Currency War ... Trade War ... Hot War
Following on from our earlier discussion of how a Chinese hard landing would evolve, SocGen now examines how a Chinese hard landing would impact the global economy. They see the contagion in several ways: mechanically (since China is part of the global economy) and through trade, financial and market channels. Mechanically, a slump in Chinese GDP growth to just 3% would cut our global GDP growth forecast by 0.6pp. Add to that the channels of transmission to the global economy, and our expectation is that a Chinese hard landing would result in 1.5pp being slashed from global GDP growth in the first year.
While the cost of living has become a problem for some in the US (courtesy of the Fed’s inflationary policies) it’s become a real nightmare for many in the emerging markets where as much as 50% of income is spent by consumers on food.
The Bank of Korea increased gold reserves 20% last month to diversify investments, boosting holdings for the fourth time since June 2011 and underscoring increased demand by central banks according to Bloomberg. The bank added 14 metric tons in November, bringing the total to 84.4 tons, the bank said in a statement today. By value, holdings increased about $780 million to $3.76 billion, equivalent to 1.2% of total reserves, the bank said. “Gold is a physical, safe asset,” the Bank of Korea said in the statement. The precious metal “is a way of diversification, which helps reduce investment risk in terms of foreign-exchange reserves management,” it said. The Bank of Korea bought 16 tons in July, 15 tons in November 2011 a further 25 tons over a one-month period from June to July last year.
Beggaring thy neighbour has consequences. Neighbours might turn around and bite back. How long until other nations join with Brazil in declaring trade measures against the United States is uncertain, but there may be few other options on the table for creditors wanting to get their pound of flesh, or nations wishing to protect domestic industries. After all, the currency wars won’t just go away; competitive devaluation is like trying to get the last word in an argument. The real question is whether the present argument will lead to a fistfight.
Kyle Bass, Larry Edelson, Charles Nenner, Jim Rogers and Marc Faber Predict Widespread War
- Global easing deluge resumes: Bank of Korea Slashes Policy Rate (WSJ)
- And Brazil: Brazil cuts Selic rate to new record low of 7.25 pct (Reuters)
- With Tapes, Authorities Build Criminal Cases Over JPMorgan Loss (NYT) Just don't hold your breath
- IMF snub reveals China’s political priorities (FT)
- Add a dash of trade wars: Revised Duties Imposed by U.S. on Chinese Solar Equipment (Bloomberg)
- IMF calls for action as euro zone crisis festers (Reuters)
- Dubai Losing Billions as Insecure Expats Send Money Abroad (BBG)
- Softbank in Advanced Talks to Acquire Sprint Nextel (WSJ)
- Lagarde calls for brake on austerity (FT)
- EU lambasts Turkey over freedoms (FT)
- Race Tightens in Two States (WSJ)
Many times what "should" happen does not happen. For example, global stock markets "should" decline as the global economy free-falls into recession, as global recession is not exactly an ideal scenario for rising corporate sales and profits or demand for commodities. Yet global markets are by and large rising significantly. Sometimes what "should" happen is simply being delayed. In other cases, some other dynamic is at work. Stock market bulls, for example, say the "other dynamic" is global money-printing by central banks, and this "easing" will power stocks higher even as sales and profits sag. Analysts who believe fundamentals eventually over-ride monetary manipulation believe the stock market decline has only been delayed, not banished. A similar tug-of-war is playing out between those who feel the U.S. dollar "should" decline in the years ahead and those who see the dollar strengthening significantly.
Chinese local governments are facing the prospect of major unemployment problems should the swathe of solar panel makers, that have been subsidized from birth to now-near-death, continue to suffer from US and European tariffs (as well as simple gross mis-allocation of capital amid massive over-capacity). However, as is the way of the mal-investing world today, no barrier to rational economic theory is too low for government status-quo maintenance as it would appear that local banks have been strong-armed into extending loans to keep them alive. As Reuters reports, debt-laden (NYSE-traded) SunTech Power Holdings - which is close to removal from the exchange due to its dismal equity price - has just received new 'bailout' loans. First, it was a race to debase. Now, we have the race to bailout the world's most worthless companies (especially in channel-stuffed industries) as the New Normal trade wars continue.
Earlier today we casually wondered whether the US stands to lose more by supporting China or Japan in their escalating diplomatic spat, considering the threat of a US Treasury sell off is certainly not negligible, a dilemma complicated by the fact that as today's TIC data indicated both nations own almost the same amount of US paper, just over $1.1 trillion. In a stunning turn of events, it appears that China has taken our thought experiment a step further and as the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports, based on a recommendation by Jin Baisong from the Chinese Academy of International Trade (a branch of the commerce ministry) China is actively considering "using its power as Japan’s biggest creditor with $230bn (£141bn) of bonds to "impose sanctions on Japan in the most effective manner" and bring Tokyo’s festering fiscal crisis to a head." I.e., dump Japan's bonds en masse.
The implications of this are severe. However, the first question we have to ask is, “why now?”
Much has been said about Apple's recent victory over its key component supplier, Samsung, in a recent US court decision the direct result of which has been the halt of sales of several Samsung products which are already obsolete in cell phone year terms. The paradox here is that AAPL's victory is quite pyrrhic: if and when Samsung feels sufficiently threatened, it can just pull a Gazprom and halt the supply of mission critical components to the world's biggest publicly traded company. Alternatively the Chinese politburo can one day decide to pull FoxConn's operational license, in the process bankrupting AAPL overnight. But these are of course M.A.D. scenarios which in rational, non-centrally planned market would never take place, and so we have no reason to worry about them. That said, it is increasingly becoming clear that patent warfare fought in partial domestic judicial systems, will be the next form of protectionism as pertains to that most faddy of technology: the ubiqutous smartphone. And while Apple may have won the first battle, the outcome of the war is still very much unclear: in fact, the return salvo after Samsung's big defeat on US soil may come quite soon, this time courtesy of another Chinese Apple "clone", HTC Corp, which if it goes against the Cupertino company, could have a large impact on revenues.
Where is the bacon, Mrs. Clinton?
After many instances of prodding from readers, I finally bought and read The Fourth Turning, and I'm sorry that I waited so long.
According to the IMF’s “official” analysis, EU banks as a whole are leveraged at 26 to 1. I would argue that in reality many of them are well north of 30 to 1 and possibly even up to 50 or 100 to 1. The reason I can claim this with relative certainty is because the EU housing bubbles dwarfed that of the US. In the chart below the US housing bubble is the lowest line. After it comes Britain (blue) and Italy (orange) then Ireland (green) and finally Spain (dark blue).