Monday Morning Cup of Coffee takes a look at news coming across the HousingWire weekend desk, with more coverage to come on bigger issues.
One week from tomorrow voters will put an end to this election cycle and the nation will have a new president (we hope). What seemed a sure win for Hillary Clinton on Thursday got whacked in the knees on Friday by an FBI letter to Congress that disclosed the existence of Clinton emails from a new source: Anthony Weiner's laptop.
The vague nature of the revelation (no specifics on whether the emails were duplicates of ones the FBI already has, or whether any were classified) didn't stop the juggernaut of news coverage and the stock market reacted by erasing the daily gains it had before the announcement. The Wall Street Journal reported that "the CBOE Volatility Index, the market's 'fear gauge,' shot to its highest level in six weeks." From the article:
Several traders said that some of the instant stock selling was likely triggered by algorithmic trading platforms that analyze headlines for specific words and phrases and then buy and sell stocks accordingly. The losses persisted following the initial drop, suggesting other traders and investors followed suit.
So is the election really back in play? The polling has definitely tightened, but the only thing that's certain in this election cycle is that more October surprises are on the way.
In the meantime, mortgage types can take solace here on how elections actually affect housing. And for those contemplating where to invest once the election's over, this Fortune article lets you hedge your bets no matter what the outcome. But maybe the most important information is in this article on the best cities to survive a zombie apocalypse, which seemed appropriate for this election cycle. (Note: searching for where to go if there's an apocalypse leads to some websites which will only confirm your worst fears about the sanity of the U.S. electorate).
Speaking of scary things, the security breach at the OCC, which took place nearly a year ago but was just revealed last week, is another reminder of the vulnerability all financial institutions face when it comes to cybersecurity. In this case it wasn't hackers acting on behalf of foreign governments, but a retiring employee who downloaded more than 10,000 files onto a thumb drive.
Banks might note the irony of their regulator being caught so flat-footed, but the real lesson is one that applies to everyone: the biggest threat to your cybersecurity is your own employees.
There are still about 30,000 vacant houses and buildings in Detroit as a result of manufacturing job loss and the foreclosure crisis. But a program funded by unions to renovate vacant houses in Detroit has been so successful that it's now being expanded to eight more Rustbelt cities, the AP reported on Sunday.
The AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust is funding most of the repairs, and the goal is to spur economic activity as well as rehabilitating neighborhoods.
From the AP article:
About 90 projects are planned over the next five to seven years with no matching funds required from the cities, including about 60 multifamily housing units. The effort is an expansion of a $30 million neighborhood home-repair project that started last year in Detroit in partnership with the city, where nearly 40 percent of residents live in poverty.
The effort is especially notable for the new jobs it's expected to create: 25,000 in all, including 9,700 permanent and temporary construction jobs. The lack of construction labor has been a major barrier to meeting new housing demand across the country. Other cities that are part of this project are St. Louis, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Milwaukee, Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Buffalo.
Donald Trump made his name in New York real estate, but now that name could come back to bite the owners of space in those buildings. The New York Times reported Friday that sales in Trump buildings have been negatively impacted from his campaign for president. From the article:
For the 12 months ending October 2015, there were 159 apartments sold at 10 Trump condominiums, including a $21.38 million penthouse at Trump Park Avenue that was sold by Mr. Trump shortly after announcing his candidacy. That number on StreetEasy fell to 117 sales for the period between November 2015 and October 2016, a drop of more than 26 percent. The decrease is especially notable when compared with the performance of the overall Manhattan resale condo market, which showed an increase of 3.8 percent.
However, at least one person quoted in the article attributed the decreasing sales at Trump properties to the overall "softening" in NYC's housing market, which the newspaper detailed a few weeks ago here.
Move over Bitcoin, ZCash is looking to offer even more private financial transactions. Mining for the blcokchain-based currency launched on Friday and some investors have already received ZCash. From Wired:
ZCash combines blockchain with cryptographic principles that the company says allow transactions to be done without a record on the ledger of which wallets sent and received currency. The system will only record that a transaction occurred. The promise of extreme privacy has buoyed ZCash futures.
The article notes that while the work underlying ZCash is "very robust and sophisticated," it hasn't yet had a thorough independent vetting.
If Bitcoin is any indicator of what ZCash is in for, it's a long and winding road to acceptance. Bitcoin, first created in 2008, is now accepted by a number of retailers and available for purchase at a variety of locations, including the latest — Swiss railway ticketing machines. But the August heist of $60 million in Bitcoin currency is likely still on the minds of potential investors.
The LA Times is at it again. Investigative reporting by the newspaper revealed the Wells Fargo fake account scandal that has led to widespread consequences for the bank. On Saturday, the LA Times unveiled its newest investigation, which looks at whether a developer in Los Angeles made illegal straw donations to the mayor and a member of Congressa to change zoning for his $72 million apartment complex.
The article outlined donations to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, U.S. Rep. Janice Hahn and several city council members from low-wage workers connected to Samuel Leung, a Torrance-based developer who was lobbying public officials to approve a 352-unit apartment complex.
From the article:
At one critical point, Garcetti invoked a mayoral prerogative — which he has used only twice — to reduce the number of council votes required to approve the project. In several cases, elected officials received the money as they were poised to make key decisions about the development, known as Sea Breeze.
We'll have to see what comes of the reporting, if anything, but The Economist on Friday weighed in on the topic of whether locking up white collar criminals is an effective deterrent or just catharsis.
From the article:
The DoJ could bring far more individual prosecutions. But most corporate crime is the result of collective action rather than individual wrongdoing—long chains of command that send (often half-understood) instructions, or corporate cultures that encourage individuals to take risky actions. The authorities have rightly adjusted to this reality by increasingly prosecuting companies rather than going after individual miscreants.
Speaking of miscreants, it's Halloween!
At HousingWire that means a chili cookoff, a dessert showdown and a costume contest. Here's a picture that captures some of the best costumes, in which the newsroom was disproportionally represented. Have a great week!