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The New New Great Game: Geography, Energy, The Dollar And Gold | Zero Hedge

The New New Great Game: Geography, Energy, The Dollar And Gold | Zero Hedge.

Submitted by Paul Mylchreest of Monument Securities

The New New Great Game: Geography, Energy, The Dollar and Gold (pdf link)

Sir Halford Mackinder’s 1904 speach in which he outlined his “Heartland Theory” was a founding moment for geo-politics. He argued that control of the Eurasian landmass (Europe, Asia and the Middle East), which contained the bulk of the world’s population and natural resources, was the major geo-political prize.

As time passed, energy (first crude oil then natural gas), became increasingly integral to this concept and its strategic significance cannot be overstated.

Remarkably, Mackinder’s theory has remained equally valid, if not more so, in the modern era – although key “pivot areas” for exercising control have evolved. In addition to Central Asia and Trans-Caucasus in Mackinder’s day, the oil producing nations of the Middle East took on increasing importance in the “New Great Game”.

The geo-political confrontation between the US on one hand and China (in increasingly close cooperation with Russia) on the other, is evolving rapidly. We see a “New New Great Game” (NNGG) emerging and have “tweaked” the Heartland Theory to include.

An additional geographic “pivot”, the South and East China Seas, due to their importance in terms of world trade, oil and gas reserves and numerous territorial claims.

A monetary “pivot”, the dollar-based system of world trade and its reserve status. China is taking the lead role in pushing ahead with its strategy of dismantling the dollar’s supremacy.

Geo-political tension in each of the pivot areas is escalating. For example Central Asia and Trans-Caucasus (Ukraine), Middle East (Iran) and South and East China Seas (Senkaku Islands). The rising powers, China and Russia, are adopting more aggressive geo-political tactics towards US/EU/NATO/Japanese interests. The more “dovish” US policy towards Iran, following the recent nuclear deal, is threatening to destabilise the decades-long status quo in diplomatic relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Just about every aspect of the escalating geo-political tension has an energy element, either directly or indirectly. Viewed from a “Mackinderian” perspective, the strategic value of the energy sector is immense. It begs the question whether, after five years of underperformance, the equity market is under-pricing energy assets, including those deeply out-of-favour integrated oil and gas stocks? Probably, in our view.

We believe that the significance of the monetary pivot in the NNGG is under-estimated as China accelerates preparations to undermine the dollar’s role in world trade. The other aspect of China’s strategy is its diversification into “hard assets” and, as far as we can tell, China is attempting to “corner” the market for physical gold. Its strategic significance is lost on most Western investors. We present some insights into today’s gold market which might shock Western investors – similarities with the run-up to the major lows in the gold price more than a decade ago – and China’s understanding of modern gold market mechanics.

The threats to the existing US-centric order are substantial and the geo-political sands are shifting. The US will respond and has the largest economy and military (with vast ocean-going naval advantage), most powerful investment banks and deepest financial markets and significant (albeit declining) political/diplomatic influence. In terms of boxing metaphors, we wonder whether the Ali versus Foreman fight in Kinshasa in 1974 (knockout in the eighth) or the Leonard versus Hagler fight at Caesar’s Palace in 1987 (points victory where the argument as to who actually won continues) will be the parallel.

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From an anonymous source prior to the major lows in the gold price more than a decade ago.

“Someone once said, ‘no one wants gold, that’s why the US$ price keeps falling.’ Many thinking ones laugh at such foolish chatter. They know that the price of gold is dropping precisely because ‘too many people are buying it’! Think now, if you are a person of ‘great worth’ is it not better for you to acquire gold over years, at better prices? If you are one of ‘small worth’, can you not follow in the footsteps of giants? The real money is selling ALL FORMS of paper gold and buying physical! Why? Because any form of paper gold is losing value much, much faster than metal. Some paper will disappear all together in a fire of epic proportions! The massive trading continues at LBMA, but something is now missing…We have reached production costs…The great mistake by the BIS was in underestimating the Asians. Some big traders said they would buy it all below $365+/- and they did. That’s what forced LBMA to go on a spree of paper selling! Now, it’s a mess.”

Interesting?

The gold price is approaching production cost again.

We have the physical versus paper demarcation again (most commentators are clueless on this – the paper market is still determining the screen price, but it will probably die once and for all this time around – the question is at what level?).

The Asians are being underestimated again when the price is declining (although not by the BIS – China is buying physical gold in unprecedented volumes – at least 70-75% of world mining production this year).

But accelerating developments in the monetary sphere is only one element of…

The “New New Great Game”

Mackinder’s “Heartland Theory”

The traditional “Great Game” obviously dates back to the geo-political rivalry between Great Britain and Russia for supremacy in the central Asian region during the nineteenth and early part of the last century. In his famous speech, “The Geographical Pivot of History”, to the Royal Geographical Society in 1904, Sir Halford Mackinder outlined his “Heartland Theory. ” According to Wikipedia.

“This is often considered a, if not the, founding moment of geo-politics…”

Briefly, this posited that the major geo-political prize is Eurasia (the “World Island”), i.e. the European, Asian and Middle Eastern land mass, which contained the bulk of the world’s population and its natural resources. Mackinder argued that control of the “pivot area“ of central Asia was the key to controlling Eurasia.

This is taken from his paper published in the April 1904 edition of the “The Geographical Journal.”

He also emphasised the important difference between sea power and land power. From Zurich-based ISN’s 2009 “Geopolitics and US Middle Eastern Policy: Mackinder and Brzezinski.”

“Mackinder’s theory was a counter-argument to notions that maritime supremacy was sufficient for a power such as Great Britain to safeguard its hegemony. He claimed that, with the emergence of new transportation routes [e.g. Trans-Siberian railway] and technology, a power that could control the centre (and the abundant resources) of the Eurasian landmass…would ultimately be able to attack the colonies of a sea power everywhere on the continent. “

The Trans-Siberian Railway.

In the wake of World War One, Mackinder argued the case for preventing a convergence of interests between Russia and new “pivot” states of Eastern Europe (Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland). This led to his famous dictum.

“Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland;
Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island;
Who rules the World Island commands the World.”

It’s important to emphasise that the pivot area does evolve/fluctuate with changes in geo-political reality. Indeed, Mackinder included the Baltic states in one of his revisions.

As the world industrialised and became increasingly dependent on crude oil (and later, natural gas), energy resources became ever more integral to the Great Game. With such a large proportion of the world’s oil and gas reserves found on the Eurasian land mass, this was easily accommodated within Mackinder’s theory.

The period just before World War One, with the British Navy’s switch from coal to oil and the adoption of the automobile, set the stage for this. Indeed, in 1913, the British government acquired a 51% controlling interest in the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, the forerunner of BP.

Remarkably, the validity of Mackinder’s theory has stood the test of time, even though most people are unfamiliar with it. The following quote is from the Reagan Administration’s “National Security Strategy of the United States” published in January 1988.

“The first historical dimension of our strategy is relatively simple, clear-cut, and immensely sensible. It is the conviction that the United States’ most basic national security interests would be endangered if a hostile state or group of states were to dominate the Eurasian land mass – that area of the globe often referred to as the world’s heartland.”

Right now, it’s obvious that US national security interests are threatened by a combination of China and Russia.

This was the influential globalist (and former National Security Advisor), Zbigniew Brzezinski, writing in his famous 1997 book, “The Grand Chessboard.”

“Ever since the continents started interacting politically some 500 years ago, Eurasia has been the centre of world power… For America, the chief geopolitical prize is Eurasia – and America’s global primacy is directly dependent on how long and how effectively its preponderance on the Eurasian continent is sustained.”

In the “New Great Game”, (NGG) of the modern era, the major rivalry is between US/NATO on one side and China, Russia, other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and the likes of Iran, on the other.

The “pivot states” in the NGG are.

  • The key nations in Central Asia and the Trans-Caucasus: especially those with substantial energy resources and/or pipelines (e.g. Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan etc). Here is a chart showing the major gas pipelines

And the major oil pipelines:

  • The major OPEC nations of the Middle East: here we borrow part of US geo-strategist, Nicholas Spykman’s, “Rimland” theory. Spykman, the “godfather of containment” was both a disciple and critic of Mackinder. He believed that the “Rimland”, European coast, Arabian-Middle Eastern desert and Asiatic Monsoon region was more important for controlling the Heartland.

This was Brzezinksi on the Central Asian Republics, or “Eurasian Balkans” as he terms them in his book. This was in 1997, when China’s economic and military might was still a distant prospect.

“They are of importance from the standpoint of security and historical ambitions to at least three of their most important and more powerful neighbours, namely Russia, Turkey and Iran, with China also signalling an increasing political interest in the region. But the Eurasian Balkans are infinitely more important as a potential economic prize; an enormous concentration of natural gas and oil reserves is located in the region, in addition to important minerals including gold.”

It’s a reminder of the strategic importance of energy and gold and puts the US-supported “Color revolutions” into sharper focus – Ukraine (Orange, 2004), Georgia (Rose, 2003) and Kyrgyzstan (Tulip, 2005).

Tweaking the Heartland Theory

We agree with the modern interpretation of the NGG, but we see TWO additional elements which make the current situation a “New New Great Game.”

… continue reading below (pdf link)

 

Who Makes The Most Money? And How They Do It | Zero Hedge

Who Makes The Most Money? And How They Do It | Zero Hedge.

Of the 25 companies with the largest corporate profits in the world; banking, energy and technology firms are absolutely raking it in. Despite stagnating incomes, these companies made $567,856,000,000 in 2012 alone… here’s the subsidies, tax breaks, and offshoring that helped them do it

 

Green Giants

Source: AccountingSchoolGuide.com

 

The Global Leverage Cycle: You Are Here | Zero Hedge

The Global Leverage Cycle: You Are Here | Zero Hedge.

While one can make an argument that the central banks have now destroyed all traditional “cycles”, including the economic “virtuous cycle“, the business cycle and even the leverage cycle, the question remains how much longer can the Fed et al defy mean reversion and all laws of nature associated with it. That said, assuming the fake market environment we find ourselves in persists for at least another year, this is what the leverage cycle would look like assuming $10 trillion in global central bank assets were a pro forma new normal.

Keep a close eye on China: it is on the cusp between the end of the leverage cycle (where as we reported over the past two days, it has been pumping bank assets at the ridiculous pace of $3.5 trillion per year) and on the verge of having its debt bubble bursting. What happens then is unclear.

Some thoughts on the above graphic from SocGen:

For the first time post-crisis, we expect advanced economies in 2014 to see a marked increase in their contribution to global growth. Emerging economies have over the past few years offered a welcome support to global growth, but this relied in part on a build-up of credit that now needs to be paid down. The hope is for advanced economies to take over the baton from the emerging economies as the main driver of global growth. The US is now poised for sustainable  recovery and in Japan hopes remain that Abenomics will work. The euro area, however, continues to lag. As such the growth relay from emerging to advanced is likely to prove a bumpy process. Commodity markets will sit at the heart of this dynamic – our strategists look for range-bound markets in 2014.

This new rotation of the global leverage cycle is an integral part of our monetary policy outlook, which we discuss in greater detail in the following sections. Several features are worth noting:

Time for emerging economies to deleverage: Post crisis, emerging economies adopted accommodative economic policies to offset the collapse in demand for their output. Providing a further boost, accommodative monetary policies in advanced economies drove significant financial flows into the region. Combined, these fuelled credit expansion. With the turn in the US interest rate cycle back in the spring, external financing conditions tightened. Moreover, in a number of emerging economies, policymakers have become increasingly concerned by a build-up in leverage; this is not just a story of level, but also one of speed. As seen from our leverage cycle, we believe the emerging economies have now moved to a phase of deleveraging. Our emerging market theme, however, is not just one of a cyclical downturn. As we have highlighted on several occasions, we believe potential growth is structurally slowing and no more so than in China.

China must tame excess capacity: With NFC debt at over 150% of GDP and significant excess capacity, China is ripe for deleveraging. Already in 2013, a notable feature of our forecast has been that the Chinese authorities would resist market pressure to ease monetary policy and further fuel the credit bubble. Nonetheless, shadow bank credit has continued to expand and, with that, problems of excess capacity. China’s challenge now is to deleverage and reform. The two in many ways go hand in hand and we discuss these issues in Boxes 5 and 14. It is worth nothing here that reform in China is tantamount to removing  the 100% implicit state guarantee. And looking ahead, even state-backed companies could be allowed to fail. Herein resides also a potential trigger for the risk scenario of a hard landing, should such a company failure be poorly managed and spin out of control.

Japan’s corporate sector to cut savings to invest:Investment and savings are two sides of the same coin and to secure sustainable recovery in Japan, corporations need to reduce savings and invest. The BoJ’s monetary policy is already working through the currency channel and our expectation is to see a pick-up in corporate investment next. This is not just a function of monetary policy, but also the two remaining arrows of Abenomics, namely fiscal stimulus and structural reform. We see significant opportunities medium-term from reform as discussed in Box 13. Short-term, the BoJ is poised to deliver further  stimulus and we look for additional asset purchases to be announced early in the new fiscal year (commencing April 1).

US credit cycle is turning: Credit channels have been repaired, household balance sheets deleveraged and excess housing stock unwound. Combined, these lay the foundations for sustainable recovery. In 2013, fiscal tightening exerted a headwind to growth, but this is now easing allowing GDP growth to accelerate to 2.9% in 2014. For the Fed, setting the right monetary policy during this transition will be challenging. A glance at our leverage cycle suggests that the challenge as recovery gains traction over time is to avoid a build-up of excess leverage. This is not an immediate concern to our minds. Although we forecast household credit expansion, our forecast for household income growth is higher, entailing some further reduction of the household debt-to-income ratio.

UK housing credit has been boosted by government measures: Supported by policy initiatives, UK housing is staging a recovery. This is highly dependent on mortgage loan conditions and the BoE will be keen to keep rates low. We expect the Bank to lower the unemployment rate threshold on its forward guidance from 7.0% to 6.5% (and reduce the NAIRU from 6.5% to 6.0%). The hope medium-term, is that this housing-driven recovery will eventually become broader based with stronger confidence, consumption, exports, corporate investment and lower unemployment. Much will depend, however, on euro  area recovery as of 2015. Longer-term, a possible UK referendum on EU membership remains a point of uncertainty.

Euro area still facing headwinds: Individual euro area economies are in very different stages on the leverage cycle. Germany is the most advanced, followed by France, Italy and Spain. For several euro area economies, financial fragmentation and fiscal austerity remain serious headwinds. 2014 will see the arrival of a Single Supervisory Mechanism. As we discuss in Box 10, progress on a Single Supervisory Mechanism continues to disappoint and our base line remains for only a gradual repair of credit channels. Moreover, structural reforms are also not progressing at the desired pace, albeit with significant variation from country to country. The danger for the euro area is to become trapped in a lost decade of very low growth and low inflation. The ECB still has options. The real game changer opportunities, however, reside with governments to deliver quantum leaps on reform – at both the euro area and national levels. For now, progress remains disappointingly slow.

Summing up our view, 2014 will thus be the first year post crisis when advanced economies make an increased contribution to global GDP growth.

* * *

Good luck.

 

The Hidden Secrets Of Money Part 5: When Money Is Corrupted | Zero Hedge

The Hidden Secrets Of Money Part 5: When Money Is Corrupted | Zero Hedge.

Having exposed the “biggest scam in history” is Part 4 (following Part 1Part 2, and Part 3), Mike Maloney’s fifth episode serves as an ideal primer for those waking up to the monetary matrix around them, as it clearly shows the history of true money and why it so important to our freedom. The quality of a society is directly proportional to the quality of its money. Debase a currency for long enough, and you end up with dangerous deficits, debt driven disasters, and eventually…delusional dictators. History proves this to be true.

 

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