News: Real Estate, Risk, Economics. Jul. 29-30, 2014

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Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) Sierra foothills fire burns 10 homes; Yosemite fire grows – SFGate

2) Official: Storms destroy E. Tenn homes, no deaths – SFGate

3) Federico Diez and Gita Gopinath refute claims that the US is experiencing a significant return of manufacturing. – Project Syndicate

4) The Recession's Lost Generation of Homeowners Isn't Millennials – It's the Middle-Aged | Trulia TrendsTrulia Trends

5) Barry Eichengreen doubts that China's designation of clearing banks in Europe will boost its currency's global role. – Project Syndicate

6) Ever shifting Philips curves

7) Wall Street's New Enforcers Aim to Muzzle Whistle-Blowers – NYTimes

8) Latest Housing Affordability Index Release

9) Bad Data = Bad Information | John Burns Real Estate Consulting

10) Zillow to Acquire Trulia for $3.5 Billion in Stock – Bloomberg

11) David Beckworth on QE effects & Yanis Varoufakis talks the future of Greece – YouTube

  1.    Sierra foothills fire burns 10 homes; Yosemite fire grows – SFGate

    A wildfire burning since Friday in the Sierra Nevada foothills east of Sacramento destroyed 10 homes and seven other buildings as firefighters continued to attack the 3,800-acre blaze Sunday.

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  2.    Official: Storms destroy E. Tenn homes, no deaths – SFGate

    Powerful storms that raked across several states in the eastern U.S. on Sunday destroyed at least 10 homes in Tennessee, but there were no immediate reports of any deaths or injuries, authorities said.

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  3.    Federico Díez and Gita Gopinath refute claims that the US is experiencing a significant return of manufacturing. – Project Syndicate

    Federico Díez and Gita Gopinath:

    The decade that preceded the 2008 financial crisis was marked by massive global trade imbalances, as the United States ran large bilateral deficits, especially with China. Since the crisis reached its nadir, these imbalances have been partly reversed, with America's trade deficit, as a share of GDP, declining from its 2006 peak of 5.5% to 3.4% in 2012, and China's surplus shrinking from 7.7% to 2.8% over the same period. But is this a temporary adjustment, or is long-term rebalancing at hand?

    The evidence is clear: Claims that manufacturing is returning to the US simply do not hold water. Of course, given that the increase in emerging economies' labor costs and the decline in American energy prices are recent developments, import shares could begin to decline in a few years. But, with that outcome far from certain, the US cannot rely on a rapid increase in manufacturing competitiveness to underpin its economic recovery.

    Even if fracking energy dumps, we think long-term re-balancing is at hand. Other energy sources will come to the fore by necessity. Humanity has not, and likely will not, lose ingenuity. However, fiscal policy in the US is awfully backwards. We need supply and demand or the right things, not just growth for growth sake, as that will lead to negative internalities (if that wasn't a word, it is now).

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  4.    The Recession's Lost Generation of Homeowners Isn't Millennials — It's the Middle-Aged | Trulia TrendsTrulia Trends

    Interesting, though we don't think we should gauge Millennials by 20-year-old standards:

    Turning more millennials into homeowners … may not be the missing piece of the housing recovery after all. Long-term demographic changes mean that homeownership among young adults is roughly where it should be. The real missing homeowners are the middle-aged.

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  5.    Barry Eichengreen doubts that China's designation of clearing banks in Europe will boost its currency's global role. – Project Syndicate

    Barry Eichengreen:

    …the decision to designate renminbi clearing banks in London and Frankfurt is, in effect, one more step by China to foster the emergence of an international monetary system with several global currencies, not just one. It is a step toward creating a better match between our multipolar global economy and its monetary and financial system — and thus a step toward ending the world economy's dependence on the dollar, which European and Chinese policymakers have complained about since the global financial crisis erupted in 2008.

    One can also question how much appetite European investors will display for renminbi-denominated financial assets. In the past, demand for such assets has been fed by the expectation that the renminbi will continue to appreciate. If Chinese growth slows, such expectations might well dissolve.

    There is no doubt that, with time, the renminbi will acquire a more consequential international role. Twenty-first-century financial technology will facilitate direct trading in a variety of different currencies, eliminating the need and custom of routing virtually all international transactions through the dollar. Ultimately this will spell the end of America's "exorbitant privilege." Just not yet. And not anytime soon.

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  6.    Ever shifting Philips curves

    If you want to scream "1970s all over again!" like I assume the right-ier columnists do, then you need the graph to be heading generally north-easterly. But it hasn't — it has been going west, south west. We are heading gingerly back towards where things were before the crisis, except at far far lower levels of wage growth.

    It's the impact of global labor and execs taking huge compensation rather than intelligently plowing money back into labor's development.

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  7.    Wall Street's New Enforcers Aim to Muzzle Whistle-Blowers – NYTimes.com

    Jordan Thomas and Tom Devine:

    As Dodd-Frank has steadily increased the probability of detection, companies have become more sophisticated and aggressive in their efforts to discourage employees from reporting possible violations to the S.E.C. and other authorities. The legal countermeasures being deployed include a variety of employment, severance and settlement agreements that weaken both new and existing whistle-blower programs.

    It was no isolated aberration that KBR, one of the nation's largest government contractors, required employees seeking to report fraud to sign internal confidentiality agreements prohibiting them from reporting violations to law enforcement authorities. Rather, it reflects a growing trend of companies trying to silence whistle-blowers, at the same time Congress strengthens their rights.

    Examples include: failing to educate employees about the S.E.C. whistle-blower program and their rights, unlike other corporate, state and federal programs; preventing employees from consulting legal counsel through the use of nondisclosure agreements, effectively eliminating their ability to file anonymously in accordance with S.E.C. rules; exploiting corporate whistle-blowers' fear of retaliation and blacklisting by requiring notice of external reporting, in violation of their right under Dodd-Frank and S.E.C. rules to report anonymously; de-incentivizing tips by making employees sign agreements waiving any future monetary awards for blowing the whistle; and intimidating potential whistle-blowers with lawsuits to enforce secrecy agreements, a battle few whistle-blower have the desire and resources to fight.

    The thing is, such agreements are illegal on their face. No contract provision that is against public law is binding. An employee can sign away and just realize that the contract provisions aren't worth the paper they're written on. That said, we reiterate that we aren't practicing contract law here. We are just expressing our laypersons' opinion.

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  8.    Latest Housing Affordability Index Release

    While jobs and income levels are up slightly from last year, they are not growing fast enough to offset price increases. Having money for a down payment can still be a big hurdle for potential home buyers who already pay comparable rent payments.

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  9.    Bad Data = Bad Information | John Burns Real Estate Consulting

    The bottom line is this: don't make decisions based on newspaper articles. Read the actual press release, including the methodology, and make sure the results agree with other data points and qualitative feedback you receive. The housing market continues to improve in 2014—but at a much slower pace than almost everyone expected.

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  10.    Zillow to Acquire Trulia for $3.5 Billion in Stock – Bloomberg

    Zillow Inc. (Z) agreed to purchase Trulia Inc. (TRLA) for $3.5 billion in an all-stock deal that is designed to make the combined entity the largest in online real estate advertising.

    …regulators must approve the deal before it can close because the companies are the two biggest real estate websites.

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  11.    [169] David Beckworth on QE effects & Yanis Varoufakis talks the future of Greece – YouTube

    [@ 15:38] Dr. Yanis Varoufakis talks to Erin about Greece, its declining wages, and the future of economic growth.

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