launched Feb. 11, 2013, and collects more than 400 images per day. New and archived Landsat data are available free to the public over the internet – and researchers have put the data to a multitude of uses. One is called the National Urban Change Indicator, or NUCI, created by MacDonald, Dettwiler, and Associates, LTD. It's the results from a process that mines Landsat images over a 27-year period to identify areas of "permanent change," where soil has been paved over for parking lots or other concrete structures.

    NUCI results act as a red flag for FEMA, helping the agency focus its mapping efforts and budget. If FEMA's maps identify a high risk of floods for a certain community, residents can take action, including elevating houses, building flood barricades, and more.

    Add your comment.


  9.    Wind More Favorable Than Solar For Grid-Scale Storage, Study Finds – IEEE Spectrum

    … for wind power, there is no battery technology that is good enough to deliver an energy return on investment that's better than just curtailing wind energy when it's not needed. The 2013 study found that for solar power, the energy return on investment is always better if the energy is stored using any technology compared to curtailing it.

    Add your comment.


  10.    George Soros' INET: An institute to improve the world or a Trojan horse of the financial oligarchy? | Real-World Economics Review Blog

    We've often thought the same. Norbert Haering:

    So far, the history and the actions of the Institute for New Economic Thinking, founded by George Soros and other members of the financial establishment, are compatible with the hypothesis that it might be a Trojan horse of the financial oligarchy, meant to control the movement for reform of economics. However, despite some limited evidence to the contrary, it is also still compatible with the counter-hypothesis that it is a bona fide effort to push such reform to the benefit of society at large. A restrictive policy of supporting independent initiatives with the same stated goals, and a recent tendency toward the promotion of the less radical reformist ideas make it opportune to monitor the activities of INET with an open but skeptical mind.

    We know the "oligarchy" doesn't think or act with one mind though. George Soros is just one aspect.

    We think he's rather economically left-wing for being a member of the oligarchy, but he certainly will not work to undermine his own brand of capitalism. He's neither a democratic socialist nor obviously a libertarian capitalist but something rather close to the middle (center-left on that spectrum if we may).

    Add your comment.


  11.    Bullish consumers, rising home prices brighten U.S. growth picture | Reuters

    Last month's drop brought new home sales in line with other data such as home resales and building activity that have offered a downbeat picture of the housing market.

    Some of the slowdown has been blamed on the harsh weather, but the tight supply and a run-up in mortgage rates are also taking a toll.

    Sales fell 1.5 percent in the South, which also experienced harsh weather. They surged 36.7 percent in the Midwest, but fell 15.9 percent in the West.

    They didn't fall in the West due to bad weather.

    Add your comment.


  12.    Chinese real estate: Slowdown seen by most analysts—and maybe a big one

    Steve Collins, a president of capital market research at Jones Lang LaSalle, isn't so sure that the balancing act will be successful.

    "Right now they're trying to take a little bit of the air out of the bubble," he said. "At one point, it will pop."
    'Selling en masse'

    "If the value of their real estate doesn't appreciate anymore, they're going to start selling their assets," said Collins of Chinese real estate investors. "They're going to start selling en masse, and that means that prices will go down. It has a better chance of happening than not."

    We agree with that assessment.

    Add your comment.


  13.    Is Houston headed for a real estate bubble? – Prime Property

    Houston is one of 19 U.S. metros where home prices are overvalued, according to a new report from real estate website Trulia.com.

    At just 2 percent, however, this area is on the low end of the spectrum. By comparison, prices in Orange County, Calif., and Honolulu are overvalued by 16 percent and 13 percent, respectively.

    Add your comment.


  14.    UPDATE 4-Germany's Bundesbank opens door to QE in Europe | Reuters

    Just what we've been saying all along:

    Another cut of the main refinancing rate would likely push the deposit rate into negative territory, which would mean that banks have to pay to park their funds at the ECB overnight.

    The ECB has so far held off from that because of possible side effects, but Finnish governor Erkki Liikanen said a negative deposit rate was no "longer a controversial issue".

    Well, they'll need guidelines on how to pay for the charge whether they keep the money "parked" or not. They can't simply be allowed to pass the cost on to their depositors while the ECB expects negative rates to help the overall economy. It needs to be lent out for real productivity gains. That will take educating the business community and doing proper and on-going due diligence, not something the banks have been doing lately (decades if ever).

    Add your comment.


  15.    BP Whiting crude oil Lake Michigan spill – chicagotribune.com

    A malfunction at the BP refinery in Whiting forced a slug of crude oil into Lake Michigan on Monday, the company confirmed today.

    It was not immediately clear how much oil spilled into the lake or how long the discharge continued.

    BP again and again ….

    Add your comment.


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