Showing posts from July, 2008

UDB meltdown

We have often spoken of the UDB (Universal Debt Bubble) and how it had permeated nearly every asset class and geography. It's existence is the reason that we have often chided believers in economic "decoupling" as fantasists. We wrote about the structural weaknesses of the Asian economies in China Syndrome and Silent Scream. The trend has been quite clear lately as India teeters on the edge of recession and Japan's trade surplus collapses. Today we receive additional confirmation (as if any were needed).

The last bastion of the "decoupling" fantasy is China. Yes OPEC and Russia can remain strong as long as oil prices stay high but that scenario rests on the further assumption of nearly unlimited demand growth out of Asia (especially China). Chinese growth had continued to be high even as it trended down for 5 consecutive quarters. Now we see a report that the industrial sector is SHRINKING outright over there. Bloomberg reports that Chinese PMI fell…

The FDIC and You

Well friends it's time to talk about bank failures and wealth preservation. We have talked about insolvent banks on multiple occasions before but the threat of large banks failing is now imminent. Countrywide was saved from such a fate by Bank of America. Now IndyMac is right on the edge. They're not officially dead yet - only mostly dead but there's no Miracle Max in sight.

Their recent letter to stakeholders reads like a death certificate:
regulators involvedprohibited from getting brokered depositscan't sell stock (no buyers)asset sales would deplete capital (tacit admission of mis-valuation)===> must stop making loans The FDIC has been bulking up for months now, anticipating a wave of bank failures. So far it's been a few small banks but now it's the big boy's turn. So how secure are bank deposits and and how much can the insurance fund really cover? For now, it looks like the answers are pretty safe (as long as you're under the $100,000 limit) and …

China Syndrome

Today we turn our attention to China - certainly the most celebrated economy in the world today and possibly the most celebrated ever. Yet China's contemporary economy may be the most unbalanced in the history of the planet.

The Problem
Though it is hard to find reliable numbers, most sources agree that capital investment in China accounts for over 40% of GDP. Frankly, this is a terrifying and unprecedented number. For reference, Japan during their boom years was typically around 30% of GDP and never exceeded 35% for long. During the Roaring Twenties, fixed investment in the US economy averaged less than 20%. Looked at a bit differently, about 42% of China's economy is based on ------ the expansion of the economy. This creates tremendous momentum but also huge potential for disaster. Essentially, everything will be fine as long as everyone there believes the economy will continue to expand at a breakneck pace and invests accordingly. This is virtually the definition of a…

Silent Scream

(editor's note - This blog entry was completed and posted on July 4. The entry date is showing as July 1, as the software uses the date on which the first draft was saved.)

Marc Faber was on Bloomberg TV today and he mentioned that the higher reported consumer inflation rates in Asia were a function of lower per capita GDP and a higher proportion of income spent on food and fuel - which are nearly the only prices that are rising aggressively. Common sense right? But of course that really made me start thinking - always a dangerous prospect.

Asia, Inc.

So Asia's consumer "basket" looks a lot different than that of the average American or Western European. But there are other differences as well. Many Asian nations are resource-poor, major importers of either food, raw materials or both and they depend upon exports of manufactured goods to pay for those imports. Now, let's look at the situation from a slightly different perspective. The industrial sectors of Asian ec…