China – the biggest paradigm shift in a century?

By Steen Jakobsen,
Chief Economist & CIO / Saxo Bank
  • The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China starts next week
  • It will be the single biggest event this year, of unprecedented significance
  • Xi will cement his position and secure his legacy at the Congress
  • China is changing and has changed more than the market gives it credit for
  • Under Trump, the United States has abdicated its global role
  • What we are witnessing is a geopolitical reality show
  • The rise of China and the decline of the US will spawn a new FX king!
great Hall
 The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China will take place at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People, starting October 18.Photo: Zhao jian kang / Shutterstock.
The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China kicks off next week in Beijing and promises to be the single biggest event this year for financial markets and the international balance of power. This makes it a true paradigm shift – an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way. That’s exactly what this Congress will be and it’s the reason why it is of historic significance for each and every one of us and for the global economy.
Let’s throw some context around this. China already leads the world in credit creation, growth and now in most technology fields. My take remains that President Xi will focus on quality over quantity, that reducing pollution is the number one social issue in China and that the Party is taking more and more control. The net output will be:
  • Lower than expected growth for the next 18 months (while China converts its economy from export engine to one of productivity gains – President Xi wants 2010 GDP per capita doubled (Rule of 72= 72/7% GDP per year = 10 years) which means an objective of 7% growth per year, but most of this will be productivity driven which means investment first (hence lower growth), then higher.
  • Reduction of pollution = electrification of cars –  by 2030 100% of cars will be electric vehicles – this will catapult China to leadership in battery technology, E-engines, and pollution reduction. (Don’t forget that from 1900 to 1910/13 the US went from 100% horse carriages to 100% cars!)
  • High ratio of R&D and innovation to gain leadership. China is already dominant, but will be even more so in E-commerce, payments and fintech. (See McKinsey report below).
  • Slow gradual openness in capital account, more access to the market for foreigners and a big focus on converting global trade from USD to CNY.
  • Weaker CNY post-congress.
  • Major negative credit and growth impact on the rest of the world.

Change comes much faster than we human beings like – our brains are simply not designed to accept quick changes, and one of the few shortcomings of the brain is that it likes (and uses) the recent past to extrapolate the future. We think in a linear fashion but world the evolves in a super log-normal way. An excellent example is seen in the pictures below from New York in 1900 and 1913. Notice the difference in street traffic in the space of just 13 years.

I think the next 13 years will surpass those years in way back then in New York in terms of change, dynamics and how we act, analyse and live.

NYC 1900
NYC 1913
The upcoming 19th Party Congress is highly anticipated but we technically know most of what will be said courtesy of the modus operandi of The Party and the excellent work by Charles Panton(*) “predicting” the President Xi speech at the 19th Chinese Party Congress. Turns out most of  it is “given” and here is my copy-and-paste from Charles Panton’s work:

(*) Charles Parton worked as a diplomat in both the British and EU services, spending much of his career in China. Since retirement, he has set up his own consultancy, China Ink, as well as being London Director of China Policy and Special Adviser on China to the House of Commons Select Committee. He is shortly to return to Beijing as Internal Political Adviser to the British Embassy.

  • …a constant theme of Xi Jinping’s speeches is the need for innovation.
  • …he (President Xi) was in charge of the drafting of the report delivered to the 18th Party Congress by his predecessor Hu Jintao.
  • The deeper purposes of the Congress and the report are to reaffirm the Party’s importance to itself and to the nation.
  • “Ecological Construction‟, added “Making Great Efforts to Promote Ecological Progress”. Neither addition is surprising, given that Party legitimacy would be threatened by popular dissatisfaction if areas such as education, health, social security, as well as pollution and food safety, were not put higher up the political priority list.

There are likely to be 13 major sections….(See table below for 16th,17th and 18th Congress comparison…)

The Past Five Years. To judge from the past, this section will aim to set a positive tone in order to remind the Party and people that only the Party could have achieved China’s rise.

Party Theory and Ideology. This section is likely to be relatively short. It will restate the principal tenets of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” and the need for and benefits of reform and opening up. Xi has spent much of his first term emphasising the importance of ideology and continuity with the Party’s roots, so even if shorter, this section will be hard hitting.

Xi Jinping Thought, Theory or Concept? This congress may well see the apotheosis of Xi’s “important series of speeches” into “Xi Jinping Thought”, “Xi Jinping Theory” or the plain “Four Comprehensives”, Xi’s contribution to the CCP’s canon of Marxist-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Three Represents (of Jiang Zemin) and the Scientific Outlook on development (of Hu Jintao). The academic prophet, gazing at the Party’s liver to predict the future, will pronounce on the importance of the difference between an “ism”, “Thought”, “Theory” or just a simple description (as Jiang and Hu gained). In practice, what actually matters is that Xi is more powerful than his two predecessors at the start of a second term and may become more so than Deng: at the level of policymaking and personnel, he is getting his way, even if at the level of implementation and down among those who hold real power in China, the 2,862 Party county secretaries, his writ runs less effectively). But for what it is worth, I think that we shall be hearing of “Xi Jinping Thought”. Interestingly, an article in Research on Party Building magazine, a monthly publication on communist theory, published an article in its July edition on “Xi Jinping Thought”.

Building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. Traditionally, this short section looks forward to the big tasks of the next five years, mainly in the area of the “Five Constructions”(economic, political, cultural, social and environmental). It is likely also to remind cadres of the importance of themes dear to Xi Jinping’s heart, such as poverty alleviation, innovation, Belt and Road Initiative, corruption and Party discipline. And judging by the meetings of late July, the main theme, not surprisingly, will be稳中求进 “progress amid stability”, a phrase we shall see often.

The environment and ecology. This was a new section in the 18th Congress Report reflecting ecology’s rise to become one of the five “constructions” and its addition to the Party constitution. Quite apart from the lamentable state of the environment itself, a major driver for inclusion was the threat to social stability: according to some Chinese academics, around half of protests involving over 10,000 people had an environmental cause. (This is a new key in our opinion!)

Party building. This is always a lengthy and important section, hardly surprising, given that this is, after all, the Party’s congress and given that “comprehensively [and] strictly govern the Party‟ is one of the “Four Comprehensives”. The 18th Congress report was much harder and more urgent than its predecessors on ideals, faith in Party ideology, working for the people, corruption and discipline. This report is likely to be harder still. Over his first five years Xi has not just launched an unending and deep war on corruption, but also carried out a series of campaigns to instill discipline and cut abuse of public funds by cadres. It is traditional to have a section on intra-Party democracy and Party unity; we can expect the former to be more by way of lip-service, the latter to feature prominently. Xi will undoubtedly recommit to the war on corruption and is likely to doff his cap in the direction of the new National Supervision Commission, which is due to start work in earnest next March. Nor should it be forgotten that the Party Congress elects a new Central Commission for Discipline and Inspection.

16th-18th
chart
Charles Parton concludes:

“…but it will give an idea of how he views progress towards those reforms, the priority of tasks needed to ensure their full delivery over the next five years, his political thinking, and perhaps his perception of problems. Foremost among those are implementation (by officials) and trust (of the people). Xi and Premier Li Keqiang have spent much time in the last few years railing against vested interests and failure to implement set down policies. Trust from the people in the Party is in short supply. One of the purposes of the Report is to show the people that it is right to entrust governance to a single party. Most people buy the line that under the CCP China has taken back its rightful place in the world; they are less persuaded by the claim that the Party rules in their, rather than its own, interests. That could be a worry if economic or environmental factors set back further progress towards prosperity’”.

It’s important to understand that the “economic plan” for China in the next 5 years is already in place as the 13th five-year plan was initiated in July 2016 – there are a mere 219 pages to read up for you…. (Link – China Five-year plan).

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Here are a few takeaways:
  • Marxism-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, the Theory of Three Represents, and the Scientific Outlook on Development; and put into practice the guiding principles from General Secretary Xi Jinping’s major addresses.
  • The Chinese Dream of the rejuvenation of the nation and the core socialist values have gained a firm place in people’s hearts. China’s soft power has continued to become stronger. Notable achievements have been made in military reform with Chinese characteristics, and new steps have been taken to strengthen and revitalise the armed forces. A new phase has begun in the all-around strengthening of Party self-governance, and significant headway has been made in improving Party conduct and building a clean government. New heights have been reached in China’s economic strength, scientific and technological capabilities, defense capabilities, and international influence.
  • However, the need has become more pressing to improve the quality and efficiency of growth and transform and upgrade the economy. As the economy is experiencing a new normal of growth, there is a clearer trend toward a more advanced form of growth, improved divisions of labour, and a more rational structure. With the structure of consumption being more rapidly upgraded, broad market space, a strong material foundation, a complete industrial structure, an ample supply of funds, and abundant human capital, along with the cumulative effects of innovation that are beginning to show, our overall strengths are still notable. A new style of industrialisation, information technology adoption, urbanisation, and agricultural modernisation are experiencing deeper development, new drivers of growth are in the making, and new areas, poles, and belts of growth are becoming stronger. All-around efforts to deepen reform and make progress in the law-based governance of the country are unleashing new dynamism and bringing new vitality.
  • Maintain a medium-high rate of growth. While working to achieve more balanced, inclusive, and sustainable development, we need to ensure that China’s 2010 GDP and per capita personal income double by 2020, that major economic indicators are balanced, and that the quality and efficiency of development is significantly improved. Production will move toward the medium-high end, significant progress will be made in modernising agriculture, information technology will be further integrated into industrialisation, advanced manufacturing and strategic emerging industries will develop more rapidly, new industries and new forms of business will keep growing, and the service sector will come to account for a greater proportion of GDP.
  • Achieve significant results in innovation-driven development. We will pursue innovation-driven development, ensure that business startups and innovation flourish, and see that total factor productivity is markedly improved. Science and technology will become more deeply embedded in the economy, the ingredients needed for innovation will be allocated to greater effect, major breakthroughs will be made in core technologies in key sectors, and China’s capacity for innovation will see an all-around improvement. Fulfillment of these goals will help China become a talent-rich country of innovation.

The focus on innovation and the progress of it is somewhat surprising, at least to me:

McKinsey & Company’s report “China’s digital economy – a leading global force” is almost shocking!

China

Note: China has gone from 0.4% in 2005 to 42% in 2016, in mobile payment the Chinese do 11x more than the Americans, and most surprising of all, in Global Unicorns (start ups > $1 bn) China has 34 vs. US 46 but mostly the same valuation!

In terms of investment China is also already a global leader:

China

The context here is that China is 1/3 of the global growth impulse (source: IMF) and indirectly 50% of credit  – our own Christopher Dembik tracks the China Credit Impulse, which is the flow of credit:

credit impluse

This chart leads real economy by 9-12 months in other words. Nine months from now in mid-2018 China will be in severe slowdown, one which I believe China is creating through control of the banking system in order to to set up the release of productivity investments, where China comes from a level which is 20-30% of the US. The next five years will be one big technology R&D and innovation drive under “Chinese Characterstics”.

chart
 Source: Bloomberg LLP

Note: We see growth in 5.5% in 2018, 6.0% in 2019, and the current account @ 0% of GDP.

chart

Note: The slowdown in China is already dominant – add Credit Impulse and we have a negative contribution to global growth.

curency

Note: CNY is low down as a basket, but higher vs. USD “naked”. Overall China’s basket will have to drive lower in value to the tune of 1-2% per year.

This is all part of the plan and something President XI will be more confident in after the congress which will see him solidify his power.
Conclusion

China is changing and has changed more than the market gives it credit for – the typical Anglo-Saxon economist keeps his focus on banking system and debt, but unlikely the western world, China can accelerate growth through the release of productivity. The US, under President Trump, has chosen to “retire” from the global economy on the fundamentally flawed concept of America First while China is growing its importance, probably best illustrated by this chart:

chart

Source: Connectopraphy

Now China also wants a new world order in commodities. China will allow exporters to avoid USD payments for CNY or…. gold! A new gold standard? (LINK: Crude, Gold, CNY)

headline
 Source: Nikkei Asian Review

China is enjoying US indecision on foreign policy, which seems to be driven by indecision, spur of the moment changes and randomness. Opposite this sits China, with its One Belt, One Road, Asian Development Bank and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation – there are in excess of three billion people in this alliance – and with Pakistan and India joining in 2015 that number will be four billion by 2050.

The future belongs to the countries and companies which can command the consumers, no one is better placed than China (and India).
We are witnessing a geopolitical reality show where one hegemonic power, the US, almost voluntarily is giving up its dominance.
The result is clear to me:
King Dollar is dead, long live King CNY!

– Edited by Clare MacCarthy

Source: https://www.tradingfloor.com/posts/macro-digest-china-the-biggest-paradigm-shift-in-a-century-8983318

Steen Jakobsen is chief economist and CIO at Saxo Bank

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Buy Oil With Gold-Backed Currency—Bypassing US Petrodollars

In a second ground shaking move in a week, China has moved to introduce yuan denominated oil futures contracts. Settlement may be in yuan or gold. This has huge long term ramifications for the US dollar as world’s reserve currency.

The other move this week was the US Federal Reserve signally their intention next month to start reducing it’s balance sheet assets by $10 billion per month. Again, the long term ramifications for this is enormous but will not felt immediately.

By Jay Syrmopoulos via The Free Thought Project

In a direct challenge to U.S. imperialism, China’s yuan-denominated contracts – backed by gold -will let oil exporting countries bypass using the U.S. petrodollar.

Beijing, China – In an effort to hedge against U.S. hegemony, and what could be a global game-changer, the world’s top oil importer, China, is preparing to denominate crude oil futures contracts in Chinese yuan to be convertible into gold. The move would allow oil exporting countries to bypass benchmarks denominated in U.S. petrodollars — creating what will almost certainly be the most critical Asian oil benchmark, according to a report by Nikkei Asian Review.

Typically, crude oil is priced in relation to Brent or West Texas Intermediate futures, both denominated in U.S. dollars.

The move by the Chinese will allow oil exporting countries such as Iran and Russia to bypass U.S. sanctions by trading in yuan instead of U.S. dollars. The move is a direct result of the U.S. proclivity to use the dollar as a weapon against countries that refuse to bend to the imperial will of the United States. To make the yuan denominated contracts more appealing, China intends to make the yuan fully convertible to gold on the Shanghai and Hong Kong exchanges.

“The rules of the global oil game may begin to change enormously,” said Luke Gromen, founder of U.S.-based macroeconomic research company FFTT.

According to a report by OilPrice.com:

Last month, the Shanghai Futures Exchange and its subsidiary Shanghai International Energy Exchange, INE, successfully completed four tests in production environment for the crude oil futures, and the exchange continues with preparatory works for the listing of crude oil futures, aiming for the launch by the end of this year.

Yuan-backed oil and gold futures mean that users can be paid in physical gold, said Alasdair Macleod, head of research at Goldmoney, a gold-based financial services company based in Toronto.

While some potential foreign traders have expressed reservations that the contract would be priced in yuan, according to analysts who spoke to Nikkei Asian Review, backing the yuan-priced futures with gold would be appealing to oil exporters — especially to those that would rather avoid U.S. dollars in trade.

It is a mechanism which is likely to appeal to oil producers that prefer to avoid using dollars, and are not ready to accept that being paid in yuan for oil sales to China is a good idea either,” Macleod said.

These recent moves by the Chinese are part of a larger de-dollarization strategy by other world powers intent on creating a more multipolar global framework.

As we reported in July, the formation of a BRICS gold marketplace, which could bypass the U.S. Petrodollar in bilateral trade, continues to take shape as Russia’s largest bank, state-owned Sberbank, announced that its Swiss subsidiary had begun trading in gold on the Shanghai Gold Exchange.

Russian officials have repeatedly signaled that they plan to conduct transactions with China using gold as a means of marginalizing the power of the dollar in bilateral trade between the geopolitically powerful nations. This latest movement is quite simply the manifestation of a larger geopolitical game afoot between great powers.

report by the Centre for Research on Globalization clarifies the implications of these most recent moves by the Russians and the Chinese in an ongoing drive to replace the US petrodollar as the global reserve currency:

Fast forward to March 2017; the Russian Central Bank opened its first overseas office in Beijing as an early step in phasing in a gold-backed standard of trade. This would be done by finalizing the issuance of the first federal loan bonds denominated in Chinese yuan and to allow gold imports from Russia.

The Chinese government wishes to internationalize the yuan, and conduct trade in yuan as it has been doing, and is beginning to increase trade with Russia. They’ve been taking these steps with bilateral trading, native trading systems and so on. However, when Russia and China agreed on their bilateral US$400 billion pipeline deal, China wished to, and did, pay for the pipeline with yuan treasury bonds, and then later for Russian oil in yuan.

This evasion of, and unprecedented breakaway from, the reign of the US dollar monetary system is taking many forms, but one of the most threatening is the Russians trading Chinese yuan for gold. The Russians are already taking Chinese yuan, made from the sales of their oil to China, back to the Shanghai Gold Exchange to then buy gold with yuan-denominated gold futures contracts – basically a barter system or trade.

The Chinese are hoping that by starting to assimilate the yuan futures contract for oil, facilitating the payment of oil in yuan, the hedging of which will be done in Shanghai, it will allow the yuan to be perceived as a primary currency for trading oil. The world’s top importer (China) and exporter (Russia) are taking steps to convert payments into gold. This is known. So, who would be the greatest asset to lure into trading oil for yuan? The Saudis, of course.

All the Chinese need is for the Saudis to sell China oil in exchange for yuan. If the House of Saud decides to pursue that exchange, the Gulf petro-monarchies will follow suit, and then Nigeria, and so on. This will fundamentally threaten the petrodollar.

“In 2014 Russia and China signed two mammoth 30-year contracts for Russian gas to China. The contracts specified that the exchange would be done in Renminbi [yuan] and Russian rubles, not in dollars. That was the beginning of an accelerating process of de-dollarization that is underway today,” according to strategic risk consultant F. William Engdahl.

Russia and China are now creating a new paradigm for the world economy andpaving the way for a global de-dollarization.

“A Russian-Chinese alternative to the dollar in the form of a gold-backed ruble and gold-backed Renminbi or yuan, could start a snowball exit from the US dollar, and with it, a severe decline in America’s ability to use the reserve dollar role to finance her wars with other peoples’ money,” Engdahl concludes.

About the Author

Jay Syrmopoulos is a geopolitical analyst, freethinker, and ardent opponent of authoritarianism. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Denver pursuing a masters in Global Affairs and holds a BA in International Relations. Jay’s writing has been featured on both mainstream and independent media – and has been viewed tens of millions of times. You can follow him on Twitter @SirMetropolis and on Facebook at SirMetropolis.
Source: https://truththeory.com/2017/09/13/china-moves-new-world-order-will-buy-oil-gold-backed-currency-bypassing-us-petrodollar/

German Federal Election 2017 Outcome

Germany’s Federal election 2017, is due to be held this Sunday 24th September. It could prove illuminating about the political fortunes of Germany and the EU at large.

Don’t hold your breath however. It looks like more of the same. Even if there is a reduced majority held by the CDU/CSU coalition under Angela Merkel, German stocks should rally off the back of the election result. The rally will be a muted affair however.

EURUSD will also rally in line with our previously published forecast of 1.22-1.23. There is not enough of a biased sentiment to be able to predict an outcome based on the “Law of Contrary Opinion”.

It seems the important game changing news is more to do with the US Federal Reserve decision. They plan to wind down its balance sheet which will have far lasting repercussions.

Financial Markets Update 20092017

The US Federal Reserve concludes its two day meeting later today. It’s timely to recap where we are with market activity and our long term picture we call The End of the Long Game 2009-2018. The Fed will be signalling their intention to shrink the Fed balance sheet which sits at around $4.5 trillion. In effect this function can be seen as deflationary. As market traders comment, its akin to “taking the punch bowl away at the end of the party”. The main game which has been in play since the 1990’s is about to change in a very big way.

US Stocks

Stocks are completing the last few squiggles of it’s rise from March 2009. Stocks are running on fumes now and we anticipate stock market activity to be choppy as it makes its final highs.

Will there be a big crash in October? No, we don’t think so but it will prove to be frustrating and choppy. Will there be a final spike, like 1929? Maybe. It doesn’t matter unless you are a trader with instant access. We have entered a phase where it is prudent to reduce risk. Certainly the DJIA can spike 1000-2000 points in a last gasp. Can the market run to the end of the year? We think so and that is our likely time target for the final top. Very late December into early January 2018. Something would have to change substantially to see a continued up move well into 2018.

Courtesy TradingView (www.tradingview.com)

It’s quite likely we’ll see stocks stagger into the top based on money supply growth rates which have remained weak over the last 6 months. Money supply growth gives asset values like stocks and property the juice to rise as they have done since 2009.

Our targets for a major top in US stocks is for the DJIA to reach as high as 25000 (SP500 2800) in a blow off final frenzy. Alternatively the major indices will wimper out between DJIA 22500 – 24000 (SP500 2520-  2688)

Gold

We had predicted gold would move to US$1525+/- in a counter correction to the long down move since 2011. It now looks like the deflationary forces gathering give rise to some darker alternatives.

Our bull scenario suggests that from around US$1290-$1305 we will see prices rise off the back of a weaker US dollar (see below). That move we see as very short term, a case of 1-2 weeks absolute max. Potential targets include US$1375 and US$1460.

Given that this is a counter correction in a long term correction phase we would anticipate the long term downward trend to reassert itself. We are looking for a long term target of US $770 and possibly lower.

Our bear scenario suggests prices move sideways from here before entering the downward move suggested above. That sideways range of US$1190 – US$1330 would indicate the underlying weakness in the global economy and markets.

US Dollar

Dollar Index 1970 – Present (Courtesy tradingview.com)

The dollar has been wrapping up the last phases of a consolidation time. Political force has been used to get the dollar lower to enhance US export activity. Essentially there has been a currency war in progress. Battling central banks around the world using interest rates and money printing to create a trading advantage for exporters.

Having come off it’s highs in 2017 we believe it is clearly a correction phase. That phase may be coming to an end now or in a couple of weeks time. We believe the US dollar is about to get very strong making new highs above the 2017 highs and potentially to the 2000/2001 highs.

Looking at individual pairs:

EURUSD: We see extending off the back of the US Fed meeting an advance to 1.22-1.23 and reversal back down with the EUR weakening over the coming months. Expect the German elections to play an important part in October and further developments in the Brexit negotiation talks impact on the Euro.

AUDUSD: In the short term may continue to advance into the 82-84 cent region before the longer term US dollar trend reasserts itself. Australia seems to be privileged in being the economy “leading the way” as political confidence continues to fail, bringing economic confidence with it.  This is also reflected in the stock market.

USDJPY: The dollar/yen may already have bottomed and is moving ahead of other pairs.

GBPUSD: Like the AUD and EUR we see it continuing to extend in the final phase of it’s rally. It will come under the influence of US dollar as that currency reasserts itself in the coming weeks/months.

Interest Rates

The impact of the Fed unwinding it’s balance sheet will, in the very short term have little impact on markets. The announcements due today may shake markets. In the longer term, as the Fed continues with balance sheet shrinkage, we will see the impact of tightening liquidity and ultimately raised interest rates. The Fed is keen not to panic the markets or the economy. The effect however will be to close an interest rate trap as rates rise and people holding long bonds are caught with losses.

In particular, pension funds have suffered with low interest rates. They have been forced to chase yield by buying lower quality assets or go offshore to buy foreign currency denominated yielding assets. They are set to extend their suffering as they get caught once again.

Similarly governments have profited by borrowing at low interest rates. They are going to find themselves with a rapidly blown out interest bill. We can comfortably predict (as economist Martin Armstrong says) “the hunt for taxes” will escalate to new levels previously unheard of.

This hunt for taxes, over-regulation of economies and peoples alike will set in motion a chain of events for liberal-democratic nations including civil disruption, secession of states and the ending of empires over the coming decades. If prudence prevails we may see the emergence of The Coming Four D’s.

BitCoin

BTCUSD 6 Months (Courtesy Bitcoin Charts)

We published our prediction for BTC to peak in a parabolic move on 07/09/17. It did shortly after without the added frenzy we were anticipating. It then fell some US$1392 or 29% before stabilizing. We view further falls lie ahead in the short term. There is only a low probability that BTC can make new highs soon. We need more time and price action to unfold before confirming this. For now, expect BTC to enter a prolonged consolidation phase.

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The coming changes to the financial market game will have a vast impact on economies and societies in the years and decades ahead. These changes are merely the impact of mistakes made in the past. Human history repeats itself. This is in keeping with our long term predictions. It is only the capitulation of  government’s desire to control everything and everyone that we see a new era emerge. By then the nature of the world will have changed forever. New generations of people will again move to repeat the glories and mistakes of the past.

The Coming Four D’s

Over the last 17 years we have witnessed an increasing loss of confidence by voters in liberal democratic governments around the world. The 17 years have truly exposed the fact that politicians have personal agendas beyond serving the needs of their electorates. As political confidence fails, economic confidence fails soon after. Despite confidence failing, the economy seems to totter on fuelled by the vast money expansion of the last 9 years, unprecedented in human history.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in Australia where voters prefer having a “hung parliament” than trusting government. Many Australians feel a sense of unease that something has gone terribly wrong with the “lucky country”. The spontaneous ordering of the Australian electoral process has delivered a series of difficult to govern parliaments reflecting the wishes of voters to minimize damage to themselves. Unfortunately, this situation is also leading to the collapse of political confidence in this country. When that happens, economic confidence fails soon after. Many indicators illustrate an underpinning weakness of the Australian economy and this is accelerating.

Emerging Events foresee a time coming (very soon now) when “The Four D’s” will come to bear in most liberal democratic countries around the world including Australia.

These Four D’s, like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are:

  1. Deleveraging (reduce debt). In Australia it is not so much public debt that is the issue like the US, Japan, UK, Italy, France and others but private debt held in the form of home loans, car loans and consumer loans. Australians today are loaded with debt and at risk of a severe downturn in the economy and property prices. Remember that any debt is a claim on future labour.

2. Deregulation. Over the last 40 years we have seen a massive growth in the amount of red tape choking our ability to get up and achieve. It was Frederick Hayek, the famous Nobel Prize winning economist who said “there is no better way to enslave a people than to enmesh them in a fine set of regulations”. Disempowering career politicians is a powerful solution to ending their crony ways and getting more people into parliament with real world experience. It can be done by setting term limits for politicians. Let them “serve” the electorate for just a few terms before thanking them and sending them on their way.

Unfortunately politicians need to be seen to be doing their job and of course that job involves passing legislation. It’s actually cheaper to send all those Federal politicians on junket trips overseas than to see them pumping out more legislation. Their need to regulate your life is the Progressive agenda and Progressivism is the “strong presumption that government intervention (force) will produce a better result than voluntary society”. In other words, they know better than you how you should lead your life.

3. Deflating the economy. This really means letting prices of everything find their own level rather than being artificially propped up. Since most asset values are overpriced anyway given the quantity of paper money that has been inflated enormously over the last 40 odd years. What we are suggesting is the value of money be allowed to recalibrate at 2016 values to allow money to once again represent a store of value as property, shares, and others assets do today. In other words it should have equal status as an asset.

The best way of achieving this is by making money a store of value again, thereby stopping politicians from endless borrowing and creating endless inflation. While 1 or 2 % inflation may not seem much, it is enough to keep you like a rat on a treadmill, constantly grinding to maintain your standard of living. It doesn’t have to be this way folks. The rising perception that inequality is increasing in many liberal democratic countries stems directly from the expansion of money supply.

  1. The first three D’s will happen regardless of all the politicians and all their minions’ attempts to control the levers of the economy and society at large. The belief they have any control is delusional at best and the consequence of this belief in the long term is, inevitably, a totalitarian state. The fourth D, possibly the most important is up to us and possibly the most important in securing all the rights and privileges available to you from the liberal-democratic tradition you have inherited. The fourth D is about decentralizing or devolving power now concentrated in the hands of federal government. By that I mean we need to devolve power concentrated in the hands of federal government to state and local governments.

We need to remember the political class makes its living from centralized power and the attendant division it causes. But why should ordinary Australians accept the false choice between one brand of centralized government and another, when the obvious solution is staring us in the face? Breaking up power politically is far more practical, and far more humane.

There are two pressing questions you need to ask yourself. Is centralized governance desirable in a vast country like Australia with a population of 24 million people? More importantly is it even really possible? Are overarching political solutions workable, or does politics simply enrich Canberra politicians while feeding the rapidly deteriorating social and economic wellbeing most Australians are experiencing?

In politics, the principle that a central authority such as a federal government should have a lesser function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed at a more local level is called “subsidiarity“. Subsidiarity as a peaceful approach for devolving centralized power is the first step toward making government smaller and less powerful in our lives. National and even supra-national governments are the biggest threats to human liberty and flourishing because they have a monopoly on violence and coercion: armies, police, missiles, central banks, economic sanctions, centralised taxation, healthcare and welfare. These are the elements of systemic contagion that should terrify us.

Decentralization of power requires more than just devolution of a few powers here or there, but a society-wide commitment to transferring power, authority, and responsibility back to the grass roots. From federal to state, from state to local government. A diverse society can sustain itself peacefully when its members are committed to solving problems as locally as possible, involving higher levels of government only when absolutely necessary.

Your local council may be incompetent, but at the very least it is far more accessible to you. Its damage is likely to be contained, and your ability to change local council may only require moving a few suburbs away.

Subsidiarity is the most realistic and pragmatic approach to creating more freedom in our lifetimes. Winning majority support for supposedly universalist political principles is a daunting challenge. We would do well instead to consider the Swiss federal model, which champions the subsidiarity principle where:

Powers are allocated to the Confederation, the cantons and the communes in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. Note this was how the Australian constitution was originally set up.

The Confederation only undertakes tasks that cantons (equivalent of shires) are unable to perform or which require uniform regulation by the Confederation.

Under the principle of subsidiarity, nothing that can be done at a lower political level should be done at a higher level.

One of the problems the EU faces at present is that they have lost sight of the subsidiarity principle. More and more control has been handed to Brussels. This is one of the factors why many Britons decided to vote to leave the EU.

Imagine Bill Shorten or Malcolm Turnbull campaigning on the idea in 2019: “I can’t claim to know what’s best for Maroubra, Sydney or Frankston, Victoria or Bunbury, Western Australia in every situation. I’m not omnipotent, and neither are the 150 members of the Commonwealth House of Representatives. We should leave most things up to the people who actually live in those towns. Vote for me if you agree.”

Subsidiarity is not perfect, just better. Freedom, in the political sense of the word, means the ability to live without government coercion. It does not mean the ability to live under broadly agreed-upon social norms, simply because truly universalist political norms are so elusive.

Free societies don’t attempt to impose themselves politically on electoral minorities any more than they attempt to impose themselves militarily on neighboring countries. Politically unyoking different constituencies in Australia makes far more sense than attempting to contain the hatred and division created by mass majority outcomes.

The world is moving toward decentralization, flattening itself and replacing hierarchies with networks. Subsidiary is real diversity in practice and a key solution to restoring the inequities that have arisen in our societies.

Whether we embrace these Four D’s or not, some or all of them will soon be imposed on us anyway.

The Coming Four D’s

Emerging Events examines The Coming Four D’s where Deleveraging, Deregulation, Deflation and Decentralization become the driving forces of change in liberal-democratic nations around the world.

The article focuses on Australia which exemplifies many of the problems liberal-democratic nations face today. We show how “subsidiarity” can bring a peaceful, more content and free society by devolving centralized power.

BitCoin Prediction

Bitcoin is completing its final consolidation phase prior to a final blow off move. The market for Bitcoin has risen in a parabolic pattern (think 1929 US stock market, Tulip Bulb Craze, Gold in 1980). In chart terms this leads to a final frenzy of speculative activity before a massive plunge. The game is getting ready to change.

In a parabolic move it is impossible to predict the final highs. They are the function of time and the shape of the parabola. Once the time function has been completed, the market is floating in pure air, the bid having been exhausted and like the coyote in the Road-Runner Show, a vertical plunge begins. The dreams of speculators are smashed.

 

We can draw some longer term predictions from this of course – the first being that we will not see the new highs being regained for at least 10 years, if ever. Usually it takes a new generation of people with the right economic circumstances to relearn the mistakes of the past. The new downturn should draw US$ bitcoin prices back to the US$1100 – US$1500 level over the next 5-10 years. There will be massive counter-rallies from time to time but ultimately, the trend will be down.

We can also observe this final phase is occurring in conjunction with a long term top in US stock markets and possibly an interim high in Gold and Oil. Refer to other recent posts to get an update. The amazing Bitcoin Bubble is just another part of our long term scenario as we mop up the last few stages. Also of interest is how the cryptocurrency mania has absorbed the speculative imagination of investors away from traditional investment mediums such as stocks or property. That is not to say those markets are not overbought or “hot”.

Ray Kurzweil Predicts Technology Will End Nation States

 Countries Are Over

More to the point, humanity cannot afford nation states. Since 1900, between 260 – 280 million people have been murdered by nation state governments. This is simply not right.

Political Risk 2 – Reflections

We reported (04/06/2017) prior to the UK General Election 2017:

There is a minor risk of a hung parliament where, like 2010, the new government may have to collaborate to hold office. This would make managing the Brexit process untenable. The loss of political and economic confidence that would ensue would bring chaos to the UK. Should there be an outright victory to Labor, we would see a reversion to the 1950/70’s style politics that would also be a disaster.

Little did we realize how close to the mark we would be. PM May’s electoral disaster has profound repercussions for the UK. Firstly Brexit becomes a challenge at the negotiation table because of the weakened hand PM May presents to the EU. Secondly, Jeremy Corbyn’s success at the polls will force the Conservatives to move to the centre-left of UK politics to capture Corbyn’s new found friends – the 18-34 year demographic that has recently discovered politics and utopian self-interest.

This is a disaster for the UK and will not end well. May’s leadership will be under constant challenge for the next 5 years. One of her few chances of success depends on being able to negotiate a quick exit from the EU. This is unlikely.

As has happened in Australia in 2016, the UK and with a 9% confidence level in US Congress reflecting the rising distrust voters have for politicians. This is a trend that will continue around the world for the foreseeable future. The unintended consequence of voter distrust however is that political confidence begins to fail and economic confidence collapses soon after.

In the United States the Democratic – Republican flash point continues to escalate. President Trump is beginning to claw back a few points against the “Deep State” influence working inside government. Investigations are building cases on leaks and corruption. Trump is slowly gaining momentum with his agenda despite the continual challenge of the left agenda.

Unfortunately the first directly attributable acts of violence have occurred with a Republican Congressman and two police officers wounded at an annual practice baseball session for Congress politicians. The use of violence in political discourse is inherently evil itself and not in keeping with the liberal-democratic tradition that has benefited humanity. Since 2015 we have witnessed an increasing breakdown of civil discourse – a cornerstone of a free society. This marks the first violence of the civil strife we predict emerging in the US. We anticipate this will continue to escalate over the next few years. It will not end well and directly reflects the internal divisions that continue to rent US civil society.

At the same time we move slowly towards The End of the Long Game, the last gasp of the “Industrial Revolution Cycle” that commenced in 1783. We still view the September 2017 – March 2018 time window as the time for that final top, to be followed by the downward phase of the cycle. As always rebirth follows endings and the advance of humanity continues.

This worsening political discord in the US and other liberal democratic countries merely reflect the changing cycle mentioned previously. Given the magnitude of the cycle involved – one that builds and destroys empires, we can glimpse directly at the political and economic forces shaping events and the changes to come.

This is how Big Oil will die

From WHMP / clipart.com

It’s 2025, and 800,000 tons of used high strength steel is coming up for auction.

The steel made up the Keystone XL pipeline, finally completed in 2019, two years after the project launched with great fanfare after approval by the Trump administration. The pipeline was built at a cost of about $7 billion, bringing oil from the Canadian tar sands to the US, with a pit stop in the town of Baker, Montana, to pick up US crude from the Bakken formation. At its peak, it carried over 500,000 barrels a day for processing at refineries in Texas and Louisiana.

But in 2025, no one wants the oil.

The Keystone XL will go down as the world’s last great fossil fuels infrastructure project. TransCanada, the pipeline’s operator, charged about $10 per barrel for the transportation services, which means the pipeline extension earned about $5 million per day, or $1.8 billion per year. But after shutting down less than four years into its expected 40 year operational life, it never paid back its costs.

The Keystone XL closed thanks to a confluence of technologies that came together faster than anyone in the oil and gas industry had ever seen. It’s hard to blame them — the transformation of the transportation sector over the last several years has been the biggest, fastest change in the history of human civilization, causing the bankruptcy of blue chip companies like Exxon Mobil and General Motors, and directly impacting over $10 trillion in economic output.

And blame for it can be traced to a beguilingly simple, yet fatal problem: the internal combustion engine has too many moving parts.  

The Cummins Diesel Engine, US Patent #2,408,298, filed April 1943, awarded Sept 24, 1946

Let’s bring this back to today: Big Oil is perhaps the most feared and respected industry in history. Oil is warming the planet — cars and trucks contribute about 15% of global fossil fuels emissions — yet this fact barely dents its use. Oil fuels the most politically volatile regions in the world, yet we’ve decided to send military aid to unstable and untrustworthy dictators, because their oil is critical to our own security. For the last century, oil has dominated our economics and our politics. Oil is power.

Yet I argue here that technology is about to undo a century of political and economic dominance by oil. Big Oil will be cut down in the next decade by a combination of smartphone apps, long-life batteries, and simpler gearing. And as is always the case with new technology, the undoing will occur far faster than anyone thought possible.

To understand why Big Oil is in far weaker a position than anyone realizes, let’s take a closer look at the lynchpin of oil’s grip on our lives: the internal combustion engine, and the modern vehicle drivetrain.

BMW 8 speed automatic transmission, showing lots of fine German engineered gearing. From Euro Car News.

Cars are complicated.

Behind the hum of a running engine lies a carefully balanced dance between sheathed steel pistons, intermeshed gears, and spinning rods — a choreography that lasts for millions of revolutions. But millions is not enough, and as we all have experienced, these parts eventually wear, and fail. Oil caps leak. Belts fray. Transmissions seize.

To get a sense of what problems may occur, here is a list of the most common vehicle repairs from 2015:

  1. Replacing an oxygen sensor — $249
  2. Replacing a catalytic converter — $1,153
  3. Replacing ignition coil(s) and spark plug(s) — $390
  4. Tightening or replacing a fuel cap — $15
  5. Thermostat replacement — $210
  6. Replacing ignition coil(s) — $236
  7. Mass air flow sensor replacement — $382
  8. Replacing spark plug wire(s) and spark plug(s) — $331
  9. Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purge control valve — $168
  10. Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purging solenoid — $184

And this list raises an interesting observation: None of these failures exist in an electric vehicle.

The point has been most often driven home by Tony Seba, a Stanford professor and guru of “disruption”, who revels in pointing out that an internal combustion engine drivetrain contains about 2,000 parts, while an electric vehicle drivetrain contains about 20. All other things being equal, a system with fewer moving parts will be more reliable than a system with more moving parts.

And that rule of thumb appears to hold for cars. In 2006, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimated that the average vehicle, built solely on internal combustion engines, lasted 150,000 miles.

Current estimates for the lifetime today’s electric vehicles are over 500,000 miles.

The ramifications of this are huge, and bear repeating. Ten years ago, when I bought my Prius, it was common for friends to ask how long the battery would last — a battery replacement at 100,000 miles would easily negate the value of improved fuel efficiency. But today there are anecdotal stories of Prius’s logging over 600,000 miles on a single battery.

The story for Teslas is unfolding similarly. Tesloop, a Tesla-centric ride-hailing company has already driven its first Model S for more 200,000 miles, and seen only an 6% loss in battery life. A battery lifetime of 1,000,000 miles may even be in reach.

This increased lifetime translates directly to a lower cost of ownership: extending an EVs life by 3–4 X means an EVs capital cost, per mile, is 1/3 or 1/4 that of a gasoline-powered vehicle. Better still, the cost of switching from gasoline to electricity delivers another savings of about 1/3 to 1/4 per mile. And electric vehicles do not need oil changes, air filters, or timing belt replacements; the 200,000 mile Tesloop never even had its brakes replaced. The most significant repair cost on an electric vehicle is from worn tires.

For emphasis: The total cost of owning an electric vehicle is, over its entire life, roughly 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of a gasoline-powered vehicle.

Of course, with a 500,000 mile life a car will last 40–50 years. And it seems absurd to expect a single person to own just one car in her life.

But of course a person won’t own just one car. The most likely scenario is that, thanks to software, a person won’t own any.


Here is the problem with electric vehicle economics: A dollar today, invested into the stock market at a 7% average annual rate of return, will be worth $15 in 40 years. Another way of saying this is the value, today, of that 40th year of vehicle use is approximately 1/15th that of the first.

The consumer simply has little incentive to care whether or not a vehicle lasts 40 years. By that point the car will have outmoded technology, inefficient operation, and probably a layer of rust. No one wants their car to outlive their marriage.

But that investment logic looks very different if you are driving a vehicle for a living.

A New York City cab driver puts in, on average, 180 miles per shift (well within the range of a modern EV battery), or perhaps 50,000 miles per work year. At that usage rate, the same vehicle will last roughly 10 years. The economics, and the social acceptance, get better.

And if the vehicle was owned by a cab company, and shared by drivers, the miles per year can perhaps double again. Now the capital is depreciated in 5 years, not 10. This is, from a company’s perspective, a perfectly normal investment horizon.

A fleet can profit from an electric vehicle in a way that an individual owner cannot.

Here is a quick, top-down analysis on what it’s worth to switch to EVs: The IRS allows charges of 53.5¢ per mile in 2017, a number clearly derived for gasoline vehicles. At 1/4 the price, a fleet electric vehicle should cost only 13¢ per mile, a savings of 40¢ per mile.

40¢ per mile is not chump change — if you are a NYC cab driver putting 50,000 miles a year onto a vehicle, that’s $20,000 in savings each year. But a taxi ride in NYC today costs $2/mile; that same ride, priced at $1.60 per mile, will still cost significantly more than the 53.5¢ for driving the vehicle you already own. The most significant cost of driving is still the driver.

But that, too, is about to change. Self-driving taxis are being tested this year in Pittsburgh, Phoenix, and Boston, as well as Singapore, Dubai, and Wuzhen, China.

And here is what is disruptive for Big Oil: Self-driving vehicles get to combine the capital savings from the improved lifetime of EVs, with the savings from eliminating the driver.

The costs of electric self-driving cars will be so low, it will be cheaper to hail a ride than to drive the car you already own.


Today we view automobiles not merely as transportation, but as potent symbols of money, sex, and power. Yet cars are also fundamentally a technology. And history has told us that technologies can be disrupted in the blink of an eye.

Take as an example my own 1999 job interview with the Eastman Kodak company. It did not go well.

At the end of 1998, my father had gotten me a digital camera as a present to celebrate completion of my PhD. The camera took VGA resolution pictures — about 0.3 megapixels — and saved them to floppy disks. By comparison, a conventional film camera had a nominal resolution of about 6 megapixels. When printed, my photos looked more like impressionist art than reality.

However, that awful, awful camera was really easy to use. I never had to go to the store to buy film. I never had to get pictures printed. I never had to sort through a shoebox full of crappy photos. Looking at pictures became fun. 

Wife, with mildly uncooperative cat, January 1999. Photo is at the camera’s original resolution.

I asked my interviewer what Kodak thought of the rise of digital; she replied it was not a concern, that film would be around for decades. I looked at her like she was nuts. But she wasn’t nuts, she was just deep in the Kodak culture, a world where film had always been dominant, and always would be.

This graph plots the total units sold of film cameras (grey) versus digital (blue, bars cut off). In 1998, when I got my camera, the market share of digital wasn’t even measured. It was a rounding error.

By 2005, the market share of film cameras were a rounding error.

A plot of the rise of digital cameras (blue) and the fall of analog (grey). Original from Mayflower via mirrorlessrumors, slightly modified for use here.

In seven years, the camera industry had flipped. The film cameras went from residing on our desks, to a sale on Craigslist, to a landfill. Kodak, a company who reached a peak market value of $30 billion in 1997, declared bankruptcy in 2012. An insurmountable giant was gone.

That was fast. But industries can turn even faster: In 2007, Nokia had 50% of the mobile phone market, and its market cap reached $150 billion. But that was also the year Apple introduced the first smartphone. By the summer of 2012, Nokia’s market share had dipped below 5%, and its market cap fell to just $6 billion.

In less than five years, another company went from dominance to afterthought.A quarter-by-quarter summary of Nokia’s market share in cell phones. From Statista.

Big Oil believes it is different. I am less optimistic for them.

An autonomous vehicle will cost about $0.13 per mile to operate, and even less as battery life improves. By comparison, your 20 miles per gallon automobile costs $0.10 per mile to refuel if gasoline is $2/gallon, and that is before paying for insurance, repairs, or parking. Add those, and the price of operating a vehicle you have already paid off shoots to $0.20 per mile, or more.

And this is what will kill oil: It will cost less to hail an autonomous electric vehicle than to drive the car that you already own.

If you think this reasoning is too coarse, consider the recent analysis from the consulting company RethinkX (run by the aforementioned Tony Seba), which built a much more detailed, sophisticated model to explicitly analyze the future costs of autonomous vehicles. Here is a sampling of what they predict:

  • Self-driving cars will launch around 2021
  • A private ride will be priced at 16¢ per mile, falling to 10¢ over time.
  • A shared ride will be priced at 5¢ per mile, falling to 3¢ over time.
  • By 2022, oil use will have peaked
  • By 2023, used car prices will crash as people give up their vehicles. New car sales for individuals will drop to nearly zero.
  • By 2030, gasoline use for cars will have dropped to near zero, and total crude oil use will have dropped by 30% compared to today.

The driver behind all this is simple: Given a choice, people will select the cheaper option.

Your initial reaction may be to believe that cars are somehow different — they are built into the fabric of our culture. But consider how people have proven more than happy to sell seemingly unyielding parts of their culture for far less money. Think about how long a beloved mom and pop store lasts after Walmart moves into town, or how hard we try to “Buy American” when a cheaper option from China emerges.

And autonomous vehicles will not only be cheaper, but more convenient as well — there is no need to focus on driving, there will be fewer accidents, and no need to circle the lot for parking. And your garage suddenly becomes a sunroom.

For the moment, let’s make the assumption that the RethinkX team has their analysis right (and I broadly agree[1]): Self-driving EVs will be approved worldwide starting around 2021, and adoption will occur in less than a decade.

How screwed is Big Oil?


Perhaps the metaphors with film camera or cell phones are stretched. Perhaps the better way to analyze oil is to consider the fate of another fossil fuel: coal.

The coal market is experiencing a shock today similar to what oil will experience in the 2020s. Below is a plot of total coal production and consumption in the US, from 2001 to today. As inexpensive natural gas has pushed coal out of the market, coal consumption has dropped roughly 25%, similar to the 30% drop that RethinkX anticipates for oil. And it happened in just a decade.

Coal consumption has dropped 25% from its peak. From the Kleinman Center for Energy Policy.

The result is not pretty. The major coal companies, who all borrowed to finance capital improvements while times were good, were caught unaware. As coal prices crashed, their loan payments became a larger and larger part of their balance sheets; while the coal companies could continue to pay for operations, they could not pay their creditors.

The four largest coal producers lost 99.9% of their market value over the last 6 years. Today, over half of coal is being mined by companies in some form of bankruptcy.

The four largest coal companies had a combined market value of approximately zero in 2016. This image is one element of a larger graphic on the collapse of coal from Visual Capitalist.

When self-driving cars are released, consumption of oil will similarly collapse.

Oil drilling will cease, as existing fields become sufficient to meet demand. Refiners, whose huge capital investments are dedicated to producing gasoline for automobiles, will write off their loans, and many will go under entirely. Even some pipeline operators, historically the most profitable portion of the oil business, will be challenged as high cost supply such as the Canadian tar sands stop producing.

A decade from now, many investors in oil may be wiped out. Oil will still be in widespread use, even under this scenario — applications such as road tarring are not as amenable to disruption by software. But much of today’s oil drilling, transport, and refining infrastructure will be redundant, or ill-fit to handle the heavier oils needed for powering ships, heating buildings, or making asphalt. And like today’s coal companies, oil companies like TransCanada may have no money left to clean up the mess they’ve left.


Of course, it would be better for the environment, investors, and society if oil companies curtailed their investing today, in preparation for the long winter ahead. Belief in global warming or the risks of oil spills is no longer needed to oppose oil projects — oil infrastructure like the Keystone XL will become a stranded asset before it can ever return its investment.

Unless we have the wisdom not to build it.

The battle over oil has historically been a personal battle — a skirmish between tribes over politics and morality, over how we define ourselves and our future. But the battle over self-driving cars will be fought on a different front. It will be about reliability, efficiency, and cost. And for the first time, Big Oil will be on the weaker side.

Within just a few years, Big Oil will stagger and start to fall. For anyone who feels uneasy about this, I want to emphasize that this prediction isn’t driven by environmental righteousness or some left-leaning fantasy. It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.



[1] Thinking about how fast a technology will flip is worth another post on its own. Suffice it to say that the key issues are (1) how big is the improvement?, and (2) is there a channel to market already established? The improvement in this case is a drop in cost of >2X — that’s pretty large. And the channel to market — smartphones — is already deployed. As of a year ago, 15% of Americans had hailed a ride using an app, so there is a small barrier to entry as people learn this new behavior, but certainly no larger than the barrier to smartphone adoption was in 2007. So as I said, I broadly believe that the roll-out will occur in about a decade. But any more detail would require an entirely new post.

Source: https://medium.com/@sethmiller_59231/this-is-how-big-oil-will-die-38b843bd4fe0

 

How Small Events Trigger Large Events in Politics & Economics

The following video illustrates the power of small events to trigger large events. The Great Depression of 1929-33  was triggered, for example, by the default of a small bank in Austria called Creditanstalt. It declared bankruptcy on 11 May 1931 and was one of the first major bank failures that initiated the Great Depression at a global level.

Domino Chain Reaction

 As Henry Hazlitt explains:

“the bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond. The bad economist sees only the direct consequences of the proposed course; the good economist looks also at the longer and indirect consequences.”  

Nowhere is the power of small events more apparent than in politics and economics. The recent UK General Election has unleashed a bevy of unintended consequences some of which will not be realized for decades to come.

Political Risk in 2017-2018

In the UK, the conservatives it appears, will win a reduced majority to govern the UK and Brexit process. It is also clear that a loss or hung parliament  for the Conservatives will set the UK back a hundred years politically and economically in the confusion and discord it would sew.

There is a minor risk of a hung parliament where, like 2010, the new government may have to collaborate to hold office. This would make managing the Brexit process untenable. The loss of political and economic confidence that would ensue would bring chaos to the UK. Should there be an outright victory to Labor, we would see a reversion to the 1950/70’s style politics that would also be a disaster.

So, the stakes are just as high as they were in June 2016. What was a ‘sure thing’ bet at the start of the election process has become marginal at a time when the consequences are high. The spontaneous ordering of the voting process may check politicians from being able to achieve their agenda at the expense of the national interest. What hubris by PM May who put personal agenda ahead of the national political interest.

This is typical of the problems found in liberal democracies. Liberal democracies around the world are dying. Voters are cynical of the promises and ability of politicians to achieve anything.

Flag - EU 12Ironically, the EU have hailed Macron’s victory as a sign that right wing populism has peaked and in remission. With no mirror for self reflection the EU elite are back at ‘business as usual’. “Nothing to look at here – move on”! They needed a Le Pen win to shock them into making real change. Macron’s victory has only deferred the inevitable by a year. Meanwhile, the political change that is sweeping the world at present will continue with German elections in October this year. Merkel it appears is set for a heavy defeat.

And in the USA the left wing is continuing its attempt to undermine President Trump and effectively ignore the rule of law. Left wing forces operating at every level of US media, government and politics are moving to impeach Trump. Meanwhile the silent majority that elected Trump are watching and waiting and growing angry.

The last time we saw his level of scale of political unrest was 1740 – 1785 culminating in the French Revolution. The rising tide of political unrest in the USA, UK and EU is polarized by left vs right as well as the elite vs the people. Remember, when political confidence falters, economic confidence falls soon after. This is what is happening now. As pressures continue to mount in the USA and EU there is increasing risk of civil strife breaking out.

The phase June 2017 to December 2018 remains a time of escalating risk. Over this 18 month time frame, what transpires will shape the world and its history for the next 12 years and set up the circumstances that will shape the rest of this century.

Late in the Cycle

You know where we are in the business cycle when you start receiving calls about multi-level marketing schemes or offshore stock brokers call to offer a “trade of a life-time”. Maybe its a property deal in outback Australia, or opportunities to profit with 30-35% gains. This kind of behaviour merely reflects the emerging ebullience of social mood. Its the start of the lemming rush that occurs at or near a top. It is a confirming indicator and a useful signal that it’s getting ready time to get off the “escalator”.Monitoring social mood can indicate where we are in the business cycle. This type of unsolicited business activity – the hawking of schemes, stock market investments, too good to miss business opportunities always comes just before the top of a business cycle. You can be assured we don’t see stock spruikers at or near the bottom of a market. Instead at the low, nobody will want to talk about these special investment opportunities. By that time, sentiment will have reached an extreme opposite and become extremely negative to all forms of opportunity.

So if you’ve heard from someone wanting to show you an investment opportunity or a new multi-level marketing product beware. Its not the opportunity that matters, its the timing of the call that’s telling you everything you need to know.  

US stocks to rally. Wait for It!

Since mid March 2017, US stock indices have been moving sideways in a slow meandering phase. There’s more to go before this phase completes. This sets up a pattern or determinacy that leads to a clear outcome and conclusion.

You can expect the market to continue consolidating and moving sideways burning time. Its frustrating and slow. A balance of forces has emerged on the back of the so called ‘Trump Rally’. Volume and activity will continue to shrink. We don’t expect the DJIA to go below its 20553 lows (18/05/17). At some stage over the next 2 to 8 weeks stock markets will explode on the back of a ‘surprise’ news announcement.

The coming stock advance will be swift and carry the DJIA 750 to 2000 points (S&P500 150 to 400 points) higher on high volume and bullish sentiment. Suitable targets put the DJIA at 21560 to 22800. Once the rally gets underway we might be able to sharpen our targets.

Our patterning also calls for a complete retracement of the rally. Anticipate on completion of the advance, a rapid pullback on the DJIA to at least 20553 (S&P 2352). The thrust and pullback will catch a lot of people by surprise.

The move up should complete the advance sequence from the March 2009 lows. The nature of what follows will determine if this is also The End of the Long Game 2009-2018.

 

 

Contrary Opinion and the French Elections

Going into the final round of the French Presidential election we see heavy media bias for Macron to win over Le Pen. Polls indicate Macron  should win by a comfortable margin. The Law of Contrary Opinion in 2016 had indicated another upset due.

There are mitigating factors at play however. Having correctly picked the Australian, Brexit and US Presidential elections, we point out that the shock results shown in those elections all occurred after lengthy social and political trends had been underway for sometime. We see there is a lower probability that contrary opinion may affect the outcome. We had predicted in 2016 that Le Pen would receive the presidential mandate. We still hold to that view which would have an immediate negative impact on financial markets whichever candidate wins. Markets appear poised for a fast corrective move to the downside before resuming their longer term trends.

Longer term, if Le Pen happened to win, there would be a soft EU awakening and resolution. Macron’s win will have the effect of bringing on a hard EU awakening and resolution.

Australian Housing Affordability

Housing affordability is attracting the attention of politicians as concern rises that a housing bubble has made homes too expensive. So far, none of the discussions have really addressed the problems. Several key points can be made here from a futurist perspective.

The housing problem…..

Sitting on the left wing agenda is the view that negative gearing of investment properties is a necessary step to making housing more affordable. Government is short of cash. You can see this happening in most liberal democratic countries around the world and should merely be seen as another tax grab. For this reason alone politicians will close the negative gearing window.

Cancelling negative gearing will have the long term effect of driving up rents causing a severe shortage of rental properties. That wont affect the politicians however who vote for the negative gearing “reform” as they will have disappeared into retirement.

Pre-2016 election talk suggested a grandfather clause to existing investment property holders. The time between initiating the legislation to when it goes into effect creates a window for people to grab up properties for investment purposes. The short and sharp buying frenzy in conjunction with this kind of policy or news would be typical of a major long term top for Australian property markets. This kind of event is common in financial markets when changes of trend occur at the end of a long term market. Policy or news has caught up too late. It always results in a major reversal. We might anticipate the peak of the Australian property market would last decades.

Other proposed measures include first home owners being allowed to access superannuation to form a deposit. When first home owner grants were introduced in 2000, property prices for new homes jumped by multiples of the $7000 grant. This reflected the increased purchasing power an extra $7000 had on loan to valuation ratios. If super is allowed into the equation we’ll see property prices once again jump higher as builders respond to improved loan ratios.

Part of the affordability solution……..

One issue that never gets discussed is the supply related issues created by government themselves. In many capital cities around the world, including Australia, housing affordability is often the unintended consequence of regulatory bottlenecks where zoning, building regulations and permits choke the flow of new supply and drive up the cost of housing. Clearly this needs to be addressed and would go a long way towards addressing the affordability issue.Another issue under the microscope where investors hold a property seeking only capital gains by leaving the property untenanted. If governments must be seen to be doing something, a tax on properties untenanted for longer than say 3 months would take the heat off buyers as they realize the benefits renting over buying bring in an overheated property market.

Suffice to say the long term direction of Australian property values are coming to a head in conjunction with other Australian and global social, political and economic issues. Housing affordability is just another issue along with many others whose origins lie decades in the past and whose solution cannot be answered by politicians or central planners

 

US Stocks for March 2017

We anticipate US stocks have entered a consolidation phase lasting a minimum of  several months.

Stocks have performed strongly off the back of the Presidential election. This has served to clarify where things are heading. Any short term ambiguity has now been cleared away. The recent top and pullback also coincides with the topping phase of the eight year stock market cycle that has continued for over 50 years. Note while March 2017 is the month time window for the peak, cycles of this length can take 1-2 years to complete their cycle top. Take the stock market top in 2000. While the highs occurred by March 2000. This was well before the 8 year cycle high of 2001. The then markets chopped around for another year close to the all time highs before pealing way into their 2003 lows.

The next 8 year cycle low will occur some time in 2025 and by that time stock market will be equal to, or lower than 2009 stock market lows. A lot  will have changed by then – politically, economically and socially.

We note the growing political, social and economic cross-currents that have been building over the last 2 decades. This is typical of major tops and is reflected by the difficulty investors and business people have in making business and investment decisions.

So anticipate US stocks pulling back between now and May to August of this year. into the  consolidation lows. The pullback should be quite steep and volatile with potential targets of DJIA 19500 – 19900, SP500 2000 – 2100. We note US money supply growth is declining rapidly which underpins the softening stock market.

Following the pullback we will see, once again, markets rise to new highs. The nature of the rise we foresee being accompanied by extremely bullish news. Typically, major corporate tax cuts would fit with this picture,  rising money supply growth and a rising, extremely bullish euphoria. This coming run should take the DJIA above 23000 to 25000.

We believe this is the last gasp of The End of the Long Game 2009-2018 and there is a high probability that it is ending in a 1929 style stock market blow off. Ironically the same factors that caused the 1929-1933 Great Depression are also causing the current bull market rally. This will be the peak in a 230 year cycle of human endeavor. We are witnessing history, a history that will stand for generations to come.

 

Predictions 2017 – Be Ready

It’s all going to go rather quickly from here. We list our predictions for 2017 and beyond as crisis presents both opportunity and danger.

Political confidence and will eroding in the USA and other liberal democratic countries. In the US, economic confidence will start to fail as the new Trump administration starts rolling out its agenda. That could happen as early as March 2017 but most likely will not be felt until later in 2017. When political confidence fails, economic confidence falls soon after.

2017-18 is all about the coming shocks. Building on Brexit and the US presidential elections in 2016, markets are setting up for surprises. So called ‘black swan events’ always have tell-tale warning signs before they actually happen. A combination of factors are coming together to create the so called ‘perfect storm’.  At the heart is the implosion of global markets that has started and cannot be stopped. While this may be slow at first, it will pick up speed over the next few years.

We see inflationary forces gathering in the US and the potential for this to get out of hand quickly is real. We believe inflation in the US will jump quickly above 4% and has the potential to run up as high as 10%. So in 2017 we have the bursting of this massive interest rate bubble that is the result of a decade of unfettered easy monetary policy. The immediate effects of this should quickly be felt in stock markets, commodities and real estate and in the longer term, the broader economy itself. In effect, with its own particular flavours, our current situation is identical to the ‘Roaring 20’s’. The set up for a last gasp spike in stocks exists before the plunge. If however, the weight of uncertainty continues to build, then that spike could be nipped in the bud leading to the next big downturn.

The US Federal Reserve is always playing catch up to the market. It will not be able to respond quickly enough to the sudden jump in official inflation rates. This will have a disastrous effect on US and global interest rate markets. The Fed will be unable to reign in money supply quickly enough to correct the torrent of money that has flooded the system over the last decade.

The effect is like holding a big ball underwater then letting go. The decade of artificially low interest rates will ‘normalise’; i.e., move toward market value and this has the potential to cause major eruptions in every other asset class.

And then there are the political shocks. The wave of reaction that was Brexit and Trump will continue into 2017 with French and German elections. Rising nationalism and disgust with the political elites will see Merkel gone and the right brought to government in France. The EU will continue to blunder from crisis to crisis and we can expect with certainty other nations to begin their exit process.

In the US, Trump is busy getting his agenda off the ground. Some of his ideas have merit such as deregulation (always a good thing), downsizing US federal government and lowering corporate taxes. Many of his ideas however threaten future economic viability. In particular, the threat of trade sanctions against China, Mexico and Germany risks a global collapse in trade. Bastiat, the 18th century French economist summed it up nicely by saying when ‘goods stop crossing borders, boots start marching’.

Trump and Russia is another political flash point. We anticipate that Trump will use that relationship to build trade, especially around oil while strengthening domestic oil production and weakening reliance on middle eastern oil.

Fortunately we don’t have to worry too much about major wars in the immediate future. War risk will only emerge after a prolonged economic downturn (at least 13-50 years away). The risk over the next 10-15 years in the US is civil disruption and violence. Trump’s presidency will have finished long before but the consequences will still be being played out a generation or two later.

One fact worth observing is that most liberal democratic governments are broke. Politicians have squandered the seed capital of their nations. We will see two things occurring. Firstly, the grab for cash by governments will continue to escalate. And the erasure of cash as a payment medium will accelerate. Secondly, governments will move to sell off any available assets to maintain the status quo. If the economy holds on for another year or two, watch the asset sales.

For now, the status quo will remain unchanged even though a new era of uncertainty and political chaos lies before us. Real, lasting meaningful change will not happen until after 2028 or 2032. Around then an important political 50 year cycle low will occur and then the US will emerge with a new destiny and a renewed sense of self.

In 2017 however, liberal democratic nations will see increasing segmentation of the left – right spectrum into smaller segments and more diverse viewpoints. The polarization occurring in liberal democratic countries will continue to deepen in 2017 before any easing occurs. In the US, Trump serves as the perfect focal point for this polarization and civil unrest and disturbances may very well break out this year. In the US we see the accumulation of decades of bad policy and a deteriorating social mood is threatening the very fabric of the US. For 2017 we do not see individual states seceding but civil disturbances that turn violent and later we will see risk civil war.

Since the 1930’s we have witnessed the growth of US Presidential Executive Orders. Since Ronald Regan Executive Orders have been used more extensively. Anticipate Trump to exceed that of Obama (275 orders) by heavily relying on Executive Orders over the life of his presidency. This is important as it further breaks down the separation of powers of government and moves government towards an imperial style of governance by Trump who is already isolated, like an emperor.

Along with the demise of cash as one of the last privacy barriers to fall, liberal democratic principles continue to crumble. Another aspect of liberal democratic government being eroded slowly and surely is the separation of powers of government. Politicians’ need to be seen to be doing something, namely creating legislation. The separation of powers between the executive, legislature and judiciary has become increasingly imbalanced against the judiciary. Soon that imbalance will extend to the legislature as the role of executive order escalates.

Depth of prevailing social mood is already at cross purposes. A soaring stock market in 2017 along with a surging economy and disenfranchised people on both sides of the political spectrum is a perfect set up for the down phase of what we call the ‘Industrial Revolution Cycle’. This is part of the topping process of a cycle of human endeavour that began in 1783. That downward phase we expect to last some 38 to 62 years. At this stage our view is leaning more towards the 38 year time span. It will be steep and deep. This is based on technical considerations before the next cycle of growth gets underway. The key point is the setup has already been underway for a long time now and we are merely on the receiving end of this progression. Despite the hubris of politicians and bureaucrats who believe they control nations and economies, the cycles of endeavour continue to unfold bringing eternal change.

Ultimately there will need to be some sort of release of pressure before any normalization of political environments. Expect upsets is the modus operandi. If the violent moves predicted, starting in 2017-2018 occur in markets this would align well with our forecasts. Typical events that might bring about such political and economic shifts include Presidential declarations involving other countries (trade wars, trade treaties, embargoes), political assassinations, new alliances EU breakdown.

All of this takes place in an environment of failing political and then economic confidence. Behind that, the social mood of the people of great nations will turn dark and inwards. An end of an era is taking place. This will translate into stock market tops as they finish their last upward phases.

Here are some of the market predictions we make for 2017:

US Stock Markets

As early as March 2017 we will see the final tops in US stock markets. This completes a long term trend and cycle top that started in 1783. The roll over process has been underway fro some time now and could still however take months to years to complete. This is typical of major tops and is often accompanied by a lot of confusing cross current activity. We discuss this long term trend in our lead article The End of the Long Game 2009 – 2018 

They are rallying on expectation that Trump will lead the economy to new levels of prosperity. Supporting this idea we see forecasts of Dow Jones at 25,000, 33,000 and even 55,000 reflecting the emerging bullish mood for US economic prospects. These kind of calls only ever occur when sentiment is skewed and it never ends well.

Small cycles driving the 8 year stock market are due to make a top in March 2017 and has had an excellent history going back over the last 50 years. Cycles have their own rhythm however and they do go out of sync from time to time. Another scenario calls for several months of consolidation (Feb – May)  in US stocks before moving up in a surge not dissimilar to the 1929 stock market peak. Obviously this would extend the stock market top and evidence of inflation and Trump’s policies having a positive effect would enable this path. We rate this path with a higher probability at this time. A smart strategy might be if you saw DJIA 21000, 22000, 23000 it might be prudent to take the money off the table.

We anticipate the next 8 years starting in 2017 to be a down phase for all asset classes including shares.

US Dollar

Accompanying stock we will also see a top in the US dollar. At time of writing we estimate a 25% probability of the US$ having already peaked. There is often a ‘right fit’ to a market and one more major spike on the US$ would complete that ‘right fit’. If we get this spike then we could see EurUSD to 1.00 – 1.03, GbpUSD to 1.10 – 1.00, AudUSD to 0.50 – 0.60 and Yen move to 125 – 140. If however, then anticipate the EurUSD moving to1.60, Yen to 80, GBP to 1.60 and AUD to above 1.10 as the next major long term trend gets underway.

Gold

Gold is still completing a major consolidation phase. We see gold hovering between US$1180 – $1300 for several months before moving up to around the US$1500 – $1535. Following that comes a solid move down to below US$800. Typical targets include US$770 and $450 before the next long term uptrend begins.

Australian Stock Market

The ASX SP200 will begin its long slide to below 3000 this year. Note this could come as a divergent action to US stock markets as Australian economic risk to weighted more to Asia.

Longer Term

We will not see oil prices rise above US$140 per bbl before 2065. A new era is dawning where cheap, abundant, low polluting energy is available.

Over the next 25 years we will see people die of starvation because of crop failure caused by a cooling climate. In that same time frame we will see climate change as an issue in the minds of the public disappear.

US Stocks Update 25/11/2016

We have reached an interesting juncture with this US stocks update. In the next few trading days – maybe as early as Monday 28/11, we anticipate stocks to open higher and then reverse to the downside. Failure to follow through with new highs within 5 trading days would indicate a major top has been made and a quick test of DJIA 15370 (SP500 1810) is due.

djia-3rd-qtr-2012-to-present

DJIA 3rd QTR 2012 to Present

It may be that the so called Trump rally is part of a larger consolidation phase and an even bigger rally is due to get underway after a sharp down move to shake out complacent longs.

Sentiment has become extremely bullish despite gathering storm clouds on the horizon (interest rate normalization, EU bank health, Trumponomics, US economic health). Stocks in the short term have become overbought so we anticipate corrections as a normal part of the process.

Quite likely we will see a low in gold and a high in the US dollar occurring near to this time. The Euro should take out its 1.04 -1.05 lows and gold should complete a low in line with our previous post around US$1180. Again, whether this is just a breather or something more substantial we shall have to wait for further clarification.