Grant Williams is a portfolio and strategy adviser at Vulpes Investment Management in Singapore. He began his career in finance with Robert Fleming & Co. in London, where he traded Japanese equity warrants. Mr. Williams also worked at Jardine Fleming in Tokyo before returning to Flemings in London, where he helped establish the firm’s pan-Asian convertible trading business. He headed up Asian equity trading at UBS in London and then ran equity trading books at Credit Suisse in New York, Hong Kong, and Sydney. Mr. Williams has a strong focus on precious metals and miners and is a regular speaker at investment conferences around the world. He writes the Things That Make You Go Hmmm… column for Mauldin Economics’ weekly newsletter.
From Mark Grant, author of Out Of The BoxThere Are Those Weeks
The Rout in Spain
Overnight the shares of Bankia plunged 51.4%. This, by any definition, is a rout. The citizens of Spain had bought preferred shares, hybrid bonds on the basis of an “implied guarantee” from the sovereign. No such luck. It had been a tout sold by the bank and guaranteed by no one. Now the owners are suffering the disastrous consequences.
Many European analysts had suggested that the swap out of these instruments into equity would drop the price of the stock to about 1.35 Euros but reality emerged today as the equity price plunged to 0.68 Euros. The shares traded today were forty-two times the normal average trading volume and indicated the size of the problem. The stock has lost 90% of its value since May 6.
The European Commission has adopted a two-year-long moratorium on the use of three necotinoid pesticides believed to be one of the reasons behind a 30 percent annual decrease in bee populations since 2007.
EU member-states will now have to amend their existing legislation on the use of pesticides by September 30 to comply with the ban adopted by the EC on Friday.
“Money soon became worthless. We returned to an exchange. For a tin can of tushonka (think Soviet spam), you could have a woman. (It is hard to speak of it, but it is true.) Most of the women who sold themselves were desperate mothers.”
The greatest financial/economic collapse in (known) world history is well on its way.
With Greece suffering the biggest economic depression in decades, all so a few rich men can preserve their wealth and not have their EUR-denominated savings wiped out (even if the alternative means finally being able to rebalance externally using the Drachma instead of forcing internal rebalancing via unemployment and plunging wages), it was only a matter of time before we found out just how humiliating the conversion of the entire economy to a “gray”, non-tax paying one would be for the citizens of Greece.
As the NYT reports, in just the past two years, the numbers of Greeks engaging in prostitution as a last course source of income has more than doubled: according to the National Center for Social Research, the number of people selling sex has surged 150 percent in the last two years.
Furthermore, with every business in which there is exploding “competition” and rich client scarcity, it is not just any prostitution, but very deflationary prostitution:
“Five euros only, just 5 euros,” whispered Maria, a young prostitute with sunken cheeks and bedraggled hair, as she pitched herself forward from the shadows of a graffiti-riddled alley in central Athens on a recent weeknight.
As a chill wind swept paper and trash across a grimy sidewalk, Angelos Tzortzinis, a Greek photographer, caught sight of Maria lowering her price to the equivalent of about $6.50. Maria, who would only give a pseudonym, had hoped to get some money for food — and for a cheap but dangerous new street drug that has emerged during Greece’s crisis, guaranteed to obliterate her sorrows, if only for a moment.
Many prostitutes have been selling their services for as little as 10 to 15 euros, a price that has shrunk along with the income of clients afflicted by the crisis. Many more prostitutes are taking greater health risks by having unprotected sex, which sells for a premium. Still more are subject to violence and rape.
The solar-panel industry, once fattened by taxpayer subsidies and false hopes, has been in a death spiral around the world. In the US, a slew of photovoltaic standouts like Solyndra went under, taking billions of subsidies and investor capital with them. In Germany, it has been just as brutal. Even large companies are licking their wounds.
Bosch Solar Energy AG will shut down production early next year, after having burned through €2.4 billion; 3,000 jobs are at risk. Siemens is trying to shed its solar units, if it can find a buyer. Victims of Chinese companies that flooded world markets with cheap solar panels. But even Chinese companies are going bankrupt, including one of the big four, Wuxi Suntech, subsidiary of US-listed Suntech Power.
Sparked by the police shooting of a machete-wielding 69 year-old man, traditionally calm-and-collected Sweden is suffering amid its third night of riots. It seems underlying tensions from high youth unemployment and rising nationalism against the nation’s large immigrant population have been catalyzed by this seemingly unrelated event. As the Daily Mail notes, immigrant ghettos have been created where unemployment is high and there are few opportunities for residents with left-leaning commenters adding that the riots represented a ‘gigantic failure’ of government policies, which had underpinned the rise of ghettos in the suburbs – “We have failed to give many of the people in the suburbs a hope for the future.” An anti-immigrant party, the Sweden Democrats, has risen to third in polls ahead of a general election due next year, reflecting unease about immigrants among many voters. What is driving this tension? After decades of practicing the ‘Swedish model’ of generous welfare benefits, the country has been reducing the role of the state since the 1990s, spurring the fastest growth in inequality of any advanced OECD economy. Given Sweden’s 24.7% youth unemployment, we wonder just what will happen to the 60% of unemployed youths in Greece and Spain when school lets out this summer?This can’t end well!
• Speaker: Nigel Farage MEP, Leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Co-President of the ‘Europe of Freedom and Democracy’ (EFD) Group in the European Parliament – http://nigelfaragemep.co.uk
• Joint debate: European Council meeting (22 May 2013) – tax fraud and tax havens
“Thank you. Well there is a great degree of unity here this morning, with a common enemy – rich people, successful companies evading tax, which of course is a problem.
Avoiding tax, which is not illegal, but it gives this whole chamber this morning a high moral tone.
And as Mr Barroso says it is all about the perception of fairness. Because there is the added bonus of course that it drives a wedge between the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and the Caymans.
But before we declare our virtues, perhaps we ought to look just a little bit closer to home.
And I hope that the taxpayers all over Europe listen to this. If we look at the EU officials who work for the European Commission and the European Parliament, the highest category [the most common grade is AD12] are people that earn a net take home pay of just over 100 thousand pounds a year. And yet under EU rules they pay tax of 12 per cent. It is tax fraud on an absolutely massive scale.
And Mr Barroso I would say to you, how can that be deemed to be fair? How can people out there struggling – the 16 million people unemployed in the eurozone – how can they look at these institutions, not only paying people vast sums of money but allowing them tax and pension benefits on a scale not seen anywhere else in the world? So I suggest we have a bit less of this high moral tone.
And what have these officials given us? Well, they were the architects of the euro, which is a complete disaster. Their obsession with global warming which chimes very strongly here means we are despoiling our landscapes and seascapes with these disgusting wind turbines and driving up energy prices.
But never let it be said that I cannot acknowledge success when I see it. And I am sure the citizens of Europe will all clap and cheer loudly that the grave, mortal danger of olive oil in dipping bowls has been removed by the officials. Well done everybody.”