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
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.
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.
The sharing movement is evolving quickly and in many directions. The growth of platform and worker co-ops, increased awareness of the commons, the evolution of coworking, an explosion of tech-enabled sharing services, and more are opening up promising if not challenging frontiers. Funding by VCs will continue to increase, but the rate will slow compared to 2015’s glut of money.
Around the world we will see fascinating innovations in commons-based law that extend the scope of the Bologna Regulation (which reimagines city government as a partner with commons).
Benjamin Hulac looks into the impact of global warming on the economic side.
Climate change is the most severe global economic risk of 2016, the World Economic Forum said yesterday.
The nonprofit economic analysis institution, set to convene next week in Davos, Switzerland, for its yearly meeting, has labeled climate change or related environmental phenomena—extreme weather, major natural catastrophes, mounting greenhouse gas levels, water scarcity, flooding, storms and cyclones—among the top five most likely and significant economic threats the world faced in each of its annual reports since 2011.
The 2016 report, the latest installment of a report the WEF has published since 2007, marks the first time an environmental risk tops the rankings.
“Climate change is exacerbating more risks than ever before in terms of water crises, food shortages, constrained economic growth, weaker societal cohesion and increased security risks,” Cecilia Reyes, the chief risk officer of Zurich Insurance Group Ltd., one of the organizations that worked on the report, said in a statement.
The WEF document does not paint a sanguine picture.
North America’s eastern seaboard, East Asia, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific are particularly exposed to extreme weather patterns and natural catastrophes, according to the report—a survey conducted in the fall of 750 experts, who answered questions about 29 types of global risk, like cyberattacks, government instability and weapons of mass destruction.
Global climate change threatens top producers of wheat, corn, rice and other agricultural commodities, the report notes. Recent years illustrated the “climate vulnerability of G-20 [Group of 20] countries such as India, Russia and the United States—the breadbasket of the world.”
Hot, dry and tense
Climate change is compounding and amplifying other social, economic and humanitarian stresses globally. It is linked to mass and often forced migration; violent conflict between nations and regions; water crises; and, as the world population rises and simultaneously gets hotter, food shortages, the report reads.
“Forced displacement is already at an unprecedented level,” the authors continue, referring to emigration.
In this hotter, water-scarce future, tensions will likely grow between nations.
“Unless current water management practices change significantly, many parts of the world will therefore face growing competition for water between agriculture, energy, industry and cities,” the authors write.
A growing business awareness
Following the worldwide financial meltdown of 2008, the people WEF surveyed listed the collapse of investment prices as the most likely and most grave hazards. Yet that trend shifted.
“Environmental worries have been at the forefront in recent years,” the authors wrote, “reflecting a sense that climate change-related risks have moved from hypothetical to certain because insufficient action has been undertaken to address them.”
Paris ‘a starting point’
Economists, regulators and financial experts have become increasingly vocal about climate risks.
Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney, in a September speech at Lloyd’s of London headquarters, said the warming climate could “bring potentially profound implications for insurers, financial stability and the economy.”
“It’s a risk that needs to be managed,” Bernhardt said. “The challenge, historically, is that it’s been treated as an uncertainty.”
Former Dallas Federal Reserve Bank economist, Gerald O’Driscoll, writes in WSJ :
Pundits are focused on collapsing oil prices, which reflect the technological revolution in production among nimble private producers, combined with weakening global demand for their product. The result has been layoffs in the energy industry, and there will be more. Weak and highly leveraged energy firms have gone bankrupt and more will. But bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean that production will decline.
Creditors who lent to these energy producers will suffer losses on their loans, and they too might become financially impaired. If past is prologue, those lenders will be reluctant to fully realize their losses, and they will continue to view future energy prices through too-rosy glasses. Banks will be reluctant to mark down the value of nonperforming loans and book losses, or even set aside sufficient loan loss reserves. They will instead “extend and pretend”—i.e., extend maturities and pretend they expect the loans to be paid back. Will federal and state banking regulators aid and abet the process? They have in the past, and rumor is that they are already doing so today.
In October Russell Roberts, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution,tweeted that if told an economist’s view on one issue, he could confidently predict his or her position on any number of other questions. Prominent bloggers on economics have since furiously defended the profession, citing cases when economists changed their minds in response to new facts, rather than hewing stubbornly to dogma. Adam Ozimek, an economist at Moody’s Analytics, pointed to Narayana Kocherlakota, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 2009 to 2015, who flipped from hawkishness to dovishness when reality failed to affirm his warnings of a looming surge in inflation. Tyler Cowen, an economist at George Mason, published a list of issues on which his opinion has shifted (he is no longer sure that income from capital is best left untaxed). Paul Krugman, an economist and New York Times columnist, chimed in. He changed his view on the minimum wage after research found that increases up to a certain point reduced employment only marginally (this newspaper had a similar change of heart).
Economists, to be fair, are constrained in ways that many scientists are not. They cannot brew up endless recessions in test tubes to work out what causes what, for instance. Yet the same restriction applies to many hard sciences, too: geologists did not need to recreate the Earth in the lab to get a handle on plate tectonics. The essence of science is agreeing on a shared approach for generating widely accepted knowledge. Science, wrote Paul Romer, an economist, in a paper* published last year, leads to broad consensus. Politics does not.
Nor, it seems, does economics. In a paper on macroeconomics published in 2006, Gregory Mankiw of Harvard University declared: “A new consensus has emerged about the best way to understand economic fluctuations.” But after the financial crisis prompted a wrenching recession, disagreement about the causes and cures raged. “Schlock economics” was how Robert Lucas, a Nobel-prize-winning economist, described Barack Obama’s plan for a big stimulus to revive the American economy. Mr Krugman, another Nobel-winner, reckoned Mr Lucas and his sort were responsible for a “dark age of macroeconomics”.
Moreover, hard sciences are not immune from ideological rigidity. A recent study of academic citations in the life sciences found that the death of a celebrated scientist precipitates a surge in publishing from academics who previously steered clear of the celebrity’s area of study. Tellingly, papers by newcomers are cited far more heavily than new work by the celebrity’s former collaborators. That suggests that shifts of opinion in science occur not through the changing of minds so much as the displacement of one set of dogged ideologues by another.
Agree to Agree
But even if economics is not uniquely ideological, its biases are often more salient than those within chemistry. Economists advise politicians on all manner of important decisions. A reputation for impartiality could improve both perceptions of the field and the quality of economic policy.
Achieving that requires better mechanisms for resolving disputes. Mr Romer’s paper decried the pretend “mathiness” of many economists: the use of meaningless number-crunching to give a veneer of academic credibility to near-useless theories. Sifting out the guff requires transparency, argued John Cochrane of the University of Chicago in another recent blog post. Too many academics keep their data and calculations secret, he reckoned, and too few journals make space for papers that seek to replicate earlier results. Economists can squabble all they like. But the profession is of little use to anyone if it cannot then work out which side has the better of the argument.
GEORGE FRIEDMAN looks at Russia’s strategy going forward and its impact on geopolitics.
Russia is in a geographically vulnerable position; its core is inherently landlocked, and the choke points that its ships would have to traverse to gain access to oceans could be easily cut off. Therefore, Russia can’t be Athens. It must be Sparta, and that means it must be a land power and assume the cultural character of a Spartan nation. Russia must have tough if not sophisticated troops fighting ground wars. It must also be able to produce enough wealth to sustain its military as well as provide a reasonable standard of living for its people—but Russia will not be able to match Europe in this regard.
So it isn’t prosperity that binds the country together, but a shared idealized vision of and loyalty toward Mother Russia. And in this sense, there is a deep chasm between both Europe and the United States (which use prosperity as a justification for loyalty) and Russia (for whom loyalty derives from the power of the state and the inherent definition of being Russian). This support for the Russian nation remains powerful, despite the existence of diverse ethnic groups throughout the country.
As a land power, Russia is inherently vulnerable. It sits on the European plain with few natural barriers to stop an enemy coming from the west. East of the Carpathian Mountains, the plain pivots southward, and the door to Russia opens. In addition, Russia has few rivers, which makes internal transport difficult and further reduces economic efficiency. What agricultural output there is must be transported to markets, and that means the transport system must function well. And with so much of its economic activity located close to the border, and so few natural barriers, Russia is at risk.
It should be no surprise then that Russia’s national strategy is to move its frontier as far west as possible. The first tier of countries on the European Peninsula’s eastern edge—the Baltics, Belarus, and Ukraine—provide depth from which Russia can protect itself, and also provide additional economic opportunities.
With regard to the current battle over Ukraine, the Russians have to assume that the Euro-American interest in creating a pro-Western regime has a purpose beyond Ukraine. From the Russian point of view, not only have they lost a critical buffer zone, but Ukrainian forces hostile to Russia have moved toward the Russian border. It should be noted that the area that the Russians defend most heavily is the area just west of the Russian border, buying as much space as they can.
The fact that this scenario leaves Russia in a precarious position means that the Russians are unlikely to leave the Ukrainian question where it is. Russia does not have the option of assuming that the West’s interest in the region comes from good intentions. At the same time, the West cannot assume that Russia—if it reclaims Ukraine—will stop there. Therefore, we are in the classic case where two forces assume the worst about each other. But Russia occupies the weaker position, having lost the first tier of the European Peninsula. It is struggling to maintain the physical integrity of the Motherland.
Russia does not have the ability to project significant force because its naval force is bottled up and because you cannot support major forces from the air alone. Although it became involved in the Syrian conflict to demonstrate its military capabilities and gain leverage with the West, this operation is peripheral to Russia’s main interests. The primary issue is the western frontier and Ukraine. In the south, the focus is on the Caucasus.
It is clear that Russia’s economy, based as it is on energy exports, is in serious trouble given the plummeting price of oil in the past year and a half. But Russia has always been in serious economic trouble. Its economy was catastrophic prior to World War II, but it won the war anyway… at a cost that few other countries could bear. Russia may be a landlocked and poor country, but it can nonetheless raise an army of loyal Spartans. Europe is wealthy and sophisticated, but its soldiers have complex souls. As for the Americans, they are far away and may choose not to get involved. This gives the Russians an opportunity. However bad their economy is at the moment, the simplicity of their geographic position in all respects gives them capabilities that can surprise their opponents and perhaps even make the Russians more dangerous.
Our investors, some of whom are large investment and commercial banks, are making a major investment in Digital Asset to help us develop solutions that will address reducing risk, reducing cost, improving transparency and offering new sources of revenue…
Rregulators were understandably initially concerned about the potential for blockchain applications to bypass certain controls, their thinking has evolved…
They are learning that distributed-ledger technology brings many benefits and efficiencies to wholesale financial markets, including reduced cost, reduced counter-party risk, reduced latency, enhanced security, increased transparency, ease of reporting, and reduced errors. These are all important to regulators.
This technology is offering regulators a bird’s-eye view into activity in certain markets that they never had before. As such, distributed-ledger technology is actually an enhancement to transparency, rather than a mechanism for bypassing it.
Bitcoin operates on an extremely dangerous platform for those seeking anonymity.
From Uncommon Knowledge, host Peter Robinson questions Professor Sowell about the relationship of culture and wealth explained in his new book, “Wealth, Poverty and Politics, An International Perspective.” http://www.LibertyPen.com
Elevated production levels, decelerating demand, and record high inventories will suppress oil prices to an average of $50/bbl in 2016, the National Commercial Bank (NCB) said in its latest monthly “Views on Saudi Economic and Developments”.
It said growth dynamics pertaining to emerging markets, in particular China, and production factors relating to OPEC have underpinned the bearish view.
The lack of compliance among OPEC members that produced above the 30MMBD quota for the 18th month in a row will be an important drag, especially that the group lacks a unified front.
Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran are adamant in producing as much as they can. The Kingdom’s production peaked at 10.6 MMBD in June, while Iraq has increased output over the year by around 0.7 MMBD, reaching 4.2 MMBD in November. Additionally, lifting the sanctions imposed in July 2012 on Iran is expected to bring an additional 500 thousand barrels a day during 1H2016, which will keep OPEC’s production above the 32 MMBD mark. Even though non-OPEC members and high-cost producers will continue to be pressured this year, the anticipated decline in their production will not offset OPEC’s over quota strategy. The IEA, EIA and OPEC have forecasted a decline in non-OPEC supply between 400-600,000 barrels a day, the first annual decrease since 2008, largely due to the steeper decline in US shale production.
The EIA predicted in its latest report that companies operating in US shale formations will reduce production by a record 570,000 barrels a day, which underscores the challenging environment even after slashing capital spending, laying off workers and focusing on the most productive areas.
On the demand side, China is expected to have the weakest economic performance since 1990, with growth falling below 7% for 2015 and 2016 despite the myriad attempts to reduce interest rates, reserve requirements and devalue the yuan in order to spur business activity.
Furthermore, emerging markets are expected to expand at 4%, the slowest pace since 2010 and well below their 10-year average of 7%. Generally, the three eminent organizations are forecasting oil demand to rise between 1.2 and 1.4 MMBD in 2016, much slower than last year that saw demand grow by as much as 1.8 MMBD, a five-year high.
The record US and global crude oil inventories will also continue to weigh on oil markets. The end of year US crude oil inventory at 487.4 MMbbls is 27% more than the level recorded in 2014, which was 388 MMbbls, and is also at an 80-year high for this time of year.
Additionally, the OECD’s commercial total oil inventories rose to around 2.971 billion barrels, near a record level that is equivalent to 60 days of consumption and above the five-year average. Given these aforementioned dynamics, NCB forecast the market to remain unbalanced in 2016.
According to The Economist, the trend is just one more step toward the goal of unbiased, non-ideological economic science:
But even if economics is not uniquely ideological, its biases are often more salient than those within chemistry. Economists advise politicians on all manner of important decisions. A reputation for impartiality could improve both perceptions of the field and the quality of economic policy.
Economics is also a science, but the subject matter for economics is categorically different. Humans can choose. This very fact actually serves as the basis for the entire structure of economic theory. Recognizing this point is critical for selecting and preserving an appropriate method for economics.
The Place for Data in Economics
Laboratory experiments and real-world observation cannot somehow refute economic theory because economics deals in counterfactuals, which are never realized and cannot be observed in the real world.
This is not to say that good economists should ignore data. In fact, a good economist would revisit theory in the face of curious data that doesn’t seem to go along with theory. Also, economic history relies on the skillful use of data and theory to help explain events of the past.
Economic Ignorance, not Enlightenment
So, this new trend among prominent economists, far from defending economics as a science and a profession, actually reveals the unscientific and ideological proclivities of mainstream economics.
Readily dropping standard results in economics because the newest econometric trick revealed something strange with the newest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows economic ignorance, not enlightenment. It shows that many economists don’t understand the fundamentals of economics and the logic of action.
When data conflicts with theory, the scholarly thing to do would be to find the source of the disconnect. This could be an error in the way the data were measured or an error in the application of the data to a specific economic theory. Of course, the theory itself could be wrong, too. Either way, some explanation is in order. An ideologue would discard one or the other without any reason except to maintain their own ideology or to switch ideological camps.
The impact of technological, demographic and socio-economic disruptions on business models will be felt in transformations to the employment landscape and skills requirements, resulting in substantial challenges for recruiting, training and managing talent. Several industries may find themselves in a scenario of positive employment demand for hard-to-recruit specialist occupations with simultaneous skills instability across many existing roles. For example, the Mobility industries expect employment growth accompanied by a situation where nearly 40% of the skills required by key jobs in the industry are not yet part of the core skill set of these functions today.
At the same time, workers in lower skilled roles, particularly in the Office and Administrative and Manufacturing and Production job families, may find themselves caught up in a vicious cycle where low skills stability means they could face redundancy without significant re- and upskilling even while disruptive change may erode employers’ incentives and the business case for investing in such reskilling. Not anticipating and addressing such issues in a timely manner over the coming years may come at an enormous economic and social cost for businesses, individuals and economies and societies as a whole.
Barely any engineering sector depends as much on the development of new technology as aerospace; and although it’s often defence that’s seen as the part of the sector where most development takes place, recent years have seen civil aerospace also being the cradle of much new development. The tightening of regulations on the environmental profile of flying, along with new materials and processes, have all driven R&D in the sector. For Airbus, the world’s second-largest aircraft manufacturer, it’s taken the technologies of flight in some unexpected directions.
The small size of the E-Fan aircraft has led some to dismiss the project as a sideshow, but Botti insists that it represents a serious long-term goal for Airbus. The ultimate aim of the project is to develop an electric airliner, initially with around 100 seats, which the company is currently calling E-Thrust. “This is a learning curve for us. We have to start with the small aircraft with power in kilovolts, and work up to megavolts. We couldn’t possibly do it in one go.”
Part of the goal of the E-Thrust project – but only part – is environmental. When the aircraft’s engines run on battery power, the aircraft produces no emissions. “If you look at where the world trends are heading by the 2030s, with increased numbers of people in cities and the rise of megacities, there will inevitably be more and more congestion and pollution,” Botti said. “And if you look at where the most polluted part of the city is, in general it’s around the airport; I’m not only talking about CO2 and NOx here, but also about noise pollution. It has to be better to take off and land with very quiet electric engines.” He added that aircraft could arrive and depart later at night and in the early hours without disturbing the neighbours.
As this implies, these electric airliners are likely to be hybrids, with an on-board generator charging the batteries and feeding the motors. This also allows the option of charging the batteries via ‘windmilling’ the propellers when the aircraft is slowing down; precisely analogous to recovering energy during braking in a hybrid car. “This does mean that you emit greenhouse gases when the aircraft is in cruise,” Botti admitted, “but certainly no more than a standard aircraft does; with windmilling, probably less.”
In formal terms, E-Thrust and its family won’t even be Airbus products; the company has created a new subsidiary called Voltair to commercialise the technology; symbolic of the clean break it represents from its more-established turbojet-powered aircraft families. “We didn’t want to mix the message,” Botti said. Voltair operates out of new premises in Toulouse: “When I created the plant that will make E-Fan, I had the objective that young engineers will start up and become the experts that we need in the future to make larger electric aircraft; that’s knowledge that currently doesn’t exist,” he added. Technology development is looking at new batteries and motors using high-temperature superconductors; Botti even mentioned the possibility of nuclear fusion to power such aircraft. “We are not looking at next year or even next decade with this project, and we want to keep such possibilities in mind, even if they seem very far-fetched now,” he said.
Global growth, currently estimated at 3.1 percent in 2015, is projected at 3.4 percent in 2016 and 3.6 percent in 2017. The pickup in global activity is projected to be more gradual than in the October 2015 World Economic Outlook (WEO), especially in emerging market and developing economies.
In advanced economies, a modest and uneven recovery is expected to continue, with a gradual further narrowing of output gaps. The picture for emerging market and developing economies is diverse but in many cases challenging. The slowdown and rebalancing of the Chinese economy, lower commodity prices, and strains in some large emerging market economies will continue to weigh on growth prospects in 2016–17. The projected pickup in growth in the next two years— despite the ongoing slowdown in China—primarily reflects forecasts of a gradual improvement of growth rates in countries currently in economic distress, notably Brazil, Russia, and some countries in the Middle East, though even this projected partial recovery could be frustrated by new economic or political shocks.
Risks to the global outlook remain tilted to the downside and relate to ongoing adjustments in the global economy: a generalized slowdown in emerging market economies, China’s rebalancing, lower commodity prices, and the gradual exit from extraordinarily accommodative monetary conditions in the United States. If these key challenges are not successfully managed, global growth could be derailed.
Growth in emerging market and developing economies is projected to increase from 4 percent in 2015—the lowest since the 2008–09 financial crisis—to 4.3 and 4.7 percent in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Growth in China is expected to slow to 6.3 percent in 2016 and 6.0 percent in 2017, primarily reflecting weaker investment growth as the economy continues to rebalance. India and the rest of emerging Asia are generally projected to continue growing at a robust pace, although with some countries facing strong headwinds from China’s economic rebalancing and global manufacturing weakness.
Aggregate GDP in Latin America and the Caribbean is now projected to contract in 2016 as well, albeit at a smaller rate than in 2015, despite positive growth in most countries in the region. This reflects the recession in Brazil and other countries in economic distress.
Higher growth is projected for the Middle East, but lower oil prices, and in some cases geopolitical tensions and domestic strife, continue to weigh on the outlook.
Emerging Europe is projected to continue growing at a broadly steady pace, albeit with some slowing in 2016. Russia, which continues to adjust to low oil prices and Western sanctions, is expected to remain in recession in 2016. Other economies of the Commonwealth of Independent States are caught in the slipstream of Russia’s recession and geopolitical tensions, and in some cases affected by domestic structural weaknesses and low oil prices; they are projected to expand only modestly in 2016 but gather speed in 2017.
Most countries in sub-Saharan Africa will see a gradual pickup in growth, but with lower commodity prices, to rates that are lower than those seen over the past decade. This mainly reflects the continued adjustment to lower commodity prices and higher borrowing costs, which are weighing heavily on some of the region’s largest economies (Angola, Nigeria, and South Africa) as well as a number of smaller commodity exporters.
The World Economic Forum discussion on financial services at Davos in Switzerland this week centered around popular financial technology, including Bitcoin and the blockchain.
The largest competition to mainstream banking comes out of the fintech space. Increasing the attention of digital currency at Davos was a recent International Monetary Fund white paper on digital currencies. The IMF demonstrates such markets are still very small in scale (a paltry $7 billion in market value compared to the $1.4 trillion value of US paper currency in circulation). The global body did confirm they are growing so fast policymakers and bankers need to start educating themselves on the innovations in payments. Major banks have entered into the digital currency space by designing their own fintech solutions. Still, there are diverse opinions on nascent payment technology.
“We know that bitcoin itself is a complete failure and shows the number one law of programming and software: that anything that can be programmed can be hacked. So nothing is completely secure,” said Willem Buiter, Citi’s chief economist.
The cyber boys . . . they believe that this is something that can just work on its own and allow a seamless web of costless transactions across the world. Forget it.
Executives from Morgan Stanley, Deutsche Bank and the International Monetary Fund saidthat Bitcoin was still a nascent technology and still posed risks for consumers, and technological hiccups preventing its mainstream adoptions.
“It’s not going to change everyone’s life tomorrow,” said James Gorman, the chairman and CEO of Morgan Stanley.
“I wouldn’t be so worried,” said John Cryan, co-chief executive of Deutsche Bank. “Blockchain technology is interesting. Bitcoin, I don’t think is.”
Since the theme of this year’s Davos is technological innovations, it makes sense fintech and Bitcoin were at the center of discussions.
“If you’re going to be in the finance business, the finance regulation should be the same for everyone,” says Cathy Bessant, chief technology officer at Bank of America. Ms Bessant believes bank need to make their move to the cutting of the banking sector, including new fintech innovations. A top MasterCard executive told Business Insider at the World Economic Forum that the company was “very, very interested” in the technology.
“Like the rest of the world, we’re interested in seeing where blockchain technology goes, and that’s why we invested in DCG,” Garry Lyons, MasterCard’s chief innovation officer, toldBusiness Insider.
“It’s connected to 15 different others and they have their fingers in the right pies, so we’ve got the right engagement right now to see people experimenting with the underlying tech,” Lyons said.
It’s not just the industry that’s excited about blockchain — it’s the world, everyone. Even at Davos, every single tech panel I have gone to mentions blockchain, and some people call it the second coming. But while we think it’s very interesting, we don’t want to, and no one wants to, be blindsided by rushing into it.
A well-known former JPMorgan Chase executive, Blythe Masters, has raised $52 million from several big banks for a start-up built on the technology underlying the Bitcoin virtual currency.
The start-up Digital Asset Holdings, based in New York, said on Thursday afternoon that it had raised the money from 13 financial institutions, including Ms. Masters’s former employer, JPMorgan, as well as Citi, BNP Paribas and Santander.
At the same time, the company also announced that it had signed a deal with Australia’s primary stock exchange, ASX, to provide technology that would speed up the settlement and transfer of money after stock trades. ASX Limited is also making a big investment in Digital Asset Holdings.
Digital Asset Holdings has based its technology on the blockchain concept that was introduced by the virtual currency Bitcoin. The blockchain is the database in which all transactions on the Bitcoin network are recorded. Unlike typical databases, the blockchain is maintained by users in a decentralized fashion. That has led many in the financial industry to hail it as a faster — and more reliable — alternative to existing transaction systems.
Many financial institutions have been looking at ways to use a blockchain to modernize financial transactions by cutting out various middlemen from the markets. The Nasdaq stock exchange has already integrated blockchain technology to improve stock trading.
Ms. Masters gave the technology a big boost when she announced her involvement with Digital Asset Holdings in early 2015. She left JPMorgan the previous year after a career during which she became one of the best-known figures in the financial industry.
Big questions remain, however, about how blockchain technology can be used in the real world, and so far talk of its potential has raced ahead of real-world uses.
In recent months, this disparity has caused some concern about the companies that are trying to raise money to build start-ups on the blockchain concept, including Digital Asset Holdings.
Potential investors said that it took Ms. Masters longer than expected to pull together her funders — and that some big-name banks ultimately declined to participate.
But Ms. Masters ended up raising more money than the $35 million that had been previously discussed. This round of fund-raising values Digital Asset Holdings at $100 million.
The Australian exchange company said that Digital Asset Holdings would help it develop new technology for the processes that take place after a stock is actually traded.
“Distributed Ledger Technology could provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reduce cost, time and complexity in the post-trade environment of Australia’s equity market,” the chief executive of ASX, Elmer Funke Kupper, said in a statement.
The other investors include CME Ventures, ABN AMRO, Santander’s innovation arm, Deutsche Börse Group, Accenture, Broadridge Financial Solutions, the Depository Trust and Clearing Corporation, and PNC Financial Services.
The sovereign debt crisis in 2011-12 accentuated the downward trend in inflation for the Eurozone. In the aftermath, the core inflation of the Eurozone, which mostly reflects domestic inflation pressures, has declined as slack in the labour market jumped higher. Since 2013, the ongoing fall in international commodity prices has also caused the headline inflation rate to collapse, since this measure includes what economists call the volatile components: commodities and food. So the inflation rate that is prevailing today is not only about oil, but the result both of internal factors and the diffusion of global factors with many transmission channels. In 2015, core inflation even passed below 1%, which is a strong warning level for any central banker.
Why is a low inflation rate so critical? First, low inflation makes for less efficient central bank policy, as its means higher real interest rates. Second, low inflation becomes more troublesome if it is too low for too long, as it could result in a change in people’s expectations of future inflation. This could trigger a dangerous self-fulfilling loop if expectations are de-anchored, and it is very difficult to reverse disinflationary shocks – as shown in Japan
The European Central Bank (ECB) has – finally – implemented strong action to reflate the economy and stop the persistent decline in inflation, and seems to have had a particular focus on increasing the core rate. The ECB’s objective is for Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation to be close to but below 2%, which was challenging throughout 2015.
2016 was supposed to be the year of the rebound for the headline inflation after the huge impact of the oil collapse on the 2015 inflation rate. The theory was that the negative base effects on energy prices would be removed from December onwards, and support a higher inflation rate next year. This remains true to an extent, however, once again, the oil price is playing the fool. The oil market is suffering from excess supply, and these imbalances need to be absorbed. Oil prices will remain the most important driving force for inflation, in both directions. The market is expecting a slight rebound of the oil price over next year, but if oil remains below $40 it will keep the headline inflation far from the ECB’s projection for 2016, and clearly it will again complicate the ECB’s job.
The ECB’s job is further complicated by the fact that economic growth in the Eurozone is actually on-going, firm and broad-based, and the fall in the oil price is very good news for consumer purchasing power. Nevertheless, consumer price inflation dynamics will be key to the ECB’s reaction function in 2016 in the Euro area.
John Mauldin looks at the true value of Yuan and its impact.
Recent Chinese stock market volatility has had more to do with China’s currency than its stocks. Donald Trump and other politicians (yes, he is one) often assail Beijing for devaluing its currency and acquiring an unfair advantage.
First, the Chinese have actually been manipulating their currency upwards. While countries in the rest of the world have been letting their currencies devalue against the dollar, China has maintained an effective dollar peg until very recently. And then the “move” that seems to have everybody in a dither was only about 4%. To be fair, what really had the markets worried was that this move might presage an effective devaluation. And considering that China has watched the euro, the yen, and nearly every emerging-market currency drop anywhere from 30 to 50% against the yuan – a rather painful experience for its export sector – the Chinese have been quite patient.
Beijing think it can boost exports by manipulating its currency lower? I don’t think so. Remember how their business model works. Unlike, say, Saudi Arabia, China doesn’t simply extract resources from the ground and export them. Chinaimports raw materials, transforms them into finished goods in its factories, and then exports those goods. Their gain lies in the value added in the manufacturing process.
That means that China can’t grow exports without also growing imports. Pushing the yuan lower helps, but it’s a relatively inefficient tool for reducing the trade surplus.
Cheapening the currency has another consequence China doesn’t want. It makes imported products more expensive for Chinese consumers. The country’s abilities are growing fast, but it still depends on outside sources for many important goods. Making them cost more doesn’t help build the consumer-driven economy Beijing says it wants.
For those reasons and more, China Beige Book has a contrarian view on the Chinese currency. They believe Beijing wants the yuan to rise, not fall. So what is happening with all these interventions the Chinese authorities are making in the currency market?
The first point to remember is that the adjustments have all been quite small – far smaller than the hoopla suggests. For all the clamor that erupted last year, the yuan fell just over 4.5% against the dollar. That’s quite a lot if you are leveraged 10x, as currency traders often are, but for most merchants and consumers the change was hardly noticeable.
Recall all that happened in 2015. Aside from the stock market fireworks, China won acceptance of the yuan into the IMF’s reserve currency basket. It also watched the Federal Reserve finally make a first, tentative move toward higher rates and a correspondingly stronger dollar. If all that couldn’t crush the yuan, it’s not clear to me that anything will.
The second point is critical: China controls its currency by both central bank action and subtler tools. They have immense power to nudge the currency up or down. Tightening and loosening the controls is like turning a volume knob. They can crank the yuan up or turn it down.
Presently they are clamping down harder than usual in order to deter speculation. Much of this is happening under the radar, one business and industry at a time. Nevertheless, people are starting to feel the consequences.
John Mauldin looks at the latest happenings in the Chinese Economy and their significance.
China Beige Book’s fourth-quarter report revealed a rude interruption to the positive “stable deceleration” trend. Their observers in cities all over that vast country reported weakness in every sector of the economy. Capital expenditures dropped sharply; there were signs of price deflation and labor market weakness; and both manufacturing and service activity slowed markedly.
That last point deserves some comment. China experts everywhere tell us the country is transitioning from manufacturing for export to supplying consumer-driven services. So if both manufacturing and service activity are slowing, is that transition still happening?
The answer might be “yes” if manufacturing were decelerating faster than services. For this purpose, relative growth is what counts. Unfortunately, manufacturing is slowing while service activity is not picking up all the slack. That’s not the combination we want to see.
Something else China Beige Book noticed last quarter: both business and consumer loan volume did not grow in response to lower interest rates. That’s an important change, and probably not a good one. It means monetary stimulus from Beijing can’t save the day this time. Leland thinks fiscal stimulus isn’t likely to help, either. Like other governments and their central banks, China is running out of economic ammunition.
One quarter doesn’t constitute a trend. Possibly some transitory factors depressed the Chinese economy the last few months, and it will soon resume its “stable deceleration” course. It is hard to imagine what those factors might have been, though. The data is so uniformly negative that it sure looks like something big must have changed.
What does this economic weakness say for Chinese stocks? Probably nothing. It should be clear to all that the Chinese stock market is completely unrelated to the Chinese economy. They don’t move together, nor do they move opposite each other. They have no consistent connection at all – or at least not one we can use to invest confidently. I went to Macau when I was in Hong Kong a few weeks ago, just to observe the fabled fervor with which the Chinese gamble. The place did indeed have a different “feel” than Las Vegas does. I’m not the only one to think that the Chinese stock market is just an outpost of Macau, but one in which leverage and monetary stimulus can overload the system.
Let me say that there are real companies with real value in China. But the rules on the ground, not to mention the accounting, make it a particularly treacherous market to invest more than your own “gambling money.”