FiNETIK – Asia and Latin America – Market News Network

Asia and Latin America News Network focusing on Financial Markets, Energy, Environment, Commodity and Risk, Trading and Data Management

The Global Crisis Reaches China: Unrest Spreads as Growth Stalls

China’s leaders are currently contending with declining demand, rising debt and a real estate bubble. Some factories are laying off workers, suffering financial losses or even closing as orders from crisis-plagued Europe dry up. The economic strains are frustrating workers and consumers in the country, threatening the political establishment and Beijing’s economic miracle.

This October was the third straight month Chinese exports decreased. Along with it, the hopes of German manufacturers that Asia’s growth market might help lift them out of the global crisis as it did in 2008 are also evaporating. This time China faces enormous challenges of its own — a real estate market bubble and local government debt — that could even pose a risk to the global economy.

Related article: Every Chinese Province bankrupt like Greece –  Chinese Regime nearly bankrupt  – 17.11.2011

A police special forces unit appears suddenly. One moment, a worker named Liu* is marching back and forth in front of city hall in Dongguan, China, with about 300 colleagues from the bankrupt factory Bill Electronic. “Give us back the money from our blood and sweat!” they chant.

The next moment, their shouts turn to screams as a few hundred uniformed police with helmets, shields and batons, along with numerous plainclothes security forces, leap out of olive green police vans. The demonstration leaders, including Liu, are rounded up on the side of the street by police dogs. Within just a few minutes’ time, the communist authorities have successfully suffocated the protest.

The men and women, most of them young adults, are packed into yellow buses and hauled back to their factory, where the government exerts massive pressure: By afternoon, they must consent to make do with 60 percent of the wages they are owed by the employment office. Anyone who refuses, officials warn, will receive nothing at all.

The new global crisis has reached China. Debt problems in Europe, the country’s most important trading partner, are starting to dim prospects here in the nation that has effectively become the world’s factory, as well. The unstable United States economy and threat of a trade war between the two superpowers make the situation even more uncertain. As the US presidential election campaign starts too heat up, American politicians are vying to outdo one another in protectionist declarations directed toward their communist rival.

Disillusioned Workers

For Liu, the factory worker, his country’s economic miracle is certainly over for now. Until recently, he worked 12 hours a day assembling accessories for DVD players. But then there was less and less work to do, he says, and a while back, the boss informed workers that fewer orders were coming in from Europe.

After the police break up the demonstration, Liu, now daunted, wanders through his city’s dusty streets, passing row upon row of factories and residential buildings. “We just wanted our full wages, but they set the police on us,” he says. He’s lost his faith in the party and the government.

Especially here in the export region of Guangdong, an experimental laboratory of Chinese capitalism, hardly a day goes by without new bankruptcies or protests. The Yue Chen shoe factory in Dongguan, which produces athletic shoes for a parent company in Taiwan that supplies brands such as New Balance, is in a state of emergency. With orders dropping off, the manufacturer has fired 18 managers. Workers have seen overtime pay eliminated, and normal wages are barely enough to live on. Frustration is so high that some shoe factory workers also went to protest in front of city hall. About 10 of them were injured in the clash with police, some young women from the factory report.

The situation outside the gray factory complex is tense. Thugs in plainclothes guard the entrance, photographing and intimidating anyone who talks to the workers. Inside the factory, the showdown between bosses and employees goes on. Workers sit inactive in cheerless factory rooms. The management has switched off the power in some of the halls where workers normally sew and glue together shoes.

In the rest of China as well, more and more assembly lines are grinding to a halt. In Wenzhou in eastern China, a city known for making cheap lighters, shoes and clothes, a large number of business owners are on the run from their creditors, the private shadow banks that last lent them money. Some of these businesspeople even secretly removed machinery from their factories before taking off.

Demand Drop in Europe and China

China’s showcase industries are also feeling the crunch of the drop in European demand. Suntech Power Holdings, for example, which manufactures solar panels in Wuxi, near Shanghai, reported third-quarter losses of $116 million (€87 million). During the same quarter of the previous year, the company generated $33 million in profits.

Just recently, Asia’s champion exporter was the object of admiration from foreign executives and politicians, a victor in the global financial crisis. Some even believed they’d found a superior alternative to crisis-ridden Western-style market economies in Beijing’s authoritarian-style capitalism.

German carmakers, in particular, let themselves be carried away by China’s growth and made enormous investments. China is Volkswagen’s most important market, and the company hopes to sell 2 million cars there by the end of this year.

But the car boom is slowing. “We haven’t received a single new order in nine days,” admits a smartly dressed salesman at Dongguan’s Porsche dealership. “We’ve never experienced that before.” Many business owners are short on cash, he adds. “They used to mostly pay cash, but now they prefer to buy on credit.”

Cheap Chinese brands such as BYD (“Build Your Dreams”) are also having a harder time selling their cars. Important governmental tax incentives for buying cars ran out last year, and major cities such as Beijing are attempting to ease their congested streets by restricting the number of new automobiles. In October, people in China bought roughly 7 percent fewer cars than in the previous month.

Economic Missteps?

At first, it seemed as if Beijing’s state capitalists had found the magic recipe for endless growth. In 2009, they pumped 4 trillion yuan (the equivalent of €430 billion) — China’s largest stimulus package in history — into building ever more modern highways, train stations and airports. Tax incentives led millions of farmers to purchase refrigerators and computers for the first time.

More or less on the party’s orders, banks threw their money at the people’s feet, and local governments were particularly free about getting themselves into debt. By the end of 2010, outstanding debt stood at 10.7 trillion yuan — nearly a quarter of China’s entire economic output.

Much of these funds went, directly or indirectly, into real estate construction. Local governments discovered that selling land for building made for a lucrative source of revenue — and of collateral, so banks would continue to issue new loans. Thousands of farmers were driven off their fields so that villas and apartment buildings could be built.

Many of those development projects, often megalomaniac undertakings from the start, are now ghost towns. In China’s 15 largest cities in October, the number of newly auctioned building plots decreased by 39 percent compared to October 2010.

While many in the West hold out hope that China can solve the euro and dollar debt crisis with its foreign currency holdings, the rift between rich and poor within the country is growing. The “harmonious society” promised by Hu Jintao, head of the government and of the Communist Party, is at risk.

The country’s central bank has increased interest rates five times since mid-2010 to get inflation under control, while at the same time forcing banks to hold larger reserve funds. Beijing hopes this method will allow it to orchestrate a “soft landing” from its own economic boom. But the maneuver entails risks. Along with the construction industry, the motor driving China’s economy up until now, other sectors such as cement production, steelmaking and furniture construction stand to lose vitality as well.

Part 2: Will Rising Middle Class Turn against Government?

If the real estate bubble bursts, it is sure to turn China’s rising middle class against the government. Until now, the nouveau riche has viewed the Communist Party as a guarantee of their own prosperity. Recently, however, outraged apartment owners organized a demonstration in downtown Shanghai, protesting the decline in the value of their property.

Wang Jiang, 28, points to a nearly complete apartment block in Anting, one of the city’s suburbs. The software company manager bought an apartment on the 16th floor of the building for €138,000 in early September. It was a steep price for 82 square meters (883 square feet), especially since the building is located in an industrial area, hemmed in by factories and highways. But Wang was determined to get in on the boom. He didn’t even take the time to view the housing complex before he bought the apartment. Where else, after all, should he have invested his assets, if not in real estate?

Now China’s state-run banks are paying their customers negative interest and Shanghai’s stock market is considered a high-risk casino, where a few major governmental investors are believed to manipulate exchange rates at will.

Wang’s apartment isn’t even finished yet, but he no longer feels any joy about moving in — not now that the real estate company is offering similar apartments in the same complex for about 20 percent less.

Wang feels he was deceived about his apartment’s resale value. “What are they thinking?” he demands. “Surely they can’t just erase a portion of my assets?”

But they can.

Wang and many other furious apartment owners went to the real estate company’s salesroom to protest the drop in value. Suddenly, Wang relates, someone started smashing the miniature models of apartments. After that, in the blink of an eye, the company’s guards grabbed him and hauled the protesters to the police in minibuses. “We were interrogated until 2 a.m. in the morning,” Wang says. Some of the protesters, he adds, are still in prison and authorities won’t tell their families anything.

A Political Quandary

Whether in Dongguan or Shanghai, cracks seem to be forming everywhere in Chinese society. As long as the one-party dictatorship kept growth in the double digits, most people accepted their lack of freedom. Now, though, Beijing is facing a dilemma. Tough police crackdowns will hardly get the consequences of the stagnating economy under control in the long term. But nor are government subsidies enough to stimulate the economy. It seems neither money nor force will help.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao recently announced a “fine-tuning” of his economic policy: Banks should grant more generous loans, especially to small and medium-sized export companies, he said.

The economic situation now is far more complicated than it was after the 2008 global financial crisis, says economist Lin Jiang. In 2008, Chinese exports collapsed and roughly 25 million migrant workers had to return from factories to their home provinces.

Back in Dongguan, authorities have no cause at the moment to fear any further protest from Liu, the factory worker. He’s too busy looking for a new place to stay. When he lost his job, he also lost his spot in one of the electronics factory’s residences.

* Liu’s name has been changed by the editors in order to protect his identity.

Source: Spiegl Online, 08.12.2011 By Wieland Wagner

Filed under: China, Countries, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Trends for 2011 by Gerald Celente

After the tumultuous years of the Great Recession, a battered people may wish that 2011 will bring a return to kinder, gentler times. But that is not what we are predicting. Instead, the fruits of government and institutional action – and inaction – on many fronts will ripen in unplanned-for fashions.

Trends we have previously identified, and that have been brewing for some time, will reach maturity in 2011, impacting just about everyone in the world.

1. Wake-Up Call In 2011, the people of all nations will fully recognize how grave economic conditions have become, how ineffectual and self-serving the so-called solutions have been, and how dire the consequences will be. Having become convinced of the inability of leaders and know-it-all “arbiters of everything” to fulfill their promises, the people will do more than just question authority, they will defy authority. The seeds of revolution will be sown….

2. Crack-Up 2011 Among our Top Trends for last year was the “Crash of 2010.” What happened? The stock market didn’t crash. We know. We made it clear in our Autumn Trends Journal that we were not forecasting a stock market crash – the equity markets were no longer a legitimate indicator of recovery or the real state of the economy. Yet the reliable indicators (employment numbers, the real estate market, currency pressures, sovereign debt problems) all bordered between crisis and disaster. In 2011, with the arsenal of schemes to prop them up depleted, we predict “Crack-Up 2011”: teetering economies will collapse, currency wars will ensue, trade barriers will be erected, economic unions will splinter, and the onset of the “Greatest Depression” will be recognized by everyone….

3. Screw the People As times get even tougher and people get even poorer, the “authorities” will intensify their efforts to extract the funds needed to meet fiscal obligations. While there will be variations on the theme, the governments’ song will be the same: cut what you give, raise what you take.

4. Crime Waves No job + no money + compounding debt = high stress, strained relations, short fuses. In 2011, with the fuse lit, it will be prime time for Crime Time. When people lose everything and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it. Hardship-driven crimes will be committed across the socioeconomic spectrum by legions of the on-the-edge desperate who will do whatever they must to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table….

5. Crackdown on Liberty As crime rates rise, so will the voices demanding a crackdown. A national crusade to “Get Tough on Crime” will be waged against the citizenry. And just as in the “War on Terror,” where “suspected terrorists” are killed before proven guilty or jailed without trial, in the “War on Crime” everyone is a suspect until proven innocent….

6. Alternative Energy In laboratories and workshops unnoticed by mainstream analysts, scientific visionaries and entrepreneurs are forging a new physics incorporating principles once thought impossible, working to create devices that liberate more energy than they consume. What are they, and how long will it be before they can be brought to market? Shrewd investors will ignore the “can’t be done” skepticism, and examine the newly emerging energy trend opportunities that will come of age in 2011….

7. Journalism 2.0 Though the trend has been in the making since the dawn of the Internet Revolution, 2011 will mark the year that new methods of news and information distribution will render the 20th century model obsolete. With its unparalleled reach across borders and language barriers, “Journalism 2.0” has the potential to influence and educate citizens in a way that governments and corporate media moguls would never permit. Of the hundreds of trends we have forecast over three decades, few have the possibility of such far-reaching effects….

8. Cyberwars Just a decade ago, when the digital age was blooming and hackers were looked upon as annoying geeks, we forecast that the intrinsic fragility of the Internet and the vulnerability of the data it carried made it ripe for cyber-crime and cyber-warfare to flourish. In 2010, every major government acknowledged that Cyberwar was a clear and present danger and, in fact, had already begun. The demonstrable effects of Cyberwar and its companion, Cybercrime, are already significant – and will come of age in 2011. Equally disruptive will be the harsh measures taken by global governments to control free access to the web, identify its users, and literally shut down computers that it considers a threat to national security….

9. Youth of the World Unite University degrees in hand yet out of work, in debt and with no prospects on the horizon, feeling betrayed and angry, forced to live back at home, young adults and 20-somethings are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it anymore. Filled with vigor, rife with passion, but not mature enough to control their impulses, the confrontations they engage in will often escalate disproportionately. Government efforts to exert control and return the youth to quiet complacency will be ham-fisted and ineffectual. The Revolution will be televised … blogged, YouTubed, Twittered and….

10. End of The World! The closer we get to 2012, the louder the calls will be that the “End is Near!” There have always been sects, at any time in history, that saw signs and portents proving the end of the world was imminent. But 2012 seems to hold a special meaning across a wide segment of “End-time” believers. Among the Armageddonites, the actual end of the world and annihilation of the Earth in 2012 is a matter of certainty. Even the rational and informed that carefully follow the news of never-ending global crises, may sometimes feel the world is in a perilous state. Both streams of thought are leading many to reevaluate their chances for personal survival, be it in heaven or on earth….

See also http://www.trendsresearch.com/forecast.html

Source: Gerald Celente, Trendsresearch, 18.12.2010

Filed under: Banking, Energy & Environment, News, Risk Management, Services, Wealth Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Black Rock Bob Doll: 10 pronósticos para los próximos 10 años

“10 perspectivas para los próximos 10 años”, en el que Robert C. Doll, Vicepresidente y Estratega en Jefe de Capitales para Capitales Fundamentales de BlackRock, Inc. (NYSE: BLK), da sus pronósticos sobre el ambiente para las inversiones en la próxima década.

  1. La renta variable de E.U. experimentará retornos totales porcentuales de un solo digito después de la peor década desde 1930
  2. Las recesiones ocurrirán más frecuentemente durante esta década, en vez de solamente una vez cada década, como ocurrió en los últimos 20 años.
  3. El sector salud, la tecnología de información y alternativas energéticas liderarán las áreas de crecimiento en E.U.
  4. El dólar estadounidense continuará siendo menos dominante según avance la década.
  5. Las tasas de interés se elevarán irregularmente en los países en vías de desarrollo.
  6. El interés del país derivará en más conflictos comerciales y políticos.
  7. Una población en vías de envejecimiento genera para Europa algunos de los problemas de Japón.
  8. El crecimiento mundial se deriva del consumo en los mercados emergentes.
  9. Los mercados emergentes influyen en el aumento de los índices globales significativamente.
  10. Continuará el ascenso económico y político de China.

leer el reporte completo de Bob Doll BlackRock 10 perspectivas para los próximos 10 años

Fuente: BlackRock/ CarralSierra 02.08.2010


Filed under: Asia, China, Energy & Environment, Exchanges, Japan, Latin America, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Risk Management – Solar Storms: Protecting Your Operations Against the Sun’s ‘Dark Side’

Recent scientific information indicates that an extreme solar storm cycle activity producing Geomagnetically-Induced Currents (GIC) is predicted to peak again in 2012. Some scientists are warning that the GIC from sunspots and solar flares could cause significant damage to the electrical grid, telecommunication and other devices.

Compared to disruption of the electrical grid from natural hazards and other sources, GIC related damage and disruption to the power distribution grid has the potential to have a very broad footprint across a large region for an extended period with possible cascading societal and economic impact.

On the other hand, this 2012 prediction could be a rather benign “non-event” similar to Y2K. Even if 2012 is a non-event, the threat of solar storms and associated space weather risks are rare but real and should not be ignored. Such an event does not have any precedence for comparison for the potential severity of impact. It can be considered an unrecognized catastrophic risk due to our increased reliance on technology today.

This paper provides background on the hazards associated with solar storms based on a review of available information from a variety of reliable resources and explores potential loss scenarios from Geomagnetically-Induced Currents (GIC) associated with solar storms activity.

Read full article here: Zurich 2010 – Protecting your Operations from Solar Storm

Read Full article here: Swiss Re 2000 – Space Weather Hazard to the Earth

Source: Zurich Service Corporation, 08.04.2010 by  A.V. Riswadkar and Buddy Dobbins, Risk Engineering,     Swiss Re, 2000 by Rene Favre, Risto Pirjola, Frank Jansen


Filed under: Energy & Environment, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , ,

China and India – Himalayas, Water and growing conflicts

The brewing disputes and growing concerns of the Himalayan Region by worlds two most populus nations, is a further indication of increasing dangers of latent resource wars, particularly on water. The continuing desertification in China and migration to coastal region increase pressure. While planned deviation of water ways to Chinese low lands could severely affect South- and South East Asia, see also

Political Hands across the Himalayas, FT, 15.11.2009

Excerpt: India and China are touted as white knights coming to the rescue of the world economy. Considerable hope rests on these two countries, with fast-paced growth, developing domestic markets and high savings rates, reviving demand and leading other languishing parts of the world out of recession.

The two rising powers, however, may yet be clashing knights. For in New Delhi it is fear of Beijing, rather than partnership, that all too frequently characterises the trans-Himalayan relationship. While some size up trade balances and growth trajectories, others are measuring missile ranges and comparing military parades.

Mr Mishra advised Atul Behari Vajpayee, the former premier. His views, albeit hawkish, are respected by the current Congress party-led government and carry weight with the diplomatic community.

So his recent forecast that India might face a second military front within five years turned heads. The former intelligence chief predicted that India could find itself locked in an armed stand-off simultaneously with Beijing and Pakistan, the traditional rival.

Mr Mishra’s suspicions of China have been newly aroused by Beijing’s warm relationship with Islamabad and its supply of military hardware to Pakistan’s army.

They have also been stoked by territorial claims to Arunachal Pradesh, a north-eastern Indian state, and predictions on Chinese websites that India, a country of huge diversity, is doomed to fall apart.

Mr Mishra says China’s stridency in its territorial ambitions has grown over the past two years to a level not seen since the early 1960s. Moreover, he accuses China of trying to bring into question India’s sovereignty over the state at the international level.

Military strategists interpret China’s policies as a regional power play. They say that tying India up within its own borders prevents it from projecting itself in the region and rivalling China.

In spite of the fighting talk in India, the relationship between India and China holds much more potential than antagonism. China’s impressive record of infrastructure development and lifting people out of poverty holds lessons for India. Likewise, India’s democratic credentials and inclusiveness are instructive to China.

Read full article hear:  15.11. 2009 by James Lamont in New Delhi

The high stakes of melting Himalayan glaciers, CNN 05.10.2009

Execerpt – The glaciers in the Himalayas are receding quicker than those in other parts of the world and could disappear altogether by 2035 according to the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. The result of this deglaciation could be conflict as Himalayan glacial runoff has an essential role in the economies, agriculture and even religions of the regions countries.

Satellite data from the Indian Space Applications Center, in Ahmedabad, India, indicates that from 1962 to 2004, more than 1,000 Himalayan glaciers have retreated by around 16 percent. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China’s glaciers have shrunk by 5 percent since 1950s.

Dr. Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist, physicist and leader in the International Forum on Globalization, has just returned from a “Climate Yatra,” a research journey to the Himalayas to study the impact of climate change and the glacial melt upon communities in Asia.

“Himalayan rivers support nearly half of humanity,” Dr. Shiva told CNN. “Everyone who depends on water from the Himalayas will be affected.”

Both India and China are exploring opportunities to harness Himalayan waters for hydroelectric power projects, and while the initial melt promises to provide plenty of water for both sides, the loss of glaciers could lead to water shortages further in the future.

Water-related conflicts have already been witnessed in other parts of the globe such as in the West Bank and in Darfur.

According to Himanshu Thakkar of the South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People, almost 70 percent of the non-monsoon flows in almost all the Himalayan rivers come from glacier melt.

International water security issues within Asia could be likely since the waters of the Indus, Ganges and the Brahmaptura basins flow into China in the upstream, and are shared across South Asia in the downstream.

Dr. Shiva believes the situation will render major security issues, between India and China particularly, as flows reduce and demands intensify.

Read full article here: CNN, 05.10.2009


In retreat: the roof of the world is experiencing rapid summer melting.

 

Filed under: Asia, China, India, Malaysia, News, Risk Management, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Global warming threat for Asia financial hubs – Yangtze ‘facing climate threat’

The report, produced by WWF, the environmental pressure group, puts the two financial hubs in the top 10 cities threatened by climate change in Asia, the region widely believed to be most vulnerable to rising global temperatures.

It warns that Hong Kong is in danger from higher sea levels, which are likely to rise 40cm-60cm in China’s Pearl River delta by 2050, increasing the area of coastline that is vulnerable to flooding by up to six times.

Costs imposed by typhoons are also likely to rise dramatically, the report says, noting that 14 of the 21 extreme storm surges between 1950 and 2004 occurred after 1986.

The number of nights when Hong Kong temperatures rise above 28°C has risen almost fourfold since the 1960s, while the number of winter nights when the temperature falls below 12°C is predicted to fall from an average of 21 to zero within 50 years.

For Singapore, the report says, the sea level is forecast to rise by 60cm by the end of the century, eroding coastal protection and decreasing the shoreline of the city state, making it more vulnerable to storm surges and flooding.

The report says climate change could also increase the prevalence of dengue fever. The number of cases has been rising in periodic outbreaks and the last significant peak, in 2007, saw the third highest number of outbreaks ever.

Dhaka, the Bangladeshi capital, heads the list of the most vulnerable cities, mainly because of its position in a big river delta already subject to periodic flooding, its low average height above sea level and its poverty, which makes protection and adaptation more difficult.

Other cities at risk include Jakarta and Manila, which rank equal second, Calcutta and Phnom Penh, which are equal third, Ho Chi Minh and Shanghai, equal fourth, Bangkok, fifth, and Kuala Lumpur, which ties with Hong Kong and Singapore for sixth place.

The report calls on developed countries to agree to shoulder the bulk of the costs required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to finance an adaptation fund to pay for changes required in developing countries, and to provide recompense for losses and damage caused by climate-related catastrophes.

However, the report also says that vulnerable cities and national governments should take action themselves, including better management of coastal habitats and ecosystems.

The report is timed to influence the 21 heads of government attending this week’s Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Singapore, before the global climate change summit in Copenhagen next month.

Source: FT, 11.11 2009 by Kevin Brown in Singapore

The Yangtze river basin is being increasingly affected by extreme weather and its ecosystems are under threat, environmentalists say.

In a new report, WWF-China says the temperature in the basin area of China’s longest river has risen steadily over the past two decades.

This has led to an increase in flooding, heat waves and drought.

Further temperature rises will have a disastrous effect on biodiversity in and along the river, the report says.

The WWF – formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund – predicts that in the next 50 years temperatures will go up by between 1.5C and 2C.

The group’s report is the largest assessment yet of the impact of global warming on the Yangtze River Basin, where about 400 million people live.

Data was collected from 147 monitoring stations. The report’s lead researcher, Xu Ming, said the forthcoming Copenhagen negotiations on climate change would have an obvious and direct influence on the Yangtze.

“Controlling the future emissions of greenhouse gases will benefit the Yangtze river basin, at the very least from the perspective of drought and water resources,” he said.

The report says the predicted weather events and temperature rises will lead to declines in crop production, and rising sea levels will make coastal cities such as Shanghai vulnerable.

Some of the problems could be averted by strengthening river reinforcements, and switching to hardier crops, its authors suggest.

Source: BBC, 10.11.2009

Filed under: Asia, China, Energy & Environment, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, News, Risk Management, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Fund Managers can become farmers: Jim Rogers Interview Economic Times of India

At one stage we were inundated with gloomy forecasts, which were further reinforced by the IMF and World Bank. And then suddenly stocks surged — something most were not prepared for. How risky is the market today?

Central banks all over the world have printed huge amounts of money, and the real economy is not strong enough for all this money to be absorbed… so, it’s going into stocks and real assets such as commodities. It’s a mistake what they are doing. It’s giving short-term pleasure, but there’s long-term pain as we are going to have much higher inflation, much higher interest rates and a worse economy down the road.

The American bond market is already beginning to go down dramatically as people realise that the American government has to sell huge amount of bonds, and secondly, there is going to be inflation, serious inflation, as it was always in the past when you had governments printing huge amounts of money.

Stocks are rising even as fiscal deficit is widening. Somewhere it has to snap…

It’s going to snap. Later this year, next year, we are going to have currency problems, maybe even a currency crisis. I don’t know with which currency — maybe with the pound sterling, maybe with the US dollar, who knows. It maybe with something none of us have at the moment. When you have a currency crisis, stocks will be affected, many things will be affected. It is not sound, what’s happening out there in the world.

In the 1930s, we had a huge stock market bubble which popped. And then politicians started making many mistakes. They became protectionist. They made solvent banks take over insolvent banks and then both banks failed in the end.

They are doing many of the same mistakes now. What’s different this time is that we are printing huge amounts of money which they did not print at that time. So, we are going to have inflation this time.

What do you do? No politically-elected government can afford so much pain, unemployment and hardships…

America could have. America just had an election. The guy was elected in November and he could have come in the beginning of a four-year term and said the guys before me were hopeless idiots. They ruined things. We have to solve this problem. We have to take some pains now. But don’t worry, we will get through this pain, and in two to three years or four years, things would be fine. And he could have been re-elected.

If the pain comes in 2010, 2011 or 2012, there will be nobody he can blame. Especially, if things go bad later, the opposition will say, wait a minute, 2009 looked good. The next guy is going to say you did it… But you are right. It’s very difficult for an elected government. You have a newly-elected government in India. Whenever you have a new government they can take some of the pain.

You recently said that you would invest in China and Sri Lanka but not in India. Aren’t you betting on the new government in India?

I was trying to make a point that if anyone wants to invest in this particular part of the world, the best place would be Sri Lanka. Because it looks like the 30-year war is coming to an end.

Throughout history, if you go to a place after the war ends you usually find everything as very cheap, everyone is demoralised, people are just depressed and there are enormous opportunities if you have energy.

In my view, investing in Sri Lanka in May 2009 is probably a better bet than Pakistan, Bangladesh, India or some of the other countries nearby. Let’s hope the new Indian government does something. I have heard wonderful things from Indian politicians for 40 years.

And rarely do they produce. It’s not the first time that the Congress party has been in the power. If they mean it, India’s going to be one of the greatest development stories in the next 20 years. But I don’t know if they mean it.

What kind of reforms?

Why isn’t the currency convertible, why isn’t foreign capital encouraged, why isn’t foreign expertise encouraged, why is it so protectionist? Why are farmers only allowed to own five hectares? India should be the greatest farming nation in the world. You have the soil, the weather, you have everything and yet an Indian farmer can own only five hectares.

How can an Indian farmer compete with a guy in Ireland who can own 1,000 hectares or a guy in Brazil who can own 5,000 hectares? Smart people don’t become farmers. Because what’s the future? Whenever prices start going up, Indian politicians ban futures trading, as if futures trading makes prices go up. It’s the craziest and the most absurd thing in the whole world. Prices go up because there is a reason for prices to go up.

Last year you were buying only Chinese stocks. Why?

The market collapsed in October-November. That’s when I bought more Chinese shares. I have not bought any Chinese shares since then. I have not bought shares anywhere in the world since then. My way of participating in what’s going on now is to buy commodities.

In my view, commodities are the only place where fundamentals are improving. Farmers can’t get loans for fertilisers now, even though inventories of food are the lowest in decades. Nobody can get a loan to open a mine. So, you will have supplies of everything continuing to decline.

What else are you looking at while investing?

There are some industries in India that would do exceedingly well in the next few years, one of which is water. You have a horrible water problem. China also has a horrible water problem. So, I bought water companies in China. There are some great opportunities if America falls off the face of the earth. China is spending hundreds of billions of dollars to solve the agricultural problem.

So, I am buying agricultural stocks and water stocks in China. There are other industries in India which have a great future. I am very bullish on Indian tourism. Wherever I go for speeches around the world I tell people, if you have to go to one country in your lifetime, you should go to India.

Your government is going to re-build the military, they say. So, there’s going to be great opportunities here. Also, they may build the infrastructure. So, I see many opportunities in India.

The possibility of a sovereign default in the developed world could further depress sentiments. You think it’s possible?

In 1918, the UK was the richest and the most powerful country in the world. Within one generation it was in shambles, within two-and-a-half generations it defaulted. The UK defaulted in 1970s and had to be bailed out by the IMF. Many of the countries in the developed world are in serious trouble right now.

Iceland has already defaulted. I think there could be a currency crisis because of sovereign debt problems later this year, next year or 2011. Developed nations have defaulted before. Remember the Asian crisis. It was a default of one kind or the other. It has happened before and it will happen again.

Are you worried about any particular market or region?

I am glad that I have no investments in the UK. Neither long, nor short. I am convinced that it’s in trouble. I am worried about the US. I have sold nearly all of my US dollars. I always had some as I am an American citizen. But I see serious problems developing there. Those two of the big developed countries are the ones that I see with the most likely problems.

But the problem is that it never works that way. Everybody is sitting here watching the UK and US and it may happen in say Portugal or some place we haven’t thought of and it will come suddenly to surprise us all.

If US unemployment touches the 10%-mark, it would further impact retail sales. How bad could this be for Asia?

Let’s pick on China for a minute. If you sell to Wal-Mart in the US and if you are a Chinese supplier you know there is a problem. And you are going to be suffering. Any company that deals with the West is going to have problems. On the other hand, companies that are in the water-treatment business in Asia will care less if the West disappears. They are too busy making money, too busy going to work everyday.

What kind of commodities will smart money chase? Can money be made in crude?

I own gold but think silver is better right now. Natural gas is cheaper than oil right now, but I own them all. If you want to buy crude, you should probably buy cotton. Because all farmers in the US are planting corn to turn into energy. That means they are not going to plant any cotton. The best way to play crude oil is to buy cotton.

Right now, there are huge subsidies around the world for farmers to plant corn, maize, for instance, so that they can be converted into energy. If energy prices go higher, there will be even more of that.

If everybody plants his fields with soya, corn or palm oil to turn it into oil or energy then no one is going to plant cotton.

And you can make a lot more money in cotton than oil. Between oil and gold, buy cotton. Between oil and gold buy silver. The other way to invest in oil is to buy sugar as everybody is converting a lot of sugar into energy.
Silver is so much cheaper on a historic basis. And gold is near its all-time high. Silver is 75% below its all-time high. So, I would suspect that silver and cotton are going to do better than gold and oil.

Global population is close to its peak and genetically-modified crops will increase productivity. What makes you so bullish on agriculture?

It doesn’t matter. The world has been consuming more than it produced. Food inventories are at a multi-decade low. And we haven’t had any bad weather. We had isolated cases of droughts and things. That may never happen again. But if it does, the prices of food would go through the roof.

If there is climate change taking place, the best way to participate is through agriculture or through agriculture products. There are many positive things happening. Right now, there is a shortage of everything in agriculture — seeds, fertilisers, tractors, tractor tyres. We have a shortage of farmers because farming has been a horrible business for the past 30 years.

What kind of a market are you witnessing now?

Jim Rogers

It’s a bear market rally. I was going to say I don’t think S&P 500 will see new highs. But I have to quickly temper that by saying against the dollar because the S&P 500 could triple from here if they print enough money and the value of the US dollar collapses, then S&P could go to 50,000, Dow Jones can go to 1,00,000.

Which is one reason why I am not shorting stocks right now. Because there is a possibility of this sort of a thing. There is a possibility that stocks could go through unheard of levels, but would be in worthless currency.

That naturally brings us to the debate on a new international reserve currency

Several countries have raised the issue once again. The US dollar is terribly flawed right now. Something has to be done to the US dollar and something will be done just as something was done about the pound sterling. After World War II, people stopped using the pound sterling and converted to the dollar for many reasons. Something’s going to be done about the dollar.

We are much closer to be doing something about it or will be forced to do something about it. India was forced to change in 1991 and the world will be forced to change the currency situation in the foreseeable future.

There is already an underlying fear that this mountain of cash will chase assets and eventually force central banks to mop up liquidity. How do you think this would play out?

I know they all say, ‘Don’t worry, we will reverse gears and take the excess liquidity out in time.’ I don’t believe them for a minute. No one has ever done it that way. When central bankers started trying to, it caused so much pain that they quickly reversed or have got rid of that central banker and put somebody else in.

I just don’t think they could do it. That’s why I am worried about the bond market and the inflation. If all central banks do it together, that’s going to lead to higher unemployment, riots in the streets, civil unrests.

Your track record as an investor has been more than impressive. But in todays market can you replicate your performance of the past 20 years?

One can. I probably cannot as I am not spending enough time at it. But it can be done. There are going to be people who we will read about in 20 years having made legendary fortunes starting now. In the 1930s, there were people who built huge fortunes and laid the foundations like Templeton.

He started in the 1930s. He saw opportunities and took advantage. These are people who saw great advantages and opportunities in the 1930s, acted and became fantastic successes. There may be somebody out there now. I don’t know who she is. Maybe she is in Brazil, China or India.

What will you tell a confused fund manager who seeks your advice?

Become a farmer. The world has tens of thousands of hotshot fund managers right now. If I am correct, the financial community is not going to be a great place to be in for the next 30 years. We have many periods in history when financial people were in charge, we had many periods when people who produced real goods were in charge — miners, farmers, etc.

The world, in my view, is changing and is shifting away from the financial types to producers of real goods, and this is going to last for several decades as it always has. This may sound strange but it always happens this way. Ten years from now, it may be farmers who will drive the Lamborghinis and the stock brokers will drive tractors or taxis at best.

Source: Economic Times, 04.06.2009

Filed under: Asia, Banking, Brazil, China, Energy & Environment, Exchanges, India, Latin America, News, Risk Management, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What Are The People Who Predicted the Financial Crisis Predicting Now?

There are only a handful of people who predicted this financial crisis, or at least its severity. What are they predicting now? George Washington’s Blog

Peter Schiff and Ron Paul

Schiff, the manager of over $1 billion dollars in investments, says the U.S. will enter a long period which could be worse than the Great Depression. Schiff also thinks that the economic crisis might lead to martial law.

He thinks that Asia and Europe, after a period of economic downturn, will “decouple” from the U.S., eventually enjoying great prosperity long before the U.S. recovers. Schiff has admitted that he did not foresee the current rally in the dollar, and his investors – long in Asian and European stocks – are way down. Schiff was Ron Paul’s chief economic advisor during his campaign. Paul has himself predicted the crisis for many years, and has warned that America is spending more than it can afford. Paul has also repeatedly warned of martial law.

Nouriel Roubini

Roubini, the PhD economist, thinks we are going to have what he calls “stag-deflation”, meaning severe stagnation and deflation. Basically, he thinks that we’re heading into a depression without extreme government action. He’s also warning of possible food riots.

Marc Faber

PhD economist Faber, who called both the 1987 crash and the current crisis, believes that there will be a bear rally for a couple of months, and then a further crash. He is convinced the U.S. will go bankrupt sooner or later. Faber also thinks that the crisis may spell and end for the traditional American form of government, to be replaced by martial law or some other unsavory form of government.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Economist, highly-regarded investment advisor, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on derivatives Nassim Nicholas Taleb, thinks that “capitalism I” is over, and things will get very bad before we get to a new form of “capitalism II”, where banks will act like utilities instead of money-making pirates. Taleb has warned that supermarkets may shut down. While he wouldn’t directly tell Charlie Rose how bad he thinks things will get, he did say he thinks things will be worse than Roubini is predicting.

Antal E. Fekete and Darryl Schoon

Professor Emeritus of Mathematics Antal E. Fekete and author Darryl Schoon think that our entire modern society will crash and break down (gold bugs, they believe all assets will crater except gold).

Afterword: The Greatest Depression

As an afterword, it should be pointed out that – while it was really bad – the Great Depression was not the greatest crash in history. Indeed, one writer describes the Great Depression as “a mild and brief episode, compared to the bank crash of the 1340’s . . . .”

That’s a stunning piece of information: the Great Depression was nothing compared to the crash in Venice in 1340. How can anything have been that much worse than the Great Depression?

Well, the 1340 crash ushered in the dark ages.

Now I don’t think anything nearly that bad is coming. But discussions about whether we are going to experience something as horrible as America’s Great Depression should not be taken in a vacuum. Unless our government stops messing things up and making them worse, things could get quite ugly.

Source: PrisonPlante.com, 09.12.2008

Filed under: Energy & Environment, News, Risk Management, Services, , , , , , , , , , , ,