Author: Contrarian Marketplace

How much do Americans care about Russia?

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According to Gallup, in a list of concerns for Americans, Russia ranks less than 1% and has been falling. Regardless of the media noise on collusion, election meddling and treason these polls show how irrelevant the issue appears.  Over 40% see illegal immigration and draining the swamp as key issues. There is no question that Trump’s presser with Putin was a howler but despite the media’s constant negative coverage of the event, the MSM don’t seem to be hitting a nerve with Main Street.

Here is a classic 10 min video released before the election in the poorest county in West Virginia. The folk feel forgotten. Calling them uneducated, stupid, bigoted or any other insult is hardly the stuff of winning them over. They are not living the dream. One even called Trump a blow-hard and a buffoon but he will vote for him as he looks to provide his family a better way out of financial destitution he is in. One person, one vote. Still even if we wanted to think Russian collusion, CM applauds Putin for keeping 10s of millions of registered voters at home on Election Day.

For more details on the Gallup poll please refer to this link.

Who says the Germans don’t do humour?

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Mercedes-Benz has decided to showcase its least fuel efficient SUV, the G63 AMG (which has the aerodynamics of a house brick), overlooking some renewable wind power. Irony, sarcasm and humour rolled into one. Is this to champion the importance of boosting policy that encourages carbon offsets or will the car double as a back up generator when the wind doesn’t blow?

Maybe the joke is on us. Perhaps the Germans aren’t doing humour at all but providing realistic assessments on actual consumer behaviour and the inability of renewables to provide baseload power.

The gender unemployment gap

Changes in the Gender Unemployment Gap during Recessions

Another interesting piece was written by the St Louis Fed showing the gender unemployment gap of men relative to women. A negative spread shows that women have lower risk of unemployment relative to men in the 24 months after the start of a recession. Looking at the chart we see that in 1960 & 1969 female unemployment tended to rise relative to men after a recession began but in the following downturns of 1973, 1980, 1990, 2001 and 2007 the situation reversed. Participation rates for women in the workforce hovered at around 40% in 1970 vs 60% today. In 2007, the most aggressive spread emerged in favour of women by over 2%. The Fed report does not include what types of roles that women tend to do. Switching to the Bureau of Labor statistics (BLS) it makes sense that women over time have been retrenched at lower rates than males due to field of employment.

Women today tend to occupy more jobs in education, nursing, healthcare (defensive industries) whereas men tend to work in more construction, agriculture and manufacturing specialties (levered industries).

In 2017, employment breakdown between men and women was as follows.

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Another interesting table from the BLS was that of educational standards of 1970 compared to 2010. As we can see more women are pursuing higher levels of education. 67% in 2010 took some college or higher degree vs only 22% in 1970. One would imagine in 2018 those numbers are higher again.

Where men once went to college in proportions far higher than women—58% to 42% as recently as the 1970s—the ratio has now almost exactly reversed with women comprising more than 56% of students on campuses nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Education (DoE). Some 2.2 million fewer men than women will be enrolled in college this year. By 2026, 57% of college students in the US will be women.

It will be interesting to see how the gender unemployment gap develops during future recessions with a far higher level of educated women in the workforce.

The financial health of Millennials

Changing Balance Sheet across Generations

The St Louis Fed has published a report on Millennial balance sheets, comparing them to Gen Xers. The average value of total assets was lower among millennials than Gen Xers. Millennials held an average of $162,000 of assets relative to Gen X’s average of $198,000. The report also found that Millennials held a slightly higher level of total debt, at an average of $72,000 compared to Gen X’s average of $67,000. However the composition was markedly different – average student loan levels surged from $4,200 for Gen X to $14,700 for millennials. In short, millennials’ average asset position is lower, while they hold slightly more debt, which leads to an average net worth of $90,000 for millennials and $130,000 for Gen X.

In closing the report notes,

We observe that millennials have been going to school longer and delaying major life events. Thus, it makes sense that they hold lower levels of assets. They have had less time in the labor force, and a smaller share of them have moved out on their own, which contributes to the lower levels of residential assets. However, they have shown a higher propensity to save for retirement and to avoid credit card debt.

Renewable investment dropped by largest margin ever

While watching the MotoGP in Sachsenring over the weekend CM couldn’t help but notice the lack of wind power being generated nearby the circuit. Last week we saw Ontario Premier Doug Ford terminate 758 renewables projects on the basis of their inability to provide sustainable and affordable energy. Last week South Australian consumers were hit with spot prices of $1,200/kWh because of the lack of baseload. Former Premier Jay Weatherill was turfed in the recent election because voters were growing tired of facing the highest electricity prices, slowest growth and highest unemployment rates. Despite all the jaw boning about the big renewable energy job machine, the Australian Bureau of Statistics noted, “by state, South Australia has seen a 65% fall in green jobs since the peak in 2011/12. Victoria down 46%, Queensland down 49%, NSW down 32% & WA down 55%.”

The FT noted today that “Investment in renewable power declined last year by its largest amount ever and is likely to keep falling this year, threatening global climate goals…”

Should we be surprised to see the Turnbull Government in Australia look to keep open the very power stations they were seeking to close to meet Paris targets? Isn’t the 7% fall in global renewables investment last year yet more evidence of the waning popularity of saving the planet? IATA forecasts aircraft passenger travel to double by 2030. Gas guzzling SUVs are also toward the top of the sales charts. Consumers expect others to save the planet for them. Consumption patterns reveal one’s true care for climate change i.e. not much.

South Australia has been the biggest red flag when it comes to failed renewable policy in action. The irony is the state dynamited the old coal fired plants as a virtue signaling exercise. We have even seen some corporations look to take power plants over to become self sufficient because they have no faith in the grid.

Opposition leader Bill Shorten might want to censure coal fired power backers for being “knuckle draggers” but with a risk of repeat $1,200/kWh spot prices thanks to overreliance on renewables, many consumers will gladly wear that as a badge of honour if it means they can afford to heat their homes due to the overly cold winter.

Mulligan Brexit again

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Rebel Tory MP Justine Greening is calling for a second referendum on Brexit to end a parliamentary deadlock. There was never any doubt that ‘leavers’ wanted OUT of the EU. It was pretty clear cut. “Leave the European Union ✅ or ❌” Not half in or any other form of compromise. At what point will politicians get it through their thick skulls that constituents do not want mulligan politics? If some don’t like the outcome, just keep swinging until can deliver the minority the result they wanted? Best of three? Why not conduct parliamentary elections this way? Swing and a miss!

UK PM Theresa May has shown utter incompetence in executing Brexit. She stupidly called an election which cost her a majority forcing her to side with the DUP just to hold onto power. She couldn’t read that the electorate was sick of voting as CM pointed out at the time. She was punished for it, despite the massive lead in the polls she had. One might almost think it was deliberate given the soft stance she has taken on Brexit and the total disregard for the referendum.

Despite jawboning last week there would be no negotiation post the resignations of David Davis & Boris Johnson she has had to cave in to hard line Brexiters (305 vs 302) on the Customs Bill. A narrow 303-300 vote to exit the EU’s VAT scheme post-Brexit was also reached. Shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, Peter Dowd said, “it took two years for the Prime Minister to reach her Chequers deal, but only two days for it to fall apart.” He is not wrong. May has bungled it so poorly one wonders if it isn’t deliberate.

What should be seen here is that politicians (from any party) voting against what their constituents put forward will be political suicide over this.  There is a genuine sense in the House of Commons that all of this will somehow wash over like politics has for decades.  While many might see the ructions inside the Tories as a godsend for Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn (to an extent it is), even he has to realise that almost 40% of his party’s voters wanted to leave, meaning the members from those areas that expressed their intent leaves mixed messaging for the party as a whole. Watch for a resurgence in UKIP.

In any event May needs to go. She should resign. It is unlikely that she will. She is even thinking of bringing summer recess forwards to reduce the chances of a no confidence motion although both Labour & Tory members have quashed the idea of this. 48 members must write letters to the 1922 backbench committee to call a no confidence motion and Theresa May would need to win over half the 316 seats held.

Yet we only need to look at drunkard EC President Jean-Claude Juncker and ask why any UK politician thinks there is merit in negotiating with an unelected mob that can’t walk in a straight line even when sober? Keep calm and Brexit hard.

Gaza flare up was inevitable

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On July 4, CM wrote that a skirmish with Gaza was highly possible,

“What might have escaped many is that in the last few months terrorists have burnt more than 30,000 dunam (7,400 acres) of land near the border with Gaza. Israel’s honey industry has almost been wiped out. Israel is under pressure to do something to stop such destruction. Iran is the biggest headache for Israel at present. Despite digital diplomacy, the last thing the country wants to invite is a conflict with Iran-backed Hamas.

However do not be surprised if some skirmish kicks off on the border in coming months to contain the fire bombing of farmland.“

This is the first heavy handed strike since 2014. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group said that a truce has been reached but small scale mortar fire continues.

Credit to Nimmy on the ground in Tel Aviv for live information.