Category Archives: Economic fundamentals

Ilargi: Say Bye to the Bubble

Yves here. Only with the fullness of time will we know whether Ilargi’s “the end is nigh” headline will have coincided with the crack that signaled the sell-by date of the officialdom-induced post crisis rally. But Ilargi makes more interesting points than simply, as many done, point out that the bubble party has to end and the unwind is not likely to be pretty.

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Six Years After the Global Financial Crisis, What Have We Learned?

Yves here. This post looks at how little has been done in the wake of the global financial crisis is instructive because it takes an international view. The Australian writer, Catherine Cashmore, is particularly anxious about the failure to address the usually lucky country’s ginormous property bubble, and its not alone in having this problem (cue the UK, China, and Canada). It the US, although we’ve had a housing “recovery” and some markets are looking frothy, the bigger issues are the squeeze on renters as former homeowners are now leasing and the stock of rentals is tight in some markets (in part due to destruction of homes that would have been rentable in the foreclosure process due to servicer mismanagement and in some markets, due to properties being held off the market, both by servicers and by landlords who are either in the process of rehabbing them or have otherwise not leased them up). And it focuses on the elephant in the room: lousy worker wage growth.

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US Port Strike Threat Highlights Supply Chain Risk

One issue we’ve raise over the year is the ways that the corporate fetish for offshoring and outsourcing greatly increases business risk. Even when savings are realized (and as we’ve discussed, in many cases, the main result is a transfer from factory/lower level workers to managers and executives), they are seldom weighed properly against the increased fragility of the operation, and the resulting exposure to big losses. For instance, extended supply chains entail more communications across the chain, longer production cycles, more shipping, all of which increase the odds of writeoffs via having too much inventory or inventory in the wrong place, and those occasional losses can swamp the savings over time.

Those supply chain risks have come into focus, as the Financial Times reminds us, as the possibility of West Coast port strikes looms.

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Bill Black: Two EU Finance Ministers Throw Their Bosses and Nations Under the Bus

The finance ministers of Italy and Serbia have just publicly thrown their heads of state and their nations under the bus.  In a testament to the crippling effect of the belief that “there is no alternative” (TINA) to austerity, these finance ministers have insisted on bleeding economies that are in desperate need of fiscal stimulus.  Their pursuit of economic malpractice is so determined that they eagerly sought out opportunities to embarrass the democratically elected head of state in Serbia when he dared to support competent economic policies.

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Will Fossil Fuel Be the Subprime of This Cycle?

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard makes a compelling argument in his latest article: that the $5.4 trillion of investment poured into fossil fuel exploration and development projects over the last six years includes quite a lot of investments that will never show an adequate return. He argues that when that sorry fact starts to be recognized, the losses could be the wake-up call to investors who have shrugged off risk as financial assets climb to ever-more-implausible valuations.

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Portuguese Bank Jitters Intrude on QE-Induced Euphoria

Despite unimpressive and often mixed economic data, market prices in a wide range of financial assets have continued to grind higher. And the results that cheered pundits are hard to square. For instance, Floyd Norris in the New York Times today scratches his head over how inconsistent recent employment gains are with the first quarter GDP contraction at an annualized 2/9% rate. It’s also hard to reconcile with reports of weak retail sales and falling in-store traffic. Similarly, China has become concerned enough about growth that it’s started pump priming again. Even so, car sales dropped by 3.4% in June. And in Japan, machinery orders plunged by 19% in May. And despite the recent discussion of Eurozone recovery, recent reports have put a dent in cheery forecasts.

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Will the Eurozone Be Able to Align National Interests?

Yves here. We ran an earlier post by Ashoda Mody, he argued that Eurozone was failing in resolving its recurring crises successfully. That is a coded way of saying that the odds of breakup are rising. Needless to say, that view elicited a lot of commentary from his readers. Mody addresses their reactions and objection below.

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Peak Optimism, or Peak Propaganda?

Yves here. Ilargi is mighty vexed by the unseemly display of optimism in the media over today’s jobs reports, since the continuing cheerleading is every more at odds with the outlook for most consumers and businesses. It’s easy to view this chipper barrage as a mainstay of the financial media, but as Ilargi implies, this looks like an effort to redefine collective expectations downward, so that ordinary citizens are conditioned to see the “new normal” of a tepid recovery as the best they can expect.

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Why Europe Needs Two Euros, Not One

Yves here. We remarked recently how the readings we’ve been getting from people who have senior contacts in Europe are increasingly of the view that the economic crisis in Europe is morphing into a sufficiently severe political crisis that the unthinkable – a breakup of the eurozone – is looking like a serious possibility.

One indicator is the article featured below. VoxEU has policy reach in Europe, and this post represents an effort to come up with better economic arrangements within Europe while preserving at least some of the benefits of monetary union. And it is hardly the first to recognize that one of the big problems with the Eurozone is that it put together too many disparate economies without enough in the way of fiscal transfers to buffer the differences. If the Eurozone can’t move towards more economic integration, the next-best remedy might be a structure where more homogenous countries each had their own currency.

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BIS Warns About Destabilizing Low Interest Rates

The financial media is all atwitter (no pun intended) over the Bank of International Settlement’s just released annual report, since it shook a stern finger at central banks for keeping super low interest rates and warned them about the difficulty of renormalizing without kicking up a lot of upheaval.

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Why Did GDP Fall So Dramatically Last Quarter?

Robert Pollin, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, gives a good high-level discussion of why the GDP results for last quarter were such a train wreck. Remember that analysts and economists were blindsided; no one expected to see GDP fall at that rate. As we wrote, the tendency among pundits has been to treat the results as of not much concern, since that period is past and some of plunge can be attributed to one-off factors, most importantly, abnormally cold weather. Pollin explains why this explanation is insufficient.

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Why the Rich Aren’t Job Creators

This is a short talk by venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, who among other things, was the first non-family investor in Amazon. Hanauer in very simple and effective terms debunks the “rich are job creators” myth. Even though the video is going viral (now at over 1 million views on YouTube, it is important enough that I wanted to make sure NC readers saw it and circulated it.

Hanauer’s remarks illustrates the degree to which propaganda has overcome commercial common sense.

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