Tag: Nigeria

June 7, 2017

If you were to read only one thing…

WSJ – Chinese Banks Face Up to Funding Squeeze – Anjani Trivedi 6/5

  • “Household deposits—long the backbone of China’s economy, funding inexorable loan growth—are fleeing: Around 1.2 trillion yuan ($176 billion) left the banking system last month. Meanwhile, growth in corporate deposits has slowed, reducing the rise in deposits overall to a crawl.”
  • “The exodus is proving a double whammy for China’s banks. Not only are they losing a stable source of funding, they are also bearing the brunt of higher costs to raise cash as financial conditions tighten.”
  • “Much of the money pulled out of conventional deposits is being invested in the rapidly multiplying population of investment funds, which offer higher rates. Yu’e Bao, run by Alibaba-backed Ant Financial, has become one of the world’s biggest money-market funds—with $165 billion under management—offering investors a 7-day annualized rate of over 4%.”
  • “Ironically, it and other funds are achieving such returns by investing in financing tools issued by banks. When China liberalized deposit rates in 2015, banks started churning out new investment products, including so-called negotiable certificates of deposit. Issuance of these short-term products in April totaled $180 billion, up 60% from a year earlier. Their relatively high rates—up to 4% or 5%—have made them attractive to money-market funds like Yu’e Bao.”
  • “But the upshot for banks is that stable deposits on which they pay just 1.5%—the benchmark rate—are being converted into flighty funds on which they must pay up to 5%. And even this source of funding may dry up. Last month, Yu’e Bao capped the size of new investments, likely under pressure from regulators alarmed at its rapid growth.”


FT – Beer sales slide as global alcohol consumption falls – Scheherazade Daneshkhu 6/3

  • “The global market for alcoholic drinks contracted 1.3% last year, which was steeper than the average fall of 0.3% in the previous five years, according to figures from the International Wine and Spirits Research, the London-based industry group.”
  • “Alexander Smith, editor of IWSR magazine, said the drop was surprising given an improving global economy and the usually close correlation between global growth rates and drinking alcohol.”
  • “Global gross domestic product rose 3.1% last year, according to the International Monetary Fund, which forecasts a further improvement to 3.6% this year.”
  • “Beer sales fell 1.8%, compared with a five-year average decline of 0.6%. This was mainly because of weakness in China, the world’s biggest beer market by volumes, though sales in other large beer markets, such as Brazil and Russia which have both been in recession, were down.”
  • “In the US, ‘2017 is shaping up to be the worst year for beer volumes since 2009, when total industry volumes were down 2%’, according to Trevor Stirling, analyst at Bernstein.”
  • However, “the IWSR said it expected the alcohol industry to return to growth this year, predicting a rise in consumption of 0.8% until 2021, driven by whisky.”

Worthy Insights / Opinion Pieces / Advice

The Irrelevant Investor – Satisfaction Yield – Michael Batnick 6/6

  • “The utilitarian benefit of two investments are identical when they yield an identical return, but the satisfaction yield, reflecting expressive and emotional benefits, varies by the paths of identical returns.”
  • “The fact that the return of principal under different scenarios can evoke such different emotions tells us a lot about why investor behavior is the most important factor in determining success or failure.”

Real Estate

WSJ – Daily Shot: Wells Fargo – Origin of Foreign Capital buying US Real Estate 6/5

Bloomberg – Americans Are Pouring Money Into Their Homes Like It’s the 1990s – Vince Golle 6/6


Bloomberg – ‘Gas Apocalypse’ Looms Amid Power Plant Construction Boom – Naureen Malik and Brian Eckhouse 5/23

  • “The Marcellus Shale formation has added lots of supply to a major power grid, but demand is growing slowly.”

NYT – The Biggest, Strangest ‘Batteries’ – Diane Cardwell and Andrew Roberts 6/3


NYT – Nigeria’s Afrobeats Music Scene Is Booming, but Profits Go to Pirates – Dionne Searcey 6/3

  • “Artists across the world battle illegal sales of their work. But Nigeria’s piracy problem is so ingrained that music thieves worry about rip-offs of their rip-offs, slapping warning labels on pirated CDs to insist that ‘lending is not allowed.'”


FT – Toronto house price fall signals market is cooling – Ben McLannahan 6/5

  • “According to sales data released on Monday by the Toronto Real Estate Board, the average sale price for all home types in the Greater Toronto Area was C$863,910 ($640,674) in May, a drop of 6.2% from C$920,791 in April. The number of home sales fell by 12% over the month, while listings were up 19%.”
  • “Talk of tackling rapid price appreciation appears to have ‘changed market psychology’, said Jean-François Perrault, chief economist at Scotiabank in Toronto. ‘The benefits of holding on to a property, if you’re a speculator, have probably peaked. I think we’re moving to a healthier market.’”
  • A change from one month to the next does not make a trend. Keep your eye on this.


Economist – A provincial shuffle shows the power of China’s president 5/27

WSJ – Here’s How a Chinese Tech Firm Borrowed $2.1 Billion in a Hurry – Ryan McMorrow 6/3

  • “LeEco, a catchall name for a variety of businesses controlled by the internet tycoon Jia Yueting, poses little threat by itself to China’s financial system. But a review of the company’s finances shows the extent of the opaque ways Chinese firms can use to raise money — and how failures could ripple through the system.”

FT – China’s new graduates hit by falling wages – Tom Hancock 6/4


FT – India Inc walks a banking tightrope – Simon Mundy and Amy Kazmin 6/4

  • “A wave of defaults by struggling infrastructure companies, and others that borrowed heavily during much of the past decade, has left India’s public-sector banks saddled with a huge and growing bad loan burden that represents one of the most serious long-term threats to the country’s economic growth.”
  • “Even after the 1990s liberalization that allowed the entry of new private-sector banks, the state-owned lenders still hold more than two-thirds of banking sector assets. Impaired loans now account for 17.8% of assets, and well over 20% at several banks. As these banks now reel under the weight of $186bn in stressed assets, loan growth in the country has fallen dramatically, to 5.1% in the financial year ending in March — the slowest pace for 63 years — while corporate investment fell in three out of four quarters last year.”

South America

Economist – Bello: Argentina’s new, honest inflation statistics 5/25

  • “The end of bogus accounting.”

Other Links

BBC – How air conditioning changed the world – Tim Harford 6/5

October 7 – October 13, 2016

There are the pension obligations kept on the books based on industry guidelines and then there are the books that track what they really think. America’s tech boom has been great for the consumer, but not so much for the employees that have been displaced.



    • “Sovereign wealth funds have pulled almost $90bn from asset managers over the past two years, as state-backed investment vehicles grapple with low commodity prices and disappointed returns.”
    • “The Norwegian government has tapped the Scandinavian country’s $890bn oil fund, the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world, for almost $6bn this year.”
    • “Moody’s, the rating agency, has predicted that sovereign outflows would be at least 25% higher in 2016 than in 2015, due to the low oil price.”
    • Other reasons stated for the pullback include: poor performance from fund groups, bringing investment management in-house, diversification, and having cash-on-hand for opportunistic investments.
    • “Between 20 and 30% of people in the US and Europe are working independently in the so-called “gig economy” according to a new study that counts moonlighters as well as full-timers.”
    • While many are satisfied with their gig arrangement, “about 30% are doing it as a last resort.”
    • Further, ‘gig’ work is not only for the young. “The survey found that in the UK, 39% of adults aged 55 and over were working independently versus 31% of 25 to 54 year olds. The same pattern was found in Sweden and Germany.”
    • “Scaling up the results of our survey suggests that 50 million Americans and Europeans are independent out of necessity, and more than 20 million of them rely on independent work as their primary source of income.”
    • In an effort to grow its inventory, Airbnb is reaching out to apartment landlords to rent out some of their vacant inventory. So far, most landlords have been declining.
    • Why?  1) “Under Airbnb’s new plan, called the Friendly Building Program, if landlords allow tenants to lease units on Airbnb, they have an opportunity to take a cut of the nightly revenue at a suggested rate of 5% to 15%.” I.E. for a “one-night, $200 stay that means the landlord would make $30 or less, an amount that many landlords say doesn’t justify the hassle.” And 2) as illustrated by “Cortland Partners, which owns 36,000 apartment units primarily in the Southeast, in a recent survey found that nearly 40% of residents would be significantly less likely to renew their leases if the company allowed tenants to rent out units on Airbnb.” Basically, as Margette Hepfner, Senior VP of Lincoln Property Co (manages or owns 175,000 units), so aptly puts it “There’s just inherent risk in allowing unknown guest to come onto your property.”
  • Josh Zumbrun of the Wall Street Journal discussed the findings from the Journal’s recent economist survey. Essentially, economists believe a recession is likely within the next four years.
    • “Economists in The Wall Street Journal’s latest monthly survey of economists put the odds of the next downturn happening within the next four years at nearly 60%.”
    • Why… because “the American economy has never grown for more than a decade without a recession.”
    • “The current expansion began in June 2009, and has now continued for 88 months, making it the fourth-longest period of growth in records stretching to 1854.”
    • However, “to be clear, the length of an expansion bears little relation to its strength. The U.S. economy has grown at a 2.1% annual pace since 2009. That is the slowest growth of any expansion after World War II.”
    • “But over the next four years, few think a recession is absolutely guaranteed. A quarter of economists place the odds below 50%.”
    • “It is precisely because the economy has grown slowly that some think the recovery could last a long time. ‘Slow and steady leaves plenty of fuel to keep going,’ said Russell Price, senior economist for Ameriprise Financial.”
  • Henny Sender of the Financial Times covered the continuing bull run in the Chinese property sector.
    • “Property as an asset class has become important in China – maybe too important. It is critical to the financial system (since 70% of all bank loans are backed by real estate collateral), as a source of economic growth and as a source of savings and wealth for many households.”
    • As Nicole Wong, the regional head of property research for CLSA in Hong Kong puts it “property is an alternative currency in China.”
    • “But no asset class is as sensitive to liquidity’s soothing effect as property and there is a lot of liquidity in China. And as it always does, liquidity is buoying the property market, well beyond the first-tier cities where so many couples go through staged divorces just so that they can each buy a starter home on more attractive terms.”
    • “‘Liquidity is coming from the sky,’ says one Hong Kong-based hedge fund manager, noting that 40% of all global money supply in recent years has come from China. So even as central banks in Japan and the US debate helicopter money for local infrastructure and other ambitious development projects, China comes closest to realizing that concept as it ramps up its money printing presses. China’s total social financing for August was again at highs set earlier this year, while for the first half it amounted to $1.5tn, he adds.”

Special Reports / Opinion Pieces

  • FT – Investors ignore messages from ‘global AGM’ at their peril – Mohamed El-Erain 10/9
    • “In sum, the AGM (Annual General Meeting) reinforces three concerns about the global economy. 1) Its prospects are becoming more fragile in terms of growth, financial stability, indebtedness and, therefore, inclusive prosperity. 2) Bizarre political dynamics add fuel to the fire, directly and by holding back timely policy adjustments. 3) The potential damage now extends beyond forgone opportunities to also undermining future potential, including open trading systems and politically-autonomous central banks.”


FT – Gap widens between China’s ‘old’ and ‘new’ economies – James Kynge 10/6

FT_New China economy companies outperforming_10-6-16

Bloomberg – Grocery Prices Are Plunging – Craig Giammona 9/26

Bloomberg_Falling Food Prices_9-26-16

FT – China anti-corruption campaign backfires – Hudson Lockett 10/9

FT_China's top concerns_10-9-16

WSJ – Worries Grow That China Faces a Perilous Property Bubble – Dominique Fong and Lingling Wei 10/7

WSJ_Chinese lending growth_10-7-16

WSJ – Mainland China’s Property Bubble Leaks Into Hong Kong – Jacky Wong 10/12


Visual Capitalist – These 3 Maps Help to Visualize America’s $18 Trillion Economy – Jeff Desjardins 10/12



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

A Sour Surprise for Public Pensions: Two Sets of Books. Mary Williams Walsh. New York Times. 17 Sep. 2016.

Turns out, the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) – and many similar pension funds for that matter – keep two sets of books on calculating their pension obligations and funding requirements.  One based on actuarial values and another based on “market values.”  Well the issue just came to light in a small case for the Citrus Pest Control District No. 2 that just received a very hefty bill to cover a shortfall (plus interest) for deciding to convert to a 401(k) plan.  What changed at the moment of that decision…basically Calpers went from calculating the benefit owed based on actuarial tables to using a more prudent ‘market approach’ considering it no longer had the right to go after the community for future contributions.

What is the ‘market value?” Basically, “the market value of a pension reflects the full cost today of providing a steady, guaranteed income for life – and it’s large. Alarmingly large, in fact. This is one reason most states and cities don’t let the market numbers see the light of day.”

If you want to see the difference between the two values, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research now publishes the two for California pensions.

Thing is that pensions operate on the actuarial standards, standards which exacerbate pension shortfalls.  “Actuarial values determine the annual contributions that states and local governments make to their pension plans, so if the target numbers are too low, the contributions will always be too small. Shortfalls will be compounding, invisibly.”

As Jeremy Gold, an actuary and economist, made note in a speech last year “actuaries shamelessly, although often in good faith, understate pension obligations by as much as 50%… Their clients want them to.”

In the case of Citrus Pest Control District No. 2, Calpers was calculating the municipality’s obligations at an assumed rate of return on assets “now generally around 7.5%,” but when calculating the ‘market value’ of the obligation when the Citrus made the switch, Calpers used a more realistic (based on the current risk-free rate for a similar duration) 2.56%.  Boom, $447,000 shortfall – this is for only 6 people.

‘Houston we have a problem.’

America’s Dazzling Tech Boom Has a Downside: Not Enough Jobs. Jon Hilsenrath and Bob Davis. Wall Street Journal. 12 Oct. 2016.

The highlight is that for all the wealth created from the tech boom, jobs have been cut rather than added.

“Google’s Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc. had at the end of last year a total of 74,505 employees, about one-third fewer than Microsoft Corp. even though their combined stock-market value is twice as big. Photo-sharing service Instagram had 13 employees when it was acquired for $1 billion by Facebook in 2012.

“American tech workers are getting a smaller piece of the economic pie created from what they produce. As of 2014, employee compensation in computer and electronic-parts making was equal to 49% of the value of the industry’s output, down from 79% in 1999, according to the Commerce Department.”


“WhatsApp had more than 450 million users world-wide when Facebook bought the messaging service for $19 billion in 2014, turning founder Jan Koum into a billionaire several times over. At the time of the acquisition, WhatsApp had 55 employees.

“Economist call the phenomenon ‘skill-biased technical change.’ The spoils of growth go to those few people with skills and luck and who are best positioned to take advantage of new technology.”

“The five largest U.S.-based technology companies by stock market value-Apple, Alphabet, Microsoft, Facebook and Oracle Corp.-are worth a combined $1.8 trillion today. That is 80% more than the five largest tech companies in 2000.”

“Today’s five giants have 22% fewer workers than their predecessors, or a total of 434,505 as of last year, compared with 556,523 at Cisco Systems Inc., Intel, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft in 2000.”

“Harvard University economist David Deming estimates that the hollowing-out of work spread to programmers, librarians and engineers between 2000 and 2012. As much as $2 trillion worth of human economic activity could be automated away using existing technologies, such as Amazon’s robots, in coming years, consulting firm McKinsey & Co. estimates.”

Other Interesting Articles

Bloomberg Businessweek

The Economist

Bloomberg – China Property Bubble Could Cause $600 Billion in Bad Debts 10/6

FT – Italy’s 50-year bond – mind the valuation gap 10/6

FT – Renminbi eyes lows as China enjoys reserve currency status 10/9

FT – The Saudis’ strategic failure 10/9

FT – China approves controversial debt-for-equity program 10/10

FT – More millennials switch off social media 10/10

FT – Norway’s oil fund warns on lack of stock market listings 10/11

FT- China corporate raider’s wealth soars ninefold to $17bn 10/12

FT – Dividend or disaster? Nigeria grapples with demographic conundrum 10/12

NYT – Behind Duterte’s Bluster, a Philippine Shift Away From the U.S. 10/9

NYT – This City Is 78% Latino, and the Face of a New California 10/11

WSJ – Recession Odds: Fed Says Don’t Count On It 10/9

WSJ – WeWork Raises $260 Million, Capping Off $690 Million Funding Round 10/12


August 26 – September 1, 2016

A novel way of paying off debt – issue more of it, the savings are already accruing. It’s official, Nigeria is in a recession.



    • “Stock valuations rise and fall, but when an important factor driving market performance is mathematically unsustainable, it is worth a closer look.” Specifically corporate dividends.
    • “Aswath Damodaran, a professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business, sees this as the market’s biggest risk. Mr. Damodaran, who is considered an authority on valuation, says S&P 500 companies through the first two quarters of the year collectively returned 112% of their earnings through buybacks and dividends. That is the highest since 2008 and well above the 82% average over the past 15 years, he said in a blog post last week.”
    • “Mr. Damodaran, who likes to be provocative, says with rates this low, traditional valuation metrics are distorted. Instead, the inability of companies to keep paying off their investors will cause the next downturn. ‘This is the weakest link in this market,’ Mr. Damodaran said in an interview. ‘We know cash flows will go down. What we don’t know is what the market is pricing in.'”
    • WSJ_S&P 500 corporate dividends_8-28-16
    • “The rise of third-party mobile payments in China at the expense of credit and debit cards is threatening commercial banks’ access to the customer data viewed as crucial to newly emerging financial and consumer business models.”
    • Further UnionPay, the state-owned settlement network, and other rank and file banks are missing out on the merchant fees that these third-party platforms are redirecting.
    • “The move by more Chinese consumers to switch from swiping plastic cards to scanning QR codes with mobile wallet apps knocked $20bn from banks’ fee income in 2015, according to Kapronasia, a Shanghai-based fintech consultancy.”
    • While the fees hurt, the key is that third-party payment providers are “depriving lenders of valuable data on consumption patterns.”
    • FT_China payments moving online_8-28-16
    • China’s big-state lenders are making a shift in their lending portfolios from commercial loans to property.  “China Construction Bank (CCB) this week reported residential mortgage lending rose almost 30% in the first half of this year compared with the same period last year. Meanwhile corporate lending fell 2%. At Bank of China, mortgages rose by more than a quarter.”
    • “On the face of it, banks are moving away from risky lending. That helps their capital cushions because for every loan extended to a company, banks assign a 100% risk-weight. For residential mortgages, banks only have to set aside half that.”
    • Of course, it helps that residential prices are rising; however, “lending into the property market would make more sense if the mortgage loans weren’t going bad so fast. At CCB, while mortgage nonperforming loans accounted for only 6% of total NPLs, they rose 67% on the year compared with 26% for all loans. And that’s with prices rising nationally, and rising sharply in the biggest cities.”
  • Leo Lewis and Lucy Colback of the Financial Times covered an interesting development in how the Bank of Japan is distorting the Japanese stock indices through their massive fund flows.
    • “From July 29, when the Bank of Japan said it would nearly double its annual purchases of exchange traded funds from ¥3.3tn ($32bn) to ¥6tn, brokers in Tokyo have been selling stocks with a simple, unsettling message.”
    • “In an equity market where the central bank is the biggest whale, and where the government in various forms has become the biggest shareholder in a quarter of First Section Tokyo stocks, it’s time to buy the fund flows, not the fundamentals.”
    • FT_Stocks with highest indirect ownership by BoJ_8-30-16
    • “Goldman Sachs estimates that the doubling in BoJ buying coupled with the skew towards Nikkei weighting means that the central bank will own at least one-tenth of the equity in 32 companies by this time next year, up from five currently.”
    • “The BoJ, according to its current schedule, must buy an average of ¥70bn worth of ETFs every three trading days throughout the year.”
    • Helicopter money…

Special Reports / Opinion Pieces


FT – Puerto Rico: An island’s exodus –  Eric Platt 8/25

FT_Puerto Rico's exodus_8-25-16

Visual Capitalist – Which Countries Are Damaged Most by Low Oil Prices? – Jeff Desjardins 8/26

Visual Capitalist_Which countries hurt the most by low oil prices_8-26-16

WSJ – Food Price Deflation Cheers Consumers, Hurts Farmers, Grocers and Restaurants 8/29

WSJ_Food price deflation_8-29-16

WSJ – China’s Private Investment Crash May Be Mirage, but Pain Is Still Real 8/28

WSJ_China fixed-asset investment_8-28-16

Visual Capitalist – Do Newly Built Skyscrapers Signal The Top of the Stock Market? – Jeff Desjardins 8/29

Visual Capitalist_Skyscraper curse_8-29-16


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

Falling bond yields save taxpayers $500bn. Eric Platt. Financial Times. 31 Aug. 2016.

“The collapse in sovereign bond yields has saved taxpayers more than $500bn in annual interest expenses, allowing countries to rein in budget deficits and continue government-backed programs that would have otherwise been shelved, according to a new report.”

As of the end of last week there was $13.2tn of debt with negative yields.

“Japan, France, Germany and Switzerland are now paid to issue short-dated sovereign bonds.”

“Benefits have effectively been transferred from global investors to sovereign issuers, as sovereign borrowing costs have dropped. Should rates remain low for an extended period, it would likely erode earnings power for many large investment institutions and pension funds.” – Robert Grossman, analyst with Fitch, a rating agency

The median 10-year government bond now yields 1.17%, down from 3.87% five years ago. Japan has saved more than $95bn a year as a result of the decline in rates, while the US, UK and Germany collectively pay $104bn less annually, the study estimates.”

“Central banks have cut interest rates more than 670 times since Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy in 2008, or roughly one reduction every three trading days of the year, according to JPMorgan.”

FT_Central bank stimulus weighs on sovereign bond yields_8-31-16

Nigeria falls into recession as economy shrinks in second quarter. Maggie Fick. Financial Times. 31 Aug. 2016.

Nigeria has slipped into recession for the first time in more than two decades as growth in Africa’s top oil producer shrank for the second consecutive quarter.”

“The economy contracted 2.1% in the three months to the end of June, worse than analysts expected, while inflation hit a 11-year high of 17.1%, underlining the depth of the west African nation’s crisis.”

“Nigeria, which depends on petrodollars for 70% of state revenues and 90% of export earnings, has been battered by the slump in oil prices. The economy shrank 0.4% in the first three months of the year and the International Monetary Fund is forecasting that growth in 2016 will contract 1.8%.”

“The central bank increased the main interest rate by 200 basis points last month in an attempt to combat inflation, but it rose for the ninth consecutive month in July.”

“The continent’s most populous nation was one of the world’s fastest growing economies during the oil boom, but Mr. Buhari (President Muhammadu Buhari) said this month that Nigeria ‘suddenly appears to be a poor country.'”

FT_Nigeria GDP growth_8-31-16

It’s currency is having difficulties as well, “in the official market, the naira is trading below N300 to the dollar, having lost more than 40% of its value since its peg was lifted in June (to ease the country’s quickly depleting reserves of hard currency), but on the black market the currency is far weaker – it has been trading at below N400 to the dollar this week.”

FT_Nigerian Naira currency to the USD_8-31-16

Other Interesting Articles

Bloomberg Businessweek

The Economist

Bloomberg – J.C. Penny Aims to Be King of the Mall as Rivals Retreat 8/25

CoStar – Disparity in Mall Values Driven by Powerful Combination of Forces 8/31

Economist – Grim employment prospects for young people around the world 8/26

FT – How the super-rich are making their homes ‘invisible’ 8/24

FT – Chinese banks braced over industrial restructuring 8/28

FT – Mexico spends $1bn to lock in oil export prices for 2017 8/29

FT – Apple’s EU tax dispute explained 8/29

FT – DBS sells $750m in cocos at record-low yield 8/30

FT – Chinese future looms for Hong Kong’s real estate sector 8/30

FT – China turns away from the market 8/31

Inhabitat – The world’s tallest timber building was just topped off ahead of schedule 8/26

National Real Estate Investor – 2016 Could Signal a Cyclical Peak in Commercial Construction 8/25

NYT – Today’s Inequality Could Easily Become Tomorrow’s Catastrophe 8/26

NYT – Crackdown on For-Profit Colleges May Free Students and Trap Taxpayers 8/28

Zero Hedge – “I’ve Never Seen Anything Like This Before” – The Housing Markets In The Hamptons, Aspen And Miami Are All Crashing 8/28

WSJ – Which State Is a Big Renewable Energy Pioneer? Texas 8/29

WSJ – Housing Market: Why Millennials Are Getting Priced Out 8/29

WSJ – What Happens When a Central Bank Buys Property Stocks 8/30

WSJ – Shopping Malls’ New Product: Fun 8/30

WSJ – Chinese Cash Pours Into U.S. Real Estate 8/30

WSJ – Emerging Markets: Catch the Yield Where You Can 8/31

WSJ – Birth of the Index Mutual Fund: ‘Bogle’s Folly’ Turns 40 8/31


June 24 – June 30, 2016

Japanese banks wary of property risks. Negative-yielding sovereign debt jumps to $11.7tn.

This week all the media outlets were blanketed with coverage on the Brexit and of course the synopsis varied from catastrophe (a lot of money was lost in the equity markets around the world immediately – which have already made up a lot of lost ground), to concern over the survival of the European Union, to a general ‘meh.’  Remember, the world moves on.  Importantly, Britain is still part of the EU. No one has triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty yet and even when Britain does trigger the article, there is a two-year exit process with the EU.  As such, some even think that Britain may not eventually leave.  So for now as the Brits like to say, keep calm and carry on.



    • “Moody’s Investors Service is predicting that China’s property markets are facing a double-whammy of growing margin pressures for developers and tapering growth in home sales nationwide.”
    • “The rapid growth in land costs will raise the developers’ capital requirements and will also likely add margin pressure in the next 12-24 months. Furthermore, developers that acquired land with high unit costs in major cities will face increased business risks, given our expectation that price growth in these cities will moderate.” – Dylan Yeo, Moody’s analyst
    • “The report from Moody’s follows a note from S&P Global Ratings last week reiterating expectations for growing bond defaults onshore in China, with those for property developers forecast to have the biggest potential impact.”
    • “Between 2005 and 2015 the world’s cities swelled by about 750m people, according to the UN. More than four-fifths of that growth was in Africa and Asia; specifically, on the fringes of African and Asian cities. With few exceptions, cities are growing faster in size than in population. Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, is typical: it doubled in population between 1990 and 2010 but tripled in area. In short, almost all urban growth is sprawl.”
    • “London took two millennia to grow from fewer than 30,000 people to almost 10m; Shenzhen in China managed that within three decades. And most African and Asian cities are growing more chaotically.”
    • “Like it or not, this is how the great cities of the 21st century are taking shape.”
    • “Shlomo Angel of New York University has studied seven African cities in detail: Accra, Addis Ababa, Arusha, Ibadan, Johannesburg, Lagos, and Luanda. He calculates that only 16% of the land in new residential areas developed since 1990 has been set aside for roads – about half as much as planners think necessary. And 44% of those roads are less than four meters wide.”
  • Laura Kusisto of the Wall Street Journal highlighted that yes, today’s renters really are worse off than their parents.
    • “Inflation-adjusted rents have risen by 64% since 1960, but real household incomes only increased by 18% during that same time period, according to an analysis of U.S. Census data released by Apartment List, a rental listing website.”
    • “Renters fared the worst during the decade between 2000 and 2010, when inflation-adjusted household incomes fell by 9%, while rents rose by 18%, according to Apartment List.”
    • In regard to inflation “…housing still largely relies on U.S. labor and materials (and zoning restrictions), making it one of the few essentials that haven’t become cheaper with globalization.”
  • Claire Jones and James Shotter of the Financial Times reported on the IMF’s recent opinion that Germany do more to reform its banks.
    • “The International Monetary Fund has warned that ultra-low interest rates pose a threat to the profitability of Germany’s 13tn financial sector, as it steps up its call for the country’s banks and insurance groups to restructure.”
    • “The IMF has supported the ECB’s aggressive monetary easing and indicated that the onus was on German banks and their regulators and supervisors to reform.”
    • “Given its high share of savings and co-operative banks – whose business revolves around taking deposits from and making loans to local communities – the German banking system is highly dependent on interest rates.”
    • “A study by BaFin, the German financial watchdog, and the Bundesbank last year found that Germany’s 1,500 small and midsized banks expected profits to fall by an aggregate of 25% by 2019, mainly owing to the collapse in net interest income. The study projected that if rates fell a further 100 basis points, lenders’ profits would plunge at least 60% by the same date.”

Special Reports


FT – Fed on alert for US economic recoil – Sam Fleming 6/24

FT_Fed funds futures curve_6-24-16

FT – Unicorns: Between myth and reality – Richard Waters and Leslie Hook 6/27

FT_Venture capital invested in US_6-27-16

Bloomberg – San Francisco Landlords Gird for Slowdown as Startup Frenzy Ebbs – Alison Vekshin 6/28

Bloomberg_San Francisco Office Vacancies rise_6-28-16

Economist – Foreign direct investment 6/25

Economist_Foreign direct investment_6-25-16

WSJ – Today’s Renters Really Are Worse Off Than Their Parents – Laura Kusisto 6/29

WSJ_Today’s Renters Really Are Worse Off Than Their Parents_6-29-16


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

Overheating Risk Makes Japanese Banks Wary of Property Lending. Tesun Oh Katsuyo Kuwako. Bloomberg. 27 Jun. 2016.

“Japanese banks are reining in their exposure to the property market on concern the central bank’s negative-rate policy is fueling overheating.”

“We’re watching the market carefully because we get a strong sense that the market is being pushed up mainly by a lot of lending.” – Michiya Fujii, head of the real estate finance department, Tokyo Star Bank, Ltd.

“Lending to the real estate sector rose to a record high in March, exceeding levels during Japan’s asset bubble in the late-1980s, according to Bank of Japan data.”

Bloomberg_Japanese real estate bank loans_6-27-16

When you look at the options for income investors you can understand why. “While the average expected yield for central Tokyo office property fell to 3.7% in the first quarter, its lowest since at least mid-2007, that is still 82 times the 0.045% yield an investor can earn from buying 20-year government debt. Ten-year yields have dropped 10 basis points this month to minus 0.22%.”

“Considering the downside risks, this is not a time when we can aggressively lend. What’s important is, when the time comes and the market turns, how much durability we’ve built into the portfolio.” – Katsumi Taniguchi, head of the planning team of the real estate finance department at Sumitomo Mitsui Trust

Additionally, while rates are low real estate investment trusts and large developers are taking advantage of the opportunity to lower their borrowing costs.  “Nippon Building Fund Inc., Japan’s largest REIT, sold 30-year debt this month at a coupon of 1%, while the largest developer Mitsubishi Estate Co. issued 40-year bonds at 0.789%.”

Negative-yield government debt surges $1.3tn to $11.7tn Adam Samson. Financial Times. 30 Jun. 2016.

“The universe of negative-yielding government debt has increased by more than $1tn in the last month to reach a high of almost $12tn in one of the most tangible results of Britain’s decision to leave the EU.”

“Low sovereign bond yields reflect gloomy economic outlooks and expectations of central bank stimulus. In turn a record $11.7tn of global sovereign debt has now entered sub-zero territory – an increase of $1.3tn since the end of May, according to data released by Fitch Ratings.”

FT_Gobal negative yielding sovereign debt rises to $11.7tn_6-30-16

“You have to look at the response by central banks after the Brexit shock. You’re seeing a ubiquitous tilt toward easing among G4 central banks (Federal Reserve, European Central Bank, Bank of Japan, and the Bank of England).” – Ben Mandel, a global strategist at JPMorgan Chase

Because of this, “futures markets suggest investors saw a roughly 75% chance that the Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates over the next 12 months.”

FT_Government debt yields under pressure_6-30-16

Other Interesting Articles

The Economist

Bloomberg – China’s Idled Wind Farms May Spell Trouble for Renewable Energy 6/28

Economist – Why Brexit is grim news for the world economy 6/24

FT – The perfect financial crime 6/25

FT – South Korea plans stimulus boost in wake of Brexit 6/27

FT – Broad, deep and brutal – Asia’s Brexit reaction 6/29

FT – Brazilian bankruptcies create opportunities for debt investors 6/29

Project Syndicate – Brexit and the Future of Europe (George Soros) 6/25

Reuters – Post-Brexit global equity loss of over $2 trillion worst ever: S&P 6/26

The New Yorker – Why Brexit Might Not Happen at All 6/27

WSJ – Shareholder Fight Puts China’s Market Resolve on the Line 6/28


June 17 – June 23, 2016

Eight massive shifts underway in energy. U.S. men of prime working age are dropping out of the labor force. Venezuela on the brink of social and economic collapse.



    • “Prices for land, the main ingredient of the property world, have hit record highs in auctions this year in many Chinese cities. The average land price per square meter for the top 100 cities in the first five months of this year jumped nearly 50% from same period last year, according to Wind Information. Some land prices are even higher than housing prices nearby.”
    • Interestingly, “most of the buyers of the most expensive parcels are state-owned enterprises. A property subsidiary of China Gezhouba Group, a state-owned builder of power plants and dams, spent 3.3 billion yuan last month to buy the most expensive land, in terms of price per square meter, in Nanjing. Another state dam construction company, Power Construction Corp. of China, snapped up a piece of land in China’s bubbliest property market, the southern metropolis of Shenzhen, for 8.3 billion yuan.”
    • “The domestic bond market and growth in asset-backed securities have made financing easier for developers, causing companies to chase whatever assets they can. Continuing reforms of state-owned enterprises could also be a trigger, as these firms have incentives to inflate their balance sheets to gain clout in consolidation talks. For some which have already invested heavily in real estate, keeping land prices high makes sense.”
    • In 2015 a record 960m cubic meters of cargo passed through the canal, starting June 26 the canal will have capacity of 1.7 billion cubic meters of cargo annually.  “The biggest container ships that could use the old canal, known as Panamaxes, can carry around 5,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units, or a standard shipping container). Neo-Panamaxes that will squeeze through the new locks can carry around 13,000 TEUs. Although the world’s largest ships have space for nearly 20,000 TEUs, the majority of the global fleet will now fit through the canal.”
    • “America’s east-coast ports should get busier… And vessels carrying liquefied natural gas from America’s shale beds will be able to pass through the locks for the first time, heading to Asia. They are expected to account for 20% of cargo by volume by 2020.”
  • Anjani Trivedi of the Wall Street Journal drew attention to the potential credit black hole brewing in China.
    • “China’s M1 money supply, a measure of the most liquid assets in the banking system as cash and certain types of demand deposits, is growing at its fastest pace in six years. Meanwhile, M2 money supply, a broader gauge of liquidity including longer-term deposits, expanded at the slowest rate in a year. The ratio of these two rose to its highest since the data has been tracked.”
    • “One of the main sources of the rapid M1 growth is troubling: short-term, higher-yielding investments such as wealth-management products in the form of current deposits that now account for 95% of the growth of M1.”
  • Yukako Ono and Lucinda Elliott of the Financial Times reported on Nigeria’s recent decision to float its currency on Monday (June 20).
    • “Nigeria’s long-awaited flexible foreign exchange rate regime got off to an explosive start on Monday as the naira slid by as much as 27% to N254 to the US dollar.”
    • “The currency had been pegged at about N197 per dollar since March 2015. Nigeria, Africa’s biggest economy – where oil exports account for more than 90% of foreign revenue – did not follow other large oil exporting nations which began devaluing their currencies in 2014 as crude prices fell by more than half.”
    • “But short-term public finances are still in crisis. ‘Serious domestic reforms are needed that won’t be fixed by the exchange rate normalization,’ Mr. (John) Ashbourne (of Capital Economics) said. As a result of sabotage by resurgent militants in the oil-producing Niger delta, Nigeria has been losing about 700,000 barrels of oil a day. This, and the fall in oil prices since 2014, mean that the state is receiving a quarter or less of what it earned two years ago.”
    • As a follow up as of Thursday (6/23), the exchange rate was 283.50 Naira to $1 USD.
  • Patrick Jenkins of the Financial Times highlighted the slow moving financial crisis that is underfunded pensions.
    • “A recent report by Citigroup shone a light on just how big a nightmare is looming. It found most pension plans in the US and UK are underfunded, with an aggregate 18% deficit.”
    • “Government pension schemes are in an even worse state. Citi found the value of unfunded or underfunded liabilities for 20 OECD countries is $78tn – nearly double the $44tn published national debt number.”


WSJ – Why China’s Developers Can’t Stop Overpaying for Property – Jacky Wong 6/19

WSJ_Why China’s Developers Can’t Stop Overpaying for Property_6-19-16

WSJ – Credit Black Hole – Anjani Trivedi 6/20

WSJ_Chinese Cash Disappearing Down Credit Black Hole_6-20-16

FT – Nigeria’s currency tanks against dollar on float – Yukako Ono and Lucinda Elliott 6/20

FT_Nigerian naira falls_6-20-16


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

The World Nears Peak Fossil Fuels for Electricity. Tom Randall. Bloomberg. 12 Jun. 2016.

“The way we get electricity is about to change dramatically, as the era of ever-expanding demand for fossil fuels comes to an end – in less than a decade. That’s according to a new forecast by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) that plots out the global power markets for the next 25 years.”

“Call it peak fossil fuels, a turnabout that’s happening not because we’re running out of coal and gas, but because we’re finding cheaper alternatives. Demand is peaking ahead of schedule because electric cars and affordable battery storage for renewable power are arriving faster than expected, as are changes in China’s energy mix.”

The eight massive shifts underway:

  1. There Will Be No Golden Age of Gas
    • “The cost of wind and solar power are falling too quickly for gas ever to dominate on a global scale, according to BNEF.”
    • The peak year for coal, gas, and oil: 2025.

Bloomberg_Peak fossil fuels_6-12-16

  1. Renewables Attract $7.8 Trillion
    • “Humanity’s demand for electricity is still rising, and investments in fossil fuels will add up to $2.1 trillion through 2040. But that will be dwarfed by $7.8 trillion invested in renewables, including $3.4 trillion for solar, $3.1 trillion for wind, and $911 billion for hydro power.”
    • “But by 2027, something remarkable happens. At that point, building new wind farms and solar fields will often be cheaper than running the existing coal and gas generators.”
    • “By 2028, batteries will be as ubiquitous as rooftop solar is today.”

Bloomberg_Solar on the upswing_6-12-16

  1. Electric Cars Rescue Power Markets
    • “The adoption of electric cars will vary by country and continent, but overall they’ll add 8% to humanity’s total electricity use by 2040, BNEF found.”

Bloomberg_Electric cars go mainstream_6-12-16

  1. Batteries Join the Grid
    • “The scale-up of electric cars increases demand for renewable energy and drives down the cost of batteries. And as those costs fall, batteries can increasingly be used to store solar power.”

Bloomberg_Here come the batteries_6-12-16

  1. Solar and Wind Prices Plummet
    • “For every doubling in the world’s solar panels, costs fall by 26%, a number known as solar’s ‘learning rate.’ Solar is a technology, not a fuel, and as such it gets cheaper and more efficient over time. This is the formula that’s driving the energy revolution.”
    • “Wind-power prices are also falling fast – 19% for every doubling. Wind and solar will be the cheapest forms of producing electricity in most of the world by the 2030s, according to BNEF.”

Bloomberg_Beautiful math of solar power_6-12-16

  1. Capacity Factors Go Wild
    • The capacity factor (essentially the efficiency ratio) for renewable energy technologies is getting much better.
    • “Once a solar or wind project is built, the marginal cost of the electricity it produces is pretty much zero–free electricity–while coal and gas plants require more fuel for every new watt produced. If you’re a power company with a choice, you choose the free stuff every time.”

Bloomberg_Capacity factors getting better_6-12-16

  1. A New Polluter to Worry About
    • “China’s evolving economy and its massive shift from coal to renewables mean it will have the greatest reduction in carbon emissions of any country in the next 25 years, according to BNEF.”
    • But, “India’s electricity demand is expected to increase fourfold by 2040” and they have tons of coal which they intend to use.

Bloomberg_India the fastest-growing polluter_6-12-16

  1. The Transformation Continues
    • Unfortunately, the shift to renewables is not happening fast enough…

Bloomberg_Climate is still in trouble_6-12-16

US low-skill males drop out of jobs market. Sam Fleming. Financial Times. 20 Jun. 2016.

“Labor-force participation among men of prime working age has dropped by more in the US than in any other OECD country apart from Italy in the past quarter century.”

A recent report from the Council of Economic Advisers “shed light on one of the major concerns about America’s recovery: while unemployment has been falling, a large number of people have also been dropping out of the jobs market altogether.”

“Among so-called prime-aged men between the ages of 25 and 54, the participation rate fell more steeply than in all but one other country in the OECD from 1990 to 2014, the report found. It is now the third-lowest among 34 OECD nations.”

The report found that “this fall in the prime-age male labor force participation rate, from a peak of 98% in 1954 to 88% today, is particularly troubling since workers at this age are at their most productive.”

“The analysis shows that participation rates have diverged sharply between people who have a college degree or more, and those who do not. In 1964, some 98% of prime-age, college-educated men participated in the workforce, compared with 97% of those with a high-school degree or less. By 2015, the rate for college-educated men had slipped to 94%, while that for those with a high-school degree or less had plunged to 83%.”

FT_Prime-age male labor force participation_6-20-16

Further, “more than a third of those prime-aged men who are outside the workforce are living in poverty, suggesting their decision to drop out is not a choice they made because they had other sources of income.”

Is Venezuela close to boiling point? Pan Kwan Yuk. Financial Times. 21 Jun. 2016.

You’ll note this week that there is a lot of coverage on this topic from the NYT piece about Venezuelans ransacking stores for basic goods, to the Bloomberg Businessweek article on how weak government structures fall apart when climate stresses get added to the mix, to the Financial Times article on how Chinese government officials have been meeting with the opposition politicians in Caracas to ensure that their loans will eventually be paid.  Bottom line, things are coming apart at the seams.

“Venezuela is on the brink of economic and social collapse. There is a high chance of a sovereign default and a removal of the president over the next eighteen months.” – Capital Economics

“The worst part of this story is that Venezuela hasn’t hit bottom yet – the only light at the end of this tunnel seems to be from another of a series of oncoming locomotives.” – Russ Dallen, managing partner at Caracas Capital Markets

“The violent food riots that have swept the country are but the latest sign that things in Venezuela might have reached a boiling point. The collapse in the bolivar “fuerte” – or strong bolivar – which is trading close to 1,100 per dollar in the black market – is another. To put this in perspective, the country’s biggest banknote – the 100 bolivar – is now worth just a mere 9 US cents.”

FT_Collapse of the bolivar_6-21-16

Other Interesting Articles

Bloomberg Businessweek

The Economist

FT – Nigeria changes course with painful devaluation 6/16

FT – Whatever happened to the China crisis? 6/19

FT – Perverse incentives lie behind Microsoft’s LinkedIn purchase 6/19

FT – Egyptians rush to invest in property to counter the pound’s slide 6/19

FT – Hedge funds seek long term money for distressed debt wagers 6/20

FT – Central banks’ front-loading leaves modest pickings for investors 6/20

FT- Chinese banks brace for storm in face of shadow finance calm 6/20

FT – The corn shortage that Brazil really can’t afford 6/21

FT – China bankruptcies surge as government targets zombie enterprises 6/22

Investment News – Allianz’ Mohamed El-Erian sees ‘common element’ between Brexit vote, negative rates, strange politics and Fed policy 6/20

MarketWatch – A storm is brewing in the real-estate market, Pimco warns 6/20

Vanity Fair – Leaked Documents Reveal How Much Uber Drivers Really Make 6/23

WSJ – Apartment Boom Needs Cooling-Off Period 6/16

WSJ – China’s Short-Term Lending Boom Won’t End Well 6/16

WSJ – Losers Abound in $7 Billion Chinese Takeover Scuffle 6/20

WSJ – Rents Are Booming, But for How Long? 6/21

Yahoo Finance – Jim Chanos shreds ‘shameful’ Tesla-SolarCity deal 6/22


June 3 – June 9, 2016

The volume of Chinese wealth-management products is becoming unwieldy. Banks have had enough of this negative interest rate nonsense.



    • “China today boasts roughly five workers for every retiree. By 2040, this highly desirable ratio will have collapsed to about 1.6 to 1.”
    • “At the same time, the number of Chinese older than 65 is expected to rise from roughly 100 million in 2005 to more than 329 million in 2050 – more than the combined populations of Germany, Japan, France, and Britain.”
    • “With the number of working-age Chinese men already declining – China’s working-age population shrank by 4.87 million people last year – labor is in short supply.”
    • “By hastening and amplifying the effects of this decline, the one-child policy is likely to go down as one of history’s great blunders.”
    • “As a result, by 2020, China is projected to have 30 million more bachelors than single women of similar age.”
    • “By the end of the century, China’s population is projected to dip below 1 billion for the first time since 1980. At the same time, America’s population is expected to hit 450 million.”
    • A May 26 auction of non-performing loans (NPLs) was met with tepid reception and was primarily an event of banks shuffling bad debt between each other.
    • Thing is, if this strategy doesn’t catch on with private sector investors, “a failure to purge lenders of their NPLs may fuel expectations for a government-led bailout, which Standard Chartered Plc estimates could cost as much as $1.5 trillion.”
    • According to Bloomberg Intelligence, “China has about $2.4 trillion of corporate debt at risk of default.”
    • Hopefully the debt products being sold become more transparent and easier to asses from a risk perspective so that the private sector can reasonably jump in.

Special Reports


FT – Argentina set to tumble 22 places on global wealth list – Steve Johnson 5/27

FT_Latin America GDP growth_5-27-16


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

Long Shadow Hangs Over China’s Banks. Anjani Trivedi. Wall Street Journal. 6 Jun. 2016.

“The growth of off-balance sheet WMPs (Wealth Management Products) is exploding, with issuance rising 7.3 trillion yuan ($1.1 trillion) last year, up nearly three-quarters from the previous year, according to Charlene Chu of Autonomous Research. That is equivalent to nearly 40% of China’s 19 trillion yuan credit growth in 2015, including debt issuance under a local government bond-swap program. And while customers are told most WMPs aren’t principal guaranteed, that distinction may be shaky in China’s financial system rich with moral hazard.”

While this isn’t the first time that debt issuance has surged from WMPs; however, “the structures this time around are increasingly complex. Investors in China’s interbank market – including banks – took up almost a third of WMP buying last year, up from 2% the previous year. Most of that is from WMPs essentially buying other WMPs, creating an opaque layering of obligations, Ms. Chu said, echoing the collateralized debt obligations made famous during the U.S. housing bust.”

“Then there is duration risk. Over three quarters of these investment products mature within six months, putting constant repayment pressure on banks. To meet these products’ yield demands, WMPs have been heavy buyers in China’s rip-roaring bond market. A sustained reversal of the bond market could trigger pain on WMPs.”

WSJ_Growth of WMPs in China_6-6-16

Negative rates stir bank mutiny. James Shotter and Claire Jones. Financial Times. 8 Jun. 2016.

“Lenders in Europe and Japan are rebelling against their central banks’ negative interest rate policies, with one big German group going so far as to weigh storing excess deposits in vaults.”

“The central bank policies have hit bank profitability in both regions and German banks have been vocal in criticizing Mario Draghi, European Central Bank president, accusing him of punishing savers and undermining their business models. The policy cost German banks 248m last year, according to the Bundesbank.”

“Japanese banks have been more muted but Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UEJ has become the first leading lender to break ranks, confirming it is considering giving up its primary dealership status for sales of Japanese government bonds.”

“The more central banks think that they can violate the zero-bound, the more likely it is that banks will look at ways to limit their costs. And that means they will hold more cash if they can find efficient means to do so.” – Adalbert Winkler, professor at the Frankfurt School of Finance and Management.

Other Interesting Articles

Bloomberg Businessweek

The Economist

Bisnow – WeWork to Halt Hiring, Make Major Cuts to Staff 6/6

FT – Crisis-era tremors shake property funds 6/2

FT – Emerging markets to slow as convergence theory takes hold 6/2

FT – The period of maximum danger for bond investors is yet to come 6/6

FT – Saudi Arabia considers income tax for foreign residents 6/7

FT – Bank of Korea unexpectedly cuts rates to 1.25% 6/8

FT – Bill Gross warns over $10tn negative-yield bond pile 6/9

NYT – Toxic Fish in Vietnam Idle a Local Industry and Challenge the State 6/8

WSJ – Bank loans: Why it Feels Like 2008 All Over Again in Asia 6/6

WSJ – How to Time a Chinese Banking Tipping Point (2019) 6/7

WSJ – China’s Property Prices Rebound, but Stocks Tell Another Story 6/7

WSJ – Rock-Bottom Bond Yields in Europe Hit All-Time Lows 6/8

WSJ – REIT Surprise: How Real Estate Crushed the Stock Pickers 6/8

Yahoo Finance – JPMorgan: The odds of a recession starting in 12 months has hit a high 6/3