In most countries, deleveraging is only in its early stages. In a report today, McKinsey notes that total debt to GDP has declined in only three countries since the 2008-09 crisis (US, South Korea, and Australia) as total debt has actually grown in the world's ten largest mature economies (due mainly to rising government debt - Keynesian style?). Greatly concerned that the UK and Spain are slow to delever, they do note that the US is more closely following the two phase deleveraging process that 1990s Finland and Sweden followed but point to the household segment as leading the way with 15% reduction in debt to disposable income (driven unsurprisingly in major part by mortgage defaults). The bottom line is US (households) are at best one-third of the way through their deleveraging and the UK (financials) and Spain (non-financials) face much more significant pressures (which will inevitably impact aggregate demand given governmental borrowing pressures) as their deleveraging has only just begun. Historically, deleveraging has begun in the private sector and government has stepped up to borrow and fill the aggregate Keynesian hole left behind. McKinsey points out deleveraging normally takes 4-6 years which we suspect will remain an anchor for demand and growth in the mean-time (perhaps as disappointing earnings revisions are already pointing to).
A triptych of greece, cement and resolutions.
After the fairly muted Wellington open, the reaction of the European bond markets to the S&P downgrade will be the next focus of attention. One benefit of the S&P ratings action is that it takes away one source of uncertainty. Given a French downgrade wasn't widely anticipated, market focus on this issue may well be short lived. Related to the European downgrades is the rating of the EFSF, which was also put on credit watch in early December. S&P have commented that they are in the process of evaluating the impact of the sovereign downgrades on the EFSF rating. For the AAA rating to be maintained it would require further commitments from European governments. Remaining in Europe, newswires report that Greek debt talks will resume Wednesday, thus the Greek PSI is likely to remain a focus all week.
To those who woke up on Saturday to images of a massive cruise liner keeled over following a very peculiar Friday night accident off the coast of Italy, no, this was not a prop for the latest James Cameron movie: it is the Carnival Corp's Costa Concordia, which carried over 4,200 passengers and crew, and foundered after hit a submerged rock off the Tuscan island of Giglio in very calm conditions. At last count 11 passengers and 6 crewmembers were missing, with at least 6 confirmed dead as of last night. Here is what is known as of right now.
Australia is the sixth-largest country (2.9m square miles) on earth, just a tad smaller than the contiguous United States (3.1m). They are a little short on people (22.8m), which comes handy, since they dig up their entire country and sell the dirt to China. Australia has a remarkably low government dept-to-GDP ratio (29% ), low unemployment (5.2%), a moderate budget deficit (3.4% of GDP) and moderate inflation. However, Australia has been running current account deficits of up to 6% of GDP for more than 50 years. The “mates”, until recently, didn’t like to save, hence most investment has to be financed by borrowing from foreigners. I was curious as to how much of the success was due to exporting dirt to China. From the Australian Bureau of Statistics you get the following data about their top-10 export markets (accounting for 82% of all exports)...
The fact is that the US has been on a slippery slope for decades, and it's about to go over a cliff. However, our standard of living, while declining, is still very high, both relatively and absolutely. But an American can enjoy a much higher standard of living abroad. On the other hand, if I were some poor guy in a poverty-wracked country with few opportunities, I'd want to go where the action is, where the money is, now. Today, that means trying to get into the United States. The US is headed the wrong direction, but it's still a land of opportunity and a whole lot better than some flea-bitten village in Niger...This is one of the advantages of studying history, because it shows you that things like this rarely happen overnight. They are usually the result of trends that build over years and years, sometimes over generations. In the case of the US, I think the trend has been downhill, in many ways, for many years. Pick a time. You could make an argument, from a moral point of view, that things started heading downhill at the time of the Spanish-American War. That was when a previously peaceful and open country first started conquering overseas lands and staking colonies. America was still in the ascent towards its peak economically, but the seeds of its own demise were already sewn, and a libertarian watching the scene might have concluded that it was time to get out of Dodge –
2011 was an abysmal year for the global insurance industry, which had to cover yet another enormous increase in damages from natural disasters. Unknown to most casual observers is the fact that during the past few decades the frequency of weather-related disasters (floods, fires, storms) has been growing at a much faster pace than geological disasters (such as earthquakes). This spread between the two types of insurable losses has moved so strongly that it prompted Munich Re to note in a late 2010 letter that weather-related disasters due to wind have doubled and flooding events have tripled in frequency since 1980. The world now has to contend with a much higher degree of risk from weather and climate volatility, and this has broad-reaching implications. And critically, it has a particular impact on food.
The new year’s worldwide economic downturn has an interlocking effect: every national economy is searching to accommodate itself politically as well as economically to what looks to be an extended period of low growth. After longer or shorter periods of historically unrivaled prosperity, they are feeling for a “bottom” – a level to wait out new growth. That is the proverbial “soft landing”.
While we’re not bubbling over with optimism, we believe the New Year will be anything but boring.
Australia's MAp Group has agreed to swap airport stakes with Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan to beef up its holding in Sydney Airport...
As East Australia Prepares For Cyclone Yasi Flooding, West Suffers From Drought...And A Weak Wheat HarvestSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 02/02/2011 10:20 -0400
AUD pairs (and the ES, as a result) are not doing too hot today: the primary reason - Cyclone Yasi, which is now projected to be a category 5 storm according to the Australian Weather Bureau, is making landfall in Queensland and will add to the continent's flooding misery, which has already incurred over $20 billion of damages to eastern states. Yet in a case of supreme irony, the West of the continent, unlike the East which has been having flood after flood, and which is the source of Australia's bread basket and where the bulk of the grains come from, is wrapped in a drought that threatens to impair an already week wheat harvest. From Bloomberg: "At stake is the output of the country’s biggest wheat- growing state at a time when global food shortages have pushed prices to records. The drought has already prompted the government of Western Australian state Premier Colin Barnett to cut its economic growth forecast for the year to June 30 to 4 percent, from 4.5 percent."
In his weekly headline letter John Taylor analyzes where he and Jim Chanos have overlapping views, and where both of them erred (hint: everyone underestimated the willingness of Bernanke to sacrifice monetary prudence in order to reflate anything and everything, although with oil now the latest and greatest excess liquidity target, the experiment may soon be ending). Yet the time of the global reliquification may be coming to an end: "If the Republicans play rough and California craters, fiscal tightening will be the rule, US rates will be higher than Bernanke wants, the dollar will be strong, and foreign markets will be hurt. The odds favor an outcome like this, and the Fed is not free to ride to the rescue again. With Ron Paul riding hard over Bernanke, the Feds wild ways will be corralled. With fewer excess dollars, the growth game, and the markets that follow it, are over." So is shorting stocks the best bet? Yes. But an even better one is going short the Aussies: "The Aussie was over USD 1.0000 today and we think it is a great sell here."
As a follow-up to our piece on the Australian macro outlook (Australia: The Land Down Under(water in mortgage debt), We looked into the four largest Australian banks...