Beware of Expert Opinion from Promoters.

Lately we have been witnessing a resurfacing of property promoters in the press after a long period of silence. We want to reassert our advice that people should do their own homework before embarking on a large asset purchase be it property or otherwise.

How can you tell if it makes sense to buy a property? Our suggestion, as a financial firm, is that you talk to a financial adviser, you determine your own circumstances, you look at your own unique situation, and that you don’t base your opinion on what you hear on the radio or TV from people in the property business. The people who are restarting to champion property now are doing so under the banner that ‘it is cheap to buy’, part of the ‘cheap’ is due to exceptionally low interest rates, which invariably will go up some day.

That is not to say ‘don’t buy property‘, far from it, what we are trying to tell people is ‘make prudent decisions’, don’t buy any asset you can’t afford …

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Will stimulus plans lead to disaster?

In this video which was featured on Yahoo! Tech Ticker Peter Schiff of EuroPacific argues that any additional stimulation of the economy or bailout packages will actually exacerbate the situation rather than remedy it. The outcome of the current economy will perhaps decide once and for all who holds the keys to recovery, the Keynesians or the Austrians.

The Keynesian solutions were fine tuned post-fact and this is the first time since the 1930’s that the theory is getting a real life test, in watching the Davos Debates one interesting factor is that Austrian Economics seems to be getting an equal amount of airplay. Stephen S. Roach said at Davos that we need to get on with the ‘heavy lifting’ where the global rebalance occurs, current account deficit nations have to start saving while current account surplus nations need to spend, this is the inverse of what Keynesians would perscribe because under their guide countries like the USA (deficit nation) need to spend their way out of …

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Understanding Deposit & Lending Margin relationships

Part of the way you can get a view of a lenders margins is by looking at the deposit margins they offer because deposit margins usually reflect – at least to some degree – lending margins. This is because there are two sides to a balance sheet with any bank, on one hand you have deposits which you attract in order to fund lending so if you have low deposit margins that is probably indicative of having low lending margins (although not always!), however, if you have higher deposit margins it is almost certain that you have high lending margins.

NIB released their results today so we’ll take them as an example as well as Anglo Irish Bank to demonstrate the way that you can read into certain elements of how a bank is run from the outside and also on the type of business they engage in.

For a start you’ll need to know that average margin on a mortgage with many banks is less than 1% and that is from …

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Understanding Deposit & Lending Margin relationships

Part of the way you can get a view of a lenders margins is by looking at the deposit margins they offer because deposit margins usually reflect – at least to some degree – lending margins. This is because there are two sides to a balance sheet with any bank, on one hand you have deposits which you attract in order to fund lending so if you have low deposit margins that is probably indicative of having low lending margins (although not always!), however, if you have higher deposit margins it is almost certain that you have high lending margins.

NIB released their results today so we’ll take them as an example as well as Anglo Irish Bank to demonstrate the way that you can read into certain elements of how a bank is run from the outside and also on the type of business they engage in.

For a start you’ll need to know that average margin on a mortgage with many banks is less than 1% and that is from …

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Short selling, what is it? What does short selling do?

Most of us are familiar with the idea of being able to buy and then sell a share, normally this is referred to as going ‘long’ in other words you feel it is a good share and you want to hold on to it. The opposite of this is where you sell and then buy which is going ‘short’, in other words you don’t think the stock is good and you don’t want to hold on to it so you borrow it and sell it today, buy it tomorrow (and dispose again to the original owner) and your position is set by the difference.

In a short sale a drop in the price makes you money because (for instance) if you sold today at $3.00 and bought back at $2.80 then you made 20c per share. If however, the price goes up to say $3.20 then you have to make up the difference. This is before we get into other areas like options or any derivatives. An easy …

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Some past market performance figures

Naturally past economic cycles don’t tell us exactly what will happen in the future, but as Mark Twain once said ‘history doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme’. And for that reason it is worth looking at some key figures from the past, showing that often the gains in bull markets are all found at the cusp of a bear market.

The stock market generally reacts before consumers and the real economy do and equally it will generally see recovery before them as well. Taking a view of the 20th century markets we can see the following:

In the recession of 1926 to 1927 the market increased by 41%. The years of 1933 to 1937 saw some of the most impressive gains ever in the S&P 500. The eight month recession of 1945 saw markets rise 19.5%, the eleven month recession of 1948-49 saw the markets go up 15.2%. Again in 1953-1954 the ten month recession ended with a market that rose 24.2%.

Any reader will note that much of these ‘gains’ did …

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Housing dysfunction

There are some who are saying that there are amazing deals to be found in the current market and if you consider price only then you may be tempted to believe this. Yields could also present a strong argument for property investment if yields stay at historic levels, however yields are likely to fall in 2009 and will remain stagnant until at least 2011/12 for several reasons which we will outline, we will also look at some of the current dysfunction in the market by examining a few types of sellers and how their personal situations express themselves in their selling behaviour.

The first group bought in the last days of the boom, they likely used minimal deposits (or even 100% finance) in order to purchase and they are in deep negative equity, they are now no longer on fixed rates – which tended to be 1/2/3yr fixed- and may have moved into the variable market which revises their payments upwards. One can be forgiven for thinking they may be a ‘distressed seller’ – the distress …

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Generic overview of the market 2009: by sector

I was asked by a colleague in the UK to provide an overview of the Irish mortgage market, he has often advised the Bank of England in the past on the UK buy to let market, however this time it is in relation to a talk he was due to give to an international financial services group on the Irish economy. Below are the contents of my correspondence which is a no holds barred view of the mortgage market in 2009.

Remortgage: This area is finally starting to see some life again, the rate drops are filtering through and many of the people on fixed rates taken out in 2005/2006/2007  are shopping around, as always new business attracts better rates than existing customers so there is once again an argument for switching.

However, the many people who took out trackers are basically out of the market in the long term as every single lender has removed tracker mortgages from the market, in fact, if you know of a lender willing …

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Survival of the weakest, only in Ireland.

If the State can’t organise a bailout effectively then what hope have they of running a bank? A simple and yet profound question: if the bankers who run banks for a living (many having survived the 70’s and 80’s) can’t find the answers then what hope have the state who have no track record in doing so?

This is not a simple situation, banks that survived the Great Depression have crashed and burned, given this, is it vital to save every bank? Is a bank going to make it even with a slush fund? Thus far I remain unconvinced.

Anglo Irish Bank was set to get a bailout to the tune of 1.5 billion Euro. This couldn’t be arranged in time to save the bank and they have been nationalised, the speed of their fall from grace tells us at least some basic facts:

Anglo were not the strongest bank in the bunch, I won’t get into balance sheets, loans, impairments or anything else, the mere fact that they fell first …

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The tipping point?

Today I am taking out the crystal ball, and asking it if these final weeks of December 2008 and the start of January 09′ are the tipping point of the greatest bear market since the 1930’s. The recession is huge, there has been billions in wealth wiped out, we passed the one trillion mark last month, the total is expected to be over 1.5 trillion USD in total.

The question is, how low will the path of this bear market go? [note: this is about the stock market and not the Irish property market] Central banks around the world are chopping rates, forming bailout packages and doing all possible to get the economy back on track. Today we will consider some of the reasons that we may be actually seeing the start of a tipping point.

I believe the trend will be that we saw what amounted to the greatest financial crash in modern history in nominal terms. The fallout in Q4 only escaped the ‘crash’ moniker (but ‘worldwide financial crisis’ doesn’t exactly have a …

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