Friday, 25 February 2011 12:17

Reggie Middleton ON CNBC's Fast Money Discussing Hopium in Real Estate Featured

I made an appearance on CNBC's Fast Money show yesterday. It was a very short clip on real estate, and the fast moving short clips are not conducive to the communication of the thick, fact heavy style of analysis that is common to BoomBustBlog, and yours truly. Nevertheless I am quite thankful for the opportunity to share my contrarian views in the mainstream media.

Now that I have (quite honestly) issued my most sincerest thanks, let's attempt to remedy the shortcoming of the limited amounted of time that I had. You see, after the 3 minute hit ended there was a brief discussion of commercial real estate in which I didn't get to participate, thus I will take the liberty of doing so through this medium.

Yes, commercial real estate has shown some marginal increases in the last quarter, and REITs have been on fire. The issue is, many publicly traded equities have detached from their underlying fundamentals. Let's reference “A Granular Look Into a $6 Billion REIT: Is This the Next GGP?” The following are excerpts from it:


Notice the loan to value ratios of the properties acquired between 2002 and 2007. What you see is the result of the CMBS bubble, with LTVs as high as 158%. At least 17 of the properties listed above with LTV’s above 100% should (and probably will, in due time) be totally written off, for they have significant negative equity. We are talking about wiping out properties with an acquisition cost of nearly $3 BILLION, and we are just getting started for this ia very small sampling of the property analysis. There are dozens of additional properties with LTVs considerably above the high watermark for feasible refinancing, thus implying significant equity infusions needed to rollover debt and/or highly punitive refinancing rates. Now, if you recall my congratulatory post on Goldman Sachs (please see Reggie Middleton Personally Contragulates Goldman, but Questions How Much More Can Be Pulled Off), the WSJ reported that the market will now willingingly refinance mall portfolio properties 50% LTV, considerably down from the 70% LTV level that was seen in the heyday of this Asset Securitization Crisis. Even if we were to assume that we are still in the midst of the credit bubble and REITs can still refi at 70LTV (both assumptions patently wrong), rents, net operating income and cap rates have moved so far to the adverse direction that MAC STILL would not be able to rollover the debt in roughly 37 properties (31% of the portfolio) whose LTVs are above the 70% mark – and that’s assuming the credit bubble returns and banks go all out on risk and CMBS trading. Rather wishful thinking, I believe we can all agree.

For those of you who didn’t catch it in the table above, I’ll blow it up for you…

You have to factor in non-market factors that have gone into supporting CRE prices. We have government bubble blowing where you can see where property prices were in a massive bubble, they rose and that bubble popped, and they were artificially supported and that bubble was partially reblown. Yes, the bubble was purposefully reblown, reference Buried Deep Within The Files That The Federal Reserve Released On Thier MBS Purchase Program, We Found TARP 2.0!!! More Taxpayer Money To The Banks!:

We have conducted analysis on all MBS sale and purchase transactions conducted by the Fed whose data was recently released. Of the total 10,058 MBS transactions, 72% were done at a yield of less than 5% (5% below yield of 4.0%, 32% between 4.0%-4.5%, 35% between 4.5-5.0%) with an average yield of 4.75% on all MBS transaction. The table below presents the number of transactions under their respective yield category.

We have also analyzed the yield on MBS purchased and MBS sold, looking for price discrepancies between MBS purchased and MBS sold. The data points out that the average yield on MBS purchased was 4.71%, 29bps lower than average yield for MBS sold, thus implying MBS purchased were at a higher price than MBS sold. You know that old government adage, buy high and sell low!

Yield on sale: 5.00%
Yield on purchase: 4.71%
Difference in bps: 29.1

Now, imagine this artificial suppression, both in the form of MBS purchases (which are supposed to be over) and QE in the form of Treasury Ponzi purchases, are overpowered by the market driven rate storm brewing ahead. You also have the government looking the other way at depreciating asset values, see FASB Appears to Have Bent Over For The Final Time & Accuracy In Financial Reporting Dies An Ignominious Death!!!:

The Fed, Barney Frank, et. al., and the Treasury colluded to lift the prices of equities, real assets. government bonds, and the derivatives based upon them to considerably above their fundamental values in an attempt to reflate the bubble and pull the country out of recession the “stanky” way.
A natural result of this is that banks can easily hide the true condition of their holdings from most investors. Reference The Financial Times Vindicates BoomBustBlog’s Stance On Goldman Sachs – Once Again! wherein I detailed this occurrence:


I declared insolvency throughout the banking system, and it looked as if I was wrong for some time, then the truth’s ugly head started peaking out. See The Financial Times Vindicates BoomBustBlog’s Stance On Goldman Sachs – Once Again!

Goldman Sachs has revealed details of about $5bn in investment losses suffered during the crisis for the first time this week, in a move that will deepen the debate over companies’ financial disclosures. The figures, issued as part of internal reforms aimed at silencing Goldman’s critics, show that the bank suffered $13.5bn in losses from “investing and lending” with its own funds in 2008. But Goldman’s regulatory filings and its executives’ comments to investors at the time pointed to about $8.5bn of losses arising from its investments in debt and equity, as markets were rocked by the turmoil.

Hmmmm! I walked through this in explicit detail in “When the Patina Fades… The Rise and Fall of Goldman Sachs??? and I did it without being privvy to Goldman’s financial innards. Long story short, practically all of the major banks are lying about the value of some of the largest assets on their books.

How many institutional and/or retail investors will be able to ferret out such? Or more importantly, why should they have to? It is the reporting company’s responsibility to report, not to obfuscate. The big problem with this “hide the market marks” thing is that markets tend to revert to mean. Unless said market values fundamentally catch up with said market prices, you will get a snapback. That is what is happening in residential real estate now. That is what happened in Japan over the last 21 years!!! That’s right, it wasn’t a lost decade in Japan, it was a lost 2.1 decades!

This has been the first balance sheet recession that the US has ever had, but there is precedence to follow. Japan had a balance sheet recession following their gigantic real asset bust. They made a slew of fiscal and policy errors, which essentially prolonged their real asset recession (now officially a depression) for T-W-E-N-T-Y  O-N-E long years! For those that may have  a problem reading that, it is 21 long years. What did the Japanese do wrong?
  • They refused to mark assets to market
  • They attempted to prop up zombie banks
  • They failed to promptly clean up NPAs in the banking system
  • They looked the other way in regards to real estate value shenanigans

I’ve covered this topic left and right, since 2007 after warning that GGP was insolvent and bound to crash. I got into a tit for tat with the CFO who called my research “garbage”. A year after that comment, they filed for bankruptcy. See the whole story and over 700 pages of analysis at 

The retail investment banker Davidowitz had similar choice comments on this space: Davidowitz On Overt Optimism In The Retail Space And Mall REITs, Stuff Which We Have Detailed Often In The Past.

Listen up people, HERE ARE THE NASTY FACTS!!!

Real estate is a highly rate sensitive asset class. Capitalization rates (the popular method of pricing real estate) is explained in Wikipedia as:

Capitalization rate (or "cap rate") is the ratio between the net operating income produced by an asset and its capital cost (the original price paid to buy the asset) or alternatively its current market value.[1] The rate is calculated in a simple fashion as follows:

 \mbox{Capitalization Rate} = \frac{\mbox{annual net operating income}}{\mbox{cost (or value)}}

Without going into a CRE class, when interest rates go up, cap rates generally go up as well and the value (or cost to purchase) of the property goes down in sympathy unless the rise in interest rates is offset by a commensurate or greater rise in net operating income. Now, either everybody believes that unemployment is going to drop towards zero  in an era of US austerity (reference Are the Effects of Unemployment About To Shoot Through the Roof? then see Budget AusterityGoldman Sees Danger in US Budget Cuts - CNBC) at the same time that historically low interest rates that actually went negative are going to get lower (see the Pan-European Sovereign Debt Crisis) ---- or cap rates are about to skyrocket. I'll let you decide!

As you can see above, CRE drops in value whenever yields spike more than the + delta in NOI. Looking below, you can see that US CRE actually runs to the inverse of the 30 year Treasury.

That visual relationship is corroborated by running the statistical correlations...

The relationship is obvious and evident! In addition, we have been in a Goldilocks fantasy land for both interest rates and CRE for about 30 years. CRE culminated in the 2007 bubble pop, but was reblown by .gov policies and machinations. The same with rates. Ever hear of NEGATIVE interest rates where YOU have to PAY someone to LEND THEM MONEY!!!

So, BoomBustBloggers, where do YOU think rates are going to go from here? Up of Down??? Let's ask Portugal or any of the other PIIGS group. I have shown, very meticulously, how Portugal can not only afford the path that they are on (record high interest rates) but the losses that will come when they restructure (default) - for all to see. I have done the same with Spain, Ireland and Greece (for subscribers only). See The Truth Behind Portugal’s Inevitable Default – Arithmetic Evidence Available Only Through BoomBustBlog followed by The Anatomy of a Portugal Default: A Graphical Step by Step Guide to the Beginning of the Largest String of Sovereign Defaults in Recent History (December 6th & 7th, 2010). Be sure to carefully and very thoroughly peruse the spreadsheet below to see the many scenarios present that show the NPV of investor losses due to haircuts and restructurings...

[iframe 630 500]

I discussed this in New Amsterdam a couple of weeks ago...

[youtube MukxtjCVc5o]

I definitely look forward to returning to the Fast Money Show so we can hash this topic out much more thoroughly. As you may have been able to ascertain, I have a lot to say on the subject :-)

Interest parties may want to also read The Coming Interest Rate Volatility, Sovereign Contagion, Geo-political Unrest & Double-Dip Recessions: Here’s The Answer To Valuing Global Real Estate Through This Mess. I will go in depth in Amsterdam (as well as presenting solutions) in a little more than a month, see Call the number at the link for invitations and tickets.

Last modified on Friday, 01 July 2011 06:30