It Starts: Mortgage Delinquencies Suddenly Soar at Record Pace

By Wolf Richter

OK, it’s actually worse. Mortgages that are in forbearance and have not missed a payment before going into forbearance don’t count as delinquent. They’re reported as “current.” And 8.2% of all mortgages in the US – or 4.1 million loans – are currently in forbearance, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. But if they did not miss a payment before entering forbearance, they don’t count in the suddenly spiking delinquency data.

The onslaught of delinquencies came suddenly in April, according to CoreLogic, a property data and analytics company (owner of the Case-Shiller Home Price Index), which released its monthly Loan Performance Insights today. And it came after 27 months in a row of declining delinquency rates. These delinquency rates move in stages – and the early stages are now getting hit:

Transition from “Current” to 30-days past due: In April, the share of all mortgages that were past due, but less than 30 days, soared to 3.4% of all mortgages, the highest in the data going back to 1999. This was up from 0.7% in April last year.

More information is here…

More On Repurchase Agreements: Excessive Government Spending and the Liquidity Crisis

My apologies are given in advance. Why? I’m presenting more information regarding repurchase agreements. As a reader, it is should be simple to deduce that recent extreme use of repurchase agreements is worthy of strong consideration and concern. If this your first time reading about these, feel free to read this article, written by me, describing repurchase agreements(repos). If needed, read that article first, then return back to this writing.

In this blog entry, “How Excessive Government Spending Sparked a Liquidity Crisis”, Craig Eyermann lists how the implementation of the use of repos makes, since September 2019, The Federal reserve is the largest holder of United States Government debt. Many of the points made in his article should raise some concerns; which is why I continue to repost articles related to this subject.

Regardless how the mainstream news media spins this, inflation is a monetary phenomenon. Of course, these individuals will state that inflation is low citing the Consumer Price Index as support of this spurious claim. Rising prices do not always constitute inflation, due to the fact the prices of all goods are not homogeneous.

The expansion of the monetary base(inflation)is directly correlated to the overspending by the federal government. With this over spending, deficits are generated, and debt is used to balance the budget. The budget never is balanced since the behavior is rewarded. The losers, in this scenario, are the individuals who are savers or on a fixed income stream. Also: The individuals who are lower income earners.

Despite Ultra-Low Mortgage Rates, New House Prices Drop to Multi-Year Low

Last time prices fell like this was during the Financial Crisis. But now, there is no crisis.

The median price of new single-family houses in September fell 8.8% from a year ago to $299,400 – down 12.8% from the peak in November and December 2017 and back where the median price had first been in November 2014, according to the Commerce Department this morning:

Read more here:  https://wolfstreet.com/2019/10/24/despite-ultra-low-mortgage-rates-new-house-prices-drop-to-multi-year-low/

Tax Rates Low..for Now?

A random thought entered my mind…well not so random. The IRS recently published the marginal income tax rates for 2020.( Yes, I posted them..go here: http://taxfoundation.org/2020-tax-brackets/) Which is good news….for now. With all the other macroeconomic issues, (e.g. growing US deficit, the exponentially expanding US Government Debt, and extremely low interest rates), Financial experts are advising their clients to plow more money into tax deferred retirement vehicles: Most know these cast of characters, 401(k), IRA, and etc. While there is nothing wrong with this advice, per se, but consider the fact that with all those aforementioned macroeconomic issues, is it safe to assume that marginal income tax rates will be higher in the future? Even they are the same, the future retiree will have fewer deductions to offset the tax liability once they begin to draw down the funds from their retirement plans.

If rates are higher, then the accumulated funds will be taxed at a higher rate, as the funds are withdrawn at retirement. Does this mean one should not contribute to their current tax deferred plan? No, not really. It really depends on the person. However, it would be prudent to have some sort of program that provides an income that is tax free or very close to being tax free income. I’m betting tax rates will increase at retirement age, and many people will live longer. If my bet is correct, having a tax free income stream, at retirement, should be a top priority. A thought to consider.

A Wealth Tax Consumes Capital

It seems one cannot make a name for one’s self on the Left, unless one has a proposal to tax wealth. Academics like Tomas Piketty have proposed it. And now the Democratic candidates for president in the US propose it too, while Jeremy Corbyn proposes it in the UK. Venezuela finally added a wealth tax in July.

So how does a wealth tax work? The politicians quibble among themselves, as if the little implementation details that differ between them are important. But they share the key idea. The wealth taxman is to go to the people who have wealth, and take some. And next year, come back and take more. And so on.

It should be obvious that this is morally wrong. But we want to focus on the economics. To do that, we need to drill down into the nature of wealth. What is wealth?  Read the rest here:

https://www.cobdencentre.org/2019/10/a-wealth-tax-consumes-capital/

WeWork’s IPO Disaster and the Problem of Easy Money

One of the most spectacular events in the startup world this year was the collapse of The We Company IPO. Originally WeWork, We is a company that is, essentially, a gigantic sublessor. Started in 2010 by Adam Neumann, the vision of We was to provide collaborative short-term leases to companies. Later, it would branch out into gyms, schools, and apartment rentals. Along the way, the company attracted investors to the tune of billions, such as SoftBank’s $9 billion stake. The company was set to go public this year with an expected market valuation of $47 billion. This sky-high valuation was based on the fact that We managed to define itself as a technology company. To this day, no one is quite sure what technology was actually offered. Read more here:

More Thoughts on Interest Rate

The Interest Rate: The mystery. The intrigue. Most individuals concern themselves about this when they are purchasing a home loan, acquiring credit cards, or purchasing a new vehicle. However, this notion is much broader than obtaining more debt. It is much broader, yes, much deeper than imagined, as is not well understood, even by philosophers, economists and finance scholars. The natural rate of interest, or ordinary interest, is inherent in every thing we do as actors in a “free market” economy.

What is the Natural Rate of Interest?

Classical Economic Model

There are two divergent models of analyzing the notion of natural rate of interest. The first model is derived from the Classical Economic school of thought.  This model is based on the popular Economic frame work of supply and demand. Simply put: The interplay of the supply and demand of money, produces a particular interest rate.(Ceteris paribus)  For example, if demand is held constant, and the central bank increases the monetary base, the interest rate would fall. Conversely, if the Central bank decided to reduce the money supply, with demand remaining constant, the interest rate would rise (Ceteris paribus) If this is analyzed from the demand side, if demand rises for the currency, and the currency bases remains the same, the interest rate rises.(Ceteris paribus). If the demand for the currency falls, and the currency base remains the same, the interest rate will fall.(Ceteris paribus) This Classical model of analyzing the interest rate views things at a macroeconomic level.

Marginalist Economic Model

This model was specifically pushed forward by Marginalist Economist, Eugen Bohm Bawerk. As per Bohm-Bawerk et al, the notion of the natural rate of interest speaks to the time preference of consumption from the individual actor in the marketplace. To Wit: The time preference of from the individual’s consumption between today’s goods, as compared to future goods. Notice that this definition has little to do with the bank’s rate of interest, although the bank’s rate is a singular actor’s rate of time preference, as that actor would be the bank. This ratio, nets the prices between the two respective time periods. Of course, this activity is not a static, so the interest rate is constantly shifting, modulating and changing, as the actor’s preferences change.

Interplay of Interest Rates to Meet Equilibrium

Going back to the Financial Intermediaries, e.g Banks, Credit Unions, Financial Institutions, Insurance companies, and etc.) need to manage cash and their monetary equivalents, these institutions’ role in the market economy is vital. They are responsible for allocating scarce resources, to wit, providing cash capital to entrepreneurs. Many people mistakenly assume the bank’s interest rate is the same as the natural rate of interest, as this is demonstratively false.

Let us suppose that the bank’s interest rate is 5%, and the natural rate of interest, in the marketplace, was 8%. The bank would loan out, or invest, or place money in capital goods that would yield a 8% return. This process would continue until the bank’s interest rate matched the return on those capital goods. Why does this happen? As the bank continues to invest or loan out money into those capital goods, the demand for those monies and goods rise. As the money demand rises, due to the need to invest in capital goods, the bank’s price on money, the interest rate, rises. Once the bank’s interest rate, and the return on investment in capital goods equals the same rate, it makes no sense for the bank to move money into those capital goods.

What happens if the natural rate is below the bank’s interest rate? If the bank interest rate is 5%, and the natural interest rate is 3%, the bank will not seek to loan or invest into capital goods at that lower rate. What may occur is the following: Banks may continue to hold the cash, at 5%, until the demand for long term capital projects rise above 5%. In this case, as in the prior case, the opportunity cost of the bank’s money must be considered.

Banks are seeking to profit from the arbitrage: In the former case, the Bank seeks to make a profit from the spread of 8%, the natural rate, and the 5%, the bank rate. As for in the latter case, the bank seeks to take a more conservative position and hold onto its cash. In both cases, on the long run, all actions will seek to meet equilibrium.

Based on these two examples, the bank’s interest rate will not equal the natural rate of interest. This is true since there would be no profit seeking opportunities. The bank’s funds would sit idle, no cash capital would move other sorts of capital markets. This sort of analysis demonstrates that these two interest rates are not the same.

An Example of the Use of Interest Rates in the “Real World”

With a business that is capital intensive, management of this capital equipment is vital for the success. When a business owner is seeking more cash capital to acquire a piece of capital equipment, he should be factoring how this equipment can benefit his operation, on the margin. He will look at how the marginal cost impacts the marginal benefit. If the firm has extra cash, or investment capital, it will seek to obtain a return on investment on that capital. So, if the owner of the firm is purchasing a piece of manufacturing equipment, and will yield a return on investment higher than the natural rate of interest, and the current “bank interest rate”, the business owner will invest in that manufacturing equipment. The owner, like all humans, is engaged in a profit seeking enterprise. And, it is that profit that is his return on investment.

Conclusion

As with all things, in the capital markets, actors are constantly pushing towards equilibrium. All actors are seeking a state of peace, or in economic terms, equilibrium. The constant ebb and flow of the play between the natural rate of interest, and the interest rate placed by financial intermediaries demonstrates this. The natural rate of interest simply is an expression of human action, as the individual’s preferences span throughout the space/time continuum.