A recent IMF working paper predicts a permanent doubling of real oil prices over the coming decade. However, the "peak oil labor" could be just enough to tip the scale for the doubling in oil price scenario a lot sooner than year 2022.
The World Gold Council has released the Q1 2012 Gold Demands Trend report. Gold demand grew 16% over the past 12 months to 1,098 tonnes. This had a US dollar value of just $59.7 billion spent on gold, globally, in Q1 2012. While global demand was down 5% from the record high of Q4 2011, it was significantly higher than demand in Q1 2011 suggesting that global demand may be consolidating at these higher levels. Probably the most important aspect of demand and one of the most important fundamentals in the gold market is that of still very robust and increasing Chinese demand. In this the Chinese Year of the Dragon – China is becoming a fundamental driver of the gold market. Global demand was boosted by China posting a quarterly record of 98.6 tonnes of investment demand up 13% from Q1 2011. This increase was a result of investors’ continued move to preserve wealth amid ongoing concerns over inflation, volatility in equity markets and price falls in some property markets. Jewellery demand in China, much of which is also store of wealth demand, increased to 156.6 tonnes – 30% of the global appetite. This increase places China as the largest jewellery market for the third consecutive quarter.
The failure to form a coalition government in Greece this weekend has prompted risk averse trade across the asset classes this morning with publications across Europe continuing to speculate about the potential exit of Greece from the Euro-area. As a result of this the Spanish 10yr yield touched 6.2% and the respective spreads over benchmark bunds in Spain and Italy have traded as wide as 30bps so far today. The knock on effect has been a sell-off in the financials which has seen the IBEX and FTSE MIB under perform in the equity markets with a relative safe-haven bid into the USD weighing on crude futures and precious metals. Spanish t-bill auctions and a variety of lines tapped out of Italy did stem the tide after selling around the top end of their indicative ranges but focus will remain solely on Greece given a lack of tier 1 data out of the US. Moving forward the next meeting of party heads in Greece is scheduled to commence at 1730BST, however, the head of the Syriza party has already indicated he will not be attending with the leader of the democratic left suggesting he is doubtful that a coalition can be formed.
All you need to read and some more.
You may think only European countries have VAT (value-added taxes), but America has one, too--it's just hidden in the sprawling "healthcare" system, i.e. sickcare. A value-added tax (VAT) is a broad-based consumption tax designed to raise tax revenues from across the entire economy. Since it's in everything you buy, you can't escape paying it unless you go to another country without a VAT. While the U.S. doesn't have an official VAT, it has an unofficial one that we all end up paying for indirectly: the 8% difference between what we pay for our bloated, fraud-ridden healthcare system and what our global competitors pay for their universal-care healthcare systems.
The paradox of an advanced post-industrial economy is that the number of jobs needed declines even as the cost of living rises. The fundamental dynamic of America's job market is simple: we need relatively few workers to provide the absolute essentials of life even as the cost-basis of the economy inexorably rises. In other words, there are fewer jobs even as the costs of maintaining a "middle class" life rise. The solution to the post-industrial decline of labor is not unproductive "make-work" jobs and borrowing trillions of dollars until the system implodes, it's lowering the cost basis of the entire economy and culture, which means eliminating all the systemic sources of unproductive friction.
"Uncivilized" China Quietly Building Gold Reserves As Gold Imports From HK Soar By 587% In First QuarterSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 05/08/2012 09:00 -0500
A month ago we ended up with the hilarious situation where the US was actively considering releasing petroleum from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve even as China was demonstratively and concurrently adding to its strategic inventory. Now, as the developed world is seeing day after day of gold hammering on amusing flights of fancy that central banks won't be forced to engage in more and ever bigger rounds of monetary dilution, and where the seller apparently has no regard for getting a "good" price, but merely seeks to crash the bid stack slams various PM prices, we see the same inversion with gold. Because as Bloomberg reports, "Mainland China's gold imports from Hong Kong surged more than sixfold in the first quarter, to 156 metric tons, adding to signs that the country may displace India as the world's largest consumer of the precious metal on an annual basis." And the punchline: "The purchases through Hong Kong may signal that the mainland is accumulating reserves, London-based brokerage Sharps Pixley Ltd. said in February. The nation last made its reserves known more than two years ago, stating them at 1,054 tons." Yep ladies and gents: the PBOC is very grateful that it can add hundreds of tons of gold to its reserve holdings in a stealthy operation which it will announce only after its conclusion, at which point, like true 13F chasing lemmings, retail will send gold soaring. But in the meantime, dear hedge funds worried about your margin calls and 1 month performance reports, please proceed calmly along with the lemming herd, and keep pushing gold lower and cheaper for our new Chinese overlords, and for everyone else who, without P&L timing constraints, takes delight in such brief arbitrage opportunities.
"In less than two years, we are now up to a total of seven European leaders or ruling parties that have been forced out of office, courtesy of the spreading government debt crisis — tack on France now to Ireland, Portugal, Greece, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands. Even Germany's coalition is looking shaky in the aftermath of the faltering state election results for the CDU's (Christian Democratic Union) Free Democrat coalition partner. This is quite a potent brew — financial insolvency, economic fragility and political instability."
While Charlie Munger has so far to comment on the 24K content of made in the basement tribalware, he and his partner have made quite a few other statements on items ranging far and wide, during the annual Berkshire Omaha convention, which year after year represents the annual pilgrimage for thousands to a crony capitalist Mecca, and which with the passage of time, has become increasingly more irrelevant. Why? Because with a $58 billion bet (on $37.8 billion in cash and equivalents) that asset prices will go higher, it is rather clear on what side of the 'bail out' argument, and its 'all in' fallback: central planning, Warren Buffett sits.
While much of the panel's discussion is the somewhat typical growth, recovery, global diversification mantra of a homogenized investment community, The Milken Institute's 'Reading The Tea-Leaves' panel was dominated by some deeper thoughts from John Rutledge of Safanad SA. John sees the world not as a series of equilibria like any and every mainstream economist but the exact opposite with earthquakes and tsunamis capable of occurring at any time. In three-and-a-half minutes, Rutledge analogizes investing today as "living on the crust of a molten marshmallow" and notes that 'investing' to him now is "trying to figure out situations in which some stupid policy has created a big wedge between returns on different assets that causes people to redeploy capital" and that is what moves prices. Claiming that the two most destructive inventions of the twentieth century were Modern Macroeconomics and Modern Portfolio Theory (which have caused more loss of wealth than anything else he knows), the optimistic father-of-six goes on to discuss the three storm systems that must be navigated in the world currently: 1) Europe; 2) China's growth; 3) the extraordinary growth of Central Bank balance sheets. He concludes with some insights into why not to own bonds and what bonds say about scarcity of future cash-flows, and sees the greatest risk today is that "investors are mentally unprepared for the world we invest in"
The dispersion across European nations in terms of growth and unemployment (as we noted earlier) are just two indications of the dramatic amount of economic hubris, as JP Morgan's Michael Cembalest describes it, associated with the belief in a sustainable European monetary union. Using the World Economic Forum's multitude of competitive factors (across economic, social, and political characteristics), the JPM CIO notes that compared to hypothetical and actual monetary unions in the world that the EMU exhibits the largest differences between member nations of any (current or historical), and still Europe soldiers on. "Countries in the European Monetary Union are more different than just about any other monetary union you could imagine" so it’s hard to know how it will turn out. It’s a tough road, and this data helps explain why. Europe’s problem is not just one of public sector deficit spending differences, but also of deeper, more fundamental differences across its various private sector economies. Whether it’s equities, credit or real estate, EMU valuations need to be considerably more attractive than US counterparts to justify investment given the challenges of the European project.