Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Housing: Part 358 - Sometimes the answer is simple

Elizabeth Warren:
"From our trade agreements to our tax code, we have encouraged companies to invest abroad, ship jobs overseas, and keep wages low."

Bernie Sanders:
"Since Trump was elected, multinational corporations have shipped 185,000 American jobs overseas. That is unacceptable."  
City of San Jose:
San Jose has taken the rare step of publicly opposing the project, saying it would add far too many jobs, exacerbating the region’s housing shortage.  
New York City:
It’s only natural that Amazon saw its promise to create 25,000 jobs as a blessing, for creating jobs is most of what we have ever asked of American companies. But given the realities of our economy — an economy that Amazon is relentlessly and ruthlessly transforming according to its narrow self-interest — it’s also only natural that many New Yorkers wanted nothing to do with it.  

These days, things don't make sense.  Things are said in one context that sharply contradict things said in other contexts.  There is confusion and stress.

It is natural to view this confusion and to conclude that things are complicated.  But, sometimes, things are simple.  Sometimes, things seem complicated because we are blinded to the simple nature of the problem.

To Ptolemy, the solar system was very complicated.

If you walked into an elevator with a simpleton and told them, "You know, the reason the sun moves across the sky is because we are spinning on a sphere.", the simpleton would have said, "Huh. Cool.  I did not know that." and happily exited at his floor.

If you walked into an elevator with Ptolemy, you would have a lot of work to do and many things to explain.  When the door opened, he would have exited unconvinced.  Ptolemy simply knew too much.

Here is a good rule of thumb: When things are complicated, inputs are messy, running at cross purposes, and many factors cancel out other factors.  Complicated contexts don't tend to move to extremes.  What tends to move to extremes is a context dominated by a single factor.  (This also works in equity investments.  Finding small cap stocks with large upside potential usually involves finding firms that have some very large single variable at work.  That is why you can outmaneuver professional analysts.  Professional analysts are paid to know everything.  Their job is to understand complexity.  To paint a picture of all the pieces.  Since overwhelming single factors are rarely certain, and speculators must expect to lose frequently, it is reputationally difficult for analysts to predict extreme valuation moves based on single factors.  If the stock they follow is likely to soon quadruple in value, their intuition will be to say, "It's complicated.")

So, the fact that markets and the economy seem to have some really extreme problems and incoherencies is a signal that the problem is not complicated.  The problem is overwhelmingly due to one factor.

In a sentence, that factor is:  The economy and the housing market of 2005 were what a highly successful economy looks like if our leading economic centers refuse to build more houses, and that economy is almost universally feared and actively avoided.


  1. Build it and they will come!

    In fact, along the West Coast, they will stuff themselves into it like sardines!

    We have Detroitified the industrial Heartland and now we will Hong Kongify the coasts.

    The average one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles rents for $2,500.

    And the answer to this situation? "More globalization," we are told. More immigration and more imports!

    So, the question becomes, who will be in the White House... Trump or Warren?

  2. https://www.calculatedriskblog.com/2019/11/leading-index-for-commercial-real.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+CalculatedRisk+(Calculated+Risk)

    Interesting post on Commercial Real Estate.

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