Richard Suttmeier: Home Prices Could Fall Another 50%

Home Short Sales Bring Real Estate Prices Down

The housing market continues to deteriorate.

Thursday’s report on May pending home sales was down 30% from the prior month and nearly 16% vs. a year ago.

The market weakness spans the country. Sales in the Northeast, Midwest and South fell more than 30%, the bright spot, the West, only fell 21%.The news comes after last week’s record low new home sales in May, which plummeted nearly 33%. Experts say the expiration of the new homebuyer tax credit is to blame for the sudden market softness.

Unfortunately, the market could get worse and prices could fall further, says Richard Suttmeier of ValuEngine.com. High unemployment and struggling community banks are two main causes. Saddled with bad housing and construction loans, local banks will continue to restrict lending.Plus, the failure of the Obama administration’s mortgage modification program means a steady flow of short sales. “People are going to be surprised when they see there have been short sales,” which negatively impact appraisals in the local community, says Suttmeier.How low can prices go?Using the S&P/Case-Shiller index as his guide, Suttmeier suggests homes across the country could lose half their value. “If it gets back, like stocks, back to the 1999-2000 levels, that’s another 50% down in home prices,” he says.

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Gary Shilling’s Bearishness Doesn’t Seem Nutty

The recession will now turn deeper and the Federal Reserve is worried about deflation.

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Gary Shilling says, House Prices Still Have Another 10%- 20% To Fall

A year ago, house prices finally stopped collapsing after two years of brutal declines. Over the following few quarters, moreover, they actually rose. This led many observers to conclude that the housing bottom had been reached and that we were headed for a v-shaped bounce.Not Gary Shilling.Gary Shilling, head of economic research firm A. Gary Shilling & Co., thinks house prices still have another 10%-20% to fall. Just as bad, Gary thinks this fall will happen over the next three years, meaning that house prices won’t bottom until 2013. Most people think prices have already bottomed, or will bottom later this year or next.Why is Gary so bearish?Supply versus demand.Basically, Gary says, we still have way too many houses relative to the number of people who want to buy them. Consumers are under pressure, overloaded with debts and struggling to find work, and the mass-hallucination that investing in housing was a “sure thing” is now a distant memory. These days, many would-be home buyers are moving in with relatives or downsizing or dumping second homes. And the supply-demand balance is so out of whack, in Gary’s view, that even super-low interest rates won’t keep prices afloat.

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We Have A Few Years To Get Our Fiscal House In Order Or We Go Into A Depression

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Americans’ Mistrust of Govt. Is Rational and Warranted, But Also Dangerous”

The United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative,” Winston Churchill once said.The problem is “we’re in the process of exhausting all the alternatives pretty quickly,” says William Galston, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.A recent CBS/NY Times poll showed only 19% of respondents say they trust the government “to do what is right all or most of the time,” while 78% believed the government is run by special interests, not for the benefit of the people.”If current levels of trust don’t improve, I don’t see how Americans can be persuaded to make sacrifices now for a better future,” says Galston, a former adviser to President Bill Clinton. “We have a few years to get our fiscal house in order before things really get out of control in ways that will be hard to reel back – the early signs are not encouraging.”With public deficits soaring and stratospheric bailouts for banks and automakers,Galston isn’t saying mistrust of government is irrational or unwarranted, but it is dangerous for society.”Unless it’s corrected we’re going to have a very hard time doing what needs to be done in the next decade or two,” he said. “So I hope we’re on the threshold of doing the right thing, not because we want to but because we have to. “

Gary Shilling: Higher Government Pay Will “Likely Lead to a Tax Revolt”

14.8 million Americans are currently out of work and looking for a job, according to a report released today by the Bureaus of Labor Statistics. Even if you do have a job, wages have not increased substantially over the last ten years, with one exception: government workers.Thanks to generous health-care benefits and pensions, it pays – more than ever – to work in the public sector. Economist Gary Shilling fears dubious consequences if state and local workers continue to make more money and at the same time governments raise taxes and cut services.”In good times, nobody really cares that much but now we’re not in good times,” says the President of A. Gary Shilling & Co. “The basic problem is pay differential, as I see it, and that I think is likely to lead to a taxpayer revolt.”Shilling’s point about pay is illustrated well in this recent research by Dr. Mark J. Perry, professor of economics and finance in the School of Management at the Flint campus of the University of Michigan.According to a December report from the BLS, state and local government employers spent an average of $39.83 per hour worked ($26.24 for wages and $13.60 for benefits) for total employee compensation in September 2009. Total employer compensation costs for private industry workers averaged $27.49 per hour ($19.45 for wages and $8.05 for benefits). In other words, government employees make 45% more on average than private sector employees.According to another BLS report, compensation for private industry workers has increased by 6.9% between December 2006 and December 2009, compared to a 9.8% increase for government workers (state and local) over the same period.If that’s not enough, the trend will lead to a lowering of our standard of living, even for the highest paid workers on Wall Street, Shilling tells Henry in the accompanying clip. If reforms like the Volcker Rule take hold, Shilling’s “not sure Wall Street (will be) permanently bidding up the prices of Manhattan real estate and vacation homes in the Hamptons.”

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40%-50% Chance Stocks Will Crash To New Low, Says Gary Shilling

Last summer, our guest Gary Shilling of A. Gary Shilling & Co. predicted that stocks would fall 30%.  That hasn’t happened yet, but the extraordinary bull run that made idiots out of many of Wall Street’s greatest gurus last year has now finally reversed, and Gary is sticking by his bearish guns.

At Dow 10,000, Gary says, stocks are still priced to reflect a strong economic recovery throughout 2010 and 2011.  And that’s not going to happen.  Consumers still account for more than 70% of the spending in the U.S. economy, and consumers are retrenching.  The value of their assets has plummeted, so they’re finally saving again.  They’re unemployed.  They’re tapped out.  Put all that together, and consumer spending will continue to be weak, and the overall economy will only grow 2% a year.

When the market finally realizes that its dream of a v-shaped recovery is too optimistic, stocks will go lower–perhaps much lower.  In fact, Gary thinks there’s a 40%-50% chance they’ll crash right through the bear-market lows set last spring.

So what’s an investor to do?

Buy Treasury bonds, Gary says.  Contrary to the concerns of they hyper-inflation crowd, the world is awash in excess capacity.  We have too much production capacity, too many houses, too much labor.  Overcapacity leads to deflation, not inflation.  So today’s 4.5% long-term Treasury yield will go to 3%, making bondholders 25% in the process.

And buy the dollar.  At the end of last year, everyone agreed that the dollar was going to continue to collapse.  That was your queue to get the heck out.  It’s not that we don’t have serious problems with deficits and debt in the U.S., Gary says–it’s that our problems are less bad than the problems facing the Euro.  Gary thinks the dollar will rise back to parity with the Euro, a major move from the ~$1.35 it takes to buy a Euro today.

And sell commodities.  China is overheating, and as it corrects, it will take global commodity demand down with it.

In short, Gary says, do exactly the opposite of what everyone was telling you to do at the end of last year.

Bulls Ignore Warnings from Soros Roubini and Other Skeptics

After a two-week decline which brought the Dow down 3.5%, the bulls are reasserting themselves to start this week. Building on Monday’s rally, global stocks were higher Tuesday amid renewed weakness in the dollar.In recent trading, the Dow was up 1.1% the S&P by 1.3% and the Nasdaq by 1.5%. Commodities rallied sharply, led by gold, as the dollar weakened anew after Australia’s surprise rate hike heightened interest rate differentials and improved the appeal of the carry trade (whereby fund managers borrow low-yielding dollars to invest in higher-yielding assets.)Once again, the skeptics find themselves on the defensive and it’s clear it will take more than a 3.5% drop or reminders about October’s “scary” history to break the market’s short-term momentum.Coincidentally (or not), the past few days has brought a raft of dour comments from the few analysts who correctly predicted the credit crisis before it became obvious to everyone.Here’s a sample: * George Soros says the U.S. banking system is “basically bankrupt,” in sharp contrast to Goldman’s upgrade of the large banks. * Nouriel Roubini says “markets have gone up too much, too soon, too fast,” and will retreat when economic news refutes the V-shaped consensus, Bloomberg reports. * Joseph Stiglitz told Bloomberg TV investors have become “irrationally exuberant” about prospects for a recovery. “There’s a lot of risk…ahead of some big bumps.” * Christopher Whalen tells Tech Ticker the fourth-quarter will be a “bloodbath” for banking as says stocks rallying while the “real economy is dying” is not a healthy sign. * Meredith Whitney warned about the likelihood of a second credit crunch, especially for small businesses, a WSJ op-ed last week.Meanwhile, stocks are now 15%-20% overvalued based on Robert Shiller’s long-term cyclically adjusted P/E ratio and Henry reports that Wall Street analysts are forecasting a return to record profit margins, which are only likely if more layoffs are coming, which begs the question: How can the economy maintain forward momentum if unemployment continues to rise and consumers remain in lock-down mode?The fact there’s so much to worry about is probably good news for bulls from a short-term perspective, as I wrote here. But long-term investors – as well as traders sitting on fat profits – would be wise to heed these collective warnings.

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