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China Won’t Be Taking Over

Pablo Picasso Massacre in Korea 1951

In the New Year, after a close to the old one that was sort of terrible for our zombie markets, do prepare for a whole lot of stories about China (on top of Brexit and Yellow Vests and many more windmills fighting the Donald). And don’t count on too many positive ones that don’t originate in the country itself. Beijing will especially be full of feel-good tales about a month from now, around Chinese New Year 2019, which is February 5.

And we won’t get an easy and coherent true story, it’ll be bits and pieces stitched together. What will remain is that China did the same we did, just on steroids. It took us 100 years to build our manufacturing capacity, they did it in under 20 (and made ours obsolete). It took us 100 years to borrow enough to get a debt-to-GDP ratio of 300%, they did it in 10.

In the process they also accumulated 10 times more non-productive assets than us, idle factories, bridges to nowhere and empty cities, but they thought that would be alright, that demand would catch up with supply. And if you look at how much unproductive stuff we ourselves have gathered around us, who can blame them for thinking that? Perhaps their biggest mistake has been misreading our actual wealth situation; they didn’t see how poorly off we really are.

Xiang Songzuo, “a relatively obscure economics professor at Renmin University in Beijing”, expressed some dire warnings about the Chinese economy in a December 15 speech. He didn’t get much attention, not even in the West. Not overly surprising, since both Beijing and Wall Street have a vested interest in the continuing China growth story.

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


Gold – A Perfect Storm For 2019

Gold – A Perfect Storm For 2019

This article is an overview of the principal factors likely to drive the gold price in 2019. It looks at the global factors that have developed in 2018 for both gold and the dollar, how geopolitics are likely to evolve, the economic outlook and how it is worsened for the dollar by President Trump’s tariff war against China, the availability and likely demand for bullion, and the technical position in paper markets. Taken together, the outlook is bullish for gold.

2018 reprise

For gold bulls, 2018 was disappointing. From 11 December 2017, when gold made a significant bottom against the dollar at $1243, it has ended virtually unchanged today, after being 4.2% up. Gold had to struggle against a rising dollar, whose trade-weighted index rose a net 3.7% over the same period, and as much as 9.4% from its mid-February low.

Dollar strength has been driven less by trade imbalances and more by interest rate differentials. A speculating bank for its own book or for a hedge fund client can borrow 3-month Euro Libor at minus0.354% and invest it in 3-month US Treasury bills at 2.36%, for a round trip of over 2.7%. Gear this up ten times or more, either on a bank’s capital, or through reverse repos for annualised returns of over 27%. To this can be added the currency gain, which at times has added enough to overall returns for an unhedged geared position to double the investment.

Not that these forex returns have been guaranteed, but you get the picture. The ECB and the Bank of Japan have been frozen into inactivity, reluctant to raise rates to correct this imbalance, and the punters have known it.

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

Food Crisis In The Making: Farm Bankruptcies Reach Horrifying Levels

Food Crisis In The Making: Farm Bankruptcies Reach Horrifying Levels

We are amidst a food crisis.  Farms in the United States Midwest are filing for chapter 12 bankruptcy at an alarming rate.  And many are saying president Donald Trump’s trade war is taking the most blame.

We hate to say we told you so, but we told you so. The trade war was a bad idea and everyday average Americans are footing the bill for this asinine policy of tariffs.  Now, the food supply could be in jeopardy because of political posturing and that will not bode well for already cash-strapped American families.

A total of 84 farms in the upper Midwest filed for bankruptcy between July 2017 and June 2018, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. That’s more than double the number of Chapter 12 filings during the same period in 2013 and 2014 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana, reported Vox.

Farms that produce corn, soybeans, milk, and beef were all suffering due to low global demand and low prices before the trade war, according to economists, but president Trump’s trade war is making the problem even worse by exacerbating the weaknesses in the American economy. China has retaliated against the tariffs by slapping billions of dollars worth of tariffs on United States agriculture exports in response to Trump’s tariffs on Chinese products. Other countries, including Canada, have also added duties to US agriculture products in response to Trump’s tariffs on all imported steel and aluminum.

The worst part is perhaps the solution the government has proposed to the very real problem they have created. Things have gotten so bad that the Trump administration launched a $12 billion aid package for US farmers coping with retaliatory tariffs that foreign countries have imposed on their products.

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

How Are Chinese Stocks Responding to Tariffs With the US and a Slowdown in Asian Growth?

  • Despite US tariffs, China’s September trade balance with the US reached a record high
  • A number of China’s Asian neighbours have seen a deceleration in growth
  • The Shanghai Composite has fallen more than 50% since 2015, the PE ratio is 7.2
  • Government bond yields have eased and the currency is lower against a rising US$

During 2018 Chinese financial markets have been on the move. 10yr bond yields rose from all-time lows throughout 2017 but have since declined: –

China bonds 2006-2018

Source: Trading Economics, PRC Ministry of Finance

Despite this easing of monetary conditions the negative impact US tariffs, continues to weigh on the Chinese stock market: –

China shanghai index 1990-2018

Source: Trading Economics, OTC, CFD

Despite being a leader in frontier technologies such as e-commerce (China has 733mln internet users compared with 391mln in India, 413mln in the EU and a mere 246mln in the US) the recent decline in tech giants Alibaba (BABA) and Tencent (TCEHY) have added to financial market woes. However, as the chart above shows, Chinese stocks have been in a bear-market since 2015. Some of its Asian neighbours have followed a similar trajectory as their economies have slowed in response to a US$ strength and US trade policy.

The notionally pegged Chinese currency has also weakened against the US$, testing it lowest levels in almost a decade: –

China currency 2008-2018

Source: Trading Economics

Meanwhile, President Xi has now announced plans to rebalance China’s economy towards consumption, turning it into an importing superpower. Surely something has to give.

The IMF expects Chinese GDP to grow at 6.6% in 2018. They continue to point to signs of economic progress: –

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

The Trade War Is Getting Worse For U.S. Businesses

The Trade War Is Getting Worse For U.S. Businesses

President Donald Trump’s trade war is making things even worse than before for businesses in the United States. The trade war has been dragging on for four long months now, and the pain is being felt financially.

Companies’ earlier worries are starting to translate into actual financial pain as new orders coming in from China face the higher duties imposed by the Trump administration. According to Business Insider, many companies have retained their workforce but passed the skyrocketing costs of the tariffs on to the backs of the consumer.

While surveys in previous months fully exposed the worries about the soon-to-come cost increases from the tariffs, new data seems to show that businesses are now grappling with that reality. Surveys from the Federal Reserve and market-research firms released Wednesday outlined more widespread worries about the tariffs, while individual companies have started to tabulate the tens of millions of dollars in new costs they’re likely to incur from the tariffs.

The survey came down to a few points:

  • Businesses were concerned that goods coming into the US from other countries were more expensive. Many of those goods are used in products sold by American companies to consumers, so the increased import prices prompted a boost in costs for firms and an increase in prices for consumers.
  • The retaliatory tariffs made it harder for businesses to sell goods to markets like China and Canada.
  • The buildup in the United States of a supply for those goods subject to tariffs abroad (notably farm goods like pork and soybeans) caused prices to sink in the US and businesses to receive less for their products, putting their entire business at risk.

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

Chinese Imports Of US Crude Have “Totally Stopped” As Tariff Threats Persist

It has been roughly two months since China threatened to impose a 25% tariff on US energy imports (it eventually went back on those threats), and less than two weeks since the latest round of tariffs has been implemented. But even as China has shied away from its threats to punish the US energy industry, Reuters data are showing that imports of US oil to China have ground to a halt.


Confirming the data, Xie Chunlin, the president of China Merchants Energy Shipping Co, said on Wednesday that crude oil shipments to China have “totally stopped” as the trade war has taken its toll, reversing growth in what had been a rapidly expanding market for US shale producers.

“We are one of the major carriers for crude oil from the U.S. to China. Before (the trade war) we had a nice business, but now it’s totally stopped,” Chunlin said on the sidelines of the Global Maritime Forum’s Annual Summit in Hong Kong.

“It’s unfortunately happened, the trade war between the U.S. and China. Surely for the shipping business, it’s not good,” the CMES president said.

He also said the trade dispute was forcing China to seek soybeans from suppliers other than the United States, adding that China now bought most its soybeans from South America.

In place of US imports, China, which is the world’s largest importer of crude oil, is becoming increasingly reliant on the Middle East and Russia while it has also shifted to using Iranian tankers to bypass impending US sanctions on Iranian crude while also becoming more reliant on Iranian crude in general. But while it’s grabbing the most headlines right now, the trade fight is hardly the only source of contention between US oil producers and China, as China’s yuan-denominated crude futures contracts are beginning to show their teeth.

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

As The Trade War Rages – China Won’t Be Held Hostage By The U.S. Dollar

As The Trade War Rages – China Won’t Be Held Hostage By The U.S. Dollar

In last week’s Palisade Weekly Letter, I wrote about how the Chinese are now selling their U.S. debt. And since this was an important write-up, I also published it as an article – so if you missed it, click here.

I mentioned that although China’s now a net-seller of U.S. debt – they’re slowing doing so.

I reckon they’re doing just enough to let the Treasury and Trump know that they can send yields soaring and can’t afford it if China unloads the whole $1+ trillion amount.

That’s why we at Palisade Research have called this China’s ‘nuclear‘ option – it’s no doubt a financial weapon of mass-destruction (FWMD).

If China suddenly dumped their $1+ trillion of U.S. debt, it would cause markets worldwide to implode.

But that also means China would suffer. . .

Now, China isn’t stupid. They’ve worked decades to grow their massive dollar surplus and reserves. They won’t recklessly lose it all for nothing.

But still, this put’s China in a corner. Because although they won’t risk blowing themselves up to hurt the U.S. – what if the U.S. must cheapen the dollar to boost trade? Or get out of a recession? Or monetize the Treasury’s never-ending spending and huge fiscal deficits?

The depreciation of the U.S. dollar for any reason is a huge threat to China currently.

Today China holds roughly 3 trillion of dollar reserves. That’s down 25% from the 4 trillion they had in beginning of 2015 (the strong dollar really hurt them).

And putting things into context – if the U.S. dollar devalues by just 10%, that’s more than 300billion of purchasing power lost from China’s dollar reserves. . .

Gone – just like that. And completely out of China’s control.

Imagine if someone else held the power to devalue the money in your own bank account. That puts you at their mercy – in a very fragile place – right?

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

The World’s Fragile Economic Condition – Part 1

The World’s Fragile Economic Condition – Part 1

Where is the world economy heading? In my opinion, a large portion of the story that we usually hear about how the world economy operates and the role energy plays is not really correct. In this post (to be continued in Part 2 in the near future), I explain how some of the major elements of the world economy seem to function. I also point out some relationships that tend to make the world’s economic condition more fragile.

Trying to explain the situation a bit further, the economy is a networked system. It doesn’t behave the way nearly everyone expects it to behave. Many people believe that any energy problem will be signaled by high prices. A look at history shows that this is not really the case: fighting and conflict are also likely outcomes. In fact, rising tariffs are a sign of energy problems.

The underlying energy problem represents a conflict between supply and demand, but not in the way most people expect. The world needs rising demand to support the rising cost of energy products, but this rising demand is, in fact, very difficult to produce. The way that this rising demand is normally produced is by adding increasing amounts of debt, at ever-lower interest rates. At some point, the debt bubble created to provide the necessary  demand becomes overstretched. Now, we seem to be reaching a situation where the debt bubble may pop, at least in some parts of the world. This is a very concerning situation.

Context. The presentation discussed in this post was given to the Casualty Actuaries of the Southeast. (I am a casualty actuary myself, living in the Southeast.) The attendees tended to be quite young, and they tended not to be very aware of energy issues. I was trying to “bring them up to speed.” This is a link to the presentation:  The World’s Fragile Economic Condition.

Slide 1

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


China Vows Not To Negotiate Under Threat, As Trump Teases “Major Broadside” Against Beijing

Investors had managed to cling on to optimism that the ‘trade skirmish’ between the US and China would reach a swift conclusion – and that the US would ultimately be better off, as China would be forced to curtail practices like its IP theft from US companies.

But as downbeat markets observed on Monday morning, hope of a harmonious resolution died when Beijing cancelled plans to send two delegations to Washington. The delegates would have engaged in the fifth round of talks since the trade conflict – war, whatever you want to call it – began earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the US formally imposed 10% tariffs on roughly $200 billion in Chinese goods just after midnight on Monday morning, pushing China to impose tariffs on roughly $60 billion of goods. Even before the tariffs took effect, US stock futures and the yuan tumbled after the start of trading Sunday night, leading European and Asian stocks lower (to be sure, these moves took place with holidays in China, Japan and South Korea, which led to much thinner trading volumes).

Those losses were exacerbated when Beijing-run Xinhua news wire published a white paper where Chinese officials revealed that they would not engage in any further negotiations while the US continues to threaten further tariffs, per Bloomberg.

“The door for trade talks is always open but negotiations must be held in an environment of mutual respect,” according to a white paper carried by the state-run Xinhua News Agency. Negotiations “cannot be carried out under the threat of tariffs.”

This confirms that “the trade war is now a reality,” according to Fitch chief economist Brian Coulton.

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

Trump’s Hand-Picked Winners and Losers: China vs Canada, NAFTA Threats, and P&G

As a single country, China is the US’s largest trading partner but Canada is the largest export partner.

As Trump struggles to get a NAFTA deal going on account of Canada, the above chart puts things into perspective.

Canada is the US’s largest export partner. Moreover, when it comes to goods (as opposed to goods and services), the US consistently runs a trade surplus with Canada.

The US has had a goods surplus with Canada every month since 1985. Nonetheless, Trump is incredibly annoyed at Canada and threatens to put tariffs on Canadian cars.

Here’s the broad picture.

US Balance of Trade 2011-2017

I created the above chart from downloads of these three Census Department files.


  • Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan were added in 2015.
  • The format of the reports changed in 2014, but that link has annual totals that date back to 2011.
  • Prior to 2014 there was no Exhibit 20 (selected countries).

2018 Subtotals

Mid-year 2018, the US is still running an overall trade surplus with Canada, so this will likely be the fourth year the US records a trade surplus with Canada (total the first two highlighted columns).

Nonetheless, Trump is moaning. And the global chart shows it’s over very insignificant totals.

This is the true nature of the “worst trade deal in history” where Canada is now more important than Mexico.

NAFTA negotiations are at an impasse.

As President Trump threatens to ink a deal with Mexico by Sept. 30 and leave Canada behind, the New York Times asks Can Nafta Be Saved? These Two Negotiators Are Trying.

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

A Path To War? China Cancels US Trade Talks As ‘Skirmish’ Escalates

Following a surge in Chinese, European, and much of the US equity markets this week amid hopes that the so-called ‘trade skirmish’ was less ‘war-like’ than expected, China just dropped an early Saturday morning (local time) tape bomb that is sure to resurrect ‘trade war’ talk.

After President Trump slapped a fresh round of tariffs on Chinese goods, targeting 10 percent duties on $200 billion of goods; the two camps were scheduled to meet in order to dial back tensions. As we noted earlier in the week, China had ‘downgraded’ the team with a mid-level delegation from China due to travel to the U.S. capital to pave the way for Vice Premier Liu’s visit.

That was what sparked hope that this was just a trade skirmish (as Jamie Dimon attempted to play down), sending stocks soaring all week.

However, that is all over now.

The Journal  just reported on Friday that, according to sources, China has rescinded the proposals to send two delegations to Washington.

Chinese officials have said such pressure tactics wouldn’t induce them to cooperate.

By declining to participate in the talks, the people said, Beijing is following up on its pledge to avoid negotiating under threat.

“Everything the U.S. does hasn’t given any impression of sincerity and goodwill,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a press briefing Friday.

“We hope that the U.S. side will take measures to correct its mistakes.”

*  *  *

The timing of this news, after the exuberant equity week, is also noteworthy as it follows Ray Dalio’s, founder of Bridgewater, warnings that the current trade tensions mirror those of the 1930s:

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

Ex-PBOC Head Warns China’s Exporters Could Soon Ditch The US

Former Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan suggested on Wednesday that the direct impact on China of the trade war with the US “appears limited,” though it could quickly prompt China’s top exporters to pivot away from US markets. Xiaochuan, who left the bank in March after 15 years at the helm, told Reuters that China’s economy would be stable in 2018, with an expected growth rate of 6.5%, but needed to shift away from an economic model based on “urbanization,” or constructing ghost cities.

However, the main risk to the global economy is protectionism according to the ex-PBOC head. The costs of protectionism could hit the US the hardest, as Chinese firms are expected to withdraw from US markets and expand into other global economies:“I think it will force China to look at many other markets. So it’s not necessarily a good thing for the United States,” he said.

“I think the speed of (geographical) diversification can be relatively fast and beyond many people’s expectations.”

Reuters said Xiaochuan downplayed the idea that protectionism will severely affect economic growth in China, which he said had been estimated at 0.2-0.8% of GDP, but added that trade wars are creating uncertainties and could hurt business confidence.

Xiaochuan is right, in the latest US Economic Outlook via Barclays, US Economist Michael Gapen revealed that global growth momentum is already slowing.

Gapen also showed that global trade volume as a share of world GDP has likely reached a turning point into a protectionist era.

As a result of the peak in “hyper-globalization”, China is being forced to change its growth strategy after many decades. The economic driver of supplying Western markets with cheap goods and constructing ghost cities in China are over. “Whether this is reaching the peak or has peaked and maybe going down, we need to find some new economic growth driver,” said Xiaochuan.

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

China Retaliates: Beijing To Levy $60BN In Tariffs On US Goods Effective Sept 24

Just as Donald Trump was further threats aimed at Beijing after he launched another $200BN in tariffs targeting Chinese imports, and warning that “there will be great and fast economic retaliation against China if our farmers, ranchers and/or industrial workers are targeted!”, China’s Ministry of Finance issued a statement disclosing that it would retaliate by levying tariffs on another $60BN in US goods (effectively covering all US imports with tariffs), which would take effect from Sept. 24 at 12:01 p.m.

While the retaliation was expected, in what appears to be an olive branch to Trump, Beijing said that it would impose a 10% tariff rate on goods that it previously listed at a 25% rate, and a 5% rate for goods that previously were seen as being in the 10% rate bucket.

Here are the highlights, from Reuters and Bloomberg:


China also said that if the US insists on raising tariffs rates on Chinese goods (from 10% to 25% or more), China would respond accordingly, but noted that it hopes to stop trade frictions and hold a constructive dialogue.

The full statement, google translated:

According to the “Notice of the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council on Adding Tariffs to Certain Imported Goods Originating in the United States (Second Batch)” (Announcement of the Taxation Committee [2018] No. 6), the relevant implementation matters are hereby announced as follows:

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


Trump Slams China For Meddling In US Elections “By Attacking Farmers & Industrial Workers”

Having ordered the unleashing of the next round of tariffs (to hit next Monday) on China, President Trump has taken to Twitter to explain what he feels China is trying to do.

His first shot across the bow claims that China is meddling in the US election: ” China has openly stated that they are actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me,” adding that China has miscalculated, because “these people are great patriots and fully understand that China has been taking advantage of the United States on Trade for many years.

China has openly stated that they are actively trying to impact and change our election by attacking our farmers, ranchers and industrial workers because of their loyalty to me. What China does not understand is that these people are great patriots and fully understand that…..

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2018

Then Trump makes it clear that only he is capable of stopping the trend of the last few decades, ” They also know that I am the one that knows how to stop it.”

…..China has been taking advantage of the United States on Trade for many years. They also know that I am the one that knows how to stop it. There will be great and fast economic retaliation against China if our farmers, ranchers and/or industrial workers are targeted!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 18, 2018

Trump ended the tweets with a threat – confirming his order last night of a further hike to 25% tariffs and $267 billion more goods under tariffs – “ There will be great and fast economic retaliation against China if our farmers, ranchers and/or industrial workers are targeted!

This could be an immediate problem since China just confirmed it will release its new tariffs on US goods (effective on Sept 24th) of between 5 and 10% on $60 billion of US goods.

Meanwhile in China, Implosion of Stock-Market Double-Bubble

Meanwhile in China, Implosion of Stock-Market Double-Bubble

Bubbles don’t end well for those who don’t get out in time.

US tariffs and threats of more tariffs have not been particularly well received in China, which is already being rattled by corporate credit problems, quakes in the shadow banking system, a peculiar Enron-type phenomenon at provincial and municipal governments called “hidden debt,” and the implosion of nearly 5,000 P2P lenders that have sprung up since 2015. And so today, the Shanghai Composite Index dropped 1.1% to 2,651.79.

This is a big milestone:

  • Below the low of its last collapse on January 28, 2016 (2,655.66)
  • Down 25.5% from its recent peak on January 24, 2018, (3,559.47)
  • Down 49% from its bubble peak on June 12, 2015 (5,166)
  • Down 56% from its bubble peak on October 16, 2007 (6,092)
  • Below where it had been for the first time on December 29, 2006 (2,675), nearly 12 years ago. That’s quite an accomplishment.

This chart of the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index shows the last bubble in Chinese stocks. Note the rise from the last low in January 2016. This rise has been endlessly touted in the US as the next big opportunity to lure US investors into the Chinese market, only to get crushed again:

But what makes Chinese stocks interesting is not the collapse of one bubble and then the collapse of the subsequent recovery, but the longer view that is now taking on Japanese proportions.

The chart below shows the double-bubble and the double-collapse, interspersed with collapsed recoveries and failed excitement:

It is not often that a major stock market goes through two majestic bubbles and then revisits levels first seen 12 years earlier – despite inflation in the currency in which these stocks are denominated.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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