Yves here. While the odds of commodities-triggered 2008 style meltdown is still not the most likely outcome, recall that that pessimists like yours truly assessed the likelihood of Seriously Bad Things Happening as of early 2008 at 20-30%, which I then saw as dangerously high. In other words, tail risks are bigger than they appear.
Some of the things that favor worse outcomes than one might otherwise anticipate is investor irrationality, or what one might politely call herd behavior. For instance, a major news story today was how investors are dumping emerging markets assets willy nilly, when many are not exposed to much if any blowback from lower commodity prices and quite a few are seen as net beneficiaries. The offset is that central banks have been conditioned to break glass and overreact when banks start looking wobbly. But the Fed may be slow to get the memo, since it sees recent data (the last jobs reports and retail sales data) as strong, and is also predisposed to see its medicine as working even though it is really working only for those at the top of the food chain.
Note that this report is from Monday in Australia, and look how much oil prices have dropped since then. WTI is now at $54.28 per Bloomberg.
Yves here. I must confess to not being anywhere near as on top of Australian politics as I’d like to be, and I have a great deal of difficulty understanding the ascendancy of Liberal leader and now Prime Minister Tony Abbott, save that in a parliamentary system, who winds up on top often has more to do with infighting skills than real leadership. This post shows that the latest Abbot scheme for addressing youth un and under employment is a serious contender for Worst Neoliberal Post-Crisis Policy Evah. And recall it has QE as a competitor. So this post serves to launch a watch for Really Horrid Neoliberal Policies so we can start creating a taxonomy, which helps in making fun of them.
For starters, how smart is it to throw young people under the bus in an economy that has become almost entirely a real estate one trick pony? Where is household formation going to come from, exactly? Chinese investors and Chinese-driven extraction boom have both provided a big lift to Oz over most of the last decade. Deflation across non-agricultural commodities is a strong tell that that game is past its sell-by date.
One of the things I noticed briefly about Australian policies when I lived there is that they were weirdly bimodal, as in either really well thought out or terrible. This was confirmed by some Canadian policy wonks I met who said when they were looking for policy ideas from other countries, they’d look at Australia first because they were most likely to have gotten it right. The new Abbott policy suggests that capability is being destroyed.
Shady NZ shell company merchant GT Group’s global footprint just keeps growing, as do its links to the dreamy nonsense that is the “Maharal Network”. In our latest global tour, let’s visit Romania and Moldova first, via Ukraine and New Zealand.
Yves here, as John Helmer explains in this post, one of the many focuses of economic warfare between the US and Russia is production of iron ore, in which Russia is a large player. Helmer describes how Urkaine is pushing to produce iron ore at the minehead, which means in Africa. Not only would Russia suffer, but Australia and Brazil would take collateral damage.
Yves here. It is gratifying to see economists take up the question of when laws work, and perhaps even more important, how to make laws work even when they conflict with social norms. In typical economists’ fashion, they contend that as far as businesses work, fines work but more rules don’t. On further examination, that conclusion may not be well founded.
A new book is causing a stir in New Zealand. It’s called “Dirty Politics“. From the blurb:
Early in 2014 Nicky Hager was leaked a large number of email and online conversations from Cameron Slater’s Whale Oil blog. Many of these were between Slater and his personal allies on the hard right, revealing an ugly and destructive style of politics. But there were also many communications with the prime minister’s office and other Cabinet ministers in the National Government. They show us a side of Prime Minister John Key and his government of which most New Zealanders are completely unaware.
Yves here. China is cracking down on flight capital, starting with Australian banks. As the most casual readers of the business press know, the international wealthy, particularly Russians and Chinese, have been using residential real estate in “world cities” as their favorite lockbox. As we’ve written, it’s stunning to see how much real estate has been hoarded in London. Mayfair was depopulated during the petrodollar recycling of the 1970s; now much of Belgravia, Chelsea near Sloan Square, and Kensington are visibly underpopulated. Vancouver has been bid to the sky by Chinese flight capital. New York is a big destination for Russian and Chinese investors, and Chinese money has been pouring into Australian real estate.
The Chinese move may be an admission of stress on the financial system.
Back in the late 1980’s, Rupert Murdoch’s latest fiendish plan for world media domination (there’s a new one every decade or so) centred on pay TV. But as the 1990s rolled in, the media baron focused on a new world to conquer: crypto.
Yves here. While this piece provides a solid overview of the fallen status of cars, it misses an obvious contributor to the lack of enthusiasm for them among the young: with weak incomes and in many cases, heavy student debt loads, an automobile is too large an expense relative to what they get out of it.