Friday, 29 May 2009

Tic Tac, Tic Tac ... A TacTic?

"The European housing cycle lags the U.S. cycle by about 2 years but the extent of house price increases, as well as the extent of over-construction, exceeds the U.S. experience in many countries.

Starting from the mid-1990s, house prices in the UK, Spain, Ireland, Scandinavia and France exceeded the price increase in the U.S. whereas construction as a percent of GDP expanded to unsustainable levels, especially in Spain and Ireland.

This severe construction overhang in the latter countries will take several years to unwind thus retarding a return to balanced growth as suggested by the strong housing-consumption correlation in these countries.

Recent research by Citigroup foresees price drops of 10% to 15% by 2010 and 20% to 30% over the next 4 to 5 years."

To be honest I am astonished by the way the press has been covering the housing market as of late...I suppose they are still trying to trap the last soul amid multi-generation low interest rates.

On the other hand, the Construction Builders are not fool and have sharply reduce their ambition and have put a brake in their future construction plan (building permits plummeting).

On the opposite, the bankers, high in the sky, are still looking to hit their next target.

The Banker latest news reported or let's say propagated by YLE is as follow :

"Bank economists surveyed by YLE do not expect any major changes one way or the other over the next few months. Most predict that rates will remain low for the rest of 2009, beginning to rise again after the turn of the year"

Raising rates beginning of 2010...that's astonishingly surprising and worrying as it reflect a lot of non sense - either they are lying or they clearly have no clue of what is currently happening, amazing in fact ...that could clearly explain the short sighted banker views that have not only seen anything coming and will most probably see nothing coming too.

Interest rates will probably stay low for at least 2 years as there won't be any inflation threat for at least for the next 2-3 years since private and public debt have reach historical levels both in industrial world and emerging markets. As a matter of fact, this year and next central bankers will be fighting against the deflationnary threat.

So I read this piece of news as a last trick from bankers to cheat again consumers and trapping them in a massive lifetime debt burden as they did during the bubble, as they did from 2006 by allowing people to take debt they should not have been eligible in the first place and for assets that were grossly overvalued.

Nethertheless, this blog is all about warning people about this type of statement clearly misleading the public and warmly echoed by newspapers and online channels that have clearly self interests in doing is sad, but it is the true reality.

All in all when a storm is hitting and thunder striking (the current crisis that will probably finish in 2011, obviously this is the optimistic view), it is better to be patient while the dust settle (the onset of the crisis)...

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Sponda, Or How the State Pension Lost ...

Sponda a commercial real estate property investor, today lost about 34% of its value.

Not as a suprise for the readers of this blog as it has been said quite many times that there were a glut of commercial properties in the Helsinki area as well as other major cities. On top of that it was all made on very big loan that need to be refinanced and which undoubtdelly will have an impact on banks.

Commercial real estates were poping up at a very fast pace, on the way creating employment and giving an additional false security of a strong GDP growth. The party ended, the money disappeared...

So nothing new in any case except...the state involvement.

Indeed the state pension fund had quite much invested in this company, in fact it represents the number 3 and 4 investors.

So today the state pension fund and ilmarinen pension fund lost together about 1.500.000 times 1,20 euro, so about 2 million euro in the first 20 seconds of trading.

2 million euro that doesn't seem much ....but put in perspective to the number of people retiring this year or so, it is a lot of wealth...

Forgot to mention ... the State is the number 1 investor with 34% holding which represents about 40 million today the state lost about 50 million euro...indeed there is a need to compensate that...raising tax? no they wouldn't do it, would they?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Relax : Max Tax

"When I don't pay unfair tax and play poker on-line, I Body-Build"

"Matti Vanhanen (centre), the Finnish prime minister, told the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) on Sunday that the public should be prepared for an increase in the overall tax rate in order to pay back foreign debt incurred during the recession.

Mr Vanhanen did not specify which taxes the government was planning raising.

"I just want to lay the groundwork so that the people accept an increase in the total tax rate," he said.

"It will be needed.""

So they bail out construction companies, banks where people at the head have received massive bonuses, stocks, options , generous pension scheme and extra-terrestrial salaries - thus Government were "forced" to reward to rescue incompetent that were not able to build their businesses without massive debt and lower risks.

On the other hand, the citizen, if he fails to pay its debt he will not be rescued but be seized its "virtual" assets by its creditors - the bankers.

On top, you hear rumours, propagated by Nordea saying gambling is a bigger issue than unemployment without mentioning that it is all a matter of time...until the benefit of the "safety "trap"" disappear...that's the reason why the government is working hard to set up a monopoly around on-line gambling (in the same line as the alcohol monopoly Alko)...of course the idea being to make huge profits on the back of the most distressed control and monitor on-line gambling addiction.

Then you hear this type of news : 1% of the Finnish population working as cleaners thanks to tax breaks:

"... tax breaks for private individuals hiring cleaners have brightened the employment picture.

Altogether, private cleaning and maintenance services employ around 50,000 people in Finland...", Source YLE - 25.05.2009
Then the industry captains have been pressurizing the politicians to pass into law the income tax cut, thus further increasing the gap between the highest wage earners (the minority, the one that thinks and operate in opera) and the lowest one (the majority, the one who do the work).

As a "captain" of industry, you earn: 300.000 Euro per year - you are an industry "captain" and you get a 10% income tax decrease... you could get as much as 30.000 Euro tax break which will allow you to rent and live in a luxury flat for free (thanks to the income tax cut) in down town Helsinki.

As a "cleaner" of the industry, you earn : 18.000 Euro per year - you might get a 1.800 Euro tax break at a maximum that will allow you to live for 3 months in an average flat in the suburb or in a 15 m2 Flat for 2 month in down town Helsinki.

- So yes, the total tax rate will rise but not for all -

Friday, 22 May 2009

Housing Permits Downward Trend Continues

As no surprise the number of building permit granted for residential contruction has deteriorated further to reach a very sharp decline of about - 40% year on year.

It consolidates futher the assumption that residential market prices have started their correction in a typical 2 to 3 years bear market (at best) and implies that this is simply not a temporary correction as witnessed in 2003.

You will notice, as well, the slump from beginning of this year of permit granted for commercial and office buidings, a further sign of an abrupt end of a once overheated construction industry in a currently declining economic environment.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Housing And Companies Loan

The housing loan growth has come to an halt sometime in 2006. From that point, the housing price growth decelerated then halted only to start reversing course and accelerate its deflationnary trend.

In the meantime, in order to put a brake to rising unemployment, money has been flowing to companies... thus delaying the problem by few months as for some company that is the only way to survive i.e piling up on more debt...but let's hope that some will take this opportunity to restructure their business model and become "sound"...otherwise you will have a very distorted market.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Magical Kid

"The government has found an extra 60 million euros that are needed to provide additional funding to deal with unemployment."

Actually I lost my wallet this morning...maybe it's mine...after all the government has "found" the money so it must belong to someone, a tax payer: well I am...unfortunately.

So 60 million euros...unemployment will be around 10% (more if retirement was not kicking in at record pace) for a population of 5 millions or around that make it 500.000 thousands unemployed. So 60 millions/500.000 gives us about 120 euro or about 10 euro per month for a year .

I agree it will definitely pay for ...the bus ticket to the training center...well at least for half of the month or less...

Friday, 15 May 2009

Pension Fund Managers, A Recap

Regarding the Pension Funds, ask them how they gamble public money and how much they lost in the past 10 years.
South African billionaire Johann Rupert said the financial crisis may lead to inflation and social unrest as savers find they’re too poor to retire, while pension-fund managers deserve to be jailed for incompetence.

Rupert, speaking at the annual presentation for Cie. Financiere Richemont SA, the luxury-goods company he controls, said he doesn’t see any “green shoots” of economic recovery. He said governments may resort to inflation to reduce the burden of increased debt from stimulus programs, such as U.S. President Barack Obama’s $787 billion package.

“If this thing carries on, my generation will have to work until they are 75,” the 58-year-old Rupert said. Governments are “going to have to find the capital in the markets, which will crowd out the private sector, or they’re going to have to tax the living hell out of consumers, or inflate their liabilities to oblivion. There are not too many other options.

I will finish by that:

People should be put in jail for their lack of maintenance of purchasing power in the pensions and retirement funds that they managed,” Rupert said. “People are simply not going to have the retirement funds at their disposal.”

Should we jail incompetent as Mr Rupert is highlighting...I suppose there won't be enough jail...well at least the construction industry will be stimulated...

PS: The Finnish government has changed the rules last autumn concerning Pension Fund liabilities and their solvability level. So let's allow them to lose a little more in the next 2-3 years to come as it is without doubt that real estates and stocks will deflate to level not seen in this current decade.

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Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Statistics Finland "Price Bubble" Revelation

Finally they published the data with a lot of new changes - what do you expect when a market is declining, you got to review the way data is published, a bit like the accounting rules for the Banking sector- yet they provide interesting data, that I will have to go through, and I will come back later on with the full analysis.

In the meantime, I wanted to highlight something that is quite astonishing as it seems that Statistics Finland knew that a bubble started to develop in 2006. Although I think they are way optimistic in their date, mainly based on futur wage development...

" During this decade buying power to get a dwelling by earned income has declined rapidly. ”The price bubble” in house market was created 2006, when, house price curve has risen above wage curve(1983=100).

House prices went down during 2008 and ”the price bubble” of house market is melted down. Decline of house prices have overhauled house market.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Troubling Trouble from Krugman to "Statistic Finland"

First "Statistic Finland" scheduled the release of the quarterly housing price on 09 of May, then pushed it to 11 May to only rescheduled to an unknown date "As soon as possible".

Finland is supposed to be a leader on the ICT front yet "statistic Finland" is unable to provide such data. Is Finland being hit by the syndrome of too much outsourcing and ending up with the technical "know how" having to be imported back?

There is as well the conspiration theory from my friend "Juha the pike", he is saying there are delaying because of infinite pressure from the construction, media and real estate agencie lobbies while at the same time the press is trying to mislead the consumer into thinking that prices are going "north" again as in 2003....which will be a fatal mistake to think in such a way.

But back to reality, lately Euphoria has grown into a dangerous bubble. People start slowly to remove their defence at a time when high vigilence should be high. It is true as I said once, the real opportunities are greater in the stock market than the housing market, and yet I think the "great" opportunities, both in housing and stock market, are still ahead and not yet fully materialized (although we were quite near with regard to the stock market, regarding the housing market we have not yet passed 1/4 of it...)...

The real impression that I have of the current economical environment is clearly summarized by the following :

"“It looks to me now as if the markets are now pricing in a rapid recovery, that they’re pricing in a V-shaped recession, which I consider extremely unlikely,” Krugman, 56, said at a forum in Shanghai today. “The market seems to be looking as if this is going to be an average recession, but it’s not.”"

"Krugman, who won the 2008 Nobel Prize for economics, joins New York University’s Nouriel Roubini in calling for a more cautious outlook on growth. Roubini said last week analysts expecting the U.S. economy to rebound in the third and fourth quarter were “too optimistic.” Nassim Nicholas Taleb, the author of “Black Swan,” said the current global crisis is “vastly worse” than the 1930s."

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Bank Of Finland Crispy Sense of Humour

"A few years ago, the Nobel laureate, economist George Akerlof heard that his distant relative had bought a house in Trondheim for more than USD 1 million. To him, it was a lot of money anywhere, but particularly a sign of high property values in Scandinavia.

He later told this story to Robert Shiller, another well-known economist. Perhaps this was not only a Scandinavian story. They decided to look at it at greater length for the insight it offers into the patterns of booms and busts and notably the twin crises of confidence and crisis that are currently everywhere in the world.", Erkki Liikanen

Not sure if Bank Of Finland through its Super Hero aka Liikanen, Erkki Liikanen, want to send a message to the people buying property of more than half a million Euro...

Bear in mind that today, most "unware" people -first time buyer- are requesting housing loan of more than a quarter million while the "veteran" buyer are easily flirting with the half million Euro. The Rich (not so many, and not for long considering this type of investment) are then trying to buy asset of well over a million (you wonder why?) .

Never underestimate the sense of Humour of the legendary super hero of Finnish Finland, Mr Liikanen, Mr Erkki Liikanen...

Although, sometime Mr Erkki can be quite serious and raise very important question...please raise your hand if you have an answer to the following:

"The second angle is one of crisis management. At the time when the decision to join was made, Finland’s deep depression of the early 1990's was fresh in our memories. At that time, our recovery was aided by a substantial depreciation of the Finnish markka. How would the loss of exchange rate policy affect our ability to survive truly adverse economic circumstances?", Erkky Liikanen

Indeed Finland got out of the previous recession by devaluating the currency, at the time the Finnish Markka.
Today the strategy is being somehow employed by Sweden (Our Friendly enemy), by Russia (our ) and then UK and the US...

So what can Finland do? in fact nothing much...a bit like a boat in a storm..just wait for the storm to end and on the way hope that no Iceberg are on site. Regarding the Icerberg, that reminded me Mr Jurky "Di Caprio" Katainen, that was saying the economy is sound in the same way that one said that the Titanic is unsinkable...

PS: for the one that think that we are out of the wood, have a look at this chart, to really understand the kind of situation we are in.

This Is Finland , things you surely should have to understand

This article is just to have more visibility on the web - to cheat the google engine or crwalers basically.

So nothing interesting to read in this article... why are you still reading?

Well in this blog you will find information that are based on true facts and rely on strong sources (what is still reminaing of it as misinformation strenght is increasing day after day...)

Nevertheless, it will certainly give you what is really hapenning...

continue here

Friday, 8 May 2009

"Middle Age" Wage Agreement

Here is what I am reading this morning while taking my coffee and croissant...People say that caffeine make you nervous...I would contradict that but instead say that what made me nervous this morning is the piece of news concerning some bureaucrats... While finishing reading this piece of news, I didn't even noticed that I ate (or shew) my croissant.

humm, next time no news while enjoying my breakfast (the only good moment? before heading to the factory work) .

So here is the news:

Collective agreement talks between the Finnish
Federation of Technology Industries and the Metalworkers' Union and the Union of
Salaried Employees stalled over a pay row late on Thursday.

Although the
negotiations are to resume in August or September, the breakdown of the spring
talks is a blow to the centre-right government, which had hoped the key export
sector to encourage recession-quelling pay deals elsewhere on the labour market.

Riku Aalto (soc dem) of the Metalworkers' Union said the money row
proved comparatively small at the end of the day.

"We already saw eye to
eye to some extent, but unfortunately the employer side apparently lacked
sufficient negotiation authority," Mr Aalto added.

First who are those people and the power that has given to them for deciding what would be my salary level and its related increase (do they know my performance, my career, and learning investment I made, the risk I have taken this year and one I will take in the next 3 years?)

Second Are we all the same? Are those bureaucrats thinking that they are dealing with cattles uniform, similar type of employee? Should all get the same type of raise?? those slowly give the opportunity to white colars to move companies to cheap labor country with the argument that salaries are too high?

Third Let's the market decide what is the pay rise of some employee, the best and motivated will be rewarded and the one browsing the net and blogging all day won't see the same type of pay rise...

Forth Is Finland still a socialist country?, sometime you wonder...

Fith Union in Finland have been highly incompetent to solve real issue, have shown no leadership and manage to weaken the power of employee since 1992... so a message for Unions and government: "get you hand out of my salary bargaining, you can't fool me with your political, union-doggy attitude maneuvering".

humm..maybe I should drink less coffee, switch to tea?

Thursday, 7 May 2009

The worst is behind, There is no bubble...

Just kidding...

We are just having an air pocket needed to reflate confidence and give the impression that we are past the worse. A stabilization , yes but to plunge or not to plunge by end year that is the question.

So today the ECB cut interest rates to historical level, yet housing price are falling and credit growth is contracting very fast. Note housing price will continue their downward trend, of course it won't be in a straight line and the media, some banks and some economists will add noise around it.

Regarding Banks, they are not tightening their lending standard, far from that - they are desperate to find people to take debt... Remember as well that the government is still keeping the old housing stimulus in place and is still guaranteeing about 85% of housing loan (no wonder why banks are not afraid to lend as it is the state i.e the tax payer that is holding most of the risks ... ).

Coming back to the tax payer...not only is under the threat of be fired but he is kindly ask to continue on piling up debt (to keep his standard of living stable while is income has barely progressed through time, when adjusted to inflation and real of life: food, rent, electricity - note that all those price are more or less controlled by the state or cartels and are not involved in a well functioning market since distorted by players that put self-interest before the people).

In some cases, the tax payer is kindly asked to review his salary down by 20% or choose the only other alternative is being lay off.

In some other cases, the tax payer is warmly asked to reduce its yearly income by not coming to work for few months in order... to save the company from past mistakes of the directors and past greed driven by outrageously high salary and unfair stock options scheme.

So do we have a recovery....don't be fool , what is currently happening is that the little future growth that was in the pipeline has been shifted by few months as the economy was clearly collapsing. It was really scary, I have to say, especially in the last quarter of 2008.

Well one will have to pay for the stimulus that governments have been engaged on. Higher tax in the future and higher inflation down the road.

Bottom line, we are stabilizing, for the moment, albeit at a low level, with no inflation threat for at least 3 years then in the next decade you will have to be used for higher inflation and higher tax...the perfect ground to make the young pay for mistakes taken in the past decade by finance ministers and greed driven bankers.