Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Today's links

1--Destroyed by Total Capitalism America Has Already Lost Tuesday's Election, Der Speigel

The United States Army is developing a weapon that can reach -- and destroy -- any location on Earth within an hour. At the same time, power lines held up by wooden poles dangle over the streets of Brooklyn, Queens and New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy ripped them apart there and in communities across the East Coast last week, and many places remain without electricity. That's America, where high-tech options are available only to the elite, and the rest live under conditions comparable to a those of a developing nation. No country has produced more Nobel Prize winners, yet in New York City hospitals had to be evacuated during the storm because their emergency generators didn't work properly.
.....Anyone who sees this as a contradiction has failed to grasp the fact that America is a country of total capitalism. Its functionaries have no need of public hospitals or of a reliable power supply to private homes. The elite have their own infrastructure. Total capitalism, however, has left American society in ruins and crippled the government. America's fate is not just an accident produced by the system. It is a consequence of that systemThe truth is that we simply no longer understand America. Looking at the country from Germany and Europe, we see a foreign culture. The political system is in the hands of big business and its lobbyists. The checks and balances have failed. And a perverse mix of irresponsibility, greed and religious zealotry dominate public opinion.
The downfall of the American empire has begun. It could be that the country's citizens wouldn't be able to stop it no matter how hard they tried. But they aren't even trying.

2--Obama's Libya Failure, The National Interest

Events in Libya are rendering it increasingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that President Obama’s 2011 military action in that country, hailed by his administration and many others as a model of measured interventionism, was in fact a very large mistake. That intervention set in motion events that aren’t good for Libya, for the United States or for the world.

Washington Post reporter Abigail Hauslohner, writing from Darna, Libya, paints a chilling picture of the armed Islamist extremists who are terrorizing that eastern Libyan city with bombings and death threats designed to push the region and the entire country toward an Islamist culture guided by sharia law. As Hauslohner puts it, “What is unfolding here may be the most extreme example of the confrontation underway across Libya, underscoring just how deeply the fundamentalists have sown their seeds in the security vacuum that has defined Libya since the fall of Moammar Qaddafi last September."

Let’s pause over that sentence to parse what the reporter is telling us. She says there is a confrontation unfolding throughout the country, of which the violent actions in Darna are merely the most extreme element. She says the fundamentalists have positioned themselves to possibly prevail in this confrontation. This positioning stems from the security vacuum that emerged in the country with the fall of the country’s strongman leader, Qaddafi.

So it seems that these unfortunate developments all go back to Qaddafi’s fall, which the United States under President Obama helped set in motion. So the question arises: What responsibility accrues to the United States, and its president, for what’s happening in Libya now

3--Money market regulation: a letter to Geithner and Schapiro from #OWS Occupy the SEC and Alternative Banking

4-- CoreLogic® Reports 57,000 Completed Foreclosures in September, calculated risk 

CoreLogic ... today released its National Foreclosure Report for September that provides monthly data on completed U.S. foreclosures and the overall foreclosure inventory. According to the report, there were 57,000 completed foreclosures in the U.S. in September 2012, down from 83,000 in September 2011 and 59,000 in August 2012. Prior to the decline in the housing market in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month between 2000 and 2006. Completed foreclosures are an indication of the total number of homes actually lost to foreclosure. Since the financial crisis began in September 2008, there have been approximately 3.9 million completed foreclosures across the country

5--CoreLogic: Home Prices are Increasing at Fastest Rate in 5 Years, prag cap

Home prices nationwide, including distressed sales, increased on a year-over-year basis by 5 percent in September 2012 compared to September 2011. This change represents the biggest increase since July 2006 and the seventh consecutive increase in home prices nationally on a year-over-year basis. On a month-over-month basis, including distressed sales, home prices decreased by 0.3 percent in September 2012 compared to August 2012*. The HPI analysis from CoreLogic shows that all but seven states are experiencing year-over-year price gains.

6--Earnings Expectations Take a Turn for the Worse, sober look

7--Weak Hiring, Fewer Quits Make for Sluggish Job Market, WSJ

Maybe it’s the election. Maybe it’s the fiscal cliff. Maybe it’s the still-sluggish recovery. But whatever the reason, both employers and employees appear to be growing more cautious.
Companies hired fewer new workers in September than in August, and posted fewer new job openings. Workers lucky enough to have jobs, meanwhile, decided to stay put—fewer Americans quit their jobs in September than in any month since last November.

Those are the key takeaways from the Labor Department’s latest Job Openings and Labor Turnover Summary. The monthly report, known as JOLTS, gets less attention than the high-profile jobs report, largely because it lags a month further behind. But by tracking hiring, firing and other job moves in more detail, JOLTS can provide valuable insights into the inner workings of the labor market

8---Michael Olenick: How Fannie Enriches Private Equity Investors at Taxpayer and Homeowner Expense, naked capitalism

9-'The Challenge Now is to Maintain Fiscal Stimuli', Richard Koo, economists view
http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2012/11/the-challenge-now-is-to-maintain-fiscal-stimuli.html
Explain the disease to help US citizens, by Richard Koo, Commentary, Financial Times: .... Today, the US private sector is saving a staggering 8 per cent of gross domestic product – at zero interest rates, when households and businesses would ordinarily be borrowing and spending money. ... This is the result of the bursting of debt-financed housing bubbles, which left the private sector with huge debt overhangs ... giving it no choice but to pay down debt or increase savings, even at zero interest rates.
However, if someone is saving money or paying down debt, someone else must be borrowing and spending that money to keep the economy going. ... With monetary policy largely ineffective and the private sector forced to repair its balance sheet, the only way to avoid a deflationary spiral is for the government to borrow and spend the unborrowed savings in the private sector. ... The challenge now is to maintain fiscal stimuli until private sector deleveraging is completed. ...
...Average citizens find it hard to understand why the government should not balance its budget when households and businesses must all do so. It is risky for politicians to explain but, until they make it clear that the economy will implode if everybody is saving and nobody is borrowing, public support for the necessary fiscal stimulus is likely to weaken, as seen during the past four years of the Obama administration.
The US economy is already losing forward momentum as the 2009 fiscal stimulus is allowed to expire. There is no time to waste: the government must take up the private sector’s unborrowed savings... Fiscal consolidation should come only once the private sector has repaired its finances and returned to profit-maximizing mode. ...
 
10--Interesting stats, zero hedge

  • In 2007, the unemployment rate was 4.6%; 146 million people, or 63% of the working age population, were employed; and 78 million Americans were not in the labor force. Today, after three years of “recovery”, the unemployment rate is 7.9%; 143 million people, or 58.8% of the working age population are employed; and 88 million Americans are not in the labor force.
  • Real median household income was $55,039 in 2007. It has fallen by 8.2% to $50,502 today.
  • BLS reported inflation has risen by 12% since 2007. True inflation has risen at twice that rate.
  • Median net worth in 2007 was $126,400. By 2010 it had fallen to $77,300, a 39% drop in three years. As of today, it may be a few thousand dollars higher as stock prices have risen and home prices have stopped falling.
  • In 2007 there were 5.7 million existing homes sold at a median price of $218,900. Today there are 4.3 million existing homes being sold at a median price of $183,900. Over 1 million of these home sales are foreclosures or short sales, as 30% of all the homes with a mortgage in the country owe more than their house is worth.
  • Federal government spending in 2007 was $2.73 trillion. Federal government spending today is $3.8 trillion, a 39% increase in five years. GDP in 2007 was $14.2 trillion. Today GDP is $15.8 trillion, an 11% increase in five years. Approximately 25% of the GDP increase is due to increased government spending.
  • Government entitlement transfers totaled $1.7 trillion in 2007. Today they total $2.4 trillion, a 41% increase in five years. Interest income paid to senior citizens and savers totaled $1.25 trillion in 2007. Today interest income totals $985 billion, a 21% decrease in five years. Wall Street bankers needed the money to pay themselves bonuses, so Ben Bernanke obliged.
  • The annual deficit in 2007 totaled $161 billion. Today, the annual deficit is $1.1 trillion. We add $3 billion per day to the national debt as a gift to unborn generations.
  • The national debt in 2007 was $9 trillion. Today the national debt is $16.3 trillion, an 81% increase in five years. The national debt will reach $20 trillion during the next presidential term. Normalization of interest rates to 2007 levels would result in annual interest expense of $1 trillion, or 40% of current government revenues 
  •  
    11----AIG Getting Into the Real Estate Business, PR Web
     
    The Real Estate Marketing Insider comments on news in Bloomberg Businessweek that insurance giant American International Group Inc. (AIG) is increasing its investments in real estate.
     
    REMI released a statement today regarding news from Bloomberg Businessweek that American insurance conglomerate AIG is increasing its direct investment in real estate, stating that this was good news for the real estate market, as big-company investment in actual property rather than securities or high-risk mortgages would help to prevent another housing crash.
    American International Group Inc. (AIG) was among the companies to receive a government bailout after its meltdown in 2008. It has since then been trying to decrease its government dependency, most recently by buying back mortgage bonds assumed by the New York Federal Reserve Bank. In attempting to replace the government’s holdings in the company (still 16 percent) with private investors, AIG is working to increase its holdings in real estate; the firm is increasing direct lending and home loans, along with rental property investment. ...

    AIG’s real estate designs can already be seen; as of June 30, the insurer’s real estate investments amounted to $2.92 billion, a 5.1-percent increase over six months prior. The same data showed AIG’s commercial mortgage holding at $13.7 billion, a year-over-year increase of $400 million ($0.4 billion) but still a relatively-small increase (less than 3 percent) compared to its real estate investment growth.

    12---Number of the Week: Stagnant Wage Growth, WSJ

    1 cent: The drop in hourly earnings in October from a month earlier
    U.S. job growth has accelerated, but the bad news is that people who already have jobs aren’t getting raises or more time on the clock--check chart
    13---Wall Street, Not Fannie and Freddie, Led Mortgage Meltdown, Daily Beast

    14--Ghost inventory' casts shadow over housing recovery, lvrj

    With fewer apartments on the market, institutional investors such as pension funds and hedge funds are purchasing pools of homes with the intention of renting them out, in essence creating an apartment community of single-family homes, McNamara said.
    Shelton said he had a group that bought 1,400 homes in Phoenix, and wants to buy 1,000 to 1,200 units in Las Vegas. They're getting a 10 percent annual return on rental income and will hold the property for three to five years and turn it for another 10 percent to 20 percent profit.
    Land values are still depressed in the Las Vegas Valley, said John Knott of Newmark Grubb Knight Frank. The good news is the market is starting to see large hedge funds and institutional investors willing to speculate if they have the resources, he said.

    15--Key to the Housing Recovery? It's Still Investors, AOL

    For now, it's unclear who is driving the recovery. In the Southeast region, the Fed estimates that investors made up about 25 percent of home sales. This is roughly what others have estimated nationally, based on a survey of Realtors called the Multiple Listing Survey. To be sure, though, the share is likely higher because the survey doesn't reflect bulk sales to investors by banks or at auctions where there's usually no Realtor involved.

    Nonetheless, investors' part in the recovery has steadily risen. And if trends continue, they could surely dominate home sales. In 2011, single-family and condo sales sold to investors rose by 65.3 percent to 1.23 million properties nationwide, compared with 749,000 the previous year. That reflects 30 percent of existing home sales, according to California-based real estate investment firm Norada Real Estate Investments. Many of these sales have occurred in markets that were burned the most, says Marco Santarelli, a broker at Norada. That includes Miami, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Sacramento and Riverdale, CA.

    That's similar to the way Fed analyst Jessica Dill sees it. In her look across the Southeast, the share of home sales to investors markedly dropped to 20 percent from 25 percent when Florida – among the states hardest hit from the housing crash – was excluded. This suggests investors may be driving the recovery especially in markets that saw the worst of the housing bust. If that continues, sales could eventually decline unless individual buyers are able to pick up where investors leave off. Not to say that would be less than a genuine recovery, but at the end of the day, investors can move the market only so far.

    16---Private Equity's Foreclosure Binge (& Purge), seeking alpha

    Crowded Market with Many Players: Reports of foreclosure activity have been in the news for more than a year or two, with more players and more bulk buying. Along with private equity and individual investors, international players have piled billions into the US residential housing markets. Even large homebuilder are getting into the game. The wealth of buyers could increase the cost of foreclosures, and the additional multi-family construction could add competition in the rental market potentially decreasing the rents.

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