Archive for April, 2013

Gold and Equities

I have been asked to explain two elements of the previous blog.

  1. Why did I take a negative view of Gold last year and warn in January this year that it will test $1,000 before it sees $2,000
  2. Why did I state that QE includes buying Equities.

Gold (chart in Sterling). Firstly, lets not forget that it is just a lump of metal, shiny I grant you but never the less nothing more. Three main features stand out in the above chart. Central Banks are now net buyers, Investors have raised participation greatly and last but by no means least, Jewelry demand has fallen. In January I highlighted a visit to a local jeweler who informed me that he now takes in more gold for smelting and pawn than he sells new. This finally made me take a more negative stance. I reasoned that supply is no longer mine production but also the selling of old gold was supplying to no small extent a large proportion of jewelry demand. The higher the Gold price went jewelry demand waned. Clearly, in these austere times Gold above $1800 was having a very negative impact. Investors in a metal which unlike a company, pay no dividend, will not invent a new technology nor be subject to a hostile takeover bid, need to have positive momentum to maintain optimism. Clearly, as was seen in the recent collapse, the bubble has burst. I am beginning to think this move in Gold may be replicated in other commodities. My guess is Oil is ripe for a major downward shift. Perhaps to $60. This would have some huge implications for stocks and Governments. More of that in a later blog.

Equities. I included Equities in the classification of assets being purchased under the umbrella of QE. A recent study highlighted that many Central Banks have started buying equities because bond yields have been driven so low by QE that they can no longer find sufficient return. Out of the three big QE countries USA, UK and Japan, only the latter is buying equities. However, the huge scale of QE by the three has indirectly driven others to the equity table. That worries me. If you look at the Gold chart again, can you see something about Central Banks investment timing? At the lower levels of Gold they were net sellers and at its peak they were net buyers. What worries me more is that Jim O`Neill (or lucky Jim as I first referred to him in BRICs and Steel) has given the go ahead by stating

“Frankly, it makes a huge amount of sense in a world of floating exchange rates and such incredible opportunity, why should central banks keep so much money in very short term, liquid things when they’re not going to ever need it?”  “To help their future returns for their citizens, why would they not invest in equity?”

Well Jim, the main reason that the Bank of England was known as the lender of last resort was because it had reserves in the most liquid format. To suggest otherwise just turns them into state investment trusts. Remember, in equities,  we are talking about a finite investment. If Central Banks invest on mass, equities will be driven (higher)  to levels where the yield will be not much more than that of bonds. QE is clearly giving supposedly sound individuals some absurd ideas.

 

 

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Quantitative Easing (QE)

What is QE?

Printing or creating vast quantities of paper or electronic money by supposedly intelligent people (Central Bankers) on behalf of the population of a country to

Allow Compliment Condone Encourage supposedly intelligent people (Politicians) to borrow and spend vast sums of money on behalf of the population of a country.

Q: What has been done with the QE proceeds?

A: Buy Assets

Q: What Assets?

A: Firstly Government Bonds, then lesser quality bonds and fixed income securities…and now Equities.

Q: What is the impact on these assets?

A: Given they all have, to varying degrees, a finite supply, they have all gained substantially in value, driving interest rates and future returns on investment much lower.

Q: Who has benefited from QE?

A: Generally the wealthiest 10% of society who tend to have savings ex pension in these assets

Q: Who suffers?

A: Generally speaking, the poor and the majority of pensioners who have little more than the basic defined contribution pensions.

Q:Why them?

A: The excess of cheap money is primarily channeled into balance sheet repair for banks and low cost speculation investment in commodities etc which has kept inflation stubbornly high whilst annuity rates have imploded with lower bond yields.

Q: Why has demand not rocketed with the record low interest rates that have resulted in QE?

A: Since the 1960`s politicians have used the magic wand of increased debt to buy their way out of economic downturns (see Economic Seismic Shift)  but debt, both private and public in most major economies is past being able to grow as before. Additionally, commodity inflation has lead to a fall in disposable incomes.

The long term implications are as yet unknown but a quick reflection on what forms an asset valuation. When assets are exchanged in a trade, an assumption is made by both parties about the current and future value of those assets. For instance, when the Native Indians sold Manhattan in 1626 to the Dutch both parties were happy with the trade. Of course the shiny trinkets given to the Indians indicate just how badly valuations of assets can be perceived in the future. History might be as equally harsh when it looks back on QE. Asset valuation is based on two important factors. Supply and Demand. Look at the difference in valuation of a Van Gogh masterpiece and a Zimbabwe 100 trillion dollar note. Whilst masterpieces of this quality have a very finite supply, awful political and economic policy of the Zimbabwe government lead to a supply of untold magnitude. Sound familiar?

Currently, the levels of debt being amassed by some (most) developed economies are approaching a point of no return. Of course some lesser countries have already cir cum to reality. The debt has been grown in the compost of progress and society. It was thought to have been used to build a better life for today and tomorrow. Whilst it has to be said life for many has been greatly improved that cant be said for all. Whats more, it has only improved life for the yesterday and today. The tomorrow has been totally forgotten. Sadly, vast political and government empires have flourished.

I am firmly in the camp that believes we must face our demons and cut government spending drastically. Yes this will cause significant economic hardship, but it will be a hardship more even than QE. Commodity prices will get crushed and allow us to rebuild a fairer society in the future. Of course, the wealthy will be screaming from the rooftops 1930`s style. It has come to pass that I must quote Churchill in his first speech to the House of Commons after being made Prime Minister during the first and worst year of WW11.

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” He knew that when faced with adversity a country has to dig deep together in order to move forward. QE is just delaying the inevitable at the expense of all in society who will be made to pick up the bill whilst in the meantime, only a small proportion enjoy the riches it bestowes.

Other very apt Churchill quotes:

  • There is no such thing as a good tax.
  • If you are going to go through hell, keep going.
  • We contend that for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.
  • Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon
  • You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else.

Next blog topics….I am watching the hefty falls in the Shanghai Container Index with interest. …Japan consumption will implode over the next 12 months as food prices jump 10-15% in Q1 and the 2014 consumption tax arrives….BRICs are still a target of mine and going to suffer…Gold, I forecast in January that it will hit $1,000 before $2,000. Looking good.

 

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Saturday, April 27th, 2013 BRICs, Consumer Debt, Debt, National Debt, Predictions, QE 4 Comments

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

Amazing Performance: Part 1

Nine Year lows for Steel companies!!!

As an update to my big calls in 2012 I am going to start with the subject which has taken up most of my verbiage, STEEL. I am so pleased with the results that you could say I am;

Inebriated with the exuberance of my own verbosity. I first heard this phrase as a child quoted by my amazing aunt Nancy who is still with us today and rapidly approaching 100! Of course, the 19th century British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, is credited with it first.

I digress. Back in May last year I wrote Are Steel Producers a Buy? The share price chart of two steel companies were highlighted. ArcelorMittal and US Steel.  I said then, and still say today, that oversupply in China and a lack of final demand in the world will keep downward pressure on the steel sector. So how have these companies fared since then? ArcelorMittal is 23% lower and US Steel is 34% lower. Lets not forget that the market has risen around 15% since then so the net affect has been very dramatic. Also mentioned negatively in the blog were Joy Global and Caterpillar and they are down 14% and 13% respectively. The truth is I started warning about the Steel sector back in January 2012 with the BRICs and Steel blog. I tied the fortunes of the BRICs to this sector as, in my opinion, it was the demand for the raw material, Iron Ore, that drove the fortunes of the BRIC economies. As I stated then, Jim O`Niell was lucky that when coining this now famous acronym, the Chinese authorities were prepared to spend vast fortunes on infrastructure projects (which are of course steel dominant) and the stupid governments of the west were allowing the finance industry to lend beyond the realms of their normal Avarice. Since January 2012 specialist Iron Ore and Coal producer Cliffs Natural Resources has fallen around 70% but my favourite pick (for a short) in the May blog and since has been BHP. I stated then that I thought it had 30% downside. So far it is down 3% (still not forgetting the market is up 15%). Luckily for me, it has just broken a five year uptrend which points to a decline to the £16.50 triple four year bottom support (-12% from current price).

Chinese inventories of Steel are at an all time high and growing. The authorities, as I have stated many times, are more interested in employing the masses than making a profit. Hence the 98% fall in profit last year. The production capacity is frightening. They are not concerned with the steel companies around the globe. Interestingly, tighter controls by Europe on wider steel pipe imports (from China) were announced and the US Military have just stated that all military supplies must be made from US produced steel. Other countries are doing similar things (Smoot-Hawley anyone).

China is taking a similar of attitude to employment over profit in other industries. Solar panels, Aluminium and more importantly Shipping. In a way it is a grander version of Kurzarbeit see Kurzarbeit achieved where Blitzkrieg failed!.

Amazing Performance: Part 2 Reviews the staggering gains from my recommendations in Be Prepared for a Wedgefest October 2012

MASSIVE Japanese QE. Let me be quite clear. Japan will not, and has no intention of, creating strong domestic demand. With the devaluation of the Yen (Japan has no fossil fuels) and the significant increases in consumer taxes 2014/15, disposable income will be squeezed even further. Yes, I hear you, they have potentially large shale gas reserves but that will take years at those depths. They have only one intention, export and survive. I have written at length about the ills of Japanese government debt and the demographic eruption. If you think this large QE will help global demand, think again. Japan has suffered greatly with the strong Yen. Its traditionally strong heavy industries of Steel and Shipbuilding were decimated. They intend to regain the upper hand. Asian countries are faced with a global exporter (in many fields) which has huge spare capacity and technological know how and they intend to compete.

 

 

 

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Friday, April 5th, 2013 BRICs, China, Debt, Japan, Predictions, QE, Shipping, Steel, Yen No Comments
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