Budget

Rugby Australia chokes on its own incompetence

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After exchanging a politically correct, vomit-inducing and nose-bleedingly insincere prepared statement drafted by professional media consultants -not lost on anyone – the fact remains that Rugby Australia (RA) is the loser in the Israel Folau saga. We can forget the original source of the dismissal and the rights and wrongs of it. If RA thought it had a proper case, the legal fees (which it claimed were worth saving and settling out of court) would have been way less than the $10m payout he was demanding. So much for supporting the very communities the RA plasters all over its website.

The outcome was the result of management incompetence in thinking that appearing woke trumped legal due process. In full knowledge that Folau had a $1.6mn war chest (courtesy of Christians, free speech advocates and rugby fans alike) to take up the case against his former employer, the board was forced to buckle and issue an apology to the former rugby star, which would never have been necessary if it had a smidgen of judgment in the beginning.

RA CEO Raelene Castle can laugh off “wildly inaccurate” speculation on the $8mn rumoured settlement but the fact is the board knows the exact amount. Israel and Maria Folau wouldn’t have been grinning like Cheshire cats were he to have signed away for less than his rescinded contract. It will be fascinating to see the composition of the 2019/20 reported figures that will be published in due course. Expect some accounting trickery to fudge it into the numbers.

Castle said a few months back that the franchise could weather paying out Izzy Folau’s $10m claim. Although CM is not sure that paying out $10m + costs – which would wipe out almost 2/3rds of the $18mn in cash on the balance sheet – is something a CEO should think is worth boasting about. What she has long needed to focus on is arresting the declining operating performance. Yet she stated emphatically that the RA won’t have to make changes to the budget. Maybe her lawyers pieced together a multi-year drawdown of the sum to be paid to smooth out the ultimate impact. 

The RA franchise is the laughing stock of the rugby world. So transparent is the lack of accountability, woeful internal coordination and deteriorating financial results that it requires nothing more than a drastic overhaul if the entity is to thrive.

Former coach Michael Cheika let loose that it was no secret he had no relationship with the CEO and a very poor one with Chairman Cameron Clyne. This coming from the very individual running by far the biggest RA franchise. Despite possessing by far the worst performance record of any Wallabies coach, management persevered with a man who didn’t have a leg to stand on but cast aspersions on the executive team.

Therein lies the problem. RA can push all of the woke causes (e.g. LGBTQI+, gender equality) it likes, but if the ultimate end customer derives no value from it, it is a fruitless exercise which can’t escape the scrutiny of the free market come time to pay bills.

Castle may believe that this was a commercial decision for the sake of providing certainty. Had she done the right thing from the start she could have avoided getting embroiled in a scandal that has exposed the poor governance within.

Isn’t it odd that the LGBT activists are now attacking the very institution that set out to promote them – RA. CM has never thought much of his tweets but the reaction to them has been so over the top. The faux outrage mob finds oppression in everything.

Castle should resign and if she won’t the board should fire her despite her defiance against the bleeding obvious – she is in over her head. Fans won’t return with the status quo.

Get woke, go broke.

Q&A and Kiwi Envy

Oh, the irony.  Q&A, the climate change fearing ABC program, decided to fly to Fiji, belching harmful CO2 along the way to host the show and talk about the potential for climate refugees in the Pacific from rising sea levels and Kiwi envy.

First off the bat, if the ABC want to endorse the Kiwi envy narrative, Q&A might consider the funding structure and staffing levels of TVNZ while they’re at it. Maybe that way the broadcaster could arrest the long term slump in ratings and fix the discontented workforce.

CM wrote six months ago in regards to this,

If you want to look at why the ABC doesn’t need more money, look at the staff costs to income ratio. Despite plateauing between 2008 & 2011 it quickly exploded. It now sits at 46% of tax dollars appropriated. That is $524mn on staff costs per year and rising. 4,939 staff grace the ABC. Revenue per employee is $232,000. A decade ago it was $232,700. Is that what the management target is for hiring? Give the ABC $2bn and presumably, it will have employment costs of $1bn.

Maybe ABC should channel the New Zealand state broadcaster, TVNZ. It gets $310m of its $318m purse from advertising. It’s staff costs excluding capitalizing into programs is $72m which converts to 23% staff cost/revenues. They do with 642 FT employees. Revenue/employee is $495,000. It paid a dividend back to the government of $3.7m. i.e. it is a revenue-generating asset.

In 2007, TVNZ had $339m in revenue. It employed 1,023 people. Therefore revenue per employee was $331,380. So in a decade, TVNZ efficiency improved almost 50%. A 6% cut to revenue on 63% of the staff.

How envious are you now ABC? Thought so.

As to rising sea levels and climate refugees. Virginie K. E. Duvat of the Institut du Littoral et de l’Environnement, University of la Rochelle-CNRS, La Rochelle sponsored by the French National Research Agency; French Ministry of Environment, Energy and Oceans (MEEM) wrote.

Analysis “using tide gauges and satellites showed 30 Pacific and Indian Ocean atolls including 709 islands, revealed that no atoll lost land area and that 88.6% of islands were either stable or increased in area, while only 11.4% contracted.

So where are these climate refugees really coming from?

Then there was the demand that Australia gives up on coal mining. Suppose we do. We should then tell our Pacific neighbours that we can’t afford to cut multi $100mn cheques every year so they can waste it like PNG did on buying 40 Maserati Quattroporte sports sedans as government cars. Give them an option – no coal and no cash or coal and cash? We know which will be selected.

Yet CM loves the garbage espoused in the SMH which continues its hard-left bent, even after being acquired. One would have hoped lessons would be learnt. Clearly not. The SMH folded to the groupthink attack on the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Alex Hawke for not being like NZ.

Perhaps Q&A might look at the facts there too. Remember when the media was fawning all over NZ PM Jacinda Ardern’s Wellness Budget? The idea that a budget should be solely based on economics is not progressive and more should be directed at “well-being”. That is not to say this budget is not “well-intentioned”. However, the statistics compared to across the ditch do not fare well on relative terms.

Comparing her recent policies versus Australia reveals the kangaroos get better access to social services than the kiwis. How surprising that none of the mainstream media bothered to look at the budget numbers on a like for like basis? Just praise her because she represents their ideal version of a socialist leader.  CM has looked through both budgets and adjusted for currency to make for easier like-for-like comparisons.

When it comes to health spending per capita (currency-adjusted), Australia is expected to climb from A$3,324 in 2019 to A$3,568 in 2022. NZ is expected to go up slightly from A$3,516 to A$3,561 respectively.

On social security and welfare, Australia is expected to pay out A$7,322 per capita in 2019, growing to A$7,977. NZ, on the other hand, is forecast to go from A$5,573 per head to A$6,489.

On mental health, Australia forked out around A$9.1bn exclusively on these services reaching 4.2m citizens last year. NZ is planning on spending A$45.1m in 2019 with a total of A$428m by 2023/24 to hit 325,000 people on frontline services for mental health. While the move is a positive one, NZ will allocate A$1.78bn to mental health as a whole over 5 years. On an annualised basis, Australia will still allocate 5x the NZ amount to mental health per capita. So much for wellbeing.

On education, NZ plans to increase per capita spending 7.9% between 2019 and 2022 whereas Australia will lift it 12.5% over the same period. NZ spends around 2x Australia per capita on education although PISA scores between 2006 and 2015 are virtually identical (and both heading south).

On public housing, Ardern can claim a victory. Australia is expected to cut spending per capita from A$240 in 2019 to A$194 in 2022 when NZ will go from A$137 to A$282. Although let’s hope Ardern has more success than her KiwiBuild policy. The Australian’s Judith Sloan rightly pointed out,

“Ardern also has stumbled with other policies, most notably KiwiBuild. The pledge was to build 100,000 additional affordable homes by 2028.

It has since been modified to facili­tation by the government to help build new homes. Moreover, the definition of afford­ability has been altered from between $NZ350,000 ($340,000) and $NZ450,000 to $NZ650,000.

What started off as an ill-considered public housing project has turned out to be an extremely unsuccessful private real estate scam. The government estimated that there would be 1000 homes built last year under KiwiBuild; it turned out to be 47.”

In the process, NZ’s national debt per capita will grow from A$21,550 in 2019 to A$25,206 by 2022. Australia will climb from A$22,764 to A$23,293.

Look at page 119 of the NZ Wellbeing Budget, we can see the government is forecasting the economy to slow and unemployment to rise.

As we wrote several months ago, the statistics that Aussies are about to pack their bags and head of to NZ are not supported. CM wrote,

“According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are 568,000 New Zealanders in Australia, or more than double the total 3-decades ago. Therefore more than 11% of the Kiwi population lives in Australia. At last census count, 35,000 New Zealanders migrated to Australia in 2018.

According to the New Zealand Statistics Bureau, 38,700 Aussies live in New Zealand. In the January 2018 year, 24,900 migrants arrived from Australia and a similar number departed for Australia.

Stats NZ stated, “Over half of migrants arriving from Australia are actually returning Kiwis who have been living across the Tasman for more than a year…The number of migrants going back and forth to Australia in the past year almost balanced each other out – the net gain was just 40 people in the last 12 months.”

As socialists love to point out, “feelings matter far more than facts“. Just goes to show how easily people will fall for a catchy headline, rather than judge it on its merits. Time the “woke” wake up from this slumber. By all means, celebrate more recognition of higher mental health spending but best put it in perspective. Jacinda Ardern is ordinary.

Jacinda Ardern may sell her dream much better to the woke set, but give me ScoMo any day. Kiwi envy? Really.

Daft way to run a business

Why the celebration? CM is all for equal opportunity. Just not equal outcome. As CM said at the time of the US soccer team’s whinging over equal pay, if Megan Rapinoe and team make more revenues and broadcasting rights, pay them “more” than their male counterparts, not the same. Who could forget the almost North Korean level chants of “equal pay” during the Women’s World Cup this year?

How is equal pay remotely sensible for the Football Federation Australia’s (FFA) women’s team, the Matildas? Surely within the women’s team, there are proper stars and average players. Will those pay rates be equalised? So that the women’s soccer supremo that scores the most goals and achieves the highest number of tackles gets paid the same as the forward who can’t score and can’t defend to save herself? Who do the fans want to see? Who powers the turnstiles?

Look to other sports. Lewis Hamilton in F1 gets paid multiples more than fellow competitor, Romain Grosjean. Same job, Same conditions. Same everything. Yet, the 6x world champion gets factor fold levels of advertising dollars, hence he also banks that in his contract. Marc Marquez, the 8x world champion in MotoGP gets paid a fortune. Whereas Tito Rabat does not. Maybe because he is leading most of the time that the race coverage is focused at the front, rather than the back. It is all based on performance and TV exposure. Michael Jordan, Shaq, A-Rod and so on. The cream always gets paid what the market will bear. Some might call the $100mn that Ronaldo gets paid at Real Madrid as excessive but the club wouldn’t pay it if his magic didn’t cover the bills.

Ronaldo has 78 million Twitter followers vs his Real Madrid captain, Sergio Ramos who has a pitiful 16m. Surprise, surprise. Ronaldo makes more. Rapinoe has 899,700 followers. Should she get paid the same as Ronaldo? US men’s soccer team player Landon Donovan has 1.4m followers. Does the USSF see that the box office is sadly still skewed to the men’s game?

Once again, 260m watched the Women’s Soccer World Cup final in 2019. The 2018 men’s World Cup in Russia saw 1.12bn tune in for the final. 4.3x the audience.

To quote the Football Federation of Australia’s annual report of 2018,

Sydney FC had the honour of hosting the Westfield W-League 2018 Grand Final against
Melbourne City FC at Allianz Stadium. In front of a vocal crowd of 6,025.

Six thousand. Rugby Australia CEO Raelene Castle can feel a bit better about the abysmal attendance rugby has at home for the domestic series.

The men’s Melbourne Victory vs Newcastle Jets soccer final in 2018 saw 29,410 fans attend that match. 5x that of the women’s final.

Same for the Matildas. They achieved a peak crowd attendance of 16,829. The men’s Socceroo team saw 77,060 supporters at ANZ Stadium on 15 November 2018. 4.6x more fans watched the men’s national team over the women’s. It is nothing to do with gender. Fans prefer the men’s game. Because of that, sponsors are willing to pay for greater exposure.

This is not to denigrate the Matildas. It is to point out that this constant pandering to “equal pay” is a disastrous way to win over fans. Because if the right talent isn’t paid accordingly, an overseas league will quickly bid them away and hollow out the local market. Attendance will drop and the revenues and sponsorship dollars will dry up with it. Doesn’t require rocket science.

Still, get woke, go broke. The Wallabies are proof is in the pudding for management that focuses on inclusivity and diversity instead of accepting reality of what actually pays the bills – the fans. The financials continue to deteriorate.

By all means, if the Matildas smash the Socceroos for revenue, viewership and broadcasting rights then by all mean pay them more, not the same. Welcome to the Democratic Peoples Republic of Australia in 2019 where virtue signalling means more than merit.

Just watch the mainstream media gush at how progressive the FFA is before realising in years to come just how regressive it eventually becomes for the game and how could it have happened?

The Grim Repo

What a surprise to see markets show little reaction to the negative repo (repurchase agreements) market in the past week. So much nonchalance and complacency remain in financial markets. It is as if there is this false belief that the authorities can keep the ship afloat with magical modern monetary theory. Not a chance. The tipping points in the financial markets are quantum levels bigger than any that Sir David Attenborough could conjure up in his wildest pessimistic dreams. If we want to cut carbon emissions, the coming economic slump will take care of that.

On average there are $1 trillion of overnight repo transactions every day, collateralised with US Treasuries. Yet many missed that the repo market seized up late last week. Medium-term repos surged from the normal band of around 2.00~2.25% to around 5.25% on Monday. Some repo rates hit 10% on Tuesday.

Essentially what this said was that a bank must have seen that it was worth borrowing at an 8% premium overnight in return for pledging ‘risk-free’ US Treasuries at 2%. In any event, it allowed that particular bank to survive for another day. Banks use the repo market to fund the loans they issue and finance trades that are executed. It is like an institutional pawn shop.

Looking at it another way, why weren’t other banks willing to lend and take an 8% risk-free trade? A look at the global bank’s share price action would suggest that these bedrock financial institutions that grease the wheels of the economy are not in good shape. We just pretend they are. We look at the short term performance but ignore the deterioration in underlying balance sheets. The Aussie banks are future crash test dummies given the huge leverage to mortgages. As CM has been saying for years, the Big 4 risk whole or part nationalisation.

This recent repo action is reminiscent of that before the GFC. The Fed stepped in with $75bn liquidity per day to stabilise markets by bringing rates into the target range. The question is whether the repo action is a short-term aberration or the start of a longer-term quasi QE programme which turns into a full-blown QE programme.

The easiest way to look at the repo market action is to say the private markets are struggling to be self-funding, requiring central bank intervention. Bank of America believes the Fed may have to buy upwards of $400bn of securities to back the repo market this year alone.  This is another canary in the coal mine.

CM wrote a long piece back in July 2016 titled, “Dire Straits for Central Bankers.” In that report, we described how the velocity of money in the system was continuing to drift. As of now, central banks have printed the equivalent of $140 trillion since 2008 but have only managed to eke out $20 trillion in GDP growth. That is $7 of debt only generates $1 of GDP equivalent.

This is the problem. Companies are struggling to grow. US aggregate after-tax profits have gone sideways since 2012. We have been lulled into a false sense of security by virtue of aggressive share buyback programs that flatter EPS, despite the anaemic trend.

Despite the asset bubbles in stocks, bonds and property, pension funds, especially public sector retirement schemes, are at risk of insolvency given the unrealistic return assumptions and nose bleed levels of unfunded liabilities in the trillions.

Also worthy of note is the daily turnover of the gold derivatives market which has hit $280bn in recent months, or 850x daily mine production. This will put a lot more pressure on the gold physical market and also to those ETFs that have promissory notes against gold, as opposed to having it properly allocated.

We live in a world of $300 trillion of debt, $1.5 quadrillion in derivatives – until this is expunged and we start again, the global economy will struggle. That will also require the “asset” values to be similarly wiped out. Equity markets will plunge 90-95% relative to gold. That suggests a 1929 style great depression. The debt bubble is too big. Central banks have lost control.

Buy Gold.

The depression we have to have

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In his 1967 presidential address to the American Economic Association, Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman said, “… 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.

What we are witnessing today is not capitalism. While socialists around the world scream for equality and point to the evils of capitalism, the real truth is that they are shaking pitchforks at the political class who are experimenting with economic and monetary concoctions that absolutely defy the tenets of free markets. As my learned credit analyst and friend, Jonathan Rochford, rightly points out, central banks have applied “their monetary policy hammer to problems that need a screwdriver.

Never has there been so much manipulation to keep this sinking global ship afloat. Manipulation is the complete antithesis to capitalism.  Yet our leaders and central banks think firing more cheap credit tranquillizers will somehow get us out of this mess. IT. WILL. NOT.

BONDS

As of August 15th, 2019, the sum of negative-yielding debt exceeds $16.4 trillion. That is to say, 30% of outstanding government debt sits in this category. Every single government bond issued by Germany, The Netherlands, Finland and Denmark are now negative-yielding. Germany just announced a 30-yr auction with a zero-interest coupon.

Unfortunately, insurance companies and pension funds are large scale buyers of bonds and negative interest rates don’t exactly serve their purposes. Therefore the hunt for positive yield (that ticks the right credit rating boxes) means the pickings continue to get slimmer.

Put simply to buy a bond with a negative yield, means that the cost of the bond held to maturity is more than the sum of all the coupons due and the receipt of face value combined. It also says clearly that controlling the extent of the loss of one’s money is preferable to sticking to strategies in other asset classes (e.g. property, equities) where TINA (there is no alternative) is the rule of thumb.

CM believes that there is a far bigger issue investors should focus on is the return “of” their money, not the return “on” it.

Rochford continues,

Central banks have hoped that extraordinary monetary policy would kick start economic growth, but they have instead only created asset price growth. In applying their monetary policy hammer to problems that need a screwdriver they have created the preconditions for the next and possibly greater financial crisis. The outworkings of many years of malinvestment are now starting to show with increasing regularity.

Argentina’s heavily oversubscribed issuance of 100-year bonds in 2017 was considered insane by many debt market participants at the time. The crash to below 50% of face value this month and request for maturity extensions is no surprise for a country that has a long rap sheet of sovereign defaults. Greece’s ten-year bond yield below 2% is another example of sovereign debt insanity…

…There have been three regional bank failures in China in the last three months, likely an early warning of the bad debt crisis brewing in China’s banks and debt markets. Europe’s banks aren’t in much better shape, there’s still a cohort of weak banks in Germany, Greece, Italy and Spain that haven’t fixed their problems that first surfaced a decade ago. Deutsche Bank is both fundamentally weak and the world’s most systemically important bank, a highly dangerous combination.”

What about equity markets?

EQUITIES

We only need look at the number record number of IPOs in 2018 where over 80% launched with negative earnings, you know, just like what happened in 2000 when the tech bubble collapsed.

Have people paid attention to the fact that aggregate US after-tax corporate earnings have been FLAT since 2012? That is 7 long years of tracking sideways. Where is this economic miracle that is spoken of?

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The only reason the markets have continued to remain excited is the generous share buyback regimes among many corporates which have flattered earnings per share (EPS). The “E” hasn’t grown. It is just that “S” has fallen. Credit spreads between AAA and BBB rated corporate paper has been so narrow that over 50% of US corporates now have a BBB or worse credit rating. Now credit spreads between top and bottom investment-grade bonds remain ridiculously tight. At some stage, investors will demand an appropriate spread to account for market “risk.”

Axios noted that for 2019, IT companies are again on pace to spend the most on stock buybacks this year, as the total looks set to pass 2018’s $1.085 trillion record total. Pretty easy to keep markets in the clouds with cheap credit fuelling expensive buybacks. Harley-Davidson is another household name which suffers from strategy decay yet deploys more cash to share buybacks instead of revitalising its core franchise. Harley delinquencies are at a 9-yr high.

Companies like GE embarked on a $45bn share buyback program despite a balance sheet which still reveals considerable negative equity. GE was the largest company in the world in 2000 and now trades at 20% of that value almost 20 years later.

Should we ignore Harry Markopolos, who discovered the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, when he points to the problems within GE? GE management can protest all they like but ultimately the company is not winning the argument if the share price is a barometer.

Valuations are at extreme levels. Beyond Meat trades at 100x revenues. Don’t get CM started on Tesla. A largely loss-making third rate automaker which is trading at outlandish premiums. The blind faith put in charge of a CEO that has lost over 100 senior management members.

Bank of America looked at 20 metrics to evaluate current market levels of the S&P500. 17 of them pointed to excess valuations relative to history including one metric that revealed S&P500 being 90% overvalued on a market cap to GDP ratio. Never mind.

Then witness the push for diversity nonsense inside corporate boardrooms. CM has always believed if a board is best suited to be run by all women based on background, skills and experience, then so be it. That is the best outcome for shareholders. However, to artificially set targets to morally preen will mean absolutely nothing if a sharp downturn exposes a soft underbelly of a lack of crisis management skills. Shareholders and retirees won’t be impressed.

It was laughable to hear superannuation funds ganging up on Harvey Norman last week for not having a diverse enough board. Even though Harvey Norman is thumping the competition which focuses too much on ESG/CSR, the shortcomings of our retirement managers are only too evident. Retirees want returns and their super managers should focus on that, rather than try to push companies to meet their ridiculous self-imposed investment restrictions. Retirees won’t be happy when their superannuation balances are decimated because fund managers wanted to appear socially acceptable at cocktail parties.

PROPERTY

It was only last month that Jyske Bank in Denmark started to offer negative interest mortgages. That is the bank pays interest to the mortgage holders. Of course, the bank is able to source credit below that rate to make a profit however net interest margins for the banks get squeezed globally. What next? Will people be able to sign up to a perpetual negative interest mortgage? Shall we expect a Japan-style multi-generational loan?

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The RBA’s latest chart pack shows net interest margins at the lowest levels for two decades. With the Hayne Banking Royal Commission likely to further crimp on lending growth, we are storing up huge pain in property markets despite the hope that August clearing rates signal a bottom in the short term. Yet more suckers lured in at the top of a shaky economy and financial sector.

Of course, central banks will dance to the tune that all is OK. Until it isn’t.

Don’t forget former US Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, said “our financial institutions are strong” right before plugging $700bn worth of TARP money to save many of them from bankruptcy in 2008.

CM has previously investigated the Big 4 Aussie banks who have equity levels that are chronically low levels. Our major banks have such high exposure to mortgages that a severe downturn could potentially lead to part or whole nationalisation. Of course, between signalling the importance of factoring climate change, APRA assures us the stress tests ensure our financial institutions are safe.

Back in 2007, Sydney house prices were 8x income. In 2017 Demographia stated average housing (excluding apartment) prices were in the 13-14x range. The Australian Bureau of Statistics notes that 80% of people live in houses and 20% in apartments. Only Hong Kong at 19x beats Sydney for dizzy property prices. In 2019, expect that price/income rates remain at unsustainable levels.

In 2018, Australia’s GDP was around A$1.75 trillion. Our total lending by the banks was approximately $2.64 trillion which is 150% of GDP. At the height of the Japanese bubble, total bank lending as a whole only reached 106%. Mortgages alone in Australia are near as makes no difference 100% of GDP. Where there is smoke, there is fire.

At the height of the property bubble frenzy, Japanese real estate related lending comprised around 41.2% (A$2.5 trillion) of all loans outstanding. N.B. Australian bank mortgage loan books have swelled to 64% (A$1.8 trillion) of total loans.

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Sensing the bubble was getting out of control, the Bank of Japan went into a tightening rate cycle (from 2.5% to 6%) to contain it. Unfortunately, it led to an implosion in asset markets, most notably housing. From the peak in 1991/2 prices over the next two decades fell 75-80%. Banks were decimated.

In the following two decades, 181 Japanese banks, trust banks and credit unions went bust and the rest were either injected with public funds, forced into mergers or nationalized. The unravelling of asset prices was swift and sudden but the process to deal with it took decades because banks were reluctant to repossess properties for fear of having to mark the other properties (assets) on their balance sheets to current market values. Paying mere fractions of the loan were enough to justify not calling the debt bad. If banks were forced to reflect the truth of their financial health rather than use accounting trickery to keep the loans valued at the inflated levels the loans were made against they would quickly become insolvent. By the end of the crisis, disposal of non-performing loans (NPLs) among all financial institutions exceeded 90 trillion yen (A$1.1 trillion), or 17% of Japanese GDP at the time.

The lessons are no less disturbing for Australia. As a percentage of total loans outstanding in Australia, mortgages make up 65%. The next is daylight, followed by Norway at around 40%. US banks have cut overall property exposures and Japanese banks are now in the early teens. Post GFC, US banks have ratcheted back mortgage exposure. They have diversified their earnings through investment banking and other areas. That doesn’t let them off the hook mind you.

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Japanese banks have 90%+ funding from domestic deposits. Australia is around 60-70%. Our banks need to go shopping in global markets to get access to capital. Conditions for that can change on a dime. External shocks can see funding costs hit nose bleed levels which are passed onto consumers. When you see the press get into a frenzy over banks passing on more than the rate rises doled out by the RBA, they aren’t just being greedy – a large part is absorbing these higher wholesale funding costs.

Central banks need a mea culpa moment. We need to move away from manipulating interest rates to muddle through. It isn’t working. At all.

Rochford rightly points out,

Coming off the addiction to monetary policy is going to be painful, but it is the only sustainable course. It is likely that normalising monetary policy will result in a global recession, but this must be accepted as an unavoidable outcome given the disastrous policies of the past. Excessive monetary and fiscal stimulus has pulled consumption forward, the process of unwinding that obviously requires a level of consumption to be pushed backwards.”

Rochford is being conservative (no doubt due to his polite demeanour) in his assessment of a global recession. It is likely that this downturn will make the GFC of 2008 look like a picnic. CM thinks depression is the more apt term. 1929, not 2008. Central banks are rapidly losing what little confidence remains. If the RBA think QE will be a policy option, there is plenty of beta testing to show that it doesn’t work in the long run.

It is time to have the recession/depression we had to have to get the markets to clear. It will be excruciatingly painful but until we face facts, all the manipulation in the world will fail to keep capitalism from doing its job in the end. The longer we wait the worse it will get.

“It’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble…..it is what you know to be sure that just ain’t so! – Mark Twain.

You’ll never guess how we can Save the Planet

Here is a credit card business model bound to fail. Johan Pihl, one of the founders of Doconomy, is launching a new credit card in collaboration with the UN Climate Change Secretariat and Mastercard. It cuts your ability to spend when you’ve hit your “carbon” limit, not your financial one. Now we will be able to stop our rampant plastic use with, you guessed it, plastic!  Although Doconomy claims the card will be made from bio-sourced material. Sadly the silicon chip will require high energy intensity to make. At least air pollution is good for something as it will be the main source of the ink.

Pihl said, “we realized that putting a limit that blocks your ability to complete the transaction is radical…but it’s the clearest way to illustrate the severity of the situation we’re in...Imagine if the consumer would pick up our app and actually look at their footprint and that’s the basis for whether they buy something or not,”

Perhaps we should ask all UN staffers to use it as their business credit card. If Doconomy lived up to its promises, most would have their carbon limit triggered when paying for flights to the next COP summit halfway around the globe. That would be a plus!

It uses the Åland Index to identify the CO2 of every transaction. CM encourages everyone to have a play with the carbon calculator.

For instance, if one spends 100 euro in a supermarket, the carbon footprint is almost the same as spending 100 euro in a department store. So regardless of whether one buys 100 euro of fruit or 100 euro of plastic-packaged flash-fried instant noodles, the impact of 4,902g of CO2 footprint is the same. Buy a 100 euro bottle of perfume or 100 euro of cuff links at a department store, the impact is still 4,293g. What you probably didn’t know is that smoking has a lower carbon footprint than buying groceries on a euro for euro basis. If smokers ever wanted an excuse to repeal these oppressively high taxes on tobacco, surely we should be getting Extinction Rebellion to add it to the list of demands because of the lower carbon footprint that can be achieved.

Whatever you do, don’t buy your loved one flowers! 100 euros of flowers has a 4,696g impact. That 200 euro Valentine’s dinner will add 15,928g. However, will the app calculate the 200 euro bottle of wine to celebrate an anniversary at 2x the 100 euro bottle? Yes it will.

If you do online gambling, 100 euro will cost 38,066g. You guessed it, if you spent 1,000 euro (exactly the same transaction time and keystrokes) it will cost 380,660g. Just shows how woefully inaccurate these carbon calculators are. To save the planet, instead of fuelling a gambling addiction,  you can cut your impact on the social fabric of society and save 90% by filling your car (118,600g of CO2) with 100 euro of fuel and enjoy a spiritual country drive to avoid regular attendance at Gamblers Anonymous.

Hotels – same thing. 100 euro on a hotel has 1/4 the emissions of a 400 euro hotel. Presumably if one is a master of Trivago or Hotels Combined website one can cut the emissions on exactly the same hotel room by the level of the discount. Who knew being environmental was so simple?

Doconomy states,

With DO, you get actual refunds from connected DO stores, based on the carbon impact of your purchase. We call it DO credits…The refunds can be used to compensate for the carbon footprint of your purchase. You can direct it to UN-certified carbon offset projects, or invest in sustainable funds. If you choose to invest in a fund, you must add the same amount as the value of your DO credit. You choose.”

Damn. How much will one have to spend to get enough DO credits to make an impact on a sustainable investment fund?

What a joke. As soon as the UN is involved in any such project we can absolutely guarantee the outcome will be a farce.

Jacinda’s Way

Image result for dan andrews jacinda ardern

NZ PM Jacinda Ardern is in Australia and unsurprisingly the media is giddy with delight. Before we have Lisa Wilkinson write another open letter to ScoMo, What a surprise the NZ PM kicked off her tour in the Democratic People’s Republic of Victoria alongside Chief Commissar Dan Andrews.

While her wellness budget has been sold as a savior, remember in Australia our current commitments in wellness already outweigh NZ’s on a per capita basis. Maybe that’s why 570,000 Kiwis live here and only 39,000 Aussies in NZ.

CM’s budget comparison can be found here.