Tag: Indonesia

February 27, 2018

Perspective

Visual Capitalist – How Money is Spent by Different Income Groups – Jeff Desjardins 2/25

WSJ – Daily Shot: U.S. Racial / Ethnic Demographics 2/26

WEF – Business Insider: Gun control in four countries around the world – Chris Weller 2/21

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Wealth of Common Sense – Now & Then – Ben Carlson 2/25

Bloomberg Businessweek – In Exile, Bannon Sounds the #MeToo Alarm – Joshua Green 2/13

  • “He sees female empowerment as the next great political backlash, which means trouble for Republicans.”

Economist – Why Cape Town is running out of water 2/15

  • “The politics of drought.”

The Registry – Is the 1031 Exchange Panacea or Placebo? – John McNellis 2/26

Markets / Economy

WSJ – Have We Seen Peak Prices for Smartphones – Dan Gallagher 2/25

WSJ – Playing With $100 Billion, Warren Buffett Is Giant Trader of U.S. Treasury Bills – Nicole Friedman and Daniel Kruger 2/23

Real Estate

FT – JPMorgan plans to build massive HQ tower in New York’s Park Ave – Ben McLannahan 2/21

  • “JPMorgan Chase has given a big boost to the old business heart of midtown Manhattan, agreeing a deal to tear down its 60-year-old Park Avenue headquarters and replace it with one of the tallest towers in New York City.”
  • “The biggest US bank by assets had been considering a move from its 270 Park Avenue location to the west side of Manhattan, as an anchor tenant of a new development known as Hudson Yards. But on Wednesday the bank said that it had struck a deal with Mayor Bill de Blasio to stay put, moving staff from several buildings in the Park Avenue area into a new, 2.5m sq ft tower.” 
  • “At 70 to 75 floors, it should be the tallest bank building in the country upon completion in 2024, topping Bank of America’s 55-floor tower a few streets away, on the north-west corner of Bryant Park. It will also surpass BofA’s 60-floor headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, which looms over the 42-floor Wells Fargo Tower.” 
  • “Stuart Saft, head of the New York real estate practice at Holland & Knight, described the deal as a ‘fabulous’ one for midtown Manhattan, likening the threat from Hudson Yards to the development of Canary Wharf in London in the late 1980s. Already, white-shoe law firms such as Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy and Boies Schiller Flexner have agreed to move to the complex emerging by the Hudson River.” 
  • “JPMorgan will expand its floor area by buying unused development credits, known as ‘air rights’, from landmark properties in the area such as St Patrick’s Cathedral, St Bartholomew’s Church and Central Synagogue.”

SF Chronicle – Google’s Bay Area real estate empire equivalent to 14 Salesforce towers – Wendy Lee 2/23

WSJ – Tough Start for Housing – Justin Lahart 2/21

  • “Homes sales slowed in January, even before higher rates and the tax law hit the market.”

Finance

FT – Private equity ‘secondaries’ deals hit record $58bn – Chris Flood 2/25

FT – Blockchain ‘could save asset managers $2.7bn a year’ – Attracta Mooney 2/21

  • “Blockchain could save asset managers $2.7bn a year if the investment industry shunned the laborious manual practices involved in buying and selling funds in favor of using online ledger technology, according to research published on Thursday.”
  • “Technology company Calastone said blockchain, which is a giant online ledger, could revolutionize the processes involved in buying and selling funds, generating large savings for investors in the process.”
  • “It estimated that based on daily trade volumes of funds in the UK, Ireland, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Australia, £1.9bn — or $2.7bn — in savings was possible.”
  • “Earlier this year, BNP Paribas Asset Management said it had successfully completed a full end-to-end fund transaction test using blockchain technology. The project involved a tie-up between BNP Paribas Securities Services’ blockchain program, Fund Link, and FundsDLT, a blockchain-based decentralized platform for fund transaction processing.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Goldman Sachs – ICOs outpacing Venture Capital 2/26

Asia – excluding China and Japan

FT – Top Indonesian bank eyes $50bn of assets stashed in Singapore – Wataru Suzuki 2/25

  • “Indonesians declared more than 750tn rupiah ($52.5bn) worth of assets in Singapore during Indonesia’s tax amnesty program — which gave immunity from prosecution to those who came clean about untaxed wealth and paid a small penalty — ended last March. That is more than the combined total they declared in the next four top destinations — British Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands and Australia.”

China

Economist – China is trying new ways of skimming housing-market froth 2/15

  • “The party wants people to rent.”

FT – Chinese embrace digital red envelopes for lunar new year – Louise Lucas 2/21

  • “Tencent, a Chinese technology group with an equity value greater than Facebook’s, said 768m people sent and received hongbao, the red packets stuffed with cash, over Weixin Pay, its third-party payments business, during the six-day holiday period. Typically people will hand out scores or even hundreds of hongbao: according to Tencent, one person sent 2,723 while another received 3,429.”

South America

Economist – Fending off the flood from Venezuela 2/17

  • “The rise in migration has alarmed Latin American governments.”
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December 22, 2017

Perspective

WEF – In 2020 Bitcoin will consume more power than the world does today – Adam Jezard 12/15

  • “Can the world afford Bitcoin? The cryptocurrency is enjoying something of a resurgence as investment and central banks weighed its benefits and caused its value to balloon.”
  • “But generating Bitcoin requires a truly staggering amount of energy. The electricity used in a single Bitcoin transaction, for instance, could power a house for a month.”
  • “And bitcoin mining (the process of generating a bitcoin) now consumes the same amount of electricity every year as Denmark – 33TWh, according to one recent report.”
  • Bitcoin mining’s energy use is reportedly growing at a rate of 25% per month. At that rate of growth, it will consume as much electricity as the US in 2019.”
  • And by 2020, bitcoin mining could be consuming the same amount of electricity every year as is currently used by the entire world.
  • “A new chain is created every 10 minutes or so and, according to a Business Insider article, the use of complicated and energy-intensive algorithms are part of a deliberate ploy to guarantee a degree of exclusivity.”
  • “The article quotes ING economist Teunis Brosens as saying a single Bitcoin transaction uses 200 kilowatt hours. ‘This number needs some context,’ he says, ‘200 kWh is enough to run over 200 washing cycles. In fact, it’s enough to run my entire home over four weeks, which consumes about 45 kWh per week costing €39 of electricity (at current Dutch consumer prices)’.”
  • “Bitcoin also uses a lot more power when compared with other transaction systems. A typical Visa card payment, for example, requires 0.01 kWh while another cryptocurrency, Ethereum, uses 37 kWh.”
  • “However, although Bitcoin is one of the worst examples of our profligate use of fossil fuels to create wealth, it is not alone. The whole digital world relies on power generation to run the data centers at the heart of the modern economy.”
  • “According to 2013 statistics, Google’s data centers used enough electricity to consistently power 200,000 homes, while the amount of power needed to run a large data center would run a small US town. And as we move to driverless cars and other data-intensive ‘internet of things’ technologies, the demand for energy will only increase.”
  • “It seems that businesses around the world are looking to a digital future while governments are talking of a more sustainable one: how to achieve both goals at the same time needs to be the subject of urgent discussion.”

US Census Bureau – Idaho is Nation’s Fastest-Growing State 12/20

WSJ – Daily Shot: CRFB.org – Largest US Tax cuts as percentage of GDP 12/21

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

Economist – Free Exchange: A decade after it hit, what was learnt from the Great Recession? 12/16

Economist – Leaders: Bitcoin is a speculative asset but not yet a systemic risk 12/16

Economist – Leaders: America’s long-running economic expansion 12/16

NYT – Congress Refuses to Do Right by Children’s Health Care – Editorial Board 12/20

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg – U.S. Treasury Sales Are About to Double 2018. Who’s Buying? – Liz McCormick and Katherine Greifeld 12/19

  • “With the U.S. about to sell the most debt in eight years, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin may find himself relying on a buyer base that needs to see higher yields before loading up.”
  • “Government debt sales are set to more than double in 2018, lifting net issuance to $1.3 trillion, the most since 2010, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. estimates. With the Federal Reserve shrinking its bond holdings and deficits poised to swell even before taking into account the tax overhaul, all signs point to higher financing costs.”
  • “The challenge for Mnuchin is that some analysts predict buying by central banks — a pillar of support this year — may fade, in part as international-reserve growth stabilizes. In the view of Credit Suisse Group AG, that will put the onus on more price-sensitive buyers, particularly a group that the Fed classifies as including households, hedge funds, private-equity firms and trusts for wealthy individuals.”
  • “By Credit Suisse’s calculation, with the Fed pulling back and issuance surging, the slice of debt sales available for price-elastic buyers to absorb will rise to about 60% by the end of 2019, from 54% now. It would be their biggest share since the early 2000s.”
  • “The Treasury said last month that it expects to unveil bigger coupon auctions in February for the first time since 2009, and dealers see issuance rising for years to come. With entitlement costs heading higher, the U.S. debt burden was already projected to increase by $10 trillion in the next decade. Now the tax overhaul could boost the deficit by $1 trillion in the period.”
  • “JPMorgan’s 2018 net issuance tally of $1.3 trillion includes $847 billion of coupon debt, ballooning from an estimated $409 billion this year amid a darkening fiscal backdrop. The federal deficit may exceed $1 trillion by fiscal 2020, from about $666 billion in 2017, according to the most dire estimates by primary dealers. Meanwhile, the Fed could roll off about $250 billion of Treasuries in 2018.”
  • “The catch is that demand from China, which with almost $1.2 trillion of U.S. government debt is America’s biggest foreign creditor, may be about to ebb. The bulk of China’s buildup came as it boosted foreign-exchange reserves to help offset a strengthening yuan. But some forecasters see yuan stability in 2018, meaning limited need for currency intervention.”
  • “The wave of supply and the questions about demand come amid expectations for higher yields with the prospect of quicker U.S. growth and inflation. The Fed projects three more rate hikes in 2018, and firms including Goldman Sachs Group Inc. predict 10-year yields will rise to 3% in a year, from 2.46% now.”
  • “’There should be some overall repricing of yields higher, albeit modestly, on the back of the rising supply picture,’ said Subadra Rajappa, head of U.S. rates strategy at Societe Generale. ‘The amount of the supply increase will be quite large, and it’s not clear how much support is going to come from overseas’.’’

Finance

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bitcoin 12/20

  • “The Bitcoin rally has stalled for now, with prices falling to pre-futures launch levels.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: Fintech Startups Seek to Shake Up Money-Transfer Industry – Corinne Abrams 12/19

Construction

The Atlantic – The Weird, Wooden Future of Skyscrapers – Amanda Kolson Hurley – Dec. 2017

Asia – excluding China and Japan

NYT – Jakarta Is Sinking So Fast, It Could End Up Underwater – Michael Kimmelman 12/21

  • “Experts say Jakarta has only a decade to halt its sinking.”

India

Bloomberg Quint – Deepest India Bond Rout in 17 Years Shows No Sign of Abating – Kartik Goyal 12/21

South America

WSJ – Venezuela’s Brutal Crime Crackdown: Executions, Machetes and 8,292 Dead – Juan Forero and Maolis Castro 12/21

  • I imagine it will take two generations to recoup what they’ve lost from bad politics – if ever.

October 13 – October 19, 2017

The corporate drug industry has had many friends in Washington D.C. until now… Amazon is taking over the package room of your apartment building. China’s property boom unlikely to end anytime soon.

Headlines

Economist – The Philippine army recaptures a city seized by Muslim insurgents 10/17. After 5 months, the Philippine forces of President Rodrigo Duterte took back the city of Marawi on the island of Mindanao.

FT – Wanda golf courses closed in China austerity push 10/15. The two courses are in the $3bn Changbaishan resort in Fusong. The why – because new courses were banned in 2004; however, many developers were able to work their way around the rules…until now.

NYT – Kobe Steel Problems May Be More Widespread, Raising Fears on High-Speed Rail 10/12. So about that falsified data…we…didn’t…quite…tell…you…about…all…of…it…sorry.

WSJ – Nordstrom Family Suspends Effort to Take Retailer Private 10/16. That’s how strong the narrative is right now against the retail industry, even the Nordstrom family is having difficulty finding investors to fund the debt of the acquisition (despite the world being awash in cash and the tight spreads on high yield products).

WSJ – Hedge Fund Maverick Capital Debuts 0% Performance Fees 10/19. After losing 10% in 2016 and being down 2% so far this year (mind you that the market is up over the same time period), Maverick is offering some investors a 0% performance fee and 1% management fee on new money for its “recovery shares”.

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

A Teachable Moment – Generation Kill – Anthony Isola 10/16

  • “Young people are killing their chances of building wealth.”

A Wealth of Common Sense – How to Invest At All-Time Highs – Ben Carlson 10/18

  • “The S&P 500 Index has recorded more than 150 new all-time highs since eclipsing its previous peak in late March of 2013. In 2017 alone, there have been 30 new record highs through the end of last week. To put this into perspective, there were only 13 new highs for the entire decade of the 2000s.”

BuzzFeed – Watching Harvey Weinstein Fall, Trump’s Accusers Feel Frustrated – Kendall Taggart & Jessica Garrison 10/14

Economist – Crafty app developers are ripping off big-name brands 10/12

  • Be careful which apps you load onto your phones.

FT – Under Xi Jinping, China is turning back to dictatorship – Jamil Anderlini 10/10

  • “The rejection of ‘western’ political systems has been made easier recently by what the Chinese see as the ludicrous buffoonery of Donald Trump and, to a lesser extent, the self-inflicted damage of Brexit and EU infighting.”
  • “As a top foreign policy adviser recently told one of my colleagues: ‘Trump never talks about democracy or American leadership or liberty — we should not be so stupid to worship things that in the western world are now in doubt.’”
  • Be cautious in your use of ‘private’ messaging services such as WeChat. Big brother is watching.

FT – Hollywood’s masculinity problem – the full picture – Kate Muir 10/12

FT – The implications of shelving the Aramco IPO – Nick Butler 10/14

FT – The disruptive power of renewables – Nick Butler 10/15

NYT – Stranded by Maria, Puerto Ricans Get Creative to Survive – Caitlin Dickerson 10/16

NYT – Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded – Barry Meier 10/17

  • Another example of the power of peer pressure and social learning.

Project Syndicate – The Psychology of Superstar Sex Predators – Raj Persaud & Peter Bruggen 10/19

The Guardian – Meet the new class traitors who are coming out as rich – Alissa Quart 10/16

The New Yorker – Carl Ichan’s Failed Raid on Washington – Patrick Radden Keefe 8/28

Perspective

How Much – The Largest Industry In Each State by GDP – Raul 10/9

WEF – Tech Insider: World Forecasted Population Growth – Gerald Chirinda 10/11

How Much – Can you Retire on $1 Million? Here is How Long You Can Survive in Every State… – Raul 10/12

Top 5 Friendly States for Retirement

  1. Mississippi  – $1 million lasts 25 yrs 6 months
  2. Arkansas – $1 million lasts 25 yrs
  3. Tennessee – $1 million lasts 24 yrs 5 months
  4. Kansas – $1million lasts 24 yrs 5 months
  5. Oklahoma – $1million lasts 24 yrs 4 months

Top 5 least Friendly States for Retirement

  1. Hawaii – $1 million lasts 13 yrs 1 months
  2. District of Columbia – $1 million lasts 14 yrs 2 months
  3. California – $ 1million lasts 15 yrs
  4. Oregon – $1 million lasts 16 yrs 7 months
  5. New York – $1 million lasts 16 yrs 7 months

VC – The Global Leaders in R&D Spending, by Country and Company – Jeff Desjardins 10/13

Pew – Share of counties where whites are a minority has doubled since 1980 – Drew Desilver 7/1/15

How Much – Best US Cities for Families to Save Money – Raul 10/16

The Best Places for Families to Save Money

  1. Spokane, WA; +$83,400
  2. Henderson, NV; +$59,100
  3. North Las Vegas, NV; +$56,600
  4. Las Vegas, NV; +$55,900
  5. Reno, NV; +$48,800

The Worst Places for Families to Save Money

  1. San Francisco, CA; -$62,300
  2. New York, NY; -$54,100
  3. Boston, MA; -$34,000
  4. Washington DC; -$22,200
  5. Philadelphia, PA; -$9,100

VC – How Many Hours Americans Need to Work to Pay Their Mortgage – Jeff Desjardins 10/17

The Republic – Phoenix is getting hotter – and so is the danger – Brandon Loomis 10/18

Pew – Amid decline in international adoptions to U.S., boys outnumber girls for the first time – Abby Budiman and Mark Hugo Lopez 10/17

Bloomberg – Smartphones Are Killing Americans, But Nobody’s Counting – Kyle Stock, Lance Lambert, and David Ingold 10/17

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg Businessweek- Dollar General Hits a Gold Mine in Rural America 10/11

Bloomberg – The Glut of Private Jets Means ‘Insane’ Bargains for Buyers 10/8

Bloomberg – One of the Biggest ICOs Yet Crashes Before It Even Launched 10/19

WSJ – This Market’s Running on Hope, Not Profits 10/12

WSJ – Daily Shot: Bitcoin 10/17

Bloomberg – JPMorgan, Citigroup Expect More Credit-Card Users to Default – Hugh Son, Dakin Campbell and Jennifer Surane 10/12

Real Estate

Bloomberg Businessweek – Distressed Investors Are Already Buying Houston Homes for 40 Cents on the Dollar 10/12

WSJ – Global Investors Pour Billions Into Hudson Yards in Major Bull Market Bet 10/17

WSJ – How Some Malls Manage to Stay Alive Years After Losing Their Mojo 10/17

WSJ – In London, Some Home Buyers Can Only Stay a Few Years 10/19

WSJ – Daily Shot: John Burns RE Consulting – US Housing Supply Overview 10/17

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED – Multifamily Housing Units Under Construction 10/19

Finance

Economist – Buttonwood: The finance industry ten years after the crisis 10/14

WSJ – Daily Shot: Commonwealth of Puerto Rico GO Bond 10/15

  • “Puerto Rico’s general obligations (GO) debt keeps tumbling. The 8%-coupon bond ‘maturing’ in 2035 is trading at 33 cents on the dollar.”

WSJ – As Edward Jones Tops $1 Trillion in Assets, It Seeks Street Cred – Lisa Beilfuss 10/16

WSJ – Daily Shot: Corporate High-Yield Bond Spreads 10/18

Environment / Science

Economist – Offshore wind farms will change life in the sea 10/12

Bloomberg – There’s a Climate Bomb Under Your Feet 10/6

NYT – LIGO Detects Fierce Collision of Neutron Stars for the First Time – Dennis Overbye 10/16

Project Syndicate – Hurricanes’ Unnatural Toll 10/13

WSJ – Your Next Home Could Run on Batteries 10/15

Economist – Why the North American west is on fire 10/13

  • “The west of the United States has endured some 50,000 wildfires this year, and over 8.5m acres (3.4m hectares) have burned. Northern California has suffered in particular recently as flames have swept through parts of the landscape, killing at least 23 people and devastating wineries. In Canada, as of August 30th (the latest available figure), 7.4m acres had burned.”
  • “Ernesto Alvarado of the University of Washington, who specializes in large fires, says that historically portions of the forests of America’s north-west would burn every five to 20 years. In many areas, however, these fires have been suppressed for over a century by the needs of loggers and residents. Over time, undergrowth, saplings and dead trees accumulate, creating conditions in which a fire can spread very rapidly. Furthermore, a recent reduction in logging has led to an even closer packing together of trees. ‘To maintain good forest health in many of these forests, you need fire,’ says Dr. Alvarado. While some burns are prescribed, they are a fraction of what is required. In Washington, for instance, between 2001 and 2014 the Forest Service burned just 2% of the state’s 9.3m acres of forest.”
  • “In terms of scale, 2017 is not actually an outlier. In the past decade, wildfires have burned an average of 6.6m acres each year in the United States and 6.2m acres in Canada. The particular problem this year is the dispersed nature of the blazes.”
  • “The current state of the north-western forests, combined with the effects of climate change, increase the likelihood that wildfires will be worse in future… Little can be done to reduce the danger without a dramatic increase in prescribed burns, and these are unlikely as people continue to move into forested areas. One further consequence: the smoke and ash that drift across densely inhabited areas affect human health, too. A study by the universities of Harvard and Columbia of slash-and-burn fires in Indonesia in 2015 blamed the fires for 100,000 additional deaths and 500,000 injuries in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire: this year’s haze presages years of potentially more ferocious burns.”

Asia – excluding China and Japan

NYT – U.S. Stood By as Indonesia Killed a Half-Million People, Papers Show 10/18

WSJ Video – Inside the Philippines’ Bloody War Against Islamist Militants 10/18

Canada

WSJ – Canada Imposes Tougher Mortgage Rules Effective 2018 – Paul Vieira and Vipal Monga 10/17

  • “Canada’s banking watchdog unveiled tougher mortgage-financing rules that take effect on Jan. 1 that real estate watchers and economists say could dramatically slow house buying and borrowing.”
  • “The most notable measure is a provision that would require all prospective buyers—even those with a down payment of over 20%—to undergo a so-called stress test before a bank can issue a loan. Previously, only buyers with a down payment of less than 20% had to undergo a stress test. Under the stress test, prospective buyers would have to qualify for a mortgage at a rate at whichever is greater: either 2 percentage points above the negotiated rate, or the Bank of Canada’s five-year benchmark rate. The central bank’s five-year rate stands at 4.89%. The regulator originally proposed the test just cover two percentages point above the negotiated mortgage.”
  • “Robert McLister, founder of the Canadian mortgage-rate comparison site RateSpy.com, said the new rules target the fastest-growing part of the mortgage market—uninsured mortgages—and could affect one out of every six prospective home buyers. In Canada, mortgage insurance is mandatory unless the buyer has a down payment of 20% and over.”
  • “’This is easily the most groundshaking mortgage rule of all time, and that’s not an understatement,’ Mr. McLister said in an interview.”
  • “Economists said the tougher mortgage regulations will further hit a softening housing market. Recent data from the Canadian Real Estate Association indicated unadjusted sales in September were 11% below year-ago levels, and price growth has slowed considerably, especially in the Toronto market after the introduction of a foreign-buyer’s tax in southern Ontario.”
  • “TD Bank’s economics team said it anticipates the measures will depress housing demand by 5% to 10% once fully implemented.”

China

FT – China’s $150bn debt-for-equity swap shows signs of fizzling 10/18

WEF – Deloitte: China will grow old before it gets rich – Alex Gray 10/6

WSJ – China’s Greatest Challenge – Anjani Trivedi 10/16

  • Debt…

  • NBFI = Nonbank Financial Institutions

FT – China residential property sales see first fall in 21/2 years – Hudson Lockett 10/18

  • Okay, but look at the volatility. Geez.

Japan

WSJ – Corporate Scandals Say More About Japan Than the Nikkei 10/12

WSJ – Daily Shot: Moody’s Investor Service – Decline of Japan’s Working Age Population 10/18

Middle East

Reuters – Saudi needs Aramco billions as recession slows austerity drive 10/19

FT – Qatar’s wealth fund brings $20bn home to ease impact of embargo – Andrew England and Simeon Kerr 10/18

  • “Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund has brought more than $20bn back onshore to cushion the impact of a regional embargo imposed on the Gulf state.”
  • “Ali Shareef al-Emadi, Qatar’s finance minister, told the Financial Times that Qatar Investment Authority deposits were being used to create a ‘buffer’ and provide liquidity in the banking system after the gas-rich state suffered capital outflows of more than $30bn.”
  • “That followed the decision by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to cut diplomatic and transport links with the nation in June. The move has triggered the Gulf’s worst crisis in years.”
  • “Moody’s, the rating agency, said last month that Qatar had injected $38.5bn into its economy since the crisis erupted.”

WSJ – Daily Shot: BMI Research  – Saudi Arabia GDP Change Year-over-Year 10/17

South America

FT – IMF crunches the numbers for possible Venezuela rescue 10/15

Featured

WP – The drug industry’s triumph over the DEA – Scott Higham and Lenny Bernstein 10/15

  • Let it be noted the power of this reporting resulted in Rep. Tom Marino withdrawing from consideration to lead the Office of National Drug Control Policy and it appears that the public is more aware of this problem…
  • “In April 2016, at the height of the deadliest drug epidemic in U.S. history, Congress effectively stripped the Drug Enforcement Administration of its most potent weapon against large drug companies suspected of spilling prescription narcotics onto the nation’s streets.”
  • “By then, the opioid war had claimed 200,000 lives, more than three times the number of U.S. military deaths in the Vietnam War. Overdose deaths continue to rise. There is no end in sight.”
  • “A handful of members of Congress, allied with the nation’s major drug distributors, prevailed upon the DEA and the Justice Department to agree to a more industry-friendly law, undermining efforts to stanch the flow of pain pills, according to an investigation by The Washington Post and ’60 Minutes.’ The DEA had opposed the effort for years.”
  • “The law was the crowning achievement of a multifaceted campaign by the drug industry to weaken aggressive DEA enforcement efforts against drug distribution companies that were supplying corrupt doctors and pharmacists who peddled narcotics to the black market. The industry worked behind the scenes with lobbyists and key members of Congress, pouring more than a million dollars into their election campaigns.”
  • “The chief advocate of the law that hobbled the DEA was Rep. Tom Marino, a Pennsylvania Republican who is now President Trump’s nominee to become the nation’s next drug czar. Marino spent years trying to move the law through Congress. It passed after Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) negotiated a final version with the DEA.”
  • “For years, some drug distributors were fined for repeatedly ignoring warnings from the DEA to shut down suspicious sales of hundreds of millions of pills, while they racked up billions of dollars in sales.”
  • “The new law makes it virtually impossible for the DEA to freeze suspicious narcotic shipments from the companies, according to internal agency and Justice Department documents and an independent assessment by the DEA’s chief administrative law judge in a soon-to-be-published law review article. That powerful tool had allowed the agency to immediately prevent drugs from reaching the street.”
  • “Political action committees representing the industry contributed at least $1.5 million to the 23 lawmakers who sponsored or co-sponsored four versions of the bill, including nearly $100,000 to Marino and $177,000 to Hatch. Overall, the drug industry spent $106 million lobbying Congress on the bill and other legislation between 2014 and 2016, according to lobbying reports.”

WSJ – Amazon and Big Apartment Landlords Strike Deals on Package Delivery – Laura Kusisto 10/17

  • “Amazon.com Inc. is taking over the package rooms of some of the country’s largest apartment landlords, in a move that could help consolidate its control over how goods make it from the warehouse floor to the front door.”
  • “Amazon has signed contracts with apartment owners and managers representing more than 850,000 units across the U.S. to begin installing Amazon locker systems in their buildings, according to the landlords. Amazon has commitments to install the lockers in thousands of properties, many before the peak holiday shopping season, according to a person familiar with the matter.”
  • “Several of the nation’s largest operators, AvalonBay Communities Inc., Equity Residential , Greystar and Bozzuto Group, have signed up, company executives said.
  • For several years, landlords have struggled with how to manage the mountains of packages they receive each day. Staff at larger buildings end up devoting several hours a day sorting mail, while boxes are piled in every spare cranny. Most say it is the single largest problem they face.”
  • “The locker program, dubbed Hub by Amazon, will accept packages from all carriers and not just for purchases made on Amazon. They will be open only to residents, not the wider community. Residents will receive a notification when they have a package and a code allowing them to open one of the slots.”
  • “Apartment owners pay about $10,000 to $20,000 to purchase the lockers initially and don’t pay a monthly fee. Most landlords said they don’t plan to charge residents initially but to offer it as an amenity. They could also make back some of that cost in savings on staff labor.”
  • “Karen Hollinger, vice president of corporate initiatives at AvalonBay, which has an ownership interest in about 80,000 apartments, said the average apartment community in the company’s portfolio receives some 1,000 packages a month, up from 650 a year ago. She said AvalonBay has seen a 20% to 30% annual increase in the volume of packages it receives for the past four years.”
  • “Amazon has been searching for ways to make deliveries cheaper. It has recruited a fleet of citizen drivers via its Flex program, which allows people to drop off packages from their cars. It has developed its own air and cargo networks, too.”
  • “The most expensive leg of any delivery is known as the last mile: getting a package to the doorstep. Amazon already has added lockers throughout the U.S., including an announcement that it is rolling them out at its newly acquired Whole Foods stores.”

FT – Chinese property boom props up Xi’s hopes for the economy – Tom Hancock & Gabriel Wildau 10/18

  • “As China’s Communist party elite gather in Beijing this week to select its top leaders, President Xi Jinping has benefited from the strong recent performance of the economy, which is poised for its first year-on-year acceleration in growth since 2010. On Thursday China reported that gross domestic product grew 6.8% in the third quarter, ahead of Beijing’s full-year target.”
  • “That rebound owes much to the confidence of homebuyers. Housing prices and construction starts rebounded from a slump in 2014-15, boosting overall business investment and driving demand for output from China’s huge manufacturing sector.”
  • “The property sector has been given a helping hand. Urged on by Beijing, 38% of all bank loans issued in the 12 months to August were home mortgages, according to official data, and local governments purchased 18% of all residential floor space sold last year as part of a drive to provide affordable housing, according to estimates by E-House China Research Institute.”
  • “The result has been another heady boom in construction. Rome was not built in a day, but based on residential floor area completed last year, China built the equivalent of a new Rome about every six weeks.”
  • “With the surge in housing investment has come a round of questions about a potential bubble in the market and the implications for the long-term health of China’s economy.”
  • “Some economists and investors warn that short-term growth from the latest housing boom has come at a cost: inflating a property bubble whose eventual bursting will inflict great pain. A senior Chinese legislator recently warned in unusually blunt terms that the economy has been ‘kidnapped’ by property.” 
  • “But others insist that fears of a bubble are overstated. On this view, economic fundamentals justify substantial investment in housing, especially in inland cities where development still lags far behind wealthy coastal areas. These more sanguine observers also note that outrageous price levels for Chinese apartments are mainly restricted to the megacities like Beijing and Shanghai.” 
  • “The stakes in this debate are high. Chinese residential property is arguably the world’s most important asset market. The sector drives global commodity prices, making the difference between growth and stagnation for resource exporters like Australia and Brazil.” 
  • “’It’s never wrong to express worry over China’s housing market,’ says Larry Hu, China economist for Macquarie Securities in Hong Kong. ‘But it’s interesting to consider why the housing sector has become the Bermuda Triangle for economic forecasters. So many smart people have made wrong predictions about it.’”
  • “The leading claim of the housing bears is that after a 15-year construction boom, China has built most of the housing it needs to meet fundamental demand. On this view, investors speculating on price gains, not families seeking shelter, now drive the market.”
  • “’People buy property not because they like the property, but because the price is rising,’ says Ning Zhu, professor at the Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance and author of China’s Guaranteed Bubble. ‘It’s this panic that if they don’t buy now they will never be able to afford it.’” 
  • “Central to this narrative is the notion of ‘ghost cities’ — huge blocks of empty apartments where expected demand never materialized.” 
  • “In Mr. Xi’s speech at the opening of the congress on Wednesday, he repeated his mantra that ‘houses are for living in, not for speculation’.”
  • “Yet even in major cities, evidence suggests that there are a substantial number of empty flats held for investment purposes. A survey by FT Confidential Research, an independent research service owned by the Financial Times, found that 32% of families own at least one home that is vacant.” 
  • “An estimated 50m homes, or 22% of the total urban housing stock, were vacant in 2013, according to the most recent data from the China Household Finance Survey led by Li Gan, economics professor at Texas A&M University.” 
  • “Further underpinning the bearish outlook is the belief that fundamental demand for new housing is drying up.” 
  • “The extraordinary transformation of China’s economy over the past 40 years was driven by the migration of farmers into cities. That urbanization process is now slowing, however, as relatively few young people remain in rural China.” 
  • “The number of migrant workers living outside their home province rose by 12m in the five years through to June this year, compared with an increase of 26m in the five years ending June 2012, according to official data.” 
  • Says Mr. Xie (Andy Xie, an independent economist and former Morgan Stanley chief Asia-Pacific economist): ‘If you go into villages, there are no young and middle-aged people any more. Where is this next wave of urbanization supposed to come from?’”
  • “To longtime observers of China’s economy, the current hand-wringing over the property market feels familiar.”
  • “After two years of falling prices and sluggish sales, analysts were warning in early 2016 that some smaller cities had enough unsold inventory to last for years.” 
  • “Yet by August this year, inventories in the 80 cities tracked by E-House China Research Institute stood at their lowest level in almost five years.” 
  • “Perceptions of unreasonably high housing prices appear to be disproportionately influenced by trends in first-tier cities — Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen. All three rank among the world’s most expensive in terms of price-to-income ratio.” 
  • “Of the 70 cities in the official price survey, however, 12 have seen outright price falls in the three years through to August this year. In a further 29 cities, prices rose by less than 10% in the same period. Meanwhile, median per capital disposable income has grown 28% in roughly the same period.”
  • “Despite major concerns about Chinese corporate debt, household borrowing remains low by international standards at 37% of GDP, compared with 79% in the US and 59% in the euro area, according to the Bank for International Settlements. And Chinese homebuyers use less debt and more equity than counterparts in the US. The average down payment on Chinese home mortgages extended in 2016 was 40%.” 
  • Despite their differences, both sides in the debate mostly agree that an outright crash of the housing market is unlikely. Chinese savers have few options for investing their money. The stock market is volatile, returns on bank deposits are meagre and foreign exchange controls largely prevent households from buying foreign assets. Housing is the least bad option for many investors.” 
  • The combination of capital controls with years of monetary stimulus virtually ensures that ‘trapped cash’ will slosh through different asset classes, creating bubble-like conditions that the government either encourages or struggles to contain.” 
  • “Still, given the pain that would result from an abrupt policy shift, analysts widely expect that Beijing will continue the current approach, tightening controls when the market gets too hot, while priming it with cash when it slows too sharply.” 
  • “’The government is really losing its credibility,’ says Mr. Ning. ‘At this point everyone realizes they don’t really intend to crack down on the housing market.’

May 17, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

Economist – Sorry, we’re closed: The decline of established American retailing threatens jobs 5/13

  • “Consumer confidence is strong and unemployment is at its lowest level in a decade, yet S&P Global Ratings expects retailing defaults this year to surpass those in 2009 when the economy was in the depths of a recession.”
  • “The total amount of capital, both debt and equity, supporting American retailing (excluding Amazon) now exceeds $2.5tn, according to The Economist’s tally.”
  • Further, “the retailing industry employs 15.9m people, accounting for one in nine American jobs.”
  • Mr. Mathrani (Sandeep Mathrani, head of GGP one of the world’s largest mall real estate investment trusts) reckons that, for shopping centers to match demand, 30% of space should close permanently. In one particularly gloomy scenario, all retail property would shrink by as much. If staff dropped by the same proportion, 4.8m would be at risk of the sack—around half the number of American jobs lost during the financial crisis.”
  • “Retailing accounts for at least one in ten jobs in every American state. Not since the decline of manufacturing began in the 1980s has an industry with so many workers faced such a profound shift.”
  • “Across the world, 192m retailing jobs are threatened by automation, according to estimates by the Eurasia Group, a consulting firm.”
  • “Retailing jobs surpassed those in manufacturing 15 years ago and now exceed them by 28%. Wages may be low for salespeople—$13 an hour on average. Nevertheless, a job in retailing is a reliable way for those with little training to earn money. Just 20% of shop workers have a university degree.”
  • How does this relate to e-commerce? “For every percentage-point increase in their share of e-commerce sales, a retailer’s margins shrink by about half a point, according to estimates by Morgan Stanley, a bank.”
  • “The result is that America’s rich landscape of shops now looks like a dangerous glut.”
  • “Department stores’ floor space has contracted by 11.5% since 2006, but sales have shrunk more than twice as fast, according to Green Street Advisors, a real-estate research firm. To reach the inflation-adjusted sales productivity of 2006, at least another 800 department stores would need to close, reckons D.J. Busch at Green Street.”
  • “Even that might not solve retailers’ problems. Shutting unproductive stores is fraught with peril: shops risk losing their customers to competitors, both online and off. Karen Hoguet, Macy’s chief financial officer, has noted that when a chain closes a store in a particular area, online sales in that region often drop, too.”
  • “The Economist has calculated what might happen to retailing workers (excluding those who work in car and fuel sales), if e-commerce grows as Cowen expects. Assuming that employment in stores rises or falls with changes in those stores’ sales, and that labor productivity improves at historical rates, retailing jobs could shrink by 12%, or 1.5m jobs, by 2022. If e-commerce’s share of sales is 50% greater than what Cowen expects, employment could fall by 17%.”
  • “This slow melt has so far attracted little attention from politicians, despite jobs in retailing outnumbering those in coal mining, which has caught the political eye, by a factor of 300.”

Perspective

WSJ – Amazon’s 49,000% Gain: The Most ‘Super’ of ‘Superstocks’ Since 1926 – Jason Zweig 5/16

  • “From 1926 through 2015, only 30 stocks accounted for one-third of the cumulative wealth generated by the entire U.S. stock market; Amazon was one.”
  • “That’s 30 out of a grand total of 25,782 companies that were publicly traded over that period.”

Economist – Courting trouble: Why Trumponomics won’t make America great again 5/13

Economist – Citizen Kushner: Donald Trump’s family and a controversial visa scheme 5/11

Markets / Economy

Bloomberg Intelligence – The fall (and rise) of active management – Eric Balchunas and Sean Casey 5/12

FT – Pimco dims US inflation target after ‘noticeable softening’ – Adam Samson 5/15

Real Estate

WSJ – Fewer Home Builders Means Happier Home Builders – Justin Lahart 5/15

  • “One reason behind optimism among housing construction companies is there is less competition among them, which has limited supply.”

Energy

WSJ – The Real Winner From Oil Supply Cuts – Spencer Jakab 5/15

  • “The most surprising result of the anticipated deal among big oil producers to extend supply cuts might be that the U.S. re-emerges as the world’s biggest oil producer.”
  • “The ultimate free-rider on Saudi sacrifice is nimble U.S. shale. So much capital is now being deployed that the U.S. may become the world’s top oil producer by 2018, topping Russia and Saudi Arabia.”
  • “U.S. production of oil peaked almost a year after the crude bear market started, reaching 9.61 million barrels in June 2015. After dropping below 8.5 million by last summer, the old record may be exceeded in a matter of months. The U.S. Energy Information Administration recently updated its forecast and expects U.S. production to average 10 million barrels a day next year. Russia currently produces 10.3 million barrels and Saudi Arabia 9.95 million. If related liquids are included then the U.S. has been the top global petroleum producer since 2013.”

Asia – excluding China and Japan

Economist – Pluralism in Indonesia: An unfair trial leaves Chinese-Indonesians feeling vulnerable 5/13

China

Economist – A sorry tale: A migrant worker’s story of her travails is a huge hit in China 5/11

India

Economist – State of disrepair: India needs to curb borrowing by profligate state governments 5/11

South America

Economist – Bello: Venezuela’s crisis spills over 5/11

  • “Latin America wakes up to its biggest headache.”

April 26, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

WSJ – Another Bubble Bursts in Hong Kong – Jacky Wong 4/25

  • This one is the article in its entirety.
  • “Hong Kong’s stock market is becoming a byword for dangerous bubble-blowing.”
  • “The latest stock to burst is Fullshare Holdings, a Chinese property developer valued at around $7 billion. Its stock slumped 12% on Tuesday, before the company suspended trading in its shares. The plunge came after California-based short seller Glaucus Research, which has shorted Fullshare, published a report claiming the stock is ‘one of the largest stock manipulation schemes trading on any exchange anywhere in the world.’ Fullshare declined to comment, but said it would release a statement at a later point.”
  • “Glaucus’s claim, which is based on analysis of trading patterns and Chinese filings, may be hard to prove. But in truth, investors should have spotted problems at Fullshare a while back. The company, which was valued at an eye-watering ten times book value as recently as last autumn, has generated most of its profits recently from paper gains on its 8.2% stake in another developer Zall Group , whose share price tripled last year. The problem? Zall in turn earns most of its profit from a reciprocal 3.5% stake in Fullshare, whose shares doubled last year. The bubbles in both companies’ stocks have fed on each other, giving a false image of how their businesses are doing.”
  • “Zall declined to comment.”
  • “If that weren’t enough, trading in Fullshare has also shown some unusual patterns. Glaucus says the stock has shown abnormally high returns in the final hour of trading—a pattern that was seen in previous Hong Kong stock bubbles such as Hanergy and Tech Pro. A look at trading data from FactSet from January to April this year seems to confirm the thesis. An investor buying Fullshare’s stock one hour before the market close and selling it at close, would have made a 44% return over the period. A simple buy-and-hold strategy, however, would have lost the investor 14%.”
  • More risky still is the way both Fullshare and Zall have loaded up on debt using their overpriced stocks. As of December, Zall had pledged all its Fullshare stocks in return for a loan. Fullshare had likewise pledged a large portion of its financial assets, which are mainly Zall shares. Zall’s chairman has also pledged 8% of the company’s shares to borrow money. If lenders to the companies are worried about the value of their collateral, they could dump the shares into the market, potentially leading to a stampede—similar to the recent fate of China Huishan Dairy, whose shares dropped 85% in an hour last month.”
  • Who could suffer when the bubble finally pops? Passive funds that were forced to buy the company when MSCI added the stock to its indexes in November. Vanguard, for example, owns 1.4% while BlackRock has 0.9%, according to FactSet.
  • “Fullshare’s stock price has never been sustainable given its high valuation and lack of a strong underlying business, but the latest report could be the final straw.”
  • Shenanigans…

Perspective

Economist – The tempest: Workers in southern Europe are stuck in lousy jobs 4/20

  • “Dead-end, fixed-term jobs have haunted southern Europe for decades. In 2015 over half of employed 15-to-29 years olds in Spain were on temporary contracts, compared to two-fifths in Italy and just under a quarter in Greece; the average across the European Union is 14%.”
  • Economist_European temporary employment_4-20-17
  • Economist_European changes in temporary employment_4-20-17

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

The Reformed Broker – Contra Einhorn – Joshua Brown 4/25

  • “More importantly, when Einhorn asserts that ‘There was no catalyst that we know of that burst the dot-com bubble in March 2000,’ he’s not correct. There was one. It was a Barron’s article, published over the weekend leading into Monday, March 20th. That was the top for the Nasdaq Composite (the rest of the market – aka ‘Old Economy’ stocks had already begun selling off as no one wanted anything non-dot com).”
  • “The article was called ‘Burning Fast‘ by Jack Willoughby and it may have been the most important piece of investment journalism ever up until that time.”

NYT – The Low-Inflation World May Be Sticking Around Longer Than Expected – Neil Irwin 4/26

Markets / Economy

FT – The five markets charts that matter for investors – FT Reporters 4/26

  • “The problem the US now faces is it has to normalize interest rates, but with the smallest 50% of companies already spending 30% of profits (and at peak EBIT) on interest rate costs, any move upwards is likely to push up interest cost to dangerous levels.” – Andrew Lapthorne, Societe Generale
  • FT_Interest rate costs as percentage of earnings for US non-financial cos_4-26-2017

Real Estate

WSJ – Concern Over Manhattan’s One Vanderbilt Project Grows – Peter Grant 4/25

WSJ – Rising Home Prices Raise Concerns of Overheating – Laura Kusisto 4/26

WSJ_Rising US Home prices_4-26-17

Tech

Economist – Cloning voices: Imitating people’s speech patterns precisely could bring trouble 4/20

Asia – excluding China and Japan

Economist – The rise of intolerance: Indonesia has been mercifully resistant to extremism-until now 4/20

  • “A local election shows how the unscrupulous can manipulate religion to win office.”

Britain

FT – UK public finance: councils build a credit bubble – John Plender 4/25

  • “UK local councils are engaging in what is known in the financial jargon familiar to hedge fund managers as a carry trade – a form of arbitrage whereby they borrow at rates much lower than private sector borrowers can obtain in order to invest in property that shows a much higher yield. Money borrowed at 2.5% or so is typically going into property yielding 6-8% or more.”

China

NYT – Debt Crisis Shakes Chinese Town, Pointing to Wider Problems – Keith Bradsher 4/25

  • “The problem: Local companies had agreed to guarantee hundreds of millions of dollars of one another’s loans. When some of those loans went bad, the impact rippled across the city.”
  • “Zouping’s plight offers a sobering example of the problems that could lurk within China’s vast and murky debt load. A nearly decade-long Chinese lending spree drove growth but burdened the economy with one of the world’s heaviest debt loads, equal to $21,600 worth of bank loans, bonds and other obligations for every man, woman and child in the country. Debt in China has expanded twice as fast as the overall economy since 2008.”
  • “China, the world’s second-largest economy after the United States, has considerable firepower to address any financial crisis. But many economists worry that hidden debt bombs could expose the breadth and severity of the problem.”
  • “The Chinese government has begun an urgent effort to discourage companies from guaranteeing one another’s bank debts, ordering local banking regulators across the country to file comprehensive reports by the end of the month on the problem. But sussing out the extent could be difficult.”

FT – China’s steel battles with west set to intensify – Lucy Hornby 4/25

  • “China’s steel battles in Europe and North America are likely to be only a prelude of bigger future fights as softening domestic demand unleashes a flood of output on to world markets. “
  • “China’s steel industry is the world’s largest, by far: at 808m tons last year it accounted for half of global production.”
  • FT_World steel production 2016_4-25-2017
  • “About 90% of Chinese mill output to date has been absorbed at home — but domestic consumption peaked in 2013. As China’s economic growth slows and infrastructure and property construction hits saturation point, more steel is poised to flow to global markets.”
  • “Last year China exported 109m tons, or 14% of its output — more than the total output of ArcelorMittal, the world’s largest steelmaker.”
  • FT_China steel consumption and exports_4-25-2017
  • “Because China’s steel industry is so big, every increase of 1% in exports is almost the equivalent of the entire export market for American steel mills.”
  • “But China is not a big source of American steel imports. ‘They are actually more worried about competition in third countries. It’s not so much about the Chinese presence in the US market,’ said Mei Xinyu, a strategist for the Chinese ministry of commerce.”
  • FT_Source of US steel imports_4-25-2017
  • FT_China steel export destinations_4-25-2017
  • “A pick-up in Chinese consumption this year could stave off the deluge for now. But unless there is a drastic cut in Chinese output, the prospect of a flood of Chinese steel on to global markets is not going away.”

Other Links

WSJ – Growing Homelessness Problems Spur Interest in Tiny Houses – Zusha Elinson 4/26

December 23 – December 29, 2016

A review – how India and Indonesia have gone about chasing tax revenue. Global bond sales hit a record in 2016 led by corporations. US housing gains highlight the growing economic divide.

First, Happy New Year! 

Headlines

Special Reports / Opinion Pieces

Briefs

  • Yuan Yang and Sherry Fei Ju of the Financial Times highlighted how China city governments have collided with Didi over migrant drivers.
    • “China’s ride-sharing platforms face their biggest regulatory test so far after city governments in Beijing and Shanghai approved a policy of ‘local cars, local drivers’ on Wednesday.”
    • “Migrants from rural China constitute the core of the workforce for not only car-hailing apps but some of the country’s largest internet groups including Alibaba and Meituan-Dianping, all of which rely on low-paid drivers and couriers.”
    • “The regulations say you can be fined Rmb10,000 ($1,440) if you are discovered. But 99% of passengers don’t want us to be checked, or they wouldn’t be able to take taxis, so they won’t report us.” – Mr. Huang, a driver in Shanghai originally from Jiangsu
    • “About 40% of Beijing’s and Shanghai’s combined 43m residents are from outside the city, according to the cities’ statistics bureaus.”
    • “China has over 270m rural migrants who have moved to cities to seek a better livelihood. But they are kept under firm restrictions by China’s internal passport rules, the hukou system, under which people receive different benefits depending on whether they have an urban or rural registration and where they are registered.”
    • So two things: 1) you have a huge section on the economy that operates at an equilibrium that requires subsidized labor and investor losses in order to provide products at a price point where consumers will pay for them, and 2) there are millions of people that are forced into a “second-class” citizenship (with rights similar to those of illegal immigrants in the US) by a registration system that seeks to control migration patterns.  Think about it.
  • Tom Mitchell of the Financial Times covered how the lease renewals in Wenzhou have eased homeowner fears.
    • “In an announcement at the weekend, the land ministry said that 20-year residential property leases in the eastern city of Wenzhou would be automatically extended without charge, ending speculations that homeowners would face steep renewal fees equivalent to one-third of their property’s value.”
    • “Ever since Deng Xiaoping’s landmark economic reforms were introduced in the early 1980s, allowing people to buy land and property for the first time since the 1949 communist revolution, titles in the world’s most populous country have been limited by fixed-term leases.”
    • Wenzhou was the first to the fixed-term leases to expire – clearly garnering national and global interest.  Granted, the city is unusual with its 20-year leases versus the norm of 70-years; “the shorter leases were introduced in Wenzhou in the 1990s to make properties more affordable.”
    • The bigger issue at hand is the moral hazard that it represents. Presumably buyers believed that the government would come to their rescue at the end of their lease terms – probably the punters selling the units assured the buyers of the same – and low and behold, they did.  While the lease rollovers represent a huge revenue source for municipalities, actually letting market forces take hold would put many homeowners in dire straits when their leases expire.  Further such a course of action would send shivers across the country when all property owners suddenly realize how precarious their land tenures are… which of course would limit property appreciation – likely to send it down meaningfully, and so on and so forth.
    • To be sure the special case of Wenzhou “does not signal a final resolution of the issue.” The government is “studying a new law that would regulate lease renewals nationwide.”
  • Bruce Einhorn, Peter Pae, Jungah Lee, Kanga Kong, and Abhishek Vishnoi of Bloomberg Businessweek featured the current unrest in South Korea as the country seeks to rein in its corporate elite.
    • The recent impeachment of South Korean President Park Geun-hye and the scandal surrounding it has brought to the surface the anger and frustration “of a population struggling with the transition to a slow-growth era.”
    • “Economists expect South Korean gross domestic product this year to expand 2.7%, marking the first five-year period with growth below 3.5% since the 1950s. Manufacturers are suffering from the slowdown in China, South Korea’s top export market, and soft demand elsewhere. Export growth has declined in 21 of the past 23 months. Youth unemployment is 9.3%, in part because rigid labor laws discourage employers from hiring young graduates. ‘ Without some serious restructuring,’ says Emily Dabbs, an economist for Moody’s Analytics in Sydney, the outlook ‘is going to be quite weak.'”
    • “Monthly household incomes for urban salary and wage earners grew 1.7% in the third quarter from a year earlier. As recently as 2012, income growth regularly topped 5%.”
    • Worse, “many jobs are low-paying temporary positions without the insurance, pensions, and other benefits regular workers enjoy. Temporary employees, who make up one-third of the workforce, earn on average about 41% of what a full-fledged employee does.
    • “Since the end of military rule in the late 1980s, an unwritten social compact has allowed corruption among the political and corporate elite as long as ordinary Koreans enjoyed solid economic growth.”
    • This story line is being played out all around the globe…

 Graphics

WSJ – Paying to Lend: The Negative-Yield Story of 2016 – Richard Barley 12/27

wsj_lowest-closes-for-10-year-govt-bond-yields_12-27-16

WSJ – The Mystery of Japan’s Stagnant Wages – Anjani Trivedi 12/27

wsj_mystery-of-japans-stagnant-wages_12-27-16

WSJ – As Home Prices Rise, Flippers Make a Comeback – Kirsten Grind and Peter Rudegeair 12/28

wsj_house-flippers_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED Declining US Homeownership Rate 12/28

wsj_daily-shot_homeownership-rate-for-us_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED US Home price growth vs. Wage growth 12/28

Doesn’t help that rents and home prices are outpacing wage growth

wsj_daily-shot_house-prices-v-incomes_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: FRED US Housing Cost Inflation 12/28

wsj_daily-shot_rent-inflation_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: Prescription Drug Price Inflation 12/28

Another place inflation has been taking off

wsj_daily-shot_prescription-drug-price-inflation_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: US Food Deflation 12/28

And a place where it is not

wsj_daily-shot_food-deflation_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: Declining Cost of Chinese Imports 12/28

wsj_daily-shot_cost-of-china-imports_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: Value of US Manufacturing Shipments 12/28

wsj_daily-shot_manufacturers-suffering_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: China Central Government Stimulus 12/28

As things are slowing down in China, the government has been stepping up its stimulus

wsj_daily-shot_china-govt-stimulus_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: China Private investment growth 12/28

While the private sector has been hitting the breaks

wsj_daily-shot_china-private-sector-investment-down_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: China 20yr Government Bond Yield 12/28

Doesn’t help that the cost of funds is jumping

wsj_daily-shot_china-20yr-govt-bond-yiedl_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: China AA+ Corporate Bond Yield (Index) 12/28

wsj_daily-shot_china-corporate-bond-yield_12-28-16

WSJ – Daily Shot: Family Incomes spent on childcare 12/28

I can relate to this.

wsj_daily-shot_childcare-costs_12-28-16

Comstock’s – California to Pay Billions More After CalPERS Cuts Assumed Rate – Romy Varghese 12/29

comstock_calpers-pension-requirements-12-29-16

Bloomberg Businessweek – Mapping the Growth of Disability Claims in America – Brendan Greeley 12/16

bloomberg_american-disability-claims-map_12-16-16

Visual Capitalist – These 5 Big Companies Control the World’s Beer – Jeff Desjardins 8/4

vc_these-5-companies-control-the-worlds-beer_8-4-16

Featured

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

How India and Indonesia are chasing tax revenue. Erwida Maulia and Kiran Sharma. Financial Times – Nikkei Asian Review. 25 Dec. 2016.

The Financial Times put together an interesting article on Indonesia’s and India’s efforts to increase their tax revenue base.

In Indonesia, they have “calculated that political stability and a dramatic drop in the tax rate could help to bring home an estimated 11,400tn rupiah ($851bn) parked overseas.”

To help repatriate this wealth, Indonesian President Joko Widodo has launched a massive tax amnesty campaign. “More than 10,000 people a day answered the president’s pitch in September: declare assets now and take advantage of a discounted tax rate – as little as 2% compared with 25% – and, in turn, be part of Indonesia’s future.”

The good news for some of this money is that “beyond the new low rates, the amnesty doesn’t require tax officials to trace the origins of the assets and it prohibits the disclosure of information, even to law enforcement.”

Granted, not everyone is happy about the repatriation. “The efforts to corral big assets unsettled Singapore, one of Asia’s leading financial centers, which is estimated to hold more than $200bn in assets for Indonesians. Account holders who notified financial institutions in Singapore that they would apply for the amnesty suddenly found the financial police involved. Singapore policy and the Monetary Authority of Singapore, the financial industry watchdog, had informed banks there to file suspicious transaction reports whenever anyone sought to participate in the amnesty.”

“According to financial sources, Singapore banks offered some of the wealthiest Indonesians better interest rates if they would declare but not repatriate their money.”

ft_assets-repatriated-to-indonesia_12-25-16

“As of December 19, 141tn rupiah had been committed for repatriation, just 14% of the target. The number of participants declaring assets, though, has been far more encouraging. From July to mid-December, there were 508,000 participants and a total of 4,035tn rupiah of assets declared, equal to 30% of the country’s gross domestic product.”

“While Indonesia has pursued a single, clear and well-publicized program to find hidden assets, India has launched a multi-faceted assault to find revenue in a country where only 1% of the 1.25bn population pays income tax.”

“It has made for a tumultuous year for nearly every Indian household.”

“From June to September, the government embarked on a much-publicized program for people to self-declare secret assets. The first such tax amnesty in nearly 20 years drew in a disappointing 673bn rupees ($9.93bn) from 71,726 people. Soon after, Modi (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) authorized raids of high-net-worth individual’s homes and offices.”

And then “November 8 was the game-changer. From midnight, the government declared a withdrawal of high-denomination notes, sucking out 86% of the currency in circulation by value from a predominantly cash economy. People were given until December 30 to deposit the banned notes into their bank accounts.”

ft_indias-currency-in-circulation_12-25-16

The affects are still being felt, especially as new notes have been slow in their roll out. “Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an economist, said the national income could decline by 2%.”

ft_counterfeit-bank-notes-in-india_12-25-16

Hopefully it was worth it.

Bottom line, “sophisticated investors and wealthy families will always be searching for privacy and confidence in how their money is secured and governments will be hard pressed to keep pace. ‘Thinking of Indonesia in 1998 or India’s latest currency reforms gives you a good idea as to why people in these two countries want a safe place for their money,’ said Jason Sharman, professor of governance and public policy at Griffith University in Australia. ‘Offshore is often told as a story of greed, which it often is, but it’s even more a story of fear. Often justified fear.'”

ft_offshore-wealth-by-region-in-2015_12-25-16

Corporates lead surge to record $6.6tn debt issuance. Eric Platt. Financial Times. 27 Dec. 2016.

“The bond rally that dominated the first half of the year helped entice borrowers that issued debt via banks to take on just over $6.6tn, according to data provider Dealogic, breaking the previous annual record set in 2006.”

“Companies accounted for more than half of the $6.62tn of debt issued, underlining the extent to which negative interest-rate policies adopted by the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan, as well as a cautious Federal Reserve, encouraged the corporate world to increase its leverage.”

“While US government bond yields touched their low in July, the prospect of Mr Trump cutting taxes and injecting fiscal stimulus has accelerated a move higher in interest rates that some investors fear will make debt burdens harder to bear in 2017.”

“After touching a record low of 1.32% in July, the yield on the 10-year US Treasury – an important benchmark for corporate borrowing costs – has surged more than a percentage point to 2.57%.”

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“With the universe of negative-yielding bonds touching almost $14tn at one point, money managers were willing to stomach lower returns. The year’s debt sales were buoyed by China and Japan-based issuers, up 23% and 30% respectively, from a year earlier.”

“Investors say they expect 2016 is likely to prove a high-water mark for debt issuance in this cycle, with the Fed forecast to raise rates further and question marks growing over the future of bond-buying programs from the BoJ and the ECB.”

Housing Gains Highlight Economic Divide. Laura Kusisto. Wall Street Journal. 27 Dec. 2016.

“The volatile housing market of the past 15 years is widening the divide between pricey urban and coastal areas and more affordable inland regions, creating large swaths of winners and losers based largely on geography.”

While the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index is up 5.6% in the last twelve months through October, however, “adjusted for inflation, prices are still roughly 15% below the peak.”

“Much of the spoils have been concentrated on the high end. A study by Weiss Analytics, a housing-data firm, found homes in ZIP Codes where the median value is $500,000 to $1 million are now worth 103% more than they were 16 years ago, before a boom in the mid-2000s was followed by the worst housing crash since the Great Depression. Home prices in those areas have shot up 39% since the bust.”

“In ZIP Codes where the median home was worth $100,000 to $150,000, prices have risen 16% since the trough of the market and are now worth 24% more than they were in 2000.”

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Adding a political lens to this, “in counties that voted for Mr. Trump, home prices have been largely flat for the past 15 years, according to a county-by-county analysis of home values and voting patterns by real-estate tracker Zillow.”

“In January 2000, just before the housing market’s boom-bust cycle began, homes in counties that voted for Mrs. Clinton in 2016 were worth $36,000 more than those in the counties that voted for Mr. Trump, according to the Zillow analysis. Today, the gap stands at almost $97,000.”

“The difference is even starker in counties that changed how they voted in this election. In counties that swung for Mrs. Clinton, homes are worth about $147,000 more than homes in counties that swung for Trump.”

Other Interesting Articles

Bloomberg Businessweek

The Economist

Bloomberg – Forget Rogue One, Disney Is Rebuilding the Entire Star Wars Universe 12/15

Bloomberg – It Was Going to Be the Year of the REIT 12/27

FT – Five industries under threat from technology 12/25

FT – Cristina Fernandez charged in Argentina corruption case 12/27
FT – Toshiba writedown warning revives financial stability fears 12/27

FT – China debt: long time coming 12/27

FT – Bond investors must accept low-for-long era is over 12/27

FT – US hits Russia with tough sanctions over election hacking 12/29

Investment News – Coming off a disastrous 2016, sales of nontraded REITs could bounce back in 2017 12/27

Naked capitalism – A Tale of Two Retirements: The Great Divide Between CEOs and Everyone Else 12/28

NYT – Growth of U.S. Population Is at Slowest Pace Since 1937 12/22

NYT – Obama Strikes Back at Russia for Election Hacking 12/29

WP – The Arctic is showing stunning winter warmth, and these scientists think they know why 12/23

WSJ – Italy’s Bank Rescue Is a Precarious Balancing Act 12/23

WSJ – Xi’s Power Play Foreshadows Historic Transformation of How China is Ruled 12/26

WSJ – The Real Story About Rising Home Prices 12/26

WSJ – Plain-Vanilla Real Estate Gains Clout With Chinese 12/27

WSJ – Aluminum Billionaire Planning Escape From China: Lawyer 12/28

WSJ – China’s Currency Drops But Pressure Still Builds 12/28

 

November 25, 2016 – December 1, 2016

Another Arab awakening looming. China clamp down on capital flight. Indonesia’s forests are burning.

Headlines

Special Reports / Opinion Pieces

Briefs

  • Rachel Sanderson of the Financial Times brought attention to the fears of Italian bank failures with the pending referendum this weekend.
    • “Italy’s banks have 360bn of problem loans versus 225bn of equity on their books.”
    • Should prime minister Matteo Renzi lose a constitutional referendum this Sunday (12/4), there are eight banks in various stages of distress that are rather exposed…not to mention any potential panic that may spread across Europe.
  • Yuan Yang and Hudson Lockett of the Financial Times highlighted that there is a sperm crisis of sorts in China as male fertility is declining.
    • “Last year fewer than a fifth of young men who donated sperm in the inland province of Hunan had sufficiently healthy semen to qualify as a donor, according to a 15-year study of more than 30,000 applicants. In 2001 more than half qualified.”
    • “‘Growing evidence seems to suggest that male infertility is increasingly becoming a serious concern in the entire country,’ said Huang Yanzhong, senior fellow for global health at the Council of Foreign Relations in New York. If shown to reflect a broader trend, such findings would further complicate China’s mounting demographic problems.”
    • For reference, “China’s fertility rate – the number of children a woman is expected to have during her child-bearing years – was 1.05 last year….”
    • “The researchers in the Hunan semen study, published online in the journal Fertility and Sterility, say there is no clear explanation for why donors’ reproductive health declined so rapidly. But they point to ‘increased environmental pollution, including pollution of water, air and food,’ as a possible explanation.”
  • Sonia Talati of Barrons pointed to the declining sales prices in the Miami condominium market.
    • “The correction in Miami’s overheated condo market, which we predicted 18 months ago, has arrived sooner than we expected. Sales are down 30% since last October to 983 units. 870 newly-constructed units are currently listed, and only some 50 sold in the last six months, according to the latest report of real estate lender StatFunding.com.”
    • “Prices are coming down to the point that people are selling their Miami condos at a loss to be rid of their properties. Take, for example five units in the luxury-waterfront condominium building, Marina Palms, which sold below the prices that the sellers originally paid. One seller, who had purchased a unit for $950,000, hoping to soon have a property north of a million dollars, recently sold the unit for $800,000, a  16% loss, one year later. According to the StatFunding.com report, the number of resale condos sold at a loss is up 500% since May.”
    • “The Miami condo market is going through a ‘price discovery phase,’ says Andrew Stearns, Statfunding.com’s founder and CEO, with potential buyers ‘hesitant to enter into the market at the prices sellers are asking.'”
    • “Buyers are sitting on the fence with good reason. More than 10,000 units are scheduled to be completed within the next two years, almost doubling the existing available inventory of 14,000 condos.”

Graphics

FT – North Pole temperature rise increases climate fears – Pilita Clark 11/22

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FT – British workers face worst decade for pay in 70 years – Gemma Tetlow 11/24

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Economist – What the world worries about 11/24

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FT – India’s demonetization in four charts – Kiran Stacey 11/27

ft_india-demonetization_11-27-16

WSJ – Daily Shot – 11/30

wsj_daily-shot_moodys-rated-chinese-corporates_11-30-16

Featured

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

De-development: Another Arab awakening is looming, warns a UN report. Economist. 29 Nov. 2016.

On November 29, the UN produced its latest Arab Development Report and the findings are not all that encouraging. “Five years on from the revolts that toppled four Arab leaders, regimes are ruthlessly tough on dissent, but much less attentive to its causes.”

“As states fail, youth identify more with their religion, sect or tribe than their country. In 2002, five Arab states were mired in conflict. Today 11 are. By 2020, predicts the report, almost three out of four Arabs could be ‘living in countries vulnerable to conflict.'”

“Horrifyingly, although home to only 5% of the world’s population, in 2014 the Arab world accounted for 45% of the world’s terrorism, 68% of its battle-related deaths, 47% of its internally displaced and 58% of its refugees. War not only kills and maims, but destroys vital infrastructure accelerating the disintegration.”

“The Arab youth population (aged 15-29) numbers 105m and is growing fast, but unemployment, poverty and marginalization are all growing fast. The youth unemployment rate, at 30%, stands at more than twice the world’s average of 14%.”

“Yet governance remains firmly in the domain of an often hereditary elite. ‘Young people are gripped by an inherent sense of discrimination and exclusion,’ says the report, highlighting a ‘weakening [of] their commitment to preserving government institutions.'”

Further, “despite the Arab League’s pretensions to brotherhood, visa-free travel among its 22 countries in unusual. Many Arabs need exit permits to boot.”

As the report’s lead author, Jad Chaaban, so aptly puts it “the moment I ban a displaced or marginalized person from traveling to work, I’m implicitly leaving him as a victim for an extremist ideology.”

On the plus side (or downside for the ruling elites), the current youth of the Arab world are better educated and more in tune with the world at-large thanks to social media.

China to clamp down on outbound M&A in war on capital flight. Gabriel Wildau, Don Weinland, and Tom Mitchell. Financial Times. 29 Nov. 2016.

“China is readying new restrictions on outbound foreign investment in an effort to curb capital outflows that are putting downward pressure on the renminbi and draining foreign exchange reserves, according to people who have seen a draft of the rules.”

“The State Council is most concerned about outbound mergers and acquisitions worth more than $10bn, said two people familiar with the government’s deliberations. They added that Chinese officials would scrutinize purchases of more than $1bn if they were outside the investor’s core business. Meanwhile, state-owned enterprises will not be allowed to invest more than $1bn on a single overseas real estate transaction.”

“‘The reversal of measures to liberalize capital outflows reflects China’s zig-zag approach to reforms,’ said Eswar Prasad, a China finance expert at Cornell University. ‘This step signals the government’s conventional preference for stability and control rather than economic liberalization and resulting volatility.'”

“According to commerce ministry data, Chinese companies’ overseas purchases have surged past last year’s record of $121bn for non-financial outbound investments, reaching $146bn over the first 10 months of 2016.”

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“Due largely to capital outflows, the renminbi has fallen 5.8% this year, on track for its worst year on record. China has sold dollars from its foreign exchange reserves to try to curb downward pressure on the currency, with reserves hitting $3.12tn at the end of October, the lowest level since March 2011.”

“China is on course to record its first net foreign direct investment deficit this year, according to balance of payments data. Inbound FDI exceeded outbound flows every quarter from 1998 until the middle of last year but China has reported FDI deficits for four of the past five quarters, including a record $31bn in the third quarter of 2016.”

In addition to concerns about capital flight due to US dollar appreciation relative to the Yuan, “analysts and bankers said Beijing was also concerned about the quality of Chinese overseas investments. The government fears some transactions are being rushed through without proper due diligence to cash in on the dollar’s continuing appreciation against the renminbi.”

Despite tough talk, Indonesia’s government is struggling to stem deforestation. Economist. 26 Nov. 2016.

Despite being offered $1bn by Norway to stop cutting down its forests, Indonesia continues to burn its peatlands.

“In recent years no country has lost forest at a faster rate than Indonesia. Between 2000 and 2012 around 6m hectares [14.8m acres] of primary (meaning virgin) forest disappeared, mainly on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Roughly 40% of the deforestation took place in nominally protected areas.”

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Further, the forest being cleared tends to be peatland. “Indonesia contains around 14.9m hectares of peatland – most of the world’s tropical peat forests.”

“Peat forests can be as much as 200 times more damaging to the atmosphere when burnt than other types of vegetation, both because they store more carbon and because more of it is released as methane, an especially harmful greenhouse gas.”

Bottom line, the palm-oil firms have too much influence and it has been too easy bribe officials to gain access to protected lands… “a paper published in 2013 found that almost 90% of deforestation in Sumatra between 2000 and 2010 was done by big palm-oil firms.”

Other Interesting Articles

Bloomberg Businessweek

The Economist

AWCS – Something I’m Worried About (underfunded pensions) 11/27

Bloomberg – Trump’s Tax Cut Means Billion-Dollar Writedowns for U.S. Banks 11/30

Economist – Barcelona hits Airbnb with a hefty fine 11/25

FT – Lawyers shake up a sleepy pension world 11/24

FT – Nigerian oil companies hit hardest by funding crisis 11/26

FT – China ‘fake equity’ court ruling threatens shadow banks 11/27

FT – Hunt for yield pushes more investors into riskier assets 11/28

FT – China M&A: full stop 11/29

FT – Beijing targets family assets in city anti-graft crackdown 11/29

FT – Chinese household debt surges 11/29

FT – China slaps extra tax on super-luxury cars 11/30

Inst. Investor – How Low Can CalPERS Go? 11/30

NYT – In Scotland, Trump Built a Wall. Then He Sent Residents the Bill. 11/25

NYT – Inside a Fake News Sausage Factory: ‘This Is All About Income’ 11/25

NYT – ‘My Soul Feels Taller’: A Whistle-Blower’s $20 Million Vindication 11/25

Vanity Fair – My descent into the right-wing media vortex 11/23

Visual Capitalist – Fertility Rates Keep Dropping, and it’s Going to Hit the Economy Hard 11/25

WSJ – Rising Mortgage Rates Help, but Also Hurt, Banks 11/27

WSJ – Big Names Take Hit on Theranos 11/28

WSJ – Home Prices Recover Ground Lost During Bust 11/29

WSJ – Chinese Developers Reassess U.S. Projects 11/29

WSJ – Why Italian Stability Is in the Hands of One Bank’s Bondholders 11/30

WSJ – India’s Cash Dash Stuffs Banks With Problems 12/1