An article written by me for Seeking Alpha on the TED Rate…

 

See here for article.

http://seekingalpha.com/article/4047538-ted-spread-says-bullish-global-economy

 

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The impact of neoliberalism on post-colonial Africa in the 20th century

Ric Yeboah

The decolonisation of Africa in the 1950s and 1960s was seen as the great opportunity for the continent to finally realise its potential independently. Spurred by the sustained demands for self-determination by leading nationalists such as Jomo Kenyatta and Kwame Nkrumah, many countries throughout Africa would take back their sovereignty from their European possessors. For the first time in more than a century, Africans had once again acquired control of their resource-rich continent, and could now build upon their individual liberation movements and fulfil their ambitions to not only compete with, but overtake their former oppressors. However, merely twenty years after independence several African countries encountered severe economic complications. Thus, asAfrica’s principal development partner,the World Bank, alongside its partner organisation theInternational Monetary Fund (IMF)stepped in by supplying loans to cash-strapped African economies throughStructural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs). However,the SAPs – and the programme’s specific…

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Is it better to rent or buy? The big question.

Image result for london house

This is a question that I have seen various times on social media. I’ll get to the point. My feeling is that buying is an idea that has been pushed heavily over the years by those who have bought their house for very cheap and who have seen it appreciate heavily. In addition, the majority of retail banks’ business is in the mortgage market where they glean interest through mortgage provision. You only have to look to the most recent financial crisis to see how far reaching the mortgage business is.

I wrote a recent article on London house pricing and why they have increased so heavily. A basic summary is that a combination of banks allowing less leverage & therefore a bigger initial deposit has increased rate of renting while low interest rate policy, quantitative easing and low housing stock has caused the price rise. This has caused people to rent more, yet it seems their real goal is to own a home. Why?

This article was taken from here.

Dear Emily,

I’m 30 years old, and my husband and I are thinking about buying a house. He’s all for it, but frankly, I’m terrified of the idea of taking on a mortgage. I know a number of people who lost their homes during the financial crisis. The housing market seems like it isn’t the sure thing everyone said it was. And we have significant student loan debt as it is. So my question is—is homeownership really all it’s cracked up to be? And what should young people do when they’re already swimming in debt as is?

Dear Renter:

I distinctly remember the time in 2006 when a relative told me I should “definitely” buy a house because “the housing market always goes up.” This was obviously not good advice, though it certainly reflects prevailing wisdom at the time. And I can see why in the wake of the housing crisis, you’d fear that the housing market always goes down. Which is also not true.

There is one unambiguous argument in favor of buying a house: Sometimes it is hard to rent the house you want. In most places, if you want to live in a single-family detached house, there are not many rental options, certainly not long-term ones. So you may find yourself coming up short on good rentals, and buying may be the only way to get what you want.

However, let’s assume that you are happily renting someplace and your only motivation to buy is financial. Is it cheaper to rent or buy? In equilibrium, the answer is: The price to rent or buy should be about the same. Why is that?

Imagine that rents were so high that you could buy a place and rent it out and still have loads of money left over—even after paying the mortgage, maintenance, and everything else. If that happens, the market will adjust. People will start coming in, buying properties, and renting them out. But as apartment-hunters have more options to choose from, rental prices will fall. And they’ll fall to the point where the rental price just about covers the cost of owning.

Alternatively, if rents were so low that owners would lose money renting houses, they’d stop doing it. But as the number of available rentals goes down, the prices will go up. And they’ll go up to the point where the rental price will cover the cost of owning.

This is an example of what economists call “equilibrium” and it means that ultimately, it will likely cost you about the same to rent or to buy.

You can also try to do this calculation directly. Think about what it costs you to rent. Then think about what it would cost to buy the same quality house. Take into account the mortgage, of course, but also insurance, maintenance, foregone interest on the down payment, and the value of your time spent fixing things that the landlord would fix in a rental. I suspect you’ll find that the costs are about the same.

Given this reality, the only other strong argument for buying a house is the view that the “housing market always goes up,” so when you sell, you’ll make money. But you don’t have to go very far back in history to see that isn’t true, so it’s probably not a great argument. The housing market also doesn’t always go down, so that’s not a great argument, either.

As to your debt question: Student debt may limit your ability to get a mortgage, but it shouldn’t keep you from buying a house if you want to. Your housing debt is collateralized by your house, so unless the value of your house goes down so much that you’re underwater on your mortgage, it’s not debt in the same sense that your student debt is.

A final note: Time horizon matters. There are a lot of fixed costs with buying a house: you pay the realtor, closing costs, etc. If you are going to own a house for 30 years, these do not matter much. But if you’re planning to sell in a few years, they significantly raise the effective buying price. And if you rent, so much the easier to flee the coming war with Australia.

There are various reasons why someone may want to buy a home as seen above. I am of the opinion that the initial outlay of a down payment could be better invested elsewhere. Note that any 20 year period of investing (and reinvesting dividends) in the SP500 has only led to a profit. See here:

If the rationale for buying is that you have an investment in the end then in my opinion, it holds up as pretty weak. If you add in the costs associated with being a mortgage borrower (interest payments, maintenance, insurance, renovation etc), would you be able to achieve a 246% return in a 20 year period? This is one huge opportunity cost, as well as being a very illiquid one.

I understand the above is great hindsight analysis, but the fact is that no one has ever lost money over a 20 year period while investing in the SP500 (as long as we are calculating purely from the principle investment, and with dividends reinvested). Many people have lost money on home ownership due to it being an illiquid asset.

Of course, you are able to release equity in your home to finance other investments, however this is not necessarily a given investment strategy in the future due to no knowledge of future house price appreciation or viability for remortgaging. And this brings me onto the next point.

Buying may be seen as more attractive, but what % of your income does your mortgage take up? Rent may be £1500 and a mortgage £1300, but would your emergency fund be able to cover mortgage payments if you lost your job? What if you’re utilising 60% of your income paying a mortgage plus home ownership costs? Renting provides a certain flexibility in an economic climate where the future is very uncertain. If you lose your job, you can quickly move to somewhere with lower payments, and avoid a very big mess.

At the end of the day, there are personal circumstances that come into it. But always bear in mind opportunity cost and longer term costs that may not be associated with renting.


‘I refuse to pay someone’s mortgage’

But you don’t mind giving banks interest payments? Interesting (ha).

Remember, mortgage in French means ‘death pledge’. Obviously death in this sense means until the loan obligation ends, but there are funny connotations with it as well.

A mortgage is classes as a liability until it’s paid off. A house is not an asset until that obligation is fulfilled. In addition, considering buying a home as an investment is poor, since house prices have barely outpaced inflation over the last 60 years. This does not make it a poor purchase, however.


The following video gives a roundup of what I have said:

Note, the mortgage calculation equation is wrong. It should be E = P×r×(1 + r)n/((1 + r)n – 1),  where E = monthly payment owed to the bank, P$ = loan amount, r = interest rate of loan, n = amount of months loan is for

 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter and below.

The young are voting for Marine Le Pen more than any other age group. Why?

With the election just around the corner, I think it’s time to reflect on the next stage of the populist movement. We’ve had it in the U.K. with the referendum, the US with Trump’s win (God help us), and Italy with the downfall of Renzi.
In the link above I described the rise of populism and why Trump won. That is specific to the US. However now I feel that a more pressing issue for the future of the EU and Eurozone is on the horizon with the French election.

If you have been following my articles recently, you’d know how much I dislike the Eurozone. Have a read of that article before proceeding if you haven’t already.

So with what you’ve just read in mind, let’s take a look at this first point.

Marine Le Pen, the far right National Front leader, has most support from the youth according to polls.


Many after the UK referendum said that the old had decided the future of the UK – this time, the young in France are fuelling the populist movement. The National Front are obviously abhorrent, but this is not the point here. The point is to understand the rise in right wing thinking. And amongst this age group, it’s very easy to discern.


Note the trough between 1998 and 2004. That is the year 2002. Franchise introduced the Euro on Jan 1, 2002. Since then, youth unemployment has increased steadily year on year. 

Youth employment tends to be more low skilled. This means that companies that can produce for a lower cost base elsewhere within the EU will relocate and take advantage of the single market opportunities of free trade and transfer pricing far more easily than age groups where you are more likely to have higher skilled workers. 

Alongside this, having fixed monetary policy across varied economies means that there is no way for countries to remain competitive via exchange rate devaluation. This gives rise to labour market supply shocks, such as the one we are experiencing in the French youth market where demand for this age group is highly elastic.

The problems in France remains structural. Here’s what Moody’s had to say when they downgraded France’s credit status last year.

 “The current economic recovery in France has already proven to be significantly slower — and Moody’s believes that it will remain so — compared with the recoveries observed over the past few decades. In part, this is due to the erosion of competitiveness and loss of growth potential following the global financial crisis. It is becoming increasingly clear, in the rating agency’s view, that these problems will continue to constrain growth long after the cyclical recovery from the crisis is completed. In Moody’s opinion, France’s potential annual growth rate is at most 1.5% over the medium term. France faces material economic challenges, such as a high rate of structural unemployment, relatively weak corporate profit margins, and a loss of global export market share that have their roots in long-standing rigidities in its labour and product markets.”

Moody’s, 2016

I am highly critical of Quantitative Easing’s effects, but I’m not so critical of the ability of a state who can govern its own monetary policy long term. The chart for U.K. youth unemployment is below.


We do not necessarily have a structural unemployment problem since we are able to have the relative (to EZ countries) flexibility to absorb demand and supply shocks caused by downturns. This is why we have recovered pretty quickly post 2008. I know there are certain measures that may muddy these stats such as zero hour contracts and part time work, however this would not cause the huge disparity between the UK’s youth unemployment levels and France’s.

When we talk about populism, we must not disregard certain racist agendas. At the same time, we must maintain an understanding of why thinking changes. Nothing happens ‘just because’; you can always find a root cause.

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How to trade big moves – don’t, but do.

Study the following charts. These are the Referendum moves but work for and strong, thin moves as well due to the volume mechanics which I will explain at the end. The reason I say don’t but do, is because it’s best to trade the retrace.

cadjpy6thjuly

gbpchf6thjuly

gbpaud6thjulyeurusd6thjuly

Enter blindly on big moves that reject the 50% level. To plot the fib, you take the open of the candle at the start of the big move and end it at the wick of the end of the big move. You can use discretion if the move is close enough to the 50% level of the move (or if it breaks it and still rejects it). Optimum entry is a close exactly on the 50% level.

Stops are placed at the next fib level above if buying or below if selling (the 61.8% level or the 38.2% level).

Take profit is at the return to the range of the move, i.e the newly generated support level at the wick of the end of the big move. You can then use discretion to add to your position, or move stops to just above the first take profit level.

Why does this work?

gbchf6thjuly-NFP

Volume is key here. I shall explain in terms of the histogram (volume profile) on the side. Price ends up bouncing at areas of high volume as there are resting orders, people taking profits and new entrants into the market (trading at higher volume areas  is cheaper for big participants – less slippage due to there being more participants at these levels).  On the flip side, the 50% level almost always has a big void of low volume. Price can slip through this, but when there is very limited volume to trade into and when the trend is very strong in one way (made apparent by the big thin move), price tends to continue with the trend.

Here are the stats on the strategy taken on a daily & H4

 

time frame over 15 months:

The Sharpe Ratio could be better, but the strategy can be optimised further. The frequency of trades ranged between 1-4 per month.

Try it out and see how it works. It’s pretty simple which I quite like.

(Article originally written in August 2016).

Guest Post: David Belle about Risk Management

A guestpost I wrote for this-is-forex.com.

Check Miad’s site out. Great stuff. Link below.

This is Forex

Risk management is key to trading. Without risk management, you can have the best strategy in the world, slowly grind down an account due to poor risk management.
There are several key principles that I follow with managing risk & managing a position while in a trade.
Firstly, I do not believe in cutting your winners short when your stop is managed with the correct risk parameters. If you take a quantitative based approach to the markets, where you look at your stats over a good sample size, you should have 100% faith in these stats as long as they are robust (have significance with little error/bias) and the conclusion is a positive expectancy. The second you begin to cut losers short, you are applying human impact to your robotic approach. How do you know that your trade would have hit your stop? By cutting it short you are affecting…

View original post 363 more words

Why is UK housing in the state it is in and what can be done about it?

Image result for london house

For the last 10 years, London has been experiencing a massive rise in house prices. It’s practically impossible for a first time buyer to get on the ladder – banks don’t want to lend with as much leverage (the money borrowed relative to salary, credit rating and initial down payment) and this is seriously pricing out buyers young and old.

The issue is certainly countrywide, however, London buyers face the biggest hit as seen by the following chart.

hometrack

Source: Hometrack.com

The dashed line is the UK housing price index; the filled line is London’s housing price index. There is roughly a 75% difference between the two measures (at current levels).

But why has this happened? If we note the above chart we see that the recent acceleration began from about 2009/10. During this period, the Bank of England had decreased interest rates to their lowest level ever and had introduced something known as Quantitative Easing. I won’t go too deep into the intricacies of it*, but they end up increasing the amount of money in circulation to boost consumer spending and increase inflation to try and normalise the economy after the 2008 crash. If you can’t get a good return on your money by leaving it in a bank account (interest rates are too low) then where is the next best place? Property. London is the draw for these people with cash holdings in the UK.

*For those who may understand this part: during QE, the central bank purchases bonds from institutions (banks, pension funds, hedge funds) in order to service government spending (the Northern Rock, RBS bailout etc). What do these institutions do with the cash? Re-invest into other assets (property, private equity etc. since the yield on bonds is so low it’s not in their interest to re-enter that asset class as heavily). This is also why the stock markets have been rallying while earnings data for companies have been extremely poor.

So what happens when you can’t afford to buy? You’re forced to rent. Home ownership last year dropped to its lowest rate in 30 years. In February 2016, it had fallen to 58% in London. London’s peak ownership during the housing boom of the early 2000s was 64% and England’s was 71%. Peak ownership and the new ownership as of Feb last year is shown by the following chart.

home2

Source: The Guardian (data from The Resolution Foundation)

I don’t want to get too political/ideological here, but what this shows is a transfer of wealth from the ‘haves’ (landlords, pension funds who own property etc) to the have nots (first time buyers, young people). Additionally, remember Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ scheme? People were able to buy their council houses at a massive discount – 20 years later they’re worth 4/5 times more. This disturbance of the supply/demand dynamic has not helped with the velocity of long term price increases.

Additionally, foreign investors have caused a massive rise in London house prices especially. Above I mentioned investors using property as cash holdings, but why else? Well, the appreciation of London property far outweighs the rate of inflation in a relatively short time horizon. This means that the cash they have used on the property appreciates by the difference between inflation and annual appreciation, minus any costs from taxes/solicitors etc. For them, it’s merely a bank account which is going to give a better rate of return than a traditional account, be less risky than investing in stocks or shares and much of the time, and they can get around capital controls in their countries (see RussiaChina etc).

What this also shows is another massive longer term issue which is low wage growth. Relative to our (I was born in 1992 so pretty much anyone from 1988-1999) parents, we earn 20% less on average.

home3

Source: Trading Economics

You can see that the marginal weekly increases in wages over the last 16 or so years have been in constant decline. We have not been above 4% since 2010.

This is where a slight bitterness comes in, since it is the baby boomers (those born just after the war) and our parents who have kind of gotten us into this situation (more so the baby boomers though)! Now if we combine that with rising house prices, do we really stand a chance of getting onto the ladder.

So what can be done about this problem?

Many say that building more houses will fix the issue. This is merely my opinion, but this is not a long term solution. What needs to be done is for global central banks to re-assess their strategies of programmes such as Quantitative Easing and increase their respective base rates. By increasing the base rate, you are simply increasing the cost of investment by restricting the supply of credit. You may say this is a very bad idea since growth is still quite low, but I think that has been equally as bad is the no interest rate policy that has been followed post 2008, where the majority of people have not been able to save while cheap money has been given to the ‘haves’.

Alternatively, (and this is going against my free-market conditioning) we could introduce a land value tax. So for example, if the need for housing is greater in some areas vs others, we can apply larger taxes on the land owners who wish to use the land for other gains. The key here is ‘land owners’ and not land occupiers. This deters the building of say a shopping centre in an area where you could build 300 houses instead. How this could work well in London is levying higher taxes on foreign investors who use property merely as a ‘bank account’ and do not live there. As mentioned before – close the gap on the yearly appreciation by levying a higher tax on purchase.

We must remember that this housing issue is not just a UK problem. Scandinavian cities, Vancouver, Toronto, San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo are all experiencing the same problems. When you see such a correlation, you have to begin to wonder as to what is causing it, and since most central banks in the developed world have been following the same monetary policy process, or are highly interdependent on each other’s economy, some bells have to start ringing.

Follow me on Twitter @DavidBelleFX and check out my blog www.davidbellefx.com for economic opinion, market commentary and trade calls.

Thanks for reading.