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Size Is Not Always Everything…Economically Speaking

The UK is one giant PONZI scheme….STERLING WILL RE-TEST £/$ 1.08….ITS HISTORIC LOW.

I have been considering this post for a long while. I have written on many occasions how the political leaders of this once great nation have systematically, over the last 40 years, dismantled our strong financial position. Making short term decisions which resonated with the electorate have caused the very fibre of society to be diminished. I will attempt to keep this as short as possible but as you can imagine, calling the destruction of the once biggest manufacturing nation in the world cannot be just a few lines.

First up, consistency. I am not like all those highly paid economists in the City. I have a long term interpretation of economics and stick to it. In January 2015 I wrote “Sterling Crisis Looms” …The post examined the history of our trade relationship with the world. It is easy to see that even with a strong economy and a positive trading balance  it was still possible to have a currency weakening against another. In 1948 we had a trade surplus of 10% of GDP. This was no match for the soon to be biggest economy in the world. The management of our finances over the last 20 years has been nothing short of a disaster (see second chart)…this coupled with our ever growing trade deficit in goods and you get the picture as to why I still believe that Sterling is heading down. Overseas investors have been happy to buy UK assets to park money in a supposedly safe haven. Chinese, Russian, Greek…you name it they have all been desperate to get money out of their own countries.

As you can see. The trajectory of our debt profile has taken on an ugly look. Admittedly, very high inflation following the Middle East Oil shock of the 1970s did not help. Nevertheless, the picture is grim…what’s more, where the chart below finished in 2010/11…..

This one picks up the pace somewhat. You can see that austerity is just a figment of George Osborne’s imagination. The annual deficit for fiscal 2015/16 will come in around £75-80bn. That’s quite a staggering sum in itself despite Mr Osborne claiming he has done much to get it down from the staggering deficits post the financial crash. A more sobering thought might be to consider that the TOTAL DEBT ACCUMALATED by this country from the birth of the Bank of England (1694) to the turn of the 21st century was around £350bn..not bad…In 15 years the UK has borrowed, during a low inflation period, around 350% of the previous 306 years…ok, inflation has greatly exaggerated the maths but you need to be shocked to understand.

 

The UK debt growth does not stand out as particularly different to many developed nations. Indeed, the USA has similar profile of state debt to GDP from the 1960s. Its what has been done to both undermine our countries underlying value and to quantify its quality of service now. Lets break those three things down. First, our underlying value as a nation. Think of the UK as a company balance sheet. Our assets, from the Thatcher era onwards have been stripped and continue to be stripped. Once publicly owned assets such as Energy Retail (Gas/Elec.), Post Office (incl. BT), Water, Banks/Savings, Housing (Social), Energy Wholesale, Transport (Rail/Busses), Land…the list is endless both here in the UK but also overseas (assets). These would normally be found on the assets page of our balance sheet. Not any more. The selling of assets is continuing with this government. Basically, if its not nailed down, its got to be considered. Now look back at the second chart and ask why has debt ballooned so much whilst our governments have been harvesting billions from the sale of public assets. THATS not even the finish of it…no, there is one more important fact that we must not overlook. Since North Sea Oil started flowing in the early 1970s governments have enjoyed a bounty of riches, both direct (tax) and indirect (jobs, investment) of around £ 1 TRILLION…that’s my estimate. Now that the oil is rapidly running out and our kitty of assets to sell easily is wearing thin. How can any government continue to run our economy without a serious change in our overall spending.

Economists will say that the important thing is to look at overall debt to GDP and the governments spending as a % of GDP. Yes, they are right…to a degree. But, what if that GDP number were not a true reflection of a nations long term output potential? I will explain why that is exactly the case later.

If you listen to any socialist, they will tell you that Mrs Thatcher killed manufacturing in the UK. OK, maybe she did allow many basket case, poorly run, investment starved big companies go to the wall but you can see from the chart above things got worse after Blair 1997. The Labour government saw manufacturing jobs of around 1.5 million disappear whilst adding roughly that number to our public services. This reminds me of a fantastic TV interview by Sir Kenneth Cork (world renown insolvency accountant who formed Cork Gully…now Coopers and Lybrand) with Harold Macmillan. I remember it to this day. I was only a young man but both men were so full of wisdom the memory is fresh with me. Macmillan was asked to explain the success and subsequent fall of the British economy. He put up his ten fingers on the grainy black and white TV. He said that in a strong economy, seven people must have a productive influence whilst it leaves the remaining three to service the country. He went on to explain that the balance had shifted whereby the percentage of the population involved in servicing the needs of our people had risen far to high and our trade balance and hence wealth, were starting to deteriorate. Since then it has been easier for politicians to spend found money (Oil or Assets) to keep the country moving rather than concerning themselves with Macmillan’s simple but honest explanation. manufacturing accounts for 11% of our economy today vs 25% in 1980.

The chart above shows how the trade picture is not improving globally but interestingly, the EU is the main problem. This is because Germany HIDES IN THE WEAK CURRENCY in order to be the worlds greatest exporter. It knew that re-unification (with East Germany) was going to be painful. Not least with a strong Deutsche Mark. So being in a currency with a basket of economically corrupt countries suits them just fine. The chart below highlights just how important the UK is to industrial production in the EU. The recent Deutsche Bank report stating that Europe would suffer badly if the UK pulled out, is spot on. To further exacerbate my concern, our deficit in Oil trade has remained remarkably stable at around £750m per month. I worry that the high cost of production in the north sea will see that deficit begin to increase if oil prices remain below $40. The chart below highlights our ten biggest trade partners performance (Deficit/Surplus) in the 3 months to November 2015.

None of that explains completely why I believe the UK is a Ponzi or why I expect £/$ to re-test its all time low of 1.08. The real explanation is quality of quantity. I refer to the economy. Yes, growth during the Osborne years has been good. Unemployment has shocked many commentators with its significant decline. Despite all that, I still believe our economy is based on unsound foundations. Just like the Gordon Brown, Mr Osborne continually looks for ways of bringing forward taxes or cash flows whilst delaying costs. The PFI debacle is just one example. I will not elaborate as it is a well documented disaster. Changes to pension laws is one way of bringing forward consumption (taxes). Allowing people over the age of 55 to release pensions… was sold as giving people more flexibility. Total hogwash. It was so the government could continue with the consumer economy. By inflating the housing market, just as previous chancellors, the ball continues to roll. Only, we are now getting close to a point where the whole basis of our economy is so overpriced that it will become out of reach for an entire generation, as the chart below shows.

 

regional-house-prices-ratio

 

But this does not reflect the whole story. For it is not the ratio of prices to earnings which is the primary importance. It is the level of disposable income. Whilst the ratio of the governments tax take to GDP has not exploded, the demands of households has materialised in other ways. I f we were to take a ratio of disposable earnings to house prices, things would look a far lot worse.

Whilst the tax take ratios have not been pushed too high. You need to look at the fact that the government is doing less and less, for free, than it did in the past, hence, far more services are requiring a fee. The quality of the services they do provide has deteriorated beyond all recognition. For instance, the elderly. The state had significant institutions to house our elderly. They would receive round the clock supervision and care. The problem is, the local authorities could not afford the £32 per hour cost of staffing our the upkeep of the buildings. Once again, we saw a harvest of assets by selling off the building to developers whilst farming our elderly out to the private sector. The problem is, the authorities are only prepared to pay around £16 per hour and hence the private companies are increasingly relying on cheap overseas labour. This is a total dis-service to our elderly but reduces the cost to the state. This has happened in all public services. Police/Fire stations have been closed wholesale. Hospitals and care facilities (mental health etc) have reduced significantly. One only needs to look at the size of our Navy to recognise that, yes, we are still taxng our people but they are getting less and less for that money. So many previously free services are now subject to fees. Additionally, councils are encouraged to raise money by any means which has seen regressive cuts to disposable incomes such as parking costs. The list is endless. This government is aware more than any about the importance of the LAFFER CURVE. That is why, rather than tax at a higher ratio of GDP, they just keep reducing what they give in return for taxation and make you pay out of your disposable or post tax monies.

The economy has grown since the turn of the century but the quality of that growth is very negative for the future. Our ability to supply our own industrial and economic needs has deteriorated. Instead, rising housing prices driven by mass immigration has maintained a level of wealth for most families. As I have suggested, the elasticity of that mirage must be close to breaking point. With official immigration around 350,000 per annum (500,000 unofficially) and personal and public debt expanding sharply, how can an economy not grow. The problem is, sustainability. Within those official population statistics is the sorry tale of professional people eg GPs, leaving in their droves. The really worrying element of Osbornes claim of austerity is central government staff costs. These have grown from £94bn when he first took office but are now £105bn…

If our budget deficit is to be brought under control, surplus, it is the spending side of the equation that needs seriously addressing. Looking at the revenue it is clear the intention to bring in more from indirect tax as early as the radical changes of 1979. VAT was doubled to 15% in order to reduce direct income tax rates, both basic and top end. The problem is, whilst indirect taxes have kept coming, VAT now 20% Air Travel and Insurance Premiums 1994, Landfill 1996, Climate 2001, Aggregates 2002 etc the real position of Income tax has become more onerous. Whereas in 1979 only 2.6% of workers were paying higher taxation, 16% now pay it. Not because salaries have grown excessively but because of fiscal drag. A measure whereby chancellors do not increase the tax bands as salaries/inflation moves higher. The problem of hiding our taxation by stealth is it is very regressive and affects those that can least afford it. Because we have allowed our Manufacturing/Engineering/Scientific ability to decay, employment is centred around service related sector.  Average take home pay has not kept pace with either house prices or the cost of living in general. To allow this to continue, whilst still harvest taxation, it has been important for the government to give expensive, in work related, tax benefits whilst encouraging the public to join the government in piling on yet more debt. It cannot and will not last. Yes, changes in the form of UNIVERSAL CREDIT are coming but with 5 million people claiming housing benefit, at a cost of around £23bn, it will have repercussions.

The ring-fenced spending by the government will ultimately be where the strain of austerity will fall. Our overseas aid is maintained at 0.7 of GDP whilst our spending on Scientific Research (which is known to repay with economic benefits at around 6 to 1) is nearer 0.4%. The major nations of the world have  overseas aid around 0.4% and Scientific Research close to 0.9%. Spending on the EU has cost us far more than just the annual contributions. Interestingly, we recently had to pay an extra £2.4bn because the calculation by which the EU gauges the size of your economy, VAT receipts, showed we were far stronger than our counterparts. I have a real problem with this primarily as it is well known that the black economy of some countries, especially Mediterranean, can be as high as 50%.

To sum up..our tax revenue is far too focused on the house price/Debt timebomb…Fuel Duty at the pump £27bn….Housing Stamp Duty £11bn…VAT £130bn…Whilst our spending on services is being cut to the bone. The chancellor has been the primary beneficiary of low interest rates with our national debt costing less (£45bn in interest) now at £1.5trn  than it did when it was £1trn. Of course, offsetting that is the savings of the thrifty who now get next to nothing but more importantly, the pension industry. The current deficit of the public sector pension scheme is estimated to be around £1.6trn. We pay out around £10bn in pensions each year more than we receive in contributions.

If you add our recognised government debt and then add all the other liabilities eg PFI, Pensions etc…our economy has been living on borrowed time and money for far too long. The Oil is nearly gone (x fracking) the low hanging fruit of assets have been sold…our services are crumbling…THE FUTURE IS VERY BLEAK…Brexit!

 

 

 

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Monday, February 1st, 2016 Consumer Debt, Debt, GBP, GDP, National Debt, Oil, Predictions, USD No Comments

Geman Engineering.

I have been asked to explain why I believe Germany should leave the Euro…A quick note ahead of the ECB QE announcement.

It all started with the re-unification of East and West Germany…at the time, many were flabbergasted at the very generous offer by West Germany of currency conversion terms. The Ost Mark was converted at parity with the Deutsch Mark for the first 4000 marks and at 2:1 for other legitimate savings. This was seen at the time, as a very, very, generous offer and one that seemed economic suicide by the rest of the world. So, Germany was now lumbered with a country full of globally uncompetitive industries in the East. It needed to expand its output and export potential very quickly if this seemingly stupid offer was to succeed. Lets have a currency union with the basket cases of Europe who had traditionally relied on currency devaluation to allow them to continue their imprudent economic models. Of course, these poor economic models had always led to high structural interest rates which had been an impediment to consumer and in most cases government debt. Along comes the Euro. Suddenly, Germany is in bed with these lou lous and the currency falls dramatically. From its launch in 1999, the Euro lost 25% during the first three year’s. Great for Germany trying to re-capitalise an entire country. Around this time, mega investment was taking shape in the Mediterranean Counties. Low interest rates were spurring massive consumption and the big gainer in all this economic activity was construction. For instance, prior to the crash, Spain was the second biggest influence in global growth behind China. Of course, who was the biggest beneficiary of all this debt fuelled consumption and investment…come on you can guess….YES! Well done…Germany. Now, with the Eurozone credit cards maxed out, what does the worlds most prolific exporter need to do…Correct again. Encourage a weak Euro so as to sell its exports under the veil of a tin pot currency. All the prevarication since the crisis began has done little to install confidence in the Eurozone.

So, if Germany were outside the Euro, two things would happen. Firstly, a German currency would be in great demand. I believe vs the Dollar it would be 25% higher than the Euro today. Remember, Germany is in rude economic health. Like Switzerland, only possibly more so, it would have significantly negative interest rates. Secondly, the Euro without Germany would be 25% lower vs the Dollar than it is now. This would allow the strict austerity measures, strongly encouraged by the Germans, to be adhered to whilst giving a dramatic to boost to the industrial potential. It would reverse the deflationary pressures currently exhibited. Yes, interest rates would rise but investment would flow providing this ejection of Germany was linked to not only a continuation of strict austerity but also a complete overhaul of restrictive work practises as seen in places like France. OK, bond holders would get burnt but surely the people of Europe have suffered enough whilst bankers and financiers have grown fat on the spoils of a ridiculous situation.

 

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Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 Consumer Debt, Debt, Euro, National Debt, Predictions, USD No Comments

Sterling Crisis Looms.

 

WALL STREET JOURNAL April 1975…….Headline was ‘Goodbye, Great Britain `

I have been bearish on Sterling for quite a while now. My latest recommendation to trade was in the late June blog UK OK? I Think Not… where I recommended buying Sterling/Dollar (Cable) put options. Luckily, Sterling peaked a week later around £/$ 1.72. I have on several occasions expressed my concern that Cable could retest its all time low of £/$ 1.085. My reasoning has been outlined in many blogs on the subject but the significant fall in Oil is just the catalyst to push on what I believe is an open door. The UK is not likely to reduce its annual budget deficit, which is running around £100bn, anytime soon. The Oil price will, if anything, reduce tax take significantly. With the production cost of North Sea around $55 it is possible that the £8bn direct profits tax take will be eliminated. The significantly lower price at the pumps will reduce the excise duties which as a percentage of price account for a significant slug of the final forecourt retail price. Yes, consumption of other VAT items may see increased demand but this is unlikely to offset fully. Salaries in the energy sector are already being cut this month. With nearly 500,000 workers exposed to this sector, the positives for consumption will be offset. So the budget deficit will continue at vastly elevated levels. On the trade front, the governments focus on reflating the economy by encouraging consumption, is a complete folly which only serves overseas suppliers with a boost to demand. Our previous currency calamities have been focused around poor trade performance. In 1948 a deficit (albeit only 2%) was too much for the government finance and Sterling fell dramatically from £/$ 4.20 to £/$ 2.80….this lead to a revival of manufacturing to its zenith. In the sixties (1967), the Labour government devalued the £ from £/$ 2.80 to £/$ 2.40 due to the drop in exports from a protracted dock strike coupled with middle east tensions. In 1964 when the trade deficit rose unexpectedly the Labour government went cap in hand to the G10 for a loan. Had they acted quicker to rebalance the economy the crisis to follow may have been averted.  In the seventies, the balance of payments were sent into shock by the Oil crisis. Eventually the UK would have to go cap in hand to the IMF for a loan. Prior to the loan £/$ dropped from 2.40 to 1.60. During the eighties, Thatchers battle with the unions lead to a significant fall in industrial activity and economic turmoil. In 1985 the currency hit its all time low of £/$ 1.085. Eventually, her economic formula worked and the economy recovered. It was however, the start of a long terminal decline in our manufacturing capabilities. No government since has taken this sector seriously, instead they have preferred to encourage consumer debt which in turn boosted house prices significantly which in turn drove consumption even higher. Gordon Brown took this to the all time high encouraging consumption as the mainstay of his economic miracle. From around 7.5 million people in the 1930`s, manufacturing is now a small part player in the make up of our total output. Since Thatcher, the UK has sold off a large portion of its assets. Whether it be utility companies or real estate, its been a huge sell off. Couple that with around £1 trillion of Oil taxation (both direct and indirect) and you can see the consumption bloom was finance by various short term cash injections. To make things worse, the financing of long term investments like schools and hospitals were financed off balance sheet via PFI (£240bn) only to cost a fortune over the next 30 years. University reforms have kicked massive liabilities into the future and the public sector pension scheme is in a perilous position with all liabilities also kicked into the future.

In short, the UK has lived off its income from past wealth. It has deferred costs and has mortgaged the future. Below is a chart from my blog in November 2012. We cannot continue to live like this. Employment is not growing in productive industries. The driver of lower unemployment is consumption based service sector. Eventually questions will be asked of our economic performance and the coalition will be found wanting.

This official measure of debt does not include all the off balance sheet funding liabilities which have grown substantially this millennium.

In 1997 Gordon Brown began his consumer lead socialist economy…we have to reverse this decline in our trade balance

 

If Cable breaks the 1.40 support line, the next stop is 1.085…Inflation will become a problem offsetting the strong global deflation winds blowing around.

Click to enlarge…

Post war Cable. Following the 1948 devaluation, exports bloomed and we reached a surplus around 10% of GDP. Since then, the rest of the world has beaten us at the production game. Instead of using design, research and investment  to continue strong manufacturing (like Germany) we have rested on our laurels. This is going to cost us dear as a nation.

Politicians have taken the easier short term gains and to hell with the future. Our children will inherit a very sad state of affairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday, January 2nd, 2015 Consumer Debt, Debt, GBP, National Debt, Predictions, USD 1 Comment

Sterling…Beware the Reaper!!!!

Just a quick note on the seismic change going on in the world. Oil has now hit my target set over a year ago. This could be the big move I have been talking about for a long while. The chart below highlights how governments have ramped up spending along with the increase in Oil prices. If todays move to $70 is maintained or even moves lower, huge budget/spending cuts by these governments will follow at some time. Of course, prudent governments will have sufficient reserves to wait and watch for six months, beyond that, they have no option. If you read my thread on commodities and deflation you will find I talk about the potential collapse of Bonds backed by energy companies. To highlight that, Energy bonds make up 15.7 per cent of the $1.3tn junk bond market, according to Barclays data – compared with 4.3 per cent a decade ago. In the not too distant future, screams of anguish will be heard from investors.

My reason for this article, and I have not got much time, is the currency market. The move in Oil prices has lead to weakness in (Oil producing currencies) the Norwegian Krone. Yes, they have a lot of Oil but if this rout in commodities in general continues, I can assure you, the Norwegian Krone is where you want to be. I have said on many occasions that the fiscal approach of saving a large percentage of their oil income will make them the ultimate safe haven if the going gets as bad as I have constantly warned about. To my absolute disbelief, STERLING, has not moved. I know that our revenue (from Oil) has declined significantly. I have attached a copy of a recent government report. Nevertheless, the important fact to remember is how expensive it has become to extract the oil from beneath the North Sea. I believe the current costing is between $55-60. If oil were to fall below that, our entire energy sector would be in turmoil. Scotland would see mass unemployment on the east coast. The £7-8bn direct revenue would be in jeopardy and investment would collapse. These might not sound like big numbers but with a  deficit growing day by day, the implications for the whole of the UK are catastrophic. I reiterate my long term forecast for Sterling/dollar (Cable) to retest its all time low at $1.08…worrying stuff

Iron Ore is getting close to the 50% decline I have warned of…regular readers will know how and why this is occurring…all is not well in the world. I have said that equities are constantly supported by direct Central Bank purchases. Company Buy Backs and Sovereign Wealth Funds. The time may be upon us where even that support will not be enough. I will suggest a deep out of the money PUT OPTION in my next blog. Sorry, I have to dash…politics awaits..

 

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/323371/140620_UK_oil_and_gas_tables_for_publication_in_June_2014.pdf

 

 

Oil price graphic

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Thursday, November 27th, 2014 Norway, Oil, USD 1 Comment

Yen Has 10% Further To Fall.

OK…This could be the end of me…However, I feel it is worth the effort. Since I posted Nippon soon to Nip Off  and A Yen For Your Faults (Nov 2013) which recommended option trades to short the Yen, the currency has faltered. However, my first recommendation to sell the Yen was in Be Prepared For A Wedgefest  (Oct 2012) when it stood at $77.50…

Following the announcement of a significant increase in money printing (QE) by the Japanese authorities this week, I am now convinced more than ever that the Yen has further to fall. My best guess is for it to retrace to $123.5 which would of course really put the cat among the pigeons. The previous blogs went into detail of the debt burden but lets look at few stats to update. The Central Bank has now cut its growth forecast again, this time by 50% to 0.5%. The QE programme is now increased to Yen80 trillion or 16% of GDP where as the US never exceeded 5.5%. The asset mix being purchased has been altered. Purchases of local bonds will only make up 35% of the enlarged intervention vs 60%. Local equities will rise to 25% vs 12% whilst overseas assets are included at 25% equities and 15% bonds.

Whilst the government continues to spend wildly the consumer is still not convinced. Average household spending fell an annual 5.6% in September which is not surprising when incomes fell 6% year on year. With the nations debt to GDP ratio nearing 250% its once envied savings ratio is falling rapidly. The demographic time bomb has exploded and this can only maintain that decline. The weak Yen has seen food prices rise rapidly along with fuel costs. Remember Japan has little if no natural energy resources. If I am right and the Yen continues lower, their will be two main consequences. Continued consumer weakness due to imported inflation and most importantly GLOBAL DEFLATION EXPORT. Yes…I know, a common theme of mine.

Its worth noting which countries are the winners and losers in this potential move. Winners (Biggest net importers from Japan)…US, HK, Sth Korea, Singapore and Thailand. Losers (ex energy)…China, Australia, Western Europe. These represent the biggest net exporters too Japan. Of course, the winners might not be happy about this surge of additional low priced competition. Given that Japan will likely ramp up heavy industry exports, its more than likely that (import) duties may well become a hot topic. The machinery sector will become very price driven, especially given the downdraft of mining exploration budgets, and big producers in the US (eg Joy Global) and the Swedish/Finnish economies in general, will suffer. I have been very negative about Sweden this year and that has been confirmed by its currency slump to a six year low.

Its difficult to see Japanese bonds being a sort after investment when they yield virtually nothing. This is not helped by the state pension fund reducing its portfolio exposure in domestic bonds from 60% to 35%. I must be the only person to think that  Japanese Government Bonds  are worth not much more than the paper they are printed on. Perhaps they could put them on a roll with perforations every six inches or so…just in case

 

NEXT BLOG…WHY! Since the birth of QE has the number of Billionaires doubled but the disposable income for the majority (developed world) , slipped back to levels not seen since the turn of the century. Indeed, figures out this week highlight the number of people in Italy dependant on food aid has doubled to 4 million…WELL FUNKING DONE CENTRAL BONKERS…

Then I will review companies like BHP and Volvo which I havhttp://www.redbridge.ukipbranch.org/e written extensively about..It might be time to think about Steel stocks…Crazy eh!

DONT MISS MY PICTURE ON THIS SITE…http://www.redbridge.ukipbranch.org/

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Roosting Chickens….

Not got much time so how about a quickie…

My gut is telling me that further trouble is brewing…But first, a quick round-up of my recent blogs…Late June I recommended one of my rare trades UK OK? I think not which at its peak in early September offered a 4,000% return. Of course, I only took 100% because quite frankly I need the money and that’s OK by me. Previous blogs warned that Iron Ore would fall drastically and by Christ has it done so. Now below $80 it is getting close to but still some way off my target of $60. Many producers are mothballing production, due to high cost of production, and more will follow. Oil, as I suggested is falling and my target would be around $60-$70. This is very important. Over the fat years of economic growth, driven in the main in the last 20 years by government debt accumulation, middle east producers have got used to huge spending programmes. This has lead to there needing a minimum of around $90 to meet the budgets they are currently running. Furthermore, a significant decline from current levels, around $91, would start to make fracking in the US a little questionable. Current thinking is that below $80 would shut some producers. If you look at the growth pattern in this current recover (US economy) as I highlighted in Chinese Deflation Cancer Spreads you will see just how important Fracking has been…

The Geography of Employment: Mapping the Recovery [INFOGRAPHIC]

I have harped on about Steel in so many blogs and the statement from ThyssenKrupp of its consideration to cease/sell production after 200 years, well I state my case.

The Yen hit my target this week with a quick monthly 5% decline. Good timing. Worse is still to come and my many blogs explain my reasoning. With China and Japan exporting deflation the rest of the world will suffer. With interest rates at near zero, this current downdraft in economic activity will make it very difficult for Central Banks to have any real impact. Helicopters full of cash flying over consumer might be the last resort. Of course, that will only result in hyperinflation. For now, be content that the end is nearing for the politics of help the wealthy and to hell with the rest.

So, to go back to the beginning. What ales me? As a Councillor in a London Borough I have seen first hand how budget cuts are taking shape for fiscal 2015/16. Significant further cuts in staffing is going to happen across the public sector in the UK. They will not stand for this and with an election coming next year will push for significant disruptive activity. The recent dispute at Electrolux in Italy which I highlighted in Nothing Sucks Like an Electrolux is now taking shape in France. The deficits of most major European economies, and indeed the world, have continued to grow since the 2007 shock. Only now is real spending cuts taking shape. Public sector employment explosion over the last 20 years has to be reversed, the question is, will the unions allow it?

Sorry. Time has caught up with me and have lunch booked with my Mother…back soon…

 

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 China, Debt, GBP, Japan, National Debt, Oil, Predictions, QE, Steel, USD, Yen No Comments

Global Economic Roundup

USA…An interesting development from a barometer (BNSF) that I followed very closely up until early 2013 ,when the data became polluted with Petroleum distortions. This is now largely working out of the system and it once again is worth a look.

BNSF weekly railway stats show that upto the halfway point in the third quarter 2014, the economy seems to have changed down a gear. The series of quarterly volume flows are always fairly consistent with the underlying GDP data. The halfway point so far indicates a decline, which would be odd.

In Q3 and 4 2013, BNSF volume grew around 5% and GDP averaged 4%…In Q1, when a poor winter saw GDP declined 2%, rail volume barely grew and would have fallen had it not been for Coal demand. Q2 saw a 5% rebound in rail volume and the GDP data came in at 4%…So as you can see, there is a strong correlation. So what has happened to 3Q rail volume with BNSF?  currently, total volumes have contracted 1.16%. Without the significant influence of Coal, the numbers would have been unchanged. It is likely that industrial action at some ports may have affected container traffic but this does not explain the sharp reversal from the second quarter recovery. Unless there is a sudden pick up, the GDP outlook for Q3 is at best unchanged. That is certainly below all forecasts of around 2.5 – 3.0 %…hey ho, just saying

 

China…How low can the coal price go?  Currently, around 30% of global coal miners are losing money and 70%, yes,70% of Chinese miners losing money. The interesting thing is, China is slowing imports to support its own production. SOUND FAMILIAL? First half 2014 imports of coaking coal (used for Steel production) were down 12%. Overall coal imports, including thermal for energy production, is down slightly. The China coal authorities have called on domestic producers to cut production by 10% in the second half. The shift to sustainable energy appears to be paying off with the first decline in overall demand this century. Australia, USA and Canada are the biggest shippers and are currently suffering with mine closures on the agenda…If China sticks to the cut, maybe prices can stabilise. I would not hold your breath.

Coal and Steel currently at six year lows.

Sterling…I got a little impatient with my $/£ options and decided to book the 100% profit available late last week. I still feel Sterling is flawed, its just time was running out with a September expiry. The $/Yen has started to move and a break of Y105.30 would see it on its way to the first stop of Y110

 

 

 

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Monday, August 25th, 2014 BNSF, China, GBP, Predictions, Steel, USD, Yen No Comments

Chinese Deflation Cancer Spreads

OK here I go. This blog has been building in my head for a long while. It will tie in with my record of forecast since I started a few years ago. The economic world is close to a catastrophic collapse. Yes, I know, I have been concerned about the world since I started. I am firmly of the belief that QE has not only just delayed the inevitable collapse of the global economy, it has made the impending scenario much worse. In fact, it has taken it from a situation that was manageable, with old fashioned crash, burn and re-build, to a situation where the fallout will make the 1930`s look like a walk in the park. The central pillar of my argument is the significant positive impact QE has had on asset prices is mirrored by the equally significant negative impact on inequality in the developed world. This is mainly due to the tsunami of cheap finance which has swept the developing world and spawned huge production potential.

Yes, bond and equity prices have risen significantly. And why shouldn’t they. With QE pumping so much money into the hands of the people who created the 2007 crash, what else would they do with it. As I have written before, lower bond yields have helped governments continue priming economies through direct state spending (debt) or policies which have encouraged significant new consumer debt. The problem is, whilst the central banks of the G7 were sleeping, China changed. It is no longer the worlds growth engine due to internal demand. It is a cancer on the supply demand curve.

Let me expand on my theory of why China will be the catalyst that sparks this almighty upheaval. BRICs have been a constant theme in the history of this blog. Iron Ore is the prime reason. They all have it. The growth in China over the last 20 years was centred around Housing, Railways and Heavy Industry. The problem is, as I explained in China and its Export Claim, the supply curve within all these aspects of growth had become overstretched. In normal developed economies, this would have sparked a flight to quality as earnings concerns came to the fore. Of course, as I have pointed out many times, return on capital is not a primary concern of state industry dominated China. Employment of the masses is the ONLY concern. I have a back of the fag packet calculation. For every 20 million Chinese workers employed, 5 million employed people in the developed world become superfluous in the current demand cycle. Now, I am not saying these people will be unemployed, just that there well paid manufacturing jobs will be replaced by low paid service jobs. That is why, over the last thirty years, inequality has been taking a hold. I explained this in Profound Inequality in America.

So how is China accelerating this process in the current environment? An example is Steel (So many blogs on the subject I cant note them all). This one vital element has been the growth engine which has sustained this process of converting rural peasant into semi-skilled townies. To produce steel, you need two primary elements, Iron Ore and Energy. In Chinas case, energy has been via Coal. Together, these three elements are all required in huge bulk, so we must include transportation into the mix

As inventory of housing has built to an unsustainable level, prices are starting to drop. Sales in the first half of 2014 are down sharply on last year. This still does not explain my theory. If China cannot consume all it produces, what can it do? Export. To this end it has done several things outside its recent state induced currency weakness. Firstly, export the raw material. Globally, these are running 30% higher than 2013.  South American countries have seen (China imports) rises of around 90%. Of course, the ire of western producers have raised the spectre of further import duties. So, this leads to the second point. Cheap exports to fellow Asian economies eg Sth. Korea, forces them to export themselves. Couple this with import restrictions on Taiwan’s exports to China and it becomes evident this is a way round tariffs from Europe and America. Thirdly, and a little more opportunistic. Export of ships, Rigs etc. Since the financial crash, shipbuilding finance from dominant European banks became scarce. This lead China to flex its mussels. It has lent, via state banks, billions of dollars to mainly Greek ship owners (I have many blogs on the subject) in exchange for the orders to be placed with Chinese yards. This has allowed China to wrestle the mantle of dominant player from Sth. Korea and Japan. The problem is, this cheap finance is creating a bubble in supply of vessels. All this at a time when the Baltic Freight Index is once aging flagging concern. Of course, the Bulk Carriers which are supplying the low cost Iron Ore from the likes of Australia and Brazil are benefiting.

Many economic forecasters are pinning their hope on China becoming a consumer society in order to create growth globally. This is a faint hope at best. For now they are flooding the world with low cost products which is leading to one main import from the developed world, Jobs. This leads me to the main crux of my argument. Demand.

I have written about a demand shortfall verses the supply boom and its resulting Deflation before. I have stated that wage growth will decline and turn negative. I am writing now as this is all becoming a reality. Wages in the UK and Australia have already registered there first ever declines. Elsewhere the downward pressure is building. Since 2008, American wages for the bottom 20% of earners has declined. The web site below gives a good view of how growth has  been distorted towards shale gas and not industrial important manufacturing:

The Geography of Employment: Mapping the Recovery [INFOGRAPHIC]

With employment in poorly paid service jobs being the illusion that has driven low unemployment in the USA and UK, income tax receipts are not dampening the budget deficits. Yes, the USA has a smaller perceived deficit but strip out income from the Federal Reserve (QE gains) and things are not so rosy. Both have adopted policies which have driven property prices to pre-recession peaks. The problem is, the China affect on wages has just made the valuation to income ratio stretched beyond affordability. Now that the boom in speculative demand is turning to net sellers, the future is not so promising.

Outcomes of my theory:

CHINA…Will try and maintain the illusion of 7.5% economic growth via internal demand acceleration. This is an illusion. Just yesterday they announced significant cuts to pay of higher paid state employees. With Iron Ore production costs double of Australia, they will probably reduce the tax disadvantage to protect this mass employer. The coal industry is losing demand and will have to make big cuts. Housing will continue to slow and eventually lead to huge bond default. Steel production will collapse and with it Iron Ore demand. Hence Coal and Oil price decline. Recent trade figures confirmed export growth and import contraction

Australia (BRICs)…The significant decline in Iron Ore price in 2014 has slowed investment but a second leg down in price (around $50-60) will put a big downer on the economy. The currency will retreat still further. Once again, housing demand will implode. High paid jobs in mining will be a big loser. Wage deflation will halt demand.

Japan…Sadly, they are likely to be the hardest hit from this China export drive. The economy will continue to struggle until eventually the currency has to give. They will have to return to nuclear power to reduce the huge energy import costs. This will slam the builders and operators of natural gas ships. Demand is going to contract still further as the Yen has its second currency decline to around Y125, the 2007 low. This will spread the deflation spores even more aggressively. I know most people take flight to the Yen during periods of uncertainty so my prediction seems odd to most. Over the last 5 years, significant moves, up and down, have been followed by stable periods of between 6-8 months before going again. Given the last significant decline bottomed in January, the next big move is just round the corner. First stop Y110 then on to 125. If you have to own equities, currency hedged Japanese are the ones.

UK…The chancellor has completely ruined the UK. I thought no one could have topped the incompetence of Gordon Braffoon. But George Osborne has done just that. Many recent posts will explain my reasoning, but put simply, he has borrowed and wasted more money than people who should know better are prepared to acknowledge. Its a bit like the Kings Clothes…George is parading naked as a Jaybird but no one has the balls to state the obvious. Let me give you a microcosm of a looming disaster. The Local Authority I have the honour to represent, has a pension shortfall of four times the income from rates. Every 0.5% move in bond yields makes a shift of around £70m. If I am right, and deflation takes hold, government bond yields could go to zero. Couple this with a decline in the underlying portfolio, which currently stands at £500m, and the shortfall could double. If you take this a fairly typical local authority, the time bomb is ticking loud and clear. Sadly, I am the only one who can hear it. I still think Sterling will test its all time dollar low of $1.08.

Sweden (Finland)…As I have stated in previous blogs, I love the Sweeds, sadly however, the writing is firmly on the wall. The primary reason is the importance of the mining sector on its industrial heritage. My scenario would see exports implode as mining companies cut still further the budget for new investment. The usual housing boom appears here and will come to an abrupt end. The currency will decline still further and the globally important companies will be snapped up by American players. Or, as I have stated in the past, a Swedish solution is forthcoming and many internal mergers take place.

USA…Here, more than any country, inequality abounds. As per my post of December last year. This will lead to significant social unrest.

EQUITIES…..I have said in the past that they cannot go down significantly at the moment as demand from Central Banks and Company buy backs is reducing supply. I have explained the role QE plays in this before. Considering the global unrest, markets during my city career of 28 years, would be significantly lower than they are now. This just highlights the influence these QE induced buyers have on prices. But what about the future? Quite frankly, I am unsure. What is clear, if prices continue to defy gravity, volume will continue to decline. Not wanting to short markets during these difficult times, because bears have been massacred since 2008, means individual stock prices will only move when poor results are released. Then the declines will be eye watering. Shrinking capital bases (due to buybacks) will make these moves more aggressive. For now, equities are an unknown beast for those of us who were brought up in a world of boom, bust, re-build economics. Not the QE induced ether they are fuelled by currently.

Bonds…I do not want to bore you all too much so that’s the end for now. Plus, my wife is giving me grief as I have chores to do. Mainly, putting a new Cedar shingle roof on our summer house…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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UK OK? I Think Not.

No blogs since Feb. It has been a very hectic year (so far) with a daughters wedding (another one in October) and the usual spring rush for Landscaping. On top of that, I have fought and won an election to become a Councillor in London…So lets take stock of where we are…ooh, that will be no change. Central banks still pumping money into the system and final demand not growing sufficient to allow the world escape trajectory in economic terms. The gravitational pull of debt will not diminish. Unless, of course, you do the old fashioned thing and allow the system to purge bad debts, allowing weak banks and companies to fail.

So, to review previous blogs with what’s happening today.

UK…I cannot for the life of me, understand all the well paid economist in the City. They fawn over George Osborne and his economic growth like babes to the slaughter. A reduction of a billion or two (£) in our annual budget deficit is vaulted as good housekeeping. I was tempted to say “Bollox is it!” but thought better of it now I am a Councillor. The real truth of the matter is that government spending is still growing. 2013 saw government expenditure rise £9bn to £640. That figure would have been far higher had QE not lent a hand and reduced the interest burden see Osborne good fortune finances by Pensioners and Savers. The truth is, without government spending, both directly (capital spending +51% in May vs 2013) or indirectly (via help to buy g`tees for houses) this economy would be on its knees. Why? Our trade deficit, namely exports, is a good place to start. Excluding cars (driven by cheap debt/lease deals) our traditional industries are struggling. Capital goods, Chemicals and Semi-finished all saw contraction last month in the region of 4%. This is not a blip but a continuation, if accelerated, of the long term trend.  Due to our debt fuelled housing boom, imports are not so subdued. Three areas of trade deficit really stand out and explain why reduced unemployment has not raised tax revenue. We have £27bn deficit in Electrical Machinery, £10bn in non-car Road Vehicles  eg Lorries and Construction and a £6bn deficit in Mechanical Machinery. These are the biggest elements of our trade imbalance. So tell me why you would inflate the very sector that’s reliant on our weakest industrial ability to supply. If you look at these sectors, it is striking that they tend to be heavy industries with large employment and reliant on even heavier industries eg steel which is an even larger user of semi-skilled labour. These are exactly the industries the UK is crying out for. I have said all this before. The lack of meaningful reduction in our deficit despite headline gains in GDP and Employment are simple to explain. I did warn of this in Jan 2013 with GDP vs Employment Growth. In a nut shell, two things are happening. Poor quality low paid jobs are being created and a large proportion of the unemployed and disability benefit claimants (who have declared they have found a job) were already working. The problem now is, they are registered as active but with no gain to output. This is why productivity has been so poor. Financially, its a negative for the exchequer. They earn so little so as to pay very low tax but they now qualify for income support.

Overall, taxation receipts have grown in VAT and Stamp Duty (Land/Shares) but not Income related. With house prices elevated to crazy multiples of average salary, the outlook for further annual deficit reductions look grim. Remember this, at the turn of the century, our National Debt was around £350bn. It is now close to £1,300bn and growing by over £100bn per annum. Relying on smoke and mirrors to grow the economy will only put us further in debt and extend our trade deficit. Hence, my recommendation for a trade below. Timing is everything and going into the summer brake options are very cheap. FX volatility is at 25 year lows. This is not surprising given the similar low volume and volatility being registered in Equities. Something I warned of in May 2013 “Is Stephen King a Plagiarist”

TRADE

Sterling (£) has had a honeymoon period on all the growth and employment ballyhoo. I believe the truth will out and soon. I will be buying the September $/£ 1.64 puts on Monday. The cost is miniscule as volatility is soooo low. It will buy me the right to be short  Sterling at 1.64 up to the contract expiry on the 17 September 2014. A meaningful break above the 2009 high of 1.7050 would test the 2005 low around 1.72. Should it brake higher, our trade deficit would boom still further. And, of course, I would loose the premium I paid to sell at a lower level.

My next updates will be on my old favourite CHINA…Its plunging real-estate industry and the sharp fall in Iron-Ore. Commodity fraud on a huge scale involving Copper, Ali and Gold……Five year low for its equity market and my often used belief that they are a cancer on world stability (industrially speaking)…I have said all along, they are investing to employ not for ROC. The workforce is shrinking 3 million per annum and migrants and wage growth are down 50%

Then…Japan, where spending by households is down 8% and not surprising given 23 unbroken months of wage deflation and price rises of 11% in Electricity, 10% in Petrol and 14% in fresh Sea Food…all this with a shrinking working population and debt to GDP of 230%…MY NEXT TRADE will once again be shorting the Yen. More of that when it gets to around $/Y 100.80

 

Saturday, June 28th, 2014 BRICs, Debt, GBP, Japan, National Debt, Predictions, UK, USD, Yen 1 Comment

Profound Inequality in America…Time to Act!

I have been spurred to write today following yesterdays speech by President Obama in which he called for action to alleviate the `Profound Inequality in America`…I make no apology in re-publishing my blog AMERICA: THE HOME OF THE FREE?…NO,THE HOME OF THE FOOL!  repeated at the end of blog.

 

HORAY…At last the problem is starting to get recognised as significant for the majority of the population. Whilst Wall Street grows ever richer on the generosity of the wider populace (Bank bailouts and QE) the majority are facing a bleak future. I believe the end is nigh for the Dollar as the Global Reserve Currency. If not, it will end up like the British Pound at the end of its dominant period. The adjustment after that was very painful. China, as I have stated in the past, is an economic cancer on the rest of the world. I have said on many occasions that the level of productive investment in China is driven by need to employ (people) not the need to employ capital for profit. Regular readers will know that this has been one of my reasons to expect Global Deflation and just out of interest, todays article in the Daily Telegraph highlights some of my concerns.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/10495902/Europe-repeating-all-the-errors-of-Japan-as-deflation-draws-closer.html

Unemployment figures are being heralded by Wall Street as signs of growing prosperity. As I have pointed out on several occasions, poor quality jobs with low pay will not cure Americas ills (nor the UK for that matter) The recent data on spending (to date) in the festive season highlights that employment growth is not the focus. The real focus should be on the Participation Rate (which stands at a the lowest percentage of population since before Ronald Regan)  and the GINI COEFFICIENT.

The participation rate, or the percentage of people actively in employment, peaked at the beginning of the millennium and then began its fall. The decline accelerated following the financial crash and has not stopped. Several factors are at play here. The most important being the loss of manufacturing jobs. Then Demographics, with the baby boomers coming of age (retirement that is) and lets not forget Disability. This group of people now stands at 8.8 million which has curiously doubled since 1995.

I will not go on about Gini Coefficient suffice to say it is a globally recognised barometer of the distribution of wealth…America sucks! All Americans (the poorer majority that is) should go to their elected official (who will be wearing a great suit and probably an expensive watch) and demand to know what he doing about the GINI! He will be too busy counting his money to give a damn about you.

It is clear that QE has done nothing other than put more money in the hands of the wealthy. The real problem for America is having the Chinese currency loosely pegged to the Dollar. How can a mature economic country with massive financial and trade imbalances expect to keep pace with a dynamic (and second biggest in the world) economy growing at around 8%. The answer is it cant.

If this nose dive is to be reversed it is not via a hike in minimum wage, that will make it worse, it needs to be fed by America making more of what it uses eg shrinking its trade deficit. This way jobs will become more abundant and wages will rise accordingly. YES!…That means upsetting the Chineseand maybe the Germans for that matter but see my next blog which will expand on Kurzarbeit achieved where Blitzkrieg Failed and The Elephant in the Room (2 earlier blogs)

WHY!!! Should ordinary Americans see their living standards fall back to the 1970`s just to let China move 20 million people (a year) out of the paddy fields into new apartments. It seems crazy to me. The simple truth is that China is growing far faster than its restricted currency is implying. A realignment is required where by the Yuan would appreciate rapidly. Whilst the implications in the financial markets might be adverse in the initial stages (slower Chinese growth) longer term it would help to balance prosperity. The world has too much cheap capital as a result of QE. This has lead to far too much output capacity investment which will eventually lead to Global Deflation. We need to bite the bullet now and re-balance the worlds economy at a lower level that today but one that is fair to all. Otherwise, the simple truth is that history will repeat itself and the disaffected will take matters into their own hands…

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

BELOW IS REPEAT OF EARLIER BLOG…………………………………………

I am very sorry if this headline has upset my American friends and relatives. Having worked for many US companies (Conti-Commodities, Refco, Merrill Lynch, Chase Manhattan and Lehman Bros.) I can safely say I have had the pleasure of working with and meeting many wonderful people. That will not, however, stop me from saying:

YOU STUPID AMERICANS!……..At least 80% of you.

Of course the headline is a bit sensational but I feel the majority of Americans really do need to wake up and smell the coffee.

I will start with the visuals, then explain. Firstly, a chart of US Govt. debt build from 1942 used in blog Economic Seismic Shift, November 2012. Secondly, a link which has some revealing information on the US economic data. Third, inflation adjusted version of the first chart, and finally, the wonderfully visual and informative US Debt Clock.

Item 1)

Item 2)

http://xkcd.com/980/huge/#x=-6416&y=-8544&z=2

Item 3)

 

 

Item 4)  http://www.usdebtclock.org/index.html

So, why such a downer on Americans. I have been involved in American Economics (not professionally) since the 1970`s.  I first travelled (on business) to New York and Chicago in  1982 when poverty was evident.  I cant help but feel “That the actions taken in the name of the American people by the American people on behalf of the American people, have only benefitted a few American people”

So this report of Lincolns Gettysburg Address (yes, sorry but its from Wickedpedia) is at the heart of my argument.

Abraham Lincoln’s carefully crafted address, secondary to other presentations that day, came to be regarded as one of the greatest speeches in American history. In just over two minutes, Lincoln reiterated the principles of human equality espoused by the  Declaration of Independence and proclaimed the Civil War as a struggle for the preservation of the Union sundered by the secession crisis with a new birth of freedom that would bring true equality to all of its citizens. Lincoln also redefined the Civil War as a struggle not just for the union, but also for the principle of human equality.

 

If you look at Item 1, you will see that since the mid-late 1970`s government spending has grown dramatically. Yes, inflation at that time was an influence (Oil crisis) but the seed was set for ever grater peaks. More Importantly Item 3 shows how debt has risen dramatically inflation adjusted. Between 1947 and 1979 the top 1% earners accounted for 7.3% of total national income. From 1979 to 2006 the rate rose to 13.6% (of total national income).Today, it is believed that figure is closer to 25%. I am making a direct link between earnings growth of the top people in America and the acceleration of nation debt. When you bear in mind that the people making the decisions,  both politically and economically, to raise debt aggressively, are (most probably) in that top 1% then it starts to look wrong. Consider these facts:

  • 1% of Americans own 40% of overall wealth and 50% of all Equity, Bond and Mutual Fund Assets.
  • 400 Richest people have more than the combined wealth of the poorest 50% see Quantitative Easing
  • The poorest 40% have no discernible wealth.
  • 80% of the population only accounts for 7% of total wealth.
  • In 1965 the average hourly earnings (inflation adjusted) of a production worker was $19.61 and today the  rate is only $19.71.
  • In 1965 the average hourly earnings (inflation adjusted) of a CEO was $490.31 and today the rate is $ 5,419.97

The last two points are taken from Item 2. If you click on the link and zoom you can navigate around finding these facts in the dark green section. I have no reason to doubt the author as it has a comprehensive reference.

In the name of the population, America has now borrowed $17.1 Trillion. That is now $53,000 per citizen. Of course both those numbers are increasing rapidly, see Item 4. To highlight significant growth in debt per citizen, in 2000 it was only $20,000. So the top 1% hit the credit card of all Americans to the tune of $53,000. The trouble is, the bottom 40% have never really benefitted from that spending. 125 million people have no wealth but are on the hook for $7.2 Trillion. The next 40% up the wealth league are not much better off and collectively they owe $14.4 Trillion.

What has all this debt bought the American citizens as a whole. That is forgetting massive wealth for the few.

Amongst its Economic peers the USA (x China)

  • has the lowest life expectancy
  • highest infant mortality
  • spends highest % of GDP on healthcare
  • is the only country not to have Universal Health Care (pre Obamacare??)

Amongst OECD members

  • highest income inequality
  • highest poverty
  • child poverty twice the average

also

  • 17th in Education table of 40 most developed countries
  • down 10 places in 30 years
  • only 6% performed at advanced level placing it 31st out of 56 nations
  • annual investment differential (per pupil) between most and least selective colleges in 1967 $13,500 (adjusted) and today it is $80,000
  • wealthy students outperformance over poorest is the highest in the developed world
  • Food stamps are now used by 48,000,000 vs 28,000,000 in 2008.
  • Since 1965, employer benefits most notably in Health and Pension have been significantly eroded.
  • for a brief moment in 1928 inequality was higher…hhhmmmnnn

I know it sounds offensive and it is not meant that way but…if the wealthy put chains around the ankles of the poorest 40% and taught them the words to old man river. They could sing it whilst they were contemplating just what Abraham Lincoln meant when he claimed victory brought a new birth of freedom that would bring true equality to all of its citizens. Maybe the real losers in the Civil War were the slaves. At least they could dream one day that rightful freedom would be granted. What dreams have the poor Americans got today. Not only have they poor education and health but they are also being used to borrow money to benefit the rich. The Federal reserve should all be taken out and put against a wall. They above all in the financial world have been responsible for allowing this unfair system to go on. QE as I have highlighted before, is passing more wealth to the few. These people are likely to bid up Art and other assets which help show off the individuals ranking in the top tier. It does not transfer directly to consumption for all. Politicians of all sides of the spectrum should hang their collective heads in shame. Whilst they have grown fat on the corn of increased spending, they have allowed jobs of the working class to be shipped to China (etc) so that the owners and senior employees can share in the bottom line profit improvements it allowed. The big mistake (yes, with hindsight) was to not invest heavily in the wider nations education, allowing people who would normally have aspired to a full time blue collar job, be more in tune with the modern world. Instead, politicians, influenced heavily by industry, kept the consumer stuffed with borrowed dollars so he could keep the profits rolling. If this borrowing was kept in check (the world over) people would not have become so throw away, growth would have been much slower and more importantly, balanced.

I can only refer to this shift in wealth as theft. Probably the greatest Sting of all time. How will it all end?

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be  because we destroyed ourselves” Abraham Lincoln

http://www.upworthy.com/9-out-of-10-americans-are-completely-wrong-about-this-mind-blowing-fact-2?g=6

 

 

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A Yen For Your Faults!

I know its a crass headline but hey ho… ho ho ho.

Update on the previous blog re Dollar/Yen exchange rate.

If anyone was brave enough to follow my idea, may I make another suggestion. The option I suggested buying, the $/Y 102 call at 20 pips or basis points, is now trading at 100 basis points. Hence a 400% gain in less than one month. Whoppeeee it has helped pay for my daughters 21st party. As I need the money I have taken some chips off the table. I still fear however, that Japan is on a collision course with Economageddon. I still expect the five year low for the $/Yen (103.73) to be reached (and breached to test the 1998 downtrend: see last blog)  but time is running out with these options and breaching a five year high may take a while. The expiry is 18th December and with less than three weeks left, I have taken out some protection. I have sold (or written to give it its correct term) the 103 calls which are trading around 50 basis points. Hence, if the momentum is lost here and no further gains are made (in $/Y) then at least I collect all the premium from the 103 calls which will expire at zero. Sounds complicated but believe me with a little explanation it is quite easy. I would be more than happy to elaborate to any subscribers if required.

It is worth noting that the Yen has been far weaker against the Euro, falling 50% in 18 months. Yes! 50%…and 40% against Sterling. So when I say that the Nikkei Index will be above the Dow soon, it makes some sense. Additionally, when as I have said in previous blogs regarding Japan, they are exporting their deflation, again it makes sense.

UK…The Great Lie.

You cannot be serious, I am referring to all those very highly paid economists who walk around swanky streets with their head wedged firmly up their fundamental orifice. If they looked around the country, they will see that it is only debt fuelled demand that is driving our economy. In the recent 3Q GDP data much heralded by one and all, the most important element was the 2.5% fall in exports.  So much for re-balancing the economy away from Gordon buffoons appalling economic model. The trade deficit can only widen still further from here on in and that is no good prospect (other than for those lucky overseas companies who are selling happily into our debt binge).

Because of all these dum-fuchs speaking of the economic upswing with reverence, Sterling has this week broken out of its 5 year downtrend against the Dollar. Little seems to stand in its way of reaching $/£ 1.70. I would caution (as you would expect of a debt perma bear on the UK) that this glorious new found optimism is just digging us deeper into the mire. So, I have no option but to abandoned my idea that Sterling will fall in the short term. However, my long term goal (often mentioned in previous blogs)  of Sterling testing the all time low against the Dollar (1.08 ish) is still firmly my expectation. To that end I have scraped the barrel with a very long term chart which I feel shows the growth of a vague head and shoulders going back to 1996. This confirms 1.70 as a massive resistance. Maybe by then this crazy accretive currency will finally kill off any hope of a recovery in Manufacturing we so desperately need. If you were wondering how Sterling was doing against other trading partners, take a look at the other charts below.

This is Sterling Yen. Just imagine how much harder it is becoming for companies like JCB to compete or for Whiskey companies for that matter (anyone for independence?) I could go on.

Even against the Euro things are getting tougher. The huge benefit exporters got at the beginning of the year are steadily being taken away. British prices have got 5% dearer in currency terms since August.

Do not expect our Manufacturing Industry to be able to compete in this environment. All the heavy lifting of the British economy will have to be done with Government and Private debt. Sound familiar????

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

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Thursday, November 28th, 2013 Consumer Debt, Debt, Euro, GBP, GDP, National Debt, Predictions, UK, USD, Yen No Comments

UK Debt

I was going to study  yesterdays December Public Finance data before writing but having read an article by Alister Heath (Telegraph) I wanted to share. He highlights a recent OECD report on UK borrowing. As I have been saying since late 2011, George Osborne has failed to stem spending. In my most recent UK blog (23/12/12) I gave the UK 3 months before the markets see through his cloak of invisibility. I have forecast in the past that Sterling will test its all time low vs the Dollar of $1.08. Gilt Yield will rise much further than already seen in 2013. You can read the Telegraph article online.

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Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013 Consumer Debt, Debt, GBP, National Debt, UK, USD No Comments

John `Bernanke` Wayne Rides to the Rescue. Too Late??

Hazard Warning Lights for Volvo, Scania and MAN (April 2012)… I wrote (back then and since) about my serious concern for the heavy truck industry at a time when the industry was talking of great things ahead in terms of sales. Just this week Paccar announced it expects third quarter (3Q) production to be 15-20% lower than the 2Q which is double the decline previously expected. August heavy truck sales in North America continued to indicate demand below total production. This leads me to a concern I raised back in March that at some point US inventory build would become a problem. The most recent data on Wholesale inventories confirms just that. The Inventory to Sales ratio is beginning to increase and of course with the fiscal cliff approaching this is not an ideal situation to be in. Overall industrial inventory data for last month is due soon. I believe this is becoming a global problem as consumption continues to struggle. Car dealers in China now have over 2 months of inventory on the forecourts vs half that last year. Hitachi Construction Machinery (Worlds 3rd biggest) announced that it will idle production at its China plant due to excessive inventory. This follows production cuts by  Caterpillar and Komatsu in the region. Everywhere you look in the heavy industry world, production is above demand. This is leading to the cancelling of upstream investment programmes as seen by the mining companies. Inventory of finished steel products at Chinese manufacturers is up to 12 days or +35% on 2011. This is on top of wholesale and final sale inventory outlets. The use of pre-registration cars to shift production is leading to a build up of nearly new cars in Europe too. With sales falling dramatically in the region as a whole, further production cuts will be forthcoming on top of Opel in Germany and the French manufacturers. The tonnage of ships being laid up is growing by the day and the Baltic Freight Index is now lower than the depths of 2008 and getting close to the all time low set in 1986.

In May I wrote Is Global Trade Growing? with the now familiar chart of trade flow via the Suez Canal. Below is an update which although on the face of it looks slightly more positive for Southbound (China) traffic, it is worth bearing in mind that total volume has fallen in the last quarter vs the corresponding year for the first time since late 2009.  The port of Shanghai handled 8% fewer Containers month on month in August which was down 7% year on year. Total cargo handled was down 15%. The southbound traffic data were influenced by a 100% uptick in fuel/energy products which masked a 50% month on month decline in the growth rate of containers, to only 2% (lowest growth rate since April)

 click on charts to expand

UK Commercial Property. I have been negative on this sector for the whole year. It was interesting to read the recent sector update by Savills highlighting the sector weakness in August. This is the forth month in a row of contracting activity and was the biggest monthly decline (-14.8%) since December 2011.

Japan. I am still short the Yen but my resolve was surely tested last night when it traded at 77.13 after the FED QE3 announcement. If it trades below 77.00 I am out and feeling considerably poorer and mighty stupid. I am still strongly of the opinion that it will suffer a fiscal cliff of its own. See my many previous blogs on the subject. The chart below gives the short term prospective but for a 40 year chart showing the Yen at 360 to the dollar in the 1970s, see my blog  January 25th  this year. I believe this could be the start of a 25% decline in the Yens fortune. Today the Finace Minister warned of headwinds for the economy and that the strong Yen was doing harm. You are not kidding!

Sterling. I still believe it is only a matter of time before the markets realise that the UK is a busted flush. Once the Olympic dust has settled, unemployment will rise once again putting yet more upward pressure on the budget deficit. The UK Government must realise this softly softly approach to deficit reduction will not work in an environment of global austerity. Urgent action is needed to cut government spending circa 30% and reduce the corporate tax and red tape burden. If the narrowing band, which has been in place since 2009, should break 1.64. I will have egg on my face. Should it break 1.54 on the downside, I will be on the right path.

 

 US Car Sales. I have been sceptical about the significant growth of sales which has been somewhat at odds with the lacklustre employment data. Having read a blog by James Quinn (senior Director of planning at a major University, he claims) some light has been shed on the matter. Sadly, his explanation is all rather familiar, sub-prime lending is now accountable for 45% of all car loans. As 77% of all new cars are financed it shows the quality of the customer. Loan duration is being extended ( beyond 5 years) and loan to value is rising reaching 110% on new cars and 127% on used. Not only that but 10% of all loans are categorized as `Deep Sub-Prime` eg a credit score requirement akin to that of Yogi Bear..OK BOO BOO faster than the average bear! Worryingly, consumer credit is back (net of the banking write offs) to an all time high. Has the FED really learnt no lessons. Pumping cheap money into banks who lend with no real concern. All this on top of the US Governments deficit which yesterday showed an $191bn August shortfall taking the 11 months of 2012 to $1.16 Trillion not far short of last year and around 7.2% of GDP. Some social spending was brought forward from next month so September should not be such a big surprise. Of course, when the government brings forward social spending it is just helping the retail data for that month to the detriment of the next. The cliff is getting nearer. Can you hear the waves yet?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Medicine is Not Working.

Finance-Reaper returns..with a warning!

It has been a couple of months since my last blog (holidays and a large landscaping project to occupy me) so I think a refresher as to where we are in the global economy. During my absence the equity market has rallied strongly on the perceived wisdom that the Central Banks of USA, Europe (inc UK), China and Japan will breath new life into a flagging world with yet more monetary stimulus. The problem is, they have done this so many times over the past 30 years that it reminds me of Brazil 20 years ago. They took anti-biotics as a cure for all ills so became immune and many people died when a common illness struck. The repeated intervention of the primary banking authorities has given governments and investors alike, a laisse faire attitude to debt and risk. I believe the time has come, just as it did for the Brazilians, when the world needs to take a different medicine and it wont taste very nice.

Since my last postings several important developments have occurred in the areas I have had great concern about.

Steel and Iron Ore are of particular interest. Both have fallen around 25% in the last month and are now at 2 and 2 1/2 year lows respectively. Over production of Steel in China is becoming a real problem which will have repercussions around the world. Inventory of finished material is getting to a point where serious cuts in production will be required. As the main raw material (Iron Ore) is also stockpiled to the roof, it will not take long for further setbacks in the Shipping industry that supplies China (see my numerous blogs on the subject for more info). The main barometer of how this is affecting the shipping industry is the Baltic Freight Index. This has fallen 9% in the last week, 30% since early July and more importantly, is 40% below this time last year. Shipbuilding orders have fallen off a cliff, shipping companies are going broke and mining companies are cutting back on capital expenditure. All things I have warned about. China is now relaxing some high quality steel export duties in order to help the vast production machine from backing up. This, together with encouragement for a weaker Yuan, makes the outlook for the other global players very grim.

As you can see from the chart below, a regular feature, global trade is not growing. If anything it has started to decline. Last months tonnage was down on 2011 and lower than the corresponding period in 2008!

Of course, the primary driver of this weaker picture is Europe as the chart below highlights perfectly. What you have to worry about though, is when will the first and third biggest economies of the world grow up and realise they cannot continue growing the debt pile and calling it economic growth. IT IS NOT!!! USA will register its forth in a row $1 trillion annual budget deficit this year. It has to stop and the fiscal cliff of 2013 is rapidly approaching.   Japan has agreed this week to double VAT to 10% but in two stages and not starting till 2014. I believe Japan is only months away from economic disaster (see previous blogs).

 Europe.

Finished! The recent cuts (to the public sector and spending ) announced by the Italian government were shocking but necessary. They reflect the bloated system of the easy money life encouraged within the Euro arena by the non elected bureaucrats in Brussels. It applies to all the lying, cheating Mediterranean countries. I still believe Germany should be out of the Euro The Elephant in the Room.

UK

Finished! How on earth can the markets not see what is right under their nose. The UK budget deficit is not shrinking! It is getting bigger. Just like the USA and Japan, we are borrowing growth from a future generation with our continual debt build up. You can see from my numerous blogs on the UK that I have warned about Sterling strong vs the Euro and Weak vs the Dollar. As I predicted our trade deficit posted a record deficit in the second quarter. STERLING is doomed. I have predicted a fall vs the $ to the all time low of $1.08 and stand by that. The chart formation from the last blog is still in tact. Should Sterling fall as I have predicted, interest rates will go higher and the stupid banks who are rushing headlong into lending on Buy-to-Let (BTL) mortgages will come a cropper yet again. Just last week saw the release of data showing an alarming growth in repossessions of BTL properties. Property prices are still 10-20% too high.

 

Another issue that worries me is the estimate of UK car sales that are pre-registered. In fact I wrote about this issue in a recent China blog. According to reports, 30% of recent UK car sales are not actually ordered by an end buyer (the same as Germany). They are pre-reg by a dealer in order to secure large volume bonuses. This practice is not new but the scale of this practice is now alarming me. Why? Residual Value. Do any of you remember one of the largest and best known corporate collapses of the 1980`s. British and Commonwealth Holdings was the birth place of such companies as Gartmore and Oppenheimer fund management, Furness Withy and P& O shipping…plus many other big names. It was the biggest financial institution in the UK outside the four banks and was in the FTSE 100. It made one fatal error in the acquisition of Atlantic Computers. The problem of residual value was to be the undoing of B & C. I wont go into the story but if dealers are buying far too many vehicles than they have customers for, they have to sell at a whopping discount in other ways. This tends to be via a lease. Normally, to price a lease you have to make an assumption of residual value. The creation of demand via this process normally creates a wave of second hand cars which will depress prices further. If demand slows as I believe it will, second hand values and therefore residual values will not meet the estimated level when these cars come to an end. A worrying future bill bill for someone.

 USA

Below is my regular chart showing the growth/decline of transported goods on Warren Buffett`s railway BNSF. The Total Freight picture is running at around 2% the highest since the first quarter. Still very anemic and not strong enough to indicate employment growth. The various sectors of interest are Motor Vehicles which have started to decline and the four week moving average (not shown) indicates a rapid fall from current levels. Lumber/Sand/Gravel are positive and reflect optimism in the real estate sector. Coal has rebounded from its winter blues and helped move Freight Wagons into a slight positive. Overall not much to conclude. Steady as she goes for now but wait till we get to the Fiscal Cliff.  I have written about the US sales to inventory ratio and recently it started to rise. This is not a good sign, as I have talked about in March. I have to admit to being wrong about the growth in US car sales. It has turned out to be much stronger that I anticipated. I feel very strongly that this growth is temporary and is driven (excuse the pun) by a desperate urge to cut motoring costs via fuel consumption and is therefore not going to last beyond this year. Last month saw an 89% rise in alternative fuel vehicles. The big US car companies may well be heading back to the doldrums in the second half.

One of my other pet subjects has been in the news lately. The US Postal Service. Its ever growing problems and huge loss profile show just how inept the government are about dealing with real problems. Anyone can spend public money and be triumphant at its impact but no one seems to be able to grasp a nettle. The longer the authorities go on kicking the can the deeper the eventual depression will be.

Stay happy and start making plans for the new world. Hopefully, when we get to the other side of all this we will remember the mistakes of the past. There again why did they repeal the Glass-Steagall Act. Fear and Greed will always rule the world. And we mere mortals will always allow Greedy and Corrupt people to rule us, Why?

BNSF Weekly railway data.

Blogs to follow.

UK Money Supply is still falling, I have reviewed this problem in depth before. UK and US Govt. debt growth. Chart updates of BHP, AP Moeller-Maersk, £/$ rate. Maybe a look at the safest haven for savings in the world, Norway. It has Oil, Fresh Water, Fish and a sensible government policy of saving a portion of its oil wealth for future generations. It may become the lender of last resort should the world go belly up. I have championed this safe haven for a couple of years and I cannot see any reason why that should change. They do have a problem however, of where to put their money. I would offer this once customer of mine some timely advice. In times of trouble IT IS NOT THE RETURN ON YOUR MONEY THAT COUNTS, IT IS THE RETURN OF YOUR MONEY! So do not worry about interest income in this environment. Keep it under your mattress and cuddle up to the nearest blonde. It may be lumpy but it will give you a warm feeling, the mattress that is.

 

 

 

 

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Chart Updates

Below is an update of some of the charts I have highlighted in the past.

Sterling/ Dollar has bounced off its major support. I remain convinced that Sterling will collapse once its true financial picture (see previous blogs UK economy) becomes apparent to the markets. If so, $1.08 all time low could be tested.

AP Moeller-Maersk, the largest shipping company in the world, has come in for attention on many occasions and I still believe the 16 year head and shoulders is in play. With ship yards offering huge discounts on new ships and freight rates falling once again, the gloom continues.

 

BHP. With Iron Ore prices falling, it is only a matter of time before the head and shoulder neck line is broken with little technical support for a long way down.

US Steel and Arcelor-Mittal. As with BHP above, see Are Steel Producers a Buy? in which I asked exactly that question. My conclusion is that the support lines would not hold. Since then they have all fallen. BHP 15% US Steel 25% and Arcelor 10%

 

 

Europe. It is interesting to look at the wide array of economic statistics (released today) from many European countries. It all makes for very disappointing reading. Except that is, for Iceland, who had Q1 GDP growth of 2.4% and 4.5% year on year growth. Well done! Maybe defaulting on your debt is not the end of the world. ARE YOU LISTENING GREECE!

 

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Friday, June 8th, 2012 GBP, Shipping, UK, USD No Comments

Look beyond the noise.

US Economic expansion.

Last week was all about the US employment report for March. The focus was so sharp that little else seemed to get much scrutiny. Given the frequency of revisions, one month is never enough to base sound long term opinions on, so I wont. There is a school of thought in the cynical blogosphere that weaker numbers were engineered lower thus giving the Fed justification for Q3. Given the proximity of the election when the decision is due, they will need all the help they can for justification without attracting Republican ire.

With the aid of a wider angle lens, I was not distracted by the unemployment numbers. I chose instead to focus on the nuts and bolts of the economy. Early last month I wrote about Class 8 truck demand Quiet in Class!..[ This continues a theme of mine centered on transportation of goods. Most recently that has been with reviews of BNSF rail freight volumes but earlier postings have been on the shipping industry The Perfect Storm and The Plimsoll line is clearly visible! ]… Last week saw the release of preliminary sales data for March Class 8 truck sales for North America. With the benefit of 3 months data for 2012, my earlier concerns for the economy can have some justification.  January 24,000 February 22,366 and March 19,682 against the 4Q 2011 average of 26,000. The preliminary number for March is 32% below March 2011. Why is that important? At the beginning of the year, the two main bodies for the truck industry were upgrading their forecasts for 2012. They centered around an annual expectation of 295,000 sales, well ahead of 200,000 needed to replace retiring vehicles and up 10%ish on 2011. March and April are normally the two most important months for sales as they herald the start of the haulage season fan-fared with the new year models, which normally carry a higher price tag. If April does not spring into life with renewed vigour, the order backlog (currently strong due to the ordering peak around December) will falter and the inventory level ( 62 days versus 52 in 2011) will rise. This, in the worst case scenario, could lead to awkward production gluts. In the third of my blogs on rail freight USA Freight Volumes I did suggest that the rise in container volumes (via rail) could be attributed to the sharp rise in diesel costs. This may have some correlation with the first decline in trucking jobs (0.1%) since July 2011 as seen in last weeks employment data.

US Government Debt

On Thursday we will see the release of the Monthly Budget Statement. I have seen one estimate so far ($203bn). If this is confirmed, it will be the first back to back $200bn plus months that I can remember. It would lead to a Q1 deficit slightly up on last year and close to the record set in 2009.  Since the depths of the recession in Q1 2009 the economy has recorded positive GDP and unemployment has (headline rate) dropped significantly. Why then is the deficit still growing at such an alarming and unsustainable rate? Easy, the government are buying growth. As I highlighted in America breaks records…Swiner in USA the end of 2012 brings about some major problems for the newly elected government. It is impossible to think that by then the economy will have garnered enough momentum to overcome the fiscal drag which will inevitably follow.

CHINA.

The latest inflation data will not rest easy on the authorities who made much of last months significant decline. They have blamed the unexpectedly sharp increase (3.6%) on poor weather in the fresh food producing areas. This has lead to overall food costs rising 7.5% year on year. This, however, masks far more important moves in two important staples. Vegetables are up 20% year on year with Meat/Eggs 11%. The recent significant fuel price hike had little influence on the rate as it has a small weighting within the index. Presumably it will show up in later months as products are priced to contain additional transport costs. It is clear that inflation will continue to be a drag on any monetary easing the authorities have planned. To continue my transportation theme (and remember 90% of goods travel at some point by sea) Chinese shipbuilding orders are down 40% on the first two months of 2011.

Last week also saw the release of the Purchasing Managers reports for March. Whilst the state version showed continued strength at 53.1, the independent HSBC report fell to 48.2. Why? Well the state report by the Federal Logistics and Purchasing department is heavily influenced by state and large companies in its sample of 800, whilst the HSBC has 400 mainly small and medium sized companies. These smaller companies are much more focused on the world economy. Weaker overseas demand has been a drag on growth but finance, or lack of it, has also played a part in the current weakness. The authorities started a pilot scheme in Wenzhou last week aimed at relieving some of the well documented problems of underground financing.

 

 

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Monday, April 9th, 2012 BNSF, China, Debt, National Debt, PMI, QE, Shipping, US Economy, USD 1 Comment

America breaks records…Swinter in USA

You cant trust the economic stats for Q1 2012. Watch the Weekly Unemployment Claims.

The list of data below is taken from the Minneapolis “Star Tribune” . Whilst this was not a record day, it does show the divergence from the norm is quite stark.

70 F. high in the Twin Cities on Thursday, just one degree away from the record of 71, set in 1945.

44 F. average high for March 22.

39 F. high temperature a year ago, on March 22, 2011.

4.5″ snow. A year ago the Twin Cities was enjoying/enduring a “plowable” snowfall. 4″ fell on March 22, another 4.1″ on March 23, 2011.

22.3″ snow so far this winter season, least since 1986-87, when 17.4″ fell at KMSP.

10th least winter snowfall since 1884 in the Twin Cities.

+16 F. March temperatures, to date, are 16 degrees warmer than average in the metro area.

16 new daily warm-weather record for the Twin Cities since March 10.

Throughout the Swinter of 2012 records have been tumbling both for record highs and the prolonged period of those highs. As another indication of the level of divergence, Bangor, Maine, saw a high of 83f last week verses the previous record of just 64f. The net effect on employment during this freak (at least the ski resorts hope its freak with the likes of Colorado down 7% on 2011) weather must not be underestimated. The weekly unemployment claims will be the first to show if the trend to higher employment is sustainable or on the whole, also just a freak of nature. Retail sales must have been very positively influenced. It will only become clear in the April/May period just how much purchasing has been brought forward. When you look at data from Master Card, it must make you wonder just how strong this period of strong growth is. Gasoline consumption during the spring break was down 5.6% on 2011. The 4 week moving average has fallen for 52 straight weeks and stands 6.6% lower than 2011. If employment was as strong as has been indicated and the jobs created were of high tax paying calibre (as I have questioned in previous blogs) the sharp rise in fuel prices would have been absorbed and demand at worst maintained.

The very positive affects of the corporate tax incentives (mentioned many times here) coupled with the Swinter of 2012, might have created the perfect storm. As the deadline for the automatic government spending cuts gets closer this may just have provided investors with an opportunity to sell while stocks last. By January 1st next year, US$ 1.2 TRILLION of spending cuts will be imposed on who ever is in power. Obama`s payroll tax cut and unemployment extension will expire. Geo. Bush`s crazy tax cuts will finally (hopefully) breathe a final breath. On top of all that, the afore mentioned corporate tax incentive which gave 100% relief on capital investments in 2011 and 50% in 2012, dies. It appears that the `Perfect Storm` has created conditions which allow investors an opportunity to sell and sit on the sidelines whilst analyst try to justify why they have so many BUY recommendations on stocks.

Europe will continue to drag the world down. As I have stated before Economageddon Dec 2011, countries like Spain have been lying about their fiscal position for a long time. Only now, and last weeks budget is the last nail in its coffin, will the Mediterranean economies return to what they know best, tourism.

Ireland… Never was a Silk Purse! will return to an Agricultural economy and the GDP in the Eurozone will fall much further than estimated. The austerity measures around the world to date, do not cut debt, merely slow its accumulation. Until we get to a point where politicians stop playing 5 a side soccer (for you Americans) with tin cans, the end cannot be reached.

 

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Monday, April 2nd, 2012 Consumer Debt, Debt, USD 1 Comment

Review of blogs to date

Nov 10thTesco (being the only company mentioned to date) was highlighted as losing out to discount stores. Luxury retailing was a sector to watch and I still expect that bubble to burst in 2012. They have the highest earnings multiples in the sector. I still think the US Postal service will be a major headache for US Gov in 2012 with possible job losses of 150,000.

Nov 26th…UK Retail… Internet sales, Money Supply and Velocity thoughts all still apply.

Dec 18thGreece. I still believe the chances of them leaving the Euro by April 2012 are about 85%. Just an update since them. Take a look at Defence spending. In 2010 it was E7bn and at 3% of GDP second only (in GDP terms) to USA among NATO members. Whilst 2011 saw its procurement spending fall by E500m, proposals for 2012 include a 50% increase in NATO contribution to E60m and Defence procurement up by 18%. Sadly, the Social welfare budget in slated to fall 9% or E2bn. The most important point I wish to make is that Germany is the main beneficiary of this spending (France second). Portugal and Greece are the two biggest customers for  the German defence industry. I propose that Europe throw a blanket over Greece in terms of border concerns allowing it to slash defence spending by billions. Surely Germany and France should focus on Greek wasteful spending before throwing the people into poverty. Maybe they are more concerned with employment in their own countries!!!! Maybe when Greek people start dying from the huge shortage of life saving medicine, as is widely reported, they will focus on the important things in life.

Spain…Nothing has changed other than the reality of regional deficit deceit is now out in the open. The new government has raised 2011 budget deficit to 8% vs 6% previously stated. Headlines of regional debt downgrade will continue. Property is still 20% over valued with the banks complicit in holding up the value of their vast portfolios. Local authorities continue to cut services, lighting, salaries and general spending. Spain will return to a tourist country. Long live the Peseta, cheap holidays, sangria and Una Paloma Blanca!

Japan…Nothing further to be said. Debt (Y1 Quadrillion) and average citizen age growing fast.

Dec 19th…The Indian Government did remove the import tariff on Jute but this has not stopped the negativity in the industry.

Dec 19thChina. with the growth in auto sales below that of the US for the first time in 14 years, Inflation down to 4.1% and a slower economic growth expectation for 2012, many now forecast the authorities will ease monetary policy. I am not so sure they will want to push the growth button too early. If the world is slowing down, why not wait until that slowdown is well underway and commodity prices have weakened still further. They cannot save the debt laden world from its fate so why try.

Jan 2nd Ireland (Rep. of) Strong growth in the 2011 exports of the Agrifood Industry were reported today. I still believe Ireland will go back to what it does best.

Jan 8th…Sterling closed below its important £/$1.5350 level yesterday. As is the norm with these breaks, it has regained that level today following a fall to its 12mth intraday low of 1.5270. I believe it is now on a downward path to levels mentioned in earlier blog. Of course this is great for the FTSE 100 companies which have $ earnings. Inflation will prove  stubbornly high vs average earnings growth.

News in the media regarding employment has a particularly bleak bias today with news of job losses from Vestas, Delhaize, RBS, UlsterBank (RBS sub in both Rep of Ireland and N. Ireland) and Ladbrokes (Rep Ireland)

Thank goodness the Spanish and Italian Government bond auctions have been well received today. Perhaps all is now OK?

 

 

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Thursday, January 12th, 2012 China, Consumer Debt, Debt, Euro, GBP, GDP, National Debt, UK, USD No Comments

Beauty Queen suffers ill wind…Phew!!

Important FX Chart points in £ vs. the $ and Euro.

David Cameron and his chancellor are basking in the glow of accolades bestowed upon them for their tough budgetary approach to the UK`s dire debt problem. Markets have rewarded them with borrowing costs at lows not seen since the 19th century. They should be careful of Greeks bearing gifts!

The coalition are following a correct path of attempting to reduce the government led economy and raise the Industrial Private sector. Firstly, they need to reverse a legacy of the Blair/Brown era which oversaw a reduction of 1 million manufacturing/engineering jobs (a continuation of the previous government) to be replaced by 1 million additional civil servants. At the end of the 19th century, Britain was the leading global manufacturer with 15% of total production. Today it is 9th with 2.2%. Still not bad considering we have less than 1% of total population.

The Ill Wind  *

Sterling has a very important part to play in this re-habilitation. The decline of Sterling (c.25% trade weighted) following the financial collapse, helped, along with the promise of pro- industry reform, breathe life into the now feeble (in terms of total GDP) manufacturing sector. That strong uplift (resulting in a 15-20% improvement in European competitiveness) to export potential, is now showing signs of reversal.

In the second half of 2011, Sterling advanced 6.60% vs. the Euro and fell 5.48% vs. the Dollar. Given these movements UK plc has lost 5% in export competitiveness vs. our largest trading partner (Europe). It could have been worse (-9%) had Sterling matched the Dollar`s performance vs. the Euro.

The additional Pan European austerity measures implemented from January 1st 2012 will reduce disposable incomes still further than the negative wage growth I expect this year. Inflation adjusted incomes in Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (PIIGS) public sector, will likely fall by 5%. These countries have extremely bloated public sectors which will suffer further as budget cuts take hold. This environment of lower spending is not one you want to be losing traction in.

Making things even worse is Sterling strength vs. the Eastern European currencies over the last 6 months e.g. Poland +17% Hungary +23%. Of course the dire prospects of Hungary and its possible economic collapse have not helped. Industrial investment in Eastern bloc countries has ballooned since EU membership, and as such, view the consumer markets of the rich western partners good hunting grounds for their cheap labour exports. Couple this with talk of significant labour reforms in the PIIGS (labour costs grew 20% vs. Germany 9% over last 5) and things start to look a little ominous for the UK in the coming year. Remember that if they (PIIGS) manage to reform stiff labour regulations, they have enormous unemployment e.g. 23% in Spain.

IMPORTANT CURRENCY LEVELS..I am not saying these chart points will be broken, just what if they were.

£/$  Is near a very important support level of 1.5350. Having been used as a technical support with several bounces from that level going back to Sept 2010. The more bounces the greater the move if breached. 4 such bounces make this a key level. Initial target being 1.50. Two reasons, one being it`s a big round number and they always act as support/resistance, secondly, a trend support line from March 2009 and May 2010 lows.

However, this break of 1.5350 is more likely to herald a move to £/$ 1.40 which is the low point of the last 10 years having acted as support in 2001 and 2009

£/Euro Is near an interesting but not so strong support of 0 .82 or as I prefer 1.22. A breach would indicate a fall (rise in Sterling) of around 3-5%. However, a breach of the 0.78 (1.28) level would indicate a retrench back to 0.68 (1.50 Euro`s to the £) …Unlikely…

So, to recap; if Sterling falls vs. the Dollar our input costs rise putting downward pressure on corporate margins (if prices can`t be raised). If Sterling rises vs. the Euro, will the last one leaving Britain please put the lights out!.

 

* I have assumed a 30% Industrial cost exposure to the $ via Energy and Commodities. I have no idea if that is right..

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Sunday, January 8th, 2012 Debt, Euro, GBP, GDP, National Debt, Predictions, UK, USD No Comments
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