Alibi

Thu, 2016/07/28 - 2:44pm | Your editor

 

As your editor attempts to deal with exotic web hosting issues she is discovering the paranoia alibi used by techies advising her for the vendors. Whenever there is a delay in getting new settings to “take” I am told that this is because the US Government has to approve indicated internet address changes. Checking it out, I learned this is nonsense. While registration of your website does involve ICANN (an official body) changing Internet settings and functions depends on how good techies are,. Their alibi is to blame Uncle Sam for every problem.

This alibi is why so many Internet and smartphone users worry about hacking, not just by bad guys, but by the white hats of the FBI and the state attorneys-general and the cops. They worry even if they are not engaged in treason, insider trading, front-running, or other crimes.

I think this may explain why libertarian free-marketeers likePeter Thiel think The Donald will save him from regulatory overkill by the US Government establishmentarians.

I just got my yesterday blog at 3:30 pm so it may be that the pipeline is overcoming its artheriosclerosis. Today's blog will now be posted,

There has been another 5+% selloff in Chinese markets less than a year after the last one, but this time focused on the “shadow banking” sector and high-flyer small caps which are at triple digit p/e ratios, Shenzhen and Shanghai small caps in particular. More for paid subscribers follows including a bunch of quarterly reports with news from Ireland, China, Britain, Israel, Brazil, and Canada.

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Thu, 2016/07/28 - 9:22am | Your editor

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Hosting Issues

Wed, 2016/07/27 - 5:40pm | Your editor

dear Global Investing reader,

We are having issues with our former webhost blocking the sending of emails to you by the current host, which appears to be a problem with the program we use on our website. Andrew the webmaster is on vacation and therefore your incompetent technically-challenged editor is the one trying to get the emails sent out.

If you do not get a daily blog in your email box just visit the www.global-investing.com website and log in. There you will be able to read the latest word from me without having to rely on web hosts and other bits of the technocracy.

apologies

 

On Trump

Wed, 2016/07/27 - 2:18pm | Your editor

Russell Jones, writing for www.Llewellyn-Consulting.com attacks what he calls the “10 tenets of Trumponimics”, styled “a litany of simplistic ideas [with] little coherencde that run against much the US has stood for since 1945.” But he finds two comforts: first that the Trump positions are “in a state of flux” so some of “the rougher edges will be chiselled off”. Moreover, by preventing Trump from doing what he plans, “the US constitution could prove to be the world's saviour [sic]”.

Like many commentators he questions some Trump dogmas, like that the US is “one of the most highly taxed economies in the world” and needs tax cuts triple the size of those set up by a more classic Republican, George W. Bush in 2001 and 2003. The British economist questions whether such “yuge” cuts could pay for themselves and expects that they lead to higher taxes on top wealth brackets. For Jones, cutting govt spending by eliminating waste and foreign aid, getting better value from the defense budget, closing the Environmental Protection Agency and the Dept of Energy, and killing Obamacare do not make a convincing program.

To force US creditors to accept a haircut is what a real estate debtor—but not a government—might come up with. Jones styles Trump's ideas on taxes, spending, and debt as full of “inconsistencies and irrationalities” which only a believer “in an absurdly extremist Laffer curve” can make add up. Trade protectionism could lead to “higher prices, lower quality, and less choice” for Americans. Criticism of the Fed might lead to dilution of its independence, Jones warns.

Trump immigration plans would take years and billions to implement and would “reduce output and undermine long-term growth.” The Donald's wavering support of raising the minimum wage also contradicts Republican Party free-market doctrine. Repealing Dodd-Frank would hurt smaller US banks by allowing larger banks “to return to pre-crisis bad habits.” Bringing in “smart businessmen from Wall Street to run the economy” (quoting Donald Trump) won't work. Wall Street is likely to “help policy cater to [its] interests” and not those of America overall.

There is another contradiction between Trump's claims that he support free markets and his promises “of re-opening shuttered steel plants” and “interventionism to curry favour with vested interests.” “Consistency is conspicuous by its absence,” says Jones. “This inventory of policy proposals, striking [in] its naiveté and incoherence”, is a “litany of simplistic ideas with no guiding principle, clear direction [or way they] might fit together to deliver short-terms macroeconomic stability or improved long-term growth or flexibility.”

 

Mr Jones did not mention the Trump claim that US unemployment is secretly massaged by the Dept of Commerce and really stands at 42%. And by writing in the UK he did not know the the Republican candidate backed Russian hackers who published material from the Democratic National Committee and were told to hack Hillary Clinton. Quoth Trump: “Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing... You will be mightily rewarded by our press.” As the only member of the press writing here today I would not reward Vladimir Putin for cyberspying on Hillary Clinton.

More for paid subscribers from Britain, Spain, the Dutch Antilles, Bermuda, Israel, Cameroons, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal, Tanzania, Denmark, China, France, Australia, Chile, Mexico, and Hungary including 5 company reports plus a bonus one. Heavy reporting schedule.

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From Real Estate to Politics

Tue, 2016/07/26 - 1:33pm | Your editor

 

In NYC after flying home from Amsterdam yesterday, taxiing from JFK airport last night I passed the Trump Pavilion on the roadside, part of Jamaica Hospital. That was a donation of The Donald's father, a big real estate developer in Queens, where the airport and the hospital are located. The move to Manhattan was by his son, the Republican presidential candidate.

I was reminded of a 19th century real estate developer, Leonard Jerome, father of Jenny, who married Randolph Churchill. His two other surviving daughters also married into the British and Irish aristocracy. What Trump did for Queens, Jerome père did for Brooklyn and The Bronx, developing the amenities around the two boroughs' Jerome Avenues where he built homes: including the Belmont and Sheepshead Bay Race Tracks, Jerome Park and Reservoir, and the Jerome Stakes. Then as now property development and politics are closely linked, although it took an extra generation to get to Winston Churchill, Leonard's grandson.

 

More for paid subscribers from Spain, Canada, Mexico, China, Brazil, France, The Dutch Antilles, Germany, Portugal, Panama, and Britain.

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Brex-Hit

Sat, 2016/07/23 - 4:00pm | Your editor

Brexit has hit. The UK purchasing managers index (PMI) fell to 47.7 to mid-July (July 12-21) from 52.4 in mid-June. Anything below 50 marks a decline economic activity. The newly published figures from the Markit/CIPS survey cover both manufacturing and services. Sterling fell about 1% to $1.31. The Eurozone PMI meanwhile barely fell from June's 53.1 to 52.9. That's the bad news.

The good news is that the level in early 2009 during the global financial crisis was lower still. The other good news is that export sales rose boosted by the cheaper pound. Moreover the Bank of England and the government are going to prevent economic decline if numbers come in bad again next month with stimulus and tax cuts.

Nancy Drew thinks she may know where stolen copies of The Economist wind up. Copies were being offered for the full price by foreign youths on foot on the Kings Road in Chelsea, a different part of London from Tower Hamlets.

Asia Times reports that 2 Singapore street food stalls – Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle (Crawford Lane) and Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle (Chinatown) – were granted a Michelin star each last week, the first stars ever awarded to street food hawkers.

There will be no tables this Sunday and no blog on Monday when we will fly home via Amsterdam. Here is some news from Britain, Canada, Israel, Ireland, Brazil, Sweden, the Dutch Antilles, and India. There are two results, and a tender offer  to report.

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Getting The Economist in the East End

Fri, 2016/07/22 - 9:38am | Your editor

 

For the second week in a row, our friendly local newsagent could not give us the copy of The Economist we has asked him to hold for us. The newspapers and magazines are delivered here in Docklands by a truck arriving about 5 am which dumps them outside the store which the family only opens at 7 am. On Friday, thieves snatch the magazine which costs £5 and then sell them to other newsagents at a discount which the Indian owner suspects is about half. He is sure that the other local newagent, a Turk (who doesn't sell The Economist) is not the bent vendor, but this is a big city with many newsies.

The last time we were here for a long period we tried to get our US sub delivered to our London base, which resulted in a total screw-up because we had to start a new subscription on our return to the USA. A a reverse address change on a sub was not among the magazine's computer system options. While advertising across the pond works (we have used it), the subscription databases are unlinked. I think it would be a good idea to get them to communicate with each other in the magazine's two major markets and am sending this note to the mag in the hope they will take my advice. I will accept a free ad in return for my brilliant suggestion.

More for paid subscribers follows from Britain, Ireland, Germany, Canada, Spain, the Netherlands, Chile, Israel, Switzerland, and Mexico including 2 new company reports. There will be no blog Monday as I am flying back to NYC (where the same issue of The Economist will probably be waiting for me.)

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Finding Muslim Shoppers

Thu, 2016/07/21 - 7:53am | Your editor

What we need to get are Muslim shoppers. Around 30 of the 84 people killed at the Nice Bastille Day festivities by an Islamic terrorist truckdriver were themselves Muslims. This suggests a way to deal with this spate of self-radicalization to ISIS among Muslims in Western countries. We need to remind other Muslims that they are likely to become victims of terrorism by their relatives or neighbors or mosque acquaintances.

As Muslims realize that supposed religious zeal leading to murder will murder them and their loved ones, they have an incentive to stop the havoc by informing against zealots in their midst. They can be on the lookout for sudden bursts of piety in a petty criminal, or advocacy of terrorism, or sign-ups on extremist websites. They should be encouraged to shop these potential murderers.

Leaving it to Muslims themselves to shop deadly extremists among them is the best way to squelch terrorism at source. Remind the Imams and their congregations that if the new Jihadists cannot kill Israelis or Shias in the Middle East to gain instant entry into Paradise despite their sins, they will kill their co-religionists in the West.

 

Italy is working out a way to bail out what may be the oldest bank in the world, 544 years old, the Monte dei Paschi di Siena, without violating the European Union ban on state support for bankrupt banks which must be sold at market prices rather than refinanced by taxpayers. The EU rules require that banks' creditors must take a haircut when they are recapitalized.

The problem is that many Italian small savers hold euros 231 bn of Monte debt and there is an election coming. So the Rome govt has a work round in sight, to refinance its official bailout backstop fund, Atlante, so it can securitize the bonds held by individual investors in Monte. If this is not done, there will be a tempest at balloting time, and more suicides (two have already occurred along with two earlier govt rescues of Monte).

A work-round EU regulations will again delay need Monte reform, the result of decades of misrule by bankers, regulators, politicians, and marketeers. This nonsensical outcome is another nail in the EU coffin, because the regulators are allowing Italy to do what they prevented Greece and Portugal from attempting over their bust banks. It is not just Brexit that puts the European Union's future at risk.

 

Greece meanwhile has repaid Greece €2.64 bn in debt it owes to the European Central Bank and other creditors yesterday from the money it gots in its 3rd bailout in return for a batch of financial reform measures passing a Brussels “performance review.”

You don't want to rely on a hyper-cautious and secretive central bank allergic to PR for fiscal policy. The ECB has today left rates and stimulus unchanged at its first post-Brexit meeting. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda broadcast that there was no need and no possibility of “helicopter money” in a BBC radio interview this morning after the yen fell to a new low against the US$. The interview caused the yen to jump the most in almost a month against the US$ but it may have taken place in June. Bad PR is another CB failing.

 

Bloomberg reports that when hackers broke into computers at Bangladesh’s CB early this year and central bank in February and sent fake payment orders, the US Federal Reserve was tricked into paying out $101 mn. But the losses could have been 10x higher had the name Jupiter been part of the address of a Philippines bank where the wanted the money sent. By chance, Jupiter was also the name of an oil tanker and a shipping company under US sanctions against Iran. That stopped 90% of the money from going to Manila.

 

More for paid subscribers on 4 trades plus news from Brazil, Britain, Germany, Israel, Singapore, China, India, Canada, and The Netherlands.

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The Bremain Risks

Wed, 2016/07/20 - 8:12am | Your editor

While much attention is focused on the British risk over its eventual likely exit from the European Union, I also look closely at the inherent contradictions within the EU which will continue whatever Britain does. There is risk galore among the Bremain countries remaining in the EU.

The euro, the common currency, which Britain never shared, is suffering from an inherent problem because of the wide range of different growth and deficit patterns among its members. Without a single unit of account, a country could boost its output by a devaluation of its money, something southern European countries and Ireland would have been able to do had they not been locked into parity with Germany after the euro was adopted in 1999.

In their move to an 'ever closer union', from the terms of the Treaty of Rome which originated the EU, countries are required to adopt 4 'freedoms'.

First they agree to allow free trade in goods. There will be no long-term tariffs across EU borders, although the use of national standards often has a similar impact to charging duty. The standards however are being centralized if slowly and, by the way, annoyingly. Setting the shape of cucumbers allowed to cross borders without hindrance is an example.

This means the rules are written by bureaucrats and cost companies money to comply.

Then the EU members agree to allow free movement of workers. They will not be discriminated against in favor of locals when they cross borders. This part of the treaty was opposed by the inhabitants of Boston (in the UK not in Massachusetts), upset that their cabbage harvest is being brought in by Romanians willing to do the grunt work more cheaply than the Bostonians. Britain's Boston had the highest vote for Brexit in England.

But, in fact, almost every EU country has a gripe about free movement, most notably the nationalistic  former eastern European new members like Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary. And the refugee influx from the Muslim world and Africa means that free movement has become impossible in any case. Borders are not open for people to move freely. Any crackdown on terrorism will add to the border obstacles.

Third comes the right of establishment and provision of services,  in fact not available, since national standards, licensing, and rules cover who may provide services. Hair-dressing or toilet repairs, driving cabs or pleading before the bar, running a hotel  or teaching children, remain under national or even regional regulation. The service sector is local in almost every EU country. But in an effort to overcome these differences, Brussels has undertaken swingeing rule-writing over the most trivial aspects of services, causing resentment among those who now have a license it is seeking to undermine.

Last is free capital movement, also nullified in fact by regulations whose purpose may be to limit money-laundering by criminals or evasion of taxes, but whose impact is to block cross border capital movements. This is the part of EU membership Britain is most anxious to retain. However over-regulated and obstacle-laden, financial services are what makes Britain great, and it want to continue to offer them on existing terms all over the EU. Ambitious rivals, like France and Germany, will plot to complicate matters, hurting not only the exiting British, but also other countries with a liberal approach to money services, from Estonia to Ireland, from Luxembourg to The Netherlands.

In fact European monetary policy cannot be set by all-nighter meetings of the member countries or their elected reps. They are too irreconcilable. It is being left to the European Central Bank's 'super' Mario Dragi to try to reconcile the grouping's conflicting policy aims: growth and employment, a stable euro, and low inflation. Nobody elected Drahi and most countries have a bone to pick with his compromises. There is no European monetary policy, no European fiscal policy, no European regulation of banks (except over state aid).

Focusing on what is splitting Europe regardless of what Britain wants shows that it its future is not secure. The influx of refugees created an unresolved split between countries welcoming young blood like Germany and others who want to maintain their good old monolithic social structure and homogenized ethnicity. Europe is a patchwork of different languages and religions the natives want to defend. The Holocaust reminds us that those of a different religion (not necessarily Jews) and a different ethnicity (not necessarily Roma or gypsies) can become targets. Britain was most execised about Polish immigrants, who more or less look like them, but tend to be Roman Catholic rather than Anglican. Similar NIMBYism afflicts the remain countries.

The unresolved Greek financial crisis and the potential blowup of Italian banks shows that common rules on capital movement conflicts with national needs. And with divergent growth patterns and continued deficit spending in the “Club Med” countries, the gap with Germany and Holland, the countries able to meet the rules, and the rest, will grow.

These internal EU contradictions have been thrown into the spotlight by the British vote. And dissidents in other countries can demand the right to another referendum à l'anglaise, supported by populist parties from the left or the right. The vote could open the door to further exits from the EU by countries ranging from first founders France and Italy to newer members Poland or Hungary (over immigration). Financial issues could lead to a Greek exit. Saving our jobs from Brussels leveling might lead to even Germans crying 'raus'. In fact the whole experiment may come to an end.

In fact, while I regret this, I think the whole EU experiment in unification may fail over the coming decades. And being tougher than necessary with Britain—to stop home-grown imitators—will not stop the move to the exits.

 

More for paid subscribers today starting with a company quarterly, with news from Germany, India, Bermuda, Panama, Costa Rica, Canada, Britain, the Dutch Antilles, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Colombia, and Greece.

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Toppy Markets?

Tue, 2016/07/19 - 6:14am | Your editor

Today markets feel toppy.

The Turkish putsch failed to discourage Japan whose market reopened after a holiday. The Nikkei index resumed trading with another gain as Japanese investors get ready for more government economic stimulus. Ben Bernanke, former head of the Fed, was spotted visiting his Japanese counterpart during the 4-day weekend, which further triggered optimism over tax and interest rate cuts.

The only exception from the bullishness was Softbank, sold off because it is already deeply in debt and now may be overpaying for Arm plc which it is acquiring. Interestingly enough, the negotiations over the takeover took place in Turkey ten days ago.

The Japanese stock market is in a risk-on phase and a reversal is likely. And not just there.

The British stock index hit a new 2016 high yesterday and sterling briefly went to $1.33, also because of the Arm deal. Brokers are looking for other UK listed companies which may become takeover candidates, starting with Arm's Internet of Things rivals, Imagination Technologies and Allied Minds. Other ideas are companies bid for earlier which still are independent, like RSA, the insurance firm which Zurich failed to nab last year along with other insurers like Aviva and Prudential. Even Royal Bank of Soctland which the UK government wants to exit its 80% shareholding in rose yesterday. Chemical producers Victrex and Polypipe are others brokers signal may be bid for. Drug companies Shire and Astra Zeneca are also said to be targets. AZN may enter the fray over Medivation to stop a bid.

It is not that simple. Bids do not necessarily lead to copycat bids, particularly when, as with the Softbank deal, the first ones are viewed unfavorably by the home market. And unless you have insider information, which is illegal, do not buy any share in the hopes of being bought out.

If a foreign company has piles of sterling from its retained earnings, it might be a bidder, to use the depreciated currency strategically. This was pointed out by expert Marc Chandler of Brown Brothers Harriman who has written insightful articles since the Brexit vote on how it can all go wrong. His most recent missive warns that Britain's aim to delay signing article 50 of the EU treaty to negotiate terms of its exit before a 2-year deadline is struck, may be undermined by other terms of the treaty like article 7. Chandler also says that while UK commercial banks may win “passporting” rights to retain access to other European markets by adopting common standards, this may not apply to investment banks and funds. Moreover, British laws going forward would have to copy every change in EU banking regulations to keep that door open.

 

We have news from our companies in Israel, India, Spain, Britain, The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Mexico, The Philippines, Ireland, and Switzerland.

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