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Five Things You Need to Know: Housing "Stabilization" Worsening, When Fed Heads Attack!, Bernanke Political Index Breaks Out, Record 83,000 Indians Join Millionaire's Club, Remaining 99.99993% of Indians Kind of Happy for Country's New Millionaires


What you need to know (and what it means)!


Minyanville's daily Five Things You Need to Know to stay ahead of the pack on Wall Street:

1. Housing "Stabilization" Worsening

Existing Home Sales came in with a better headline print this morning, 6.24 million units sold versus 6.14 million expected, and up from September's 6.18 million units.

  • The PHLX Housing Sector Index (HGX) initially liked the headline print and was at one point this morning positive, up a couple points to 221.But the real news is what's inside the data.
  • Inventories nationally increased 1.9% at the end of October to 3.85 million units.
  • That represents a 7.4 month supply at the current pace of sales, the National Association of Realtors said.
  • Meanwhile, and more importantly, the national median existing home price for all housing types fell 3.5% year-on-year in October.
  • Meanwhile, NAR chief economist and mouthpiece David Lereah says, "The present level of home sales demonstrates some confidence in the market."
  • Lereah claims the October decline in national median prices is "skewed" due to "an uncharacteristic spike in October of last year."
  • Really, let's go back and look at the data.
  • Sure enough, in October 2005, the national median price jumped 16.6% year-on-year, which followed September's 13.4% year-on-year jump, which followed followed August's 15.8% jump, which followed July's 14.1% jump, which... wait a minute... followed... STOP IT! That's not an uncharacteristic spike. That's a freaking TREND!
  • By the way, what happened after October's uncharacteristic spike? In November the national median existing home price "uncharacteristically spiked" 13.2% year-on-year.
  • Lereah did not mention that the 3.5% decline in the national median existing home price for October follows September's 1.8% (revised) year-on-year decline.

2. When Fed Heads Attack!

The US Dollar Index has fallen 1.23% since Thanksgiving. Yikes, pilgrim. Looking for dollar relief? Say no more. Today a full slate of no fewer than four Fed Heads, including Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, are scheduled to speak. We bet the theme is "dollar friendly."

  • First, earlier this morning the Dallas Fed's Richard Fisher said he was satisfied with a 5.25% Fed Funds rate.
  • But wait, there's more. Fisher (not a voting member) said the downturn in housing was a "very serious problem" that was exacerbated by keeping rates too low for too long.
  • In other words, Fisher said, "En garde, Maestro." (More on that in a moment.)
  • A bit later this morning Philadelphia Federal Reserve President Charles Plosser will speak at a seminar in Rochester, NY at 11:30 a.m.
  • Next up, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke yaks it up with the Italian American Foundation in New York at noon.
  • Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson will make remarks at a market and trade conference in London at 4 p.m. EST.
  • Finally, Chicago Fed President Michael Moskow will discuss the U.S. Economic Outlook in Chicago at 4:30 p.m. EST.
  • Even former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan will get in on the act at 12:30 p.m. EST today, no doubt defending his continued rosy view of housing, advocation of adjustable rate mortgages and Dallas Fed Head Fisher's charge that interest rates were too low for too long spurring a housing bubble.
  • No, wait. That's what he would discuss if we could ask him questions. Sorry. Stay tuned for your regularly scheduled programming: When Fed Heads Attack!

3. Bernanke Political Index Breaks Out

Last week the New York Times reported that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has enlisted the help of Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on a trip to China next month. Some wondered, "Hey that's kind of a political trip, isn't it?" Well, fortunately, we have a way to track the political wheelings and dealings of our Federal Reserve chair.

  • The Financial Markets Center has created the Bernanke Political Index, which tracks the average number of political meetings involving the Fed chief per week.
  • The FMC data now covers the February through May 2006 dealings and is broken down into three categories:
    - Congress.
    - White House (with a sub-category for Council of Economic Advisers).
    - Other (with a sub-category for the Treasury).
  • Overall, the table below shows Dr. Bernanke averaged 2.2 political meetings of all types per week for his first four months as Fed chairman.
  • The index is similar to the one created for former Fed chair Alan Greenpsan.
  • This number slightly exceeds the 2.0 average Greenspan recorded during 1996-2000 but significantly lags the 3.1 average he registered from 2001 through mid-year 2005.

Bernanke Political Index

4. Record 83,000 Indians Join Millionaire's Club!

American Express (AXP) estimates that 83,000 Indians today have liquid assets greater than $1 million, up from 71,000 two years ago. Finally, some good economic news!

  • The Indian economy is the second fastest growing economy in the world, and along with that economic growth is a burgeoning class of ultra-wealthy individuals!
  • BusinessWeek reports in the article, "The Lifestyle of India's Richest People," just how these newly-minted millionaires are spending all that money!
  • Let's take a closer look at the awe-inspiring luxury and super comfortable lifestyles of these fabulously wealthy people.
  • The first place the new moneyed class typically shows off its cash is with a big house or plush apartment, BusinessWeek reports.
  • True enough, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, the chain-smoking, 47-year-old founder of investment house Rare Enterprises has just bought a $5.4 million, six-bedroom duplex apartment in the tony Malabar Hill neighborhood.
  • "I have far more wealth than I need," says Jhunjhunwala, whose estimated net worth is just shy of $1 billion. "But it gives me the freedom to do what I enjoy and enjoy what I do."
  • Cars, of course, are another great way to get mileage out of your millions, BusinessWeek says.
  • National Garage, a nationwide chain of dealerships selling an assortment of brands, including Ferrari, says demand for the $200,000-plus machines vastly outstrips supply.
  • But just because you can afford to look at a Ferrari in India, doesn't mean you can afford to own a Ferrari in India.
  • To bolster the Ferrari image, National Garage has turned away 700 customers that "didn't suit our product profile," marketing director Farhad Vijay Arora told BusinessWeek.
  • But even if you can't gain exclusive entry into the Indian Ferrari-owner's club, you can at least take comfort in knowing what time you were turned down by glancing at your ultra-deluxe, super fancy high-priced wristwatch!
  • Indians last year spent $141 million on pricey wristwatches, a figure that's growing by some 40% a year, according to Technopak.

5. Remaining 99.99993% of Indians Kind of Happy for Country's New Millionaires

India is a rather large country. In fact, it has a population of well over a billion people, something the BusinessWeek article tactfully glossed over. For perspective, this deserves some additional math.

  • Population of India (July 2006 est.): 1,095,351,995.
  • Number of Indians with more than $1 million (USD) in liquid assets: 83,000.
  • Number of Indians with more than $1 million (USD) in liquid assets expressed as a percentage of total population: 0.00007%.
  • Percentage of Indians living below the national poverty line: 29%.
  • Indians living below the national poverty line expressed in numerical terms: 317,652,078.
  • Official national poverty line used in calculating the number of Indians living below it: $1 per day (USD).
  • Percentage of Indians living below the national poverty line if it is doubled to $2 per day (USD): Nearly 80%.
  • Percentage of India's population aged 15 and older who are illiterate: 39%.
  • India's population aged 15 and older who are illiterate, expressed numerically: 427,187,278.
  • Amount Indians spent in 2005 on "pricey wristwatches," according to Technopak: $141 milllion (USD).
  • Amount the 317,652,078 Indians living below the official national poverty line spent in 2005 on food adjusted for purchasing power parity in USD terms: $64 million (USD).
  • Number of BMWs expected to be sold in India in 2007 at the company's new plant in Chennai, India: 1,000.
  • Cost of the Chennai BMW plant: $24 million (USD).
  • Estimated number of Chennai residents who are homeless today: 40,533.
  • Number of Chennai households who were estimated to be homeless by Action Aid India three years ago: 12,000.
  • Number of Chennai residents potentially employed by the new BMW plant: 800.
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