Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category

Oil price drop fuelling a surge in Indian car sales

March 18, 2016

It has taken a while coming, but the drop in oil price since mid-2014 is finally making its way into the Indian economy. Fuel consumption is growing at 10%. India has now passed Japan and is now the third largest oil consumer. Soon India will pass even China for energy consumption growth. Refineries which were intended for the export of oil have shifted to production for domestic consumption. Car sales which grew by 6% in the last year are now expected to be 12% in the next fiscal year (April – March).

Hindustan Times:

Underpinned by annual economic growth of 7-8 per cent, India’s fuel demand is seen as a key oil price support over 2016-2017, eating into a supply overhang that has pulled down global crude as much as 70 percent since mid-2014.

India has already pipped Japan as the world’s third-largest oil consumer. By 2040, India will have more than doubled its current oil use to 10 million barrels per day (bpd), according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), about on par with China’s consumption last year.

This roar of motor – as well as power and household – fuel use means some refineries initially planned for exports, such as the 300,000 bpd Paradip refinery on India’s east coast, have been flipped to serve domestic oil demand. …… Reflecting India’s rising importance as a buyer, Igor Sechin, chief executive of the world’s biggest listed oil company Rosneft, was in New Delhi this week to sign several deals with Indian companies such as IOC, Oil India Ltd and Bharat PetroResources Ltd.

…. Over April-February – the first 11 months of India’s current fiscal year – fuel demand rose 10 per cent to about 170 million tonnes (4 million bpd), according to a report this week by the oil ministry’s Petroleum Planning and Analysis Cell (PPAC).

For the next fiscal year through March 2017, the PPAC has forecast fuel demand growth at 7.3 per cent. …. India plans to spend Rs 97,000 crore ($14 billion) in 2016-2017 on expanding and improving the country’s road network, which at 4.7 million km is already vying with China as the world’s second-longest after the United States, although highways make up less than 2 per cent of that figure.

A 23.55 per cent increase in the salaries, allowances and pensions of millions of government employees later this year is also expected to shore up consumer spending, boosting purchases of cars and motorcycles. Sales of passenger cars and utility vehicles in India are expected to grow by as much as 12 per cent in the next fiscal year, up from an estimated 6 percent this year. That translates to around 230,000 new passenger vehicles hitting the roads each month.

The main impact has been on gasoline demand, which the PPAC expects to grow to 24.2 million tonnes (560,000 bpd) by next year, up more than 12 per cent from 21.5 million tonnes estimated for this fiscal year. “Gasoline demand has been growing in double digits and we expect this to continue as it depends on sales of two-wheelers and cars,” said Indian Oil Corp’s Singh.

Other fuels are seeing growth as well, and for similar reasons. To meet rising demand, state refiners are planning a 1.2 million bpd plant on the country’s west coast, adding to current overall capacity of 4.6 million bpd, although a fixed timeline has not been set.

I expect India and China to be key contributors to the recovery of the global economy and

Historically – though it is a relatively crude generalisation – low oil price has usually given – or coincided with – consumer-led growth and stability.

crude oil price history 1970-2014

crude oil price history 1970-2014


 

Positive effects of oil price drop should kick-in by Q2

February 8, 2016

The net effect of lower oil price has always been expected to be positive.

Although oil price gains and losses across producers and consumers sum to zero, the net effect on global activity is positive. The reasons are twofold: simply put, the increase in spending by oil importers is likely to exceed the decline in spending by exporters, and lower production costs will stimulate supply in other sectors for which oil is an input.

Since June 2014, oil price has dropped by over 70%, but the boost to the global economy has not materialised as yet. The “explanations” being produced include – but are not limited to – the turn-down in China, the collapse of various economic “bubbles”, the fear factor, the reluctance of governments (especially in Europe) of allowing a pass-through of the price reduction to consumers and  the too rapid decline of tax revenues in oil producing countries.

Oil price 8th Feb 2016 - Nasdaq

Oil price 8th Feb 2016 – Nasdaq

Certainly the “fear factor” and the reluctance of governments and private players to plan for any extended period with low prices has been a major factor. The stock markets have not hit bottom yet. But the strange thing is that the money pulled out of the stock markets has not all shifted to gold and has resulted in only a modest increase of gold price.  The other traditional safe havens of government paper are providing very low yields.

While company earnings are down they are nowhere near as bleak as the stock markets would indicate. Dividends are somewhat down but also do not match the decline in valuations. Now I see that sales volumes are also not as far reduced as the valuations and that margins are generally holding up. But the first lot of dividends I have received in 2016 convince me that while absolute values are down, the “yield” based on current valuations has actually increased.

Of course markets can still go down. But the drop in earnings will be far less than the loss of valuations that has already taken place. P/E ratios are beginning to look quite attractive and if earnings can hold up in line with sales volume, I expect that dividends will still provide a good “yield” through 2016.

As the IMF puts it:

Low oil prices provide a window of opportunity to undertake serious fuel pricing and taxation reform in both oil-importing and oil-exporting countries. The resulting stronger fiscal balances would create space for increasing priority expenditures and/or cutting distortionary taxes, thereby imparting a sustained boost to growth. In a number of low- and middle-income countries, energy sector reforms aimed at broadening access to reliable energy would have important development benefits.

Maybe I am just an optimist, but new company budgets – especially those for the year starting April 2016 – are now factoring in some of the 70% drop of oil price as being sustainable (typically an oil price of $45 as being taken as a “safe” but sustainable level). That leads me to expect a change of mood and a corresponding change in markets in the second quarter of 2016.


 

Independent Scotland would have been in dire straits now

January 14, 2016

This morning Brent oil fell to less than $30 for the first time in 12 years.

During the Scotland independence campaign, the Scottish National Party based its projections and campaign on an oil price of $113 going forward and that would have provided revenues of about £7 billion per year.

SNP assumption - actual Brent oil price

At current prices the oil revenue accruing to the Scottish budget would be less than £0.1 billion compared to the planned for £7 billion per year. Back in July 2015, the expected revenue (at $45/barrel) was reduced to be about £0.16 billion per year (£800 million in 5 years). This is just the impact of price. Considering the reduction in market share and reduced volume, the revenue is likely to fall well short of that and not much more than £0.08 billion per year (£400 million over 5 years).

With actual oil revenues at just 10-15% of what was assumed, an independent Scotland would now be close to default and a declaration of bankruptcy. At least Scotland is a little more diverse and not quite as dependent on oil revenues as Norway is. But Norway is now dipping heavily into the huge oil fund it has stashed away over the good years. But even with the fund, the Norwegian kronor has lost about 30% of its value in the last year. Scotland, of course, has no such fund to fall back upon.

It seems highly unlikely that there will be any new independence referendum in Scotland until either

  1. the budget oil dependence is reduced drastically, or
  2. the oil price is over $60 per barrel.

 

RBS “Sell Everything” note

January 12, 2016

Update to a previous post:

The RBS report by Andrew Roberts advising clients to “Sell Everything” and which is attracting much morbid attention,

“The bears have killed Goldilocks

…..

The downside is crystallising.

Watch out.

Sell (mostly) everything.”

pdf file — RBS European-Rates-Weekly-08011


 

Thinking the unthinkable – oil at $10 per barrel

January 12, 2016

Huge stocks, declining consumption and reducing prices. Yet, Saudi Arabian oil production is running at close to maximum, Iraqi oil is increasing and Iranian oil will soon hit the market. Economic theories are being overturned and more than one economist is turning in his grave. (Economists are not, and never have been, very good at forecasts though they are all past-masters at generating theories based on back-casts).

Now, the experts are beginning to contemplate what has been unthinkable so far – oil price diving to $10/barrel.

ReutersCrude oil fell 3 percent on Tuesday, heading toward $30 per barrel and levels not seen in over a decade, with analysts scrambling to cut their price forecasts and traders betting on further declines.

Prices are down around 20 percent since the start of the year, dragged lower by soaring oversupply, China’s weakening economy and stock market turmoil, as well as the strong dollar, which makes it more expensive for countries using other currencies to buy oil.

…… On the supply side, Iraq, which has become the second biggest producer within the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), plans to export a record of around 3.63 million barrels per day (bpd) from its southern oil terminals in February, trade sources said on Tuesday, citing a preliminary loading program, up 8 percent from this month.

“The near-term outlook for the oil market is bleak. OPEC is producing flat-out into a market that is oversupplied by over 1 million barrels per day; already decelerating demand growth could further decay with slowing economic activity; and OECD inventories that are already at record levels are likely to expand through at least the middle of the year,” Jefferies said on Tuesday.

Adjusting to the price rout, analysts have been shifting their price outlooks downward, with Barclays, Macquarie, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Standard Chartered and Societe Generale all cutting their 2016 oil forecasts this week.

StanChart took the most bearish view, saying prices could drop as low as $10 a barrel.

“We think prices could fall as low as $10/bbl before most of the money managers in the market conceded that matters had gone too far,” the bank said.

crude oil price 20160112

In my simplistic view, a reducing price for something I consume is fundamentally a “good thing”. But I can’t help feeling that this price drop is not a sound, sustainable reduction based on cost reduction. It is manipulated and artificial and is due to a misguided Saudi strategy against shale oil, Russian oil and Iran. And it is going horribly wrong.

“Sell everything” – stocks to fall by 20% and oil to $16 – says RBS

January 12, 2016

The Royal Bank of Scotland is predicting a “cataclysmic” 2016 and advising its clients to “sell everything” except high quality bonds. Stocks will collapse by 10 – 20% and oil will drop to $16/barrel. As pessimism goes this is not just “Doom” it is “Painful and Imminent Doom”. The RBS team are clearly expecting an increasing panic feeding on itself, since there are “few exit doors”. Certainly their dire scenario will itself contribute to the darkening “mood”.

For the modest investor there are few “good” options. The task for them is not so much looking for upsides but one of limiting the downsides. It is probably best to just rely on the wisdom of the Godfather. Convert to cash and “go to the mattresses”.

Keep Calm Sell Everything - Telegraph

Keep Calm Sell Everything – Telegraph

The Telegraph:

RBS has advised clients to brace for a “cataclysmic year” and a global deflationary crisis, warning that major stock markets could fall by a fifth and oil may plummet to $16 a barrel.

The bank’s credit team said markets are flashing stress alerts akin to the turbulent months before the Lehman crisis in 2008. “Sell everything except high quality bonds. This is about return of capital, not return on capital. In a crowded hall, exit doors are small,” it said in a client note.

Andrew Roberts, the bank’s credit chief, said that global trade and loans are contracting, a nasty cocktail for corporate balance sheets and equity earnings. This is particularly ominous given that global debt ratios have reached record highs.

“China has set off a major correction and it is going to snowball. Equities and credit have become very dangerous, and we have hardly even begun to retrace the ‘Goldlocks love-in’ of the last two years,” he said.

Mr Roberts expects Wall Street and European stocks to fall by 10pc to 20pc, with even an deeper slide for the FTSE 100 given its high weighting of energy and commodities companies. “London is vulnerable to a negative shock. All these people who are ‘long’ oil and mining companies thinking that the dividends are safe are going to discover that they’re not at all safe,” he said. ….

Brent oil prices will continue to slide after breaking through a key technical level at $34.40, RBS claimed, with a “bear flag” and “Fibonacci” signals pointing to a floor of $16, a level last seen after the East Asia crisis in 1999. The bank said a paralysed OPEC seems incapable of responding to a deepening slowdown in Asia, now the swing region for global oil demand.

Morgan Stanley has also slashed its oil forecast, warning that Brent could fall to $20 if the US dollar keeps rising. It argued that oil is intensely leveraged to any move in the dollar and is now playing second fiddle to currency effects.

RBS forecast that yields on 10-year German Bunds would fall time to an all-time low of 0.16pc in a flight to safety, and may break zero as deflationary forces tighten their grip. The European Central Bank’s policy rate will fall to -0.7pc.

US Treasuries will fall to rock-bottom levels in sympathy, hammering hedge funds that have shorted US bonds in a very crowded “reflation trade”. ………..

Business Insider has the RBS bullet list of concerns which are giving their bleak view of 2016:

My bullet point themes into 2016 are (remain):

  1. Bearish China
  2. Bearish global commodities (hards, softs, fluids). And more specifically . . .
  3. Bearish oil (target $26, then clear risk of $16)
  4. CBs (mostly everywhere) will ease more
  5. The world has far too much debt to be able to grow well – global output
  6. gap widens
  7. Emerging market majors (outside India & Eastern Europe) all remain sells
  8. Automation on its way to destroy 30-50% of all jobs in developed world
  9. Currency war / mercantilism

 And my new bullet point themes:

  1. Global disinflation risks turning into global deflation in 2016
  2. Everyone thinks ‘goldilocks’. We thought this strongly for >2 years (on our liquidity theme) but now worry about equities/credit, both huge, multi-year, well held positions. Negative returns in 2016 are probable, though without a recession they should be manageable, think -10-20%, rather than a rout
  3. If we see weaker ‘risk on’ products, the last safe ‘high yielder’ is the EMU periphery. Our new 0.75% 10y BTP target could prove too high a yield
  4. Risks to 0.16% new 10y bund target are on the downside, not upside
  5. Main risk comes from oil. A plunge sub $20 would aid consumption

It could be a bad year for the small investor.

Chinese stocks crash another 7% while World Bank warns of further possible shocks

January 7, 2016

European stock markets can be expected to decline another 2-3% today. The Chinese stock markets hit the automatic circuit breakers soon after they opened today when they dropped another 7%. The devaluation of the Chinese Yuan continues apace with a 0.5% drop, which is the largest single day drop since August when it was devalued 2%. The Shanghai composite index is now down at 3115, down from the high of 5000 it reached in June 2015. In the meantime Brent oil fell below $35 which is the lowest since 2004.

Back in August last year I expected market “bottom” to be when the SCI was less than 3200 and oil was around $30 per barrel.

So I’m looking for the SCI at or less than 3200 and oil prices of about $30/barrel to start getting bullish again. That will not be before November/December this year.

And until then its probably best to keep cash under the mattress.

Hopefully the bottom is not too far away.

sci jan 2016 graphic by bloomberg

sci jan 2016 graphic by bloomberg

In the meantime the World Bank has released its Global Economic Prospects for 2016. WB Global Economic Prospects January 2016

While the WB expects global growth to increase slightly from 2.4% in 2015 to 2.9%, it sees some major risks ahead. The nightmare scenario is if the economies of the BRICS countries decline simultaneously and that could spillover and cause a prolonged downturn globally.

The simultaneous slowing of four of the largest emerging markets—Brazil, Russia, China, and South Africa—poses the risk of spillover effects for the rest of the world economy. Global ripples from China’s slowdown are expected to be greatest but weak growth in Russia sets back activity in other countries in the region. Disappointing growth again in the largest emerging markets, if combined with new financial stress, could sharply reduce global growth in 2016. …….

…….. Specifically, a 1 percentage point decline in growth in BRICS is associated with a reduction in growth over the following two years by 0.8 percentage points in other emerging markets, 1.5 percentage points in frontier markets, and 0.4 percentage points in the global economy. Spillovers could be considerably larger if the growth slowdown in BRICS were combined with financial market turbulence.

The World Bank ends by advising developing economies to develop resilience – which may be easier said than done

In the current environment, developing countries need to brace for possible shocks by building resilience to risks to growth. Where they are able to boost government spending or lower interest rates, they can provide support to economic activity. They can further encourage investor confidence with reforms to governance, labor market functioning, and business environments. Measures to absorb young workers or to increase workforce participation will relieve demographic pressures in many countries.

Hopefully the stimulus that low oil price provides will be sufficient to prevent the nightmare scenario.

Opportunities for wealth creation needed rather than just redistribution of wealth

October 13, 2015

Credit Suisse has published its Global Wealth report and its accompanying Databook. The data are based on the world’s adult population of about 4.8 billion. What is immediately obvious is that the wealth is very badly skewed with 71% of the world’s adults having a net worth of less than $10,000, 21% have net worth between $10,000 and 100,000 while just 8% have wealth of over $100,000. (I have also added the line of those in extreme poverty).

However my take is that the pyramid is actually a reflection of wealth creating ability.  The challenge is to make wealth creation opportunity less sensitive to the having of wealth. That suggests to me that it is not just a redistribution from rich to poor that is required in the first instance, but the provision of wealth creation opportunity for those having lower net worth. If extreme poverty can be eliminated, and wealth creation opportunity be made less dependant upon having wealth, then we will have a resultant wealth distribution that automatically matches the wealth creation ability of individuals.

CS global-wealth-report-2015 (pdf)

CS global-wealth-databook-2015 (pdf)

The global wealth pyramid is particularly interesting (wealth being taken as net worth):

It has a large base of low wealth holders and upper levels occupied by progressively fewer adults. We estimate that 3.4 billion individuals – 71% of all adults in the world – have wealth below USD 10,000 in 2015. A further billion adults (21% of the global population) fall in the USD 10,000–100,000 range. While average wealth is modest in the base and middle tiers of the pyramid, total wealth here amounts to USD 39 trillion, underlining the economic importance of this often neglected segment. Each of the remaining 383 million adults (8% of the world) has net worth above USD 100,000. This group includes 34 million US dollar millionaires, who comprise less than 1% of the world’s adult population, yet own 45% of all household wealth. We estimate that 123,800 individuals within this group are worth more than USD 50 million, and 44,900 have over USD 100 million.

Global Wealth Pyramid - adapted from Credit Suisse

Global Wealth Pyramid – adapted from Credit Suisse

The take-away from this depends somewhat on from which side of the political spectrum the data are viewed. Looking from the left it is a strident call to arms to “take from the rich and give to the poor”. But this, I think, is just a little too simplistic. How net worth is distributed generally reflects not only wealth concentration but also wealth creation. Merely redistributing existing wealth will actually reduce the total amount of wealth that is created. The bulk of wealth creation thus lies at the initiative of those having the most wealth. It is this coupling between having wealth and wealth creation opportunities which needs to be addressed. It is wealth creation opportunities for those at the lower reaches of the pyramid which is the real need. It is the cliche – but true – of giving a man a fish (wealth) or teaching him how to fish (or create wealth).

Just redistribution will not increase the world’s wealth creation and it is more likely that it will reduce most for those having the lowest net worth. And that would be entirely counterproductive.

However there is little denying that at the top of the pyramid, the concentration of net worth can be almost obscene. Just 123,800 individuals are each worth over $50 million and 44,900 of them are each worth over $100 million.

Top of the wealth pyramid from Credit Suisse

Top of the wealth pyramid from Credit Suisse

Extreme poverty at all time global low while population is at an all time high

October 5, 2015

Being poor is a relative term. To be in “extreme poverty” is an absolute measure. To be “poor” does not require being in “poverty”. The “poor” relative to the “rich” will always be with us and are just as necessary as the “rich”. In fact, that distinction between rich and poor is necessary as long as humans are to be considered individuals with aspirations and not just clones. Income inequality is often equated – especially by those with communistic leanings – with poverty, but this is simply wrong. Income inequality may be an indicator of the ratio of “poor” to “rich” but to be “poor” need have nothing to do with being in “poverty”. “Poverty” is not necessary and the goal is to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030.

The 2015 World Bank Research Note on Extreme Poverty is now out. In 2015, for the first time ever, and in spite of the global population being at an all time high, the number of people in extreme poverty has reduced to less than 10%. In spite of the population increase, the total number in extreme poverty is at the lowest in 25 years. But that is still 700 million (900 million in 2012) in extreme poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa and S Asia are where the misery is concentrated.

Extreme Poverty - World Bank 2015

Extreme Poverty – World Bank 2015

Press Release:

The number of people living in extreme poverty around the world is likely to fall to under 10 percent of the global population in 2015, according to World Bank projections released today, giving fresh evidence that a quarter-century-long sustained reduction in poverty is moving the world closer to the historic goal of ending poverty by 2030.

The Bank uses an updated international poverty line of US $1.90 a day, which incorporates new information on differences in the cost of living across countries (the PPP exchange rates). The new line preserves the real purchasing power of the previous line (of $1.25 a day in 2005 prices) in the world’s poorest countries. Using this new line (as well as new country-level data on living standards), the World Bank projects that global poverty will have fallen from 902 million people or 12.8 per cent of the global population in 2012 to 702 million people, or 9.6 per cent of the global population, this year.

Extreme Poverty contributions - World Bank 2015

Extreme Poverty contributions – World Bank 2015

GDP gives innovation …. or is it the other way around?

October 2, 2015

From The Economist.

To be fair it is quite easy to argue that the absolute value of GDP is conducive to innovation but that innovation leads to GDP growth.

Global Innovation Index 2015 image The Economist

Global Innovation Index 2015 image The Economist

…. The Global Innovation Index and a related report, which were published this morning by Cornell University, INSEAD, a business school, and the World Intellectual Property Organisation. The ranking of 140 countries and economies around the world, which are scored using 79 indicators, is not surprising: Switzerland, Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands and America lead the pack. But the authors also look at their data from other angles, for instance how countries do relative to their economic development and the quality of innovation (measured by indicators such as university rankings). In both cases the results are more remarkable. The chart above shows that in innovation many countries in Africa punch above their economic weight. And the chart below indicates that, even though China is now churning out a lot of patents, it is still way behind America and other rich countries when it comes to innovation quality.


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