Pal: There Could Be Big Problems in Property Markets

Your Real Vision Daily Briefing for May 25, 2020

Ash Bennington joins Raoul Pal to discuss the latest developments in macro and coronavirus.

  • Despite the fact that the Fed’s balance sheet is expanding massively, money is not accelerating through the system, likely due to demographics and debt.
  • The Canadian, Australian, and UK property markets are all vulnerable to cash flow issues and over time we may see prices fall as a result.
  • Commercial real estate is in a huge period of uncertainty as people are rethinking the need for traditional office, retail, and even media broadcasting spaces.

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The Fed’s balance sheet may be expanding massively, but the velocity of money is falling everywhere, Real Vision CEO Raoul Pal said during today’s Daily Briefing.

Pal cited demographics and debt and the primary drag on spending. He said the older a population gets, the more they’re incentivized to save, and most of the money they do spend is used to pay debt.

The larger implications of the velocity of money collapsing is that prices will drop in the future, he said, and this deflation plus the debt prevalent in the economy is a ticket to bankruptcy.

Pal also discussed property markets in the interview and said he is most concerned about Canada, Australia, and the UK. The former two countries have seen a two-decade long bull markets in properties driven by the commodity cycle, but Pal believes we’ll see these markets impacted significantly due to reduced cash flows.

“If it’s a solvency event, we’ve got big problems in the Canadian and Australian property markets,” he said.

In the UK, the buy-to-let paradigm that has been producing yield for property owners may also be in jeopardy due to lagging cash flows. If people cannot pay their rent and rents begin to fall below the cost of mortgage payments and expenses as a result, landlords will suffer.

Pal said that because property prices are slow to move, we won’t see these effects immediately, but the cracks will probably start to appear by year’s end.

Commercial real estate is also in trouble as companies and consumers alike are questioning the value of traditional spaces. Pal thinks the more flexible and dynamic WeWork model could fare better than conventional office spaces, but said he doesn’t know whether retail stores and even media broadcasting studios will be deemed necessary in the new model that is emerging.

He said it’s hard to aggregate data in real time about real estate because it feeds through the system so slowly, but there may be a serious retrenchment ahead.