Poverty

Time indulges another totalitarian voice for the 2019 Person of the Year

16yo climate alarmist Greta Thunberg defines our age. As many of you know, she has been awarded Time’s 2019 Person of the Year. Sort of fitting given the magazine has a tendency to hand it to those that speak in totalitarian tones (not her own of course). Recently, she dropped the following statement,

After all, the climate crisis is not just about the environment. It is a crisis of human rights, of justice, and of political will. Colonial, racist, and patriarchal systems of oppression have created and fueled it. We need to dismantle them all. Our political leaders can no longer shirk their responsibilities.

One doesn’t have to be a teenager either to formulate such views. It wasn’t so long ago that an 11-yo implored all climate activists to go beyond the battle for global warming and fight for gun control, LGBTQ+ rights and to demand that her teachers can receive a living wage. How dare we even question where she got such thoughts! Kids just know better than we selfish adults (who used to recycle milk bottles, wash diapers and push lawnmowers) who have trashed their planet!

FNFM has always felt pity for poor Greta and written so on multiple occasions. She has been systematically abused by authoritarian adults to push their ridiculous globalist agenda. Knowing that it is uncool to attack a kid, she makes the perfect human shield. She is the participation trophy personified. Her “how dare you” assertions are never challenged by the media who toss softball questions to further deify this high priestess of the climate change movement. We must not challenge and inevitably we will probably lose our right to do so thanks to the cancel culture amongst the youth today. Such blasphemy won’t be tolerated.

No one can deny the passion with which she has embraced her cause even if not completely aware of the hypocrisy created by it. While the gesture of sailing on carbon-based yachts across the Atlantic and back to save the planet in order to slash her carbon footprint was noble, the reality is that she would have lowered the aggregate carbon footprint by jumping a scheduled flight that was taking off anyway. Why, because the boat owners had to fly sailors across the ocean to make it a reality. Yet we can calculate her potential impact:

If we assume Greta’s weight around 35-40kg, it would mean she would add 0.016% to the fuel calculations a Boeing 777 pilot would have to account for. Her impact would be so minuscule as to beggar belief.

280 million trips were made by commercial aircraft last year according to the IATA. Her transatlantic return flight would only be 2 of those meaning she would represent 0.000000714% of all annual flights taken.

Given that airlines, by the IATA’s own stats, annually produce the equivalent to 2% of all man-made emissions or 0.000016% in total, her two flights would make up around 0.0000000000114%. That is slightly unfair as the journey would be longer than most flights (predominantly short-haul). So if e bumped it 4-fold, her return trip would have penalized the planet 0.0000000000007314%.

Thunberg has amassed 3.2m Twitter followers. It is an incredible feat in and of itself. However, FNFM worries that with all of this social media exposure, when none of the prophetic doom and gloom she parrots comes to pass by the deadlines set by climate alarmists, she might realise she has been summarily duped by the very people who have actually “stolen her childhood.”

Unfortunately, she is blissfully blind to being amidst the epicentre of 27,000 hypocritical climate catastrophists at the COP25 summit, most of who flew in to tell us how we all must save the planet (on their behalf). In that sense, it is wonderful to know there is still some innocence left.

If only she knew that her climate change evangelism has thrust the ‘save the planet‘ agenda back on the map, leading to the 21% surge in delegates over the Katowice (COP24) conference. If she wants to fight against those who have “stolen her dreams” they are right in front of her.

Many of her critics suggest she should go back to school. FNFM disagrees. What is the point of sending Greta back to the very institutions that planted the seeds of this Marxist indoctrination in the first place?

To be honest, if we are to submit to the whims of teenagers who know all there is to know, we should close down our universities because there is simply no value in tertiary education, especially now that these centres for open thinking are muzzling it on campus.

Maybe one day, when Greta has a teenager of her own (assuming she doesn’t try to avoid having kids to save the planet), she will see for herself what we knew all along.

As the old saying goes. “Experience is a hard teacher. You get the test first and the lesson afterwards.

EU climate emergency vote is way worse than you think

What took the group thinking EU so long? What better way to justify more taxation and wealth redistribution than to declare a “climate emergency”? What you are about to read is a perfect explanation of how little credibility exists in the European Parliament (EuroParl).

In black and white, EuroParl noted,

EU countries should at least double their contributions to the international Green Climate Fund, Parliament says. EU member states are the largest providers of public climate finance and the EU’s budget should fully comply with its international commitments. They also note that pledges by developed countries do not meet the collective goal of 100 billion USD per year as of 2020…Finally, they urgently call on all EU countries to phase out all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies by 2020.

Now, this is where it gets curious. Take a look at this file (from page 8) and ask yourself, how many amendments to resolutions within the “climate emergency” conversation were rejected supporting the overall declaration passing 429 in favour, 215 against, 19 abstaining?

Here is one amendment that was rejected 95, 563, 9 by MEPs (you can’t make this stuff up),

Recalls that climate change is one of the many challenges facing humanity and that
all states and stakeholders worldwide must do their utmost to measure it
scientifically so that policy, and especially spending, is based on observable facts and not on apocalyptic fearmongering or unreliable models; emphasises that there is
no scientific consensus on what percentage of climate change is anthropogenic and
what percentage is natural

Seems fair enough! Basing decisions affecting 550 million constituents on real hard data is the right thing to do, no? Clearly not. Shut up and follow the religious cult and demand followers cough up twice as much into the collections pot. The lobbyists must be well pleased.

Or,

“Text as a whole without the words: ‘urgently’, ‘and implement’ and ‘to net-zero
emissions by 2050″ defeated 101, 555, 15.

Isn’t it striking that the majority of MEPs won’t even consciously vote in favour of making sure funds are spent appropriately? Nope, bow down and shut up. Otherwise face being cut off as we get to observe from the EuroParl documents below.

This is what an MEP from Northern Ireland, Claire Fox, had to say,

Madam President, I voted against the climate and environmental emergency motion because I’m really concerned at the hyped-up anti-science scaremongering that’s terrifying young people, telling them that billions will die, that there’ll be a collapse of civilisation, a lot of the rhetoric coming out of Extinction Rebellion and echoed in the debate over the last few days. I think that the fact that we voted against an amendment today that said that we should be committed to bringing the environmental subject back to rational discussion, and we rejected it, admits that actually, we’re having an irrational discussion. This becomes advocacy and propaganda, rather than science. There’s no scientific evidence from the IPCC or anyone else about the extinction of humanity, and we should be very careful about claiming that anthropological climate changes cause floods and droughts, which we have been doing quite casually during the last few days. In fact, the IPCC says that such issues are probably caused by socio-economic conditions, and we forget socio-economic conditions too much and demand, in fact, as this Parliament has done, decarbonisation, which will lead to eco-austerity, massive price hikes in energy, and ordinary working people paying the cost for scaremongering and...

(The President cut off the speaker)

or another Northern Irish MEP Robert Rowland,

Madam President, I’d just like to reiterate what my colleague said. I also rejected the COP24 resolution. I may not be an Economics Professor, but I do profess to understand economics. They also call it the dismal science, but when it comes to the climate emergency, I would describe the apocalyptic forecasts as nothing but science fiction. The adoption of these policies today, and the aim of carbon neutrality by 2050 is nothing short of reckless and the most extreme example of economic illiteracy I’ve ever seen. The fact that amendments were rejected demanding a full impact assessment shows rank indifference to the cost and practicality of aggressive climate policies.

One thing I can say for certain is that the impact of net-zero makes the consequence of any form of Brexit look puny by comparison. Dieter Helm, Professor of Energy and Economics at Oxford University, was right when he said: ‘We should be honest that it is a huge industrial undertaking, and it will have significant cost. These are enormous industrial activities, there is nothing in history that looks like this outside of wartime.

In my own country, our own Chancellor has put that cost at over one trillion pounds, or almost 2% of GDP per annum. It is an insane policy.

If the EU truly wishes to make itself even less competitive, in the face of some of the world’s highest electricity prices, they are only self-flagellating in an already flailing economy which continues to slow to 5-year lows. If the EU truly looked at its record since 2007, it would see its policies have delivered 40 million more people into poverty, a number which totals 118 million people, or 23% of the EU population!

If there was ever a bigger load of intellectual dishonesty posted by the EU it would be this. It states that,

Climate emergency declarations in 1,195 jurisdictions and local governments cover 545 million citizens with 53 million of those living in the United Kingdom. This means in Britain now roughly 80 per cent of the population lives in areas that have declared a climate emergency.

The irony if such a statement is that there is no way in the world that 545 million citizens are in agreement within those 1,195 jurisdictions. 53mn Brits? Seriously? In Australia’s case, many declaring climate emergencies have been local green-left councils who have made idle gestures without backing it up with realities. Constituents have not been asked. Windfarm plans for Warringah are not on the agenda.

The greatest irony with the EU is that they classify biomass (which is more polluting than coal) as a renewable and gives it a zero-carbon emission weighting provided a tree is planted per tree burnt. Sadly trees take 40 years to fully grow to be able to offset that produced. However, we will discover that the fine print taketh away the wonderful headlines.

Will the Poles ditch their coal industry to comply or face savage reprisals from Brussels? Will the EU guarantee Poland gets huge subsidies to pay for its termination? Which country would be so blind as to put their livelihoods into the hands of the EU!? The Greeks might have a view as do the Brits.

This action will spectacularly blow up.

By all means ride the short term wave of renewables stocks but be sure to line up all of those nasty fossil fuel companies into the portfolio that get pummeled by financial markets because the type of economic disaster that will beset the EU will only create the conditions where the peons will revolt and force a return to the way things were. Efficient, cheap and reliable forms of energy that will make a proper dent in the poverty line rather than promises and handouts.

The EU needs to learn the lesson that “Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.” It won’t be long before the youth of today get to embrace their love for socialism. Experience is a hard teacher. They’ll get the test first and the lesson afterwards.

Add the Dutch to the $15.8tn pension shortfall

Negligence. No other word for it. Unrealistic assumptions coupled with a race to the bottom on interest products has meant the top 20 nations have a $15.8 trillion unfunded liability in pensions. CM wrote of the crisis awaiting US public pensions a while back.

It seems the Dutch are the latest bunch of pensioners to reach for the pitchforks at the prospect of having their retirement severely cut back. Shaktie Rambaran Mishre, chair of the Dutch pension federation (representing 197 pension funds and their members), said contributions might have to rise by up to 30% over the next few years to ward off the prospect of having to cut the pensions of 2 million retirees. That will go down a treat.

Zerohedge noted the lower Dutch risk-free rate is not low enough, and as a result about 70 employer-run pension funds with 12.1m members had funding ratios below the statutory minimum at the end of September, according to the Dutch central bank. And here lies the rub: if funds have ratios below the legal minimum for five consecutive years or have no prospect of recovering to a more healthy level, they must cut their payouts.

Can you imagine all of the Dutch who were looking forward to taking a round the world cruise to celebrate 40 years of hard work to face the reality that they’ll only be able to take a cruise down the Amsterdam canals.

This is an utter disgrace. You’d have to be asleep at the wheel as a regulator not to recognize expected returns on funds were so unrealistic as to beggar belief. Actuarial accounting lets you get away with it.

Yet the evil pensions funds will be the villains even though the supervisor left these children alone with a box of matches. Just watch them come home and act surprised that the house has burnt down.

We’re getting a taste of the remedy from the State of Illinois. It is issuing bonds specifically to help plug the gap. Rhode Island has gone the other way – take a 40% haircut or risk having nothing. Way to go!

It is worth factoring the longer term risk of the fall in consumption that this will ultimately have if even a slither or $16tn is no longer recycled into the economy.

This can only end in tears

ECB.png

As Sweden’s economy slows to the worst economic growth rate in 5 years under a negative interest rate policy, one would think the Swedish Central Bank (Riksbank) would be seeking to prudently manage its asset book on the basis of appropriate risk/reward as opposed to lecturing Australia and Canada on their respective carbon footprints. What we are witnessing is yet another discrete move by authorities to manipulate markets based on fantasy rather than fact.  The hypocrisy is extreme as we shall discover.

While the Riksbank should have complete freedom in how it wishes to deploy capital, we should view this is a pathetic sop to the cabal at the European Central Bank (ECB). Since when did central bankers become experts on climate change? The RBA is no better. Deputy Governor, Guy Debelle, gave a speech in March 2019 on the risks posed by climate change which based prophecies on the data accident-prone IPCC and Bureau of Meteorology. Why not seek balance? Easier to fold to group think so as not to be outed as a pariah. Utterly gutless. Our own APRA is also pushing this ridiculous agenda on climate change reporting. It is willful negligence.

While it is true that on a per capita basis, Australia and Canada’s emissions are higher than the global average, why doesn’t the Riksbank give us credit for lowering that amount 11.4% since 2000? Even Canada has reduced its carbon emissions by 7.3% over the last 18 years. Admittedly Sweden’s emissions per capita have fallen 21.9% according to the IEA. Greta will be happy.

Why hasn’t the Riksbank taken China or India to task for their 169.9% or 94.7% growth in CO2 emissions respectively? There are plenty of oil-producing nations – Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman that have worse per capita outcomes than Australia or Canada. Do these countries get special dispensation from the wrath of the Riksbank? Clearly.

The US has pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord. If the US has marginally lower emissions per capita (15.74t/CO2-e) than Australia (16.45t/CO2-e), isn’t a double standard to write,

The conditions for active climate consideration are slightly better in our work with the foreign exchange reserves. To ensure that the foreign exchange reserves fulfil their purpose, they need to consist of assets that can be rapidly converted to money even when the markets are not functioning properly. Our assessment is that the foreign exchange reserves best correspond to this need if they consist of 75 per cent US government bonds, 20 per cent German and 5 per cent British, Danish and Norwegian government bonds.

Essentially Riksbank commitment to climate change is conditional. The US which is responsible for 13.8% of global emissions can be 75% of holdings. Australia at 1.3% can’t. No doubt sacrificing Queensland Treasury Corp, WA Treasury Corp and Albertan bonds from a Riksbank balance sheet perspective will have little impact on the total. In short, it looks to be pure tokenism. The Riksbank has invested around 8% of its foreign exchange reserves in Australian and Canadian central and federal government bonds. So perhaps at the moment, it is nothing but substitution from state to federal. Why not punish NSW TCorp for being part of a state that has 85%+ coal-fired power generation?

At the very least the Riksbank admits its own hypocrisy.

The Riksbank needs to develop its work on how to take climate change into consideration in asset management. For instance, we need a broader and deeper analysis of the issuers’ climate footprint. At the same time, one must remember that the foreign exchange reserves are unavoidably dominated by US and German government bonds. The Riksbank’s contribution to a better development of the climate will, therefore, remain small. This is entirely natural. The important decisions on how climate change should be counteracted in Sweden are political and should be taken by the government and the Riksdag (parliament).

Still, what hope have we got when Benoît Cœuré, member of the Executive Board of the ECB, lecturing those on “Scaling up Green Finance: The Role of Central Banks.” He noted,

2018 has seen one of the hottest summers in Europe since weather records began. Increasing weather extremes, rising sea levels and the Arctic melting are now clearly visible consequences of human-induced warming. Climate change is not a theory. It is a fact.

Reading more of this report only confirms the commitment of the ECB to follow the UN’s lead and deliberately look to misallocate capital based on unfounded claims of falling crop yields and rising prices (the opposite is occurring) and rising hurricane and drought activity (claims that even the IPCC has admitted there is little or no evidence by climate change). Sweden is merely being a well-behaved schoolboy.

Cœuré made the explicit claim, “The ECB, together with other national central banks of the Eurosystem, is actively supporting the European Commission’s sustainable finance agenda.

CM thinks the biggest problem with this “agenda” is that it risks even further misallocation of capital within global markets already drowning in poorly directed investment. It isn’t hard to see what is going on here. It is nothing short of deliberate market manipulation by trying to increase the cost of funding to conventional energy using farcical concocted “climate risks” to regulate them out of existence.

Cœuré made this clear in his speech,

once markets and credit risk agencies price climate risks properly, the amount of collateralised borrowing counterparties can obtain from the ECB will be adjusted accordingly.

What do you know? On cue, Seeking Alpha notes,

Cutting €2bn of yearly investments, the European Union will stop funding oil, natural gas and coal projects at the end of 2021 as it aims to become the first climate-neutral continent.

All CM will say is best of luck with this decision. Just watch how this kneeling at the altar of the pagan god of climate change will completely ruin the EU economy. The long term ramifications are already being felt. The EU can’t escape the fact that 118mn of its citizens (up from 78m in 2007) are below the poverty line. That is 22% of the population. So why then does Cœuré mention, in spite of such alarming poverty, that taking actions (that will likely increase unemployment) will be helped by “migration [which] has contributed to dampening wage growth…in recent years, thereby further complicating our efforts to bring inflation back to levels closer to 2%.

Closer to home, the National Australia Bank (NAB) has joined in the groupthink by looking to phase out lending to thermal coal companies by 2035. The $760 million exposure will be cut in half by 2028. If climate change is such a huge issue why not look to end it ASAP? This is terrible governance.

Why not assess thermal coal companies on the merits of the industry’s future rather than have the acting-CEO Philip Chronican make a limp-wristed excuse that it is merely getting in line with the government commitment to Paris? If lending to thermal coal is good for shareholders in 2036, who cares what our emissions targets are (which continue to fall per capita)? Maybe this is industry and regulator working hand-in-hand?

The market has always been the best weighing mechanism for risk. Unfortunately, for the last two decades, global central bank policy has gone out of its way to prevent the market from clearing. Now it seems that the authorities are taking actions that look like collusion to bully the ratings agencies into marking down legitimate businesses that are being punished for heresy.

This will ironically only make them even better investments down the track when reality dawns, just as CM pointed out with anti-ESG stocks. Just expect the entry points to these stocks to be exceedingly cheap. Buy what the market hates. It looks as though the bureaucrats are set to make fossil fuel companies penny stocks.

The irresponsibility of socially responsible investing

United Nations Sustainable Development Logo

Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) has been heavily pushed by members of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors (ACSI) for a while now. Apart from cynically cashing in on the generally higher fees generated by these “woke” funds, the returns have been nothing much to write home about. As Milton Friedman once said, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.

If we look at YTD, 1 or 10-year performance all of the SRI portfolios as indicated by published performance (listed on their websites) of local ACSI members, they have “underperformed” the benchmark index. One outperformed in the 5-year category. Hardly anything to crow about. So as much as they might feel warm and fuzzy for turning these funds into virtue-signalling investment vehicles, the outcomes for the monies entrusted to them is far from ideal. While investors should bear ultimate responsibility for where they deploy retirement funds, do they realise how much money they are torching by believing in this nonsense?

So why do these funds try to bully top-performing companies to conform to their irrelevant ideals which on the face of it do not appear to be working? If one reads through the fine print, many superannuation administrators pat themselves on the back that they are aligning portfolios to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If one wants to champion best in class ethics, the UN is the last place anyone should look. Just look at the unethical scandal that occurred at UNAIDS. 

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what these SDGs are – eliminating hunger, wiping out poverty, promoting gender equality, good health, clean water and sanitation, affordable clean energy etc. All wonderful things in and of themselves, but surely if the market agrees with them,  shouldn’t share prices reflect that?

Friedman spoke of free-market economics, “Well, first of all, tell me: Is there some society you know that doesn’t run on greed? You think Russia doesn’t run on greed? You think China doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course, none of us are greedy, it’s only the other fellow who’s greedy. The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus [including the UN]. Einstein didn’t construct his theory under order from a bureaucrat. Henry Ford didn’t revolutionize the automobile industry that way. In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you’re talking about, the only cases in recorded history, are where they have had capitalism and largely free trade. If you want to know where the masses are worse off, worst off, it’s exactly in the kinds of societies that depart from that. So that the record of history is absolutely crystal clear, that there is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by the free-enterprise system.

In Australia,  it would seem that many high performing companies, that aren’t ‘compliant as they should be‘, are being pressured to increase diversity, women on boards and all manner of meaningless benchmarks preached by the ACSI and its members.

Take the 30% Club which pushes to have 30% women on boards. While this started in the UK in 2010, it has spread across multiple jurisdictions including Australia. The 30% Club emphatically quotes from a McKinsey study,  “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 21% more likely to experience above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.” What this study doesn’t say is that the bottom quartile of companies maybe just poorly run, in spite of the genitalia of the board.

Don’t mistake the most important point to be made. If a board is best served by all women, you won’t hear a peep from investors if they can produce the best results. As soon as we start to try to enforce gender quotas, performance becomes predicated on chromosomes rather than capability. What next? Ensure fair representation of LGBT on boards? Religions? Races? Disabilities? Where does it stop when all that matters is ability that produces performance?

Take a look at the disaster that has befallen PG&E in recent times. In the interests of pandering to all these irrelevant SDGs, it can tell you the exact breakdown of the diversity of its workforce but can’t tell you the status of much of its infrastructure, some which have been directly responsible for the devastating wildfires in California. The company was forced into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Did diversity help shareholders? If one’s house is on fire, do we worry about identity? Or who has the skillsets to put out the blaze the fastest? QED.

Yet our woke investors keep pushing these trends. IFM Investors waxes lyrical about its climate change, 30% Club and carbon disclosure project. Good for it. It has a choice. It should live by the sword and die by it. If that is what it wishes to focus on why not allow the free market to; a) decide whether superannuation holders want to deploy funds in such a manner and b) let corporates decide if SRI is good for their businesses.

Yet, the latest push by these socialist fund administrators is to ensure that companies conform to the ‘Modern Slavery Act.’ Are these people for real? Who are they to try to enforce federal law? Talk about self-imposed authority. It is a safe bet that 99%+ corporates listed on the ASX behave are compliant in this regard because if not the punitive outcomes will be severe.

Moreover, if some of these funds own stocks like Tesla in their international portfolios, perhaps they might consider such a hip and trendy investment has an indirect connection to child-slave labour in DR Congo where 70% of the world’s cobalt is mined to go into the Li-ion batteries.

There is one absolute truth in finance. In good times, any mug CEO can be successful. It is only when markets turn sour that the “quality” of decent management is truly appreciated in how they successfully manage to mitigate risk in an ugly downturn. In a difficult market climate, only the fittest survive and if companies have strayed off the reservation to appeal to investors, it will soon become self-evident in the results.

As we stare at the precipice of a potentially deep global recession, the previous paragraph will be all that matters. Because those corporates too busy hitting diversity targets, installing genderless bathrooms and ensuring they have double-checked all employees have complied with Earth Hour will be slaughtered when markets take a pounding.

These SDG focused funds will soon see that they are part of one giant herd and as performance starts to suffer in this crowded trade, the stampede toward the exit will reveal just how irresponsible the push to ram through such irrelevant metrics at the very companies who caved in was.

As a contrarian investor, the best investments will be in exactly those companies that shun(ned) this foolhardy exercise and forged a path in the spirit of Milton Friedman. Afterall they understood what it really means to be “free to choose.” So back up the truck in tobacco, mining and fossil fuel stocks on any pullback. After all, mean reversion will see these stocks outperform if nothing else.

Don’t forget Harvey Norman (HVN). How could it be that the company is worth 4x the combined value of Myer and David Jones, the latter two businesses focused on pleasing the United Nations rather than customers?  Hmmm.

Isn’t that the ultimate ready reckoner for these SDG funds? The market is always right. If the performance of the funds deployed isn’t making the grade, don’t attempt to force the best of breed to comply to your self imposed standards. Embrace companies that follow their lead. Not the other way around. It begs the question, what on earth are people who should believe in free markets doing to thwart it functioning efficiently?

Perhaps investors have the clearest indication of socialist activism by the very requirement to join the club. “ACSI drives strong ESG performance in companies in which our members invest because ESG creates long-term value…We use our collective impact to influence companies and financial markets in the interests of our members as long-term investors…Commitment to these beliefs is a pre-requisite for membership of ACSI.

Never has it been a more sound decision to set up an SMSF.

Phillip Island – a hit of nature

Before the petrol head in CM inhales the fumes of perfectly combusted fossil fuels of 300hp MotoGP bikes at 19,000rpm, CM is enjoying a rare sunny day on Phillip Island.

Could this be an indicator of the population density of the People’s’ Republic of Victoria when it goes 100% renewable energy?

Seen this all before

What is it with the US auto market that throws up so many canaries in the coal mine? Several years back CM wrote about the growth in sub-prime auto loans. What triggered this boom? Easier access to finance? That was one reason. As it happens the largest factor was driven by the ability for finance companies to shut down a vehicle by remote and repossess the vehicle should the buyer be unable to afford the monthly payments. This lowered risk and allows these long-dated loan products to thrive. Average subprime auto loans carry 10% p.a. interest rates. More than 6 million American consumers are at least 90 days late on their car loan repayments, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

About a 1/3rd of all US auto loans issued today are stretched out to seven years and beyond, according to the WSJ. A decade ago, the seven-year loan only made up about 10% of all loans. Even 10% of 2010 model year bangers are being bought on 84-month term loans.

After the tech bubble collapsed at the turn of the century do you remember the ‘Keep America Rolling’ programme, which was all about free financing for five years? While sales were helped along nicely, the reality was it stored up pain. As new car sales became harder to achieve, new financial products offered sweeter upfront incentives and buyback guarantees (because cheap finance was everywhere and not a differentiator) helped keep the fire stoked.

However, as front end incentives kept getting juicier, the cars on guaranteed buybacks were starting to return to the market at prices well below the ‘guarantee’ leaving automotive finance arms in a whole world of hurt and huge losses. Goldberg & Hegde’s Residual Value Risk and Insurance study in 2009 suggested on average 92% of cars returned to leasing companies recorded losses on return of up to 12%. Any company can guarantee the price of its used product, in theory, the question is whether used car buyers will be willing to pay for it.

In the last decade, auto loans have ballooned from $740bn to $1.3 trillion. Auto dealers are now making a majority of their money on the finance deal as opposed to the sale of the actual car. Even worse, the US car market is experiencing a third of trade-ins in negative equity meaning the gap is being added to the price of the new car, hence the push out of the loan period to keep a lid on the size of monthly payments. This was 17% in 2008.

CM is sure there is nothing to worry about. It is consistent with nearly everything else that has occurred in finance since the GFC. Just double down, spend more, close your eyes and hope nothing bad happens. Ultimately it will be someone else’s problem.

Serious auto-loan delinquencies – 90 days or more past due – in 2Q 2019, jumped 47 basis points year-over-year to 4.64% of all outstanding auto loans and leases, according to New York Fed. This is equivalent to the delinquency rate in Q3 2009, just months after GM and Chrysler had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The 47-basis-point jump in the delinquency rate was the largest year-over-year jump since Q1 2010. Actual outstanding delinquent 90 day + delinquencies stand at $60bn in 2Q 2019, almost double the amount of 4Q 2010.

Did CM mention gold?