Like a wild jungle creature forced into a confrontation, but unsuccessful, this past week's stock market limped into the weekend, stunned, pensive, and little changed with Dow Jones Industrial Average [DJIA] closing at 11370.69, the Standard & Poor's 500 ending at 1256.76, and NASDAQ finishing its week at 2310.53. The Dow lost 125.88 for the week. Likewise, the S&P 500 dropped 2.92 and NASDAQ subtracted 27.75, respectively.
The CNBC midday rowdies strained themselves lifting a Hubble sized telescope looking for positive data points in the housing numbers. Existing home sales came out Thursday; they were down 2.4 percent in June, at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.86 million units. New home sales for June, appearing Friday, was lower by .06 percent, on a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 530,000, from a revised upward May figure of 533,000.
I can imagine the rowdies on an express elevator to hell remarking that our destination has dry heat, that it's a gated community, and that it's a Christian neighborhood with few trespassers.
In the second quarter, 739,714 foreclosure filings were recorded. Also, 220,000 homes were lost to bank repossession, according to RealtyTrac. That is up 14 percent from the first quarter and up 121 percent from the same quarter in 2007.
A report published on Friday, by an International Monetary Fund economist, concluded U.S. housing prices were still overvalued, in the first quarter this year, perhaps, 14 percent, within a range of 8 percent to 20 percent. According to Reuters, IMF economist Vladimir Klyuev's report "What goes up must come down? House price dynamics in the United States", examined the inventory-to-sales ratio, foreclosure rates, market inertia, and other data points, formulating this opinion. That would mean at least an additional $1 trillion in lost asset value. The government debt market is still comatose.
The 2 year and 10 year US Treasury Notes, as well as the 30 year US Treasury Bond ended the week with higher yields, paying 2.71%, 4.10%, and 4.68%, versus 2.64%, 4.85%, and 4.65, respectively. August is a major refunding month with auctions scheduled for the Two, Five, Ten, and Thirty Year Treasury obligations, in addition to the weekly T-Bill The brightest spot in the market was the Nymex Light Sweet Crude Oil September contract; it closed Friday at $123.26 per barrel, extending its reprieve to cash strapped motorists from its recent high of $147.20.
Online retail analysts are reporting double digit growth in sales among several retailers because of consumers passively boycotting higher gasoline prices. Who would have thought that one day we would be happy seeing oil prices heading towards $100 a barrel?
Late Friday afternoon, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency closed First National Bank and the FDIC was named receiver of another two banks, one California-based and the other Nevada based, First National Bank of Nevada with $3.4 billion in assets, and First Heritage with $254 million in assets. Both were owned by undercapitalized First National Bank Holding Co., of Scottsdale, Arizona. First National lost $140 million in the first quarter. They reported $4.6 billion in assets and $4.3 billion in liabilities. Nine point four percent of it $3.7 billion in loans were non-current, ending March 31. Mutual of Omaha Bank acquired the deposits of the two banks from the FDIC for a 4.41 percent premium. The new Mutual of Omaha Bank branches will open Monday morning.
There are currently 8,494 institutions holding $13.4 trillion assets insured by the FDIC. The FDIC said the failures would cost its deposit insurance fund roughly $862 million. This brings the total number of bank failures in 2008 to seven. You can learn more about the status of a particular bank here
Game Changer : The really, really, big news this week came from Chrysler LLC. It announced Friday afternoon that its financing arm would discontinue offering leasing deals to its U.S. customers beginning August 1; the same date when their $30 billion credit facility is up for renewal. The rising cost of capital is making leasing terms less attractive to consumers. This is another aftershock resulting from stifling energy prices and an economy that's deleveraging.
Declining SUV and lease values forced Ford to take a $2.1 billion charge at its finance division last week. Although, third party banks and credit unions will step in to fill the void, expect some slippage in the approval rates for leasing transactions. The same market pressures compelling Ford (F) to exit this market will certainly continue to present as a business factor for any entity looking to make a profit leasing vehicles. The cost of capital is important, however, the residual value of the underlying asset is monumental. The percentage of Chrysler sales attributed to leasing is greater than 20 percent.
It will be very interesting to see if this extemporaneous admission becomes evolutionary inside America's automobile industry. Americans divine right to drive automobiles has been an unconditional assumption since the end of WWII. In 2008, it's a fair question to ask given this extraordinary economic environment of failing banks, growing home foreclosures, stagnant incomes, evaporating jobs, personal and business credit contraction, a runaway federal budget, an aging infrastructure, an expensive endless foreign war, a fractured financial system, rising worldwide demand for limited resources, and a demonstrable shifting of global wealth. Plus, the third generation of Americans, exposed growing up around an enlightenment concerning the ecology and global environmental issues, is being handed the task of running our economy. They will shape and modify our society's habits in the future.
The U.S. Senate actually gaveled a rare Saturday session passing landmark legislation to triage a metastasizing bankrupted residential real estate market. Highlights of the bill include; a new regulator for Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE) and up to $300 billion to insure refinanced mortgages for the next 18 months; $4 billion to states to buy and rehabilitate foreclosed properties, a 10 percent tax credit up to $7,500 dollars for first time home buyers purchasing a home between April of this year and June of next year; increase the federal debt limit to $10.6 trillion, and more.
We now have a de facto nationalized residential real estate market. The reversal by the White House to withdraw a veto threat and sign a passed bill into law would create tears of joy on the face of Scottish economist John Law and Louis the XIV of France. Welcome to the new depression. France has succumbed to capitalism. In between fist bumping with the Democratic presumptive nominee Barack Obama and checking out his Italian-born former model turned pop star wife's, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy's new music album, "Comme si de rien n'etait"(As if nothing had happened), President Nicolas Sarkozy of France bullied his National Assembly into radically reforming their 1958 Constitution. Passage of the reform package includes limiting Presidential terms, strengthening the power of the legislature, weakening the position of Prime Minister, and repealing the 35 hour per week cap for workers.
It is an indication that the global downturn will affect everyone. The French are now more aware than ever of prioritizing work and leisure to enhance income and productivity. Calling national strikes on idealistic principles was an industrial age luxury. Cash flow is paramount in the beginning of the 21st century. Welcome to the club.
The year 2008 will record the resignation of Fidel Castro of Cuba, as its President, and the abandonment of immense leisure time by the average French worker; two aging symbols of 20th Century socialism. I wonder if Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke are erecting the first 21st century's symbol of socialism. Tonight, I shall pour a very, very, nice XO Cognac and contemplate the upcoming Consumer Confidence figure on the 29th; the Employment and Crude Inventories figures on the 30th; the GDP-Advanced, Initial Claims, and Chicago PMI, on the 31st; and August 1st, Auto and Truck Sales, Average Workweek, Hourly Earnings, Nonfarm Payrolls, Unemployment Rate, Construction Spending, and the ISM Index. Maybe two drinks, au revoir!