Sunday Portfolio Update

Sun, 2015/01/25 - 1:40pm | Your editor

As every Sunday I posted updated performance tables today for pre-subscribers (on our closed positions) and paid subscribers, on our current ETF/CEF positions, and our stocks and bonds. I also posted a new set of stocks I picked for gaining from the opening to Cuba. I figured that they trade more or less at normal valuations vs Herzfeld Caribbean Basin Fund which is at a 25% premium over net asset value. Everyone can see that I sold half the fund last week.

More for paid subscribers follows.

Read more »

Nancy Drew Job

Fri, 2015/01/23 - 2:10pm | Your editor

We need Nancy Drew too.

When I was growing up in northern Manhattan, my parents had a journalist friend, perhaps a role model for me. John Kayston worked for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Today the JTA in Buenos Aires published an important update to the investigation of the AMIA Jewish center there:

Argentine judicial officials made public the 300-page criminal complaint that details evidence linking Argentina;s senior political echelon to a deal to hide Iran's role in the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center.

The complaint prepared by Argentine prosecutor Alberto Nisman was to be presented this week to Argentina's congress, but Nisman was found dead in his home late Sundya with a gunshot wound to his head. Pres. Fernandez de Kirchner initially called his death a suicide but backtracked Thursday following large protests and the widespread perception that Nisman [had been] murdered.

Nisman's criminal complaint, based on intelligence intercepts, accuses Kirchner of 'deciding, negotiating, and arrnanging the imputnity of the Iranian fugitives in aht AMIA case.” The president and Argentina's foreign minister, Hector Timerman, 'took the criminal decision of inventing Iran's inocence to satisfy commercial, political, and geopolitical interests of the Argentine Republic,” the complaint says.

The deal... exonerated Iranian officials in their role in the bombing, which killed 85 people, in exchange for Iranian oil and weapons sales, according to the complaint. The secret deal, the complaint says, was negotiated two years before Iran and Argentina signed a public memorandum of understanding in 2013 to establish a joint investigation of the AMIA bombing, a agreement critics derided as a farce and which later was derailed by Argentine cournts.

In the decade Nisman spent pursuing the AMIA case, he uncovered evidence showing aht Iran sponsored the bombing and had Hezbollah, its proxy militia in Lebanon, carry it out. Interpol, the international police agency, eventually issued arrest warrants from several Iranian officials in the case. The arrests have never been carried out.

Under the terms of the secret deal, the Interpol arrest warrants would have been canceled and culpability for the bombing … redirected toward 'invented defendants,' the complaint said. But despite the efforts of Argentina officials, according to the complaint, Interpol refused to play ball and the arrest warrants stand.

There is more, but you can see why Nisman was killed. Apparently both Nisman and foreign minister Timerman are Jewish, I learned from JTA.

 

Denmark's central bank is challenging currency speculators to test its ability to keep its peg to the euro, which may be un pari stupide, a bad bet for either the CB or the speculators. It came just a week after Switzerland dropped its similar efforts. The Danish CB signaled that it has “plenty of kroner” and can use interest rate policy and interventions to keep the currency from rising. What may help the Danes is that Copenhagen is not a global banking center nor the home of many multinational companies. But when offered a crack at proving a CB wrong, the heirs of George Soros may just decide to try it.

 

Poor Yingluck Shinwatra is not lucky. The military junta which deposed her now has gotten the tame legistlature to impeach her and ban her from politics for 5 years because of her stupid program of open-ended purchases of Thai rice at a high fixed price to subsidize farmers. This cost Thailand several billion dollars and was intended to boost the family's popularity in the north where the red shirts came from. Now the yellow shirts also want to put her in jail for 10 years over the alleged corruption which marked the rice-buying program. With ailing King Bhumibol, 87, the likely next long-time ruler coming to the end of his life, and with a much more fraught succession than Saudi Arabia managed, the Shinawatra clan, led from outside the country by Yingluck's billionaire Thaksin, is rumored to be close to Maha Vajiralongkorn, 62, the unpopular crown prince. Maha has 5 sons but has disowned the wives who bore them and is trying to get the newborn son of his mistress recognized and to marry her.

 

China plans to tax Mainland Chinese on their income even if they are non-residents, following in the extra-territorial tax system applied until now only by the USA. The latest victim of the Internal Revenue Service is London Mayor Boris Johnson, who is paying up some $40,000 in capital gains on a house he sold in London a decade ago. Only that stands between the American-born mayor and his renouncing his US nationality, acquired by being born in the US. Mayor Johnson needs to clear the decks with the IRS to be able to visit the US next month to tell Americans about the appeal of London as a financial center, as planned. His Honor left the US aged about 12 or 13 in order to attend Eton.

 

France and Austria want to impose a lower but broader “Tobin” tax on financial transactions by listed companies, intermediaries, buyers, or sellers of their securities (stocks, bonds, and derivatives). The EU is moving away from this plan.

 

Swiss bank UBS managed to get a US court to rule against the heirs of a former politician, UN official. and diplomat, Adam Malik Batubara, an Indonesian, who died over 20 years ago. He had $5 mn in secret Swiss bank accounts which the heirs tried to get their hands on via a Bahamas trust. The two banks, now both owned by UBS, used bank secrecy rules to stop the heirs collecting on the Malik estate. We offer on our website a report on the dangers of Swiss bank accounts. This is a new one.

 

More for paid subscribers from Denmark, Norway, Thailand, Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, Finland, Brazil, Israel, and Portugal.

Read more »

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson Needed

Thu, 2015/01/22 - 2:51pm | Your editor

 

We need Sherlock Holmes back. And Dr. Watson. Today Pres. Cristina Fernandez of Argentina herself stated that the investigator of the Peronist government's dealings with Iran did not commit suicide and presumably was murdered before he would tell all about her involvement in a cover-up of Iranian terrorism in Buenos Aires.

The day after he announced finding evidence of a sub rosa plot to suppress evidence that Iran had been behind a murderous attack on the Buenos Aires AMIA Jewish Center in return for cheap oil, gumshoe Alberto Nisman was found shot dead in his locked apartment. He was due to testify before the Argentine Senate Congress the next day.

Initially labled a suicide, Mr. Nisman's death was then called a suspected homicide as his hands had no gunpowder traces. The gun used to kill him was found beside his body.

It seems likely Iranian officials were behind the Jewish Center bombing (plus the one a year before at the Buenos Aires Israeli Embassy). The cover-up was of murderous Teheran-organized terrorist attacks Jewish targets on Argentine soil. When I was last in BA, the rumor in the Jewish community was that the attacks had been mounted from Paraguay across the border. Now my urgent question: who killed Nisman?

One of my Argentine subscribers guesses that Cristina Fernandez watched too many episodes of House of Cards or Scandal. He suspects she is still covering something up. Being such a provincial I think she just reads Conan Doyle in Spanish.

 

Other mysteries today.

The head of the German Pegida anti-Islamic movement resigned after it was revealed that he had posted pictures of himself with a Hitler hairdo and a Hitler moustache. He had denied his movement was Nazi-influenced.

 

Israel's Mossad spy agency told US congressmen that any new sanctions would defeat the Obama Administration's attempt to negotiate to stop the Iranian nuclear program. This is counter to what PM Benjamin Netanyahu has been telling lawmakers.

 

After being caught flat-footed by the Swiss central bank surprise drop of the euro ceiling, markets are reacting with alacrity a week later over currency outlook changes.

The European Central Bank will spend up to euros 60 bn per month on its quantitative easing policies. Euroland stock markets rose on the news. Brazil's Central Bank raised interest 0.25% rates and its stock market also rose. Canada interest rates were cut the same amount and its shares are also up.

China injected $8 billion into financial markets, felt to be a harbinger of further financial support.

 

In theory, a weaker currency is good for stocks in the country where the money is being depreciated. It is bad for stocks in countries next-door where the currency is stronger.

Today's blog is late because my USB backup drive went down and took the computer with it. It is another mystery.

 

More follows for paid subscribers, with apologies for being so late.

 

Read more »

A Letter from Japan

Wed, 2015/01/21 - 2:02pm | Your editor

Chris Loew comments from Japan, mainly because I don't want to write about European Central Bank Quantitative Easing or the State of the Union discourse or the IMF growth forecasts. Chris writes:

To succeed in generating inflation, central bank policies need to make consumers and businesses believe inflation will happen. The CB therefore has to give them evidence that rising inflation means it makes sense to borrow at today’s value and pay back at a lower one.

The calculation works if they people believe that next year’s yen will be dearer than today’s. (Ed: Or next year's dollar, euro or Swissie.)

By pulling the rug out from under those who think central banks know what they are doing, the Swiss move to end the ceiling on the franc-euro exchange rates has given Japanese another reason to doubt future economic conditions.

Other Japanese indicators have already given pause to those convinced inflation will come roaring back as planned. These gauges include a continuously negative Japanese trade balance over the past 2 ½ years; the economy slipping back into technical recession in the last quarter (Q3 of FY2014-5, Japanese style); plus declining real earnings because wages failed to rise with Japanese inflation and higher taxes.

This change of mood will not spill over into Japanese politics. There really is no viable alternatives to PM Abe now. The public believes that any action program, however misguided, is better than continued passive decline.

The national mood here means that it is a good time to bargain-hunt for stocks. It also means that we should balance our holdings with some defensive Japanese positions.

 

More from Chris, including another Japanese buy idea and news from Portugal, Sweden, Israel, Denmark, The Netherlands, India, Switzerland, Belgium, and Australia. The main sectors today are raw materials, biotech, medical devices, internet technology, media, and telcos.

Read more »

Covering China News

Tue, 2015/01/20 - 2:24pm | Your editor

Back in the Dark Ages, your editor used to head from Paris to Davos for the World Economic Forum, a trip paid by publications she wrote for. They picked up the tab because it was the only way to meet and greet economic Chinese policy makers. China was then a closed country for the Western press. Now China has open doors but the Swiss conclave of movers and shakers (and press) has a second annual shindig for China hands.

 

Since I didn't get my Financial Times today I visited Xinhua News Agency for a change. I learned the latest Chinese data, which may or may not be exact, from the National Bureau of Statistics:

-- Gross domestic product (GDP) expanded 7.4 percent year on year to 63.65 trillion yuan ($10.4 trillion), the slowest pace since 1990.

-- Consumer price index, a main gauge of inflation, rose 2%, below the govt target of 3.5%.

-- Foreign trade rose 2.3% to 26.43 trillion yuan, with exports up 4.9% and imports down 0.6%.

-- In real terms, industrial value-added output rose 8.3%; fixed-asset investment 15.1%; and retail consumer goods sales 10.9%.

-- Narrow money supply (M1, covers cash in circulation plus current corporate deposits) rose 3.2%.

China's broad money supply (M2, cash in circulation and all deposits) increased 12.2%.

-- Population stood at 1.37 billion people by the end of 2014, up 0.52%. That excludes Hong Kong and Taiwan. Permanent urban residents reached 749.16 million, accounting for 54.8% of the total.

-- By the end of 2014, 772.53 million people were employed in China, up 0.36%. A total of 13.22 million new jobs were created in cities, beating the govt target of 10 million jobs.

-- Per capita disposable income of all residents rose 8% percent to 20,167 yuan, for rural residents up 9.2% and for urban residents 6.8%.

 

India is now ahead of China in growth but from a smaller base. China is this year is expected to adopt more stimulus measures. Its growth rate slowed in the course of 2014.

To pay for this, the Beijing govt plans to copy an oddball US tax rule: taxing Chinese citizen wherever they may reside, just as Uncle Sam taxes Americans. However the US offers non-resident Americans an exclusion for local taxes they may be subject to and another if they earn less than the equivalent of $9000. Moreover they get to exclude $99,200 from their taxes owed Uncle if they are bona fide foreign residents or lived outside the land of the free for more than 330 days in any prior 12 month period. US non-residents are also eligible to a complex benefit for higher foreign housing costs over 16% of that $99,200 figure, pro rated for the period they were non-resident. (Back when I was a non-resident the exclusion was $80,000 so it has not kept up with inflation.)

I am not sure if Chinese non-residents will have similar exlusions. China's new rule specifically excludes non-residents from Taiwan and Hong Kong whom the Chinese now consider to be their citizens. The tax code can be a tool of imperialist ambitions as well as funding.

 

Today we run a new stock advisory from our man in Japan, plus news from Portugal, Israel, Washington DC, Mexico (lots), Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, Colombia, India (lots) , Switzerland, Ireland, and Luxembourg.

Read more »

Portfolio Update

Mon, 2015/01/19 - 1:34pm | Your editor

Tomorrow is Election Day in Zambia. We have no real exposure except very indirectly via a bank and a bond. The great and the good are all gathering in Davos for the World Economic Forum. Since they paid their hotel and travel bills in advance they avoid having to pay with the new higher Swiss franc. I think most of the exhibitors and speakers are in the same happy situation... for the last time.

The big news today is that Chinese stock markets took a dive after the government regulators Friday (after the local close) moved to limit margin trading. Apparently in the still-juvenile Shanghai market, brokerages gave retail investors access to big margin loans so they could buy more of the stock of the brokerages themselves. After the regualtor hit the largest 12 brokerages with fines for violating the rules last week,  on Monday Shanghai plummeted 7.7% and Shenzhen 6.6%. The rout then spread to other sectors. We have no horse in this race.

We did note another embarrassing snippet of news from China and Hong Kong. Users of the WeChat app who typed in "civil rights" were able to see lots of US flags waving in the breeze on their cellphones. This embarrassed the operator of WeChat since it showed America in a good light and did not say anything about non-existent civil rights in China and shrinking ones in Hong Kong. This occurred despite the close censorship Beijing maintains on what people can see on-line, the so-called Great Wall of China. More on this for paid subscribers below.

Today's portfolio update is a day late because of the Martin Luther King Day market closure. The closed-positions table now is updated for the new year with one fewer year's worth of data. Everyone who wants to may view this file on our website, www.global-investing.com. Click to view a printer-friendly version of the spreadsheets.

More for paid subscribers follows with some updates:

Read more »

Violet Friday

Fri, 2015/01/16 - 1:39pm | Your editor

 

The cost of a euro denominated in Swiss francs yesterday rose initially to Fr 0.8517 before settling down to merely Fr 1.043. So the total loss of the euro was only 13% in a single day. The Swiss share index fell 8.7% mainly because of the impact of a higher Swissie on small and medium firms, many dependent on exports to survive. The biggest sufferers are watch-makers and tourism operators. Down-market watch exporters like Swatch are more affected than makers of rare posh ones.

Everybody quoted its CEO Nicolas Hayek's remarks that the CB move was a “tsunami”. Since Switzerland has no seacoast that is dramatic and I used it Thursday. Marketwatch today suggests “avalanche” as more Swiss.

Our Swiss stocks did better than the index, why you can read below if you are a paid subscriber. Other effects of the move by the Schweizerische Nationalbank (Swiss central bank or CB) came in unexpected places, also discussed below. Many banks were hurt by the gyrations yesterday, which came after a spate of poor results for Q4 and increased scrutiny of their operations. This is discussed below for our portfolio holdings.

Currency traders and brokerages, heavy promoters of their highly-leveraged services to investors, face either insolvency or trying to reverse trades done on Purple Thursday so as to steal back profits from their clients. Our policy at www.global-investing.com is to cover our foreign exchange risks from owning foreign shares (what we do) via transparent US stock market vehicles like exchange-traded funds, ETFs. The US broker most affected is Interactive Brokerage which features currency trading, according to stock prices.

We don't do package deals, because I think currency investing requires different skills from share investing. And we don't tap into the vast but volatile forex market where retail investors regularly usually lose their shirts because as much as 70% of their trades lose money even in normal times.

The Swiss CB itself is also a loser. To defend the ceiling over the past few years it has loaded up on euros. They lost 13% of their value yesterday, which amounted to some 60 bn Swiss Francs, according to the Neue Zurcher Zeitung.

For now, reader should note that another simplest way to protect yourself against currency volatility is with an alternative store of value, in gold. Bitcoins don't work, according to Bloomberg. Our website advertiser, www.bullionvault.com offers a legal way to own physical gold cheaply. We also recommend another gold vehicle, an ETF sponsored also by the gold-mining industry body, the World Gold Council. Unlike dodgy forex and gold dealers who promote their high-priced services to Americans, these entities are honest and transparent.

Ironically enough, Swiss bank customers who want to avoid having to pay their bank to hold Swissies, are switching to US dollars (which pay modest interest) or gold (which costs less than francs in the bank.)

 

More for paid subscribers follows from Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, Spain, Panama, South Africa, Britain, China, Hong Kong, Portugal, The Netherlands, France, Luxembourg, and Cuba. There will be no blog Monday, Martin Luther King Day, when US markets are closed.

Read more »

Purple Thursday

Thu, 2015/01/15 - 2:03pm | Your editor

Today the big news is about money and oil. Forward crude oil rose 6% breaking the downtrend. The Swiss central bank (CB) ended its attempt to stop the franc from rising above 1.20 against the euro (to protect its export markets for chocolate, Swatches, and banking services.)

 

The unpegged Swiss franc then proceded to rise as much as 40% above the euro interday. The euro hit a record low. Swiss bond yields turned negative across the board, meaning you pay to hold Swissie paper rather than getting a return. For Swiss holders, gold fell by 23%. For others it boomed.

 

And, oh, the US dollar lost as much as 14% interday in London trading. The move makes it almost certain the the Mario Draghi ECB quantitative easing program will be launched Jan. 26, after yesterday's EU judiciary ruling against German objections. (Finland is still quarreling but nobody pays attention to Finns.)

 

Our advertiser, Adrian Ash of www.bullionvault.com called the news“violet Thursday” (after the color of the SwFr1000 note). He also called the currency upheaval “Soros in reverse.” In 1992, Hungarian-born American speculator George Soros bet around $1.5 bn that the pound sterling could not be kept aligned with the exchange rate mechanism of the Eurozone (the predecessor to the euro.) He bet it would fall because of weakness in the British economy and made a fortune as the Bank of England desperately defended sterling with ever-higher interest rates. But the market won, as it did again today against the Swissie. (Adrian writes about money. If you want to buy physical gold cheaply and legally, visit our site to click through to www.bullionvault.com/ Like the main US gold exchange-traded fund, it is sponsored by the World Gold Council, a miner grouping aiming to get more investors to buy gold. It is highly respectable with security and low trading margins, unlike other outfits in the precious metals arena. And it's British.)

 

A bit overwhelmed by the Swiss, Abhimanyu Sisodia reports:

The Indian CB surprised the markets yesterday with a 25 basis point cut in the repo rate at which it lends money to commercial banks. As a result banks have started lowering loan interest rates. The World Bank economists released a forecast for 2015 predicting that Indian growth will catch up with China's in 2016-7. Indian growth in the next fiscal year (starting April 1) is expected to hit 6.5%. The Sensex (stock market index) had its best single-day performance since May 2009. The rupee gained 46 paise (rupee cents) against the US$.

 

The richest Chinese investor of them all is Guo Guangchang who runs Fosun International, buyer of foreign assets. Fosun doesn't buy positions, but control of companies. Guo's alleged model is Warren Buffett.

Guo's recent purchases include Club Med, the French prepaid holiday camp operator; St John, a US fashion house for ladies who lunch; posh Italian menswear group Caruso; Israel's Alma Lasers (for beauty treatments); Saladax, a biomed firm; and the building where my mother used to work, 1 Chase Manhattan Plaza, the former executive offices of the bank later merged with JP Morgan. Morgan had a venerable pile on Wall Street whereas the Chase skyscraper, built in the 1950s, had became redundant.

I am upset that Mr. Guo changed the name of the building to 28 Liberty Plaza. The number is lucky in Chinese as 8 sounds like “wealth” and 28 is “double wealth.” Liberty harkens to the Statue in NY Harbor which can clearly be seen from the higher floors where David Rockefeller (and my mom) worked. I am not sure what China thinks about liberty. As an immigrant from Nazi Germany my mom was firmly in favor of it.

Another Buffett note: Bill Ackman told Bloomberg TV yesterday morning that he considered following the Oracle of Omaha into ownership of shares of British supermarket chain Tesco. Ackman founded and runs top-performing Pershing Square Capital, a hedge fund. He said he had not discussed his idea with Buffett. But he dropped the idea thinking back on his difficulties with retail in the past, when he put money into JC Penney.

However I suspect neither Buffett nor Ackman ever moved beyond the TSCFY accounts (now revised downward because of misreported sales and profits) to actually visit a UK supermarket.

Defying the sage once led me to doing it again, a bit more than a year later, when we bailed out of Posco, PKX, the South Korean steelmaker despite Buffett anointing the firm with his presence. This time we took a loss. I did not visit the main steel mill in Pohang but just considered the way demand was falling. I took a loss but were he to sell now, Mr Buffett would take one nearly 4x as high.

 

More for paid subscribers today about what the currency changes mean for our Indian and Swiss stocks along with a new pick from Martin Ferera, and more news from Finland, the Netherlands, Israel, Britain, South Africa, Australia, Colombia, Mexico, Portugal, and Canada.

Read more »

The Big Stock Dump

Wed, 2015/01/14 - 2:29pm | Your editor

I am in the process of creating a 15-day course of lessons on global investing for new subscribers, which has mostly already been made available to current readers through the El Buen Fin issues we published last Dec. One element of our portfolio is missing from the guide, Yankee bonds, issued in US dollars by foreign companies. (Canadians also issue bonds which we buy, which are designated North American bonds, but which also are in US$.)

The main reason I did not write about bonds is that this is a tough market for retail investors to use. There are hidden fees and tricks that make bond trading a way to lose money. The only way to invest with individual bonds is by holding them forever (or till maturity).

Moreover, bonds are not traded in mini-amounts. The typical bond trade is for $10,000 face value, at least. So this is not an investment for the masses.

Regulators, including the Securities and Exchange Commission, are examining bond market buy and sell orders, looking at markups brokers apply when trading on behalf of retail clients. They seek evidence of unreasonable charges for trades. In theory bonds trade with a modest spread (betweent eh bid and the ask price) and the buyer has to pay interest incurred since the last payment to the seller. The SEC is getting active after two similar proposals were made last Nov. by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (the brokerage self-regulator) and the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (which regulators tax-free bonds. The proposals would require that brokers disclose to retail customers the prices they paid or were paid for bonds they traded themselves during the same day they filled retail customer orders.

This of course would reveal if there was front-running by the brokers on the bid or ask side to charge retail clients more. SIFMA, the self-regulating body for the brokerage industry, says it supports greater market transparency. But it argues that FINRA and MSRB proposals on matched trade are “overly technical”. They think learning the real prices risks “misleading individual investors.”

 

Another feature of the hidden bond market is the impact on prices of credit default swaps (CDS). Kamakura Corp researchers looked into the actual volume of such CDS. It found that there is minimal trading in them on behalf of end users as opposed to the dealers themselves. The highest daily average non-dealer trade for a non-US financial institution's CDS was all of 4.89 swaps. That shows, the analysts argue, that CDS “prices” are unsuitable for pricing risks for such insitutions' issues because of “analytical difficulties, lack of sufficient data, risk of manipulation, and conflict of interest for banks who are also deals in CDSs.”

 

I have no idea why the market is staggering today. The only news I can think of is that the European Union justices said that a program of quantitative easing by the European Central Bank would be legal, opening the way for the Jan. 26 start of QE from Mario Draghi. Germany had tried to block this.

 

More for paid subscribers follows from Spain, Israel, Jordan, Dubai, Britain, Canada, Mexico, Australia, and Singapore. There will be a new stock pick from Martin Ferera tomorrow or the next day if stock markets settle down, but not today.

Read more »

Progressives and Firecrackers

Tue, 2015/01/13 - 1:41pm | Your editor

Rep. Betsy Warren, D-MA, is not the only US Congressperson adopting a lefty “progressive” agenda. Yesterday, SIFMA issued a statement by its CEO, Kenneth E. Bentsen, Jr., responding to a “Tobin tax” on financial transactions proposed by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-MD. The SIFMA statement said the plan amounted to “a sales tax on savers”. It read:

"We appreciate Mr. Van Hollen's search for innovative ideas to help middle-class Americans. Encouraging more savings makes sense. But, imposing what is effectively a sales tax on savers, mutual fund owners, pensioners, and investors is neither new nor innovative.

“Rather it is an old idea with a long history of negative consequences for savers and investors and for the efficient functioning of capital markets. Mr. Van Hollen's proposed new sales tax on investors would be paid by every American that holds a retirement account, owns a mutual fund or is [in] a pension plan. Retirees would be hit the most. It will raise the cost of saving and undermine what the congressman seeks to accomplish.

"Efforts to enact a similar tax in the European Union have hit opposition as Europeans have come to recognize the disproportionate damage to their own economies that could be caused by the broad-based levy proposed by the European Commission in 2013.

“Countries, such as France, that have gone ahead with smaller levies have raised less revenue than projected and their markets have been adversely affected. And, major public and private pension plans have raised strong objections as these taxes raise costs to their beneficiaries and adversely affect their ability to efficiently manage assets for their beneficiaries." SIFMA is the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

 

The year of the goat begins on Feb. 19, Chinese New Year. And one lesson from China is that gold and iron ore do not behave like oil. The price of gold has gained nearly 5% YTD, from increased buying from Asian markets.

Chinese are getting ready for their annual bash of travel and gifts for the New Year. Indians are bringing gold in for fear of renewed controls on gold imports. These factors may not continue into the remainder of the year. The recent gold surge will only continue if more buying comes from western countries.

Oil continues to drop. But iron ore prices are in a bit of an uptrend, after losing even more than oil, down 47% in 2014. Inventories at Chinese ports fell below 100 mn metric tonnes as big buyers lowered their purchases. That was the level right before the last New Year, after which the price of iron ore pellets crashed downward, helped by the mine major failing to cut output. Ostensibly they produced more ore to keep up cash flow despite lower prices, comparable to what Saudi Arabia is allegedly doing in OPEC. But the other unspoken reason to produce flat out was to undercut the price for ore mined by capital-short smaller competitiors within China. Small mines have shuttered production in China for the winter, and it is hard to guess which ones will ever reopen. Small producers of oil are in the same boat.

 

More on this follows for paid subscribers, along with other news from around the world: Brazil, China, Singapore, Israel, Russia, Egypt, Cyprus, Turkey, Belgium, Portugal, Mexico, Spain, Britain, and South Africa.

Read more »