After Sub-prime, Is Commercial Property Next?

Based on my own experiences of being allowed to borrow 40 times my annual income to purchase investment property, I knew the real estate party was going to end badly for many borrowers, banks and eventually tax-payers. I had triedĀ  shorting Countrywide, which was the largest lender of mortgages, last year when the stock was trading at around $36. Unfortunately, I was a little early and closing my position at $39 incurring a substantial loss. If I had held on to my position, with Countrywide currently trading in $6-$7 range, I would’ve have been handsomely rewarded.

Hopefully, I’ll have the fortitude to hold onto my positions next time. Right now I think the Commercial real estate is the next bubble to burst.

Easy liquidity and the willingness of investors to settle for low rates of return have squeezed the margins on commercial properties over the past few years. Commercial construction has been onĀ  tear and new malls have sprung up all over the place. There’s also been a contraction in commercial liquidity owing to the sub-prime fiasco. Added to that is the slow-down in consumer spending which will affect the bottom line of retailers and the amount their willing to spend on employees and rent.

I’m currently short Simon Properties (SPG), which gets 25% of its income from retail malls in California and Florida and the Dow Jones Real Estate Index (IYR). Lets see if I can hold on to these positions during the coming few months which will probably be quite volatile.

How The Carry Trade Really Works

Here’s a really, really good video on how the carry trade works and what implications it has on global asset prices and the global financial stability.

I think the carry trade will have to reverse at some point in the near future. Trees do not grow to the skies and financial excesses do not last forever. When the average man on the street with no financial education starts talking or investing in a particular sector, it usually marks the end of that run. (In 2000 I overheard my hair-dresser talking about internet stocks – I should’ve sold then. In early 2005, I overheard some guys at the movie theater talking about getting into the local real estate market – I sold then and I’m glad I did!)

With Japanese housewives partaking in the carry-trade now, I think its safe to say that we’re pretty close to the end of the cycle of cheap, easy money. I sold some USD and bought Yen and I’ve also invested some money in Japanese investments (a REIT and a stock ETF).

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Dollar May Weaken

I regularly read the ‘Daily Pfenning’ by Charles Butler of

Today’s issue was especially bearish on the dollar.

The Yen finally started to move back up hitting a one month high over the weekend on speculation the Bank of Japan report tomorrow will show an improved economic outlook. The BOJ will make their rate announcement tomorrow before releasing a semi-annual report that will outline the bank’s forecasts for prices and the economy. Any hint at higher rates before year end should propel the yen back toward 110.

Other Asian currencies gained last week also, with the Thai baht rising to a seven-year high. Thailand’s central bank raised its growth estimate for next year to between 4.5 percent and 5.5 percent from a previous forecast of between 4 and 5.3%. It also lifted its prediction for export growth this year. While the gains in the Singapore $ were met with possible intervention by their central bank, the Bank of Thailand governor said the central bank would let the markets do their job in stemming the rise. So it looks like we have a green light for further increases in the baht.

The Australian dollar also had a good week with several reports showing the Asia-Pacific regions growth is picking up. Retail sales rose .5 percent after climbing .3% in August, and building approvals started to rise again. Australia’s economy added more than 200,000 new jobs in the past five months, sending the unemployment rate to a 30-year low. Things continue to look up for the Australian dollar, a currency which continues to be one of our favorite.

Finally, India’s central bank will likely raise interest rates for a fourth time this year as record economic expansion and loans growth stoke inflation. Expect a quarter point increase in interest rates tomorrow, which should strengthen the rupee. Many reports are now expecting the Rupee to strengthen to 44 by year end.

As previously mentioned, I bought some Australian Dollars and a Japanese REIT. A strengthening of the Yen will boost the value of my REIT, which buys apartment buildings in downtown Toyko.

I’m willing to share the info on the Japanese REIT with anyone who makes 10 posts on The Weekend Investor. Talk about a shameless plug!!!!

Gold was also up today. Its not too late to buy some and hedge against the devaluing dollar!

Got My Japanese REITs

Finally managed to buy the Japanese REITs yesterday. The Tokyo Stock Exchange is about 14-16 hours ahead so you have to submit it and check on it later to see if you got lucky.

I’m betting that the Yen will appreciate 20% against the US Dollar[although as moominvalley pointed out, I bought it with Australian dollars!] and that the stagnant Tokyo RE market will pick up.

On another note, the $50 amazon gift card give-away for posting on The Weekend Investor forums doesn’t seem to be taking off. I might have to put up another prize to maybe give away a ~100 year old Morgan Silver Dollar to the person with the highest posts! [login to the weekend investor and let me know if you think you need more motivation!]

Investing In Japanese Real Estate

In a previous post I had mentioned that a Japanese REIT was going IPO. I was wondering how I could get in on the action. It seems like a good idea – the Dollar should weaken against the Yen and Japan’s Real Estate should appreciate after almost a decade and a half of stagnation.

It seems its rather more difficult than it is in the US. Unless you buying a stock that trades as an ADR, you need to open an account that allows you to purchase stocks on a foreign exchange. Luckily I had already an account with Interactive Brokers to buy Australian dollars which allows me to trade on the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

Unfortunately, there’s a 13 hour time difference and so the trades have to be placed in the evenings. Also its a little bit trickier than placing trades through a US online-trader and there’s no phone support [although there is online chatting] and the Tokyo Stock Exchange doesn’t really provide much information about the individual stocks.

Anyway, here’s a list of Japanese REITs that trade on the TSE. You’ll notice that they have codes instead of ticker symbols. Also their prices are listed in Yen which is currently around 118 yen to the US dollar but that fluctuates minute by minute!

Good luck!

3229 / JP3046460006 Nippon Commercial Investment Corporation.
3227 / JP3046450007 MID REIT, Inc.
3226 / JP3046440008 Nippon Accommodations Fund Inc.
8963 / JP3046190009 TGR Investment Inc.
8987 / JP3046420000 Japan Excellent, Inc.
8986 / JP3046410001 re-plus residential investment inc.
8985 / JP3046400002 Nippon Hotel Fund Investment Corporation
8980 / JP3046350009 LCP Investment Corporation
8984 / JP3046390005 BLife Investment Corporation
8983 / JP3046380006 Creed Office Investment Corporation
8982 / JP3046370007 Top REIT, Inc.
8981 / JP3046360008 Japan Hotel and Resort, Inc.
8978 / JP3046330001 Advance Residence Investment Corporation
8977 / JP3046320002 Hankyu REIT, Inc.
8976 / JP3046310003 DA Office Investment Corporation
8975 / JP3046300004 FC Residential Investment Corporation
8974 / JP3046290007 eASSET Investment Corporation
8973 / JP3046280008 Joint Reit Investment Corporation
8972 / JP3046270009 Kenedix Realty Investment Corporation
8970 / JP3046260000 Japan Single-residence REIT Inc.
8969 / JP3046250001 Prospect Residential Investment Corporation
8968 / JP3046240002 Fukuoka REIT Corporation
8967 / JP3046230003 Japan Logistics Fund, Inc.
8966 / JP3046220004 CRESCENDO Investment Corporation
8965 / JP3046210005 New City Residence Investment Corporation
8964 / JP3046200006 Frontier Real Estate Investment Corporation
8962 / JP3046180000 Nippon Residential Investment Corporation
8961 / JP3046170001 MORI TRUST Sogo Reit, Inc.
8960 / JP3045540006 United Urban Investment Corporation
8959 / JP3045530007 Nomura Real Estate Office Fund, Inc.
8958 / JP3044520009 Global One Real Estate Investment Corporation
8957 / JP3044510000 TOKYU REIT, Inc.
8956 / JP3041770003 Premier Investment Company
8955 / JP3040890000 Japan Prime Realty Investment Corporation
8954 / JP3040880001 ORIX JREIT Inc.
8953 / JP3039710003 Japan Retail Fund Investment Corporation
8952 / JP3027680002 Japan Real Estate Investment Corporation
8951 / JP3027670003 Nippon Building Fund Inc.