America

44% of Americans can’t raise $400 in an emergency. It is actually an improvement

IMG_0673.PNG

44%. This is actually an improvement on the 2015 survey that said 47% of Americans can’t raise $400 in an emergency without selling something. The consistency is the frightening part. The survey in 2013 showed 50% were under the $400 pressure line. Of the group that could not raise the cash, 45% said they would go further in debt and use a credit card to pay It off over time. while 25% would borrow from friends or family, 27% would forgo the emergency while the balance would turn to selling items or using a payday loan to get by. The report also noted just under a quarter of adults are not able to pay all of their current month’s bills in full while 25% reported skipping medical treatments due to the high cost in the prior year. Additionally, 28% of adults who haven’t retired yet reported to being largely unprepared, indicating no retirement savings or pension whatsoever. Welcome to a gigantic problem ahead. Not to mention the massive unfunded liabilities in the public pension system which in certain cases has seen staff retire early so they can get a lump sum before it folds.

Farewell Kentucky Kid

IMG_9069.JPG

2006 MotoGP world champion Nicky Hayden aka the Kentucky Kid has passed away at the age of 35 after suffering a cycling accident last week in Rimini, Italy. The support for him from the motorsport community was huge. Even Aussie supercars had #gonicky hashtag stickers on their cars. Hayden was universally liked on and off the track.

Hayden’s death comes a month after Michele Scarponi, a veteran Italian professional cyclist, was killed after being hit by a van while out on a training ride.

Tommy Hayden issued the following message following the death of his brother,

On behalf of the whole Hayden family and Nicky’s fiancée Jackie I would like to thank everyone for their messages of support – it has been a great comfort to us all knowing that Nicky has touched so many people’s lives in such a positive way.

“Although this is obviously a sad time, we would like everyone to remember Nicky at his happiest – riding a motorcycle. He dreamed as a kid of being a pro rider and not only achieved that but also managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport in becoming World Champion. We are all so proud of that.

“Apart from these ‘public’ memories, we will also have many great and happy memories of Nicky at home in Kentucky, in the heart of the family. We will all miss him terribly.”

If Trump is so stupid how come the media keep getting fooled? Now they demand an insurance payout

IMG_0672.JPG

I used to read Der Spiegel. I even paid for a subscription but eventually the journalism lost its edge. This week’s article calling for Trump’s removal makes my decision sound. Read the following section several times and honestly ask yourself is this journalism? Put aside personal views of the President and objectively look at what the article ‘Donald Trump is a menace to the world’ written by Klaus Brinkbäumer is suggesting, if not demanding.

“He is a man free of morals. As has been demonstrated hundreds of times, he is a liar, a racist and a cheat. I feel ashamed to use these words, as sharp and loud as they are. But if they apply to anyone, they apply to Trump. And one of the media’s tasks is to continue telling things as they are: Trump has to be removed from the White House. Quickly. He is a danger to the world.”

So how would you suggest we do it? No, that is not an option. Should we ignore the democratic process by which he was elected?  Should we ignore the fact that even if he was a ‘liar, a racist and a cheat’ people voted in full knowledge of all of his ‘pussy grabbing antics’? The problem with this type of article is that it ignores reality on so many fronts. As I’ve written many times, if you are not a citizen of a country your input on their citizens’ voting intentions is irrelevant. Essentially what you are pleading for is the same as making a willingly high risk investment in a stock which goes bust then complaining to your broker you were misled and ask for your money back.

Elections are much like stock markets. Your voting intention is akin to investing in your country. In the case of America you had two stocks to choose form. One was the hedge of the other. If you wanted to reinvest in the diminishing returns of the last 40 years you bought Clinton Inc. If you wanted to bet on higher risk with potentially higher high return with a start up you voted for Trump Corp.  The media were slimeball stockbrokers trying to persuade investors (voters) to buy into the safety of Clinton Inc because they knew that the commission pay-off would be larger for them. However investors had enough of struggling through decades of exceptional losses, downgrades, dividend cuts and incompetent CEOs. Even worse they got sick and tired of the shareholder meetings where CEO Obama would talk about how successful his stewardship had been when an increasingly dissatisfied shareholder base kept on checking their statements and questioning the dud investment let alone disapproving of his suggested successor.

Mr Brinkbaumer, your article is exactly the problem with the media. You claim the media’s task is to ‘continue telling things as they are’ but you’ve failed on so many levels so many times that your trust rating is even lower than President Trump which stands in the early 40% range. The problem is that the only insurance you can buy in politics is the opposition. None other exists because the premiums would be too high and the payouts too low.

What your article painfully overlooks is that had the previous mob, who no doubt you think is the solution, was actually the problem. That 40 years of painful neglect led to record numbers on welfare, food stamps and income inequality. The investors knew that backing Clinton Inc, whose entire manifesto spoke to helping the needy that had been neglected by her own party (by deduction including the man she intended to replace), was such a palpable untruth that had the Democrats so brazenly lied in a stock prospectus she would really have been jailed.

After Comey’s decision to testify, my social media feeds lit up like a Christmas tree. I deliberately held back from making any call at the time because there was no evidence other than speculation. Yet social media had already made up its mind – “impeachment! – the orange buffoon is going down!” “The smoking gun!” Of course it turns out that the knee-jerk reaction was proved a falsehood. The media once again let its subjectivity rule the day. Like Rachel Maddow’s scoop on his taxes. She sold it as grounds to get him on tax evasion like Al Capone in The Untouchables. She essentially said “we’ve got the book keeper.” Yet she was gunned down in the elevator by her own leftist journos. You know when the media attacks its own that even it from time to time has flashes of objectivity, albeit too brief because lessons are never learned.

Sadly for the rest of the world, as much as we may despise Trump (he has flaws) and protest at his actions we have absolutely no rights to lynch a democratically elected President much less encourage his downfall. This type of reckless behavior is indeed more disturbing. It essentially says you don’t respect the democratic rights of Americans. What is worse is it the same downright condescending attitude people had during the elections that completely ignored the plight of those that voted for him remains. I remember reading one article suggesting that there be an intelligence test required to have voting rights.  That is totalitarian behaviour if there ever was!

The leftist media continues to forget that the one sure way to help him do another 4 years is to keep up the same broken record dialogue. Indeed in the next 3+ years the Americans will have the opportunity to sack him if indeed they see a better alternative. Trump was always the start-up IPO bet. American voters knew full well he was a risk and they took it. His volatile stock performance is not a big surprise.

Klaus, you conveniently forget that Trump is a by-product of decades of neglect. Had the past four decades of the incumbent political class done a sound enough job he never would have seen the light of day. Instead of putting blame on the causes you simply place it all on him. Instead of some introspection on asking why he is where he is you can’t remove yourself from the group think of attack dogs. That anything he may achieve will be discredited and anything he does wrong will be given full thermonuclear uranium tipped coverage. That my dear friend is shame on you.

It would be nice to see some balance in coverage because if you don’t social media will drag up example after example for you further discrediting your supposed ‘telling things as they are’. We must all remember that digital media has a half-life of infinity. Is it any wonder 25% of the workforce in media has been culled in recent years. It isn’t that advertising revenues are falling it is because you don’t provide enough value for advertisers to warrant posting ads in your publication. Guaranteed if the journalism attracted readers the ad revenue would climb with it.

So once again, the bigger danger to the world is you not him. We should never encourage the overthrow of democratically elected governments because we dislike the outcome. Don’t forget that Clinton had 99% of the mainstream media on her side, leaked debate questions to give her an advantage, a pussy-grabbing video against her opposition and more but still lost. Why? The attitude of expecting a coronation and frankly Hillary Clinton didn’t put in the work.

Suppose no dirt is found on Trump? That constant media mud slinging fails to stick. Evidence surely that maybe he is just a brash, uncouth, narcisstic bully rather than someone that must be removed as a danger to the world. Sure, he doesn’t exactly act in a manner very befitting of the most powerful office in the world but he got there legitimately.  Indeed if he is as unhinged as you imagine surely Pyongyang would be under a mushroom cloud and Assad would be a victim of SEAL Team 6. In fact you might point out that the incredible weakness of his predecessor on foreign policy makes Trump’s more assertive stance a welcoming relief rather than a terrifying prelude to WW3.

Your article is so typical of the snowflake culture. The type of attitude that seeks to ban people from making addresses at universities, once the cradle of free speech. You ignore what you don’t want to hear and pass judgement on those who fail to hear you. Once you learn to listen to others you may find that you come to understand why even people like Van Jones can eventually see why Trump won’t be outed so easily. For indeed if he is as big a fool as everyone makes out the media won’t be needed to point it out. It will be painfully clear and in 2018 Americans will get a trial IPO and 2020 the opportunity to buy or sell stock in Trump Corp.

I should thank you for this article for helping confirm why I didn’t bother renewing my subscription.

Comey testimony proves media can’t stop playing the man rather than the ball

IMG_0114

Comey admitted in his testimony that he was never pressured by Trump to end any investigations. Damn and blast. The media has done another collective Rachel Maddow “we’ve got his tax returns” backfire. So insistent on trying to seek revenge they forgot the old Chinese proverb, “before setting out on revenge, first dig two graves.” So eager are they to play the man they overlook basic check sheets to find balance. Trump may well be a loose cannon at times but the media is the pot still calling the kettle black.

While I long argued Trump would win the election I’ve been an advocate of trying to seek balance to the one sided argument against him. It doesn’t mean I think he is ideal.  I disagree with many (not all) things he has done and petty things (like his attitude to Merkel) are certainly not fitting the most powerful office in the world. Trump derangement syndrome is none-the-less real. The media attack dogs never seek to do moral equivalence with their beloved Obama over the same supposed crimes of leaking sensitive info or whatever. I do think Trump is Turnbull-esque in lacking judgement as well as constant cabinet reshuffles but the most twisted irony is that financial markets would seem to want him there using any wobble on the back of an impeachment scenario as an excuse rather than admit the hyper asset bubble blown for 8 years.

The mainstream media now preys on clickbait. Thinking the number of clicks, likes and shares are endorsements and can replace quality content (as much as they self appraise it’s high value added factual). In fact the revenue numbers of media outlets who continually rant  is telling. Fairfax in Australia has had two rounds of layoffs in the space of 12 months and The Guardian is openly begging for donations.

The media is surely going to keep launching salvo after salvo to try get him out of office. As stupid as they keep suggesting the ‘orange baffoon” is he keeps getting their measure. I issue a caution though. The deplorables that voted him in want him to get on with the job. With all these distractions the quest that they hope will get them under the “have not” hole is pushed further into the future. Getting an impeachment to stick and force a resignation is not high on a have not’s priority list. They need help as I argued at the time of the election. Whether Trump can provide it is a moot point but they voted for change and the “haves” ought to be careful how they indirectly impact the “have nots”

The screaming, carrying on and promoting blood sport may end up creating proper civil unrest. It’s simmering but the media as usual is oblivious to it all. In any event the last thing the world needs is instability in the world’s largest economy at this point in a peaking cycle.

The changing face of the global motorbike market

JGMP.png

Earlier in the week we touched on the 1,800,000 fall in the number of Japanese who possess a large capacity motorcycle license. The status of the Japanese motorcycle companies makes for some interesting comparisons. Honda remains the largest global manufacturer with over 17.7 million units produced annually. Yamaha has seen a c.1mn unit decline over the last 5 years but a jump in the average profitability of its bikes. Suzuki has cut production by almost 50% as it continues to rack up losses and Kawasaki has stuck to a large bike bias which has stabilised profitability. Here is a look at the state of revenue growth over the last 5 years among major listed motorcycle manufacturers.

MMsegment Rev.png

Profitability is a different picture among the global makers. Suzuki has been struggling to make a profit, Kawasaki has drifted down but remained in the black. Honda has been outpaced by Yamaha and among the foreign makers BMW Motorrad and KTM have beaten Harley-Davidson’s performance.

MMsegment EBIT

The foreign makers are all much smaller scale than the Japanese and tend to focus in the larger engine size segments. Harley-Davidson has suffered the most among the 5 big players in terms of unit growth. KTM, followed by BMW Motorrad have made the biggest relative gains.

MMGaijin.png

Looking at average EBIT/unit produced yields starkly different results. Harley nets around $3,000 per motorcycle in EBIT with BMW around half of that amount at €1,285 ($1,430) with KTM half of that. Kawasaki makes the most per motorcycle among the Japanese on a unit basis. Honda has remained relatively stable at $103 (although we should note that this is closer to $170 as the consolidated production number is about 10m units and the global number including equity method companies is the 17.7m) and Yamaha at $64.  These are ridiculously low numbers and of course identifying mix within that would yield far more healthy results for certain models and losses on others.

MMEBITunit

One thing it points out is that focused strategies appear to be paying off for the Europeans and to some extent Kawasaki which has moved away from a me too approach. Efficiency and brand seems to be paying off for BMW’s continued rise and a broad range of product unlike Harley which seems to be stuck in a divine franchise scenario. Profitable but struggling to break out of cruisers. It has had a stab at sports bikes through Buell (business was spun off and EBR has since closed) and the Porsche designed V-Rod (now out of production). Now that Ducati is potentially being sold by Audi, does Harley look to use a proper sports brand with no clash in its line up to fuel (no pun intended) its growth?

No automatic alt text available.

How the other half is doing in America

IMG_9749.JPG

A few years back the US Federal Reserve did a survey which revealed 47% of Americans couldn’t raise $400 cash in an emergency without selling something. Do you recall Marco Rubio in the GOP primaries harping about knowing families who live “paycheck to paycheck”  Well the bad news keeps rolling in.  Northwestern Mutual has pointed out that 45% of Americans spend up to half of their monthly take home pay on (mostly credit card) debt service alone….which, again, excludes mortgage debt.

The study went on to show that 40% of that credit card debt was frivolous discretionary spending (which they claimed was the biggest source of their problems) but only 20% were able to make minimum monthly payments.  In short don’t be surprised to see defaults, bankruptcies and moral hazard rear its ugly head. Now we see a run on a Canadian mortgage lender. Does the poverty rate of 25% across EU vs 20% pre Lehman collapse raise red flags? Does sharply growing public sector employment across the majority of OECD  countries since GFC not strike you as failed economic policy? Does 1/3rd of Aussies saying 3mths of continuous unemployment would lead to an inability to repay their debts? How the 65yo+ demographic is the largest prisoner cohort in Japan because poverty levels are climbing. Yes pensioners are breaking Into jail.

If anyone thinks record high asset prices is a reflection on our collective wealth think again. The worst thing about this bubble is that it is the accumulation of three massive bubbles that never cleared. Sadly this one will pop like one of those game shows with a balloon full of  stinky slime.

Are you telling me you wouldn’t accept $400,000/hr?

IMG_9055.JPG

It is not often I write about Obama in positive terms but this time I must. $400,000 for a one hour speech to Wall Street is the price they’re willing to pay. If you’re reading this, throw away your prejudices and political affiliation and ask yourself point blank “if I was offered $400k as a speaking fee, would I take it?” I’m guessing most of you would. You can call Obama a sell out or whatever for speaking to those he despised but he is not dissimilar to any other world leader cashing in on the speaker’s circuit. Bill Clinton must be beside himself at being 50% off Obama’s rates or is that there is a bubble in public speaking?

Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren was outraged at how Obama could be so out of touch with battlers. What a shame the Democrats didn’t figure out the mass increase in poverty, welfare and wealth divide over his 8 years, not to mention previous administrations.  The signs have been there for ages.

The sad fact is that being POTUS gives a huge wealth of opportunities, whether it be wakebording behind Sir Richard Branson’s mega yacht in the Bahamas or generous pay packets after dinner speeches after office.

Why would an investment bank pay $400,000 for Obama? Simple. The bank gets to invite all the top drawer C-level management clients which hopefully leads to multi million dollar transactions.

We can bitch and moan at the levels of hypocrisy or acccept that centuries if not millennia of business practice has been done this way. Influence is everything. Relationships are everything. It’s not what you know but who you know.  Surely kings in ancient times were showered with presents and favours by local lords pressing for greater influence to dominate other lords. In some cultures marrying one’s offspring off to more influential circles was deliberate attempt to gain favour. The Clinton Foundation made an industry out of pay-for-play. Why are we surprised?

I’ll be the first to argue that the gap between the haves and have nots has reached unsustainable levels but do not expect that Obama will worry about that. What worries me is we have a system where too many ‘have nots’ are living like ‘haves’ (e.g. Australia’s housing boom where mortgage debt:GDP is 180%) in this low interest rate world meaning risk is priced at next to nothing when in reality  it should come with a high visibility vest and flashing LEDs warning of its toxicity, flammability and volatility.

How is the imbalance redressed? That is not an overnight affair. With poverty levels around the world at all time highs, debt at record levels, deficits at unsustainable levels and public service jobs growing to hide the fact the establishment has lost control of a supertanker which is ablaze the reset will actually put a growing number of people into this harsh reality. From that we’ll have our hand forced. It will be ugly.

So I ask the question again. If you were offered $400,000 to speak for the sake of protecting your family would you do it? Of course you would but then the most common line I use for people looking for investment  returns is simple – “stop worrying about the return ON your money but the return OF it.”