So let's talk Greece, Paris and Natural Gas.
While most of the time, it seems, investing in Emerging (or Growth) market countries is entirely focused on just that - the growth - with little thought given to the lower probability but high impact event of a growth shock. Goldman uses a variety of economic and corporate factors to compile a Growth Vulnerability Score including excess credit growth, high levels of short-term and/or external debt, and current account deficits. Comparing growth expectations to this growth shock score indicates the BRICs are now in very different places from a valuation perspective. Brazil remains 'fair' while India looks notably 'expensive' leaving China and Russia 'cheap'. It seems, in Goldman's opinion that markets are discounting large growth risks too much for China and Russia (and not enough for India). Finally, for all the Europeans, Turkey is richest of all, with a significant growth shock potential that is notably underpriced. Goldman's China-is-cheap perspective disagrees with Nouriel Roubini's well-below-consensus view of an initially soft landing leading to a hard landing for China as 2013 approaches as he notes the pain that commodity exporters feel in 2012 is only a taste of the bleeding yet to come in 2013.
It’s important to put yourself in the minds of OECD policy makers. They are largely managing a retirement class that is moving out of the workforce and looking to draw upon its savings -- savings that are (mostly) in real estate, bonds, and equities. Given this demographic reality, growth in nominal terms is undoubtedly the new policy of the West. While a 'nominal GDP targeting' approach has been officially rejected (so far), don't believe it. Reflationary policy aimed at sustaining asset prices at high levels will continue to be the policy going forward. While it’s unclear how long a post-credit bubble world can sustain such period of forced growth, what is perfectly clear is that oil is no longer available to fund such growth. For the seventh year since 2005, global oil production in 2011 failed to surpass 74 mbpd (million barrels per day) on an annual basis. But while the West is set to dote upon its retirement class for many years to come, the five billion people in the developing world are ready to undertake the next leg of their industrial growth. They are already using oil at the margin as their populations urbanize. But as the developing world comes on board as new users of petroleum, they still need growing resources of other energy to fund the new growth which now lies ahead of them. This unchangeable fact sets the world on an inexorable path: a competitive race for BTU.
The Deepwater Horizon incident demonstrated that most of the oil left is deep offshore or in other locations difficult to reach. Moreover, to obtain the oil remaining in currently producing reservoirs requires additional equipment and technology that comes at a higher price in both capital and energy. In this regard, the physical limitations on producing ever-increasing quantities of oil are highlighted, as well as the possibility of the peak of production occurring this decade. The economics of oil supply and demand are also briefly discussed, showing why the available supply is basically fixed in the short to medium term. Also, an alarm bell for economic recessions is raised when energy takes a disproportionate amount of total consumer expenditures. In this context, risk mitigation practices in government and business are called for. As for the former, early education of the citizenry about the risk of economic contraction is a prudent policy to minimize potential future social discord. As for the latter, all business operations should be examined with the aim of building in resilience and preparing for a scenario in which capital and energy are much more expensive than in the business-as-usual one.
- Mixed signals from China's factories in March (Reuters)
- EU wants G20 to boost IMF funds after Eurogroup move (Reuters)
- Euro Leaders Seek Global Help After Firewall Boosted (Bloomberg)
- Euro-Region Unemployment Surges to Highest in More Than 14 Years (Bloomberg)
- Big banks prepare to pay back LTRO loans (FT) ... don't hold your breath
- Coty Inc. Proposes to Acquire Avon Products, Inc. for $23.25 Per Share in Cash (PRnewswire)
- Spain Record Home Price Drop Seen With Bank Pressure (Bloomberg)
- Firm dropped by Visa says under 1.5 million card numbers stolen (Reuters)
- Japan Tankan Stagnates With Yen Seen as Threat (Bloomberg)
- Fed to buy $44 billion Treasuries in April, sell $43 billion (Reuters)
First it was Bob Janjuah throwing in the towel in the face of central planning, now we get the same sense from Bill Gross who in his latest letter once again laments the forced transfer of risk from the private to the public sector: "The game as we all have known it appears to be over... moving for the moment from private to public balance sheets, but even there facing investor and political limits. Actually global financial markets are only selectively delevering. What delevering there is, is most visible with household balance sheets in the U.S. and Euroland peripheral sovereigns like Greece." Gross' long-term view is well-known - inflation is coming: "The total amount of debt however is daunting and continued credit expansion will produce accelerating global inflation and slower growth in PIMCO’s most likely outcome." The primary reason for Pimco's pessimism, which is nothing new, is that in a world of deleveraging there will be no packets of leverage within the primary traditional source of cheap credit-money growth: financial firms. So what is a fund manager to do? Why find their own Steve McQueen'ian Great Escape from Financial Repression of course. " it is your duty to try to escape today’s repression. Your living conditions are OK for now – the food and in this case the returns are good – but they aren’t enough to get you what you need to cover liabilities. You need to think of an escape route that gets you back home yet at the same time doesn’t get you killed in the process. You need a Great Escape to deliver in this financial repressive world." In the meantime Gross advises readers to do just what we have been saying for years: buy commodities and real (non-dilutable) assets: "Commodities and real assets become ascendant, certainly in relative terms, as we by necessity delever or lever less." As for the endgame: "Is a systemic implosion still possible in 2012 as opposed to 2008? It is, but we will likely face much more monetary and credit inflation before the balloon pops. Until then, you should budget for “safe carry” to help pay your bills. The bunker portfolio lies further ahead."
While much heart palpitations are generated every month based on how much of a seasonal adjustment factor is used to fudge US employment, many forget that a much more serious long term issue for the US (assuming anyone cares what happens in the long run) is a far more ominous secular shift in US population - namely the fact that everyone is getting fatter fast, aka America's "obesity epidemic." And according to a just released analysis by BNY ConvergEx' Nicholas Colas, things are about to get much worse, because as the OECD predicts, by 2020 75% of US the population will be obese. What this implies for the tens of trillions in underfunded healthcare "benefits" in the future is all too clear. In the meantime, thanks to today's economic "news", fat people everywhere can get even fatter courtesy of ever freer money from the Chairman, about to be paradropped once more to keep nominal prices high and devalue the dollar even more in the great "race to debase". Our advice - just pretend you are going to college and take out a $100,000 loan, spending it all on Taco Bells. But don't forget to save enough for the latest iPad, and the next latest to be released in a few weeks, ad inf.
Next week will be relatively light in economic reporting, and with no HFT exchange IPOs on deck, and the VVIX hardly large enough to warrant a TVIX type collapse, it may be downright boring. The one thing that will provide excitement is whether or not the US economic decline in March following modestly stronger than expected January and February courtesy of a record warm winter, will accelerate in order to set the stage for the April FOMC meeting in which Bill Gross, quite pregnant with a record amount of MBS, now believes the first QE hint will come. Naturally this can not happen unless the market drops first, but the market will only spike on every drop interpreting it for more QE hints, and so on in a senseless Catch 22 until the FRBNY is forced to crash the market with gusto to unleash the NEW qeasing (remember - the Fed is now officially losing the race to debase). For those looking for a more detailed preview of next week's events, Goldman provides a handy primer.
A growing number of Americans are frustrated with the way in which their economy has been managed and are becoming increasingly concerned about future measures the government may take to keep its coffers full. A question that is arising with increasing frequency is: does expatriation offer a viable protection to those concerned about a more financially-intrusive US system? The short answer is 'yes' but while it does offer a solution to ending one's obligations to pay US taxes - it's important to understand that it's not suitable for everyone. Mark Nestmann gives a great nuts and bolts breakdown of what's involved and what the benefits and risks are
Moments ago we saw headlines flashing of a major 7.6 magnitude earthquake swaying Mexico City. It turns out the earthquake was even stronger, and according to the USGS is now classified as 7.9. From Reuters: "MEXICO CITY, March 20 (Reuters) - A major 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck near Acapulco on Mexico's Pacific coast, the U.S. Geological Survey said on Tuesday. Earlier it had been reported at 7.6 magnitude." Luckily, as Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher notes, "Mexican TV reports no major damage in the State of Oaxaca" citing the local governor.
Last June (the 24th to be precise), it was announced that 60 million barrels of oil would be released from world reserves, with about half of that amount being taken from the SPR. Oil was trading at $91 when the announcement was made but actually rose in price - hitting $97 - before dropping to $88 once the surplus oil was introduced on July 15. 60 million barrels = $3 lower price. Hardly bang for the buck - especially as oil was back above $100 before the end of the year. As much as the SPR is seen by many to be the panacea for high prices, the lack of available additional supply from the world’s biggest producers is a far bigger concern; one which my friend Ronni Stoeferle from Vienna wrote a fantastic report on recently entitled “Nothing To Spare” (you can email Ronni HERE for a copy of the report which is an incredibly detailed piece of work). In it he took an in-depth look at some of the supply constraints facing the world and his conclusions are, to say the least, troubling.
As recent entrants in the gold market watched paralyzed in fear as gold tumbled by over $100 on the last FOMC day, on the idiotic notion that Ben Bernanke will no longer ease (oh we will, only after Iran is glassified, and not before Obama is confident he has the election down pat), resulting in pervasive sell stop orders getting hit, others were buying. Which others? The same ones whose only response to a downtick in the market is to proceed with more CTRL+P: the central banks. FT reports that the recent drop in gold has triggered large purchases of bullion by central banks in recent weeks. "The buying activity highlights the trend among central banks in emerging economies to buy gold, even as some western investors are losing patience with the metal. Gold prices have dropped 13.8 per cent from a nominal record high of $1,920 a troy ounce reached in September, and on Friday were trading at $1,655.60." Well, as we said a few days ago, "In conclusion we wish to say - thank you Chairman for the firesale in physical precious metals. We, and certainly China, thank you from the bottom of our hearts." Once again, we were more or less correct. And since past is prologue, we now expect any day to see a headline from the PBOC informing the world that the bank has quietly added a few hundred tons of the yellow metal since the last such public announcement in 2009: a catalyst which will quickly send it over recent record highs.
Peak oil will scare us to death, peak water will kill us.