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November 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

ASEAN: The infrastructure push

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Deutsche Bank which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Infrastructure plays a crucial role in the region’s economic, social and environmental development, including boosting regional connectivity. Greater connectivity of the transport infrastructure enhances logistical efficiency and supports the growth of investment, trade and commerce while reducing business costs. While countries have invested in infrastructure to varying extents over the years, development has been gaining momentum, with more than US$275bn key pipeline projects across ASEAN, as we detail in this report.

Singapore: To fulfil Singapore’s 6.9mn population target (+25% from the current size) by 2030, the government is steering infrastructure development towards greater public network connectivity, usage of personal mobility devices, as well as usage of digitalisation to transform the city state into a Smart Nation. These infra developments, amounting to US$44bn will help Singapore cope with population increase and prevent traffic congestion.

Malaysia: In the 10th Malaysia Plan (2011-2015), the government highlighted its commitment to infrastructure development. One focus is on building railways (MRT 2, MRT 3, LRT 3) to alleviate traffic congestion. Another focus is on connecting rural areas to urban clusters to ensure equitable development through the Pan Borneo Highway. Infrastructure growth is driven by China, having committed US$34bn (RM144bn) to infrastructure projects such as the East Coast Rail Link, Kuantan Industrial Park and Melaka Gateway. 

Indonesia: In the post-Suharto era, infrastructure development stalled and has not been able to keep up with economic growth amid the commodities boom. The inefficient transport network has resulted in acute distribution bottlenecks, driving up logistics cost. When President Jokowi took office, he diverted a portion of the energy subsidies to infrastructure development. Through priority infrastructure projects totalling US$41bn, the government seeks to boost connectivity in the archipelago to increase business competitiveness.   

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

In a period of synchronised economic expansion it is natural for emerging markets to engage in infrastructure development since credit is generally still accommodative and the need remains compelling. That will also help to lay the foundation for future growth as the region evolves economically amid a trend of generally improving standards of governance. 



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November 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Merkel Says She Prefers New Elections Over Minority Government

This article by Birgit Jennen and Rainer Buergin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would prefer to go ahead with new federal elections rather than try to form a minority government, as Europe’s most powerful leader weighs her options after the collapse of four-party coalition talks late Sunday.

Seeking her fourth term, Merkel is “skeptical” about a minority government as it may not bring about necessary stability and is open to another so-called grand coalition with the Social Democratic party, she said in an interview with ARD television. In the absence of an agreement to secure a majority in Germany’s Bundestag, “I’m certain that new elections are the better way,” she said.

Disputes among parties over migration and other issues led the Free Democrats to walk out of the talks. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged the country’s political parties to return to the negotiating table, saying “those who seek political responsibility in elections must not be allowed to shy away from it when they hold it in their hands.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Small parties face difficult choices when they enter government. If they are to ever have a chance of achieving the change they seek, they have no choice but to enter a coalition. However, they seldom get everything they wanted and are often seen by their voters as sellouts when they fail to achieve lofty goals. Therefore, the fate of small parties is often to taste power but to have their support evaporate at the following election. That is as true of the Liberal Democrats in the UK as it is of many small parities in the Eurozone. 



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November 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Surprising Airbnb Adoption Slowdown in US/EU, and What It Means for Hotels and OTAs

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Morgan Stanley which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Two Reasons Adoption Is Slowing... First, the benefits of growing awareness among online consumers in the US/Europe are slowing/topping out, as Airbnb awareness among our survey respondents increased by only 800bps to 80% in '17 (vs. a 2,000bps increase in '16). We see awareness as a smaller driver going forward. Second privacy/safety are material and growing barriers to adoption, as the percent of non Airbnb users citing these factors to not use it increased by ~700bps/400bps, and the absolute number of people concerned about these issues increased by 10%/25% Y/Y. This, in our view, could speak to two potential truths: 1) How Airbnb/sharing lodging could be more niche than previously expected, and 2) How the lobbyists/opponents of Airbnb may be gaining traction.

...Causing Us to Lower Our Airbnb Forecast...This slowing adoption causes us to reduce our forward user/room night forecast for the US/Europe, now expecting ~12% '16-'20 room night growth, vs 29% previously. We now model Airbnb to grow to 6% of lodging demand across US/Europe by '20, vs. 9% previously.

...Making Us Incrementally More Bullish on the Lodging Space... While surveyed hotel cannibalization inched up slightly to 51% from 49% (and expected to be 54% in '18), a slowing user adoption curve suggests Airbnb is less of a threat to hotels. We estimate that Airbnb had a 50bps impact to '17 RevPAR growth across US/Europe, down from our prior estimate of 90bps. We now forecast it will have another 50bps impact on '18 RevPAR growth, down from our prior 80bps impact. As such, we expect US RevPAR to be relatively stable at +2.3% and +1.6% growth in '18 and '19, respectively.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

The travel sector is likely to get a boost from the expansion in the number of airlines, signalled by impressive sales at the Dubai Air Show. That should be positive for hotels and particularly so if AirBnb’s penetration is peaking. Personally my experience with AirBnb has been mixed and I suspect many people have had similar experiences. 



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November 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ubisoft's Microtransaction Revenue Just Beat Digital Sales for the First Time

This article from Extreme Tech may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Microtransactions have been hotly debated since they began debuting in mobile games almost ten years ago. While they’d been used sporadically in various games for years, the rise of mobile games and their extremely low-to-free pricing made them a functional necessity for developers working in Android or iOS. The AAA PC gaming industry quickly took notice of this, and began offering games with microtransaction options. There’s been a great deal of pushback from the community at various points (Dead Space 3 got hosed for it, as did Bethesda and its horse armor), but microtransactions are clearly here to say. Ubisoft just reported that it took in more money in microtransaction sales than it did in game sales for the first time ever.

Over the past few years, Ubisoft has seen a notable shift in its earnings for various titles, SeekingAlpha reports. Game sales were buoyed this year by South Park: The Fractured But Whole and Assassin’s Creed: Origins, but microtransactions shot up even further, growing 1.83x in 12 months compared to 1.57x for game sales. Ubisoft also got a boost from the Switch, but even with Nintendo’s new platform, microtransactions brought home the bacon.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Once upon a time you bought a computer game and it included everything you would ever need to play that game. I started playing Diablo 2 as a teenager and the game is still available online with access to the Battlenet server, so players can join and play with or against others. It’s still free after more than 20 years. The updated version of the game, Diablo 3, has downloadable content (DLC as my daughters refer to it), and additional characters you can pay for. Overwatch, Activision Blizzard’s newest hit game releases animated shorts to build interest in characters, has built in loot boxes for extra gear and additional outfits for your favourite characters all of which represent additional revenue streams. 



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November 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

America's "Retail Apocalypse" Is Really Just Beginning

This article by Matt Townsend, Jenny Surane, Emma Orr and Christopher Cannon for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Until this year, struggling retailers have largely been able to avoid bankruptcy by refinancing to buy more time. But the market has shifted, with the negative view on retail pushing investors to reconsider lending to them. Toys “R” Us Inc. served as an early sign of what might lie ahead. It surprised investors in September by filing for bankruptcy—the third-largest retail bankruptcy in U.S. history—after struggling to refinance just $400 million of its $5 billion in debt. And its results were mostly stable, with profitability increasing amid a small drop in sales.

Making matters more difficult is the explosive amount of risky debt owed by retail coming due over the next five years. Several companies are like teen-jewelry chain Claire’s Stores Inc., a 2007 leveraged buyout owned by private-equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC, which has $2 billion in borrowings starting to mature in 2019 and still has 1,600 stores in North America.

Just $100 million of high-yield retail borrowings were set to mature this year, but that will increase to $1.9 billion in 2018, according to Fitch Ratings Inc. And from 2019 to 2025, it will balloon to an annual average of almost $5 billion. The amount of retail debt considered risky is also rising. Over the past year, high-yield bonds outstanding gained 20 percent, to $35 billion, and the industry’s leveraged loans are up 15 percent, to $152 billion, according to Bloomberg data.

Even worse, this will hit as a record $1 trillion in high-yield debt for all industries comes due over the next five years, according to Moody’s. The surge in demand for refinancing is also likely to come just as credit markets tighten and become much less accommodating to distressed borrowers.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of Warren Buffett’s most colourful adages is “you don’t know who has been swimming naked till the tide goes out” A great many companies have survived with high debt loads because liquidity was abundant, interest rates were at rock bottom levels and access to credit was easy. Until recently, refinancing has been easy which allowed companies to pile on additional debt. An obvious point is that highly leveraged companies are heavily exposed to refinancing issues as interest rates rise. 



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November 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on feudalism in the modern era

I was thinking back to our dinner at the club in LA, and remembering that you stated that the Princes of the Sauds owed allegiance to their King, comparing them to the Barons of Europe in the middle ages. You said that sooner or later, the finances of the Kingdom would have to be enhanced, and that the Princes would be called upon to do so, just as the Barons of long ago were required to collect taxes and give treasure to the Crown. The parallels between today in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and those days so long ago are amazing!

We have now seen the first round of the tax collection begin, and those who were arrested were quite likely opposing the new "taxes", if not plotting actual rebellion (in which case they will almost certainly be executed). There is a clear message here for the rest of the Princes...

Now this is the stuff that historians truly love. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Saudi Arabia has been held together by a series of transfers and concessions to families and tribes that agreed to set aside their enmity in return for a share in the nation’s oil wealth. That worked well as long as the population was small and oil revenues trended higher amid a century of oil’s dominance of the global economy. 



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November 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How To Diversify Your Portfolio and Transfer Wealth Across Generations Without Financial Advisory

Thanks to Bernard Tan for this note which offers an interesting perspective on why truly global companies, that dominate their respective niches, with long track records, tend to outperform over time. Here is a section:

I’m going to use 3M to illustrate the following points. 

1. Equities as an asset class is often perceived as riskier than others but there is one sector within equities that I will argue is safer than everything else including fixed income and real estate. 

2. If you invest in a world class, global scale company that is from this sector, you are already fully diversified, hedged and all the macro economic issues and challenges taken care of. 

3. This sector is resilient in the face of even a global financial crisis because frequently, these companies do not have high financial leverage. (Caveat: In recent years, it has become less true in the US and Europe) 

What is 3M really? It is a deep physics, chemistry and material science company. Everything they do is about manipulating the atoms and molecules of nature to create functional materials that we can use in our daily lives.  

With each passing year, 3M piles on more patents, a bigger library of chemicals and processes, more knowhow. All this knowledge is cumulative. The company is now 115 years old. All that accumulated intellectual property is practically unassailable. There will never be another company like 3M anywhere else in the world. Certain segments of their business can be separately attacked but there will never be another company that can challenge 3M on most fronts simultaneously.  

This is the nature of science and intellectual property. The strength is cumulative over time. In contrast, for real estate companies and banks, big or small has no bearing on vulnerability to debt crisis storms, as we all learnt in 2008. The underlying strength is not cumulative over time, not the way it is for a science and intellectual property company.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full note is posted in the Subcsriber's Area.

When I click through the constituents of the Autonomies section of the Chart Library 3M always comes out first because they are listed in alphabetical order. However, the reason the company is included in the list of Autonomies is because it fulfils every qualification for membership. It is a truly global company with operations everywhere and generates 60% of revenue from outside its home market. 



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November 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Constructive on structural and cyclical growth outlook

Thanks to a subscriber for this report for Deutsche Bank highlighting some of the achievements India has made in improving governance. Here is a section:

 

While the long term structural macro outlook remains unambiguously positive, we think India is also poised for a cyclical upturn in growth, and that the worst of the growth-slowdown, caused by temporary disruption and technical factors related to external trade, is behind us. The economy has already started to stabilize post GST and high frequency indicators are showing a rebound, which should eventually reflect a recovery in July-Sep’17 GDP growth (DB estimate 6.4%). While we expect growth to average around 6.6% during FY18, we are more optimistic about the outlook for FY19 and beyond.

We also note that growth momentum generally improves in the year prior to the elections (India’s next general elections are to be held in May 2019 or earlier), which is likely to play out in this cycle as well. We think given the various reforms that are operational at this stage and that have been implemented by this government so far, it is reasonable to expect growth to return close to 8.0% by FY20, absent any external shock that could jeopardize this baseline outlook.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

At a talk I gave for the CFA in San Francisco in 2013 I made the point that rather than comparing India to China it was probably more appropriate to compare India’s development to the UK’s and China’s to the USA. The reason for this was because the USA built its infrastructure and cities on a grid system with clear delineation between public and private responsibilities which to one extent or another China has followed. 

 



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November 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Alibaba Caps $250 Billion Rally With Accelerating Sales Growth

This article by Lulu Yilun Chen for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Alibaba Caps $250 Billion Rally With Accelerating Sales Growth – Alibaba’s “new retail” plan carries a simple premise -- to combine its online merchants with a vast swathe of physical stores now divorced from the internet, stripping out layers of profit-sipping middlemen and boosting Alibaba’s e-commerce in the process. Those outlets double as storage and delivery centers.

But the execution involves a battery of expensive and time-consuming investments: buying into department stores such as Intime, setting up “smart” grocery stores like Hema, investing $15 billion into expanding its delivery network into remote regions, and enlisting some half-a-million mom-and-pop stores that now serve the countryside.

Alibaba is trying to transform the way retailers large and small manage their inventory based on real-time demand. And drawing more physical customers into its network boosts its own online orders and provides abundant data to target future consumers.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Guangzhou’s old town is a picture of the commercial reality represented by the marriage of social media and physical stores. There are coupons available for almost every purchase on WeChat, JD.com or Alibaba that can only be redeemed in store. This has delivered almost overnight a realization that customer service is what drives customer flow. Coupled with on demand manufacturing China is rapidly advancing a modern shopping experience that retailers in the rest of world need to pay attention to. 



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October 23 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Deep Dive into Digital Era of Gaming

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Barclays which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Gaming data points available today point to an industry facing challenges: The number of physical games sold in the US has declined every year for the better part of the last decade, the install base of consoles is well below the prior cycle peak, and the physical attach rate of software is below where it was in the last two console cycles. However, this is the old way of analyzing this business and in the new “Digital Era” of video games, the business has shifted from one that is hit-driven and reliant on physical retail to an industry that is largely online (over 60% digital and could arguably shift completely online longer term), more recurring and predictable, more monetize-able, and significantly more profitable. 

When we consider that the number of games sold as digital copies continues to grow at 20- 30% each year, notably the market for console software is actually growing – albeit at a single-digit rate. Add to that, the install base of hardware continues to progress towards 100mn+ HD units and, while the physical attach rate of software is below where it was in the last two console cycles, the focus on deeper engagement and higher player monetization through digital content appears to be largely offsetting the impact of fewer game sales. We remain optimistic that newer hardware including Nintendo’s Switch and Microsoft’s Xbox One X can re-invigorate the market for games and are encouraged by some early trends. US retail sales are tracking up mid-single digits year over year in 2017 and, adjusting for sales of digital games, it appears that the number of games sold each year in the US is stable y/y. 

In the Digital Era, gaming content will always be available and players will have access to games in more ways than ever. The industry will become far more global and fragmented across devices than before, which will increase the potential audience for gaming content substantially. We are cautiously optimistic on the potential for traditional video game publishers to further penetrate the rapidly-growing markets in China and on Mobile, however, and we remain on the sidelines regarding the emerging interest in eSports and VR. Nonetheless, we still believe the value proposition of games remains very high relative to other forms of media and we are encouraged that the new revenue TAM in the Digital Era is dictated only by the amount of time players have to engage with games, rather than by the number of consoles in their hands.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Gaming is evolving into a much larger industry than movies. Audiences at theatres continue to decline, not least because of the lackluster “cookie-cutter” nature of many movies but also because audiences have more to do and have both online games and content available 24/7. That represents a significant migration within the media sector which is easily observable in the performance of respective shares. 



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October 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on investing in Africa

Thank you for a very informative big picture on Friday. Do you know of any fund managers that are investing in Africa with good track records for us to consider investing with?

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question which I’m sure will be of interest to subscribers. Investing in Africa is not a simple matter. The entire continent has 1649 listed companies with major markets like South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt representing significant weightings.  



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October 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese EV market nearing 2% penetration

This article from mining.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In 2016 Chinese electrical vehicle makers represented 43% of the global EV market, or 873,000 units, overtaking the United States for the first time, according to a July report by McKinsey & Company. The report notes that not only did China up its share of the EV market by 3% compared to 2015, it also made gains on the supply side of EVs including components such as lithium-ion batteries and electric motors. "One important factor is that the Chinese government provides subsidies to the sector in an effort to reduce fuel imports, improve air quality, and foster local champions," McKinsey explained.

The Chinese government has announced that "new energy vehicles" (NEVs, which includes hybrids) should account for 8% of the passenger vehicle market by 2018, 10% by 2019 and 12% by 2020, according to EV Volumes.com.

Eoin Treacy's view -

Anyone who has spent any time in Beijing over the winter knows how badly the entire north east of the country needs to combat air pollution. On my first strip in 2005 I developed a cough as if I have been smoking my entire life that only let up once I got back on the plane home. If anything, the air is worse today than it was then. 



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October 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Missile Defense: Money Well Spent; Budgets Unlikely to Stay Flat

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Deutsche Bank which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:  

The threat from expanding missile technology by potentially adversarial nations is on the rise and has been since the early 2000s (see Figure 3). The most visible signal of that being the acceleration in missile technology breakthroughs and launches by North Korea. On the back of this accelerating tension is a rising tide of political support. A bipartisan call for higher missile defense spending seems to be gaining traction, with the "Advancing America's Missile Defense Act of 2017" gaining 27 cosponsors in the Senate (21 Republicans, 5 Democrats and 1 Independent) introduced in May 2017. The bill laid out a few points for its rallying cry, but in particular drove home that a 23% decline in Missile Defense Agency budget since 2006 (while Iran and North Korea activity was going in the opposite direction) needed to be corrected. In the Bill, there is explicit language to: 1) increase the number of ground-based interceptors (by 28 with expansion to 100 interceptors vs. the 44 scheduled to be in place at the end of 2017, 2) reintroduce the development and deployment of space-based missile defense sensors (e.g. Space Tracking and Surveillance System--STSS), and 3) evaluation and testing of radar and sensors for the ground-based midcourse systems (e.g. LRDR) as well as the system as a whole (for which testing funding has declined over 83% since 2006). More additions are possible following recommendations from the Department of Defense's upcoming Ballistic Missile Defense Review ("BMDR") and Missile Defeat Review ("MDR"). Even more near-term, the DoD this week released details of a budget reprogramming request for 2017 for over $400M ~5% of the Missile Defense budget) toward previously unfunded missile defense efforts consistent with the desires laid out in the "Advancing America's Missile Defense Act of 2017". 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Subscribers are probably aware that I was intrigued by the many topics covered in Elon Musk’s presentation to the 68th International Astronautical Congress. There were some big claims made which highlighted the rapid pace of innovation in the space sector, the introduction of private capital has achieved. However, there are some pressing geopolitical considerations that should also be considered from this evolution. 



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September 29 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Catalan Independence Drive to Haunt Madrid Whatever Happens Next

This article by Maria Tadeo for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Catalonia, which includes Barcelona and accounts for a fifth of Spain’s economy, is attempting to become the first of 17 autonomous regions that already enjoy a measure of self-government to hold a binding plebiscite on independence. It staged a nonbinding ballot three years ago that was backed by about 80 percent of voters, though barely 30 percent of those eligible turned out.

The rebel administration is pressing ahead with the referendum even after Rajoy’s government seized 10 million ballots, deployed thousands of police and arrested more than a dozen Catalan officials.

“This is the most serious constitutional crisis Spain has faced,” said Alejandro Quiroga, professor of Spanish history at the University of Newcastle in the U.K. “The Catalan question could trigger a competition among the other regions to test how far they can go. It’s a very complex matter.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

How much did the discovery of America, and the riches that flowed into Spain as a result, cement the binding together of Castille and Aragon when Isabella and Ferdinand were wed? There is no doubt economic abundance reduces nationalistic tendencies but the opposite is also true. 



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September 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

2017 at the Three Quarter Pole

Thanks to a subscriber for securing an invitation for me to attend Jeff Gundlach’s presentation yesterday which as always was an educative experience. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

There were a number of interesting points raised but I believe the most relevant for subscribers’ centre on what he said about shrinking the Fed’s balance sheet, the outlook for the Dollar, commodity markets, the relative attractiveness of emerging markets and his best guess for when to expect the next recession.



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September 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Philippine Central Bank Chief Brushes Off Credit Growth Concerns

This article by Karl Lester M. Yap for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Philippine central bank Governor Nestor Espenilla downplayed risks of surging credit growth, saying the trend is consistent with the fast pace of economic expansion.

“From a micro level, loans are being very carefully managed from a risk perspective,” Espenilla said in an interview with Bloomberg TV’s David Ingles and Haidi Lun on Friday. “At the macro level, the 20 percent growth is relatively consistent with the rapid growth of the economy.”

An economic boom accompanied by surging credit growth has fueled speculation that Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas may raise interest rates as early as the fourth quarter. That would be a divergence from other central banks in Southeast Asia, like Indonesia and Vietnam, that have eased policy this year. The Philippines kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record low of 3 percent on Thursday.

Commercial bank loans have risen quickly this year, with mortgages surging more than 20 percent in June. Bangko Sentral has adopted measures in the past to cool the property sector, including capping the value of real estate that can be used as loan collateral.

Domestic credit to the private sector in the Philippines stood at 45 percent of gross domestic product in 2016, according to data from the World Bank. The ratio exceeded 100 percent in Malaysia, Thailand, and China.

“The Philippines is basically in catch up mode right now,” Espenilla said, referring to the credit expansion.

The Philippine economy is headed for a sixth year of growth exceeding 6 percent, among the world’s fastest. That hasn’t yet translated into an inflation problem, with the central bank maintaining its forecast for this year and next year at 3.2 percent. The bank’s goal is to keep inflation within a range of 2 percent to 4 percent until 2020.

“We are on track with meeting our inflation target which is the main driver for our policy decision,” Espenilla said. “Our assessment is inflation remains firmly under control.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Philippines has mostly made headlines for the aggressive pace of Rodrigo Duterte’s campaign against drug traffickers and others deemed to be malcontents. However, what has often gone unnoticed is this activity has not arrested the pace of economic growth. 



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September 01 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Campbell Drops After Bleak Outlook Follows Blow From Buffet

This article by Craig Giammona for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Over the past three years, the 10 largest packaged-food companies have seen about $16 billion in revenue evaporate as consumers change how they eat and shop. Shoppers are seeking out more natural and organic food, shifting away from the staples that have dominated supermarket shelves for decades.

Whole Foods Deal
Amazon.com Inc.’s deal to buy Whole Foods also has fueled pessimism about packaged-food giants, with analysts predicting that the e-commerce titan will favor private-label products and squeeze the profit margins of its suppliers. In June, when that deal was announced, the 10 largest U.S. food companies lost almost $8 billion in market value combined.

In a bid to add more natural products, Campbell agreed to buy Pacific Foods of Oregon, a maker of organic soup and broth, for $700 million in June. Campbell also acquired Bolthouse -- a producer of carrots, juices and salad dressings -- for $1.55 billion in 2012. That business, now part of the Campbell Fresh unit, has struggled with poor harvests and a drink recall.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Leaner and fitter isn’t just a maxim for personal health but is increasingly being foisted upon consumer goods companies as the supermarket sector comes under pressures from low cost new entrants willing to compete on razor thin margins. Amazon’s focus on Whole Foods’ own brands coupled with Aldi and Lidl’s low cost own- brand focus represent challenges for other supermarket chains which are inevitably going to be passed on to their suppliers. 



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September 01 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Kenya presidential election cancelled by Supreme Court

This article from the BBC may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

Justice Maraga said the election commission had failed "to conduct the presidential election in a manner consistent with the dictates of the constitution".

He said the commission had committed irregularities "in the transmission of results", adding that the court would provide details in a full judgment within 21 days.

Dissenting judges said that the Nasa opposition alliance - which had petitioned the Supreme Court - failed to prove claims that the polls had been rigged.

The election sparked days of sporadic protests, in which at least 28 people were killed. The vote had raised fears of major political violence - as was the case after a disputed poll in 2007.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Governance is Everything. The annulment of Kenya’s election is a landmark event but the true measure of a democratic society is whether the opposing parties can agree to another election and accept the result without resorting to what could be cause for a civil war. 

 



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August 31 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gordhan Expects Charges as South African Succession Battle Rages

This article by Boris Groendahl for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

The National Prosecuting Authority has been probing the unit in an investigation that Gordhan, opposion parties and civil-society groups say is politically motivated. The former finance minister described the latest moves as an attempt to discredit politicians who oppose Zuma and are fighting against the plunder of state resources in Africa’s most-industrialized economy.

Scandals have shadowed Zuma, 75, during his eight-year presidency, including a finding by the nation’s top court that he broke his oath of office by refusing to repay taxpayer funds spent on his private home.

‘State Capture’

The nation’s graft ombudsman accused him of allowing members of the Gupta family, who are in business with his son, to influence cabinet appointments and the award of state contracts, referred to as “state capture.” Zuma and the Guptas deny wrongdoing.

On Aug. 8 more than two dozen of the ruling African National Congress’s lawmakers backed an opposition motion of no confidence in Zuma in a secret ballot in parliament. While he survived, the party fired Makhosi Khoza as chairwoman of a portfolio committee and wrote to Derek Hanekom, the head of its disciplinary committee, rebuking him for his Twitter postings calling for the president’s removal.

Zuma is due to step down as the ANC’s leader in December, with his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa seen as the leading contenders to replace him.

“It’s a massive tussle -- it’s about the future of the ANC as we’ve known it,” Gordhan said. “Either you follow the capture of the ANC,” or change the party’s character and “recapture the state, which has now gotten into the wrong hands. People like ourselves are backing Mr. Ramaphosa, because we believe he has the integrity, to put it bluntly. And secondly, he has the modernity to innovate, to allow new ideas to emerge, understands the economy. ”

Eoin Treacy's view -

In much the same way Winnie Mandela took a dominant position in the ANC, Zuma’ ex-wife is likely to be a formidable opponent not least because of the support she will receive from Jakob Zuma’s tenure.  However, despite the continued deterioration of standards of governance under Zuma the existence of opposition both within and outside the ANC is positive as is the freedom of south Africa’s judiciary. 



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August 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon to Cut Prices at Whole Foods as Acquisition Closes

This article by Mark Gurman and Matt Townsend for Bloomberg highlights the continued polarisation in the retail sector between those with a technological/low cost advantage and conventional stores. Here is a section:

The company said it will begin slashing prices on a broad cross section of Whole Foods groceries Monday -- the same day the $13.7 billion deal is set to close. That will start with items such as chicken, eggs, some vegetables, and some types of organic fish. Amazon reeled off a long list of other plans to combine its leading e-commerce and delivery assets with the physical locations of Whole Foods stores.

"This is a pretty impressive array of bold moves on the first day of an acquisition -- unprecedented, we would say," said Carol Levenson, an analyst at Gimme Credit.

The moves by Amazon inflame an already raging price war in U.S. groceries -- a sector known for razor-thin profit margins.

German discount grocers like Lidl and Aldi are expanding in the U.S. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has been investing in more discounts too. Low prices are familiar terrain for Amazon, which has operated with little profitability for more than a decade. Shares of grocery-store chains fell on the announcements.

Kroger Co. declined as much as 2.4 percent while Sprouts Farmers Market Inc. sank 2.5 percent. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which sells the most groceries in the U.S., also dropped 0.8 percent.

Amazon will also begin selling Whole Foods branded products, including those that are part of the 365 brand, via its website, and through fast delivery services like AmazonFresh, PrimeNow, and Prime Pantry, the company said.

Beyond price cuts and increased distribution, Amazon Prime will become Whole Foods’ customer rewards program, allowing shoppers to rack up Amazon rewards when they purchase pasture-raised eggs, organic milk and kombucha.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Amazon Prime is no longer the cheapest venue for goods but is among the most convenient. That turn to mild profitability has allowed the share to perform admirably over the last 18 months. The decision to embark on a price war following its acquisition of Whole Foods, which has historically been among the most expensive vendors, is a threat to established stores that have never had to compete on price with a company possessing Whole Foods’ cache. 



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August 23 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Robot Revolution May Affect the Global Economy

This article from Bloomberg caught my attention. Here is a section:

“By turbocharging supply and depressing demand, automation risks exacerbating China’s reliance on export-driven growth – threatening hopes for a more balanced domestic and global economy,” BI economists Tom Orlik and Fielding Chen wrote.
Pay gains are intact. Domestic manufacturing workers with a high-school education saw wages rise 53 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to China Household Finance Survey data cited by BI. 

“Increasing use of robots should be bad news for medium-skilled workers, especially those in sectors where routine work means scope for automation,” Orlik and Chen said. “Yet wage growth in China remains rapid, and if anything, medium-skilled workers conducting routine work are doing better than average.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Technological innovation has led to the pace of development speeding up. It will not have escaped the attention of investors that the original Tiger economies were able to evolve economically much faster than the Europe or North America during the Industrial Revolution. More recently China has come from relative obscurity to be the world’s second largest economy. What used to take generations now takes decades and the pace of development is speeding up so that we may witness multiple iterations in our lifetimes. As much youngest daughter delights in telling me, she was born the same year as the iPhone. 



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August 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Japan: Ignore Autos and Electronics to Profit

Thanks to a subscriber for this article by Emma Wall for Morningstar may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

With a shrinking working population, Japan has record low levels of unemployment and the economy is poised to receive a boost once this lack of supply filters down to wage growth. But there are equities which can profit from the tight labour market according to Weindling; he invests in recruitment firms that provide permanent and temporary workers.

Suppliers Immune from Domestic Threats
While the population is ageing, Weindling points out that a Japanese company does not need a Japanese customer base to thrive.

“There is no reason why Japan should not continue to make things. Factory automation and robotics are not a threat to Japanese industrials in the way that they are to US companies – they are the solution to a dwindling workforce,” he says. “More automation is a good thing, and the larger industrials will continue to take market share. It is a multi-year, structural shift.”

That does not mean he backs the exporters of old, however. The international names which have long been synonymous with Japan are electronics firms and auto-makers; Toyota, Canon, Mitsubishi and even Sony are no-go areas for Weindling.

“No one buys cameras anymore, so why would I buy Canon,” he says. “We don’t own any of those household names. Their prospects are considerably lessened. Japan’s export market is no longer about cars and electronics, it is about condoms, baby milk, skin cream, medicine. Japan is known across Asia for high-quality products, reliability and high safety standards. These are the companies you want to be invested in.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Japan is an increasingly popular tourist destination for Asian, particularly Chinese, tourists who come with well-defined shopping lists from WeChat personalities that tell them exactly what and what not to purchase. On my family’s visit to Japan in April there were a number of consumer items Mrs. Treacy was very eager to try based on reviews she had seen in Chinese social media. 



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August 15 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Chinese automakers covet FCA

This article by Larry Vellquette for Automotive News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Why, after two years on the block, is FCA apparently drawing interest from at least one potential Chinese buyer now?
The answer: FCA's global network and product — specifically Jeep and Ram — fit the requirements the Chinese government has set for attractive acquisitions.

Quality gap
Chinese automakers have openly dreamed of cracking lucrative North America for a decade, spending millions to display their vehicles at high-profile U.S. auto shows. Early efforts showed that Chinese automakers had a long way to go before they were ready to compete here.

But in more recent years — through knowledge and expertise gained via joint ventures with the world's largest and most successful automakers — Chinese companies have closed the quality gap.

And the automakers feel like they finally have closed that gap enough to start selling their products in the U.S., said Michael Dunne, president of Dunne Automotive, a Hong Kong investment advisory company and an expert on the Chinese auto industry.

They also are under pressure from the government to expand beyond China, Dunne said. A government directive dubbed China Outbound pushes Chinese businesses to acquire international assets from their industries and operate them "to make their mark," much as Geely has done since acquiring Volvo in 2010. Bloomberg reported last week that Chinese companies plan to spend $1.5 trillion acquiring overseas companies over the next decade — a 70 percent increase from current levels.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Germanys auto sector has been garnering all the wrong sorts of attention lately with increasingly evidence that the major manufacturers may have colluded in hoodwinking the globe into believing diesel engines are clean. On the other hand, China’s auto manufacturers have been among the best performers this year as they have increasingly focused on partnerships with international brands. 



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August 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Ten-years from global financial crisis: a decade in charts

This article by Ritvik Carvalho for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Ten years ago on Wednesday marked the start for many observers of the global financial crisis - a series of rolling credit shocks and bank crashes that led to the deepest world recession for a generation and a decade of slow growth and painful repair.

On Aug. 9, 2007, the European Central Bank flooded its money markets with billions of euros of emergency cash to prevent a seizure in the European banking system after France's BNP Paribas became the latest to shut down investment funds hobbled by a collapse of U.S. mortgage and asset-backed bond markets.

Serial bank collapses in Britain, the United States, Germany and elsewhere were to follow over the following 18 months. These culminated in U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers being allowed to go bankrupt in September 2008, triggering a world financial panic, deep recession and eventual rescue package by the U.S. government, Federal Reserve and the rest of the G20 economic powers.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The number of articles pointing out this historical milestone has proliferated over the last week. It’s not particularly positive for sentiment because it reminds investors that everything comes to an end and often in a manner deleterious to one’s financial health. 



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August 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

August 08 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on diet and South African politics:

On diet. I have followed the recent discussions on diet with great interest. Having been in the veterinary profession for the last 50 years my own experience may be of interest. Two dictums I have always followed. You are what you eat and moderation in everything. For the last few million years or so humans have been omnivores and have a gut designed with that in mind, so a diet of vegetables, nuts, berries, meat and fish is ideal. 

When I joined a small animal practice on the North Yorkshire border so long ago I was given a tip by my then boss who incidentally was a great friend of James Herriott and was featured in his books. He had observed the huge beneficial effects that certain formulations of the antioxidant Vitamin E had on elderly canines prone to mini strokes and heart problems. Some forty years ago I decided to take a daily dose myself. At any rate, I have reached the age of 76 (David's vintage) Mild blood pressure, normal cholesterol and in possession of all my original joints in good working order. I now have a pretty stress-free life spent for the most part in South Africa and the only thing now that tends to affect my blood pressure is the politics of the place!

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for the valuable feedback from a lifetime of healthy living which I’m sure will be appreciated by the Collective. I notice that your list of what is healthy in moderation conspicuously avoids carbohydrates and other processed sugars. In the meantime, the politics of your adopted home were on full show today. 



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July 28 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Asia - Enjoying external support

Thanks to a subscriber for this note from Standard Chartered which may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Asia is enjoying better growth so far this year versus 2016. Of the 11 countries we track in Figure 1, seven registered faster growth in 2017 (based either on Q1 or H1 GDP data). China leads the pack, growing 6.9% in H1 – we now think China may register faster growth in 2017 than 2016; this would be the first time that annual growth has not slowed since 2010. Of the three economies that underperformed versus 2016, India was due to demonetisation, the Philippines was slower versus a high base and Korea’s Q2-2016 growth was boosted by budget front-loading.   

The region is benefiting from a pick-up in external demand. All the economies we track above are enjoying faster export growth. As a whole (excluding China, Indonesia and Vietnam), exports rose 13% y/y in 5M-2017. A caveat is that 32% of the increase went to China. This is reflected in the export broadness index above, which shows a relatively narrow export destination profile for the region so far this year. We expect Asia’s export performance to ease in H2 on the back of growth moderation in China and less favourable price base effects.  
Comparatively, domestic economic activity appears more divergent across the region. Credit growth remains soft in several economies, reflecting still-cautious domestic sentiment. Government-led infrastructure in places such as Indonesia and Thailand will be needed to mitigate soft private investment. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

There are two ways of looking at the impressive performance of Asia’s stock markets. The first is that it reflects the region’s continued economic outperformance driven by favourable demographics and leverage to global economic expansion. The second is that they do not exist in a bubble and both US interest rates and the Wall Street Leash Effect cannot be ignored. 



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June 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

On Target June 26th 2017

Thanks to Martin Spring for his topical newsletter. Here is a section on the potential for a military strike against North Korea:

The diplomatic route that is being pursued by Donald Trump, as it was by his presidential predecessors, is not going to work. China is never going to take actions tough enough to force Pyongyang to give a “victory” to the US-led coalition.

Secondly, because the consequences of another war in Korea, even if brief and limited, would not be catastrophic for Americans... only for Koreans, and perhaps Japanese.

Thirdly, US willingness to act so decisively would convey the strongest possible message to a potentially much more dangerous would-be nuclear power, Iran, to forget the whole idea and behave.

Fourthly, foreign adventures are a classical method for national leaders to divert attention from political difficulties at home. “Trump, facing ever-expanding scandals, continually-low polling numbers, and even potential impeachment proceedings, may decide that a pre-emptive strike on North Korea is worth the costs and consequences,” Micah Zenko writes in Foreign Policy.

Much-respected analyst George Friedman of Geopolitical Futures concludes that the US continues to be “on the path to war.”

The US is not likely to unleash an attack until it has a casus belli, or a challenge from North Korea that it can point to as a defensible cause for going to war.

That hasn’t happened yet. But the situation could change very quickly if the US becomes convinced that the North has developed intercontinental ballistic missiles. Sudden falls in the South Korean and Japanese stock-markets would be an early warning of pending military conflict.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

North Korea currently has three US hostages which it is undoubtedly hoping will be a deterrent to a US military strike. That may prove to be a vain hope if it persists in pursuing development of an intercontinental ballistic missile. Simple maths would suggest the lives of millions of possible US casualties outweigh the near certain death of three. 



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June 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Foxconn Dangles $10 Billion Tech Investment to Create U.S. Jobs

This article by Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The billionaire however focused primarily on Hon Hai’s plans for the longer term. Apple’s main manufacturing partner, which does most production in China, makes everything from smartphones to PCs with a growing clout that has seen it courted by governments around the world.

Gou promised to ramp up investment in the U.S., possibly helping with a rust-belt economic revival. Dubbed “Flying Eagle,” Foxconn’s plan to build a U.S. facility could create tens of thousands of American jobs during Trump’s first year in office. The company is considering a joint investment with Sharp, but details have yet to be hammered out.

In the nearer term, Hon Hai’s shares are riding high as Apple prepares to unveil its latest iPhone -- one of the most- anticipated devices of 2017. The shares closed little changed in Taipei after reaching a record earlier this week.

Hon Hai reported first-quarter earnings short of estimates after a stronger Taiwan dollar squeezed profit in the lull before the new iPhone. That came after a year in which smartphone shipments grew at their slowest pace on record and PC demand continued to flounder. In 2016, Hon Hai’s sales fell 2.8 percent while net income rose just 1.2 percent. Gou said Thursday that revenue and profit this year would be better.
Over the longer term, Gou is re-tooling Foxconn for the future, installing robots to offset rising labor costs in China.

It’s also investing in emergent fields from virtual reality to artificial intelligence.
Hon Hai makes a wide range of electronic devices from HP laptops and Xiaomi handsets to Sony PlayStation game consoles.

But Apple is by far its most important client, yielding roughly half the company’s revenues.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Foxconn employs 1 million people in China but is also one of the largest investors in robotic technology to try and mitigate its reliance on human labour. Any factory built in the USA will likely employ a lot of people in the construction phase but will be highly automated to control headcount. 



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June 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon to Buy Whole Foods in $13.7 Billion Bet on Groceries

This article by Nick Turner and Selina Wang for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Amazon.com Inc. will acquire Whole Foods Market Inc. for $13.7 billion, a bombshell of a deal that catapults the e-commerce giant into the supermarket business with hundreds of stores across the U.S.

Amazon agreed to pay $42 a share in cash for the organic- food chain, including debt, a roughly 27 percent premium to the stock price at Thursday’s close. John Mackey, Whole Foods’ outspoken co-founder, will continue to run the business -- providing a lifeline to the embattled executive after a fight with activist investor Jana Partners.

The deal sends a shockwave across both the online and brick-and-mortar industries, uniting two brands that weren’t seen as obvious partners. But Whole Foods came under pressure to find a buyer this year after Jana acquired a more than 8 percent stake and began pushing for a buyout. Jana’s move irked Mackey, who has referred to Whole Foods as his “baby.” By enlisting Amazon, he gets to keep his job as chief executive officer of the grocery chain.

Whole Foods shares jumped 27 percent to $41.99 as of 10 a.m. in New York, bringing them close to the transaction price. Amazon shares gained 3.2 percent to $995.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

If you thought the grocery business was competitive before, the polarisation of the market is only growing more intense with Amazon taking a role in the luxury end of the market while Aldi and Lidl are investing heavily in the lower end of the market. Companies in the middle are being squeezed and may represent an additional headwind for the already ailing mall sector. 



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June 15 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Miners Drop as South Africa Escalates Black Ownership Rules

This article by Paul Burkhardt and Kevin Crowley for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

South African regulators unveiled a new mining charter to force companies to give more ownership to black shareholders, sparking a selloff across the industry.

Anglo American Plc and Sibanye Gold Ltd. shares tumbled after the Department of Mineral Resources introduced requirements that local companies must ensure 30 percent of their shareholders are black, up from a previous level of 26 percent. Several of South Africa’s biggest mining companies may have to sell new stakes, raising the risk of dilution for existing owners.

The new rules “could pull the rug right from under the industry’s feet,” said Andy Pfaff, chief investment officer of Vanguard Derivatives, a South Africa-based broker. “It’s certainly not going to help with attracting foreign investment into South Africa.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Jacob Zuma’s government has been under pressure with a slew of corruption allegations and the firing of his finance minister. Introducing another mining charter which gives greater ownership rights to the people who vote is a populist move no doubt aimed at shoring up support. 



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June 07 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Pulses, Indian Beef. Bullish Corn

Thanks to a subscriber for this report by Ned Schmidt which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Ten years ago India was not a topic of a lot of interest. This month we find ourselves again talking about India twice, on pulses and beef. And when we look at corn we have some optimism to offer up.

Pulses are basically dry beans, lentils, and peas. Few of us ever thought about them being grown in North America. U.S. and Canada have become major growers, exporting to India and other nations from the Middle East to India. Bottom graph is of U.S. acreage planted in pulses. While expansion has been irregular, roughly 1.5 million acres have been added in last fifteen years. Canada is a major source of pulses. Roughly 65% of world’s lentils are grown in that nation. Acreage dedicated to these crops is probably approaching 10 million acres. Apparently Canada is an ideal place to grow them, and then send them to India, et al

India is becoming a major customer for world’s food system. Second, world will grow what customers want. Farmers are looking to produce alternative crops in search for profits. The “corn vs. soybean” farmer, while essential, may increasingly become “outdated”.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world which is lifting millions of people out of abject poverty. The first thing people do when they go from $1 to $2 a day is eat more food and buy soap. That helps them to continue earning more money and puts many people and their children on the road to a more secure standard of living. It is reasonable to expect India’s demand for food will continue to increase as it progresses economically. 



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June 01 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.K. Pollsters See May Upping Majority Even as Lead Shrinks

This article by Tim Ross for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

May is set for a healthy majority of at least 50 seats which could become a landslide of as many as 200. “In this type of election, which has switched back to two-party politics, once you start polling in the 40s you can win big.” Tony Blair won his landslide in 1997 with 43 percent of the vote. The "numbers behind the polls” -- such as the relative ratings of the leaders and who’s best to manage the economy -- all still favor May.

Joe Twyman, head of political polling at YouGov
May should get a majority of 40 to 60 seats. “A lot could still happen. The Tories have not had a good campaign. Labour have had a better one, but started from a low base. Turnout will be crucial given how age is now such an important social cleavage in Britain.”

Adam Drummond, senior research manager at Opinium
May is on course to win a majority of 72, based on the latest data. Even if the Tory lead narrows further, she should still have a majority of 50 to 70, partly because the party’s so far ahead of Labour among older voters "who always go out to vote."

Eoin Treacy's view -

Flip flopping on policy initiatives in the middle of an election campaign does not make for good optics. Unfortunately when a party goes into an election as the presumed leader it is hard to campaign with the same ferocity and leaves open the potential for opposing parties to improve on their position. That still won’t result in Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister but is has created uncertainty. 



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May 18 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Brazil crisis deepens with probe of president, top senator

This article by Peter Prengaman and Mauricio Savarese for the Associated Press may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Brazil's political crisis deepened sharply on Thursday with corruption allegations that threatened to topple the president, undermine reforms aimed at pulling the economy from recession and leave Latin America's largest nation rudderless.

Stocks plunged, both chambers of Congress cancelled sessions and President Michel Temer's office canceled his planned activities Thursday in the wake of a Globo newspaper report that he had been taped endorsing bribery of a former lawmaker.

Protests were planned in several cities and opposition politicians took to Twitter and local news channels to call for Temer to resign or be impeached, arguing his government no longer had legitimacy

"I can't see how Temer survives this," said David Fleischer, a political science professor at the University of Brasilia. "There are just too many people against him now."

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Brazil has been plagued by corruption on both sides of the political divide and the fact that Lula Da Silva has said he intends to re-enter the public arena will only add to uncertainty and lack of faith in public institutions. The unfortunate fact is that it is hard to believe anyone can survive long in Brazilian politics without being corrupt in one way or another. That was ignored during the boom years but with a recession biting that kind of behaviour is less acceptable. 



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May 12 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Amazon Makes Major Push Into Furniture

This article by Brian Baskin and  Laura Stevens for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

The online retail giant is making a major push into furniture and appliances, including building at least four massive warehouses focused on fulfilling and delivering bulky items, according to people familiar with Amazon’s plans.

With that move, the Seattle-based retailer is taking on the two companies that dominate online furniture sales— Wayfair Inc. W -5.95% and Pottery Barn owner Williams-Sonoma Inc. Furniture is one of the fastest-growing segments of U.S. online retail, growing 18% in 2015, second only to groceries, according to Barclays. About 15% of the $70 billion U.S. furniture market has moved online, researcher IBISWorld says.

But even the biggest players in online furniture are struggling to get the market right. Unlike established categories such as books and music or even apparel, retailers are still hammering out basic concepts like how much variety to offer on their sites and the most efficient ways to deliver couches and dining sets to customers’ homes.

While Amazon has been selling furniture for years, it has lately decided to tackle the sector more forcefully.

“Furniture is one of the fastest-growing retail categories here at Amazon,” said Veenu Taneja, furniture general manager at Amazon, in a statement. He said the company is expanding its selection of products, with offerings including Ashley Furniture sofas and Jonathan Adler home décor, and it is adding custom-furniture design services. Amazon is also speeding up delivery to one or two days in some cities, he adde

Eoin Treacy's view -

Free returns and secure transactions make online shopping risk free and painless from the perspective of consumers. Amazon is employing that strategy in an increasing number of sectors but most particularly in furniture and fashion. The number of brands Amazon now carries as well as sporting its own designs represent not only a direct threat to Williams Sonoma but to departments stores generally. 



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May 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Day One for President Moon Sees Korea Stocks in Retreat With Won

This article from Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The Kospi index dropped the most since March as North Korea reiterating its pledge to push forward with another nuclear test showed Moon Jae-in, the victor in Tuesday’s presidential vote, is unlikely to get a honeymoon. While Citigroup Inc. to Morgan Stanley are betting on further upside for South Korea’s record- setting stocks, analysts and investors are seeking more from Moon, who ran on a platform of corporate reform and rapprochement with North Korea.

“Markets will take this on the chin,” said James Soutter, who helps manage the equivalent of about $500 million at K2 Asset Management in Melbourne, referring to the election.
“Rumblings out of North Korea on further nuclear tests should have a bigger influence on markets than the election.”

While Korean technology shares rallied on bets Moon will bolster the sector as a way of delivering more jobs, the Kospi spiked lower, declining 1 percent Wednesday -- the most since March 3 -- as utilities and banks paced losses. Markets in Seoul were closed for the election Tuesday, so the drop came after a 2.3 percent surge in the Kospi on Monday, its best day since September 2015

Eoin Treacy's view -

The South Korean Kospi Index has been ranging for six years but broke out ahead of the election to new all-time highs. Increased tensions with North Korea coinciding with a short-term overbought condition suggest there is scope for some consolidation of the recent run-up. However a sustained move below the trend mean would be required to question medium-term scope for additional upside. 



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May 09 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Australia Presses for Nation Building But Forecast Doubts Linger

This article by Michael Heath for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

 

Morrison is changing the terms of the economic debate, from dire warnings on debt and deficit to a more politically astute one of prosperity and opportunity. His infrastructure plan aims to create a virtuous circle: such investment may trigger private-sector spending and increased household consumption that would boost the economy.

“We continue to forecast a slower deficit consolidation than projected in the budget,” Marie Diron, associate managing director at Moody’s Investors Service, said in a statement after the release. “We assume that GDP growth will be somewhat slower than projected by the government, at 2.5-2.7 percent in the next few years. Productivity growth has slowed in Australia, like in other high-income economies. We estimate that this slowdown is partly related to long-lasting factors that will continue to weigh on growth.”

Infrastructure projects include a new airport in Western Sydney; acquiring greater or outright ownership of the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme and then expanding it; upgrading highways across the nation; and funding for a Melbourne-to-Brisbane inland railway.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Australian economy has gone 25 years without a recession which is an incredibly impressive achievement. In that time the currency has been highly volatile; acting as a pressure release valve. The decision to spend A$75 billion in infrastructure projects will help to absorb some of the available labour that the drop off in commodity supply growth investment has left but the outright effort to stoke inflation through wage growth is likely to take a toll on both the currency and bond yields. 



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May 05 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Can Wal-Mart's Expensive New E-Commerce Operation Compete With Amazon?

This article by Brad Stone and Matthew Boyle for Bloomberg caught my attention. Here is a section:

The video worked exceedingly well. In August, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced it would acquire Jet.com for $3.3 billion in cash and stock. It was an extraordinary sum for a 15-month-old, purple-hued website that was struggling to retain customers and is still far from making a profit. Even more astonishing, Lore and his management team in Hoboken, N.J., were put in charge of Wal-Mart’s entire domestic e-commerce operation, overseeing more than 15,000 employees in Silicon Valley, Boston, Omaha, and its home office in Arkansas. They were assigned perhaps the most urgent rescue mission in business today: Repurpose Wal-Mart’s historically underachieving internet operation to compete in the age of Amazon. “Amazon has run away with it, and Wal-Mart has not executed well,” says Scot Wingo, chief executive officer of Channel Advisor Corp., which advises brands and merchants on how to sell online. “That’s what Marc Lore has inherited.”

Lore’s ascendancy at Wal-Mart adds bitter personal drama that wouldn’t seem out of place on Real Housewives of New Jersey to a battle between two of the most disruptive forces in the history of retail. In 2010, Wal-Mart tried to buy Lore’s first online retail company, Quidsi Inc., which operated websites such as Diapers.com for parents and Wag.com for pet owners. But it moved too slowly and lost out to a higher bid from Amazon.com Inc. Lore then toiled at Amazon for over two years before quitting, in part out of disappointment with its refusal to invest more in Quidsi and to integrate his team into the company, according to two people close to him.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

You get a lot with your Amazon Prime membership from free 2-day shipping to photo storage and Amazon TV but you do not get the cheapest price on the majority of goods and Prime is not free. It costs $99 a year so you really need to shop, archive and watch Amazon to get your money’s worth and for many people that works out since it has built its subscriber base to 80 million people from 40. 



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May 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Seeking a policy response to the robot takeover

This article by Alice M. Rivlin for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

If driverless deliveries prove faster, cheaper, safer, and more accurate, they would likely be adopted quickly and affect all parts of the country. Truck driving is much less concentrated in particular areas than, say, coal mining or steel making.

In 2016, there were 1.7 million heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers, with a median annual wage of $43,590; 859 hundred thousand light-truck and delivery workers, who earned $34,700; and 426 hundred thousand driver/sales workers, who earned $28,449. So a rough estimate would be that driverless deliveries would put at least 2.5 million drivers out of work, not counting drivers’ helpers and a substantial number of workers in truck stops and roadside services patronized by truckers. Truck drivers drink a lot of coffee.

Like many lost manufacturing jobs, truck driving requires skill, some special training, hard work, and fortitude, but not much formal education. If you did not go beyond high school, but are a reliable, safe driver—especially if you are willing to work the demanding schedules of long-haul truckers—you can support a family and have decent benefits by driving a truck.

The transition to driverless deliveries would also create some new jobs, many of them technical jobs involving software development and programming that would command relatively high wages. Vehicle maintenance jobs would still be necessary, and would likely require enhanced electronic skills with higher pay than current truck maintenance jobs. Expanded demand for the cheaper delivered products would likely create additional jobs in the transportation sector. It is impossible to predict the ultimate effects of any major technological change, but in the short run it is a good bet that a lot of former drivers would be looking for work and finding their skills and experience ill-suited to available jobs at comparable wages.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The one question I get wherever I go to talk is what am I going to do when the robots take my job? It’s a big question but over the last year it has really moved into the public consciousness. The prospect of machines driving down our roads with no human behind the wheel has lent a sense of reality to the debate that was not present in years past. 



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May 04 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

EY's Attractiveness Program Africa

This report focusing on Africa and its success in attracting foreign direct investment may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

More positively though, in terms of capital investments, the flow of FDI into Africa recovered in 2016 after a dip in 2015. During 2016, capital investment into Africa rose 31.9%. Investment per project averaged US$139m, against US$92.5m in 2015. This surge was driven by several large, capital intensive projects in the real estate, hospitality and construction (RHC), and transport and logistics sectors. The continent’s share of global FDI capital flows increased to 11.4%, up from 9.4% in 2015. That made Africa the second fastest growing destination when measured by FDI capital.

This somewhat mixed picture is not surprising to us. We believe that investor sentiment toward Africa is likely to remain somewhat softer over the next few years. From our point of view, this has far less to do with Africa’s fundamentals than it does with a world characterized by heightened geopolitical uncertainty and greater risk aversion. Companies already doing business in Africa will continue to invest, but will probably exercise a greater degree of caution and be more discerning. We are still of the opinion that any shorter-term shifts in FDI levels will be cyclical rather than structural. We also anticipate that the evolution of FDI — increasing diversification in terms of sources, destinations and sectors — will continue. Over the longer term, as economic recovery slowly gathers pace and as many African economies continue to mature, we also anticipate that levels of FDI will remain robust and will continue to grow.  

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Africa is a massive continent which for all practical purposes is undeveloped. It is also going to represent the bulk of population growth and the most attractive demographics over the next 30 years so there is a logical explanation for why FDI is flowing towards countries with improving governance and/or abundant mineral wealth. 



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May 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

One Sign That the Retail Industry Isn't Dead Yet

This article by Leslie Patton for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

There’s plenty of talk about the retail industry dying, with malls closing and the slump stressing iconic chains like Sears Holdings Corp. and J. Crew, but healthier big-box giants such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. are still chronically in need of employees, at least for now. The number of U.S. retail jobs was about the same last year compared with 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. What’s really bedeviling retailers is annual turnover -- at 65 percent, it’s the highest since before the Great Recession -- making it necessary to keep hiring. The chains are so hungry for good help they’re poaching workers from fast-food restaurants.

“Those jobs tend to be more transitional, they tend to be more fluid, and as a result there tends to be higher turnover,” said Michael Harms of Dallas-based researcher TDn2K. “Even though you hear headlines like retail is dying and the robots are coming, there’s still a lot of things that need human touch points. It’s a dogfight over good employees.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

What interested me most about this story was not so much the fact big box stores need more workers as their share of the retail market increases, but the effect this is having on restaurant wages. 



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May 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Can the Synchronous Recovery Last?

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Morgan Stanley which has a number of interesting nuggets. Here is a section:

For the first time since 2010, the global economy is enjoying a synchronous recovery (see chart). The developed markets’ (DM) private sector is exiting deleveraging after several years of slow growth due to a focus on balance sheet repair and, after four years of adjustment, the emerging markets are in a recovery mode. These trends create a positive feedback loop. Indeed, the DM economies account for 60% of emerging market (EM) exports, so as their real import growth accelerates, EM exports are rebounding. What’s more, an improving EM outlook reduces DM disinflationary pressures. 

How sustainable is this recovery? Typically business cycles end with macrostability risks (price, external and financial) spiking, forcing policymakers to tighten monetary and/or fiscal policy. In this cycle, considering that emerging markets inflation and current account balances are moving toward their central banks’ comfort zones, it is unlikely that macrostability risks will surface soon. Moreover, the emerging markets now have high levels of real rate differentials vis-àvis the US, providing adequate buffers against normalization of the Federal 

DEVELOPED MARKET RISK. In our view, the key risk to the global cycle is apt to come from the developed markets— most likely the US, considering that it is most advanced in the business cycle. Moreover, the US tends to have an outsized influence on the global cycle, particularly the emerging markets. While price stability features prominently in debating the monetary policy stance of any central bank, financial stability is clearly emerging as an equally important factor.

How will it play it out? For insight, we can look at history. The late ’60s saw fiscal expansion at a time of strong growth and low unemployment. In the mid ’80s, the US pursued expansionary fiscal and protectionist policies in an improving economy. We look at similarities and differences versus today, analyzing asset class performance by fiscal deficit and unemployment quartiles.

To that end, private-sector leverage has picked up modestly in the US. In fact, the household-sector balance sheet, which was the epicenter of the credit crisis, had been deleveraging until 2016’s third quarter. Moreover, the regulatory environment has been relatively credit-restrictive. Hence, we see moderate risk to financial stability. However, risks could rise, considering that monetary policy is still accommodative, and particularly so if the administration eases financial regulations. Price stability is a critical risk, too—especially since the core Personal Consumption Expenditures Index inflation rate is close to the Fed’s target and US unemployment is around the rate below which inflation could accelerate. Reflecting this, we expect the Fed to hike rates six times by year-end 2018 (see page 3). We expect other major DM central banks to take a less dovish/more hawkish stance

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

The MSCI World Index broke out to new all-time highs in March and continues to extend that breakout. There is no denying that the Index is heavily weighted by the USA but it has been a generally firm period for global stock markets as economic growth figures pick up against a background where interest rates are still relatively accommodative. 



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May 02 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Two Frances Collide in Battle to Shape Europe's Future

This article by John Follain for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Tergnier may be Macron’s toughest sell.

The town, with a population of 13,000, used to vote Communist and then Socialist. It turned to the National Front as its sprawling rail freight station — once one of France’s biggest — shed hundreds of jobs. Steelworks, a sugar-manufacturing plant and other firms closed down or moved elsewhere leaving the jobless rate at 15 percent. The national average is 10 percent. Thirty-six percent of voters backed Le Pen last month, among her highest votes in the country.

“Globalization is bad for Tergnier,” said mayor Christian Crohem, 67, who heads a mainly leftist coalition. “We’ve brought more countries into the EU and we’ve allowed businesses to move around, so we’re up against workers from abroad who don’t play by the same rules, it’s unfair competition.”

He tells the story of a 70-year-old woman who came to see him recently because she didn’t have enough money to feed herself. Sitting in his office, she cried with shame as she asked him for a handout to buy food.

“That kind of thing really gets to you,” he says. “People here feel abandoned, and so do we, the officials they elect.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

In a country like France, which prides itself on its social infrastructure, this kind of story is all the more troubling. Fiscal austerity over much of the last decade has laid bare the hollowing out of rural and legacy manufacturing centres right across the developed world. We are talking about France right now because the election is on Sunday but this is a broad issue which has contributed to populism in a number of countries and there is little evidence of sincere efforts to curb it. 



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May 01 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Market Leaders to Benefit from Industry Consolidation

Thanks to subscriber for this report from Morgan Stanley which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Acceleration in market share gains: Our AlphaWise survey indicated that the low price course strategy is highly effective for leading players to gain market share, thanks to their strong brand name, well established systems, standardized teaching procedures, and strong teaching curriculum development capabilities. We expect the promotional environment in China's K-12 after-school tutoring market will become a new norm, and the low user stickiness in the market will benefit the leading players like TAL and New Oriental, as they're considered top providers for potential switchers. We believe New Oriental's roll out of its low price strategy to over 30 cities and TAL's acceleration in capacity expansion will accelerate their market shares in the coming quarters. Although this may bring some short-term uncertainty to revenue growth and margins when the summer course revenues are booked, we believe this strategy is value accretive to the leading players given they can manage to achieve high retention rate.

Market demand remains robust amid macro slowdown: According to our AlphaWise survey results, K-12 after school tutoring expenses are the last item to cut among major household expenses during weak financial conditions. Moreover, 24% of respondents intend to increase their spending on tutoring classes in the next 12 months. This shows that education is not only resilient during macro downturns, but also remains a structurally growing sector in China. 

Good potential for online education: The survey results also show that the acceptance level of online education is very high and 43% of respondents thought online education was as good as offline, but more convenient. We believe this bodes well for future demand for the leading players' online and O2O initiatives, which could bring in incremental revenue opportunities with better operating leverage.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

For most families education is the surest and in many cases only way to climb out of poverty. Despite the fact there is a great deal of debate about the best way to impart knowledge and indeed what should be prioritised in the West, Chinese parents are under no illusion, their child has to perform well in the state exam. Competition is such that the only way to ensure your child is getting the grades they need when you do not have knowledge/time yourself is to employ a tutor. 



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May 01 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

New Order: ID>MY>TH>SG>PH

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Morgan Stanley which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Indonesia: buy for the 2H17/2018 recovery? Our earlier worries for equities – politics, tax scrutiny, rising rates, earnings risk – have not disappeared, but we now think an expected period of support for EM currencies will help to keep bond yields and risk-free rates down – a bigger tailwind. This is coupled with improving earnings momentum with an acceleration to 17% growth in 2018, supported by less bank provisioning and increased infrastructure momentum ahead of the 2019 elections and a consumption recovery. Our Focus List includes BBCA, ASII, TLKM, UNTR, LPPF and LINK; our new index target implies 8% upside.

Malaysia: window still open. We initiate on Malaysia (Malaysia strategy initiation) and position it as our No.2 OW in ASEAN. Interest is back, as evidenced by US$1bn of foreign equity inflows in March. We see room for more outperformance from: 1) upcoming elections, 2) infrastructure pick-up, 3) better commodity prices, 4) return of earnings growth, and 5) currency support. We add IHH Health Care to our Focus List. 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

The AEAN region was among the first to recover following the credit crisis and has been a centre of investor interest for more than a decade. It remains a hotbed of economic growth not least because of favourable demographics and proximity to the world’s major population centres. Governance is everything and ASEAN offers some wildly different examples of how countries have gotten it right and indeed wrong. 



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March 29 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Erdogan Races Against the Dollar in Campaign for Unrivaled Power

This article by Selcan Hacaoglu and Onur Ant for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lambasted friend and foe alike in a campaign for vast new powers, but his political fate may hang on the one thing he’s stopped carping about: the price of money.

With the April 16 vote on strengthening the presidency too close for pollsters to call, Erdogan is no longer berating the central bank and commercial lenders over borrowing costs they’ve pushed to a five-year high. He’s betting any measures taken to arrest the lira’s plunge will pay off at the ballot box.

The lira’s value versus the dollar is more than just a pocketbook issue in Turkey, where millions of voters still remember the abrupt devaluations that ravaged their livelihoods in past decades and view the exchange rate as the most important indicator of the nation’s economic health.

Turkey’s trade deficit is the biggest of all top 50 economies relative to output and most of its imports and foreign debt are priced in dollars, so sharp declines in the lira can be ruinous for legions of entrepreneurs like Ramazan Saglam, who owns a print shop in a working-class neighborhood of Ankara.

“I bitterly recall when the dollar jumped in 1994 and 2001 -- my business collapsed both times,” Saglam said. “I’m supporting the new presidential system wholeheartedly because I don’t want to go bankrupt again.”

Eoin Treacy's view -

Turkey is a NATO member, it controls the Bosphorus so it’s in a strategic position geopolitically and it is flirting with becoming an outright dictatorship. That represents an uncomfortable problem for its NATO allies who will be all too aware that allowing Turkey to migrate towards Russia’s sphere of influence would be a serious loss. In addition, refugees represent an election catalyst for half a dozen European countries to which Turkey holds the key. That means there is little the EU can do but protest at the trend toward despotism. 



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March 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mubarak, Egypt's toppled Pharaoh, is free after final charges dropped

This article by Lin Noueihed may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The overthrow of Mubarak, one of a series of military men to rule Egypt since the 1952 abolition of the monarchy, embodied the hopes of the Arab Spring uprisings that shook autocrats from Tunisia to the Gulf and briefly raised hopes of a new era of democracy and social justice.

His release takes that journey full circle, marking what his critics say is the return of the old order to Egypt, where authorities have crushed Mubarak's enemies in the Muslim Brotherhood, killing hundreds and jailing thousands, while his allies regain influence.

Another military man, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, stepped into Mubarak's shoes in 2013 when he overthrew Mohamed Mursi, the Brotherhood official who won Egypt's first free election after the uprising.

A year later, Sisi won a presidential election in which the Brotherhood, now banned, could not participate. The liberal and leftist opposition, at the forefront of the 2011 protests in Cairo's Tahrir Square, is under pressure and in disarray.

Years of political tumult and worsening security have hit the economy, just as Mubarak always warned. Egyptians complain of empty pockets and rumbling bellies as inflation exceeds 30 percent and the government tightens its belt in return for loans from the International Monetary Fund.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Egypt might not have oil but it is strategically important and has a large young population. The release of Mubarak and return to a business as usual stance by the Al-Sisi administration is unlikely to do anything to quell the disaffection of protestors and it would appear to be only a matter of time before they regroup. 



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March 22 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Nike Sinks After Sales Slowdown Suggests It's Losing Share

This article by Matt Townsend for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Nike Inc. tumbled the most in 19 months after third-quarter sales missed estimates, renewing concern that the long-dominant athletic brand is losing market share to Adidas AG and Under Armour Inc.

Revenue rose 5 percent to $8.43 billion, the Beaverton, Oregon-based company said after the market closed on Tuesday. Analysts estimated $8.47 billion, on average.

Under Armour and a resurgent Adidas have been grabbing market share from Nike, especially in the U.S. That’s led investors to sour on the stock, which had its first annual decline in eight years last year. And last quarter’s results only reinforced Nike’s woes as North American sales rose just 3 percent. Executives on a conference call didn’t provide much reason for optimism, either. Worldwide futures orders, excluding the effects of currency fluctuations, fell 1 percent, the first drop since 2009. Analysts had predicted a 3.4 percent gain.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Nike produces great products and has a dominant position in the apparel sector which makes it a target. With Adidas moving to a fast fashion model, Nike is under pressure to innovate and most particularly by moving to an online presence. Under Armor might be grabbing market share but it has also struggled to boost its online offering and as a customer of all three, I personally find the online shopping experience far from compelling with all their sites. 



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March 21 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Taiwan Dollar Gains on Apple-Related Stock Inflows: Inside Asia

This bulletin by Kartik Goyal for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Taiwan dollar advances 0.3% after closing at the strongest level in more than two years Monday

TWSE climbs 0.6%; inflows into stocks exceed $3.8 billion for 2017, the third-biggest in Asia, according to data as of Monday

Stocks including Wistron gain on Apple-related optimism, with Fubon Securities raising rating on the stock

Ten-year bond yield rises 2bps to 1.14%

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Taiwan Dollar has appreciated by more than 10% against the US dollar over the last 12 months and extended that advance today. It is overbought in the short-term but its recent strength has broken the Dollar’s five-year progression of higher reaction lows suggesting a medium-term change to the relationship between supply and demand. 



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March 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Porsche Pockets $17,250 Profit on Every Car

This article by Kyle Stock for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

In short, every time Porsche sells a 911 sports car or one of its Cayenne SUVs, it could take the profit alone and go buy a brand new Chevy Cruze.

Its Teutonic peers don’t have nearly as much profit punch. Daimler AG pocketed about $5,000 a vehicle last year, roughly the same margin Bayerische Motoren Werke AG (BMW) has been managing. Part of the money magic is simply price. Porsche doesn’t make cheap cars. Even luxury players like Mercedes occasionally offer more pedestrian versions at narrower margins to get aspiring buyers into the family. And make no mistake, Porsche customers are paying a premium for the brand’s reputation.

Ferrari knows this game well. Its operating profit equates to almost $90,000 a vehicle. But about 30 percent of Ferrari’s business comes from engines, key chains, amusement parks, and other things that don’t have wheels. What’s more, the company makes only about 8,000 cars a year, scrimping on supply to keep prices high.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Porsche might be making significant profits on every car it sells but the company is also among the largest shareholders in Volkswagen. It was far from immune to the fallout from the diesel scandal which saw the stock plummet from €95 to €35 and it has been heavily influenced by its parent’s performance since. 



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March 15 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Credit Reports to Exclude Certain Negative Information, Boosting FICO Scores

This article by AnneMaria Andriotis for the Wall Street Journal appeared in Yahoo Finance and may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The state settlements already had prompted the credit-reporting firms to remove several negative data sets from reports. These included non-loan related items that were sent to collections firms, such as gym memberships, library fines and traffic tickets. The firms also will have to remove medical-debt collections that have been paid by a patient’s insurance company from credit reports by 2018.

Such changes might help borrowers and could spur additional lending, possibly boosting economic activity. But it could potentially increase risks for lenders who might not be able to accurately assess borrowers’ default risk.

Consumers with liens or judgments are twice as likely to default on loan payments, according to LexisNexis Risk Solutions, a unit of RELX Group that supplies public-record information to the big three credit bureaus and lenders.

“It’s going to make someone who has poor credit look better than they should,” said John Ulzheimer, a credit specialist and former manager at Experian and credit-score creator FICO. “Just because the lien or judgment information has been removed and someone’s score has improved doesn’t mean they’ll magically become a better credit risk.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Credit affects just about every large purchase. This is especially true for the USA, where possession of a credit card is practically a necessity for daily life and not least because of the substantial points programs they offer. 



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March 15 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Zara Owner's Margin Shrinks to Eight-Year Low on Currencies

This article by Rodrigo Orihuela for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Inditex put greater emphasis on online expansion last year, cutting its target for new brick-and-mortar stores. The retailer is also making changes to some of its brands to gain market share, with the most recent example being February’s foray into men’s clothing by the Stradivarius brand, which has focused on women.

After starting online sales in Singapore and Malaysia this month, the company plans to add such services in Thailand and Vietnam in the next few weeks and also in India this year.

“India is a very attractive market for us,” Isla said on a conference call with analysts. This year Zara will open a 5,000 square-meter flagship store in Mumbai, which will be its largest store in the country. Inditex has 21 stores in that market.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Fast fashion is a major business but is also highly competitive and gaining access to consumers is the key to unlocking growth potential. Moving into high population countries with expanding middle classes is one solution to that challenge and expanding online is another. Creating multiple product lines in a short period of time and getting them to market instantaneously is what has allowed companies like Inditex, H&M and more recently Primark to expand globally but it’s a ruthless sector with clear winners and losers.  



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March 10 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Park's Ouster Raises Prospect of Reset With China, Kim Jong Un

This article by Andy Sharp for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The impeachment of Park Geun-hye opens the door for a reset in ties with North Korea and China.

The leading candidates to replace Park, who was ousted as president by South Korea’s constitutional court on Friday, favor a softer touch with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. They’re also open to rethinking the deployment of the Thaad missile shield, which has spurred Chinese retaliation against South Korean companies.

“The liberals believe that if you engage with North Korea, then they could get some kind of missile-test moratorium,” said John Delury, an associate professor of Chinese studies at Yonsei University in Seoul. “The Chinese strategy will be to push just hard enough so the South Korean public sees the cost of having Thaad, but not too hard that you unleash outrage.”

The election campaign -- a vote must be held within 60 days -- will spur fresh debate on how to stop Kim from acquiring more powerful nuclear weapons and missiles. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson plans to seek a new approach to dealing with North Korea in a trip to the region next week, though China’s calls for talks have been rebuffed by the U.S., Japan and South Korea.

Earlier this week, the U.S. military unloaded two mobile missile launchers in South Korea to start deployment of Thaad. It came as North Korea launched four ballistic missiles that landed in waters near Japan.    

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The potential for a reset with North Korea is a double-edged sword. After all this is a regime whose main export has been nuclear technology to any country willing to pay for it, but most particularly those which are at odds with Western interests. In that regard it is reasonable to conclude North Korea’s actions are those of a Chinese puppet state. Too often the liberal attitude to negotiations has been to give the recalcitrant threatening aggressor whatever they want just to make them go away. Unfortunately, that only emboldens them to ask make even more ambitious demands. 



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March 06 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Tempting Turkish Stocks Close In on Record as Valuations Dazzle

This article by Tugce Ozsoy for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

When the previous record was set, the picture for investors was markedly different: the Turkish currency was 50 percent stronger against the dollar, the country was celebrating earning its second investment-grade credit rating and economic growth was stronger. The only piece of the puzzle that’s more attractive now are valuations that are still at a discount of about 30 percent to Turkey’s emerging-market peers.

Reasons to potentially avoid Turkish stocks were numerous: rising geopolitical risks, terror attacks, a coup attempt, and the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates. The spread between the valuation of Turkish stocks and its emerging market peers widened to more than a seven-year high in July and remained near those levels for almost six months.

This year’s rally developed from “a reaction to Turkey’s long-term under performance to peers and highly attractive valuations,” according to Haydar Acun, a fund manager at Istanbul-based Marmara Capital. “What usually happens in these kind of rallies is the market becomes overconfident after a while and starts forgetting what set the rally in the first place.”

Economic growth is expected to have slowed to 2.2 percent in 2016, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That compares with 6.1 percent in 2015 and 8.5 percent in 2013 when stocks set their record, according to figures from Turkey’s statistical agency. Turkey lost its last-remaining investment-grade credit rating in late January this year.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Turkey doesn’t score particularly week on the governance scale not least because Erdogan has become increasingly volatile following last year’s failed coup attempt.  The Dollar hit an accelerated peak below TRY4 in January and pulled back to test the TRY3.5 region; unwinding about half its overextension relative to the trend mean in the process. Last week’s Dollar bounce takes the Lira back to being the world’s worst performing currency this year and a sustained move below the trend mean would be required to question medium-term Dollar dominance.  



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March 03 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Peso Surges After Ross Says Nafta Deal Could Fuel Recovery

This article by Sarah McGregor for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross triggered a rally in the peso when he said the currency could recover “quite a lot” if his country can reach a sensible agreement with Mexico on the North American Free Trade Agreement.

“The peso has fallen a lot, mainly because of the fear of what will happen with Nafta,” Ross, 79, said in an interview on CNBC on Friday. “I believe that if we and the Mexicans make a very sensible trade agreement, the Mexican peso will recover quite a lot.”

The peso surged 1.9 percent on Friday morning New York time in the wake of Ross’s comments, paring its depreciation over the past year. The 8.7 percent decline in the currency’s value since March 2016 has boosted the cost of imports into Mexico, while making its exports more competitive.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Peso has been about the most unloved currency in the world but the speed of the decline spurred the central bank into action and short-term interest rates have been hiked on successive occasions over the last 18 months and a number of other measures to support the currency have also been implemented.



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February 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

British Airways Poised to Join Long-Haul Narrow-Body Craze

This article by Benjamin Katz for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Walsh spoke a day after Norwegian Air presented details of flights from five locations in Britain and Ireland to three low- fee airfields in New York state, Rhode Island and Connecticut, to be served by Boeing Co.’s 737 Max 8 model from June with one- way fares starting at 69 pounds or 69 euros ($86/$73).

While the Boeing jets will be operating close to the limits of their range, Norwegian Air has also ordered 30 A321neoLRs with which it could connect dozens of smaller cities either side of the Atlantic in the medium term.

Aer Lingus already operates long-haul flights with a fleet of Boeing 757s, the only narrow-body model to see regular use on non-stop Europe-U.S. services, but which ceased production in 2004. The seven A321s on order will serve as replacements while also adding new routes. The Irish unit began serving Hartford from Dublin last year and IAG has said that several other smaller U.S. airports are keen to attract flights with competitive fees.

Walsh said on a conference call with analysts that the introductory fares offered this week by Norwegian Air aren’t sustainable. “Norwegian has a very small margin of profitability and the fares that they’ve launched are clearly just designed to get some headline media coverage,” he said.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Michael O’Leary at Ryanair has been talking about initiating Trans-Atlantic flights for years but to no avail so far. That is a testament to how difficult it is to achieve sustainable economics for what is a long flight for a narrow body aircraft. Nevertheless, technology has improved, aircraft are more fuel efficient and Europe has a much lower fares than the USA which raises the prospect of disruption when it could well cost less to fly to the UK than Florida over the summer. 



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February 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Citigroup Pays Fine to Settle South African Rand Collusion Probe

This article by Vernon Wessels and Renee Bonorchis for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Citigroup Inc. agreed to pay an administrative penalty of 70 million rand ($5.4 million) to settle a South African antitrust investigation that it participated in a cartel to manipulate the value of the rand.

The figure does not exceed 10 percent of Citigroup’s annual turnover in South Africa and comes after the New York-based lender undertook to cooperate with the Competition Commission and “avail witnesses to assist the prosecution of the other banks that colluded in this matter,” the Pretoria-based commission said in an e-mailed statement on Monday.

“This settlement was done to encourage speedy settlement and full disclosure to strengthen the evidence for prosecution of the other banks,” Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said in the statement. Barclays Africa Group Ltd. has also agreed to cooperate, people familiar with the matter said last week.

The commission on Feb. 15 referred a collusion case to the country’s Competition Tribunal for prosecution and identified lenders including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, HSBC Holdings Plc, BNP Paribas SA, Credit Suisse Group AG, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Nomura International Plc as among those that participated in price fixing and market allocation in the trading of foreign-currency pairs involving the rand.

Commerzbank AG, Macquarie Group Ltd., Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., Investec Ltd. and Standard Bank Group Ltd. were also named.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This news item may be responsible for the spike in open interest in Rand options. The currency has been strengthening since the news broke, in line with other commodity currencies and suggests that a good many traders were short and that the continued resilience of the commodity complex is a tailwind for related currencies. 



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February 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Africa's Cities: Opening Doors to the World

This heavyweight 166-page report from the World Bank may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

How can Africa’s leaders and policymakers spring cities from this trap? Crucially, they must first realize that the problem does not begin with low capital investment and the lack of physical structures, or even with undersized infrastructure. To be sure, low investment in structures limits urban economic density; it exacerbates spatial fragmentation, and it precludes agglomeration economies. But the lack of investment results from low investor expectations, which result when cities are spatially dispersed and disconnected.

When potential investors and trading partners look at African cities, they see spatial fragmentation and a lack of connections. They know that such fragmentation constrains public service provision, inhibits labor market pooling and matching, and prevents firms from reaping scale and agglomeration benefits. So the key to freeing Africa’s cities from their low development trap is to set them on a path toward physical and economic density, connecting them for higher efficiency and boosting expectations for the future. The first priority is to reform land markets and land use planning — to promote the most efficient uses of urban land, and to develop land at scale.
Informal land markets are not good enough for African cities. Urban land is a vital economic asset, and asset transactions are viable only where purchasers can rely on enduring extra-legal documentation of ownership. A formal market both offers purchasers the protection of the state and — because transactions are readily, observable and recorded — generates the public good of accurate valuation.

Clear rights to urban land are a precondition for formal land markets. African cities struggle with overlapping and sometimes contradictory property rights systems — formal, customary, and informal (box 3). When these systems pose barriers to urban land access, they impede the consolidation of plots and the evolution of land use. Firms cannot readily buy downtown land to convert it from low-density residential use into higher-density apartments, or to build clusters of new commercial structures. Land transactions are long, costly, and complicated (World Bank 2015c). Such market constraints reduce the collateral value of structures, giving developers little incentive to invest in residential height — while tempting all parties to enter informal arrangements (Collier 2016).

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Africa is going to account for a billion new consumers within the next couple of decades so improving standards of governance are going to be essential if that demographic dividend is not going to be squandered. 
 



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January 27 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Latin America Abandons Fuel Subsidies in Shift to Austerity

This article by Sabrina Valle for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

"These countries are under enormous fiscal pressure and are reacting to it," said Samar Maziad, a sovereign analyst at Moody’s.

President Mauricio Macri has made Argentina’s economy more competitive since he took over in 2015, and an 8 percent gasoline price increase this month has contributed to Buenos Aires-based YPF’s recent rally to the highest in more than a year. Argentina is moving to completely liberalize prices by 2018. YPF declined to comment on its stock price.

Mexico has lifted prices about 20 percent this month as it opens state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos’s monopoly to foreign competition. It has pledged to completely phase out fuel subsidies over the course of the year. The so-called “gasolinazo,” or fuel-price slam, sparked protests across the country that curtailed fuel distribution and has left President Enrique Pena Nieto’s approval rating at an all-time low of 12 percent. Mexico is planning another fuel price increase on Feb.

The main outlier is Venezuela, the region’s biggest exporter with the cheapest gasoline in the world at about 15 U.S. cents to fill a tank, even after the first price increase in almost two decades last year. Colombia got a head start when it began tracking international prices in 2008, a year when fuel subsidies contributed to an economic contraction.

In Brazil, where subsidies drained an estimated $40 billion from Petrobras between 2011 and 2014, Chief Executive Officer Pedro Parente has shown greater independence from the government to set fuel rates. Under Parente, the company formally known as Petroleo Brasileiro SA set a new price methodology in October and has implemented five adjustments since then.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Fuel subsidies are politically popular but ruinous for oil companies. Subsidies represent a drag on finances which are at partially offset when oil prices are high but represent an existential threat when prices are low. The collapse of regional currencies, massive deficits and challenges to growth have resulted in populist socialist governments being replaced with more fiscally minded right wing parties across the continent. As commodity prices recover that is translating into their stock markets beginning to do better. 



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January 26 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China's Consumers Greet Year of the Rooster with Bling Splurge

This article by Bruce Einhorn and Daniela Wei for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Retail sales rose 10.9 percent in December from a year earlier, the best monthly result in 12 months. Chinese imports of Swiss watches are up after falling for seven consecutive months through July, rising 7.9 percent in November from a year earlier. Led by its best-selling Macan SUV, Porsche had a 12 percent sales increase in 2016. Tiffany on Jan. 17 reported “strong growth” in China. On Jan. 19, Luca Marotta, chief financial officer of Rémy Cointreau, said the outlook for the Chinese New Year was “very, very positive.” Xi hasn’t ended his anticorruption drive, but its chilling effect on spending is easing. “A rebound across all luxury categories is now in progress,” Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Deborah Aitken wrote on Jan. 9.

During the Lunar New Year holiday, millions of Chinese will travel and shop at home and overseas. Bookings for international air travel made in December for Chinese New Year rose 9.8 percent from the previous year, according to ForwardKeys, an analyst of tourism data. Mainland tourist arrivals in the gambling hub of Macau jumped 7.8 percent in December, the largest increase since February 2015. Chinese consumers “are still very confident,” says Amrita Banta, managing director of Agility Research & Strategy, a consulting firm focusing on the affluent.

In Macau, tourist arrivals from mainland China for the first three days of the holiday period increased 9.1 percent to 234,000 compared to Chinese New Year in 2016, the Macau Government Tourism Office reported on its website Thursday.

Yet they may not be prepared to spend as much. Rather than purchase expensive items as gifts, Chinese are buying more for personal use, says Bruno Lannes, a Bain partner in Shanghai.

Eoin Treacy's view -

The strong weakness of the Yuan might currently be offering a tailwind for luxury goods companies since consumers have an incentive to buy now rather than pay more later. Additionally the potential for stronger economic growth and the knock-on effect that would have on consumer spending may be an additional factor in the outperformance of luxury goods’ stocks. 



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January 25 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

January 24 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Brazil Optimism Pushes Foreign Investment to Six-Year High

This article by Mario Sergio Lima for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Foreign direct investment in Brazil soared to a six-year high in December as investors abroad kept an optimistic view of the country’s long-term prospects, the central bank said.

Brazil attracted $15.4 billion in foreign investment last month, more than twice the amount expected by economists in a Bloomberg survey, and the strongest monthly performance since December 2010. In the whole of 2016, foreigners poured $78.9 billion in Brazil, more than enough to finance the country’s current account deficit of $23.5 billion.

“December’s foreign direct investment was really something,” Fernando Rocha, deputy head of the central bank’s economic research department, told reporters in Brasilia. “It shows foreigners hold a positive long-term view of the country.”

Investors remain generally optimistic that Latin America’s largest economy will emerge from its worst recession on record this year, even as economists surveyed by the central bank have recently cut their 2017 growth forecasts and the International Monetary Fund warned of near-stagnation this year.

December’s investment performance was boosted, in particular, by operations in the auto industry, as well as in the retail and power sectors, Rocha said. Yet overall investment has been “quite widespread” across a number of sectors, he added.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The ouster of Dilma Rousseff was a catalyst for international investors to take a second look at Brazil. The Real had been rallying from January 2016 in anticipation of the event and encountered resistance following Michel Temer’s inauguration as investors waited to see what kind of reforms could in fact be delivered. 



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January 20 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

These Are the World's Most Innovative Economies

This article by Michelle Jamrisko and Wei Lu for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

South Korea remained the big winner, topping the international charts in R&D intensity, value-added manufacturing and patent activity and with top-five rankings in high-tech density, higher education and researcher concentration. Scant progress in improving its productivity score — now No. 32 in the world — helps explain why South Korea’s lead narrowed in the past year.

Silver medal winner Sweden owes most of its rise to improvement in the manufacturing value-added metric, while Nordic neighbor Finland jumped two spots in large part because of the rise of high-tech firms in the country. Norway held its No. 14 spot from last year.

Fresh ideas tend to pay off big in Sweden, even as the current government is less business-friendly and has imposed labor taxes that could crimp business investment, said Magnus Henrekson, director of the Research Institute of Industrial Economics, a private foundation in Stockholm. The Swedes themselves promote an atmosphere of great personal ambition — unlike some European neighbors that emphasize the collective — and that’s a boon to innovation, he said.

“In the culture, people are super individualistic — this means that people have ideas and are very interested in pursuing them in this way in order to become wealthy,” said Henrekson. “The incentives are there and the tax system favors them.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

If the results of the above report are anything to go by then having a relatively small population and an export focus is a common theme for the most innovative countries in the world. Of course being from a small country means companies have to innovate if they are to compete globally. Small countries also can’t afford to slide on education because the pool of available workers is limited and needs to be nimble enough to supply the economy with the skills it requires. Success is therefore multiplied. 



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January 17 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Alibaba jumps ahead of Amazon with Maersk tie-up

This article by Sam Chambers for splash247 may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Alibaba’s move to partner with Maersk Line should be seen as a game of one-upmanship with US rival Amazon, a leading name in online logistics has said.

Chinese customers will now be able to book space on Maersk ships, a first for the industry and one that potentially removes many freight forwarders as middlemen.

Dr Zvi Schreiber, CEO and founder of logistics technology Freightos, offered his perspective on the bigger picture and what this deal means for online shoppers and Alibaba’s rival, Amazon.

“Maersk is testing the waters of digital sales with one of the world’s largest ecommerce companies while threatening forwarder business. But for Alibaba, this is a direct challenge to global retailers like Amazon. Beyond drones and futuristic supermarkets, Amazon opted to get licensed as a forwarder. Alibaba one-upped them by going directly to the world’s largest ocean liner. Point, Alibaba.” 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

There is a great deal of speculation going on at present relating to the implications of a Trump presidency on global trade. Certainly an America first manufacturing policy would have profound implications for low cost, high population countries’ ability to compete against what would in all likelihood be a highly automated US attempt to re-shore. Nevertheless even with the most ambitious timetable that kind of initiative could take years to unfold. 



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January 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on MOOCs

On your piece about MOOCs I couldn't help but observe that you did not mention FutureLearn

This service is UK based and is an offshoot of the Open University.

It claims to be the largest MOOC. See below. I've used it and it's very good. I particularly like the fact that many courses are short - 6 weeks and typically 2 - 3 hrs per week.  
All the best

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for highlighting FutureLearn.com which, as you point out, is another major centre of online learning and builds on Open University’s long history of distance learning. This article from May last year highlights how a number of universities will allow students to earn as many as 30 credits towards a degree using FutureLearn’s portal. That’s a powerful method to help reduce the cost of earning a primary degree and enhances even further our ability to enjoy learning throughout our lives.



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January 16 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on reshoring and automation

This is indeed well under way and generally government-supported trend globally, with Germany (as always) at the forefront, but also the US and the rest of Europe promoting and facilitating the process.

The article below is interesting I think

It gives an idea of how easily these processes are implemented (2 weeks to start production) and the advantages offered to producers (design innovation + shorter time to market + customisation). €2 million investment for being able to produce a total of 200k pieces every year seems very low.

Shima Seiki (6222) - that provided the machinery to Benetton - is a company worth looking into, and the recent rally in share price confirms what you mentioned re the growth potential from clothing manufacturers in Asia.

This is also confirmed on their IR page
 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this above article expounding upon the seamless garment manufacturing being pioneered by Shima Seiki. Seamless garment manufacture has been around in the hosiery business for a long time but finishing was always required to sew the legs on the gusset. Introducing seamless manufacture to outer wear is a major innovation and as you point represents an additional sign of increasing interest in automation in the garment industry. 



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January 13 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The FTSE-100

Eoin Treacy's view -

The UK’s largest cap index is in the process of completing a 16-year range by breaking on the upside. The Index has rallied for six consecutive weeks, hit new all-time highs last week and improved on that performance this week. Prior to this breakout it had spent three years ranging below, but in the region of, its previous peaks. While a short-term overbought condition is evident that is consistent with what is to be expected from a major breakout. 



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January 11 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Samsung Proves Its Business Remains Sound Despite Note 7 Fiasco

This article by Jungah Lee for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Samsung is emerging from its biggest corporate crisis, when reports of incendiary Note 7s forced the Korean company to kill its most profitable gadget. It still hasn’t revealed the results of a subsequent investigation into an episode that cost Samsung more than $6 billion and assured Apple Inc. of the lead in premium devices over the holidays. It’s now counting on its next marquee phone to repair its reputation.

“Despite the Note 7’s vacuum, Samsung acquitted itself well on the back of sound S7 sales,” said Lee Seung-woo, an analyst with IBK Securities Co. in Seoul. “After a softer landing in the first quarter, Samsung is on track for record June quarter profit with the new S8 coming to market.”

Operating income rose to 9.2 trillion won ($7.8 billion) in the quarter ended December, its biggest profit in three years, the Suwon, South Korea-based company said in preliminary results Friday. That compares with the 8.29 trillion-won average of analysts’ estimates compiled by Bloomberg in the past four weeks.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The heir to Samsung’s empire is being accused of taking part in a bribery scandal yet the share continues to outperform suggesting this news was already priced in. Perhaps more important is the fact Samsung was awarded more US patents last year than any other company. That suggests it at least has the potential to improve on its product line even after the Note 7 debacle. 



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January 05 2017

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Bitcoin Suffers Biggest Fall in Two Years Following China Currency Gains

This article by Martin Baccardax for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here it is in full:

Bitcoin's value suffered its biggest single-day decline in two years Thursday, just hours after China's offshore yuan posted its biggest two day gain and days after the cryptocurrency touched $1,000.

The price of bitcoins against the U.S. dollar fell 13% in London trading, changing hands at around $950 each by 13:45 GMT. Bitcoins traded as low as $880 during a volatile session which saw it reach as high as $1137, according financial bookmakers IG.

The moves follow the biggest two-day gain on record for China's offshore yuan, which trades more freely than the domestically controlled currency of the world's second-largest economy. Speculation of government buying led the gains as investors bet authorities are determined to stem capital outflows and avoid a sustained decline in the currency ahead of the inauguration of President elect Donald Trump, who has vowed to label China as a currency manipulator.

The connection is relevant in the nearly all of the daily trading in bitcoin is linked to the yuan, which has fallen more than 7% against the dollar over the past year, as speculators attempt to skirt currency controls and ensure value.

The offshore yuan gain 1% to 6.7989 against the greenback in Asia trading, putting downward pressure on the dollar index and boosting the yen in foreign exchange trading. The move whipsawed the dollar index, a measure of its strength against a basket of six global currencies, from a near 14-year high on Tuesday to three-week low of 101.74 by the start of European trading before it recovered to 102.10 by 13:45 GMT

Eoin Treacy's view -

I have been pointing out in recent audios that China represents the majority of Bitcoin trading and what goes on in that country is likely to have a profound impact on the value of the cryptocurrency. In many respects we might look on Bitcoin as the anti-Renminbi because it tends to do best when Chinese investors are worried about the stability of their domestic currency. 



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December 28 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Africa's mixed political transitions in the 3 Gs: Gabon, the Gambia, and Ghana

This article by Vera Songwe for the Brookings Institute may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Ghana is the pride of Africa when it comes to democratic transitions. Once again, its most recent election has proven this point.  Despite the tense and intensely fought campaign both parties continue to pledge respect for the process. Indeed, there is much to celebrate around Africa’s leadership transitions, but much remains to perfect the process the continent over. This year many elections were held freely and fairly on the continent, and both incumbents and new leaders were elected to office—including Benin, Cabo Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, and Zambia for example. And in an unprecedented move the President of Mauritania and Angola all declared they will not seek re-elections at the end of the term. A very positive and encouraging trend if the pronouncements come to pass.

However, in a number of countries the old has not given way to the new, and the evolution of democracy is still in motion with too-often deadly consequences for the citizens in Burundi, Gabon, and the Gambia to name a few. These examples demonstrate that the concept of leadership transition has not yet been fully adopted. A number of lessons can be drawn from these latter experiences. The populations are increasingly more vocal about transparency of elections. Both sides incumbent and opposition have increasingly equal chances of getting their voices heard and results tend to be closer in these countries. There is still a need for vigilance, and the tendency to slip remains. Peaceful leadership transitions are not yet the norm.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The investment case for Africa is predicated on standards of governance improving. Unsurprisingly there is considerable variability in performance across the continent, nevertheless the general trend is toward gradual improvement and that is a very positive development. The recovery in commodity prices is an additional positive development from an investment perspective. 



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December 21 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Italy lawmakers approve 20 billion euro plan to prop up banks

This article by for Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

If Monte dei Paschi's capital plan fails, Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni's new government is likely to meet this week to issue an emergency decree to inject capital into it.

But that could prove to be politically explosive given that investors are required to bear losses under EU bailout rules.

Parliamentary approval for the 20 billion euro government plan was needed to allow the state to take on new debt. Italy's debt burden, at about 133 percent of annual output, is already the second highest in the euro zone after Greece.

The measure approved by parliament on Wednesday says the state can borrow money to provide "an adequate level of liquidity into the banking system" and can reinforce a lender's capital by "underwriting new shares".

The failure of Monte dei Paschi, the world's oldest bank, would threaten the savings of thousands of Italians and could undermine confidence in the country's wider banking sector, saddled with a third of the euro zone's total bad loans.

Before the vote, Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan vowed to shield retail bank investors from losses.

"The impact on savers, if a (government) intervention should take place, will be absolutely minimised or non-existent," Padoan told parliament.

Italy Senate also approves government request to lift debt to help banks
Monte dei Paschi said it expected its net liquidity position, now at 10.6 billion euros, to turn negative after four months.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A bailout of Italy’s banking sector highlights clearly that the EU has one set of rules for small countries but is willing to set them aside in the cause of realpolitik to ensure the sustainability of the currency regime. 

A rationalisation I have heard promulgated is that the bail-in imposed on the people of Cyprus was nothing more than a refusal to bailout Russian billionaires and that Italy represents an altogether different case. That of course ignores the very real pain and suffering of savers who had their assets confiscated simply because they were unlucky enough to live in Cyprus. 

 



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December 21 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

How One Huge American Retailer Ignored the Internet and Won

This article by Kim Bhasin and Lindsey Rupp for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

But don’t expect a trend heading back in time. This is a difficult system to replicate, said Simeon Siegel, an analyst at Instinet. TJX boasts a wide net of inventory buyers who find small batches of desirable clothing, then make a small bet on those goods. This is unlike the traditional department store model, where buyers look at runway trends and make large orders of a few items, hoping that they’ll be the winner for the season.

“You’re buying closed-out product and you’re buying samples,” said Siegel. “You have to be very attuned to the numbers and very attuned to the fashion. The vendor base that you need to be plugged into and the intelligence that goes into buying the product is the most important asset they have. You need to find the most compelling stuff.”

When stores like T.J. Maxx do it right, they leave their shoppers filled with feelings of adventure and serendipity, says Jordan Rost, vice president of consumer insights at Nielsen, a research firm. Even an unsuccessful trip to a discount store can reinforce the thrill of the hunt. The instincts driving customers into parking lots is similar to those shopping online, Rost says. They’re searching for deals and the best item to fill some broad want or need without a target in mind.

As shoppers across generations and demographics become more focused on value than ever before, the excitement of finding something on sale has an even broader appeal. Millennials who grew up relying on e-commerce for all their needs are coming through the doors, too.

“Younger consumers are really open to that kind of open- minded approach to shopping, not necessarily coming in with a specific brand or product in mind,” says Rost. “Discovery is part of the experience.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Retail is anything but simple however there would appear to be three primary business models. A business can compete on price, convenience or exclusivity. Amazon has mastered convenience, TJX competes on price while luxury brands offer exclusivity. In an increasingly connected world it is possible for all three business models to survive but it is hard to excel at more than one. 



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December 16 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Asian Markets 2017

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from HSBC which may be of interest. Here is a section on Indonesia:

We are positive on Indonesia in the regional context. We continue to regard Indonesia as one of the prominent structural growth stories in the region and the recent equity market correction is a good buying opportunity. The combination of a tax amnesty, a build out of much-needed infrastructure and the roll-out of a healthcare scheme should support growth going into the New Year. With regards to the tax amnesty programme and repatriation, approximately 29% of funds have been repatriated to Indonesia by the end of November, implying that more is to come 

These repatriated funds will be put to work in 2017, allowing for funding of government infrastructure projects. Looking ahead, the equity market’s performance may hinge on a stronger earnings outlook and continuation of the positive earnings revision ratio trend 

Some have pointed at rising political risk following demonstrations against the Jakarta mayor, a Christian who had made some comments on Islam. While this might have little to do with government policies, the mayor is a close ally of President Joko Widodo. The removal of the mayor in upcoming elections in February could have an impact on support for the president and his policies.

Based on the macro-environment, we see consensus forecast for 11% EPS growth for 2017 as quite reasonable. We are expecting a pick-up in economic activity due to greater and more efficient fiscal spending, stronger commodity prices and resilient consumer spending 

Infrastructure investment remains a key theme for the market, as Indonesia looks to modernise its road-rail network. In addition, our banks’ analysts expect the asset quality concerns to peak out by end 2016, which means credit cost should at the very least stabilize in 2017. This should benefit Indonesian banks.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Widodo has not been blessed with Modi’s large majority and as a result has had a more difficult route to implementing reform and cleaning up cronyism. Nevertheless progress has been made and the currency stabilised from last year. 

The weakness of the currency boosted the nominal performance of the stock market which has been largely rangebound since 2013. Foreign currency funds offer a truer perspective on the performance of the market when the Rupiah is accounted for.  



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December 16 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Mexico's Trump-Fueled Rout Belies Latin America Markets Bonanza

This article by Ben Bartenstein, Aline Oyamada and Isabella Cota for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“Latin America will recover more than other regions in GDP terms and do more reforms,” said Dehn, a London-based head of research at Ashmore Group, whose top pick is Brazil.

President Michel Temer’s push to pass spending and pension overhauls is another reason investors remain bullish on Brazil.

The real has jumped 19 percent this year, the second-largest advance in the world, helping bolster returns in local bonds. It will soar another 10 percent by the second-quarter of 2017 before weakening to 3.4 per dollar by year’s end, according to Gustavo Rangel, the chief Latin American economist at ING Financial Markets LLC and the region’s top currency forecaster last quarter, according to Bloomberg rankings.

While Brazil’s prospects continue to improve, Mexico’s outlook is more mixed. Trump’s pledges to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement and build a wall along the southern border have unsettled investors in assets from the region’s second-biggest economy, with the peso plunging 16 percent this year. Mexico sends almost 80 percent of its exports to the U.S.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

For almost a decade the Dollar trended consistently lower against the currencies of commodity producers and emerging markets. That ended a few years ago and currency market volatility now plays an important role in any consideration of when and whether to invest in these markets. 



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December 15 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The worst of both worlds

Thanks to a subscriber for this report from Spectrum Insights which may be of interest. Here is a section:

Australia’ economy shrunk by 0.5% in 3Q16. Typically in such a situation a cut in official interest rates can ease the pain. While the RBA may choose to lower interest rates, its impact on customers’ borrowing costs may be limited. In fact mortgage rates could rise again soon.

Why? The RBA only controls the cost of borrowing overnight. The longer the term of the bond, the more the market sets its yield. As the marginal investor in the A$ bond market is from overseas what happens in the global market place drives our longer term bond yields.

Just as Australian home loan borrowers could do with some relief interest rates are edging up. The reason is Australian banks raise insufficient deposits to fund their loan book. The balance of funds comes from the bond market. Should the cost of borrowing for our “AA” rated banks rise further customers will likely get more hikes on their mortgage rates.

A concern Spectrum has is if the U.S continues to grow at near its current 3% run rate both U.S and Australian bond yields could rise further. Borrowing while rates were falling was easy 

Since the 1980’s Australian households have piled on the debt. Much of this has gone into residential real estate. The continuous fall in interest rates and rising property prices created a re-affirming inducement to borrow more. Today, Australian households have world beating debt levels. This makes parts of the sector hyper-sensitive to rate rises. Should the cost of borrowing rise notably from here wide-spread financial stress within Australian households looks set to follow.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Australian 10-year bond yields last traded above the trend mean in 2013 when rates were 2.5% or 100 basis points above today’s level. The yield is closing in on the 3% level more in sympathy with US Treasuries than any particular hike in Australian inflation expectations. 



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December 13 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on luxury goods companies

Hello I’ve noted that high level luxury looks pretty bad, but medium level luxury have interesting graphs. Tods Safilo and Luxottica seem to be basing, Tods is high quality but not flashy for example 

Piquadro has stopped going down IT0004240443

Ferragamo I can’t figure out the graph yet but it is to watch as well 

Yoox looks bad to me, the site is awful compared to mytheresa.com 

LVMh has broken out too it seems 

I’m asking because I thought that with the dollar so strong , Asians would lower consumption, buy maybe they are buying less Prada and more sober brands I haven’t figured it out yet I read Dolce and Gabbana are going badly 

Saluti!

 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this thoughtful email and I think it is the right time to be looking at some of Italy’s exporters rather than focusing on the melodrama of politics which is likely to remain tortuous for the foreseeable future. A weaker Euro, or even the remote near-term possibility of a new Florin, both represent bullish potential outcomes for nominal Italian share prices.  



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December 05 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Euro Gains With Stocks as Italy Vote Absorbed in 'Three Minutes"

This article by Eddie Van Der Walt  and Aleksandra Gjorgievska for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The common European currency rose against the dollar even as Italy slid into political limbo after Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s resignation opened the door to fresh elections. The euro earlier fell to its weakest in 20 months. European shares headed for the biggest gain three weeks, while the cost of insuring Italian bank bonds against default jumped. Gold headed for the lowest close since February, Treasury 10-year yields rose to 2.42 percent and a gauge of equity-market volatility slid.

Political risk from Italy hasn’t spread beyond its borders as markets were correctly positioned for the anti-establishment mood sweeping around the world. This was a departure from the Brexit referendum and Donald Trump’s surprise election, when traders were caught out by populist votes.

“After Brexit, it took three days for markets to shake it off, with Trump it took three hours, with Italy it took three minutes,” said Guillermo Hernandez Sampere, head of trading at MPPM EK in Eppstein, Germany. His firm oversees $260 million. “The outcome was not as much of a surprise as many expected it to be -- markets learned their lesson.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Italian decision to vote No on the referendum was widely anticipated with the risk residing in whether a snap election would be called. With that option being swept aside soon after the decision, some of the shorts on the Euro were closed in what is a classic example of “sell the rumour, buy the news”. 



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December 05 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Singapore must remain open, even as rest of world turns inwards: PM Lee

This article from ChannelNewsAsia.com may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The changes around the world will have major consequences especially for small, open countries like Singapore, said Mr Lee. 

“We have always depended on open trade, making friends around the world, looking for opportunities to cooperate with others,” he said. “We have relied on a secure, peaceful Asia, an international order where countries big and small cooperate and compete according to rules which are fair to all; where small countries have a right to their place in the sun.” 

“That is how we have prospered these last 50 years.” 

He added: “Yes, we worked very hard, and earned our success. But we were also very lucky to enjoy this international environment. We attracted foreign investments, negotiated FTAs, worked with other countries, expanded our exports, traded, prospered.” 

But now, said Mr Lee, other countries are flexing their muscles and becoming increasingly assertive. 

“Nobody can tell how relations between the big powers will develop,” he admitted. “If US-China relations grow tense, Singapore is going to be in a very difficult spot, because we regard both as our friends and do not want to have to choose between them.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

As a major centre for asset management and private banking Singapore has no choice but to remain open and neutral, as competition between much larger countries increases. There has been a great deal of internal debate about the role of foreigners in pushing up the price of real estate and the rising cost of living and it is probably these points the PM is referring to in his statement. Negotiating a path forward during what is likely to be a time plagued by higher political uncertainty all over the world is going to take a deft hand and strong governance. Against that background Singapore is in a positive position.  



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December 02 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Food bars for astronauts' most important meal of the day

Thanks to Mrs. Treacy for this article by David Szondy for Gizmag. Here is a section:

The cramped crew capsule hasn't nearly as much room as the ISS, and because it's designed to operate in deep space, its payload weights are much tighter. Still, it needs to carry enough food for the crew as they spend weeks or even months in long-range missions but cannot be resupplied from Earth, nor can it dump its rubbish until it returns home.

To cut down on space and weight, NASA wants astronauts to substitute breakfast for food bars. The bar has to provide enough calories as well as a carefully balanced diet, need no special storage or cooking facilities, and leave no waste beyond its minimal packaging. In addition, it needs to lightweight and have a shelf life of several years.

Commercial breakfast bars are designed for relatively sedate people who have easy access to other foods. There aren't any food bars that meet NASA's requirements and no one wants to use lifeboat rations, so NASA had to take on the task of designing it in house.

What it is working on is a breakfast bar that provides 700 to 900 calories and balanced nutrients to act as a meal substitute. The goal is to provide flavors like orange cranberry or barbecue nut to have enough taste and variety to keep morale high and the astronauts wanting to eat them even after weeks in space – though what the final bars will ultimately look and taste like has yet to be decided.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

We had a good laugh about this story this morning because I’ve been making my own breakfast bars for a year and personally have been very happy with the results. The fact NASA is getting in on the game is a testament to how large the sector for purportedly healthy snack foods has become. 



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December 02 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

People Power Fails to Stem Lira Rout As Erdogan Calls Turks to Action

This article by Isobel Finkel for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The lira has weakened faster than that of any fellow emerging market's this year except Argentina, as a failed coup — and the crackdown that's followed — spooked foreign investors, exacerbating the effects of the stronger dollar that's greeted the election of Donald Trump. 

After a 25 basis point rate hike to the central bank's overnight lending rate last month failed to prevent the rout, clamors for householders to risk their savings have grown. The odds are stacked against them. Turkish central bank data show that banks worldwide trade $17 billion liras every day; a volume which every adult in Turkey would have to change more than a daily $300 dollars to overpower.

Still, the efforts of those fighting the fallout have taken varied forms. While some businesses are rewarding those dumping dollars, farmers in the central Anatolian province of Aksaray staged a symbolic protest at one of the country's largest livestock markets on Wednesday, burning bills "in retaliation at the U.S. and Europe," according to Ihlas news agency. 

“Europe and America now want to realize economically the coup that they failed to carry out with tanks, rifles and F-16s on July 15,” Ihlas cited Hamit Ozkok, chairman of Aksaray Commerce Exchange, as saying. He was referring to the date of the failed putsch earlier this summer, in which hundreds lost their lives. While Erdogan blames a former political ally, Fethullah Gulen, for instigating the coup, the cleric resides in Pennsylvania, and Turkey has sparred with the U.S. about his extradition. Gulen has denied the allegations.

"I think there's a failure to appreciate that some of the rhetoric smacks of desperation," said Paul McNamara, a fund manager at GAM Ltd in London who oversees around $5 billion in assets. He said only a strong increase to central bank borrowing costs can halt the currency's declines.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Local currency five-year bonds yield over 10% while US Dollar denominated bonds yield half that. Brazil’s local currency bonds have a higher yield while its US Dollar debt is lower. Both countries face challenges but Turkey is receiving more attention because it is much less politically stable. 



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November 28 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Holiday Price War Heats Up as Wal-Mart, Target Chase Amazon

This article by Lindsey Rupp and Sarah Very for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“With the lines between traditional brick and mortar and e-commerce continuing to blur, the need to make a big splash during large retail events like Black Friday is significant,” Traci Gregorski, senior vice president of marketing at Market Track, said in an e-mailed statement. “The ease of comparison shopping across channels is creating a situation that puts a definitive advantage in the consumers’ hands.”

Wal-Mart and others also are steering customers toward online deals, rather than just physical stores. While the chain still offers Black Friday specials at its supercenters, the day marks the beginning of a streak of online promotions called “Cyber Week.” Wal-Mart has tripled its e-commerce selection to 23 million products this year, aiming to better compete with Amazon. The world’s largest retailer said in a statement Friday that Thanksgiving was one of its top online-shopping days this year and that about 70 percent of the traffic to its website came from mobile devices.

Target, meanwhile, is offering 15 percent off almost everything in its stores and website for two days: Sunday and Monday. The aggressive discounts come at a cost. When Target slashed prices last holiday season, its profit margin slipped to 27.9 percent from 28.5 percent.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Retail is becoming increasingly competitive but online only companies like Amazon have a distinct advantage relative to those maintaining large brick and mortar locations. Nevertheless, the benefit of a large physical location network is brand awareness; meaning companies have to work less hard to create an online shopping footprint. High competition however is likely to ensure margins continue to compress. 



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November 16 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The dollar, bank leverage and the deviation from covered interest parity

This article by Stefan Avdjiev, Wenxin Du, Catherine Koch for The bank of International Settlements may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Our focus, therefore, is on the banking sector, and the ability of banks to take on
leverage. The key message of our paper is that the value of the dollar plays the role of a barometer of risk-taking capacity in capital markets. In particular, it is the spot exchange rate of the dollar which plays a crucial role. Deviations from CIP turn on the strength of the dollar; when the dollar strengthens, the deviation from CIP becomes larger. To the extent that CIP deviations turn on the constraints on bank leverage, our results suggest that the strength of the dollar is a key determinant of bank leverage.

The cross-currency basis is the difference between the dollar interest rate in the cash market and the implied dollar interest rate from the swap market when swapping foreign currency into dollars. The cross-currency basis measures deviations from the CIP condition. Figure 1 plots the broad dollar index (in red), which is the trade-weighted US dollar exchange rate against its major trading partners. When the red line goes up, the dollar strengthens. The blue line tracks the average cross-currency basis for the ten most liquid currencies vis-à-vis the dollar. We see that the cross-currency basis is the mirror image of dollar strength. When the dollar strengthens, the CIP deviations widen. This is especially so in the last 24 months, reflecting the stronger dollar.

Eoin Treacy's view -

One of the biggest sources of speculation following Donald Trump’s election has been corporate taxes. The USA has one of the most punitive rates in the world and that acts as a headwind domestically and an obstacle to highly successful corporations repatriating overseas profits. If the Republican-led government does indeed succeed in reforming corporate taxes and gives an incentive to large companies to bring their profits home it could have an outsized effect on the Dollar which is why the issues discussed in the above report are important. 



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November 11 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Dollar's Trump-Inspired Surge Sets Off Intervention Across Asia

This article by Narayanan Somasundaram and Lananh Nguyen for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“We are seeing carnage in Asian FX markets,” said Robert Rennie, head of financial markets strategy at Westpac Banking Corp. in Sydney. “It’s providing a very strong reminder that the S&P 500 is not the correct barometer of Trump-driven risk aversion -- it’s Asian currencies.”

And 

Investors are betting Trump will cut taxes, ramp up infrastructure spending to spur economic growth and inflation, triggering Fed rate increases. Traders see an 84 percent probability of a quarter-point hike at the central bank’s December meeting, according to pricing in federal funds futures.

After Trump’s election, benchmark 10-year Treasury yields climbed above 2 percent for the first time since January on speculation the likely spending to spur growth will quicken inflation. Trump’s proposals include pledges to cut taxes and spend as much as $500 billion on infrastructure.

“The market’s tone remains negative on bonds, emerging markets, positive on U.S. stocks and the dollar,” said Nizam Idris, head of foreign-exchange and fixed-income strategy at Macquarie Bank Ltd. in Singapore.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Lower taxes, higher rates and outsized US growth are a powerful siren for US funds to be repatriated. That means the case for investing in emerging markets will have to be even more attractive than normal in order to compete on a risk-adjusted basis. Currency trends are a big part of that. US Dollar investors are less inclined to invest abroad when the currency market is not in their favour. 



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November 09 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Investment ramifications of a Trump Presidency

Eoin Treacy's view -

It was a bruising campaign but with control of all three branches of government the Republican Party now has a relatively unfettered path to introducing a broad range of policy options. The one obstacle of course is that the entrenched bureaucracy in Washington and the various unions are totally opposed to just about any change to the status quo. 

Corporate taxation and the tax code more generally could be up for debate. Securing a budget large enough to make a dent in the deferred maintenance of the USA’s infrastructure is perhaps the clearest ambition of a Trump Presidency. Protectionism is also high on the agenda and the responses of NATO and EU spokespeople to the news was a picture of unease at this new source of uncertainty. Immigration is also likely to be a major topic of conversation for this administration. 

 



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November 08 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Voters could legalize marijuana for quarter of all Americans

This article from Reuters highlights one of the more important decisions to be taken by US voters today. Here is a section:

In California, where medical marijuana has been legal since 1996, a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California showed 55 percent of likely voters supported a ballot initiative that would authorize the state to tax and regulate retail cannabis sales much like it does alcoholic beverages.

That was similar to the numbers favoring legalization from opinion polls in Massachusetts and Maine. Slimmer majorities or pluralities also point to legalization in Arizona and Nevada.

Approval by California alone, America's most populous state with 39 million people, would put nearly a fifth of all Americans living in states where recreational marijuana is legal, according to U.S. Census figures. That number grows to more than 23 percent if all five state measures pass.

Backers of legalized marijuana sales have tried for decades to win support at the ballot box, with little success until the past few years, starting with victories in Colorado and Washington state in 2012.

Experts say the latest initiatives include more sophisticated regulatory mechanisms aimed at keeping cannabis away from children and banning the involvement of criminal gangs and drug cartels. Public opinion has rapidly swung toward favoring legalization.

"It's changed in the minds of these voters from being like cocaine to being like beer," said University of Southern California political scientist John Matsusaka.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Time and again prohibition has been demonstrated as a failed strategy. There are of course very real side effects that result from smoking cannabis and most particularly for young people. The problem for those campaigning against legalisation is proving cannabis has no health supporting effects. Millions of people have personal experience to the contrary and that has helped drive wider acceptable of the plant’s curative properties. This is especially true for ailments modern medicine is not a good fit for such as chronic pain, migraines and posttraumatic stress.



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November 04 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

China Tangshan City Halts Steel Production on Smog

This article by Alfred Cang for Bloomberg may be of interest. Here is a section:

Tangshan, China’s largest steel-making city, orders mills, coking plants, cement and glass industry to halt production because of heavy air pollution, consultant Mysteel says in note Friday.

City halts production in all factories that discharge “volatile organic compounds”

City halts production of coal-fired boilers except ones used for central heating

Suspension starts 3pm local time

City also bans trucks with articulated five axles or more from 6pm. Tangshan is about 180 kilometers east of Beijing

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It’s that time of year again when Beijing is shrouded in smog and when parents really worry whether that lung infection their only child has is ever going to get better. In winter the prevailing wind generally blows from the Northwest. While Tangshan is a major steel and heavy industry hub, it is unlikely to be the only source of pollution since it lies to the east of the city. 

The gradual rationalisation of heavily polluting, inefficient steel production is good news for the global sector because it helps to reduce the overhang of cheap supply coming from China. Clicking through the constituents of the steel section of the Chart Library there is evidence of some steadying following sharp pullbacks last year. 

 



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November 02 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

The World's $49 Trillion Infrastructure Problem May Not Get Solved Anytime Soon

This article Sid Verma may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

An abundance of global savings. Trillions of dollars of negative-yielding bonds. And a bevy of institutional investors hungry for positive, long-dated yields to match their liabilities.

Conditions are ripe for an avalanche of private-sector capital to flow into unlisted infrastructure, turning an industry facing an estimated $49 trillion shortfall into an asset class which, its sponsors say, offers strong cash flows, uncorrelated returns and positive real yields.

58 percent of active investors surveyed in the second quarter of the year by data provider Preqin will invest more than $100 million in unlisted funds over the next 12 months compared to 42 percent who said that in the corresponding period last year, underscoring the increasing allure of alternative assets amid ultra-low yields from more conventional capital-market instruments.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

It’s been a while since there was dynamism in the case for funding infrastructure spending. Part of the reason of course is that the environmental movement is highly active in demonstrating against any energy infrastructure projects, the case for new roads comes up against similar arguments while water and power suffer more than any from not in my backyard (NIMBY) arguments. Added to that has been the reluctance of governments to commit to big projects when their coffers are empty and unfunded liabilities are a constant bugbear. 



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October 31 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Gordhan Wins Reprieve as S. African Prosecutors Drop Charges

This article from Bloomberg News may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The announcement Monday by National Prosecuting Authority head Shaun Abrahams signaled a dramatic turnaround in the legal pursuit against Gordhan, who was under investigation over the early retirement of a former colleague at the national tax agency that resulted in 1.1 million rand ($80,149) of allegedly wasteful expenditure. Gordhan was scheduled to appear in court on Wednesday. He’s still being probed for overseeing the establishment of an allegedly illegal investigative unit when was the head of the revenue service.

Gordhan and two former colleagues “did not have the requisite intention to act unlawfully,” Abrahams told reporters in Pretoria, the capital. “I have decided to overrule the intention to prosecute. I have directed the summonses to be withdrawn with immediate effect.”

Gordhan, 67, has been a key driver of a campaign to maintain South Africa’s investment-grade credit rating, which is up for review over the next two months. He called the allegations a political stitch-up, and he’s clashed with Zuma over the affordability of nuclear power plants the president wants to build, and the management of state companies and the national tax agency.

“It is certainly ratings-positive,” Rian le Roux, chief economist at Old Mutual Investment Group in Cape Town, said by phone. “I still think there is some chance we may get a reprieve. It is fairly evenly balanced as to whether we get a downgrade.

Eoin Treacy's view -

This is a positive development from the perspective of South African institutional governance remaining resilient in the face of quite intense political pressure. The clashes, often public, between Gordhan and Zuma are a healthy sign that a debate is ongoing on how best to manage the largest economy on the continent. It is to be hoped that Zuma’s influence is contained and he loses the next election.



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October 25 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Pimco Sees Legs on Brazil's Rally as the Real Hits a 2016 High

This article by Aline Oyamada for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Pimco’s vote of confidence, albeit with a few cautionary caveats, is helping to reinvigorate investor appetite for a currency that has climbed 28 percent this year. It adds to a string of positive developments in recent weeks that has prompted traders to reassess bets that Brazil’s rally may be over, from President Michel Temer’s success in advancing a spending-cap bill to last week’s rating upgrade for the battered state-run oil giant, Petroleo Brasileiro SA. The central bank signaled Tuesday that it’ll be modest in its quest to lower borrowing costs -- the benchmark rate is 14 percent -- which also supports the real.

“A better-than-expected improvement on the fiscal outlook and the slower-than-expected pace for interest-rate cuts both strengthen Brazilian assets,” said Andres Jaime, a strategist in New York at Barclays Plc. Back in September, “we had a less optimistic outlook.”

In a note on Pimco’s website, emerging market portfolio managers Yacov Arnopolin and Lupin Rahman wrote that Brazil’s high interest rates offer a “decent cushion against potential weakness.” Borrowing dollars to lend in reais has returned 40 percent in a so-called carry trade this year, the most among major currencies.

“The country’s fixed-income assets continue to present compelling opportunities,” they wrote. “With confidence in the government returning, Brazil could be set for a comeback -- one that could restore nominal interest rates to single digits and put credit rating upgrades back on the table.”

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

In a world of close to zero interest rates and where a significant quantity of government debt has negative yields it’s hard to find 14% interest rates in an appreciating currency. Brazil still has a lot of challenges but with commodity prices rebounding and a BIDU new administration, intent of squeezing inflation out of the economy, the outlook for both the currency and asset prices remains positive.  



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October 12 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Thailand King Critical, What happens if he dies?

This article from the South China Morning Post may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Thai monarchy observers said the choice of words stood out from previous official updates on the ailing king’s health. The widely venerated monarch enthroned since 1946 has been out of the public eye in recent years due to a range of health issues including renal failure. The palace has released more frequent updates of his health this year.

Ailing Thai king's health 'not stable' after haemodialysis treatment, palace says
Commentary from within Thailand about the king’s health and succession plans is scarce because of the country’s tough royal defamation laws, which has seen increased usage under the current military government.

“This is an extraordinary statement from the Royal Household Bureau. Usually they try to say something positive, not this time,” said Kevin Hewison, a veteran Thai politics expert who is emeritus professor of Asian Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The Thai king has been a unifying force in a country where political uncertainty has long been a destabilising issue. Proposed elections and a return to civil rule might be delayed should the king die even if the crown prince is expected to take over. 



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October 11 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Email of the day on South Korea

I would like to draw your attention to the 20 year Korean Kospi chart... An explosion waiting to happen ???

Eoin Treacy's view -

Thank you for this question and I displayed a number of long-term charts in the big picture long-term audio / video on Friday. A number of Asian markets are in very long-term ranges and some are testing their long-term highs so I agree it is a good time to ask a question whether they represent explosions waiting to happen now or perhaps later?



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October 05 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

All eyes on the spending cap

Thanks to a subscriber for this note from Deutsche Bank focusing on the Brazilian market. Here is a section:

Speaking at the Senate Economic Committee on Tuesday, BCB President Ilan Goldfajn. Goldfajn repeated several statements that had already been published in the central bank’s Inflation Report last week, reaffirming the intention of making inflation converge to the 4.5% target in 2017. Goldfajn also repeated the remarks published in the Inflation Report about the three conditions for the authorities to initiate an easing cycle (namely limited persistence of food price shock, disinflation of IPCA components, and lower uncertainty about the fiscal adjustment implementation). The Goldfajn, however, added that the BCB “does not have a pre-established timetable for monetary easing,” as the COPOM decision will depend on several factors, including inflation expectations and forecasts. This comment suggests that the BCB has not yet made a final decision to cut rates, perhaps because market inflation expectations for 2017 have not converged to the 4.1% target yet. Despite Goldfajn’s cautious remarks, we still expect the COPOM to cut the SELIC rate by 25bps at the next meeting later this month.

Eoin Treacy's view -

A link to the full report is posted in the Subscriber's Area.

Brazil has a number of challenges facing the economy not least corruption and the low standards of governance in its state institutions which have contributed to low approval ratings for the government regardless of who is in power. Controlling inflation will be one of the key tests from an international perspective because of the impact that would have on the currency. 



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October 05 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

October 04 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

U.K. Stock Gauges Hit Simultaneous Highs 1st Time Since '99

This article by Aleksandra Gjorgievska for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section: 

“It’s not just the FTSE 100 -- this is a buy U.K. phenomenon,” said Alan Higgins, chief investment officer at Coutts & Co. in London. His firm oversees 14.6 billion pounds ($19 billion). “We have a really nice combination of sterling weakness, reasonably robust economy and generally not a bad environment for risk assets.”

The FTSE 100 and the FTSE 250 climbed 1.8 percent at 3:06 p.m. in London, while the FTSE Small Cap excluding investment trusts index advanced 1.7 percent.

The falling pound is helping the three gauges because their members get a big chunk of their revenues from overseas -- almost three-quarters for FTSE 100 companies, and about half for those on the FTSE 250, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. and UBS Group AG. JPMorgan Asset Management has estimated the measure of smaller shares also gets about half of its sales from abroad.

The pound fell to its lowest level since 1985 on Tuesday, surpassing the bottom reached following the June 23 vote, after three senior figures in Prime Minister Theresa May’s administration said financial-services companies will get no special favors in secession talks. That increased concern that the nation is heading for an exit that would restrict access to the EU’s single market. May said on Sunday she will trigger the process of leaving the bloc by the end of March, which will mark the formal start of a two-year negotiation process.

Recent data have reinforced optimism that the domestic economy is weathering the aftermath of the vote. The construction industry unexpectedly grew in September, while a manufacturing gauge jumped to its highest level in more than two years. A Citigroup Inc. index tracking economic surprises in Britain is near a three-year high, and the International Monetary Fund upgraded its outlook for the nation, predicting growth of 1.8 percent this year from the 1.7 percent projected in July.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

With the weekend announcement that the UK government is planning to begin negotiating to leave the EU in Q1 2017, and to a large extent signalling it is willing to risk the passporting rights of the City’s financial services companies, a high stakes period of brinksmanship is unfolding. That is putting pressure on the Pound and it extended its downtrend today by breaking to a new low. While a short-term oversold condition is evident a clear upward dynamic would be required to check the slide and signal of low of near-term significance.



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October 04 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Australia Stands Pat on Rates as Commodity Rebound Gathers Pace

This article by Michael Heath for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Lowe’s key challenge -- like many of his developed world counterparts -- is generating inflation; part of that involves trying to tame a currency that’s up more than 10 percent in around nine months. The Aussie’s revival, even if partly justified by a jump in iron ore and coal prices and a better outlook for key trading partner China, puts pressure on services industries that are key growth drivers for the post-mining boom economy.

The new governor offered insights to his strategy in the RBA’s renewed agreement with the government, stressing financial stability concerns as part of monetary policy. The risk of further stoking Sydney’s housing boom should discourage him from further cuts, especially as the economy grew an annual 3.3 percent last quarter and unemployment has fallen to 5.6 percent amid rising terms of trade, or export prices compared to import prices.

Coking coal prices have surged more than 150 percent this year as output from China, the world’s biggest miner, tumbles under government pressure to cut overcapacity. Iron ore, Australia’s biggest export, has rebounded 30 percent, though analysts are skeptical about the rally’s durability. Still, the jump in prices for Australia’s biggest exports is a boon for the economy and a government struggling to rein in its budget deficit.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

The recovery in commodity prices from depressed levels at the end of last year has been a benefit to just about all commodity exporters. Australia’s dependence of some of the major resources China’s economy requires not least  iron-ore, coal and natural gas means that the rebound in all three has been a major influence on the advance in the stock market this year. 



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October 03 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Donald Trump Is Handing a Windfall to Mexican Immigrant Families

This article by Isabella Cota for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

Data shows Mexicans are sending more dollars back home than they have in years, a surge explained in part by the rush to take advantage of the attractive exchange rate. What’s more, some experts even believe that more Mexicans could eventually be tempted to cross into the U.S. in search of work if the peso remains at these levels for months to come.

“If you’re saving to buy a house or have a big expense coming up,” said Carlos Vargas-Silva, an economist with Oxford University’s Migration Observatory, “this is the moment” to ship back the money.

Lozano understands that part, of course. Like most Mexicans here, he follows the peso’s fluctuations closely and has been scrambling of late to repatriate every dollar he can. Some weeks, he sends as much as $200, double what he used to. That’s part of the reason his wife has had so much extra spending money. He just hadn’t realized that it was Trump that was triggering those swings in the peso.

It plunged to a record low of 19.93 per dollar early last week before recovering some of its losses as Trump’s campaign showed signs of faltering weeks before the November vote. Investors worry that if elected, Trump would try to seize migrant remittances; or force American manufacturers to close plants in Mexico and re-open them at home (he’s called out Ford Motor Co. and Carrier Corp. on this point); or wind up accidentally weakening the U.S. economy, the buyer of four-fifths of all Mexican exports.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

MXN 20 represents a psychological resistance level for the Dollar and some consolidation of its impressive rally is now underway. Nevertheless, a sustained move below the trend mean would be required to question the medium-term uptrend. The fact that the Dollar has been trending higher against the Peso since 2014 highlights the fact that while Donald Trump’s antagonistic rhetoric may have been a factor in the currency’s recent strength it is far from the only challenge facing the economy. 



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September 28 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

France unlikely to achieve 2017 deficit target: fiscal watchdog

This article from Reuters may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

"Based on the information at its disposal, (the HCFP) considers as uncertain that the nominal deficit will be brought to less than 3 percent of GDP in 2017," it said in a report issued as Hollande's government prepares to publish its 2017 budget on Wednesday.

Finance Minister Michel Sapin dismissed the watchdog's concerns, saying that it was skeptical every year and yet the deficit targets had been met.

"I therefore reaffirm the seriousness of the budget and the government's determination to bring the deficit to less than 3 percent in 2017," Sapin said in a statement.

Paris hopes to rebuild its fiscal credibility with its European partners by targeting a deficit of 2.7 percent of GDP for 2017, the lowest in a decade and under the EU's limit of 3 percent.

A serial offender of the EU's fiscal rules, France has delayed bringing its deficit below 3 percent several times under both Socialist and center-right governments in recent years.

EU Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, who in effect polices government finances to ensure they are living up to their promises, said he expected France to get the deficit below the 3 percent threshold next year.

"I think it's possible," Moscovici, a former finance minister in Hollande's first government, said in an interview with L'Opinion newspaper.

France's fiscal watchdog said government forecasts for 1.5 percent GDP growth this year and next were optimistic, noting they were higher than what most private sector economists expected.
"The government's growth outlook, which is based on a number of favorable assumptions, does not display the caution necessary to best meet public finance targets and commitments," it said. 

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

More than any other country France exemplifies that within the EU there is one set of rules for large countries and quite another for smaller ones. If any smaller country had failed to adjust its fiscal deficits in the same way that France has it would have come under severe scrutiny from the EC, ECB and possibly even the IMF. Yet for France there has been no such talk despite the fact it has been a serial offender. 



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September 27 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Iger's Legacy at Stake in Possible Disney Deal for Twitter

This article by Christopher Palmeri for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The 65-year-old chairman and chief executive officer of Walt Disney Co. is scheduled to retire in June 2018. He’s already achieved a number of milestones, including Disney’s revival of the “Star Wars” film series and the opening in June of the company’s $5.5 billion Shanghai resort. But one issue bedevils him and most other media executives: how to transition to a world where mobile devices, not TV screens, dominate news and entertainment.

The question underscores Disney’s interest in Twitter Inc. The Burbank, California-based company has hired an investment bank to advise on a possible Twitter merger, Bloomberg News reported Monday. A deal would unite the world’s largest entertainment company, the home of ABC, ESPN and Mickey Mouse, with the technology pioneer that created the 140-character tweet. It could let Iger leave knowing he’s given Disney a big presence in digital media and advertising.

“That would be his final stamp on Disney,” said Tim Galpin, a professor of management at Colorado State University and co- author of “The Complete Guide to Mergers and Acquisitions.” “If he could get that behind him, he could walk off with a final major success story.”

Twitter, whose co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey sits on the Disney board, has already been dipping his toes in live sports, airing National Football League’s night games. That’s a business that Disney, the parent of the leading sports TV network ESPN, knows well and that clearly intrigues Iger

Eoin Treacy's view -

The acquisition and successful reboot of Star Wars coupled with the opening of the Shanghai resort were major successes for Disney. However that does not obscure the fact that the company’s broadcasting and cable divisions represent almost half of revenues and face challenges from interlopers like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube. These challenges have yet to be addressed. 



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September 22 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

EU Banks May Need Rescue Funds Equaling Twice ECB Capital

This article by Boris Groendahl for Bloomberg may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

The Brussels-based SRB, the resolution authority for 142 banks including Deutsche Bank AG and BNP Paribas SA, will use the minimum capital requirement set by the European Central Bank as a proxy for capital that would be needed to absorb losses in a crisis, Koenig said in an interview this month. The ECB last year set an average requirement for the highest-quality capital of 9.9 percent of risk-weighted assets.

Requiring banks to have at least that same amount again in loss-absorbing liabilities will ensure that they can recapitalize themselves quickly after restructuring, Koenig said. This minimum requirement of own funds and eligible liabilities, or MREL, is calculated at the “30,000-foot level,” and more precise levels tailored to each bank will follow after the ECB sets new capital requirements and changes are made to capital, bank-failure and insolvency rules, she said.

“We want to avoid confusing the markets by saying, this is our decision this year, knowing that it will be different next year,” Koenig said. “So we take an indicative step this year. For next year, we hope that some of the dust has settled.

Eoin Treacy's view -

When reading about the increasingly high obstacle of regulation, higher and higher capital requirements for banks and stricter requirements for what constitutes Tier 1 capital I am put in mind of the adage that “generals are always fighting the last war.” These are policies that would have been appropriate before the crisis in order to mitigate risks. They represent a barrier to lending activity today that deters banks from acting as liquidity providers, regardless of where short-term interest rates are set. 



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September 22 2016

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

California's legal marijuana market is on the verge of exploding

This article by Ben Gilbert for Business insider may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

We're not talking about de-criminalization, or police de-prioritization.

We're talking about alcohol-style regulation and sale of marijuana to adults, age 21 and up. We're talking about legally allowed personal cultivation, state/local taxation of retail sales/distribution, and re-evaluation of sentences/records for people charged with marijuana offenses.
We're talking about outright, full-on legalization of marijuana. And in the world's sixth largest economy, that means billions of dollars. 

If California's Proposition 64 passes on November 8, and sales begin by January 1, 2018, California's looking at an additional $1.5 billion flooding into the marijuana market. That number swells to just shy of $3 billion in 2019, and nearly $4 billion by 2020, based on the latest report from New Frontier Data and ArcView Market Research.

And to be clear, that's on top of the already booming medical marijuana market — the total size of the cannabis market would reach $4.27 billion in 2018, and would grow to $6.45 billion by 2020.
The ballot initiative has overwhelming support in California: Over 60% of respondents support Prop. 64, compared to just 34% opposed, according to Ballotpedia's average of polls.

 

Eoin Treacy's view -

Evidence from companies like GW pharmaceuticals and others means that the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) assertion cannabis is a Schedule 1 narcotic with no medical use and a high probability for misuse is looking increasingly outdated. Arguments for full legalisation go a step further and promote the view cannabis is no more dangerous for consenting adults than alcohol. Considering the damage abuse of alcohol is capable of that’s not a particularly high barrier. 



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