Norway

Sterling…Beware the Reaper!!!!

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Oil price graphic

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

German Banking System in Crisis

I have warned repeatedly that exposure to the shipping industry would create a grave crisis for the European Banking System with particular attention to Germany. My initial article on the subject `The Perfect Storm` (Jan 2012) was followed by many updates.

The front page of today’s Lloyd`s List carries the headline `Shipping Crisis Threatens German Banking System` It highlights a warning from the Bundesbank no less. I am sorry to say that most of my forecasts tend to be right in the end even if a timely delay exists.

Below is an extract from The Perfect Storm. Of course some players eg RBS have sold or reduced their exposure. If you look at my most recent article on flow through the suez canal, you can see that shipping volume has dropped significantly. This is highlighted in the Baltic Freight Index which reflects the income levels achieved per voyage. The past three months have done the damage but I must confess that volume in February is currently running at an unchanged level vs Feb 2012. A crisis in Germany would see many ships owners fall into receivership, thus pushing to new depths, pricing of second hand ships. This has been the cornerstone of my concern for the big fleet owners (listed below).

….Greece along with Japan are the largest merchant ship owning nations in the world. For Greece, shipping is second only to Tourism. Thus it is a large employer. That fact has obvious implication given the bleak economic prospects they face. When it comes to financing that fleet the largest player with nearly 20% of the total debt of $66bn is RBS. Way down in % exposure come Commerzbank and Cr. Suisse. The Chinese have used their financial muscle since the financial crash to offer huge financing for new ships built in their yards. The Greek fleet has benefited from the cheap money bonanza pre-crash and has reduced the average fleet age from 23 years in 2005 to 15.9 years in 2011, whilst slightly growing tonnage.

Financing the global fleet is in the hands of only a select band of players (appro.39). Six banks account for around 40% of total debt. HSH Nordbanken (majority owned by 2 German federal states + 11% JC Flowers) $50bn. Commerzbank (via subsid.) $33bn, Dnb $28bn, RBS $23bn, Nordea $18.4bn. BNP $18bn. Interestingly Lloyds and Unicredit are well involved.

The Scandinavian banks have the largest exposure in balance sheet terms and therefore have the most to lose.

The largest corporate owners of ships are AP Moeller Maersk (840) COSCO Group (725), Nippon Yusen 554, Mitsui OSK 509 and China Shipping Group 482. The share prices of the Japanese and Danish companies have reflected weakness in new charter rates up to a point but still trade with an element of optimism that the global economy will grow around 4% this year. If the Index continues to portray significant weakness and pricing does not improve, I can see the like of AP Moeller trading 20% lower to its September 2011 low. Should my worst fears for the global economy be borne out, the 13 year head and shoulder formation would imply something far more unimaginable, so lets not go there.

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Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 Debt, National Debt, Norway, Shipping, Steel 1 Comment

The Medicine is Not Working.

Finance-Reaper returns..with a warning!

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

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

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

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

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

 Europe.

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

UK

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

 

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

 USA

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

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

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

BNSF Weekly railway data.

Blogs to follow.

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

 

 

 

 

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The Perfect Storm

Or is it just a `Storm in a Greek earn?`

If there is one industry group which reflects supply and demand most accurately, it would be shipping. I look at the world as a body. The shipping lanes or seabourn trading routes being the arteries. The ships plus cargo are the life blood supplying the three major continents, being organs. The heart I feel is money supply and importantly the  velocity of money.  Changes in money can quicken or slow the demand cycle which in turn is reflected in the fortunes of the shipping industry. This is where problems can occur. Changes to money supply can develop very rapidly whilst shipping on the other hand cannot be so nimble. Lead times for ship delivery is 2-4 years. The reason for writing today is due to a potentially disastrous imbalance in the worlds health.

I wrote last week about the decline in the Baltic shipping indices. Since then the barometer of daily charter rates have fallen another 20%. Why do I feel the need to update, given, as I explained then that it was a volatile animal? The levels now being indicated would imply income generated will not cover operating costs. This time last year the Index declined to around 1450 from a 2010 range of 4200 to 2000. This lead to many articles fretting about the future of the industry. Whilst they proved true in a sense, the problems of 2011 were not significant. Now however, the index is another 28% lower than then. Adding to this poor outlook is the pricing of the single most important industry cost, Bunker fuel. Over the last 12 months it is up 30%.  . Being a derivative of oil it rightly tracks that commodity. A factor which has exacerbated the pricing is that refineries have invested in improved cracking capabilities, enabling far greater proportion of distillates into more profitable lighter products. As a guide Bunker fuel averaged $100 per ton in the 1990`s and is now around $700.

If this level of the Index were to continue, the implication would be catastrophic! Hence, I have put together some important industry facts.

Greece along with Japan are the largest merchant ship owning nations in the world. For Greece, shipping is second only to Tourism. Thus it is a large employer. That fact has obvious implication given the bleak economic prospects they face. When it comes to financing that fleet the largest player with nearly 20% of the total debt of $66bn is RBS. Way down in % exposure come Commerzbank and Cr. Suisse. The Chinese have used their financial muscle since the financial crash to offer huge financing for new ships built in their yards. The Greek fleet has benefited from the cheap money bonanza pre-crash and has reduced the average fleet age from 23 years in 2005 to 15.9 years in 2011, whilst slightly growing tonnage.

Financing the global fleet is in the hands of only a select band of players (appro.39). Six banks account for around 40% of total debt. HSH Nordbanken (majority owned by 2 German federal states + 11% JC Flowers) $50bn. Commerzbank (via subsid.) $33bn, Dnb $28bn, RBS $23bn, Nordea $18.4bn. BNP $18bn. Interestingly Lloyds and Unicredit are well involved.

The Scandinavian banks have the largest exposure in balance sheet terms and therefore have the most to lose.

The largest corporate owners of ships are AP Moeller Maersk (840) COSCO Group (725), Nippon Yusen 554, Mitsui OSK 509 and China Shipping Group 482. The share prices of the Japanese and Danish companies have reflected weakness in new charter rates up to a point but still trade with an element of optimism that the global economy will grow around 4% this year. If the Index continues to portray significant weakness and pricing does not improve, I can see the like of AP Moeller trading 20% lower to its September 2011 low. Should my worst fears for the global economy be borne out, the 13 year head and shoulder formation would imply something far more unimaginable, so lets not go there.

Given the implications this index decline throws up, it is worth knowing the exposure companies have. It could just be that the Chinese new year or Cyclone Heidi has distorted the picture. Either way, the problems being faced by Greece would be amplified should any of this happen. The potential for China to cut interest rates or Germany to give approval for the ECB to officially commence QE would give expectations a short term lift. Unfortunately, the significant rise in oil (Bunker fuel) that it would lead to would be an offset for the ship operators. The real problem of global debt will not go away easily.

 

CAUTION: Compiling data in this sector can be difficult and I have relied on the Internet to be correct. You are all aware that is a dangerous strategy. Most of the data is 6-12 months old.

 

 

 

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Monday, January 16th, 2012 China, Debt, GDP, Money Supply, Norway, Predictions, QE, Shipping 5 Comments
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