#ford

Bathurst Council declares climate emergency

Bathurst Council has managed to just squeeze through a climate emergency resolution. Of course the vote is a way to crank up the crony capitalism by favouring renewables. One imagines ending the iconic Bathurst 1000 car race would offset anything the council could achieve through abatement measures, even though they run on a 15% ethanol blend.

First point of order should be to ban the Bathurst 1000. No way that beer swilling fossil fuel loving V8 Supercar junkies can be tolerated if we are to save the planet.

The annual race causes an explosion in economic activity to the city. The race brings in around $30m extra to the local economy with 255 full time jobs equivalent. The population swells by 4x on race weekend.

So banning it will make the climate transition a doddle. CM dares you!

Ford downgraded to junk

This week, Ford Motor Co’s credit rating was downgraded by Moody’s to junk. $84bn worth of debt now no longer investment grade. It will be the first of many Fortune 500s to fall foul to this reality. In 2008, there was around $800bn of BBB status credit. That number exceeds $3.186 trillion today.

CM has long argued that the credit cycle would be the undoing of the economy. For too long, corporates binged on easy money, caring little for credit ratings because the interest spreads between AAA and BBB were so negligible. The market ignored risk and companies went hell for leather issuing new debt to fu buybacks to artificially prop up weak earnings to give the illusion of growth.

Sadly this problem is likely to cause widespread sell offs by companies/investors which must stick to products (as woefully yielding as they may be) with an investment grade, exacerbating the problem of refinancing debt close to maturity. The thinking during easy credit times was simple – refinancing could be done with low interest rates because there was no alternative.

This is problematic for three reasons:

1) under the Obama era, much of the newly issued debt was short term meaning $8.4 trillion arrives for refinancing in the next 2.5 years, crowding out the corporate market.

2) more than 50% of US corporates are one notch above junk status. Refinancing will not be a simple affair.

3) more and more investment grade debt will be driven to zero or even negative yields as a result further exacerbating the problems for insurance companies and pension funds dealing with massive unfunded liabilities.

Last year, in relation to unfunded liabilities at US public pension funds, CM wrote,

California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) lost around 2% of its funds in 2015/16. The fund assumed an aggressive 7.5% return. Dr. Joe Nation of Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research thinks unfunded liabilities have surged to $150bn from $93bn in the last two years. He suggested the use of a more realistic 4% rate of return last year. At that rate, CalPERS had a market based unfunded liability of $412bn (or the equivalent of 2 years’ worth of California state revenue). At present Nation now thinks the number is just shy of $1 trillion using a 3.25% discount rate. He expects that the 2017 data for CalPERS will be out in a week or so which should give some interesting perspective as to how much deeper the pension hole is for Californian public servants.

N.B. California collects $232bn in state taxes annually in a $2.3 trillion economy (around the size of Italy).”

This is just California, which in the last 8 years has seen a 2.62-fold jump in the gap between liabilities and state total expenditures.

Unfunded liabilities per household. In California’s case, the 2017 figure is $122,121. In 2008 this figure was only $36,159. In 8 years the gap has ballooned 3.38x. Every single state in America with the exception of Arizona has seen a deterioration.

Switching to Illinois, we have a case study on what happens when pension funds go pear shaped.The Illinois Police Pension is rapidly approaching the point of being unable to service its pension members and a taxpayer bailout looks unlikely given the State of Illinois’ mulling bankruptcy.

Local Government Information Services (LGIS) writes, At the end of 2020, LGIS estimates that the Policemen’s Annuity and Benefit Fund of Chicago will have less than $150 million in assets to pay $928 million promised to 14,133 retirees the following yearFund assets will fall from $3.2 billion at the end of 2015 to $1.4 billion at the end of 2018, $751 million at the end of 2019, and $143 million at the end of 2020, according to LGIS…LGIS analyzed 12 years of the fund’s mandated financial filings with the Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI), which regulates public pension funds. It found that– without taxpayer subsidies and the ability to use active employee contributions to pay current retirees, a practice that is illegal in the private sector– the fund would have already run completely dry, in 2015…The Chicago police pension fund held $3.2 billion in assets in 2003. It shelled out $3.8 billion more in benefits to retired police officers than it generated in investment returns between 2003 and 2015…Over that span, the fund paid out $6.9 billion and earned $3.0 billion, paying an additional $134 million in fees to investment managers.”

Therefore Ford’s downgrade to junk will have the effect of repricing over a decade of misplaced central bank policy across all markets. The dominos are only beginning to fall. The market can absorb Ford’s downgrade but not if it has to deal with the panic of dozens like it.

CM has long been warning of GE. Despite being the world’s largest stock in 2000, it is 1/5 the size today, trades in negative equity, wasted $45bn on share buybacks in 2015/16 and were it be classified as junk would increase the pile of junk by 10% on its own. Broadcom and American Tower are other monsters ready to be hurled onto the ratings scrap heap.

Buy Gold. The US Fed will likely embark on QE. It requires an act of Congress to approve the purchase of equities but don’t be surprised if this becomes a reality when markets plunge.

This will be the reset of asset prices which has been long overdue thanks to almost two decades of manipulation by authorities. It has 1929 written all over it. Not 2008.

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.

If the Green New Deal bans air travel…

…CM looks forward to catching a train to Hawaii.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also intends to get every fossil fueled powered car off the road in a decade. The US has 270 million registered vehicles, the overwhelming majority being petrol powered. The US sells 16-17mn cars a year (sadly slowing). Therefore in the US, 16 years would be required to achieve that target. That’s before taking into account auto maker EV capacity.

Global EV sales were 2.1mn last year. So her plan would take 128 years. That’s unfair as capacity would grow. Let’s assume auto makers could conceivably increase capacity by 2m every 2 years (plants take 2 years to build and those poor Congolese child slave laborers will be run off their feet digging for cobalt to go in the batteries) then conceivably 30mn.cumulative EV units could be built over 10 years. That’s 11% of her goal. Let’s not forget the fossil fuels required to power auto factories to satiate this plan not to mention the steel that goes into the bodies.

Global auto production is c.80mn units. That assumes that the world’s auto makers will snub the ROW to meet her demands.

Socialist mathematics is never quite up to the task. Is Ocasio-Cortez was a true patriot she’d demand GM, Ford & Tesla be the sole products that consumers are allowed to buy to support domestic jobs. They’ll need them because she’ll be causing the lay offs of a shed load of Boeing line workers if planes are banned.

When she finally gets into the Oval Office we should look forward to her catching Ground Force One from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Station to travel the country and tell Americans how much better things have become.

A new low

823FD4F7-3CEE-4824-BC1B-2FCD6CA6E400.jpeg

Today was a dark day for America. Despite both Ford & Kavanaugh putting forward seemingly credible cases, they were washed aside for the most sickening display of partisan politics. One could almost picture fiendish crowds awaiting the direction of the Roman Emperor’s thumb. How sad that the two people with the most to lose were treated as punching bags by despicable senators. Social media forums were nothing more than ferals chanting obscenities in a colosseum. Sick, sick, sick! No dignity on display.

The questions lobbed by both Democrats & Republicans for the main part were a clear display of making one’s mind up beforehand. What a farce. It was blood sport. It had little to do with seeking the “truth” rather trying to use reprehensible tactics to confirm or deny Kavanaugh. Ford & Kavanaugh may as well have been road kill. Neither side cared for the testimony of those that opposed their preformed views.

Sexual assault is a heinous crime. Period. True victims of it can suppress traumatic memories for decades. The statute of limitations may well be a convenient out clause for perpetrators in law, but sufferers shouldn’t need a deadline to reveal those inner demons. How many people have chosen to take their own life because they can’t deal with the shame?

Some basic questions.

Why would anyone be in the least bit surprised for Kavanaugh to fight his corner after being smeared with such serious defamatory accusations? Even if he is proven not guilty of those crimes his reputation has taken untold hits. If he is found to be guilty then he ought to be punished to the full extent of the law. However was his testimony any less believable? He asked for an investigation immediately after the news broke on Ford’s claim. Yet here were senators grilling him to demand one. Do they listen?

Ford too. She would be risking a great amount to go in front of a Senate Committee and lie. It is a punishable offence. Would she really seek to go into a viper pit and take the trouble to invite unsolicited attacks on her? Yet why is no one prepared to corroborate her evidence? Afraid of the repercussions?

However it struck me, as a victim of sexual assault myself at age 13, as to why Ford needed to read her story from a scripted page. I can unequivocally state every detail of what happened to me without notes. I could explain it repeatedly over and over again. Even years or decades apart, nothing would change. The face of the man that did it almost 35 years ago. Where. What time. What happened. The lot. I only came out with it several years ago but such would be the emotional pain that she shouldn’t have needed notes. Not accusing Ford of lying, just something that appeared strange to me. Real victims require no preparation. It’s burned in the memory. Was alcohol a factor? People may deal with trauma in different ways. That was the only thing that put a question mark against authenticity.

Why did Democrats not raise the other allegations against Kavanaugh with respect to indecent exposure and rape gangs until it was raised by their opposite numbers? Why did they drag Renate’s name through this hearing? A person not even party to the whole sordid affair gets her name blasted in front of millions. And discussing flatulence – could the question be so irrelevant?

The stink (no pun intended) of all of this is the timing of many allegations. As CM had written earlier, Feinstein seemed to pull this joker out of the pack to cause maximum damage to Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Had she been a true fighter for the rights of supposed rape victims, why wouldn’t she seek to immediately take it in closed session to protect confidentiality of Ford and do the right thing. No, the letter was leaked to the press and all of a sudden Ford was thrust into the boiling cauldron. There was plenty of time to act.

Yet Grassley and other senators rattling off the words of former Senator Joe Biden and his claim of the irrelevance of FBI investigations was a futile attempt to confirm their man. Once again, it had nothing to do with Kavanaugh or Ford. To be honest one had to feel for Kavanaugh at times in that he was not after platitudes from Republicans. He wants his name cleared and undoubtedly wants his reputation restored. I defy anyone accused of such horrible things not to feel upset.

CM, like most are none the wiser on guilt. So many had made up their minds well beforehand. The only thing absolutely for certain was the unbecoming behaviour of that rabble. It was utterly disgusting. Neither side could claim any victory, let alone Phyrric.

The only thing anyone should be praying for is to never witness something so appalling again. Justice should be served through the correct procedures. Yet politicians only proved today that they are utterly self serving and more evident was the wake up call for all Americans about those who supposedly represent them.

Musk channels the Black Knight?

It has become apparent that the SEC & Musk had a deal which would see him removed from Tesla yet his lawyers have rejected it at the last minute because he’d rather fight the charges. One could argue in favour of his bravery to appeal against what looks to be a very open and shut case about breaching probably the most basic of errors in standard reporting to the exchange to ensure fairness.

Maybe he feels that he is only going to get a slap on the wrist? In the 63 odd charges laid out against individuals by the SEC for reporting violations in 2018, the average fine has been $75,000. Hardly a ripple to Musk’s net worth.

The bigger risk for Tesla shareholders if Musk loses in court against the SEC and is forced out (to be honest his board should demand it) will be losing a figurehead who at the very least has managed to make a company with no profits, monster debts and questionable actions worth more than Ford, FCA & GM combined. Betting against Musk has been a dangerous game. He may well be teflon coated but it remains questionable whether he can strap himself to his reusable rockets and escape the fraud charges.

Yale Law School students fail their most important test

A3ACD964-7108-4787-8473-5EC3B95F9D72.jpeg

Yale Law School is supposed to be one of the most prestigious places one can graduate. However the multitude of students who staged a sit down protest over Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct just failed one of the most important tests in the very subject they wish to practice – the presumption of innocence.

Despite holding next to no credible evidence to base their judgement at this stage nor have any witnesses come forward, these students have shown blind prejudice. It may well turn out that Kavanaugh is found guilty of the allegations. However he like they are equal under the law until proven guilty.

Nonetheless it seems these students have no compunction. They are clearly so poisoned with partisan politics that they are willing to convict a potentially innocent man of a crime he may not have committed. These students are the very same future justices they vehemently protest in the man they attack.

Or could it be they are guilty of being irrational teenagers/millennials at university who think social justice allows for a kangaroo court? So devoid of understanding how the real world works. Either way, their protest shows how brainwashed and lacking in the ability to think for themselves to stage a protest based on such flimsy evidence which has conveniently rolled out to stall his confirmation hearing.

Maybe they’d dazzle their professors by stating their concerns in “law” in what they’d be looking for to ensure “both” sides of the story we’re heard? Or at the very least how they’d represent either side based on the evidence to date? Alas, no. Best just jump on the despicable Democrats band wagon and wish Kavanaugh gets smeared so he isn’t confirmed as a SCJ (the real aim).

While in no way justifying sexual harassment/assault on any level, looking back over CM’s university days three decades ago should witnessing the Forestry students conduct drinking games while sitting stark naked in the refectory and drinking their own vomit from an old Adidas Rome sneaker or even worse “animal acts”  to get back in the game worthy of a full police investigation? Or do we put it down to kids being stupid as many get their first grips with alcohol? No one in CM’s year of students (male or female) who saw it ever made a big deal of it then or now. We most likely laughed at the cringeworthy nature of it all.

Yet this is the future. Shame on the Yale Law Faculty for not teaching these kids the most important values of fair trials. Perhaps evidence of how the professors could be more radical than the students. True colours?

Kavanaugh may yet be found guilty but at the very least let him and Christine Blasey Ford set out their evidence.

Finally, will  these same students protest if Ford is outed as lying? Of course not!