Daily Archives: August 29, 2015

The U.S. foreclosure crisis was not just a subprime event

While I agree that the foreclosure crisis was not caused by subprime event, the article leaves out  that The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission’s report (you can get it online) on the housing meltdown found most of the blame with risky lending practices by the banks, inflated home values by appraisers, and banks making money from originated fees by bundling and selling off a lot of the risk as MBS mixed with good and bad loans and getting the blessing of an A+ rating by the credit rating agencies.

Each month, the NBER Digest summarizes several recent NBER working papers. These papers have not been peer-reviewed, but are circulated by their authors for comment and discussion. With the NBER’s blessing, Making Sen$e is pleased to begin featuring these summaries regularly on our page.

The following summary was written by the NBER and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of Making Sen$e. We will tell you, however, what the takeway is: The U.S. foreclosure crisis, so commonly referred to subprime mortgage crisis, was not in fact, just a subprime event. While it began that way, it became a much broader phenomenon and mainly included prime mortgages. The findings suggest that effective regulation cannot just focus on restricting risky subprime contracts.

Read on.

Nassim Taleb’s Fund Made $1 Billion On Monday; This Is How The Other “Hedge” Funds Did

The WSJ reports:

Universa Investments LP gained roughly 20% on Monday, according to a person familiar with the matter, a day when the market collapsed more than 1,000 points in its largest ever intraday point decline. Universa’s profits—some realized and some on paper—amounted to more than $1 billion in the past week, largely on Monday, as its returns for the year climbed to roughly 20% through earlier this week.

“This is just the beginning,” said Universa founder Mark Spitznagel, a longtime collaborator with Mr. Taleb, who advises Universa, lectures at New York University and is known for his pessimistic forecasts about the global economy. Mr. Spitznagel himself has spent the last several years warning of a coming correction, one he viewed as inevitable given accommodative policies by central banks around the world.

The markets are overvalued to the tune of 50% and I’ve been saying that for some time,” said Mr. Spitznagel.

Universa gained renown for its outsize gains in 2008, racking up more than 100% profits for many of its clients. In 2011, it notched around 10% to 30% gains for clients. During the years in between it posted steady, small losses.

The firm focuses on finding cheap, shorter-dated options on the S&P 500 and other instruments it expects to rise in value amid a notable downturn.

During the past week, the value of such options that Universa bought over the past one to two months jumped, said people familiar with the matter.

The Miami-based Universa and some other “black swan” hedge funds that seek to reap big rewards from sharp market downturns have emerged as winners amid the world-wide volatility of the past week, say their investors, racking up double digit gains in roughly the past week.

Do as I say not as I do: LA County Supervisors have cars washed 3 times a week

Let them eat suds! The LA County of Supervisors should be fined and shamed!


California decreased its total water use by 31.3 percent in July, surpassing a goal set by Gov. Jerry Brown four months ago to cut urban water use by 25 percent, according to figures released Thursday, but, as Daily News report, no thanks whatsoever to LA County Board of Supervisors…

Despite living in one of the most car-centric and image-conscious cities in the world, many Los Angeles drivers have cut their carwashes during the crippling drought.

Not so for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The majority of the supervisors wash their take-home cars two or three times a week, service records show, and actually washed them more frequently after Gov. Jerry Brown ordered a 25 percent cut in urban water use. As the county’s washes continue to consume tap water, some other local governments have pledged to skip washes for months or are using recirculated water.

“When government takes the initiative, it really says something about their leadership,” said Rachel Stich, spokeswoman for Los Angeles Waterkeeper, an environmental group that started a pledge drive for dirty cars. “If they’re going to be asking their residents to conserve water, everybody needs to be stepping up.”

Meanwhile, city officials in Long Beach, Santa Monica, Burbank, Malibu and San Gabriel have all pledged to stop washing their cars for two months, as part of the L.A. Waterkeeper drive.

And in the final irony,County officials are studying how to save water at their carwashes, a representative said. Top county officials get their cars washed in the basement of the Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration downtown, at one of three carwashes run by the county government. They can receive a car allowance, or have the government purchase them a vehicle, which is then washed, maintained and fueled by taxpayers.

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Maryland AG Frosh Secures Settlement with Company That Allegedly Locked Residents From Homes And Damaged Property

From Maryland AG website:

Baltimore, MD (August 28, 2015) –– Attorney General Brian E. Frosh today announced a settlement with Ohio-based Safeguard Properties, resolving claims that the company’s inadequate policies and procedures resulted in Marylanders being wrongfully locked out of their homes or having their property damaged and belongings taken. Safeguard is the nation’s largest mortgage field services company, and contracts with lenders and mortgage servicers to provide services related to inspecting, maintaining and repairing homes in default or in foreclosure.

Under the settlement reached by the Office of the Attorney General Consumer Protection Division, Safeguard will reform its practices to protect homeowners from future abuses and will return money to impacted Marylanders.

The Division alleged that Safeguard failed to properly screen, train and supervise its network of vendors who perform inspection and preservation work in Maryland. Consumers have made hundreds of complaints to Safeguard about improper conduct at their homes by Safeguard agents.
“Even when a home is in default or foreclosure, lenders and their agents must still comply with state law and respect the rights of homeowners and occupants,” said Attorney General Frosh. “This settlement is significant not only because of the restitution that will be distributed to consumers, but also because of the strengthened protocols and procedures that aim to protect homeowners from future abuses.”

Under the settlement, Safeguard has agreed to enact specific reforms to protect Marylanders, including:

  • Implementing stringent background check requirements for employees and vendor agents, including evaluating prior misdemeanor convictions and prohibiting work by those with relevant felony convictions
  • Ensuring that notices posted at homes and actions taken to secure vacant properties comply with Maryland laws to protect homeowners and tenants, including specific notice language and waiting periods
  • Assuring its vendors that they will not be penalized if they report in good faith that they don’t know whether a property is occupied
  • Requiring clearly posted notice to occupants when Safeguard’s agents enter a property
  • Prohibiting the removal of non-hazardous personal property prior to foreclosure, except pursuant to court order
  • Employing appropriate personnel to supervise and audit its Maryland vendors to ensure compliance with the settlement
  • Maintaining records of all Maryland consumer complaints and, after notice, recording all calls from Maryland consumers to Safeguard’s toll free consumer hotline.

While Many Panicked, Japanese Day Trader Made $34 Million

And this trader bet against the market unlike the rest of Wall Street. lol!

While a lot of investors were hitting the panic button Monday, a Japanese day trader who’d made a big bet against the market timed the bottom almost perfectly and narrated a play-by-play of the trade to his 40,000 Twitter followers. He claims to have walked away with $34 million.

As financial markets got crazy this week, many people turned cautious. Some were paralyzed. Not the 36-year-old day trader known by the Internet handle CIS.

“I do my best work when other people are panicking,” he said in an interview Tuesday, about an hour after winding up the biggest trade of a long career betting on stocks. He asked that his real name not be used because he’s worried about robbery or extortion. To support his claims, he shared online brokerage statements showing his trades second by second.

Read on.

Fed Up Investors Yank Cash From Almost Everything Just Like 2008

  • Credit Suisse report shows cash is leaving bond, equity funds
  • First back-to-back months of simultaneous outflows since 2008

Mom and pop are running for the hills.

Since July, American households — which account for almost all mutual fund investors — have pulled money both from mutual funds that invest in stocks and those that invest in bonds. It’s the first time since 2008 that both asset classes have recorded back-to-back monthly withdrawals, according to a report by Credit Suisse.

Credit Suisse estimates $6.5 billion left equity funds in July as $8.4 billion was pulled from bond funds, citing weekly data from the Investment Company Institute as of Aug. 19. Those outflows were followed up in the first three weeks of August, when investors withdrew $1.6 billion from stocks and $8.1 billion from bonds, said economist Dana Saporta.

“Anytime you see something that hasn’t happened since the last quarter of 2008, it’s worth noting,” Saporta said in a phone interview. “It may be that this is an interesting oddity but if we continue to see this it could reflect a more broad-based nervousness on the part of household investors.”

Withdrawals from equity funds are usually accompanied by an influx of money to bonds, and an exit from both at the same time suggests investors aren’t willing to take on risk in any form. While retail investor sentiment isn’t the best predictor of market moves, their reluctance could have significance, Saporta said.

Read on.