Real Estate

05/13/2013

Recent Research: Highlights from May 2013

"The Deeper Causes of the Financial Crisis: Mortgages Alone Cannot Explain It"
The Journal of Portfolio Management (Spring 2013)
Mark Adelson

Losses on US residential mortgage loans are too small to explain the magnitude of the 2008 financial crisis. Total losses, including both losses realized to date and those yet to be realized, should fall in the range of $750 billion to $2 trillion. The global magnitude of the crisis is significantly larger, probably in the range of $5 trillion to $15 trillion, depending on the measuring approach. This implies that losses on residential mortgage loans cannot be the main cause of the crisis. They can only be a trigger that unleashed the true causes. The failure (or near failure) of a significant number of major financial firms suggests that high leverage and strong risk appetites were important immediate causes of the crisis. However, explaining the sources of high leverage and strong risk appetites requires probing for deeper causes that developed over a longer period. This article proposes deeper causes that include securities firms' conversion from partnerships to corporations, the 30-year deregulation trend, the quant movement, the spread of risk-taking culture throughout the financial industry, and globalization.

Continue reading "Recent Research: Highlights from May 2013" »

02/04/2013

More than the Mainstream: Greater Fools

More than the Mainstream

It looks like the real estate bubble is back! I just got back from a conference where the CEO of Meritage Homes, Steve Hilton, was bragging that Phoenix home prices were going up 2% a month.  He told investors that the cash on his balance sheet would go down as he buys more lots.  He doesn't want to miss the boat on this boom.  Then I saw this article in the Washington Post.

Continue reading "More than the Mainstream: Greater Fools" »

11/21/2012

Book Review: The Crisis of Crowding

The-crisis-of-crowding

One of the most striking and important books on investing and risk management appears to be something it is not. Upon first glance of The Crisis of Crowding: Quant Copycats, Ugly Models, and the New Crash Normal (Bloomberg) (and not being acquainted with Prof. Ludwig Chincarini’s work), I wondered how a bunch of paper flowers on the wall was related to investing. After closer examination, I quickly learned that these were not paper flowers, but a pile of darts all stacked together on the dart board. At that point, I realized that Prof. Chincarini’s book would be essential reading for me. I wanted to learn how investors would pile into—and out of—the next big thing after the mortgage securities debacle of 2008. This informative narrative was an investigative and methodical look into major financial crises and the demise of Wall Street.

Continue reading "Book Review: The Crisis of Crowding" »

09/19/2012

Book Review: The Lost Bank

The_Lost_Bank

At the time of its collapse in 2008, Washington Mutual had assets of $307 billion. It was the largest failure in American history. The details of the epic failure have been covered, but never in the humanizing manner we see in The Lost Bank: The Story of Washington Mutual-The Biggest Bank Failure in American History. Author Kirsten Grind tells the story in detailed and graphic form, providing what others have described as a “fly-on-the-boardroom account” of what happened, which reads like a novel. The uniquely written narrative will appeal to everyone—despite their professional background. Grind provides the number crunching details for finance professionals, in addition to the touching perspectives of the customers. In retrospect, the story sounds fantastic and bizarre as this more than 100-year-old bank rode the subprime mortgage boom over the edge to disaster. But as the bank hurtled to catastrophe, it seemed a hugely profitable and often admired financial institution.

Continue reading "Book Review: The Lost Bank" »

08/09/2012

Recent Research: Highlights from August 2012

"Diversification Return and Leveraged Portfolio"
The Journal of Portfolio Management (Summer 2012)
Edward Qian

It is widely accepted that portfolio rebalancing adds diversification return to fixed-weight portfolios, but this is only true for long-only unleveraged portfolios. Qian provides analytical results regarding portfolio rebalancing and the associated diversification returns for different kinds of portfolios including long-only, long-short, and leveraged. He shows that portfolio rebalancing is linked to underlying portfolio dynamics. For long-only unleveraged portfolios, rebalancing amounts to a mean-reverting strategy, and the diversification return is always non-negative. But for short (or inverse) and leveraged portfolios, portfolio rebalancing on the top-down level amounts to a trend-following strategy that detracts from diversification return. Qian analyzes diversification returns of risk parity portfolios and shows that the diversification return of a leveraged long-only portfolio can generally be decomposed into two parts, both of which are related to a scaled unleveraged portfolio. The first part is the positive diversification return from rebalancing among individual assets at the bottom-up level, which is amplified by leverage. The second part is the negative diversification return caused by the leverage of the overall portfolio. His numerical examples show that diversification return is, in general, positive for leveraged risk parity portfolios when the leverage ratio is not too high. In addition, he shows that low correlations between different assets are crucial in achieving positive diversification return and reducing portfolio turnover for risk parity portfolios.

"The Rubber Starts to Meet the Road: Achievable Results in US Housing Finance Reform"
The Journal of Structured Finance (Summer 2012)
Chris DiAngelo

This article begins by noting that the US Congress and the Administration both remain stymied in the area of housing finance reform, notwithstanding numerous “white papers,” “requests for information,” “roundtables,” and the like. After almost four years, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain in conservatorship, with no clear exit plan. Looking past the top level (Congress and the White House), however, one will see that the two government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) themselves and their regulator/conservator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, have begun to make real progress in several areas. In early 2012, the FHFA released a strategic plan for the GSEs and followed that up with a “scorecard” that sets forth in some detail a “to do” list of items that the FHFA intends to get done, along with target dates for those items. The article focuses on four items in particular: the REO disposition program, the “new securitization platform” initiative, the “single security” concept, and the possibility of privatizing the multifamily business. The conclusion is that more progress is being made than the public generally believes.

"Kicking the Habit: How Experience Determines Financial Risk Preferences"
The Journal of Wealth Management (Fall 2012)
Joachim Klement and Robin E. Miranda

Conventional explanations for the diversity of risk preferences among individual investors offer only limited insight. Recent research in neuroscience, genetics, and behavioral decision making underscore the importance of experience in financial risk taking. The authors review these findings and argue that not only does individual experience influence risk taking, so do the collective experiences of groups. Additionally, there seems to be a significant genetic component to financial risk taking, suggesting that “evolutionary experience” also needs to be considered when analyzing the risk preferences of individual investors. The authors introduce some simple tools to identify the influence of experience on financial risk preferences. These tools can help financial advisors to accurately assess investors’ risk preferences to help them achieve their goals at an acceptable level of risk.


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03/08/2012

Recent Research: Highlights from March 2012

"Topics in Applied Investment Management: From a Bayesian Viewpoint"
The Journal of Investing (Spring 2012)
Harry M. Markowitz

When John Guerard, the special editor for this issue, was assembling the articles to be published, he asked Harry Markowitz to write the introduction. By the author’s own words, once he had completed that task he could see that his remarks were more like discussant comments than an introduction and could equally well be read after reading the articles.

Continue reading "Recent Research: Highlights from March 2012" »

03/07/2012

Too Big to Fail or Too Small to Save? Dodd-Frank and the Ripple Effect on Big and Small Banks

Over the past decade, the United States has legislated huge responses to national crises. Shortly after 9/11, the Patriot Act was passed by Congress. In the wake of Enron and other accounting scandals, Sarbanes-Oxley was introduced. Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was released to address the mortgage crisis of 2008 and, as a result of the bailout and other issues prevalent throughout the financial industry, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was legislated in 2010.

Dodd-Frank aims to “promote the financial stability of the United States by improving accountability and transparency in the financial system, to end ‘too big to fail’, to protect the American taxpayer by ending bailouts, to protect consumers from abusive financial services practices, and for other purposes.”1 2

Continue reading "Too Big to Fail or Too Small to Save? Dodd-Frank and the Ripple Effect on Big and Small Banks" »

03/01/2012

Reforming the US Housing Finance System: A Proposal

At a US Senate Budget Committee hearing in March 2009, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke declared that “If there’s a single episode in this entire 18 months that has made me more angry, I can’t think of one, than AIG.” Chairman Bernanke was referring to the $550 billion worth of insurance that AIG had written on so-called AAA-rated securities with little or no capital, putting the stability of the world financial system at risk.

THE NEED TO REFORM HOUSING FINANCE IN THE UNITED STATES: WHERE'S THE OUTRAGE?

Chairman Bernanke should have been even more outraged at the government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) of the United States, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Together these enterprises wrote $3.5 trillion worth of insurance—seven times that of AIG—on mortgage-backed securities (MBS) much riskier than AIG’s; they also made a portfolio investment in another $1.5 trillion in mortgages and MBS, a significant proportion of which was again of dubious quality. How much capital did regulators require to support that $3.5 trillion in insurance? Just a little over $15 billion—a very small fraction in the face of bearing the inherent credit risks on a third of the entire residential mortgage market in the United States.

Continue reading "Reforming the US Housing Finance System: A Proposal" »

02/13/2012

Recent Research: Highlights from February 2012

"Measuring and Modeling Execution Cost and Risk"
The Journal of Portfolio Management (Winter 2012)
Robert Engle, Robert Ferstenberg, and Jeffrey Russell

Financial markets are considered to be liquid if a large quantity can be traded quickly and with minimal price impact. Although the idea of a liquid market involves both a cost as well as a time component, most measures of execution costs tend to focus on only a single number that reflects average costs and do not explicitly account for the temporal dimension of liquidity. In practice, trading takes time because larger orders are often broken up into smaller transactions or because of price limits. Recent work shows that the time taken to transact introduces a risk component in execution costs. In this setting, the decision can be viewed as a risk–reward trade-off faced by the investor who can solve for a mean-variance utility-maximizing trading strategy. Engle, Ferstenberg, and Russell introduce an econometric method to jointly model the expected cost and risk of the trade, thereby characterizing the mean-variance tradeoffs associated with different trading approaches, given market and order characteristics. They apply their methodology to a novel dataset and show that the risk component is a nontrivial part of the transaction decision.

Continue reading "Recent Research: Highlights from February 2012" »

11/22/2011

Book Review: Anglo Republic

Anglo-Republic

Anglo Republic is the story of the remarkable rise and fall of the Anglo Irish Bank—once one of the fastest growing financial institutions worldwide, an in-depth review of how, "a small Dublin bank became too big to fail and too rotten to save—and how it dragged an entire country to the brink of bankruptcy." Anglo Irish had a spectacular rise on the Irish property boom, and an equally dramatic fall into eventual oblivion in 2008. Along the way, the Irish government and bank regulators, management, and board appear to have been largely oblivious to the bubble they were riding, and its end result. While the cast of characters may be unfamiliar to American readers, the book is a graphic chronological record of a bank failure, authored by journalist Simon Carswell, Finance Correspondent of the Irish Times. Carswell covered the Anglo Irish story throughout its peril.

Continue reading "Book Review: Anglo Republic" »

09/12/2011

Book Review: Reckless Endangerment

Reckless-Endangerment Is the love of money in fact the root of all evil? Perhaps. It was overwhelming greed and overreaching ambition that led to one of the greatest economic downturns of our time, the 2008 Recession, also dubbed the "Great Recession". 

This recent financial crisis resulted in a mass demand for literature which details the facts surrounding the financial meltdown. Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed, and Corruption Led To Economic Armageddon  is the best book on the roles of major mortgage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who intensified the housing boom through the pursuit of loans and agressive lobbying.

Continue reading "Book Review: Reckless Endangerment" »

09/07/2011

Real Estate: The Bubble, the Bust, and Beyond

With a decline of 24% in U.S. home prices since its record high in March 2007, this year marks the longest real estate bear market since the beginning of World War II. There is much public debate about when housing’s problems will end and a new bull market will begin. Financial history can provide us with some important insight into the longstanding pros and cons of real estate investing and clues to its future as a popular investment choice.

Continue reading "Real Estate: The Bubble, the Bust, and Beyond" »

07/20/2011

Recent Research: Highlights from July 2011

The Role of Speculators During Times of Financial Distress.” The Journal of Alternative Investments (Summer 2011). Naomi E. Boyd, Jeffrey H. Harris, and Arkadiusz Nowak.

One of the best-known and largest hedge fund failures was the 2006 failure of Amaranth Advisors, LLC. The authors use detailed, trader-level data to examine the role of speculators during times of financial distress—in this case, the failure of Amaranth. They find that speculators served as a stabilizing force during the period by maintaining or increasing long positions, even while prices fell. The authors develop two testable propositions regarding liquidation versus transfer of positions and conclude that the probability of transfer was more likely for distant contract expirations and for contracts more dominantly held by the distressed trader. The article also examines the role of speculators in providing liquidity and mitigating the effects of liquidity risk by evaluating the change in the number of traders, the size and time between trades, and a Herfindahl measure of speculative trader concentration during the crisis period.

Continue reading "Recent Research: Highlights from July 2011" »

04/18/2011

Recent Research: Highlights from April 2011

The Impact of Illiquidity and Higher Moments of Hedge Fund Returns on Their Risk-Adjusted Performance and Diversification Potential.” The Journal of Alternative Investment (Spring 2011). Laurent Cavenaile, Alain Coën, and Georges Hübner.

This article studies the joint impact of smoothing and fat tails on the risk–return properties of hedge fund strategies. First, the authors adjust risk and performance measures for illiquidity and the non-Gaussian distribution of hedge funds returns. They use two risk metrics: the Modified Value-at-Risk and a preference-based measure retrieved from the linear exponential utility function. Second, they revisit the hedge fund diversification effect with these adjustments for illiquidity. Their results report similar fund performance rankings and optimal hedge fund strategy allocations for both adjusted metrics. They also show that the benefits of hedge funds in portfolio diversification persist but tend to weaken after adjustments for illiquidity are made.

Continue reading "Recent Research: Highlights from April 2011" »

03/02/2011

A Blueprint for Mortgage Finance Reform

JUMP TO: TIMELINE | Q&A | THE ADMINISTRATION'S PLAN

The goal of reforming housing finance should be to ensure economic efficiency, both in the primary mortgage market (origination) as well as in the secondary mortgage market (securitization). By economic efficiency, we have in mind a housing finance system that

  • corrects any market failures if they exist; notably in this case is the externality from originators and securitizers undertaking too much credit and interest rate risk as this risk is inherently systemic in nature;
  • maintains a level-playing field between the different financial players in the mortgage market to limit a concentrated build-up of systemic risk; and
  • does not engender moral hazard issues in mortgage origination and securitization.

Motivated from economic theory, we argue that such a mortgage finance system should be primarily private in nature. It should involve origination and securitization of mortgages that are standardized and conform to reasonable credit quality. The credit risk underlying the mortgages should be borne by market investors, perhaps with some support from private guarantors. There should be few guarantees, if any, from the government.

Continue reading "A Blueprint for Mortgage Finance Reform" »

11/15/2010

Commentary: Footprints and Foreclosure

The global economy now uses 1.5 times the earth’s capacity to regenerate the natural capital we use every year, up from the 1.4 times of the prior year, according to a report of the well-respected Global Footprint Network. In their Living Planet Report 2010, released this week but based on 2007 data, the most recent available, WWF together with the Global Footprint Network and the Zoological Society of London record the most significant milestone since we crossed parity (an ecological footprint of one) back in 1975. This is not good news.

Continue reading "Commentary: Footprints and Foreclosure" »

10/05/2010

Why Have REITs Been So Strong?

FTSE Logo Despite the recent slump in the real estate economy, publicly traded REITs (real estate investment trusts) have been outperforming dramatically. REITs are also significantly ahead of the stock market, beating year to date returns of 2.3% for the S&P 500 and 5.2% for the Russell 2000 (see Table 1).  That’s not much of a surprise, since REITs have surpassed the stock market over nearly any historical period since inception of the FTSE NAREIT U.S. Real Estate Indexes in January 1972.

Continue reading "Why Have REITs Been So Strong?" »

09/20/2010

Tails, I Win; Heads, You Lose

Illustration by Mark AndresenAbout a decade ago, in the advent of the Internet era, Wall Street was consumed with the “paradigm shift” occurring in the “New Economy,” where earnings no longer mattered and all that counted were “eyeballs.” Remember that drivel? Based on this flimsy, overweening logic, many investment bankers managed to convince successive waves of investors to buy the IPOs of companies that were little more than a few recent college graduates holed up in quasi-loft spaces south of San Francisco’s Market Street or in the shadow of Manhattan’s Flatiron building. Who can forget such spectacular flameouts as Globe.com and Pets.com? For a while, though, the ruse worked and many people got rich. 

Continue reading "Tails, I Win; Heads, You Lose" »

09/01/2010

Construction Materials Outlook: Some Hope on the Far Horizon

The Finance Professionals' Post spoke with Jack Kasprzak, managing director of Equity Research at BB&T Capital, for his outlook on the three principal sectors of the construction materials sector—public works, housing, and commercial building—in the run-up to NYSSA’s Fifth Annual Construction & Materials Conference, to be held on September 29.

Continue reading "Construction Materials Outlook: Some Hope on the Far Horizon" »

08/10/2010

In Recovery: Looking Forward with Abby Cohen

Abby_CohenAbby Joseph Cohen, CFA, is the president of the Global Markets Institute at Goldman Sachs, and the firm’s senior investment strategist. She’s been with the company since 1990, and became a partner in 1998.

Cohen’s career, which started when she joined the Federal Reserve Board in Washington, DC, as an economist, has been the subject of a Harvard Business School case study. She is the former chairman of the board of AIMR (Association for Investment Management and Research, now CFA Institute) and the recipient of that organization’s Distinguished Service Award.

Continue reading "In Recovery: Looking Forward with Abby Cohen" »

07/08/2010

The Ghost of Credit Past: The Specter of the Heilig-Meyers Fiasco Haunts Today's Failed Lenders

“Heilig-Meyers: From AAA to Junk Bond”

“CDO Ratings Are Whacked by Moody’s—AAA to Junk in a Day Raises More Questions about Credit Agencies”

The first of these headlines appeared from Credit Card Management in 2001, and announced the collapse of what was then one of the largest American furniture retailers. The origins of that collapse lie in the late 1990s, when Heilig-Meyers began to service its own debt. As much as 75% of its sales were made with two-year installment loans.

Continue reading "The Ghost of Credit Past: The Specter of the Heilig-Meyers Fiasco Haunts Today's Failed Lenders" »

06/21/2010

Safe House: The Housing Market and the End of the Recession

A great deal of attention has recently been devoted to examining trends in the housing market and to predicting possible outcomes of the recession. If housing is at the center of the current storm, how soon will recovery in this sector offer the rest of the economy some shelter from the nasty weather? Inevitably, stabilization in the real estate market has to be achieved through reestablishing the broken link between real values and market prices.

Continue reading "Safe House: The Housing Market and the End of the Recession" »

06/09/2010

Distressed Real Estate Assets on the Rise—And So Is Investor Interest

The quantity of distressed commercial real estate assets (properties and loans) in the United States will continue to increase as the deleveraging process unfolds over the coming years. The implosion of the global financing market coupled with the longest and deepest economic recession since the Great Depression has increased stress on both properties and their owners. A shutdown of the securitized lending market (CMBS market) is increasing the demand of properties needing to be refinanced, but the dislocated financing market is limiting the supply of new loans available. 

Continue reading "Distressed Real Estate Assets on the Rise—And So Is Investor Interest" »

06/02/2010

REITS: Real Estate With A Return Premium

FTSE The FTSE NAREIT US Real Estate Index Series is designed to present investors with a comprehensive family of REIT performance indexes that span the commercial real estate space across the US economy, offering exposure to all investment and property sectors. The product suite provides investors with an index series that has additional transparency that acts as a catalyst for growth in the ETF and index fund arena.

This research, compiled by NAREIT provides a detailed comparison of the investment performance of publicly traded REITs and private equity real estate funds, as well as the reasons for REITs outperformance. NAREIT used the FTSE NAREIT Equity REIT Index (an index of 106 U.S. REITs with an aggregate market capitalization of $295 billion whose constituents manage estimated property assets of $500 billion) to measure the performance of REITs.

Click here to read the special report REITS: Real Estate With A Return Premium.

05/31/2010

Hive Mind: Organizational Psychology and the Financial Crisis

Illustration by Mark AndresenEconomists agree about the mechanism for the current financial crisis: a plunge in real estate prices led to widespread mortgage defaults, crushing the value of securities backed by those assets. This caused banks to shut down available credit and sent the global economy into a tailspin. “If there hadn’t been a housing bubble, we wouldn’t be having this tragedy today,” says Hersh Shefrin, PhD, professor of behavioral finance at Santa Clara University and the author of Ending the Management Illusion: How to Drive Business Results Using the Principles of Behavioral Finance (McGraw–Hill 2008).

Continue reading "Hive Mind: Organizational Psychology and the Financial Crisis" »

05/19/2010

Whither Efficient Markets? Efficient Market Theory and Behavioral Finance

The notion of efficient markets has been the subject of rigorous academic research and intense debate for more than a century. As early as 1889, George Rutledge Gibson wrote in The Stock Exchanges of London, Paris, and New York that when “shares become publicly known in an open market, the value which they acquire may be regarded as the judgment of the best intelligence concerning them.” A reference to the concept of efficient markets is also found in French mathematician Louis Bachelier’s 1900 dissertation Théorie de la Spéculation. But it wasn’t until the mid 1960s, through the independent work of MIT economist Paul A. Samuelson and Eugene Fama, then a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago, that the efficient markets hypothesis (EMH) gained widespread acceptance.

Continue reading "Whither Efficient Markets? Efficient Market Theory and Behavioral Finance" »

03/17/2010

Real Estate Portfolio Allocation and Today’s Marketplace: While Private Real Estate Struggles, Listed Real Estate Begins to Rebound

FTSE-logo-webAfter a rocky end to 2008 and a tumultuous market environment through first quarter 2009, individual and institutional investors worldwide are closely examining their portfolios—assessing losses, identifying opportunities, and looking for signals from the marketplace as to what may be next. Despite the looming credit crisis, equity markets have improved, and there have been optimistic whispers that the worst may be behind us. But what is going on in the real estate market?

Continue reading "Real Estate Portfolio Allocation and Today’s Marketplace: While Private Real Estate Struggles, Listed Real Estate Begins to Rebound " »

03/10/2010

Moody’s Updated Modeling Parameters for Rating Corporate Synthetic CDOs and Cash Flow CLOs

In recent months, as the credit crisis that started in the summer of 2007 has spread across various sectors, and economies around the world are confronted with a deep and long recession, synthetic CDOs and cash flow CLOs—whose ratings have been relatively stable—have started seeing substantial downgrades.

During the past few months, Moody’s has revised and updated the key modeling parameter assumptions that it uses to rate and monitor CDOs and CLOs backed by corporate debt. These changes alone have led Moody’s to downgrade—in many cases by several notches—a large number of CDO and CLO tranches, and many remain on review for possible further downgrade.

Continue reading "Moody’s Updated Modeling Parameters for Rating Corporate Synthetic CDOs and Cash Flow CLOs" »

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