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IMF's Property Tax Hike Proposal Comes True With UK Imposing "Mansion Tax" As Soon As This Year | Zero Hedge

IMF’s Property Tax Hike Proposal Comes True With UK Imposing “Mansion Tax” As Soon As This Year | Zero Hedge.

One could see this one coming from a mile away.

It was a week ago that we highlighted the latest implied IMF proposal on how to reduce income inequality, quietly highlighted in its paper titled “Fiscal Policy and Income Inequality“. The key fragment in the paper said the following:

Some taxes levied on wealth, especially on immovable property, are also an option for economies seeking more progressive taxation. Wealth taxes, of various kinds, target the same underlying base as capital income taxes, namely assets. They could thus be considered as a potential source of progressive taxation, especially where taxes on capital incomes (including on real estate) are low or largely evaded. There are different types of wealth taxes, such as recurrent taxes on property or net wealth, transaction taxes, and inheritance and gift taxes. Over the past decades, revenue from these taxes has not kept up with the surge in wealth as a share of GDP (see earlier section) and, as a result, the effective tax rate has dropped from an average of around 0.9 percent in 1970 to approximately 0.5 percent today. The prospect of raising additional revenue from the various types of wealth taxation was recently discussed in IMF (2013b) and their role in reducing inequality can be summarized as follows.

  • Property taxes are equitable and efficient, but underutilized in many economies. The average yield of property taxes in 65 economies (for which data are available) in the 2000s was around 1 percent of GDP, but in developing economies it averages only half of that (Bahl and Martínez-Vázquez, 2008). There is considerable scope to exploit this tax more fully, both as a revenue source and as a redistributive instrument, although effective implementation will require a sizable investment in administrative infrastructure, particularly in developing economies (Norregaard, 2013).

We summed this up as follows: “if you are buying a house, enjoy the low mortgage (for now… and don’t forget – if and when the time comes to sell, the buyer better be able to afford your selling price and the monthly mortgage payment should the 30 Year mortgage rise from the current 4.2% to 6%, 7% or much higher, which all those who forecast an improving economy hope happens), but what will really determine the affordability of that piece of property you have your eyes set on, are the property taxes. Because they are about to skyrocket.

Sure enough, a week later the Telegraph reports that UK Treasury officials have begun work on a mansion tax that could be levied as soon as next year, citing  a Cabinet minister.

“Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told The Telegraph that officials had done “a lot of work” on the best way to impose the charge. The preparatory work would mean that a Government elected next year might be able to introduce the charge soon after taking office.  Mr Alexander said there was growing political support for a tax on expensive houses, saying owners should pay more to help balance the books.

After all it’s only fair. It is also only fair, for now, to only tax the uber-rich, who are so defined merely in the eye of the populist beholder. However, said definition tends to be fluid, and what will be a tax on, i.e., £2  million properties tomorrow, will be lowered to £1  million, £500,000 and so on, in 2, 3, etc, years.

And in a world which as Zero Hedge first defined years ago as shaped by the “fairness doctrine“, the one word that was so far missing from this article, can be found momentarily:

“There’s a consensus among the public that a modest additional levy on higher value properties is a fair and reasonable thing to do in the context of further deficit reduction,” he said. “It’s important that the burden is shared.”

There you have it: “fair.” Because there is nothing quite like shaping fiscal (and monetary) policy based on what the du jour definition of fair is to 1 person… or a billion. Especially if that billion has a vote in the “democratic” process.

It gets betters:

Mr Alexander said the new tax would not be “punitive” and insisted that the Lib Dems remained in favour of wealth creation.

So if it’s not “punitive” it must be… rewarding? And how long until the definition of fair, far short of the projected tax windfall, is expanded to include more and more, until those who were previously for the “fair” tax, suddenly become ensnared by it? As for wealth creation, perhaps in addition to the fairness doctrine it is time to be honest about what socialism really means: “wealth redistribution.”

Telegraph continues:

That may be a seen as a challenge to Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who first called for the mansion tax and has criticised high earners.

 

The Lib Dems and Labour are both in favour of a tax on expensive houses. Labour says the money raised could fund a new lower 10p rate of income tax.

 

The Lib Dems have suggested that the tax should fall on houses valued at £2  million and more.

 

The Treasury last year estimated that about 55,000 homes are in that range, though the Lib Dems say the figure is closer to 70,000.

To be sure not everyone is for the tax:

David Cameron has opposed a mansion tax but George Osborne, the Chancellor, is said to be more open to the idea. Most of the homes that might be affected are in London and the south-east of England.

 

Boris Johnson, the Tory Mayor of London, promised last week to oppose any move towards the tax, which he described as “brutally unfair on people who happen to be living in family homes”.

 

Some critics have questioned the practicality of the policy, asking how the State would arrive at valuations for houses.

Well, they will simply draw a redline above any number they deem “unfair”, duh. As for the London housing bubble, it may have finally popped, now that all those who bought mansions in London will “suddenly” find themselves at the “fair tax” mercy of yet another wealth redistributionist government.

Unfortunately, for the UK, the “mansion tax” idea, , gloriously populist as it may be, may be too little too late.

As we reported late last week in “The Music Just Ended: “Wealthy” Chinese Are Liquidating Offshore Luxury Homes In Scramble For Cash“, the Chinese offshore real estate buying juggernaut has now ended courtesy of what appears to be China’s credit bubble bursting. So if the liquidation wave truly picks up, and since there is no greater fool left (you can forget about sanctioned Russian oligarchs investing more cash in the City in a world where asset freezes and confiscations are all too real), very soon London may find that there is nobody in the “fair” real estate taxation category left to tax.

But that’s ok – because that’s when one simply expands the definition of what is fair to include the not so wealthy… and then again…. and again.

Finally, if anyone is still confused, the IMF-proposed “mansion tax” is most certainly coming to the US, and every other insolvent “developed world” nation, next.

IMF’s Property Tax Hike Proposal Comes True With UK Imposing “Mansion Tax” As Soon As This Year | Zero Hedge

IMF’s Property Tax Hike Proposal Comes True With UK Imposing “Mansion Tax” As Soon As This Year | Zero Hedge.

One could see this one coming from a mile away.

It was a week ago that we highlighted the latest implied IMF proposal on how to reduce income inequality, quietly highlighted in its paper titled “Fiscal Policy and Income Inequality“. The key fragment in the paper said the following:

Some taxes levied on wealth, especially on immovable property, are also an option for economies seeking more progressive taxation. Wealth taxes, of various kinds, target the same underlying base as capital income taxes, namely assets. They could thus be considered as a potential source of progressive taxation, especially where taxes on capital incomes (including on real estate) are low or largely evaded. There are different types of wealth taxes, such as recurrent taxes on property or net wealth, transaction taxes, and inheritance and gift taxes. Over the past decades, revenue from these taxes has not kept up with the surge in wealth as a share of GDP (see earlier section) and, as a result, the effective tax rate has dropped from an average of around 0.9 percent in 1970 to approximately 0.5 percent today. The prospect of raising additional revenue from the various types of wealth taxation was recently discussed in IMF (2013b) and their role in reducing inequality can be summarized as follows.

  • Property taxes are equitable and efficient, but underutilized in many economies. The average yield of property taxes in 65 economies (for which data are available) in the 2000s was around 1 percent of GDP, but in developing economies it averages only half of that (Bahl and Martínez-Vázquez, 2008). There is considerable scope to exploit this tax more fully, both as a revenue source and as a redistributive instrument, although effective implementation will require a sizable investment in administrative infrastructure, particularly in developing economies (Norregaard, 2013).

We summed this up as follows: “if you are buying a house, enjoy the low mortgage (for now… and don’t forget – if and when the time comes to sell, the buyer better be able to afford your selling price and the monthly mortgage payment should the 30 Year mortgage rise from the current 4.2% to 6%, 7% or much higher, which all those who forecast an improving economy hope happens), but what will really determine the affordability of that piece of property you have your eyes set on, are the property taxes. Because they are about to skyrocket.

Sure enough, a week later the Telegraph reports that UK Treasury officials have begun work on a mansion tax that could be levied as soon as next year, citing  a Cabinet minister.

“Danny Alexander, the Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, told The Telegraph that officials had done “a lot of work” on the best way to impose the charge. The preparatory work would mean that a Government elected next year might be able to introduce the charge soon after taking office.  Mr Alexander said there was growing political support for a tax on expensive houses, saying owners should pay more to help balance the books.

After all it’s only fair. It is also only fair, for now, to only tax the uber-rich, who are so defined merely in the eye of the populist beholder. However, said definition tends to be fluid, and what will be a tax on, i.e., £2  million properties tomorrow, will be lowered to £1  million, £500,000 and so on, in 2, 3, etc, years.

And in a world which as Zero Hedge first defined years ago as shaped by the “fairness doctrine“, the one word that was so far missing from this article, can be found momentarily:

“There’s a consensus among the public that a modest additional levy on higher value properties is a fair and reasonable thing to do in the context of further deficit reduction,” he said. “It’s important that the burden is shared.”

There you have it: “fair.” Because there is nothing quite like shaping fiscal (and monetary) policy based on what the du jour definition of fair is to 1 person… or a billion. Especially if that billion has a vote in the “democratic” process.

It gets betters:

Mr Alexander said the new tax would not be “punitive” and insisted that the Lib Dems remained in favour of wealth creation.

So if it’s not “punitive” it must be… rewarding? And how long until the definition of fair, far short of the projected tax windfall, is expanded to include more and more, until those who were previously for the “fair” tax, suddenly become ensnared by it? As for wealth creation, perhaps in addition to the fairness doctrine it is time to be honest about what socialism really means: “wealth redistribution.”

Telegraph continues:

That may be a seen as a challenge to Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who first called for the mansion tax and has criticised high earners.

 

The Lib Dems and Labour are both in favour of a tax on expensive houses. Labour says the money raised could fund a new lower 10p rate of income tax.

 

The Lib Dems have suggested that the tax should fall on houses valued at £2  million and more.

 

The Treasury last year estimated that about 55,000 homes are in that range, though the Lib Dems say the figure is closer to 70,000.

To be sure not everyone is for the tax:

David Cameron has opposed a mansion tax but George Osborne, the Chancellor, is said to be more open to the idea. Most of the homes that might be affected are in London and the south-east of England.

 

Boris Johnson, the Tory Mayor of London, promised last week to oppose any move towards the tax, which he described as “brutally unfair on people who happen to be living in family homes”.

 

Some critics have questioned the practicality of the policy, asking how the State would arrive at valuations for houses.

Well, they will simply draw a redline above any number they deem “unfair”, duh. As for the London housing bubble, it may have finally popped, now that all those who bought mansions in London will “suddenly” find themselves at the “fair tax” mercy of yet another wealth redistributionist government.

Unfortunately, for the UK, the “mansion tax” idea, , gloriously populist as it may be, may be too little too late.

As we reported late last week in “The Music Just Ended: “Wealthy” Chinese Are Liquidating Offshore Luxury Homes In Scramble For Cash“, the Chinese offshore real estate buying juggernaut has now ended courtesy of what appears to be China’s credit bubble bursting. So if the liquidation wave truly picks up, and since there is no greater fool left (you can forget about sanctioned Russian oligarchs investing more cash in the City in a world where asset freezes and confiscations are all too real), very soon London may find that there is nobody in the “fair” real estate taxation category left to tax.

But that’s ok – because that’s when one simply expands the definition of what is fair to include the not so wealthy… and then again…. and again.

Finally, if anyone is still confused, the IMF-proposed “mansion tax” is most certainly coming to the US, and every other insolvent “developed world” nation, next.

Global Debt Crosses $100 Trillion, Rises By $30 Trillion Since 2007; $27 Trillion Is "Foreign-Held" | Zero Hedge

Global Debt Crosses $100 Trillion, Rises By $30 Trillion Since 2007; $27 Trillion Is “Foreign-Held” | Zero Hedge.

While the US may be rejoicing its daily stock market all time highs day after day, it may come as a surprise to many that global equity capitalization has hardly performed as impressively compared to its previous records set in mid-2007. In fact, between the last bubble peak, and mid-2013, there has been a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion over this six year time period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Alas, in a world in which there is no longer even hope for growth without massive debt expansion, there is a cost to keeping global equities stable (and US stocks at record highs): that cost is $30 trillion, or nearly double the GDP of the United States, which is by how much global debt has risen over the same period. Specifically, total global debt has exploded by 40% in just 6 short years from  2007 to 2013, from “only” $70 trillion to over $100 trillion as of mid-2013, according to the BIS’ just-released quarterly review.

It should come as no surprise to anyone by now, but the only reason why global stocks haven’t plummeted since the Lehman collapse is simple: governments have become the final backstop for onboarding risk, with a Central Bank stamp of approval – in other words, the very framework of the fiat system is at stake should global equity levels collapse. The BIS admits as much: “Given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers,” according to Branimir Gruic, an analyst, and Andreas Schrimpf, an economist at the BIS.

It should also come as no surprise that courtesy of ZIRP and monetization of debt by every central bank, debt has itself become money regardless of duration or maturity (although recent taper tantrums have shown what will happen once rates start rising across the curve again), explaining the mindblowing tsunami of new debt issuance, which will certainly never be repaid, and whose rolling will become impossible once interest rates rise. But of course, under central planning that is not allowed. As Bloomberg reminds us, marketable U.S. government debt outstanding has surged to a record $12 trillion, up from $4.5 trillion at the end of 2007,  according to U.S. Treasury data compiled by Bloomberg. Corporate bond sales globally jumped during the period, with issuance totaling more than $21 trillion, Bloomberg data show.

And as we won’t tire of pointing out, China’s credit expansion over this period is easily the most important, and overlooked one. Which is why with China out of the epic debt issuance picture, and with the Fed tapering, all bets are slowly coming off.

 

Bloomberg also comments, humorously, as follows: “concerned that high debt loads would cause international investors to avoid their markets, many nations resorted to austerity measures of reduced spending and increased taxes, reining in their economies in the process as they tried to restore the fiscal order they abandoned to fight the worldwide recession.” Of course, once gross government corruption and incompetence made all attempts at austerity futile, and with even the austere nations’ debt levels continuing to breach record highs confirming there was never any actual austerity to begin with, the push to pretend to reign debt in has finally faded, and the entire world is once again engaged – at breakneck speed – in doing what caused the great financial crisis in the first place: the issuance of record amounts of unsustainable debt.

All of the above is known. What may not be known is just who is issuing, and respectively, purchasing, this global debt-funded spending spree, especially in a world in which one’s debt is another’s asset. Here is the BIS’s answer to that question:

Cross-border investments in global debt markets since the crisis

Branimir Grui? and Andreas Schrimpf

Global debt markets have grown to an estimated $100 trillion (in amounts outstanding) in mid-2013 (Graph C, left-hand panel), up from $70 trillion in mid-2007. Growth has been uneven across the main market segments. Active issuance by governments and non-financial corporations has lifted the share of domestically issued bonds, whereas more restrained activity by financial institutions has held back international issuance (Graph C, left-hand panel).

Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers (Graph C, left-hand panel). They mostly issue debt in domestic markets, where amounts outstanding reached $43 trillion in June 2013, about 80% higher than in mid-2007 (as indicated by the yellow area in Graph C, left-hand panel). Debt issuance by non-financial corporates has grown at a similar rate (albeit from a lower base). As with governments, non-financial corporations primarily issue domestically. As a result, amounts outstanding of non-financial corporate debt in domestic markets surpassed $10 trillion in mid-2013 (blue area in Graph C, left-hand panel). The substitution of traditional bank loans with bond financing may have played a role, as did investors’ appetite for assets offering a pickup to the ultra-low yields in major sovereign bond markets.

Financial sector deleveraging in the aftermath of the financial crisis has been a primary reason for the sluggish growth of international compared to domestic debt markets. Financials (mostly banks and non-bank financial corporations) have traditionally been the most significant issuers in international debt markets (grey area in Graph C, left-hand panel). That said, the amount of debt placed by financials in the international market has grown by merely 19% since mid-2007, and the outstanding amounts in domestic markets have even edged down by 5% since end-2007.

Who are the investors that have absorbed the vast amount of newly issued debt? Has the investor base been mostly domestic or have cross-border investments grown at a similar pace to global debt markets? To provide a perspective, we combine data from the BIS securities statistics with those of the IMF Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS). The results of the CPIS suggest that non-resident investors held around $27 trillion of global debt securities, either as reserve assets or in the form of portfolio investments (Graph C, centre panel). Investments in debt securities by non-residents thus accounted for roughly one quarter of the stock of global debt securities, with domestic investors accounting for the remaining 75%.

The global financial crisis has left a dent in cross-border portfolio investments in global debt securities. The share of debt securities held by cross-border investors either as reserve assets or via portfolio investments (as a percentage of total global debt securities markets) fell from around 29% in early 2007 to 26% in late 2012. This reversed the trend in the pre-crisis period, when it had risen by 8 percentage points from 2001 to a peak in 2007. It suggests that the process of international financial integration may have gone partly into reverse since the onset of the crisis, which is consistent with other recent findings in the literature.

This could be temporary, though. The latest IMF-CPIS data indicate that cross-border investments in debt securities recovered slightly in the second half of  2012, the most recent period for which data are available.

The contraction in the share of cross-border holdings differed across countries and regions (Graph C, right-hand panel). Cross-border holdings of debt issued by euro area residents stood at 47% of total outstanding amounts in late 2012, 10 percentage points lower than at the peak in 2006. A similar trend can be observed for the United Kingdom. This suggests that the majority of new debt issued by euro area and UK residents has been absorbed by domestic investors. Newly issued US debt securities, by contrast, were increasingly held by cross-border investors (Graph C, right-hand panel). The same is true for debt securities issued by borrowers from emerging market economies. The share of emerging market debt securities held by cross-border investors picked up to 12% in 2012, roughly twice as high as in 2008.

* * *

Source: BIS

Global Debt Crosses $100 Trillion, Rises By $30 Trillion Since 2007; $27 Trillion Is “Foreign-Held” | Zero Hedge

Global Debt Crosses $100 Trillion, Rises By $30 Trillion Since 2007; $27 Trillion Is “Foreign-Held” | Zero Hedge.

While the US may be rejoicing its daily stock market all time highs day after day, it may come as a surprise to many that global equity capitalization has hardly performed as impressively compared to its previous records set in mid-2007. In fact, between the last bubble peak, and mid-2013, there has been a $3.86 trillion decline in the value of equities to $53.8 trillion over this six year time period, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Alas, in a world in which there is no longer even hope for growth without massive debt expansion, there is a cost to keeping global equities stable (and US stocks at record highs): that cost is $30 trillion, or nearly double the GDP of the United States, which is by how much global debt has risen over the same period. Specifically, total global debt has exploded by 40% in just 6 short years from  2007 to 2013, from “only” $70 trillion to over $100 trillion as of mid-2013, according to the BIS’ just-released quarterly review.

It should come as no surprise to anyone by now, but the only reason why global stocks haven’t plummeted since the Lehman collapse is simple: governments have become the final backstop for onboarding risk, with a Central Bank stamp of approval – in other words, the very framework of the fiat system is at stake should global equity levels collapse. The BIS admits as much: “Given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers,” according to Branimir Gruic, an analyst, and Andreas Schrimpf, an economist at the BIS.

It should also come as no surprise that courtesy of ZIRP and monetization of debt by every central bank, debt has itself become money regardless of duration or maturity (although recent taper tantrums have shown what will happen once rates start rising across the curve again), explaining the mindblowing tsunami of new debt issuance, which will certainly never be repaid, and whose rolling will become impossible once interest rates rise. But of course, under central planning that is not allowed. As Bloomberg reminds us, marketable U.S. government debt outstanding has surged to a record $12 trillion, up from $4.5 trillion at the end of 2007,  according to U.S. Treasury data compiled by Bloomberg. Corporate bond sales globally jumped during the period, with issuance totaling more than $21 trillion, Bloomberg data show.

And as we won’t tire of pointing out, China’s credit expansion over this period is easily the most important, and overlooked one. Which is why with China out of the epic debt issuance picture, and with the Fed tapering, all bets are slowly coming off.

 

Bloomberg also comments, humorously, as follows: “concerned that high debt loads would cause international investors to avoid their markets, many nations resorted to austerity measures of reduced spending and increased taxes, reining in their economies in the process as they tried to restore the fiscal order they abandoned to fight the worldwide recession.” Of course, once gross government corruption and incompetence made all attempts at austerity futile, and with even the austere nations’ debt levels continuing to breach record highs confirming there was never any actual austerity to begin with, the push to pretend to reign debt in has finally faded, and the entire world is once again engaged – at breakneck speed – in doing what caused the great financial crisis in the first place: the issuance of record amounts of unsustainable debt.

All of the above is known. What may not be known is just who is issuing, and respectively, purchasing, this global debt-funded spending spree, especially in a world in which one’s debt is another’s asset. Here is the BIS’s answer to that question:

Cross-border investments in global debt markets since the crisis

Branimir Grui? and Andreas Schrimpf

Global debt markets have grown to an estimated $100 trillion (in amounts outstanding) in mid-2013 (Graph C, left-hand panel), up from $70 trillion in mid-2007. Growth has been uneven across the main market segments. Active issuance by governments and non-financial corporations has lifted the share of domestically issued bonds, whereas more restrained activity by financial institutions has held back international issuance (Graph C, left-hand panel).

Not surprisingly, given the significant expansion in government spending in recent years, governments (including central, state and local governments) have been the largest debt issuers (Graph C, left-hand panel). They mostly issue debt in domestic markets, where amounts outstanding reached $43 trillion in June 2013, about 80% higher than in mid-2007 (as indicated by the yellow area in Graph C, left-hand panel). Debt issuance by non-financial corporates has grown at a similar rate (albeit from a lower base). As with governments, non-financial corporations primarily issue domestically. As a result, amounts outstanding of non-financial corporate debt in domestic markets surpassed $10 trillion in mid-2013 (blue area in Graph C, left-hand panel). The substitution of traditional bank loans with bond financing may have played a role, as did investors’ appetite for assets offering a pickup to the ultra-low yields in major sovereign bond markets.

Financial sector deleveraging in the aftermath of the financial crisis has been a primary reason for the sluggish growth of international compared to domestic debt markets. Financials (mostly banks and non-bank financial corporations) have traditionally been the most significant issuers in international debt markets (grey area in Graph C, left-hand panel). That said, the amount of debt placed by financials in the international market has grown by merely 19% since mid-2007, and the outstanding amounts in domestic markets have even edged down by 5% since end-2007.

Who are the investors that have absorbed the vast amount of newly issued debt? Has the investor base been mostly domestic or have cross-border investments grown at a similar pace to global debt markets? To provide a perspective, we combine data from the BIS securities statistics with those of the IMF Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS). The results of the CPIS suggest that non-resident investors held around $27 trillion of global debt securities, either as reserve assets or in the form of portfolio investments (Graph C, centre panel). Investments in debt securities by non-residents thus accounted for roughly one quarter of the stock of global debt securities, with domestic investors accounting for the remaining 75%.

The global financial crisis has left a dent in cross-border portfolio investments in global debt securities. The share of debt securities held by cross-border investors either as reserve assets or via portfolio investments (as a percentage of total global debt securities markets) fell from around 29% in early 2007 to 26% in late 2012. This reversed the trend in the pre-crisis period, when it had risen by 8 percentage points from 2001 to a peak in 2007. It suggests that the process of international financial integration may have gone partly into reverse since the onset of the crisis, which is consistent with other recent findings in the literature.

This could be temporary, though. The latest IMF-CPIS data indicate that cross-border investments in debt securities recovered slightly in the second half of  2012, the most recent period for which data are available.

The contraction in the share of cross-border holdings differed across countries and regions (Graph C, right-hand panel). Cross-border holdings of debt issued by euro area residents stood at 47% of total outstanding amounts in late 2012, 10 percentage points lower than at the peak in 2006. A similar trend can be observed for the United Kingdom. This suggests that the majority of new debt issued by euro area and UK residents has been absorbed by domestic investors. Newly issued US debt securities, by contrast, were increasingly held by cross-border investors (Graph C, right-hand panel). The same is true for debt securities issued by borrowers from emerging market economies. The share of emerging market debt securities held by cross-border investors picked up to 12% in 2012, roughly twice as high as in 2008.

* * *

Source: BIS

2 Charts Explain Slowest Economy In History – STA WEALTH

2 Charts Explain Slowest Economy In History – STA WEALTH.

Written by Lance Roberts | Thursday, March 06, 2014

Earlier this week I discussed the expectations for an increase in reported earnings of 50%over the next two years:

“Currently, according to the S&P website, reported corporate earnings are expected to grow by 20.26% in 2014, and by an additional 20.28% in 2015.  In total, reported earnings are expected to grow by almost 50% ($100.28/share as of 2013 to $147.50/share in 2015) over the next two years.

However, as I also noted, the rise in corporate profitability has come from accounting magic and cost cutting along with a healthy dose of share buybacks.  Since there is “no free lunch,”the drive for greater corporate profitability has come at an economic expense.  Since 1999, the annual real economic growth rate has run at 1.94%, which is the lowest growth rate in history including the “Great Depression.”  I have broken down economic growth into major cycles for clarity.

GDP-Growth-ByCycle-030614

As I discussed previously:

“Since 2000, each dollar of gross sales has been increased into more than $1 in operating and reported profits through financial engineering and cost suppression.  The next chart shows that the surge in corporate profitability in recent years is a result of a consistent reduction of both employment and wage growth.  This has been achieved by increases in productivity, technology and offshoring of labor.  However, it is important to note that benefits from such actions are finite.”

The latest report on unit labor costs and productivity produced the following two charts which underscore this point and suggests that the current rate of economic growth is unlikely to change anytime soon.

stated previously, that in in 2013 reported earnings per share for the S&P 500 rose by 15.9% to a record of $100.28 per share.  Importantly, roughly 40% of that increase occurring in the 4th quarter alone.  The chart of real, inflation adjusted, compensation per hour as compared to output per hour shows a likely reason why this occurred.  The sharp increase in output per hour combined with the sharp decline in compensation costs is a direct push to bottom line profitability.

Productivity-employment-030614

However, it was not just a decrease in compensation costs but in total labor costs as well which includes benefits and other labor related costs.  This suggests that the drop off in hiring in the 4th quarter was more than just “weather” related.

Compensation-UnitLaborCosts-030614

Labor costs are one of the largest detractors from net profitability on any income statement.  The problem with cost cutting, wage suppression, labor hoarding and stock buybacks, along with a myriad of accounting gimmicks, is that there is a finite limit to their effectiveness.

I say this because of something my friend Cullen Roche recently pointed out:

We’re in the backstretch of the recovery.  We’re now into month 47 of the current economic recovery.  The average expansion in the post-war period has lasted 63 months.  That means we’re probably in the 6th inning of the current expansion so we’re about to pull our starter and make a call to the bullpen.  The odds say we’re closer to the beginning of a recession than the beginning of the expansion.  That puts the Fed in a really odd position and not likely one where they’re on the verge of tightening any time soon.”

This is a very important point.  While the Fed’s ongoing interventions since 2009 have provided support to the current economic cycle, they have not “repealed” the business cycle completely.  The Fed’s actions work to pull forward future consumption to support the current economy.  This has boosted corporate profitability at a time when the effectiveness ofcorporate profitability tools were most effective.

However, such actions leave a void in the future that must be filled by organic economic growth. The problem comes when such growth does not appear.  With the economy continuing to “struggle” at an anaemic pace, the effects of cost cutting are becoming less effective.

This is not a “bearish” prediction of an impending economic crash, but rather just a realization that all economic, and earnings, forecasts, are subject to the overall business cycle.  What the unit labor costs and productivity report suggest is that economic growth remains very weak.  This puts current forward expectations of accelerated economic and earnings growth at risk.  With asset prices extended, valuations rich and optimism at extremes, such a combination has historically become a rather toxic brew when exuberant expectations fail to align with reality.

Why the Crowd Is About to Get Destroyed in US Stocks |

Why the Crowd Is About to Get Destroyed in US Stocks |.

February 27, 2014 | Author 

Debt – the Name of the Game

Dow down a bit on Tuesday. Gold up a bit. The upward trend of US stocks – and now gold – has not yet been broken. Looking broadly at major trends of the last 50 years, debt was the name of the game from 1980 to 2007. Is it still the most important thing?

From about 160% of GDP in 1980, total debt in the US rose to about 360%. That was a big deal. Not the least because it meant that US businesses availed trillions of dollars in income with no offsetting labor charge.

Stocks, earnings, GDP, employment – with all this borrowed money flowing into the economy, the whole shebang looked good.

Dr. Jekyll, Meet Mr. Hyde

As we’ve been saying, debt may be the kindly Dr. Jekyll when it is expanding. But it becomes maniacal when it contracts. Mr. Hyde showed up in 2008, and the party was over. The US went into a debt contraction. We’ve been living with it ever since. Until the last quarter of last year, the private sector was either paying down or defaulting on its debt.

But since 2008, we’ve also lived with ambiguity, split personalities and confusion. As households and businesses deleveraged, Washington leveraged up. The feds added nearly $7 trillion in debt after 2007. Overall, debt to GDP shrank… but not much. The tally fell from 360% of GDP down to 345%.

Deleveraging was the market’s natural reaction to excess debt. QE was the unnatural and monstrous response of the Fed. It expanded its balance sheet to reach a staggering $4 trillion, as it tried desperately to keep the EZ credit flowing. From a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch research report:

 

“The US Fed’s modus operandi worked through asset prices, and animal spirits. This involved getting stock prices up, getting corporate animal spirits up by issuing cheap debt, buying back stock with cash or cheap debt to raise EPS, lowering government borrowing and mortgage costs, and raising consumer net worth/income ratios. Also, asset bubbles were generated in emerging markets, raising their growth, labor costs and currencies.”

 

Sharp operators followed the Fed like vultures trailing a sick cow. They borrowed at the Fed’s ultra-low rates… and bought stocks, real estate, contemporary art and emerging market debt. Anything that promised a higher yield than was available in the Treasury market.

 

Monetary Mambo

QE has been the name of the game since 2008. But QE helped Wall Street, not Main Street. Just look at charts of shipping indexes, real wages or the velocity of money. You see lines that head down in 2008… and don’t come back up. In recent Diary entries, we’ve focused on two factors that weigh heavily on the economy: debt and demography.

And we warned that these two factors will weigh heavily on US stocks prices. But we also noticed a possible spoiler – no prediction based on history has ever included the effects of QE or Janet Yellen! Eventually, everything normalizes. Eventually, we will almost certainly be right about stock market performance. But eventually can still be a long way into the future. Which brings us to our updated, revised, and improved outlook:Remember our prediction six years ago?

“Tokyo, then Buenos Aires,” we said.

The idea was that the US economy would stay in deleveraging mode for “7 to 10 years”… and then, it would be off to the races. We suspected that the feds would get tired of Tokyo. We figured they’d be ready for some Latin-style action – a little central bank salsa… a bit of monetary mambo.

We predicted that QE wouldn’t work… and that the Fed would want to be more activist – probably by giving up on QE and directly intervening in the money supply (which it is currently constrained from doing; the effects of QE are limited to boosting only the monetary base).

So, what have we learned in the last six years? How has our view changed?

The answer to both questions is “not much.” As we guessed, an aging, deeply indebted, zombie-ridden economy will not improve by adding more debt. Instead, it is doomed to follow Japan down that long, lonesome road of low consumer prices, low growth and high debt.

This road leads to eventual destruction. But when? And how?

In the US, as in Japan, QE does not help stimulate a real recovery. But it does help simulate one. House prices are up (thanks, in part, to ultra-low mortgage rates). The middle class has more “wealth” (albeit the paper kind) due to gains in their stock market portfolios. The rich are feeling fat and sassy, too.

The Fed can continue modest tapering. But this is likely to produce a sell-off in the stock market. Then the Fed will stop tapering. But it will be too late to reverse the damage to equities. They will go down for many years… bringing us even closer to the Japanese model. Our guess now is that this situation will persist for a few years. As long as the pain is tolerable, the Fed will not be so bold as to abandon QE or take up more daring measures.

Tokyo today. Tokyo tomorrow. After tomorrow… we’ll see.

 


 

The above article is from Diary of a Rogue Economist originally written for Bonner & Partners.

Bill Bonner founded Agora, Inc in 1978. It has since grown into one of the largest independent newsletter publishing companies in the world. He has also written three New York Times bestselling books, Financial Reckoning Day, Empire of Debt and Mobs, Messiahs and Markets.

 

The Peak Oil Crisis: A Winter Update

The Peak Oil Crisis: A Winter Update.

Posted Feb 20, 2014 by Tom Whipple

As the years go by, those studying peak oil are beginning to develop a better understanding of what has been happening since the concept of limits to oil production came to widespread attention. First of all, it is important to understand that in one sense, production of what had been thought of as “conventional oil” really did peak back in 2005. While there has been growth in certain sectors of the “oil” industry in the last nine years it has come in what are known as “unconventional liquids”; and, as we shall see, the maintenance of existing conventional oil production has come at a very high price.

The recent growth in the “oil” production has been nowhere near what had been normal prior to the “Great Recession,” so that if anyone should wonder why our economy has been stagnant in recent years, one can take the price and availability of oil as a good starting point. US consumption has been falling at 1.5 percent a year since 2005 as opposed to a normal growth rate of 1.8 percent in prior years.
In the last decade global oil production grew by only 7.5 percent and not the 23 percent that would have been needed to support the growth in the world’s GDP at a rate we would have liked to have seen. Since 2005, total “oil” production has grown by 5.8 million b/d, of which 1.7 million consists of natural gas liquids (NGL). While NGL’s are valuable and a useful form of what we now call “oil” they do not contain the same energy as crude and have a more limited range of uses, thereby contributing less to economic growth.
US unconventional liquids (shale oil and NGL’s) are up by 5.1 million b/d since 2005. Along with an additional million b/d from the Canadian tar sands, North American non-conventional liquids constitute nearly all the growth in the world’s oil supply in recent years. Production of conventional crude has remained essentially flat during the period. Moreover, OPEC production has dropped by nearly two million b/d in the last three years largely due to wars, insurgencies, and embargoes, and another 1.7 million b/d of its “oil” production has been NGL’s and not crude.
The world’s existing fields are depleting at rate of circa 4 million b/d each year, so without constant drilling of new wells in new fields global production will quickly wither and prices will climb still more. A good estimate is that the oil which now costs about $110 a barrel will be at $140 or above by the end of the decade unless some major geopolitical upheaval sends it still higher.
To keep the oil flowing, the world’s oil companies have invested some $4 trillion in the last nine years to drill for oil. About $2.5 trillion of this was spent on simply replacing production from existing oil fields. Even this gigantic expenditure was not enough since conventional oil production fell by 1 million b/d during the period.
About $350 billion went to drill shale oil and gas wells in the US, and increase Canadian oil sands production. This was clearly a bargain as compared to maintaining conventional oil production which is now focused on ultra-expensive deep water wells.
Recent announcements by the major oil companies indicate that they have reached their limit. Profits and production are falling. Expenditures for finding and developing oil fields have tripled in the last decade and the return from these expenditures has not been enough to justify the costs. Nearly all of the major oil companies have announced major reductions in their exploration and drilling programs and several are selling off assets as they are caught in a trap between steady oil prices and rapidly rising operating costs.
Note that the major oil companies do not constitute the whole oil industry as most of the world’s oil production is now in the hands of state-owned companies and small independent producers. These firms are obviously facing the same problems as the large publicly traded companies, without as much publicity.
What is going to happen in the next few years? First, investments in future production are going down, meaning that in a few years depletion likely will overwhelm new production and output of conventional oil will drop.
Then we have the Middle East which, to put it mildly, is coming unglued. Oil exports from several countries have nearly disappeared and the spreading sectarian violence is likely to reduce exports from other countries before the decade is out.
Venezuela, from which the US still imports some 800,000 barrels of crude a day, is not transitioning to the post-Chavez era gracefully. The current student riots could easily morph into reduced oil exports.
With much of the growth in global oil production coming from US shale producers, a fair question is just how long fracked shale oil production will continue to grow. Opinions vary. Some foresee the possibility that growth will slow considerably this year, while others think there are two or three years of large production increases ahead. The three months of extremely cold and snowy weather we have had this winter is already hurting production, but most believe production will rebound in the spring.
Even though production of conventional oil peaked nine years ago, massive investment and a five-fold increase in oil prices has allowed the economical production of shale and deepwater oil at a profit since 2005. Further growth in shale oil production, however, clearly has a half-life, be it one, three or five years.
Recent news concerning deepwater oil production is not encouraging. Brazil’s deepwater oil fields which are thought to contain many billions of barrels of oil are not looking too good at the minute due to the very high costs and risks of production. All in all, the recent news from the oil industry tends to be one of growing pessimism.
Originally published at Falls Church News-Press
Barnett peak image via Post Carbon Institute

The Chart That Really Has The Fed Worried | Zero Hedge

The Chart That Really Has The Fed Worried | Zero Hedge.

While complaining (just this morning once again) that its fiscal policy that is dragging growth, we suspect The Fed knows full well just how screwed the US is. The following chart comparing GDP growth to the elder demographic of the population offers some serious doubts that the Fed will ever be able to step away. With the Boomers retiring en masse, 65-or-overs will represent over 20% of the population within a decade and thus no economic growth. Japanization here we come… and no end to QE or the entire status quo is over.

 

GDP growth correlates strongly with the percent of population over 65 (with Greece, depression and Japan, hyper-QE the stand-outs)

 

It doesn’t look good for the US…

 

You can’t print more young people to change this percentage… so they’ll have to keep printing money to prop up asset markets to maintain the bumpy illusion of growth.

 

Chart: @M_McDonough

Sri Mulyani Indrawati considers the reforms that emerging economies must undertake to succeed in the post-QE era. – Project Syndicate

Sri Mulyani Indrawati considers the reforms that emerging economies must undertake to succeed in the post-QE era. – Project Syndicate.

FEB 4, 2014 2

The Global Economy Without Steroids

WASHINGTON, DC – Economic growth is back. Not only are the United States, Europe, and Japan finally expanding at the same time, but developing countries are also regaining strength. As a result, world GDP will rise by 3.2% this year, up from 2.4% in 2013 – meaning that 2014 may well be the year when the global economy turns the corner.

The fact that the advanced economies are bouncing back is good news for everyone. But, for the emerging and developing economies that dominated global growth over the last five years, it raises an important question: Now, with high-income countries joining them, is business as usual good enough to compete?The simple answer is no. Just as an athlete might use steroids to get quick results, while avoiding the tough workouts that are needed to develop endurance and ensure long-term health, some emerging economies have relied on short-term capital inflows (so-called “hot money”) to support growth, while delaying or even avoiding difficult but necessary economic and financial reforms. With the US Federal Reserve set to tighten the exceptionally generous monetary conditions that have driven this “easy growth,” such emerging economies will have to change their approach, despite much tighter room for maneuver, or risk losing the ground that they have gained in recent years.

As the Fed’s monetary-policy tightening becomes a reality, the World Bank predicts that capital flows to developing countries will fall from 4.6% of their GDP in 2013 to around 4% in 2016. But, if long-term US interest rates rise too fast, or policy shifts are not communicated well enough, or markets become volatile, capital flows could quickly plummet – possibly by more than 50% for a few months.

This scenario has the potential to disrupt growth in those emerging economies that have failed to take advantage of the recent capital inflows by pursuing reforms. The likely rise in interest rates will put considerable pressure on countries with large current-account deficits and high levels of foreign debt – a result of five years of credit expansion.

Indeed, last summer, when speculation that the Fed would soon begin to taper its purchases of long-term assets (so-called quantitative easing), financial-market pressures were strongest in markets suspected of having weak fundamentals. Turkey, Brazil, Indonesia, India, and South Africa – dubbed the “Fragile Five” – were hit particularly hard.

Similarly, some emerging-market currencies have come under renewed pressure in recent days, triggered in part by the devaluation of the Argentine peso and signs of a slowdown in Chinese growth, as well as doubts about these economies’ real strengths amid generally skittish market sentiment. Like the turbulence last summer, the current bout of market pressure is mainly affecting economies characterized by either domestic political tensions or economic imbalances.

But, for most developing countries, the story has not been so bleak. Financial markets in many developing countries have not come under significant pressure – either in the summer or now. Indeed, more than three-fifths of developing countries – many of which are strong economic performers that benefited from pre-crisis reforms (and thus attracted more stable capital inflows like foreign-direct investment) – actually appreciated last spring and summer.

Furthermore, returning to the athletic metaphor, some have continued to exercise their muscles and improve their stamina – even under pressure. Mexico, for example, opened its energy sector to foreign partnerships last year – a politically difficult reform that is likely to bring significant long-term benefits. Indeed, it arguably helped Mexico avoid joining the Fragile Five.

Stronger growth in high-income economies will also create opportunities for developing countries – for example, through increased import demand and new sources of investment. While these opportunities will be more difficult to capture than the easy capital inflows of the quantitative-easing era, the payoffs will be far more durable. But, in order to take advantage of them, countries, like athletes, must put in the work needed to compete successfully – through sound domestic policies that foster a business-friendly pro-competition environment, an attractive foreign-trade regime, and a healthy financial sector.

Part of the challenge in many countries will be to rebuild macroeconomic buffers that have been depleted during years of fiscal and monetary stimulus. Reducing fiscal deficits and bringing monetary policy to a more neutral plane will be particularly difficult in countries like the Fragile Five, where growth has been lagging.

As is true of an exhausted athlete who needs to rebuild strength, it is never easy for a political leader to take tough reform steps under pressure. But, for emerging economies, doing so is critical to restoring growth and enhancing citizens’ wellbeing. Surviving the crisis is one thing; emerging as a winner is something else entirely.

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/sri-mulyani-indrawati-considers-the-reforms-that-emerging-economies-must-undertake-to-succeed-in-the-post-qe-era#TDimksyJSLIH6RAo.99

Bringing the Empire of Debt to its Knees

Bringing the Empire of Debt to its Knees.

Addison Wiggin

Posted Feb 7, 2014.

“The relentless credit deluge in America is beyond belief…” Kurt Richebächer bemoaned in 2005. “Credit growth, financial and nonfinancial, in the United States has effectively run riot in the short time since 2000.”

Fast-forward nearly a decade and we have no doubt Kurt would express himself with even greater discontent if he were with us now. From CNN Money this afternoon:

“The CBO projects that under current policies, public debt will reach $21 trillion — or 79% of GDP — by 2024. That would be its highest level in more than 75 years and would leave debt at nearly double its long-term average of 40% of GDP.”

What would Kurt say if he were here today? Probably that a nation, no less than you or I, should earn its money before spending it. And that the U.S. may very well thrive as its public and private debt climbs ever higher… yet it’s probably in spite of indebtedness, not because of it…

…the size of its interest payments is as likely to bring the empire of debt to its knees as anything.

At writing, the national debt sits at $17.3 trillion. The debt limit will need to be raised, according to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, lest the U.S. default on some of its obligations. That’s old hat.

What’s more interesting is the interest on the debt. After all, the size of its interest payments is as likely to bring the empire of debt to its knees as anything.

According to the CBO, the U.S. will shell out “only” $233 billion to service its debt this year. That’s a little more than 1% of GDP. At the same time, the federal deficit is set to decline this year and next — to nearly half the amount of 2009′s deficit.

We would humbly posit, however, that digging yourself deeper into a hole isn’t an enviable position… no matter how slowly you dig. This is especially true while interest rates are so low.

What happens when they go back up, as they inevitably will?

The answer, according to the CBO report, is that interest payments will make up the biggest portion of the federal deficit. “By 2024, it will reach $880 billion, or 3.3% of GDP,” reports CNN. That will be 80% of the projected $1.1 trillion deficit a decade from now. That amount rivals what we spend on Medicare alone right now.

It sounds like the end of the road for the ol’ US of A… then again, what do we know? When we produced our film I.O.U.S.A. in 2007, the federal debt was about $9 trillion. Today, it’s nearly double that. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that these things can go on a lot longer than you’d figure. Alas, for all of our uncertainty about the journey’s time frame… the destination is certain.

“For decades,” Dr. Richebächer told us in France two years prior toI.O.U.S.A., “one dollar added to GDP in the United States was tied to $1.40 in additional debt. But all that changed in the 1970s. Since then, the debt-to-GDP growth relationship has skyrocketed. Now for one dollar of additional GDP, there is $4 in additional debt.”

How Much Debt it Takes to Produce $1 of Additional GDP

The good doctor might have been engaging in a bit of hyperbole. Comparing the GDP numbers from the Commerce Department with the total credit market debt as reported by the Federal Reserve, it took $3.20 in debt to produce $1 of additional GDP at the time of that interview. But the acceleration since the 1970s is undeniable.

The good news — if that’s what you can call it — is that the upward spiral reversed as the “official” recession ended in mid-2009. We’re now back to $3.44 — the level where it was when Dr. Richebächer died, in August 2007. It’s bad news when you consider that much of that debt has been frittered away on entitlement programs, which have exacerbated the problems they were created to solve.

Regards,

Addison Wiggin
for The Daily Reckoning

Ed. Note: In the Daily Reckoning email edition, from which this essay was taken, Dr. Marc Faber followed Addison’s musings with an exploration of some specific instances of government failure. Specifically, schemes like the war on poverty… a decades-long mission to flush $20 trillion down a massive toilet. But these essays are just one benefit of reading The Daily Reckoning email editionbefore it hits the Daily Reckoning website… Readers of the email edition are also treated to several chances to discover real, actionable profit opportunities every single day. So don’t wait. Get the full story by signing up for The Daily Reckoning, for FREE, right here.

Addison WigginAddison Wiggin is the executive publisher of Agora Financial, LLC, a fiercely independent economic forecasting and financial research firm. He’s the creator and editorial director of Agora Financial’s daily 5 Min. Forecast and editorial director of The Daily Reckoning. Wiggin is the founder of Agora Entertainment, executive producer and co-writer of I.O.U.S.A., which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, the 2009 Critics Choice Award for Best Documentary Feature, and was also shortlisted for a 2009 Academy Award. He is the author of the companion book of the film I.O.U.S.A.and his second edition of The Demise of the Dollar, and Why it’s Even Better for Your Investments was just fully revised and updated. Wiggin is a three-time New York Times best-selling author whose work has been recognized by The New York Times MagazineThe EconomistWorthThe New York TimesThe Washington Post as well as major network news programs. He also co-authored international bestsellers Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt with Bill Bonner.
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