News: Real Estate, Risk, Economics. Mar. 26, 2015

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Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) Storm Chasers Suddenly Out of Work as Tornadoes Vanish in US – Bloomberg Business

2) Arctic Melt Leading to Weakest Gulf Stream in Up to 1,000 Years – Bloomberg Business

3) California Water Wars: Another Form of Asset Stripping? | WEB OF DEBT BLOG

4) Here's the backstory on the big bounce in new home sales

5) THIS masks a nasty surprise for homebuyers: Zillow

6) Macro Wars: The Attack of the Anti-Keynesians | The Fiscal Times

7) China's real estate plunge accelerates – OC Housing News

8) On the Ground Data Confirms China Slowdown

9) [318] Europe joins Chinese bank as Greek woes continue – YouTube

10) A force for good? – YouTube

11) Storm-chasing roofer sentenced to prison | Norwalk Reflector

12) North Carolina Governor Signs Air Pollution Mandate Change for Fracking

13) World on cusp of major demographic shift that will hit stocks and bonds for decades to come: study | Financial Post

14) Natural Disasters Could Cost $750 Billion Annually in 15 Years: AIR Study

15) [Insurance-Claim Fraud] Former Miss Montana USA sentenced for insurance fraud

16) [Insurance Claims] P/C Insurers Face $1 Billion Tab for February Storms in US

17) [Alleged Insurance-Claim Fraud] March 17, 2015 — Bladen County Couple Accused of Insurance Fraud after House Fire

18) [Insurance Fraud] Pants that caught fire lead to KC arson plea | The Kansas City Star The Kansas City Star

19) Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt

20) [Insurance Fraud] Woman admits setting 2001 house fire in Florissant that killed her teenage son : News

21) Researchers See El Nino Link to Tornadoes in Southern US – Bloomberg Business

22) Housing – YouTube

23) Avalanche of mud & rocks kills at least 7, ruins homes in Peru – YouTube

24) CrossTalk: China Banks It – YouTube

  1.    Storm Chasers Suddenly Out of Work as Tornadoes Vanish in U.S. – Bloomberg Business

    The same weather pattern that made the West warm and dry and the Northeast cold and snowy has contributed to keeping the rest of the U.S. relatively free of tornadoes so far this year.

    Add your comment.


  2.    Arctic Melt Leading to Weakest Gulf Stream in Up to 1,000 Years – Bloomberg Business

    Recent changes are unprecedented since the year 900, the Potsdam Institute said, adding that man-made climate change appeared to be to blame.

    Researchers have for years raised concerns that shifts in the Gulf Stream may change the climate in Europe. One view is that slower circulation may make Europe colder by depriving northern latitudes of warm waters.

    "One specific area in the North Atlantic has been cooling in the past hundred years while the rest of the world heats up," with research suggesting slowing circulation may be to blame….

    Add your comment.


  3.    California Water Wars: Another Form of Asset Stripping? | WEB OF DEBT BLOG

    Interesting timing that Ellen Brown published this on the same day we were thinking that Public Banking could fund California's way out of its water problem (http://propertypak.com/2015/03/24/news- real-estate-risk-economics-mar-24-2015/# 0324154).

    In California's epic drought, wars over water rights continue, while innovative alternatives for increasing the available water supply go untapped.

    Ellen is not afraid of touching "conspiracy theories" because plenty of time such theories turn out to be exactly descriptive of what was going on. After all, the police regularly charge criminals with "conspiracy to commit a crime." Prosecutors send people to prison for it. They regularly prove beyond the shadow of doubt that the criminals did, in fact, conspire.

    Anyone who thinks there aren't criminals in high places hasn't read much history or is ignoring the history or just might be in cahoots.

    Good risk management never ignores crime and regardless of the level at which it occurs, and healthy-minded adults are rarely thrown off by child psychology.

    Add your comment.


  4.    Here's the backstory on the big bounce in new home sales

    …here's the rub: The supply of existing homes for sale is also lower today than it was in 2000, again, with that population growth, so builders' sales are likely getting a boost simply because there are so few homes altogether on the market.

    Add your comment.


  5.    THIS masks a nasty surprise for homebuyers: Zillow

    "It's important for us to get back to a bit more normal rate regime where homeowners are actually looking at the true price of housing … [without] looking at it through 3.5 percent mortgage rates," he [Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries] said—arguing a Federal Reserve rate hike might not be all bad for the housing market.

    No matter what, a premature Fed-rate rise would slow the economy, which is already very slow.

    Add your comment.


  6.    Macro Wars: The Attack of the Anti-Keynesians | The Fiscal Times

    This is a bit redundant concerning an earlier post by Mark Thoma, but it bears repeating and is more exhaustive than his earlier touching on the theme.

    …the Keynesian model provided better insight and predictions than the mainstream macroeconomic models that were in use when the financial crisis hit.

    Add your comment.


  7.    China's real estate plunge accelerates – OC Housing News

    Larry Roberts:

    The Chinese economy is a bomb, and falling house prices light the fuse.

    Add your comment.


  8.    On the Ground Data Confirms China Slowdown

    Valentin Schmid:

    The most interesting sector in China today, however, is real estate, where even official data indicated residential property is in a freefall.

    CBB said some property subsectors actually saw an uptick after several quarters of declines, despite only 38 percent of firms reporting higher revenues and 25 percent of firms reporting declines.

    The survey confirms residential real estate is in dire straits with 41 percent of them reporting falling revenues. However, there were some improvements in new home building activity, with 35 percent of companies reporting gains.

    "Home building saw an improvement based on a disastrous fourth quarter, but it's not great. Commercial construction and transportation saw growth in revenues. The fourth quarter was a pretty bad quarter and while we are not seeing a dynamic sector, most subsectors are showing stability or improvement compared to the last quarter of last year," said Leland Miller, president of CBB.

    … In spite of not needing to stimulate the economy wholesale, the Chinese central bank has pushed liquidity into the market to provide support for housing. Most of the new money, however, went directly into the Chinese stock market, bypassing the economy completely.

    …for those companies that do need money (real estate developers) the shadow lending rate increased by 1.25 percent to 9.54 percent compared to the last quarter, indicating there is stress in the most vulnerable part of the economy.

    Add your comment.


  9.    [318] Europe joins Chinese bank as Greek woes continue – YouTube

    Eswar Prasad does a very neat job of explaining that while the US cautions against the new Chinese-led Asian bank over standards, the US-led global institutions have lower standards than those proposed by China for the new Asian bank.

    We aren't as sanguine about the numbers China produces. Neither are we as optimistic about China being able to hit 7% even with fiscal stimulus and allowing for some incorrect calculations due to shadow-banking opacity. There, we didn't say "fudging."

    Ann Pettifor clearly explains the difference between private debtors and sovereign debtors due to that the sovereign as captive taxpayers whom the lenders want to milk as long as possible rather than allowing the sovereign to declare bankruptcy to get a fresh start just the way private debtors can and often do.

    Ann Pettifor is a rare breed these days. She's a true adult in the old-school sense of the term. She measures her words very carefully while not ducking a single issue. An example is how she credits Angela Merkel with being a good leader of Germany but who lacks sufficient vision and/or charisma (our terms).

    We've been much harder on Angela Merkel, not because we take some perverse pleasure in bashing her but because we want her to take notice of the squeaky wheel that is Greece.

    Ann handles it much more diplomatically, but we think Angela Merkel has actually been moved by the harsher criticism.

    We want to like Angela Merkel's leadership on the Greek issue. All she needs to do for us to do that is to view Greece as a humanitarian crisis first and a nation that needs help recovering from corruption. She should not worry for a second about the ideological differences between her party and the party leading Greece, Syriza.

    We do commend Merkel for meeting head-to-head and one-on-one with Tsipras.

    Add your comment.


  10.    A force for good? – YouTube

    This is a call back to the days when corporations were focused on civic and social good rather than just profits and growth. What this is an argument against is "get it while you can," "get it while the getting is good." It is a call to conscience and away from narcissism and pathology and sociopathy.

    John calls it a new capitalism. We say it's a return away from dog-eat-dog.

    Just how well such a mixed economy will function over the really long haul remains to be seen.

    We feel that technology will make the issue rather moot if not completely. There is no way what with the rate of change in technology that people will have to work for compensation to live.

    John Authers talks to John Taft, author of A Force for Good, about how capitalism might need to change. Can the emerging big pension and sovereign wealth funds, acting as 'universal owners', help to create a new kind of fiduciary capitalism?

    Add your comment.


  11.    Storm-chasing roofer sentenced to prison | Norwalk Reflector

    Between March 2012 and November 2012, James Twaddle operated Restore It USA, which contacted homeowners and offered to repair roof or siding damage caused by storms.

    The indictment alleged that, while operating Restore It USA, Twaddle and his employees traveled across Union, Franklin, Coshocton, Hamilton, Licking, Montgomery, Pickaway, and Ross counties to solicit consumers in storm-ravaged areas.

    Using sophisticated software, Twaddle and his agents would identify storm damaged areas and approach victims at their homes and encourage them to request insurance funds for a new roof. After receiving the victims' insurance checks, Twaddle deposited the money, but no one ever returned to the victims' homes to perform the work promised. Many of the victims were elderly.

    Add your comment.


  12.    North Carolina Governor Signs Air Pollution Mandate Change for Fracking

    Environmental legislation that gives leeway to a North Carolina state panel in creating air pollution rules for fracking has been signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory.

    Drilling opponents say the bill makes it less likely top-notch emissions restrictions will occur.

    Add your comment.


  13.    World on cusp of major demographic shift that will hit stocks and bonds for decades to come: study | Financial Post

    We haven't seen the econ blogosphere weighing in with this (yet):

    Aging populations across developed and emerging markets mean the "savings glut" that has driven stocks to record highs and bond yields to record lows will start to disappear, lifting a lid on interest rates around the world, it says.

    Add your comment.


  14.    Natural Disasters Could Cost $750 Billion Annually in 15 Years: AIR Study

    Right on:

    Economic losses from global natural catastrophes likely will triple over the next 15 years, unless steps are taken to reduce bad development choices….

    "…the way we do development is the reason why economic losses are so high. Development drivers are stronger drivers of the increase of risks than hazards themselves."

    Add your comment.


  15.    [Insurance-Claim Fraud] Former Miss Montana USA sentenced for insurance fraud

    Didier was convicted in March 2013 of conspiracy and seven counts of mail fraud. She reported she lived in a five-bedroom home with an in-ground pool at a cost of $15,000 a month while the repairs were made, when she was actually living in a small cabin. She collected nearly $123,000 in housing expenses.

    Add your comment.


  16.    [Insurance Claims] P/C Insurers Face $1 Billion Tab for February Storms in U.S.

    February storms in the U.S. are expected to cost insurers more than $1 billion….

    Five separate storm systems hit the U.S. during the month, bringing heavy snow, frigid cold, freezing rain and ice. The storms resulted in 72 deaths and transportation disruption and business closures in major metropolitan areas.

    Add your comment.


  17.    [Alleged Insurance-Claim Fraud] March 17, 2015 — Bladen County Couple Accused of Insurance Fraud after House Fire

    Department of Insurance criminal investigators allege that the husband and wife made multiple misrepresentations—including overinflating the cost of items damaged—during a claim investigation conducted by State Farm Insurance after a fire at their home in Garland on Dec. 12, 2014.

    Add your comment.


  18.    [Insurance Fraud] Pants that caught fire lead to KC arson plea | The Kansas City Star The Kansas City Star

    A Kansas City man linked to a house fire by DNA that he left in his burning sweatpants pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to arson and insurance fraud conspiracy.

    Add your comment.


  19.    Oklahoma Office of the Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt

    OKLAHOMA CITY — Attorney General Scott Pruitt Thursday charged a Tulsa contractor with two felony counts of embezzlement for fraudulent business practices in rebuilding homes damaged by the May 2013 tornado.

    Insurance isn't mentioned.

    Add your comment.


  20.    [Insurance Fraud] Woman admits setting 2001 house fire in Florissant that killed her teenage son : News

    Insurance fraud that turned into an even worse haunting experience:

    After more than 13 years of investigation and legal twists, Sandra Kay Bryant admitted Thursday in federal court here that she participated in setting a fire that killed her teenage son in their home in Florissant.

    Add your comment.


  21.    Researchers See El Nino Link to Tornadoes in Southern U.S. – Bloomberg Business

    …if the Pacific enters an El Nino phase, a warming of the ocean's surface, there may be fewer destructive storms across the South. Likewise, if the ocean cools to a La Nina state, the number of twisters may rise.

    Strong La Ninas produced more tornadoes and hailstorms across the South, including Oklahoma and Texas. El Ninos had the opposite effect.

    Add your comment.


  22.    Housing – YouTube

    Disclaimer: We only listened to the introductory statements by each speaker.

    Speakers: Charles Goodhart, Nancy Holman, Anne Power, Christine Whitehead
    Chair: Kate Allen, Financial Times

    Housing presents a range of challenges for whichever party wins the next election. Everyone agrees there is a shortage of homes (to rent or to buy) as well as an affordability crisis in many parts of the country, and yet housing completions are at historically low levels. Experts have listed a number of reasons for the lack of new investment including the planning process, the lack of available land, a shortage of finance, restrictions on building on the Green Belt, the influence of overseas buyers, and indeed cutbacks in government grant. Additionally, increasing regulation is making it harder for households who would traditionally have been able to become owner-occupiers to do so. Increasing numbers of families—especially in London—are paying high rents for poor quality and insecure accommodation. Consequently, policies to increase investment and standards in the private rented sector are under discussion, as are ways to improve access to mortgage funding and low cost homeownership. But housing is also a macro-economic issue — housing costs affect competitiveness; over-emphasis on housing investment might limit more productive sectors; and mortgage debt is seen as a source of macro instability. This event will examine the key challenges facing the parties as they struggle to create more homes, to give households better choices, and to reduce volatility in the housing market and the economy as a whole.

    Add your comment.


  23.    Avalanche of mud & rocks kills at least 7, ruins homes in Peru – YouTube

    Landslide and floods came after torrential rains pounded the town of Chosica, Peru, for more than two hours. Officials said the mudslide blocked major roads that link the capital to the centre of the country.

    Add your comment.


  24.    CrossTalk: China Banks It – YouTube

    American neoconservatives won't like this episode at all, but it is an interesting discussion on China.

    China's establishment of a new international infrastructure bank is a sign of these times. Beijing is rapidly making itself heard in the halls of power and finance. Is China challenging the West, or just going around it? CrossTalking with Amitai Etzioni, Sara Hsu, and Aldo Caliari.

    We think China's military capability is being underestimated, though we also recognize Chinese culture during the vast majority of its history has been not about imperial expansion but insulation and obtaining tribute. The degree to which that remains in the Chinese psyche remains to be seen. The Chinese leadership seems to want to be respected and honored.

    Add your comment.


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