Posts filed under “Fixed Income/Interest Rates”

Dear God, Please stop talking about 1994-95

Last night, the comparison came up with recent selloff action and 1987. But the more frequent relative comparison from the perma-Bullish camp is 1994. That’s the year that gives some folk — most notably, Don Hayes and James Cramer — comfort in the belief that the market is safe from a major correction at this time.

Ryan Fischer destroys that argument. I thought his observations on this frequent Bullish comparo between 1994 and today were  very astute. Since he does not publish anywhere else — and I liked his piece a great deal — I offered Ryan the Big Picture as a platform to publish this.

As always, feel free to comment . . .

Dear God, Please stop
talking about 1994-95
    or
The Winds of Cost of Capital

By Ryan Fischer, 5-20-06

Please, please, I beg of you:  quit talking about 1994-995.
2006-07 has no similarities whatsoever — except in your hope.

Does anyone
remember what the bond market did in 94-95? Anyone? The yield on 10 yr
treasuries went from basically 5.5% at the beginning of 94 to 8% by year end.
That being the number the bond market erroneously thought the FED would go to.
By the end of 1995 the yield on the  10 yr was back at 5.5% a dramatic easing of financial conditions. And, on cue, assets went wild, housing and consumption caught the wind in their sails
coming off the bond market and off Risk ran.

Consider: For us to
experience the same winds of easing of financial costs today yields on 10 year Treasuries (currently 5-5.2%) would have to decline to 3.5-3.7%. What kind of
macro environment would we be in if 10 year Treasuries were yielding 3.5-3.7% six
to twelve months from now? Hello deflationary soup!! That or some crisis that
has convinced Helicopter Ben to deploy the "Unconventional Measures" he talked
and wrote about during his emergence. Friends, if the Fed is buying 10 year
Treasuries and causing a 3.5-3.7% yield we might as well take the stars off our
flag and replace them with a hammer and sickle.

A forewarning: Whenever you
hear or read about Unconventional Measures from the Fed or the Treasury think
State Interference in Free Markets. And we all know where that leads and ends.

But, I digress, as
this missive is primarily about the cost of capital, its percentage change and
the effect that has on risk assets.

Whenever you hear
someone mention historically low interest rates while supporting their bullish argument for whatever risk asset they are
buying, holding or selling, immediately mark them down in your book as
financially illiterate. (Note, this argument is often heard from the CEOs of
public builders, their real estate brethren and the sheep who follow, plus
equity pushers.)

Let me say this: It
is not the absolute level of the rate of interest that matters to those who
allocate capital, it is the relative rate of change
.

Let me elaborate: Everyone likes to
pull the grandpa "I remember 15% interest rates in 1982, so 5% today is really
historically nothing to be afraid of" (Again note; This is another favorite of
anyone selling, holding or pushing real estate). Lets think about that
intellectual construct for a second and see if, as a person who allocates
capital, if it would sway where I push my dollars.

Because interest
rates were around 12-15% in 82-84 and today they float around 5-5.2% (ten year Treasury yields on both) I therefore should be more willing to employ my capital
in risky assets because money is so much cheaper today than some 22-24 years
ago.

First, let me say I will not even touch on the subject of
valuation, though the argument about then vs. now should be clear to any open seeing eyes.

Rather, let us focus on the cost of capital. As a
speculator, entrepreneur, investor, etc..etc..those absolute levels mean
nothing to me. For all I care, interest rates could have been 80% in 82 and the
argument about historically low interest rates today still will not sway me. In
fact, I’ll tell you I’m more excited about a 10%, 9%, or a 8% rate of interest in
85, 86 and 87 than I am about a 5% rate of interest in 2006.

Tnx_vs_sp_123193_123195

Its obvious, isnt it? 16% in 82 to 9% in 85 is a huge, huge
tailwind at the sails of risk assets. This is a dramatic easing of financial
conditions. Also, trust that asset prices failed miserably for many, many years
to reflect this change. Such are the effects of psychology and the enhancing
fruits of under-valuation. The world is nearly without clouds when interest
rates fall so dramatically (kind of like 2000-2003). Is the world equally not
dark vs. 85(15% in 82 to 9% in 85) or as sunny as 94/95 (again, 8% to 5.5%) now
that rates have gone form 1% to 5% on the short end and 3.5% to 5-5.2% on the
long end.

Based on the cost of
capital, when are you a buyer? When interest rates decline by 40% (15% to 9%) or
increase by 45% (3.5% to 5.07%)?

To risk assets, the
cost of capital is like the wind. It is the change from the start of the race
that matters, the more headwind the more trouble, and the more wind one can
summon to their back, the faster the ship sails.

God what I would give
if this was the mind frame today. Imagine if after an ever bullish provocateur
sighted historically low interest rates as part of their argument if the
financial journalist queried them with Sir/Madam, are you saying you are more
of a buyer when the cost of capital has gone from 3.5% to 5% than you are when
the cost of capital has gone from 15% to 9%?  Imagine.

But always know which
way the winds of the cost of capital blow.

-Ryan Fischer
Red Fisch, LLC

 

 

Ryan Fischer manages assets and capital for his family and a
few private clients out of Denver, Colorado. He is long physical
commercial real estate, short paper commercial real estate, long gold and short
IWM. He can be reached at fishryan@hotmail.com.

 

Category: Economy, Federal Reserve, Fixed Income/Interest Rates, Inflation, Investing, Markets, Trading

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Existing Home Sales Data (California Real Estate: On Sale!)

Sales of existing homes surprised to the upside yesterday. But one data point does not make a trend. This is the first rise (sequential monthly change) after 5 straight months of falling Home Sales. And that’s before we examine the data.

Before you declare the end of the housing slow down, consider:

- Existing Home sales actually slipped vs. last year by -0.7%; The reported gain was over last month’s data;

- the Inventory of unsold homes soared 7 percent in March, hittting an all-time record; There are now 3.19 million existing homes for sale, or  5.5 months’ supply; That’s the largest inventory since July 1998

- Existing homes edged up 0.3% last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of
6.92 million units; (we know that seasonally adjusted data is not always accurate)

- Year over year, the Northeast and Midwest gained, while the previously hot housing markets in the South and the West slipped;

- median home prices are still rising, albeit nmore slowly — up 7.4% year over year, to $218,000.

Here’s a data point that has me scratching my head:  Why are there different numbers for the year-over-year changes for seasonally and not seasonally adjusted?  Was this March somehow in a different season than last year’s March? I am perplexed.

Note that data for existing home sales comes from National Association of Realtors, a group that is certainly an interested party; Of course, as a homeowner, investor, and someone with a public bearish tilt for the second half, I’m hardly objective myself (hey, I try). But this oddity — down -0.5% for the not seasonally adjusted year over year versus down -0.7% for the seasonally adjusted year over year — is beyond my comprehension.

So much for the hard data on existing sales; Today, we get New Home Sales. Recall our prior admonishments that monthly New Home Sales Data are unreliable; look instead to a moving average.

Let’s move onto some anecdotal evidence.  A friend writes:

"Flop! Wow, KB running blue light specials in California. Not surprising,
Chico area was rated one of the most overvalued markets in the country. Houses
in the $200k space.  When was the last time you saw that in California? "

 
Oak Knoll Place Live Oak, CA

Oak Knoll Place Slideshow

Here’s the sales pitch:

"Oak Knoll Place in Live Oak is located in a beautiful
community near the majestic Sutter Buttes. With easy access to Highway 99, it is
ideally located for easy access to Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, Reno and a wide
variety of recreational opportunities. Yuba City and Marysville are
approximately 10 minutes south, Chico is approximately 35 miles north and the
Gray Lodge Wildlife area is approximately 10 minutes west. Live Oak has a
quaint, small-town atmosphere with many nearby recreational water activities,
including the Feather River, Yuba River and Sacramento River. Prices starting
from the High $200′s.
"

I don’t know Live Oak, but houses like that in California are hard to imgaine . . .

More after the jump.

Sources:
Existing-Home Sales Rise Again in March
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
WASHINGTON (April 25, 2006)
http://www.realtor.org/PublicAffairsWeb.nsf/Pages/MarchEHS06?OpenDocument

Existing Home Sales  data
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS
http://www.realtor.org/Research.nsf/files/REL0603EHS.pdf/$FILE/REL0603EHS.pdf

>

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