It was not a pretty picture this morning. The Australian deficit is about to be blown clearly out of the waters surrounding it. Yes, there was nothing wrong with the initial assessment that Australian would no longer be in the red before 2016. The plan was bold, it was feasible and after the Australian Labor party had blown its spending in the hundreds of billions, from a 57 billion debt, Australian Labor blew the national debt and grew it in excess of 250 billion, in addition, the forward spending spree by Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard would give the Liberals a 600 billion headache, and it is a firm headache, which is about to get a lot worse.
Whether we see it as politics, treason or just incompetence, the Labour government seems to have played an intentional game of silencing certain contracts. It is my view that there is not possible, that after only 3 weeks into the liberal government that the car industry decided to just walk away. This was planned all along and they played nice with the Labor party for the view of whatever benefit game was played. So the Liberals ended up with massive invoices and bills that Labor should never have spent, but this is not about that, this is about a second game that has been in commencement. It has been played for a little longer that the Liberals have been at the helm, but in that instance, I will state that neither party is to blame. This is not political; this is political management of another nature.
For the second game I need to take a little detour to the 80’s. When I grew up in the Netherlands, more specifically Rotterdam, I was all about harbours, ships and engineering. My work with IT systems in the harbours gave me an interesting edge. I had access, I was busy all day programming new container solutions in Clipper and I dealt with cargo of several natures. One of the things I used to see on a daily basis was an enormous mountain of iron ore. It was meant for Germany, yet at times that mountain would not shrink; it would grow and grow and grow. In those days it made no sense to me, little did I know!
Now we get back to today, the current administration is about to bleed out no less than 20 billion for the simple reason that revenue of iron has gone down 40%, not that less is produced, no, iron is worth a lot less now. So, to get even, Australia needs to ship 250%, which is not an option. So why sell it at all? Now we get to an interesting article in the Sydney Morning Herald (at http://www.smh.com.au/business/price-drop-signals-the-end-of-the-iron-ore-age-20140912-10fxr7.html), we see here that the initial rise and fall was all in the previous government, there is also a clear view that not only is this rise temporary, the overall trend shows that the previous government had a lucky break (and still overspend by close to half a trillion), yet the current government is not innocent either as their view on iron revenue should have been downgraded by at least 20%, which would have lessened the impact. Neither is to blame, but also, neither is innocent here. So as we see the solution, we need to worry what will come next?
This is where it gets to be dodgy; it is sheer speculation in my side. I think that someone is playing chipmunk here. I think that a mountain is created using all manners of non-taxation and then they will sell it all off at a massive profit when iron price suddenly makes an upturn. Between March 2010 and April 2010, the price went from 139.77 to 172.47. Even though such a jump is not conceivable, the fact is that if housing improved only a little, iron prices will grow again and it is a global market, so as one person needs more, iron will do better again. so buying and storing when prices are down, transferring to a foreign account and then selling as prices bounce back, will yield massive profits for those non-taxable entities. Is it true? No, it is speculation (from my side), yet we have seen similar acts before, so it is not inconceivable, in addition, the Australian government is bleeding deficits fast, and they are amounting to serious amounts within the next three months.
This part is all on the Liberal side, it is not their fault, but they will need to amend their budgets and forecasts accordingly. And it is not just Australia, the UK has similar issues, yet not to the same extent, but the pressure is there too. The UK will take a 30 billion dive, which is a sizeable amount. This all beckons, why were predictions not made a little less enthusiastically? You don’t skin the bastard until it is dead (and very healthy for the poacher seeking crocs). This again shows the need to take a better look at how certain items are anticipated and budgeted. If you doubt that part, then ask George Osborne and Joe Hockey on how many complications those billions bring and it is not the only worry, because there is a second downside. Whoever has these current mountains of ore, they do have a firm grip on driving prices high soon enough, then what will we do?
So, when did I see this before? Well, that is the fun part; I saw it happen around 1989, when the prices went up a little (16%) form $12 to $14. Yes a mere $2. It becomes an interesting view when we look at the data form the last 30 years. The entire mountain of increase and decrease started pretty much in December 2003, when the price was $13.82. From there it would shoot up to almost $178 (2011), now if it is going back to its foundation price. Why was this not better investigated? How come that a commodity is driven up by 1369%? The final part we see in the Economist (at http://www.economist.com/node/21564559). The quote “In the longer term, overall iron-ore demand will grow as China’s march to urbanisation goes on. Demand in the rich world may be drooping, but Wood Mackenzie, a consultancy, says steel consumption will not peak in China until 2026“. Is that a given? When we consider the site macro business with the article ‘Chinese Iron production is booming‘ (at http://www.macrobusiness.com.au/2014/08/chinese-iron-ore-production-is-booming/), we see the question I had in my mind. “The one question that nobody in the iron ore sector (or Australia more generally for that matter) dare ask is what if Chinese iron ore production does not close as Australian miners ramp up output. The reason nobody asks it is that the outcome will be calamitous“.
It comes down to, why should China import? They have cheap labour and resources, and they have iron (at http://www.srk.com.au/en/newsletter/focus-iron-ore/iron-mineral-deposits-and-projects-peoples-republic-china), so why import when they can become a supplier themselves. It is not inconceivable that Australian iron moguls like BHP, Fortesque, Rio Tinto and Hancock will see a decline in numbers. There is no way to tell whether it will return to pre 90’s prices, but if China gets their own iron and their demand for it goes down by 70% or more, the hard news hitting us now will be nothing compared to the bash we get when an industry of 250,000 miners will shed part of their people. We thought the car industry was a nightmare, well; consider that under current conditions if 40% less minerals are needed, we might see the shedding of 100,000 people, a level of bad news Australia has never faced before.
Even though Australia mines a lot more than just Iron, the metal impact could be harshly felt in 2015, if the situation does not improve.