MacroScope

Running out of resources

Oil prices are more than double the December-February troughs and commodity prices generally are going up as the market cheers signs of an economic recovery.

Jeremy Grantham, chairman of U.S.-based money monager GMO, warns that the world is running out of resources in the long run yet is not correctly pricing the fact.

“We are simply running out of everything at a dangerous rate… As we move through our remarkable and irreplaceable hydrocarbon reserves, the price will, of course, rise remorselessly to ration supplies. We need, it seems, the shock of a Pearl Harbor to really gear up and make sacrifices,” he says.

Grantham points out that in 1977 President Jimmy Carter warned that we were running out of oil and urged people to fully insulate 80% of the houses in 10 years.

“Thirty precious years have passed, and there is now no safety margin. We must prepare ourselves for waves of higher resource prices and periods of shortages unlike anything we have faced outside of wartime conditions,” he writes.

Gold to go

Automatic teller machines (ATMs) — 500 of them — dispensing pieces of gold will be available around Germany, Switzerland and Austria by the end of this year.

That at least is the plan of German precious metals online trading company TG-Gold-Super-Markt.de. The ATMs, to be located at airports, railway stations and shopping malls, are intended to accustom ordinary people to the idea of investing in a physical asset such as gold, the thinking goes.
 
Thomas Geissler, the company’s chief executive, said the gold ATMs might even improve relations between the sexes.
 
“I have yet to meet a woman who does not like a gift of gold. It’s better than flowers. Flowers are more expensive. They wilt and you (as a man) don’t get as many points at home as if you bring gold,” he said.
 
A prototype ATM on display for a one-day marketing test at the main railway station in Frankfurt, Germany’s financial capital, did indeed reward your correspondent with a 1-gramme (0.0353 ounce) piece of gold.
 
It cost the equivalent of $42.25 — a 30 percent premium over the spot market price.

from Global Investing:

How to Spend It – for sovereign wealth funds

As dust settles and investor morale improves, sovereign wealth funds are slowly coming back to the market.


But they are not going to simply repeat what they've done in the past few years -- hunting bargains in everything from property to banks. They are likely to carefully balance out the temptation for higher returns and the need to invest in strategic assets which benefit their own economies.

The so-called "south-south" trade is set to gather pace, providing much-needed capital inflows to emerging markets.

from Global Investing:

Who gets the last laugh?

Public critisicm may be heating up against banking executives being rewarded with huge bonuses despite taking too much risk (especially ex Merill Lynch head John Thain who requested a bonus and spent $1,405 on a garbage pail during a $1.22 million renovation of his office).

However, there are smaller fish who are being rewarded after doing something similar -- taking too much risk and choosing the wrong bank in which to put their deposit. We're talking about those who deposited in the collapsed Icelandic bank Landsbanki.

Around 300,000 British savers had accounts worth some 4 billion pounds in Landsbanki's online savings provider Icesave, which offered competitive interest rates of up to 7-plus percent.

from Africa News blog:

A tale of two Africas

Good news and bad news for Africa from the latest take on global risks from the World Economic Forum. Not much danger for most of the continent, it says, from an asset bubble burst. That's the good. The bad, of course, is that this is because there are not many financial assets to bubble. In fact, it deems the overall exposure even to economic risks is small because African economies are not particularly tied in to global markets.

Actually, the report shows that there are two Africas. Mapped by their susceptibility for economic and asset bubble trouble, most African countries are bunched together in a low risk range. But another, smaller cluster, including Nigeria and South Africa, finds itself in much more peril and shares space on the WEF risk map with Western and Eastern Europe.

Good news, in a contradictory sort of way.

from Global Investing:

What a web we’ve woven

Thanks are due to the World Economic Forum for clearly  explaining the interlinked web of misery currently facing the world.  Make what you will of the details in the graphic below -- and if you can, please do let us know! -- but the overall impact really does spell it all out.

This Vonnegutesque cat's cradle, incidently, comes from the forum's new report, Global Risks 2009, released ahead of its annual meeting in Davos between January 28 and February 1. It shows an interlinked world facing a monumental series of interlinked risk, some of which  investors are having to confront for the first time.  Sheana Tambourgi, head of WEF's global risk network, explains the report in this video:

 

from Global Investing:

No black tulip bulbs, no black swans

The world has experienced many crises in the past.


In 1636, during the Dutch Tulip Bulb Bubble, the quest for a perfect black bulb had inflated the price of a black bulb by many hundreds. In a different crisis in 1866, a London wholesale bank Overend, Gurney & Co collapsed with a massive debt, after expanding its investment portfolio beyond its means.

What is common in these events and the present crisis is that investors borrowed and levered themselves, and the eventual bubble burst prompted massive deleveraging and contagion, according to Julian Chillingworth, chief investment officer at London-based asset management firm Rathbones (established in 1742 – 22 years after the South Sea Bubble).

“It’s greed, it’s fear and it’s leverage,” Chillingworth told a group of journalists at a breakfast briefing. He says all the risky and highly leveraged assets were dressed up with “pseudo finance” and the likelihood of contagion and volatility was characterised as a “black swan” event – originally a metaphor for something that could not exist.

from Davos Notebook:

Bankers – Ever thought about working for Big Pharma?

    Are you an out-of-work banker looking for a new job with
some stability? Considered the drugs industry?

    Daniel Vasella, chief executive of Swiss pharmaceuticals
company Novartis, reckons his sector is a pretty good place
to work when compared to "mercenary" banking.

    "We are not in a banking industry, where they fire a
thousand investment bankers
and then a year after they hire
a thousand investment bankers," Vasella told Reuters.

from Global Investing:

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.

from Global Investing:

Carry on falling

Graphic evidence from Investec Asset Management (below) highlighting the demise of the carry trade. It shows returns from borrowing low-yielding currencies such as Japanese yen to buy high-yielding ones over the past 7-1/2 years or so.  There has been a roughy 50 percent decline since the end of July.