Tuesday, March 31, 2015

31/3/15: QE for the People

ECB's QE programme launched this month is targeting wrong policy and likely to fuel an already massive bubble in stocks and bonds. It is also unlikely to help generate real economic growth, as it simply transfers more wealth to the financial markets.

Look at the facts: 
  • The Eurozone is suffering from structural stagnation that is driven by the lack of investment, anaemic domestic demand and policies, including taxation and enterprise regulation, that reduce entrepreneurship and make jobs creation and productivity growth (especially Total Factor Productivity) excessively costly.
  • Overall household and corporate indebtedness in the Euro area remain high despite several years of deleveraging.
  • Bank lending markets fragmentation contrasted by booming equity and bond markets shows that the problem is not in the lack of liquidity, but in over-leveraging present in the economy.

Experience in other countries that recently deployed QE shows that current measures by the ECB are unlikely to provide sufficient stimulus to drive growth to the new (and higher) ‘normal’: 
  • Japan, the US, and the UK experiences with QE show that monetary policies are useful to the real economy only when they are combined with either expansionary fiscal policies or real investment increases or both.
  • Even in such cases where QE has been successful, sustainability of QE-triggered growth has been weak in the presence of structural debt overhangs (Japan) and had to rely on structural drivers for growth present prior to the deployment of QE (the UK and the US).
  • In the Euro area, the idea is to combine QE with austerity policies and in the presence of dysfunctional financial markets. Such a program could increase misallocation of resources via bidding up financial assets prices over and above their long term fundamentals-justified levels. 
  • Bank of England created £375bn over the course of its QE programme. By the Bank of England’s own estimates, QE in the UK pushed up share and bond prices by around 20%. But because around 40% of stock market wealth is held by the wealthiest 5% of households, QE has made that wealthiest 5% better off by around £128,000 per household. 
  • You might want to check this post on the potential effects of QE on the real economy: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2015-03-28/finally-very-serious-people-get-it-qe-will-permanently-impair-living-standards-gener 

In short: the QE, as currently being carried out by the ECB, benefits the less-productive holders of financial assets, not the poor, nor the entrepreneurs, nor the real enterprise.

There is an alternative policy, a policy of “Quantitative Easing for the People”, an idea of distributing QE money directly to the citizens of the Euro area.

This is a more efficient approach for stimulating the real economy precisely because it puts liquidity directly at the point where it is needed most and can be used most efficiently, absent intermediaries, to address real structural problems present in the economy.

The plan is identical to the ECB current plan in terms of funds allocated: €60 billion will be created each month for 19 months. The amount each national central bank will create can also depend on its share of capital in the ECB, just as the current ECB QE programme envisages.

Each Eurozone citizen can receive ca €175 on average each month for 19 months. 
  • The funds are taxable income, so there is a benefit to the Exchequers, allowing the governments to engage in expanded investment programmes or more efficiently close some of the budgetary gaps, while buying more time to implement structural reforms.
  • The funds (net of tax) can be used by households to accelerate debt deleveraging and/or repair their pensions funds and/or fund consumption.
  • As the result, “QE for the People” will stimulate domestic demand (consumption, investment and Government investment), while increasing the rate of debt deleveraging.
  • In addition, “QE for the People” can help improve banks’ balancesheets by increasing loans recovery (as households repay loans). In contrast, ECB QE will not have such an effect as it will be taking off banks balancesheets zero risk-weighted Government bonds.  Thus, “QE for the People” can be seen as a more efficient mechanism for repairing financial system transmission mechanism than ECB own QE policy.
  • The quantum of stimulus implied by the “QE for the People” proposal is significant. Take Ireland, for example. “QE for the People” means annual benefit of around EUR8 billion in direct stimulus (depending on how Ireland's share is estimated). In 2014, Irish Final Domestic Demand grew by EUR6.15 billion. So the direct effect of this measure for just one year would be equivalent to more than full year worth of real economic growth.

19 economists from across Europe and outside signed last week’s FT letter proposing this plan (with some variations) to stimulate the real economy in the euro area. The original letter is available here: http://www.basicincome.org/news/2015/03/europe-quantitative-easing-for-people/

This note posits my personal view of the alternative policy, somewhat at variance with the letter itself on the specific modality of Government involvement in the funding and Government receipt of the QE funds over and above normal tax capture (which I do not support). 

Friday, March 27, 2015

27/3/15: Russia Goes for Fiscal Cuts: Amended Budget 2015

Russian Duma passed (in first reading) amendments to the Budget 2015.

The new Budget is based on average oil price of USD50 pb, with expected GDP growth of -3% against inflation of 12.2% and USD/RUB exchange rate of RUB61.5. These are major revisions to the base assumptions.

Forecast government deficit for 2015 has now widened from RUB431 billion (0.6% of GDP) estimated back in October 2014 to RUB2,700 billion or 3.7% of GDP.

Budget forecast that the economy will contract 3% (to RUB73.5 trillion or USD1.27 trillion) in 2015 is a sharp deterioration on October 2014 estimates for GDP growth of 1.2%. Still, this is very optimistic. Earlier BOFIT forecast Russian economy to contract by more than 4% in 2015 on foot of assumed oil price of USD55 pb, and the Central Bank of Russia estimated 4% drop in GDP for 2015 on foot of USD50-55 pb assumption. See latest forecasts for the Russian economy here http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2015/03/26315-bofit-latest-forecasts-for.html and for external trade here: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2015/03/26315-russian-imports-outlook-2015-2016.html

In December 2014, budgetary forecasts were for GDP decline of 0.8% and inflation averaging 7.5% with oil at USD80 pb.

The key pressure will fall onto the Russian oil revenues reserves fund (one of the sovereign wealth funds) which currently has liquid assets of USD98 billion, but under the Budget 2015 amendments will see this depleted by USD53 billion by year end.

As expected (see my note linked above), public sector wages were not cut in nominal terms, but surprisingly (analysts expected nominal rises in wages below inflation rate), public sector wages were completely frozen in the amended budget. As expected, pensions rose in nominal terms (5.5% y/y), but the increases fell below expected inflation rate, so real pensions will fall.

In a related report (http://beurs.com/2015/03/24/rusland-moet-besparen-maar-wil-niet/60374), Russia is to cut Interior Ministry (police) ranks by 110,000 with 78,700 cuts in 2015. This comes on top of cuts of 180,000 since 2011 - a part of large scale restricting of the police force that also included rebranding of Russian 'militzia' into 'police' and a score of measures aimed at reducing corruption. It is also worth noting that reductions are in line with May 12, 2014 Presidential decree that limits overall level of employment by the Interior Ministry to 1.1 million - at the time, this meant reductions of 180,000.

And reserves are still going to run low (http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article.php?id=517902)...

Despite the aggressive measures, in my opinion, Russia still needs some positive upside in the economy to meet the budgetary targets. My view is that even if oil prices reach an average of USD55-60 pb in 2015, the deficit is likely to be around 3.5-3.7%, so with Budget amendments penciling in USD50 pb price, things are very tight and prone to adverse risks. The good news - state sectors' wage inflation (running in 20% territory over recent years) will be scaled back via inflation and nominal freezes. Bad news is, this too is unlikely to be enough. 

27/3/15: That Russian Liberal Opposition: Facts Piling Up...

Recently, I wrote about the sorry state of the Russian liberal democratic opposition (http://trueeconomics.blogspot.ie/2015/03/21315-two-pesky-facts-and-russian.html) and Putin's strong showing in public ratings. Here is another data set, this time reflecting this week's data:

Q: Imagine that next Sunday there will be presidential election in Russia. Which politicians would you give your vote to? President Putin's share of the vote:

Source: http://fom.ru/Politika/

Here's the link to longer-dated series: http://bd.fom.ru/pdf/d12ind15.pdf and a snapshot from the same (I omit spoiled votes and those who are not planning to vote):

I have trouble spotting viable liberal opposition that can be supported by a democratic regime change. But may be I am just not seeing something... like it or not, but these are the numbers we have...

27/3/15: Euro Area Growth Indicator up in March, but...

Latest Eurocoin (Banca d'Italia and CEPR) leading growth indicator for euro area economy came in at a slight improvement in March to 0.26 from 0.23 in February, posting the highest reading since July 2014. The average quarterly growth forecast now implied by Eurocoin is at around 0.25-0.3% q/q with the risk to the upside.

This is the first monthly reading since July 2014 that puts Eurocoin into statistically significant growth territory and also the first monthly reading for positive growth momentum based on 6mo moving average.

However, as the chart below indicates, y/y we are still in weak growth territory and, to a large extent, this growth is supported by dis-inflationary momentum, rather than by nominal growth.

Accommodative monetary policer remains the key forward and the ECB remain stuck in the proverbial 'monetary policy corner':

In March, the main factors behind the Eurocoin increase were: an improvement in household and business confidence, plus gains in share prices. In other words, there is no organic driver for growth - both confidence indicators and share prices may have only indirect link to real economic activity.

27/315: Irish Retail Sales: February 2015

Core retail sales for February 2015 (excluding motors):
  • Value of core retail sales in Ireland rose 0.22% y/y in February, having posted 0.67% growth in January - a significant slowdown in growth. 3mo average index for retails sales in value has rise 1.1% y/y in December 2014-February 2015 period compared to the same period a year ago. 6mo average through February 2015 is up 1.23% y/y. This is weak growth at best, given the levels of activity in the sector: 3mo average through February 2015 is down 33.93% on peak and down 3.64% on pre-crisis average.
  • Volume of core retail sales fared, as usual, better, boosted by extremely low inflation in prices. Volume index rose 4.52% y/y in February 2015, after posting 4.61% growth in January 2015 (a slight slowdown in the pace of growth). 3mo average through February 2015 is up 4.8% y/y, and 6mo average is up 4.3% y/y. Still, compared to peak, volume of sales is still 25.3% below pre-crisis highs, although it is up 9.3% compared to the pre-crisis average.

As chart above clearly shows, the divergence between the Consumer Confidence Index and Value of retail sales activity remains in place, while Volume index is co-moving with the Confidence indicator. (more on this below).

Based on links between reported Consumer confidence and actual retail sales, Volume of retail sales is currently trending at relatively average levels (see chart below, green dot marking current reading), while Value indicator is trending well below the average reading consistent with reported Consumer confidence (see light orange dot marking the current reading).

Overall activity in the retail sector, however, is still improving. The chart below shows my own Retail Sector Activities Index (RSAI) that takes into the account trends in volume and value indices, plus the trend in consumer confidence. Currently, the main drivers for this improvement are: deflationary dynamics boosting volumes of sales and still elevated readings for Consumer Confidence.

However, rates of growth in both Volume and Value indicators are weaker than pre-crisis averages and are worryingly weak in Value terms (remember, retail sector profits and employment levels are predominantly the functions of value of sales, not volume of sales):

Finally, onto correlations: table below sums up correlations for each index, showing negative correlations between Consumer Confidence Index and Value and Volume of Retail Sales indices for the period from June 2008 through present (from the start of the crisis). It is worth noting that correlations have moved into positive territory from around 2012 on, although the latest readings suggest some temporary weakening of these.

Conclusions: setting aside Consumer Confidence readings, value and volume of retail sales indices are rising. However, as in previous months, increases in volume of sales are not matched by increases in value of sales, suggesting that overall sector activity improvements are driven primarily by deflationary price dynamics and only in the second order by improving demand. According to Consumer Confidence, we have been back in 2007 levels of activity since the start of Q2 2014. This is simply not supported by the annualised growth rates recorded in both Volumes of sales and Values of sales. Meanwhile, the levels of sales indices remain deeply below their pre-crisis peak readings and in value of sales terms, below pre-crisis average.

I will look at sub-sector decomposition of the retail sales indices performance once we have data for March, so we can strip out monthly volatility and look at quarterly comparatives.

27/3/15: Debt, Glorious Debt, Deluge of Debt... and Negative Yields

In the article on global debt woes forthcoming in one of the financial letters I contribute to in April, I will be looking more in depth at the problems brewing in the global asset markets. But for now, couple of interesting (additional) points.

According to Pictet, the share of global debt that is trading at negative yields has now risen to 8% of the total debt outstanding. For the Euro markets, 19% of all debt traded is now negative yielding, for debt denominated in Swedish SEK - 33% and for for Swiss CHF denominated debt - 44%.

If this is not enough to raise your hair, here is what investors think of the bonds markets:
Source: @lebullmarche
Per above, two core concerns are now taking over the worry-ranks for institutional investors: valuations bubble in bonds markets (up from 17% to 30% between January and March 2015) and Supply and quality of issuance of new debt (up from 6% in January to 26% in March).

27/3/15: Inching toward default: Ukraine CDS

Ukraine default scenarios (and debt restructuring) is now in the front line news, especially with IMF declaring then un-declaring its distaste for Russian position on EUR3 billion debt Ukraine owes Moscow that is due this year: http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/27/ukraine-crisis-imf-idUSL2N0WS1FO20150327. So much so, even Reuters are confused...

But here's the markets absent any confusion: Ukraine CDS are now trading with implied probability of default of 98.2%.

Source: @Schuldensuehner 

Which is, at this stage, only a question of whether or when the ISDA call the default.

Whether you like it or not, Ukraine needs to restructure its debts. Its economy cannot carry the interest burden and it cannot sustain any sort of recovery absent a significant debt writedown. Lending to the country to repay some of these debts is madness of highest order - so much so that even the IMF knows it. Even if Ukraine gets a massive writedown of debt, it will have years of extremely painful reforms ahead of it, and its economic development model will have to be re-written in its entirety. But at least the Ukrainian people will be able to think of this pain as not going to fund foreign legacy lenders. A small consolation, but a necessary one.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

26/3/15: Russian imports outlook 2015-2016

Per BOFIT, Russian imports "will react strongly in 2015, partly dragged down by the economic contraction" and in part by weaker ruble and continued counter-sanctions. Import volumes adjust sharply during Russian recessions: in 2009 imports volumes fell 30% as GDP contracted by 8%. However, current Ruble is in a weaker position than in 2009: "the real exchange rate of the rouble has now depreciated much more than in 2009: it is a quarter weaker than the average rate for 2014. Russia’s income on exports, which dropped by a third in 2009, will deteriorate under the forecast oil price assumption[USD55 pb], by almost a quarter in 2015."

All of this means that Russian "imports will have to adjust to the smaller export income even more than usual [more than in 2009], since it would be difficult to fund a current account deficit in the present situation." It is worth noting that Russian economy does not run current account deficits to smooth out volatility in imports. "The current account last posted a deficit for a short period only, during the crisis of 1998."

Which means that BOFIT projects sharper decline in imports this time around: "import volumes are estimated to fall by a fifth in 2015. [On top of already sharp contraction in 2014]. The decline in imports will level off after 2015 as the economic contraction eases. In addition, the rouble’s real exchange rate will strengthen, since inflation is considerably faster in Russia than in its trading partners (the difference has grown to over 10%). In the absence of shocks which would lead to capital outflows, the rouble’s nominal exchange rate is expected to remain fairly stable, because net capital outflows stemming from e.g. repayment of foreign debt by non-financial corporations and banks will not necessarily exceed the surplus on the current account."

In other words, BOFIT does not expect an external funding crisis to be triggered by the debt redemptions.

"The current account will be bolstered by diminishing imports and a recovery in Russia’s export income resulting from rising oil prices. The recovery in export income will, in turn, create room for an increase in imports."

All of which is consistent with the Government policy: "the Russian Government has increased reactive manual steering in several areas ahead of the recession. Import controls have been intensified, e.g. by raising certain import duties and favouring domestic products in public procurement and also projects of state-owned enterprises. Capital outflows have been restricted by e.g. strengthening banking controls and issuing instructions to state-owned enterprises. Companies have been encouraged to apply targeted price controls, although this has not been widely used, as yet."

Exporters to Russia, especially from the EU, can expect some rough years ahead.

26/3/15: The Second Best Little Country for Electricity Costs Rip-off?..

It's the happiness of the Semi-State: the dysfunctional Irish electricity market.

Here's the latest from the IEA (see full publication here: http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/KeyWorld2014.pdf) and an OECD chart summing up the plight of Irish consumers - industrial and household:

Yes, Ireland - the best small country to do business in is the second worst small country to be user of electricity in (after Denmark) and the fourth worst in absolute terms for households. We are also the fifth worst in terms of industry costs of the same, and the second worst small country in terms of industrial users costs.

But, remember, we are the Saudi Arabia of wind… 

26/3/15: BOFIT Latest Forecasts for Russian Economy 2015-2017

BOFIT published their new forecasts for the Russian economy. Here is the summary with my comments:

Pre-conditions: "Russian economic growth has slowed for three years in a row, due to e.g. waning growth in the available labour force, capital and productivity. In addition, a slight decline in export prices, the Ukraine crisis, sanctions, Russia’s counter-sanctions and other negative measures, with the accompanying increase in uncertainty, slowed Russian GDP growth to just over 0.5% in 2014. ...The impact [of oil price drop in H2 2014] began to show in the early months of 2015, with a slight contraction in GDP. Without transient factors, the economy would already have contracted in 2014."

What transient factors supported growth in 2014?

  • "As in 2013, industrial production was partly supported by strong growth in defence spending."
  • "The depreciation in the real exchange rate of the rouble since the early months of 2013 has [created room for some industrial imports substitution], and may also have slightly boosted exports of certain non-energy basic commodities."
  • "The rouble’s strong depreciation led to consumer spending rushes, which kept private consumption growth at some 2%. However, wage growth slowed, as did pension growth. Inflation rocketed (to almost 17% in February) on the back of rouble depreciation and Russia’s counter-sanctions in the form of restrictions on food imports. Consequently, real household incomes contracted in annual terms for the first time since 1999. Aggregate income was underpinned by employment, which remained buoyant for the time being. Household borrowing decreased further."
  • "Steered by the government, investment by most large state enterprises was relatively high. This was, however, insufficient to prevent total investment from falling by some 2%. The net capital outflows of the corporate sector increased, due partly to repayment of foreign debt and considerable constraints in access to foreign funding as a result of domestic uncertainties and external financial sanctions."

External position forward: "Export volumes declined by 2%. Exports of crude oil and gas dwindled markedly, while exports of petroleum products continued to grow at a robust pace. As the fall in ex-port prices steepened, export income in the last months of 2014 was already well over 10% lower (in euro terms) than a year earlier. Import volumes declined by 7% in 2014 and have now been in decline for 1½ years. The decline steepened considerably towards the end of the year."

BOFIT forecasts for 2015 assume oil price at USD55 pb and above and sanctions and counter-sanctions to remain in place "unchanged for a relatively long period".

"The impact of [oil price] change will be profound, since energy exports ac-count for almost a fifth of Russia’s GDP."

Do note: energy exports include not just crude petroleum and natural gas, but also refined products and electricity (including nuclear). This puts the Russian economy into perspective not usually considered in the Western media - the economy is much more diversified than many believe and claim. Further note, energy (total energy, not just oil and gas) accounts for just over 60% of total exports income.

Outlook summary: "...Russian GDP will contract by over 4% in 2015. The high degree of uncertainty will cause a shrinkage in private investment, while private consumption will be cut particularly by rapid inflation. Even though Russian imports have already edged down, they are estimated to fall further, by one fifth, in response to the sharp depreciation of the rouble during the last months of 2014. In 2016–2017, global economic growth and world trade will pick up, and it is assumed the oil price will rise to around USD 65 a barrel. The Russian economy is expected to continue slightly downward, before a slow recovery in 2017. The drop in investment is expected to flatten out towards the end of the forecast period. With real household income remaining low, it will also take time for private consumption to recover. Export volumes will grow at a very subdued pace. Imports will recover after 2016."

All in-line with my own outlook.

Private consumption "…will decrease substantially in 2015, and slightly further in 2016" driven primarily by inflation eroding household incomes and weak prospects for growth in private sector wages in nominal terms and public sector wages expansion below the rate of inflation. Notably, "the government is also seeking to cut the number of public sector employees." BOFIT expects pensions to "barely keep pace with inflation, at best".

Household credit will remain subdued, "even though the debt-servicing burdens stemming from payback of short-term loans will ease gradually. As during the crisis of 2009, savings may be rather substantial."

Public consumption "will decline amid pressures on the central government finances."

Investment "…will dwindle substantially this year and next. Private investment, in particular, will be depressed by a number of uncertainties relating to the ongoing tensions in East Ukraine, uncertain prospects for sanctions and the unpredictability of Russian economic and trade-related measures stemming from possible additional sanctions and recession countermeasures." So no surprises, then.

Fiscal side: "…the federal budget deficit is set to grow so large in 2015 (to about 3.5% of GDP) that the government Reserve Fund may be eroded by as much as a half. It is possible that support measures will be implemented using government bonds (as in the bank support operations in December 2014, which amounted to 1.4% of GDP). The support operations can also draw on debtors’ bonds (as in the funding of the state-owned oil giant Rosneft, which was just under 1% of GDP)."

The longer-term outlook is deteriorating: "The foundations of growth are being eroded by the contraction in private investment. Government spending is focused increasingly on defence and pensions, while public investment is subject to the largest cuts."

Chart below summarises forecasts:

Sources: Rosstat, BOFIT Forecast for Russia 2015–2017

26/3/15: The New Financial Regulation – Part 1: The Financial Transactions Tax

My latest post for LearnSignal blog opens a new series - covering the major financial services regulatory headaches in the works. This week: it is Financial Transactions Tax turn: http://blog.learnsignal.com/?p=166

26/3/15: Irish Planning Permissions 2014: The Crisis Drags On

CSO published Q4 2014 figures for Planning Permissions in Ireland, confirming the trend toward de-acceleration in the already weak data.

Here are the details.

On an annual basis:

  • There were 15,724 planning permissions granted in Ireland in 2014 for all types of construction, up 13.11% y/y but still down 1.7% on 2011. Current level of planning permissions is below 2011 reading and is below any year between 1992 and 2011. Historical average from 1992 through 2014 is 33,333 which means current running rate is more than 2 times lower than the average. We are in the third worst year in the series history.
  • Dwellings permissions rose from 3,316 in 2013 to 3,606 in 2014 (+8.7%). 2014 level of activity is below any year from 1992 through 2012. Dwellings permissions granted in 2014 were 24.4% below 2011 levels and represent the second worst year in history of the series. Historical average for 1992-2014 period is for 14,882 dwellings permissions to be granted, which means that in 2014, levels of dwellings-related planning activity was more than 4 times lower than historical average.
  • Excluding dwellings, all other new construction-related permissions granted rose to 4,299 in 2014 from 3,431 in 2013 (+25.3% y/y), and up 45.0% on 2011, but still 77.8% below pre-crisis peak and 1.4 times below the historical average. 2014 was the third worst year in history for these sub-series and only marginally above the second worst year. 
Charts to illustrate:

Key point: given the absurdly low levels of activity in 2013, growth in 2014 is far from impressive. The bottlenecks created in 2010-2014, amounting to cumulative shortfall in planning permissions of 108,820 permissions relative to 1997-2001 average, and for dwellings this shortfall is 82,309 permissions. This shortfall is, put simply, catastrophic and is only increasing, given the current trends to-date.

Next: floor area relating to new permissions:

As shown in the chart above, 
  • Floor area relating to planning permissions granted for all types of construction fell in 2014 to 3,184,000 sqm from 3,338,000 sqm in 2013 (down 4.6% y/y), representing a decline of 21.9% on 2011 levels. Relative to peak, total floor area approved is now down 86.7% and 2014 level of activity is 3.3 times lower than historical average (1992-2014).
  • Planning permissions approved for dwellings had underlying floor area of 1,366,000 sqm, up 4.7% on 1,304,000 sqm approved in 2013.  2014 reading is 89.6% down on pre-crisis peak, and 4.5 times below the historical average activity.
  • Floor area approved for non-dwellings permissions fell from 1,306,000 sqm in 2013 to 1,064,000 sqm (-18.5% y/y) and is down 88.6% on pre-crisis peak. Activity in this area is running 2.9 times lower than historical average.
Key points: 2014 was the worst year on record for the construction permissions activity measured by the total floor area of approvals, with overall square meterage of new permissions approved falling to an absolute historical low. 2014 was the third worst year on record for square meterage approvals for new dwellings construction and the absolute historical low for non-dwellings activity.

Summary of on-peak changes and historical shortfalls below:

Overall, 2014 data on planning permissions suggests little real improvement in the investment pipeline relating to construction sector. This evidence does not support the National Accounts tale of revival in domestic real estate investment and investment in general. According to the National Accounts, building & construction sector activity and Gross Fixed Capital Formation have both been running in excess of 2011 levels in both 2013 and 2014. Yet, there is no corresponding performance in planning permissions terms. This strongly suggests that current construction sector activity relates predominantly to past permissions pipeline, implying downside risk to the sector in the near future; and that our real estate investment 'boom' is driven predominantly by the re-sale markets (flipping of existent capacity, rather than creating new capital stock additions).