Australia: Don’t expect a repeat of the last boom

Gerard Minack, courtesy of Macrobusiness, explains why the recent rise in commodity prices will not result in a repeat of the last boom.

There are two main ways the last commodity boom boosted domestic activity. Neither seems likely to be repeated now. The first is that the mining sector lifted its investment spending as commodity prices increased (Exhibit 5). Now, however, mining investment is likely to continue to fall (although most of the declines have been seen).

The second way the mining boom filtered through to domestic activity was via fiscal policy. The boom provided a windfall for governments. For the Federal Government the windfall was several percent of GDP….Almost all the revenue windfall was used to fund a discretionary loosening of fiscal policy….. With the budget now in deficit I expect the Federal Government to trouser the latest windfall. (Yes, there will be political pressure on a behind-in-the-polls-government to spend more, but the countervailing political fear is that to spend the windfall now would lead to a politically damaging downgrade to Australia’s sovereign rating.)

The unforeseen consequence of this government profligacy was a spectacular rise in the Aussie Dollar and subsequent decimation of the manufacturing sector.

Source: Minack Special Report: Forget rate hikes – MacroBusiness

Best time to short commodities since 2012

From Vesna Poljak:

….China’s stimulus is finite and demand for raw materials will collapse without it.

Australian Atul Lele, the Bahamas-based chief investment officer of private wealth manager Deltec, says all monetary and fiscal stimulus has a natural conclusion – “it just ends” – and traditional indicators of commodity prices such as global growth and liquidity conditions have been outrun by prices already.

“Right now, commodity prices are consistent with 8 per cent global industrial production. If we saw that, ex of the financial crisis recovery, it would be the strongest rate of global industrial production growth since 1981, at least. Now I’m bullish global growth and more bullish than most people, but it’s not going to happen and even if it does happen, all you’ve done is justify current commodity prices. So why would you buy a resource stock now?”

China continues to inject stimulus to revive its economy but that is making its financial system increasingly unstable. Credit growth in excess of 30% of annual GDP warns of a banking crisis according to the BIS. And shrinking foreign reserves flag that the currency is under pressure.

China faces the impossible trinity. According to David Llewellyn-Smith at Macrobusiness, a country pegged to the Dollar can only achieve two out of the following three:

  • a stable exchange rate
  • independent monetary policy
  • free and open international capital flows

At present all three are under pressure.

Source: Best time to short commodities since 2012 says Deltec’s Atul Lele

Iron Ore Wrap

From Andy Semple at Andika:

The iron ore price has slumped to a one-month low as investors fret over the strength of Chinese demand. The commodity weakened 1.7% to $US53.50 a tonne at the end of last week, its lowest price since April 11. It’s the commodity’s seventh red session in the past eight and the price has now dropped to below the [Australian] government’s recent budget forecast of $US55 a tonne.

Iron ore: Only question now is how rapid the fall | MINING.com

From Frik Els:

According to Platts Mineral Value Service, a Munich-based iron ore and steel research company, domestic iron ore’s contribution to the Chinese steel market has declined from 36% of market share in 2010 to around 22% in 2015.

Domestic iron ore output from an industry plagued by fragmentation, high costs and low grades (only around 20% Fe) has halved since 2013 and may dip below 200 million tonnes Fe 62% equivalent this year…..

Even if more Chinese mines shut down and the shift to seaborne ore continues, the seaborne market is not exactly short of tonnage. All-in-all new seaborne supply set to increase by approximately 245 million tonnes by end of 2018 according to Platts MVS.

The big three – Vale, Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton – last week lowered future production guidance, but the aggregate 35 million tonnes in possible lost production hardly changes the oversupply picture and the giants would still hit actual annual output records even at these lowered levels. Citigroup’s analysts expect around an additional 75 million tonnes of iron ore this year to be shipped out of Australia, more than a third of which would come from Roy Hill. The Gina Rinehart mine has brought forward ramp-up plans and now expects to be producing at full annualized capacity of 55 million tonnes by the end of this year. Later this year, Rio’s board is likely to give the go-ahead to build Silvergrass which would add another 20 million tonnes of high-grade, low cost ore to the company’s Pilbara output.

Source: Iron ore price: Only question now is how rapid the fall | MINING.com

China’s credit boom: How long will it last?

Where All The Commodity Gains Have Come From

Tyler Durden:

Trading in futures on everything from steel reinforcement bars and hot-rolled coils to cotton and polyvinyl chloride has soared this week, prompting exchanges in Shanghai, Dalian and Zhengzhou to boost fees or issue warnings to investors. Eventually, the excesses will need to be curbed and maybe that starts a new phase of risk-off within China.

As Bloomberg reports, While the underlying products may be anything but glamorous, the numbers are eye-popping: contracts on more than 223 million metric tons of rebar changed hands on Thursday, more than China’s full-year production of the material used to strengthen concrete.

The frenzy echoes the activity that fueled China’s stock market last year before a rout erased $5 trillion, and follows earlier bubbles in property to garlic and even certain types of tea. China’s army of investors is honing in on raw materials amid signs of a pickup in demand and as the nation’s equities fall the most among global markets and corporate bond yields head for the steepest monthly rise in more than a year. Hao Hong, chief China strategist at Bocom International Holdings Co. in Hong Kong, says the improvement in fundamentals and the availability of leverage to bet on commodities is making them irresistible to traders. “These guys are going nuts,” Hong said. “Leverage exaggerates the move of the way up, but also on the way down – much like what margin financing did to stocks in 2015.”

China’s fresh boom nears peak just as amateurs pile in

Tyler highlights the “irrational exuberance” in commodities futures markets but Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at The Telegraph nails the cause:

China’s reflation drive has been explosive. New home sales jumped 64pc in March from a year earlier. House prices have risen 28pc in Beijing, 30pc in Shanghai, and 63pc in the commercial hub of Shenzhen. The rush to buy has spread to the Tier 2 cities such as Hefei – up 9pc in a single month.

“The housing market is on fire,” said Wei Yao, from Societe Generale. “In the first quarter, increases in total credit exploded to 7.5 trilion yuan, up 58pc year-on-year. There is no bigger policy lever than this kind of credit injection.”

“This looks like an old-styled credit-backed investment-driven recovery, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the beginning of the “four trillion stimulus” package in 2009. The consequence of that stimulus was inflation, asset bubbles and excess capacity. We still think that this recovery will not last very long,” she said.

China Property Starts

Yang Zhao from Nomura …. said the law of diminishing returns is setting in as the economy nears credit exhaustion. The ‘incremental credit-output ratio” has deteriorated to 5.0 from 2.3 in 2008. Loans are losing traction and the quality of investment is falling.

“Be careful. We are nearing the point where things are as good as they get for the first half of 2016. We recommend taking some money off the table,” said Wendy Liu and Vicky Fung, the bank’s equity strategists.

….Michelle Lam from Lombard Street Research said Beijing has retreated from reform and resorted to pump-priming again. “This may last for one or two quarters. But how much longer can Beijing go on creating debt at a breakneck pace?” she said.

China Money and Credit Growth

Their actions reveal desperation at the PBOC. Faced with the unpalatable choice between running down foreign reserves at the rate of more than $50 billion a month, to support the dollar peg, or devaluing the Yuan which would fuel even greater capital flight, the central bank opted to inject a further round of credit stimulus to ease the immediate pressure. There are no free lunches: further credit expansion pushes China’s economy ever closer to a financial crisis.

We are in for a volatile year. Make that a decade…..

Source: The Stunning Chart Showing Where All The Commodity Gains Have Come From | Zero Hedge

Source: China’s fresh boom nears peak just as amateurs pile in | Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

The future of Chinese steel | MacroBusiness

Chinese Steel

From Andrew Batson’s interview with Cai Rang, chairman of the China Iron & Steel Research Institute Group:

China’s current steel production capacity is 1.2 billion tons, but domestic demand cannot completely absorb this capacity. In 2015 China exported about 100 million tons of steel products; this was a relief for domestic capacity but a shock to the international market. Already nine European countries have made antidumping complaints, and Japan, Korea and India have also complained. This shows that our country’s current steel production capacity is not sustainable, and must be genuinely reduced.

Now the relevant departments are drafting the 13th five-year plan for the iron and steel industry, and the preliminary plan is to first cut 200 million tons, and eventually stabilize steel capacity around 700 million tons.

How will a 40 percent cut in Chinese steel production impact on Australian iron ore exports? Not well, I suspect.

Source: The future of Chinese steel – MacroBusiness

China trade: Food, LNG, coal to gain ground as iron ore exports slip | afr.com

From Ben Potter at AFR:

Iron ore sales to China are set to fall as a share of total two-way trade, while natural gas, food and even coal exports will become more important, the paper, China’s Evolving Demand for Commodities, finds.

A decline in Chinese crude steel production means iron ore’s share of China trade falls steadily from its current peak of 58 per cent to about 51 per cent by 2025 and 43 to 47 per cent by 2035, the paper, by Ivan Roberts, Trent Saunders, Gareth Spence and Natasha Cassidy of the Reserve Bank of Australia finds

Source: China trade: Food, LNG, coal to gain ground as iron ore exports slip | afr.com

Iron ore price correction in full swing | MINING.com

Frik Els:

Iron ore is now down 18.3% from a high above $63 struck last week following an insane one-day rally.

…..SGX was the first to launch iron ore derivatives in April 2009 and so-called open interest – a measure of market participation – has surged to an all-time high in recent days according to data from the exchange.

The iron ore market has also gone into backwardation, an unusual situation where spot price are higher than futures prices…..

Source: Iron ore price correction in full swing | MINING.com

Sigh…no, iron ore has not bottomed | MacroBusiness

From David Llewellyn-Smith:

…..restocking is the only thing going on here, enhanced by recent Chinese stimulus. It will pass in due course leaving enormous oversupply and far too large Chinese inventories.

….Not only is iron ore going below $30, it’s going below $20 soon enough. This year we’ll see more supply from Minas Rio, Sino, Roy Hill, India and Vale as Chinese demand falls sharply with a swing in the market of 100mt towards greater surplus.

Source: Sigh…no, iron ore has not bottomed – MacroBusiness

BHP Billiton

I have seen a few advisers recommending BHP to clients but there are no signs that the commodity free-fall is ending.

Bulk Commodities

Bullish divergence on 13-week Twiggs Money Flow reflects medium-term buying pressure. Expect strong resistance at 16.50. Breach of short-term support at 14.00 remains likely and would signal another decline.

BHP

The weight of the market is on the sell-side and a knife-edge reversal is most unlikely.

BHP

Janet Yellen on financial market turmoil

Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen before the House Financial Services Committee:

Janet Yellen

“…..As is always the case, the economic outlook is uncertain. Foreign economic
developments, in particular, pose risks to U.S. economic growth. Most notably,
although recent economic indicators do not suggest a sharp slowdown in
Chinese growth, declines in the foreign exchange value of the renminbi have
intensified uncertainty
about China’s exchange rate policy and the prospects for
its economy.

This uncertainty led to increased volatility in global financial markets and, against the
background of persistent weakness abroad, exacerbated concerns about the outlook for
global growth
. These growth concerns, along with strong supply conditions and high
inventories, contributed to the recent fall in the prices of oil and other commodities. In
turn, low commodity prices could trigger financial stresses in commodity-exporting
economies, particularly in vulnerable emerging market economies, and for commodity-
producing firms in many countries
. Should any of these downside risks materialize,
foreign activity and demand for U.S. exports could weaken and financial market
conditions could tighten further…..”

…No rate rises any time soon.

Iron ore headed for the smelter

Bloomberg News quotes Zhu Jimin, deputy head of the China Iron & Steel Association, representing major steel producers, at their quarterly briefing on Wednesday:

“Production cuts are slower than the contraction in demand, therefore oversupply is worsening.”

“China’s steel demand evaporated at unprecedented speed as the nation’s economic growth slowed,” Zhu said. “As demand quickly contracted, steel mills are lowering prices in competition to get contracts.”

Little wonder that bulk commodity prices are falling sharply.

RBA: Bulk Commodity Prices

Australian producers have been ramping up production to compensate for lower prices.

RBA: Bulk Commodity Exports

But with further production due to come on line, the market looks ready for a meltdown. This from David Llewellyn-Smith at Macrobusiness:

Yes, China is still shutting in supply and is on track for 270 million tonnes this year but it’s not going to drop enough in the future (at the very best down to 200mt) as Roy Hill, Sino, Anglo, Vale and India (and possibly Tonkolili as well) continue the great ramp up, adding another 200mt plus in the next two years even as Chinese steel production keeps falling at 2-3% per year, taking 40mt per annum out of demand….. the total seaborne iron ore market is about to peak and then shrink….

The ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index is testing its 2008 low. Breach appears likely and would offer a target of 1700*.

ASX 300 Metals & Mining Index

* Target calculation: 2200 – ( 2700 – 2200 ) = 1700

North America

The S&P 500 respected support at 2050 and is headed for a test of the previous high at 2130 on the back of strong earnings performance. Rising 21-day Twiggs Money Flow indicates medium-term buying pressure but expect strong resistance at 2130. Reversal below 2050 is unlikely, but would warn of another test of primary support at 1870.

S&P 500 Index

* Target calculation: 2000 + ( 2000 – 1870 ) = 2130

A declining CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) indicates market risk is easing.

S&P 500 VIX

NYSE short sales remain subdued.

NYSE Short Sales

Dow Jones Industrial Average is similarly headed for a test of 18300, with 13-week Twiggs Money Flow rising steeply.

Dow Jones Industrial Average

Canada’s TSX 60 continues to test stubborn resistance at 825. Weak 13-week Twiggs Momentum, below zero, indicates the market remains bearish. Breakout would signal an advance to 900, but reversal below the former primary support level at 800 is as likely and would warn of another decline.

TSX 60 Index

* Target calculation: 775 – ( 825 – 775 ) = 725

Europe

Germany’s DAX is testing resistance at 11000. Recovery of 13-week Twiggs Money Flow above zero indicates medium-term buying pressure. Breakout above the descending trendline would suggest another test of the previous high at 12400. Expect stubborn resistance, however, and reversal below 10000 would warn of another decline.

DAX

The Footsie is similarly testing resistance at 6500. Breakout above the descending trendline would suggest another test of the previous high at 7100. 13-Week Twiggs Money Flow troughs above zero indicate long-term buying pressure. Reversal below 6250 is unlikely, but would warn of another test of primary support at 6000.

FTSE 100

Asia

The Shanghai Composite Index continues to test resistance at 3500. Respect is likely and would indicate a re-test of government-backed support at 3000.

Dow Jones Shanghai Index

Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index is retracing to test support at 22500. Respect would indicate a rally to 24000, but failure remains as likely and would test primary support at 21000. A 13-week Twiggs Money Flow trough above zero would indicate (long-term) buying pressure.

Hang Seng Index

Japan’s Nikkei 225 is testing resistance at 19000. Breakout would signal another test of 21000. Respect is less likely, but would warn of another test of primary support at 17000.

Nikkei 225 Index

* Target calculation: 19000 + ( 19000 – 17000 ) = 21000

India’s Sensex encountered resistance at 27500. Rising 13-week Twiggs Money Flow troughs above zero indicate long-term buyiong pressure. Expect another test of 26500 but respect is likely and would indicate continuation of the rally. Reversal below 26500 would warn of another (primary) decline.

SENSEX

* Target calculation: 25000 – ( 27500 – 25000 ) = 22500

Australia

The ASX 200 is retracing to test medium-term support between 5200 and 5300. Reversal of 21-day Twiggs Money Flow below its rising trendline indicates (medium-term) selling pressure; decline below zero would strengthen the signal. Breach of 5200 would warn of another test of primary support at 5000. Recovery above the descending trendline is unlikely at this stage, but would suggest another test of 6000.

ASX 200

* Target calculation: 5000 – ( 5400 – 5000 ) = 4600

Global economy: No surprises

The global economy faces deflationary pressures as the vast credit expansion of the last 4 decades comes to an end.

$60 Trillion Global Credit

Commodity prices test their 2009 lows. Breach of support at 100 on the Dow Jones UBS Commodity Index would warn of further price falls.

Dow Jones UBS Commodity Index

The dramatic fall in bulk commodity prices confirms the end of China’s massive infrastructure boom.

Bulk Commodity Prices

Crude oil, through a combination of increased production and slack demand has fallen to around $60/barrel.

Crude Oil

Falling prices have had a sharp impact on global Resources and Energy stocks….

DJ Global Energy

But in the longer term, will act as a stimulus to the global economy. Already we can see an up-turn in the Harpex index of container vessel shipping rates, signaling an increase in international trade in finished goods.

Harpex

The latest OECD export statistics show who the likely beneficiaries will be. Primary producers like Brazil and Russia have suffered the most, while finished goods manufacturers like China and the European Union display growth in exports. The US experienced a drop in the first quarter of 2015, but should rebound provided the Dollar does not strengthen further.

OECD Exports

Australia and Japan offer a similar contrast.

OECD Exports

Oil-rich Norway (-5.8%,-13.3%) has also been hard hit. Primary producers are only likely to recover much later in the economic cycle.

Australian exports hammered

This chart from Westpac highlights Australia’s export misery:

Iron ore Exports and Earnings

Iron ore prices are falling faster than shipments are rising. Andrew Hanlan sums up the the problem facing the Australian economy:

A jump in imports coincided with a sharp fall in export earnings. Critically, the rest of the world is paying us considerably less for our key exports, iron ore and coal. This negative shock is squeezing incomes for businesses, households and government alike.

China: Cement Production

Lowest cement production in more than 10 years reflects the decline in infrastructure investment. Not good news for Australian resources stocks. Where cement production goes, iron ore and coal are likely to follow.

Upsurge in global trade?

While commodity prices are tanking, with iron ore now trading below $50 per tonne, there are signs that international shipping of manufactured goods is on the increase. Shipbrokers Harper Petersen publish the Harpex, a weekly index of charter rates for container vessels. The recent up-turn reflects increased demand for container shipping — an important barometer of international trade.

Harpex Index

China’s infrastructure boom is over

China has been on a record-breaking infrastructure binge over the last decade, but that era is coming to an end. Fall of the Baltic Dry Index below its 2008 low illustrates the decline of bulk commodity imports like iron ore and coking and thermal coal, important inputs in the construction of new infrastructure and housing.

Baltic Dry Index

High-end commodities like copper held up far better since 2008, but they too are now on the decline.

Copper

With the end of the infrastructure boom, China’s economy may well prove to be a one-trick pony. Transition from a state-directed infrastructure ‘miracle’ to a broad-based consumer society will be a lot more difficult.

Goldman describes Australia’s lost decade | Macrobusiness

Posted by Houses and Holes. Reproduced with kind permission from Macrobusiness.

Goldman’s Tim Toohey has quantified the unwinding commodity super-cycle for ‘Straya’:

Lower commodity prices risk $0.5trn in forgone earnings
The outlook for revenues from Australian LNG and bulk commodities shipments – which account for almost half of total export earnings – has deteriorated significantly. To be clear, overall revenues are still forecast to increase substantially over the coming years – underpinned by a broadly unchanged strong outlook for physical shipments (particularly for LNG). However, in a nominal sense, the outlook is far less positive than before. This owes to a structurally weaker price environment, with GS downgrades of 18% to 25% to key long term price forecasts for LNG and bulk commodities suggesting that cumulative earnings over the years to 2025 are on track to be ~$0.5trn lower than previously forecast.

1

3

… and will erode Australia’s trade/fiscal positions
The deterioration in the earnings environment naturally has direct implications for Australia’s international trade and fiscal positions. On the former, a return to surplus by CY18 no longer looks feasible, and we now expect a deficit of ~$15bn. On the latter, relative to the 2014 Commonwealth Budget, we estimate that weaker commodity prices will cause a ~$40bn shortfall in tax revenues over the next four years. Given our expectation that Australia’s LNG sector will deliver no additional PRRT revenues over the coming decade, and the ~$18bn downgrade to commodity-related tax in the December MYEFO, we therefore see a risk of further material revenue downgrades at May’s 2015 Budget.

5

Resulting in changed GDP, RBA cash rate and FX forecasts
Although the commodity export changes mainly manifest through the nominal economy, there are significant impacts back through to the real economy. Lower export earnings result in lower profits, lower tax receipts, lower investment and lower employment. We continue to expect just 2.0% GDP growth in 2015 but have lowered our 2016 to 2018 real GDP forecasts by an average of 50ppts in each calendar year. As a consequence, we have moved forward the timing of the next RBA rate cut to May 2015, where we see the cash rate remaining at 2.0% until Q416, where we expect a 25bp hike. We now expect just 75bps of hikes in 2017 to 3.0% and rates on hold  in 2018. Despite the recent move in the A$ towards our 75c 12 month target, the reassessment of the medium term forecast outlook argues for a new lower target 12 month target of 72c.

OK, that’s quite a piece of work and congratulations to Tim Toohey for getting so far ahead of pack. I have just two points to add.

The LNG forecasts look good but as gloomy as his iron ore outlook is, it is not gloomy enough. $40 is a more reasonable price projection for 2016-18 and we’ll only climb out of that very slowly. That makes the dollar and interest rate forecasts far too bullish and hawkish.

Second, even after these downgrades, Mr Toohey still has growth of 3.25% GDP penned in for 2016 and 3.5% for 2017. We’ll have strong net exports and is about it. With the capex unwind running right through both years, housing construction to stop adding to growth by next year, the car industry wind-down at the same time, political strife destroying the public infrastructure pipeline, the terms of trade crashing throughout and households battered half to death by all of it, those targets are of the stretch variety, to say the least.

The analysis is exceptional, The conclusions, sadly, overly optimistic.