With over 6,400 stores in 26 countries outside the US, Walmart International has smacked into the same problems Walmart has encountered in the US: it’s tough out there.
First-time buyers, a powerful economic energy, create real demand and make the housing market grow. We’ve been praying for their arrival like we’ve been praying for rain in parched California. But the more we pray, the fewer there are.
China’s enormous, strenuously obfuscated credit bubble has led to flagrant misallocation of capital and spectacular malinvestments eternalized in vast ghost cities. That this will end is clear. How it will, is not. But here is a hold-your-breath version (1-min video).
Every bubble has its ultimate, craziest, mostest, farthest-outest deal. Its craziness can no longer be exceeded. Buyers simply vanish. Sellers get desperate. Newfangled theories and metrics sink into a morass of ridicule. And lots of money goes up in smoke.
Abenomics, a democratically elected economic religion, was to save Japan. But the plan has already gone to heck. Not in small increments over the years with minor ups and downs, but in relentless month-to-month leaps whose viciousness surprised even the deep cynic in me.
OK, I get it. Life-threatening cold temperatures, polar vortices, and snow mayhem can put a damper on home construction, mortgage applications, first-time buyers, and home-builder confidence. But they also plunged on the West Coast where the weather was gorgeous.
Rising household debt would be a hopeful sign that consumers are again living beyond their means, finally spending money they don’t have in a heroic effort to stimulate Wall Street, corporate earnings, and the Fed’s self-esteem. So we jubilate. We’ve waited for it too long.
Since the introduction of QE 3, honest-looking Fed chairman Bernanke told the Wall-Street media circus after each FOMC meeting that the money-printing binge in the coming month would expand the Fed’s balance sheet by $85 billion. A fact cited worldwide. And a big lie.
Danièle Nouy, chair of the ECB’s newfangled bank regulator that doesn’t exist yet, had a term for it: “do whatever has to be done” so that the banking sector “is seen as sound and safe and transparent.” Is seen as…. Smoke and mirrors.
The cynic in me says the dizzying jump in foreclosure starts in January in much of the country, after years of sharp and consistent declines, must be some kind of data problem. Maybe RealtyTrac’s computers got hacked, or something. But that’s wishful thinking.