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⇧ Oil Plunge Sparks Concern of Real Estate Slowdown in Hubs – Bloomberg
The potential impact isn’t all negative, said Rutledge of CBRE. The decline in oil prices reduces costs for companies such as refiners and chemical producers, the so-called downstream end of the industry, versus the upstream portion of exploration and production.
Crescent Real Estate has plans for a $250 million, 425,000-square-foot (39,500-square-meter) office tower called 6 Houston Center that may break ground within a month, Goff said. Houston’s economy, while reliant on energy, is diversified with health care and other industries, he said.
Oil prices probably would have to remain below the industry average break-even point for at least six months to affect real estate development, said Spencer Levy, head of research for the Americas at CBRE.
“The construction cycle is a long one, and we don’t expect any immediate slowdown,” he said. “With the possible exception of small pockets of multifamily, there has not been an overbuilding problem this time.”
⇧ Third-quarter U.S. economic growth strongest in 11 years | Reuters
Economists, who had expected a strong rebound, largely shrugged off the data, which was at odds with sturdy readings on industrial production and fairly upbeat factory surveys.
“We think this report paints an unrealistically bad picture of the current orders environment and payback is likely,” said Tim Quinlan, an economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.
We agree. There’s a great deal of hype out there about the US economy. People are trying to psych up spending. That never ends well.
It’s always better to be level-headed and stick to the fundamentals and reality.
⇧ UPDATE 5-Informal capital controls arrest Russian rouble’s slide | Reuters
Some things should be clear. This is nothing close to 1998, and Vladimir Putin is far from a Boris Yeltsin. Mr. Putin is very sober, very aware, on top of everything (almost down to the smallest detail), yet not micromanaging.
⇧ Florida overtakes New York in population: Census Bureau – NY Daily News
Florida, whose population reached 19.9 million last summer, overtook New York to become the third-largest state in the United States, according to a new Census Bureau report.
No wonder they’re building hundreds of condo towers in Florida.
⇧  Jim Grant on the Forgotten Depression of 1921: The crash that cured itself – YouTube
[@ 4:03 and 16:28] Erin sits down with Jim Grant — founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer and author of “The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash That Cured Itself.” Jim tells us what happened in 1920 and 1921 that we should know and tells us how the inaction of government in the Forgotten Depression compares to the government policy during the Long Depression between 1873 and 1896, the Great Depression and the most recent Great Recession.
Well, let’s look at the even bigger picture if we’re going to drag 1921 into view at all relative to 1929 and 2007-8. After the crash that herald in the “Great Depression” and the New Deal created to deal with it and to prevent or lessen depressions and recessions thereafter, the US had one setback (1937) during the ramping up of the New Deal caused by fiscal hawks (anti-Keynesians/Austerians) at the time mistakenly listened to by President Roosevelt. From then until the deregulation frenzy that started with Ronald Reagan and ended somewhat in the aftermath of the Great Recession, or Lesser Depression (as it is also being called), recessions in America were both noticeably fewer, weaker, and shorter than they had been before the Great Depression.
The takeaway from all of this is that deregulation designed to undermine and/or eliminate New Deal regulations was a huge error; fiscal hawkishness at a time of private deleveraging (especially near or at zero interest rates) is a huge mistake; and we shouldn’t take our cues from libertarian capitalists because they would drag us back to the 1920’s and the long-term pattern then of more, stronger, and longer recessions.
The 1920’s was a time of creating a huge bubble that popped under the more laissez-faire times. The deregulation of mostly the post-1970’s ushered in increased laissez-faire times. It was definitely cause and effect. More laissez-faire equals more and larger bubbles followed by more and large pops or busts or crashes (call them what you will).
We’d need to hear a great deal more from Jim Grant about his fuller thinking on the entire matter. In this short clip, he didn’t state whether he agrees with the existence of the safety net, as we do and wholeheartedly so. We are also strong backers of the minimum wage and believe it should be pegged to inflation rather than having to go back to Congress and the White House for increases.
Of course and as we’ve written a number of times before, the technology/robotics revolution is going to force a choice upon society that we believe will end in a guaranteed income affording a higher standard of living and quality of life than is presently enjoyed by the middle class in America.
In answer to why America is doing better than Europe, we must add that fiscal stimulus was applied sooner and in greater measure in the US. However, it was too little and misdirected to a degree in our view. Add QE to that, and we have a stronger but needlessly dampened recovery.
On current banking regulations, while we agree that stockholders and banking executives should be all but wiped out before a penny of taxpayer money is spent on keeping the banks operating, we think that it is a gross overstatement that when one walks into a bank one doesn’t know with whom one is rubbing elbows, a federal employee or a bank employee. There are regulators at banks, but they are not so numerous that running into them wouldn’t be the rather rare exception for the typical banking customer.
We completely agree that, as Jim Grant stated, “savers have been frozen out and dealers and speculators have been dealt in” by Fed policies and practices.
Before we leave this subject, here’s a salient paragraph from a blog post by Barkley Rosser.
My post argued that there was monetary stimulus in 1921 and noted that even though there was downward stickiness of wages in 1945-46 and also in 1982 , there were rapid bouncebacks with monetary policy in particular being stimulative during those episodes (and fiscal policy also being so in the 1982 one under Reagan). Murphy’s post has nothing to say about those episodes, meaning, I guess, that he is desperate with this post to distract from the complete failure on his and his allies parts to address these points.
There’s also this very relevant tweet of ours (click the third link in it), which tweet if Ed Harrison (the producer of the show “Boom Bust”) wasn’t already aware, drew Ed’s attention to the debunking of Jim Grant’s position that 1920-21 “cured itself.”
— PropertyPak™ (@PropertyPak) December 27, 2014
⇧ Check out the world’s best—and worst—performing housing markets
After a six-year recession, the Greek property market is still in the doldrums. Homes valuations fell by 7.7 percent in the year to September, although the rate of decrease waned.
In an effort to revive the market, the Greek government has offered residency to any investors from outside the European Union who purchase or rent a property in the country worth over 250,000 euros ($311,250).
⇧ Improving forecasts for rain-on-snow flooding | UW Today
UW researchers developed a model by recreating the 10 worst rain-on-snow flooding events between 1980 and 2008 in three regions: the Snoqualmie basin in Washington state, the upper San Joaquin basin in central California and the East North Fork of the Feather River basin in southern California.
Their results allow them to gauge the risks for any basin and any incoming storm. The three factors that matter most, they found, are the shape of the basin, the elevation of the rain-to-snow transition before and during the storm, and the amount of tree cover. Basins most vulnerable to snowmelt are treeless basins with a lot of area within the rain-snow transition zone, where the precipitation can fall as snow and then rain.
⇧ Hillsboro greenhouse reduced to smoldering mess
HILLSBORO, Ore. (KOIN 6) — More than $100,000 in damage was done to flowers inside a greenhouse that caught fire early Tuesday [December 24, 2014] morning.
⇧ Obama signs disaster declaration after November storm | wivb.com
More than 370 structures suffered roof damage from the snow; 38 structures were destroyed.
The storm is blamed for 14 deaths.
⇧ Owner accused of trying to torch building for insurance money | WWAY NewsChannel 3 | Wilmington NC News
WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — …
Investigators with the Wilmington Police Department and Department of Insurance criminal investigators say that Rouen was conspiring to burn down a building he owned at 1202 Chestnut Street in an effort to collect more than $532,000 in insurance money. The building houses a convenience store and two occupied apartment units.
⇧ Indonesia floods displace over 34,000 people | Business Standard News
In Tamiang district of Aceh in the northern tip of Sumatra island, about 2,370 houses were submerged in floods, which forced some 28,000 people to take shelter in makeshift tents and buildings at a higher ground, Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman of Indonesia’s national disaster management agency told Xinhua over phone.
In West Java, the waters of the Citarum river had receded, but over 5,000 houses were still inundated Tuesday….
⇧ Mobile home park riddled with health and safety violations – 13 WTHR Indianapolis
JOHNSON COUNTY –
A Central Indiana mobile home park riddled with health and safety violations won’t be shut down, unless the park’s management stops making progress on the violations.
⇧ SD jury awards $1M to families for flood damage – Black Hills Pioneer: State News
A judge in June ruled that the 2010 flood occurred because the state didn’t have adequate drainage underneath Highway 11 in Shindler.
⇧ Grand Rapids to reimagine Grand River floodwalls
The river came close to breaching the flood walls in April 2013. Water flowed in torrents, causing millions of dollars in damage throughout Kent County and causing flooding that forced hundreds of area residents to leave their homes for higher ground.
⇧ Family-owned beach sues over N.J. dune plans – pressofAtlanticCity.com: News
A major Jersey shore beach owner is suing the state, the federal government and the borough of Point Pleasant Beach over a project to establish protective sand dunes along the state’s shoreline.
⇧ NY Requires Ocwen Reforms, $150M Homeowner Help – NYTimes.com
New York regulators said they joined in a multistate examination of Ocwen in 2010-2011 that identified problems including wrongful foreclosures and poorly documented procedures with so-called “robo-signing,” inaccurate affidavits, missing paperwork and improperly maintained books and records.
⇧ BBC News – French jobless total at new record high
The French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, and the Economy Minister, Emmanuel Macron, outlined plans that included increasing the number of businesses operating on Sundays, and opening up regulated sectors, such as certain professions, to competition.
It is not obvious this strategy would succeed in reviving the economy, even if implemented fully.
The deregulation plan produced immediate protests by thousands of people in Paris….
⇧ Wolf Richter: First Oil, Now US Natural Gas Plunges, “Negative Igniter” for New Debt Crisis | naked capitalism
KKR, Apollo Global Management, Carlyle, Warburg Pincus, Blackstone and many other PE firms traipsed all over the oil patch, buying or investing in E&P companies, stripping out whatever equity was in them, and loading them up with piles of what was not long ago very cheap junk bonds and even more toxic leveraged loans.This is how Wall Street fired up the fracking boom.
⇧ Surge in healthcare spending drives up 3Q GDP to 5% | HousingWire
Third-quarter GDP was revised sharply higher to plus 5% for the strongest rate since way back in the third quarter of 2003, based almost entirely on a surge in personal consumption spending on Obamacare.
Is that good or bad? In this instance, we think that more people being covered reduces a number of costs that would be higher in the longer run were people to become sick without coverage. Also, the money going in is largely plowed back into the economy by healthcare and insurance providers.
⇧ FBI — Northern California Real Estate Investor Pleads Guilty to Bid Rigging and Fraud at Public Foreclosure Auctions
A Northern California real estate investor pleaded guilty for his role in bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California, the Department of Justice announced.
Charles Rock was indicted on Dec. 3, 2014, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in Oakland, California. The indictment alleged that Charles Rock and others agreed not to compete at public foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, California, and diverted money to themselves that should have gone to mortgage holders and other beneficiaries. Charles Rock pleaded guilty to one count of bid rigging and two counts of mail fraud.
To date, 51 individuals have agreed to plead or have pleaded guilty as a result of the department’s ongoing antitrust investigations into bid rigging and fraud at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Northern California. In addition, 21 real estate investors, including Charles Rock, have been charged in five multi-count indictments for their roles in bid-rigging and fraud schemes at foreclosure auctions in Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and San Mateo counties.
The indictment alleges, among other things, that as early as June 2008 until about January 2011, Charles Rock and others conspired to rig bids to obtain numerous properties sold at foreclosure auctions in Contra Costa County, negotiated payoffs for agreeing not to compete, held second, private auctions known as “rounds,” concealed those rounds and payoffs, and in the process, defrauded mortgage holders and other beneficiaries.
⇧ Chicago Tribune – Risks from oil’s decline may exceed benefits: A. Gary Shilling
A. Gary Shilling:
Since the 2008 financial crisis, central bank money has encouraged individuals, businesses and countries to borrow at low rates. The nosedive in oil and other commodity prices makes it hard to pay back those loans as deflation spreads worldwide and almost every currency declines against the U.S. dollar.
The U.S. stock market, while pointing up now, may yet have a negative response to declining energy costs, suggesting that the financial risks from falling oil prices may outweigh the benefits to consumers.
If a full-blown global financial crisis unfolds, along with an accompanying worldwide recession, investment strategy will no doubt shift from the current “risk on” stance to “risk off.” In that scenario, you would expect to see a rush into the safety of Treasury bonds and the U.S. dollar and a stampede out of commodities and stocks globally.
Some people have sounded downright giddy over falling gas prices, but they don’t seem to be aware that falling prices used to be good for the US economy when the US wasn’t producing so much (before fracking).
At best, we’re hoping for a wash but are leaning toward the negative side.
We hope the Fed will see the light and definitely not raise interest rates until there is real, sustained inflation rather than guessing in anticipation of what might not come thus resulting in a more severe deflation and recession/depression.
⇧  Steve Hanke on the strong dollar and emerging markets and Eswar Prasad on India – YouTube
Here’s more from Steve Hanke starting at 4:26 of the video. We largely agree with what he said in this segment.
Erin sits down with Steve Hanke, professor of economics at Johns Hopkins University and director of the Troubled Currencies Project at the Cato Institute. Dr. Hanke tells us what impact the strong US dollar is going to have on emerging markets and gives us his take on if the Federal Reserve should take emerging market volatility into account when making decisions.
[@ 14:25] Erin is joined by Eswar Prasad, professor of Trade Policy at Cornell University, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and author of “The Dollar Trap: How the US Dollar Tightened Its Grip on Global Finance.” Dr. Prasad tells us how the Indian economy is doing and what kind of growth he expects there in 2015.
Part 1 of Steve Hanke is here: https://propertypak.com/2014/12/23/news- real-estate-risk-economics-dec-23-2014/# 12231422
You can find more from Eswar Prasad here: https://propertypak.com/2014/07/12/news- real-estate-risk-economics-jul-12-14-201 4/#07121410
⇧ Russia’s central bank to help companies meet debts in initiative to shore up ruble | Fox News
MOSCOW — With inflation showing clear signs of picking up, Russia’s central bank on Wednesday launched another initiative to shore up the ruble, offering hard currency loans to help companies and banks service their debts.
⇧ Commercial Real Estate Forecast Calls For High Demand In 2015 – Investors.com
Improving commercial property fundamentals, a steady stream of offshore capital and an accommodating Federal Reserve interest rate policy will sustain robust property investment in 2015, real estate analysts predict, as buyers keep seeking yield and safe havens in the U.S.
⇧ Japan inflation slows and output slips, keep BOJ under pressure | Reuters
Japanese annual core consumer inflation slowed for a fourth straight month in November due largely to sliding oil prices, highlighting the challenges the central bank faces in achieving its 2 percent inflation target.
However, Japan is a huge importer of oil and gas. Also, a stronger dollar will make Japanese products cheaper to buy in the US. Therefore, despite Abe’s mistake raising the sales tax, it is vastly premature to conclude that lower oil-prices will be a huge negative for Japan.
Naturally, much will depend also upon other Japanese markets for its products and whether US consumers will be able to increase spending enough to really help Japan. On balance, will the fall in oil help or hurt the US economy?
⇧ Tornadoes rip across Southeast, leave 4 dead
A series of severe storms – including tornadoes – touched down in three southern states Tuesday [December 23, 2014], killing four people, damaging hundreds of homes and businesses, flipping cars, knocking down trees, and downing power lines.
⇧ Professor Bill Mitchell – Framing Modern Monetary Theory – YouTube
This video is rather unusual for PropertyPak to include. We’ll state right up front that MMT proponents are nearly all mixed-economy proponents and not socialists. If you think that having any public aspects to the economy renders the whole of the economy socialist, we’re only able to say that, that is a misunderstanding about socialism.
Also, when you listen through to the conclusion of the video, please understand that Billy Mitchell doesn’t simply leave the government hanging with ever-increasing “deficits.” The public investments he discusses are designed to result in a productivity gain in the economy more than finally washing the “deficit” away, not that he believes that all deficits in the end are bad (obviously he doesn’t, as you will hear in the video). It is our understanding, and anyone is welcome to disabuse us of any misconception, that Billy believes that within his framework, breaking even, so to speak, or a surplus are never mandatory.
We don’t agree with him about the term MMT raising a negative connotation with bad “cults.” First, we don’t think MMT is widely known enough. Second, once engaged in any conversation about exactly what Billy brings up (goals, means, and outcomes/returns), MMT doesn’t fall on its face at all but rather the opposite. It more than withstands the onslaught of libertarian-capitalist/Austrian (Austerian) School misunderstandings about how the economy and banking, etc., actually work.
All of that said, we don’t want to leave anyone with the impression that we have been or are yet satisfied with the terminology of MMT. In fact, we’ve made a point of stating where we see MMT as needlessly walling out those who have used terms with connotations in mind that preclude MMT.
Therefore, we are gratified to see and hear Billy Mitchell coming at this issue of semantics and cognitive linguistics as he is.
This is an edited version of a presentation made on November 24 2014 at the Università di Roma 3 (Rome Three University).
The event was organised by the L’associazione MEMMT.info.
⇧ Japan’s Savings Rate Turns Negative in Challenge for Abe – Bloomberg
It appears, many people are hyperventilating about the economic news out of Japan. We don’t subscribe to the hyperbole.
The savings rate is down because people spent holdings before the first sales-tax increase.
We expect the Japanese leadership to have now seen the light and to not follow through with the highly ill-advised second tax-increase.
The oil-price is two-sided in a big way for Japan. Lower prices are good because Japan is a huge importer but are bad because it’s deflationary where Japan needs to break out of its ZLB trap.
Frankly, they should just raise their minimum wage to $22 (doubling it) and open up to immigration to fill positions.
Japanese drew down savings for the first time on record while wages adjusted for inflation dropped the most in almost five years, highlighting challenges for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he tries to revive the world’s third-largest economy.
⇧ China Has Overtaken the U.S. as the World’s Largest Economy | Vanity Fair
Joseph E. Stiglitz raises hugely important issues concerning the US and China. We add some of our own below the following excerpts from his article:
Rather than creating a global reserve currency, which would have contributed so much to worldwide economic stability—as John Maynard Keynes had rightly argued—the U.S. put its own short-term self-interest first, foolishly thinking it would gain by having the dollar become the world’s reserve currency. The dollar’s status is a mixed blessing: it enables the U.S. to borrow at a low interest rate, as others demand dollars to put into their reserves, but at the same time the value of the dollar rises (above what it otherwise would have been), creating or exacerbating a trade deficit and weakening the economy.
…when China, together with France and other countries—supported by an International Commission of Experts appointed by the president of the U.N., which I chaired—suggested that we finish the work that Keynes had started at Bretton Woods, by creating an international reserve currency, the U.S. blocked the effort.
…the most important thing America can do to maintain the value of its soft power is to address its own systemic deficiencies—economic and political practices that are corrupt, to put the matter baldly, and skewed toward the rich and powerful.
A new global political and economic order is emerging, the result of new economic realities. We cannot change these economic realities. But if we respond to them in the wrong way, we risk a backlash that will result in either a dysfunctional global system or a global order that is distinctly not what we would have wanted.
Of course, there’s no guarantee that China won’t crash hard. There’s also no guarantee that the US won’t start a war against China before China can become militarily invincible for a while.
China has made some new friends around the world, but it has also made enemies again of the nations geographically closest to it .
China was a self-limited empire demanding only tribute. Today, China is seen as moving well beyond its traditional borders.
China is also in a race to set up economic, financial, and trading systems with other nations before the US can bottle up China. It’s making fast progress because there are so many nations that fear the US will target them (as the US has targeted Russia for example). In fact, the US has been driving China and Russia closer together.
⇧ Demand for Office Space Heats Up as FIRE Sectors Recover | Office content from National Real Estate Investor
Pete Culliney, director of research at Colliers, says office markets that cater to the FIRE sectors hit nearly 7 million sq. ft. of absorption in the third quarter, almost matching the 8 million sq. ft. of absorption in markets that primarily service the intellectual capital, energy and education sectors.
⇧ Unlocking ASEAN’s Potential by Kishore Mahbubani and Fraser Thompson – Project Syndicate
Kishore Mahbubani and Fraser Thompson:
Taken together, the group’s members — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam — would comprise the world’s seventh-largest economy. Moreover, ASEAN’s international trade has almost tripled over the last decade. And foreign-direct investment has been flowing into the region, with multinationals hoping to capitalize on its rapidly expanding middle class and strategic location at the intersection of China, Japan, and India.
Though full integration appears unlikely by ASEAN’s target date of 2015, lately the effort has been imbued with a renewed sense of urgency. As wages in China rise, Southeast Asian economies have a window of opportunity to become the next “factories to the world.”
⇧ Stephen Roach Takes the Fed to the Woodshed | naked capitalism
We’re at a lost to understand Yves Smith here. She rightly points out that because of weak labor (unions and the like), we are nowhere near inflationary pressures (leaving oil out of the picture). However, she uses a decidedly hawkish article by Stephen S. Roach.
We aren’t saying that the Fed doesn’t need watching. We thought, and still think, the taper was way too soon and way to steep. The stronger dollar is one of the results, which is deflationary and just what the Fed didn’t want.
The last thing we need is to become hawkish at the Fed. Things are terrible enough as they are with a Republican congress about to take root.
Just when we will likely really need fiscal stimulus, the Republicans, who do not understand modern money-mechanics at all but treat the federal budget as if it were the balance sheet of a little household, which can’t print its own money accepted for tax payments, will starve the nation and possibly send it spiraling down into deeper depression while calling it purgative and healthy and just what the doctor ordered.
Of course, no such austerity is needed at all, quite the opposite.
It will be a great excuse though for the Republicans to clamor for more deregulation (which got us into the trouble in the first place) and more privatization (so the already rich can grab a larger share of a pie made smaller by deliberately shortsighted fiscal policies and practices).
⇧ BBC News – Japan’s savings rate turns negative for first time
Japan had the highest household saving rate in the OECD in the 1960s until it fell to the lowest. After all, an aging population draws down savings and Japan is the fastest-aging country in the world; its population has been shrinking for a decade.
…so high-saving countries now – like China and Germany – may soon find that they are heading down a similar road to Japan.
⇧ Heads up: Your real estate sale prices will no longer be secret – L.A. Biz
If The Walt Disney Co. buys a building in Orange County, or Beazer Homes picks up a new development site in Santa Clarita, you won’t find the price they paid printed on the recorded documents. The same is true for just about any sizable real estate deal these days.
But that will change in 2015, thanks to a little-noticed new law that restricts the ability of buyers and sellers to keep sale prices secret in California.
“There’s so much else involved,” said Stan Tish, a principal with Berliner, Kidder & Tish in Santa Clara. “Verifying the sale price is just one component. You need to get the whole background.”
⇧ After killing, real estate agents in Boise, elsewhere take precautions | Real Estate and Construction | Idahostatesman.com
The two men weren’t your typical homebuyers, standing idle in the kitchen of the Ocean Ridge townhouse with no interest in seeing the rest of the property. Realtor Pamela Taylor’s gut told her something was not right.
And now she was alone with them at an open house. Casually, she picked up her phone and called her office with the secret code.
“Can you get me the red file,” she said.
⇧ SEATTLE: Washington minimum wage to hit $9.47 an hour, highest in US | National | FresnoBee.com
Washington state’s minimum wage will rise to the highest in the nation on Jan. 1.
The Times reports that Washington makes an annual cost-of-living adjustment to its minimum wage each year.
We think that’s the proper way to do it and that it should be adopted nationally.
Furthermore, Washington having the highest minimum wage has definitely not caused economic harm to the state, quite the contrary.
⇧ A year ago, Washington’s future hung on brinksmanship between Boeing, Machinists Union – Puget Sound Business Journal
Speaking more about the State of Washington, here’s an interesting article about unionization and Boeing’s new 777X.
Impacts of the project are rippling through the Everett real estate market, with Boeing snatching up one nearby 312,000-square-foot building, and developers erecting new buildings while aerospace suppliers either expand or move into the region.