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.

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Profound Inequality in America…Time to Act!

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

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

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

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

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

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

Item 1)

Item 2)

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

Item 3)

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Amongst its Economic peers the USA (x China)

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

Amongst OECD members

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

also

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Tags: , , ,

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!

Tags:

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

Nippon soon to Nip Off.

Japan and Yen update.

Regular readers will know I have been negative on Japan for a long time. Having called the Yen decline in September 2012, I now believe the second and more meaningful breakdown of the currency is around the corner. The first chart highlights the narrowing pattern developed since the mid 2013 low point (high for $) of £/Y 103.7. The breakout of the higher or lower lines could lead to a significant shift. If 97 is broken on the downside, against my expectation, a return to significant Yen strength would see the Nikkei equity index fall sharply. If, as I expect, 99 is broken on the upside (Yen weakness) the second long term chart comes into play. The $/Yen would likely test the May high of 103.7 which if breached would lead to a move to the 1998 downtrend. This is where I will try and explain why I think that will be breached and the Yen will fall by a further 10% from there. To try and capture this movement the $/Yen 102 calls which expire December 18th are worth a look. They are currently trading around 20 pips. If the move does not occur you loose 20 pips. If it does, you are in for the ride at 102.20.

Chart A) Short Term $/Yen Sept 2012-Nov 2013

Chart 2) Long Term $/Yen 1996-2013

Why so negative?

I believe the ratings agencies may downgrade the nations debt before the end of the year. The planned tax hike due to be implemented in April 2014 will weigh very heavily on what is a weak consumer backdrop. I still believe this (tax) will not go ahead as planned. To sweeten the passage of this tax, which is expected to raise an extra Y8 Trillion, the government has announced a Y5 Trillion stimulus to help the economy. The debt profile of Japan is well known. It makes Greece look well run!

Lets remind ourselves of the position:

  • Total Debt is 500% vs 370% in USA
  • By 2018 gross debt will be 295% of GDP (higher than the UK crisis peak of 250% in 1815 and 1945)
  • Net debt will be 190%
  • 50% of total spending is borrowed new money

 

25% of tax revenues go to debt interest with rates at near zero

  • 25% of all bank assets are in government bonds (JGBs)
  • equals 900% of tier 1 capital vs 25% UK banks (Gilts) and 100% US banks (Treasuries)

I have highlighted above, a very important fact. With interest rates at near zero, the government is funding at very attractive rates. However, with debt still growing rapidly (c 8-10%GDP) the fact that a quarter of tax revenue is spent on interest, it is not difficult to imagine how, with rates near zero, a higher rate scenario could completely overwhelm the countries finances. Of course, current QE will not let that happen. The 20% devaluation of the Yen in the past twelve months has helped the economic backdrop. Exports up 11.5% in September was the recent headline. Look a little closer and you will find that yes, in value terms they were up. However, in volume terms, they were down 4.4%.

The return to wage growth ( September 2013 vs 2012) was seen as significant. I cant help but feel that the 0.1% increase will do little to offset the sharp increase in energy related costs being heaped on the consumer because of the Yen decline. With continued declines in disposable incomes, the proposed tax increase will be a bitter pill for consumption to swallow. Exports are the only straw that Japan can cling too. Recent export figures from the continent (Asia) are not promising. China exports to SE Asia are at a 17 month low whilst Taiwan and Korea are reporting declines. The Japan time bomb is ticking!!

Coming Soon……Update on my call for Global Deflation  and A review of my bearish 18 month stance on Volvo and other Scandi plays

Tags:

Friday, November 1st, 2013 Debt, Japan, National Debt, Predictions, QE, Yen 1 Comment

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.

Tags: ,

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

Shanghai to Europe Rate Drop Questions Chinese Export Claim.

Shanghai Containerised Freight Index (SCFI)…(An indication of the shipping cost of a 20ft Container)

It appears all is not what it seems in trade. Over the past six weeks, the SCFI (Shanghai to Northern Europe component) has fallen 36% (10%last week) and is now 21% below the corresponding period in 2012. The Mediterranean Ports have not faired any better with a 33% six week and 19% year on year, decline.

 

The same applies to the USA. Shanghai to the West Coast is 30% below 2012 with the East Coast down 16%.

 

Now of course this is a complex issue. The glut of vessels is nothing new and something I have written about on many occasions. It cannot only be an oversupply of transport, volume must come into the equation somewhere. I get a sneaky feeling that the forth quarter may be an interesting one when it comes to earnings. For now, this decline in demand for transportation has to ring some alarm bells. China is using its financial mussel in order to secure new shipbuilding orders for its vastly oversized industry. Whilst they mutter about merging some yards and maybe shutting others, the plain fact is (just as in the other heavy industries in China. Aluminium, Steel etc) the overwhelming urge to keep the people in work has drowned out any commercial economic considerations.

China raised its capital spending dramatically in June and July with house building and railway lines seeing significant investment. For now, it has reduced the huge industrial material inventory which was building beyond sustainable levels. Steel production was maintained or even increased by some allowing Iron Ore to rally. These investments are reducing the raw material inventory but  increasing the stock of un-sold real estate (most of which is priced at 20 times annual earnings…very rough guide) and in totally under used rail infrastructure. Eventually something will have to give. Wage growth of 20% per annum has underpinned the valuation of real estate. Wages going forward, in my opinion, will start to reflect the weakening profit picture in China. Tens of millions of un-sold overpriced property could spell disaster if they fail to keep all the balls in the air. I cannot help but think this is just another piece in my Global Deflation theory that I started in June.

If the oversupply builds to a point where finally common sense is applied, the consequences would be catastrophic for some industries and countries. Over the last two years I have berated Lucky Jim O`Niell and the BRIC economies. Given the huge decline in their fortunes over that period you might begin to think that the recent emerging markets rally has legs. One of the major consequences of any pullback would be a collapse in the Iron Ore price to around $40…yes $40, below even the cheapest of suppliers production cost. Previous blogs have given the price charts going back many years together with the countries and companies who have gained the most. Briefly though, Austarlia and Brazil would implode. Shipping companies (Maersk is the biggest but Greeks big in Iron Ore) would collapse wholesale and a few Scandi, German and British Banks would need major help not to mention problems for the largest shipping builders China, Sth Korea and Japan. Steel companies are already priced at 20 year lows so some may survive. Global Deflation would follow with Oil at $30-40. The suppliers to the Mining/Drilling Industry, mentioned all too frequently in my blogs, would have to be rescued. Sweden, which has a massive exposure to this field would be in a mess. As for Green Industries, made to look very expensive. British Government, well they have ben making fools of them and us for so long it would probably go un-noticed (Green Policy).

The problems some companies would face will be greatly exaggerated because the Investment Bonkers have encouraged them to shrink their balance sheet (capital) via share buy backs. Great for the Bankers income but when losses for companies start to accrue, the loss per share from such a big business with a shrunken capital base, will be startling. Share prices for all will collapse but more so for the biggest buy back companies. Deflation will be the result…hey ho…Its being so happy that keeps me going.

Below, me and the `Old Duchess` all dressed up to celebrate our 29th Wedding Anniversary

 

 

Tomorrow morning, off to the Olympic White Water course with my old pal Barry…who is not as good as me…he he he he

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Saturday, September 14th, 2013 BRICs, China, Japan, Oil, Predictions, Shipping, Steel, UK, US Economy 1 Comment

Olympic Legacy for the Finance-Reaper

I have not blogged for 6 weeks as the hot summer kept me away from the computer. As you can see from the photos below, I have been enjoying the benefits of the Olympic Legacy at the Lee Valley White Water course.

 

Given the major Central Banks have kept flushing the monetary system with fresh money, nothing has changed. Equities are seen as the only haven for money, and indeed who could question that when outright central bank purchases (of equities) are taking place. This, coupled with the aggressive share buy-back programmes so many companies are being encouraged to do (by Goldman and the likes) it makes sense to bury your concerns and trust in the powers that be. Except, that is, they are exactly the same powers that encouraged the crazy debt fuelled boom of the millennium which resulted in the 2008 crash.

An update on my pet concerns..

China… How can you believe anything that comes out of that country. With the major trading nations ( x China) of the far east seeing continued slowdown in trade, how can China be growing at all let alone 7.5%. I have blogged at length on the subject of over capacity in many of the heavy industries. The government are only now talking of tackling this problem in the likes of Shipbuilding, Steel and Aluminium. They are proposing to merge or close up to two thirds of the 1650 shipbuilding yards. With Steel, export or die will be the push as it is unlikely domestic demand will be sufficient to maintain the size of its productive capacity. Following the Premiers comments in June to the boss of BHP (re high Iron Ore prices)  Wang Jiahua, executive vice-president of China Mining Association — the Chinese version of the Minerals Council of Australia — told a Melbourne Mining Club luncheon of 650 people last week that there was a mismatch between the (strong) profits of Australia’s iron ore producers and the losses being posted by their Chinese customer base.

Japan…The Yen will take another lurch lower in the 4th quarter 2013 as the nations debt is downgraded (further) following the governments failure to implement the sales tax increase slated for 2014 and 15. Of course, this is just my opinion. The debt is growing rapidly and I fear it is already beyond saving. I have blogged many times on the subject re demographic and debt. Further weakening of the Yen will accelerate my theory of global deflation.

UK…I am sorry, but I cannot feel in slightest way positive about the economy. Osborne is using every trick in the book to push the housing market. That’s just crazy. It is already way over priced on a valuation to earnings basis. Yes, with interest rates at record low levels people are tempted but what are they really getting. Recent reports are that the percentage of people (42%) struggling to make it to the next pay day is growing fast. Those people that are only paying interest on credit cards or loans has gone up by 50% and 100% respectively since February. Lump sum Pension drawdowns from the age of 55, Equity Release from property, Pay-Day loans and PPI payouts are just some of the ways spending is holding up. With inflation above wage growth for the past 5 years, eventually the avenues to expand/ maintain spending will close. God help us then. The Government are still running up £120 bn of spending above tax receipts. It is not difficult to squeeze some growth with all that going for it. Sadly, the growth is in services which in the long run will get us no where. The UK is still set to fail and fail big! As I blogged in the past, a critical element to my theory of house price decline will be when the government sees sence and allows vacant retail space to be converted into housing. Well, they are now proposing just that. Along with the big rise in Buy to Let vacancies recently, I think these two points are the first chilly winds facing the lending institutions who have lent so recklessly to landlords. Another point recently in the news is the zero hour employment contracts. I warned back in early 2012 that employment growth was in areas such as coffee shops or grocery delivery drivers. These are not the sort of salaried employment that will drive average wage or taxation growth, again as I warned.

Use the search engine to check previous blogs on subject matter

 

THE REAPER AT PLAY! Pictures thanks to Sam Ridley…his first location shoot

 

 

 

 

  

    

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013 Predictions No Comments

Iron Ore, China and Steel

As a side issue to the blog on Global Deflation, I have updated some charts on my pet bears. BHP, ArcelorMittal and Swedish Steel. Regular readers will know how negative I have been and today sees BHP getting close to the trap door with a close below £16.84 being the trigger. This is the double closing bottom established over 4 years. I am still firmly of the belief that Iron Ore will continue its downward path and re-test last years lows. Only this time, the bounce will not happen. Chinese Steel production must slow soon and slow dramatically. Time will tell. Lets not forget that Iron Ore was the key to the BRIC story (my theory)

Swedish Steel has made a new 10 year low today with Arcelor nearing its equivalent.

 

 

This is what happens to companies when China produces to employ, not to make money. This will become a familiar picture in many industries. The collapse of the Yen will only serve to do more harm to global players. Sweden is still on my watch list as a significant looser. see previous blogs on all these subject via the search

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, June 20th, 2013 BRICs, China, Japan, Predictions, Steel, Yen No Comments

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

 

Is Stephen King a plagiarist?

No! not that Stephen King… although the book he claims inspired him to write has a very apt title for this blog. It was The Lurker in the Shadows.

I refer to the author of When the Money Runs Out  Stephen King (HSBC Global Economist). Having read an interview with him in last sundays Daily Telegraph, it became clear that many of his fears and ideas have been the central thread running through my blog for a long time. I will not bore you with the content just highlight two comments. Firstly, QE has acted like a regressive tax, punishing the poor and enriching the wealthy see Quantitative Easing and secondly, Stimulus policies have allowed politicians to live in a fantasy world which is financed by excessively high debt.

Recent volatility in the markets has spawned a great deal of commentary questioning the whole concept of such huge monetary intervention. The short term benefits for a specific element of society are without question a nightmare waiting to happen. Bernanke, King and Abe consider themselves the John Coffey (Green Mile) of the worlds fiscal ills. Instead I believe they will more likely resemble Jack Torrance (The Shining). I just prey that one day that politicians will govern with the following proverb in mind

“A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in”

We must look to the future whilst reflecting on the past, this leads us to remember that the best time to plant a tree (cut debt) was 20 years ago, the second best time is now.

I must at this point issue a warning to Goldman Sachs and all the other investment banks around the world. If you continue to encourage the Central Banks, by not shouting STOP, to printing more money. Then equity holdings (as I mentioned in the last blog) will be raised further. This will continue to impair, or even decline further, equity trading from the current lows. The likelihood is that when purchased, the stock will not see the light of day till hell freezes over.

Two of my big calls in early 2012 were regarding Japan. I said that the Nikkei would be higher than the Dow in 2013…so shoot me for being 5 months late on a seismic shift. I cant remember anybody making that call. What’s more I highlighted almost to the day, the right time to put the trade on see Be Prepared for a Wedgefest! The Dow was at a premium of 4,660 to the Nikkei on the day of publication. The Nikkei did close above the Dow earlier this week. In the same article I said the Dollar/Yen would go above 100, again an out on its own forecast. Yes last week that happened. I have to admit that my 2012 forecasts were all expecting the economic reality to create lower equity markets but I did not foresee open ended QE.

Global Economy Update 

Regular readers will have watched my series of data on the Suez Canal (shipping) and BNSF (USA rail) volumes with interest (or not). I have not published either recently due to irregularities. For BNSF it is just the case that significant changes to the transport of Oil (products) and Coal have rendered the barometer useless for the moment. If I had the time to strip energy out, may be, but I do not. As for the Suez Canal, I believe something very sinister is at work. Ever since time began they have produced monthly stats. This year things have changed and I believe it is a ploy to delay knowledge on the significant slowdown in trade between Europe and Asia, being highlighted. Over the last two months freight rates have collapsed on some important trade routes. This is completely overlooked by the markets. My focus on the importance of shipping activity (Finance, Trade, Building etc) has become boring to most but it will prove to be a correct focus, I am sure.

UK

Recent data on the economy has proved to be a small fillip for Mr Osborne the chancellor. All is not as it seems. Q1 2013 GDP was not revised down as I thought they would be but boy was the component breakdown very negative. Substantial Inventory growth and services (lions share of the economy) held it together. I have written extensively about why I feel services have grown recently and the short term nature of that growth. The April monthly budget numbers saw higher tax paid, what a surprise given the changes to the way companies have to pay income tax at the point of salary payment. The deficit is still out of control and will eventually leads us into full blown depression. Unless of course…Below is an extract from my blog in November 2012 entitled RIP George Osborne

The only way forward is to put our hands up and say we fluffed it. The Gilts held by the BofE (approx 30% of debt) should be cancelled. As this would quite rightly horrify the markets, a few provisos need to be applied with the intention of shrinking government significantly. So much discretionary spending exists that radical changes be forced on government to cut all but essential spending. This will make the first few years of adjustment very painful. It is imperative to point out that during the massive build up of government debt, the only group of society to have made gains are the wealthy who have seen a massive increase in net worth. The poor have by and large remained poor. The middle class have just been saddled with an almighty level of debt. A degree of balance is required in the fortunes of the UK population.

1)  Government debt must never go above the new lower Debt to GDP ratio (following the 30% write off)

2) Budget deficits are never to be above 2% of GDP  whilst ensuring the above is adhered to (excluding War of course)

Several aggressive changes need to be made to fiscal policy. I have a complete array of ideas but below are just a few.

1) Public sector wages to be cut 30%. No bonuses ever to be paid in Public Sector.

2 )Tax free earnings threshold doubled to £16,000

3) A 90% Tax on earnings/compensation above 30x the average employee earnings in a company. This tax is waived if 51% of shareholders vote in favour of an employee receiving such a pay-out. Owners of private companies should have no problems being majority shareholders.

4) No benefits of any kind paid to families with £40,000 income (combined or otherwise)

5) Corporation tax cut to 12%.

Yes, I have some very difficult to swallow ideas but as the proverb in the beginning quite clearly points out. It is our children who really matter. For it is their future that is important. If all generations work on the principal that the actions they take will only enhance the next generation in our society, then we can look forward to a forest of trees to give us shade from the unknown difficulties that may come our way. Borrowing ever larger amounts builds not a sustainable future but a divided one with even greater inequalities.

ps

China and Sweden… I have said in many blogs that China is lying about its economic output and performance. It appears many economists now share that opinion. The build up of productive capacity will end up being a cancer on the world (see my many blogs under China)…I have stated several times how I thought Sweden was one of the best places I had the pleasure in visiting and doing business in. However, I have warned on several occasions recently that they face a grim future. The narrow focus of the very important export segment of the economy will suffer from two very painful headwinds. The mining and energy exploration industries scaling down of investment coupled with the huge devaluation of the Yen, will cause a very chilly wind. The slowdown they have experienced to date is only the beginning. The strength of the Swedish Krona will have to be reversed dramatically.

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

 

 

Tags: ,

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.

 

Tags: ,

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.

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Friday, April 5th, 2013 BRICs, China, Debt, Japan, Predictions, QE, Shipping, Steel, Yen 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.

Tags: , , ,

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

Cyprus vs Rhode Island, New England.

Arthur (aka the late great Dudley Moore) said `Rhode Island could beat the crap out of it in a fight and it is so small they recently had the whole Island carpeted`

Now of course he was not talking about Cyprus but he could well of. In economic terms, Cyprus is a pimple on the arse of the world.

However, it speaks volumes about how Europe is run. Politicians and unelected officials revelling in spending the electorates money on ever grander, wilder uneconomic schemes. Building up debts for future generations without concern whilst drawing magnificent rewards for them and their families. If you want to look at some of these projects, look no further than the new airports in Spain which have never been used. Or, the Harbour in Madeira ( Marina do Lugar de Baixo) which was built on the most exposed Atlantic coast which has now been abandoned, after three attempts to repair it,  having been crushed by the huge waves so popular with local surfers. In fact Madeira is a far better example of the EU crazy wasteful system. It has a population of 250,000 but with encouragement from the EU and its Portuguese parent, they now have EU 6,000,000,000 DEBT. yes EU6bn for just 250,000 people. Not bad for an Island of only 309 square miles.

Lets look at the wider issue. The real anger of UKIP voting people in the UK is why we should be paying so much into this corrupt financial and economic  system (EU). Vast amounts of money have been spent giving villages lavish civic buildings and grand sports facilities whilst employing vast swathes of the local population from the public purse. This was not spending along the German lines, which is focused on expanding the export potential of the country. A lesson we in the UK need to emulate.

Rhode Island, which some believe was named after the Greek island, has a similar population (1.1m ish) to Cyprus but has only one third of the land mass (1,214 sqr miles vs 3,572 sqr miles). On that smaller land mass they generate double the GDP of Cyprus and has managed on a debt to GDP of slightly less than 50%. The debt of Cyprus is of course, when banks bad debt taken into account,  completely out of sync with economic reality.

The EU has not had its accounts signed off by accountants for as long as I can recall. All because the level of fraud and corruption is too big to quantify. Why then should we allow these thieves to pick our pockets day in and day out. We give around £45 million per day to the EU. On top of that we gave Ireland £8bn to help its bailout. The sad truth of the matter is, we need revolution. People need to revolt and who is more revolting that the French. Sadly, they are taking soo much money out of our pockets with the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) they are reluctant to do what they are famous for.

I would love to stand for UKIP at the next election. I did stand as an Independent in the 2010 General Election. I believe they will win as people have had enough of the main political parties.

On another issue. The Central Banks which have employed QE so aggressively, to help governments carry on running large annual budget deficits, should now demand far more fiscal prudence from those governments before any further monetary stimulus is applied. At the moment they are just helping them add to what is already a frightening level of state debt. Japan, USA and Europe are all in that boat. Yes, the adjustment will be painful, but how painful will it be when this mad experiment with excessive QE finally unravels.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

I still think the only way out of this mess is GERPEL see Kurzarbeit achieved where Blitzkrieg failed!

 

 

 

Tags: , ,

Monday, March 18th, 2013 Debt, Euro, National Debt, Predictions, 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…

 

Tags:

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

What have Spanish Villas and Ships got in Common?

We are getting awfully close to a Banking Crisis!  German Banking System in Crisis

This week saw another piece in the jig saw of collapse that I have been warning of for nearly 18 months.  The ClarkSea Index (see below for details) has just registered its lowest level in its 23 year history. Although its weekly decline of $223 (3.04%) to $7,111 per/day charter rate, is a far cry from the record $5,000 (12%) drop in the 2008 crash, it has to be put in perspective that the daily rate fell from $43,000 per/day at that time.

Why is all this so important?

With an estimated 60% of shipping loans now in the `not performing` bracket  it is important to bear in mind the attitude of the lenders. The biggest lenders won’t foreclose even if ships are worth less than the outstanding debt and owners can’t meet repayments. They would much rather restructure with the belief that valuations will rise following an expected pick up in overall shipping activity. This process of protecting ship valuations (by not foreclosing) helps the lenders to make provisions rather than crystallising losses. Perfect sense in normal business cycles and has indeed paid off in previous shipping downturns. I believe this time things are different. (see my many blogs on the subject) This years 20% decline (in the ClarkSea Index) to the all time low, makes the process of restructuring more difficult. We are now close to a point where new restructuring deals will be impossible to stack up economically. The additional debt being laid at the feet of borrowers is futile. Additionally, previously restructured deals must now be looking shaky. All this looks remarkably like the Spanish Banking crisis which I predicted in some of my blogs at the birth of Finance-Reaper. Two/Three years ago Spanish banks refused to sell off foreclosed property which was piling up on their books. Instead they were offering special zero rate mortgages to buyers  (at book price of the asset). The rest is history. This prolonged the process of restructuring and even allowed some developments to carry on adding to the surplus supply. With 2013 seeing a further surge in new ships hurtling off the slipways of Korea, China, Japan et all, supply is growing. Yes, I hear you, older ships are being scrapped at the fastest pace in many a year, still not enough to change my opinion. Meanwhile, I believe world trade is contracting. Yes, I hear you, I am crazy! But I do not believe a word China says. I have written many articles on the Steel industry as a bellwether for China producing at a loss just to maintain employment. This is true of many industries in that country. Chinese steel inventories are mounting, now reaching 9 year highs. The EU is now threatening to impose further trade dumping duties of steep pipes from China. All non- Chinese steel companies share prices are close to 15 year lows with the likelihood of further production closures to come. All this whilst China is hitting all time high production output. IRON ORE will retrace the losses seen late last year when common sense prevails. Problem is, with 20 million farm hands joining the urban sprawl per annum, they need to have jobs. China needs to keep production of basic material like Steel and Aluminium at full tilt as they are such big employers. The longer the excess production goes on the bigger the downturn when it comes. All this is alarming for those bankers who are sitting on shipping loans with the hope of a significant pick up in trade. Confusing!

ClarkSea Index (Compiled by the worlds leading ship broker, Clarkson PLC)

A weighted average index of earnings for the main vessel types where the weighting is based on the number of vessels in each fleet sector.

UK…I will follow up on my many recent warnings about the economy and Sterling. The January Public Sector Accounts were on the face of it better. Believe me, they were not! I will review them next week.

Tags: , , ,

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013 China, Debt, Shipping, Steel No Comments

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.

Tags:

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

Confusing!

China New Year Calender Change or Just Lies?

China became the worlds biggest trading nation in 2012 taking over from the postwar dominance of the USA. That being said, the USA is still the biggest importer. The markets were given a lift last week when this Goliath of a trader released January Import/Export data. Year on Year Exports were up 25% and Imports were up 28.8%. Wow! That is impressive. Of course, if that were the case, its trading partners would be reflecting this surge in their own trade figures. Lets look at the biggest economies in the world as it is only they who could have enough capacity in production and demand to facilitate this huge surge. The USA December, Year on Year, trade data showed a 1.18%% decline in imports (Oil a factor) and a 4% gain in Exports. January has not shown signs of exploding into activity with Inter modal Freight costs weaker and only a 1.97% increase in BNSF freight traffic. Japan has released data for the first 20 days of January showing a 0.57% decline in Year on Year trade. South Korea did eventually report a stronger January trade picture (contrary to the first 20 days decline) but this was only around 10%. February will see a big contraction as the extra working days in January will be lost in the February holiday this year.

Whilst the USA is still by far the biggest nation economy at nearly twice that of its nearest rival China, the European Union in its entirety is the bigger still. If trade with the worlds biggest nations is at best +1-2% in January, then to reconcile China’s huge surge in activity, Europe must be off to a fly-er in 2013! Well, to confirm my expectations for  Suez Canal trade in China is Ly`ing blog, total cargo (x energy) through the canal was down 10.64% vs January 2012. That’s a very large decline in historic terms as can be seen in Chart 2. Whats more, the fall in Southbound (Mainly to Asia) cargo was more pronounced at 15.7%. How on earth can China have such a huge surge in international economic activity when the largest trading nations say otherwise. One must not forget that the Canal data is volume not value of goods, nether the less I am sure even in value terms trade is weaker.

Chart 1

Chart 2

Chart 3

Shows the volume growth/Decline in Container traffic. The January decline (Southbound) is the fourth in a row, the first time this has happened since the trade collapse of 2008/9. Whats more staggering is the extent of the decline at 12.3%. As I have stated in previous blogs, Containers tend to more indicative of finished good and therefore consumer activity.

Given all this evidence, how on earth can the official Chinese data be correct. Lets not forget the implications on the Transportation sector. Both by Sea and Land, this fall in volume has a significant affect capacity utilisation. Bigger ships are exacerbating the overcapacity of ships with total shipping volume through the canal falling quicker than cargo volume. As for land transportation, I did roughly calculate the decline in truck loads hauled but I have lost the fag packet. I know it was 100,000`s. Regular readers will know I have been negative on the truck industry for all 2012. Given the recent warnings from the two big players Daimler/Man/Scania and Volvo my concerns are bearing fruit. I believe that the industry still has far too much production capacity and further painful cuts will come.

Volvo needs to split itself into two or three global business groups. With Caterpillar (Construction machinery)  diversifying into mining machinery with fresh acquisitions, Volvo`s own construction machinery business looks under resourced and uncompetitive. Volvo needs to merge its construction machinery business with Atlas Copco and perhaps its Marine business with Wartsila of Finland.

Chart 4

I guess its about time I updated the story on AP Moeller-Maersk and the shipping industry as a whole. The Baltic Freight Index is continuing to wallow at historic lows leaving the shipping industry with a revenue shortfall which cannot last much longer. With new build prices being quoted significantly lower it is possible second hand values may themselves plumb new depths. Any further decline in the pricing structure would significantly reduce the valuations of the big fleet owners, unless of course, you believe that the world economy is on the verge of a significant upswing. Almost to a man the big investment banks have recently upgraded APM-Maersk so I guess I am a fool.

 

Tags: , , , ,

Monday, February 11th, 2013 BNSF, BRICs, China, Japan, Predictions, Shipping, US Economy 1 Comment
free counters

Search

 

Markets

error : cannot receive stock quote information

Posts by Date

September 2019
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Blogroll