Geared Gambling with ETBs

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One of the fastest growing segments of the investment industry has been the market for exchange-traded funds (ETFs). According to the Investment Company Institute, the ETF market had over 1375 funds with net assets exceeding $1.8 trillion as of July 2014 (click HERE). More than 5.7 million US households (>5%) own an exchange-traded product.  The market for ETFs began in 1993 when State Street launched the S&P 500 index fund (ticker: SPY) with an initial capitalization of $6.6 million. As of today, the SPY fund had more than $190 billion in assets.

As the assets within ETFs ballooned, the number of new products offered by Wall Street rapidly expanded beyond passively managed low-fee equity index offerings. Over time, companies such as Direxion, VelocityShares, and ProShares introduced leveraged and inverse betting tools that promised multiples (2x, 3x, etc.) and negative multiples (-2x, -3x, etc.) of the index or benchmark they tracked.

So What? I believe these leveraged and inverse products are better thought of as gambling products rather than investment vehicles. The main reason I say so is they promise multiples and negative multiples of the daily performance of a particular index, creating wildly divergent performance from an unsophisticated buyer’s expectations—at much higher fees! (click HERE for more). Who other than gamblers care about the daily move in a particular investment opportunity?  Surely no serious investor expects to profitably bet on one-day moves, which are often statistically random.

Gambling

Consider the chart below, which I think tells the story. Over the past year, GLD (exchange-traded gold) rose by 2%.  Had you invested in the 3x leveraged gold product (UGLD), you would have lost 1% (vs. the expected +6%).  And had you invested in the -3x inverse gold product (DGLD), you would have lost ~18% (vs. the expected -6%).   That’s right, it didn’t matter if you were bullish or bearish, you lost money playing the inverse or leveraged game!  Further, both DGLD and UGLD charge investors a 1.35% investment fee, versus the 0.40% expense ratio for GLD, a meaningful difference in a world of extremely low interest rates.

GLD

When I see something that has feathers, webbed feet, enjoys water, and quacks, I call it a duck.  Perhaps the time has come for regulators to mandate that these products be called what they actual are: exchange traded bets (ETBs).  What’s next?  Wynn Resorts to offer the Emerging Markets 20x Bull ETB? Or perhaps the Asian Luxury Consumer 40x ETB sponsored by Las Vegas Sands?

 

Obama in India: Time to Get Serious

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As the world’s two biggest democracies, India and the United States share many interests on trade, investment and security matters. US President Barack Obama will attend India’s Republic Day celebration on January 26, and many in business and government look forward to a stronger partnership between the two countries on energy, manufacturing and IT. “If Modi and his team can help get India out of its own way, there’s no reason the country can’t become the fastest growing large economy in the world,” writes Vikram Mansharamani, a lecturer in the Program on Ethics, Politics, & Economics at Yale University. “Participating in and encouraging this growth is in America’s interest.” India’s second largest trade partner is the US, and India ranks as that country's 11th top trade partner, so there is room for growth. The United States could also better India-Pakistan relations through trade and work with India to resist Chinese military aggression in Asian waters. – YaleGlobal


 

The world’s two biggest democracies do not reach full potential on trade or other common interests
Vikram Mansharamani
YaleGlobal, 22 January 2015

 

NEW HAVEN:  India will celebrate the 64th anniversary of its foundation as a republic with a special guest in the reviewing stand. Barack Obama, president of the world’s oldest democracy, will lend his presence at the celebration of the world’s largest democracy. This will be Obama’s second visit to India in five years. The two nations do share common values and interests including the need to contain an aggressive China from militarily dominating the Asian region. Yet, the fact it took this long for a grand encounter is a reminder of the issues that divide them and the current urgency to strengthen their ties.

Ranging from investment and trade to defense cooperation enormous opportunities exist for both sides to create a mutually beneficial and balanced relationship.

Direct economic cooperation is an obvious area for collaboration. India needs infrastructure and power, for instance, and US companies want foreign markets. India has a globally competitive IT talent pool, and US enterprises are on an unending search for technical knowhow. Consider the collaboration opportunities of merging Indian IT talent with US automobile manufacturers as data from billions of automobile sensors explode in volume, generating what is expected to be the second fastest growing segment of the emerging big-data market.

Further, India’s desire to increase its manufacturing capacity may align with American desires to diversify from China, where average hourly earnings now exceed $3.52, versus 92 cents in India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has  been marketing India as having three ingredients US companies seek: demand for goods, attractive demographics and a democratic regime. The direct economic benefits of trade and investment will accrue to both Indian and Americans.

China’s economic slowdown provides a powerful tailwind for India’s economy. As the credit-fueled Chinese investment boom ends, the entire supply chain of raw materials fed into its building boom is vulnerable, creating lower prices for many investment commodities – iron ore, lead, steel, zinc, copper and more. Thus, the Chinese slowdown has reduced the prices of many of the natural resources upon which India depends, lowering inflationary pressures within India, and thereby creating room for rate cuts that can spur economic growth. It allows India to remove subsidies and address trade disputes to allow further liberalization. It’s unlikely the November agreement between the United States and India allowing stockpiling to address food-security issues would have been reached in an environment of high food prices. The resolution of this lingering dispute breaks a deadlock holding up global trade talks.

India needs energy, and as the United States allows increasing volumes of crude exports, why shouldn’t the US consider a long-term supply agreement with India? Doing so would solidify relationships with a large, growing market. India would become less dependent upon Russia and Iran, removing a key market from these struggling oil economies.

At a time when much of the western world laments the ills of capitalism gone wild, India is disposing of Soviet-style planning agencies – Modi disposed of the 5-year plans during his first Independence Day speech – and rushing headlong into increasingly capitalist policies. In 1992, Deng Xiaoping kicked off an explosion of Chinese economic reform around the mantra “to get rich is glorious” – an economic turning point that resulted in staggering growth over the next decades, as suggested by some Sinologists.  Modi’s turn towards capitalism and away from socialist policies has a similarly transformative economic reform agenda, one organized around the mantra “to get efficient is glorious.” If Modi and his team can help get India out of its own way, there’s no reason the country can’t become the fastest growing large economy in the world. Participating in and encouraging this growth is in America’s interest.

A leading obstacle to faster growth is India’s problematic relationship with Pakistan, an association that has focused upon the Kashmir territorial dispute since independence in 1947. Pakistani relations with India chilled noticeably following the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks attributed to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terror group that operates from the region. India, Pakistan and the United States would benefit from a more stable and prosperous Pakistani economy. Modi invited pro-business Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend his inauguration, and relations were improving until Pakistan courts granted bail to an accused terrorist involved in the Mumbai attacks.

Modi’s powerful electoral mandate opens the opportunity for an innovative reengineering of the India-Pakistan relationship, the basis of which can be increased bilateral trade. His identity as a Hindu nationalist offers potential political cover from domestic Indian opposition to increased collaboration with Pakistan; his bluntly stated objective of accelerating economic growth may mitigate Pakistani concerns of his ultimate goal. Modi is the first Indian prime minister born to an independent India, and brings a refreshingly focused and open mind to the issues.   Pakistan’s Sharif is equally interested in economic progress. Vibrant Pakistan-India trade has the potential to build mutual trust and might ultimately improve political relations – developments that are good for Pakistan, India and the United States.

The United States can and should encourage such developments by offering incentives for both parties and simultaneously increasing counterterrorism collaboration with both nations to alleviate ongoing concerns. It might even consider deepening military ties with both nations as a means to both diffuse potential Pakistan-India hostilities as well as deter an ambitious China from getting militarily aggressive.

Richard Haas, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, recently described US-India relations while introducing Modi at a CFR event: “The bilateral relationship is potentially one of the most important for the United States…. The challenge and the opportunity for both countries… is to translate all this potential into reality.”

One of the main challenges is to overcome the stigma of four recent bilateral flare-ups – each provides compelling evidence of an immature relationship that still requires effort. First, the spectacular momentum generated by President George Bush’s civil nuclear agreement was lost when India passed a nuclear liability law that de facto prevented US commercial participation in the Indian civil-nuclear industry. Second, the Indian imposition of protectionist policies and taxes on foreigners generated trade disputes that derailed progress. Third, Modi’s ascent reminded the world that the United States had barred the former Gujrat minister from entering the country because of his supposed role in 2002 riots that left about 1,000 dead, mostly Muslims. Lastly, diplomatic hoopla surrounded the arrest and strip-search of Devyani Khobragade, India’s deputy consul general in New York. India escalated tensions by lessening security for US government employees in New Delhi.

Another challenge stems from areas where American and Indian interests diverge. Consider India’s dependence upon foreign energy supplies, defense equipment, power technologies and its prickly nationalism born of centuries of colonial rule. These factors create Indian alliances that run counter to US interests, particularly the India-Russia relationship. In December, Russian oil giant Rosneft signed a 10-year crude-oil supply agreement with India’s Essar Oil, and the Russian state-owned Rosatom agreed to build 12 nuclear reactors for civilian power generation in India. Along with these announcements came Modi’s public assurances that Russia would remain India’s top defense supplier. A simultaneous announcement stated that India would build 400 Russian Ka226-T twin-engine multi-role helicopters a year.

Both countries should look beyond these speed bumps, because the blunt reality is the United States needs India – as a beacon of democratic capitalism in a strategically and militarily critical part of the world. The blunt reality for India is that it needs the United States – as an economic and military superpower capable of assisting the quest to achieve peer status.  While the many hiccups over the years have raised concerns about each country’s ultimate commitment to the other, the commonalities of interests are overwhelming and the impetus to convert the potential of shared values into a functional reality is urgent.

 

Vikram Mansharamani is a lecturer in the Program on Ethics, Politics, & Economics at Yale University and a senior fellow at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. Follow him @mansharamani

 

(http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/obama-india-time-get-serious-common-goals)

 

Reprinted with permission from YaleGlobal Online (www.yaleglobal.yale.edu).
Copyright ©2015  The Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale

 

Time to Pop the Energy Subsidy Bubble

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According to the World Energy Outlook (click HERE) published by the International Energy Association, global fossil-fuel consumption subsidies amounted to approximately $550 billion in 2013, a staggering sum larger than the economies of Norway, Nigeria, or Taiwan and equating to approximately 0.75% of global GDP. While 2014 likely saw a major drop in subsidy spending, it’s probably still a big number.

All subsidies produce distortions, but the unintended effects of energy subsidies are noteworthy. Subsidizing oil consumption pressures government budgets, generates expectations of continued entitlements, and distorts basic supply and demand decisions. By encouraging fossil fuel use, subsidies probably increase carbon emissions as well.

Few citizens think about energy use when gasoline costs US$0.04/gallon at the pump, as it does in Venezuela (click HERE for a gasoline price infographic from Bloomberg that tracks more than 60 nations!). Maintaining this price means that each gallon pumped costs the government money. More use, bigger deficit. Consumers pay pennies per gallon while the government risks defaulting on international obligations! According to BusinessWeek (Click HERE), Venezuela spends more than 8% of its GDP on subsides for petroleum products.

Removing subsidies also risks social unrest. Countries from Jordan to Nigeria to Indonesia and Ecuador have had mass protests in reaction to subsidy removals (Click HERE for a World Bank report on subsidies; BOX 4 on page 85 highlights “Subsidy Reform and Civil Unrest”). Populations are often addicted to subsidized prices and governments fear the inflationary impact of removing them.

Indonesiaunrest

Lastly, subsidies encourage oil use while simultaneously discouraging supply-generating investment…this means that subsidies actually have the potential to create a vicious cycle in which subsidies effectively increase prices, generating the need for more subsidies and further increasing prices.

So what?  The G20 economies and APEC stated in 2009 that they would remove all energy subsidies in the medium-term (click HERE for their report). The reaffirmed this objective in 2012. The recent plunge in oil prices offers a wonderful opportunity for both oil producing and oil consuming nations to immediately remove energy consumption subsidies. Doing so would have three major impacts: (a) generate government resources for healthcare, education, and other much needed social spending, (b) mitigate the risks of future instability from subsidy-removal in a higher price or inflationary environment, and (c) reduce the self-fulfilling dynamics that have the potential to drive oil prices higher.

The blunt reality is subsidies are unsustainable. Despite the many political risks of removing them, a world free of energy subsidies will exhibit greater resilience to higher prices. Today's low prices offer cover from many consequences of energy reform (click HERE for the Economist's latest cover story on this topic), providing an opportune time to pop the subsidy bubble.

To Get Efficient is Glorious

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During his 1992 "Southern Tour," Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping stated "to get rich is glorious" and unleashed a wave of entrepreneurial energy that transformed the world's largest communist nation into one of the world's fastest growing economies.  The following 20 years led to some of the most impressive growth ever experienced on this planet, and pulled millions of people out of poverty and into a consuming middle class.  It is impossible to overstate the impact economic reform had on China.

Thirty years ago, India had roughly the same GDP per capita as China.  Today, India's GDP per capita is a fraction of China's.  What happened?  The key difference between the two countries and their corresponding economic trajectories is that China, a communist nation, increasingly leaned towards capitalism and free markets while India, a democratic country, increasingly leaned towards socialism and managed markets.

modi

Consider the massive bureaucratic inefficiency that plagues India today, much of it the result of managed and planned economic activity in which economic liberties were restricted.  It's currently ranked a dismal 142 on the World Bank's 2015 ranking of countries based on ease of doing business...down from a ranking of 140 in 2014 (click HERE for more details).  It takes 162 days and involves over 27 procedures to merely get construction permits in India, a timeline that includes more than 33 days waiting a non-objection certificate from the Tree Authority.  By contrast, obtaining comparable permits in Hong Kong takes ~2 months and involves 5 steps (click HERE for more details).

The 2014 election of Narendra Modi was a turning point for India. In his first Independent Day speech (click HERE for full text), he emphasized his “outsider status” and terminated the Planning Commission responsible for publishing Soviet-style five-year plans. Modi promised a vibrant manufacturing capability, universal sanitation, and financial inclusion for all.  In sharp contrast to the self-aggrandizing approach taken by many world leaders, Modi referred to himself as the Prime Servant, rather than the Prime Minister.

Modi’s actions have to date been consistent with his words. He has formed an economic team around free-market economists like Arvind Subramanian, Raghuram Rajan, and Arvind Panagariya. He has begun simplifying tax policies, liberalizing fuel prices, relaxing restrictions on foreign investment, and focusing the current “Make in India” campaign on new industries such as LED lighting, small cars, and medical appliances. India's poor also managed to open more than 100 million bank accounts in the last four months.  Just this week, Modi reminded global business leaders that India offers three things not available elsewhere – democracy, demography, and demand -- and promised to make it easier to do business in India (click HERE for more details).  The outlook is indeed bright.

If Modi and his team can help India get out of its own way, there’s no reason the country can’t become the fastest growing large economy in the world.

 

CNBC India Interview

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Please click on the video player below to see my recent interview with CNBC India.  During the ~13 minute interview, I summarize my views on China's economic slowdown, commodity markets, India's economic rebound, the valuation of Indian capital markets, oil dynamics, gold prices, and the potential of central bank policy divergences to create currency volatility.

[jwplayer playlistid="1043"]

 

Please click HERE for my "15 Predictions for 2015-2020" that I discuss in this interview.

original link: http://www.moneycontrol.com/news/fii-view/indian-economy-to-outpace-equities-growth2015-2020-yale-prof_1270950.html

 

 

15 Predictions for ’15-’20

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2014 was an action-packed year: Russia invaded Crimea, US energy production surged, the South China Sea disputes escalated, Hong Kong students protested, Malaysia literally lost an aircraft with hundreds of passengers, Scotland denied the UK independence (an admittedly Scottish interpretation), Spain had a succession movement, California effectively ran out of water, West Africa fought Ebola, Thailand had (another) military coup, Pakistan faced massive political unrest, Ukrainian rebels shot down a Malaysian jet, China’s economy slowed while its stock market rose, India elected Modi and started reforming, commodity markets suffered, Israel/Gaza tensions rose, ISIS emerged as a serious threat, oil prices plunged, Iranian nuclear ambitions continued, Europe started crumbling, America reconnected with Cuba, North Korea started a cyber-war, etc.

Merely typing these events into an unordered sequence instantaneously reminded me of Billy Joel’s chart-topping hit song “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (click HERE) that referenced Red China, North Korea, vaccine, Sputnik, and trouble in the Suez. There is one ENORMOUS difference – Joel’s song summarized 100 events that transpired between his birth in 1949 and the song’s 1989 release, while the above list of events took place in one year!

chaos

The world feels fragile, particularly in a geopolitical and economic sense. So where do we go from here? My last newsletter (click HERE) presented five short-term surprise possibilities related to markets. I now offer my list of ten medium-term predictions for 2015-2020. Before I do so, it’s worth recalling the prescient words of John Kenneth Galbraith: “There are two types of forecasters: those who don’t know and those who don’t know they don’t know.” I’ll let you decide which I am, but I do hope my predictions provoke thought!

2015-2020 Predictions

  1. Cyber risks become a top concern for global boardrooms. Financial regulators begin mandating independent information audits comparable to today’s financial audits. National governments create military-like cyber teams to hunt down and bring cyber-terrorists to justice.
  2. The United States of Europe fails to congeal as expected – resulting in a slow disintegration of the attempt at political and monetary union. The re-emergence of individual currencies proves stabilizing and helps generate economic growth, creating a vicious cycle in which more currencies emerge.
  3. Food prices skyrocket, driven by both insatiable animal protein demand from the global middle class, but also weather and politically motivated supply disruptions. “Land grabs” accelerate with governments of food vulnerable populations buying agricultural resources in foreign nations.
  4. The world begins to see Africa as a collection of 50+ countries, rather than one monolithic entity. Technological innovations such as Kenya’s M-Pesa mobile banking system spread globally, and global universities and companies begin tapping the massive potential of Africa’s human talent.
  5. A Robolution in Manufacturing increases productivity and also decreases employment. Robots prove deflationary as the labor component of goods drops and the fall in aggregate workers’ income reduces demand for the very goods the robots make. The market for drones booms.
  6. Central bankers struggle to unwind quantitative easing without generating massive instability. Equities suffer and gold surges as investors lose confidence in responsible central banking.  Martin Wolf's "chronic demand deficiency syndrome" worsens.
  7. Putin becomes increasingly unpredictable. Does he cut off gas to Europe in the dead of winter? Does this fracture US-European cooperation on economic sanctions, ultimately alleviating Russia of economic pain and further emboldening Russian leadership? In the interim, Putin cozies up to Modi and Xi.
  8. China posts a GDP growth rate below 5% before a consumption boom drives the economy forward. Demographic policies change and begin encouraging larger families. Sabre rattling in the South China Sea and towards Taiwan and Japan distract popular attention away from domestic economic matters.
  9. Ebola is contained, but another (this time airborne) epidemic rears its ugly head. The global public health community again scrambles (and again succeeds) to avert a global disaster that might have threatened millions of lives. Middle East Respiratory Syndrome?
  10. Oil rebounds in the face of American production disruptions and higher regulatory costs. OPEC eventually cuts production, and tensions escalate in the Arctic over seemingly large resources. In the interim, low oil prices spur a transition to consumption-led growth in many emerging nations.
  11. Japan acknowledges its demographic problem and opens the doors to immigrants. It begins allowing Southeast Asian healthcare workers (nurses from the Philippines?) to care for the elderly. Sales of adult diapers surpass sales of child diapers by a healthy margin.
  12. Australia’s uninterrupted multi-decade run of economic growth ends. Driven by the Chinese slowdown in investment spending, mining incomes drop and the Australian housing market suffers. A recession is mitigated – possibly avoided – by a pickup in Asian tourism and a weaker Australian dollar.
  13. Nicaragua stops construction of its 172 mile, $50+ billion cross-country canal as Chinese funding evaporates (click HERE). Wang Jing’s promise to employ 200,000 people and help the second poorest country in the Western hemisphere emerge from poverty is broken, crushing Ortega’s credibility.
  14. Terrorism strikes a previously considered “safe” place, generating a new wave of defense/security spending as nations scramble to assuage public safety concerns. Public calls for profiling and unconventional security increase. Zurich? Dubai? Singapore? Miami? Toronto? Beijing?
  15. India becomes the fastest growing large economy in the world, as Modi’s reforms take hold. Getting a visa to India becomes easier for many, rates fall and stimulate consumer demand, but despite strong economic growth, the Sensex index does very little as valuations compress on rising earnings.

Surprise Surprise!

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One of the most robust findings in the psychology literature is that we humans are overconfident and think we know more than we do...which is why I wanted to reflect briefly on five of today's seemingly "obvious" beliefs worth questioning: 1) a strong US Dollar, 2) rates that can only rise, 3) stable food prices, 4) improving labor markets, and 5) struggling emerging markets.   Consider the following five questions, intended not to predict but rather to provoke thought.

1) Could the US dollar depreciate against other currencies?  What does this mean for commodity prices, Japan, the emerging markets, or US treasuries?  Might the big move in the Yen be overdone? What if lower oil prices stimulate Chinese growth, which in turn drives trade and economic activity in Europe?  Could the Euro be undervalued?  If the dollar does depreciate, will it bail out Putin and Iran via higher oil prices?

2) Is it conceivable that US interest rates fall from here?  Deflationary pressures are rearing their ugly head in many parts of the world, and the recent oil price drop isn't helping generate inflation anywhere. What if automation (see #5 below) applies downward pressure on wages?  Could continued low (or lower) rates spur a housing bubble?  Should investors be (gasp!) buying bonds?!  Will deflationary pressures increase the worldwide stretch for yield into increasingly risky assets?

3) What if food prices plunge (or surge)?  Might the recent drop in oil prices provide political cover for the removal of ethanol and other renewable fuel mandates?  Given that 40% of North American corn currently heads to ethanol plants, it's easy to see corn prices plunging.  Alternatively, bad weather could shock supply while emerging market protein demand surges -- generating skyrocketing food prices.  How might food prices affect global stability?

4) Is 2015 the year of robotics, and if so, does it mean higher unemployment?  Might machine automation of labor-intensive tasks drive a productivity boom in global manufacturing?  But what would that mean for labor markets and wages?  Isn't a productivity gain defined as more output using fewer people?  Let's not forget automation is a deflationary force.  Will we each have a personal drone by January 1, 2016?  Will Japanese robots figure out how to take care of the booming population of elderly Japanese citizens?

5) Will emerging markets positively surprise investors in 2015?  The impacts of a slowing China, weakening commodity prices, and a stronger dollar all seem to be incrementally dissipating and may even reverse.  If China manages to avoid a financial crisis (a big "if"), many currently submerging markets will again rise.  Structural reforms of state owned enterprises (SOEs represent ~50% of EM market capitalization) can further support this story, and demographics in most countries are supportive of  growth.  India is a clear winner with lower oil prices, and deflationary pressures globally are likely to spur monetary easing in many countries in 2015.

I hope these five topics spur thoughts.  Listed below are links to my most recent comments.  As always, I'd welcome feedback on any of these thoughts.  All my best for a happy, healthy, and productive 2015!

Vikram
PS. If you have 6 minutes, I'd appreciate your reaction to this short overview video that was recently added to my website...Thanks!


 

Rapidly Receding Reserves

My latest comment was about the link between oil prices and reserves.  The blunt reality that few seem to acknowledge is that oil reserves are price dependent -- and this means the world just lost billions of barrels of reserves as oil prices fell.  Read more HERE.


 

Egg Supplies (and Price) Scrambled...

California regulations that go into effect today have the possibility to meaningfully affect national egg supplies and prices.  To understand why breakfast may cost more in 2015, read my comment HERE.


 

Mirage of a Miracle

As the Russian economy teetered on the edge of collapse, I received dozens of inquiries regarding the Asian Financial Crisis and Russia's 1998 economic implosion.  John Wiley and Sons graciously released my chapter about the 1997-1998 financial crisis.  Click HERE to read "The Mirage of a Miracle."


 

Oil Plunge!  Winners & Losers

The falling oil price is great news for China, India, the US consumer, and Europe, among others. Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Nigeria and others suffer.  But there is a BIG complication: lower oil prices add deflationary pressures to a world that is desperately seeking inflation.  Read my thoughts HERE.


 

Fringy Folks & Flammable Ice

The next big needle-moving development in the energy markets may come from methane hydrates--ice that you can literally light on fire.  Here's a shocking statistic: methane hydrates are believed to contain enough energy to meet US consumption needs for between 100 and 3 million years.  Click HERE for my comment.


 

Going Green, Collapsing Citrus...

It is highly possible that Florida will not have a citrus industry within five years.  Let me repeat that, Florida's orange groves are infected by a greening bacteria that will probably kill every citrus tree in the state.  One possible silver lining: slowing gang warfare in Mexico.  Click HERE to learn more.


 

Water Wars Everywhere

Rising pressures of freshwater supplies are resulting in water wars.  Global risk assessments are now focusing on the possibilities of armed conflict for water, and warning signs are flashing from Barcelona to Brazil. Read my comment HERE.


 

Falling Food, Riot Risk...

Food prices have been falling recently, but are masking underlying price pressures.  In this comment, I decompose the UN food price index and evaluate its various sub-indices, noting the meat price index is surging. My note is available HERE.

 

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