Jun 22 2010

Middle class shackled by banking debt chains. 113 million households each owe an average of $113,000 in banking debt for mortgages, student loans, credit cards, and auto loans. $45 trillion in household sector debt, government debt, and domestic financial sector debt.

The middle class has been systematically shackled by large amounts of debt, banking debt to be exact in a new form of financial serfdom.  Much of this started in the early 1970s on par with the deficits don’t matter policy that engulfed our monetary policy for the next four decades.  Like any giant structure built on debt, there is usually a point where a sort of debtor’s spiral will hit.  Many middle class Americans have seen this occur with their credit card debt, mortgages, and auto loans.  This also comes at a time when we have a record amount of two (or more) income households.  More people are working under one roof but earning less and less in low paying service sector jobs.  If it wasn’t for the two income trap, we’d see how shackled the public is to the banking debt that is so pervasive in America.

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Jun 20 2010

Taxes coming for $1 trillion in commercial real estate. 1.2 million partnerships own over $1 trillion in CRE. Too big to fail dumping CRE debt.

The problems for commercial real estate are deep and significant and have the potential of stifling any sort of recovery.  Rather than looking at commercial real estate (CRE) as a reason for more stimulus or bailouts the question should examine why so many CRE locations are defaulting.  Can this be a sign that demand for goods, strip malls, condos, and other large projects are simply not in demand from a middle class that is confronting a new austerity?  The problems in commercial real estate have the potential of causing the same amount of market volatility as residential loans for a handful of reasons.  Unlike residential loans, there is little sympathy for CRE owners.  It is expected that those who buy into million and billion dollar projects understand what they are doing (even if this assumption is wrong as we are finding out).  So the potential for massive support here is limited from the public but we have seen the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve bail out virtually anything with a connection to the banking industry.

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Jun 18 2010

FDIC flashes code red – Banking system insolvent and expecting more bank failures. Since 2008 247 banks with $616 billion in assets have failed. History of Federal Reserve designed to protect the big banks.

The FDIC which technically supports the nation’s banking system is for all practical purposes insolvent.  I’m not sure the magnitude of this problem has sunk into the psyche of the American public.  The FDIC insures accounts at banks that include checking, saving, and CD accounts from a bank failure.  This has occurred with regular frequency since the recession started 29 long months ago.  Some 247 banks have failed since 2008 with a total asset base of $616 billion.  The government has tried to calm the unsettled waters by raising the regular deposit coverage from $100,000 to $250,000 even though the FDIC deposit insurance fund is in the negative.  This seems to have calmed the nerves of people since the days of long lines at IndyMac Bank in California but nothing has really changed at least at the core of the financial system.  To the contrary things have worsened for the banking system.

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Jun 16 2010

Gear up for another lost decade in real estate. Housing will remain stagnate from 2010 to 2020. Demographic shifts, higher mortgage rates, and shifting consumer taste in real estate.

The dynamics for housing moving forward point to a very bleak future and a potential lost decade yet again from 2010 to 2020.  Housing has a treacherous path moving forward and deep down demographic shifts will keep a lid on any significant housing appreciation moving forward.  The economy is in the process of deleveraging from a market highly dependent on real estate.  Wall Street and the government are doing everything they can to bring back the economy of yesterday but have had little success.  This recession has shrunk the middle class so those looking to buy homes have declined simply because many can no longer afford to purchase a home even at today’s lower prices.  Focusing on housing first was a big expensive policy mistake where we should have focused on creating sustainable jobs.  The market is slowly shifting to a new housing paradigm.  Family growth rates, employment trends, baby boomers, and wages will all keep a lid on housing prices moving forward.

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Jun 14 2010

Fooled by financial randomness – Number of millionaires back to late 1990s levels and the end of a 30 year bull market. Real estate and stock market speculators luck out but want to believe in Wall Street religion.

It is hard to convince a generation of Americans built on the “greed is good” motto that we have just lived through a once in a lifetime bull market in stocks and real estate.  I’m reminded of Michael Lewis and his semi-autobiographical book Liar’s Poker printed in 1990 that was to serve as a warning of the massive gambling and fraud by bond salesman on Wall Street in the late 1980s.  Instead of being taken as a siren call, many eager business students used the book as a how-to manual on how to get obsessively rich even if it meant destroying entire sectors of the real economy and helping to destroy the middle class in America.  Yet this financial crisis with the debt boom fueled by housing will never be rivaled in our lifetime.  I don’t think many in America can understand that we have just lived through a once in a lifetime bull market.  Wall Street has pulled back from the bottom reached in 2009 yet the real economy shows very little signs of economic life.  Many have been fooled by the random nature of the market.

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