News: Real Estate, Risk, Economics. Nov. 4, 2014

Linking ≠ endorsement.

Table of Contents
(Click to sections below.)

1) End Of Fed’s Stimulus Won’t Settle Debate Over Its Effectiveness

2) The Retail Experience in Apartments | Insights | Colliers International’s Commercial Real Estate Blog

3) China growth to slow to 5 percent over next year or so: London consultancy

4) Reshoring Takes Off | Realtor Magazine

5) GDP Report Shows Increasing Positivity for Nonresidential Construction

6) DeLong Smackdown Watch: “Talking Points” Edition… (Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality…)

7) HK property prices continue to rise – FT com

8) Dollar Nears 7-Year High to Yen on US; Gold, Ruble Drop – Bloomberg

9) China Oct PMIs point to cooling economic momentum, growth target at risk | Reuters

10) China’s economic stumbles may trip up world

11) Investigators: fatal fire’s cause could take days – seattlepi com

12) Regulators Are in the Dark on Shadow Banking, Says BOE’s Cunliffe – Real Time Economics – WSJ

13) Fiscal policy should not be decided by simplistic rules – FT com

14) Narayana Kocherlakota Speech – Clarifying the Objectives of Monetary Policy | The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

15) Explaining Recent Asset Price Movements | St. Louis Fed On the Economy

16) The Underworld of Finance: Welcome to Shadow Banking | World In Writing

17) How big should central bank balance sheets be? – Money, Banking and Financial Markets

18) A Retreat From Weather Disasters – NYTimes com

19) Europe must act now to avoid ‘lost decade’ – FT com

20) Open Letters of 1933 – NYTimes com

21) How Effective Were Fed Bond Buys? What the QE Research Says – Real Time Economics – WSJ

22) Prosecutors Suspect Repeat Offenses on Wall Street – NYTimes com

23) Ideology and Investment – NYTimes com

24) Did the Federal Reserve Do QE Backwards? | Next New Deal

25) Home prices since 1870 | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal

26) The takeaway from six years of economic troubles? Keynes was right.

27) What to look for when picking a home renovation company – The Washington Post

28) London Luxury-Home Values Stall for First Time Since 2010 – Bloomberg

29) Woman accused of setting fire to defraud insurance company – The Telegraph – thetelegraph com

30) NASA Bombshell: Global Groundwater Crisis Threatens Our Food Supplies and Our Security – NationofChange

31) This man wants to stop America’s salad bowl from being fracked | Grist

32) Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog – Blog Archive – Ordinance to Outlaw County-wide Landscape Pesticide Use Introduced in Maryland

33) Interior inspections of ‘zombie homes’ to start – Washington Times

34) Mapping the data: Pennsylvania tracks ‘dangerous dogs’, including 24 from Lancaster County – Local News – lancasteronline com

35) Owners of derelict properties in Tacoma could face new fees | Politics | The News Tribune

  1.    End Of Fed’s Stimulus Won’t Settle Debate Over Its Effectiveness

    Critics of the Fed’s policy, like J.D. Foster of the Heritage Foundation, argue that QE has a key weakness: Eventually the Fed must unload the bonds it now owns. Selling the bonds, when the economy is in better health and interest rates are rising, will cause rates to rise faster, which will effectively kill off the recovery, Foster argues.

    There’s no merit in that viewpoint. The Fed does not have to sell the bonds. We said that years ago. Then the Fed said it itself.

    Add your comment.

  2.    The Retail Experience in Apartments | Insights | Colliers International’s Commercial Real Estate Blog

    Across the nation there are about 485,000 new apartments planned for delivery in the next four years, with a great concentration of these apartments being developed in similar locations and with similar attributes (location in the core, robust amenities, escalating rents). Interestingly, Seattle’s Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) accounts for nearly 10 percent of this total. How do developers, owners and investors outperform and flourish in such an environment?

    Competitive differentiation.

    Add your comment.

  3.    China growth to slow to 5 percent over next year or so: London consultancy

    “Before he became premier, Li Keqiang had described GDP figures as unreliable. He suggested some alternative indicators to gauge the true health of the overall economy,” wrote Yiannis Koutelidakis and Laura Eaton, analysts at Fathom.

    “We have taken him at his word and put together our own China Momentum Indicator (CMI). It does not look good. It has dropped sharply, suggesting that growth is heading towards 5 percent over the next year or so. Indeed, it may already be there.”


    Add your comment.

  4.    Reshoring Takes Off | Realtor Magazine

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, manufacturing construction had increased to 122 percent of its prerecession levels by 2013.

    The location of much of the new manufacturing is also changing. BLS research found that almost 80 percent of manufacturing job growth since the recession has taken place in the top 100 U.S. metros. When you focus in on advanced manufacturing, which relies on computers, automation, and cutting-edge materials and processes, the number of new jobs in major metros jumps to over 95 percent. Educated talent wants to live in or near cities, so manufacturers who need that talent have to follow.

    However, there’s a global slowdown afoot, and the stronger dollar will make US exports more expensive.

    Add your comment.

  5.    GDP Report Shows Increasing Positivity for Nonresidential Construction

    “…the improving confidence of consumers, business owners, and real estate developers, among others, suggests that additional momentum is likely,” Basu said. As an example, the Consumer Confidence Index attained a seven-year high in October. The implication is that nonresidential construction spending should continue to recover, with growth continuing to be concentrated in privately financed segments.”

    Well, the consumer is looking primarily at the falling price of gas and not at its cause: a slowdown in China, the Fed stopping QE, sanctions on Russia, the Saudis over pumping to help further hurt Russia, all leading to a deflating dollar, which will turn around and bite the US economy which will, in turn, make continuing private-sector deleveraging all the harder.

    Add your comment.

  6.    DeLong Smackdown Watch: “Talking Points” Edition… (Brad DeLong’s Grasping Reality…)

    Brad DeLong:

    The modal scenario I see in the United States is one in which the Federal Reserve begins raising interest rates too early–a la Sweden at the start of this decade–and then has to return to the ZLB in a year or two as the economy weakens. The optimistic scenario is that that of the smooth glide-path to the normalized, Goldilocks economy. The pessimistic scenario is another adverse shock hits demand while the Federal Reserve is still too close to the ZLB to effectively respond, and political gridlock gives the United States another lost decade.

    We don’t see it that way. We think that ending QE will have a stronger negative impact than the Fed expected and that, that will cause the Fed to not only hold off raising interest rates but if they have both the courage and brains, will cause them to call for fiscal stimulus, which will be a hard sell with Republicans in the legislature.

    Add your comment.

  7.    HK property prices continue to rise –

    The strength of the property market poses a serious challenge to Hong Kong’s embattled government as many people struggle to find affordable housing. Average home prices are now 14.9 times median household income, according to research from Demographia, compared to 7.3 in London.

    “Poll after poll has shown that the one issue that’s uppermost on the minds of the people, particularly the younger generation, is the cost of housing,” said Mr Leung, himself a former developer. “The shortage of housing has worsened to such an extent that some young married couples live apart. It is not acceptable.”

    Add your comment.

  8.    Dollar Nears 7-Year High to Yen on U.S.; Gold, Ruble Drop – Bloomberg

    The dollar jumped to an almost seven-year high versus the yen and gold fell with oil as slowing Chinese manufacturing growth and the Bank of Japan’s unexpected stimulus highlighted diverging growth prospects. The ruble plunged and natural gas futures jumped.

    Add your comment.

  9.    China Oct PMIs point to cooling economic momentum, growth target at risk | Reuters

    Funding costs rose 13.5 percent in the first nine months of this year compared with a year ago, the government survey showed, adding to the burden on factories which are already battling shrinking profit margins.

    China’s biggest banks last week reported rising bad loans for the third quarter, and one said the credit crunch which is squeezing small companies in the country’s export-oriented eastern provinces may be spreading westwards.

    “The possibility that risks will gradually spread from small enterprises to large and medium enterprises … and from eastern region and coastal areas of China to central and western regions will be intensified,” the country’s fifth-largest listed lender Bank of Communications Co Ltd (601328.SS) (3328.HK) said.

    Add your comment.

  10.    China’s economic stumbles may trip up world

    China’s roaring economy for years has pulled a lot of the rest of the planet with it, soaking up oil, iron ore and other commodities from creating nations, and automobiles and luxury goods from Europe.

    But its part as a global engine is fading as its economy slows — and quite a few other nations, in the view of economists, will really feel the pain. An Related Press survey of 30 economists has located that 57 % of them expect China’s decelerating economy to restrain development in countries from Brazil and Chile to Australia and South Korea.

    …the Conference Board, a enterprise group, forecast that China’s growth would slump to four % by 2020.

    …if China’s growth slows considerably, at some point it could diminish development in the United States, analysts admit.

    “China is such a significant market place,” Sohn mentioned. “Sooner or later, we will really feel the impact.”

    Add your comment.

  11.    Investigators: fatal fire’s cause could take days –

    PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — It could take fire investigators days to determine what caused an intense fire that ripped through a two-apartment house near the University of Southern Maine, as officials worked to identify the five people who were killed.

    Add your comment.

  12.    Regulators Are in the Dark on Shadow Banking, Says BOE’s Cunliffe – Real Time Economics – WSJ

    Regulators don’t know enough about the so-called shadow banking system to conclude that it is likely to be the next threat to the stability of the financial system, but they need to do “a lot more work” before they can conclude that it isn’t, Bank of England Deputy Governor Jon Cunliffe said Saturday.

    Speaking at a separate panel during the annual meeting of the Institute of International Finance, Mr. Cunliffe said that while the shadow banking system had grown “quite quickly,” that didn’t in itself mean that it posed a threat to the wider financial system.

    “We don’t know enough yet,” said Mr. Cunliffe, who is the deputy governor responsible for financial stability at the regulator. “It’s too early to say that this is the next crisis waiting to happen. We need to do a lot more work.”

    Mr. Cunliffe said assets managed by non-banking financial institutions had doubled over the past 10 years, but that didn’t necessarily reflect a migration of risky activities from institutions that are regulated.

    “We shouldn’t start with the presumption that it should be regulated,” he said.

    We couldn’t disagree more.

    Add your comment.

  13.    Fiscal policy should not be decided by simplistic rules –

    Martin Wolf:

    In the 2014 Budget the Treasury argued it would be wise to lower the debt ratio, for two reasons: first, it would give a future government room to respond to another crisis; and, second, it would eliminate the negative effects of high levels of public debt on the growth of the economy.

    Neither argument is compelling. One counter-argument is that net public debt of 80 per cent of GDP is well below the UK’s average of the past 300 years. Another is that the direction of the link between growth and public debt is debatable.

    Saying it’s debatable is too charitable toward the deficit hawks.

    Add your comment.

  14.    News and Events – Narayana Kocherlakota Speech – Clarifying the Objectives of Monetary Policy – October 16, 2014 | The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

    Narayana Kocherlakota:

    …the macroeconomic shock of 2007—the Great Recession—pushed both employment and inflation below the FOMC’s goals. In this sense, the two mandates have been entirely complementary over the past seven years. Unfortunately, monetary policy has proven to be insufficiently accommodative to offset either the price or employment effects of this large shock.

    …I believe that the FOMC should consider articulating a benchmark two-year time horizon for returning inflation to the 2 percent goal. (Two years is a good choice for a benchmark because monetary policy is generally thought to affect inflation with about a two-year lag.) Right now, although the FOMC has a 2 percent inflation objective over the long run, it has not specified any time frame for achieving that objective. This lack of specificity suggests that appropriate monetary policy might engender inflation that is far from the 2 percent target for years at a time and thereby creates undue inflation (and related employment) uncertainty. Relatedly, the lack of a public timeline for a goal can sometimes lead to a lack of urgency in the pursuit of that goal. I believe that, if the FOMC publicly articulated a reasonable time benchmark for achieving the inflation goal, the Committee would be led to pursue its inflation target with even more alacrity.

    …my benchmark outlook is that PCE inflation will not rise back to 2 percent until 2018. This sluggish inflation outlook implies that, at any FOMC meeting held during 2015, inflation would be expected to be below 2 percent over the following two years. It would be inappropriate for the FOMC to raise the target range for the fed funds rate at any such meeting.

    Given the Fed’s mandate, we completely agree.

    That said, we disagree with the entire Federal Reserve System.

    Add your comment.

  15.    Explaining Recent Asset Price Movements | St. Louis Fed On the Economy

    One movement that might appear to be paradoxical is the sharp increase in the foreign exchange value of the dollar over the past few weeks. The foreign exchange value of a currency is often linked to expectations of that country’s growth relative to its trading partners. It would be unusual for declining U.S. growth to be linked to a rising value of the dollar. In the present case, however, expectations of European and Japanese growth may have declined more than those of U.S. growth. For example, on Oct. 14, Germany’s Economy Ministry reduced its 2014 forecast from 1.8 to 1.2 percent and its 2015 estimate from 2.0 to 1.3 percent.

    That’s it.

    Add your comment.

  16.    The Underworld of Finance: Welcome to Shadow Banking | World In Writing


    Essentially shadow banking is the process whereby nonbank financial institutions engage in maturity transformation, the utilisation of short-term loans to finance investing in assets with longer maturities. Moreover, shadow banking is growing — probably as an unintended consequence of tighter regulation on major banks and other financial establishments.

    Whilst shadow banking is clearly incredibly prominent in the UK, it is in the USA where this ‘underground’ banking sector poses the greatest risk. Shadow banking embodies one of the very shortcomings of the financial system which ultimately resulted in the global recession. Economist Gary Gorton even went as far as referring to aspects of the 2007-2008 crash as a “run” on the shadow banking system. …

    … Shadow banks should be restricted on the amount they are able to borrow from major financial institutions and indeed be prevented from taking on assets with long maturity dates, financed by very short term deposits. With Draghi and the European Central Bank (amongst others) considering buying asset-backed securities, the very currency of shadow banking, it is likely that the prominence of the sector will only grow. However, it is up to the authorities and regulatory bodies to ensure that this growth isn’t allowed to transform into a contagion that infects the financial system, with the potential ability to cause another crisis.

    We agree.

    Add your comment.

  17.    How big should central bank balance sheets be? — Money, Banking and Financial Markets

    This is a longer-than-usual excerpt because, well, it’s that good. Stephen G. Cecchetti and Kermit L. Schoenholtz:

    In 2007, the Fed’s balance sheet was less than $1 trillion. Today, it is nearly $4.5 trillion. The U.S. experience is far from unique. Since 2007, global central bank balance sheets have nearly tripled to more than $22 trillion as of mid-2014. And, the increase is split evenly between advanced and emerging market economies (EMEs) (see chart).

    So what’s the right size? The answer depends on the policy goals and the nature of the financial system. In the case of the Fed, we expect that it will be able to achieve its long-term objectives with fewer than half of its current assets.

    …Among advanced economies, for example, Canada has a zero reserve requirement while the Eurosystem is relatively bank-centric, helping to account for the latter’s bigger balance sheet. Among EMEs, China, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore need a large stock of foreign currency to manage their exchange rates, while Colombia, the Czech Republic, and Poland let their currencies float.

    …the expanded balance sheets in China, Hong Kong and Switzerland reflect operations to steady exchange rates. Interventions in dysfunctional markets played a significant role in the United States and the United Kingdom. In many countries, including Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom, demand stabilization at the zero bound eventually became the leading driver. [So far, no leading central bank has been compelled to finance its government.]

    But U.S. financial markets are now functioning well, and the aggregate demand rationale for altering the term and risk structure of interest rates is waning. So, what should the Federal Reserve aim to do about the extraordinary size of its balance sheet? The answer re quires weighing the benefits and costs of maintaining a large balance sheet in normal times when monetary policy is set by altering the policy interest rate (see table).

    … A central bank that holds a large, diverse portfolio of assets has the ability to influence a variety of securities prices and can provide a large volume of high-quality liquid assets to firms and households. In addition, by offering banks a large level of reserves at low cost (the leading central banks now all pay interest on reserves), central banks discourage bank risk-taking in the form of liquidity and maturity transformation. Put differently, paying interest on reserves can be viewed as a price-based version of a liquidity requirement (something we wrote about in a recent post).

    We also see three main costs. First, a large balance sheet will mean portfolio risk, partly in the form of high leverage. For example, the Federal Reserve System currently has total assets of more than 150 times its capital. And, its holdings of long-term bonds expose it to substantial risk of loss if interest rates rise. Yet, quite a few central banks probably operate today without positive net worth — a state of affairs that poses risks only if their capital shortfall subjects the central bankers to political pressures. (You can find a general discussion of central bank finances here.)

    Second, if central banks remain big players in a broad array of financial markets, they substitute their own balance sheet for that of private intermediaries. When markets were dysfunctional — as in the heat of the financial crisis — this was desirable. In normal times, private intermediaries have strong incentives to allocate savings to their most efficient uses, and are less prone than a central bank to political influence.

    Finally, and most importantly, a government that comes to rely on a central bank to hold a large quantity of its debt poses a threat to central bank independence. History teaches us that when the central bank loses control of its balance sheet to the fiscal authority, the results can be catastrophic.

    It will take many years to get to this lower long-run level of assets, but making that transition ought not be a problem for setting monetary policy. With the ability to pay interest on reserves, combined with other new instruments like reverse repo, the Fed should be able to adjust its policy interest rate regardless of the size of its balance sheet.

    Add your comment.

  18.    A Retreat From Weather Disasters –

    Great report from Eduardo Porter:

    Insurers won’t be able to stay in markets where they can’t align premiums with rising risk. Government regulators must acknowledge this fact. Policy makers must also realize that the enormous subsidies for Americans to build in harm’s way are ultimately counterproductive.

    Add your comment.

  19.    Europe must act now to avoid ‘lost decade’ –

    Scott Minerd:

    The bottom line is that none of the tools currently on the table will get the job done. There are not enough assets to purchase or finance and the timetable to get anything done is too long. Policy makers do not have the luxury of a year or two to figure this out. The ECB balance sheet shrinks virtually daily and as it shrinks, the monetary base of Europe is contracting and putting downward pressure on prices. Europe is clearly in danger of falling into the liquidity trap, if it is not already there. The likelihood of a “lost decade” like that experienced in Japan is rapidly increasing. The ECB must act and act quickly.

    Angela Merkel, however, is foolishly adhering to what Wolfgang Schäuble is telling her she should do.

    Add your comment.

  20.    Open Letters of 1933 –

    Paul Krugman:

    …an open letter to monetary officials warning of the dangers of printing money and debasing the dollar, claiming that these policies will undermine confidence and threaten to create a renewed financial crisis. But it’s not the famous 2010 letter to Ben Bernanke, whose signatories refuse to admit that they were wrong; it’s a letter sent by Columbia economists in 1933….

    When will they ever learn?

    Add your comment.

  21.    How Effective Were Fed Bond Buys? What the QE Research Says – Real Time Economics – WSJ

    Pedro Nicolaci da Costa:

    Many of the studies of large-scale asset purchases, known as quantitative easing or QE, agree they worked very well to prevent deflation and stabilize the financial system during the 2008 crisis, but disagree about how effective the programs have been in boosting growth since then.

    Add your comment.

  22.    Prosecutors Suspect Repeat Offenses on Wall Street –

    Moral hazard: Ben Protess and Jessica Silver-Greenberg:

    Even now that prosecutors are examining repeat offenses on Wall Street, they are likely to seek punishments more symbolic than sweeping. Top executives are not expected to land in prison, nor are any problem banks in jeopardy of shutting down.

    Add your comment.

  23.    Ideology and Investment –

    …take a Wall Street Journal editorial from the same year titled “The Great Misallocators,” asserting that any money the government spends diverts resources away from the private sector, which would always make better use of those resources.

    Never mind that the economic models underlying such assertions have failed dramatically in practice, that the people who say such things have been predicting runaway inflation and soaring interest rates year after year and keep being wrong; these aren’t the kind of people who reconsider their views in the light of evidence. Never mind the obvious point that the private sector doesn’t and won’t supply most kinds of infrastructure, from local roads to sewer systems; such distinctions have been lost amid the chants of private sector good, government bad.

    And the result, as I said, is that America has turned its back on its own history. We need public investment; at a time of very low interest rates, we could easily afford it. But build we won’t.

    Well, the private sector could, and would, replace all public endeavors provided they could make a large enough profit doing so. The problem with that though is that it would cost people lower down on the economic food chain too much. It would increase poverty greatly because those at the top of the privatized pyramid would deliberately fail to share the proceeds. After all, the whole point in privatization is so those at the top of the private sector can become all the richer relative to everyone else.

    Add your comment.

  24.    Did the Federal Reserve Do QE Backwards? | Next New Deal

    Mike Konczal:

    …the Federal Reserve also did QE with mortgage-backed securities, buying $40 billion a month in order to bring down the mortgage rate. But what if it just set the mortgage rate? That’s what Joseph Gagnon of the Peterson Institute (who also helped execute the first QE), argued for in September 2012, when he wrote, “the Fed should promise to hold the prime mortgage rate below 3 percent for at least 12 months. It can do this by unlimited purchases of agency mortgage-backed securities.” (He reiterated that argument to me in 2013.) Set the price, and then commit to unlimited purchases. That’s good advice, and we could have done it with Treasuries as well.

    Add your comment.

  25.    Home prices since 1870 | VOX, CEPR’s Policy Portal

    Katharina Knoll, Moritz Schularick, and Thomas Steger:blockquote>What explains the fact that residential land prices remained stable until the mid-20th century and increased strongly thereafter? Our explanation focuses on the different dynamics in land supply in these two periods. From the 19th to the early 20th century, the transport revolution — mostly the construction of the railway network, but also the introduction of steam shipping — led to a massive and well-documented drop in transport costs (Jacks and Pendakur 2010). An important side effect of the transport revolution was to substantially augment the supply of economically usable land.

    In the paper, we develop a model with land heterogeneity to demonstrate how a sustained decline in transport costs endogenously triggers an expansion of land, such that the land price may remain low despite continuous growth of income and population. We also show that this land-augmenting decline in transport costs subsides in the second half of the 20th century, so that land increasingly became a fixed factor.

    At the same time, zoning regulations and other restrictions on land use also inhibited the utilisation of additional land in recent decades (Glaeser et al. 2005, Glaeser and Gyourko 2003), while rising expenditure shares for housing services added further to rising demand for land. Yet our stylised facts are also compatible with other explanations that help explain surging land prices in the past few decades, such as growing subsidies for home ownership or easy borrowing conditions (Mian and Sufi 2014, Jordà et al. 2014).

    Add your comment.

  26.    The takeaway from six years of economic troubles? Keynes was right.

    This too is a longer-than-usual excerpt; but we think this one needs some correction, which we will supply below. Anatole Kaletsky:

    The main lesson is that government decisions on taxes and public spending have turned out to be more important as drivers of economic activity than the monetary experiments with zero interest rates and quantitative easing that have dominated media and market attention. Fiscal decisions on budget deficits, taxes and public spending have mostly been debated as if they were largely political choices, with much less influence than monetary policy on macroeconomic outcomes such as inflation, growth and employment. Yet the reality has turned out to be the opposite. While every major economy in the world has followed essentially the same monetary policy since 2008, their fiscal policies have been very different and the divergence in outcomes, especially when we compare the United States and Europe, has been exactly the opposite to what was implied by the rhetoric of most politicians and central banks.

    …the six years since 2008 have provided strong empirical support for the supposedly outmoded Keynesian view that government borrowing is more powerful than monetary policy in stimulating severely depressed economies and pulling them out of recession. In a sense, it is odd that the power of fiscal policy has come as a surprise — or that it continues to be categorically denied by the German government and the U.S. Tea Party. The underlying reason why fiscal policy is so important in recessions, and has now come to dominate over monetary policy, is a matter of simple arithmetic that should not be open to debate.

    Recessions generally occur when private business and households decide to spend less than their incomes in order to reduce their debts or increase their savings. If this process of “deleveraging” is happe ning in the private sector, which it clearly has been, then simple arithmetic shows that economic balance can only be restored if some other sector of the economy spends more than its income — and such excess spending is only possible if that “other sector” is willing to increase its debts. Disregarding the role of exports and imports, which must sum to zero for the world as a whole, the government is the only possible candidate to play the crucial balancing role as the “other sector.” It is therefore a mathematical certainty that governments must increase their borrowing whenever businesses and households decide to boost their savings by spending less than they earn.

    In the era of high inflation when monetarism was introduced, the idea that interest rates could always be cut by enough to revive private economic activity was reasonable enough. After all, when inflation is running at 5 percent, an interest rate of 1 percent is equivalent to minus 4 percent in real terms, imposing a massive tax on savers and offering a big subsidy to private investors. But this argument fails completely when inflation falls to negligible levels or disappears completely, as in the euro-zone and Japan.

    Ironically, therefore, the very success of monetarism and central banking in conquering inflation now means that the era of monetary dominance is over. Keynesian fiscal thinking has triumphed and finance ministers are again more important than central bankers, even though most of them have not yet noticed. …

    As monetary policy has lost traction, fiscal policy has automatically gained power. With interest rates at or near zero, private demand cannot be simulated with further rate cuts and this means that monetary easing can no longer offset fiscal tightening. As a result, any reduction in budget deficits becomes unambiguously deflationary, which is why the French and Italian governments were right to resist enforcement of the German-inspired fiscal compact in the euro-zone. Conversely, fiscal expansion now p rovides an unqualified economic stimulus because there is no risk of interest rates rising significantly in the next year or two — and perhaps not until the end of the decade. In short, the world has returned to a period of fiscal dominance, as in the 1950s and 1960s.

    What needs to be corrected is that government needs to borrow to spend. It does not. It can issue additional currency by spending what it creates without borrowing even a dime.

    Add your comment.

  27.    What to look for when picking a home renovation company – The Washington Post

    …the experts say you should ask contractors during the interview process:

    • Are you licensed to work in my state?
    • Do you and your subcontractors carry liability and worker’s compensation insurance?
    • Can you provide insurance certificates?
    • Are you lead-certified (certified in lead-safe work practices)?
    • What is the warranty on your work?
    • What services are covered under your contract? May I see a sample contract?
    • How long have you been in business?
    • Who will be assigned as the project manager? Will the project manager be on site all day?
    • Do you have an architect/engineer on staff? If not, whom do you use?
    • How many design drafts are included in the contract?
    • Do you use your own construction crews?
    • Who are your subcontractors, and how long have they worked with you?
    • What is the time frame for the project? When could we start? What is your estimated completion date?
    • When do you need my product selections?
    • Who will walk us through design and selections?
    • How do you handle allowances for products?
    • Which suppliers do you use?
    • Would the contract be fixed price or cost of materials and labor plus contractor fee?
    • What payment schedule will you use (deposit, regular payments, percent of completion payments, other)
    • May I have a list of references for comparable projects you have recently completed?

    We’ll add the following:

    • Check the BBB and the local registrar of contractors for any complaints.
    • Ask them who’s their surety company. If your project is sizable enough, consider a performance bond.
    • If subcontractors will be used, require Certificates of Insurance on them as well.
    • Talk with your own insurance broker about what coverage changes you might need and when. This will depend upon a number of factors and your existing coverage.
    • Require lien waivers.
    • Make sure you apply a certain percentage of retention with your payments so that you’ll still owe the contractor(s) before the final walk-through.
    • If anything significant goes wrong, be sure to notify the contractor’s insurance agent of the potential claim from the accident/occurrence. Damages might not surface until months or even years later.
    • Try to avoid taking ownership of construction materials before they are installed just in case construction-site thieves make off with materials.
    • For your own insurance purposes, obtain detailed information on all materials installed so they may be properly valued in terms of any required Insurance-to-Value percentage in your policy; otherwise, you’ll be looking at Actual Cash Value (which applies depreciation) coverage rather than Replacement Cost.

    The above by no means represents an exhaustive list.

    Add your comment.

  28.    London Luxury-Home Values Stall for First Time Since 2010 – Bloomberg

    Home values in London’s most-expensive districts stagnated on a monthly basis for the first time in four years as the threat of a new tax on luxury properties deters buyers.

    Add your comment.

  29.    Woman accused of setting fire to defraud insurance company – The Telegraph –

    ALTON — An Alton woman is facing charges of residential arson and insurance fraud after firefighters responded to a fire at a home on West 19th Street, where a blanket was found over a space heater.

    Add your comment.

  30.    NASA Bombshell: Global Groundwater Crisis Threatens Our Food Supplies and Our Security – NationofChange

    A new Nature Climate Change piece, “The global groundwater crisis,” by James Famiglietti, a leading hydrologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, warns that “most of the major aquifers in the world’s arid and semi-arid zones, that is, in the dry parts of the world that rely most heavily on groundwater, are experiencing rapid rates of groundwater depletion.”

    The groundwater at some of the world’s largest aquifers — in the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, India, and elsewhere — is being pumped out “at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished.”

    The most worrisome fact: “nearly all of these underlie the world’s great agricultural regions and are primarily responsible for their high productivity.”

    And this is doubly concerning in our age of unrestricted carbon pollution because it is precisely these semiarid regions that are projected to see drops in precipitation and/or soil moisture, which will sharply boost the chances of civilization-threatening megadroughts and Dust-Bowlification.

    Add your comment.

  31.    This man wants to stop America’s salad bowl from being fracked | Grist

    “Fine, we can make money, we can frack out the valley,” he says. “We can maybe not harm one little plant, one little head of lettuce that we’re growing and make lots of money. And we can keep farms alive that have marginal profit. But how about two generations from now? And you have a large enough earthquake that you get a crack and this stuff gets up? So it’s not just a now issue.”

    It’s a generational issue, he contends.

    … Taken together, it’s a diverse group of people, ranging from left-leaning hybrid drivers to NRA member Republicans. You don’t have to be a liberal to want clean water and air. But that’s not always clear in some media reports.

    What it comes down to he says, is “How do you do real stewardship? Not how do I make the next $100,000, but actually have an economy that lasts over the next couple of generations and will still have farming, especially from this area that feeds a lot of this world.”

    Add your comment.

  32.    Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog – Blog Archive – Ordinance to Outlaw County-wide Landscape Pesticide Use Introduced in Maryland

    A landmark ordinance to protect children, pets, wildlife, and the wider environment from the hazards of unnecessary lawn and landscape pesticide use was introduced yesterday in Montgomery County, Maryland by County Council Vice President George Leventhal, chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. Bill 52-14 is based upon growing concerns in the community of the health risks associated with exposure to pesticides, and creates a safe space for residents in Montgomery County by prohibiting the use of non-essential land care pesticides on both public and private property.

    Add your comment.

  33.    Interior inspections of ‘zombie homes’ to start – Washington Times

    North Dakota:

    The Souris River in June 2011 swamped more than 4,000 Minot homes, businesses and other structures. Many of what are considered nuisance or dangerous properties remain.

    The city’s latest report shows that as of Oct. 24, 135 of the so-called “zombie homes” had been cleaned up either by owners or by the city to the point where they no longer present emergency public safety concerns.

    Inspectors now want to look for health code violations, structural issues or other problems. Those deficiencies will be documented, and the owners will have 90 days to fix the problems.

    Add your comment.

  34.    Mapping the data: Pennsylvania tracks ‘dangerous dogs’, including 24 from Lancaster County – Local News –

    Margaret Reed admits her dog can get out of control.

    Inside their East Orange Street home, Oscar, a yellow Labrador/terrier mix, is territorial, Reed says. Catch him off guard, or give him reason to believe his people are in danger, and he can be fierce.

    “He’s very protective,” she says.

    Dangerous dogs registered in Lancaster County include five German shepherds, four pit bulls and a variety of mixed breeds.

    At least Margaret Reed doesn’t try to pretend that Oscar isn’t at all dangerous.

    • As a landlord or manager, do you check whether a dog is registered this way?
    • Do you ask probing questions about the dog’s bite-history on the rental application and/or pet agreement/supplement?
    • Are those documents properly incorporated into your rental agreement?
    • Has the agreement language been reviewed by a real-estate attorney specializing in your state’s and local jurisdiction’s landlord law?
    • Did your insurance broker ask you about your pet policy and practices?
    • Have you changed either since you purchased or renewed your coverage?
    • If so, have you informed your broker?

    Add your comment.

  35.    Owners of derelict properties in Tacoma could face new fees | Politics | The News Tribune

    The Tacoma City Council could approve a code change that would collect fees from unresponsive owners of properties in various stages of disrepair.

    Tacoma landowners who ignore persistent requests from the city to clean up their derelict buildings could eventually face additional fees of up to $500 per year.

    Add your comment.