Boom or bubble and will it bust or burst?

This is a piece that Karl wrote for the Irish Sun, it relates to a piece that was the lead story for the paper last week.

(Begins)

There is a lot of talk that we have a ‘property bubble forming’, with virtually no supply, a growing population and a trend towards smaller households as things like separation and divorce become more common, it simply lacks ‘bubble’ qualifications.

But it does have ‘boom’ written all over it, we have had many such booms and busts in Irish history, I have spent much of the last two years researching just this very thing with Frank Quinn from Blackrock College of Further Education.

We have had many price rises and falls in the last 300 years, often we saw that after a crash the next boom would result in overcrowding because back then, as now, supply became ‘short’ in the areas that it was needed.

A boom is about rapid price appreciation, it doesn’t mean you have a bubble. You could have the price of anything boom and there wouldn’t be a bubble, …

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Slow growth economy stock returns

There is a growing body of work suggesting that many developed countries will cease to roar ahead at 3%+ growth rates in the future, that instead we are likely to see a growth rate of about 2% p.a. leading to a ‘steady state’ economy.

If you look at the USA the inflation rate was only 1.9% over the decade from 2000-2010. If you strip out the 2008 recession effect it still only comes out at 2.6%. This could mean that Bernanke’s approach of effectively putting a floor on stock prices could lead to a revision irrespective of intentions.

Take a look at the picture below.

This could mean that in the future the standard P/E expectations could drop and a corresponding dividend yield increase become the natural premium or expectation of stock market investment, strangely; this will be getting back to the original reason people invested in stocks prior to the 20yr secular bull of the 80’s-late 90’s.

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Bond Bubble Looming, where does it end?

We have been talking about this for a while (28/01/09, 11/03/09, 23/04/09), it was a popular topic on this blog in 2009 but well covered and for that reason we have not revisited it much, but the alignment of the stars warrants a look at the symptoms of the disease because now they are ever more present than before. At this point we can see a clearer path; which is still leading to a bond bust destination.

It has also becoming a mainstream topic, recently it showed up in an article titled ‘Currency, the weapon of choice in a world of lower demand‘.

If something can’t happen it won’t, and what can’t happen is a world in which we see century bonds (bonds with 100yr terms) becoming commonplace, they will probably be (as is the benefit with all hindsight) the poster-boy of the …

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KBC move to 90% LTV

This is a very healthy sign for the mortgage market, and in our opinion it could mean that 2010 might mark the low point for credit that we have been watching out for.

In 2009 KBC under-lent, they had €1bn and didn’t lend out anywhere near that, they are also here to stay, and prior to the crisis they had about 1/8th of the market share. The fact that they are rolling out a higher loan to value is a very confident sign that

Banks have a few internal policy tools to control lending 1.    Curtailing the amount of lending – we see that already, mortgage lending is about 85% down from the peak of 40bn p.a. , peak wasn’t exactly a gauge of normal, but half of that would be normal, and even on that basis it’s down 75% – that story still has to play out 2.    Rate increases: this has the same effect as central bank rate increases, it reduces lending and everybody has increased their margins by at least 1% in the last year, you and …

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RTE 9 O’Clock News with Martina Fitzgerald, 22nd April 2010

Martina Fitzgerald of RTE 9 O’Clock news did a piece on the Government backed lender Home Choice Loan, critiquing the fact that they have only advanced 5 mortgages since their inception in autumn of 2008. Home Choice Loan was set up to alleviate the absence of lending in the Irish mortgage market but it has failed to do this which is evident in the numbers.

We believe that Home Choice Loan does have a very relevant and meaningful role in the mortgage market, but not in the guise of being another lender competing with the rest of the high street, rather in facilitating people in negative equity or arrears.

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Irish banks, caught in the perfect funding storm

Irish banks are caught in a perfect storm of funding costs versus lending costs which spells bad value for consumers. This is clearly seen on the deposit and lending fronts, our banks can’t offer headline rates on deposits, nor can they charge sufficiently on lending. This is creating a multi-billion Euro dilemma which will ultimately be paid for by an already unfairly burdened taxpayer.

On the deposit side foreign banks can afford to pay far more than Irish institutions meaning they can hoover up deposits rapidly and with relative ease, on the lending side, Irish banks are unable to obtain the margin they need in order to compete and remain profitable.

When it comes to leading rates for indigenous lenders you will see that Anglo, despite being nationalised and having the inherent backing of the state on all deposits, is paying the highest rates for an Irish institution on  6 month (it is the best of the Irish institutions) and 1yr deposits (it is the best across the board on 1yr deposits) – this is well above the odds they …

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Everybody pays, even the innocent

There were many innocent parties to the credit fuelled property bubble, they are generally those who didn’t borrow, or who carried no debt, choosing instead to live frugally, and if they used debt they used it wisely. Many of these people are at the polar ends of the age spectrum, very young (who don’t even have access to credit) or much older (who have paid off their mortgages), something we will all need to get used to though is the fact that everybody is going to pay for the mess left behind, this goes farther than NAMA.

The process I am describing is already under way, the very payments system (our financial infrastructure), is going to be used to generate economic rent from the people of Ireland in order to bring in more profit to banks so that they can repair their balance sheets. This price will be paid by the taxpayer outside of the bailout money already being supplied on our behalf. This will be even paid by people who manage to …

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Mortgage options down 50% as of 2010

The Examiner carried a story about the number of options available to borrowers in the present market and the fact that they have dropped over 50% since 2008.

In 2008 there were 380 different mortgages available on the market across all banks and all rate suites, today, that number rests at 179 meaning that at least 50% of the choice is gone. That is also reflective of the fact that so many lenders have exited the market. Below is a list of several who are no longer lending here.

Halifax Fresh Mortgages Springboard Stepstone Nua Homeloans First Active GE Money Leeds

Many of these providers were in the non-prime/specialist/sub-prime category, however, a drop of 50% in choice doesn’t mean that there are no options left. Certainly tracker mortgages are a thing of the past as are Standard Variables (referring to new business for these products, existing clients will keep their existing product).

The other factor that makes this less spectacular is that many lenders replicate offerings, so when each lender pulled out, their two year fixed …

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USA: Failed mortgage modification programme

Kudlow talks to Christian Weller, Center for American Progress and Dan Mitchell, Cato Institute on the topic of debt relief and mortgages in the USA, the argument for straight out write-downs on mortgages is compelling, and yet so too is the argument for allowing the market to work. Sometimes believing in the free market is seen as a ‘dirty thing’, but the side effect of trying to manage an economy from every aspect is also a bad thing (look no further than the former Eastern Bloc). Somewhere in the middle is a fair and sustainable path, but ideology bias is usually in the way before the conversation passes go, for that reason you will favour one speaker over the other quite often from the outset. However, ideology doesn’t actually get results, it is merely the platform from which a concept is launched and the better path would be to have an operational model to prove the point – although that isn’t always practical.

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