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Commodities

The Role of Shipping in World Trade

The Issue:
The delays in trade costing billions caused by the blockage of the Suez Canal and the shortages in transport supply generated in the later phase of the COVID pandemic have reminded the world of the vital role the transportation sector plays…

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The Issue:

The delays in trade costing billions caused by the blockage of the Suez Canal and the shortages in transport supply generated in the later phase of the COVID pandemic have reminded the world of the vital role the transportation sector plays in world trade. New research is finding how the market for shipping services can influence trade flows, the products that countries sell abroad, and the way in which price shocks reverberate through trade.

The Facts:

  • Ships transport more than 80% of world trade volume and about 70% of trade value. Dry bulk ships, which account for about half of seaborne trade and 45% of the total world fleet, are the main mode of transportation for commodities, such as grain, ore, and coal. They operate on flexible routes and are therefore called “ocean taxis.”
  • World trade in commodities is greatly imbalanced: most countries are either large net importers or large net exporters. As a result of this large trade imbalance, our research finds that at any point in time a staggering 42% of ships are traveling without cargo and there are large asymmetries in trade costs across space. 
  • Transportation prices are largely asymmetric with differences reflecting a destination's trade imbalance. Shipping companies demand a premium to travel towards a destination with low exports, to compensate for the difficulty of finding a new cargo originating from that destination.
  • We find that the transport sector dampens the impact of a decline in fuel costs on trade. A decline in fuel costs improves the bargaining position of the shipping company since it makes traveling without cargo less costly. This mitigates the increase in exporting. 
  • A slow-down in China that leads to a decrease in Chinese imports affects Chinese exports and also has rippling network effects. 
  • The existence of  three important passages (Suez, Panama, Gibraltar) substantially increases world trade in general, with particularly large effects in particular regions. In our modeling, Gibraltar seems to be the most critical passage, as removing it would reduce world trade by close to 7% and up to 44% in the Mediterranean.

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Economics

Inflation In Context: A Liquidity Adjusted CPI Index

First, folks, please send your prayers, thoughts, good feelings, positive energy, miracles, healing touch, whatever you got, and whatever it takes to GMM’s beloved Carol K., who keeps battling, never giving up against a serious disease in Boston at…

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First, folks, please send your prayers, thoughts, good feelings, positive energy, miracles, healing touch, whatever you got, and whatever it takes to GMM’s beloved Carol K., who keeps battling, never giving up against a serious disease in Boston at one, if not the best hospital in the world.  Even in her critical condition, she contributed to this post — though she may not agree with all its final points.  She’s truly an amazing and incredibly strong human being.  Semper Fi and Godspeed, CK.  

We had a few requests to write up something about today’s hot U.S consumer price inflation data. So we put together a quick note in honor of our friend from down in the Land of Oz, GMac, one of the most decent human beings on earth. He is one proud father of a super studly 18-year son, who is an incredible surfer and someday wants to surf Mavericks.  God. Bless. His. Soul.

Let us preface our inflation note with one of our favorite quotes:

World War II was transitory – GMM

Recall our post in January, Ready For 4 Percent CPI By Mid-Year?, when we speculated the U.S. would be experiencing 4 percent inflation, possibly 5 percent by mid-year.  We were beaten down like a red-headed stepchild (I am at liberty to say that as I have been a ginger most of my life).

GMM was also one of the first to point out the base effects (12-month comps) would kick in April and May 2021 due to the deflation that troughed last year from the COVID crash.  But don’t be gaslighted the lastest few month-on-month core prints essentially negate the base effect excuse for high inflation as three-month core CPI is now running at 7.9 percent on an annual basis.

We don’t know for certain if inflation will stick and move higher or lower but as better folk we are taking the over, however.

Liquidity Tsunami

We do know the major global central banks have pumped in a shitload of high-powered money into the global financial system over the past year — as in around $10 trillion, close 50 percent increse of their collective balance sheets.   Here’s Dr. Ed’s excellent chart,

Moreover, banks now seem eager to start lending, thus creating more endogenous money on top of the trillions upon trillions of base money central banks have already injected.

Transitory?  Yeah, right.   

It’s not a question whether the Fed has the tools to reign it in, it’s do they have the ‘nads?  Given the multiple asset bubbles that would burst, and bust spectacularly, if the Fed draws it word,  we seriously doubt it. 

The following chart from Dr. Ed also illustrates not only has the digital printing press been working overtime, the credit system is just fine and dandy as deposits are expanding.  Don’t be confused by, yes, the base effect, as the money aggregates have a much large base to grow from they did a year ago before the pandemic.

Tough to beat comps after expanding over 25 percent 

Note, these are monetary aggregates, which include cash in circulation, bank deposits among near money and other short-term time deposits, not the expansion of the Fed’s balance sheet, though it does hugely influence the data.  

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Big spurts from the digital printing press without a credit crisis and an impaired financial system — as was the case after the Great Financial Crisis — will almost always generate inflationary pressures.   Stimulating demand without production during a supply shock is not optimal unless carefully targeted to those who need it most.   

It’s very amusing to us to see the FinTweets, “peak inflation has arrived.”  True, if the financial markets crash.  But what do they base their conclusion on?  A warm feeling in their tummy?   

Show me the money data, Jerry.  

Banks Itching To Lend

Banks now seem eager to start lending, thus creating more endogenous money on top of the trillions of base money central banks have injected.  

Loans are “starting to pick up,” and there’s plenty of borrowing capacity because companies have unused credit lines, {BofA CEO Brian ]Moynihan said. Loan growth has been a challenge across the banking industry because many consumers and businesses are sitting on cash from savings and stimulus during the pandemic. – Bloomberg, June 6

This should send shivers up the Fed’s spine, but we are not so sure.  We are also not so sure they are not flying blind and will again miss the next big one just as they have in the past. 

The Chart: Liquidity Adjusted Inflation. 

It’s late and we want to present the chart in honor of GMac. 

We have taken the non seasonaly adjusted year-on-year change of CPI and subtracted a scaled up version of the Chicago Fed’s  National Financial Conditions Index (NFCI), which measures how loose or tight monetary conditions are in the U.S..  It’s has been running at an extreme historical low — i.e., very loose financial conditions.   

You can see the 105 indicators it is based upon here.

We are trying to give context to the inflation data of how loose and accomodative finnancial market and monetary conditions are currently.   As you can see, today’s year-on-year CPI print less the NFCI is at the highest level since November 1990, which was in the middle of the first Gulf war, Where the Fed was facing spiking inflation due to the run-up in oil and a recession.  

Prior to that our adjusted inflation index hasn’t been so high since the high inflation late 197Os and early ‘80s.  Gulp. 

Clearly, it is a different environment in today’s economy.  In fact, just the opposite – the economy is ready to roar for the next several quarters as consumers are flush with cash, the supply chain is still a mess due to the “bullwhip effect” (more on this in a future post), and new businesses should be looking for credit and loans to rebuild and start new ventures.    

Most of all, folks, the central banks still have their pedal to the metal and balls to the walls, and as we all know (well some of us),

Inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon in the sense that it is and can be produced only by a more rapid increase in the quantity of money than in output. – Milton Friendman 

The Upshot

Inflation is way too high given exremely easy financial and monetary conditions.  There will be blood. 

Finally 

Life is transitory. 

Inflation has eroded my purchasing power in my transitory life.  Bring back the $.35 Big Mac, which was only about 20 percent of the minimum wage.  Now?  About 40-50 percent.  Enough to spark a revolution. 

Finally, the Democrats should begin to worry.

Stay tuned. 

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Commodities

Euro 2020 – a football tournament where the big players come from China and the US

Much of the money that pays for the competition is spent to build global brands.

Simon Lehmann / Alamy Stock Photo

With Euro 2020 now under way after a year of pandemic delay, football fans will be hoping for great performances from Europe’s finest players. Some of us will watch the tournament unfold on our Hisense televisions, and many will choose to order in some half time refreshments, maybe via the Just Eat delivery service, possibly sent using a Vivo mobile phone.

Sustained by cans of Heineken, as goals are scored, supporters will upload celebration clips on to TikTok. And after the final, what better way to recharge than by arranging a holiday on Booking.com, perhaps flying on Qatar Airways.

For while fans will have their eyes firmly fixed on the efforts of players worth billions of pounds on the field, another big money game will be taking place off it. The Euros is one of the world’s biggest sport events, and a bonanza for corporate sponsors and partners (just a few of which are mentioned above).

In return for being exposed to the eyes of the world, Euros sponsors pay huge amounts of money. Just how much is difficult to say, as fees are commercially sensitive data. But in one case – that of Alipay (part of the Alibaba empire) – it is believed the Chinese company paid £176 million for an eight year deal.

UEFA has sold these deals in three ways: National Team Football Official Sponsors, Euro 2020 Official Sponsors, and Euro 2020 Official Licensees. And the origins of the companies and brands sponsoring this year’s event are a clear indication of how the beautiful game is valued by the corporate world.

Alongside UEFA partners such as FedEx and Konami, each of the national teams bring their own roster of sponsors, which makes for quite a cluttered selection of brands competing for attention. There’s England’s £50 million, five-year contract with BT, for example, while the Germans will bring Lufthansa to the tournament, Carlsberg will promote its association with Denmark and South Korea’s Hyundai will be represented by the Czech Republic.

The list goes on (and on). To capture the complex network of sponsors at Euro 2020 we created a network graphic of some of the most prominent and significant deals on show over the coming weeks. For reasons of clarity, we wern’t able to include every sponsor, but the range on display is revealing.

Graphic of Euro 2020 teams and sponsors.
Euro 2020 teams and associated sponsors. Paul Widdop and Simon Chadwick, Author provided

What becomes immediately clear is that although the UEFA European Championship is a continental tournament, its commercial reach is truly global. A significant number of sponsors are either not European or else have divisions that operate way beyond the borders of Europe.

At the same time, the sponsorship portfolio shows us that football is at the heart of the entertainment, lifestyle and digital economies. Gone are the days of motor-oil and office photocopier sponsorships. Instead we see a profusion of drinks brands, confectionery products and airlines.

In addition, the sponsorship of teams appears to go hand-in-hand with the promotion of national identity and national industry. “Brand Germany” for instance, is strongly represented by some of the country’s most important corporations, including Adidas and Volkswagen.

The appearance of Gazprom meanwhile, reflects the increasing use by nations of sponsorship as a geopolitical instrument. Indeed, the state owned Russian gas company has recently put its associations with UEFA and others to influential use.

Europe’s own goal

Equally, “Brand China” is now a major industrial and political power, and home to five of UEFA’s biggest tournament sponsors (Alipay, Antchain, Hisense, TikTok and Vivo).

Corporate America continues to endure too, represented by the likes of Coca Cola and IMG. The US has always been the home of contemporary sport sponsorship, and the country’s businesses continue to derive significant commercial value from it.

In fact, the underdogs in this big-money corporate competition appear to be the Europeans themselves. For an event being staged in countries including England, Italy, Spain and Romania, UEFA draws very few of its sponsors from the continent. Instead, it is clear that organisations from China and the US have both the financial muscle and the tactical brains to successfully dominate the tournament.

This reflects broader global trends which indicate the declining presence of European industry. European companies account for a falling percentage of global output. The market capitalisation of European firms is way behind that of American corporations and is fast being caught by Chinese firms. And the world’s technological hot spots are found in places such as Shenzhen and Silicon Valley, not in Europe.

Whether the footballing squad from France, Portugal or Switzerland lifts the trophy in July, there is no doubt that the UEFA tournament will be an on field triumph for Europe.

But the forces of globalisation, digitalisation and politico-economic change, reflected in the Euros’ portfolio of sponsors, will keep on playing long after the final whistle blows. And European industry could pay the penalty with a swift exit from the global industrial competition.

Simon Chadwick works with UEFA on its Certificate in Football Management programme.

Paul Widdop ne travaille pas, ne conseille pas, ne possède pas de parts, ne reçoit pas de fonds d'une organisation qui pourrait tirer profit de cet article, et n'a déclaré aucune autre affiliation que son organisme de recherche.

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Economics

The spike in inflation is not a concern – yet

  – by New Deal democratBy now you’ve probably already read a fair amount of commentary on yesterday’s consumer inflation report for May. I’m going to cut to the chase as to my take right off the bat:1. The primary driver of this inflationary…

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 - by New Deal democrat

By now you’ve probably already read a fair amount of commentary on yesterday’s consumer inflation report for May. I’m going to cut to the chase as to my take right off the bat:


1. The primary driver of this inflationary spike is supply bottlenecks rather than increased demand.
2. The inflationary spike has wiped out any “real” wage gains during the past 10 months.
3. The inflationary spike is not a concern - yet. If this continues about 3 more months, it becomes a real concern and I would expect the Fed to act at that point.

To the graphs ...

1. Here’s a look at retail sales (blue) and personal consumption expenditures (gold) since the beginning of 2020:


Just as with last year’s stimulus, the effect of this year’s stimulus has petered out after a few months. Demand has stabilized.

On the contrary, YoY commodity prices have spiked in a fashion last seen when gas prices hit $4.25/gallon in the early part of the Great Recession:


This *can* be a great concern, but note that there have been other spikes approaching 10% YoY in the past 25 years that did not cause recessions or even major slowdowns. Note that those spikes only lasted a few months.

2. Here are average real hourly wages for nonsupervisory workers for the past 3 years, normed to 100 as of February 2020:


As of May, these are up 3% since just before the recession - and not at all since last July. The inflationary spike this year has actually caused them to decline slightly. This will create a problem for consumer spending (70% of the economy) if it continues too much longer.

3. As I’ve said many times before, typically inflation has not been a concern over the past 25 years unless CPI excluding energy (gas) is up 3% YoY or more. As of May, we crossed that threshold:


Another way to look at this is to compare our current trajectory with that which was in place leading up to the pandemic. In the latter part of the last expansion, consumer prices were increasing at the smoothed rate of 2.65%/year. Had that trend continued after February 2020, prices would be up roughly 2.9% since then. With the inflationary spike of the past several months, they are instead up 3.8% since February 2020:


Here’s the bottom line: this is not a big deal if it only lasts another month or two. But if the trend continues longer than that, it will begin to impact consumer spending, and it will get the Fed’s attention. Unfortunately I have no special insight into supply chains; all I know is that it is important that the supply chain bottlenecks be promptly resolved. 

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