Financial Events

US stocks set for long-term decline as Fed pivots to focus on “Putinflation”

Markets have returned to the 1970s. They have to cope with “Putinflation”, recession, rising interest rates and energy prices – as well as geopolitical and nuclear risk. Unfortunately, today’s traders do not even have the experience of the 1960s as a guide, having lived in a different world for 20 years.

The stock market bubble starts to burst

Exponential rapidly rising or falling markets usually go further than you think, but they do not correct by going sideways.

“When all the experts and forecasts agree — something else is going to happen”, Bob Farrell

At the beginning of the year, “everyone knew” that inflation was about to take off, and that the US$ was going to collapse. Last week, the great Bob Farrell’s Rule No 9 proved its worth, yet again. US interest rates fell sharply and the US$ bottomed for this cycle. The two charts above tell the

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Chart of the Year – CAPE Index signals negative S&P 500 returns to 2030

Each year, it seems there is only one candidate for Chart of the Year. And 2020 is no exception. It has to be the CAPE Index developed by Nobel Prize winner, Prof Robert Shiller.  As the chart shows, it is nearly at an all-time high with Tesla’s addition to the S&P 500. Only the peak

Economic risks rise as the lockdowns end

It is now 13 years since I wrote the first post here, in June 2007. A lot has happened since then: There was the 2008 subprime crisis, forecast here and in the Financial Times – although sadly, few took advantage of the warning This led to the publication of ‘Boom, Gloom and the New Normal: How

China’s property sector is at the epicentre of the crisis

A branch of Centaline Property Agency in Hong Kong © Bloomberg Indebted Chinese property developers threaten a domino effect on western credit markets , as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog Second-order impacts are starting to appear as a result of China’s lockdowns. These are having

“They may ring their bells now, before long they will be wringing their hands”

The wisdom of Sir Robert Walpole, the UK’s first premier, seems the only possible response to this weekend’s headline from the Wall Street Journal. How can a National Emergency ever be the basis for a major rise in stock markets? Of course, we all know that stock markets have become addicted to stimulus. But the

Will stock markets see a Minsky Moment in 2020?

Few investors now remember the days when price discovery was thought to be the key role of stock markets. Instead, we know that prices are really now set by central banks, on the model of the Politburo in the old Soviet Union. How else can one explain the above chart? It shows the US S&P

Chart of the Decade – the Fed’s support for the S&P 500 will end with a debt crisis

Each year, there has been only one possible candidate for Chart of the Year.  Last year it was the collapse of China’s shadow banking bubble; 2017 was Bitcoin’s stratospheric rise; 2016 the near-doubling in US 10-year interest rates; and 2015 the oil price fall. This year, the ‘Chart of the Decade’ is in a league

$50bn hole appears in New York financial markets – Fed is “looking into it”

Most people would quickly notice if $50 went missing from their purse or wallet. They would certainly notice if $50k suddenly disappeared from their bank account. But a fortnight ago, it took the New York Federal Reserve more than a day to notice that $50bn was missing from the money markets it was supposed to

China’s renminbi and the global ring of fire

China’s property bubble puts it at the epicentre of the ring of fire © Reuters  China’s devaluation could be the trigger for an international debt crisis, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog August has often seen the start of major debt crises. The Latin American

London house prices edge closer to a tumble

After the excitement of Wimbledon tennis and a cricket World Cup final, Londoners were back to their favourite conversation topic last week – house prices. But now the news has become bittersweet as the price decline starts to accelerate. As the London Evening Standard headline confirms: “The London property slump has dramatically accelerated with prices

Stock markets risk Wile E. Coyote fall despite Powell’s rush to support the S&P 500

How can companies and investors avoid losing money as the global economy goes into a China-led recession?  That’s the key question as we enter 2019.  We have reached a fork in the road: Since 2008, Western central bankers have focused on supporting stock markets But the bursting of China’s shadow banking bubble means this cannot continue for

Why everyone ignored my warnings ahead of the financial crisis

It’s 10 years since my forecast of a global financial crisis came true, as Lehman Brothers collapsed.  I had warned of this consistently here in the blog, and in the Letters column of the Financial Times. But, of course, nobody wanted to listen whilst the party was going strong.  As the FT’s world trade editor wrote […]

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High-flying “story stocks” hit air pockets as credit finally tightens

“Nobody could ever have seen this coming” is the normal comment after sudden share price falls.  And its been earning its money over the past week as “suddenly” share prices of some of the major “story stocks” on the US market have hit air pockets, as the chart shows: Facebook was the biggest “surprise”, falling […]

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London house prices slip as supply/demand balances change

London house prices are “falling at the fastest rate in almost a decade” according to major property lender, Nationwide.  And almost 40% of new-build sales were to bulk buyers at discounts of up to 30%, according of researchers, Molior.  As the CEO of builders Crest Nicholson told the Financial Times:  “We did this sale because we […]

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Financial markets party as global trade wars begin

More people left poverty in the past 70 years than in the whole of history, thanks to the BabyBoomer-led economic SuperCycle.  World Bank and OECD data show that less than 10% of the world’s population now live below the extreme poverty line of $1.90/day, compared to 55% in 1950. Globalisation has been a key element in […]

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China’s lending bubble is history

As China’s shadow banking is reined in, the impact on the global economy is already clear, as I describe in my latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog China’s shadow banking sector has been a major source of speculative lending to the global economy. But 2018 has seen it entering its […]

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US Treasury benchmark yield heads to 4% as 30-year downtrend ends

The US 10-year Treasury bond is the benchmark for global interest rates and stock markets.  And for the past 30 years it has been heading steadily downwards as the chart shows: US inflation rates finally peaked at 13.6% in 1980 (having been just 1.3% in 1960) as the BabyBoomers began to move en masse into the […]

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Chart of the Year: Bitcoin, the logical end for stimulus policies

Last year it was the near-doubling in US 10-year interest rates.  In 2015, it was the oil price fall.  This year, there is really only one candidate for ‘Chart of the Year’ – it has to be Bitcoin: It was trading at around $1000 at the start of 2017 and had reached $5000 by August […]

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China’s central bank governor warns of ‘Minsky Moment’ risk

The world is coming to the end of probably the greatest financial bubble ever seen.  Since the financial crisis began in 2008, central banks in China, the USA, Europe, the UK and Japan have created over $30tn of debt. China has created more than half of this debt as the chart shows, and its total debt […]

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US tax cuts will fail as Trump’s demographic deficit replaces Reagan’s demographic dividend

No country in the world now has a top quality pension system.  That’s the conclusion from the latest Report by pensions consultants Melbourne Mercer.  As the chart above shows: Denmark and The Netherlands have fallen out of the top category In the G7 wealthy nations: Canada is in category B; Germany and UK in C+; […]

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Interest rates and London house prices begin return to reality

Global interest rates have fallen dramatically over the past 25 years, as the chart shows for government 10-year bonds:   UK rates peaked at 9% in 1995 and are now down at 1%: US rates peaked at 8% and are now at 2%   German rates peaked at 8% and are now down to 0%: […]

Investors ponder further shocks after North Korea jolt

Interviewed for this Reuters article, I suggest today’s low levels of market volatility could be “the calm before the storm”  Saikat Chatterjee and Vikram Subhedar, AUGUST 11, 2017 / 5:06 PM LONDON (Reuters) – After this week’s war of words between the United States and North Korea triggered the biggest fall in global stocks since the U.S. presidential […]

London housing market hit by Brexit, China’s capital controls

London’s housing market was always going to have a difficult 2017. As I noted 2 years ago, developers were planning 54,000 new luxury homes at prices of £1m+ ($1.25m) in central London, which would mainly start to flood onto the market this year. They weren’t bothered by the fact that only 3900 homes were sold […]

Chart of the Year: US$, 10-year US interest rates begin to rise

Last year it was the oil price fall.  This year, there is no doubt that the US dollar has taken centre stage, alongside the major rise underway in benchmark 10-year interest rates.  As 2016′s Chart of the Year shows:   The US$ Index (black) has risen 12% since May against other major currencies (euro, yen, […]

London house prices start their collapse

London’s house market has been slowing for some time, as I noted last year.  The issue is affordability.  Artificially low interest rates make the monthly payment seem cheap.  But the key question is whether your salary will allow you to repay the capital borrowed over time. Sadly, this has become increasingly impossible for many actual […]

Markets question central bank power as Great Reckoning nears

TIME magazine covers often capture the mood of a moment.  And that was certainly true in February 1999, with their now famous cover picturing then US Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, under the heading “The Committee to SAVE the World“. In a further sign of the times, Greenspan was flanked by the US Treasury Secretary […]

US 10-Year interest rates suggest Great Reckoning may be near

 ”History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes“, Mark Twain Bob Farrell of Merrill Lynch was rightly considered one of the leading Wall Street analysts in his day.  His 10 Rules are still an excellent guide for any investor.  Equally helpful is the simple checklist he developed, echoing Mark Twain’s insight, to help investors avoid […]

6 impossible things not to believe about oil before breakfast

 ”Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Oil traders know how the Queen felt in Lewis Carroll’s famous book, Alice Through the Looking-Glass.  The list of impossible things that they are being asked to believe grows almost by the day:   Last week, prices jumped 4% on the basis that strong […]

Investors panic in “search for yield” as interest rates go negative

Its been a great few months for financial markets.  All the major markets have seen gains, as the chart shows – something that has happened only once before, since my half-yearly reviews began in March 2009: □   Long-term US Treasury bonds have gained, as long-term interest rates have been falling □   The 30-year bond […]

Pensions crisis finally becomes a mainstream issue

It has been 5 years since we first warned of a looming pensions crisis in Boom, Gloom and the New Normal.  Now, finally, it is becoming a mainstream issue.  The latest round of central bank stimulus policies has clearly been the proverbial “straw that breaks the camel’s back” for anyone connected with pension funding. The […]

Suspense rises as Great Unwinding becomes the Great Reckoning

“There is a distinct difference between “suspense” and “surprise.”  Alfred Hitchcock It is now 2 years since the start of the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus.  On 15 August 2014, Brent was at $105/bbl, and the US$ Index was at 81. Since then, as the chart shows, Brent oil prices have fallen 53%, whilst the […]

US pensioners pay the price for Fed’s monetary policy failure

There was one bit of good news this week.  For the first time since the financial crisis began, a Governor of the US Federal Reserve acknowledged that today’s demographic changes are having a major impact on the US economy. John Williams, of the San Francisco Fed, argued that: “Shifting demographics….(mean that) interest rates are going […]

Boom/Gloom Index suggests volatile August may lie ahead

It may be an idea to keep your smartphone charged and within reach, if you are planning a trip to the beach this month.  Certainly market behaviour since June has been more and more skittish.  The experts, after all, were telling us that central banks were certain to do more major stimulus efforts to boost […]

Europe’s oil product glut halves gasoline margins in 2 weeks

We are approaching the 2nd anniversary of the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus, which began in August 2014: The initial movement was very sharp, with Brent falling 53% by January and the US$ rising 23% by March Oil then saw an initial correction – with Brent recovering to being 37% down by May during the “oil […]

Brexit a disaster for the UK, Europe and the world

First, the good news.  It has long been recognised that the UK economy is over-dependent on financial services, and that its housing market – particularly in London – is wildly over-priced in relation to earnings.  The Brexit vote should ensure that both these problems are solved: Many banks and financial institutions are already planning to […]

Investors fear Fed’s outdated theories have hit sell-by date

These are difficult times for companies and investors.  It is becoming more and more apparent that central bank stimulus policies have failed to counter today’s demand deficit, caused by ageing populations.  It is also clear that central bankers themselves have little idea of what is happening in the real economy. They have based their programmes […]

Restocking boosts Q1 margins for chemical companies

Thank goodness for Janet Yellen, and China’s provincial governments.  That was clearly investors’ thoughts, when they bid up chemical company share prices during Q1.  For as the chart above shows, there was nothing in the fundamentals of supply and demand to suggest economic recovery was finally underway.  Instead, the latest American Chemistry Council data shows […]

China’s G20 Summit shutdown highlights risks to buying “frenzy” in commodities markets

China’s polyester industry, like many others, is already preparing to shut down ahead of September’s G20 Summit in Hangzhou, to reduce pollution levels.  The phenomenon even has its own Wikipedia page, APEC Blue, to describe the moment in November 2014 when Beijing suddenly saw blue sky for the whole of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit meeting.  It […]

Chemicals, the “flea on the tail of the currency/interest rate dog”

Markets are becoming increasingly chaotic, as the world’s major central banks each try to devalue their currencies. They have created a traders’ paradise, with oil on a particularly wild ride.  But this has not been based on supply/demand fundamentals.  Instead, it has been due to hedge funds jumping back into the commodities market. They don’t […]

US Federal Reserve aims to devalue the dollar, again

What we “assume” can make an “ass of u and me“, as the proverb says.  And that is certainly true of the way central banks have manipulated the major currencies since the financial crisis began in 2008, as the chart shows of the US$’s movements versus the Japanese yen and the euro: It shows the change […]

Global stock markets weaken as Great Unwinding of stimulus continues

It is 7 years since global stock markets bottomed after the 2008 financial crash.  But as my regular 6-monthly update on their performance shows, it has been a very mixed picture since then.  The chart shows how prices have moved since their pre-2008 peak in the world’s 8 major markets, and in the US 30-year […]

Brexit poll creates UK, euro interest rate rise risk

Financial markets are very bad at evaluating political risk.  They assume people will always be rational, and expect a ‘business as usual’ scenario to continue.  But as we all know, people are not always rational.  And emotion, as today over immigration may cloud their judgement. This week has seen the first signs of this complacency […]

If only the central banks could print babies

The Financial Times has kindly printed my letter below, arguing that central bank stimulus can’t restore growth to previous Super Cycle levels. Sir, John Plender’s excellent analysis “Central banks’ waning credibility is the real threat to confidence” (Insight, February 17) highlights the need for a new narrative to explain the economic slowdown of recent years. […]

US 10-year interest rates jump 23% as Fed debates 0.25% hike

Media hype over the potential for a 0.25% interest rate rise by the US Federal Reserve is well underway.  But as often happens these days, this is missing the bigger picture. The issue is simple: developments in China are far more important to the global economy than anything the Fed might, or might not, do […]

China’s total lending declines as shadow sector squeezed

Go, go, go, said the bird: human kind Cannot bear very much reality. Time past and time future What might have been and what has been Point to one end, which is always present These lines from the great poet TS Eliot seem to sum up current thinking towards China.  Analysts compete with themselves to […]

Coppock, Farrell indicators suggest financial market downturn underway

They don’t ring bells to warn of financial market tops and bottoms.  But there are 2 very good substitutes in terms of the Farrell and Coppock Indicators, as the above chart for the UK stock market since 1973 shows: It is based on the Financial Times All-share Index (FTA), as the FTSE 100 only began […]

Financial markets head towards chaos as Great Unwinding continues

Financial markets are slowly descending into chaos.  The process began in China over the summer, and has now started to impact Wall Street and other developed markets as the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus continues. The problem is that successful investment, whether in financial or chemical markets, requires the combination of A clear understanding of […]

Markets need more cash from the Janet Yellen tooth fairy

Central banks have acted as the proverbial tooth fairy towards financial markets in recent years.  But they have not just left a small amount of money under the pillow when a child lost its first tooth.  Instead they have printed trillions of dollars via Quantitative Easing (QE), to persuade investors to buy shares and commodities, […]

Stock market volatility surges as margin debt hits danger level

Global stock markets turned in a vintage experience last week for those who like horror movies. Continued sell-offs in China finally convinced some financial investors, and some senior Western policymakers, that its economy might not be quite as strong as they had assumed.  The ensuing panic led to record profits for the high frequency traders (HFTs), as the Dow Jones […]

Contagion hits financial markets as Great Unwinding continues

Crude oil prices continued to fall towards $30/bbl last week.  Markets are finally starting to recognise, as the BBC reported last year, that ‘China fooled the world‘ with its stimulus programme. It had not suddenly become middle-class by Western standards in 2009.  Instead, aided by developed country stimulus policies, its own stimulus had helped create […]

Greece introduces capital controls; IMF says it needs to default

This morning, Greece introduced capital controls.  People can only withdraw €60/day ($65) from their bank accounts.  The government has also called a referendum on Sunday, after Eurozone talks on a new bailout package collapsed. The key issue is that Greece will never be able to repay its debts.  These are currently estimated at €322bn ($365bn) […]

Fed’s loss of credibility risks causing investor stampede

Credibility is hard to gain.  And once gone, it is very hard to regain.  That is the challenge facing the US Federal Reserve today.  The New York Times is just one of the mainstream media now starting to highlight the issue, as last week’s Feb meeting led to a further deferral of the promised rise […]

German markets stumble as “Sell in May” theme continues

My 4 May post was titled “‘Sell in May and go away?’ as US, German bond yields jump“.  Since then, US interest rates have continued to soar and the US stock market is starting to wobble, as I discussed last week.  Now emerging markets are in the line of fire.  $9.3bn was withdrawn last week – […]

Gloom turns to boom as US economic data disappoints, again

“If only US GDP growth could remain negative in Q2, what a lot of money we could make”.  You could almost hear the excited chatter in financial markets on Friday, as news spread that revised data showed the US economy had seen negative growth in Q1. This is yet another example of the upside-down world […]

Policymakers’ out-of-date economic models fail to create growth, again

Since 2010, May/June has seen the US Federal Reserve start to realise it would have to revise its optimistic New Year forecast that economic recovery was inevitable. As its deputy chairman, Stanley Fischer, noted last August “Year after year we have had to explain from mid-year on why the global growth rate has been lower than […]

US interest rates likely to move higher sooner, not later

The Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus began last August with the collapse of oil prices and the rise of the US$.  Of course, markets have bounced around since then – but that is what markets do. And in major markets such as these, there are also people with large wallets ready to manipulate prices in one direction […]

China lending curbs will hit global property bubbles

China’s interest bill this year is around $1.7tn, according to ratings agency Fitch.  And no, the “tn” isn’t a typo. China’s interest bill is indeed around the total size of India’s economy, and larger than the economies of S Korea ($1.3tn), Spain ($1.4tn) or Mexico ($1.3tn). Common sense tells us that no economy can afford […]

Germany could face €86bn bill from a Greek default

Who would pay the bill, if Greece defaulted on its current €320bn debt ($340bn)? This is no longer just a theoretical question.  Of course, we have all known since 2012 that Greece would never be able to repay its debt.  But the EU covered up this hard truth by a ‘pretend and extend’ policy: The default deal deferred repayment […]

Market volatility jumps as Great Unwinding continues

As I have feared, major volatility is developing in financial and chemical markets, as the Great Unwinding of policymaker stimulus continues.  The chart above shows the dramatic increase in the benchmark portfolio since the Unwinding began in mid-August: There was very little volatility from January until August, with prices generally remaining within +/- 10% Volatility then […]

Europe’s QE programme fails to support US markets

Its been a fine run for the Boom/Gloom Index of financial market sentiment.  Every time it has weakened, as in January, central banks have rushed to support it with ever-larger volumes of free cash. But the European Central Bank’s new €60bn/month ($65bn) programme doesn’t seem to be providing the same support for US equities as before, […]

Volatility rises as central bank policies prove wishful thinking

Q1 was very difficult for many companies and investors.  They had wanted to believe since 2009 that central banks could somehow control the global economy: The oil price would always be $100/bbl The US $ would always remain weak Central banks would always be able to stimulate growth in the economy Stock markets would always go up in the […]

US watchdog warns on today’s “quicksilver markets”

What could go wrong in today’s financial world?  Many stock markets in the West are hitting new highs, and central banks are promising they will do nothing to spoil the party.  But as Gillian Tett of the Financial Times warned on Friday: “Before anyone gets too thrilled about equities, they should read a sobering research document from […]

US$ breaks out of 30-year downtrend

Attention has rightly been focused on the collapse of oil prices over the past 6 months.  These have further to fall, but the major part of the move must now be behind us.  After all, Brent was at $104/bbl when I first forecast the move in mid-August, and closed at $56/bbl last night, so probably “only” has $20/bbl-$30/bbl further downside. […]

European interest rates go negative as Draghi boosts stock markets

Historians will not look kindly on Mario Draghi, head of the European Central Bank. They will ask what he thought he was doing, issuing an extra €1tn ($1.05tn) of debt from March 2015, when the Eurozone was already struggling under a dead-weight of government debt: In the big countries, Italy has $47k of debt per person; […]

Stock markets see Winners and Losers appear

The world’s major financial markets hit bottom exactly 6 years ago, on 6 March 2009.  They then began their recovery, fuelled by expectations of a quick V-shaped recovery as a result of G20 stimulus plans. At that date, prices had fallen in all markets versus their pre-Crisis peaks: The world’s largest Index, the US S&P […]

What a difference a QE programme makes

 ”What a difference a day makes Twenty-four little hours Brought the sun and the flowers                                            Where there used to be rain” (lyrics, Renee Olstead) What would financial markets do without Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank (ECB)?  A month ago, they were worrying about deflation arriving in the Eurozone and the […]

Mckinsey says global debt now 3x global GDP, and rising

A major new report from consultants McKinsey confirms my concerns over the dramatic increase in global debt levels since stimulus policies began in 2008.   As their chart above highlights: Global debt has risen by $57tn to $199tn since 2007, nearly 3x global GDP Government debt is up by $25tn, with three-quarters of this in the developed […]

US stock markets weaken as bond yields signal deflation is near

Increasing volatility in major Western financial markets suggests they are struggling to maintain their momentum. It is certainly hard to be very optimistic about the outlook for the major Western stock markets this year.  The reason is that investors are still failing to think about political risk.  They continue to believe, as they did a year ago, […]

One day, the Fed will try to talk the market up – and nobody will listen

In March 2007, the Financial Times kindly published a letter from me arguing that the US Federal Reserve seemed “to confuse being market-friendly with being friendly to markets“, and had forgotten “The famous dictum of William McChesney, the long-serving Fed chairman in the 1960s, that “the job of the Federal Reserve is to take away the punch […]

Fed jumps in to boost stock markets, yet again

Every time US stock markets weaken on a day-to-day basis, the US Federal Reserve now jumps in to support them, as the chart above shows: We saw this first on October 16, when the S&P 500 fell 5% in a week to 1862.  In jumped Fed Governor James Bullard to calm market nerves by suggesting that the Fed should […]

Major investors worry about markets, focus on demographics

I had a breakfast meeting yesterday with the investment head of one of the world’s major asset managers.  He wanted to understand more about our Great Unwinding concept, and our correct mid-August forecast of $70/bbl oil prices. After that, we went on to discuss two critical and related areas: Would the oil price stay at today’s […]

Japan’s panicking policymakers create risk of hyper-inflation

“The basic function of a central bank is to defend the value of the currency.”  Paul Volcker was the great US central banker of our time.  Unlike Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke, he believed in taking firm action to avoid crises, rather than trusting in financial markets to regulate themselves.  He also believed that politicians had […]

Danger and Opportunity await as the financial Crisis returns

The Great Unwinding began with the change of economic direction in China.  So it makes good sense for businesses and investors to view developments with a Chinese perspective in mind.  This is particularly relevant as the Chinese word for Crisis contains 2 characters – Danger and Opportunity – as the picture shows. DANGER It is not hard to identify the key Danger from the […]

Boom/Gloom Index suggests S&P 500 close to its peak

How long can the juggler keep all the balls in the air? That is the question that compels us to stand in the square and watch her skill at work. We have the same fascination watching central bankers at work – they similarly aim to keep financial markets aloft, to create their desired ‘wealth effect’. But we know that […]

China sees $13.5bn of fake September ‘collateral trade’ invoices

China’s ‘collateral trade’ is still a major force in world markets for iron ore, copper and even plastics such as polyethylene.  September’s data suggests $13.5bn of fake invoices added 56% to the value of China’s exports to Hong Kong, as property developers strove to raise cash to finish their buildings. Full details of the trade […]

“Welcome to the New Normal”

A blog reader has kindly sent the above cartoon from the financial pages of The Telegraph newspaper today. Clearly investors are beginning to share the blog’s analysis.

IMF says economic growth may never return to pre-crisis levels

The Great Unwinding of policymakers’ failed stimulus programmes is now clearly underway in the global economy.  The headlines this week all focused on the latest International Monetary Fund (IMF) report: “IMF says economic growth may never return to pre-crisis levels.” And then, in response, the US Federal Reserve suddenly realised that the US economy was not […]

Interest rate outlook more uncertain as Bill Gross leaves PIMCO

Last week’s departure of Bill Gross from his role as Chief Investment Officer at PIMCO is likely to prove a turning point for interest rates in the West, and probably around the world. Gross founded PIMCO (Pacific Investment Management Co) more than 40 years ago.  During this time he built its assets under management to around $2tn.   That is […]

Polymer markets at risk if China’s ‘collateral trade’ unwinds

Global metal markets are at growing risk from developments in China’s ‘collateral trade’, as yesterday’s post highlighted.  Worryingly, so are products such as polyethylene and ethylene glycol, as it seems likely these have also been used as collateral more recently.  This will be bad news for producers already suffering from slowing demand: China’s economy continues to weaken as the […]

China’s $10bn trade deal fraud hits iron ore and copper markets

Iron ore prices on China’s futures market were at 5-year lows yesterday.  Copper prices also weakened in Australia.  This adds to the blog’s concern that China’s ‘collateral trade’ market is getting closer and closer to its ‘moment of truth’. This will come as an awful shock to most outside observers, who have been led to believe China’s vast imports […]

US Fed governor agrees it helped fund Alibaba bubble

The last days of a bubble are always the most fun.  And Alibaba’s New York market debut last Friday will be one of those to treasure and report to the grandchildren in decades to come.  There were so many elements to enjoy: The investment bankers got the price wrong by 40%, but will still walk away with […]

US ethylene outages boost European and Asian PE producers

Polymer traders must be already counting their end-of-year bonuses, as the value of the US$ rises whilst crude oil prices weaken.  The biggest bonuses will likely go to polyethylene (PE) traders competing with US producers. The reason is that US ethylene spot prices are currently at record levels.  An astonishing 10% of US ethylene capacity has been out […]

Shiller warning suggests S&P 500 bubble coming to an end

Nobel Prizewinner Prof Robert Shiller correctly forecast the dot-com collapse in 2000, and the 2008 financial Crisis, using the chart above.  Now he is warning we risk a 3rd collapse. The problem is that Western central banks have undertaken the largest financial experiment in history.  Their policy has been to boost financial markets, particularly the US S&P 500 – the world’s […]

Global stock markets still depend on low-cost money for support

The blog’s 6-monthly review of global stock markets highlights the narrow nature of the advance since September 2008, when the blog first began analysing developments.  It shows their performance since the pre-Crisis peak for each market, and the performance of the US 30-year Treasury bond. Remarkably, only the US, India, Germany and the UK stock markets […]

August highlights

Many readers have been taking a well-earned break over the past few weeks.   As usual, therefore, the blog is highlighting key posts during August, to help you catch up as you return to the office. Economic outlook:  Great Unwinding of stimulus underway.  Q2 results show slowing growth.  US retail sales decline in line with incomes, […]

US dollar rises as investors worry low-cost money may disappear

Nobody knows how the Great Unwinding of central bank stimulus policies will develop.  The world has simply never been in this position before.  Thus the senior economics and business correspondent of the Financial Times, John Plender, began an article this week: “In a market where asset prices are comprehensively rigged by central bankers, rational investment […]

Eliminating the impossible in China’s polyethylene market

Very large amounts of copper, iron and other commodities are in long-term storage in China as part of the ‘collateral trade’.  More recently, it seems large amounts of polyethylene (PE), ethylene glycol (MEG) and probably other chemicals have also started to be used for the trade. None of this used to matter when the Chinese economy was booming.  Why […]

Markets slip as fears grow Fed’s cheap money may end soon

Western financial markets are getting nervous that the US Federal Reserve will cut off their supply of cheap money.  They went through the same panic in 2011.  Now they again have to wait to see what happens. The chart of the new IeC Boom/Gloom Index above highlights the parallels: Markets were strong through April 2011, with the […]

China condom sales droop 1 million/day on anti-graft campaign

Condom sales have dropped by 1 million/day in China according to The Economist magazine.  It highlights how: Across China, luxury retailers and fancy restaurants are suffering from an edict against wasteful government spending. A chill has crept into karaoke parlours and brothels; mistresses also face a hard time. The reason is the new leadership’s anti-corruption […]

Polyethylene, shadow banking and China’s ‘collateral trade’

The blog’s latest post for the Financial Times, published on the BeyondBrics blog is below. By Paul Hodges of International eChem Strange things are happening in China’s polyethylene (PE) market. Despite a slowdown in the economy, demand is surging. Our research suggests that PE, like copper and iron before it, is the latest instrument of China’s […]

$20tn US, China stimulus and lending – but recovery elusive

Despite all the positive headlines, the world’s two largest economies have failed to deliver sustained recovery, even though the 2 governments have now spent a combined $20tn in stimulus and lending. US STIMULUS REACHES $10tn The US government and Federal Reserve have spent $10tn since the Great Recession began in 2008.  Federal deficits have increased by $6.27tn, whilst […]

The €2bn WiFi company that wasn’t

Blog readers often travel a lot.  And they certainly use WiFi.  So here’s a question: Q.  Do you ever remember using a WiFi service called Gowex? A.  Lots of puzzled looks in response Q.   Not sure?  You think it might be vaguely familiar, but maybe not.  Well this is what the company’s website says: “Your […]

Will 2014 be a repeat of 2008, but worse?

Will 2014 turn out to be a repeat of 2008 for the US economy? 6 years ago, after all, not a single mainstream forecaster – including the IMF and World Bank – was forecasting a recession.  Even in September 2008, the consensus was still confident about the economic outlook.  Yet the National Bureau for Economic Research […]

$15bn gold loan scam revealed: Beijing property sales fall 50%

Almost every day brings new revelations about the growing evidence of major fraud in China’s ‘collateral trade’.  Yet the world’s financial markets remain very complacent.  They have forgotten the basic rule, that the first example is usually the tip of the iceberg – not a one-off mistake. They have also forgotten that the real problems only emerge when […]

Qingdao probe the ‘straw on the camel’s back’ for world markets

The blog’s new Research Note in the ‘Your Compass on China’ series highlights the way that China’s commodity imports have been used to finance its housing bubble.  This is clearly a shock for investors, who have till now believed the imports were a sign of its superior economic policies and long-term growth prospects. The Qingdao probe could […]

China’s commodity imports have financed its property bubble

Today, the blog launches a major new Research Note in the ‘Your Compass on China’ series, produced in association with leading Hong Kong-based financial advisory firm Polarwide. Titled ‘Here today and gone tomorrow – a simple guide to China’s world of trade finance’, it is probably the single most important paper it will publish all […]

Financial market melt-up takes S&P 500 to new record

A year ago, the blog suggested that financial markets were reaching their most dangerous ‘melt-up’ stage, driven by investor complacency about the ability of central banks to protect them from any downturn.  This analysis was confirmed in November, when absurdly high prices were paid for works of modern art, smashing previous records. Gillian Tett of the Financial Times (another of […]

Prime Beijing house prices drop 40% since December

China’s property market is the epicentre of the global debt bubble discussed yesterday.  It has been red-hot since urban residents became free to buy their own home in 1998.  Before then, they lived where the state told them.  With interest rates held low to boost state-funded infrastructure spending, people had few options for investing their money. The […]

Central banks have created a debt-fuelled ‘ring of fire’

A new article by an IMF economist makes the point that in April 2008, not a single one of the mainstream economic forecasts covered by ‘Consensus Economics’ was forecasting a recession in 2009. The IMF itself expected growth to continue, as did the World Bank and the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development.  Even by […]

Another ‘Minsky Moment’ beckons for US stock markets

The West has been living with cheap money from the central banks for over 5 years.  Credit has been very easy to obtain in the financial sector, and interest rates have been at all-time lows.  The result can be seen in the chart above from Business Insider of total lending to fund stock purchases on the New […]

China’s president highlights ‘new normal’ of economic growth

China’s President Xi Jinping became the first world leader to highlight the move into a “new normal” at the weekend: “China is still in a significant period of strategic opportunity. We must boost our confidence, adapt to the new normal condition based on the characteristics of China’s economic growth in the current phase and stay cool-minded” “Through […]

China’s PE imports jump 26% as credit bubble peaks

Strange things are happening in China’s polyethylene (PE) market, as the chart shows: Imports suddenly jumped 26% in Q1 (red column) versus last year (green) This would be an extraordinary amount at any time, but especially now with the economy slowing It comes at a time when China’s own production continued to increase, up 8% As a result, […]

Ageing populations create repayment risk for government bonds

Government bonds in the larger, wealthy countries of the West have traditionally been regarded as being “risk-free”.  Most countries have failed to pay their debts at some time in the past, but it hasn’t happened in the post-War period for the major economies, and so investors have forgotten this can happen. This situation may well change […]

High-frequency traders pay $millions to be legal highwaymen

In olden days, highwaymen would hang around stagecoach inns, waiting to see when wealthy people were travelling.  Then they would hide out along their likely route, getting wet and cold, in order to take their cash. Today the arrival of electronic trading has changed all this.  High-Frequency Traders (HFT) now have computer programmes to act as their lookouts, […]

“It’s worse than 2007, because then it was a problem of the developed economies”

William White was the only central banker to publicly warn of the risks to the world economy long before the Crisis, when he was chief economist of the Bank for International Settlements (the central bankers’ bank).  He also warned of the problems that would be caused by their stimulus programmes as early as September 2009. A blog […]

Interesting Quotes (7)

Every now and then, somebody in a senior position says something that really deserves to be noticed.  Often this is when they are in a state of Denial.  This was the case in the blog’s first post in the Interesting Quotes series, when CitiGroup CEO, Chuck Prince dismissed worries about subprime losses in August 2007, saying: […]

Cement Shen’s $563m ‘Peach Blossom Palace’ bankruptcy

The sight above may become more familiar as China’s new leadership seek to burst the property bubble.  It shows unfinished town houses on the Peach Blossom Palace estate in Fenghua city, south of Shanghai. They were built by local developer ‘Cement Shen’, whose Zhejiang Xingrun (ZX) property company went bust last month, owing Rmb3.5bn ($563m).  […]

Fed Chair Yellen ignores demographics, goes back to stimulus

So, here we are again.  Each year it seems to take less and less time for the US Federal Reserve to give up on its confident New Year forecasts of economic recovery. New Fed Chair, Janet Yellen, argued in February that the weather was responsible for the economy’s poor performance.  But now she seems to have decided the […]

China’s lending problems begin to worry wider world – too late

Suddenly, people are starting to talk about China and the risks it creates for the global economy.  There is a lifecycle to the way that such issues develop in the general consciousness, as John Mauldin has observed.  And so this development suggests that we are now well along the process, as highlighted in the chart above: […]

Crimea referendum highlights growing geo-political risks

Markets have been remarkably calm ahead of Crimea’s planned Sunday referendum to leave Ukraine and join Russia.  Yet as Associated Press has reported: “The Group of 7 world leaders say they won’t recognize results of a referendum for the Crimea region to split from Ukraine and join Russia.  A statement from the seven nations released from […]

5 years of stimulus have only delayed move to the New Normal

Coincidentally the blog began its 6-monthly review of global financial market performance on 7 March 2009, as the US market hit its post-Crisis bottom.  At this point, it was possible to hope that central banks would allow markets to resolve the issues that they themselves had created. After all, there would have been no subprime crash if the US Federal […]

Central banks have “attempted to manipulate asset prices and financial makets”

“The proper role for monetary policy is to work behind the scenes to promote long-term growth and price stability, yet central banks have instead attempted to “manipulate asset prices and financial markets” to fine-tune their economies. “I do not think this is a particularly healthy state of affairs for the central banks or our economies. […]

Sentiment weakens as US stock markets wait for more QE

Sentiment, as measured by the IeC Boom/Gloom Index has weakened considerably over the past 3 months as the chart shows: It peaked at 12 in November, hitting its highest level since before the 2008 Crisis began (blue column) It then drifted lower in December, before rallying back to 9 in the New Year But now […]

“Reservations are no longer necessary at many high-end restaurants”

Think back a moment to September 16 2008.  Newly released transcripts analysed by the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times reveal for the first time what was really going on that day at the world’s most important central bank. Lehman Bros, one of Wall Street’s largest investment banks, had just gone bust.  Merrill Lynch, another giant, had […]

“Bad news barrage sinks New Year consensus”

Markets stopped operating in their true role of providing price discovery sometime ago.  Instead, they became dominated by the central banks, determined to prove their theory that increased asset values can stimulate sustained economic recovery. They, of course, have the firepower to bend markets to their will.  Nobody else could have spent $16tn in this manner […]

Aluminium shortage “temporary and artificial” says world’s largest buyer

When was the last time you told your customers that they would have to wait 570 days for delivery of material for which they have already paid? You’ve never done this?  Well, you need to take lessons from those super-smart people who own the aluminium warehouses, such as Goldman Sachs (pictured above by Reuters).  As the blog […]

China’s new policies send earthquake tremors through markets

The blog used the metaphor of a hurricane in 2007-8 to describe the likely impact of the looming financial crisis. Thus in July 2007, it discussed the potential for a “global hurricane” to develop.  And it repeated this metaphor as the crisis built, until writing in September 2008 that “the financial hurricane had arrived in New York” with the […]

Aluminium stocks enough to build nearly 2 years’ supply of cars

We all know that strange things have been happening in global commodity markets in the past 5 years.  Central banks have been pumping out free cash, which has been used to fund speculative trading by many of the major investment banks.  In turn this has taken many prices to new records.  And this was all happening when […]

The trend is your friend, until it isn’t

Investing in today’s financial markets is relatively easy.  You simply have to believe that governments in the US, Japan and Europe will continue to provide plenty of free cash to investors as part of their Recovery Scenario of a quick return to ‘normal growth’.  It doesn’t matter whether the investor believes in the Scenario, the driver is simply the fear of […]

Boom/Gloom Index hits record high as western financial markets soar

The best view is always from the top of the mountain.  At least that is how it feels today, with this month’s IeC Boom/Gloom Index (blue column) hitting a record high.  Nor it is alone, as the S&P500 (red line), the world’s most important financial market index is also at record levels. Central banks broke […]

Record $142m for Bacon work shows markets now in “melt-up stage”

The blog is actually a fan of the artist Francis Bacon, and it rather likes the above painting of his friend and fellow-artist Lucien Freud.  But the reason for showing it is not to discuss the finer points of art criticism. It is instead simply to note that its sale by auction house Christies in New York last […]

“I’m Sorry, America” says Fed’s official responsible for QE operations

Over the years, the blog has been very critical of the quality of people appointed by the US Federal Reserve to undertake the actual trading involved in its ‘Quantitative Easing’ (QE) programmes: In October 2008, it felt “distinctly underwhelmed” by news that the person supervising decisions on which financial institutions should live or die during the peak of the Crisis […]

Benzene highlights rising risks in financial markets

The blog is busy preparing its presentations for its World Aromatics and Derivatives Conference later this month, co-organised as always with ICIS.  As well as looking at the impact of the transition to the New Normal, it will be investigating the current state of benzene markets.  These are always an excellent leading indicator for the global […]

The eurozone debt crisis is no nearer solution

The Eurozone crisis has been quiet since the summer of 2012, as the markets waited for the German election.  But now this has occurred, it is unlikely that the problem can continue to be ignored. It is easy to forget the drama of May 2012, when the blog correctly forecast a crisis was about to occur in […]

Most major financial markets have doubled since 2009 lows

The period since March 2009 has been a wonderful time for most investors in the major markets.  As the blog’s 6-monthly update shows, almost every index has increased, and by large amounts:…

Russia has been the biggest winner, up 151%,

Higher US interest rates will test housing market strength

The above chart will be familiar to readers of Boom, Gloom and the New Normal.   It shows the way in which Japan’s interest rates (black line, bottom axis) have been a leading indicator for US interest rates (red line, top axis) since the stock market peaks of 1990 in Japan and 2000 in the USA.  […]

China’s empty cities create global lending risk

More details continue to surface of the wasteful spending that underpinned much of China’s GDP growth in recent years.  The empty city of Ordos (first highlighted 3 years ago in the blog) is just one example.  House prices there have recently fallen 50%, and the shadow banking system (critical for privately-owned companies) is reportedly in […]

US stock markets hit record but real economy remains slow

“Don’t fight the Fed” is one of the oldest rules in stock market investment.  And it has proved valid again, as this month’s IeC Boom/Gloom Index shows:…

The Fed and other G7 central banks have poured $10tn of stimulus into

Emerging economies risk being submerged under debt

Asset bubbles are great fun whilst they last, as the West found out during the sub-prime era.  The supply of money seems endless, and prices just keep rising to the skies.  Meanwhile the regulators are busy assuring everyone that ‘this time is different’ and its quite safe to invest. The problem is that so-called ‘common […]

Boom/Gloom Index remains in no-man’s-land

This month’s IeC Boom/Gloom Index continues to flash warning signs over the state of global financial markets:…

The US S&P 500 Index (red line) and other markets have been supported by $10tn of central bank liquidity programmes (orange arrows) since

China interest rates hit 28% as property bubble targeted

China’s new leadership are in a very difficult position.  They have inherited an economy that has been run on stimulus programmes for the past 5 years. And as the head of the country’s largest developer, China Vanke, has warned, “If …

Pimco warns on “negative impacts” of central bank policiy

A new report from Pimco, the world’s largest bond fund manager, makes it clear they share the blog’s worries about the increasingly negative impact of western central bank policy:

“Central banks have reached a critical inflection point in which the …

"Its going to be scary"

As the Financial Times wrote on Saturday:

“Earlier this year, it all seemed so straightforward. Central banks printed money and proffered soothing words, and markets went up. Now, it’s getting more complicated.”

In fact, nervous readers might want t…

Japan’s 7% Nikkei index fall highlights risks ahead

We are now nearly at the end of May, and still there is no sign of a sustained recovery in demand. This mirrors the weakness seen in January and March – normally also very strong months. Now, unless seasonal patterns are overturned, demand will remai…

"A word means just what I choose it to mean"

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

This quotation from Lewis Carroll’s great novel ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ rather seems to sum up policymakers’ cur…

Crude oil and commodities decline as dollar rises

Friday provided a good test of the blog’s analysis that Japan’s aggressive policy of devaluing the yen could result in major downward pressure on crude oil prices:

• The yen crashed through the $1: ¥100 level, ending at a 4-year low of $1: ¥101.6

Central banks pop champagne corks as stock markets soar

Central bankers mean well. But, of course, good intentions do not guarantee good results.

Their intention since the start of the 2008 crisis has been to boost financial markets. They have therefore provided $tns of liquidity, which has indeed produc…

Drug supplies cut to Greece as capital controls return to Europe

Don’t be surprised if your finance team starts working even longer hours over the next few weeks. Not only will they have to worry about revising profit forecasts and working capital issues, as demand weakens in some core markets. Now they have to w…

China’s new leadership prepare for property price crackdown

China’s new premier, Li Keqiang, was the first senior official to confirm that the country’s GDP figures were “for guidance only”, being “man-made and therefore unreliable”. As he told the US ambassador in 2007, he instead used electricity consumption…

Western stock markets in bubble-mode, again

The blog’s 6 monthly review of global stock markets highlights a very unusual pattern since global demand and chemical markets peaked on 29 April 2011, as the chart shows:

• Markets in developed economies have powered ahead with Japan up 24%, the US…

Eurozone’s ‘Draghi rally’ faces election test in Italy

The president of the European Central Bank, Mario Draghi, was ‘person of the year’ in financial markets with his July promise to “do whatever it takes” to save the euro. 6 months later, it seems worth checking on the current situation.

The chart t…

Boom/Gloom Index slips as financial markets jump

January was, as usual, a good month for the optimists in the financial community. They filled the media with confident predictions of sustained and high levels of global economic growth. China will apparently soon be booming under its new leadership,…

Volatility rises as players bet on recovery or recession

Nobody ever said that financial and chemical were meant to be easy to understand. But current developments are clearly far more complex than normal. We have grown used to manipulation by policymakers, via their various quantitative easing (QE) progra…

New Year sees markets in optimistic mood

New Year is a traditional moment for price increases. And last week didn’t disappoint, with Brent crude oil jumping $3/bbl. Whilst financial markets soared globally on hopes that the US ‘fiscal cliff’ deal might be a sign that policymakers will final…

G-20 richest nations still lack a ‘Plan B’

Hands-up those who remember the G-20? Well done, Mexican readers, you get full points. But other readers seem doubtful. This weekend the world’s Finance Ministers were meeting in Mexico City, as the country concludes its G-20 presidency. But you w…

US Federal Reserve policies confront a closing door

The blog’s friends at the American Chemistry Council used a very relevant quotation recently from Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone and numerous other modern wonders:

“Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we seek t…

Boom/Gloom Index slows as sentiment weakens

Here we go again’ seems to be the reaction of financial markets to the US Federal Reserve’s latest push to expand liquidity. So far, policymakers have tried 4 times to return the economy to the world of the Supercycle between 1982-2007. As the chart …

Spain enters the eye of the Eurozone storm

Spain is in the eye of the storm in the Eurozone crisis. Its economy is the 12th largest in the world, with GDP of $1.4tn. If it crashes out of the euro, then we will all feel the impact. And worryingly, the pace of events seems to be speeding up, e…

Central banks will make global downturn worse

The US Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank have adopted new and aggressive monetary measures to try and boost US employment and stabilise peripheral Eurozone bond markets. Unfortunately, their actions are more likely to increase the chances …

Central bankers fail to learn the Wellington lesson

‘Masterly inactivity’ was Wellington’s policy in his successful European wars against Napoleon in the early 19th century. The English general was always under great pressure from the politicians to ‘do something’. But Wellington knew he had to defeat…

Financial markets suffer despite stimulus programmes

The blog’s 6-monthly review of global financial markets highlights some interesting developments. It began 4 years ago, and was followed by the co-ordinated G-20 stimulus programme in March 2009. This ran out of steam by April 2011, leading the blog …

Simplicity the key goal for bank regulation

Over the past 20 years, the financial sector has captured an increasing share of the wealth created by the rest of the economy. At its peak before the Crisis, it accounted for 40% of all profits in the US corporate sector, allowing financiers to claim…

China’s largest bank faces more difficult times

Candide, the classic novel of the great French writer Voltaire, is a satirical description of a young man who has been taught that ‘everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds’. Voltaire’s modern equivalent might well decide to set h…

Chemical companies squeezed in the value chain

It is hard to imagine a more difficult outlook for the rest of the year:

• Speculators have increased oil prices, funded by expectations of new central bank quantitative easing programmes
• Consumers are suffering from stagnant incomes, high level…

Financial markets hope for more policy ‘lunacy’

The last few days have seen financial markets rallying, whilst the news from the real economy gets worse. US GDP growth in Q2 was just 1.5%. And the Wall Street Journal notes the recovery since 2009 has been the weakest in the post-War period.

But …

‘Waiting for Bernanke’ is hottest show on Wall Street

‘Waiting for Godot’, the great play by Irish writer and Nobel Literature Prizewinner, Samuel Beckett, deals with the meaning of existence. Written just after the Second World War, its two characters wait endlessly for the arrival of Godot.

US financi…

Financial markets at top of their trading range, again

Financial markets cannot make up their minds about the outlook. As this month’s IeC Boom/Gloom Index shows, sentiment (blue column) remains exactly at the dividing line between optimism and pessimism.

This parallels the behaviour of the S&P 500 Index…

Barclays CEO finally resigns

Bob Diamond, Barclays CEO, has finally resigned this morning. It is a scandal that he, or any of the Bank’s Board, ever thought that he could hold onto his job. He was, after all, head of Barclays Capital when the fixing of LIBOR rates took place.

I…

The unacceptable face of banking

Banks are essential in any modern society. Their role is two-fold:

• To take in deposits from companies and individuals
• To lend out this money prudently to other companies and individuals

Both are difficult roles to fulfil. Banking therefore …

Eurozone crisis gets worse, not better

Global bond investors have found a new worry. 10 year interest rates in Spain, the world’s 12th largest economy, have risen alarmingly in recent weeks. As the chart shows, they are now above 7% (blue column) compared to 4% when the blog first focused…

US companies have less cash to spend

The US Federal Reserve has provided a wonderful new example of the problems with spreadsheets.

It also shows how a naive belief in the credibility of any computer-generated output has come to over-ride common sense. In turn, policy can become based o…

Austerity levels jump

The blog’s Boom/Gloom Index (blue column) reaches its 3rd anniversary this month.

It was introduced to help monitor sentiment in financial markets, on the basis that “many markets are clearly being ruled by sentiment”. It has since done a good job in…

A is for Ambiguity

Today the blog ends its review of the VUCA world with A for Ambiguity.

The global economy often seemed to be on auto-pilot during the 25 years of the economic Supercycle between 1982-2007. The chart above shows US GDP since 1929 (when records began),…

C is for Complexity

The blog’s series on the VUCA world today reaches C for Complexity.

Interest rates are key to company profitability. They determine rates of return for new investments, and their affordability. They also have a major influence on consumer spending p…

Interesting quote (6)

Nobody ever bothers to deny something that is plainly impossible.

So when CEOs of a major bank deny something, the blog always worries.

The ‘Interesting quote’ series began in August 2007, when the blog noted Chuck Prince (then CEO of Citgroup) as sa…

Complacency rises as markets fall

Financial markets are telling us something important about the outlook.

Profitable themes over the past month have been expectations of weakness in crude oil prices, in China’s economy, and in the financial sector; plus positive views on long-dated go…

EU banks cut lending to the PIIGS by 23% of GDP

On 7 September 2008, in its now famous warning that a financial crisis was imminent, the blog noted that “‘Deleveraging’ is an ugly word, and it has ugly implications”.

The chart above shows just how ugly these implications are becoming for the PIIGS …

Eurozone sees €789bn capital flight to the North

The blog’s many friends in the petchem industry in S Europe have become more frequent visitors to London in recent months. Often, they are in the process of buying flats or houses. As one long-standing friend commented, “would you want to leave your …

Financial markets rally on false rumour

Last week saw yet another example of the damage being caused to financial markets by the computerised high-frequency traders (HFTs).

As the chart shows, the S&P 500 jumped 20 points on Thursday (1.5%), whilst the Dow Jones Industrial average jumped ov…

Spain’s economy in "extreme difficulty"

Some things are too ‘obvious’ for highly-paid professionals in the financial world to accept. If life was this simple, then clients might ask why their fees were so high. Therefore they maintain a fiction that what is obvious is not the full story.

I…

Europe’s banks turn to bullfight loans

The blog’s IeC Boom/Gloom sentiment indicator (blue column) continues to be neutral on the outlook. As the chart shows, this is quite unlike its performance in early 2009. Then it rose rapidly from February – accurately forecasting the major recovery…

Global stock markets reverse previous losses

The blog’s 6-monthly review of major stock markets highlights their continuing volatility.

Last September, all the markets were down between 7% – 22%. Germany (dark green column) was the biggest loser, whilst the UK/US (blue, red) were least impacted…

Financial and petchem markets differ on the outlook

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both”
The opening of Robert Frost’s famous poem ‘The road not taken’ aptly sums up today’s market situation:

• Financial markets continue to be supported by the Fed’s Operation Twi…

Greek default just ‘end of the beginning’ in debt crisis

Yesterday saw the world’s largest ever sovereign debt default, when Greece finally carried through a €206bn ($272bn) restructuring. Yet only the eurozone leaders believe this will solve Greece’s problems and those of the other PIIGS (Portugal, Irela…

Financial market correlation hits new peak

The US S&P 500 is the most important stock index in the world. It contains 500 different major companies, in a wide variety of industries, and has been calculated since 1957.

There has never been a day when all 500 stocks moved in the same direction….

Financial markets jump, but petchems remain slow

Dow Chemical is usually optimistic. 6 months ago, for example, it reported that “our transformed portfolio, underpinned by our cost-advantaged and flexible operations, is now performing at a new level.”

Last week, however, Dow reported that Q4 operat…

Boom/Gloom Index and S&P 500 disconnect

The blog, like many readers, has become rather fond of the IeC Boom/Gloom Index since it was launched in June 2009. The aim to was to track market sentiment, and it continues to perform this task.

It also throws up intriguing parallels, and sometimes…

A China ‘hard landing’ may be unavoidable

Saturday’s blog post highlighted the risk of a hard landing in China.

This risk is very real, and is centred on the government’s need to achieve a difficult balance between reducing today’s high rate of food price inflation, whilst not collapsing the …

Germany in the firing line as Greek default nears

Interest rates are key to the direction of the global economy.

But not in the way that was true during the 1982-2007 economic SuperCycle. Then, there was a global surplus of savings, due to the vast numbers of people in the Wealth Creating 25 – 54 …

Seeing is not believing

Prof Daniel Kahneman is the blog’s favourite living social scientist. He won the 2002 Nobel Prize for economics for his insight that:

• Economists are wrong to assume human beings are motivated by self-interest and make rational decisions
• In fa…

US home prices slip whilst housing trends change

US house prices were the original cause of the financial collapse in Q4 2008. Since then, the politicians have failed to grasp the depths of the problem. Now, the housing market seems about to start on a new downward leg.

The chart shows that prices …

€489bn avoids Eurozone collapse, for now

A month ago, the former UK Finance Minister, Alastair Darling, warned that the European Central Bank (ECB) had “to recognise they have to be the lenders of the last resort”.

He added that “This is far worse than the banking crisis of 2008 in its ser…

High Frequency Trading distorts US markets

The chemical industry, like many others, continues to be badly affected by the volatility of financial markets. Yesterday (Tuesday), for example, saw a 3% jump in US stock prices and crude oil prices.

The ‘justification’ for the surge was a minor ris…

China’s producers lose pricing power

China’s economy is slowing rather fast. That’s the only conclusion to be drawn from the above chart. It shows a major collapse in producer price inflation (PPI), from July’s 7.5% peak to just 2.7% in November.

The decline from September’s 6.5% level…

China’s Minsky Moment may be starting

Long-standing readers may remember the video posted in January 2010 showing ‘China’s empty city’.

This was the new city being built in Inner Mongolia, to help ensure local officials met China’s GDP growth target. Unlike the West, GDP in a communist c…

Petchem trading slows as holiday period nears

The blog was in Singapore last week, running the final New Normal workshop of the year with co-author John Richardson. The main topic during the breaks was the continuing concern over China’s demand.

This is reflected in the latest Downturn Monitor a…

Index stays in Gloom territory

Financial markets jumped this week on news of liquidity moves by the central banks. But the blog’s own IeC Boom/Gloom Index remains in negative territory, as the chart shows (blue column).

Investors seemed to forget for a moment that the eurozone cri…

Most hedge funds not an "alternative" asset class

Warren Buffett is the world’s most successful investor, earning $62bn from his investments by 2009. But if he had instead channelled this money through hedge funds, and still been equally successful, he would have ended up with just $5bn. They would …

Pensions fall as financial market turmoil continues

Increasing life expectancy is an enormous benefit for today’s population. We can all, whether in developed or developing countries, expect to live a decade or more longer than our grandparents’ generation.

Yet pension systems haven’t adapted to thi…

China’s debt problems multiply

It seems increasingly clear that China’s economic policy took a wrong turning 10 years ago, when it joined the World Trade Organisation.

2001 was also the year when the Western BabyBoomers (those born between 1946-70), began to leave the peak consumpt…

Q3 results show companies cautious over the outlook

6 months ago, when reporting Q1 results, the blog strongly disagreed with the rosy outlook being offered by most analysts. It warned then that:

“The history of the past 40 years shows high oil prices have always led to:

• An initial boom in volume…