Tag: ECB

June 15, 2018

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Economist – In investing, as in poker, following rules works best – Buttonwood 5/31

Markets / Economy

Economist – Central banks holdings of domestic government debt 5/31

WSJ – ECB to End Bond-Buying Program in December as Crisis-Era Policies Wind Down – Tom Fairless and Brian Blackstone 6/14

  • “The European Central Bank is closing a chapter on one controversial policy, government bond purchases, while extending the life of another: negative interest rates.”
  • “The central bank Thursday laid out plans to wind down its giant bond-buying program by the end of this year, but said it likely would wait ‘at least through the summer of 2019’ before raising its deposit rate, now at minus 0.4%.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – US Budget Deficit Funding and % Holdings 6/14

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bloomberg – World’s Most Expensive Housing Markets Relative to Salary 6/12

WSJ – Daily Shot: Mary Meeker Internet Trends 2018 – Airbnb vs Hotel ADR 5/31

Wolf Street – Toronoto’s House Price Bubble Not Fun Anymore – Wolf Richter 6/4

Energy

WSJ – Daily Shot: US Total Crude Oil Production 6/14

Finance

FT – US fundraising for ‘blank cheque’ buyout vehicles hits record – Nicole Bullock 6/13

  • “Funds have been raised at a record rate in the US this year for shell companies that offer a ‘blank cheque’ to sponsors to pursue takeovers, providing further evidence of the rehabilitation of a controversial tool that waned in the wake of the financial crisis.”
  • “The so-called special purpose acquisition companies, or spacs, have raised $4.5bn so far in 2018 — the largest amount for this type of fundraising in the period, according to Dealogic, which began recording the deals in 1995. That followed a brisk 2017, the second strongest year on record with nearly $10bn sold.”
  • “The funds are placed in an interest-bearing account until a target is identified — and spac investors can get their money back if they do not approve of the acquisition. They are basically a bet that the sponsors can find a good company at a reasonable price.”
  • “Spacs offer investors, often hedge funds, a cash proxy with the option of the acquisition. Sponsors get a 20% stake in the acquired company, if investors approve it, for a nominal amount of money.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: BlackRock – Four big trends to drive ETF growth 5/31

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bianco Research – Cryptocurrency Market Caps as of June 11, 2018 6/14

Environment / Science

FT – Nikkei Asian Review: Thailand falls behind in global battle with plastic waste – George Styllis 6/13

  • “’Beating plastic pollution’ was the theme of World Environment Day on June 5, but Thailand is falling behind Asian and European countries in the fight against plastic waste.”
  • “The issue has been brought into focus after a dead whale was found last month to have swallowed 80 plastic bags.”
  • “The whale, found in Songkhla province, served as a reminder of Thailand’s problem with plastic, and the abject failures of the government and retail industry to bring the nation’s environmental consciousness in line with the rest of the world’s.”
  • “Thailand is the world’s sixth biggest contributor to ocean waste, while China is the largest. Thailand generates 1.03m tons of plastic waste per year, with over 3% of that finding its way into the ocean, Tara Buakamsri, Thailand country director for Greenpeace, told the Nikkei Asian Review.”
  • “Of the country’s total waste, plastic accounts for 12% — higher than China’s at 11%. A survey by the government in 2017 found that, on average, Thais each use eight plastic bags per day, which equates to about 198bn per year.”

China

WSJ – Daily Shot: PIMCO – China’s Contribution to Global Credit Creation 6/12

WSJ – Daily Shot: Trading Economics – Hong Kong Home Ownership Rate 6/12

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April 25, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

Bloomberg – These Are the U.S. Cities With the Fastest-Growing Wealth Gaps – Vincent Del Giudice and Wei Lu 4/19

  • “The analysis of Census Bureau data tracks the differences in annual income between household income groups. The rich versus poor gap compared households in the top 20% to those in the bottom 20% by metropolitan area.”
  • “At No. 1 is San Jose, California, the Silicon Valley city where the rich versus poor gap widened by $73,600 to $339,000. At No. 100, with the smallest change among 100 largest metro areas, is the border city of El Paso, Texas, where the gap widened by $2,600 to $131,200.”
  • “Nationally, the rich versus poor gap expanded by $31,000 to just over $197,000. Last year’s measure, using data from 2010 to 2015, showed an increase of $29,500 to $189,600.”
  • “The Bloomberg ranking also shows the change in the gap between the super-rich to middle class which widened in 98 of 100 metropolitan areas, led by Bridgeport, Connecticut, which overlaps entirely with Fairfield County. The gap narrowed in Ogden, Utah and Colorado Springs, Colorado. The super-rich to middle class gap is defined by those in the top five percent of income vs households in the middle 20%.”
  • “A third take of data shows the middle class income span — defined as the gap between those within 30 and 80% of an areas income. The middle class span grew the most in San Francisco where it rose to $140,800 in 2016 from $108,300 five years earlier.”

Perspective

Economist – A study finds nearly half of jobs are vulnerable to automation – The Data Team 4/24

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Economist – The Republican Party is organized around one man – Leaders 4/19

The Irrelevant Investor – How? – Michael Batnick 4/24

  • “How can Netflix be worth nearly as much as Disney?”

Mauldin Economics – China Plays It Cool – John Mauldin 4/20

NYT – We Don’t Need No Education – Paul Krugman 4/23

Pragmatic Capitalism – The Fed is in a Pickle – Cullen Roche 4/24

WP – The craft beer industry’s buzz is wearing off – Rachel Siegel 4/10

  • “A new report by the Brewers Association — a trade association representing small and independent American craft brewers — showed that craft brewers saw a 5% rise in production volume in 2017. Yet with that growth comes an increasingly crowded playing field, leading to more closures of small craft breweries. In 2017, there were nearly 1,000 new brewery openings nationwide and 165 closures — a closing rate of 2.6%. That’s a 42% jump from 2016, when 116 craft breweries closed.”

Markets / Economy

FT – WeWork to test junk bond appetite with $500m sale – Eric Platt, Alexandra Scaggs, and Richard Waters 4/24

  • “WeWork, the lossmaking provider of shared office space, will seek to raise money from debt investors for the first time in a sale that will provide a stern test of sentiment in the junk bond market.”
  • “The $20bn US company has hired more than a dozen banks to pitch a bond sale to US money managers this week, according to five people with knowledge of the planned sale.”
  • “Sales at the company more than doubled to $886m in 2017 from the year before, although its loss also widened to $884m, according to bond documents reviewed by the Financial Times. WeWork said sales had continued to quicken and by last month had reached an annualised pace of between $1.4bn and $1.5bn.”
  • “WeWork has raised nearly $7bn through equity investments over the past seven years. Its ambitions received a big boost in the middle of last year with a $4.4bn injection of cash from SoftBank and the Japanese conglomerate’s Saudi-backed technology fund, laying the ground for more rapid expansion around the world.”
  • “The move by WeWork to tap the $8.8tn US corporate debt market, a vital source of funding for companies, will bring new investor scrutiny to the company at a time when corporate borrowing costs are on the rise.”
  • “The bond offering drew junk labels from the leading US credit rating agencies, underlining the risk of investing in the debt. One person briefed on the sale added that the seven-year bond could price with a yield as low as 7%, although a second added that the final price WeWork pays could be higher.”

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: US Existing Home Sales 4/24

WSJ – Daily Shot: NAR – US Existing Homes Months Supply 4/24

WSJ – Daily Shot: NY Fed – US Households average probability of moving 4/24

Energy

FT – US shale groups reach self-financing milestone as oil price rises – Ed Crooks and Nicole Bullock 4/23

  • “Since the shale oil boom began a decade ago, exploration and production companies have needed a steady inflow of capital to pay for drilling and completing new wells but thanks to the rise in crude prices, many can now finance themselves.”
  • “From the time the first shale oil test wells were drilled in the US in 2008-09, the industry’s capital expenditure has exceeded its cash from operations, with producers only able to stay in business by attracting hundreds of billions of dollars in financing from bond and share sales and bank loans. From 2008 to 2017, US exploration and production companies raised $293bn from bond sales, according to Dealogic.”
  • “Another factor that has helped producers turn the corner is the continued improvement in the techniques of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, which have brought costs down sharply.”

FT – Halliburton writes off investment in crisis-hit Venezuela – Ed Crooks 4/23

  • “Halliburton, one of the world’s largest oilfield services groups, wrote off its remaining investment in Venezuela at a cost of $312m on Monday, highlighting the decline of the crisis-hit nation’s oil industry.”
  • “Halliburton said it would continue to operate in the country ‘at a reduced level’, but would be careful about its future exposure. It last year wrote down $647m for late payment by PDVSA, Venezuela’s national oil company, and the fall in the value of a promissory note intended to cover some of those bills.”
  • “Venezuela’s crude production has dropped 30% from 2.15m barrels a day in 2016 to 1.5m b/d last month. It is less than half its level when Hugo Chávez, the former president, was elected in 1998.”
  • “Schlumberger, the world’s largest listed oilfield services group, similarly wrote off its investment in Venezuela at the end of last year, taking a pre-tax write down of $938m. It continues to operate a cash business in the country, but that has continued to decline into this year.”
  • “Paal Kibsgaard, Schlumberger’s chief executive, said Venezuela’s oil production was in ‘free fall’.”
  • “Although the rise in oil prices since last year has offered some help to Venezuela, the benefit has been muted because most of the oil PDVSA produces does not generate cash, according to Francisco Monaldi of the Baker Institute at Rice University.”
  • “He argued in a recent report that of the roughly 1.8m b/d that PDVSA produced last November, 400,000-450,000 b/d were used in the domestic market at a huge loss, while about 500,000-600,000 b/d were committed to repaying loans from China and Russia and owed to joint venture partners.”

Finance

Bloomberg – ECB Seen Delaying QE Exit Decision as Trade Concerns Mount – Alessandro Speciale and Andre Tartar 4/19

WSJ – Daily Shot: US – Germany 2yr Government Bond Spread 4/24

Sports

PBJ – MLB prices climb, but Diamondbacks deemed best value in sport – Patrick O’Grady 4/24

China

WSJ – Daily Shot: IIF Global Debt Monitor – YoY Change In Chinese Sectoral Debt 4/24

Japan

FT – Tokyo struggles with worst hay fever outbreak on record – Robin Harding 4/23

April 5, 2018

Perspective

The Verge – South Korean millennials are reeling from the Bitcoin bust – Rachel Premack 4/3

  • “From the outside, the Korean economy appears to be flourishing: the country is home to major industry leaders such as Samsung, Hyundai, and Kia. It’s the 11th-largest economy in the world, with semiconductors, car LCDs, and other high-tech products dominating its exports. The overall unemployment rate is just 4.6%.”
  • “Still, young people can’t find jobs. Youth unemployment has hovered around 10% in Korea for the past five years. The underemployment rate — defined by those involuntarily working jobs they’re overqualified for or are part-time — is even higher as of this year: it hovered at 38% in 2016, according to Dongseo University professor Justin Fendos.”
  • “In this highly educated economy, it can be hard for young Koreans to distinguish themselves from their peers. Nearly 70% of all Koreans ages 25–34 have a post-secondary degree, the highest of all Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, and a high school degree is nearly universal. Entire neighborhoods in Seoul are full of college graduates studying to pass hiring exams in order to get in at Korea’s biggest companies or the enviable public sector.”
  • “’The design of Korean society is a big reason why the cryptocurrency became so popular,’ says Yohan Yun, a 25-year-old assistant reporter in Seoul who invested around $400 in Ethereum. ‘People here are generally unhappy with their current status in society.’”
  • “Even employed young people are pessimistic about their economic prospects: a survey conducted in 2015 showed that half of young Koreans don’t believe that they will do better than their parents’ generation, compared to 29% in 2006.”
  • “For young Koreans, cryptocurrency seems like a rare shot at prosperity. Months after last year’s bubble started to implode in February, the Korean won remains the third most traded currency for Bitcoin. The country of 52 million comprises 17% of all Ethereum trading, and it was the location of two-thirds of world’s biggest exchanges this winter, Korea Expose reported in February.”
  • “An estimated three in 10 salaried workers in Korea had invested in e-currencies by December 2017, according to a survey by Korean recruiting firm Saramin. Eighty percent of those people were in their 20s and 30s.”
  • “But now that the prices of cryptocurrency coins like Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Ripple have tanked, many Korean youths are dealing with the mental and financial aftermath of their losses. Korean psychologists have reported an uptick of patients from the so-called ‘Bitcoin blues,’ divorce counselors say marriages are splitting from failed investments, and even the country’s prime minister said that virtual currencies are on track to cause ‘serious distortion or pathological social phenomena’ among Korea’s young population.”
  • “Real estate used to be the traditional way to grow one’s fortune in Korea, but prices have become exceedingly expensive for even upper-middle-class people. And interest rates for savings accounts are rarely more than a few percentage points a year.” 
  • “Koreans’ hyperconnectivity helped spur Bitcoin’s popularity. Teens and young adults spend around four hours a day using mobile phones in Korea. Nearly every Korean home has internet access, and 88% have smartphones, the highest percentage globally. Such an abundance of connectivity allowed potential traders of all ages to learn about the craze and hear about the insane amounts of money one could make on trading. Cryptotrading clubs, where people can meet like-minded traders and share tips, popped up at many Korean universities.”
  • “Thanks in part to the frenzy, some coins cost up to 51% more in Korean markets than anywhere else. Bitcoin’s price was up nearly $8,000 in January, Bloomberg reported. The ‘kimchi premium’ drew foreign traders to buy their coins abroad and trade them in the Korean market.”
  • “But then came the crash. From January 6th to January 16th, 2018 the price of Bitcoin to Korean won tumbled from a high of a US-equivalent $25,065 to $13,503, according to Korbit. It continued to fall to $7,410 by February 5th, and as of April 2nd, the price of a bitcoin sits at $7,241.”
  • “In total, the Bitcoin crash wiped out $44 billion of value in January, or more than Ford’s entire market capitalization, according to Bloomberg. New regulations against cryptocurrency trading, particularly ones from a worried South Korean government, helped usher the fall.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Business Insider – People have stopped paying their mobile-home loans, and it’s a warning sign of the economy – Matt Turner 4/3

  • “The mobile-home market is showing signs of stress.”
  • “The delinquency rate on mobile-home loans has increased by 200 basis points, or 2 percentage points, over the past year, according to research cited by UBS. The 30-day-plus delinquency level is now about 5%, the highest level since 2005.”
  • “The increase in the number of struggling mobile-home borrowers suggests that a large chunk of these people haven’t benefitted from the economic growth of the past few years, despite the low unemployment level.”
  • “This data represents a piece of a jigsaw puzzle of the condition of consumer finances in the US. And the picture that’s emerging, according to UBS, is of a two-speed economy, with lower-income consumers and younger borrowers with substantial student debt moving at a slower pace than more affluent and established participants.”
  • “‘We believe weakness in these two groups (lower-income consumers and younger borrowers) will drive higher credit losses at some stage over the next few years — particularly in credit card, installment, and student loans — with macroeconomic inflection from job growth to job loss as a likely catalyst,’ UBS said.”

NYT – How Dr. King Lived Is Why He Died – Jesse Jackson 4/3

WSJ – Telsa’s Model 3 Is No Model T – Charley Grant 4/3

  • “First-quarter production is not as rosy as the electric-car maker believes.”

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – US Actual vs Potential GDP 4/4

WSJ – Iowa’s Employment Problem: Too Many Jobs, Not Enough People – Shayndi Raice and Eric Morath 4/1

Real Estate

John Burns RE Consulting – California Has Density Solutions, but Not Enough New Housing – Pete Reeb 4/3

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – European Bond Issuance v ECB Purchases 4/4

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – Emerging Market USD & EUR Debt Issuance 4/4

China

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – Credit Expansion in BRIC Countries 4/4

WSJ – Daily Shot: Hong Kong Retail Sales 4/4

  • “Hong Kong’s retail sales jumped by most in eight years as wealthy shoppers from the mainland return.”

Japan

WSJ – Daily Shot: Deutsche Bank – Declining Service Quality in Japan 4/4

  • “Instead of inflation, Japan’s extremely tight labor markets are translating into reduced-quality services for consumers. The US is starting to experience this trend as well.”

Puerto Rico

Bloomberg – Stunned Investors Reap 95% Gains on Defaulted Puerto Rico Bonds – Michelle Kaske 4/3

  • “Not only are Puerto Rico’s bonds the top performer in the $3.9 trillion municipal market, they’ve gained more than any other dollar-denominated debt in the world, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Puerto Rico General Obligation Bonds 4/4

March 8, 2018

If you were only to read one thing…

FT Alphaville – China’s household debt problem – Matthew C Klein 3/6

  • “The rapidity and size of China’s debt boom in the past decade has been almost entirely without precedent. The few precedents that do exist — Japan in the 1980s, the US in the 1920s — are not encouraging.”
  • “Most coverage has rightly focused on China’s corporate sector, particularly the debts that state-owned enterprises owe to the big four state-owned banks. After all, these liabilities constitute the biggest bulk of the total debt outstanding, and also explain most of the total growth in Chinese debt since the mid-2000s.”
  • “Chinese households, however, are quickly catching up. This is bad news.”
  • “The simple story of China’s debt boom is that government-backed companies borrow from government-controlled banks to pay for wasteful investments to support jobs and other political objectives. This creates lots of problems for China today and in the future, but it does have one virtue: the losses from centralized credit allocation can be distributed over a broad population over a long period of time.”
  • “Household debt is different. Borrowers are widely dispersed and lack political power. The lenders are often newer finance companies or loan sharks. Worst of all, there is essentially zero chance that additional household borrowing pays for productive investment. Some of China’s additional infrastructure and manufacturing capacity may prove valuable one day. Household debt probably won’t. Atif Mian and Amir Sufi have ably shown that increases in household borrowing tend to predict slower income growth and higher joblessness.”
  • “This chart is therefore cause for concern:”
  • “As of mid-2017, Chinese households had debts worth about 106% of their disposable incomes. For perspective, Americans currently have debts worth about 105% of their disposable incomes, on average. The difference is that American indebtedness has been basically flat the past few years after steady declines since 2007.”
  • “Chinese households have been experiencing rapid income growth by rich-country standards for a long time, but their debts have grown far faster:”
  • “Since the start of 2007, Chinese disposable household income has grown about 12% each year on average, while Chinese household debt has grown about 23% each year on average. The cumulative effect is that (nominal) income has slightly more than tripled but debts have grown by nearly a factor of nine. The mismatch has been getting worse recently, as can be seen in the kink in the pink line towards the end.”
  • “All this is finally starting to affect the aggregate debt numbers. Household debt in China is still small relative to the total — about 18% as of mid-2017 — but household borrowers are now responsible for about one third of the growth in total nonfinancial debt:”
  • “The problem is that households cannot service their debts out of GDP. Instead they have to rely on their meagre incomes. Since 2007 the share of Chinese national output going to households has ranged from as high as 46% to as low as 42% of GDP. (The rest of China’s national income is mostly captured by government-controlled enterprises and their elite managers.) The household share of income has dropped by about 1 percentage point just in 2017:”
  • “For comparison, disposable income in the US has tended to hover between 71% and 76% of GDP over the past few decades.”
  • “The trick for Beijing now is to bring non-productive investment down as rapidly as it can without causing unemployment to rise to dangerous levels. Because it has proven difficult to replace non-productive investment with productive investment (and, I have long argued, unrealistic even to expect it could happen), the only way to do so is to replace it with consumption. But levered consumption obviously cannot solve the problem of rapid debt growth, so rising consumption must be driven by rising household income, even as declining investment causes workers on investment projects to be fired. In the end this may be politically a difficult problem, but economically it is just an arithmetic problem about wealth reallocation.” – Michael Pettis

Perspective

CNBC – 42% of Americans are at risk of retiring broke – Jessica Dickler 3/6

© GOBankingRates

US Census Bureau – Irish-American Heritage Month and St. Patrick’s Day 2/6

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Business Insider – Underpaying drivers is ‘essential’ to Uber’s business model, according to a new study on low wages – Shona Ghosh 3/7

Economist – How the West got China wrong – Leaders 3/1

  • “It bet that China would head towards democracy and the market economy. The gamble has failed.”

FT – Forget flu, it’s time for your fake-news jab – Hannah Kuchler 3/6

  • “News literacy should be taught like sex and drugs education, to protect individuals and society as a whole.”

Medium – A Lack of Clarity is The Biggest Inhibitor of Progress Towards Your Goals – Srinivas Rao 3/5

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: Cresset Wealth Advisors – US Housing Price Change from Pre-Crisis Peak 3/7

WSJ – New York Housing Is Getting (Gasp!) More Affordable – Josh Barbanel 3/7

  • “Housing costs are taking a smaller bite out of the typical household’s monthly budget, according to a new U.S. Census Bureau survey that is conducted every three years. The survey also shows a record amount of new housing and the third-highest rental-vacancy rate since the bureau’s first survey in 1965.”

WSJ – That Much Prophesied Commercial Property Bust Still Hasn’t Happened – Esther Fung 3/6

  • “The delinquency rate for securitized loans in the commercial real-estate industry has dropped for eight consecutive months, defying expectations in recent years of a wave of defaults.”
  • “According to real-estate data provider Trepp LLC, the delinquency rate for real-estate loans in commercial mortgage-backed securities clocked in at 4.51% in February, down from 5.31% in the same period a year earlier. The rate hit an all-time high of 10.34% in July 2012.”
  • “Investors had been expecting an increase in defaults in 2016 and 2017 as the large volume of CMBS packaged during the 2006 to 2007 period reached maturity. But rising real-estate values, low interest rates and a surge of debt capital from insurers and other sources have allowed property owners to refinance or restructure their debts.”

Yahoo Finance – Foursquare CEO: There are 2 types of malls that are seeing growth – Melody Hahm 3/6

  • “While consumers are getting lured online by cost savings and the convenience factor, there’s still ample data on foot traffic into physical stores, said Foursquare CEO Jeff Glueck. In fact, he’s found that the rise in online shopping has largely affected middle-market malls. Malls serving high-end and low-end customers are actually seeing growth.”

Finance

WSJ – The New ID Theft: Millions of Credit Applicants Who Don’t Exist – Peter Rudegeair and AnnaMaria Andriotis 3/6

Cryptocurrency / ICOs

Bloomberg – Bitcoin Dives After SEC Says Crypto Platforms Must Be Registered – Camila Russo and Lily Katz 3/7

Construction

WSJ – Daily Shot: Change in Construction Producer Price Index 3/7

  • “US construction firms continue to struggle with rising materials costs. Higher steel prices will exacerbate the problem, especially for commercial property developers.”

Asia – excluding China and Japan

WSJ – In China’s Shadow, Communist Vietnam Links Arms With Old Enemy, the U.S. – Jake Maxwell Watts 3/2

China

WSJ – China’s Financial Reach Leaves Eight Countries Vulnerable, Study Finds – Josh Zumbrum and Jon Emont 3/4

Europe

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – European Central Bank Balance Sheet 3/7

Puerto Rico

WP – Exodus from Puerto Rico grows as island struggles to rebound from Hurricane Maria – Arelis R. Hernandez 3/6

November 1, 2017

Perspective

Economist – The political economy of witchcraft – Daily Chart 10/31

  • “How early modern witch-hunters resemble contemporary politicians.”

Tax Foundation – 2018 State Business Tax Climate Index 10/31

Axios – Cost-cutting could stunt the health care jobs expansion – Christopher Matthews 10/25

NYT – A Peek at Future Jobs Shows Growing Economic Divides – Ben Casselman 10/24

FT – US conservative media deflects from Mueller probe – Shannon Bond 10/31

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

FT – Iraq and the risks to the oil market – Nick Butler 10/30

LinkedIn – California’s Housing Bleeding Out While We Apply Band-Aids – John McNellis 10/30

  • A very insightful read on the affordable housing crisis in California (or substitute any high cost metro/area), the proposed efforts to combat it, an insiders understanding of why these efforts will fall short, and some real solutions.

LinkedIn – Our Biggest Economic, Social, and Political Issue The Two Economies: The Top 40% and the Bottom 60% – Ray Dalio 10/23

Markets / Economy

NYT – Thanks to Wall St., There May Be Too Many Restaurants – Rachel Abrams and Robert Gebeloff 10/31

  • “After a prolonged stretch of explosive growth, fueled by interest from Wall Street, experts say there are now too many fast-food, casual and other chain restaurants.”
  • “Since the early 2000s, banks, private equity firms and other financial institutions have poured billions into the restaurant industry as they sought out more tangible enterprises than the dot-com start-ups that were going belly-up. There are now more than 620,000 eating and drinking places in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the number of restaurants is growing at about twice the rate of the population.”
  • “The glut of restaurants has increased the pressure on individual restaurant owners. Industry sales are up nationally, but growth has slowed to the lowest rate since 2010.”
  • “Customers continue to spend a large share of their food budget in restaurants, but they’re spreading the money across a larger number of establishments, so profits are split into smaller individual pieces. Yet the industry — particularly chain restaurants — continues to expand, a strategy that both masks the problem and makes it likely that more places will falter.”
  • “Sales at individual chain restaurants, compared with a year earlier, began dropping in early 2016, analysts reported. A majority of restaurants reported sales growth in just four of the last 22 monthly surveys from the National Restaurant Association. Before that, most restaurants had reported growth for 20 consecutive months, from March 2014 through October 2015, the survey found.”
  • “As Americans work longer hours and confront an ever-growing array of food options, they are spending a growing share of their food budget — about 44 cents per dollar — on restaurants, according to food economists at the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service.”
  • “But while consumer demand contributed to the restaurant boom, it was changes on Wall Street that really fueled the explosion. Chains like Del Taco, Papa Murphy’s and others began attracting money from private equity firms, and banks like Wells Fargo and Bank of America saw lending opportunities in the restaurant industry.”
  • “…some franchisees say they’re being pressured to open too many stores as food companies push for new revenue streams. Buying an existing restaurant, for example, may mean agreeing to build 10 new ones.”
  • “’They want us to sign aggressive development agreements,’ said Shoukat Dhanani, the chief executive officer of the Dhanani Group, which owns hundreds of Burger King and Popeyes restaurants. ‘I didn’t see that even five years ago.’”
  • “The shuttering of restaurants could have a major impact on the labor market. Since 2010, restaurants have accounted for one out of every seven new jobs, and many restaurateurs complain that it has become increasingly difficult to hire and retain workers.”
  • “Those positions could be in jeopardy if sales continue to fall and force more restaurants to close. Over the summer, the parent company of Applebee’s announced it would close more than 100 locations. In 2016 Subway, the nation’s largest fast-food chain by location count, closed more locations than it opened, the first time in its history that had happened.

Real Estate

NYT – Investors Push Into a Resurging Market: House Flipping – Paul Sullivan 10/20

WSJ – When Sellers Compete Against Their Building’s Developers – Katherine Clarke 10/25

  • “It is a seller’s nightmare: Putting a luxury condo on the market, only to find that upstairs, another unit that has never been lived in is on the market for the same price or less. And to make matters worse, the seller upstairs has the resources to keep cutting his price if his place doesn’t sell.”
  • “This is the plight that some owners of luxury condos built in the past few years are encountering, as they find themselves in direct competition with their building’s developer when it comes time to sell.”
  • “It isn’t supposed to work this way. Typically, developers don’t allow buyers to resell for the first year after a building is completed, to prevent owners from quickly flipping their homes for a profit. In a hot market, a year gives the developer plenty of time to sell most of a building’s units.”
  • “But now sales at the top end of the luxury market are starting to slow. In total, the number of sales for Manhattan apartments priced at $10 million or more fell by 25% in the third quarter, compared with the same period last year, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of public property records.”
  • “’There are lots of buyers out there who are finding that their assets are being devalued by their own sponsor,’ said Frances Katzen of Douglas Elliman, an agent preparing to put a resale on the market at 30 Park Place. ‘I think that there are plenty of people who are very angry to see that.’”
  • “Take One57, the ultraluxury tower on New York’s West 57th Street which quickly became known for its high-end amenities, top prices and wealthy buyers when it launched sales in 2011. Despite the buzz, nearly a dozen available listings are still posted online after six years of sales efforts by Extell Development, the building’s developer. The result: The developer is cutting its prices.”
  • “For example, a four-bedroom, 43rd floor unit is currently on the market for $17.5 million after listing for $19 million in 2015, and a three-bedroom, 42nd floor unit is asking $16.9 million, down from $18.75 million in 2015, according to listings website StreetEasy.”
  • “Owners in the building who wish to resell are doing the same. Late last year, a seller at One57 swallowed a more than $8 million loss when the unit sold for $23.5 million, far less the $31.7 million it sold for two years prior.”

Energy

WSJ – Trump Plan for Coal, Nuclear Power Draws Fire From Environmental, Oil Groups – Timothy Puko 10/22

  • “A Trump administration proposal aimed at shoring up coal-fired and nuclear power plants across the nation has generated opposition from an array of energy and consumer interests, including some who are often at odds on energy policy.”
  • “Oil and gas companies, wind and solar power producers, some public utilities, electricity consumers and environmentalists—rarely natural allies—are all publicly opposing the Energy Department’s proposal. The plan would effectively guarantee profits for some nuclear and coal-fired power plants, prompting critics that also include former federal regulators to call it a bailout for struggling plants that undermines competitive markets.”

Finance

Bloomberg – There’s Now a Cryptocurrency Fund-of-Funds – Camila Russo 10/24

Tech

FT – Big Tech and Amazon: too powerful to break up? – David Lynch 10/29

China

WSJ – Foreign Companies in China Get a New Partner: The Communist Party – Chun Han Wong and Eva Dou 10/29

CNBC – China central bank chief raises new worry in China: Mortgage-driven household debt – Evelyn Chang 10/23

  • “China’s central bank chief just warned about a potential bubble in China: Rising household debt.”
  • “‘Regarding household debt levels, China doesn’t rank that high on a global scale, but the pace of growth has picked up in the last few years,’ People’s Bank of China governor Zhou Xiaochuan said Thursday. He didn’t expect any action should be taken immediately but said the debt levels should be monitored for quality and a steady pace of growth.”
  • “The bigger worry about China has been high levels of corporate and local government debt. The Chinese government has spoken about the need to limit that growth, and most analysts expect authorities will gradually rein it in. But this year, household debt has arisen as another area of concern about financial leverage in China.”
  • “‘China’s household debt has been rising at an ‘alarming’ pace over the past two years,’ Citi analyst Li-Gang Liu said in an Oct. 10 note. The report pointed out that outstanding household debt in China has doubled from 29.6% of gross domestic product at 16 trillion yuan ($2.41 trillion) in 2012 to 44.3% of GDP at 33 trillion yuan last year.”
  • “In order to prevent speculation from sending property prices even higher, local Chinese governments have implemented policies to restrict purchases such as limiting the number of apartment units someone can own and how soon they can resell them.”
  • “The IMF pointed out in its Global Financial Stability Report earlier this month that Chinese banking sector assets are now 310% of GDP, up from 240% at the end of 2012 and nearly three times the emerging market average.”
  • “‘Debt in China is our No. 1 risk in the whole world,’ said Paul Christopher, head global market strategist at Wells Fargo Investment Institute. But rather than worrying about financial disruption from China, ‘I would worry more about the prospect of slowing China demand.'”
  • “In a report last Monday about how increasingly wealthy Chinese will boost demand for high-end products, Sanford C. Bernstein analysts said the property market has been the ‘single largest driver’ of the increase in Chinese wealth. They estimate the property market has increased in value by about $12 trillion since 2010, while overall private wealth among Chinese households has increased from $10 trillion in 2010 to $34 trillion.
  • “‘As one example, since 2010 the owner of an average 90-square-meter apartment in Shenzhen has experienced a capital gain of almost US$500,000 (nearly a quadrupling in value),’ senior equity research analyst Euan McLeish and a team of analysts wrote. ‘That kind of appreciation in personal assets changes behavior.'”

Europe

NYT – As European Central Bank Eases Emergency Measures, Risks May Lurk – Jack Ewing 10/25

  • “Signaling fresh confidence in the region, the European Central Bank began on Thursday to gingerly dismantle an arsenal of emergency measures that for a decade helped to keep the currency and economy from disintegrating in the face of financial turmoil.”
  • “The decision marks a new phase of the recovery, after four years of economic expansion and falling unemployment. Mario Draghi, the central bank’s president, heralded what he called ‘the unabated growth momentum’ in the 19-country euro area.”
  • “The European Central Bank, which held the benchmark interest rate steady at a historic low of zero percent, provided a timetable on Thursday for rolling back purchases of government and corporate debt, a program known as quantitative easing.”
  • “It had been buying 60 billion euros, or about $70 billion, of such bonds every month, and will scale that back to €30 billion a month for nine months, starting in January. The bank will also reinvest the proceeds when bonds mature, so that in practice the monthly purchases will be well above €30 billion. Over all, the measures were in line with expectations.”
  • “To avoid provoking renewed turmoil, the European Central Bank is moving slowly.”
  • “It stressed on Thursday that it ‘stands ready’ to increase the asset purchases in response to worsening financial conditions or if inflation failed to rise.”
  • “Historically low interest rates will remain in place for the foreseeable future. The central bank has said it will not begin raising rates until it has stopped buying bonds, and only if the eurozone inflation rate is on track to hit the official target of 2%”

Middle East

FT – Post-caliphate Isis prepares for its reincarnation – David Gardner 10/20

July 15 – July 21, 2016

Helicopter money coming to Japan? GMO on EU immigration and the Brexit. Hong Kong and China at a cross road.  ECB coming up against its quantitative easing boundaries.

Headlines

Briefs

    • China’s 2nd quarter gross domestic product came in at 6.7%, which is 10 basis points higher than forecast; however, the concern is where that growth has come from.
    • “Figures from the People’s Bank of China the same day showed that money supply growth was faster than expected, reaching levels last seen post 2008. New loans also rose by over $200bn, more than $50bn higher than economists’ estimates.”
    • Bottom line, “the reversion to state-led growth is unsustainable. Should China continue to shun reforms in favor of a quick fix, the short-term benefits of stabilized growth will be outweighed by the cost of persistent imbalances.”
    • The World Federation of Advertisers “estimates that between 10 and 30% of online advertising slots are never seen by consumers because of fraud, and forecasts that marketers could lose as much as $50bn a year by 2025 unless they take radical action. At that scale, the fraud would rank as one of the biggest sources of funds for criminal networks, even approaching the size of the market for some illegal drugs.”
    • “Global spending on online advertising has almost doubled in the past four years – reaching $159bn in 2015, according to research group eMarketer. This money underpins the internet economy and supports trillions of dollars of equity in media and technology.”
    • “Google, the biggest player in the online ad industry, generated revenues of $67bn from it last year.”
    • Bottom line, digital ad platforms and major buyers of online ads are emphatically building methods to track and prevent fraud and where they can and to the event that they can’t expect the federal government to step in.
  • Mark Heschmeyer of CoStar reported on Simon, WP Glimcher turning over the keys on two malls to their respective lenders.
    • Goes to show that just because a company is worth several billion dollars, doesn’t mean they pay back all their debts.
    • “While the overall retail property sector appears to be strengthening, a handful of loans for lower-quality shopping centers and malls financed at the height of the previous CRE cycle are coming due now and proving to be a thorn in the side of publicly traded REITs.”
    • “Simon Property Group and WP Glimcher both turned malls back over to the lenders this week, and Kimco Realty Corp. disclosed that it doesn’t expect one of its joint venture-owned malls will be able to refinance a loan set to come due this fall.”
    • “All three of the malls involved in the foreclosure actions were last financed in 2006 and securitized in mortgage backed bond conduits.”
    • As the saying goes, don’t hate the player, hate the game.

Special Reports

Graphics

FT – Do sovereign credit ratings still matter? 7/14

FT_Decline of AAA rating countries_7-14-16

FT_Declining government yields_7-14-16

FT – US oil rig count rises for third-straight week 7/15

FT_US oil rig count_7-15-16

FT – Auto sales and the oil price: the Great Unwinding continues beyondbrics – Paul Hodges 7/18

FT_Energy consumption in the US_7-18-16

Temporary work – How the 2% lives: Temping is on the increase, affecting temps and staff workers alike

Economist_US temporary employment_7-16-16

FT – Independent Chinese PMI gauge suspended indefinitely – Hudson Lockett 7/20

FT_China Minxin PMI vs official_7-20-16

Featured

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

Japan flirts with helicopter money. Gavyn Davies. Financial Times. 17 Jul. 2016.

“Whether or not they choose to admit it the Abe government is on the verge of becoming the first government of a major developed economy to monetize its government debt on a permanent basis since 1945.”

“There are many ways of defining helicopter money, but the essential feature is that it involves an increase in the budget deficit which is financed by a permanent increase in the central bank’s monetary base, not by the issuance of government debt.”

“This is different from quantitative easing, since QE involves the ‘temporary’ purchase of government debt, which is subsequently sold back into the market, at least in theory. And QE does not necessarily need to involve any increase in the budget deficit…”

While “the direct financing of a government deficit by the Bank of Japan is illegal, under Article 5 of the Public Finance Act.” It looks like the government is coming up with a work-a-round.

One method proposed is the issuance of perpetual bonds “…which basically involves the central bank printing money and giving it to the government to spend as it chooses. There would be no buyers of this debt in the open market, but it could presumably sit on the BoJ balance sheet forever at face value.”

Thing is, that “there is no doubt that the BoJ is now monetizing much of the increase in government debt needed to fund ¥10 trillion fiscal stimulus planned by the government. Since the market fully expects the BoJ’s debt purchases to be permanent, it is helicopter money by any other name.”

Why do this when the labor market is at close to full employment?  Basically the inflation expectations in Japan are REALLY low and the BoJ is seeking to reduce its vulnerability to “…any new deflationary shock, from China for example.”

The key point that helicopter money will confer is that debt sustainability (which is why the sales tax increases have been/are being implemented) is not the priority. Rather that Japan will live with whatever debt level it takes to achieve inflation.

“The key problem is that it might restore inflation far too well. It is very difficult to calibrate the amount of helicopter money that is needed to hit the inflation target.”

Expect the delicate dance to continue, which may fail to get Japan out of its deflationary rut.

Immigration and Brexit. Jeremy Grantham. GMO. Jul. 2016.

While this is piece is a commentary on immigration and the Brexit, I think it does a good job of presenting the scale of the immigration challenge that the EU is facing.  I will only highlight two specific items (the full commentary is a good read) for brevity.  1) Grantham’s stance on the markets “despite brutal and widespread asset overpricing, there are still no signs of an equity bubble about to break…” and 2) some of his thoughts on immigration to the EU.

“The truth about immigration to the EU, in my view, is bitter. As covered in earlier quarterlies, I believe Africa and parts of the Near East are beginning to fail as civilized states.”

“They are failing under the pressure of populations that have multiplied by 5 to 10 times since I was born; climate for growing food that is deteriorating at an accelerating rate; degraded soils; insufficient unpolluted water; bad governance; and lack of infrastructure. Country after country is tilting into rolling failure.”

“This is producing in these failing states increasing numbers of desperate people, mainly young men, willing to risk money and their lives to attempt an entry into the EU.”

“For the best example of the non-compute intractability of this problem, consider Nigeria. It had 21 million people when I was born and now has 187 million. In a recent poll, 40% of Nigerians (75 million) said they would like to emigrate, mostly to the UK (population of 64 million). Difficult. But the official UN estimate for Nigeria’s population in 2100 is over 800 million! (They still have a fertility rate of six children per woman). Without discussing the likelihood of ever reaching 800 million, I suspect you will understand the problem at hand. Impossible.”

“I wrote two years ago that this immigration pressure would stress Europe and that the first victim would be Western Europe’s liberal traditions. Well, this is happening in real time as they say, far faster than I expected. It will only get worse as hundreds of thousands of refugees becomes millions.”

Hong Kong: One country, two economies. Ben Bland. Financial Times. 19 Jul. 2016.

Integration of Hong Kong with the Chinese mainland continues to be a delicate issue that is being stressed by a slowdown in the Chinese economy.

As Lily Lo, an economist at DBS, a Singaporean bank, put it “Hong Kong is really dependent on China and external trade. The Chinese economy is slowing down and this is a structural slowdown so we don’t think there will be a V-shaped recovery any time soon. There’s no quick fix.”

Further, as China has opened its economy more and more, Hong Kong is no longer the only or primary route to do business with China.  “Its container port, which was the world’s busiest in the 2000s, has fallen to fifth place, overtaken by Shanghai, Shenzhen and Ningbo.”

“Mr. Tsang (John Tsang, the financial secretary of Hong Kong) and Li Ka-shing, the billionaire whose interests in Hong Kong stretch from ports to property and retail to telecoms, have both warned that the economic outlook is worse than that faced during the Sars epidemic in 2003, which killed 299 people and prompted the last sharp slowdown.”

“Chow Tai Fook, the biggest jeweler in the world by market capitalization, is seen as a bellwether for mainland demand for Hong Kong’s luxury goods. Its sales in Hong Kong and Macau fell on an annualized basis by 22% in the three months to the end of June.”

FT_Hong Kong retail sales_7-19-16 

“Yu Kam-hung, managing director of investment properties at CBRE, an estate agent, predicts that prices could fall up to 10% over the next year, and they are already 10 to 15% off their peak of 18 months ago.”

Then of course it doesn’t help that “there is a deep-seated animosity to (Chinese) mainlanders in Hong Kong. So why would they want to go somewhere they are not welcome when there are so many other choices.” – Shaun Rein, China Market Research in Shanghai

ECB faces QE dilemma after Brexit vote. Claire Jones and Elaine Moore. Financial Times. 20 Jul. 2016.

It wasn’t long after the Brexit referendum vote that government bond yields in the safest markets dropped even further (see graphic on Sovereign credit ratings above).  Problem is that the current structure in place within the European Central Bank (ECB) is reaching its limits.

Currently the ECB is buying €80bn a month in European member country debt to stimulate the overall European economy (aka Quantitative Easing or QE).

Well, “under current rules, the scale of purchases under QE match the size of a member state’s economy, meaning that Germany’s Bundesbank must buy around €10bn of government debt each month – more than any other central bank in the region.”

“But because of the recent bond market shifts, more than 50% of German bonds previously eligible for QE have now become too expensive for the Bundesbank to purchase, yielding less than the ECB’s self-imposed floor of minus 0.4%, according to data from Bank of America Merrill Lynch.”

FT_ECB looking for more bond options_7-20-16

So, now the ECB is essentially faced with three primary options (there are other options – see “Five ways to change the rules within the article).

  1. Scrap the minus 0.4% floor. The “economists at Goldman Sachs calculate (this) would buy the ECB the most time, enabling the Bundesbank to keep buying for up to another 18 months.”
    • “The option, however, would expose the eurozone’s central banks to heavy losses, which they have until now avoided because the minus 0.4% floor mirrors the ECB’s deposit rate charged on banks’ reserves.”
  1. “Scrap the rule that bond purchases match the size of a member states’ economy.”
    • “But such a shift would open the way to buying more bonds from the most indebted countries, and would so be the most controversial of the fixes. Nowhere would it attract more criticism in Germany, where the change would be viewed as a bailout by the back door for profligate member states.”
  1. End QE.

Don’t know if the EU or the world is ready for that.

Other Interesting Articles

Bloomberg Businessweek

The Economist

Bloomberg – Blackstone Said to Plan Invitation Homes IPO for First Half 2017 7/17

CoStar – Internet Commerce Drives Strongest Surge in Demand for US Industrial Space Since 2001 7/20

FT – The chronic spin that blights China’s economy 7/14

FT – New wealth management products power Anbang and rivals 7/17

FT – Major cities drive China property price gains 7/17

FT – Trump leads the west’s flight from dignity 7/17

FT – Apple Watch sales fall 55% as consumers mark time on category 7/21

InvestmentNews – REIT with a twist – and a high commission – is new darling of independent brokers-dealers 7/14

NYT – The Risk of Building on Real Estate Funds’ Profitable Past 7/15

NYT – Why Land and Homes Actually Tend to Be Disappointing Investments 7/15

NYT – Vast Purge in Turkey as Thousands Are Detained in Post-Coup Backlash 7/18

WSJ – Surprise: The Economy Is Looking Much Better 7/14

WSJ – China Economy Tilts Further in Wrong Direction 7/15

WSJ – Japan and Helicopter Money: Fan Blades Aren’t Turning Just Yet 7/17

WSJ – Big Chinese Developers Push Into Hong Kong Market 7/19