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Olduvai III: Catacylsm
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Good Times…

Good Times…

My son wanted to know why it is that Venezuela (a topic that gets discussed around the dinner table at home) chose such painfully, obviously asinine policies.

After much thought I explained it thus.

Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. Weak men create hard times.CLICK TO TWEETI’d seen it before somewhere and so I dug it up. Here it is in a different form.

We bipeds don’t change. I’ve come to realise not to fight it, just see it for what it is and make sure you’re positioned accordingly…for your friends family and those you care about. Speaking of which you should consider joining our family.

No special offers, no steak knives, no wild ridiculous promises – simply rational analysis and positioning for a macro world we’ve never encountered before. EVER! That’s both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

We’re Bad

At literally everything. We buy high, sell low, look to what Johnny next door is wearing, what car he drives. We get taken in and scammed by shysters, we believe in the unbelievable.

Which brings me swiftly to EM where fund managers desperate for yield dived into the fire over the last few years. Now the inevitable pain is hitting as default fears mount for “BATS” as the emerging-market rout deepens.

Turkey’s implied default odds climbed to highest since 2008 and over in the land of great steaks default risk in Argentina is …ahem…substantial.

As Bloomberg points out:

  • Argentina’s implied default probability over the next five years climbed this month to 41 percent, the highest since Mauricio Macri’s government ended the nation’s decade-long legal battle with most holdout creditors.
  • Turkey’s implied default odds during that span rose to 31 percent, the highest since the 2008 global financial crisis.
  • Brazil’s implied default odds increased to 18 percent, the highest since the country’s worst-ever recession deepened in late 2016.
  • South Africa’s implied default odds soared to 15 percent, the highest since Donald Trump’s election in November 2016.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

It’s Coming… Resource Nationalism

It’s Coming… Resource Nationalism

Early 2012 Argentina’s oil industry was controlled by Repsol, the Spanish energy giant, through YPF, its local subsidiary. By the end of the year, this was no longer the case.

By then President Cristina Fernandez Kirchner’s leftist government had nationalised the oil sector, stealing YPF with the stroke of a pen.

The experience for investors in Repsol was an elevator drop so jarring I suspect many were left with their spines sticking out the top of their heads.

We can all scoff and laugh at the poor bastards and say, “Well, what did you expect investing into yet another Latin American backwater grasping at fading socialist ideas in order to stay in power?”

And to be sure, the third world loves to dance to Marxist music, but I’ve more than a sneaky suspicion, in fact I’m pretty convinced we’re going to see it, and not just from crazy bitches south of the equator. Resource nationalism, that is.

The problem for oil companies, and indeed resource companies of many stripes, is that they have to go where the deposits happen to be. Contrast this to industries such as manufacturing, where factories can be built wherever wages are lowest, you simply can’t outsource energy production.

One Thing Leads to Another

In 2016 I wrote an article arguing that we’d see what I called the rise of the “Strong Men” where I suggested the following:

Now I could write an essay on the ramifications but let me provide you with 3 important things to watch out for:

1. Political cohesion and stability can no longer be relied upon as politics becomes inward looking with everything from trade deals to central bank swap lines being renegotiated or cancelled altogether.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Biggest Monetary Experiments In History: Part 2

The Biggest Monetary Experiments In History: Part 2

In part one we discussed the troubling issues in Europe (in case you missed it, you can read it here).

Today… Japan

The story of Japan is really a story that begins with globalisation.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, globalisation is described as:

“The process by which businesses or other organizations develop international influence or start operating on an international scale.”

It is, in a nutshell, international trade, and one of the things it’s done is add huge swathes of the global workforce to the world’s economy.

I bring up globalisation because of what it’s done to the global labour supply.

Realise this labour supply wasn’t Joe-middle-class-Sixpack with a Beemer, a two story house in the suburbs, and a white picket fence.

When most people think of  this workforce, they picture small brown people in shabby clothes toiling in sweatshops in China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.

And by and large that’s it.

We’re not talking about Joe Sixpack. No, this was Amit in Bangladesh with 45 kids, working 29 hours a day, and paid the equivalent of a Happy Meal at Mackers.

And when we got such a massive disparity in costs, market forces went to work and did what market forces do.

The supply of goods produced exploded, and the cost of labour on a relative global basis fell.

I guess we could call this a labour supply shock, and what this did was it helped keep wages suppressed in developed markets while those in developing markets rose. This is how Amit raised his living standard so he can afford his 5th wife.

Now, the flip side of suppressed wages in the developed world was, of course, ever cheaper imported goods as the cost of those has plummeted. Declining real wages in the developed world have been cushioned by deflation in consumer goods.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Biggest Monetary Experiments in History: Part 1

The Biggest Monetary Experiments in History: Part 1

… and all at the same time.

Last week was a humdinger. Three things happened:


Firstly, our pasta-eating friends, after having experienced firsthand a blizzard of accelerating violent crime… and watching their previously gentrified neighbourhoods reconfigured into ghettos resembling the Maghreb, decided enough was enough and said “non piu”.

Italy turns away two more boats loaded with ‘human cargo’ https://sc.mp/2lbiUF7  via @SCMP_News

Italy turns away two more boats loaded with ‘human cargo’

Minister says the country no longer wants to be any part of the business of ‘clandestine immigration’.


And who could blame them?

A clash of cultures. One that will one day be studied by scholars sipping their coffee, scratching their heads, frowning and scorning the insanity of it all.

The below video of migrants unhappy with the accommodations provided by the Italian state is nothing unusual. It is rather a daily occurrence, not only in Italy, but across various parts of Europe, Britain, and Scandinavia.

A strange way one would say to show gratitude to the Italians who rescued them from the ocean, fed them, clothed them, and provided them shelter.

That these daily events aren’t publicised by the MSM is a topic for another day, but increasingly it’s hard to hide this sort of thing from your own people. Italy, as we all know, is predominantly Catholic, certainly Christian. And so when Luigi strolls outside for an espresso at his local cafe and finds this in the streets:

… he wonders what the hell the politicians are thinking.

When future generations look back at the reasons why the European Union and one currency system collapsed, there will be many factors to consider.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

One Word: Contagion

One Word: Contagion

Terrible news, I’m afraid.

The trainwreck that is Italian politics has always been a hoot to watch. But this time around the implications to what happens in Rome are, as Trump would say, yuuuge.

You’ve probably seen the news-flow out of Europe.

Tasked with finding a suitable candidate to head a coalition between Luigi Di Maio’s Five Star Movement and the far-right League headed by Matteo Salvini, a coalition, which I might add has to be scaring the living isht out of Brussels, has not been an easy task.

Firstly, they went and chose someone nobody has ever heard about.


Well, Italy has many “colourful characters” in politics, and that is what scares Brussels more than anything else. Draghi’s worst nightmare must be sitting across the table from this guy discussing Italy’s bill to Germany.

In case you’re not up to speed on what these gents stand for here’s a sampling from Matteo Salvini.

Slaves of the European Union? No, thanks!

I can’t wait for Italy, with our government, to regain its sovereignty to defend the national interest in any way possible. Unacceptable intrusion from a European bureaucrat in Italy’s elections. The immigration policies and economic sacrifices imposed by the European Union have been a disaster and will be rejected by the free vote of Italians.

European bureaucrats calm down. League will always defend our fisheries and the agriculture of Italy. Enough with the European standards that slaughter our businesses and our territory!

No! What this coalition needed was someone entirely vanilla, very unlike their own leaders, a nobody, a perfectly useful idiot.

And so they picked Giuseppe Conte.

Who, I hear you say?


But poor Giuseppe didn’t last very long. Heck, he was tasked with what was one helluva job — sugarcoating this…

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Lie-Bor: Pitchforkers Rejoice

Lie-Bor: Pitchforkers Rejoice

There’s a bit of a hullabaloo going on at the moment about LIBOR. And in truth, it is a pretty big deal.

Yes, even bigger than whether or not Stormy Daniels got jiggetty with an old guy wearing a wig. And get this… even bigger than Kanye’s man-love for the same guy.

What is LIBOR?

Let’s start here.

Whether you know it or not, LIBOR has for decades played an integral part in the cost of your beer. That’s because it has provided a means to determine the cost of debt in everything — from student loans and mortgages to complex derivatives. 

What happens is this…

A daily survey is taken from 15 of the largest banks in the world.

In this little test each bank submits a quote estimating how much it would be charged by the other banks to borrow money across a range of durations without any collateral being put up.

All the rates are then tossed into a baking dish, baked, and the pie that comes out is an average rate known as LIBOR.

It stretches across 7 different maturities and 5 currencies, and, together with Euribor, it is the primary benchmark for short-term rates across this ball of dirt we call home.

Thomson Reuters publishes it midday and pretty much the entire financial community involved in debt markets of any kind (and plenty who’re only tangentially connected) furrow their brows and sip their long blacks while scanning these very rates in order to more intelligently make critical business decisions, which ultimately affect the cost of your beer.

And so, as you can see, it is very important.

How big?

$350 Trillion!

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mr Creosote is Full

Mr Creosote is Full

Maitre D’: “And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint.”

Mr Creosote: “No.”

Maitre D’: “Oh, sir! It’s only a tiny little thin one.”

Mr Creosote: “No. F**k off. I’m full…” [Belches]

Maitre D’: “Oh, sir… it’s only wafer thin.”

Mr Creosote: “Look – I couldn’t eat another thing. I’m absolutely stuffed. Bugger off.”

Maitre D’: “Oh, sir, just… just one…”

Mr Creosote: “Oh, all right. Just one.”

Maitre D’: “Just the one, sir… voila… bon appetit…”

[Mr Creosote somehow manages to stuff the wafer-thin mint into his mouth and then swallows. The Maitre D’ takes a flying leap and cowers behind some potted plants. There is an ominous splitting sound. Mr Creosote looks rather helpless and then he explodes, covering waiters, diners, and technicians in a truly horrendous mix of half digested food, entrails, and parts of his body. People start vomiting.]

Maitre D’: [returns to Mr Creosote’s table] Thank you, sir, and now the check.

The Monty Python skit depicted has a lot of truth in it.

Only idiots refuse to acknowledge excess. Society is littered with examples of the consequences. Eating too much results in indigestion and lethargy, and, if done, regularly obesity and an early grave.

We’d be forgiven for thinking that these simple truths don’t or won’t apply to the financial markets.

Indeed, the GFC was but one of the last examples of such excess, and Canada’s own Real estate market is now suffering what Mr Creosote suffered.

There are naturally other examples, many covered in my subscriber-only publication, but there is one elephant in the room worth looking at:

The above graph, which I nicked from Bloomberg, is actually only a few months old… and as such out of date.

How out of date can it actually be, you might ask? Heck, it’s less than a month old.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How Heavy Is This?

How Heavy Is This?

Here is a glass of water. You’re holding it.

How heavy is it?

The answer is: the actual weight probably doesn’t matter. It’s just a glass of water. What matters is how long you hold it.

Hold it for a minute, it’s no problem. An hour and your arm will ache. A day and your arm will feel paralysed.

The weight doesn’t change but the longer you hold it the heavier it becomes and the greater the probability you finally just have to put it down or risk dropping it altogether.

Now, take a look at this graphic which I nicked from Hugo Salinas:

How Heavy Is This?

Betting against the ability of governments and their central banks to keep holding the proverbial glass of water has been a losing proposition for a looooong time.

Now, simple math tells us that although this debt growth is pretty damned fantastic it needn’t be a problem if income growth has kept up with it. Income, after all, services debt.

Since income growth hasn’t kept up clearly that’s not the case. So what is it?

The answer lies in this chart which shows the cost of capital across the major economies of the US, the EU, the UK, and Japan.

When the cost of debt servicing is low or zero, then the size of debt really doesn’t matter much. It’s as if the glass of water has no weight at all.

Now here’s something worth pondering…

On an historical timeframe we’re at the tail end of the long term debt-cycle… a cycle that typically lasts between 50 and 75 years.

Today, bonds are more sensitive to price movements than at any other time in history and the yield achieved on them so low that it doesn’t take all that much for a positive return (just) to turn into a loss.

Now take a look at this:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

World Out Of Whack: Iceland, You Won’t Believe It

World Out Of Whack: Iceland, You Won’t Believe It

The developed world is going to hell and probably deserves it. Today, I’m going to show you what should have been done both during and post the GFC. That it wasn’t, and now almost certainly won’t, is a problem for us all but that’s a story for another day.

Today, we look to Iceland and marvel at what they managed to accomplish both leading into the GFC and then coming out of it, and then we scratch our heads at the latest news just out from their central bank.

On with it then…

It was over a decade ago now when I very nearly took a flight to Reykjavik but at the last minute opted instead to go to Copenhagen, which I regret since I’m told it’s like Scotland on steroids (sounds like a blast). What clinched the decision in the end was that a scotch was about 3 times the price in Reykjavik, and since I was heading out for a wild boys week this was important in our considerations, though I’m told that in the land of fire and ice the women are indeed unbelievable.

Its history is that of an arctic backwater reliant on fishing fishing, energy, aluminium smelting, and tourism. A place with hardy living conditions and hardier people.

Between the late 90’s and 2008 they, however, went through what can only be described as a stratospheric rise from this backwater specialising in fishing to one which specialised in global finance.

Using the Irish financial model as a blueprint, Iceland decided to revamp its economy repositioning itself in the international community as a low-tax jurisdiction for foreign finance and investment.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How The Masses Deal With Risk (And Why They Remain Poor)

How The Masses Deal With Risk (And Why They Remain Poor)

Last week I discussed how humans are wired to pay attention to scary things.In financial speak: risk. Darwinism has chastised those who ignore risk by rewarding them with an early grave, and by process of elimination rewarded those who stay out of the cross hairs.

Thing is, we no longer live in a world where saber-toothed tigers threaten our existence. In today’s world far greater risk lies in the truly enormous and disproportionate emotional attitude to (and assessment of) risk.

This has nothing to do with Darwin but rather more to do with an educational system designed and built for the industrial age. Education today is an advertising agency which leads us to believe we need the society on which it relies upon for its existence.

Beginning with the schooling system and followed by “higher education”, the middle and upper middle class in developed societies are by and large serfs. And they’re serfs because they don’t understand risk.

The overwhelming majority look at risk incorrectly. They look at it two dimensionally: “The more risk I take the more ‘volatility’ I have.” The fact is, risk is actually subjective to your own personal situation. Mismanaging your own personal situation increases risk disproportionately.

Let me give you an example of how easily an otherwise intelligent person gets royally screwed by the system by routinely miscalculating risk.

Let’s take Harry, a fictional guy from a middle class family who’s just left high school. Harry really wants to get ahead and has set himself a goal of becoming a millionaire by the time he’s 25. He figures that by 35 he’ll be worth north of $10 million.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Mede-Jean, Not Medellin

Mede-Jean, Not Medellin

Driving the back streets of Medellin a few weeks ago I found it interesting to see the various little pockets to the city. In the poor parts of town I noticed on a couple of occasions taxi drives running their vehicles on empty. I’ve seen this before in countries where there is a lack of sufficient working capital to be able to keep the tank full. Disposable income is low or non-existent…

There are, however, pockets where we found the burgeoning middle class which give credence to the statistical numbers. Here there are delightful tree lined neighborhoods, boutique art stores, restaurants, coffee shops and Land Cruisers beginning to cramp up the streets of Medellin. Colombia has indeed a rising and growing middle class, though there still exists a large disparity in wealth.

View over Poblado, Medellin

One measure used by economists to determine this ratio of rich to poor is the Gini coefficient. A Gini score of 0 would mean a perfect distribution of income and expenditure in a society and a number of 100 represents absolute inequality. This has important ramifications as often there exists a higher propensity for civil unrest as the number gets higher. Conversely the lower this number, the more equal and oftentimes stable a country. Colombia, according to the World Bank, sport a score of 53.5, though this is taken from 2012. I suspect this figure is actually lower today – it’s been falling each year since early 2000s.

The trend appears to be going in the right direction…

We’ve had our eye on Colombia for some time. One reason we haven’t jumped in earlier is that we’ve been cognizant that it’s a resource economy and when we first began taking notes we were already a decade into the resource bull market. Not optimum!

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…


Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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