– FA Hayek
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Replacing an oxygen sensor — $249
- Replacing a catalytic converter — $1,153
- Replacing ignition coil(s) and spark plug(s) — $390
- Tightening or replacing a fuel cap — $15
- Thermostat replacement — $210
- Replacing ignition coil(s) — $236
- Mass air flow sensor replacement — $382
- Replacing spark plug wire(s) and spark plug(s) — $331
- Replacing evaporative emissions (EVAP) purge control valve — $168
- 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.
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.
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.
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): 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.
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.
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.
 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.
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.
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.
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.
Ironically, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
The pendulum of government overreach has peaked in most liberal democratic countries around the world (for now). The major political events of 2016 have shown increasing resistance to government given the rising number of breaches in civil liberties and failure of government to identify and respond to the disenfranchised members of their societies.
Many segments of society have felt themselves becoming impoverishment. At the same time they have watched the hubris, greed and failure of politicians to deliver solutions to resolve the various politically made crises. One of the recurring questions that will emerge is the role of government in the lives of people.
By the time politicians’ hubris has completely evaporated, the nature of liberal democratic countries will have changed. We see major risk of political, economic and social upheaval occurring between now and 2028-2033 This phase may extend before social, political and economic stability becomes the norm. As always the pendulum will one day swing again towards increasing government involvement in the lives and affairs of ordinary people.
We called the US Presidential election (27/07/2016 & 29/10/2016) saying Trump would win. We called the Australian federal election and while we didn’t quite get what we thought would happen, we got second best with the Australian people being the winners (16/06/2016, 28/06/2016 & 24/07/2016).
Expect further political upsets in 2017 with elections falling due in France and Germany.
If US stock markets hold to these levels to slightly lower we can anticipate the birth of a large rally taking markets to new all time highs. Relatively speaking we would expect this coming rally to be weak. We view this as being the last gasp before the conclusion of The Long Game.
All the elements are in place for a political meltdown with the coming election. The circumstances of this election are very similar to the Brexit vote that caused an earthquake.
- There is a large disenfranchised portion of the US electorate.
- Establishment seeks to maintain the status quo.
- Widespread disgust at both presidential candidates.
- Media is holding a heavily biased standpoint on the outcome of the election result.
- Financial markets are coiling in preparation for a large move based on the result.
- Fears of vote rigging, mudslinging by both candidates, the focus is on personalities rather than issues leaving a gridlocked political system.
Most of these points were present in the Brexit vote.
The underlying social mood is one pointing to a political meltdown. If Trump wins, Democrats have rumored to be plotting some sort of nullification of the election result. It is also unacceptable to the establishment that Trump would win as he has threatened to tear down the status quo. If Clinton wins, all the corruption scandals will be brought before the courts and her presidency will be mired by political, legal & criminal scandals.
The social environment is volatile and ripe for serious political disruption as people seek to express the powerful social mood that has been building for several years. We consider the election will serve as the catalyst for the start for a political meltdown lasting many years. Following in quick attendance will be the subsequent loss of economic confidence.
We still predict a spike to the upside following the election – being the last gasp of the stock markets. This will be followed in 2017 by a surge in inflation and a devastating shift in US interest rates.
All of this is characteristic of a major top that is forming in economic, social and political terms. It is akin to the rise and peak of an empire. We are witnessing a major turning point in history and a completion of a long term cycle of human endeavor. This is covered in our main article theme the End of the Long Game 2009 -2018.
Futurism / ET posted:
In an interview with the Washington Post, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reveals what he thinks will be the future of humanity when we eventually colonize space. He talks about a plan for colonizing our solar system with nuclear reactors in space, populations in the millions, and more.
While Elon Musk’s SpaceX is the public face of the private space industry, there are other major players trying to bring humanity closer to the stars. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has been working on its own rocket technologies, and Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, has been revealing more on the work they’re doing over at Blue Origin.
The previously secretive Blue Origin has been announcing more of its milestones in its space ambitions. It successfully landed the same rocket four times in a row, with the end goal of reusable rockets that will lower space travel costs.
The company has unveiled its own rocket, the “New Glenn,” which dwarfs any of the rockets being developed today. Bezos announced that the Glenn will be ferrying astronauts by the end of the decade.
Along with the engineering developments Blue Origin has announced, Bezos has also shared his predictions on human colonization of space, in an interview with The Washington Post.
Human colonization of space
In the interview, Bezos sees humans spreading out across the Solar System. He envisions “millions of people working and living in space.” But to do this, Bezos notes that we will have to figure out how to extract and manage the resources we can get from space, since Earth alone won’t be able to provide the materials for space colonization.
Bezos also says we will have to figure out how to harness nuclear technology in space, citing it as a viable alternative to solar power that will dim out as you move farther from the Sun. In fact, moving out into space would not just be a dream, but an imperative. We will have to move heavy industry outside of Earth, in order to preserve it. He envisions the Earth being “zoned” as residential and light industrial.
But does he think we will see space colonization in our lifetime? “Not in the near term… Eventually Mars might be amazing. But that’s a long way in the future.”
How many things do we own, that are common today, that didn’t exist 10 years ago? The list is probably longer than you think.
Prior to the iPhone coming out in 2007, we didn’t have smartphones with mobile apps, decent phone cameras for photos/videos, mobile maps, mobile weather, or even mobile shopping.
None of the mobile apps we use today existed 10 years ago: Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Uber, Facetime, LinkedIn, Lyft, Whatsapp, Netflix, Pandora, or Pokemon Go.
Several major companies didn’t exist a decade ago. Airbnb, Tinder, Fitbit, Spotify, Dropbox, Quora, Tumblr, Kickstarter, Hulu, Pinterest, Buzzfeed, Indigogo, Udacity, or Jet.com just to name a few.
Ten years ago very few people were talking about crowdfunding, the sharing economy, social media marketing, search engine optimization, app developers, cloud storage, data mining, mobile gaming, gesture controls, chatbots, data analytics, virtual reality, 3D printers, or drone delivery.
At the same time we are seeing the decline of many of the things that were in common use 10-20 years ago. Fax machines, wired phones, taxi drivers, newspapers, desktop computers, video cameras, camera film, VCRs, DVD players, record players, typewriters, yellow pages, video rental shops, and printed maps have all seen their industry peak and are facing dwindling markets.
If we leapfrog ahead ten years and take notice of the radically different lives we will be living, we will notice how a few key technologies paved the way for massive new industries.
Here is a glimpse of a stunningly different future that will come into view over the next decade.
Also known as additive manufacturing, 3D printing has already begun to enter our lives in major ways. In the future 3D printers will be even more common than paper printers are today.
1. 3D printed makeup for women. Just insert a person’s face and the machine will be programmed to apply the exact makeup pattern requested by the user.
2. 3D printed replacement teeth, printed inside the mouth.
3. Swarmbot printing systems will be used to produce large buildings and physical structures, working 24/7 until they’re completed.
4. Scan and print custom designed clothing at retail clothing stores.
5. Scan and print custom designed shoes at specialty shoe stores.
6. Expectant mothers will request 3D printed models of their unborn baby.
7. Police departments will produce 3D printed “mug shots” and “shapies” generated from a person’s DNA.
8. Trash that is sorted and cleaned and turned into material that can be 3D printed.
The VR/AR world is set to explode around us as headsets and glasses drop in price so they’re affordable for most consumers. At the same time, game designers and “experience” producers are racing to create the first “killer apps” in this emerging industry.
9. Theme park rides that mix physical rides with VR experiences.
10. Live broadcasts of major league sports games (football, soccer, hockey, and more) in Virtual Reality.
11. Full-length VR movies.
12. Physical and psychological therapy done through VR.
13. Physical drone racing done through VR headsets.
14. VR speed dating sites.
15. For education and training, we will see a growing number of modules done in both virtual and augmented reality.
16. VR and AR tours will be commonly used in the sale of future real estate.
Drones are quickly transitioning from hobbyist toys to sophisticated business tools very quickly. They will touch our lives in thousands of different ways.
17. Fireworks dropped from drones. Our ability to “ignite and drop” fireworks from the sky will dramatically change both how they’re made and the artistry used to display them.
18. Concert swarms that produce a spatial cacophony of sound coming from 1,000 speaker drones simultaneously.
19. Banner-pulling drones. Old school advertising brought closer to earth.
20. Bird frightening drones for crops like sunflowers where birds can destroy an entire field in a matter of hours.
21. Livestock monitoring drones for tracking cows, sheep, geese, and more.
22. Three-dimensional treasure hunts done with drones.
23. Prankster Drones – Send random stuff to random people and video their reactions.
24. Entertainment drones (with projectors) that fly in and perform unusual forms of live comedy and entertainment.
Driverless technology will change transportation more significantly than the invention of the automobile itself.
25. Queuing stations for driverless cars as a replacement for a dwindling number of parking lots.
26. Crash-proof cars. Volvo already says their cars will be crash-proof before 2020.
27. Driverless car hailing apps. Much like signaling Uber and Lyft, only without the drivers.
28. Large fleet ownership of driverless cars (some companies will own millions of driverless cars).
29. Electric cars will routinely win major races like the Daytona 500, Monaco Grand Prix, and the Indy 500.
30. In-car work and entertainment systems to keep people busy and entertained as a driverless car takes them to their destination.
31. In-car advertising. This will be a delicate balance between offsetting the cost of operation and being too annoying for the passengers.
32. Electric car charging in less than 5 minutes.
Internet of Things
The Internet of things is the network of physical devices, vehicles, and buildings embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and actuators designed to communicate with users as well as other devices. We are currently experiencing exponential growth in IoT devices as billions of new ones come online every year.
33. Smart chairs, smart beds, and smart pillows that will self-adjust to minimize pressure points and optimize comfort.
34. Sensor-laced clothing.
35. “Print and Pin” payment systems that uses a biometric mark (fingerprint) plus a pin number.
36. Smart plates, bowls and cups to keep track of what we eat and drink.
37. Smart trashcan that will signal for a trash truck when they’re full.
38. Ownership networks. As we learn to track the location of everything we own, we will also track the changing value of each item to create a complete ownership network.
39. Self-retrieving shoes where you call them by name, through your smartphone, and your shoes will come to you.
40. Smart mailboxes that let you know when mail has arrived and how important it is.
Even though healthcare is a bloated and bureaucratic industry, innovative entrepreneurs are on the verge of disrupting this entire industry.
41. Hyper-personalized precision-based pharmaceuticals produced by 3D pill printers.
42. Ingestible data collectors, filled with sensors, to give a daily internal health scan and report.
43. Prosthetic limbs controlled by AI.
44. Real-time blood scanners.
45. Peer-to-peer health insurance.
46. Facetime-like checkups without needing a doctor’s appointment.
47. Full-body physical health scanners offering instant AI medical diagnosis, located in most pharmacies
48. Intraoral cameras for smartphones for DYI dental checkups.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Much like hot and cold running water, we will soon be able to “pipe-in” artificial intelligence to any existing digital system.
49. Best selling biographies written by artificial intelligence.
50. Legal documents written by artificial intelligence.
51. AI-menu selection, based on diet, for both restaurants and at home.
52. Full body pet scanners with instant AI medical diagnosis.
53. AI selection of movies and television shows based on moods, ratings, and personal preferences.
54. Much like the last item, AI music selection will be based on moods, ratings, and musical tastes.
55. AI sleep-optimizers will control all of the environmental factors – heat, light, sound, oxygen levels, smells, positioning, vibration levels, and more.
56. AI hackers. Sooner or later someone will figure out how to use even our best AI technology for all the wrong purposes.
Future transportation will come in many forms ranging from locomotion on an individual level to ultra high-speed tube transportation on a far grander scale.
57. Unmanned aviation – personal drone transportation.
58. 360-degree video transportation monitoring cameras at most intersections in major cities throughout the world.
59. Everywhere wireless. With highflying solar powered drones, CubeSats, and Google’s Project Loon, wireless Internet connections will soon be everywhere.
60. Black boxes for drones to record information in the event of an accident.
61. Air-breathing hypersonic propulsion for commercial aircraft. Fast is never fast enough.
62. Robotic follow-behind-you luggage, to make airline travel easier.
63. Robotic dog walkers and robotic people walkers.
64. Ultra high-speed tube transportation. As we look closely at the advances over the past couple decades, it’s easy to see that we are on the precipices of a dramatic breakthrough in ultra high-speed transportation. Businesses are demanding it. People are demanding it. And the only thing lacking is a few people capable of mustering the political will to make it happen.
As I began assembling this list, a number of items didn’t fit well in other categories.
65. Bitcoin loans for houses, cars, business equipment and more.
66. Self-filling water bottles with built-in atmospheric water harvesters.
67. Reputation networks. With the proliferation of personal information on websites and in databases throughout the Internet, reputation networks will be designed to monitor, alert, and repair individual reputations.
68. Atmospheric energy harvesters. Our atmosphere is filled with both ambient and concentrated forms of energy ranging from sunlight to lightning bolts that can be both collected and stored.
69. Pet education centers, such as boarding schools for dogs and horses, to improve an animal’s IQ.
70. Robotic bricklayers. With several early prototypes already operational, these will become common over the next decade.
71. Privacy bill of rights. Privacy has become an increasingly complicated topic, but one that is foundational to our existence on planet earth.
72. Hot new buzzword, “Megaprojects.”
There’s a phenomenon called the Peltzman Effect, named after Dr. Sam Peltzman, a renowned professor of economics from the University of Chicago Business School, who studied auto accidents.
He found that when you introduce more safety features like seat belts into cars, the number of fatalities and injuries doesn’t drop. The reason is that people compensate for it. When we have a safety net in place, people will take more risks.
That probably is true with other areas as well.
As life becomes easier, we take risks with our time. As our financial worries are met, we begin thinking about becoming an entrepreneur, inventor, or artist. When life becomes too routine, we search for ways to introduce chaos.
Even though we see reports that billions of jobs will disappear over the coming decades, we will never run out of work.
As humans, we were never meant to live cushy lives of luxury. Without risk and chaos as part of our daily struggle our lives seem unfulfilled. While we work hard to eliminate it, we always manage to find new ways to bring it back.
Yes, we’re working towards a better world ahead, but only marginally better. That’s where we do our best work.