France

Banker Buster?

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Before the GFC in 2008, bank shares across the globe were flying. Financial engineering promised a new paradigm of wealth creation and abundant profitability. They were unstoppable.

However 12 years later, many banks look mere shadows of their former selves. We are told by our political class to believe that our economies are robust and that a low-interest rate environment will keep things tickety-boo indefinitely. After all the wheels of the economy have always been greased by the financial sector.

If that were true, why does Europe’s largest economy have two of its major banks more than 90% off the peak? Commerz has shrunk so far that it has been thrown out of the DAX. Surely, Japan’s banks should be prospering under Abenomics so why are the shares between 65% and 80% below 2007 levels?

Ahh, but take a look at those Aussie beauties! How is it they have bucked the global trend? How can Commonwealth Bank be worth 6x Deutsche Bank?

Although we shouldn’t look at the Aussie banks with rose-tinted glasses they have mortgage debt up to the eyeballs. Mortgages to total loans exceed 62% in Australia. The next is daylight, followed by Norway at 40%. Japanese banks, before the bubble collapsed, were in the 40% range. CM wrote a comparo here. There is a real risk that these Aussie banks will require bailouts if the housing market craps out. It carries so many similarities to Japan and when anyone ever mentions stress tests – start running for the hills.

If you own Aussie banks in your superannuation portfolio, it is high time you dumped them. Franked dividends might be an ample reason to hold them, but things in finance turn on a dime and this time Australia doesn’t have a China to rescue us like it did in 2008-09. More details contained in the link in the paragraph above.

In closing, Milton Friedman said it best with respect to the ability of central banks to control outcomes,

“… we are in danger of assigning to monetary policy a larger role than it can perform, in danger of asking it to accomplish tasks that it cannot achieve, and as a result, in danger of preventing it from making the contribution that it is capable of making.

 

Despite all the problems at the gates of Elysee Palace, Macron torches 10 Downing St instead

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As the German 6th Army marched on Paris on June 14th, 1940 civil servants of Britain and France drafted a proposal for a Franco-British Union in the ensuing 48 hours. It wasn’t to be a mere military pact but essentially merging two countries. The document stated clearly,

At this most fateful moment in the history of the modern world, the Governments of the United Kingdom and the French Republic make this declaration of indissoluble union and unyielding resolution in their common defence of justice and freedom against subjection to a system which reduces mankind to a life of robots and slaves.

Churchill was surprised by the eagerness of the French. Charles de Gaulle embraced the idea of wanting immediate execution. However, the French quickly became disillusioned and disappointed when the British were pulling troops from Dunkirk. The deal collapsed.

Then PM Paul Reynaud wrote in his memoirs that, “Those who rose in indignation at the idea of union with our ally were the same individuals who were getting ready to bow and scrape to Hitler.

So it was a No Deal outcome. The British accepted it.

The British didn’t give up and abandon the French but vowed to liberate them regardless of failing to reach a ‘mutual’ deal. Surviving the Battle of Britain, the Blitz and U-boats destroying merchant shipping, the British, with allied help, played an instrumental role in defeating Hitler. We can soundly argue that Britain had little choice but to do as she did, but the liberation of France was a welcome by-product, not lost on the French in August 1944.

The sacrifices made by Great Britain to drive out those evil occupiers are not lost on the British either. So to have Macron issue an ultimatum is ignoring history. Perhaps Macron should ask his wife, who grew up soon after the war, about French attitudes of the time – how they deeply appreciated and embraced Liberté, égalité, fraternité.

However, all credit must be given to French President Emmanuel Macron for conveniently forgetting the past and embracing double standards to try to railroad and back the very foreign democracy – that essentially assured he was able to attain the position he has – into a corner. That is the EU operating to type.

As CM has mentioned multiple times, the negative impacts on the UK economy are effectively zero if common sense between nations prevails.

Looking at the latest trade stats between the EU and Britain it is simple. EU members make up 7 of the Top 10 British export markets accounting for 37.4% of all trade. Top 10 accounts for 65.9% of trade. Trump accounts for £54.9bn vs £36.5bn from Merkel.

On the Import side, the UK matters much more to the likes of Germany £68bn. The Dutch at £42bn and France at £28bn.

In short of the UK ‘s Top 10 importing nations, 8 are EU members. The Top 10 account for 65.7% of the total. Those 8 EU nations make up 48.1% of all British imports. 7.13% of Germany’s exports end up in Blighty. One might argue that 10% of UK exports ending up in Germany is reason enough to back down. Yet why would either seek to make their position worse off? Germany is the UK’s #1 importer and Germany is the #2 destination for British exports. For Germany, the UK ranks #11 importer and #3 export nation.

Will Angela Merkel really work to ruin a trading relationship with the UK where the trade surplus alone is worth 1% of German GDP? Especially as the German economy is contracting?

Macron has once again revealed the EU’s utter contempt for sovereign state democracy. Ironic coming from a man who has seen his popularity collapse at home. If he can’t fix the will of those very constituents he represents at his own doorstep (yellow vest protests haven’t ended), what place does he have soiling the doormat at 10 Downing St? It reads like Aesop’s “Dog in the Manger.

In closing, wasn’t the whole point of establishing the EU to prevent tyranny from ever happening again?

Macron talking utter bolloques on the Amazon fires

Jo Nova has done a cracking piece which undermines the hysteria surrounding the Amazon fires and how perfectly it fits in with the G7 summit angle on globalism. She tears shreds off Macron’s ludicrous claims and even more ridiculous antics at the G7. When the world needs to be focused on avoiding recession, these politicians are fixated on petty point-scoring issues where CO2 reduction will rapidly take care of itself if the world economy tanks. The peons will care not one jot about the climate once faced with economic hardship which is likely to be even worse than the Global Financial Crisis.

Jo Nova wrote,

“Global Fire Data shows this year is unequivocally a low fire season in the Amazon. But social media tears and outrage is running at 1000% driven by old photos and fake facts of the Amazon producing “20% of our planet’s oxygen”.

And the media experts reported the house was on fire in the lungs of the world or something to that effect. They didn’t check the data, didn’t ask hard questions.

Based on hyperbolic twitter pics French leader Macron is threatening to cancel a foreign trade deal. The hype serves the purpose of attacking the right-wing Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro in the lead up to a G7 summit this week…

Who’s feeding the twitter flames?

@EmmanuelMacron

The photo he used? It’s a stock photo from Loren McIntyre, a photographer who died in 2003.

Amazon Fires, Global Fire Count, 2019, graph

“US space agency NASA, meanwhile, has said that overall fire activity across the Amazon basin this year has been close to the average compared to the past 15 years.”

Remember when it comes to climate change, NASA are the definitive last word, but when it comes to Amazon fires, they’re just a casual addendum. “No comment”.

Jonathon Watts at The Guardian carefully words the panic. It’s almost as if he is aware of what is going on but not happy to make it too clear. With headlines like these, anyone would think the readers of The Guardian are 14-year-old girls.

Does this happen every year?

Yes, but some areas have suffered far more than usual. In the worst-affected Brazilian state of Amazonas, the peak day this month was 700% higher than the average for the same date over the past 15 years. In other states, the amount of ash and other particulates in August has hit the highest level since 2010.

Is the entire forest ablaze?

No. Satellite monitoring experts say the images of an entire forest ablaze are exaggerated. A great deal of misinformation has been spread by social media, including the use of striking images from previous years’ burning seasons.”

 

British Airways places order for 200 Boeing 737 MAX

Nothing like a confidence boosting 200 plane order for the highly criticized Boeing 737 MAX jet at the Paris Airshow. British Airways CEO Willie Walsh said,

We have every confidence in Boeing and expect that the aircraft will make a successful return to service in the coming months.

There is no doubt Boeing offered a competitive price to generate some positive news spin since the crisis erupted. As CM always contended,

Ultimately the market will decide on the 737MAX. The plane has a 4,000+ unit backlog. Even if airlines wanted to change to A320neos, the switching costs would be prohibitively expensive in terms of pilot certification, maintenance and joining the end of an equally long queue. The order book is unlikely to suffer widespread cancellations.”

The mainstream media proves again its proclivity for sensationalist journalism without understanding the industry dynamics or the facts.

Sustainable air travel will require extra sick bags

Air France-KLM is looking to fund the Dutch Delft University of Technology to explore a flying wing design known as the Flying V, where passengers will sit.

Boeing dabbled with the idea in 2007 but scrapped it as it likely worked out passengers sitting out toward the wingtips would be thrown around like rag dolls in turbulent weather. Anyone who has tried to drink hot coffee during rough weather will know how even sitting toward the centre of the plane causes it to swish about, mostly in the saucer. A wing aisle seat would mean one would wear it.

Better to save shareholders’ funds Air France/KLM. Prototyping this “sustainable aircraft” might do wonders for its CSR signaling but has it considered that it must include the environmental footprint of extra sick bags and all those nasty chemicals required to clean up the mess of those who suffer motion sickness but didn’t make it in time?

Perhaps Mother Nature has given us all tips on air travel. There are many passenger jets shaped like birds. Yet no birds shaped like the Delft University of Technology design…

If Air France/KLM is so worried about the environment the best thing to do would be to close down operations.

The Virgin Group CEO Josh Bayliss said,

“It’s definitely true that right now every one of us should think hard about whether or not we need to take a flight.”

Close the airline if it means so much to save the planet.

More auto marriages have ended in divorce

Auto mergers were once thought of as the best things since sliced bread. Massive operating capacity leverage, shared platforms to reduce cost and a reduction of R&D spend per vehicle. The word “synergy” gets bandied about more than Casanova whispers “I love you“on Valentines Day! Yet why is the auto industry littered with divorces from these romances?

Lets list them.

Daimler bought Chrysler in 1998. Divorced in 2007.

Daimler alliance with Mitsubishi Motors founded in 2000. Divorce in 2005.

Daimler alliance with Hyundai founded in 2000. Divorce in 2004.

Honda – Rover JV. Started 1980. Divorced 1994

BMW – Rover – Started 1994. Deceased 2000.

Nissan – Renault – Started 1999. Currently providing real headaches due to Carlos Ghosn saga. Nissan wants full independence

Ford forms Premier Automotive Group (PAG) comprising Land Rover, Aston Martin, Volvo, Lincoln and Jaguar. Set up in 1999.

Ford sells Aston Martin in 2007.

Ford sells Land Rover & Jaguar to Tata in 2008

Ford sells Volvo to Geely in 2010.

Fiat Chrysler (FCA) formed in 2014 – including Fiat, Abarth, Chrysler, Jeep, RAM, Dodge, Lancia, Maserati & Ferrari brands.

FCA spins Ferrari off in 2016.

This isn’t an exhaustive list but one can be guaranteed that more money has been lost in auto mergers in aggregate than made. Daimler paid $45bn for Chrysler. Almost all of the Mercedes profits plugged the losses of Chrysler. Mercedes quality suffered through cost cutting sending it down toward the bottom of surveys. Daimler’s shares lost over $80bn in market cap as this disaster unfolded.

FCA and Nissan/Renault have been amongst the more successful marriages but global markets have turned many a honeymoon period into separation with fights over custody.

Forming a merger at the top of a cycle seems fraught with risks. Global auto sales are slowing. Renault and Fiat bring a lot of overlap in product lines. Nissan is such an unclear part of the puzzle.

One can argue that synergies which will lower the costs of future production have merit. Investing in battery technology does make sense across multiple product lines.

The biggest problem for the auto industry is that should a slowdown hit mid-merger, which brand suffers the hits? Which marketing team gets culled? Which R&D projects get scuppered? Too many cooks spoil the broth is the end result. There is no way a merger can be locked down in a short timeframe unless one of the parties is facing bankruptcy and has no choice but to comply. That is why Nissan-Renault worked.

Renault-FCA would be better conceived after markets have imploded. Marriages built on tough times stand a far bigger chance of survival than those that are built when things are the rosiest. Shareholders will be the biggest losers if conceived now.

EU populists thumping establishment

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EU election results so far are a disaster for the eurocrats. This was predictable. As CM has long argued, Brussels has continually ignored the issues of member states. Since 2007, poverty levels have grown from 78mn to 118mn of the EU population. UK won’t be the last to leave the EU, unless the bureaucracy in Brussels makes considerable reforms. CM bets it won’t.

UK: Brexit Party – 31.8% (populist), Tories – 7.6% (incumbent). Tories fallen from 20%. Of interest, Brexit took 38% of the West Midlands which is a slap in the face for Corbyn’s Labour Party. Even Islington, Corbyn’s home constituency, saw Labour fall behind the Lib Dems.

Greece: New Democracy 33.3% (populist), Syriza 23.9% (incumbent/socialist) – snap elections to be held

France: RN – 23.5% (nationalist), LREM 22.5% (incumbent) – Le Pen has called for snap elections.

Germany: CDU – 28.8% (incumbent), AfD – 10.8% (nationalist)

Austria: OVP – 34.9% (incumbent/nationalist), FPO – 17.2% (incumbent/nationalist)

Poland: PiS – 42.4% (incumbent/nationalist)

Italy: Liga -33.6% (populist/incumbent) + M5S – 16.7% (populist/incumbent)

Bulgaria: GERB – 30.1% (incumbent/populist)

Hungary: Fidesz – 52.1% (nationalist/incumbent)

Latvia: JV – 26% (populist/incumbent)

Sweden: Socialist Democrats – 23.6% (incumbent), Sweden Democrats – 15.4% (populist)

Czech: ANO – 21.2% (populist/incumbent)

Romania: PNL – 25.6% (populist), PSD – 21.7% (incumbent)

While results are Still coming in, it seems that the populist swell has only gathered momentum.

Voter turnout to EU elections is generally weak but this is the strongest showing since 1994. This is entirely self-inflicted. Europeans are growing increasingly frustrated at the EU’s authoritarian behaviour. The sooner this project fails the better.

While total seat numbers aren’t fully decided, the percentage terms are undoubtedly going to send shockwaves through the E.U. establishment.