NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The information of greater wealth inequality continues to come in.
The latest addition to this trend comes from Realty Trac, a provider of housing data, which leads off with a headline that "Home Price Appreciation Outpaces Wage Growth in 76 Percent of U. S. Markets During Housing Recovery."
According to the report, the growth rate in average weekly wages, coming from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is 1.3%. This was measured from the second quarter 2012 to the second quarter 2014.
Home prices, coming "from sales deed data in 184 metropolitan statistical areas nationwide with a combined population of nearly 228 million, rose at a 17.0 percent rate of increased from December 2012 to December 2014."
In 140 of the 184 areas, the rate of increase in home prices was greater than the increase in wages.
The author of the report and a vice president at Realty Trac told Bloomberg Business that the housing recovery has "largely been driven over the last two years by buyers who are not constrained by incomes-namely the institutional investors coming in and buying up properties as rentals, and international buyers coming in and buying, often with cash."
Who are these "institutional investors"? Well, they are hedge funds and private equity funds. They are real estate companies and real estate professionals. (I personally know two groups of individuals that have formed their own little company to buy up properties that have been "underwater" or that have been in foreclosure, refresh them, and then rent them out.)
There are also the funds that have created a new type of security that is backed by the rental payments of these properties.
And, guess who is underwriting these loans? The Federal Reserve.
The low interest rate policy of the Federal Reserve has underwritten the wealthy. This avenue to increase wealth has not yet been closed.
What's more, a lot of the borrowing has not ended up on bank balance sheets as real estate loans because hedge funds and others have just borrowed on their lines of credit or through ordinary business loans. Thus, the real estate transactions are not showing up in the ordinary places one would look to indicate lending activity with respect to home ownership.
The point here, however, is that it is not the middle class that is benefiting from the policies of the federal government. In its efforts to get the economy growing again and to achieve high levels of employment, the Fed has basically become a money machine for the wealthy.
This is not really a new development. The credit inflation of the past fifty years has provided an environment in which the wealthy and the financially sophisticated have learned how to make money, lots of money, from rising asset prices. And, as the credit inflation continued, these individuals got better and better at using rising asset prices for their own benefit.
The bottom line is that actions by the federal government that create major distortions in markets can provide opportunities for some to make substantial amounts of money. Generally, the people that make the substantial amounts of money are not those coming from the middle class.
For more on this idea, read the book House of Debt by Atif Mian and Amir Sufi. This is required reading for anyone interested in finance and financial dislocation. It is a well-researched effort showing how those who are not constrained by incomes can benefit by rising asset prices to enhance their own wealth positions. It also demonstrates how the less-well-off can be destroyed by attempting to emulate these investors in betting on rising asset prices.