GDP

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

Lucky Lord Jim O`Neill..Baron of Gately

Yes, I am back…sadly, not by popular demand…So, lucky Lord Jim gets a knighthood for being totally wrong…what do I get for being totally right?

I know I have been away for a long time but I am busy trying to help my constituents in what is the most deprived ward of my London Borough. I do get the time to tweet and quite frankly, if I do say myself, there is some interesting twitshit going down. I will start again at some point when my workload calms down. TO FOLLOW GO #financereaper…

Anyone who has read my blog for a while will know that I have had a downer on Lucky Lord Jim`s BRICs for about two years. I identified the fault with his reasoning and started warning of the BRICs impending doom. Today, Goldman Sachs have affectively closed their once famous BRIC fund. It has lost 88% of its value since 2010. In the last two years, I have warned that all the main winners in the BRIC argument would eventually fall from grace. BHP Billiton, one of my regular posts (bear ideas) of the past, has hit a seven year low. Steel companies are in the depths of despair. Coal was a big subject matter and I even wrote about the history of a little town in the USA called Jim Thorpe. Well, the Coal industry continues to slump and now Chinese mining company Longmay mining is laying off 100,000 employees. In fact, as many as are employed in the entire US coal industry…of course, US employees with their modern machinery investment and methods are 20 times more productive…oh, and they don’t live on a bowl of rice a week…Iron Ore will not rally as many expect. Oil will not rally as many expect. In fact, we could see new lows. Machinery manufacturers have also come into my spot light and I have continually warned of the fragility of their earnings…just look at companies like Joy Global, mentioned here many times…I have been totally right and I will continue to be so. QE is the primary reason. Central Banks have not used this tool wisely. Instead of extracting hard and fast commitments from politicians to cut spending and put in place debt reduction plans, they have worked hand in hand to raise still further the levels of debt to GDP ratios. Since the crash, global government indebtedness has risen 30%…

QE has led to over capacity. Yes, hundreds of millions of Chinese have come from the paddy fields to industrial towns and cities but it was all too quick. The cheap money has allowed huge capital spending of productive industries but at a cost to employment in developed nations. As one million extremely poorly paid manufacturing workers in China start work, jobs of very high equivalent salary workers are lost. The net result is a loss of demand. Whilst the infrastructure explosion, which took over ten years, was in full swing, all well and good…that is now past its peak, the Chinese economy has to focus more on exports than ever before. If it was to keep those hundreds of millions poor people working…they needed to export or die…that is exactly what they are doing. The 2015 trade surplus is up 75% to date. The real worry for the west is that in reality profitability is of little consideration compared to keeping people working . Therefore, the response of other developed and even developing nation’s is fairly limited.

Smoot-Hawley…lets not hope that the only way out it is trade barriers, however, currently there are 30 trade sanctions being drawn up against Chinese Steel dumping. Their are many other areas where dumping is evident. This will not end well.

 

 

 

 

is of little interest.

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Monday, November 9th, 2015 BRICs, China, Consumer Debt, Debt, GDP, Japan, National Debt, QE, Steel No Comments

The Future

Over the past two years I have been writing about the affects QE is having on the over production of industrial goods from Steel, Ships, Cars and many other items used directly or indirectly in the consumer cycle. I have constantly called into question Lord Lucky Jim O’Neill and his BRIC revolution.  I have advised divesting of all steel stocks, Iron Ore and Coal producers across the globe…all suppliers of mining equipment…all commodity based currencies and emerging markets in general…you can search any of these subject matters and find my blogs to confirm.

Well that baby has now come firmly home to roost. It took a while but my radar is always far on the horizon. What now. Well, one prediction which is yet to come good is the UK. I firmly believe that the UK economy has no foundation whatsoever. All piss and wind so to speak. The trade deficit continues to grow in line with our nations debt profile…consumption equals imports. Our manufacturing capacity/output has barely improved over the last decade. House building for the 5 million population increase together with the demands those extra mouths generate, is the only driving force of GDP growth. Public and private debt is still growing at historic disaster proportions. House price to income ratios continue to defy reality ranging from 6 in the rest of the UK to 12 in the South East. Wages are mired in the immigration glue and zero hours continue to grow. Local council pension deficits, not a common theme anywhere in the financial world, are a hidden time bomb. The recent John Lewis weekly sales data show sales down 4% in August (yes poor weather is a factor) across the UK but more worryingly -13% in Scotland. If super cheap financing/lease deals and huge upticks in MPG savings were not available to car buyers, consumption would be even lower. The incredible gains in MPG are now slowing and the explosion of lease deals three years ago means a tsunami of second hand cars are on the horizon. So fragile is our economy that despite the officially significant gains in employment, more tenants are being evicted than ever before. Rents are moving with capital increase but wages are lagging far behind. Disposable incomes are being squeezed more than ever. The governments spending cuts will be longer and deeper than expected. Local Authorities are nearing the bone when it comes to social care choosing to apply minimal national standards which is causing great discourse to those in need.

The government have pulled so much revenue and consumption forward that only a fool would not expect a parched landscape in the not too distant future. Income tax for many is now paid in advance. Pensions released, so far 80,000 individuals and rising coupled with Equity release, a significant proportion of mortgages each month, is borrowing from what were, historically,  tomorrows nest eggs. So despite all the levers of front end priming to consumption and tax receipts, the governments budget deficit is still running around £70bn this year. Adding to the £1.6trillion already accumulated. The public sector pension shortfall I alluded to earlier, is without doubt, one of the most under recognised non-balance sheet contingent liabilities of them all.  If stock markets are now reflecting a new valuation reality, the deficit could easterly be  £1.5 to £1.7trillion or in other words 100% of the current deficit. Lets not forget that other off balance sheet liabilities, whilst not anywhere as a large (PFI etc.) but still an additional burden being kicked down the road.

If my scenario is correct and overseas investors finally smell the rat, sterling will be at the forefront of the attack. I have, on many occasions I admit, been negative on the currency. I have a target of the all time low against the $ of $1.08…I can see a period where the Bank of England is forced to buy and possibly cancel the entire supply of government bonds…CRAZY I hear you say…well, consider that Oil has delivered a bounty in revenue of around £1 trillion since 1975 ish..since 1997 we have borrowed an extra £1 trillion pounds to keep the lights on. So, we are coming to the end of the Oil boom income. North Sea currently has a cost base of around $43 so not much tax revenue there. Borrowing has to stop, if not we will be Greece. We have not built, during the oil tax and debt bonanza, a sustainable economy with Innovation, Investment, Creativity and Production (IICP) at its heart. Instead, we have a large benefit dependant society which is priced out of poor quality employment by poor people from the underemployed rest of the world. In previous recessions, the unemployed need just wait for an uptick in the economy before employment became easier to come by. Eventually, the pool of employment, limited to UK residents, was whittled away until NAIRU took over (Non Accelerating Inflation Rate of Unemployment)…So, eventually, employers had a much smaller pool of unemployed and wage inflation took over thus bringing economic benefit to all. Now, we no longer have just a pool of UK unemployed, we have the entire worlds under or un employed to choose from. Employers love the EU and general open border policy. It has allowed a minimum wage or zero hour culture to take hold. The masses cannot benefit from economic growth as before because wages are immigrant suppressed. Of course, someone is benefiting in all this…YES…business owners and senior management. In 1980 the average CEO of a major quoted company would be paid around 30 times that of the average salary in his company. Now, that ratio is around 200 times.

This illusion of a growing economy is going to explode at some stage. No longer can we consume like there is no tomorrow. Germany, Japan and China, the worlds biggest exporters, do not have economies based on consumption. Its industrialisation that is the heartbeat of their economy. The problem with them all is a dwindling or rapidly ageing population. Nevertheless, Germany and China are running massive trade surpluses as will Japan again when it restarts all the nuclear reactors. Germany is running a budget surplus of around E22bn, to boot. The UK has sucked in 4.5 million immigrants (since 2000) which can be good for an economy generating  industrially based jobs for them to fill. When they come here and fulfil any roll possible. The competition amongst those in the bottom 50% of earners is unbalanced with the rest of the economy. Immigration based on supply and demand works. Immigration because life is better here than is on offer for 5 billion people in the rest of the world, is not.

We are not governed with even a cursory glance at the distant future. Live and govern for today. The only way we will be able to regain our industrial strength is by admitting we have been wrong for the last several decades. It will be painful and will lead to a significant reduction in house prices.  The high street will collapse as we know it and unemployment will rocket. The government will have to put an agreement in place to keep budgets balanced over economic cycles (no fudging) in exchange for the B of E buying up most of the government debt. Overseas aid and the EU will have to go. This will accelerate the EU collapse. A, we finance a large part of the (EU) budget and B, we are the EUs biggest customer. The experiment will finally be seen for what it is…a total waste of money and a fraud. The German Mark will return much to the consternation of its industrial base.

This sounds awful but it could be managed and lead to a new era of investment in IICP for the UK. With the exit from the EU industries like fishing will flourish creating tens of thousands of new direct and indirect jobs. If we just go on sticking our heads in the sand…someone will come along and see our pert bottom sticking up and..hey ho…as the old saying goes…sing if you like, scream if you don’t…aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh….me name is paddy maginty im the leader of the band…Sorry but you have to know the rest of the joke to get that.

You have been warned..again…

I have been completely bogged down with Council work over the summer but hope to get back in the swing over the winter.

 

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UKIP or Marie Antoinette (Madame Déficit as she was known)

HOW ON EARTH CAN IT BE RIGHT FOR US TO ORDER CAVIAR OR FOIE GRAS AND HAND THE BILL TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOT YET BEEN BORN?  OH YES, I KNOW, LET THEM EAT CAKE.

It will take a bit of reading to get at the headline above but stay with it.

 Commodities News…  Smaller less profitable (higher production cost) Iron Ore miners in Australia are cutting management jobs/ wages and are applying to the government for a reduction in state royalty payments. Large exporters of Coal eg Indonesia and Columbia have announced higher 2015 production /export production targets to make up the governments revenue shortfall from weaker prices. These are two examples I have been expecting and helps prove why this is an economic turning point see BRICs..The Future Looks Cabbage Like.. and others including Chinese Deflation Cancer Spreads. Oil is mentioned later.
Social Unrest… Worldwide anti-government protests, which I foretold in Global Dissatisfaction with Governments Can Only Spread…are on the increase but for some reason the BBC ( and the wider media) seem reluctant to publicise.  As I talked about in Profound inequality in America…Time To Act!… the depth of disparity between haves and have nots is now  close to breaking point. The reasons for disruption differ but the catalyst is truly born out of a sense of injustice. The political landscape, like commodities, is getting closer to a once in a lifetime earth quake. UKIP along with anti conformist EU parties are well and truly on the march. France, Germany, Greece, Sweden, Spain are all experiencing the movement. Globally, protests  in many countries are aimed at bringing down failing and corrupt governments. Others are based on religious grounds. The significant loss of revenue commodity rich economies will experience in 2015 will not allow corrupt governments  continuity in bribing the electorate. Whilst, as mentioned earlier, they will attempt to expand export volumes, the overall economic reality is they will cut spending or in some cases huge energy subsidies thus exposing the core failure of the global economy. It is built on wasteful unsustainable  government spending.  This is either financed by over valued commodities, due to excessive QE (numerous blogs on the subject starting with Quantitative Easing …April 2013)… Or mammoth government spending/debt which is only allowed to exist because of??… Yes you guess it excessive non debt reduction linked    QE.
This story does not end well. Be afraid, be very afraid. I only hope my allegance to UKIP is not misplaced and they remain an un-whipped political party where their elected officials are allowed to vote with their conscience and in line with the wishes of their respective  electorates.

Due to the weakness of commodity revenue, Australia is cutting overseas aid, civil servants and departments…tomorrow they will announce the extent to which the commodity crash has raised its budget deficit. The current deterioration in its global trade position is the biggest since records began in 1959. It is interesting the measures this realistic government is taking in view of the deficit escalation it faces, as opposed to those by the Coalition in the UK.  This sensible approach, whilst short term negative for all concerned is better in the long term. Unlike of course, the UK and for that matter many other nations in huge debt, who have chosen to spend and borrow even more to plaster over the cracks on their watch. This gives them immediate credibility eg George Osbrown (Osborne/Brown)  but just lumbers future generations with the liability. HOW ON EARTH CAN IT BE RIGHT FOR US TO ORDER CAVIAR or FOISGRAS AND HAND THE BILL TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE NOT YET BEEN BORN. OH YES, I KNOW, LET THEM EAT CAKE!…see we got there in the end. Remember, this was the start of the French Revoloution…Hopefully, Farrage, I and my colleagues will do like wise but in the whole of Europe.

EU… So, we are being asked to pay more into the budget pot whilst France gets the lions share of our additional contribution. This is justified due to their weaker economic performance… well bear this in mind.

A 2013 global study of working hours revealed the French worked the fewest hours of any country in the world. The report by Swiss bank UBS found the French graft for just 1,480 hours a year, with 27 days annual holiday.Britons work 1,782 hours a year – 301 more than the French – and have 20 days holiday a year… still happy to work your socks off to stay in Europe?… I could go on and tell you about the extent of black market activities in many EU countries which lowers their official GDP thus reducing the amount they pay…but I wont.

OIL   A quick update on a topical issue. Below is an extract from a recent press article (Daily Telegraph)

The world’s leading oil and gas companies are taking on debt and selling assets on an unprecedented scale to cover a shortfall in cash, calling into question the long-term viability of large parts of the industry.The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) said a review of 127 companies across the globe found that they had increased net debt by $106bn in the year to March, in order to cover the surging costs of machinery and exploration, while still paying generous dividends at the same time. They also sold off a net $73bn of assets.This is a major departure from historical trends. Such a shortfall typically happens only in or just after recessions. For it to occur five years into an economic expansion points to a deep structural malaise.The EIA said revenues from oil and gas sales have reached a plateau since 2011, stagnating at $568bn over the last year as oil hovers near $100 a barrel. Yet costs have continued to rise relentlessly. Companies have exhausted the low-hanging fruit and are being forced to explore fields in ever more difficult regions.The EIA said the shortfall between cash earnings from operations and expenditure — mostly CAPEX and dividends — has widened from $18bn in 2010 to $110bn during the past three years. Companies appear to have been borrowing heavily both to keep dividends steady and to buy back their own shares, spending an average of $39bn on repurchases since 2011.

When analysts talk of the big boon to consumption from lower Oil prices, bear in mind four things. Global Annual Investment in fossil fuels is $1 trillion most currently based on $80 brake even. Companies have been encouraged by Investment Banks to buy back large swathes of share capital (Very good in expansion…possibly fatal in contraction) Governments are spending revenues which at current $60 price, do not exist. Consumers (and Governments) are burdened  with huge debts.

Sadly, todays article front page of the business section Telegraph` £55bn of Oil projects face axe (North Sea)` fails in the most important issue. Namely that the UK Treasury takes around a third of the profits made by companies in the UK Continental Shelf. I suggest they read my last blog Sterling…Beware The Reaper!!!  Lets not forget the GREENS. Last year 62% of all money invested in UK Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS) were made in Renewable Energy…MY GUESS…They all need Oil above $100 to be viable…All this leads me to my favourite Warren Buffett saying…

“When the tide goes out you can see who is swimming without trunks” Ladies, be prepared to avert your gaze!

Issues for future blogs

Is Globalisation or EU causing depopulation of rural areas eg Spain has one area twice the land mass of Belgium that is almost deserted. French villages shrinking (FT Weekend)…Deflation tsunami on the way?..Summer 2015 very bad for European and North African holiday resorts as Russian holidaymakers disappear…Why is UK  paying more into EU pot than countries that spend far more as a percentage of income on pensioners?

 

 

 

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Sunday, December 14th, 2014 Consumer Debt, Debt, GDP, Japan, National Debt, Oil, Predictions, QE No Comments

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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Global Dissatisifaction With Governments Can Only Spread

Hi all. I am back with my first blog of 2014. No charts in this one as it is just a thought provoking piece.

The recent turmoil in global asset markets could be just the beginning of a more significant shift in the way the world is run. If a fairer, more just and balanced society is to endure, the immediate road ahead is likely to be bumpy.The unrest in Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela (TTUABV) are all linked to corruption and inequality. People are no longer prepared to stand by and watch the ruling elite grow ever richer and more powerful whilst the majority get little by way of a better life.The peasants have always revolted before so why should this not be just another short term blip? The answer could be debt—

Over the past 50 years governments have been allowed to raise the level of overall debt to astonishing levels. This debt has been used to prop up the world economy, whilst just enough of this money went to the masses ( to quell their rage) the bulk went to the small minority at the top. Well, I feel the show is nearly over and the accumulated debt level is at a stage where it can be raised no more.The USA, Japan, UK and France are a few of the developed economies who have plans to curtail spending further in the coming years. This is the complete opposite to the profligate abuse of public funds previously. This will not be the catalyst for change only another link in the chain of events.

Since 2012 I have written extensively on the subject of China and the other BRIC economies. My concerns about this group of countries which have been the primary drivers of the world economy in the 21st century, have been well founded. I have said it before and I will say it again `China is a cancer on the world economy`. Just ask yourself why we trust a country that tells you what its GDP will be in advance. It then uses one of two means (or a combination) to achieve that goal. Firstly it uses statistics which are doctored to tell investors what they want to hear. Secondly, to make sure growth is achieved they will build a few extra thousand miles of railway or build a few million additional houses. These investments would not be a problem if they were driven by demand and paid homage to a return on investment. Sadly that is not the case. Both railways and housing are so overdeveloped that empty trains and platforms abound and tens of millions of homes are unsold or just uninhabited. As finance becomes less abundant, driven by tapering of QE and concerns on Chinese debt quality, this oversupply will cripple construction, steel, Iron Ore and transportation etc etc. Despite all this, China and the BRICs are once again just further links in the chain. My real concerns for 2014 surround my old favourite Japan and a new one for me, the Middle Eastern Oil producers.

We are on the cusp of Japans big fiscal tightening. Consumer taxes will increase in April from 5% to 8% in the first step towards 10% in 2015. This might not seem too onerous but in an economy that has only seen deflation over the past two decades (coupled with negative wage growth) believe me, this will stifle consumption… I have highlighted a myriad of interesting facts on Japanese debt and society over the past two years. Go to the categories filter to read.

Finally we get to the catalyst of what I believe will bring about the end of borrow and binge politics. Demand…Global demand or consumption and its growth/decline is how governments and central banks keep the world turning. Every economic crisis in the last 50 years has ultimately been resolved with debt and or cheaper borrowing costs. So, back to the unrest in the TTUABV bloc. The resulting currency declines by all will lead to a contraction of overseas demand due to import price inflation. In many cases government finances will have to be re-balanced so past demand becomes future austerity. Taken solely as a group the world economy would only hiccup. But, add in further austerity by developed nations and world demand looks very fragile. China can no longer come to the rescue as it did in 2009 (with a massive investment programme) as it now has debt problems of its own.

So demand could fall globally. What then? Russia and the Middle Eastern Oil producers become the final catalyst. Lower demand will weaken commodity prices and unlike previous economic declines this is where it all unravels. Because commodity rich countries have grown so rapidly on the strength of the commodity revenues their production costs have grown sharply. The production costs are not just the extraction element but the debt and annual deficits required to run  infrastructure, social spending and corruption wastage. Saudi Arabia, I am led to believe, needs $100 per barrel to maintain its budget. A far cry from previous economic crises where producers would simply cut supply and wait for prices to stabilise (maybe spending a little less in the casino’s of London etc). Not any more. This time round they too would be caught up in the financial meltdown and have to cut spending aggressively. This in turn will lead to yet more government dissatisfaction. Iron Ore will fall below all but the cheapest producers causing further pain to the BRIC and other suppliers who have ramped up production and with it costs.Whilst all this sounds dire. It could lead to (further) widespread buying of equities by Central Banks… see Gold and Equities April 2013 and Olympic legacy for the Finance-reaper August 2013 for comments previously…and maybe one last ditch effort by the elite of the banking world which would help the politicians carry on spending for another few years. It would be a simple plan. Just write off the government debt held by central banks. Of course. this would lead a move by every country (other than the EU which has no mandate) to print money buy their own bonds and spend spend spend. Inflation would rocket and unrest would ensue…

HAPPY 2014!!!!!!!!!!

PS I have been pestering Nigel Farage (via his office) to meet me for lunch and discuss a new political approach for the UK. Sadly he is far too busy. I will continue as I would love to change the way politics are done, not only in the UK but globally.

 

 

 

 

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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

Osborne Good Fortune Financed by Pensioners and Savers.

Osborne Good Fortune Financed by Pensioners and Savers.

Lets look at the UK. Average Weekly Earnings for September 2013 are £ 474 which compares to £473 in September 2012. With Inflation running around 3% (far higher for pensioners and low paid) it must beg the question as to how Retail Sales have grown and house prices are up 4%. Are we really to believe the grinning Chancellor who talks of a turnaround in the economic fortunes and a lower Budget Deficit.

Lets look at some facts;

  • Provident Financial (Largest Doorstep Lender 130 yrs Old) Claims that more families are taking out short term loans (26%) and they are seeing an increase in late payments.
  • Foodbank usage up 300% on last year. 350,000 people fed by the Trussell Trust in the six months to September 2013.
  • Red Cross to distribute aid for the first time since WW2
  • Pawnbrokers… 650 in 2007 with 2250 today. Gold scrapped in 2006 10.7 tonnes but 70 tonnes in 2012 or $3.25bn.
  • Industrial Production is 1.5% lower than 2012.
  • UK Current A/C in Deficit for 30 yrs despite Sterling devaluation.
  • Gross Fixed Capital Formation (Gauge of investment vs consumption) at 14% by far the lowest in the OECD.
  • Industrial Output per hour worked lower vs 2012 and 2011.
  • Part Time working highest ever recorded.
  • Manufacturing only 11% of economy vs 25% in 1980
  • Car Sales booming but finance to buy is around 80% of sales vs norm of 54% with PPI pay-outs acting as deposits.
  • Government spending has increased throughout Osborne`s tenure.
  • UK Birth rate growth highest since 1972 whilst Germany has the lowest ever recorded and only 50% of 1964.
  • The UK Govt is spending £120bn a year more than it receives in tax. If that figure were zero, I believe the economy would contract by around 15%

So we have economic growth but we also have growing poverty. see Quantitative Easing. This is just as I forecast back at the beginning of 2012. Job creation but no deep rooted wealth creation. The jobs being created are (on the whole) very poor quality. Earnings growth is negligible so consumption has to be financed by a mixture of savings drawdown, debt and asset disposal. Asset disposal can be a mixture of Gold sales, Equity Release or Pension withdrawal. We need quality of economic output not quantity. Immigration has for some years helped to keep the quantity of growth from falling. With around 0.7% population growth each year you would expect some positive demand growth. This Government has not done what it promised which was to rebalance the economy away from consumption and back to manufacturing based output. Instead, it has used the QE benefits of lower interest rates to encourage further consumption. This will keep our Balance of Payments in deficit with imports continuing to flourish.  The large export orientated nations are not encouraging consumption, if anything they are doing the opposite. When will we learn that a continued imbalance between imports and exports will not help the quality of the economy.

So what of the UK Budget Deficit improvement. Lets not get carried away with a billion pounds here or there. The plain truth is that government is getting bigger. Bigger tax receipts and bigger spending. Tax receipts from consumption have increased driven by government polices on housing. Can the increase in house prices really be a positive to young families? How can they, with disposable incomes continuing to fall. Osborne is looking increasingly like Gordon Brown. Take what you can in the short term and let the long term implications be someone else’s problem.

If it were not for QE the deficit would not be falling at all. With the UK debt growing by £120bn a year ( chart 1) you would expect the interest payable to be growing. Not so. The lower interest rate environment resulting from QE has saved the chancellor a fortune. The average rate applicable to the debt (chart 2) has dropped significantly. If you assumed that the rate (chart 3) is at least 1.5% lower than it should be (given the appalling state of fiancés and the current rate of inflation) then the chancellor is saving around £15bn a year. This would imply that the deficit is still growing. So the chancellor has saved all this money thanks to the Bank of England (and the Fed) but someone has to be loosing. Yes, my dear old pensioner, it is you! That to my mind is just another tax.

Chart 1

Chart 2

Chart 3

An update of a previous chart. This highlights the income via bonus payments held back prior to the reduction in top rate tax in April. The income tax data also includes Capital Gains which have no doubt been positively influenced by the FTSE 100. Yet more tax income for the government due to global QE. I have to conclude that Central Bankers are totally in cahoots with politicians. As I have stated before, QE should be linked to fiscal prudence guarantees from the various governments.

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Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 Consumer Debt, Debt, GDP, National Debt, Predictions, QE, UK 1 Comment

GLOBAL DEFLATION

A Monster which is as rare as the one in  Loch Ness could be about to appear.

This is not a long winded formal blog, just a work in progress. I am growing increasingly concerned that the ingredients for this most disastrous of economic environments are coming together. I have spoken at length about the growing overcapacity of production in the industrial environment. My concerns have been centred on Steel and Shipbuilding. However, overcapacity exists in nearly every facet of the global economy. I have been a huge bear of the BRIC`s since this blog started (and Lucky JIM O`NEILL who coined the phrase) and this has been totally vindicated with their awful stock market performance.

The Japanese are now going to export the deflation bug which has gripped them for so long. 2014 sees the start of a significant rise in consumption tax which they believe will help the massive fiscal debt (235% 0f GDP) they have accumulated, DREAM ON!!!!

Global Consumption is the key to my concerns for Deflation. Developed world governments have only added to the debt pile which so spooked the world 4 years ago. Even in the UK, where the B of E  purchased a third of all government debt (accumulated since we started borrowing to fight Napoleon) the net debt less the QE (£375bn) is now back to where it was. This is because the QE was not linked to a long term solution like a huge cut in spending, it was merely a way of allowing the government to keep running annual deficits in excess of £120bn. George Osborne was wrong to claim the UK economy is back on an even keel. As I have stated before, government spending coupled with the huge uplift from the PPI scandal have kept our heads above water. These two factors are not foundations for a positive long term future.

China is lying about many of the aspects in its economy and this will come home to roost. I have stated before that its drive to create employment without any concerns for the economic consequences will act like a cancer on the developed world. Unemployment (or under employment ) is growing rapidly in the developed world. This together with wage deflation is a powerful element in my argument.

sorry, have to go the plant wholesalers (Rochfords) so I will continue later

 

UK GDP…Growth? I think not!

UK First Quarter GDP estimate +0.3%

I have not blogged for some time as the spring sees a bigger demand for Landscaping (my company) services. However, having had a few hours free this morning  I ran a quick eye over today’s GDP data. Two things come to mind.

  • Q1 GDP will be revised sharply lower; Data from March played a very insignificant part in this release. Given the hefty reduction in seasonal activity over that period vs 2012 it can only lead to a large downward correction. The spring season begins in March and players like B & Q saw reductions of around 15-20%. The estimated use of Electricity and Gas was raised due to the very cold weather but no similar allowance seems to have been made for the negative impact this would have had (Construction,Farming, Horticulture etc). As most seasonal players were seeing larger double digit reductions in demand, this will surely shine through in later revisions.
  • Q1 GDP is of poor quality; A look through some of the high points of these figures will not help you sleep easier at night. Again, Services, the biggest component of the UK economy came to the rescue. Productive industries continued to weaken which is exactly the opposite to what should be happening! The Services growth was helped by two components which should be highlighted. Legal Activities and Government/Other. Legal Activities were higher for two reasons. Firstly, employment due to PPI miss-selling is still going gang-buster. I imagine that this has now created some 20,000 jobs and given away around £10bn. These jobs will go in an instant once this is over. The pay-outs will have helped (for now) keep Retail Sales from falling further and helped UK car sales outperform Europe. Secondly, and I can bear witness to this, see Clash of the Titans, the extreme cold weather caused a far higher level of car accidents than 2012. Anyone unfortunate to have experienced one will know that the legal industry is parasitic and just loves a good whip-lashing. Government/Other are sadly not broken down but I guess that Government is the bigger of the two. This should be contracting if austerity were really happening. Of course austerity is not really happening. That’s for another day when I sit down and look at the latest Budget Deficit figures out recently.

For now its back to the sunshine!

 

Thursday, April 25th, 2013 GBP, GDP No Comments

UK Budget…2013 Review

UK Budget and the continued austerity measures. I will not look at the details of a bland pointless budget just its focus.

(Click to enlarge) Thank you to my good friend M.Jones for the artwork.

George Osborne. As I see him. Monopoly money or Sterling? There will not be a lot of difference in value by the time he has finished.

First off, why is George Osborne dressed as the Statue of Liberty?

I see his and indeed his predecessors policies as encouraging large scale immigration. Below is part of the poem by Emma Lazarus which is mounted on a bronze plaque on the statue.

“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This sentiment epitomises exactly how the Labour chancellor Gordon Brown treated these islands. He turned a blind eye to the massive influx of immigrants both legal and illegal. By doing so he helped push the UK economy along with the growing population demanding ever more housing and consumption. The positive economic affects of this policy now have to be paid for. The housing demand drove average pricing to an historic high verses average wages. This overvaluation is still much in place today. Whats more the debt accumulated during that housing boom is still very much in evidence. The total debt, both Government, Corporate and Private, is around 515% (highest in the developed world with Japan) of our total GDP and RISING!…To give you some history on the numbers, in 1987 we had accumulated 200% and in 2003 it was 300%. In 1976, when the then Labour Government went cap in hand to the IMF to rescue the country from bankruptcy, our total (Government) debt was only half where it is now adjusted for inflation.

The Budget focus is very much on getting people to invest in housing. Not by cutting Stamp Duty thus making it cheaper but by getting you the public to take on more debt! By doing this, you are not only buying new houses which are priced way above the equivalent second hand property, but you are generating significant extra tax for the Government (VAT on fees, moving etc and Stamp Duty). This is a cynical move which only benefits share holders and senior executives at the major property companies. The additional loan exposure assumed by the Government only adds to the narrow focus of our economy on internal combustion, instead of, solid exposure to the rest of the world by exporting. Two subtle major negatives of this policy are lost on this government. Firstly, the machinery and equipment used in the construction industry is mostly imported. Secondly, the large developers are giving very short term contracts to the companies (sub-contractors) building the properties. This allows the companies that lost out in the first round of contracts to come back and cut costs further. This policy is driving wages lower. Being the only major component with enough flexibility, it is being driven by the availability of cheap foreign labour. To help this sector in the way he is proposing is just mad! The huddled Masses and Wretched Refuse will keep on coming despite Mr Cameron’s latest policy announcement. Closing the gate after the horse has bolted comes to mind. In 20011, 87% of all jobs created in this country went to migrants!!!

Austerity. Is this budget really what it says on the box??

No!!! The way I see Austerity is this (allowing all to share in our problem)

The Poor who go by Bus will have to Walk more. The Car Driving Class (Ford) will have to take the Bus more. The Luxurx Car Driver will have to buy Ford`s from now on. The Uber Rich will have to give the Chaufer the push and drive the Luxury Car  themselves. The Super Uber Rich will have to get rid of the Helicopter Pilot and get a Chauffeur.

 

The Austerity that George (and his soon to be financial wizard at the Bank of England) see it, is somewhat different. By pretending to cut spending, which has actually risen throughout the coalitions term of office, we all think they are turning back the tide of debt. Wrong! In this parliament alone (2010-2015) they intend to borrow around 150% of the total DEBT ACCUMALTED BY ALL THE GOVERNMENTS from 1694 (Bof E founded) to 1997 when Labour came to power…Yes, more money in 5 years that the total debt accumulated over 303 years. To get away with such prolific spending, they have encouraged the Bank of England to buy 1/3 (£375bn)  of all outstanding Government securities (QE). This of course puts vast pots of money into the hands of the people who created the Banking Crisis in the first place. The major net affect is to drive up financial asset prices in the hope that it will drag other assets with it. The only big winners from this policy at the moment are the Uber and Super Uber Rich.

So, the way Osborne Austerity works is this.

The Poor (British) who go by Bus will have to Walk to the job Centre as an Immigrant has taken his job. The Poor Immigrant will no longer starve in his own country but will now take a bus to work in the UK.  The Car Driving Class (Ford) will have to take the Bus more. The Luxury Car Driver will have to buy Ford`s from now on. The Uber Rich will give the Chauffeur the push and HIRE A HELICOPTER PILOT. The Super Uber Rich will ADD A PILOT (Private Jet) to his payroll alongside his Helicopter Pilot.

The longer we go on spending as much as we are makes the eventual disaster all the more painful. Our economy is driven to such a large extent by internal demand, which is driven by Government handouts paid for with debt, that the total debt will get to a point where we cannot pay it back. I think we are there already but the markets are only just getting it.

Since I warned on December 23rd, that George had three months before the worry set in, Sterling has fallen, we have lost our AAA rating and the cost of insuring our state debt has risen by 70%. I think the tide is on the way out for him and sadly for us.

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Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 Consumer Debt, Debt, GBP, GDP, National Debt, QE, UK No Comments

UK Trade Figures Shine Poor Light On Ireland.

UK Trade Volumes are shrinking.

Whilst the trade balance, either positive or negative is of extreme importance, the total volume of Imports and Exports can be far more important on certain occasions. Given recent trends I think this is now worth looking at.

Overall trade shrunk in January 2013 vs Jan. 2012. Exports down 4.98% and Imports down 3.58%. Of course one has to look beyond Oil and Erratics to get a clear picture. But even excluding these it is still contracting. -1.8% and -1.6% .  Overall 2012 saw a growth in trade with Imports up 1.87% and Exports up 0.46%. However, this was a significant slowdown from the 2011 performance which saw double digit growth in trade. As the year  (2012) progressed the positive start turned weaker. Q1 2012 vs 2011 saw growth in both Imports 5.7% and Exports 3.94%. By Q4 both had turned negative, Imports -0.46% and Exports -3.60% (ex-Oil and erratics -1.01% and -2.40% respectively) .

If the current scenario continues, 2013 GDP could turn very ugly. The contraction in trade will financially impact two main areas, corporate profitability and Government revenues. So lets not get carried away with a shrinking trade deficit. Growth in trade begets compound growth. Contraction, if sustained, can do like wise.

Within today’s figures was a rather remarkable and altogether worrying development for Ireland and its European partners who are bailing it out. In the last 3 months to January, imports from Ireland have shrunk 19%. This is an acceleration from the 4Q 2012 contraction of 13% vs 4Q 2011.

Why is this important?

The UK is Irealnd`s biggest trading partner and accounts for 31% of its Imports and 15% of its Exports (in 2012).  On the other hand Ireland is also important to the UK being its 5th largest export destination (5.8% of total) and its 9th biggest supplier (3.2% of total). If Ireland cannot arrest this fall in trade, two things will happen. Firstly, it will see its already huge budget deficit start to grow again …see IRELAND… Never Was a Silk Purse!.. bringing about a second crisis, and Secondly, a sharp reduction in the demand for British goods. Hey ho…

Sterling is not helping and the decline in its value is becoming more pronounced see Sterling Looks over its Own Cliff. Other countries seen weakening exports to the UK were Belgium, Italy, Holland, Spain and Sweden. I am growing increasingly concerned with Sweden’s very narrow focus of exports and how the weakness of Sterling and more importantly the Yen (major competitors in its industry focus) will weaken its economy sharply.

I am waiting until the next UK Government Borrowing figures ahead of next weeks budget to update…

 

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Tuesday, March 12th, 2013 GBP, GDP, National Debt, Predictions, UK No Comments

GDP Decline vs Employment Growth

Journalist Conundrum.

I am at a loss as to what all the Financial Journalists do all day. I have read so many articles recently perplexing over the disconnect between employment growth and GDP weakness. Perhaps if they looked at the data they could start to understand what is going on. Admittedly, I am applying my own reasoning to come up with my conclusion but it is still better than just scratching your head as these hacks are doing. Almost to a man they are all saying that GDP must be understated. I of course have my own idea.

Between September 2012 and September 2011 542,000 employees have joined the nations payroll which now totals 31.946m. As you can see from the chart below Income Tax paid to the revenue over the last year has barely changed. Adjusted for wage growth, it has not changed since 2010. Interestingly despite record numbers in work and total hours close to record, national output has barely changed since 2010.

 

I believe two things are at play. One, many of those joining employment from the unemployed register, were already working. Secondly, and as I first warned of in February 2012, the quality of jobs being created is very poor. As you can see form the comparison from September last year, employment has been primarily in the service sector. Wholesale/Retail jobs have blossomed but Coffee shops an economy do not make. I am aware that many large retailers are favouring employing workers on 20 hour weeks. This gives the employee far less rights and in most cases keeps the employees salary below the tax threshold. So, two poor quality jobs (c £7.50 per hour) are created for every position, neither of them pay tax but will still be needing social support. The rise in transport/storage probably relates to the growth in Internet shopping.

The primary reason for me being very negative about the UK Budget Deficit and my three month warning to George Osborne (blog 23 December 2012) is clearly identified in the data box at the foot of the page. Since 1997 there has been a structural change to the UK economy. We have an additional 1.7m Public Servants (Health 1.1m Education 0.65m) but Manufacturing has 1.674m less employees. The gain in Admin/Support worries me that Red tape has created many of these posts. All in all, the Blair/Brown years were really a massive shift in the dynamism of the UK economy. Public Servants now account for 26% of the workforce as opposed to 17% in 1997. The reality is that this figure when compared to points in history is much higher. Over the last 20 years Central and Local Government have been outsourcing many tasks. The growth in Admin/Support and Professional advisers is no doubt influenced by this process. With that in mind, I guess the Public Sector activities account for over 30% of the economy. Go back even further prior to the Privatisation of Utilities, Telecoms etc and the the comparisons are even worse. If you throw in all those working on Government Infrastructure projects, it is possible to say that over half the working population are paid from the Public purse. Whilst the Property/Debt boom were in full swing, tax revenues were growing rapidly. Now that bubble has burst, the only way this Public Sector involvement is achieved, given our low level of real private sector output, is to borrow more money. This cannot go on forever. Spending has to be cut drastically.

George Osborne pledged to get the economy back on a more balanced footing. Sadly, he has wasted the first two (and most important) years in office. Last year Public Servants only declined by 0.61% (51,000). Meanwhile, very highly paid jobs in the Finance sector (which helped finance this crazy shift in employment) have been dropping sharply for 12 months. With bonus payments being slashed or deferred via a greater proportion of share payout, the January tax hump may be very disappointing.The Budget Deficit has grown in fiscal 2012/13 (to date) and sadly is getting no help from the employment figures.

The UK Office for National Statistics breaks down employment into two categories. Services and Productive.  It is then broken down into 19 sub sections which includes three for public services which I have combined. To try and get a handle on why Income Tax paid to the Treasury is not keeping pace with employment and earnings growth we have to look at the data in detail. The latest data available is to September 2012. Below is the change in percentage terms and actual numbers since September 2011

Productive (6 sub sections  As a group, this category is down 10,000 employees. …Agriculture/Fisheries -9.21% -39.000. Mining/Quarrying +19.67% +12,000.  Manufacturing +2.98% +75,000. Electric/Gas Supply -5.75%  -8,000. Water/Sewerage +7.98% +15,000. Construction -3.21% -66,000.

Services (11 sub sections)..As a group, this category is up 532,000 employees Wholesale/Retail +1.40% +67,000. Transport/Storage +4.30% +63,000. Hotels/Catering +6.48% +130,000. Information/Comms +4.90% +60,000. Finance/Insurance +0.27% +3,000. Real Estate +7.71% +32,000.  Prof/Tech/Scientific +5.38% +131,000. Admin/Support Services +5.92 +145,000. Arts/ Entertainment n/c. Other Service -4.17% -38,000. Public Services -0.61% -51,000.

Employment in the biggest sectors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 Debt, GBP, GDP, National Debt, Predictions, UK No Comments

UK Retail Revoloution

UK The clock is ticking!

In my blog of 23rd December I gave George Osborne 3 moths before the proverbial hits the fan. Today’s release of the December Retail Sales data gives me comfort that my prediction is on track. I have broken down the various components of retail activity giving the year on year growth /decline and in some case, commentary. I have been firmly of the opinion for a long time that conversion (into residential) of the wasteland that is vacant retail space will be the catalyst for a much weaker pricing of the residential property market. The process of conversion has taken hold in Germany but as yet is only talked about on the fringes of UK politics. To give you an idea of the glut in UK retail space,  a recent study highlighted that the UK has 0.36 sq. mtrs. of (retail) floor space per head of population vs 0.21 in Italy and 0.14 in West Germany. Of course, the UK has (had) a more aggressive consumer culture which, as I have talked about in previous blogs, was as a result of the excessive growth in (privately owned) property prices which lead to an approx. 20% uplift in disposable income over 15 years prior to 2008. However, having recently surveyed my local high street I am beginning to think another potential outcome may be possible. The fifty or so outlets are all owned by our local London council. The vacancy rate has increased by another six outlets over the last six months. This puts the vacancy rate at around 20%. These six most recent closures resulted in a loss of income (for the Council) of around £150,000 per annum. I guess this picture is being played out up and down the country. Add this revenue shortfall to the governments cut in payments (to councils) from the central tax pool and one of the biggest employers in the country will have a strong negative affect on 2013 GDP.

So what is the revolution? As we are all aware, the large out of town retail parks have been the catalyst for the high street downturn. However, it is the decline in retail volume growth see The Mayans might be wrong but for George Osborne..time is up and the Internet revolution that has been the executioner. Given that no conversion to residential is forthcoming, we are getting close to the point where the level of vacancies will trigger a significant downward re-rating of high street rents. This adjustment could be in the magnitude of 25-35% for busier environments and 50-60% for the all too familiar ghost areas. This revolution will deal a big blow to the large supermarkets and owners of shopping malls. As you will see below, fuel consumption is falling so any regeneration of the high street (within walking distance) will be greeted with open arms.

December Retail Sales Data Year on year (+0.3) volume grew at the weakest since 1998 excluding the horrendous winter storm ravaged Dec 2010. Over the last six years, volume has grown 4% which given the huge immigration influx, just matches population growth. The figures below are December year on year comparisons for some of the interesting sectors.

Tobacco,Alcohol and other beverages  -37.2% (The volume has fallen every year this millennium and is down 60% in ten years. Supermarkets have taken the trade!)…Floor Coverings + 25% (I presumed it was flooding that helped and indeed in this historically wet year 2012 as a total (+22.3%) reverses the 50% decline in volume over the previous 4 years…Mail Order +13.8% (Credit!)…Textiles (x clothing) -11.6%Cosmetics +9.5% (Clearly just a seasonal favourite as 2012 as a whole is only + 2.3%)…Music, Videos recordings and equipment -7.3% (HMV AND Blockbuster)… Books, Periodicals and Newspapers – 7.3%Flowers, Plants, Seeds, Ferts and pet food +7% ( Strange one, probably warm weather and seasonal) …Furniture +6% (Possibly flooding related as only + 2.7% in 2012 as a whole)…Computers and Telco equip +4%Watches/Jewelry -1.5% (Volume fell every single month (vs 2011) in 2012 and overall were down 7.8%. Our local jeweler is taking in more gold for melting down than he is selling new or second hand. I have been a bear of Gold all year and believe it will touch $1000 long before $2000)…DIY -0.5% (Seeing xmas more seasonal activity at the likes of B &Q but 2012 overall was down 7.1% and is down 26% over 5 years (property market). With the revolution, it may be that small hardware shops with knowledgeable craftsman will make a comeback)

In 2012 the 500 biggest and busiest retail locations saw 2000 (net) outlets fall vacant. A recent survey puts that at 4000 for 2013. Remember these are the busy areas where volume is polarising. Think what will happen in the vast majority of smaller locations. VIVA LA REVOLUTION!

Next blog…CHINA IS LYING!  is on hold awaiting the release of some December data which I believe will confirm my view. It relates to the recent December trade figures.

ps Happy New Year!

 

 

 

 

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Friday, January 18th, 2013 China, Consumer Debt, Debt, GBP, GDP, National Debt, Predictions, UK 1 Comment

The Mayans might be wrong but for George Osborne..Time is up!

The UK has got 3 months. Then time is up!

Back in December last year I started a series of UK blogs explaining why George Osborne will be in a worse financial position by now than he and the overpaid city analysts expected. Yes, sadly to say all the factors I alluded to are coming home to roost. Going forward they are going to get a lot worse, very rapidly. Following data released by Revenue and Customs on Thursday, it is clear that more is less when it comes to employment in this current environment. Tax paid by the highest earners is declining in both total and as a percentage of revenue. With last weeks Government budget data for November, it is clear the deterioration in finances is becoming apparent to all those who have been backing Mr Osborne`s policy of wishy washy austerity.

In the fiscal year to date Government receipts are £339.0bn down 0.1% on November 2011 (£339.3bn) and expenditure is £419bn up 2.7% (£408bn Nov 2011). This growth in expenditure would have been significantly higher if interest rates for Gilts were not so low. The interest bill this year is likely to be the same (£44bn) as in 2010/2011. The difference being, total outstanding Gilts then was £918bn where as it is now £1.113 Trillion. Whilst this is great for the government, it does show that spending excluding interest is way above expectations. Of course, this is a back door tax on pensioners who have been crucified by lower annuity rates as a result of lower bond yields. God forbid should/when interest rates ever go up again.

Chart One shows Government Income

whilst chart two shows expenditure.

More importantly, the third chart shows expenditure excluding interest.

The significance of the obvious but subtle difference between the second and third chart is lower interest spending this year (£31.6bn year to date vs £33.7bn) is masking even greater structural spending which will be all the more difficult to reverse when interest rates go up. Where are tax revenues heading? Well, as I have said on many occasions, total income tax take is not growing despite a higher level of employment. The low quality job growth is reducing higher tax, no income support families, as a percentage of the workforce. This, coupled with higher taxation, both direct and in-direct, have had a downward affect on VAT receipts. Of course, annual salary increases lower than inflation impact still further. Consumption in the UK and wider Europe will fall this year as further tax hikes bite. see previous blogs on Shipping and Trucks…remember 90% all goods have been or have components, that have been, shipped.

The chart below highlights the plight of the consumer. It shows the Total Volume Growth of UK Retail Sales this millennium.

The lack of consumption in volume terms highlights why high street retailers are disappearing. The growing market share of Internet sales explains how the volume being sold on the high street is being funneled into large retailers who can afford rents in high footfall shopping centers. All this will eventually confirm my view that law changes will be put in place to allow vacant Retail/ Industrial/Office space to be converted into residential, thus being the supply element which will lower house prices 20%.

Be aware that the January 2013 Government Borrowing data (released 3rd week in Feb) is likely to be shocking. This is traditionally the biggest revenue month of the year. Advance and Final Income tax Payments swell the months (Income Tax) take to around £25bn with Corporation and Petroleum throwing in another £9bn. It is my belief that the shortfall will be in the region of ten percent. This will put the final nail in the coffin of wishy washy austerity and put the UK in direct conflict with the markets which have been very patient. I believe Sterling will bear the brunt.

see RIP George Osborne for my way out……..plus many previous blogs under the UK section of the menu highlighting my thoughts which have been consistent since the blog started.

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Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 Consumer Debt, GDP, National Debt, Predictions, Shipping, UK 1 Comment

Am I Right to Be Bearish

I have been Bearish since 1999. How do I know that. It was then that I was the only employee of Lehman Brothers to opt out of the generous Direct Benefit Pension into a Direct Contribution pot of money under my control. I still have that pot which has had a positive return every year since. All those who remained were trampled on by the companies collapse. I had taken a negative stance on the management style but more importantly on the global economy which was being increasingly driven by government spending and loose monetary policy. None of that has changed. The four big Economies of the world (USA/Europe/China/Japan) are being held up by massive government spending. The level of spending above tax receipts is shocking and cannot continue. Three of those economies (x China) have existing Debt to GDP ratios which are unsustainable. So, to continue to stimulate consumption by spending more is not an option.

It is becoming clear that the global economy cannot consume at a rate which would help drive tax revenues for those governments to meet their future commitments. Central Banks have been using every trick in the book to help those politicians keep the debt illusion alive. They are all complicit in treating the electorate of those countries like fools. For it is they and their offspring who will have to meet the ever growing burden of this debt. The politicians  have ingratitude themselves with vast riches and on the whole do not live in the real world. This vast state sponsored global economy has to be drastically changed, sadly to do that, great pain will have to be felt by all.

Every time the central banks add to previous QE it is further vindication that being bearish on the economy has been correct. Being bearish on equities is another matter. Each bout of QE adds fresh impetus to the camp that says you must be invested because the bankers and politicians will win, eventually. The  charts below are updates of a regular series of data which I have published. My reasoning is well documented in previous blogs. The first chart is the now familiar BNSF traffic flow of various elements of economic activity. As this is the yearly comparison it is difficult to pick up recent trends. Hence chart two which shows the weekly change in volume growth since July for Containers and Freight Wagons. I think the direction speaks volumes. If you are in the camp that the fiscal cliff will be resolved quickly, what shape do you expect it to take. The $1trillion annual budget deficit that existed throughout the first Obama term must be cut. If it is not cut substantially the Debt to GDP and its growing servicing cost will just be kicked down the road until the next time. Whether it is spending cuts or tax increases, it matters not. The net affect will be to reduce economic activity. That would not be a problem if the other big economic powers were in good financial shape, but they are not. It is only a matter of  time before  Japan implodes in a sea of debt whilst Europe is adjusting to a new norm of significantly lower consumer activity.

 

 

To highlight this shift to lower consumption I have regularly updated my Suez Canal data. The first chart is the simple total volume flowing through the canal.

 

Secondly, the traffic growth in either direction.

Finally, the growth in Container traffic. As I explained in previous blogs on the subject, containers tend to reflect the consumer sentiment as it reflects more on finished goods and blocks out the noise from the vast and volatile commodity sector. As you can see, the flow in the direction of China went negative for the first time since the big fiscal stimulus which created the 2009 updraft.

 

2013 will introduce many new austerity programmes apart from the fiscal cliff. In Europe these are just as negative. France will be pushing the boundaries of reality in its attempts to cut its budget deficit back to 3%. The scale of the spending cuts and tax increases will likely cause significant union and social unrest. The French are in a league of their own when it comes to protesting. Greece and Spain are amateurs when pitched against the cake eating peasants. Heavy industrial companies are coming under strong political pressure to protect jobs but in the end reality will prevail. The UK, SUBJECT OF MY NEXT BLOG, will be plunged into chaos as the budget deficit continues to deteriorate.

In this environment, company profits cannot increase. Despite strong balance sheets, the corporate sector has a chilling few years ahead. Most equity fund managers are overweight strong cash flow companies. Pricing power is about to become far weaker as consumers recoil from yet more austerity. Overcapacity is and will continue to be a major problem.

Shipping and Trucking, my two most frequently blogged subjects, will bear the brunt of this slowdown in global trade volume.

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Consumption vs Transportation.

Where is the global economy going?

I refer to previous blogs which were negative on Truck Makers, Shipping and Commercial Property

Today’s release by Markit Economics on August Eurozone retail activity helps paint a picture of global activity. A statement from the research company sums up Europe ` The current ten months of declines in Eurozone sales (to August) is the second longest in the surveys history behind that of the 2008/9 crisis`. I urge you to think of the world as a whole and gauge where total demand is heading. Lets start with Europe, retail activity is falling for now but where is it heading? Well, it is not difficult to understand that the austerity measures having and due to be implemented, will drain demand still further. Sadly, inflation is not helping anyone. It is constantly just above the anemic wage growth leading to a contraction in disposable income. Interest rates are at rock bottom so no matter how they try, central bankers cant get money into consumers pockets. Banks are all but defunct with untold losses in real estate and shipping, to name but a few areas. Now the second biggest global economy, China. Who knows where consumption is heading but yesterdays article in the Telegraph of business collapse and bad debts really only starts to open the can of worms of bad debts. With real estate (and other asset) profits having driven a tsunami of consumer growth over the last ten years, it is difficult to see how they can repeat the massive boost to the world economy they achieved in 2009. With house price to wages (ratio) the highest in the world can they really afford to re-ignite that inflationary spiral. They will continue to ease monetary policy at a pace which suits them not the rest of the world as in 2009. Now the third biggest economy Japan. Having written several blogs on their impending doom, today’s weak retail sales data were no surprise to me and  I feel herald a consumption contraction which will last for many years. The 230% of debt to GDP the government carries will make it very difficult to stimulate growth. The shift in the workforce over the last ten years tells me thay have the western disease. Manufacturing jobs have declined by around 1,500,000 to the lowest percentage of the workforce since 1953 whilst their has been an explosion of around 2,000,000 people in social services and healthcare. This is not a recipe for long term growth as these new jobs carry a greater likely hood of lower earning potential. Now the big daddy, USA. Ask yourself a question `Do you trust politicians?`OK thats was a resounding answer. In which case the fiscal cliff is a real danger. With an annual budget deficit of over $1 Trillion for the whole of the  Obama presidency, it is little wonder that the economy has managed some growth. Of course it needed extra help from the Federal Reserve. All that has to stop and at the end of 2012 the Bush/Obama tax cuts are due to expire. Where do you think consumption will be when they finally bite the bullet?

So that’s the biggest economies of the world taken care of. I think we should look at the BRICs. I have written many blogs on the subject mainly due to my concerns (dating back to January) for Iron Ore. The dynamic growth of these countries was centred around the explosive growth in commodity prices and hence the unbelievable investment that followed. Just bear in mind, Iron Ore, started the millenium below $20 per tonne and reached $200 two years ago. I believe they have a chill wind of reality blowing there way which will see a dramatic reversal in inward investment resulting in lower consumption.

Can you imagine what it is like living with me? A bundle of fun for Mrs H!

ps The landscaping business is very poor so would love to hear from anyone who wants to employ a crazy bear with 28 years experience in the City.

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Thursday, August 30th, 2012 BRICs, China, Debt, GDP, Japan, Shipping, UK, US Economy No Comments

Warning Signs

BHP Billiton and Iron Ore Price.

In a previous blog `Are Steel Producers a Buy? I highlighted my concern for a potential significant decline in Iron Ore prices. Well, last Friday this key ingredient of Steel making, fell below $100 for the first time since its significant climb towards $200 started in early 2009. As you can see from the chart in that earlier blog, this price rise started just above production costs of around $40. So why am I highlighting this fall from grace? Iron Ore is, to me, like a litmus test of how big supply and demand in one of the most important construction materials is heading. This recent slide, from $145 in May, is not good. It has been driven by the significant fall in Steel prices to around $550 per ton. China is the key to all this price movement, firstly to the upside in the big push following the massive stimulus spending in 2009, and secondly, by overproduction now. The total production targets for China (in 2012) is another record at around 720 million tonnes. The problem is, no one seems to care where all this production ends up. Inventory is high in all elements of the production process and finished goods are stacked high around the country. A few drivers of the economy over the past decade are now suffering and they just happen to use a great deal of steel. Ship building (see numerous previous blogs) is imploding and will lose many yards to closure this and next year. Mining is starting to suffer as the raw material (Iron Ore) is of poor quality and cannot compete with overseas quality at this price. Coal is piled to the moon and back. Aluminium (see previous blog). Car inventories are very high at the forecourt with sales incentives getting bigger. The Iron Ore price is telling you that production cuts are around the corner. Interestingly, the lower steel price could have a big impact on countries that do not produce steel. Pakistan and Bangladesh for instance are two of the worlds big 5 players (India,Turkey,China) in ship demolition. The price they pay for an old ship is quoted in $`s per ton for the ships weight. The only reason they have become large players is the cost of labour. Instead of high technology, they use muscle. This is a very slow process. So when you buy a second hand ship and the steel price is stable or rising, all well and good. When it falls however, you are left holding a very expensive piece of rusting junk. As the price for scrapping ships falls with the steel price, more and more shipping companies will go under. The new price for ships is coming down so a vast inventory of ships will need to be revalued on company balance sheets which will frighten the hell out of the banks.

Despite the expectations of further money being thrown around by the global Central Banks, I believe that little things like higher VAT in Spain from September, the end of the Japanese government car scrappage scheme and the Greek pharmacist insisting on cash payments from the government to issue prescription`s from next week will all keep pressure on the bad news. With volume in the equity markets imploding over the summer, investment banking bonus`s will be non-existent. The big loser in that is of course that old whipping boy of my angst. the British government. The large chunk of income tax it receives early each calender year helps pay for some EU contributions or a new mansion for an African dictator. Not next year! The UK as I have said in many blogs, is on the verge of financial collapse. Just like Japan, it is all smoke and mirrors with huge liabilities not being accounted for with a budget shortfall which will grow in this fiscal, not decline as predicted. The government in Japan is expected to announce a reduction in economic expectations tomorrow, which is no surprise to several investment banks which have recently released research indicating they believe Q3 will be the start of another recession there.

So what about BHP? If you take a look at the charts on the blog first mentioned above. You will see the performance of BHP and the Iron Ore price. Whilst BHP mines an array of minerals, Iron Ore is the key to its success. Maybe the Chinese government will come to the rescue with a massive spending package  (driving steel consumption). In the meantime, I believe its share price is ripe for a 30% decline. To be fair I have warned of this before as I felt it would perform more in line with the commodity. The reality now is, it is exposed to a global slowdown. It has invested massive amounts in moving vast quantities of materials and they have to keep that machine running at full pelt. Unlike OPEC they cannot afford to turn the taps off until things settle down.

Is China causing global warming and seismic activity? As a side issue, a very rough estimate of Australia’s exports of commodities in the last decade must be around 10 billion tonnes.  A great deal of which, ended up in China. How much do you have to move from one side of the globe to the other, or from one tectonic plate to another to affect the earths rotation or plate movement?? Just a thought.

BRICs (see numerous previous blogs) of course have been given a big lift by the Iron Ore price in the past. If this current price fall is maintained for some time or weakens again, their economies will be hit very hard as will the mining machinery producers eg Joy Global and Caterpillar, both of whom I have highlighted in the past. I am sorry Jim O`neill but your theory could all be about to be exposed as a short term blip.

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Monday, August 27th, 2012 China, GDP, Japan, National Debt, Predictions, Shipping, Steel, UK No Comments

US Economic update

BNSF Weekly rail shipments.

Regular readers will know that I have relied on this data to give a view of the economy. Transportation is the most important bellweather for economic activity. New readers might want to view an earlier blog The Perfect Storm for an overview. The updated chart (click to enlarge) does not really add much to last update in early May. Motor vehicles continue the trend but  metals growth is weaken as imported vehicles improve market share. Lumber confirms the stronger demand from the housing sector. Total freight shows no sighs of altering its lacklustre, low growth position. The significant year on year decline in coal movement is coming to an end as this was driven by both lower gas prices and warm winter weather. The rest of the year should stabilise at lower levels but not adversely affect Total Freight as in Q1 and 2. I have talked about my Jim Thorpe concerns for the coal industry and its suppliers on several occasions so it was interesting to see Caterpillar mention (this week) the slowdown in demand from that segment of their business. Sadly things will get far worse. If you look at the inventory build up in the worlds biggest coal user (China) you will understand why I am so negative. It is not only coal that is piling up, the products that need huge energy imput to produce are also building. Steel production will have to be cut drastically in the Q3 if a price implosion is to be avoided. This may support steel prices but the knock on affects to Coal, Iron Ore and many other commodities (not to mention Shipping) will be significant. Interestingly, new car inventory at Chinese dealerships is building rapidly. Sales data are registered when delivered to the dealer, so, with inventory as high as 60 days sales on the forecourt, the only response will be heavy discounting. Going forward this will weaken demand.

Shipping is never far from my blogs so I will not disappoint. Europe/Asia container route pricing by the World Container Index has fallen for each of the last five weeks and is eroding the rate increases forced through by the big carriers. The weakening Baltic Index is confirming the growing level of inventory of dry bulk commodities. I hope to have an update on the regular Suez Canal data next week, that is if I can get a good Internet signal in Tenerife. Happy days!

 

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Friday, June 8th, 2012 BNSF, China, GDP, Predictions, Shipping, Steel, US Economy No Comments

Are Steel Producers a Buy?

The building block of life.

BRICs and Steel part 1 was published late January. Since then, shares in the sector (STEEL) have fallen between 20-30%. The attached charts of ArcelorMittal (World No1 player) and US Steel show the stocks on major support lines. I am not a professional technician (only a lowly landscape gardener/designer) but the 200 day moving average crossed below the 100 day average  on the downside.  I guess it warns of a total failure in the share price. However, having seen a significant pullback to date and trading in the support area, I am not going to suggest a collapse. What I will say is that if you are in the recovery camp and believe that the central banks can add sufficient economic stimulus, then this would be a good time to buy. Of course, anyone familiar with my blogs on the heavy industries will be aware that I believe that the huge over capacity will prevail for many years. China will try and export its way out of a growing inventory position. Its steel makers are producing at a breakeven cost. The only way steel makers can elicit some profit is for the Chinese government to ease monetary policy at a breakneck pace (not going to happen until inflation is under control) or Iron Ore prices fall. Iron Ore faces three significant headwinds. First, demand. Yes I hear you! New car sales in the USA are growing rapidly but do me a favour. Go and calculate the weight of 14 million cars in 1995 and then weigh the estimated 14 million cars of 2012. I bet 2012 weighs 20-30 less. Construction is still growing in China but at a slower pace. Shipbuilding orders are collapsing. European overall steel demand? Car sales falling rapidly whilst countries like Spain who built 800,000 properties in the boom will have only 60,000 in 2012 (see also Ireland… Never was a slik purse!) Second, recycling. Per ton prices for ships going to the knackers yard are falling due to too many ships and not enough beaches. Recycled steel generally needs no Iron Ore. Third, Inventory. As I have highlighted on several occasions, inventory is at record levels. Yes I know production of steel is at record levels but demand is not keeping up. A recent report by Hexun indicated that 500 of the total 1600 Chinese shipbuilders will close in 2012 (reference my blogs on Shipping).

 

The BRIC nations plus Australia have boomed with the price of Iron Ore. As the chart shows, from sub $20 to $200 in 10 years. I believe the current price of $145 is vulnerable to a further 10-20% pullback. How the large producers Vale, BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue handle this scenario is anyones guess. Cost reductions via a curtailment of machinery/transportation investment may be the result. Since the BRIC and Steel blog Joy Global has fallen 30% with the more diverse Caterpillar down 16%. I am of the belief that the mining stocks still have a lot of downside. Shipping stocks have fallen around 25% (ex AP MoellerMaersk only -12%). If Iron Ore demand weakens, they are all vulnerable as to are the banks that have direct debt exposure (see previous blogs).  Lets not forget Coal, another important factor in Steel production. Maybe fracking and a decline in Steel demand will lead to more towns like Jim Thorpe which at one time had more millionaires than any other town. I have stayed there and whitewater rafted in the nearby river. Lovely place!

 

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Monday, May 7th, 2012 China, GDP, Shipping, Steel 3 Comments
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