Monday, April 20, 2009

Season of Hope, again

The warm weather of last few weeks along with the ferocious rallies in equities markets worldwide has germinated what had almost disappeared by the middle of March. Optimism is back, and not lest due to the President who got elected on the message of hope. Optimism and hope are very powerful emotions, especially when there isn't much else available. And they were on vivid display and action during the last month and a half. The calls of 'the bottom' have been getting more vociferous, even if more cantankerous for us. 
So what if the world buccaneered in an orgy of debt for 25 years, the  magic potion of more debt by the Fed and the treasury cured all the problems in less than 18 months. The credit bubble will unwind in just as short a time and everything will begin their ascent to the end of the universe again. Oil will rise again, and so will other commodity prices. Alberta will blossom again, and this time Fort Mcmurray trailers will sell for $1 million. 
And how can we forget the major upswing in home sales across Canada? After all, sales in March have been higher than in Feb and those in April will probably be higher than in March. Notwithstanding the fact that this is as much of certainty as the average temperature going up in these months as compared to previous ones. But since this is the season of hope, no one is supposed to question such basics. 
But hope, like greed is a very powerful emotion. It clouds judgement. It diminishes the capabilities of mind to contemplate simple 'what if' scenarios. Not the ones that reinforce your perspective using selective data from the last few years.  Scenarios such as- what would happen to Alberta if oil goes back again to sub $30 level for a long time. Or if natural gas goes below  $3. Yeah, but we were told that oil  will never go below $80. 
I was looking at the new MLS site the  other day. For some reason, I did not hate it as much as I hated it the first time I used it. I almost liked it a little bit. If we forget the average and median prices for a moment, I think we are back to the levels last seen in April  2006 for many of the property types I used to track. A starter shoe box in Edmonton North is down to around $275k, and unlike in April 2006, there won't be multiple bids raising the price but some aggressive buyers who will ask for 5 to 10 % discount. It's the same story in Calgary. In Calgary, the homes that were selling for(at least  listed for $430k) are now going for around $340k, plus the  possible discount
These are not pretty numbers and have got to hurt those who have bought in  the last three years.  For most of these people, they haven't paid more than 5% of their mortgage and  are clearly in the red after accounting for the closing costs etc.
But these are all inconvenient facts. Facts that have the potential to dash hope and cause despair. And anger, frustration and grief. And that is to be avoided at all costs, no matter what the reality. So, the alternate reality world in which only good news happens, and is reported must be created and cherished. 
Credit bubble unwind, global deflation, falling employment, falling commodity prices, falling aggregate demand, falling real estate prices, exorbitant prices for shoe boxes, tapped out consumers, massive over capacity, end of 40 year mortgages, heavy over consumption and subsequent lower corporate profits are mere distractions. The world has changed with hope. We can wish the recession away if have strong will power. If we want to it strongly enough. Like the Russian comrades who could wish the fall of the Soviet Union just by believing in the alternate reality.  
But we know how that ended.  

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