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Mexico Investment News Letter 07 June 2013

Mexico Is The Next China

“Mexico is the next China,” Ferrari North America CEO Marco Mattiacci said during a panel discussion today about the future of luxury.

Mexico and the cursed Dragon Mart

The closest People’s Republic of China President Xi Yinping came to China’s controversial top project in Mexico was on his Thursday visit to the Chichén Itzá archaeological site with President Enrique Peña Nieto.

China, Mexico vow broad cooperation as Xi visits; no trade pact soon

MEXICO CITY – China and Mexico promised broad cooperation on issues ranging from energy to mining and infrastructure during a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, but any free-trade pact between the emerging market powers is still some way off.

What does Xi see in Mexico?

Analysis: Much of Latin America has for years found in China a voracious trade partner. Mexico has found its fiercest competitor.

Death map’ of deserts aims to save lives of desperate Mexican migrants

Illegal immigration: Humane Borders support group charts bodies found in US-Mexico frontier to try to limit future tragedies

Grupo Gigante buys rest of Office Depot’s Mexican arm

MEXICO CITY – Mexican retailer Grupo Gigante on Tuesday said it purchased the 50 percent stake of the Mexican unit of U.S. office-supply store chain Office Depot Inc it did not already own in a deal worth 8.78 billion pesos ($691 million).

Heineken-Modelo Beer Probe Nears Mexico Agency Decision

Heineken NV (HEIA) and Grupo Modelo SAB, the dominant brewers in Mexico with brands such as Dos Equis and Corona, are nearing the end of an almost three-year-old government…

Pemex Mulls Bolsa Listing of Projects to Lower Funding Costs

Petroleos Mexicanos, Mexico’s state- owned oil producer, is considering securitizing some assets in a way tailored to attract national pension funds to unlock money for its equipment needs.

Analysis: Mexico peso poised at precipice, may face much steeper fall

MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s peso could slide even further if convictions mount that the massive monthly U.S. monetary stimulus is nearing an end and lead to an exodus of foreign investors who have piled into Mexican markets.

1st Marijuana  “Starbuck” style Chain in the US by ex Microsoft Exec  using drug fighting former Mexican president Vincent Fox as marijuana grower

More projects of passenger trains in Mexico

With the Plan Nacional de Infraestructura 2013-2018 the routes that will be developed during the six year period will be made known, as well as the required investment.

The Mexico Paradox

In spite of the violence, illegal drug and arms trade, trucks continue to line up at the border in Ciudad Juarez Mexico.

Filed under: China, Latin America, Mexico, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Latin America: Investor News Letter 2 November 2012

MEXICO

Mexico 2013 inflation view steady despite price spike
Credit Suisse Raises $420 Million to Create Mexico Fund
Mexico: Big investment for citrus producers
Indigenous Groups Protest Mexico’s Biggest Wind-Energy Project
FOX BUSINESS – Mexican fishermen and indigenous groups from the southern state of Oaxaca protested Wednesday in front of the Mexico City offices of participants in a wind-energy project that would be one of the largest ever in Latin America, targeting Coca-Cola bottler and convenience-store operator Femsa (FMX), the Inter-American Development Bank and the Danish government, among others.

BRAZIL

The Brazilian Law on Money Laundering
Precautions Investors Must Take when Investing in Brazil. Brazil has recently altered its money laundering law. The new bill has tightened the government’s grip on most of the investment operations and has significantly broadened financial institutions’ and investment brokers’ duties to report suspicious activities …

ThyssenKrupp Brazil mill fined for pollution, could face closure
The long, brutal haul from farm to port in Brazil
Brazil hit by new blackout, infrastructure in spotlight
Brazil Gives Tax Exemption to Foreign Mortgage Investors
Brazil Power Generators Ask to Renew 106 of 123 Concessions

LATIN AMERICA

Private Aviation takes off in Latin America
The growth of private wealth in LatAm has led to a rise in demand for private aircraft and private aviation services. For the region’s mounting numbers of high-net-worth and ultra-high-net-worth individuals, a plane can be purely a luxury item, of course; but for increasingly global and mobile professionals and business owners, it meets a demand unsatisfied by local transportation alternatives, as well .

Colombia Regulators Seize Interbolsa Brokerage on Funding

Colombia’s financial regulators seized Interbolsa SA’s brokerage, the country’s largest, after the company said it faces a “temporary” funding shortage.

 Latin America stocks rise on China, U.S. data
20 Latin American in the World’s 200 Richest People
Argentina bonds close lower after S&P downgrade
Argentina Plans Regulatory Overhaul to Spur Investments
Increase in pension fund investments makes for headwinds in Andean market
Colombia Equity Fund targets European countries for distribution
Protests in Peru Scaring Off Mining Investment, Government Responds With Social Programs
Honduran supreme court rejects idea of building independently governed ‘model cities’
CAF and OFIC ink agreement to promote energy efficiency projects in Latin America
Modern airport terminal to be opened in Bogota
IDB approves $200m financing for Latin America hydro plant

Filed under: Argentina, Asia, Banking, Brazil, Central America, Chile, Colombia, Latin America, Mexico, News, Peru, Risk Management, Wealth 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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Energy: Don’t Believe Long-Term Oil Forecasts

On 4 October 2009, The Wall Street Journal ran an article World Need for Oil Expected to Ease (subscription might be required), where the author, Spencer Swartz, wrote:

The International Energy Agency next week will make a “substantial” downward revision to its long-term forecast for global oil demand, a person familiar with the matter said, marking the second year running the group has slashed its view of the world’s thirst for oil.

If demand pessimists are correct, future increases in the price of crude could be damped as weaker consumption stretches world oil supply by billions of barrels. Various analyst estimates maintain that the roughly 2% a year average growth rate in world oil consumption seen earlier this decade — the biggest reason for crude prices hitting a record $147 a barrel last year — may turn out to be an anomaly and that annual growth in the neighborhood of 0.5% to 1% is more the norm.

The reality is that no one knows what the long term future holds. The IEA itself struggles with the Bull versus Bear oil outlook. Ask yourself, how many pundits foresaw the mess we are in now and anticipated the dramatic easing of oil demand?

Sure, one can gather relevant information and make a reasonable guess as to oil demand next year and the year after that. But after five years, the potential paths of demand growth become unwieldy. How will economic growth be sustained over the next five years? Will the OECD countries lag emerging countries? Will China and the rest of Asia power ahead and create substantial demand? If Asian countries do power ahead and create many millions of middle class citizens, will they demand their own vehicles and tickets on jet planes to see the world? Will Brazil and other South American countries enjoy strong economic growth? Will the Middle East be stable over this period? Will Iraq resume its full production capabilities? As you see, one can begin asking any number of questions that are impossible to answer with an accuracy or certainty and that might have a major bearing on demand or supply or both.

What do we know? We know that for a long time, oil prices were usually within $20-$30 real per barrel. Now those prices are laughable. No reasonable person expects the world to return to those prices any time soon. Many major oil fields around the world are in decline. Oil companies are searching in more remote and sometimes more unfriendly regions of the world to develop further existing fields and to discover new fields. And, the rise of oil prices has given new prominence to some national oil companies. A sample list, though incomplete, of companies include: Gazprom OAO (OGZPY.PK), Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., and Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. – Petrobras (PBR).

If we were to accept the 1% annual growth of oil demand mentioned in the WSJ quote for a long duration, what would that mean or imply? A child born tomorrow will see by her seventieth birthday a doubling of daily world oil production from about 85 million barrels per day to 170 million barrels per day. Moreover, during her seventy years, the world will have produced more during that time than the total cumulative amount prior to her birth. Call me a skeptic, but I am unable to see where we would find that much additional oil to produce at such high rates for such a sustained period.

To be clear, neither the article nor the IEA is suggesting that we endure a 1% growth forever. Rather, I wanted to use this seemingly small innocuous number of only 1% growth to draw attention to its implication. If the long term growth were 2%, then in 35 years the daily world oil production would double to 170 million barrels per day and the oil produced during those 35 years would exceed the prior total cumulative amount of oil produced.

I recommend two excellent sources of information to learn more about oil, oil demand, oil prices and various policy initiatives:

  • Statistical Review of World Energy from BP p.l.c. (BP). I found the link to the Adobe pdf document toward to the bottom on its homepage.
  • Monthly Oil Market Report from the International Energy Agency. The link is to the webpage that hosts the document that is released two weeks after the initial release date. Subscribers receive immediate access through a different link.

Both documents are extremely helpful. I find the BP document provides concise information and historical context. The IEA document provides the agency’s latest thinking and forecasts.

As the world struggles to find new sources of oil, there will be dramatic changes. I have already discussed some questions we should ask ourselves as we contemplate future oil demand growth. Of course, many more questions need to be considered. And I have indicated that some national oil companies have gained strength and prominence with higher oil demand and prices. As investors, we should also think about what long term oil demand growth means for oil sands companies such as Suncor Energy, Inc. (SU) and Canadian Oil Sands Trust (COSWF.PK), and for large multinationals such as ConocoPhillips Company (COP), Chevron Corporation (CVX), and Exxon Mobil Corporation (XOM).

As demand continues to rise, I am curious what will happen. Will scientific breakthroughs help? How will the world cope with the environmental consequences? How will people adapt to possibly much higher prices? How will countries and regions change because of either having or lacking domestic oil supplies? If the world does experience higher prices, what are the implications for global world trade? And do higher prices imply that people will travel less and have less of an understanding of other regions? These questions are just a small sample of what investors should begin considering.

A few years ago, Professor Bartlett gave a compelling lecture, captured in a series of YouTube videos, to some students at the University of Colorado. In his lecture, he discussed oil demand growth. The lecture starts a bit slow; however, when you reach the latter part of the third video, you’ll see how the prior information is relevant to his discussion on oil. In other words, because they are important, don’t skip the initial video segments and jump to the third. I urge you to watch the complete video series.

And after you’ve watched the videos, ask yourself, “What time is it?” This question will make sense once you’ve seen the videos.

When I initially saw the WSJ article, I was drawn by the long term forecasts. My personal bias is that most longer term things in life are difficult, if not impossible, to forecast with any reasonable degree of accuracy. Then as I read the article, I saw the 1% growth number, which by itself seems very innocuous. But if you think about what 1% growth means over a long and sustained period, you quickly realize there are going to be changes. Moreover, the world has already witnessed a significant shift in oil prices over the last decade. We are no longer in our prior historical norm of $20-$30 per barrel. Some might argue that we are now in unchartered territory. As part of that possible unchartered territory, I wanted you to think about some larger questions. The questions mentioned in this article are just off the top of my head without much thought. I am sure you can think of many more. And last, I wanted to draw your attention to Professor Bartlett’s excellent lecture. His lecture will make you think about oil demand (and others) growth differently. I hope this article causes you to further your own research.

Source: Seeking Alpha, 08.11.2009

Filed under: Brazil, China, Energy & Environment, Mexico, News, Risk Management, Venezuela, Vietnam, , , , , , , , , , ,

Nassim Nicholas Taleb points to the black swan

It’s you and me, and everyone else gathered last night at the Grand Hyatt to receive his lecture on why the financial crisis is far from over.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb of “Black Swan” fame reminds me of the court jesters of medieval Europe. What made them comedic was not their slapstick or bawdy antics, but their ability to speak truth to power. The jester, dressed in his clown suit, might have looked ridiculous, but he told the king the plain truth — truth that was so overpowering, so obvious and so tragic, that the king and his courtesans could do little but laugh.

Taleb addressed a full-capacity crowd at the Hong Kong Grand Hyatt last night as the speaker for the Asia Society’s annual gala dinner. He noted in his erudite and often piercingly funny remarks that he was the only male in the room not wearing a tie — this jester preferred a Chinese mandarin collar.

And, like the jesters of yore, he told truth to power. The room was Power incarnate, full of glitterati. Investment bankers of course, but also central bankers, big-time private equity and fund managers, government officials and diplomats — and even a few journalists, another favourite whipping post of Taleb’s.

Power heard the truth — overpowering, obvious and tragic. And it laughed at his wit, it nodded at his wisdom, it even spent yesterday evening writing up his words, and this morning as you read this, it is going about its business as usual.

Power did not take it all sitting down. The Q&A with Taleb saw quite a few brave bankers challenge his arguments. A bond underwriter and a high executive from a Tarp recipient both argued that debt is necessary to economic prosperity. But the jester would have none of it. While he did make the distinction that he appreciates the role bankers should play, he was not about to accept the argument that debt or bailouts are in any way healthy to society at large. In fact, he skewered these representatives – flunkies – of Power.

Taleb has written two famous books. The first, “Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets”, was a tour de force of incisive logic (and egotism) that exploded many of the myths behind asset management. It introduced the concept of the black swan event — an event beyond the usual measurement of expectation, but which has a high impact, like the subprime mortgage-fuelled credit debacle in America.

The second book, “Fooled by Randomness: The Impact of the Highly Improbable”, came out in 2007, just in time to make Taleb one of the intellectual stars of the global financial crisis. He had seen it coming. (This second book, by the way, is twice as long and half as interesting as the first.)

He drew upon a set of 10 lessons outlined in “Fooled” that must be implemented to avoid further breakdowns such as the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Ominously, it seems that policymakers, particularly in the US, have failed to meet a single one.

Here’s a flavour. What is going on in America today is not capitalism. Bailing out banks that are ‘too big to fail’ is socialising losses and privatising profits. It is the bastard spawn of capitalism and socialism, taking the worst aspects of both systems.

If an organism is fragile, it’s best to break it yourself, early, before it poses a systemic threat (by becoming ‘too big to fail’). The US government (and those in Western Europe) have helped the ‘too big to fail’ banks become even bigger. For every cry that a bailout is ‘un-American’, Taleb can point to a litany of bailouts that have continuously set a precedent, even under Ronald Reagan’s presidency (Continental Illinois, Chrysler).

Taleb repeatedly compared economic activity to nature. In nature, there’s no such thing as too big to fail. Nature can’t tolerate overly large organisms, and if one dies, the rest of the herd isn’t doomed to die with it. Why? Because nature doesn’t believe in myths. It doesn’t care about ‘value at risk’ or other misleading metrics. It doesn’t have an ideology. It just has natural selection and a uniform impulse among organisms to reproduce, to survive via competition.

That’s capitalism. Taleb can denounce big-bank statism with one breath and praise California tech entrepreneurs with the next, as examples of what is and what is not capitalism. He also praises hedge funds, which fail by the thousands every year without a whimper of complaint or public money — unless they are run by fools with Nobel prizes, in which case a government bailout is then required.

Death is necessary to make capitalism work — death, and a lack of debt. Taleb has no patience for a hint that debt can help society. He’s heard it all before — the velocity of money, the uses it has in helping ordinary people buy a home.

He has no time for Ben Bernanke. Bernanke is among the trio of failed bureaucrats (he says) running US economic policy (along with Larry Summers, ex Citi, and Tim Geithner). Bernanke’s academic claim to fame is having understood the Great Depression. “Any grandmother who remembers the Great Depression knows you shouldn’t have debt,” Taleb says, dismissing the academic career of the chairman of the Federal Reserve System in a single line.

He has no time either for bonuses, particularly when there’s no punishment for people like Robert Rubin — ex Citi, ex Treasury — who got paid $120 million in bonuses, initially from Citi shareholders and now by US taxpayers, retrospectively. And he has no time for complex financial products, risk metrics or economic policy that is about propping up models of indebtedness rather than allowing for failure.

Much of what Taleb had to say last night was familiar. We’ve read about it all year long. But it was Taleb who was often the first to say these things, and it took time and a horrible crisis to get others to repeat his warnings and his prescriptions.

If policymakers did adhere to Taleb’s principles, society would be better off, but Power would not be. How many of you in the Grand Hyatt ballroom, who applauded him so profusely, would really like to sell simple, vanilla financial products? How many would really like to see indebted consumers convert to equity-only means of saving and investment? How many would prefer to see MBAs and trained economists all fired and ignored? How many would like to have their bonuses tied to future performance? How many would like to see the bank you work for (or is your client, or your custodian, or your financier) collapse rather than be propped up by Uncle Sam? And if all of this came to pass, would you want to pay AsianInvestor for our content or our advertising or our conferences?

Overpowering, obvious, tragic. Prepare for more black swan events. We’re breeding them.

Source: AsianInvestor, 29.09.2009

Asian Investor

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Is Carbon Trading Un-Ethical? A Guide

07.09.2009 by Oscar Reyes – Carbon trading is allowing industrialised countries and companies to avoid their emissions reduction targets. It takes two main forms: “cap and trade” and “carbon offsetting.”

What is cap and trade?
Under cap and trade schemes, governments or intergovernmenal bodies set an overall legal limit of carbon emissions in a certain time period (“a cap”) and then grant industries a certain number of licenses to pollute (“carbon permits”). Companies that do not meet their cap can buy permits from others that have a surplus  – typically, because they have been given an overly generous allowance in the first place. They can also purchase “offsets.”

What are carbon offsets?
Carbon trading runs in parallel with a system of carbon offsets. Instead of cutting emissions themselves, companies, and sometimes international financial institutions, governments and individuals, finance “emissions-saving projects” outside the capped area to generate carbon credits which can also be traded within the carbon market. The UN’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) is the largest such scheme with almost 1,800 registered projects in developing countries by September 2009, and over 2,600 further projects awaiting approval. Based on current prices, the credits generated by approved schemes will cost around $35 billion by 2012.

Although offsets are often presented as emissions reductions, what these projects do at their hypothetical best is to stabilise emission levels while moving them from one location to another, normally from Northern to Southern countries. In practice, this “best case” scenario is rarely seen, with the result being that offsetting increases emissions whilst also exacerbating social and environmental conflicts.

So what’s wrong with cap and trade?
There are fundamental theoretical flaws in the whole cap and trade scheme even before you look at the actual record of its implementation. This is because the scheme was never set up to directly tackle the key task of a rapid transition away from fossil fuel extraction, over-production and over-consumption, but sought instead to quantifying existing pollution as a means to create a new tradable commodity. Within this framework, traders invariably opt for the cheapest credits available at the time, but what is cheap in the short-term is not the same as what is environmentally effective or socially just.

Some of the key problems with the cap and trade approach are:

The “trade” component does not reduce any emissions. It simply allows companies to choose between cutting their own emissions or buying cheaper “carbon credits,” which are supposed to represent reductions elsewhere

The “cap” has too many holes and sometimes caps nothing. The cap is only as tight as the least stringent part of the whole system. This is because credits are sold by those with a surplus, and the cheapest way to produce a surplus is to be given too many credits in the first place (“hot air” credits as a result of caps being set too high). The aim of trading is to find the cheapest solution for polluting industry, and it is consistently cheaper to buy “hot air” credits than to actually reduce emissions.

Cap setting is a political process that is highly susceptible to corporate lobbying which means that there is invariable over-allocation of pollution permits. In fact, lobbying is encouraged through extensive industry “stakeholder” involvement

Offsets loosen the cap. While cap and trade in theory limits the availability of pollution permits, “offset” projects are a licence to print new ones. When the two systems are brought together, they tend to undermine each other – since one applies a cap and the other lifts it. An offset is essentially a permit to pollute beyond the cap. Most current and proposed “cap and trade” schemes allow offset credits to be traded within them – including the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) and the US cap and trade scheme (proposed in the 2009 American Clean Energy and Security Act, ACES)


Will markets concerned with growth be able to deliver reductions of carbon?
The other problem is that markets are by essence growth-oriented, so look for new sources of accumulation. In carbon markets, this is achieved by increasing their geographical scope and the number of industrial sectors and gases they cover. Yet this contradicts the essence of tackling climate change which is about reducing use of fossil fuels and consumption.

It is therefore not a surprise that introducing carbon as a commodity has resulted in new opportunities for profit and speculation. The carbon market is already developing the way of the financial market with the use of complex financial instruments (futures trading and derivatives) to hedge risk and increase speculative profit. This runs the risk of creating a “carbon bubble.” This is not a surprise, as it was created by many of the same people at the Chicago Climate Exchange who created the derivatives markets that led to the recent financial crash.

What examples have there been of Cap and Trade schemes?
There have been a number of Cap and Trade markets – the EU ETS, the United States Acid Rain Program, the Los Angeles Region Clean Air Markets (RECLAIM), the Chicago Emissions Reduction Market System (ERMS) and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The EU ETS, established in January 2005, is the largest cap and trade scheme in operation worldwide and is the best for illustrating how carbon trading has failed in practice.

Why does European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) consistently grant over-allocation of pollution permits?
Most cap and trade markets use projections of historical emissions provided by industry itself to calculate the initial caps. Industry has a clear incentive to overstate its past emissions to gain more credits. As a result, cap and trade markets start out with too many permits. This was true of the EU ETS which consistently awarded major polluters with more free pollution permits (called EUAs, European Union Allowances) than their actual level of carbon emissions. This means it gave them no incentive to reduce emissions, and as a result the price of the permits collapsed – ending 2007 at €0.01. In phase I (2005-2007) as a whole, according to the EU’s own data, major polluters had permits worth 3.4 per cent more than their actual level of emissions.

But didn’t the second phase of the EU ETS (2008-2012) resolve this over-allocation?
The EU claims that it has learned from its mistakes and that the second phase of its scheme is working. Whilst it is true that for the first time in 2008, polluters were awarded fewer permits than their actual level of emissions, there is still over-allocation of permits:

  • The vast majority of factories and economic sectors are still over-allocated – it is only the power sector that needs to purchase credits
  • The impact of the EU-wide recession means that the ETS as a whole will again be over-allocated in 2009
  • Corporations get the same number of credits even if they temporarily close or scale down operations for short-term economic reasons


But isn’t Phase II nevertheless leading to emissions reductions?
The EU claims emissions reductions of 3 per cent, or 50 million tons, in ETS sectors in 2008.  The trouble is that at least 80 million tons of “carbon offsets” in the developing world were bought as part of the ETS in 2009 – more than the level of the cap. So, again, the ETS does not require emissions reductions by companies in the EU.

Moreover there is also evidence that some of the supposed “cuts” are fake. One such example is Lithuania which claimed it would be forced to use coal-powered electricity as a result of the closure of Ignalina, a nuclear power plant. As a result it gained a large surplus of credits, which have been sold on and treated as “emissions reductions” elsewhere.

So who profited from carbon trading?
Companies receive most carbon credits for free. This is equivalent to a subsidy – and with allocations made on the basis of historical emissions, the largest subsidy goes to the dirtiest industry (especially coal-fired power plants).

Windfall profits also arise from an accounting trick around “opportunity costs.”  Power companies choose to do the cheapest thing to meet their ETS target – which is usually buying Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) credits – but passing on costs as if they were doing the most expensive – actually reducing emissions. Even power companies receiving free credits from the ETS have nevertheless passed on the cost of these credits to consumers.   Research by market-analysts Point Carbon and WWF  calculated that the likely “windfall” profits made by power companies in phase II could be between €23 and €71 billion, and that these profits were concentrated in the countries with the highest level of emissions.

ArcelorMittal, the world´s largest steel company, is another typical example. It routinely receives a quarter to a third credits than it would have needed to even begin reducing emissions. The company is likely to have made over €2 billion in profits from the ETS between 2005 and 2008, with over €500 million of this achieved in 2008 alone – yet has needed to make no proactive changes to its emissions to do so

What about phase III of the EU ETS?
EU ETS phase III runs from 2013 to 2020, and the debate in Brussels is focussed on the risk of “carbon leakage.” This relates to industry claims that strict regulations in one part of the world will encourage  outsourcing to locations where regulations are weaker. It is already being used as a blackmail tactic by industry to reduce its targets or obligations within the EU ETS (and other proposed schemes in Australia and the US). Over half of the 258 industrial sectors in Europe being assessed for exposure to carbon leakage under the EU ETS will qualify for free emission allowances from 2013, according to an initial assessment by the European Commission.

So what is the problem with carbon offsetting?
Carbon offsets allow companies and countries to avoid cutting their own emissions by buying their way out of the problem with theoretical reductions elsewhere. There are both inter-government schemes – most famously the UN Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) – as well as voluntary programmes undertaken largely for purchase by individual consumers. Unfortunately both systems are deeply flawed:

Selling stories. Offsetting rests on “additionality” claims about what “would otherwise have happened,” offering polluting companies and financial consultancies the opportunity to turn stories of an unknowable future into bankable carbon credits. The EU admits that at least 40 per cent of these are bogus, while a survey by International Rivers found over 60 per cent of projects to be “non-additional.”


Offsets increase emissions. The net result for the climate is that offsetting tends to increase rather than reduce greenhouse gas emissions, displacing the necessity to act in one location by a theoretical claim to act differently in another. Moreover, it keeps delaying any real domestic action and allows the expansion of more fossil fuel extractions.


Making things the same. The value of CDM projects is premised on constructing a whole series of dubious “equivalences” between very different economic and industrial practices, with the uncertainties of comparison overlooked to ensure that a single commodity can be constructed and exchanged. This does not alter the fact that burning more coal and oil is in no way eliminated (and certainly not in the same time frame) by building more hydro-electric dams, planting more trees or capturing the methane in coal mines.


Carbon offsets have serious negative social and local environmental impacts
The use of “development” rhetoric masks the fundamental injustice of offsetting, which hands a new revenue stream to some of the most highly polluting industries in the South, while simultaneously offering companies and governments in the North a means to delay changing their own industrial practices and energy usage.

In practice, carbon offset projects have most of the times resulted in land grabs, local environmental and social conflicts, the displacement of Indigenous Peoples´ from their territories, as well as the repression of local communities and movements.

Might reforestation programmes such as REDD work?
The inclusion of tree planting and other “sinks” projects in the CDM and cap and trade schemes is also under consideration.

These pose additional measurement problems, as many projects are not additional, are difficult to measure, do not include the upkeep of the trees and assume instant absorption of already released carbon – when in fact it will take thousands of years for the carbon to be absorbed. “Reforestation” also tends to count monoculture plantations as forests, but they are not as they lack biodiversity, and so contribute to soil degradation; and also require intensive synthetic fertilisers, which contribute significantly to climate change, pollute water and damage local peoples´ health.

Schemes for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) repeat the error of emissions trading by commodifying forests. They presume that deforestation happens because standing forests make less money than forests that are cut down. In fact, the commodification of forests is what drives deforestation. This commodification includes the role of corporate and development bank investment in new infrastructure, mining and oil extraction projects; industrial logging; and land clearance to make way for monoculture plantations for the pulp and paper and palm oil industries. REDD is likely to fuel property speculation and so exacerbate land conflicts, dispossessing Indigenous Peoples and forest communities.

What impact will new trading schemes have on offsetting and forest carbon markets?
The most active buyers of offset credits in 2008 were European companies, which bought 80 million credits from the CDM or Joint Implementation projects (a similar UN scheme, operated in countries which have emissions reduction commitments under the Kyoto Protocol) as either a cheaper alternative to reducing their own emissions (under ETS), or for the purpose of speculation and re-sale. But this market is likely to expand massively if the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) is passed, which proposes to allow US companies to purchase from 1 to 1.5 billion international offsets every year. This would spur on a massive increase in damaging offset projects, putting enormous pressure to reduce the already-inadequate checks on their environmental integrity.

What are sectoral credits?
Sectoral credits would introduce new offsets as part of what are called Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs) in the climate policy jargon. This is one of a number of proposals currently being debated for inclusion in a new UN climate treaty.

The basic idea is that developing countries should commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions “in an indicative range below business as usual,” as the draft of the G8´s L´Aquila declaration in July 2009 puts it. This deviation from an assumed future trajectory would be counted as a “reduction” (although it need be nothing of the sort) and traded to help industries in developed countries avoid reducing their own emissions. The private money flowing through these carbon markets could also be “double counted” as part of the financial commitment that the industrialised countries agreed to make at the UN Climate Conference in Bali.

But isn’t carbon trading better than nothing?
No. As carbon trading helps to avoid change and even increases emissions while exacerbating local conflicts, it is not a question of alternatives to carbon trading but rather of taking measures that actually tackle climate change.

So what are the alternatives?
Carbon markets should be dismantled, starting with offsets. A clear intention to discontinue carbon markets can fatally undermine them even in advance of legislative action. Alternatives then need to be developed that are properly consulted and developed together with local communities to prevent a repeat of the dispossession and social injustice caused by offsetting schemes.

A range of different approaches will be needed but may include:

Recognition of existing climate solutions. The vast range of solutions that already exist – which tend to be distinguished by their sensitivity to the local contexts in which they operate, are overlooked in favour of the accumulation of large-scale “technological fixes” or market-based schemes

Leave fossil fuels in the ground. Proposals to halt new coal power plants and the exploration of new and often “uncoventional” sources of oil extraction are at the frontline of the struggle for climate justice – and should form part of a rapid transition to a post- fossil fuel economy

Rediscovering environmental protection. There are a broad range of environmental policy instruments that have proven to be more effective than market-based approaches – ranging from efficiency standards for electrical appliances and buildings to feed-in tariffs for renewables. The rediscovery of such measures could form part of a solution

New revenues: tax and/or end currency and fuel speculation. Rather than a regressive carbon tax, revenue can be generated by a tax on currency speculation. A heavy tax or an end to speculation on fossil fuel prices would also help as a transitional measure. This should be accompanied by pro-active policy measures to tackle fuel poverty, such as a ban on pre-pay metering

Renewable energy should be supported but not uncritically – with the involvement of local populations and not as basis for sustaining expansions in fossil use or support of unsustainable model of industrial expansion

Public energy research. Private research on energy alternatives and use favours “least cost” false solutions (eg. agrofuels, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power) rather than environmentally effective alternatives, so is less effective than public research. However, this would need to be allied with the democratic transformation of the institutions of “environmental governance,” the agenda for which currently tends to be set by transnational corporations

Re-estimating energy demand. Current models presume limitless growth and overstate future energy demand, which has encouraged oversupply and kept prices low – which is, in turn a key structural driver of over-consumption.

The Transition Towns movement is going some way towards re-estimating demand with its “Energy Descent Action Plans”, but lacks a structural analysis of heavy industry use (or capitalist accumulation) and is often divorced from organising for more equitable distribution of energy

Changing economic calculations. Cost-benefit accounting either fails to take account of environmental or social costs, or is grossly reductionist in its assumptions.

Challenging the “growth” fetish. It is often claimed that continued GDP growth can go hand in hand with reductions in emissions. However, there is no evidence that “advanced” economies are significantly reducing their carbon footprints, or that such a transformation could happen quickly enough to reduce emissions. On the postive side, GDP is a very poor indicator of human-well being, so is not a condition for social improvement or a good life. If the obesession with economic growth is set aside, it becomes easier to see how tackling climate change and maintaining a sustainable and enjoyable life are far from contradictory goals.

Source: Carbon Trade Watch, 07.09.2009

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‘Bubble-Mania’ in Shanghai Spreads to Global Markets

The S&P-500 Index, a global bellwether for the world stock markets, extended its best five-month winning streak since 1938, by advancing through the psychological 1,000-level, and is up nearly 50% from its 12-year low set on March 10th. The S&P-500 gained 7.4% in July, its best monthly performance since 1997, even as average earnings per-share tumbled -32% and sales slid -16% from a year ago.

Industrial commodities, often viewed as barometers for global economic trends, have also moved sharply higher. So far this year, copper has soared by +96%, nickel is up 62%, and zinc is +50% higher. China, which buys two-thirds of the world’s seaborne iron ore shipments, boosted imports 30% in the first seven-months of this year to 353-million tons, lifting its spot price to $91 /ton, up from $60 per ton in February. Crude oil rose above $71 /barrel this week, doubling in value since December.

In hindsight, while the “Group of Seven” (G-7) economies in North America, Europe, and Japan, were experiencing the most severe economic contractions since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, coupled with unemployment rates ratcheting upward to multi-decade highs, the emerging economic giant – China – was demonstrating its prowess, with the most ambitious stimulus plan the world has ever seen, to rescue its juggernaut economy from the brink of social disaster and unrest.

In a little more than nine months, the pendulum of investor sentiment in Asia has swung from the extreme of terrifying panic and fear, to the opposite side of the emotional spectrum – hope and unbridled greed. The Shanghai stock market index has surged +90% this year, owing its good fortune to 1.2-trillion of bank loans clandestinely funneled into the stock market by brokerage firms, leaving it awash with yuan and lifting share prices above what economic reality can support.

China’s ruling Politburo is demonstrating to the world its command and control over its stock market and economy. Over the past few years, Beijing has proven its ability to either massively deflate a stock market bubble, as seen in 2008, and the wizardry to re-inflate a stock market bubble this year. Beijing is following the Greenspan – Bernanke blueprints, – turning to massive money printing to re-inflate bubbles in asset markets, in order to jump start an economy from the doldrums, or in this latest case, from the grip of the Great Recession.

A relatively healthy banking system enabled the Chinese central bank to work its magic. China’s M2 money supply is growing at a record +28.5% annualized rate, and the money supply surge is coinciding with big rallies in stocks and property, spilling over into neighboring Hong Kong. State-controlled Chinese banks extended 7.4-trillion yuan ($1.2-trillion) of new loans in the first half of this year, equal to 25% of China’s entire economy – helping to fuel a powerful Shanghai red-chip rally.

One of the beneficiaries of the explosive growth of the Chinese money supply is the Shanghai gold market, which is trading near 6,600-yuan /ounce, and is also tracking powerful rallies in industrial commodities. China is poised to overtake India as the world’s top gold consumer this year, and there is speculation that Beijing will quietly buy the gold which the IMF wants to sell in the years ahead.

China, the world’s biggest gold mining nation, is seeking to boost gold output by 3% to 290-tons this year, far less than the 400-tons it consumed last year. Thus, China could become an even bigger importer of the yellow metal in the months ahead, helping to cushion inevitable corrections in the gold market. Given the trade-off between expanding growth and fighting asset-price inflation, Shanghai traders are betting that Beijing will opt to blow even bigger bubbles in asset markets.

Industrial Commodities Eyeing Shanghai

China’s super-easy monetary policy is designed to offset the damage to its export-dependent regions, which are suffering from the collapse in global trade. Beijing is also spending 4-trillion yuan on infrastructure projects, equal to roughly 15% of its economic output per year, to create jobs and stoke economic growth. So it was of great interest to global traders, when the Shanghai red-chips suddenly plunged -5% on July 29th, the biggest daily loss in eight-months, on rumors that Beijing would curb bank lending in the second half of this year.

The Shanghai index is prone to sudden shake-outs, with the index trading at 35-times earnings, and Shenzhen’s small-cap shares trading at 45-times earnings. The Shanghai red-chip index has evolved into the locomotive for key industrial commodities, such as crude oil, base metals, and rubber. Industrial commodities rebounded from a nasty one-day shake-out on July 29th, after the People’s Bank of China wasted little time in denying rumors swirling in the media that it was considering the idea of enforcing quotas on bank loans.

The prospects for Chinese corporate earnings growth are of critical importance, with the Shanghai stock index flying higher in bubble territory. Large-scale industrial companies in 22 Chinese provinces saw their profits decline -21.2% in the first half to 894.14 billion yuan, but the decline rate was less from the first quarter’s 32% slide, and nowadays, “less bad,” means signs of recovery.

The most optimistic scenario calls for Chinese industrial profits to rebound to an annualized growth rate of +30% in the fourth quarter, due to the government’s massive stimulus. China’s Bank of Communications predicts the economy’s growth rate will accelerate to a pace of +9% in the third-quarter and +9.8% in the fourth-quarter. China’s crude steel output would surely top 500-million tons this year, equaling 40% of the world’s total production.

Korea Joins Alignment of B-R-I-C-K

Upbeat markets in China are helping underpin the BRIC nations, including Brazil, India, and Russia, which have the four best performing stock markets this year. Brazil’s Bovespa Index is up 79%, India’s Sensex Index is up 63%, and Russia’s RTS Index has gained 62-percent. The S&P-500 Index by comparison, is up 9.4% this year, while Japan’s Nikkei-225 index is up 7.5-percent.

One could add Korea to the alignment of B-R-I-C-K stars, since the Kospi Index has rebounded by 72% above its November low, emerging as the most favored market among global investors. With growing appetites for risky assets, global investors have rushed to snatch up Korean Kospi shares, particularly those in the information technology (IT) and the auto sectors. Foreigners were net buyers of $4.7 of Korean stocks in July, much larger than net-purchases of $2.6-billion of stocks in Taiwan, $1.9-billion shares in India, and $1.29 billion shares in South Africa.

“Money has no motherland, financiers are without patriotism and without decency, – their sole object is gain,” observed Napoleon Bonaparte. Highlighting the fickle nature of speculators, – foreigners bought a record $18-billion of Korean securities in the second-quarter of this year, or 24-times more than $750 million the previous quarter. In the third and fourth quarters of 2008, foreigners sold $17.9-billion and $17.4-billion, respectively, at the height of the global financial turmoil.

Foreign buying of Korean equities knocked the US-dollar 28% lower against the Korean-won, and the Japanese yen has tumbled 20% to 12.8-won, since March 10th, when global stock markets bottomed out. “Carry traders” are active in Seoul, and profiting from a stronger won. In a world where G-7 central banks are pegging rates at record low levels, it does not take much imagination to envision the Federal Reserve, the ECB, and the Bank of Japan underwriting rallies in the emerging currencies of Brazil, Russia, India, and Korea, just as Tokyo pumped massive liquidity straight into New Zealand and Australian dollars during its flirtation with the hallucinogenic drug – “Quantitative Easing” (QE) between 2001 and 2006.

Virtuous Cycle Swings in the Kremlin’s Favor

The resilience of China’s economy has rekindled the de-coupling debate, which hinges on the premise that the emerging economies in Brazil, Russia, India, China, (BRIC) can grow in spite of a declining G-7 economies. The so-called BRIC countries accounted for half of global growth in 2008 – China alone accounted for a quarter, and Brazil, India, and Russia combined equaled another quarter. Furthermore, the IMF notes that BRIC “accounted for more than 90% of the rise in consumption of energy products and metals, and 80% of grains since 2002.”

The virtuous cycle of events are now swinging back in the Kremlin’s favor, as global speculators flock back into hard-hit resource shares trading in Moscow. Russia’s central bank cut its main interest rates for the fourth time in less than three-months, after Moscow said the local economy contracted an annual 10.2% in the January-May period. Bank Rossii lowered the refinancing rate a half-point to 11% following on initial reduction on April 24th and two further cuts on May 13th and June 5th.

The Russian rouble has rebounded 16% against the US-dollar, since the first quarter, as Urals blend crude oil rebounded towards $70 a barrel, and base metals surged higher, boosting demand for Russia’s currency, a world leader in commodity exports. Russia is the world’s second-largest oil exporter behind Saudi Arabia, and supplies a quarter of Europe’s natural gas needs. Russia is also the world’s largest nickel and palladium miner, the second largest platinum miner, and the fourth-largest iron ore miner, behind Brazil, Australia, and India.

After reaching a record high of $597-billion last August, Moscow’s foreign currency reserves were dramatically depleted in the second-half of 2008, as the central bank spent more than $200-billion supporting the Russian rouble and bolstering the capital position of domestic banks. This year’s rebound in Urals blend crude oil has improved the Kremlin’s coffers, to the tune of $404-billion today. China, the world’s second-largest oil guzzler, imported 3.83-million barrels per day in July, or 25% more than a year earlier, the fastest pace in nearly two-years.

The BRIC nations are rethinking how their US-dollar currency reserves are managed, underlining a power shift from the United States, which spawned the global financial crisis. Russian chief Dmitry Medvedev has repeatedly questioned the US-dollar’s future as a global reserve currency. China is allowing companies in its southern provinces of Yunnan and Guangxi to use yuan to settle cross-border trade with Hong Kong and Southeast Asia to reduce exposure to the US-dollar.

India Weathers the “Great Recession”

Reserve Bank of India chief Duvvuri Subbarao says India’s modest dependence on exports will help Asia’s third largest economy, to weather the “Great Recession” and even stage a modest recovery later this year. Even during the depths of the October massacre in the Bombay Sensex Index, India managed to maintain a 5.3% growth rate in the fourth quarter, and India’s banking system had virtually no exposure to any kind of toxic asset, manufactured in the United States.

India’s factory output contracted by a slim 0.25% in January, the first decline this decade, and export earnings had fallen for six straight months. In January exports were 16% lower from a year earlier tumbling to $12.3-billion. So the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) scrambled to rescue the Bombay stock market, by slashing its lending rates six times from September thru April, by a total of 425-basis points.

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The Indian Sensex index began to decouple from Wall Street and Tokyo in early May, after it rallied 14% for its biggest weekly gain since 1992, when Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won a second term. Bombay stocks soared with enthusiasm at the prospect that Singh’s new government, shorn of Communists, would privatize up to $20-billion of state-owned assets, increase foreign investment in highly profitable crown jewel companies, begin deregulation of banking and financial services, and gut restrictions on the closing of factories.

India’s factory sector, measured by the Purchasing Mgr’s Index, held strongly at a reading of 55.3 in July, or 2-points higher than China’s, signaling a strong industrial recovery in the second half of this year. If the decoupling of China, India, Russia, and Brazil becomes a reality, it could be good for the developed G-7 nations, as growing wealth in BRIC nations could, in theory, increase demand for goods made in battered nations like Japan, Germany, and the United States.

A decoupling between the emerging BRICK nations and the more developed G-7 economies would mean a huge shift in the global financial markets, away from the traditional pattern of emerging markets dancing to the tune of G-7 economies, which still account for 60% of global GDP. Instead, increasing independence could lead to a greater sphere of influence of the emerging giants, led by Beijing.

In the United States, Fed chief Bernanke is pumping a “bailout bubble” for Wall Street, similar to the policies of his mentor “Easy” Al Greenspan, who inflated the housing bubble, the sub-prime debt bubble, and the high-tech bubble. It’s a never ending cycle of boom-and-busts of bubbles, engineered by central banks. The revival of the “Commodity Super Cycle,” might already be in motion, and if a global economic recovery gains traction, soaring input costs would begin to crimp the profit margins of the giant Asian industrialists.

All the liquidity that’s been unleashed into the global banking system would play havoc with accelerating inflation. History shows that central banks won’t pre-empt inflation by withdrawing liquidity early. Instead, the money printers tend to inflate bubbles to dangerous proportions. Add to the mix, the vast leverage of the US-dollar and Japanese yen carry trades, it’s going to be a wild ride for the US Treasury bond market, which is increasingly dependent upon the whims of BRICK.

Source: SeekingAlpha, 05.08.2009 by Gary Dorsch

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Coming Doom vs Coming Recovery

While unemployment, bankruptcy and defaults are growing and retail consumtion is falling,  financial institutions which just a few months ago where on the brink of collaps are claiming profits and  the media, analysts and government start claiming to have found the road to recovery.   Too good to be true?  Here are a few alternative view:


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India: The dark side of the emerging powers

India is the up-and-coming superpower that much of the world loves to love. But not, of course, everyone. Not environmentalists pushing for stronger climate change treaties. Not India’s smaller neighbours. Not Burmese democracy activists, appalled by New Delhi’s embrace of their country’s military rulers.

But by and large India is seen as a “good” emerging power – in implicit contrast to China – by virtue of its noisy democracy, which through largely credible elections has repeatedly allocated and transferred national and state power.

India’s global image also trades on its deep reserves of soft power, especially its export of charismatic gurus and yoga masters preaching peace, love, tolerance and harmony – values that the political establishment often manages to portray as intrinsic to society at large and the state itself.

Yet India has a dark underbelly in which state and society often fall dreadfully short of the liberal, democratic ideals they profess; where law shields the powerful and persecutes the weak. It is this that Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize-winning novelist and prominent social activist, seeks to draw attention to in her provocative new book, Listening to Grasshoppers.

The book is an uneven collection of essays, opinion pieces, speeches and other writings published between 2002 – when an estimated 2,000 Muslims were massacred in the western state of Gujarat – and the aftermath of last November’s terror attacks in Mumbai. Roy calls the collection “a detailed under-view” of the darker side of the world’s largest democracy – or what she describes as “the cunning, Brahmanical, intricate, bureaucratic, file-bound ‘apply-through-through-the-proper channels’ nature of governance and subjugation in India.”

Roy paints a grim picture of India as a society of unaccountable political elites, a malevolent law-enforcement system, a rapacious emerging middle-class and a deeply-alienated impoverished mass, battling to avoid dispossession from their land.

She points accusing fingers at corporate India for its greed and for its silence about human rights atrocities, at the media for ignoring the crisis she sees unfolding in the country, and at right-wing Hindus for channelling public anger into religious intolerance.

The main essays focus on the Gujarat riots, the arrests and trial of Muslim suspects after the 2001 attacks on the Indian Parliament, the de facto military occupation of Muslim-majority Kashmir, and the Mumbai attacks.

And although Roy, who sits firmly within India’s radical left tradition, claims she has no Big Theory – no overview – of modern India, she does offer up one big idea. In a strand running through several essays, which suffer from repetitiveness, she argues that the rise of Hindu nationalist extremism was inextricably linked to India’s market-oriented economic development project of the past two decades.

“While one arm is busy selling off the nation’s assets in chunks, the other, to divert attention, is arranging a baying, howling deranged chorus of cultural nationalism,” she proclaims in the transcript of a 2004 lecture about the then-ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

The essays were written before the recent Congress party victory over the BJP, the Hindu nationalist party’s second consecutive electoral defeat – and its worst electoral performance in years. But Roy’s introduction makes clear she takes little comfort from that, given her gloomy view of Congress, most other arms of the Indian state – and Indian society.

She rightly points to India’s persistently high rates of malnutrition, and rising tension over land, raising the question of whether India has either the capacity or will to improve the lives of its poorest citizens.

Yet her sweeping denunciations of India’s privatisation efforts make it seem as though New Delhi was callously dismantling the Swedish welfare state.

She dismisses the economic boom as having merely created “a vast middle class punch drunk on sudden wealth and the sudden respect that comes with it – and a much, much vaster desperate under class”.

There is little doubt that Roy, with her eloquence, concern for the poor, and personal magnetism, is an important voice in the Indian public sphere.

But the danger is that her extreme views – and her fierce hostility to a liberalisation programme that many Indians credit with dramatic improvements in their own lives – will alienate those whose support will be essential in India’s struggle for social justice in the years ahead.

Read full article “Listening to Grasshoppers” here.

Source: Financial Time, 05.07.2009 by Amy Kazim

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Unrest looms in Asia Pacific amid financial crisis: UN

Asia and the Pacific face a “marked risk” of social unrest as the global financial crisis bites, but the region continues to lead international prospects for recovery, a UN survey said Thursday.

The annual survey said that the region faces multiple layers of crisis ranging from financial breakdown, food and fuel price instability and climate change that could have wide-ranging effects this year.

There was “fresh evidence mounting that the worst has yet to come,” with a big slump in trade, the region’s engine of growth, according to the Economic and Social Survey of Asia and the Pacific 2009.

“There is a marked risk that the financial crisis could converge on itself in a downward spiral of deepening recession, social unrest and political instability,” said the survey.

A key trigger for unrest was that millions of Asian migrants are returning to their rural homes in search of work after losing jobs in the crisis-hit export sector, UN Undersecretary General Noeleen Heyzer said.

“Asia-Pacific is under multiple threats and the gains that have been made in terms of development can be lost very easily,” Heyzer told AFP in an interview ahead of the report’s launch in Bangkok.

Investment in job security and social safety nets for the poor must be sought urgently, she said, adding: “If we do not address the growing disparities we are going to find it’s going to create social unrest.”

The survey estimated some 24 million people could lose their jobs as a result of the economic slowdown. It added that only 30 percent of the region’s elderly receive pensions and 20 percent of people have access to healthcare.

The report also cited climate change as a threat because of an increased incidence of natural disasters in Asia-Pacific, which experiences almost half of the world’s disasters and is home to nearly two thirds of their victims.

But sounding an optimistic note, the report said reforms introduced in recent years following the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis meant the region could be a future bright spot.

Its developing countries “would emerge as primary sources of any world economic growth that might take place in 2009, thus providing some global stability,” the report said.

Heyzer said the real opportunity for the region’s countries lay in investing in each other.

Asian countries should resist the temptation to increase barriers to labour migration, Heyzer said, citing Malaysia’s decision this month to cut the number of foreign worker permits it issues by 70 percent.

“All this makes it extremely difficult for communities under stress to survive,” she said, adding that it also increased people smuggling and illegal trafficking.

“This is the time to invest in Asia-Pacific solidarity,” she said.

Source: AFP 27.03.2009

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Stocks Will Drop; Banks Will Go Belly Up – Roubini says

 The stock market will drop as major banks go belly up says Nouriel Roubini, the NYU economist that successfully predicted the current economic collapse. Below is the text from an interview Mr. Roubini gave today on Bloomberg TV.

U.S. stocks will fall and the government will nationalize more banks as the economy contracts through the end of 2009, said Nouriel Roubini, the New York University professor who predicted last year’s economic crisis.

“The stock market is a bit ahead of the real macroeconomic and financial news,” Roubini, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business and the chairman of consulting firm Roubini Global Economics, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television in London today. “We’ll have some major banks going belly up that will need to be taken over.”

The global equity rebound in March that sent the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index to its best monthly advance in 17 years is a “bear-market rally” and U.S. Treasury yields will “remain relatively low” as investors flock to the safest assets, Roubini said. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s new plan to remove toxic debt from financial companies won’t be enough for insolvent banks, he said.

Roubini’s outlook contrasts with predictions this week from Templeton Asset Management Ltd.’s Mark Mobius and Traxis Partners LLC’s Barton Biggs, who said that equities are poised to rally as government efforts to revive the economy and banking system begin to work. Investors are “way too optimistic” about the prospects for a recovery in the economy and earnings, Roubini said.

For full article click here

Source: Infomation Clearing House, 27.03.2009

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