Currencies

Geman Engineering.

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

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

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

 

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

Sterling Crisis Looms.

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Click to enlarge…

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Chinese Deflation Cancer Spreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Geography of Employment: Mapping the Recovery [INFOGRAPHIC]

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

Outcomes of my theory:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Yen For Your Faults!

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

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

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

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

UK…The Great Lie.

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

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

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

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

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

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

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

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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UK Trade Figures Shine Poor Light On Ireland.

UK Trade Volumes are shrinking.

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

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

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

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

Why is this important?

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

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

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

 

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

Sterling Looks over its own Cliff

Sterling/ Dollar.

Regular readers will know that I believe Sterling will follow the fortunes of the UK`s financial position which is down. In my blog `Be prepared for a Wedgefest` I highlighted the charts of Sterling and Yen. Following the recent December budget deficit and today’s GDP data, the bottom trend line, which is in its fifth year of obedience, is getting awfully close. A close below $1.57 will see it on its way down. I have said before that I can see it testing its all time low of $1.08 at some point in the distant future. In the mean time, lets all focus on the inflationary affect any downward move has. Today newspapers are warning of a 4p per litre rise in fuel costs. With salaries entering a fourth year of below inflation increase, consumer activity will be challenged further see UK Retail Revolution as the latest blog (of many) on the subject. If Sterling does not break down just yet, the final nail will come following the publication of the January budget data in February see The Mayans might be Wrong but for George Osborne… Time is Up

The FTSE which is over populated with global Dollar earning companies will not reflect the severity of the situation. Not yet at least.

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Friday, January 25th, 2013 GBP, Predictions, UK No Comments

UK Debt

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

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

UK Economy.

I have written many blogs on the state of the UK economy. I believe they have and will continue to prove correct. The earliest entries back in December and January highlighted the deep seated problems. I think the media frenzy this week, on will we or wont we avoid a double dip recession is quite frankly bordering on the pathetic. If GDP for Q1 is minus 0.1% the headlines will condemn the government. If it is +0.1%, all is well. With the figure being released with only around 70% of the data makes for revisions later. The fact that retail activity blossomed in March with the early spring means it may have come too late to make the first estimate. If I had to guess I would say slightly negative now with an upward revision later. But I don’t care about the past. The most important data release this week is the government borrowing estimates for March. Last month the borrowing figures were a negative surprise to the market. Of course one months data is not sufficient to paint a trend. I was then and am still of the belief that the governments finances are on a very poor trajectory. Income tax receipts (March) are unlikely to be robust (see UK Unemployment) with so many high income jobs being lost in the city. March is not a big month for Corporation receipts so no big shocks there. VAT will be positively influenced by the warm weather (as seen in Retail Sales). On the negative, Interest payments are behind the curve for the quarter and could be much higher than the usual big quarterly cost. Below you will see the monthly Receipts and Expenditure over the last two years. They hardly paint a picture of austerity. Receipts amble along with the extra VAT  giving some help whilst expenditure has for the most part been up on last year. The debt will not stop growing at this rate. The new tax year will bring a surge in additional receipts but as you well know that will have negative impact on disposable incomes. Within three months the FX markets may have realised that the UK is just as much a basket case as Spain or Italy. The only difference so far has been an independent currency which has allowed us some manufacturing growth impetus due to its weakness. With our main trading partner going into an economic tailspin, China not yet loosening and the USA and Japan facing ticking debt time bombs, why would a highly indebted, poor trade prospect currency with no safe haven status be worth anything. I could well imagine Sterling testing its all time low against the Dollar which from memory was around $1.08. Maybe if Gordon Brafoon had not sold a chunk of our Gold reservers for some shiny beads and a copy of Andy Stewart singing  Donald Where’s Your  Troosers?  we might have better credibility. Estimates for Public Sector net debt range from unchanged £12.9bn to £14bn. As expenditure was way above trend last month it could revert this month. I still expect a deficit at the high end or worse.

UK Government Expenditure

UK Government receipts

I have been totally wrong on Sterling to date. My expectations earlier in the year were far too negative. The market saw events otherwise. I am not going to change now. As you can see if you click on the chart below. We are due some fireworks soon. Either we break out of this pennant formation to the upside or to the downside. Either way it is likely to be a sharp move with a $1.85 target if I am wrong and $1.40 if I am right. At $1.40 inflation would become unbearable with Petrol/Diesel up 10p a litre to start.

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Tuesday, April 24th, 2012 Debt, GBP, GDP, National Debt, Predictions, UK No Comments

Beauty Queen suffers ill wind…Phew!!

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

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

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

The Ill Wind  *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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