But what really hides behind the Cabinet in-decision? Well, it is rumored that not the (allegedly) ethical Greens, but Mr Cowen's own troops are unhappy about NAMA. Some senior ministers, as I hear, are saying 'Hold on, we'll have to face constituency out there one day and you are about to load an average person (25 yo+) in this country with some €20K in fresh debt from the bankers and developers alone'. Good for them. And I certainly hope the Greens also stand up and tell Mr Cowen where to pack that NAMA idea.
Oh, and apparently, the DofF men are saying that the 'long term economic' value under the NAMA formula will be based on, well, more than 5 and less than 9 years. Hmmm... What does this mean? It means that NAMA should be expected to break even (at the very least) were we to price the property assets to be purchased into NAMA on this 'long term' valuation basis. Ok... but...
First there is one majour issue here - in real world of economics, long-term market value usually means a long-term past average or trend. What it means for NAMAphiles is thatwe will be forecasting the values forward over some long-term horizon. Anyone familiar with forecasting knows that this, in reality, means that we will be in a completely arbitrary forecasting territory. In other words, for DofF to say we want to take current discounts based on future values projected 5, 7, or 9 years ahead is like saying 'we'll name the price and then justify it afterward'.
But wait, there is also a problem with the way the DofF is allegedly timing the cycle.
Calculated Risk blog (see below) - the top forecaster for US housing market shows expected time to the bottom in price in the US residential market of 5-7 years. Do you think we gonna get there in this time here in Ireland? No. We have had worse correction in the market to date than Japan, who are 20 years into the downturn in their property markets and still not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.
And NBER research paper 8966 (BOOM-BUSTS IN ASSET PRICES, ECONOMIC INSTABILITY, AND MONETARY POLICY by Michael D. Bordo and Olivier Jeanne) has a handy set of charts at the end, showing the most recent busts in property markets in the OECD economies. Ratios of boom length to bust duration are (defining as boom - trough to peak prices, bust - peak to trough):
- Australia 1980s: 3 years of boom, 7 years of bust: ratio of 3:7;
- Denmark 1980s: 4 years of boom 7 years of bust: ratio of 4:7;
- Finland 1990s: 4 years of boom, 6 years of bust ratio of 2:3;
- Germany 1980s: 4 years of boom, 7 years of bust: ratio of 4:7;
- Ireland 1970s-1980s: 3 years of boom, 7 years of bust: ratio of 3:7;
- Italy 1970s-1980s: 3 years of boom, 6 years of bust: ratio of 1:2;
- Italy 1990s: 4 years of boom, 6 years of bust: ratio of 2:3;
- Japan 1970s: 2 years of boom, 4 years of bust: ratio of 3:4;
- Japan 1985-today: 6 years of boom and 19 years of bust: ratio of 6:19;
- Netherlands, 1970s-1980s: 4 years of boom, 8 years of bust: ratio 1:2;
- Norway 1980s-1990s: 4 years of boom, 6 years of bust: ratio 2:3;
- Spain 1970s-1980s: 2 years of boom, 5 years of bust: ratio 2:5;
- Sweden 1970s-1980s: 4 years of boom, 7 years of bust: ratio 4:7;
- Sweden 1980s-1990s: 3 years of boom, 7 years of bust: ratio 3:7;
- UK 1970s: 2 years of boom, 4 years of bust: ratio 1:2;
- UK 1990s: 4 years of boom, 7 years of bust: ratio 4:7
Well, let's take a look at the same data from the point of view of time to full return to pre-crisis property prices, or peak to trough (nominal prices):
- Australia 1980s: 18 years from 1981 through 1998;
- Denmark 1980s-1990s: 8 years (1979-1986) and 13 years (1986-1998);
- Finland 1990s: 1989-2004 or 16 years;
- Germany 1970s: 1973- today... oh yeah, right - some 36 years;
- Ireland 1979 to 1995 or 17 years;
- Italy 1981- through today... right, so that's about 29 years;
- Japan: 1973 through 1986: 14 years;
- Japan 1990- today: 20 years;
- Netherlands, 1978 through 1998: 21 years;
- Norway 1987 through 2003: 17 years;
- Spain 1978-1987: 10 years;
- Spain 1991-1998: 8 years;
- Sweden 1979-today or 31 years;
- UK 1973-1987: 15 years;
- UK 1989-2000: 12 years.
- Australia 1980s: 18 years;
- Finland 1990s: 16 years;
- Germany 1970s: 36 years;
- Italy 1981: 29 years;
- Japan 1990: 20 years;
- Netherlands, 1978: 21 years;
- Norway 1987: 17 years;
- Sweden 1979: 31 years;
- UK 1973: 15 years
So DofF is talking about under 9 years then... I see... ah, the poverty of expectations...
The Government has time to get it right - they have the entire month of August to sort the new piece of legislation on NAMA, outlining in details:
- Provisions for taxpayer protection;
- Complete and comprehensive balance sheet and cost/benefit analysis of the undertaking;
- Exact amount of equity the taxpayers will receive in return for NAMA funds (hmmm, 100% would be a good starting point);
- The exact procedures for divesting out of the banks shares in 3-5 years time with exact legal obligation to disburse any and all surplus funds (over and above the costs) directly to the taxpayers in a form of either banks shares or cash;
- The formula for imposing a serious haircut (60%+) on banks bond holders, possibly with some sort of a debt for equity swap;
- A recourse to all developers' own assets - applied retroactively to July 2008 when the first noises of a rescue plan started;
- The list of qualifications for any bank to participate in NAMA, including, but not limited to, the caps on executive compensation at the banks and the requirement to set up a truly independent, veto-wielding risk assessment committee at each bank with a mandatory requirement for a position of a taxpayers' representative on the board that cannot be occupied by a civil servant or anyone who has worked in the industry in the last 10 years;
- Provision for a taxpayers' board, electable directly by people, to oversee the functioning of NAMA;
- A condition that the banks must undergo loan book evaluation prior to transfer of any loans to NAMA, the results of which will be made public - on the web - instantaneously - and will impose a requirement on the banks to write down their assets, again before NAMA purchases any of them, by the requisite amounts to balance their own books in line with valuations;
- A condition that any loan purchased by NAMA be placed on the open market for the period of 2 weeks and that NAMA will not pay any amount in excess of the bids received (if any), with a prohibition for the participating banks to bid on these loans;
- A condition that every NAMA loan should be publicly disclosed, including its valuations and bids it receives in the auction stage of the process;
- A stipulation that all and any regulatory authorities (and their senior level employees) that were involved in regulating the banking and housing sector in this country take a mandatory pension cut of 50% and return any and all lump sum funds they collected upon their retirement;
- A provision for dealing with the speculatively zoned land to be acquired by NAMA, i.e orderly de-zoning of this land and transfer of this land to either public (if no bidders arise) or private use consistent with sustainable agricultural development, environmental improvements, public use or forestry;
- The measures to prevent banks from beefing up their profit margins through squeezing their preforming customers;
- The measures to force the banks to reduce their cost bases by laying off surplus workers;
- The measures for accounting (in a transparent and fully publicly accessible fashion) on a quarterly basis for NAMA operations and the performance of the state-supported banks.
Oh and on the topic of IL&P predatory rate hike for adjustable rate mortgages, here is a brilliant argument as to why Minister Lenihan must intervene to stop the practice of soaking the ordinary consumers to pay for past banks follies. Read it and think - can any government, acting in the interest of the broader economy and taxpayers and voters be so reckless in its attempts to hide behind 'protecting the markets' arguments as to willingly sacrifice its own people on the altar of cronyism. And do remember - I am a free marketeer, and a proud one, yet I see no moral strength in Lenihan's arguments.
US data is now showing more serious signs of an uplift... or does it? Sales of new homes rose 11% in June is a sign that some decided to interpret as a return to growth. I wouldn't be so trigger happy myself - this is the largest rise in new homes sales since... oh you'd think like somewhere in 2006? no - since November 2008. This is volatile series and the seasonally adjusted rate of 384,000 new homes sales in a month is, while impressive, way off the old highs. Thus sales are still down 21.3% on already abysmal levels of 2008 so far this year.
Here is what my favourite US housing guys - http://www.calculatedriskblog.com - had to say about the latest rise: a W-shaped bottoming out is coming. And a superb chart from the source:
Or, in the words of the blog author:"There will probably be two bottoms for Residential Real Estate. The first will be for new home sales, housing starts and residential investment. The second bottom will be for prices. Sometimes these bottoms can happen years apart. I think it is likely that we've seen the bottom for new home sales and single family starts, but not for prices. It is way too early to try to call the bottom in prices. House prices will probably fall for another year or more. My original prediction (a few years ago) was that real house prices would fall for 5 to 7 years (after 2005), and we could start looking for a bottom in the 2010 to 2012 time frame for the bubble areas. That still seems reasonable to me."
And to me too. But what I would caution against is the optimism for the overall property markets. Here are two tidy little reasons:
One: US equitable redemptions are the lags between the property being reported as a non-performing on the loan book of a bank and the time it hits the foreclosure market. Now, these vary by state, with some states having no er provision at all, while others having 9 months plus. The US average is about 4 months. This is what is yet to be reflected in the 'distressed' sales gap - the gap between new home sales and existing homes sales. Chart below illustrates:
Again, the distressed gap is not closing, but both series are pointing up. Now, notice that around November 2008-February 2009, the days of the most fierce destruction of income and wealth worldwide, the number of existent properties on the markets did not rise. Why? The ER lags are kicking in. So take the average of 4 months and get June 2009 to start showing an increase in existent homesales rising - foreclosures are feeding in. This process is likely to continue through months to come.
Two: I would watch the maturity of securitized commercial loans... these are still looming on the horizon for the roll-over (and they are also a problem in Ireland, where most of commercial property lending was securitized)... Comes autumn, expect things to get tough once again... Oh, and then NAMA will coincide with the already tightening credit markets and will take a large chunk of liquidity our of the market... Gotta love that Lenihan/Cowen timing - like two elephants trying to dance polka at a Jewish wedding - loads of broken glass, but not to the delight of the newlyweds...