The Case for Building Wealth With Stocks, Not Homes
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    HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $1,436,707 (+0.82%)       Melbourne $958,938 (-0.18%)       Brisbane $805,276 (+0.20%)       Adelaide $743,261 (+0.57%)       Perth $641,111 (+1.35%)       Hobart $739,768 (-1.32%)       Darwin $641,804 (-0.09%)       Canberra $971,787 (-1.13%)       National $936,660 (+0.16%)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING PRICES AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $694,570 (-0.33%)       Melbourne $471,297 (-0.44%)       Brisbane $430,588 (-1.62%)       Adelaide $353,294 (-0.18%)       Perth $357,545 (+0.46%)       Hobart $558,931 (+4.60%)       Darwin $356,380 (-2.21%)       Canberra $476,932 (+0.93%)       National $489,111 (+0.53%)                HOUSES FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 10,093 (-72)       Melbourne 13,872 (+186)       Brisbane 10,770 (+38)       Adelaide 3,078 (+82)       Perth 9,971 (+180)       Hobart 911 (+13)       Darwin 300 (-7)       Canberra 996 (+8)       National 49,991 (+428)                UNITS FOR SALE AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,400 (-137)       Melbourne 7,842 (-9)       Brisbane 2,243 (-20)       Adelaide 542 (+7)       Perth 2,413 (+1)       Hobart 156 (+3)       Darwin 371 (-4)       Canberra 529 (+5)       National 22,496 (-154)                HOUSE MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $660 (+$10)       Melbourne $500 (+$10)       Brisbane $560 (+$10)       Adelaide $510 (+$10)       Perth $550 ($0)       Hobart $550 ($0)       Darwin $650 (+$25)       Canberra $700 (+$5)       National $593 (+$9)                UNIT MEDIAN ASKING RENTS AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney $600 ($0)       Melbourne $450 (+$5)       Brisbane $500 ($0)       Adelaide $403 (+$3)       Perth $470 ($0)       Hobart $473 (-$3)       Darwin $550 ($0)       Canberra $560 ($0)       National $508 (+$)                HOUSES FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 6,525 (+243)       Melbourne 7,106 (-5)       Brisbane 3,920 (+102)       Adelaide 1,146 (+39)       Perth 1,623 (+85)       Hobart 243 (+11)       Darwin 102 (-7)       Canberra 588 (+44)       National 21,253 (+512)                UNITS FOR RENT AND WEEKLY CHANGE     Sydney 8,070 (+376)       Melbourne 5,906 (+117)       Brisbane 1,516 (+27)       Adelaide 327 (+5)       Perth 673 (-3)       Hobart 86 (+5)       Darwin 232 (+7)       Canberra 662 (+66)       National 17,472 (+600)                HOUSE ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 2.39% (↑)      Melbourne 2.71% (↑)      Brisbane 3.62% (↑)      Adelaide 3.57% (↑)        Perth 4.46% (↓)     Hobart 3.87% (↑)      Darwin 5.27% (↑)      Canberra 3.75% (↑)      National 3.29% (↑)             UNIT ANNUAL GROSS YIELDS AND TREND       Sydney 4.49% (↑)      Melbourne 4.97% (↑)      Brisbane 6.04% (↑)      Adelaide 5.92% (↑)        Perth 6.84% (↓)       Hobart 4.40% (↓)     Darwin 8.03% (↑)        Canberra 6.11% (↓)       National 5.40% (↓)            HOUSE RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 1.6% (↑)      Melbourne 1.8% (↑)      Brisbane 0.5% (↑)      Adelaide 0.5% (↑)      Perth 1.0% (↑)      Hobart 0.9% (↑)      Darwin 1.1% (↑)      Canberra 0.5% (↑)      National 1.2%    (↑)             UNIT RENTAL VACANCY RATES AND TREND       Sydney 2.3% (↑)      Melbourne 2.8% (↑)      Brisbane 1.2% (↑)      Adelaide 0.7% (↑)      Perth 1.3% (↑)      Hobart 1.4% (↑)      Darwin 1.3% (↑)      Canberra 1.3% (↑)      National 2.1%   (↑)             AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL HOUSES AND TREND         Sydney 30.4 (↓)       Melbourne 29.7 (↓)       Brisbane 36.6 (↓)       Adelaide 25.3 (↓)     Perth 41.0 (↑)        Hobart 32.2 (↓)       Darwin 33.8 (↓)       Canberra 28.3 (↓)       National 32.2 (↓)            AVERAGE DAYS TO SELL UNITS AND TREND         Sydney 33.0 (↓)       Melbourne 30.1 (↓)       Brisbane 35.1 (↓)       Adelaide 29.4 (↓)     Perth 43.7 (↑)        Hobart 26.9 (↓)     Darwin 44.0 (↑)      Canberra 31.9 (↑)        National 34.3 (↓)           
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The Case for Building Wealth With Stocks, Not Homes

Such an escalation of home prices is unlikely to repeat, especially from here after their frantic climb

By RANDALL W. FORSYTH
Mon, Apr 4, 2022 11:28amGrey Clock 2 min

Once upon a time, a young family bought a modest three-bedroom Cape, the worst house in the best location in a prosperous suburb. Many years later, during the housing frenzy of 15 years ago and after the kids had grown and moved away, they received an unsolicited cash bid—for 20 times what they paid. That became their nest egg, which provided a comfortable retirement.

It’s all true, but it might as well be a fairy tale. Such an escalation of home prices is unlikely to repeat, especially from here after their frantic climb. Over the long term, history shows the stock market has returned about twice as much as residential real estate. And it’s done so with far fewer headaches than the attendant expenses of upkeep, which have come as a shock to many recent home buyers.

Looking at the data assembled by NYU Stern School of Business professor Aswath Damodaran, stocks (as measured by the S&P 500) returned 12.47% annually from 1972 to 2021, versus 5.41% for residential housing (based on the Case-Shiller Index, through last October), a span that encompasses inflation’s liftoff after the dollar’s link to gold was severed. Looking at 2012-2021, which takes in the recovery from the housing bust that precipitated the 2007-09 financial crisis, stocks returned an average 16.98%, versus 7.38% for housing.

In a new paper prepared for the Brookings Institution, Robert Shiller, a creator of the housing index, and Anne K. Thompson found 72.4% of respondents in a survey said recent bidding wars had resulted in “panic buying that caused prices to become irrelevant.” That was attributed to the now-familiar story of buyers wanting more room, especially for a home office, in the suburbs. White-collar workers who could work from home were mostly unscathed or benefited from lower spending outlays during the worst of the pandemic.

Historically low mortgage interest rates further leveraged bidders’ buying power. With Freddie Mac’s average 30-year loan down to 3.05% in December, the monthly payment on the median-priced house of $408,100 in the fourth quarter, bought with a 20% down payment, would be US$1,385. With the jump in mortgage rates, to 4.67% as of March 31, that same loan would cost US$1,687 a month. The reduction in affordability is sure to slow home-price appreciation.

Shiller and Thompson found that recent buyers are realistic about near-term home-price trends, expecting some moderation, but may be “given to flights of fancy for the longer run.” Damodaran’s parsing of their data showed buyers at the peak of the previous bubble in 2006 didn’t recover fully from the ensuing bust for 10 years. That wasn’t the first time home buyers were stuck with losses. After the dip from the peak in 1989, prices didn’t recover fully until 1992. And those losing spans didn’t take into account transaction costs, which are huge for residential real estate.

It’s axiomatic that buying high lowers future returns. In human terms, stuff happens, from better job opportunities elsewhere—especially given the ability to work from anywhere for knowledge workers—to unfortunate circumstances such as death and divorce. The ability to pick up stakes with totally portable and liquid financial assets may provide more freedom in the near term, along with greater wealth over the longer span.

Reprinted by permission of Barron’s. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April,

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How Crypto’s Collapse May Have Done the Economy a Favour

Crypto’s lack of connections with traditional finance means its problems haven’t spilled over to the economy

By GREG IP
Fri, Nov 25, 2022 4 min

This year’s crypto collapse has all the hallmarks of a classic banking crisis: runs, fire sales, contagion.

What it doesn’t have are banks.

Check out the bankruptcy filings of crypto platforms Voyager Digital Holdings Inc., Celsius Network LLC and FTX Trading Ltd. and hedge fund Three Arrows Capital, and you won’t find any banks listed among their largest creditors.

While bankruptcy filings aren’t entirely clear, they describe many of the largest creditors as customers or other crypto-related companies. Crypto companies, in other words, operate in a closed loop, deeply interconnected within that loop but with few apparent connections of significance to traditional finance. This explains how an asset class once worth roughly $3 trillion could lose 72% of its value, and prominent intermediaries could go bust, with no discernible spillovers to the financial system.

“Crypto space…is largely circular,” Yale University economist Gary Gorton and University of Michigan law professor Jeffery Zhang write in a forthcoming paper. “Once crypto banks obtain deposits from investors, these firms borrow, lend, and trade with themselves. They do not interact with firms connected to the real economy.”

A few years from now, things might have been different, given the intensifying pressure on regulators and bankers to embrace crypto. The crypto meltdown may have prevented that—and a much wider crisis.

Crypto has long been marketed as an unregulated, anonymous, frictionless, more accessible alternative to traditional banks and currencies. Yet its mushrooming ecosystem looks a lot like the banking system, accepting deposits and making loans. Messrs. Gorton and Zhang write, “Crypto lending platforms recreated banking all over again… if an entity engages in borrowing and lending, it is economically equivalent to a bank even if it’s not labeled as one.”

And just like the banking system, crypto is leveraged and interconnected, and thus vulnerable to debilitating runs and contagion. This year’s crisis began in May when TerraUSD, a purported stablecoin—i.e., a cryptocurrency that aimed to sustain a constant value against the dollar—collapsed as investors lost faith in its backing asset, a token called Luna. Rumours that Celsius had lost money on Terra and Luna led to a run on its deposits and in July Celsius filed for bankruptcy protection.

Three Arrows, a crypto hedge fund that had invested in Luna, had to liquidate. Losses on a loan to Three Arrows and contagion from Celsius forced Voyager into bankruptcy protection.

Meanwhile FTX’s trading affiliate Alameda Research and Voyager had lent to each other, and Alameda and Celsius also had exposure to each other. But it was the linkages between FTX and Alameda that were the two companies’ undoing. Like many platforms, FTX issued its own cryptocurrency, FTT. After this was revealed to be Alameda’s main asset, Binance, another major platform, said it would dump its own FTT holdings, setting off the run that triggered FTX’s collapse.

Genesis Global Capital, another crypto lender, had exposure to both Three Arrows and Alameda. It has suspended withdrawals and sought outside cash in the wake of FTX’s demise. BlockFi, another crypto lender with exposure to FTX and Alameda, is preparing a bankruptcy filing, the Journal has reported.

The density of connections between these players is nicely illustrated with a sprawling diagram in an October report by the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which brings together federal financial regulators.

To historians, this litany of contagion and collapse is reminiscent of the free banking era from 1837 to 1863 when banks issued their own bank notes, fraud proliferated, and runs, suspensions of withdrawals, and panics occurred regularly. Yet while those crises routinely walloped business activity, crypto’s has largely passed the economy by.

Some investors, from unsophisticated individuals to big venture-capital and pension funds, have sustained losses, some life-changing. But these are qualitatively different from the sorts of losses that threaten the solvency of major lending institutions and the broader financial system’s stability.

To be sure, some loan or investment losses by banks can’t be ruled out. Banks also supply crypto companies with custodial and payment services and hold their cash, such as to back stablecoins. Some small banks that cater to crypto companies have been buffeted by large outflows of deposits.

Traditional finance had little incentive to build connections to crypto because, unlike government bonds or mortgages or commercial loans or even derivatives, crypto played no role in the real economy. It’s largely been shunned as a means of payment except where untraceability is paramount, such as money laundering and ransomware. Much-hyped crypto innovations such as stablecoins and DeFi, a sort of automated exchange, mostly facilitate speculation in crypto rather than useful economic activity.

Crypto’s grubby reputation repelled mainstream financiers like Warren Buffett and JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Jamie Dimon, and made regulators deeply skittish about bank involvement. In time this was bound to change, not because crypto was becoming useful but because it was generating so much profit for speculators and their supporting ecosystem.

Several banks have made private-equity investments in crypto companies and many including J.P. Morgan are investing in blockchain, the distributed ledger technology underlying cryptocurrencies. A flood of crypto lobbying money was prodding Congress to create a regulatory framework under which crypto, having failed as an alternative to the dollar, could become a riskier, less regulated alternative to equities.

Now, stained by bankruptcy and scandal, cryptocurrency will have to wait longer—perhaps forever—to be fully embraced by traditional banking. An end to banking crises required the replacement of private currencies with a single national dollar, the creation of the Federal Reserve as lender of last resort, deposit insurance and comprehensive regulation.

It isn’t clear, though, that the same recipe should be applied to crypto: Effective regulation would eliminate much of the efficiency and anonymity that explain its appeal. And while the U.S. economy clearly needed a stable banking system and currency, it will do just fine without crypto.

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