Trouble In The Real Economy

While I was driving home today, the airwaves were filled with happy news of credit markets unfrozen and signs of renewed liquidity in the paper markets. Specifically, NPR had a 10-minute piece that was nothing but one high level money manager after another saying things were better.

Lost in this "news" was any sense that our economy is something more than the flow of billions between and among various debt markets. The implication was clear: Now that our ability to lend more freely has been fixed, we've turned the corner. Whew!

Glad that's behind us!

Unfortunately, it's not so easy. In a debt-based market economy, there are two parties involved - a willing lender and a willing borrower. It would seem that the willing lender part is being fixed, but what about the willing borrower?

Here, the signs are decidedly less favorable.

US Foreclosure Filings Up 71 Percent in 3Q (NYT)
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The number of homeowners ensnared in the foreclosure crisis grew by more than 70 percent in the third quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2007, according to data released Thursday.

Nationwide, nearly 766,000 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice from July through September, up 71 percent from a year earlier, said foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac Inc.

By the end of the year, RealtyTrac expects more than a million bank-owned properties to have piled up on the market, representing around a third of all properties for sale in the U.S.

The housing markets in all the so-called "sand states" (CA, FL, NV, AZ) are still falling at unheard-of rates, with almost no signs of recovery yet. I was dismayed to see, yet again this week, that the media reported the NAR's claim of a tidy rise in existing homes sales for September. Dismayed, because they still refuse to break out the most important statistic of them all: What proportion of these "increased home sales" are actually bank repossessions (which get counted by the NAR as a "sale" as long as a Realtor was involved)?

As Mr. Mortgage makes clear, the truth is both easy to report and very far from what is being put out by most mainstream news sources:

Today, the daytime financial market variety shows are simply giddy over the DataQuick report saying ‘SOUTHERN CA HOME SALES ARE UP 65% OVER LAST YEAR’.

Sorry to rain on the pom-pom parade, but how I see it home sales worsened yet again last month. Let me explain.

[L]et’s talk about real ‘organic’ sales and not foreclosure-related sales, as organic sales are at all-time multi-decade lows.

In Sept 2007, there were 12,455 sales of which 12.6% (1570) were foreclosure related. This means last Sept there were 10,885 ‘organic’ sales, which is ‘me selling a home to you’.

In Sept 2008, total sales were in fact up 65% in SoCal over last year at 20,497. But, 50% were foreclosure related meaning only 10,249 organic sales went off. This is significant and worse than a year ago.

In truth, fewer homes are being sold by people to people, which is what will be required to demonstrate that we're in an improving situation. For now, the increase in "sales" represents institutions taking homes from people by repossession.

As this drama plays out in the real world, the opportunity mounts for another "flagship" US company to slip under the waves while we're waiting for the magic government money to filter to all the right places.

There's a very high chance that GM will be that company. Certainly this has to count as a sign of overt desperation:

GM suspends payments into 401K plans
DETROIT (Reuters) - General Motors Corp is suspending matching payments to employee 401K plans as of November 1 and continues to assess its staffing needs as part of efforts to conserve cash amid a deep downturn in sales, the automaker said on Thursday.

I don't know how much cash this saves GM, but it can't be a ton....meanwhile, the workers there must be steamed that GM very recently paid off a dividend.

While I know that we will get to a bottom sooner or later, I still don't see the right signs to justify calling for one here and now. I suspect that we are near a tradeable bottom in stocks, as a bear market rally is overdue, but all the signs from the 'real economy' are pointing to more downslope directly in front of us.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
I started at the 1:16 point, I’m not posting this to get into a religous arena, I just thought the history of the Fed and the depression and wars were of interest and thought I’d pass it along.
Oh, the media points raised were reminisent of documentaries seen on Murdoch…

I’m in the foreclosure biz and this is exactly what I believe. We are not at the bottom yet. We just had a meeting a few weeks ago and this coming year 2009 we plan on seeing the macro loans foreclose. Basically 400k to 1.3 mil. It was also noted that now that the gov. controls 75% of the morgages and they are with holding most of the homes from the market.

There was a report in the news the other day about home sales increasing 5%. I would be dubious. These hacks have been known to count foreclosures as sales, and contracts to buy as sales before the financing was secured.

Davos the film raises good questions. To bad it starts as it does with an agenda to crush religion albeit most ineloquently.

hi chris

interesting you were listening to npr (national propaganda radio)

of all the media they were the biggest cheerleaders of the bailout.

i really started listening critically when they fired bob edwards. moyers started

to cover that then he was gone from now. it is very interesting to listen to who all their

sponsors are. i am doing research right now on all the foundations and their agendas.

i get that most people are in denial about npr…i had one friend ask me not to email him anymore because of my statements about them.

even on this site i get that most people dont get that all of this is NOT an accident. this is a carefully crafted plan by the unseen hands of those we will never see carried out by their "idiots". our media has been completely co-opted. i am sure they are now making plans to do away with this medium, probably first by taxing it to death. the second part of their plan has just about been completed…our school systems are in shambles. the inability of the american people to think critically is obvious and a tragedy.

not one major candidate in this entire campaign has mentioned peak oil yet it is the 800# gorilla. all we hear is drill baby drill

politically we have a one party system which gives us no choice except tweedle dee and tweedle dum.

we will never see a ross perot in a national debate again. candidates of real change never get the coverage needed to get their message to a critical mass of voters. witness ron paul and ralph nader.

i have shared your crash site with hundreds of people. i am organizing public showings, but there is an obvious need for organization to make the changes we need. these changes will come either non violently or at the point of a gun. my preference is for non violence but the time is running short.i think everyone on this site should vote for a third party candidate. or at least vote against the person in office. we need to have a major turnover in congress. ron paul needs allies. we need to get rid of the fed.

your info serf

from the serf info network…SIN

om shanti



Yes, I agree, I am Christian. I try to take or listen to everything and form my own beliefs.

I put the discalimer in, I hope I didn’t offend.

Take care

Devos; I am glad to hear you are a believer. No offense taken. The producer of the film has an agenda. He intends to usurp globalism from where it has been most exposed: the prophetic utterances of the New and Old Testament. Lies are always shrouded in truth!

trying to put out fire with gasoline

These damm things just dribble out of my head. I do feel better afterwards.

Some more:

Peace of earth, Grow together.

and one for the computer nerds SET_UP.exe


I watched the entire montage. The beginning and end reveal the real message the producer intends us to be left with: Christianity is a tool of those who are orchestrating the current crimes against us. He promotes a pantheistic world view at the end. Which means/says humans in our most natural state are all powerful even god like. We can according to the producer take back that which has been stolen by mere villainous men. Evil and good are make believe so he implies. All and all not a very sophisticated assault of Christ. Christianity on the other hand is easily exposed for fraudulence. One could even make a good argument that the enemy of Christ is Christianity.

joe2baba, I don’t think change can come about without dissatisfaction. Our national credit card is not quite maxed. People at the moment are still somewhat happy. There is room on the card for a few more marble countertops and mcmansions.

But that same national credit card will be declined soon. And I think that that is when we will see votes for real change like Ross Perot, Ron Paul, Ralph Nader and other 3rd party contarians (right or wrong) begin.

As an aside, hats off to you, my fellow commentors. This blog is one of the few that has been able to put aside religion, class and other differences and come together to share critical thought and ideas. I am much more informed not just because of Chris, but also because he has brought together this forum to share and test ideas. The movie mentioned above is tinder for dissagraeement in most other forums. I am cheered to see a focus on the problem at hand and not our differences.

E Pluribus Unum indeed…

Bravo! Watch anything with an open mind. What do you have to lose? Don’t let things like our religious differences separate us,or class or anything. Just logic. I have attacked religion on here and I don’t want to offend anyone, but I have my opinion on it, and have listed the way I feel about it. Not to offend, just to share. These control mechanisms are what separate us as a people, and as a world actually. When we put aside the control mechanisms, the truth will come to us.










Scroll to about the 21 minute point
removed by poster -
Sorry, I really just put it up there for the financial side, as I felt it offered a lot of information that fit in with the views here…

Heed the advice of The Smartest ManHeed the advice of The Smartest Man
Article Comments DEREK DeCLOET
Globe and Mail Update
E-mail Derek DeCloet | Read Bio | Latest Columns
October 25, 2008 at 6:00 AM EDT
Crackpot. Crank. Scaremonger. Alarmist.
The Smartest Man We Know has heard the slurs. When you make your living on Wall Street, yet hold the opinion that Wall Street is populated by incompetent fools, you’re not going to win a lot of friends at dinner parties, are you?
And when you bet millions that the American financial system is going to fall apart, that its economy will be seized with fear – and when you were doing this and saying this before there was any hint of real trouble – well, you couldn’t really expect other people to welcome the message, could you?
The Smartest Man, when delivering his prophesies, did not sugar-coat them. “This could potentially make Long-Term Capital [the financial crisis of 1998] look like some kind of walk in the park,” he predicted. “The reckoning has started.” No soft landing this time: It could even be “like the Great Depression of this century.” He said these things not last week, not last month, but on July 26, 2007. That day, the Dow Jones industrial average closed at 13,473.
But The Smartest Man was just getting warmed up. Checking in with him again this January, he was every bit as gloomy. By that point, credit fires were burning all over the place; the Dow was at 12,500; the world’s biggest banks had been forced to turn, cap in hand, to Singapore, China, the Middle East and elsewhere for billions of dollars. It won’t be enough, he said. “There’s a whole bunch of companies that just have to hit the wall. They can’t survive.”
What kind of companies? U.S. financial institutions, mostly. Wachovia looks bad. The major investment banks are shaky. It’s about to get a lot uglier, warned The Smartest Man. “The implications of what’s going on for the U.S. economy, credit, for lending over all, are not that pleasant to think of.” Two months and two days later, Bear Stearns was gone.
So you can imagine our surprise when the Smartest Man – his real name is Krishnamurthy Narayanan, and he goes by Nandu – showed up in town this week and was bullish.
“I think we’re ending the financial crisis now,” he said. “There will be countries, like the U.S., that will go into recession. But this need not be a global recession. And there are some encouraging signs on that front.”
In a different era, The Smartest Man might have been a rocket scientist, or an engineer, or a medical researcher, or maybe a university professor. The academic résumé says: MBA, PhD in finance and economics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, studied under Paul Krugman, who just won the Nobel prize for economics. But this is – or at least was – the age of finance, and The Smartest Man became a hedge-fund manager, placing money on his views rather than just writing them.
Lately, that has worked out rather well. His CI Global Opportunities Fund has returned 57 per cent in the past year, 19 per cent (compounded) over the past five. Nice numbers, but once you’ve made your money calling the credit crisis and short selling Washington Mutual, what do you do then?
You buy Canada, says Mr. Narayanan, who can’t believe the way the loonie has been savaged. “The currency is ridiculously undervalued. I can’t think of any country in the world that has no fiscal deficit, no trade deficit and no inflation – except Canada. I think the Canadian dollar should go through parity.
“I like the whole Canadian market. I don’t particularly dig the banks because I just don’t know what’s in there [on the balance sheet]. But I’d say virtually everything else is fine.”
You buy some emerging markets, even though they, too, have collapsed in the meltdown. “You can’t play the emerging markets by listening to the market action. If the Indian market’s down 50 or 60 per cent from its peak, I can assure you nothing’s really changed in India. Nothing’s changed. The vast majority of people in India don’t believe in the stock market,” said Mr. Narayanan, who was born in Chennai, India.
You look to the currencies of Asian countries that are growing and still financially healthy. Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand all have trade surpluses and single-digit inflation. “Most of the Asian emerging markets and emerging currencies are ridiculously priced right now.”
You buy uranium stocks: “Ridiculously cheap.” Gold miners: “Ridiculously cheap.” Pipelines, too: “How bad a business is that? It’s a fantastic business. You’re just shipping gas. Why are people selling those?” Energy: “Unless there’s an absolute collapse in oil demand, you really can’t see oil plunge all that much [more].”
There are, however, some things The Smartest Man wouldn’t touch. They happen to be the assets the investing masses have flocked to in this crisis: U.S. Treasuries and the greenback. “I don’t think it can hold for that much longer.” Once the world has to absorb trillions of dollars in new U.S. debt – watch out. In fact, he thinks the odds of the U.S. having its own currency crisis are “at least 30 per cent.”
Would you want to bet against him?

Brings to mind an old quote:

"In 1929 the dumb people lost their money. In 1930 the smart people lost their money. In 1932 the really smart people lost their money."

That guy sure sounds smart.



May I suggest that Chris assign himself the title as the one and only platinum member.


What do you think would happen "if" (and from my perspective I would say "when," but I want to remain "objective") there is a crash:

  1. 1930s bread lines & Help Thy Neighbor
  2. Martial law and a postpomed inauguration and or election
  3. Katrina looting
  4. Just a prolonged 1970s economic recession
  5. Other...
We are pretty well prepared but my significant other refuses to do the cause and effect discussion for this "if" scenario.
I don't know why, she did this before and until she lost a few bucks and saw it on the news she didn't listen to what I had been saying for the last 8 years. I'd think after one 25k lesson one would be less hesitant.


i watched it and did not find it to be too troubling in regards to religion. i am sure it upsets many who have not looked at their religion in a critical way. it is true that the christ story has many parallels in the ancient world.

i am sure it is upsetting to those who cling to the myth rather than the practice. i have no problem with people who practice christianity, i just have trouble finding many of them.

it is a very emotional topic certainly but it is important enough to suspend your assumptions and take a critical look at events and writings from over 2000 years ago. there are many scholarly works which deal with these issues in ways that would trouble the layman. has anyone read the gospel of judas? has anyone read the gospel of thomas or mary magdalene? a very different christialnity emerges.

has anyone considered that christ did not die on the cross? it makes for a much better "story". the weight of 2000years of religous myth and culture is a very difficult nut to crack. believers rely on faith…"unquestioning belief that does not require proof or evidence." here’s one for the "believers" maybe christ has come back again and very few noticed just as very few noticed 2000 years ago.

the important question is, has your religion made the world a better place ? imho christianity has a spotty record at best.

not sure this discussion should take place on this blog so if anyone would care to email me i woild be happyy to discuss it further

namaste, shalom peace


Hey Davos-

My husband also does not like talking about this stuff, either, even though he does agree there may be validity to it.  I think it is the denial thing.  It is really scary and uncomfortable for a lot of people to seriously contemplate the potential end of our way of life as we have known it.    Maybe after losing some $, the situation got a little too real and hit a little too close to home for your significant other.  My husband feels sorry for me because I'm living in this mindset of possible economic disintegration and the consequences that could lead to.  I feel sorry for him and other folks not willing to look a potentially tough situation in the face and dela with it, but I do understand why some may be unwilling to do so.  Ignorance is bliss (and I don't mean that disrespectfully), and it is human nature to withdraw from pain.  The thing is, if this is the reality that is in store for us, ignoring it won't make it go away, and I'd rather be prepared than not!

Regarding what would happen if the crash occurs, I guess there will be some differences depending on where you live. Some places are more community-oriented and self sufficient than others. I would like to think we could weather this event as well as they did the Great Depression, but I am very concerned about the fact that we are so much less of a rural society; less farms and self-sufficient friends and relatives to fall back on this time!

As Chris mentioned elsewhere on ths site, we are very dependent on stores with stocked shelves and with only ~3 days stock. So what happens when/if stuff stops getting shipped to stores and store shelves get emptied? Look at what’s happening in Iceland right now! That tends to scare me into thinking we could veer more towards #2 and #3.

If it gets down to people not being able to meet their basic needs, and they have no family farm to go back to, I think it could get ugly. That’s why I think Chris’s message about "we" vs "I" is so important. Even if you or I and other folks on this blog make preparations to survive, we have to do so in the context of those other people around us. So unless we work towards and achieve larger-scale, community-wide ("we") solutions, we as individuals are going to have a much harder challenge ahead of us.

Hello Pinecarr:
Thanks. I will read up more on Iceland, it has been a week since I have.
I think a lot of all you said, and this particularily jumped out at me, "The thing is, if this is the reality that is in store for us, ignoring it won’t make it go away, and I’d rather be prepared than not!"
My wife and I are very prepared, I’m just trying to think a little further down the road so there are no additional surprises.
What I’m not getting is the disconnect. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. I also feel that ignoring it will make the pain worse.
I suppose what I am really am saying isI feel there are 3 camps:

  • Us "radicals" who are prepared and trying to get others prepped (we did it for y2k and wound up eating some food we wouldn't usually and continued to use the wood stove)
  • Folks like my wife and your husband who will go along --- to some extent
  • Mainstream media and its' followers'
I think camps 1 & 2 won't be an issue, as they will be able to provide for themselves and their family.
Camp 3, can, in my opinion, adversely effect all three camps.