Simultaneous inflation and deflation pressures in China

China simultaneously experiences imported deflation and inflation. 

Drop in global demand for exports causes credit to unwind within the manufacturing sector. 

Swine flu and depleting foreign reserves causes price pig to increase. 

This will be a useful case study to observe the monetary and fiscal policy China implements to deal with simultaneous inflationary and deflationary pressures. 

China Factory Deflation Worsens as Pork Drives Consumer Prices  https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-15/china-factory-deflation-worsens-as-pork-drives-consumer-prices

An unchanging constant as the source of trust

Trust is the ultimate source of wealth in any society. The level of manifested physical wealth correlates positively with the level of perceived trust members of society have for an entity.

When an entity, be it a phenomena or a behavior, is observed to be consistent across time without much falter, it soon becomes accepted as the norm. Overtime this norm gets deeply embedded within a society and becomes an integral part of its culture. It thus becomes trusted and a source of credibility.

Societal commerce is built on trust. Trust accumulated through consistency overtime can be converted to other forms of tangible currency. These currencies can then be used to direct resources within the society towards the achievement of very material goals.

When comparing between two entities that are embedded within the cultural fabric of society, the one that exhibits a higher level of consistency inevitably gains more trust. This explains why while fiat currencies comes and goes, the value of gold remains consistent across time.

While it might be tempting to equate trust with value, there is a subtle difference. While trust elicits value, value need not necessarily elicit trust.

Expressing the entire civilization’s undertaking at any point in time as an linear equation, any essential variable that happens to be the most restrictive in supply at that point inevitably becomes the most valued. However wide fluctuations in value does not elicit trust in the long run.

Sources of trust

  • the rotation of seasons and our subsequent practice of agriculture
  • the constant speed of light and it’s use in Einstein’s theory of relativity
  • gold with its scarcity and it’s persist use as a store of wealth
  • well run institutions with well defined constitutions
  • fiat currencies with under sound government regimes
  • individuals who exhibit consistent behavior overtime

Qualities of viable currencies

  • Ability to be divisible
  • Ability to be moved
  • Ability as a store of wealth overtime
    • consistent levels of supply
    • scarcity

Functions of currencies

  • a means to facilitate transactions
  • a store of wealth

Examples of trust erosion

Example 1: Michigan Pulls $600 Million From Ken Fisher an individual After Lewd Remarks

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-12/michigan-pulls-600-million-from-ken-fisher-after-lewd-remarks

Example 2: 1918 Germany as an institution, towards the tail end of WWI.

When it became evident that the country will loss the war, it experienced increased inability to raise debt to in domestic currency denomination to continue financing its war efforts. It’s currency soon lost it’s reserve currency status and it was increasingly forced to denominate debt in foreign reserve currencies.

Post WWI debts denominated in domestic currency where inflated away through printing of cash by the  German government to pay of debts denominated in foreign currencies.

Example 3: Africa use of glass beads as a failed form of currency

Europe was able to cheaply produce this in abundance . Europeans for a period were able to exploit this asymmetry by exchanging cheap glass beads for valuable natural resources. When value within the African society became depleted,  Europeans were eventually able to subjugate the entire African population and exploit them through the slave trade.

Example 4: Wall Street crash and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Bankers increasingly became concern of easy credit driving share prices to stratospheric valuations. An eventual tightening of credit lead to rapid deleveraging within the system. The lack of trust within the system prevented the circulation of money and credit. The central bank ultimately had to step in to restore trust.

It did so by first preventing the flight to value. This was achieved through the banning of conversion of USD dollar to gold.

Example 5: An ongoing slow erosion of fiat money

With the deliberate pursuit of constant 2% yearly inflation by central banks around the world current fiat money are failed stores of wealth .

The currency of the Roman Empire is a perfect example of where we will be headed. Overtime less gold per coin is used. Their currency was ultimately replaced by paper which allowed rampant printing by the government during times of war. The effects of inflation eroded the Roman empires currency as a long term store of wealth.

Examples of persistent sources of trust

  • The institution of the Catholic Church
  • The consistent adherence to a set of sound principles by Berkshire Hathaway’s reinsurance business over multiple decades. 
  • Federal reserves consistent adherence to the dual mandate of 2% inflation and low unemployment rates

Conclusion

To build trust is to build wealth. The key to doing so is to adhere and operate on a consistent set of sound principles over across time and in all environments. Being slow and steady is a pre-requisite of this process.

Related readings

Observed unwinding of credit in the market

Priori

  • Federal reserve starts reducing debt bought and brought onto their balance sheet during 2008
  • Federal reserve went on a series of interest rate hike from the period of 2016 to 2018
  • Trump starts Trade war in 2017 resulting in reduced global demand for American exports

Observsations in some sections of the markets

Injecting of more liquidity into the overnight repo market to ensure banks and Main Street have enough liquidity to continued functioning

https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2019-10-11/fed-brings-a-bazooka-to-its-fight-with-the-repo-market

Excessive corporate leverage starts to unwind

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-10-09/a-40-billion-pile-of-leveraged-loans-is-battered-by-big-losses

Federal reserve cut second rate

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-09-18/fed-makes-second-straight-rate-cut-splits-on-further-action

Thoughts of various asset class type and their usage

Investment environment parameters

  • Economic cycle
    • boom
    • recession
  • Inflation rates
    • High
    • Low
  • Currency type
    • Reserved currency
    • Non reserved currency
  • Exchange rates regime for non reserved currency owners
    • Fixed exchanges rate
    • Floating exchange rates
  • Recession type
    • (hyper) inflationary
    • deflationary
  • Federal reserve monetary policy
    • restrictive
    • expansive

Asset class types

Government bonds

  • good position to hold when government is unlikely to default and threat of inflationary recession looms
    • interest rates are inflation adjusted
  • high opportunity cost to hold position when economy is booming

Cash

  • good position to hold when hyper deleveraging is occurring within the system and Federal reserve has not responded with expansionary monetary policy
  • high opportunity cost to hold position when economy is booming

Mortgage REIT

  • good position to hold when threat of deflationary recession looms and the Federal reserve have started loosening monetary policy.
  • a tenuous position to hold during periods of hyper inflation because the interest gets offset by the inflation
  • a tenuous position when the Federal reserve starts tightening monetary policy
  • a tenuous position to hold when over leveraging is rampant within the system
  • high opportunity cost to hold position when the economy is booming

Equity REIT

  • good position to hold when the Federal reserve starts tightening monetary policy.
    • Credit becomes less available and thus more expensive
    • number of construction project drops
    • less supply driving up demand for existing inventory
  • high opportunity cost to hold position when the economy is booming

Gold

  • Use as a protection against hyper inflations
  • a tenuous position when the economy is in the early stage growth
    • demand for gold will drop as more funds gets allocated to risk assets
  • a tenuous position when the economic is heading into deflation
    • there is less money/credit within the system as compared to the amount of gold

Oil

  • Useful for hedging against outbreak of war
  • a tenuous position when recession and economic activity worldwide slows

Growth companies

  • Useful for riding an economy boom
  • a tenuous position to hold during the late stage of a credit cycle when too much leverage has been built up within the system and valuation is excessive

Value companies

  • Useful for riding a deflationary recession when credit becomes more expensive
  • High opportunity cost when economy is booming.

Related references

Oil’s relationship with the macro economic environment

Price of OILU jumps 34% following news on 50% Saudia Arabian refining capacity destruction by Iranian drones.
At the height of the Oil crash in 2016, USO traded at USD8.33 per share on 2nd August 2016. It has since recovered

The price of oil has an positive correlation with likelihood of war and a booming economy. It has a negative correlation with recession and oversupply.

The price of oil did not hit zero even during the height of the oil crash.

Observations on how public opinion is shaped in the US

Public opinion is observed to be very malleable and fickle. It’s highly susceptible to reshaping by main stream media.

In an unlikely twist of events, what was once presented as a war by the White House against China over trade and national security has overnight morphed to become a fight for American values like democracy, free speech and human rights.

While the ongoing unrest in Hong Kong have provided ample fuel, the tweet by NBA Houston Rockets general manager was the spark that caused the fire.

Related Readings

Thoughts on excessive use of leverage

One of worst mistakes I made was during the 2015/6 Oil crash. I bought into shares of oil exploration companies instead of buying the oil directly. 

It was a very painful and expensive mistake. While the price of oil made a nice recovery since then, the exploration companies never made it through to the other side. Majority of them filed for bankruptcy during the height of the crisis. Unfortunately they took on too much debt when the times were good and were unable to finance the debts and ongoing operations through the continued sales of their inventory when situations turned south. 

The lesson learned is that when buying the dip, it’s important to make sure that not just yourself but the underlying assets you hold are resilient to the environment shock. Utilization of excessive leverage reduces the resilience. Over expansion into fancy offices and overstaffing is another form of excessive leverage. Tech startup founders are often caught red handed committing these mistakes. 

With regards to oil, until the world stops relying on plastic, chemical lubricants and switches completely to alternative forms of energy, we should not expect the price of oil to fall to zero anytime soon. 

A simple acid test to figure out the intrinsic value of oil is to ask your neighbor for his tank of gasoline for free. The most likely response you will get from him is a suggestion to go f**k yourself…?!?

Fluid dynamics within the markets

Approximately 10% of all companies listed on Nasdaq and NYSE fell by more than 10% over the past week. Its like a magnitude 5 earthquake happened and the entire market goes into panic mode.

During this occasion, it is fascinating to observe at a macro level the flow of money within the system.

Sources of liquidity

  • the white house administration has cut taxes over the past 2 fiscal years between 2017 and 2018.
  • the Federal reserve increase money supply through the repo market and by lowering interest rates
  • Central banks around the world lower interest rates
  • the high US dollar signals that money from around the world is flowing into the US market

High pressure areas

  • the price of gold moves steadily upwards
  • the price of US Treasury bonds signaled by the fall in US Treasury yield moves steadily upwards
  • the SnP hovers near all time high
  • Companies classified as value stocks are trading at all time high multiples

Anomalous vacuum

  • Companies classified as growth stocks are trading at huge discounts versus all time highs

Once the psychological impact of the current set of stimulus wears off and assuming the supply of money stays constant within the US market, it is very likely money will start flowing from high pressure areas to fill up the anomalous vacuum described above.

https://trends.getdata.io

LA trip to visit Johnson

  • Textile and clothing companies need to forecast demand to reduce inventory cost
  • Building a team is the most important thing
  • in times of volatility buy put options on VIX and long Gold
  • Small business owners
    • are supporters of protecting US businesses against intellectual property theft by Chinese companies
    • consider Chinese company methods of manipulating accounting statements fraudulent
    • consider news reported in major news networks to be fake
    • consider Democrats to have given away to many privileges to other countries thereby putting the US economy at a disadvantage
  • Real estate development
    •  Bulk of building materials are imported from China and subjected to taxation
    • put on hold until trade war is over to avoid incurring tariffs as production cost
  • Real estate hard money loans
    • usual fees
      • 2% transaction fee
      • 10% annual interest rates
    • Preferred customer fees
      • 1% transaction fee
      • 9-10% annual interest rates