Category Archives: bubble

21/5/17: Student Loans Debt: The Bubble is Still Inflating

Having covered the latest news on the U.S. household debt continued explosion (see and the ongoing deepening of the long term insolvency within the U.S. Social Security system (here:, let’s take a look at the second largest source of household debt (after mortgages): Student Loans.

According to the data from the New York Federal Reserve, 1Q 2017 total volume of student loans outstanding in the U.S. was USD1.344 trillion, up on USD 1.310 trillion in 4Q 2016, marking the highest level of Student Loans debt in history. However, the Fed methodology does not include some of the more predatory types of loans extended to students.  This means that other sources report student debt at the end of 2016 to be between USD 1.44 trillion and USD 1.5 trillion (see for example

Setting aside the issues relating to data reporting, even by the official U.S. Fed standards, student loans debt is almost double the U.S. households’ credit cards debt, and is more than 10 percent higher than combined credit cards and HE revolving debt volumes.

Crucially, default rates on Student Loans are currently higher (at 11%) than for any other form of debt (credit cards defaults, second highest, are at around 7.45%).

With an average debt load of over USD36,000 per student, the expected Fed rates hikes through 2017 alone are likely to take some USD 270.00 per annum from household budgets already under severe strain from low income growth, and sky high and rising rents.

Meanwhile, the U.S. bankruptcy code now excludes Student Loans from protection, courtesy of 2005 Congressional decision, presided over by Joe Biden. Of course, Biden’s political machine was supported by one of largest student loans underwriter, the MBNA. President Obama promised to undo Biden’s changes to the bankruptcy code, but in the end did absolutely nothing to keep his promise and, in fact, made matters worse (  Subsequently, during his Presidential election campaign, Donald Trump said “That's probably one of the only things the government shouldn't make money off -- I think it's terrible that one of the only profit centers we have is student loans.”  Since election, however, the Trump Administration is yet to do anything on the issue.

In simple terms, American students have no friends in high places… but legislators like Joe Biden can roam free across campuses and events extolling own ethical virtues… for a fee... often paid for by students' tuitions.

15/4/16: Corporate Finance, S&P500 and Bubble Trouble…

Classical corporate finance tells us that companies should be valued on their earnings with past earnings being indicative of future earnings (predictive component). Which is tosh. In today's world that is.

Q4 2016 saw highest payouts to shareholders (combined cash dividends and share repurchases) in over 10 years (couple of slides from my course presentation):

And yet... yet... earnings have hit the brick wall back in Q3 2014 and have been trending down ever since:

You really can't call S&P500 anything but a sail-in-the-Fed-wind. There are no fundamentals sustaining it above 1600-1650 range. At least, not corporate fundamentals.

Unless, of course, one expects the recent extraordinary payout performance to remain indefinitely present in the future. Which only a sell-side analyst or a lunatic can...

8/5/15: Irish Residential Property Prices: Q1 2015

Updating residential property price indices for Ireland for 1Q 2015:

  • National property prices index ended 1Q 2015 at 80.7, up 16.79% y/y - the highest rate of growth in series history (since January 2005), but down on 4Q 2014 reading of 81.4. Latest reading we have puts prices at the level of October 2014. Compared to peak, prices were down 38.2% at the end of 1Q 2015. National property prices were up 25.9% on crisis trough in 1Q 2015.

  • National house prices ended 1Q 2015 at index reading of 83.8, which is down on 84.6 reading at the end of 4Q 2014, but up 16.55% y/y - the highest rate of growth in the series since September 2006. Relative to peak, national house prices were still down 36.5%.At the end of 1Q 2015, house prices nationally were up 25.5% on crisis period trough.
  • National apartments prices index finished 1Q 2015 at 66.4, up on 4Q 2014 reading of 64.2 and 25.5% higher than a year ago. Apartment prices are down 46.4% on their peak and up 45.3% on crisis period trough. Y/y growth rates in apartments prices is now running at the highest level in history of the CSO series (from January 2005).

  • Ex-Dublin, national residential property price index ended 1Q 2015 at 75.3, marking a marginal decline on 4Q 2014 reading of 75.5, but up 10.74% y/y - the highest rate of growth since May 2007. Compared to peak, prices are down 41.5% and they are up 13.9% on crisis period trough.
  • Ex-Dublin house prices finished 1Q 2015 at the index reading of 77.1, which is virtually unchanged on 77.2 reading at the end of 4Q 2014. Year-on-year prices are up 10.78% which is the fastest rate of expansion since May 2007. Compared to peak prices are still 40.6% lower, although they are 14.2% ahead of the crisis period trough.
  • Dublin residential property prices were at 82.5 at the end of 1Q 2015, down on 83.8 index reading at the end of 4Q 2014. Annual rate of growth at the end of 1Q 2015 was 22.77%, the highest since October 2014. Dublin residential property prices are down 38.7% compared to peak and up 44% on crisis period trough. Over the last 24 months, Dublin residential property prices grew cumulatively 40.3%.
  • Dublin house prices index ended 1Q 2015 at a reading of 86.9, which is below 88.8 index reading at the end of 4Q 2014, but up 22.05% y/y, the highest rate of growth in 3 months from December 2014. Dublin house prices are down 36.9% on pre-crisis peak and are up 42.93% on crisis period trough. Over the last 24 months, cumulative growth in Dublin house prices stands at 39.5%.
  • Dublin apartments price index ended 1Q 2015 at a reading of 73.7, up on 70.2 reading attained at the end of 4Q 2014, and up 29.75% y/y - the fastest rate of growth recorded since September 2014. Compared to peak, prices are still down 42.2% and they are up 59.2% on crisis period trough. Over the last 24 month, Dublin apartments prices rose cumulatively by 51.3%.

Longer dated series available below:

And to update the chart on property valuations relative to inflation trend (bubble marker):

As chart above clearly shows, we are getting closer to the point beyond which property prices will no longer be supported by the underlying fundamentals. However, we are not there, yet. Acceleration in inflation and/or deceleration in property prices growth will delay this point significantly. One way or the other, there is still a sizeable gap between where the prices are today and where they should be in the long run that remains to be closed.