J.P. Morgan makes it easier for rich to take out mortgages

“J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is loosening its underwriting criteria for big mortgages, as lenders ramp up competition to grab a bigger share of the high-end housing market. The nation’s largest bank plans to announce as soon as Tuesday that it is lowering the minimum credit score and down payment it requires for mortgages as big as $3 million. At the same time, some big banks are backing away from smaller loans where they see higher regulatory costs and litigation risks. By dollar volume, jumbo mortgages given out by lenders last year accounted for about 20% of all first-lien mortgages. That is up from 5.5% in 2009. The last time jumbo mortgages accounted for a larger share was in 2005.” Continue reading

The Next Financial Disaster Starts Here

“Because junk bond ETFs appear liquid, most investors don’t see the danger. They think they can sell their junk bonds ETFs just as easily as they could sell shares of Apple. But if too many people decide to sell junk bonds at once, it could overwhelm the market and cause prices to crash. None of this has been a problem yet because junk bonds have been in a bull market. According to Bank of America, junk bonds have gained 149% since 2009. But all bull markets eventually end. And when this one ends, junk bonds could cause massive losses to investors who don’t know about these risks.” Continue reading

Central Banks and Our Dysfunctional Gold Markets

“First, it remains unclear whether or not much of the gold that is being sold as shares and in certificates actually exists. Second, paper gold can theoretically be printed into infinity just like regular currency — although private-sector paper-gold sellers have considerably less leeway in this regard than central banks. Third, new electronic gold pricing — replacing, as of this past February, the traditional five-bank phone-call of the London Gold Fix in place since 1919 — has not necessarily proved a more trustworthy model. Fourth, there looms the specter of the central bank, particularly in the form of volume trading discounts that commodity exchanges offer them.” Continue reading