Global Investing

from MacroScope:

Rip-off Britain or the cost of cheaper sterling?

Inflation is plunging faster than analysts are forecasting just about everywhere in the developed world. Except for Britain. Those accustomed to high prices and inflation-busting increases in tube and rail fares at the start of every year were probably not surprised.

A tiny decrease in January inflation to 3.0 percent from 3.1 percent, left plenty of City analysts scratching their heads and talking of a blip in the data that is sure to be followed by significant drops in months ahead.

The puny move is all the more puzzling given the fact that forecasters have been suprised by the speed inflation has been falling elsewhere. In the euro zone, inflation has already tumbled to just 1.1 percent.

Until you consider the huge drop in sterling. The pound has collapsed over the past several months -- so much so that droves of continental Europeans rushed to London over the Christmas sales for bargains when sterling fell so far it was nearly on par with the euro. But it takes time for exporters to adjust their prices. Recent data show sharp rises in the cost of non-oil imports, which make up about half of retail goods in the UK.

Visitors to Britain often grumble about bad weather and high prices. For Britons, whose currency is now worth a lot less than it used to be, the weather is still bad and prices are still high. 

from MacroScope:

Hey Europe, stop acting so happy

Merrill Lynch economist David Rosenberg's views are well-known for bearing no resemblance to his firm's trademark bull, so when he says European clients seem too upbeat, what he really means is they weren't thoroughly depressed. The New York-based economist just got back from a marketing trip across the Atlantic and didn't find much common ground.

In particular, he said European clients seemed more concerned about inflation than the deflation that he sees coming, and they may have unrealistically high expectations for President Barack Obama.

"Unbelievably ... portfolio managers seem to think they are taking a bigger risk with their careers by missing the rallies than by missing the sell-offs," he wrote in a note to clients. "I can tell you that this is not a condition from a sentiment standpoint that terminates bear markets."

Not going back to platform days

Deflation seems to have replaced inflation as the public enemy No.1 these days.

This might give relief to quite a number of people, including those who thought the resurgence of inflation could take us back to the 1970s.


“We thought we would be wearing platform shoes again, like in the 1970s,” says Philip Saunders, head of investment strategy at Investec Asset Management.

“A potential return of inflation is not something people are worried about but maybe that’s what people should be worried about,” he told participants at an investment outlook briefing in London.

UK economy — too gloomy to chart?

During a briefing in the London office of Societe Generale this week, Alain Bokobza, head of European Equity and Cross Asset strategy, handed out a booklet containing series of charts and graphs to explain the bank’s latest multi asset portfolio for the fourth quarter.
Chart
As he explained the outlook for the UK economy, a chart on UK growth was discreetly missing from the booklet.

“There’s no chart. It’s too gloomy to print it,” Bokobza told the participants.

Societe Generale sees inflation shooting below the Bank of England’s target of 2 percent over the next two years and has a bullish call on UK stocks as it predicts benchmark interest rates to fall to 3.5 percent in a year’s time from the current 5.0 percent.

Talking inflation over coffee as oil falls

CoffeeInteresting juxtapositions at a Barclays Capital chat. On the day when oil prices were plunging below $106 a barrel — more than $40 below their July record peak — the investment bank held a lunch seminar to discuss trading strategies on inflation. ”It seems odd to have an inflation seminar when oil prices more or less collapsed,” said Tim Bond, head of global asset allocation. He added, however, that there is still structural upward pressure on inflation and this theme is further to run.

Rodrigo Valdes, Barclays’ chief Latin American economist and former head of research at Chile’s central bank, talked about the varying impact on inflation from food prices, as those gathered tucked into roasted sea trout with razor clams, carrot puree and sorrel velonte.

He said the surge in food and other resource prices hits emerging markets more than others, predicting Latin American inflation to peak in Q4 or Q1 with quite a lot of interest rate hikes to come. “If you buy a cup of coffee here, there’s not much coffee in it … In Brazil, it’s not the case,” he said.

Steelmakers show industrial Germany is weathering downturn

steel2.jpgIt’s not all doom and gloom — just ask steelmakers.

Germany’s ThyssenKrupp and Salzgitter have both raised their profit forecasts, fuelled by demand from fast-growing China, India and Russia. Profits are soaring on sky-high prices for rolled and flat steel.

Both companies are cashing in on growth outside Europe, and they join Hochtief and Kloeckner who this week also showed that industrial Germany is insulated against a global economic slowdown.

The magic of seasonal adjustments: You’re paying less for gas

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Been paying more at the pump lately? Not to worry. It’s just a figment of your imagination, new government data shows.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us that gasoline prices fell last month by 2 percent. This was the very same month when crude oil prices surged 11.7 percent and there was NO pass through at the pump? Hmmmm.

Meanwhile, another branch of the very same U.S. government, the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, contends average retail gas prices actually shot up 9.5 percent in April from March. Whoa!