Twilight in your pants

This is not about medication, or even about flaccidness (other than the flaccidness of the economy or politicians for that matter). No this is about changes, about the need for governments to do a lot more than wake up, because that knock on your door is no one else but the grim reaper informing you that time is up, with the additional request to follow him into the next room.

Yes, this sounds like drama and entertainment, but it is not. At present, the changes that will hit us can impact our retirement funds, they will hit our lifestyle and it will most definitely hit the cost of our living. All elements of a situation I send warning about. So now we read ‘US stock markets take a major fall as Dow reaches lowest level since August‘, where (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/15/us-stock-markets-fall-dow-oil-prices-china), the quote “the Standard & Poor’s 500, the index of America’s biggest companies, falling 2.2%” might give view that there is not a large event going on, but that is alas not the case. The two quotes “the markets’ decline has put “a negativity across the economy, a negativity to every CEO looking at his or her stock price, a negativity about business”. He also warned that the oil price, which on Friday settled below $30 for the first time in 12 years, could fall as far as $25 a barrel or lower” as well as “We’ll probably have to test the markets lower, and I think when we test the markets lower it’s going to be a pretty good buying opportunity”. These two give view that waves are coming, but when we look at the reality of any market and any season, there will be indications that sometimes those markets are up and sometimes they are down. So why exactly is this a big issue?

Well, that part is seen in “The falling oil price and disappointing retail sales data released on Friday have pushed back expectations of when the Federal Reserve will next increase interest rates“, yet the question is, was this all about the oil, or is this about the hidden text, the mere mention ‘disappointing retail sales data‘, which in a long down economy should not be a real surprise. The text “retail sales declined in December to make 2015 the worst year for US shops since 2009“, as well as “retail sales dropped 0.1% compared to November” was set in two separate paragraphs as to confuse the reader with a half sentence, but consider that November preceding the shopping needs for Christmas was 0.1% higher, this gives a clear part of the problem, because consider all those temp workers, with economy that bad, how can they hold on to their jobs? Their bosses cannot be blamed here. This is about an economy that had been ‘spiced’ up in reports and then failed to deliver. Something that we all should have seen coming.

The second story confirming all this namely ‘Wall Street plunges after poor US manufacturing and retail sales‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/blog/live/2016/jan/15/oil-prices-slide-back-towards-30-heading-for-10-weekly-loss-business-live), gives more information. Now I’ll add the quote “On Wall Street, the Dow shed more than 400 points, a drop of 2.3%, and the Nasdaq is nearly 120 points off, a 2.7% decline. The FTSE 100 index is down 2.1%, France’s CAC is off 2.8% and Germany’s Dax has lost nearly 3%” but I’ll ignore it for the moment, you see when we see “We now estimate that real consumption growth was a disappointing 1.5% to 2% annualized in the fourth quarter, with overall GDP growth at an even weaker 1%“, which comes from Steve Murphy, US economist at Capital Economics. So, Mr Murphy, which part of a weak economy, people out of jobs, people forced to work two jobs to get above the poverty level, what did you expect them to do? Ignore their hardship, whilst they realise that bills are due a mere week after Christmas? Neil Saunders from retail consultants Conlumino adds to that conundrum by adding “A relatively weak product line up in electricals failed to capture consumer interest, resulting in a sales decline of around 3.5% in December; and although sales picked up the latter end of the month, clothing also put in a lackluster performance thanks to warmer than average weather“, so he is stating (considering the group mentioned earlier, a group that impacts well over 15% of the US population, in addition, the group that is somewhere between 25% and 30% is just getting by. That gives us close to 50% of the population, do you actually think that these people are interested in an Electrical product line? Did you not consider that well over 50% of the US population is not interested in a new 3D TV, but will find whatever cheap option available, in addition, if the current TV is working, they will try to skip it for a year. Did you not consider that? As for the fashion part, the fact that it was also US’s wettest December on record is ignored, so those people did not pay for things like coats, boots and so on? Umbrella’s perhaps?

So even though it is not the coldest one, it might not have stopped a collection of ladies to buy something for the Christmas occasion, they would still have needed clothes, perhaps your consideration is off?

You see, these people project and make conjectures based on flawed data sets, in addition, as they make the call for needs that might be, they are ignoring the needs that actually are. A functioning economy being the first part of it. In all this the UK is not outside of the scope either. This we see in the third article called ‘Bank of England bans two former Co-op Bank chiefs from top City jobs‘, the article (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/jan/15/bank-of-england-bans-co-op-bank-barry-tootell-keith-alderson-top-city-jobs). These three articles were not randomly chosen. Let me add the following quotes “Two former bankers at the Co-operative Bank have been banned by the Bank of England from holding senior positions in the City after being found to have posed an unacceptable threat to the company’s financial position“, we also get “The Bank is fining Barry Tootell, a former Co-op Bank chief executive, £173,802, and Keith Alderson, who ran the corporate and business banking division, £88,890“. Which might leave us with the thought that a fine was given, so what is the hustle?

That we get from “Banks that are not well governed have the potential to pose a threat to UK financial stability. The actions of Mr Tootell and Mr Alderson posed an unacceptable threat to the safety and soundness of the Co-op Bank, which is why we have decided a prohibition is appropriate in these cases”, which sounds awesome and in that, similar steps should have been taken against many others for amounts many times higher than those mentioned. Yet, what is still the issue?

Well part of it is seen here “It cites moves by him to change bad debt charges, which in one instance which had the effect of maintaining the bonus pool“, which is an issue to one end, yet the other part “The Co-op Bank has already taken steps under previous rules to withdraw £5m of bonuses from a number of employees and there is no prospect of clawing back any more bonuses“, you see these things happen and as such there will be consequences. The final quote “The Bank of England did not find Tootell or Alderson deliberately or recklessly breached the rules and did not make findings of dishonesty or lack of integrity in issuing the bans and fines”, gives us the issues to work with. So as stated, the quote “the potential to pose a threat to UK financial stability” is now at hand, because even as those two had senior positions, they still reported to others, they reported to a board of members at the very least. The two might have been fined £261K, but how much in bonuses have they acquired?

That issue can be seen in the first part as stated earlier “did not find Tootell or Alderson deliberately or recklessly breached the rules and did not make findings of dishonesty or lack of integrity“, so if that is not the case, why would there be an issue? If there was no deliberate or reckless, than why are they held to account? There were no guilty parties? So those two are either patsies, or they have the goods on multiple others and they are ‘let off’ with a possible bonus option down the line. In all this we see a few issues. The first, as I see it is that pushing two people out is merely a hollow gesture. Which also connects to the US, as given in “to pose a threat to UK financial stability“. You see if that is true and these small fish are indeed a danger, why are the big fish not acted against? Someone hired these two and mentored (and hopefully monitored) these two. The fact that they are merely ‘senior’ also implies that there are a few involved members that they reported to, are they not bigger threats?

The article ends with “the current management team continues to progress the turnaround, having raised additional capital, achieved considerable de-risking and improved brand metrics“, so how much of a risk does Co-Op remain to be. More important, why is a market research metric an issue here? You see ‘improved brand metrics’ sounds nice, but how much does it matter in the scheme of things? We all accept that brand metrics matter, yet in this light, is this truly about ‘branding’? Perhaps this is about the issue of ‘de-risking’ which also impacts branding, but de-risking is all about the bank not becoming the next ocean floater. So are we misinformed? Yes, we are, but embossing was never really illegal (it is the existence of marketing).

In this, the press has little blame, it is what they are told and as such, in this case, I am not having a go at the Press. What is partially the issue is that these articles are at the foundation of things that have been known, issues that are set or expected, but in all this, the governments and their over optimistic reporting has not led to serious questions and questioning by the press either, which is an issue and remains to be so. That part is now gaining visibility when we see that two senior executives are banned with the reasoning ‘a threat to UK financial stability‘, I am not stating that this is not the case, but the fact that two individuals can have this strong an impact is equal worry on how the banks high executives could have allowed for such risks to remain in place, moreover, the fact that this is done to these two, why are their bosses not mentioned or part of the conversation as to what is regarded to be ‘a threat to UK financial stability‘? That part is clearly missing.

This now reflects back to the US.

For this we need to take an academic step back in time (see the TARDIS on your right). On August 19th 1988 Richard B. McKenzie wrote ‘The Twilight of Government Growth in a Competitive World Economy‘. Initially he focuses on “Technology is gradually eroding the monopoly power of government and is thereby reducing people’s incentive to control governments (or the people who run them). This is the case because the capital in capital-ism is becoming far more elusive and far more difficult to control–by governments“, so we see a view that in 1988 someone reported on the dangers on how technologies might enable big business, but will cause erosion within governments. Simply stated, most governments are confronted with the twilight in their pants, flaccid and to some even regarded as redundant. His paper is more about the impact on technology, but there are a few gems that have been ignored by spokespeople and reporters at large. The quote “Democratic governments are necessarily constrained by the rules of politics. For example, these rules require that a majority of the voting representatives approve fiscal and regulatory policies. Rules of democracy also force politicians to face periodic elections and to be held accountable, within limits, for what they do. If politicians raise taxes and expand business regulations, they have to consider the possibility of being turned out of office“, might be accepted as a mere fact, yet consider ‘voting representatives approve fiscal and regulatory policies‘ and ‘the possibility of being turned out of office‘. Now we get the issue that has been playing for almost a decade. By not approving fiscal and regulatory policies politicians could stretch their time in office. So, is my premise correctly, by stating that acting has consequences, does the inaction guarantees the opposite? Proving one is not a premise for proving the other, yet in all this, we see the elements of the economy that has been plaguing the people since 2005. Now consider the following: “In general, a growing number of policymakers see a need to make America ‘competitive’ again, mainly by releasing government constraints on capital and income“, here I am not in agreement. Actually I am, providing that accountability will be taken into account and as such accountability will become a massive part in the change we require. Here we see the link towards the UK, the banning sounds nice, but until what extent? How can some be ‘punished’ whilst we see stated that they never deliberately or recklessly breached the rules? Which might be a discussion for another day.

So where do I stand?

Is this the case that these events are mere flickers of the light? This remains an option, we are all fixated on the US and their 18 trillion debt, the UK has a trillion and small change in debt and both are realising that they have degraded their populations as upcoming slave labourers for whomever holds onto those debt slips. I admit that this sounds ludicrous, but is it that far-fetched? Consider the loans you have, ALL your loans, now consider the loans your government has, and now consider what happens when they default. Do you think that things remain the same? No, your loans will now suddenly be adjusted due to risk and you will end up with an additional 2%-10% (there is no way knowing of how much you will face). Now, some will state that default is an illusion and that the no government will default. Really? How long until we all realise that Greece can no longer be saved? They call it ‘debt forgiveness‘, but it remains a default. Carmen Reinhart is Professor of the International Financial System at Harvard seems to be trivialising it in an article, as I see it (at http://www.afr.com/opinion/signs-of-sovereign-debt-default-loom-20160110-gm2s05), we see quotes like “creditors may be overstating its potential external impacts“, which might have been true in the past, but we see little regard on the impact of the Euro when Greece defaults. There is no way it will not impact. The bulk of the Euro nations are so deep in debt that these hundreds of billions will impact them. I reckon the day that happens it will not be a good day to be a Greek outside of Greece. These issues are elements of a needed change. We need to make big changes and they will have to start this year. Every year that changes are delayed means that less people will have any options down the road. It is the direct and pragmatic approach to triage in an economic environment. There are no shortcuts to resolving any of this. There is only the harsh reality of changes, legislative, regulatory, procedural and then operational. It can only be done if all are aligned in that same goal, which implies that politicians should be left out of it (even though that is not a reality). The action by the bank of England might be a first spark, yet it is a spark that might go nowhere, if you doubt this then contemplate Tesco v Pricewaterhouse Coopers [2015], when exactly did that happen?

We need change, massive change, it was stated by many, not just me, but when will it come?

Here is the crux of the danger we face, whatever change we need, it needs to be implemented by politicians, all fearing the flaccid twilight in their pants. In France Marine Le Pen is trying to force change, to give France to the French, this scared Hollande and Sarkozy to the extent that they collaborated in a coalition, just to keep any victory away from Le Pen. Consider that part, two political opponents collaborating BEFORE the election, regarding who will win. That is what nations face. In my view that action was not about the good of France, that was about keeping the status Quo for big financial behemoths like Natixis, one of many who would lose out on billions when change happens. So as we see we need change, we are confronted with the people who have, as I see it too many self-interests at play, how can this ever go right? In that same way we have Nigel Farage in the UK. Here the UK has an advantage as the Conservatives have been trying to get the damage down as much as possible. It has been a bumpy ride for them, but there is progress, even as the waters seem to work against them, the UK is moving with many more options than the US or Japan has. The other Euro players (those with the Euro) are nervous, their nervousness increasing every day and faster as we see the back set by markets. In that regard, other nations have their own issues that are pushing things down. The Dutch pensions have breached solvency levels. They are below the required 105% levels, some have it as low as 101% and one even at 99%. They are facing the issue of combined value of pension assets fell by £6 billion, rising bond yields reduced the total liability by £20 billion. How will those be further impacted with the economic forecasts as they are diminishing and even further when those who invested in government debts see that the first one, Greece can no longer pay them! What do you think will happen? Are these just bad panic mongering words?

Can we perhaps consider that as events of the last few years have unfurled the way I expected, when they did not (as some did), we only saw a mere setback in the critical timeline, only to see these events come again with a much higher need for funds. In all this many forgot about Norway and their dwindling profits. As their wealth was oil and oil went from price X, to price X/4, their deficit went through the roof. Norway started to use their oil funds to plug their deficits. A story that got to Bloomberg, but did not get the visibility it should have had, because it gives us another nation that is not able to pull its own weight. I do not mean that in too bad a way, only in the realisation that the nations that have an economy where its governments have correctly budgeted for the year has now been reduced to less than 5, it is a stretch that Greece can topple the EEC, there is however the issue that the pressure from Greece will reduce the error margin of Italy and France to 0%, which is really a bad thing.

So will politicians remain flaccid admiring the twilight in their pants for the neediness of their own future, or will we finally see the first drastic legislative changes we need to charge up a start to regulatory changes?

 

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