June 10 – June 16, 2016

The shipping world is about to change with the opening of new Panama Canal locks. U.S. shale reserves: now you see me, now you don’t.



    • “About 40 trillion yen ($365 billion) in cash has piled up in homes across Japan, according to a Dai-ichi Life Research Institute estimate – equivalent to about 8% of GDP.”
    • “What it means for 40 trillion yen to be sleeping under mattresses is that the deflationary mindset is deeply rooted, and Japanese have become hypersensitive to risk.” – Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life
    • This of course has been a boon to safe manufacturers, with “sales of safes in March were up 86% from a year earlier, the highest level ever, according to government data.”
    • “The People’s Bank of China has spent about $473bn in foreign exchange reserves since it surprised global markets last August by changing the way it sets its daily guidance rate for the currency, according to Financial Times estimates based on official data.”
    • As a central bank official so aptly put it “the most important factor is confidence, both globally and within China. The cost of intervention in terms of reserves has been high but this policy can’t be evaluated just in terms of numbers. Once confidence is lost it can’t be easily restored. Then a lot of bad things can happen.”
  • Shawn Donnan and Tom Mitchell of the Financial Times highlighted how concern over China’s corporate debt balances is spreading, even to the likes of the IMF.
    • “China’s corporate debt risks sparking a bigger crisis if the authorities fail to tackle it, the International Monetary Fund has warned.”
    • “Mr. Lipton (David Lipton – the IMF’s number 2) highlighted the state-owned enterprises, which he said were responsible for 55% of the corporate debt pile despite representing 22% of economic output and which ‘are essentially on life support.'”
    • “While concluding the issue is ‘manageable’, he warned that a recent IMF estimate that put the potential losses for China’s banks from bad corporate loans at 7% of GDP was a conservative estimate that excluded exposures in the ‘shadow banking’ sector.”
  • With declining investment yields the world over and an abundance of negative government debt, Attracta Mooney of the Financial Times points to how sovereign wealth funds have been piling into real estate to boost returns.  As an aside, Yahoo Finance drew attention to a recent Urban Land Institute PricewaterhouseCoopers survey that indicated that many U.S. real estate pros are not as enthusiastic about U.S. property as their foreign counterparts.
    • “State-backed investment vehicles, which are used by countries either to save for a rainy day or to provide money for future generations, increased their allocations to property by 29% last year, according to research looking at 77 sovereign funds with $8tn in assets.”
    • “The push into property comes as interest rates have reached record lows, forcing investors into alternative asset classes in the search for better returns.”
    • “Sovereign wealth funds posted average returns of 4.1% last year, despite having a combined target of 5.9%, according to Invesco, the asset manager that carried out the research.”
    • “The study did not provide a breakdown of returns by asset class, but Norway’s fund said in March it had achieved 10% returns from its investments in property last year. Fixed income, in contrast, returned just 0.3%.”
    • On an allocation basis, there is plenty of room for increased real estate commitments “property still accounts for a tiny proportion of sovereign funds’ portfolios: 6.5% last year, up from 4.1% in 2014, according to Invesco.”
  • Data is data. Sometimes it’s good and other times not so much. Further, interpretation varies and can be misleading as the Economist points out in why the weak jobs report belies the resilience of the American economy.
    • Despite the weak jobs report, things aren’t that bad in America. “Personal consumption, adjusted for inflation, is up by 3% in the past year, having surged in April.”
    • The University of Michigan’s consumer-confidence index has been exceeding the average held during the 2003-2007 boom. “According to a recent Fed survey, 69% of Americans say they are ‘doing okay’ or ‘living comfortably’, up from 62% in 2013.”

Special Reports


FT – Stocks under pressure as bond yields rise 6/10

FT_JGB 10 year yield_6-10-16

FT – China spent $470bn to maintain confidence in renminbi – Gabriel Wildau and Tom Mitchell 6/12

FT_China spent $470bn to maintain confidence in renminbi_6-12-16

Mauldin Economics – Hot Summer Economic Weirdness – John Mauldin 6/11

Mauldin Economics_Race to Negative Bond Yields_6-11-16

WSJ – German Benchmark Bond Yield Dips Below Zero 6/14

WSJ_German 10-year bund drops below zero_6-14-16

The Big Picture – Foreigners selling US equities at record pace – Torsten Slok 6/15

Big Picture_Foreigners losing confidence in US equities_6-15-16

WSJ – China’s Suddenly Shrinking Corporate Bond Market 6/15

WSJ_China’s Suddenly Shrinking Corporate Bond Market_6-15-16

Visual Capitalist – The Shift to a Cashless Society is Snowballing – Jeff Desjardins 5/17

Visual Capitalist_Going Cashless Around the World_5-17-16

Bloomberg – China Dumping More Than Treasuries as U.S. Stocks Join Fire Sale 6/15

Bloomberg_China dumping US Stocks_6-15-16


*Note: bold emphasis is mine, italic sections are from the articles.

Panama Canal, the Reboot. Alex Nussbaum, Naureen Malik, and Christopher Cannon. Bloomberg. 2 Jun. 2016.

“Nine years of construction work, at a cost of more than $5 billion, have equipped the Panama Canal with a third set of locks and deeper navigation channels, improvements that will double its capacity. When the new locks slide open for the first time in late June, the reverberations will be felt at Asian gas terminals, on Great Plains farms, and in ports from Long Beach, Calif., to Santiago, Chile.”

Bloomberg_Panama Canal, the reboot_6-2-16

Why Billions in Proven Shale Oil Reserves Suddenly Became Unproven. Asjylyn Loder. Bloomberg. 14 Jun. 2016.

“Ultra Petroleum Corp. was a shale success story. A former penny stock that made the big leagues, it was worth almost $15 billion at its 2012 peak.”

“Then came the bust. Almost half of Ultra’s reserves were erased from its books this year. The company filed for bankruptcy on April 29 owing $3.9 billion.”

“Proven reserves – gas and oil resources that are among the best measure of a company’s ability to reward its shareholders and repay its debts – are disappearing across the shale patch. This year, 59 U.S. oil and gas companies deleted the equivalent of 9.2 billion barrels, more than 20% of their inventories, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.  It’s by far the largest amount since 2009, when the Securities and Exchange Commission tweaked a rule to make it easier for producers to claim wells that wouldn’t be drilled for years.”

For reference, after the 2009 rule change “reserves surged 67%” in the following five years based on the 53 companies with records that far back.  “Almost half the gains came from wells that existed only on paper.”

“Drillers face pressure to keep reserves growing. For many, the size of their credit line is tied to the measure.” Thing is that “there are two ways to increase reserves: buy more or find more.  Fracking made it easier to do the latter, and the industry lobbied the SEC to count more undeveloped acreage as proved reserves…”

“The SEC agreed, with two key limits. First, the wells must be profitable to drill at a price set by an SEC formula. The companies got a temporary reprieve for 2014 because the SEC number was about $95 a barrel even though crude had plummeted to less than $50 by the time results were reported in early 2015.”

“That advantage has disappeared.”

“The SEC also requires that undeveloped wells be drilled within five years of being added to a company’s books.”

Other Interesting Articles

The Economist

Bloomberg – Earth’s Heat Extends Unprecedented Streak of Shattered Records 6/16

FT – Nigerian economy drops further into freefall 6/8

FT – Chinese tourists search far and wide for Japan’s rare whiskies 6/9

FT – The hedge fund fee structure consumes 80% of alpha 6/11

FT – Why hasn’t the productivity crisis caused a bear market (yet)? 6/12

FT – Tax rises on foreign homebuyers in Australia 6/13

FT – Japanese government bond yields fall to fresh lows 6/13

FT – MSCI A-shares denial sends Beijing clear message 6/15

FT – Gold is no safe port in this storm 6/15

FT – Uber points to profits in all developed markets 6/16

Herald News – Wood tower at the University of British Columbia a game-changer for construction 6/14

NYT – A Russian Cybersleuth Battles the ‘Dark Ages’ of the Internet 6/10

NYT – At the Birthplace of a Graft Scandal, Brazil’s Crisis Is on Full Display 6/10

NYT – The Overinflated Fear of Being Priced Out of Housing (Robert Shiller) 6/10

REBusiness Online – French Billionaire Buys Manhattan Office, Retail Building from Thor Equities for $525M ($5,250 PSF) 6/13

WSJ – These Chinese Developers Shed Property in Name Only 6/10

WSJ – China’s Banks: How Fixing Problems Can Make Them Worse 6/10

WSJ – China Economy: That Sputtering Sound Returns 6/13

WSJ – MSCI and China: Why There’s No Fear of Missing Out 6/15

Yahoo Finance – Real estate pros see recession by 2017, survey shows 6/16

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