Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No Stacking

When my brothers and I were called upon to do the occasional chore growing up, one of the simple tasks we were asked to do was putting away the dishes. Three of us, three components of "dishes," glasses/dishes/silverware. Like calling shotgun, calling dishes was the thing to do. Then came silverware, and if you were slow, you got stuck with glasses. However, to prevent the dishes guy from gaining too much of an advantage, we made the "no stacking" rule. This precluded the dish putter away from stacking all the bowls and plates at the dishwasher and thus blocking the other two from their jobs while speeding up his own.

The point? Well, they're at it again. Except in this case, the homebuilders are stacking up negatively compounding errors. In a recent article, SA's Judy Weil detailed homebuilder desperation. “A new financing program currently available through K. Hovnanian Mortgage enables qualified buyers to purchase a home with just a 3% down payment that can be lowered to 0% down if combined with a second program — resulting in 100% financing." Let's not leave out the genius of Lennar. “This weekend, Lennar Corp. will start interest rates at 2.88% for the first year - 3.88% for the second - before a slightly higher rate locks 'for life.' In some markets, Ryland Group Inc. will cover the down payment and closing costs, while KB Home has zero-down deals."

Any of this sound creepy and familiar? I'd say so. But hey, I just live in South Florida surrounded by lock-boxed homes and multiple family renters who jam themselves into soon-to-be foreclosed upon houses from flippers who can't pay their adjustable rate mortgages. "Resulting in 100% financing." Again, this means that these people will really have two mortgages at the outset, setting them up for financial disaster. I guess these guys haven't learned from the already defunct mortgage arms of other builders; they want to make sure they go belly up as well.

Returning to some good ideas, the following supports my recent foray into diesel (long Cummins, CMI). Bill Fleckenstein writes, "Hourly costs to operate a 250-horsepower farm tractor in the nation's heartland have gone from $10.26 per hour in 2003 to $36.43 per hour this spring. This is directly attributable to diesel cost increases." Yes, indeed. And farmers will have to keep paying for those diesel engines and the repairs for them as well.

As mentioned a few days ago on my blog, part of the diesel play lies in Brazil. "According to MSN Money's Jon Markman, Brazil is the world's biggest exporter of raw materials. The global demand for Brazil's exports is fueling strong economic growth." Whether it's ag or ore, diesel engines do the heavy lifting to transport that raw stuff around.

What about China? The NBER reports "Trade between the whole of Africa and China (imports and exports summed) grew from $10.6 billion to $73.3 billion between 2000 and 2007, and between Sub-Saharan Africa and China from $7 billion to $59 billion over the same period. China is now Africa's third largest trading partner behind the EU and the US. The Chinese FDI stock in Africa has grown from $49 million in 1990 to $2.6 billion in 2006." China's not trading for lollipops in Africa, they're building rails and mines to export commodities for themselves. Diesel will play a huge role in this development.

Disclosure: Long CMI

http://seekingalpha.com/article/78800-desperate-homebuilders-bringing-back-bubble-era-financing-housing-tracker

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/05/25/BULP10R364.DTL

http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Investing/ContrarianChronicles/FourDollarsAGallonMeansMoreForBeer.aspx

http://papers.nber.org/papers/w14024

2 comments:

Tiger Coach said...

Ax...

Another awesome article. I find it interesting that these home-builders are at it again. What is more scary is the lack of shame because their decisions can truly impact an entire community...and drive the price into the ground...and influence the overall quality of life.

That being said, the letter I received from LaTourette seemed appropriate. I honestly think he is doing the best he can it the current situation. He seems to have a pulse on the situation. While I disagree with some of the policies that are being developed to deal with the economic crisis...this guy's heart is in the right place. Be sure to see the new post on the site.

AX said...

LaTourette's letter, while also shrouded in good intentions, lead me to the same conclusions; that he is for a bailout plan. At the mere cost of $3 billion no less! Thanks.