#manufacturing

Only one you can’t stop crashing at your place during COVID19 is the economy

Warning Signs Investors Ignored Before the 1929 Stock Market Crash ...

Brace yourself.

COVID19 will be defeated but the cure is turning out to be way worse than the disease.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is that at the rate governments are tightening legislation to keep us in shut down mode, we are day-by-day staring at a great depression.

While some will praise governments for throwing the kitchen sink at the economy with all manner of stimulus packages, the relief will be temporary because all of the ammunition for a sustainable recovery had been depleted years earlier. It is like supplying an alcoholic on rehab with an all-you-can-drink open bar.

Our feckless RBA has just embarked on QE, a mission that has failed every other central bank that has tried it. The velocity of money has been falling for decades. Who will be given access to borrowing at zero interest rates when the economy is in freefall? Which banks will lend against properties that will likely implode in value? 50% down? To think of all the reckless “first home buyer” schemes that loaded young people at the top of the property market. The RBA has been complicit. Not wanting to put pressure on the government to reform, it just kept cutting rates to keep housing afloat. It was totally negligent in its duty even though it will signal its role as a rescuer of last resort.

When will banks be forced to mark to book the value of mortgages on their balance sheet? Equity is thin as it is. 15-20% equity buffer to mortgages is pretty wafer-thin. They need to do this immediately so we can properly assess risk. Forget stress tests by APRA. They’re meaningless. Our housing market will collapse with higher unemployment. 50% falls from here are possible. Remember there will be hardly any buyers. Prices fell up to 90% in Japan after its property bubble popped.

Worse our regulators have been asleep at the wheel chasing financial institutions on their commitment to climate change, the absolute least relevant metric to save them from here. It shows how complacent they became.

Australia has made some interesting crisis policy choices. For instance, PM Scott Morrison is trying to pass rent moratoriums where landlords suspend payments from tenants until things return to normalcy. It is not enshrined in law yet. In principle that is a nice gesture even if the government is subsidizing the banks for forgone interest due to short term loan repayment moratoriums. Let’s assume this continues for 6 months. Apart from the astronomical size of the subsidy, who will ultimately end up sacrificing the 6 months? Landlords? It won’t be the tenants.

Shouldn’t landlords be free to choose whether they are prepared to forgo rent or not as a purely rational business proposition? Shouldn’t a landlord be free to enforce a rental agreement? Will contracts matter anymore?

At some stage, the free market must be allowed to function and the government will hit a tipping point of weighing stopping economic armageddon by allowing businesses to function and the marginal risk of infections. The people will be crying for this if shutdowns remain.

Landlords may be labelled un-Australian or worse but in 6 months time, if unemployment has surged to nose bleed levels well above the 6% we saw during GFC at what point will disposable income be able to support a daily coffee at a cafe?

A cafe might soldier on for a further 3 months on skeleton staff before realising that they can’t cover costs. A landlord would be well within reason to demand that early cancellation clauses and fees are enforced.

Then what of all the invoices to coffee suppliers, bakeries who provide muffins and croissants and utilities? Who misses out? What about the invoices of the coffee supplier? Will the bakery get called on by its flour supplier to pay upfront for future deliveries when it has no operating cash flow, instead of the long-standing 60-90 day terms? That happens overnight. It isn’t a managed outcome. Cash is king.

The question is why hasn’t the government taken advice from the banks on business lending so it can better assess the risks involved from those that deal every day with small companies?

We can’t just shut an economy down for 6 months and expect a return to normal when it is all over. Unemployment rates are likely to surge well above 10%.

As we wrote in an earlier piece, there are 13.1 million Australians employed as of February 2020. Full-time employment amounted to 8,885,600 persons and part-time employment to 4,124,500 persons. Retail trade jobs come in at a shade over 1.2 million jobs. Construction at 1.15 million. Education 1.1 million. Accommodation/restaurants /bars etc at 900,000. Manufacturing another 900,000. Noticing a trend in our employment gearing?

We can fudge the unemployment figures however we like. We can pay $1,500 a fortnight for 6,000,000 workers to pretend they still have a job. That is $18bn a month. The PM can talk about how this will help us bounce on the other side. If it continues for just over 6-months can the budgeted $130 billion will be spent. This is separate to NewStart payments too.

Yet, will people lavishly spend or pay down debt and economise as best they can? We think the latter unless moral hazard has truly sunk in.

What people need to understand is that our Treasury expects to raise $472.8 billion in taxes for FY2019-20. Throw in sales of services, interest and dividend income and that climbs to a total of $511 billion. Expenses are forecast at $503 billion. In the following three years Treasury anticipates $490.0 billion,  $514.4 billion and $528.9 billion in taxes. Expect those totals to be cut significantly.

So if ScoMo’s JobKeeper rescue package for workers goes beyond 6 months, that is equivalent to 27% of annual tax revenues. That doesn’t take into account the slug to tax collections of lower GST and vastly lower income tax for individuals and corporates. That is just at the federal level.

Note, states such as NSW have recently waived payroll taxes for small businesses in a  $2.3bn stimulus package. We shouldn’t forget that the NSW Government is the largest employer in the Southern Hemisphere at 327,000 staff.

We remind readers that according to the RBA small businesses employ 47% of the workforce. Medium enterprises employ 23%. That is 70% of the entire workforce who are most at risk from a slowdown.

In 2019-20 income tax collections will make up $220 billion. Company tax was forecast to generate $99.8 billion. GST $67.2 billion. Excise taxes (petrol, diesel, tobacco etc) $44.7 billion. This data can be found on page 21 here.

Local cafes are reporting a 60~80% fall in revenue. Pretty much all casuals have been let go. It is a bit hard to survive on coffee when a lot of stores aren’t stocking pastries for fear of spoilage.

It is not hard to assume a scenario where government income taxes fall to $160 billion (-28%) due to mass layoffs. One assumes many people will be able to get a tax rebate come June 30th. So this number may end up being conservative on an annualised basis.

Company tax could plunge to $40 billion annualised due to the drastic fall in revenues as customers change the manner of contracts and reign in their own spending. Anyone that thinks that business will resume as normal is crazy. The ripple effects will be huge.

Excise taxes may drift to $35 billion as people cut back on drink (currently $7bn in tax revenue), are limited in places to drive negating the need to fill up (currently $18bn in total tax take). The $17 billion in tobacco excise may weather the storm better than most.

GST could fall to $50 billion. People just aren’t spending much outside of food. Massive retail discounts will not make much difference. GST will be the best indicator of how much the economy has slowed. Even if we start to see a massaging of the GDP numbers, GST won’t lie. It will be the safest indicator.

If our assumed tax revenue sums to $285 billion annualised from the budgeted $472 billion that equates to a 40% haircut.

Trim the ‘other revenue’ column to $30 billion from $39 billion and we have $315bn. Will the government then chop away at the $503 billion in expenses? All of the stimuli doesn’t arrive at once but a lot of it in relatively short order. Surely a $300~400 billion deficit is a fait accompli?

We should also anticipate forward year tax revenues be cut c.30% for several years after. The question is when does the government realise that it must cut the public service and scrap wasteful projects like French submarines and other nice-to-have quangos? We won’t see a budget surplus for decades.

We must careful not to fall into the trap Japan finds itself in. It has a US$1 trillion budget funded by US$600bn in taxes and US$400bn in JGB issuance. Every. Single. Year.

Nothing short of drastic tax and structural reform will do. Instead of behaving more prudently by cutting budgets when we had the chance, instant gratification created by governments desperate to stay in power has only weakened our relative position. Since 2013, the Coalition has been responsible for 46% of the total amount of all debt issued since 1854.

States should quickly realise that the $118 billion in federal grants going forward will also be curtailed. NSW will likely fare the worst because its financial position is by far the best.

If the government had a proper plan, it would be looking to what essential industries have been given up to the likes of China that we need to onshore. Medical equipment, masks or sanitiser. For cricketer Shane Warne to be converting his Seven Zero Eight gin factory to produce hand sanitiser shows how much of a joke our local manufacturing has become.

We must never forget that a Chinese government-owned company displayed the Communist Party’s mercenary credentials by (legally) buying 3,000,000 surgical masks, 500,000 pairs of gloves and bulk supplies of sanitiser and wipes. So not only was it responsible for covering up the truth surrounding the virus in the early stages of the pandemic, we openly let it compromise our ability to combat the virus when it hit our shores.

China has shown it doesn’t give a hoot for ordinary Australians. So why should we continue to fold to its whims and cowardly surrender our industries for fear it’ll stop dealing with us? It is nonsense. We have some of the highest quality mineral resources which it depends on. We can bargain. We have chosen to appease a bully.

Our Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) needs to be far more vigilant to prevent takeovers by Chinese businesses. We should openly accept the way China conducts business practices and recognise that it is often incompatible with ours when national security is at stake. Surely this crisis has highlighted the true colours of the political system in Beijing.

That leads us to Japanese companies. Many are seriously cashed up, have a favourable exchange rate and have a long-standing history of partnering with local businesses. We should be prioritising our relationship with Japan and look to have them invest in our inevitable capital works programs – specifically high-speed rail. It is the type of project that has meaning for the future and a long enough timeline to turn an economy around.

People need to be prepared for the reckoning. There is no point softening the blow. The brutal truth will eventually arrive and we will have only put ourselves in an even weaker position with the policy suite enacted so far. Time to be rational about risk/reward. Whether we like it or not, the minimum wage will need to be cut substantially in order to get the jobs market alive again. Don’t worry, unemployment will be so high that people will demand minimum wages are cut because it is far superior to the alternative!

(Time to ditch your industry super and start shovelling your superannuation into gold)

Albo moves from dumb to dumber

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Oh boy! Here we go again. Adjusting targets to a pointless exercise to an even more irrelevant one, albeit at a massive net cost to all Aussies.
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This is the trend of Australian energy price inflation and manufacturing jobs over the last two decades. Notice anything? A correlation of about 90%. Energy prices go up, manufacturing comes down. We have shed 250,000 manufacturing jobs in the last two decades. Green jobs have not replaced them. Not even 1/10th of the jobs lost as this chart from the ABS shows.
The trend is the same in Denmark, which is an even big renewables user. The correlation is even higher. Denmark has shed 200,000+ jobs following green madness. No green jobs haven’t offset this either.
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Is it a surprise that prices, where more renewable energy is used, are higher than those places that don’t? If it weren’t for the weak $A, these numbers would look even worse.
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Labor leader Anthony Albanese thinks that shifting the focus away from 45% renewable by 2030 to net zero emissions by 2050 is a game-changer. Why can’t these politicians count or look at the experience at home and abroad? What is this obsession to take Australia’s 0.00001345% CO2 contribution to the atmosphere to zero? How many billions more should we spend for absolutely no return? Does he not realise that Australia has the third-highest clean energy spending per capita already? Why all the self-flagellation?

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Our per capita emissions are going down relative to many neighbours. Don’t be fooled by the Europeans either. Biomass (which is as dirty as lignite (brown coal)) gets special dispensation from the EU hacks if a tree is planted for every one burned. So even though the tree that is planted will take at least 50 years to be able to replace what was burnt, fear not, creative stats are ok in Brussels.
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Ahh, but Germany is the country we should all aspire to be, no? Well actually, no. In 2007 Germany forecast that 2020 residential electricity prices would be approximately 16 Eurocents. Today they trade at c.31 Eurocents. Merkel’s policies to phase out all nuke power after the Fukushima disaster. Der Spiegel, a normally left-leaning journal wrote in a two-part series. 

Part 1 – Germany Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future

“But the sweeping idea has become bogged down in the details of German reality. The so-called Energiewende, the shift away from nuclear in favour of renewables, the greatest political project undertaken here since Germany’s reunification, is facing failure. In the eight years since Fukushima, none of Germany’s leaders in Berlin have fully thrown themselves into the project, not least the chancellor. Lawmakers have introduced laws, decrees and guidelines, but there is nobody to coordinate the Energiewende, much less speed it up. And all of them are terrified of resistance from the voters, whenever a wind turbine needs to be erected or a new high-voltage transmission line needs to be laid out.”

Germany’s Federal Court of Auditors is even more forthright about the failures. The shift to renewables, the federal auditors say, has cost at least 160 billion euros in the last five years. Meanwhile, the expenditures “are in extreme disproportion to the results, Federal Court of Auditors President Kay Scheller said last fall, although his assessment went largely unheard in the political arena. Scheller is even concerned that voters could soon lose all faith in the government because of this massive failure.

There is also such an irony when these mad green schemes encounter scourge from animal rights groups. Former Green’s leader Bob Brown knows the feeling,

“The bird of prey [red kite], with its elegantly forked tail, enjoys strict protection in Germany…Red kites are migratory, returning from the south in the spring, but they don’t return reliably every year. The mayor would have been happy if the bird had shown up quickly so its flight patterns could be analyzed and plans for the wind park adjusted accordingly. It would have been expensive, but at least construction of the project could finally get underway.

But if the bird doesn’t return, the project must be suspended. Spies has to wait a minimum of five years to see if the creature has plans for the nest after all. Which means the wind park could finally be built in 2024, fully 12 years after the project got underway.”

Part 2 – German Failure on the Road to a Renewable Future

An additional factor exacerbating the renewables crisis is the fact that two decades after the enactment of the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG), 20-year guaranteed feed-in tariffs will begin expiring next year for the first wind, solar and biomass facilities. Some of those who installed solar panels back then — often farmers and homeowners — are still receiving 50 cents for every kilowatt-hour they feed into the grid. Today, larger facilities receive just 5 cents per kilowatt-hour.

The state has redistributed gigantic sums of money, with the EEG directing more than 25 billion euros each year to the operators of renewable energy facilities. But without the subsidies, operating wind turbines and solar parks will hardly be worth it anymore. As is so often the case with such subsidies: They trigger an artificial boom that burns fast and leaves nothing but scorched earth in their wake.

That doesn’t include the 360,000 German households in energy poverty.

As Australia continues to expand the renewables portion of our power grid, the lessons from the Germans couldn’t be clearer – market distortions and misguided investments only lead to marginal results on the back of massive investment to stop something that can’t be controlled. German taxpayers have been swindled and Aussies are sleepwalking down the same path.

So Albo, the solution is simple. Do the math. Read about Germany’s beta testing of renewables and stop this crusade to prevent something that no matter what target you pick, zero will be the output. Just look at the price of energy relative to core CPI since we went renewables mad in 2000. That chart is not a vote winner.

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The only hot air Albo needs to worry about is that emanating from the Labor Party policy room. Drop all of this group think.

Green jobs trend in Australia

We keep on hearing about a huge surge in “green jobs”, even when the figures had been falling. The ABS reported that after 5 years of straight declines, roof top solar has been the driver of the rise in the past two years.

Annual direct FTE employment in renewable energy activities in Australia was estimated at 17,740 jobs in 2017-18, an increase of 3,890 jobs in FTE employment (28%) from the previous year (2016-17) and represents the highest level of FTE employment in renewable energy activities since 2011-12...driven by an increase in construction activity for large scale solar photovoltaic (PV) systems (1,950 additional FTE jobs) and roof-top solar PV (1,720 additional FTE jobs). Together, these two renewable energy types accounted for 94% of this increase in FTE employment in renewable energy.

The ABS reports there are 12,500,000 Aussies employed. Therefore full time green jobs make up 0.14% of the total. Construction makes up 1.056m jobs. Manufacturing employs 770,000. Combined, these sectors make up 15% of all employed.

So our two biggest sectors employ 107x more than the peak in renewables FT employment. Perhaps the government should weigh up the risk to damaging our biggest sectors with an uncosted climate change policy instead of virtue signaling for a couple of thousand green jobs which are so irrelevant as a percentage to beggar belief. Essentially if Bill Shorten managed to double renewable jobs, a 0.9% fall in construction/manufacturing jobs would be all that’s required to eke our a net zero outcome.

Hardly seems worth it. Remember the CM report which showed our carbon impact on the globe is only 0.000016%. Even if we went 100% renewable, that is all we can achieve. Time to admit reality.

The day Elon Musk gets asked by…

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Elon Musk said in the FY2017 conference call today: “Super Bullish…What I find sort of interesting is that our competitors – the car industry thinks they’re really good at manufacturing. And actually they are quite good at manufacturing, but they just don’t realize just how much potential there is for improvement. It’s way more than they think…I went through this math I think on a prior earnings call, but like it sounds like some of the fastest car factories produce a car maybe every 25 seconds. That sounds fast. But if you think of a 5-meter long car, including gap, and a 4.5 meter car with a half meter gap or something, that’s only 0.2 meters per second. Like grandma with a walker can exceed the speed of the fastest production line we’re in, so really no that fast. Walking speed is one meter per second, so five times faster than the fastest production line on earth.”

Listening to commentary like this just shows how cavalier the processes at Tesla are. The day Tesla gets called in by other kings of industry for lessons on production techniques the comment will hold water.

Toyota, which has coined almost every manufacturing effficiency jargon over 50 years, was invited by Porsche to fix its problems in the 90s. Several years ago Toyota was called in to help Lockheed Martin streamline production of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter because of the massive cost overruns. The day Boeing calls up Elon Musk for tips on how to belt out more 787s two slices of humble pie will be consumed immediately.

Seriously one has to question how this board can believe it has the potential to be worth more than all the other volume and luxury auto majors combined when they make such fictitious claims. Sounds like Sakamoto from Elpida promising endless dreams. Elpida went belly up because it failed to deliver. .