Unprecedented polling lead for GOP

It's almost as if we're heading towards an unprecedented low (since the Great Depression) in social mood, what with the extreme poll results.

GOP Takes Unprecedented 10-Point Lead on Generic Ballot

I don't know how effective the generic ballot poll is today, as many polls have lost their predictive ability. It's a simple mathematical formula if it has any predictive ability though—the Republicans had a 5% edge in 1994. If I were betting, I'd place money on the most extreme outcomes, for example I predict that Sharron Angle will unseat Harry Reid.

Good thing I didn't change all my money into yuan

The renminbi is falling:
Yuan Set for Biggest Monthly Drop Since 1994 as Economy Slows
The yuan is headed for its biggest monthly loss since January 1994, after China’s government sought to support economic growth and the U.S. currency rallied.

The yuan has declined 0.5 percent so far this month, trimming gains since the central bank ended a two-year dollar peg on June 19 to 0.3 percent. The dollar index, which IntercontinentalExchange Inc. uses to track the greenback against the currencies of six major trading partners, gained 2 percent this month.

I've covered this topic or linked to articles arguing for a weaker yuan, including (most recent on top):
The yuan can drop
Yuan may begin moving again
Weaker yuan argument reaching wider audience
Perfect time for RMB to depreciate
Weak yuan arguments growing



This is why some of the world's top investors have been buying up farmland.


Euro short positions growing

and the euro is tumbling right along with it. Note that short positions are still smaller than when the euro started sliding at the start of the year.


Not long now...

Read the full commentary behind this graph at Consumer Metrics Institute. The next GDP figure comes out before the election and it's looking to be terrible. Believe it or not, if you click through and read the report, 2008 was actually a V-shaped recovery for the consumer (you can see it in the chart above). This time, the deterioration has been growing worse over time. So much for the government and Fed interventions.

Beat Whitey Night

Socionomics predicts a rise in racial tensions.

An unorthodox China play

China to US: Send more smackdowns

WWE stock hasn't been performing well, but China's been on the company's radar.


Countdown to collapse

The fun begins in November, following the U.S. election. Which party will seize the trade issue, or will both parties fall apart as members break their separate ways? The "far" left and right have their own complaints about global trade and international organizations and an "unholy" alliance against the center is not impossible to imagine.

Here's Michael Pettis on The last chance to avoid a global trade war
But global trade must balance. The rest of the world will have to absorb, with rising trade deficits, the combination of rising surpluses among surplus champions and declining deficits in trade-deficit Europe. Given its openness and financial flexibility, the US will, in practice, absorb most of the adjustment, its trade deficit rising inexorably – until Congress implements vigorous anti-trade policies. The US lacks the industrial, currency intervention and interest-rate management policies available to the main trade-surplus countries, and so will be forced to use other forms of trade protection – tariffs and import quotas.

This should not be allowed to happen. Instead of supporting policies that shift the adjustment elsewhere, the other main economies must agree to absorb a large share of the European shock. If they do not, they will force the US to retaliate. It is up to the surplus countries to ensure their urgent dependence on foreign demand does not result in a collapse in the willingness of deficit countries to continue providing that demand.

Perhaps it is already too late. Trade-deficit Europe has no choice but to adjust quickly. Opposition from uncomprehending domestic constituencies in the trade-surplus champions will prevent them from taking steps to adjust. Meanwhile, US anger over trade is rising quickly and has made bashing foreigners an easy and obvious vote-getter.
The world is approaching the event horizon. The decision tree of possible choices is collapsing into the present and financial markets are moving into extreme pricing conditions. Conflict will erupt at the "worst moment" because social mood is driving the system; investors, voter and politicians will become increasingly emotional as the social mood overwhelms them.


Australia's snap election

After Kevin Rudd went down in flames over the mining tax, Julia Gillard stepped in and quickly made plans for a new election. She was smart to move swiftly because had she waited another month, her party would likely be in the minority. Instead, Australia may have a hung parliament.

Australia set for hung parliament as voters punish PM

Her Labor party is behind 70 to 72 according to the linked article, but it seems the independents may give Labor a ruling majority. Expect some drama similar to what was seen in the United Kingdom earlier this year.

And what exactly were the voters punishing Ms. Gillard for doing? She was only in office for eight weeks...


McDonald's sells yuan bonds

McDonald’s, which opened its first 1,000 restaurants in China faster than any other country outside the U.S., sold 200 million yuan ($29 million) of 3 percent notes due in September 2013. Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, said in March it was considering selling bonds in yuan.

McDonald's Sets Benchmark for China With Yuan Bond Sale

The pace of change will increase as more foreign companies take advantage of reforms, and that will drive the need for more reform of the currency.

Euro shorts come back

As expected given the behavior of the euro versus the U.S. dollar in the past week, the speculative shorts returned. It wasn't a large reversal though, just back to the level seen two weeks ago. However, over that period, the euro has lost four weeks of gains. This continues the pattern of euro weakness, where bullish short covering led to small gains and now a small increase in bearishness was accompanied by a large decline in the euro.

Yuan-ringgit trade

Currency reform continues, step by step.

China Allows Yuan-Malaysian Ringgit Trading on Domestic Market


Treasury rally...

Still getting settled on the other side of the GW and not catching much news...but what is going on at the long-end? QE2 or danger Will Robinson?

Yields are not back to their low, but they are back near 2009 lows.


Socionomics Watch—Racial tensions increasing

Attacks against Mexicans inflame tensions in NYC
Recorded by a store's surveillance camera, the assault was the first of 11 suspected anti-Hispanic bias attacks in a Staten Island neighborhood, re-igniting years-old tensions between blacks and Hispanics in New York City's most remote borough.
There's also the ongoing dispute over the mosque at ground zero.
Here's one of many articles and posts and tweets on the subject, from Daniel Pipes.

Reflections on an Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan

Most politicians still talk up the idea of the melting pot and openness to mass immigration, even if they want a secure border and no mosque. Putting aside whether they say it because they believe it or they think they must to be socially acceptable, if socionomics has any predictive ability and we've crossed a grand supercycle peak, then I expect this to change. Politicians not only won't make these statements, but they will actually move into opposition to these ideas.

Finally, this is interesting fuel for the mosque fire:
Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar said Sunday that Muslims "have to build" a mosque near ground zero.

Zahar said Muslims "have to build everywhere" so that followers can pray, just like Christians and Jews build their places of worship.

Death of big ideas

The 20th century was greatly affected by the ideas of several influential men from the century previous. Charles Darwin's theory about biological origins had an impact that ranged from biology to philosophy, theology and even politics, while Sigmund Freud's ideas transformed the way men thought about their own minds. With the help of Friedrich Engles, Marx inflicted his particularly virulent form of socialism on the world. And while there is no single individual who can be deemed culpable for the idea of liberal government by representative democracy, it became the dominant form of government around the world during the 19th century.

All of these influences played a major role in the way John Maynard Keynes formulated his general theory of employment, interest and money, which was articulated during the 1930s. Keynes inherited his amoral, materialistic outlook from the Darwinians, his notion of the integral role of "animal spirits" was derived from Freud, and one of his primary objectives in constructing the general theory was to save liberal democracy from what he saw as the imminent threat of Marxism.
Read the rest here: Death of big ideas.

The yuan can drop

The Chinese currency cannot fluctuate against the U.S. dollar unless the U.S. dollar is reduced as a share of the country's foreign reserves.

China Favors Euro Over Dollar as Bernanke Alters Path
China, whose $2.45 trillion in foreign-exchange reserves are the world’s largest, is turning bullish on Europe and Japan at the expense of the U.S.

The nation has been buying “quite a lot” of European bonds, said Yu Yongding, a former adviser to the People’s Bank of China who was part of a foreign-policy advisory committee that visited France, Spain and Germany from June 20 to July 2. Japan’s Ministry of Finance said Aug. 9 that China bought 1.73 trillion yen ($20.1 billion) more Japanese debt than it sold in the first half of 2010, the fastest pace of purchases in at least five years.

“Diversification should be a basic principle,” Yu said in an interview, adding a “top-level Chinese central banker” told him to convey to European policy makers China’s confidence in the region’s economy and currency. “We didn’t sell any European bonds or assets, instead we bought quite a lot.”
What else are they going to buy? The Chinese have said they cannot buy gold without greatly affecting the market. They've been buying euros and yen because these currencies have the most liquidity, after the U.S. dollar. Therefore, China is not bullish on the yen and euro, they are diversifying their reserves so that their currency will move away from the U.S. dollar, as Congress asked. But which way will it move?

US and China to clash over yuan fall

The yuan dropped at the fastest pace in almost two years last week and is now 1.8pc lower against a basket of currencies than in June, when Beijing announced the end to its fixed peg against the dollar.

Western economists had seen yuan liberalisation as a sign that China is abandoning its mercantilist policy in a step-by-step move towards a floating currency, which was expected to rise. They misjudged China's motives badly.
The U.S. dollar is still the engine pulling the currency caboose. Instead of looking at Chinese currency appreciation as inevitable, it's better to consider what direction the U.S. dollar will take against major currencies and whether the Chinese are increasing or decreasing U.S. dollar exposure. Since it is the latter, the yuan will weaken versus the U.S. dollar during a U.S. dollar rally against major currencies.


Shanghai composite and M2 money supply

This gap will close, one way or the other.

Snapshot of the euro peak?

The CFTC Commitments of Traders only goes through Tuesday each week, and that happens to be just one day into the euro's four day slide. We won't know until next week whether the shorts showed up en masse this week, but if the bears didn't rampage, it means the bulls disappeared.


Jonah Goldberg does socionomics

Here's Jonah's post at the Corner.

Recession Rage
Well, it looks like I wasn’t audacious enough in my prediction. I wrote the other day:

Last night there was the story about the Jet Kabluey flight attendant. This morning I caught something on one of the morning news shows about a woman attacking a McDonald’s drive-thru cashier over a McNuggets disagreement (“Well, they do always [expletive deleted] at the drive-thru” — Cosmo).It’s August. So, I predict one or two more freak-outs will cause some bored reporter or producer to concoct a “recession rage” narrative. The down economy has Americans mad as hell and they’re taking it out on each other.The only thing that has kept such stories from dominating the airwaves already is the fact that Barack Obama and the Dems control Washington. If this was going on in, say, the summer of ’07, we’d already have a Newsweek cover story written by Jonathan Alter along the lines of “Is The Bush Economy Making us Crazy?”

Probably a very accurate prediction given the social mood. He follows that with a quote from someone calling 2010 the "Jet Blue Election." This covers social mood from both sides; how the public reacts to the story and how the media covers it.

Anger is a definite sign of negative social mood.


Socionomics and the Euro

What's happening today? The only news item I can find comes from zerohedge.
The ECB just announced that it allotted $430 million in its 7-Day USD operation to two banks, for whom the dollar shortage is once again all too real and coupled with the scarcity in EUR we have been discussing over the past month: one wonders just how positioned these banks are if they have allegedly neither USD nor EUR capital in hand.
Nothing changed in Europe. On Monday, the Spanish president even talked about restarting some infrastructure projects that were stopped during the spring crisis! It may well mark the peak in euro confidence this summer.

All that has happened in the past couple of months was that the bears who predicted the euro crisis took their profits and left the market, reversed positions and played the long side, or watched their positions erode if they held firm. People who did not expect the euro crisis became extremely pessimistic during the crisis and when the world did not end, they became more hopeful. Some people were even bargain hunting for euros and European assets. The rising market reinforced their position. The euro mood was happier and the currency rebounded versus the dollar.

Short covering in the euro pretty much exhausted itself a couple of weeks ago. The Federal Reserve didn't murder the U.S. dollar with QE2. European politicians became confident enough to start talking about reversing austerity, i.e. they reached near peak optimism, the only step left would be to actually undo austerity. There's was very little potential upside left.

The euro has likely turned here and Socionomics predicts that the mood leads events. Therefore, a banking or sovereign debt problem should emerge in the coming weeks, most probably from Spain.

Update: I missed this story earlier, it fits with a return to reality for investors.
German Debt Ratio May Rise To 90% Of GDP On Bank Bailout
The bailout of Germany's banking sector may swell the country's public debt rate to 90% of gross domestic product, Die Zeit weekly newspaper reports Wednesday.

The weekly based this estimate on a recent decision by Eurostat requiring Germany to include the balance sheets of public-owned bad banks--set up to help financial institutions offload toxic and non-strategic assets--into its overall debt ratio.
No new debt, just recognizing what exists. The 90% figure is important:
Economist Rogoff Breaks Down What Happens To Economies That Hit 90% Debt-To-GDP Ratio
First, the relationship between government debt and real GDP growth is weak for debt/GDP ratios below 90% of GDP.1 Above the threshold of 90%, median growth rates fall by 1%, and average growth falls considerably more.
Reinhart and Rogoff co-authored This Time Is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly.

First bird flu, now the superbug

Scientists find new superbug spreading from India
A new superbug could spread around the world after reaching Britain from India -- in part because of medical tourism -- and scientists say there are almost no drugs to treat it.

Researchers said on Wednesday they had found a new gene called New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase, or NDM-1, in patients in South Asia and in Britain.
NDM-1 makes bacteria highly resistant to almost all antibiotics, including the most powerful class called carbapenems, and experts say there are no new drugs on the horizon to tackle it.

With international travel in search of cheaper healthcare increasing, particularly for procedures such as cosmetic surgery, Timothy Walsh, who led the study, said he feared the new superbug could soon spread across the globe.
Here's an article by Alan Hall on the subject of social mood and disease.

Social Mood, Stocks and Epidemics


5-Year Treasury yield near crisis lows

Pop Culture is Filth

Children 'at risk from pop charts porn' from the likes of Lady Gaga says Kylie Minogue's former producer Mike Stock
'Ninety-nine per cent of the charts is R 'n' B and 99 per cent of that is soft pornography.'

He continued: 'Kids are being forced to grow up too young. Look at the videos. I wouldn't necessarily want my young kids to watch them.

'I would certainly be embarrassed to sit there with my mum.'
The media is becoming more hedonistic and more bizarre, but the society is headed in another direction. Socionomics will get an assist from demographics here. Older people are more socially conservative and the Boomers will once again have an out-sized effect on society. Two powerful forces, social mood and demographics, are converging.

John Derbyshire was ahead of his time. From August 2002: Unpleasant Truths
Pop culture is filth. It is now completely degenerate. Why do you never hear anyone humming a current pop song any more? Because none of them is hummable, or even worth bothering to remember. What is the main topic on TV sitcoms and "dramedies"? You know what. Why do you stand in the aisle in Blockbuster muttering to yourself: "There isn't a single damn movie in here I want to watch"? Because Hollywood produces nothing but crap, crap, crap.


Military buildup in SE Asia

Concerned about China's rise, Southeast Asian nations build up militaries
Weapons acquisitions in the region almost doubled from 2005 to 2009 compared with the five preceding years, according to data released by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute this year.

"There is a threat perception among some of the countries in Southeast Asia," said Siemon Wezeman, senior fellow at the institute. "China is an issue there."

The buying spree is set to continue, with reports that Vietnam has agreed to pay $2.4 billion for six Russian Kilo-class submarines and a dozen Su-30MKK jet fighters equipped for maritime warfare. This is in addition to Australia's stated commitment to buy or build nine more submarines and bolster its air force with 100 U.S.-built F-35s. Malaysia has also paid more than $1 billion for two diesel submarines from France, and Indonesia has recently announced that it, too, will acquire new submarines.
The nervousness over the rise of China would be happening no matter what, but the declining social mood complicates the situation.

Russia won't turn back to communism

New Russian holiday marked as Kremlin boosts Orthodox Church
Russia marked its adoption of Christianity in 988 on Wednesday with a new public holiday, the latest show of Kremlin support for the Russian Orthodox Church that has grown increasingly powerful since the fall of Communism.

More anti-Washington sentiment

First, Arizona tried to enforce federal law, in opposition to the federal government's policy of not enforcing federal law. Then, Missouri voters nullified parts of the new health care reform legislation. Now, Wyoming wants to take some of its land back.

US national park faces sale


Euro shorts continue to cover

The rally continues! Or does it? I've seen a few technicians call today as a top. Here's Elliot Wave International and here's Tim Knight.

A "Kosovo" in Central Asia?

A Kosovo on the Central Asian steppes
Having said that, the audacious US strategy is also not without real risks and Kyrgyzstan's medium-term prospects are worrying. The political landscape is highly fractured and there is no certainty as to how a new constitution will work in practice and whether elections expected in October will be free and fair. Clan politics are acute and the interim government in Bishkek remains weak.

Furthermore, regional divisions in Kyrgyzstan are deepening. Kyrgyz nationalist rhetoric is becoming strident, insecurity continues, the Kyrgyz-Uzbek ethnic divide remains enormous and minority Uzbek grievances are largely unaddressed. With the security bodies and law-enforcement agencies showing bias against Uzbeks, revenge attacks are possible.

Meanwhile, as Martha Olcott, a prominent US expert on Central Asia, put it, "Uzbeks are unlikely to simply fade away ... small numbers of young men also seem to be drifting into the jihadist camps and networks in Afghanistan, and beyond in Pakistan. All this means that even if the Kyrgyz government is able to keep the lid on ethnic tensions in the south in the near term, the events of June [the pogrom against ethnic Uzbeks] could have serious ramifications in both Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan for years to come."

Conceivably, as a perceptive Kyrgyz expert wrote in the Guardian newspaper recently, "There are three possible templates for the future: that of Sri Lanka, where a powerful guerrilla organization emerged after ethnic riots; that of Chechnya, where a nascent nationalist movement fell prey to Islamist networks; and that of Uzbekistan, which reacted to Andijan [the uprising there in 2005] with overwhelming repression. None of these is very inspiring."

Indeed, some Russian observers discern a fourth template as the most likely scenario - Kosovo. They feel that the US is proceeding according to a carefully choreographed plan where the induction of OSCE policemen is a necessary first step.
More fault lines for a declining social mood.

Iranian submarine hit Japanese oil tanker

Iranian-US Tit for Tat – Covered up
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence and Iranian sources, Tehran issued the vivid account of a concerned onlooker to conceal the fact that an Iranian Revolutionary Guards-IRGC Tarig-type submarine was responsible for the attack on the Japanese tanker and had rammed its portside hull to create the effect of an explosion.

A second Iranian sub, a Yunis, hovering nearby in case of trouble and as mission back-up, fired a dummy missile or shell to engender the flash effect witnessed by the ship’s crew.

Knowledge of this attack was not meant for general consumption. It was designed by Tehran as a warning-off message to Washington against US or NATO fleets venturing to intercept Iranian ships in the Strait of Hormuz, the Gulf of Aden or Gulf of Oman and search them for goods prohibited by UN sanctions.


China's 3D Bus

China's 3D Express Coach Buses Will Be Able to Drive Over Other Cars
Coming to Shenzhen and Beijing this year.

Physical gold insures against the greatest risk

Mallory Factor writes about collapse from the perspective of time, that the Internet has accelerated the speed at which events take place.

Collapse In Internet Time
So what of America? What could happen here? In normal times our nation's economy adapts to change and weathers small and large crises all the time. But our country has been weakened by massive debt, unbridled government spending and excessive burdens on our private sector, and there will come a point at which stressful events will be too much for our economy to bear. If our economy reaches this tipping point, we will not bounce back from crisis.

The immediate cause of our demise will be a single event--one of our creditor nations dumping U.S. dollars on the world market, the oil nations switching away from dollar-based contracts, a political crisis, another natural disaster, even a large trading error that inadvertently causes dislocation in our markets. But if the tipping point is reached and the downward spiral begins, our economic collapse will be over before we can take steps to address our weaknesses.
A major currency collapse in the United States will be over before it begins, which is to say that it will happen so quickly that there will be no time to act. With the Internet, information spreads instantly and to everyone. Add to that the fact that almost everyone in the world holds dollars, holds a currency backed by dollars or a currency backed by a central bank that holds dollars, trades with the United States, or has a financial system that borrows dollars. A major crisis in the U.S. dollar would lead to torschlusspanik.

The world can watch Thailand implode, it can watch the euro struggle, just as you can watch the Russian wildfires on TV and not feel a need to get a bucket of water. But in a dollar crisis, the world will be in flames.


China to use "effective exchange rate"

Onward for Yuan Reform (Part I)
Caixin: The reform that started in July 2005 focused on setting the yuan exchange rate with reference to a basket of currencies. However, there are many questions about this "basket." How did PBOC choose currencies in the basket, and what are their weights?

Hu: To select a basket of currencies, some countries or agencies have taken into account a single measure. For example, the Bank for International Settlements considers the weight of foreign trade. Because the exchange rate floats mainly on the basis of supply and demand in the real economy, the current account can comprehensively reflect the real economy. While in the current account, foreign trade is the most representative factor. As a result, in the selection of currencies in the basket, trade is among the first priorities.

In our opinion, the effective exchange rate basket should have a variety of currencies to reflect diversification of trade and investment. The weight is to be determined based on the current account situation and the currency structure of capital, and the financial account, and cross-border receipts and payments. Usually, currencies in those countries with active economic relations with us or frequently used in bilateral economic activities will be selected for the basket currencies.

Caixin: But people are still more closely following changes in the exchange rate of the yuan and dollar.

Hu: Yes. The mindset cannot be changed overnight due to behavioral habits and the dominant use of the U.S. dollar in accounting and statistics. This underpins the necessity for China to make more efforts to improve the exchange rate regime based on market supply and demand with reference to a basket of currencies.

In the future, consideration can be given to disclosure of the nominal effective exchange rate information on a regular basis and to gradually shift the public's attention on yuan-U.S. dollar exchange rate to the effective exchange rate of yuan, which is the true reference for its movement.

Caixin: As the measure of the exchange rate, is the nominal effective exchange rate a better choice than the real effective exchange rate?

Hu: Theoretically, the best indicator for measuring the international relative price of tradables is the real effective exchange rate, which reflects the movement of the dollar exchange rate to other major currencies and has been adjusted against cross-country inflation differentials.

In practice, however, the nominal effective exchange rate, which is not inflation-adjusted, is more frequently used. Reasons include the fact that it is hard to settle on a universally accepted, comparable price index. Though commonly used, the consumer price index may not be appropriate, according to academics, as it includes the prices of many non-tradables. Other options such as the producer price index, GDP deflator and the index of per unit labor cost are not widely accepted. Moreover, the calculation of the real effective exchange rate has to deal with time lags and availability of data.
The yuan will continue to be managed for the foreseeable future. It sounds like the role of market forces isn't so much supply and demand (though that will play an increasing role), but a valuation model more reliant on economic factors. This makes sense given the country's reliance on trade and it gives policymakers more tools to head off hot money flows.

I wonder if the Chinese will never actually float against the U.S. dollar, in that there may be an entirely new global financial system by the time they are ready to let the yuan float.

Pacific naval developments

China Testing Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM); U.S. Preparing Accordingly
Open source data offer significant evidence that China has prioritized and is proceeding rapidly with anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) development. A variety of Chinese sources have stated a desire to demonstrate the ability to threaten carrier strike groups (CSGs). There are a number of indications that China may have reached the point that it is able to conduct some fairly sophisticated ASBM tests. While system components may be tested separately, and on the ground in many cases, a fully integrated flight test is likely to be necessary to give the PLA confidence in approving full-scale production and deploying ASBMs in a full operational state. At some point, such tests would be a necessary step to reach the next level in ASBM development–and to attempt to use the ASBM as a deterrent.

Most recently, based on sophisticated organizational analysis, Mark Stokes and Tiffany Ma suggest that the Second Artillery may be constructing ASBM missile brigade facilities in Guangdong Province:
China doesn't have to defeat the U.S. militarily, it only needs a credible threat to deter the U.S. navy from acting.


Wheat has liftoff

This is how a hyperinflation would kick off, with a rapid run-up in commodity prices. Or, if due to inherent supply-demand issues, the increase in one commodity's price means producers and consumers have to cut back somewhere else (or cutback on their wheat purchases specifically). Either way, this is worth paying attention to.

Here's Elliot Wave International with a short story on wheat. Market Insight: Fasten Your WHEAT Belts. It says the July move in wheat was the largest monthly gain in 50 years.

Andy Xie on Empty Apartments in China

Fear Empty Flats in China's Property Bubble
One useful figure for analysts is China's living space per capita. Surveys in most cities suggest the average living space is between 28 and 30 square meters per person. We don't know which population segment these surveys cover; they certainly don't include migrant workers. And we don't know if empty flats are counted.

Based on this limited data, however, we can confidently conclude that China does not have a housing shortage. Moreover, its per-capita living space is higher than in Europe and Japan. Indeed, if we adopt Japan's standard, China already has sufficient urban housing space for every man, woman and child in the country.

Far more important than general data, however, are the housing figures pointing to a huge quantity of empty flats apparently being held only for speculation. In a normal market, the vacancy rate should be equal to the number of households relocating, times the average transition period, plus newly formed households times the average purchase period. For example, a vacancy rate of 1.5 percent could accommodate a market in which 6 percent of households relocate every year, and the transit time is three months. If new household formation is 3 percent and the average period for a property purchase is six months, this factor requires a vacancy rate of another 1.5 percent. The total normal vacancy rate should be 3 percent. This figure includes the new properties ready for sale.

Although the government doesn't publish vacancy data, I think the vacancy rate for the nation's private, commercial housing stock is between 25 and 30 percent. That's at least double what's required in a normal market. The gap between what's needed and what's available can be viewed as speculative inventory. The value of this inventory held by speculators is probably around 15 percent of GDP. It's being kept on ice just as copper and other commodities are hoarded in anticipation of rising prices.




China goes for gold

China to Further Open Gold Market to Trading, Imports
In order to increase physical gold supply, the central bank will “increase the number of commercial banks who are qualified to import and export gold, based on the market demand situation,” it said in today’s statement.

“The Chinese central bank is liberalizing the gold market step by step and this is the latest move,” Standard Bank’s Chu said. “It will allow more foreign participation in China’s growing gold market and it will also help China to be more integrated into the global gold-trading system.”

China’s central bank also said today it will support overseas investment plans by “large-scale” bullion companies by backing them financially.
Here is the PBOC statement:完善市场体系 促进黄金市场健康发展

Here's the report itself:





























中国人民银行 发展改革委 工业和信息化部

财 政 部 税 务 总 局 证 监 会



Update on Housing Shark Loans in China

China’s Shark Loan Ponzi Finance- As Ponzi Schemes Collapse the Chinese Government Fears Civil Unrest

Lots of links and info at the link.

The Chinese government doesn't like civil unrest and large public gatherings that are not approved, i.e. it isn't particularly germane to the story (officials broke up the peaceful pro-Cantonese rally, for instance). The story to pay attention to is the financial implications.

Tax office bombed

Four dead, 19 hurt in China tax office blast: state media
Four people were killed and 19 injured Friday in a blast at a tax office in central China that police said appeared to be a deliberate attack, state media reported.

The explosion went off at about 4:15 pm on the third floor of a district tax office in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, Xinhua news agency said, quoting a police statement.

According to police, initial investigations indicated it was a planned attack, Xinhua said. The report gave no details of possible suspects or the motive for the attack.
Guns are illegal in China, though many are floating around. With all the construction in the country, dynamite is easier to obtain.

Understanding Chinese consumers

This story either strikes you as odd, or it makes perfect sense.

A blue-collar beer goes upmarket

That would be a $44 bottle of Pabst Blue Ribbon. In the description at the link, it appears the beer is a high-quality product and could be an effort by Pabst to create a new image for itself in China.

When a company has zero brand identity, it can remake itself in China. See: upscale Pizza Hut dining. However, it is also the case in China that image is sometimes everything. The same product placed in an expensive package can be sold for multiples of the regular price, sometimes multiples of 10 or even 100.

Hundreds protest for Cantonese

Hundreds of people gathered in a Guangzhou park yesterday in defiance of government orders not to rally as part of a campaign to defend Cantonese.
About 20, including several journalists, were taken away by police for questioning. The journalists, three from Now TV, two from Cable TV and one from Reuters news agency, were detained for nearly six hours, one of them said.

"We were told we were being formally summoned for allegedly causing public disorder," said Lam Kin-shing, the Guangzhou correspondent for Cable TV.

About 200 people attended a parallel rally in Hong Kong.

The rare joint campaign was the first to mobilise Cantonese speakers in Hong Kong and Guangdong in defence of the dialect, which they say has been increasingly marginalised on the mainland. In downtown People's Park in Guangzhou, amid a heavy police presence, more than a hundred supporters congregated yesterday afternoon, participants said.
It turns out the government also ticked off some people by removing an obscene historical quote from a statue:
Others screamed: "Police, go away!" and: "F*** his mother, persist against all odds," emulating the obscene rallying cry reportedly used by Ming dynasty national hero Yuan Chonghuan.

Guangdong authorities last month upset Cantonese-speaking natives by removing a plaque with the phrase inscribed at the base of his statue in Dongguan.

Hundreds defy orders not to rally in defence of Cantonese

Back to basics: farming

Farming surges in state with new crop of devotees
From 2002 to 2007, the number of farms in Massachusetts jumped by about 27 percent to 7,691, according to the US Department of Agriculture census. That’s a reversal from the previous five years, when there was a 20 percent drop in the number of farms and, presumably, farmers, many of whom sold land to developers.

But the start-up farms are smaller than the family enterprises of the past. The average farm in Massachusetts, 85 acres in 2002, was 67 acres five years later.

The next census won’t be until 2012, but Scott Soares, Massachusetts Commissioner of Agriculture, said his department can see the growth continuing. “We keep seeing an increased demand for’’ training, he said.

The state ran a record six farming courses this year, serving 120 students in total. “Last year, we broke the record for attendance,’’ said Rick Chandler, director of the training program, “and this year, we broke the record again.’’

The new, smaller farms capitalize on demand created by environmentalists and “locavores,’’ people who favor locally grown food, as well as the creation of new outlets for local produce. Small farmers can sell their modest harvests to community-supported agriculture programs, farmers markets, and restaurants that value fresh ingredients from nearby farms.
Turning inward, local economy, back to nature, back to basics, simple over complex. Social mood in decline.


South China Sea: war of words continues

Beijing claims 'indisputable sovereignty' over South China Sea
he Chinese military declared Friday that China had "indisputable sovereignty" over the South China Sea but insisted it would continue to allow others to freely navigate one of the busiest waterways in the world.

The statement by the People's Liberation Army seemed designed to reiterate China's claims to the entire 1.3 million-square-mile waterway while calming concerns in Washington and Asian capitals that its policy toward the region had suddenly become significantly more aggressive.

"China has indisputable sovereignty of the South Sea, and China has sufficient historical and legal backing" to support its claims, Senior Col. Geng Yansheng, a Ministry of Defense spokesman, told reporters Friday during a visit to an engineering unit on the outskirts of Beijing.

But he added, "We will, in accordance with the demands of international law, respect the freedom of the passage of ships or aircraft from relevant countries."

July Performance




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上海 Shanghai







Green Dragon



Best of Funds



Pharma & Dogs



China Fund






Yield to Me



Catch a Falling Knife



Rising euro and falling gold and gold miners clobbered the Best of Funds portfolio.