FoxConn, which at last count had well over 1 million workers and rising, appears to have had enough of being the global electronic gadget sweatshop, and as the Telegraph reports, saw its workers threaten with mass suicides unless working conditions are not improved. "Around 150 Chinese workers at Foxconn, the world's largest electronics manufacturer, threatened to commit suicide by leaping from their factory roof in protest at their working conditions. The workers were eventually coaxed down after two days on top of their three-floor plant in Wuhan by Foxconn managers and local Chinese Communist party officials." Does this mean that in the latest Apple prospectus there will be a Risk Factor which says: "Our profit margins may be severely impaired if our contracted work force decides to proceed with mass self-induced genocide." We will find out, but if anyone needed a loud and clear warning that the record profitability of high margin electronics producers is about to go down, this is it.
One of the recurring analogues we have used in the past to describe the centrally planned farce that capital markets have become and the global economy in general has been one of a increasingly chaotic sine wave with ever greater amplitude and ever higher frequency (shorter wavelength). By definition, the greater the central intervention, the bigger the dampening or promoting effect, as central banks attempt to mute or enhance a given wave leg. As a result, each oscillation becomes ever more acute, ever more chaotic, and increasingly more unpredictable. And with "Austrian" analytics becoming increasingly dominant, i.e., how much money on the margin is entering or leaving the closed monetary system at any given moment, the same analysis can be drawn out to the primary driver of virtually everything: the inflation-vs-deflation debate. This in turn is why we are increasingly convinced that as the system gets caught in an ever more rapid round trip scramble peak deflation to peak inflation (and vice versa) so the ever more desperate central planners will have no choice but to ultimately throw the kitchen sink at the massive deflationary problem - because after all it is their prerogative to spur inflation, and will do as at any cost - a process which will culminate with the only possible outcome: terminal currency debasement as the Chaotic monetary swings finally become uncontrollable. Ironically, the reason why bring this up is an essay by Pimco's Neel Kashkari titled simply enough: "Chaos Theory" which looks at unfolding events precisely in the very same light, and whose observations we agree with entirely. Furthermore, since he lays it out more coherently, we present it in its entirety below. His conclusion, especially as pertains to the ubiquitous inflation-deflation debate however, is worth nothing upfront: "I believe societies will in the end choose inflation because it is the less painful option for the largest number of its citizens. I am hopeful central banks will be effective in preventing runaway inflation. But it is going to be a long, bumpy journey until the destination becomes clear. This equity market is best for long-term investors who can withstand extended volatility. Day traders beware: chaos is here to stay for the foreseeable future." Unfortunately, we are far less optimistic that the very same central bankers who have blundered in virtually everything, will succeed this one time. But, for the sake of the status quo, one can hope...
Overall, there are both internal structural factors and external global factors, which contribute to the making of an epic hard landing in China. China will be really vulnerable when the US and Europe both unleash the quantitative easing. These are things China has no control of. Nevertheless, the best China can do to avoid the worst is to continue the painful structural adjustment: marketize the “big four”-dominated banking industry to allow for more efficient monetary allocation; Transform the labor intensive low value-added economy to the high value-added knowledge economy; reform the wealth redistribution system to empower the broad consumer base and honor its promise of a consumption-led economy.
While the US enjoys the luxury provided by the dollar’s world currency status and diplomatic alliance with many major trade partners to export its liquidity and inflation, China enjoys none of that. They should look at the dollars in their hands with fear and doubt. So called Beijing consensus makes little sense, because the world is fast changing, pegging a country’s growth to a certain set of policy tools or a certain reserve currency (the US dollar) is equally dangerous. The battle between Keynes and Friedman has long proven the only consensus is to adapt and change. Right now China needs to adapt and change fast. Or this will be the best time in history to short China.
Events in Italy must be watched closely. The country that gifted Fascism to the world in the 1930s was widely admired even by FDR, who held Mussolini in high regard and was no doubt inspired in many of his own policy choices. Will Italy lead the way once more, as politicians in Europe and the US watch to see what oppressive policies they may get away with? And while Russell Napier (correctly) foresees capital controls being imposed and suggested that one parks his cash in Singapore dollars, Italians may want to get themselves out as well before the current group of Professors slams the gates shut. Things are moving even faster than one of the world’s leading financial historians could foresee.
If the pundits are counting on the US to be the engine that drives Global growth - it's going to be a very slow year indeed!
Commodities such as copper have led the market for years; recently they've rolled over while the stock market surges higher. Once again, either historic correlations have been decisively severed or there is a gargantuan divergence that's about to be resolved. Sentiment readings are firmly in extreme bullish territory, but hey, maybe the market will reward the majority with a rally that feeds on rising complacency. And maybe the truism "volume is the weapon of the bull" is also voided, as low volume rallies may well lead to lower-volume rallies. The market has been acting as if all these signs are bullish. Maybe, maybe not. Meanwhile, the witches are cackling quietly over their bubbling brew, and it certainly sounds like some evil is being conjured up.
We dont' need any water, let the mo@#$#%ker burn!
"I hold a deeply held view of Ron Paul as an honorable, genuine and trustworthy American statesman. In fact, I cannot really think of anyone else in the tepid cesspool of American politics today whom I could even remotely categorize as a statesman as opposed to a run of the mill politician (or ideologue as Mr. Lucas puts it). Mr. Lucas moves on to explain that to an ideologue it is current ideas that matter, while to a statesman it is certain principles that matter. He states that an ideologue’s view of the world and its inhabitants is political, while to a statesman it is historical. These simple sentences are what I believe inherently separate Ron Paul at his very core from everyone else currently running for president. This is merely what separates the man’s character from the others. This is reason enough to consider him, but not reason enough to vote for him. His ideas about liberty, war and economics also separate him from the pack and it is his strongly held principles on these subjects that in my view make him the only one capable and with enough conviction to help heal this country’s wounds, get us back on the right and moral path and foster real change as opposed to a campaign slogan."
Those attempting to pressure Iran by increasing "tensions" and thus the price of oil have it precisely backwards. The one sure way to fatally destabilize the Iranian theocracy is to adjust the demand and supply of oil so the price plummets (as it did in December 2008) to $25/barrel, and stays there for at least six months. It has been estimated that the Iranian theocracy cannot fund its bloated bureaucracies, military and its welfare state if oil falls below around $40-$45/barrel. Drop oil to $25/barrel and keep it there, and the Iranian regime will implode, along with the Chavez regime in Venezuela. Saber-rattling actually aids the Iranian regime by artificially injecting a "disruptive war" premium into the price of oil: they can make the same profits from fewer barrels of oil. The way to put them out of business is drop the price of oil and restrict their sales by whatever means are available. They will be selling fewer barrels and getting less than production costs for those barrels. With no income, the regime will face the wrath of a people who have become dependent on the State for their sustenance and subsidized fuel. How do you drop oil to $25/barrel? Easy: stop saber-rattling in the mideast and engineer a massive global recession with a side order of low-level trade war. Though you wouldn't know it from the high price of oil, the world is awash in oil; storage facilities are full, and production has actually increased a bit in North America.
Is idiosyncracy the substitute for a fledgling Sovereign Bond Market? Including our recommendations for 2012
Stock futures are up sharply after another week of unprecedented volatility. Although last week was relatively tame, only 13 times in the last 60 years has the S&P 500 had a down 1% day during the week between Christmas and New Year's. We managed one of those days last week. We also had a 1% positive day. Futures are strong and looks like stocks will open above 1272 (where they closed on Jan. 3, 2011). Not only does volatility remain elevated, the stories are about the same. We have some new acronyms to contend with, but ultimately the European Debt Crisis (it is both a bank and sovereign crisis) and the strength of the US economy and China's ability to manage its slowdown are the primary stories. Issues in the Mid-East remain on the fringe but threaten to elevate to something more serious with Iran flexing its muscles more and more. So what to do? Prepare for more headlines, more risk reversals, and more pain.
It seems that rotating a few pawns at the top is not quite the bazooka everyone expected it to be last week. Case in point: CDS in the core European trio of France, Spain and Belgium just hit new all time wides. But before anyone blames evil CDS speculators, it is notable that CDS is significantly outperforming cash bonds. And since everything that can be said about Europe's ongoing implosion has been said already, the only question is which Goldman "advisor" will replace Sarko in a few weeks.
Forget Europe though, the scariest news of the week to me is HSBC taking $1.8Bn of loan impairment charges last quarter as large amounts of customers simply stopped paying their mortgages.
That today democracy died in Greece is no surprise to anyone (see note from Greek reader below). What may be unexpected, however, is that despite expectations that any talk of a Referendum is over and done with, this is hardly the case. In essence, what G-Pap said in parliament today is that there will be no referendum if and only if there is an agreement from the main opposition party. Alas, as the following headlines from Reuters indicate, this now appears to be a non-starter.
- GREEK OPPOSITION LEADER ASKS PM TO RESIGN
- GREEK OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS PM MUST QUIT, ELECTIONS MUST BE HELD
But most importantly,
- GREEK OPPOSITION LEADER SAYS RESIGNATION IS A CONDITION FOR TALKS
And so back to square one, as G-Pap's bluffing blows up in his face and any agreement is now contingent on his departure, something he has said will not happen.