News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

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  1. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s real estate to-do list | New York Post News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Steve Cuozzo reports:

    What should Bill de Blasio’s real estate/land use priorities be?

    We asked industry leaders to give us their two cents on issues facing the mayor-elect, whom many regard as hostile to their interests. Here are their condensed responses.

    Will he please all of these people even some of the time?

    Source …

  2. 10-15 Hanson…California Housing Bubble 2.0 in Pictures News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Mark Hanson writes:

    Just because “house prices” are not back to 2003 to 2007 levels does not mean we are not in another housing bubble.

    Based on median income levels and house prices then vs now either exotic loans need to be reintroduced and widely accepted literally overnight, incomes must surge, rates must plunge, or all-cash buyer/investors must substantially increase market share, or house prices are in store for period of retracement/mean reversion.

    He has a strong point in our view.

    As we wrote earlier, many interest-rate resets will be coming off interest-only payments. Many homeowners are in for a payment-increase/rate-hike shock.

    Source …

  3. Germany’s Real Estate Companies Raised Most Capital Since 2006 – Bloomberg

    Dalia Fahmy reports:

    German real estate companies raised the most from stock and bond sales since 2006 this year as investors including Fortress Investment Group LLC (FIG) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) took advantage of the country’s housing boom to sell stakes and refinance debt.

    Deutsche Annington Immobilien SE (ANN), Gagfah SA (GFJ) and LEG Immobilien AG (LEG) led deals that have raised 10.7 billion euros ($14.4 billion) this year through October, more than triple the total for 2012, according to data compiled by Akselrod Consulting and Barkow Consulting GmbH. In 2006, German property companies raised 19.8 billion euros on capital markets, the firms said in a report today [November 13,2013].

    Source …

  4. Money policy is weaker in recessions | vox News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Silvana Tenreyro and Gregory Thwaites write:

    Most industrialised countries have been trying to cut public borrowing without impeding recovery from the Great Recession. Central banks have attempted to square this circle by loosening monetary policy. For example, UK finance minister George Osborne has stated that “theory and evidence suggest that tight fiscal policy and loose monetary policy is the right macroeconomic mix” for countries with excessive private and public debt (Mansion House speech 2012).

    A number of recent studies have found that fiscal policy is particularly powerful in recessions — tax hikes and spending cuts harm growth more when the economy is already weak (Auerbach and Gorodnichenko 2012, Jordà and Taylor 2013). But if monetary policy is still effective, these big negative effects could in principle be offset by lower interest rates. In our new paper (Tenreyro and Thwaites 2013) we find that, at least in the US, this is not the case: official interest rates have no discernible effect on the economy during recessions. This means a crucial ingredient — the ability to stimulate a recession-hit economy by cutting policy rates — may be missing from the prevailing policy mix.

    “…official interest rates have no discernible effect on the economy during recessions.” They came up with that result because they only looked at rates as handled, not rates as could have been handled. What choice did they have?

    We simply want to say that we’re confident that official interest rates can certainly impact positively on growth if handled correctly, namely if not done in a manner that is simply pushing on a string but rather such that commercial banks are prodded to find qualified borrowers, even to help create them. This, as our loyal readers will know, we say could be and should be done via charging interest on excess reserves held by the Fed. That would prod the banks to lend so that excess reserves would be reduced. Excess reserves would move from the excess-reserve account to the regular-reserve account by reason of the Fed’s reserve ratio of 10% and what is known as the Money Multiplier. The more a bank lends out over and above loans retired or what have you, the more excess reserves move to regular reserves (a mere accounting entry) as part of the 10% reserves supposedly required by the Fed and against outstanding loans made by the given bank.

    Right now, the Fed is paying interest on excess reserves. It’s a small sum of only 0.025%, but the banks can’t find qualified borrowers in a cost-effective manner in the banks’ eyes. The banks have been making too much money via other practices: fees, arbitrage, shadow banking, etc.

    Charging interest on excess reserves would cost them so that they would find relief by traditional lending to main street again — just what the doctor is ordering to create more full-time, higher-paying wages.

    … if the world economy slips back into recession, we cannot rely on conventional monetary policy to get us out.

    Charging interest on excess reserves is not conventional (yet).

    Source …

  5. In a Real (But Uneven) Recovery: Where to Remain Cautious | BlackRock Blog | Global Market Intelligence News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Russ Koesterich writes:

    The common theme in last week’s important economic data: The U.S. recovery is happening, though it’s uneven.

    As I write in my new weekly commentary, while last week’s better-than-expected third quarter gross domestic product (GDP) and October’s jobs report were consistent with a rebound in manufacturing, consumption continues to remain weak and the United States is still not creating jobs at a fast enough pace to put any real upward pressure on wages.

    In other words, the improving economy still has long-term structural issues such as slow wage growth, below-trend consumption and shrinking labor force participation.

    We agree. However, we are more reserved concerning bonds. A jobless recovery just isn’t going to work unless the welfare state is vastly increased, which would mean much higher taxes on the super-rich and mega corporations. We think creating jobs would be easier than raising taxes enough.

    Will those in charge of fiscal policy see the light and spend the new dollars enough to create those jobs without creating hyper-inflation? It could be done, but will they do it?

    If they won’t and if the Fed doesn’t stop pushing on strings but starts being aggressive with the lenders, bonds will likely not tank but just sit there for the most part.

    Are there any creative ways around this that are also practical and politically doable? Any steps would require educating the leadership and masses regardless. Let’s get going. Yes?

    Source …

  6. Bank Records Sought in Offshore Tax Inquiry –

    Lynnley Browning reports:

    A federal judge gave the government permission to seek data from five Wall Street banks on American clients suspected of hiding assets at an unrelated Caribbean bank.

    Judge Richard M. Berman of the United States District Court in Manhattan told the banks — Citigroup, Bank of New York Mellon, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and Bank of America — to produce details about American clients who may be evading taxes through the Bank of N.T. Butterfield & Son.

    Butterfield has offices throughout the Caribbean, including the Cayman Islands, and in Switzerland, among other offshore havens.

    The judge’s order came after a similar one was issued on Nov. 7 by Judge Kimba M. Wood, also of the Federal District Court in Manhattan, to Bank of New York Mellon and Citigroup regarding clients with accounts at Zuercher Kantonalbank, or ZKB, a major regional bank in Zurich. ZKB is one of more than a dozen Swiss and Swiss-style banks under criminal investigation by American authorities for enabling tax evasion by American clients.

    This is important for the health of the US economy. The less the super-rich pay by hiding it, the more the rest of us pay.

    Source …

  7. Dani Rodrik on the large, dangerous external imbalances that underpin the fastest-growing economies’ performance. – Project Syndicate News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Dani Rodrik, Professor of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, writes:

    … the German economy has been free-riding on global demand.

    In an optimal world, the surpluses of countries pursuing export-led growth would be willingly matched by the deficits of those pursuing debt-led growth. In the real world, there is no mechanism to ensure such an equilibrium on a continuous basis; national economic policies can be (and often are) mutually incompatible.

    When some countries want to run smaller deficits without a corresponding desire by others to reduce surpluses, the result is the exportation of unemployment and a bias toward deflation (as is the case now). When some want to reduce their surpluses without a corresponding desire by others to reduce deficits, the result is a “sudden stop” in capital flows and financial crisis. As external imbalances grow larger, each phase of this cycle becomes more painful.

    Source …*/–performance

  8. Main Streets Across the World – Cushman & Wakefield News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay named as most expensive destination in 25th anniversary edition of Cushman & Wakefield’s flagship retail report

    • Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay remains the world’s costliest retail location for the second year running and breaks through the $3,000 per sq ft barrier for the first time in the survey’s 25-year history

    • New York’s Fifth Avenue and Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, which saw nearly a 40% rental rise, hold on to second and third place respectively

    Source …

  9. [Highly recommended] Citadel’s Griffin Advocates Breaking Up Banks – News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Rachel Abrams reports:

    Big banks should hope that Kenneth C. Griffin, the founder and chief executive of Citadel, never gets his hands on a magic wand.

    “We don’t have a good legal justification for breaking up the banking system,” Mr. Griffin said during a discussion of universal banks, the large banks that offer an array of financial products and services. “But if I could wave a magic wand, I’d break up the banking system.”

    Someone give him a magic wand? Visit the source to view the video.

    We aren’t necessarily endorsing everything Kenneth is saying, but he is definitely headed in the right direction relative to the mega-banks. We disagree with his view that tapering is right, right now. What we like most are 1) his emphasis upon ethics and 2) focusing on the whole economy rather than just finance capitalism, which is to say Wall Street.

    Source …

  10. How To Shop For A Mortgage Rate Without Affecting Your Credit Score News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Dan Greene writes:

    … with the mortgage applications, you’ll only get an approval once.

    As such, the credit bureaus have made it formal policy to permit “rate shopping”. In fact, it’s encouraged. And this leads us to the second important FICO-protecting concept.

    You have the right to shop with as many lenders as you like. The trick, though, is to shop for your mortgage within a limited, 14-day time frame. If you can manage that, the credit bureaus will acknowledge your first credit pull as a “ding”, but will ignore each subsequent check.

    This means that you can have your credit checked by an unlimited number of lenders within a 2-week period, enabling you to compare mortgage rates and fees ad nauseum. And, no matter how many credit checks you do, the mortgage inquiries get lumped into a single credit score hit.

    It’s a policy that’s good for you and good for the credit bureaus. Your credit scores stay high, and TransUnion, Equifax and Experian collect more fees from the banks.

    Source …

  11. The Looming Bond Fund Crash – Opinion IU.EU News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Paul Amery writes:

    “… retail investors’ bond holdings are increasingly sitting in mutual funds and ETFs. Packaged fixed income products such as ETFs and mutual funds are perceived to be much more liquid and easy to sell than the bonds themselves. However, the truth is that redemptions will force bond managers to sell the underlying bonds….What concerns dealers and asset managers alike is the fact that an interest rate rise causes investors to liquidate fixed income funds…causing a flood of bonds to hit the market at a time when there is little dealer liquidity to absorb the shock.”

    You won’t find the managers of corporate bond funds or ETFs advertising this risk, except indirectly; last year asset manager M&G acted to slow inflows into its corporate bond fund, though the firm explained this at the time as a policy to help the manager invest funds more easily, rather than as a precautionary measure against potential redemption pressures.

    But we saw a dress rehearsal of chaotic bond fund redemptions in June this year when the Fed hinted it might raise rates. The ensuing market disruption then caused the US central bank to backtrack rapidly.

    It’s hard to argue against the measures taken post-crisis to make banks safer. But the imbalance between bond fund inventory and dealer capacity is getting steadily worse. For the time being the cracks are being papered over by government intervention in the form of near-zero interest rates and quantitative easing, which keep the yield hunt going. Experience, though, tells us that when a market accident is waiting to happen it eventually does.

    This is why it is critical that the Fed taper extremely gradually when it does finally start slowing its purchases and be prepared to reverse course if things sour.

    Also, as Ben Bernanke said and as we pointed out before we ever heard him or anyone else say it, the Fed could hold bonds to maturity.

    Bonds do not have to tank just because some tapering begins.

    In fact, bonds might become a bargain if people unwisely panic.

    Source …

  12. Sober Look: Need a corporate loan? Forget your bank – tap the shadow banking system instead News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Walter Kurtz writes:

    … loans to companies with strong ratings pay such a low rate these days, it eats into banks’ profitability. This is especially true for the middle market and lower middle market companies. Outside of basic inventory, equipment, and receivables financing (mostly short-term), banks remain cautious.

    You can see how banks need to be incentivized (by the Fed via charging interest on excess reserves) to lend to more businesses at rates profitable to the banks. Banks need to educate borrowers on good business practices so that those customers will be much more likely to succeed.

    Source …

  13. NYC’s World Trade Tower Opens 40% Empty in Revival – Bloomberg News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    As the World Trade Center takes its first steps toward once again becoming a vibrant office district, it faces “a very competitive environment” that probably will remain for the next few years, said Michael Cohen, tri-state regional president of brokerage Colliers International. The first tower’s debut and the completion in January of 1 World Trade Center will add 2.4 million square feet of unleased space, testing a downtown market that’s already contending with more than 6 million square feet of offices left behind by shrinking financial companies.

    Source …

  14. Real Estate Matters | Weak household formation is stumbling block for recovery News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Ilyce R. Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin write:

    In a normal year, roughly 1.1 million new households form. …

    Since the recession, trends have changed. According to the latest Census figures, roughly 380,000 new households were formed in the last 12 months. And worse, the number of young adults living with their parents ticked up as well.

    The latter trend is about young people not getting jobs, Kolko [Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia] explained. “And even if they get jobs, they don’t move out right away,” he added. “You need to save up, to build up a cash cushion and the financial confidence to move out. You need to be able to pass a credit check and have the first and last month rent.”

    Jobs, jobs, jobs, that’s the answer to the vast majority of our problems: full-time, high-paying jobs.

    The large investors know this. They know that the government, the Congress, isn’t likely to do what it would take (the proper fiscal policy) to create the jobs. That’s why they’ve been buying so many houses to rent out. Perhaps they’ve been buying up houses that are a bit too big considering the rent amounts and the bad employment numbers, but they are likely planning that the economy will improve but not so much that it will drive them out of the single-family-house-rental industry/new asset-class.

    Source …

  15. MortgageOrb: Hensarling: GSEs Haven’t Repaid ‘One Thin Dime’ To Taxpayers

    Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, chair of the House Financial Services Committee and lead architect of the Protecting American Taxpayers and Homeowners (PATH) Act, a Republican-backed housing finance reform bill, says reports claiming that government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are “repaying” taxpayers for the largest bailout in American history are completely “false.”

    “Fannie and Freddie have not ‘repaid’ taxpayers one thin dime,” Hensarling says in a statement on his congressional website.

    What do you make of that?

    Freddie said it would finish reimbursing the government for its $71.3 billion bailout by year’s end, including a $30 billion payment it will make by December. In fact, the total of its “payments” will exceed the amount it received from the Treasury by $9 million.

    Fannie said it would pay $8.6 billion before the year’s end, leaving it about $2 billion short of completely repaying the $116.1 billion bailout it received.

    Rep. Hensarling is making a point of semantics.

    “The agreement doesn’t provide any mechanism for Fannie and Freddie to buy back the government’s senior preferred shares, which now total $188 billion,” the WSJ’s Nick Timiraos wrote in the report published Wednesday. “If it sounds like Fannie and Freddie are making interest payments on a loan that can’t ever be repaid, that’s because they are. So any discussion of ‘repayment’ needs this disclaimer: Even once Fannie and Freddie have paid $188 billion in dividends, they’ll still owe $188 billion.”

    However, the US taxpayers will have been fully reimbursed the bailout-principal amount.

    “Their failed business model was at the epicenter of the financial crisis ….” That doesn’t sound entirely accurate to us. It’s why they have been repeatedly successful in their put-back efforts where banks past off deficient loans to Fannie and Freddie. Fannie and Freddie both had better track records regarding sour loans than the private banking sector did. If their failed model means they should be privatized, then what does that say for what should happen to the banks that did even worse? Is Rep. Hensarling also calling for all those banks to be temporarily nationalized? If not, what method does he suggest for unwinding those banks that caused more trouble than did Fannie and Freddie?

    Source …

  16. Obama nominates senior Treasury official Timothy Massad to lead CFTC – The Washington Post

    Fannie and Freddie were hardly the only entities that received help as a result of Wall Street Investment Banks throwing money at mortgages without requiring proper due diligence but often no documentation and only stated, unverified incomes. To be completely honest and fair, that was not Fannie’s or Freddie’s doing.

    In the fall of 2008, Congress passed, and President George W. Bush signed into law, the TARP program, which authorized Treasury to spend as much as $700 billion bailing out banks, homeowners and other firms central to financial stability.

    It was a deeply controversial program, but Obama pointed out Tuesday that it has been profitable.

    The rescue plan ultimately disbursed $421 billion. Thanks to repayments by the nation’s biggest banks, which have largely returned their bailout funds with interest and dividends, the program has recovered $424 billion.

    TARP, however, still has $21 billion of investments outstanding, including in Ally Financial and General Motors.

    A majority of the 91 institutions remaining in TARP are small banks that have had difficulty repurchasing their shares. Treasury has auctioned off its shares in more than a hundred community banks, often at a loss. Still, it has turned a profit from its small-bank investment.

    Source …

  17. Mortgage REITs Remain in Fed’s Sights – Real Time Economics – WSJ

    Robbie Whelan reports:

    Much of the hand-wringing has come from how fast mREITs have grown since the financial crisis — mREITs’ assets have more than doubled, to roughly $443 billion, since 2007 — but another source of worry is the companies’ business model itself. Mortgage REITs make money for investors by taking out short-term loans from commercial banks in the repurchase (or “repo”) market, and using the cash to buy high-yielding mortgage securities with long terms (typically 30-year mortgages). The mismatch in short-term vs. long-term debt makes mortgage REITs highly vulnerable to interest rate fluctuations.

    Another issue is that mREITs, unlike mutual funds and other firms that invest in mortgage bonds, are exempt from the Investment Company Act of 1940, which means they are able to pile on leverage, allowing them to offer investors fat returns, but also making the mREITs themselves bigger and therefore more risky.

    “Intuitively, the relatively modest amount of MBS holdings by mREITs might seem to make it improbable that mREITs pose systemic risk. On the other hand, in May of 2007, shortly before the financial crisis, subprime first mortgages accounted for only about 14 percent of all first mortgages, and near-prime loans accounted for only an additional 8 percent to 10 percent,” the paper said. “Yet subprime and near-prime mortgages were a major factor in triggering the crisis.”

    Source …

  18. GLOBAL DEBT BUBBLE SET TO BURST — THE NEXT “MINSKY MOMENT” | Carney Capital Investments News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    Extreme pessimism on Phil Carney’s part:

    I believe the next global economic “Minsky Moment” will soon be upon us. It is a Federal Reserve and Central Bank policy induced crisis which will be almost impossible to escape. Each individual country has it’s own individual bubble or bubbles that are being inflated. Australia has a property bubble, the USA has a property bubble and an equities bubble. Canada and the UK both have property bubbles. The list goes on and on. The asset bubbles once popped will expose the underbelly of debt that lies beneath the surface. It will unravel with greater speed than in the last economic crisis and will expose the systemic problems associated with a debt driven global economy. With so much debt weighing the global economy down, most of which borrowed during this low interest rate environment, the global economy and the people it supports stay waiting. Some are aware of the dark clouds that are forming but sadly many are not. In my opinion the “Minsky Moment” is upon us, and when it hits it will be seen as the moment that brought about the Keynesian theory demise.

    This is true provided the Fed doesn’t force banks to lend so employment will increase. The other option, the better option, would be for Congress to step up fiscal spending on training and jobs, public and private.

    When the US entered WWII, it was still in rough economic shape though improving. What happened during WWII was governmental spending. After the war, the US was the strongest it has ever been. 1950 was the peak year. Yes, the rest of the world was in bad shape, but US taxes on the super-rich were the highest ever and one blue-collar income could house and feed a family. Times have changed, but there is no reason why public spending on the order of WWII and then some, spending on peacetime infrastructure and the like, couldn’t have the same amazing impact on economic growth such that we could end up retiring the National Debt and be running surpluses thereafter forever.

    Source …

  19. Location Affordability News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    This is why it is important for many landlords to look at local transportation when making investment decisions. Nearby mass transit has become a major marketing feature.

    A Joint Project by the Dept. of Housing and Urban Development and the Dept. of Transporation [sic] as part of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities

    There is more to housing affordability than how much rent or mortgage you pay. Transportation costs are the second-biggest budget item for most families, but to date there hasn’t been an easy way for people to fully factor transportation costs into decisions about where to live and work. The goal of the Location Affordability Portal is to provide the public with reliable, user-friendly data and resources on combined housing and transportation costs to help consumers, policymakers, and developers make more informed decisions about where to live, work, and invest.

    The Portal features two cutting-edge new tools — the Location Affordability Index and My Transportation Cost Calculator—that illustrate from different perspectives how housing and transportation costs impact affordability. In addition to these decision-support tools, the Portal provides access to supporting resources that offer a wide range of information on current research and practice aimed at understanding, and ultimately reducing, the combined housing and transportation cost burden borne by American families.

    Source …

  20. One Year Later, Has the German Bubble Grown? | European Investment Conference News Alerts. Nov. 14, 2013. #RealEstate

    A very hard look at Germany: Ron Rimkus, CFA writes:

    Now that the Deutsche Bundesbank has officially warned of local bubbles in German housing markets, I find the situation to be even more startling than it was when I wrote about it a year ago in a post for the Enterprising Investor. The confluence of risks is extraordinary: Germany, the financial heart of Europe, is vulnerable to a catastrophic failure of the banking system.


    For a country whose population is declining, and whose housing supply is growing, this is a notable phenomenon. Add in the ECB’s extremely low interest rates and easy monetary policy, and it is crystal clear that something is awry.

    Where is all that incremental demand coming from? Much of it is coming from outside Germany’s borders. …

    Most likely, Europe will slowly but surely move toward a more formal fiscal and political union, and not just a currency union. As it does, Germany will incur greater costs, most likely taking the form of much greater taxes and transfer payments to the European periphery. As that happens, Germany will either have to increase taxes on its citizens explicitly through income or VAT taxes, or they will have to raise taxes implicitly through inflation. In the former scenario, income and growth are harmed. In the latter, interest rates rise. It may be a combination of both. Whatever the case, the costs of further integration in Europe will primarily be paid by Germany.

    It’s a very detailed yet compact article.

    Source …

  21. [login required] Top Lenders Forecast Housing Market Gains Despite New Ability-to-Repay Rules |

    The National Association of Realtors® sound down on Fannie and Freddie more than we’ve ever heard them before.

    Watters [Kevin Watters, CEO of JPMorgan Chase] said fears over putbacks are real and Heid [Mike Heid, president of Wells Fargo Home Mortgage] agreed. “The putback fear is still there and we’re working to put it to rest,” said Heid. “The time is right for that. If the government-sponsored enterprises weren’t in conservatorship, the issue of put backs wouldn’t be there. We need a world where everything is more of a natural market and we need competition with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The conservatorship should end.”

    The existence of put-backs doesn’t sound like a legitimate argument against the existence of Fannie and Freddie to us but rather an argument for better regulation of originators/banks.

    Of course, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are private enterprises (commercial banks) competing directly against Fannie and Freddie in many respects. They stand to make more money, to consolidate more to themselves, if Fannie and Freddie are shrunken. Whether that would be ultimately better for households and firms and the economy as a whole would remain to be seen.

    Source …

  22. NAR 2013 Commercial Economic Issues & Trends Forum | Conference Live 2013

    A good overview:

    NAR’s Chief Economist, Lawrence Yun, discusses the 2013 economic activity and its impact upon the commercial real estate outlook, while Richard Whitsell, President and CEO of Fresno First Bank, discusses current banking trends and their impact upon commercial real estate.

    A couple of minor points:

    Germany can’t be emulated by everyone else because mathematically, it isn’t possible for all nations to be net exporters. Also, we’ve been led to understand that Germany benefited by the switch to the euro more than did most of the other euro countries.

    On productivity and income, productivity gains have not been translating into higher incomes for the working class. In fact, over the last several decades, had productivity gains been given over to the working class at a constant rate, the minimum wage right now in the US would be about $22 an hour. Naturally, offshoring has had a huge negative impact upon the US workforce’s average wage rate.

    Source …