“The Coming Credit Meltdown” is the title of an article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal.
It is also the subject of most of our daily reckonings. Ever since 2005, if we recall correctly.
That there will be a credit meltdown we have no doubt. When it will be and what will bring it into being, we have no idea. We’ve been waiting…and waiting…and waiting…to find out.
But every day is followed by yet another day just like it. Or, we should say, almost just like it. Just like it, yes, but at the same time different in significant ways. One day has an over-abundant supply of credit; another has not enough.
In the present state – which has now endured for many years – we find we are shut out of major stock and bond markets. They are too expensive…too bubbly…too rich and reckless. Based on today’s prices and yesterday’s history, you really don’t have much reason to expect them to go up; they’re already up.
So, we’ve had to content ourselves with investing around the fringe of the great bubble – in Japanese stocks, for example. They went down for 16 years; now, they seem to be in a growth trend. Mining stocks, too, seem to have some potential. Gold, for example, spent the Reagan Years, the Bush I Years, and the Clinton Years – more than two decades altogether – in a bear market. Now, the price has been rising during the Bush II years and seems likely to continue rising.
We’re finding some opportunities in real estate too – again, on the far-edges of the bubble economy. In London, Paris and New York, everything is too expensive (though, we did buy something in Paris, for family reasons, and against your editor’s better judgment). But, like the Bush family, we’ve found some deals down in South America.
But come the credit meltdown – and we’ll be able to return to the major markets. Because it is EZ Money that’s holding up prices all around the world.
The Chinese stock market is booming again, for instance. After a close encounter with sanity, the Chinese quickly lost their wits again; yesterday, they bid up prices to a new record high.
And here in London, this week is expected to produce the richest art sale in history – with maybe as much as US$1 billion worth of the stuff changing hands at the auction houses.
But every day brings another whiff in the air that the meltdown cannot be far off. Temperatures in the core reactor are rising.
We read this at MarketWatch:
“The outlook for US home building is the worst in 16 years, the National Association of Home Builders reported Monday. The builders’ housing market index fell by two points to 28 in June, the lowest since February 1991.
“Said David Seiders, chief economist for the builders: ‘We expect housing to exert a drag on economic growth during the balance of 2007.'”
Meanwhile, the Mortgage Bankers Association reports that a record number of homeowners are set to lose their houses through foreclosure, while delinquency rates on subprime loans are still rising. Moody’s cut its rating of 131 mortgage backed bonds and says it is looking at 247 more of them.
And down in Miami, the temperature is heating up in other ways. Alan Farago writes that police arrested a couple having sex on a construction crane. It was not immediately clear, to us anyway, what their crime was, but we’re sure the fuzz will think of something. These days, nearly everything is illegal, unless it is specifically authorised.
“For the foreseeable future,” Farago continues, “renting out crane cabs for sex would generate a higher percentage profit than selling condominiums in unfinished buildings. What is happening to Miami real estate markets and its skyline dotted with cranes atop unfinished condominiums is both predictable and terrifying…damage in Miami’s condominium, mid-price and upper price housing markets is just beginning, cuts in tax revenue piled atop declining tax base are setting the stage for recession and social unrest. The billion – dollar Boca Development – that focused on coastal condos – is trying to shed hundreds of millions in assets. Production home builders are burning cash under conditions of tightening credit and ballooning inventory.”
A credit meltdown has already begun in Miami’s condo industry. Will it come soon, to a neighbourhood near you? When will we get a chance to get back into mainstream investments at bargain prices? We will soon see…
Markets and Money