Bad CRE, Rotten Home Loans, and the End of US Banking Prominence?

By: Reggie Middleton | Fri, Nov 13, 2009
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It's bound to happen if regulators don't stop playing hide the sausage and don't start forcing banks to take their medicine. First, a quick recap of the nonsense currently taking place. This post is designed to convince banks that they are considerably better off taking their medicine now than going on with the government endorsed plan of pretending your not sick and risking major surgery, plus chemo and radiation just a year or two later. My next post will be a selection of REITs that didn't make my shortlist, followed by a new REIT report for subscribers that will explicitly show property values of each and every property in said REITs portfolio (and potentially the lender or CMBS/mortgagee pool collateralized by said properties - that's right, someone may be called out).

After dealing with European banks during my work with GGP, I have come to the conclusion that most regional, community and even global banks have no where near the capacity and/or expertise to properly evaluate and value the projects/assets that they have invested in. Well, if that is the case, this is your chance to rectify that problem - on the cheap, at least on a relative basis. So if you are in an appropriate position in your bank, fund or lender - read this evidence that supports the proactive behavior of snatching the big crumbs off the table before there is a mad dash for the micro-specs of bread that may or may not be left if one were to wait it out while playing "hide the sausage games". I'll give you the tools to make a convincing argument, trust me. Here is the broader macro argument for lenders pulling bad debt from under the REIT and CRE industry, thus supporting a bearish thesis for said players.

First: A picture is worth a thousand words...

Instance asset gains and market value stemming from just a small tweak of truth. Financial stocks fly, moving farther and farther from their fundamental values.

Second: We have the obvious manipulation that is occurring in the REIT space (see Here's a Big Company Bailout by the Taxpayer That Even the Taxpayer's Missed!). Zerohedge speculates "Is Goldman Preparing To Upgrade The REIT Sector?"

Third: We have government complicity in the purposeful opacity of the values of the mortgage assets (see the FDIC "Prudent Commercial Real Estate Loan Workouts" guidance issued Oct 30th, as reported by the WSJ: Banks Hasten to Adopt New Loan Rules and the new FDIC guidance that states performing loans "made to creditworthy borrowers" will not require write downs "solely because the value of the underlying collateral declined").

Fouth: We have a false sense of security that nearly everybody believes should make us insecure, yet somehow we have those long in the markets feelng warm and fuzzy. See You've Been Bamboozled, Hoodwinked and Lied To! Here's the Proof. What Are You Going to Do About It?.

Now, for those of you who believe that the government's "pretend and extend" policy has any chance in hell of working, or better yet, that we are not following in the footsteps of Japan, let's take a pictorial trip through recent history. There are nearly no Japanese banks in the top 20 bank category on global basis by 2003 - NONE (save potentially Nomura, which arguably survived in name, alone). As you can see, they literally dominated 90% of the space in 1990!

Larger Image

Source: Cap Gemini Banking M&A

I want the banks that read my upcoming real estate analysis to take heed to history. It truly does tend to repeat itself. If you are an officer in a bank with CRE exposure, reach out to me from your work email and I will supply you with an abbreviated copy of one of the recent reports, gratis. This should whet your appetite to subscribe for more.

Well, are we following the Japanese "Lost Path". Notwithstanding the damning evidence of hide the truth and hide amongst lies linked to above, ponder the following rather dated, but still quite poignant data...

Source: Nomura on Balance Sheet Recessions

Futures have corrected even farther since this graph was made. As excerpted from a previous guest post on "Animal Spirits":

First consider this chart of Japanese home prices:

Their prices peaked in the middle of 1991 and have declined ever since. We have now seen 18 years of decline.

One may then counter that Japan is a one off case due to their poor monetary policy. Well, then what about Los Angeles?

Consider the following chart:

Note, our bubble was bigger, stronger and longer than theirs. Ours has also has considerably more stimulation than theirs. Yet periodically throughout that bubble we saw seasonal upticks, and they were also during the March-June/August time frame.

Our housing prices peaked in December 2005. Through June 2009, that's 3.5 years. Even relative to this smaller bust, we are still in the crash phase, which is then followed by a long tail of lower prices at a diminished rate of decline. Given our bubble was much bigger and longer in the making, I contend this will be longer if anything, not shorter.

Notice, in some ways as of 2008, US and Japanese bank losses have been similar. I posit the US losses will end up being much worse. Notice how the chart below references the subprime crisis. I have always alleged, and apparently have been proven correct, in that this is an Asset Securitization Crisis. and by definition is much broader, deeper and more intense than any subprime crisis could ever be.

Source: IMF, Global Financial Stability Report (October 2008), p.16

Japanese asset prices literally collapsed after 1990, but several banks remained in the Global top 20 for some years (reference the second chart from the top of this blog post). Don't be fooled, though. If the value of your assets plunged significantly, your equity and enterprise value are soon to follow.

Here are a few quotes from others who have studied the situation:

• Japan financial minister Watanabe: "Unlike Japan's 1990s crisis, financial risk in the U.S. spread beyond the bank sector to the rest of the financial system, i.e. hedge funds."

• In the May/ April 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs, Robert Madsen, a senior fellow at MIT, pointed out that "Japan's illness occurred in a relatively benign international environment," with overseas markets hungry for Japanese exports, the yen holding strong, and the government posting a modest surplus. The U.S. is in a very different place, Madsen writes. The U.S. deficit is skyrocketing, and appetite for its exports is weak.

• Economist David Rosenberg at Merrill Lynch: "Japanese consumers had a higher saving rate (13%) going into the 1990s crisis than Americans had going into the present crisis. In the USA, there is no high savings rate to wind down in support of consumption. It's been more than 25 years since the U.S. savings rate was anywhere close to where it was in Japan at the onset of its multi-year real estate deflation and credit contraction."

• Analyst Koyo Ozeki of PIMCO: "One factor that probably helped stem the default rate on home mortgages in 1990s Japan despite the sluggishness in the economy was the relative employment stability, thanks to the system of lifetime employment." [as opposed to 10%+ employment here in the states]

Analyst Masamichi Adachi of JPMorgan: "Reliable valuation is key to solving financial instability. A key underlying issue through Japan's lost decade was a distrust of valuations of land prices and NPLs. This issue applies to the current global credit situation too, i.e. valuations of structured finance products and of likely losses at financial institutions." [reference the first graph at the top of this post, and then wonder why no one trusts the banks, even the banks themselves!]

• Analyst Takehiro Sato of Morgan Stanley: "During a liquidity crunch, market players retain cash regardless of the level of interest rates and do not supply funds to external parties during a sharp rise in credit risk. Monetary easing alone won't expand credit or stop collateral values from falling...However, unconventional measures (such as nationalizing corporate debt) are still an option." [reference the chart below]

• Central Bank of Cyprus Governor Athanasios Orphanides: "Low or zero interest rates alone do not indicate a liquidity trap as long as there are assets in the economy that the central bank can purchase with money." [Bernanke read these notes!]

• Analyst David Rosenberg of Merrill Lynch: "Fiscal stimulus in 1990s Japan was a band-aid, not a solution. All the stimulus did was prevent an even greater decline in real GDP. As for monetary policy, aggressive moves to boost the money supply are offset by the contraction of private sector credit as money disappears into debt elimination. Reflationary monetary policies are merely going to minimize destabilizing deflation pressures."

So, how's it looking across the Pacific over here in the good 'ole US of A? As excerpted from, and sourced with the assistance of RGE Monitor...

This really calls into question the usefulness of broad GDP reports in anticipating asset value recovery after a land bubble bust. See "Who are ya gonna believe, the pundits or your lying eyes?" (for pictures), "Who are you going to believe, the pundits or your lying eyes, part 2" (for numbers and a very shaky video), and Boo!!! Will Halloween Scare the Market into Respecting the Fundamentals? for an idea of what needs to be cleared up in this space before we move forward.

Hey read this - Treasury Sales Smash Record - Oct 30, 2009 ... For all the concern over Washington's deficits and its $12 trillion debt load, the US demonstrated this week that it retains the capacity to...

Now check out the chart below and tell me if this calls anything to mind...

If we do follow the path of the Japanese (and thus far I see nothing but similarities except for where Japan was in better shape than the US, save sume structural rigidity) one can be rest assured that their will not be a big future in lending and fixed income products...

If our situation is indeed more intense than the Japanese, then it can easily be surmised that to exist stimulus before Midterm Elections next year will push us back into recession. Who wants to take that bet????

According to Nomura, although the US and Japan may be (have been) successful in bolstering the money supply through government action, that money acts very, very differently during a balance sheet recession.

The logic behind the debasement of the dollar? According to the most popular school of thought amongst the academics, it is unavoidable...

I will suggest congress force the three main ratings agencies to post this disclaimer everywhere their name or logo appears!!!

The graphic comes from the Nomura report linked above. The last line was a Reggie Middleton touch-up job .

Bankers, if you are not yet convinced it is time to take the first mover advantage on some of those rotting CRE assets, then I don't think you will be convinced at all. Next up, a peak at my short list of REIT candidates rejects.

Free Research Samples and Relevant Real Estate/REIT Related Content for Subscribers

Research samples on companies in various sectors from food processors to insurance companies to investment banks and industrials/manufacturing - free to download. I dare you to compare this to what you get from your local brokerage house: Research_Samples 11/17/2008 for examples). Show it to them and tell them you got it from a blog! I would like all retail and institutional investors to think long and hard about what you are getting for your commission dollars at the big sell side banks. As times get harder, their already conflicted analysts are being pared back even more!

A look at the banks from an off balance sheet perspective:

  1. The Fed Believes Secrecy is in Our Best Interests. Here are Some of the Secrets
  2. Why Doesn't the Media Take a Truly Independent, Unbiased Look at the Big Banks in the US?
  3. As the markets climb on top of one big, incestuous pool of concentrated risk...
  4. Any objective review shows that the big banks are simply too big for the safety of this country
  5. The ARE trying to kick the bad mortgages down the road, here's proof!
  6. You've Been Bamboozled, Hoodwinked and Lied To! Here's the Proof. What Are You Going to Do About It?
  7. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?
  8. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?: Pt 2 - JP Morgan
  9. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It?: Pt 3 - BAC (the bank
  10. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It? Pt 4 - Wells Fargo
  11. If a Bubble Bubble Bursts Off Balance Sheet, Will Anyone Be There to Hear It? Pt 5 - PNC Bank
  12. A Must Read: An Independent Look into JP Morgan. This contains the "public preview" document (JPM Public Excerpt of Forensic Analysis Subscription 2009-09-18 00:56:22 488.64 Kb), which is free to download.

Relevant Real Estate Research: There is the venerable "GGP and the type of investigative analysis you will not get from your brokerage house":

My dated work on Macerich (subscriber only):

Below are opinion and research dating back to 2007 when many pundits were telling us the worst is over - on the residential builder side there was (these are free to download for non-subscribers):

  1. Lennar Forensic Analysis and Valuation update - 2/2009 2009-02-23 09:12:53 485.65 Kb
  2. Voodoo, Zombies, Lennar's Off Balance Sheet Accounting and Other Things of Mystery & Myth
  3. Lennar Insolvent: Enron redux???
  4. Lennar, Voodoo & the Year of the Living Dead!
  5. Now, a "Realistic" View of Lennar's Solvency
  6. Bubble, Banks and Builders
  7. Even as the corporate management, the treasury secretary, the Fed Chairman and the sell side called a bottom in 2007, 2008, and even now in 2009 (sound familiar) - see Bubbles, Bank, & Builders - Pt IV: I can't believe this guy and Again, I say, Credibility is the key, Mr. Hovnanian.



Reggie Middleton

Author: Reggie Middleton

Reggie Middleton

Reggie Middleton

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