Tag: Auto Industry

June 16, 2017

Perspective

MarketingDaily – Despite Retail Slump, Consumers Feel Generous At Checkout – Sarah Mahoney 6/14

  • “With retailers closing thousands of stores and malls growing emptier, it’s easy to think Americans would be less inclined to pony up for good causes at the register. But the latest Charity Checkout Champions report says that people contributed $441 million last year to some of the biggest point-of-sale campaigns, up 4.5% from 2014.”
  • “The biggest fund-raiser is eBay for Charity, which raised $56.6 million by allowing sellers to give a portion of sales to one of 34,000 charities. The Miracle Balloon program at Sam’s Clubs and Walmart stores came in at No. 2, raising $37 million for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in just seven weeks. And Petco bumped the McDonald’s Coin Collection program, benefitting Ronald McDonald House, out of third place, generating $28.3 million in gifts for the Petco Foundation, which funds pet welfare and adoption groups.”

The Big Picture – Sharing Economy – Barry Ritholtz 6/15

Our World in Data – Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments 6/15

WSJ – A Test of Loyalty at Macy’s – Miriam Gottfried 6/15

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

WSJ – Oil Outlook Now So Bleak It May Be an Opportunity – Spencer Jakab 6/14

  • “Things look bleak, but oil bulls nursing losses should take solace in the fact that the consensus view in this market is usually wrong.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Used cars and trucks price index 6/15

WSJ – Daily Shot: Capital Economics – Projected Fed Asset Holdings 6/15

Real Estate

Bloomberg – Blackstone Plans to Sell San Francisco’s Ferry Building – David Carey and Hui-yong Yu 6/9

NYT – A $664,000 Parking Spot Symbolizes Hong Kong’s Property Frenzy – Austin Ramzy 6/15

  • The last time this happened I covered in my 10/28/16 – 11/3/16 post. Well now the record is $664,000.
  • “The buyer was listed as Kwan Wai-ming, whom local news outlets identified as executive director of the Huarong Investment Stock Corporation. His company declined to comment. That price, paid for a spot in an apartment complex on Hong Kong Island, was a new local record, breaking the previous $615,000 paid for a slightly smaller spot last year.”
  • “For his money, Mr. Kwan may get convenience. He already owns property in the same apartment complex where the parking spot is situated, called the Upton, in the Sai Ying Pun district. He previously bought two apartments for $9.7 million and two other parking spots in the complex for $995,000, according to the Hong Kong land registry.”
  • “But some wealthy residents revel in the recognition that comes with a Lamborghini or even a coveted license plate. Last year, a plate carrying the number 28, which sounds like a phrase for ‘easy money’ in Cantonese, sold for a record $2.3 million at auction.
  • Seriously?

WSJ – Google Will Buy Modular Homes to Address Housing Crunch – 6/14

  • “The Mountain View, Calif., company is finalizing an order to buy 300 apartment units from Factory OS, a modular-home startup, in a building likely to serve as short-term housing for Google employees, according to executives from both companies.”

Energy

WSJ – OPEC Stumbles in Face of Oil Glut – Summer Said, Georgi Kantchev, and Neanda Salvaterra 6/14

  • “The global oil glut is proving immune to the limits set by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its big-producer allies like Russia, fueling the idea that output caps withholding almost 2% of world crude supply were a miscalculation.”
  • “In the U.S., the Energy Information Administration said Wednesday that crude stockpiles fell last week by 1.7 million barrels, less than the 2.6 million drop forecast by a Wall Street Journal survey. At the same time, gasoline inventories rose by 2.1 million barrels, compared with the survey’s expectation of a 700,000 decline, underlining worries about the oversupply extending to crude oil’s products.”
  • “Oil stockpiles in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development—a club of 35 countries with industrialized economies—rose by 18.6 million barrels in April and were higher than they were when OPEC agreed to its cut late last year, said the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based group that advises governments on energy trends.”
  • “Adding to oil traders’ angst: U.S. oil production has come roaring back to life. The IEA said U.S. crude supply will grow almost 5% on average this year, and nearly 8% in 2018, potentially vaulting American producers ahead of Saudi Arabia in daily output.”
  • “’Such is the dynamism of this extraordinary, very diverse industry it is possible that growth will be faster,’ the IEA said.”
  • “Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih said this week that the production cuts would start having an impact this summer, accelerating a drop in stored oil that OPEC said began in January. He has said OPEC and Russia would do ‘whatever it takes’ to bring supply back in line with demand.”
  • “Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit and a long-time oil market watcher, said OPEC wouldn’t abandon its production-cut agreement, which took almost a year to put together through 2016.”
  • “’When OPEC and the other producers agreed to this deal, they hoped that, as the old adage says, time heals all—and time will heal the inventory problem,’ Mr. Yergin said. ‘They should now take a deep breath and realize this will take a lot more time.’”
  • “The cartel set a tough goal last December, when its officials said they wanted to cut oil-storage levels to the five-year average.”
  • “OPEC said OECD storage levels actually have been falling but by only 88 million barrels in the first four months of 2017. At that pace, it would take until March 2018 for stockpiles to fall another 250 million barrels to the five-year average.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: eia – US Wind and Solar Electricity Generation 6/15

WSJ – Beijing Gives Banks the Go-Ahead for Yet Another Lending Binge – Anjani Trivedi 6/14

  • “While Beijing is carrying out a high-profile campaign to reduce leverage in its financial markets with one hand, with the other it is encouraging more potentially reckless borrowing. This week, the regulator put pressure on the country’s big banks to lend more to small companies and farmers, while the government announced tax breaks for financial institutions that lend to rural households.”
  • “If the goal of lending to poorer customers sounds noble, the concern is that the execution will only worsen Chinese banks’ existing problems, namely high levels of bad loans and swaths of mispriced credit. Bank lending to small companies is already growing pretty fast, with non-trivial sums involved: It jumped 17% in the year through March to 27.8 trillion yuan ($4.084 trillion). That compares favorably with the 7% rise in loans to large- and medium-size companies over the same period.”
  • “But lending standards are set to get even looser. Banks have been told they should tolerate higher nonperforming loan ratios for small companies and agriculture-related lending, meaning they need to worry less about credit quality. The regulator also asked banks to keep interest rates on such loans at an ‘appropriate’ level—effectively allowing banks to ignore the proper pricing of risk.”
  • “This all flies in the face of efforts to cull bad credit from the economy. Chinese banks are already given plenty of leeway to classify loans how they like: The new measures may only encourage them to avoid writing off bad debt. It isn’t clear, either, how allowing small businesses and farmers to borrow even more will help China Inc. cure its addiction to debt-fueled growth.”

WSJ – Chinese Banks Limit Exposure to Anbang – James T. Areddy 6/15

  • “A number of banks have slowed marketing of Anbang-branded investments to their customers in recent days, according to people with knowledge of the situation.”

June 1, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

Business Insider – A likely shift in the mortgage market is creating ‘prisoners’ in housing – Akin Oyedele 5/29

  • “The housing market’s comeback after the financial crisis has turned out to be a mixed bag.”
  • “Prices have recovered to pre-housing-crisis levels. But with slow wage growth, that means there are fewer affordable houses available to buyers, especially in bigger cities.” 
  • “On the surface, the price trend ought to be good news for existing homeowners looking to sell. However, the likely rise in mortgage rates from historic lows means that there will be less incentive to move, according to Mark Fleming, the chief economist at First American.”
  • “‘You do become a prisoner in your home because of rates,’ he told Business Insider.” 
  • “‘There’s going to be a growing challenge of an increasing financial penalty caused by the rate lock-in effect over time.'”
  • “Since the 1980s, the long-term drop in interest rates created a built-in incentive to move, Fleming said. Even if a seller’s income was unchanged, it was possible to effectively move into a lower mortgage rate, and so be able to even afford a slightly bigger home.” 
  • “Now, the likelihood that rates will rise from historic lows has spurred the so-called rate lock-in effect: homeowners don’t sell because of the perceived or actual difference in their monthly mortgage payments if they swap their old rate for a new, higher one, Fleming said.”
  • “In a market with tight inventory, the decision to sell depends on whether homeowners want to risk selling and then not being able to find a new home.”
  • “‘The existing homeowner is trapped in this prisoner’s dilemma of the cooperative outcome,’ Fleming said. ‘If we all acted simultaneously, it would solve the problem. But we can’t take the risk of being the one that acts when everyone else doesn’t.'” 

Perspective

FT – Central banks risk messy ‘market melt-up’ – Michael Mackenzie 5/26

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – The hidden dangers of passive investing – Renaud de Planta – 5/29

  • “At first glance, it’s a persuasive argument. Poorly performing and expensive active managers have lingered in the system for too long, eroding returns for investors.”
  • “Yet on deeper reflection, index-tracking products are no miracle remedy. They’re more like antibiotics: valuable when deployed in moderation, but likely to do more harm than good should their use become widespread.”
  • “Indeed, if passive equity funds were to continue their present growth trajectory, they would own all listed stocks by 2030. That could threaten the free-market economy.”
  • “Essentially, the industry is an oligopoly, dominated by just three giants of asset management, who between them control almost three quarters of all passively-managed investment in stocks.”
  • “As demand for index products grows, a greater proportion of the world’s listed companies will fall under the control of the three largest investment management groups. Already, these firms collectively own close to 20% of US large-cap companies.”
  • “Passive dominance won’t happen overnight. Yet, left unchecked, the growth of index-trackers has the potential to erode the market-based economy, one industry at a time.”
  • “There is also a geopolitical dimension. If the passive giants end up owning large swaths of the capital market, they will also have a big say on the composition of stock and bond indices. Effectively able to decide which country or company should be included or excluded from those benchmarks, they would wield enormous influence over international capital flows. Note BlackRock’s recent call for China to be included in MSCI’s global equity indices.”
  • “Some might see that as an excessive concentration of power.”
  • “None of this relieves the pressure on active managers to perform and offer better value to their clients. Nor does it deny the utility of passive investment. Index products offer benefits to investors. The problem is that if the majority of us embrace them, index-trackers threaten to sabotage the entire economic system. Much like antibiotics, if passive funds are overused, they will create more problems than they solve.”

WSJ – Going Out for Lunch Is a Dying Tradition – Julie Jargon 5/30

Markets / Economy

FT – Debt pile-up in US car market sparks subprime fear – Ben McLannahan 5/29

WSJ – Smoky Diesel Cloud Hangs Over Auto Industry Profits – Stephen Wilmot 5/30

  • The knock-on effect: diesel engine cars now have a bad taint to them making inventories of auto manufacturers with large diesel production less valuable and hurting the resale value of existing diesel vehicles.

Real Estate

WSJ – Why Banks Haven’t Been Burned by Retail’s Meltdown – Lillian Rizzo and Rachel Louise Ensign 5/28

WSJ – Dead Mall Space Could Spur Warehouse, E-Commerce Deals – Esther Fung 5/30

  • “Excess parking facilities and underused retail space could be redeveloped into small-scale last-mile delivery or pickup facilities, according to Fitch Ratings.”

Energy

WSJ – OPEC Oil Deal Sinks Tanker Industry – Spencer Jakab 5/30

FT – Oil prices slip further as traders seek bigger production cuts – Anjli Raval and Neil Hume 5/30

  • “Oil prices took a further hit on Tuesday, reflecting disappointment among traders that Opec and its allies agreed to only extend, but not deepen, production cuts to drain the market of excess inventories.”

Australia

Zero Hedge – “This Market Is Crazy”: Hedge Fund Returns Hundreds of Millions To Clients Citing Imminent “Calamity” – Tyler Durden

  • “…Australian asset manager Altair Asset Management made the extraordinary decision to liquidate its Australian shares funds and return ‘hundreds of millions’ of dollars to its clients according to the Sydney Morning Herald, citing an impending property market ‘calamity’ and the ‘overvalued and dangerous time in this cycle.'”

South America

FT – Venezuelan armed forces stay loyal to President Maduro – Gideon Long 5/29

  • Bottom line as Daniel Lansberg-Rodriguez, Latin American specialist at Northwestern University, puts it “[The government] has gone to great lengths to keep the military on its side through cash bonuses, wage hikes and the doling out of lucrative governorships and ministries,.”
  • “Having profited from ‘smuggling, arbitrage and narco-trafficking schemes,’ many within the military worry that if the president falls they will end up in court and then jail, he said.”

Other Links

WSJ – Daily Shot: FiveThirtyEight – Sleep Patterns by U.S. State 5/30

WSJ – Daily Shot: World Economic Forum – World’s Most Crowded Cities 5/30

May 30, 2017

Markets / Economy

FT – US banks pull back from $1.2tn car loans market – Ben McLannahan 5/29

  • “Lenders piled into the sector in the years after the financial crisis, as low defaults and an improving economy encouraged them to focus on a market that performed relatively well as mortgages soured. Total loans across the industry rose to $1.17tn at the end of the first quarter, according to the New York Federal Reserve, up almost 70% from a trough in 2010.”
  • “But data released last week by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation showed the first sequential drop in car loans outstanding at commercials banks in at least six years.”

Energy 

Science – Goodbye smokestacks: Startup invents zero-emission fossil fuel power – Robert Service 5/24

China

NYT – In China, Umbrellas and Basketballs Join the Sharing Economy – Amy Qin 5/28

  • “Behind China’s sharing boom is a surplus of money and – some critics say – a shortage of good ideas. Venture capital firms in China invested $31 billion in 2016, up nearly one-fifth from the previous year, according to a recent KPMG report. Much of that has gone to sharing companies, as some big-money winners and a thriving start-up scene draw investors from home and abroad.”

FT – Sharing economy takes mercantile twist in China – Louise Lucas 5/28

  • “The sharing economy is taking off in China, where you can rent anything from basketballs to apartments, umbrellas to songs.”
  • “But it has taken a mercantile twist in the officially Communist country, with venture capital rather than citizens taking the spoils.”
  • “The big prize for these companies is not a slice of transaction revenues but data. Goods rented out many times provide troves of statistics on usage habits. Data can also be used for credit scoring systems: fail repeatedly to return an umbrella, and your credit score will go down.”

May 9, 2017

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Mauldin Economics – Angst in America, Part 7: The Angst of the Millennial Generation – John Mauldin 5/7

  • Are High Home Prices Turning American Millennials Into the New Serfs? – Marc Faber
    • “Like medieval serfs in pre-industrial Europe, America’s new generation, particularly in its alpha cities, seems increasingly destined to spend their lives paying off their overlords, and having little to show for it. No wonder that rather than strike out on their own, many millennials are simply failing to launch, with record numbers hunkering down in their parents’ homes. Since 2000, the numbers of people aged 18 to 34 living at home has shot up by over 5 million.”

Real Estate

Forbes – Brookfield’s Bruce Flatt: Billionaire Toll Collector Of The 21st Century – Antoine Gara 5/2

WSJ – Auto Dealers Decide Cars Are Taking Up Too Much Prime Space – Adrienne Roberts 4/29

  • “Large chains opt to move merchandise to less-valuable real estate.”

China

FT – Macau proposes new ATM curbs to tackle Chinese capital flight – Ben Bland 5/8

  • “Macau is tightening restrictions on the use of ATM cards by mainland Chinese customers as the casino enclave confronts fears that it is being used as a hub for capital flight and money laundering.”
  • “The government said that in the future, mainland users of UnionPay, China’s sole clearing house for bank card transactions, would have to insert their identity cards into ATMs and have their identity verified by facial recognition software to withdraw cash.”
  • “The move appears designed to target gamblers and middleman who have been flouting withdrawal limits by using multiple ATM cards registered to different customers.”
  • “Withdrawals by mainlanders in Macau are limited to Rmb10,000 ($1,450) a day and Rmb100,000 per year.”
  • “Vitaly Umansky, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Bernstein, the research house, said the new ATM measures would add to the headwinds facing junkets and some ‘premium mass’ gamblers.”
  • “He said that, after the recent rebound in fortunes, the ATM crackdown would make ‘investors again realize that Macau risks are largely tied to policy and the power of the government to limit growth has not been diminished.'”

May 4, 2017

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – The era of ‘deflationary progress’ means betting on automation – David Eiswert 5/3

  • “Investors need to come to reconcile themselves to the contradiction of progress and slower growth.”

A Wealth of Common Sense – Experts on an Earlier Version of the World – Ben Carlson 5/2

Markets / Economy

FT – US car sales drop faster than expected – Peter Campbell 5/2

WSJ – Daily Shot: BMI Research – Peak Auto Demand 5/2

Real Estate

WSJ – Japan’s Pension Fund Plows Into Real-Estate Investing – Peter Grant 5/2

China

WSJ – The China Debt Crisis Is Still Ripening – Nathaniel Taplin 5/2

  • “Chinese firms are still borrowing heavily and the Chinese banks backing them continue to rely heavily on risky interbank funding-eventually both firms and banks will need to pay the piper, or Beijing will need to absorb much more debt itself.”
  • “But as in the U.S., the breaking point is more likely to come when borrowers start feeling the pinch from slowing incomes and higher real borrowing costs. If the Chinese real-estate sector and inflation surprise on the downside later in 2017, or the dollar and rapid capital outflows bounce back, the piper could come knocking quicker than expected.”

WSJ – The Hot-Air Model of Chinses Asset Markets – Nathaniel Taplin 5/2

  • “Total financing to the real economy (including local government debt) was up more than 15% on the year in March, just marginally below the 17% peak in 2016.”
  • “All than money needs somewhere to go. And with stocks and bonds under pressure, and sending money abroad to buy Italian soccer clubs and dollar bonds getting tougher, cash is instead heading back into Chinese investors’ old standby: real estate.”

Puerto Rico

WSJ – Puerto Rico Placed Under Bankruptcy Protection – Andrew Scurria 5/3

  • “Federal officials placed Puerto Rico under bankruptcy protection, setting up a showdown with Wall Street firms owed billions of dollars in the largest-ever U.S. municipal debt restructuring and further complicating the U.S. territory’s efforts to pull itself out of a financial mess.”
  • “Puerto Rico and its agencies owe $73 billion to creditors, dwarfing the roughly $18 billion owed by the City of Detroit when it entered what was previously the largest municipal bankruptcy in 2013. The territory racked up its tremendous debt load during a decade long recession, beginning when tax credits that had built up its manufacturing based expired.”

May 3, 2017

Markets / Economy

WSJ – China Looks to Export Auto Overcapacity on Slow-Growth World – Anjani Trivedi 5/1

  • But that’s what you do… it’s what the US and Japanese automakers have done before them.

Bloomberg – Paul Tudor Jones Says U.S. Stocks Should ‘Terrify’ Janet Yellen – Katherine Burton and Katia Porzecanski 4/21

  • “Managers expecting the worst each have a pet harbinger of doom. Seth Klarman, who runs the $30 billion Baupost Group, told investors in a letter last week that corporate insiders have been heavy sellers of their company shares. To him, that’s ‘a sign that those who know their companies the best believe valuations have become full or excessive.'”
  • “Share sales by insiders outstripped purchases by $38 billion in the first quarter, the most since 2013, according to The Washington Service, a provider of data and analysis on insider trading.”

Real Estate

NYT – Supreme Court Rules Miami Can Sue for Predatory Lending – Adam Liptak 5/1

  • “The Supreme Court ruled on Monday that Miami can sue two banks for predatory lending under the Fair Housing Act of 1968.”
  • “The case arose from the 2008 financial crisis. Miami sued Bank of America and Wells Fargo, saying that their discriminatory mortgage lending practices had led to a disproportionate number of defaults by minority home buyers and, in turn, to financial harm to the city.”
  • “Even as the majority of justices ruled that Miami was entitled to sue under the housing law, the court declined to decide whether the city had asserted a direct enough connection between the banks’ actions and the harm it claimed. The court sent the case back to the federal appeals court in Atlanta for further exploration of that question.”

Tech

Bloomberg – Inside China’s Plans for World Robot Domination – Dexter Roberts and Rachel Chang 4/24

Bloomberg – New iPhone Screen Puts Blue Spotlight on Japanese Supplier – Pavel Alpeyev and Takako Taniguchi 4/24

Environment / Science

Economist – The Arctic as it is known today is almost certainly gone 4/29

  • “In the past 30 years, the minimum coverage of summer ice has fallen by half; its volume has fallen by three-quarters. On current trends, the Arctic ocean will be largely ice-free in summer by 2040.”

Asia – excluding China and Japan

Economist – Cleaning Up: Malaysia and Abu Dhabi strike a deal over 1MDB – 4/27

Middle East

Economist – The smell of burnt rubber: Saudi Arabia’s young prince U-turns on reform 4/27

October 28 – November 3, 2016

Declining global trade. Chinese bank loan loss provisions. Pending auto loan crisis?

Headlines

Special Reports / Opinion Pieces

Briefs

    • “Earlier this year, One Kings Lane, the online home goods retailer once worth almost $1 billion, sold itself to Bed Bath & Beyond, one of the companies it was supposed to displace, for just $12 million. Jawbone, the maker of sleek wearable fitness hardware once seen as a threat to Apple’s, has seen its value fall 50%. Since 2015, researcher CB Insights has counted 80 ‘down rounds,’ instances of a startup accepting a reduced valuation to raise more venture funding. ‘There was this fog hanging over Silicon Valley in 2001,’ says Botha (Roelof Botha, partner at VC firm Sequoia Capital) referring to the last big tech bust. ‘And there’s a fog hanging over it now. There’s no underlying wave of growth.'”
    • Yet at the same time VC funds are flush. “A few years ago, a big VC fund might have had about $500 million to play with. Today, ‘big’ means well over $1 billion. VCs raised $12 billion in the first quarter of 2016, which the industry’s trade group says marked a 10-year high. ‘The world has never seen an investment climate like this one,’ says Bill Gurley, a partner with Benchmark who led the firm’s investment in Uber. ‘It’s hard to express how much money is out there.'”
    • As Benchmark’s Gurley puts it “we’re in a slow correction. You might see a unicorn go down once a quarter.”
    • “Grocers are struggling to lure e-commerce-loving millennials into their aisles amid what experts say is a permanent shift in shopping patterns among consumers.”
    • “I don’t think we’ve seen shopping change so dramatically ever. Those things in the past that have been real drivers for grocery in terms of freshness and quality aren’t the key drivers for millennials.” – Marty Siewart, senior VP for consumer and shopper analytics at Nielsen
    • “Consumers between 25 and 34 years of age last year spent an average of $3,539 on groceries, about $1,000 less in inflation-adjusted dollars than people that age spent in 1990, federal data shows.”
    • Of course it doesn’t help that “the more than 75 million Americans born in the 1980s and 1990s are also delaying marriage and childbearing, milestones that traditionally lead people to start making big trips to the grocery store.”
    • wsj_grocery-slump_10-27-16
    • Austria just sold 70-year bonds at a yield of 1.5%. On the same day the country also sold 7-year bonds at a sub-zero yield.
    • ft_annual-sales-of-long-dated-debt_10-27-16
  • Peter Wells of the Financial Times pointed to the ‘real’ reason why AIA has a fall in insurance policies underwritten.
    • “UnionPay customers from the mainland (China) will only be allowed to use their credit and debit cards to buy accident, illness and tourism-related insurance policies in Hong Kong, the state-backed bank card provider said on Saturday through one of its subsidiaries.”
    • Why the sudden change…
    • “UnionPay said it ‘has observed a significant increase in overseas insurance transactions by cards issued from mainland China’ and is now preventing its mainland customers from buying insurance products that include ‘investment-related contents.'”
    • “The purchase of insurance products overseas, particularly in Hong Kong, had become a popular way to move money offshore, particularly after the devaluation of the renminbi in August 2015.”
  • Danny Hakim of the New York Times covered the new findings about genetically modified crops and how the results haven’t quite lived up to the promises.
    • The skinny: “genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.”
    • “An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields – food per acre – when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparable modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany. Also, a recent National Academy of Sciences report found that ‘there was little evidence’ that the introduction of genetically modified crops in the United States had led to yield gains beyond those seen in conventional crops.”
    • “At the same time, herbicide use has increased in the United States, even as major crops like corn, soybeans and cotton have been converted to modified varieties. And the United States has fallen behind Europe’s biggest producer, France, in reducing the overall use of pesticides, which includes both herbicides and insecticides.”
  • Mary Childs of the Financial Times discussed some of the changes afoot in the private equity business.
    • A new trend is taking place in the private equity world, one that is promising to hold investor money for longer periods in return for less returns.
    • Granted, “private equity has become a victim of its past success: its strong performance relative to other asset classes looks increasingly difficult to replicate as high valuations and stiff competition among private equity groups make new deals more expensive.”
    • Thus new funds are “offering investors vehicles that will run for 14 years or more, rather than the traditional 10 years, and offer 15% returns or less, lower than the 20% in a typical fund.”
    • “Already the industry’s average returns are slipping below the 20% mark: for 2015, buyout funds generated an average internal rate of return of 17.1%, according to data from Preqin.”
    • “Fund managers are deploying less money, sitting on a record $839bn of so-called dry powder at the end of the third quarter, according to Preqin. Many buyout chiefs say they are modelling potential investments with the expectation that they will be selling into a lower stock market.”
    • Speaking to the timelines of these new funds, the intent is to match investment returns to investor’s long-term liabilities and to avoid forced sales due to too-short investment time horizons.
  • Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times posted about a recent agreement between Dalian Wanda Group and the City of Beverly Hills on a real estate development that sets quite a precedent – good or bad depending on which side you’re on.
    • The benefits of being a city where entitled land is scarce and money flows abundantly… or a further sign that this real estate development cycle has been going on too long such that municipalities can continue to up the ante.
    • The City of Beverly Hills and the Dalian Wanda Group (large Chinese developer) just inked perhaps the most advantageous deal to a municipality – ever.  Granted, Dalian Wanda wouldn’t have done the deal if it didn’t make sense to them – at least on paper.
    • “The terms are still subject to approval by the Beverly Hills City Council, which will launch a three-day round of hearings on the development Monday. The terms include a doubling of the upfront payment from Wanda to the City from $30 million to $60 million; a quadrupling of environmental mitigation and sustainability fees to 1.25% from 0.45% of the sale of any portion of the development, including the condos, and an additional 2% of any subsequent sale; and hotel occupancy surcharge of 5%, on top of the city’s statutory transient occupancy tax of 14%.”
    • “The city says it expects the terms to yield $820 million in revenue over 30 years, an increase of $560 million over the previous terms.”

 Graphics

FT – Spanish unemployment rate below 20% for first time in 6 years – Tobias Buck 10/26

ft_spain-unemployment-rate_10-26-16

Visual Capitalist – Prices Are Skyrocketing, But Only For Things You Actually Need – Jeff Desjardins 10/28

vc_inflation-chart_10-28-16

FT – Solar industry rollercoaster offers a bumpy ride – Ed Crooks 10/30

ft_solar-industry-returns_10-30-16

FT – US mobile advertising surges 89% – Anna Nicolaou 11/1

ft_us-online-ad-revenues_11-1-16

Daily Shot – Nigeria’s FX Reserves 11/1

daily-shot_nigeria-foreign-reserves_11-1-16

Economist – Angling for the future of TV 10/29

economist_time-spent-watching-traditional-tv_10-29-16

Bloomberg – What Rising Bond Yields Are Trying to Tell Us – Mark Gilbert 11/3

bloomberg_decline-in-negative-yielding-debt_11-3-16

FT – Millennials drive Chinese online consumer boom – James Kynge 11/2

ft_online-sales-of-fast-moving-consumer-goods_11-2-16

Featured

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

A Little-Noticed Fact About Trade: It’s No Longer Rising. Binyamin Appelbaum. New York Times. 30 Oct. 2016.

“…Trade is no longer rising. The volume of global trade was flat in the first quarter of 2016, then fell by 0.8% in the second quarter, according to statisticians in the Netherlands, which happens to keep the best data.”

“It is the first time since World War II that trade with other nations has declined during a period of economic growth.”

Further, “the United States is no exception to the broader trend. The total value of American imports and exports fell by more than $200 billion last year. Through the first nine months of 2016, trade fell by an additional $470 billion.”

“In better times, prosperity increased trade and trade increased prosperity. Now that wheel is turning in the opposite direction.”

Worse, “there are also signs that the slowdown is becoming structural. Developed nations appear to be backing away from globalization.”

“The World Trade Organization said in July that its members had put in place more than 2,100 new restrictions on trade since 2008.”

“During the 1990s, global trade grew more than twice as fast as the global economy. Europe united. China became a factory town. Tariffs came down. Transportation costs plummeted.”

“But those changes have played out. Europe is fraying around the edges; low tariffs and transportation costs cannot get much lower. And China’s role in the global economy is changing. The country is making more of what it consumes, and consuming more of what it makes. In addition, China’s maturing industrial sector increasingly makes its own parts. The International Monetary Fund reported last year that the share of imported components in products “Made in China” has fallen to 35% from 60% in the 1990s.”

“The result: The I.M.F. study calculated that a 1% increase in global growth increased trade volumes by 2.5% in the 1990s, while in recent years, the same growth has increased trade by just 0.7%.”

Now, there is excess capacity in the world’s shipping lines. “In 2009, the world’s cargo lines had enough room to carry 12.1 million of the standardized shipping containers that have played a crucial, if quiet, role in the rise of global trade. By last year, they had room for 19.9 million – much of it unneeded.”

Further, automation is making it difficult, if not impossible, for developing nations to follow in China’s footsteps. “Dani Rodrik, a Harvard economist, calculates that manufacturing employment in India and other developing nations has already peaked, a phenomenon he calls premature deindustrialization.”

It doesn’t help that the benefits of globalization were oversold and that now nativists and protectionists are overstating the downsides.

China banks in stand-off with regulators on loan loss provisions. Yuan Yang. Financial Times. 30 Oct. 2016.

“China’s banks are in a deepening stand-off with regulators over the level of provisions they must make to protect against loan defaults as bad debts continue to climb.”

Current provisions call for a loan loss provision ratio target of 150%.  As it stands at least two of China’s largest four banks are below the coverage ratio. As of the third quarter Industrial and Commercial Bank of China has a coverage ratio of 136% (down from 143% in the second quarter). And that’s based on officially recognized non-performing loans.

“Officially, 1.8% of all Chinese loans are non-performing, although the credit rating agency Fitch puts the true figure at more than 15%. Following a huge credit boom, the outstanding amount of non-performing loans doubled in the two years before June 2016, reaching Rmb1.4tn.”

Hence, will the banks have to raise their loan loss reserves or will the regulators reduce the target ratio?

As Zhang Yingchao, a banking analyst at NSBO China – an investment bank, aptly puts it “setting standards is a tussle between the banks and the regulators. Who gets the upper hand depends on the state of the economy. If increasing the credit supply is necessary to meet the growth target of 6.5-7%, then the regulators will need to relax standards.”

Fears rise over auto loan crisis as repo men see sales’ dark side. Joe Rennison. Financial Times. 1 Nov. 2016.

“Repossessions in the US hit 1.6m in 2015, the third highest level on record for data going back 20 years, falling short of the 1.8m and 1.9m peaks seen in 2008 and 2009, respectively.”

“That number is predicted to rise to 1.7m this year, according to Tom Webb, chief economist at Cox’s Automotive.”

However, one of the key differences between this cycle and last is that whereas many of the repossessions in 2008 and 2009 were from fraudulent schemes “people renting cars under a fake name and not returning them, for example,” this time there has been a boom in subprime auto loans and people just not able to repay their loans.

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The auto market is booming and correspondingly or really as a result of the growth in the auto loan market. “The auto loan market has grown from $750bn in 2011 to $1.1tn at the end of June, according to data from the US Federal Reserve.”

According to Peter McNally, a senior analyst at Moody’s – the rating agency, “while we have seen a gradual loosening in underwriting in recent years it has gotten to a point now where it is becoming unstable.”

“The subprime auto ABS market has grown to $38.1bn, down slightly from its second quarter high of $41.2bn, according to data from the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association. Fitch Ratings defines subprime ABS as a deal with expected net losses above 7%. Net losses across subprime auto ABS hit 9.29% in September, according to Fitch – 23% higher than a year earlier.”

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“The fear is that if losses continue to climb, investors will stop buying bonds issued by less diversified companies. If their access to funding stops, it could impair the credit quality of the issuer itself, throwing doubt over the quality of existing bonds and ricocheting through the market, raising borrowing costs for other issuers as well.”

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Other Interesting Articles

Bloomberg Businessweek

The Economist

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