Jul 132020
 

The new normal

low interest rates will lead to greater economic expansion, but also more debt.

The year is 2030. Self driving cars are delivering fast food right to people’s front doors. China surpasses the U.S. as the world’s largest economy. Everyone uses mobile wallets instead of credit cards. Increasing wealth inequality has created constant social unrest. But one thing hasn’t changed. Interest rates continue to remain at rock bottom. You can still get a mortgage for less than 2.5%. 🙂

The economy has fallen into a deep pit of debt – so deep you can find Adele rolling in it. Policy makers around the world manufactured liquidity and bailed out corporations. Everyone has become accustomed to cheap money. If interest rates were to climb by just 1% then a third of mortgages will become delinquent.

 

Inflating money with impunity

Today in 2020 the United States government is already technically insolvent. But it can continue to make its debt payments because…

  • It has the ability to borrow money from a line of credit with no credit limit. And..
  • It can choose the interest rate at which it borrows thanks to the Federal Reserve.

From the total revenue collected by the U.S. federal government, 17% of it is used to pay interest on the debt it owes. If interest rates were to rise by just 1% then nearly a quarter of the federal revenue will have to go towards interest costs. That would be insane. Doing so would be the equivalent of someone with a $50,000 salary taking on a $500,000 mortgage at 2.5% interest rate. Nobody can qualify for a mortgage 10x their annual income. Even if the borrower thinks he can afford it, good luck finding a lender audacious enough to approve his loan application. Most mortgages are only 3 to 5 times one’s income.

Typically if a debtor starts to borrow more than he can adequately service – market forces will begin to push back. Lenders will either reject any new credit increase requests, or they will raise the interest rate to compensate for the debtor becoming a higher risk. But this doesn’t happen for governments with their own printing presses. The result: massive asset price inflation.

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May 112020
 

Why inflation matters

U.S. government bonds in 1990 were paying investors 8% a year. That sounds amazing! Especially for a low risk investment. 🙂 But not everyone was buying them. Why? Because investment returns don’t tell the whole story. The inflation rate that year was 5.4%. That means the real rate of return on those bonds was only 2.6%. Stashing $100 under a mattress would have lost $5.40 in value during 1990. As Ray Dalio says, “cash is trash.”

 

Obtaining a mortgage from an unconventional lender

Earlier this year I bought a rental property and took on a new mortgage at 2.44% fixed interest rate for 5 years. After asking around different banks I decided to use monoline lender MCAP. They deal with broker channels and often have lower rates than the big banks. 🙂

negative interest rate mortgage

Since this is an investment property the interest on the mortgage is tax deductible. My marginal tax rate is about 30%. So my effective interest rate after tax adjustment is 1.71%. But this is the nominal rate. To get the full picture we have to subtract the inflation rate. Last year Canada’s official inflation rate was 2.25%. So my real mortgage rate equals the nominal rate (1.71%) minus the inflation rate (2.25%) which comes to -0.54%.

So I’m effectively paying a negative interest rate. I’m earning 54 basis points to borrow money. Woot! 😀 Personal finance author Robert Kiyosaki says smart people use debt to get rich. He’s right. I’m growing my net worth by literally having this mortgage.

The historical average inflation rate in Canada has been about 2% annually. Let’s assume it will continue to average 2% for the foreseeable future.

This is bad for my mortgage lender. The asset they are holding (my mortgage) will slowly lose value over time. Fortunately for them the 2.44% interest rate they charge me is still higher than the expected inflation rate.

 

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Jul 042018
 

Five years ago I acquired a variable rate mortgage from CIBC. It was the cheapest rate I could find at the time. I was quite pleased with the rate but that mortgage term expired a couple of months ago. So I shopped around to see if I can find another good deal.

I expected my mortgage to become more expensive. Surely rates would have climbed over the last 5 years right?

But no. To my surprise I found a lender that offered me an interest rate that’s lower than my previous mortgage by 43 basis points. 😀 CIBC was not able to match this offer so I switched. The new financial institution I am with is not one of the big 5 banks in Canada. It is a lesser known company called National Bank.

I was paying 3.05% with CIBC. This was a variable rate 5 year mortgage at prime minus 0.40%. This was the best CIBC could do.
But my new mortgage with National Bank is only 2.62%. This is also a variable rate 5 year mortgage term. Except the rate is Prime minus 0.83%

A 0.43% difference in interest rates doesn’t sound like a lot. But my mortgage balance is around $193,000. So I will be saving roughly $4,000 over the next 5 years because I switched to a cheaper mortgage provider.

However there are costs associated with changing lenders. Appraisal costs $600, and legal documents from a notary public was $800 in my case. Luckily National Bank has a $750 rebate program for transferring over an existing mortgage. 🙂

In the end the cost of changing banks was worth the extra savings in my case.

Even though most Canadians are choosing fixed rate mortgage I still believe that variable rate is the way to go if you want to save money. The increase in fixed rate mortgages locked in by most home buyers this year is “seen as a response to rate hikes, and fear of higher rates in the future.” But critics have been calling for higher rates for over a decade. Yet rates haven’t actually gone up much. In fact, mortgage rates have dropped over the past 5 years as shown in my post today. That’s why we have to be informed of economic conditions so we can make our own financial decisions, instead of following others. 🙂

I have been a homeowner for almost 10 years. During this time my mortgage interest rates fluctuated from 2.3% to 3.2%. It doesn’t look like rates will climb significantly any time soon. Until we see increasing mortgage rates, I would expect Canadian housing prices to climb even higher.

 

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Random Useless Fact:

30 years ago only 5% of the population admitted to being chronic procrastinators compared to 25% today. Some believe technological advances is the main cause of this change.

Aug 012016
 

Stock Markets Reach Record Highs… Again 

Both the Dow Jones and the S&P 500 indexes have climbed to all time highs in late July. 🙂 But corporate earnings have been stagnant and economic growth remains weak. Restaurant sales have slowed. The U.S. economy only grew a disappointing 1.2% in the second quarter, well below expectations. 😕

So what’s producing so much excitement in the stock market? In short, I believe it’s largely caused by Negative Interest Rate Policies (NIRP). For example, in Europe the benchmark lending rate is negative 0.4%. Usually the bond issuer pays interest to the investor. But with negative rates, the investor pays the issuer. Currently about 1/3rd of the world’s government bonds are producing negative yields. Investors can’t get rich by holding these securities anymore. So in this kind of environment bonds really hold people down.?

As a result of NIRP, more investment capital has moved from the bond market to relatively stable stocks. These tend to be companies that operate gas pipelines, railways, utilities, telecommunication services, and other infrastructure that are recession resistant. Last year I wrote about how to easily make $75 of annual income without using any of my own savings by using leverage to buy shares of TransCanada Corp (TRP.)

16-08-financial-advice-dog-bonds-tennis-balls

I purchased TRP stocks for $42 per share. I mentioned at the time that analysts had an average price target of $57.50 per share. This doesn’t always happen, but sure enough TRP is trading at roughly $60 per share today. 😀 So not only am I making $75 a year in dividends, but I’ve also made $1,800 in unclaimed capital gains so far. 😉

In normal circumstances this kind of price movement in a large cap, blue-chip company wouldn’t happen. But due to a lack of viable investment alternatives, an influx of additional buyers has pushed up TRP and many other relatively safe stocks.

Increasing Valuations and Risk

Unfortunately, NIRP produces asset bubbles and may cause the markets to behave precariously. The chief executive of DoubleLine Capital, who oversees more than $100 billion in assets, recently said that many asset classes look frothy and his firm continues to hold gold, which has also climbed due to NIRP.  At the end of July gold reached $1,350 per ounce, the highest monthly close in years! Stock investors have entered a “world of uber complacency,” said Jeffrey to the media. “The stock markets should be down massively but investors seem to have been hypnotized that nothing can go wrong. Continue reading »

Oct 102015
 

New Purchase: Royal Bank of Canada Stock

September has historically been a bad month for the stock market, and this year was no exception. This is why I didn’t invest aggressively last month. However now that it’s October, I decided to get back into buying more equities. 🙂

15-10-historical-stock-market-returns-months

So after looking through my watch list of different companies, I’ve decided to invest in shares of Royal Bank of Canada. 😀 I usually don’t keep disposable cash lying around so last week I borrowed $4,000 from my TD margin account and transferred the money into my TFSA to buy 55 Royal Bank shares (RY.TO) at $71.30 each.

15-10-royal-bank-purchase

I know purchasing about $4K worth of stocks with no money down sounds a bit risky, but I think I’ve made the right decision here. 😀 The stock pays me a 4.43% dividend yield, which happens to be more than the 4.25% interest I’m being charged for the margin loan. As long as I plan to hold the stock until my retirement and can service the cost of the loan, then I don’t see any downsides to financing this entire purchase with debt. 🙂

Royal Bank Stock Analysis

15-10-royal-bank-logo-sign-rbc-stock

After doing some research and analysis on this company here are some reason why I chose to buy this stock.

  • It can print currency. Due to fractional-reserve banking, all chartered banks can create new money through lending. This license to manipulate the money supply in the market has many unique advantages.
  • Safety and stability. RBC is currently the largest company in the country, worth $106 billion by market capitalization. An economy of scale offers RY a competitive edge against smaller rivals. Even if Canadian banks run into solvency problems in the far future, the CMHC or other Crown corporations will probably step in to bail them out. In the U.S. the government’s TARP program in 2008 transferred $431 billion to struggling U.S. banks.
  • Growing profits. Royal Bank continues to deliver earnings growth year after year. According to stock analysts the estimated earnings in 2017 will be around $7.35 per share, which would make RBC 19% more profitable than last year’s actual earnings.15-10-royal-bank-stock-earnings-growth
  • Attractive valuation, relative to historical averages. The P/E ratio is used to determine how much investors are willing to pay for a stock. A high ratio signals that buyers are willing to pay a premium for the shares. But lately the trailing P/E ratio of Royal Bank (Blue line below) is at the lowest it’s been in years! This P/E compression won’t last forever so right now looks like a good time to start accumulating a position.15-10-ry-royal-bank-price-to-earnings-ratio-historical
  • Growing dividends. According to its investor’s relations, RY has increased dividends by more than 400% since the year 2000. It increased dividends almost every year, except during the financial crisis period.
  • Protection against rising interest rates. RBC holds about $463 billion in net loans. If it can charge even 0.25% more interest on average, then that’s an additional $1.16 billion of revenue every year, minus loan lost provisions. A rising interest rate environment benefits all banks. The more interest homeowners pay for their existing mortgages over the next 25 years, the more money Royal Bank can make from those loans. 🙂
  • Potential split soon. The stock tends to split 2:1 when each share reaches around $80 to $90. The most recent split was in 2006, and then in 2000 before that. The share price is currently around $74 today. Stocks splits create more demand since each share becomes more affordable to own for new investors.

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