September 28: Daily Contrarian Reads

Grave Dancer Sam Zell Warns: This Is Not A Time To Catch Falling Knives

CNBC’s cheerleading staff had a very difficult time finding the silver lining in retail investing this morning as they relentlessly pressed Sam Zell on the value of commercial real estate.  Asked to offer up his thoughts on where retail real estate is headed over the next five years, Zell highlighted the significant excess inventory in the U.S., 4-5x more per capita than Europe, and said investing in the space right now is like catching a “falling knife.”

Population-Adjusted New Home Sales At 54-Year Lows

Yet, in the fuller context of the last ten years, a context almost always set aside if not ignored entirely, a different story emerges. A rate of 560k or 600k is within the historical range for this series, if at the lower end of it. That’s a false comparison, however, given that the population continues to grow even if the economy doesn’t.

China’s Crackdown Brings Developers Crashing Back to Earth

Record home sales and buoyant earnings helped spur an unprecedented rally this year for Chinese developers, especially large firms positioned to wrest market share through debt-fueled acquisitions. Top of that list are the nation’s two most indebted developers — China Evergrande Group and Sunac — whose shares swelled 439 percent and 391 percent respectively.  Some investors were starting to question how long the astonishing share gains could last, even before a raft of housing curbs over the weekend.

Flyover America—Large Parts Left Behind

Economic prosperity is concentrated in America’s elite zip codes, but in an interesting report on Distressed Communities, from The Economic Innovation Group, it is increasingly clear that economic stability outside of those communities is rapidly deteriorating.

Trump’s UN Speech: the Swamp’s Wine in an ‘America First!’ Bottle

Listening to the president, one would almost think Trump was giving two different speeches, one rhetorical and one substantive. The rhetorical speech (reportedly authored by Stephen Miller) was the most stirring advocacy one could hope for of the rule of law and of the Westphalian principle of the sovereign state as the bedrock of the international order. The substantive speech, no doubt written by someone on the National Security Council staff, abrogates the very same Westphalian principle with the unlimited prerogatives of the planet’s one government that reserves the right to violate or abolish the sovereignty of any other country – or to destroy that country altogether – for any reason political elites in Washington decide.

Tilting At The Tax Code Windmill—-Greenhorn Mnuchin Caught In Crossfire

Mr. Mnuchin is tackling this terrain with less political experience than any other recent Treasury secretary. He didn’t follow the trajectory of Henry Paulson or Robert Rubin, who acquired Washington contacts while leading Goldman Sachs Group Inc. And while Mr. Mnuchin has a close relationship with the president, it doesn’t appear to be like that of James Baker with Ronald Reagan, which allowed Mr. Baker to manage the last major revamp of the tax code. By contrast, Mr. Mnuchin this month found himself overruled by the president on a policy issue, the debt ceiling.

Here Comes Kurdistan—-The Next Middle Eastern Explosion

There is no doubt that most Iraqi Kurds will say “yes” to the referendum and start materialising the dream of the 30 million Kurds inhabiting Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Armenia, a dream of establishing an independent state in Kurdistan-Iraq to start with…..For certain, this referendum – if its result is implemented – will lead to a redefinition of the map of the Middle East, and the countries of Iraq and Syria to start with where Kurds in both countries control enough energy resources to sustain their “state”.

Levered Loan Volumes Soar Past 2007 Levels As “Cov-Lite” Deals Surge

Volume for these leveraged loans is up 53% this year in the U.S., putting it on pace to surpass the 2007 record of $534 billion, according to S&P Global Market Intelligence’s LCD unit. In Europe, recent loans offer fewer investor safeguards than in the past. This year, 70% of the region’s new leveraged loans are known as covenant-lite, according to LCD, more than triple the number four years ago.

More Dubious Russia-Bashing From The Bezos/CIA/Washington Post

Some people are calling the anti-Russian hysteria being whipped up across the U.S. mainstream news media a new “golden age of American journalism,” although it looks to me more like a new age of yellow journalism, prepping the people for more military spending, more “information warfare” and more actual war…..

Patriots and Protesters Should Take a Knee for the Constitution

Listen: I served in the Army. I lived through the Civil Rights era. I came of age during the Sixties, when activists took to the streets to protest war and economic and racial injustice…..I understand the price that must be paid for freedom. None of the people I served with or marched with or represented put our lives or our liberties on the line for a piece of star-spangled cloth or a few bars of music: we took our stands and made our sacrifices because we believed we were fighting to maintain our freedoms and bring about justice for all Americans…..Stop being armchair patriots and start acting like foot soldiers for the Constitution.