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

 

Advertisements

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.

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

Study the following charts. These are the Referendum moves but work for extended 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).

Oil, Gold, USD, GBP, Yen COT report breakdowns & interpretation #fx #oott

 

We are seeing a 5Y extreme net bullish positioning from non commercial speculators. I would want to see bids at $40-46 forced out first, however. This means that a drop of about $13 is available. We have a slight Wyckoff bottoming pattern. I remain bullish above $36 long term on oil (WTI).

Gold

Looking at PA and the reduction in longs over Q4 2016 indicates that we aren’t in for a bull run any time soon. Wyckoffian schematics indicate a move to $1,050. Currently hitting a rounded resistance retest of a key low volume break below support, I would continue shorting gold with a stop above $1,260, target of $1,050 for a 3:1 risk to reward trade.

USD

Dollar longs have remained stable over the past few months. Open interest had increased due to the Trump USD rally. Trump’s team has said the dollar is too high very recently. External to this, USD LIBOR rising could be causing investors to shy away from USD denominated assets over the next few months as dollar hedging costs become too great relative to potential yields. I’d expect the dollar to stay within current ranges of 96-104 for the foreseeable future, however longer term I still remain bearish. What could change this is a) NAFTA terms being reassessed b) changing geopolitical situations c) Trump does something even more mental that has longer term economic implications.

Sterling

Sterling shorts have been covered since November. This is most interesting to me due to the perceived general public fear over a GBP crash when Article 50 is triggered. This could suggest that in reality, sterling would be in for a rally if you want to look at recent sentiment regarding the pound. We’ve had a pretty large spike in bearish volume at lows back before Christmas. A spike in volume at relative lows or highs can sometimes indicate a reversal, but I wouldn’t put too much credence into that. The ‘fat finger’ low at 1.1945 has not been taken, however I am basing my stucture off of the lows at 1.21 and 1.20. A hold above 1.20 I will remain bullish, however I expect a ranging market where sellers will be absorbed over the next few months.

Yen

Similar PA to gold here (understandably). Non-comms are net short Yen. How long they’ll maintain this for is another question if we start experiencing risk offish behaviour in other assets. Yen on a longer term picture is more interesting –

Below 0.80 and we could see 0.70. If 0.80 holds, however, Yen bid is on, even if this is totally detrimental to the BoJ’s aims.

Why Are Economists Wrong?

Andy Haldane has recently come out to apologise about the forecasts the Bank of England and experts had made in the wake of the EU Referendum. After having missed the occurrence of the 2008 financial crisis and totally misjudged the Brexit vote, is the Bank in disrepute?

Claims made by leading economic thinkers include statements of ‘fact’ (when it comes to experts providing opinion, the average Joe Public will take this as fact) such as:

“Britain’s shock vote to leave the EU has unleashed a wave of economic and political uncertainty that likely will drive the UK into recession,” Samuel Tombs, Pantheon Macroeconomics.

David Owen, the chief European economist at Jefferies International, said a technical recession – two consecutive quarters of contraction – may now be a given, followed by a period of very slow growth. He also said the UK’s long-term economic potential, known as trend growth, would be lower, “which has to impact the valuation of assets, particularly equities”.

(Guardian, 24th June 2016)

George Osbourne tweeted:

…as a result of Mark Carney’s presser which can be seen here, where they also expected a 20pc fall in the pound, which, by the way, was totally not unexpected – you can read about this in an article I wrote a month or two ago. In actuality, post referendum, we are experiencing very good economic conditions. Business confidence is up in Q4 2016 vs Q3 2016, inflation is at the highest level in 2 years (yet Andy Haldane is now arguing that inflation is going to hurt British consumers, after being a dove for a long time – talk about flip flopping), one of the biggest industries, construction, is seeing a boom, even in the face of higher material costs for builders, and finally, UK Q4 growth was better than expected.

This isn’t meant to be a total critique specifically of the post referendum expectations from the Bank and many expert economists, but a critique of forecasting of many events by economists, as well as their decision making along the line.

Consistently through history, economists have misjudged or mis-forecasted events, from the Great Depression, to Reagan’s ‘Trickle-down economics’, which many still feel holds weight today, to the predicting the financial crisis of 2008.

In 1999, The Economist wrote to the UK’s leading academic practitioners of the dismal science to find out whether it would be in our national economic interest to join the euro by 2004. Of the 165 who replied, 65 per cent said that it would. Even more depressingly, 73 per cent of those who actually specialised in the economics of the EU and of monetary union thought we should join – the experts among the experts were the most wrong.

(The Telegraph, August 2016)

I believe that it is because although economists use varying models, these models are consistently going to be outdated where human behaviours change according to environmental, technological, financial and resource bases advances and evolution. Models used 70/80 years ago are still being used today. A model that worked in a post war world doesn’t necessarily work today. It could lead you to ask why have interest rates consistently been on a decline for 30 years? Why are real wages decreasing long term? Evidently something is wrong with our economic system and I believe that a key reason for this is the lack of credible forecasting from our central banks and government economists, as well as other variables such as increasing inequality, which I think can also be attributed to certain post war mechanisms (hint, baby boomer created mechanisms).

In trading, you can argue that an analyst can have a totally different view of the market to a trader. The issue is that one is well, analysing, and one is actually putting their balls on the line and aiding price discovery – and everything is based on price discovery or supply and demand equilibrium. What is the punishment for Andy Haldane saying that there is the ‘potential’ for a post referendum recession apart from having to make an apology? Not much apart from a red face and an article critiquing him by an MT4 FX trader. A trader would lose or gain. There is something on the line but this leads me onto something that I feel economists totally forget about markets.

Pricing in is the notion that the market discounts everything. The price you view now is the price of all information known in the market. For example, one could look at the dollar rally we experienced from late summer to the December rate hike and consider the high of 118.5 as that being the market including all information based on the belief that a hike would have occurred, since we are now trading 200-250 ticks off of that price. The dollar tends to fall after US rate hikes anyway for about 6 months after. Slight tangent there, but the point is that economists tend to miss this a lot. Traders do not. A 15% fall in GBP was predicted by the IMF a year before Brexit. Traders knew this – they’d been shorting cable from $2.00 highs. They were just waiting for a catalyst to be able to capitalise on that fall – and in my opinion, it would have occurred anyway over time.

It’s the same with the Trump vote. There were heavy predictions of a stock market crash… we are hitting all time highs on Dow and SP500, and we can see the same phenomenon among economists working. In both cases, we saw economists over-estimate the effect of negative events and totally underestimate the effects of anything positive that could be taken from these two political decisions. To be honest, I was guilty of this on Trump. I thought he would win, but I did not expect there to be such strong risk on behaviour in bonds and equities. Conversely, we saw the opposite occur with the 2008 financial crisis. There were probably mutterings of ‘it’s housing, how can that go wrong’? Well in this case, the negatives were discounted totally. Part of this was due to ratings agencies providing smoke and mirrors to the actual situation, and part of this was due to the belief that if anything did go wrong, it would be so staggeringly bad that it just… couldn’t happen.

We also have the issue of data being provided sometimes 3 months too late (inflation forecasts for example). Economies are sensitive ecosystems. Supply and demand shocks can occur and change things very quickly during those periods. However, this is where I feel a more market analyst based approach has to be taken by economists rather than simply always adhering to macroeconomic models – humans aren’t rational beings all the time in relation to economics shocks, and the data lags don’t always reflect this. For example, I found it strange that the BoE cut rates by 25 BP back in August. You could say it was because they were trying to be accomodative, but then you have Andy Haldane coming out with statements that there are inflation risks, when we all know that monetary policy takes 12 months to take effect (however I think that just shows the Bank’s lack of forecasting ability and we go back in circles again).

One thing that I think that certain economists are really understating is the effect that China blowing up will have. Balls on the line, January 2018 that credit bubble will go boom (I can edit this if it happens in Feb).