Thursday's Top 10 with NZ Mint: Chinese steel demand growth to halve; If only NZ had Europe's ghost towns; A scream worth US$119 million; Lewis Black; Dilbert

I'm back. And late, unlike David. Sorry. Here's my Top 10 links from around the Internet at 1 pm in association with NZ Mint.

I welcome your additions in the comments below or via email

I'll pop the extras into the comment stream. See all previous Top 10s here.

My must read today is the slide show of Europe's ghost towns a #5. If only New Zealand had had such a boom in building houses, our houses might be affordable. Many thanks again to David for doing the Top 10s for the last month and for doing it on time. I'll try harder.

1. Another nationalisation - Bloomberg reports Bolivia has nationalised a Spanish owned electricity grid operator, less than two weeks after Argentina nationalised a Spanish owned oil company.

During the Global Financial Crisis we haven't yet seen a widespread shutting down of global trade links and cross-border ownership of assets.


This is the sort of thing that happens as the pressure goes on.

Governments and voters eventually circle the wagons and look after their own.

Who's to say they are wrong. Bolivia's economy is growing strongly and it has a budget surplus.

Here's Bloomberg:

Morales, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, is echoing Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in citing underinvestment and strategic reasons for nationalizing the company. Fernandez expropriated YPF on April 16 from Madrid- based Repsol YPF.

Since taking office in 2006, Morales has seized gas fields, oil refineries, pension funds, telecommunications companies and a tin smelter to increase state control of the landlocked nation’s $20 billion economy.

2. CBA trumps NAB - SMH reports Commonwealth Bank of Australia, which owns ASB here, has passed on 40 basis points of the RBA's 50 basis point cut. This is more than NAB's 32 basis points, but less than the full 50 basis point cut by the Reserve Bank of Australia.

The Australian banks couldn't justify doing the same here if the RBNZ cuts. Bank net interest margins are rising here because of the shift from fixed to floating.

3. One way to do it - Argentina has apparently leaned on the bosses at McDonalds there to keep its Big Mac prices low in Argentina so Argentina looks good on the now infamous Big Mac index comparing global prices, Matthew Yglesias reckons. HT David.

That, in turn, has led the McDonaldses to radically de-emphasize the suddenly non-profitable signature sandwich in favor of the Triple Mac and other offerings.

4. It's still going on - The Guardian reports on a US survey showing CEO pay rose 15% last year, having risen 28% the previous year. Meanwhile, pay for employees is flat at best in real terms..

We are now starting to see shareholder activists start waving their arms and push back against obscene CEO pay awards. The campaigns against payrises at GE, Barclays and Citigroup are starting to get interesting.

But I'm still stunned at how many CEOs just don't get what has happened and why the peasants are restive.

5. Europe's ghost towns - CNBC has built an excellent slideshow here of the ghost towns built all over Europe in the last decade of boom.

6. Asleep at the wheel - It turns out US regulators were well warned about the problems at Lehman months before it collapsed and escalated the Global Financial Crisis.

Here's PBS with the details, which are part of its excellent ongoing series titled Money, Power and Wall Street.

Regulators, including Geithner, who would later become Treasury secretary, claim they did the best they could with the information that they had at the time. But FRONTLINE interviews with key officials and documents, including internal Federal Reserve Bank of New York emails, reveal another side to the story: a trail of missed warnings and evidence that regulators declined to pursue information that might have helped them to understand the systemic risk posed by Lehman.

“One of the most striking parts of the story is that, first of all, how little people in charge of our system knew and/or did in the wake of the oncoming crisis,” Phil Angelides, Chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC) set up by Congress to investigate the causes of the crash told FRONTLINE. “Secondly, once the evidence was clear, that the system itself was shaky and unsound, how there wasn’t definitive and strong action to try to curb what was becoming a disaster for the country.”

7. Bad for Australia and good for NZ? - Barclays research cited by FTAlphaville suggests Chinese demand for steel (which has helped Australia enormously and us indirectly) may be about to slide sharply, while demand for fresher and higher quality food is likely to be strong. That could be good news for New Zealand, although demand for protein may not be as strong as we think.

One surprising detail in the report is that China's per capita protein intake is already up at Western levels.

Here's the key nugget from the Barclays report, which is an interesting read:

We do not expect any of these factors to result in strong growth in the quantity of grain or meat consumption. More important trends are likely to revolve around growing demand for higher quality, fresher foodstuffs, as well as changing tastes and preferences within different food groups. Whilst the quality of the average Chinese diet is likely to gain significantly over the next five years, quantities are not.

8. Here's a useful Renegade Economist interview with global debt economist Ann Pettifor, who argued for a debt jubilee for third world debt, on the global debt crisis. HT Darryl via email.

9. I'd scream too - Here's another indicator that some people have more money than sense and that many are worried about the value of paper assets.

Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' was sold overnight for a record US$119 million, AFP reports.

And there are four legitimate versions of it. A couple of them have been stolen and then recovered.

10. Totally a Lewis Black rant about artisan bagels from Dunkin' Donuts.


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Regarding #4, the peasants are NOT restive.  Particularly regarding the sale in #9 of The Scream for $119 million by Sothebys.  Thousands (10,000-25,000 from what I read) have been marching in the Occupy movement citing these very things.
Doesn't make it into mainstream media on the whole.

... .... did Edvard Munch get his model to read Bernard's daily   " Top 10 "  ,  before painting " The Scream "  ? ........

LOL.  BTW, welcome back BH!

Edvard a regular reader.
Comments under the name 'Wolly'

7. Not really as NZ consumers will have to match prices of what foreigners can pay.....if we get that option....
1) Fish for instance it costs more for good stuff (groper etc) at $50 a kilo than Beef Fillet eye Steak....$43 a kilo.   At least the steak has to be you just catch it......
2) Flounder which we love is too small to be worth buying for 2 months now.....I assume the decent sized stuff is shipped off shore.....what Moore Wilsons / Pak'n'save/countdown are selling is expensive cat food...
3) Prawns in Countdown are from thailand/china....
So NZ will benefit? uh no....crazy....

Yep, not good for the general public.  The best food is fresh food though, so if you have farming/orchard/hunting/fishing connections you can grab the best before it's exported.  I've tasted NZ apples and kiwifruit in Europe.  Cosmetically very good and tastes good too, but nothing compared to straight off the tree/vine.

Yep. Pretty much all  veggies sold in NZ supermarkets are export rejects.
I used to work as a grader in my student years and would see the sub-par squash and apples that I'd rolled off the line appear on supermarket shelves.
I don't know if we're paying export prices for them thou...

We Are Not Powerless: Resisting Financial Feudalism 

It's comforting to think "I can't do anything to resist the Central State and its financial Plutocracy," but it's not true. There are many of acts of resistance you can pursue in your daily life; here are 12 perfectly legal ones.

thta is a great list really interesting

Hey where's Chris.J?
No#8 is for him

Re !.   Interesting to see they're both energy sources. Wonder why?
No mention if any media I can see, of the need for same.

"If only New Zealand had had such a boom in building houses, our houses might be affordable"
True. But it would mean high density housing on the periphery of major cities. And who's going to live in them? People currently renting or living in state housing?
You need either a large rental market with the financial leverage to buy, a high historical population growth rate or a significant population growth through immigration.
None of the above?

#2 Bank net interest margins are rising here because of the shift from fixed to floating.
Maybe Bernard, but the latest RBNZ data on interest rates show average deposit rates up 2 basis points from where they have been for 3 months to 3.75%. Average interest rates are down 3 basis points to 5.91%. Bank interest margins have therefore been squeezed 5 basis points March over Febraury.

And in case you haven't yet caught up - Ag debt is up 400 million from February and 1 billion from 12 months ago. We are now at a new all time record. And this is still 3 months before the busy season for borrowing.

Colin, I was thinking about your comment on the Fonterra payment next year and that if the nz$ stayed this high things would get very ugly. Well guess what our $'s getting smacked as we speak