Top 10 at 10: China iron ore crisis escalates; The amazing Graham Boustred; Roubini's brown manure; Dilbert
15th Jul 09, 10:09am
Here's my Top 10 links from around the Internet at 10am. I welcome your additions in the comments below and please send suggestions for tomorrow's Top 10 at 10 to firstname.lastname@example.org I've stopped whining about our coffee cups. 1. The Rio Tinto iron ore contract negotiations scandal is now having some real world concequences. Traders in China report steel mills are scrambling to buy iron ore on spot markets because of Chinese government threats to cancel import licences and because BHP and Rio Tinto appear to have stopped sending spot shipments to China. Spot prices have spiked US$8 a tonne to US$90 this week, FT.com reported.
"Some traders point to congestion at Indian ports for the increase. But most believe the key reason is that Rio and BHP Billiton have stopped putting spot shipments up for bid, with volume falling off since the start of July," the consultancy wrote. It quoted one Shanghai-based trader as saying: "There's almost nothing coming from Australia at the moment."2. Meanwhile Australian PM Kevin Rudd has intervened to try to settle the situation down and get the Rio Tinto executive released, without success. A Chinese trade delegation left Australia in a hurry yesterday and Rudd revealed he had spoken to a Chinese minister during last week's G8 meeting in Italy, The Australian reported. Rudd is certainly not backing down.
"Australia's national interest always and under every circumstance comes first," Rudd told local radio. "That means the wellbeing of any Australian citizen. They come first."3. Ever wondered what happened to the people who used to run South Africa? They have retired and are only let out occasionally to say incendiary things. Here's a BusinessDay (South Africa) interview from the gods with former Anglo American deputy chair Graham Boustred, 84. It is littered with appalling gems like the ones below that reinforce stereotypes about older white South African men. HT Kevin He saves his best bile for current Anglo CEO Cynthia Carroll, who he thinks needs to be replaced in any merger deal with Xstrata...
Xstrata, it's only a mechanism of getting rid of Cynthia Carroll. The only mechanism is if (Xstrata CEO) Mick Davis comes along with his lousy assets and his good management, and takes over the operations. This woman's hopeless. There's no morale. Do you know why it's difficult to find a female CEO? It's because most women are sexually frustrated. Men are not, because they can fall back on call girls, go to erectile dysfunction clinics. If you have a CEO who's sexually frustrated she can't act properly.He then goes on to say he wants to migrate to the Isle of Man.
There are no Muslims, no blacks. It's got a good healthcare system. It rains a lot, but so what? I'll get under-floor heating and I'll get a good mackintosh.... I'm going to the Isle of Man, for Christ's sake.4. Robert Shiller, the co-founder of the Case Shiller house price indices in the United States, reckons there is the possibility of new bubbles forming in some markets, but the market overall could languish for years to come. The interview and the article is on Yahoo's Tech Ticker. 5. Here's a great long term chart showing what's happening with average weekly working hours in US private industry. HT Mark Thoma 6. Is China stockpiling commodities? Cornelius at ZeroHedge thinks so, pointing to various bits of evidence.
"The level of [iron ore] importing doesn't match the level of steel production so far this year, so there's a considerable amount of stockpiling going on," said Tim Huxley, chief executive of Hong Kong-based Wah Kwong Maritime Transport Holdings, who along with many others in the shipping industry is grateful for what he called "a shot in the arm" but skeptical that the stockpiling can continue "“ especially since many of those container ships are sent away empty, without export orders to fill them.7. Peter Schiff talks on CNBC about why he's bearish on American stocks, but likes commodities, gold and China. The CNBC guy introducing Schiff falls over himself to snuggle up to the bulls that run CNBC. HT Geoff via email. 8. It appears former British Airways and Cathay Pacific CEO Rod Eddington's reign as chairman of ANZ has ended before it began because of his role on the board of finance dogs breakfast Allco, according to Malcolm Maiden in The Age.
The fact that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission has launched an investigation into Allco's demise that extends to related party deals approved by Allco's board in its final year has also pushed (ANZ chairman Charles) Goode and Sir Rod to the conclusion that, while Sir Rod's curriculum vitae and Asian business experience suit ANZ as it expands in Asia, his appointment at this time would be a mistake.9. Finally the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the Credit Default Swaps market and the links between the market operator and the investment banks that use the market, Bloomberg reported.
"I say Hallelujah that some authoritative body has finally stepped forward to investigate, in a small way, how Wall Street takes advantage of information for its own advantage," said William Cohan, a former JPMorgan Chase & Co. investment banker and author of "House of Cards," about the financial crisis. "The fact that they control Markit and it provides information about the prices of credit-default swaps and they've benefited from this for many years without any challenge or investigation was outrageous."10. Nouriel Roubini at RGE Monitor has written another epic state of the global economy post titled Mounting Job Losses Will Hurt Consumption, Housing, Banks' Balance Sheets, Public Finances and Lead to Protectionist Pressures. He remains bearish, it's fair to say.
If you include partially employed workers and discouraged workers who left the U.S. labor force, for example, the unemployment rate is already 16.5%; even temporary employment is sharply down. Monetary and fiscal stimulus in most countries has done little to slow down the rate of job losses as economies suffer from problems of insolvency, not just illiquidity, and as the fiscal stimulus programs are too small and not labor intensive enough. As a result, total labor income "“ the product of jobs times hours worked times average hourly wages "“ has fallen dramatically. Moreover, many employers, seeking to "share the pain" of the recession and slow down the rate of layoffs, are now asking workers to accept cuts in both hours and hourly wages. Thus, the total effect of the recession on labor income of jobs, hours and wage reductions is much larger. Thus, even as mounting job losses are undermining labor income and consumption, pushing further down home prices, increasing the banks' losses, weakening the support for free trade, and further worsening public finances, the room for further policy stimulus is becoming narrower. Indeed, not only are governments running out of fiscal bullets as debt surges, but monetary policy is having little short-run traction in economies suffering insolvency "“ not just liquidity "“ problems and monetary easing has so far been like pushing on a string. Worse still, in the medium turn the monetary overhang may lead to significant inflationary risks as a period of sharp deflation may be followed "“ from 2011 on - by a period of rising expected inflation and disorderly weakening of the U.S. dollar. Little wonder, then, that we are now witnessing a significant correction in equity, credit, and commodities markets. The irrational exuberance that drove a three-month bear-market rally in the spring is now giving way to a more sober realization among investors that the global recession will not be over until year end, that the recovery will be weak and well below trend, and that the risks of a double-dip W-shaped recession are rising. The alleged green shoots turned to be yellow weeds and "“ unless policy makers figure out a sensible medium term exit strategy for monetary and fiscal policy "“ they may turn into brown manure.