News: Real Estate, Risk, Economics. Apr. 7, 2015

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Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) For Many Renters, Crushing Rents are Intolerable ‹ Zillow Real Estate Research

2) STRIKING PROXYMITY? Ft. Alex Vatanka, Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute – YouTube

3) Contractor gets four months in jail for repair scams

4) The True Myths on the Trans-Pacific Partnership | Beat the Press

5) Global growth report card: world slowdown causes concern | Gavyn Davies

6) The Numbers That Matter Most from the Jobs Report | The Fiscal Times

7) Economic Principals – Blog Archive – Back to Cranks

8) Europe's Currency Manipulation by Stefan Kawalec – Project Syndicate

9) Currency and Trade Comments by Adam S. Posen – YouTube

10) How did the ECB save the Eurozone without spending a single euro? | VOX, CEPR's Policy Portal

11) Don't rely on bad advice on skipping earthquake insurance – LA Times

12) How to Fight Currency Manipulation by Simon Johnson – Project Syndicate

13) Do contractor licensing boards help homeowners? | Inman

14) The 'pub economics' of structural reforms | Alessio Terzi at Bruegelorg

15) 1ST LEAD Greece's Varoufakis to discuss reform programme with IMF chief By | EUROPE ONLINE

16) Citi Bank Whistleblowers Reported That Toxic Mortgages Were at 80-90% – YouTube

17) Atacama 'Tsunami': Freak rainfall floods devastate driest desert – YouTube

18) Arsenic, other chemicals in rural California's drinking water – YouTube

19) Extratropical Cyclone Niklas

20) The coming revolution in how employers provide health insurance – The Washington Post

21) Home Prices Remain 30% Below Peaks in Nevada, Florida, Rhode Island – 24/7 Wall St.

22) Safety app designed for students now marketed to real estate agents | Inman

23) California Drought Inspires These 5 Creative Ways People Are Conserving Water – ABC News

24) Job openings have come back since the recession. Why not hiring? – Vox

25) Colorado River named most endangered river in United States – Grand Canyon News – Grand Canyon, Arizona

26) Utility Sales May Drop by Half as Homes Make Their Own Power – Bloomberg Business

27) Solar Industry, Advocates Divided Over Rooftop Solar Bill | WFAE

28) Generator found in Maryland home where eight died: police | Reuters

29) What Americans Think About Climate Change in Seven Maps – Bloomberg Business

30) 70% of Western Canadian glaciers to disappear by 2100: Study | Toronto Star

31) NASA Bolts Out Where Lightning Strikes – Clapway

32) Legal & Insurance: Disaster Recovery: Why all small businesses should have a plan in place: Small Business Community

  1.    For Many Renters, Crushing Rents are Intolerable ‹ Zillow Real Estate Research

    Deteriorating rental affordability is a pressing national issue….

    When asked why they choose to rent, more than half (54 percent) of renters cited a lack of income of homeownership affordability concerns. More than a quarter (27 percent) cited a preference for renting, and about one-in-six (16 percent) cited uncertainty in their living situation.[1] The remainder cited other, unrelated reasons.

    Add your comment.


  2.    STRIKING PROXYMITY? Ft. Alex Vatanka, Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute – YouTube

    Do you find what's happening in Yemen mystifying? Are you concerned that it could broaden into a global war? Well, this video is the best discussion on the subject we've seen. Of course, 30 minutes isn't nearly long enough to even begin to explore all the ins and outs of the various ideological and other influences impacting Yemen.

    The escalating violence in Yemen threatens to destabilise the region. And while the conflict is being framed as a sectarian and proxy war between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia, its dynamics are better understood as a product of internal Yemeni politics. How can these powerhouses of the Middle East stop the conflict from spiraling out of control, and is there a win-win situation that could stop the country from going down the path of Iraq, Syria and Libya? Oksana is joined by Alex Vatanka, a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute, to debate these issues.

    We want to openly commend Alex Vatanka for his level-headedness concerning the conflicts in the region.

    Add your comment.


  3.    Contractor gets four months in jail for repair scams

    A contractor who scammed two building owners has been sentenced to four months in King County Jail and ordered to pay more than $25,000 in restitution.

    Add your comment.


  4.    The True Myths on the Trans-Pacific Partnership | Beat the Press

    Dean Baker takes on proponents of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Read his whole critique. Here's the ending:

    …the bromide that "free trade leads to greater overall prosperity," is not relevant here. The TPP is about increasing protection in the form of stronger and longer patent and copyright protection. If we were talking about reducing the barriers to trade in the services of physicians and other highly paid professionals and reducing patent and copyright protection, then we could be singing the merits of free trade with the TPP. But the TPP is about corporate profits, not free trade.

    Add your comment.


  5.    Global growth report card: world slowdown causes concern | Gavyn Davies

    Europe ticks upward, but then there's this:

    Activity in Asia, like in North America, slowed markedly last month. Chinese activity growth ended the month roughly where it started, at 6.8 per cent. The semi-hard landing in the property sector is continuing, but a series of steps to ease monetary and fiscal policy seem to be succeeding in holding the overall growth rate close to the government's 7 per cent objective for the year.

    Add your comment.


  6.    The Numbers That Matter Most from the Jobs Report | The Fiscal Times

    Nice work by Mike Cassidy:

    Employers added just 126,000 jobs in March, which, together with a reduction of 69,000 in the job creation estimates for January and February, suggests that the pace of recovery is slower than previously thought. Nevertheless, with the unemployment rate steady at 5.5 percent — just fractions of a percentage point above its pre-recession norm — many policymakers and commentators remain convinced the economy is heating up.

    Wrong. …

    … West Virginia has an "artificially" low E-P ratio because its population is older than that in other states, while North Dakota has gotten a dramatic boost from its booming oil industry. In addition, snapshots don't tell us how conditions are changing over time.

    Thus, perhaps a more relevant way of assessing state labor markets is to compare how their E-P ratios have changed since 2007, after accounting for demographic factors that influence labor market participation. Fortunately, the tools of econometric analysis allow us to do exactly that ….

    It's beyond the scope of a relatively simple analysis like this to identify why some states are beating E-P expectations and why some are falling behind. It could have to do with things like housing costs, occupational demand, aesthetic preferences or even policy choices — or it may depend mostly on plain good luck. Whatever the case may be, the wide variation in state experiences is nevertheless a reminder that what holds for the United States as a whole is often not reflective of the ups and downs the residents of diverse localities face.

    Add your comment.


  7.    Economic Principals – Blog Archive – Back to Cranks

    A new book by Wallison, Hidden in Plain Sight: What Really Caused the World's Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Could Happen Again (Encounter, 2015) extends the argument that that government policies were solely to blame, and that none of the other factors commonly cited — the flow of funds from abroad, financial deregulation, rapid innovation, shifting boundaries among firms, investors' increased appetite for risk, lax credit- agency monitoring, the panic that followed the Lehman default — were significant contributors to the outcome.

    No sensible analyst thinks that political pandering to poor people is a sufficient explanation of the crisis. Probably not since Wanniski's The Way the World Works has the gap been so great between a non-economist writing for a think-tank and the relevant community of professionals.

    We completely agree with that.

    Add your comment.


  8.    Europe's Currency Manipulation by Stefan Kawalec – Project Syndicate

    See the next link below as a perfect follow-up to this one.

    Add your comment.


  9.    Currency and Trade Comments by Adam S. Posen – YouTube

    We watched this when it was first published but didn't link to it before because at the time, we didn't want to bother sorting out where we agree versus don't. However, the link immediately above compelled us.

    Adam S. Posen, Peterson Institute for International Economics, makes remarks following presentations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership during panel III of the conference "Abenomics' Progress in Reforming Japan's Economy" held on March 26, 2015 at the Institute.

    We agree about the currency manipulation but not the free-trade-is-always-best notion. We strongly disagree about Japan's lack of liberalization. Our view is that Japan should not have liberalized in the first place. See: Richard Werner (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_We rner).

    Add your comment.


  10.    How did the ECB save the Eurozone without spending a single euro? | VOX, CEPR's Policy Portal

    Ana-Maria Fuertes, Elena Kalotychou, and Orkun Saka:

    …a fundamental view is difficult to reconcile with today's financial world where, for instance, 'bank runs' driven by depositor panic are seen as a potential threat to banking systems worldwide and central banks are more than welcome to act as LOLR for banks. If bank runs are possible, why is it so difficult to accept the possibility of sovereign debt runs in a currency union?

    …the OMT must have distorted the relation between debt spreads and fundamentals by inflating spreads in 'virtuous' countries with good fundamentals and deflating them in the 'sinner' countries with bad fundamentals. To assess this, we regress the quarterly CDS spreads of Euro members against key macroeconomic indicators in the credit risk literature.

    Surprisingly, Figure 1 illustrates in its upper panel that sovereign spreads that were most out of sync with fundamentals belonged only to the pre-announcement quarters and only to periphery countries. Even after dropping the bailed-out countries assuming that their spreads may have lost connection with fundamentals due to their loss of market access, we still get the same results (lower panel in Figure 1) but this time only for Spain and Italy before the OMT policy. It seems that, before the ECB assumed a LOLR position, these countries' spreads were pushed above the levels rationalised by their fundamentals.

    Paul De Grauwe was right in his diagnosis of the Eurozone as a fragile region and relatedly, of the recent debt crises as having a strong element of self-fulfilling dynamics. The OMT has been an effective medicine to overcome the fragility. However, these reflections should not mask the fact that the euro is still an incomplete construct. Hopefully a day will arrive in the near future when the Eurozone is complemented with a fisc al authority with possibly centralised tax and redistributive powers so that it eventually evolves towards a currency with a single political and fiscal union. Given the strong German resistance to the OMT, no one can be fully sure if Draghi's bold initiative will be able to survive until that day!

    Add your comment.


  11.    Don't rely on bad advice on skipping earthquake insurance – LA Times

    Sound advice: Michael Krieger and Donie Vanitzian:

    Question: I'm on the board at our common interest development with about twelve townhouse units. We're built on bedrock, so the management company says the attorney said we don't need homeowner association earthquake insurance. And if something ever did happen, well, he says, "That's what FEMA is for." I'm not certain how this works. What's FEMA going to do for us?

    Answer: Your association buildings may be built on bedrock but your board's reasoning is stuck in the sand.

    If they want to debate earthquake insurance presumably in, or around, Los Angeles, we would recommend obtaining good coverage and then debating whether to drop it or reduce it while the existing policy is in place. Of course, we would recommend retaining the good policy regardless.

    Add your comment.


  12.    How to Fight Currency Manipulation by Simon Johnson – Project Syndicate

    Another helpful follow-up on the currency wars: Simon Johnson:

    …no major country is currently manipulating its exchange rate (the renminbi has appreciated since the mid-2000s), so there is nothing to worry about. But there is also nothing to stop China or any other country from resuming large-scale currency-market intervention if and when it chooses. And the lack of diplomatic tension around exchange rates today makes this a good moment to raise the topic.

    The final reason cited in support of excluding a currency chapter from the TPP is that the countries negotiating the deal would never agree. But this argument does not hold up when the participating countries are examined one by one.

    Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, developed economies with floating exchange rates, do not want to encourage currency manipulation. Chile, a middle-income country that has long had sound and responsible macroeconomic policies, does not favor currency manipulation. Mexico and Peru have much to fear from other countries becoming currency manipulators again.

    Likewise, Japan, now running its own version of QE, worries about potential currency manipulation by other countries, such as South Korea and China. Malaysia and Singapore, having built up a substantial stock of foreign-exchange reserves, should also now be more concerned about currency manipulation by their trading partners. Vietnam has much more serious TPP issues to resolve, particularly concerning labor rights. And Brunei Darussalam, with a population of less than 500,000, is unlikely to object.

    Currency manipulation is a real problem that causes significant damage. The TPP deal — if it establishes a dispute-resolution mechanism that can quickly dismiss frivolous claims and home in on genuine cases — may offer the best chance to fix it.

    Add your comment.


  13.    Do contractor licensing boards help homeowners? | Inman

    Generally speaking, higher requirements mean fewer complaints. Where does your state come down?

    Do license regulations actually help homeowners?

    The short answer is yes.

    Add your comment.


  14.    The 'pub economics' of structural reforms | Alessio Terzi at Bruegel.org

    After over 7 years of crisis, everybody — ranging from politicians to policy-makers, including the press[1] — seems to know that structural reforms might well be beneficial for long-term growth, but have a dragging effect in the short-run[2]. However, is this really the case? As Rodrik (1996) neatly puts it, "for a proposition that is startlingly lacking in empirical support, [this] piece of conventional wisdom is surprisingly strongly held".

    The recent available analysis on Europe actually points in the opposite direction.

    We're not convinced at all. We suspect that so-called externalities are being ignored.

    GDP, per se, doesn't necessarily reflect social costs. Quality of life across-the-board is what matters.

    If structural reforms pull the rug out from under the poor, then those "reforms" are wrong. If growth disproportionately accrues to the very top of the income and wealth distribution, then those "reforms" need reforming.

    Add your comment.


  15.    1ST LEAD Greece's Varoufakis to discuss reform programme with IMF chief By | EUROPE ONLINE

    A good idea:

    …a committee of investigation held a ceremonial session to mark the beginning of its mandate to find out who was responsible for Greece's debt crisis.

    The investigation is to look into the term of socialist prime minister George Papandreou, who was in office from 2009-11; interim prime minister Lucas Papdemos, who was in office from 2011-12; and the coalition government of conservatives and socialists that served from 2012-15 under prime minister Antonis Samaras.

    The US should have done exactly the same thing regarding the 2007-8 crash.

    Add your comment.


  16.    Citi Bank Whistleblowers Reported That Toxic Mortgages Were at 80-90% – YouTube

    This is what we meant above concerning the link: "1ST LEAD Greece's Varoufakis to discuss reform programme with IMF chief By | EUROPE ONLINE."

    Richard Bowen and Sherri Hunt were reporting on the toxic scam and still there was no action from the DOJ, but now there is a small victory says Bill Black, Former Regulator.

    Embedding the video was disallowed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1M4xYfQs mio

    Add your comment.


  17.    Atacama 'Tsunami': Freak rainfall floods devastate driest desert – YouTube

    Thunderstorms and flash floods moved into the usually bone-dry Atacama desert, causing the Copiapo River [Chile] to overflow its banks.

    At least 7 people died in this deluge. Fears of mudslides prompted authorities to evacuate thousands from their homes, many of which are mining communities situated in narrow valleys that cross the desert.

    If they had dry land behind that building, they should have gotten there long before the end of the video rather than standing right there recording the river flood. We know we're not the only ones who thought that.

    Add your comment.


  18.    Arsenic, other chemicals in rural California's drinking water – YouTube

    Concern is growing over the more than 1 million California residents who are already living without clean water for drinking or cooking, most of it poisoned by chemicals like arsenic. Ben Swann speaks with Conner Everts, the facilitator of the Environmental Water Caucus, about the growing water and resource disparity in the region and the new direction millions will have to go in order to conserve clean water.

    Desalinization. Of course, that's only a band-aid. Anthropogenic Global Warming from carbon burning is the main issue, though droughts did occur before AGW. AGW is just going to make them worse, along with all other harsh weather.

    Add your comment.


  19.    Extratropical Cyclone Niklas

    AIR Worldwide estimates that insured losses from Extratropical Cyclone Niklas will range between EUR 1.0 billion and EUR 1.9 billion, with the majority of losses in Germany. Losses also occurred in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

    Add your comment.


  20.    The coming revolution in how employers provide health insurance – The Washington Post

    About 6 million Americans with workplace coverage in 2014 received their health insurance through privately run health insurance exchanges, where employees can select coverage from a number of health plans — double the number from the year before, according to a new report from Accenture.

    Add your comment.


  21.    Home Prices Remain 30% Below Peaks in Nevada, Florida, Rhode Island – 24/7 Wall St.

    Home prices in the United States rose for the 36th consecutive month in February, but the increases continue to moderate. Compared with February of 2014, home prices rose 5.6%, including the sales of distressed properties. Month over month, February home prices rose by 1.1% from January prices, identical with the increase from December to January.

    Add your comment.


  22.    Safety app designed for students now marketed to real estate agents | Inman

    In recognition of the risks that many real estate agents face on the job, the provider of a safety app originally designed for university students has begun marketing the product to real estate agents.

    Adoption of SafeTrek, which features a panic button that can alert local authorities of emergencies…

    Add your comment.


  23.    California Drought Inspires These 5 Creative Ways People Are Conserving Water – ABC News

    Water conservation officials say the following are some options people can turn to, or are already turning to, in order to save water….

    [headers only:]
    1. Spray painting lawns
    2. Drought-tolerant landscaping
    3. Replacing pools
    4. Hybrid sink-toilets
    5. Reusing water

    There are many other ways to save as well. Research the subject on the Internet.

    Add your comment.


  24.    Job openings have come back since the recession. Why not hiring? – Vox

    It might be that there's a skill mismatch — that the workers who are available just aren't qualified for the work that employers are offering. And that's probably true in some higher-skill industries.

    But a lot of it is probably also hesitancy from employers. Clearly they are open to hiring (hence all the job postings), but they're taking their time doing it — and not raising wages much in an attempt to lure workers in.

    Add your comment.


  25.    Colorado River named most endangered river in United States – Grand Canyon News – Grand Canyon, Arizona

    According to the report by American Rivers, the Colorado faces three serious threats, each with a key decision point that will be made this year: the Escalade construction project in the heart of the canyon, pollution from uranium mining on the north and south rims and expansion of the town of Tusayan that has the potential to deplete groundwater supplies.

    Add your comment.


  26.    Utility Sales May Drop by Half as Homes Make Their Own Power – Bloomberg Business

    Utilities in the U.S. Northeast stand to lose as much as half of residential sales by 2030 as customers install solar and battery-storage systems and generate their own power, according to a report by the Rocky Mountain Institute.

    Utility owners have been countering with proposals to reduce the amount customers are paid for the excess electricity generated by their solar panels and instituting monthly grid-connection charges. In Arizona, SolarCity filed a lawsuit last month challenging a plan to charge solar customers a minimum monthly connection fee of $32.44.

    There are localities that are mandating that property owners not be allowed to be off the grid for water, sewer, electric, etc. People are using rain collection, composting toilets, and solar and other alternative energy and battery storage and not hooking up to the grid. Frankly, we side with those property owners but also with those who want to sell energy without paying a connection fee.

    We'll add that rain collection could become quite a problem though when one considers the vagaries of weather that are increasing. Sewer lines are often mandated to better insure proper sanitation; but proper composting toilets are not a problem but can be a benefit, and proper graywater application can be as well. That said, there are more responsible owners than others.

    We understand the cost to supply a grid to those who can't afford to disconnect, but that cost should be subsidized in other ways.

    We don't favor property or land taxes or use taxes for essentials such as roads. Given a mixed economy, we favor the progressive income tax and only starting above a guaranteed income well above the current poverty line.

    Add your comment.


  27.    Solar Industry, Advocates Divided Over Rooftop Solar Bill | WFAE

    Here's another one on the subject of solar. This one covers the issues the utilities companies typically have with solar and especially net-metering.

    Again, we favor net-metering.

    The cost of solar energy has dropped so fast in the past few years that it's becoming competitive with other, traditional energy sources; and rooftop solar has grown from novelty to industry.

    Add your comment.


  28.    Generator found in Maryland home where eight died: police | Reuters

    Do you have a CO alarm in your home? Do you know what can cause CO to build up in your house or apartment? Here's one thing.

    The Maryland home in which eight family members were found dead this week had a power generator in it, police said on Tuesday, in an incident that local media have blamed on carbon monoxide poisoning.

    The family members, comprising Rodney Eric Todd and his seven children aged 6 to 16, were found dead on Monday in their home in Princess Anne….

    Add your comment.


  29.    What Americans Think About Climate Change in Seven Maps – Bloomberg Business

    As a nation, 63 percent of Americans believe that the globe is warming. (Note: It is.) But that single statistic reveals little about what people in different states, local communities, and congressional districts think. The research, which was published today in the journal Nature Climate Change, makes estimates for those geographies and asks:

    • Whether people believe humans are causing most of the warming (Note: They are.)

    Add your comment.


  30.    70% of Western Canadian glaciers to disappear by 2100: Study | Toronto Star

    Seventy per cent of Western Canada's glaciers — some of them popular destinations in Alberta and British Columbia — will likely be gone by the end of this century, according to shocking new projections published in Nature Geoscience Monday.

    Add your comment.


  31.    NASA Bolts Out Where Lightning Strikes – Clapway

    NASA has been working on expanding the functions that their satellites are capable of. When it comes to showing lightning bolts across the Earth, they have been using satellite technology that allows them to both see where lightning strikes, and see the overall patterns that occur all over Earth's surface.

    Add your comment.


  32.    Legal & Insurance: Disaster Recovery: Why all small businesses should have a plan in place: Small Business Community

    Major disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, winter storms, and spring floods make headlines. Smaller disasters such as fires, burst pipes, power outages, Internet failure and hacker disruptions can destroy small businesses. That is, if there is no disaster recovery plan in place.

    Add your comment.


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