Housing rebound in Canada spurs talk of new bubble (Dvorak, WSJ) Last week Paul Krugman toasted the sobriety of Canadian banks. Among other things, he said that low rates aren’t enough to cause a bubble since Canadian rates are low and, well, they don’t have a bubble. If this article is to be believed, Krugman didn’t look closely enough. Banks may use less leverage in Canada, but low rates are encouraging households to borrow big — debt to disposable income is a bubbly 1.42x. Key quote in this piece is near the bottom, where a real estate agent notes that rising prices mean rents are only barely covering mortgage payments for real estate investments. The best definition of a bubble is when debt service payments finally eclipse rents. Then buyers/lenders are betting on continued appreciation, which can only be driven by still-easier credit. Canadian real estate appears to be headed in that direction.
Was the global financial crisis a mathematical error? (Steve Keen, Business Spectator) Keen’s latest. Another great piece explaining the flaws of neoclassical economics. (ht Yves)
Does anyone remember when Fan and Fred were still thought to be “prudent” lenders? Relative to the CFCs and WMs of the world they may always have been, but they still have far more risk in their portfolios than they should given the taxpayer guarantee backstopping their balance sheets.
If Ben Bernanke keeps his present course, former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker warns we could repeat the 70s. “Core” inflation is still within the Fed’s “comfort zone,” but at a certain point, rising food and energy costs may pull other prices along with them. That’s the opposite of what the Fed is assuming will happen. The Fed appears to believe that food and energy costs will come back down as the economy slows.
Using a phrase like “too expensive” would seem to be subjective. But compare median house prices with median income (via Patrick). If people’s incomes aren’t climbing, how can they afford so much more house? (Click on the image to see a larger version of the chart….and the back button to return to the post)
A few interesting items to pass along today.
The first is an interesting interview with an anonymous hedge fund manager (via JL). It’s a longish interview, but a good insider’s view on everything from the credit crunch to the downfall of Bear Stearns to the hedge fund business itself. A highlight:
Arthur Kimball-Stanley published a fascinating op-ed on Credit Default Swaps in the Providence Journal on Monday. I spoke with the author and he gave me permission to republish his piece in its entirety. A 30-page version of this argument was accepted for publication in a law journal to be published this fall. The author gave me a recent draft, though the article below offers the essential elements of the argument. Hopefully it gets traction……