Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wilting Green Shoots: Housing Starts at Record Low

You are being led like sheep to the slaughter.

Every day, financial information is released, most of it bad, and every day, without fail, the financial press warps the news with unfounded optimism and wraps it in a garland of rosy future predictions.

Take, for instance, how briefing.com couches the low record-setting level of housing starts and construction permits in positive spin:
News that housing starts and building permits recently fell below expectations jostled participants in the early going and undermined what was a positive bias ahead of the opening bell. Housing starts during April came in at an annualized rate of 458,000, while building permits for April hit a rate of 494,000. Both marked record lows.

However, there is a silver lining to the report. Fewer housing starts and building permits means there will be fewer homes on the market, which should help clear the glut of existing homes and improve pricing.

Even Bloomberg plays the bad-news-is-good-news game. First, the Bloomberg story says, "Housing starts unexpectedly slid 13 percent..." and later offers the wisdom of Wachovia economist Adam York, who opines, “This continues to support the story that new construction probably bottoms by early summer...”

Let's take a look at these stories. First, in the briefing.com spin, they point out that the bad news on housing upset the market's positive bias and "jostled" participants. Their "silver lining" reference is pure hokum: It's akin to saying that not selling out a performance of a play was good because it meant more leg and arm room for those few in attendance.

As for Bloomberg, they begin with the "unexpected" line. This is a ploy used constantly by the media. Apparently, nobody in the world expects anything bad to occur. It's not true. A daily read of my blog and a perusal of writings of people like Nouriel Robini, Jim Willie CB, Rob Kirby, Pam Martens, James Quinn, J. R. Nyquist, Paul Nolte. Mike Whitney and many others who aren't pushing an agenda reveals that there is no consensus on recovery and no gilt-lined packaging on economic data. Those who see and believe the trends and figures for what they are - signs of further deterioration - base their opinions in reality, not the fantasy that has become so popular on Wall Street, CNBC and the mainstream media.

The truth - if you can handle it - is that the economy is busted, broken, defunct, defaulted and despoiled. Sure, there will be a bottom, but probably not until mid-2010 at the earliest, and, even then, any recovery is likely to be weak. As I've been saying for some time, the Us economy is in a long-term downtrend that will last anywhere from 6 to 12 years. Standards of living will continue to decline, or, at best, not improve. This is not to say that everyone will be devastated, though many will. Americans have to make adjustments in their expectations for everything, especially their finances. Sadly, the mainstream media, Wall St., and the federal government isn't preparing the populace for the inevitability of a long, sustained depression.

Dow 8,474.85, -29.23 (0.34%)
Nasdaq 1,734.54, +2.18 (0.13%)
S&P 500 908.13, -1.58 (0.17%)
NYSE Composite 5,872.22, +6.35 (0.11%)

Advancing issues outdid decliners, 3682-2760. New highs finally caught new lows, at 61 apiece, for only the sixth time in the past daily readings in 19 months. Volume was moderate. The rollover of new high-new lows is expected to be short-lived. The markets can only remain at these elevated levels for a short period before insider selling takes stocks back down to near March lows, and then, lower. While I don't possess a crystal ball, I do know that the new highs-lows has been a consistently reliable indicator and any push to the other side - with more new highs than new lows - for a prolonged period, would signal the beginning of a new bull market. Obviously, this is not the case, so the conclusion to be drawn is that this is a signal of the end of the 2 1/2-month rally, shortly.

NYSE Volume 6,693,324,500
Nasdaq Volume 2,128,807,750

Oil gained again, up 62 cents, to $59.65. Gold rebounded $5.00 higher, to $926.70, while silver added 30 cents, to $14.13.

You best investment choices continue to be undervalued real estate, especially foreclosures and raw, arable land, gold and, of course, silver, which is likely to at least double over the coming two years and appreciate further after that.

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