Daily updates on climate change and the global economy.

24th May 2023 Today’s Round-Up of Economic News

Global container production slumps as demand for goods sinks.

“The drop-off in demand has hit manufacturers hard. Profits at China International Marine Containers, one of the country’s largest producers of the boxes, plunged 91 per cent year-on-year to Rmb160mn ($23mn) in the first three months of this year…

World Trade Organization economists believe export growth will stutter for the duration of this year, suggesting demand for containers will remain weak…

“Stockpiles are now at record levels across the Asia-Pacific region, Karlsen said, adding that “massive amounts” of containers were expected to continue to pile up in ports the region throughout this year.”


World Bank seeks grants, new capital to fight global crises.

“The World Bank will press for more grants and new capital from member countries, even as it leverages its balance sheet to scale up lending for responses to climate change and other global crises, its managing director of operations said on Tuesday.”


The new gold boom: how long can it last?

“…Coronavirus, the war in Ukraine, geopolitical tensions, inflation fears, mounting global debt, high interest rates and the banking crisis have all prompted investors to re-evaluate safe-haven assets. Gold has been the beneficiary.”


Looming Defaults Threaten Chain Reaction From Credit Into Stocks…

““Markets appear unduly optimistic about the outlook,” says Matthew Forester, chief investment officer of Lockwood Advisors at BNY Mellon Pershing. “We don’t believe current credit spreads, especially in lower-grade credits, are compensating for cyclical, political and geopolitical risks. High-yield spreads need to move materially higher.””


Private equity steps up lending as U.S. banks pull back…

Shadow banks, as the private creditors are known, are able to lend with fewer regulatory hurdles. While private credit funds have grown swiftly, the risks they pose to the financial system appear limited, the Federal Reserve wrote in a report this month.”


The housing slowdown is a top signal that the US is headed into a moderate recession, Fannie Mae says.

“The government-sponsored mortgage agency predicted a modest recession to hit the economy later this year, pointing especially to the slowdown in US housing activity. Existing home sales have plunged to their lowest level since 2010…”


The golden age of liquidity comes to an end.

For the first time since the survey began, the proportion of Americans who say they would cover a $400 emergency expense completely using cash or its equivalent dropped from the previous year. That’s in large part a function of pandemic-era cash assistance programs ending.”


Americans’ financial wellbeing hit by higher inflation, Fed survey shows.

“Americans reported that their financial health had deteriorated sharply in 2022 in the face of elevated inflation, new data from the Federal Reserve on Monday showed… Nearly a third reported they were either “just getting by” or “finding it difficult to get by”.”


Inflation tightens grip on UK services firms in worry for Bank of England -flash PMI…

“The BoE is watching prices in the services sector as an indicator of how much inflation pressure remains in the economy. It has increased interest rates at 12 meetings in a row since late 2021 and is due to announce its next decision on June 22.”


Interest on the UK’s debt mountain hit a record high last month as the government racked up another £25.6billion of borrowing.

“Borrowing came in higher than expected as inflation pushed up charges on the £2.5trillion debt, while energy bills support and hikes in benefits added to the burden.”


Weakest European firms face highest amount of maturing debt since 2015 – Deutsche Bank…

“The bank added that in the absence of a soft landing, weaker economic growth and a potential hawkish stance from the European Central Bank (ECB) suggest that financing conditions will remain tight, increasing pressure for corporates in the second half of the year.”


EU’s Top Lenders Would Need Central Bank Aid in Crisis, SRB Says.

The failure of Credit Suisse Group AG shows that Europe’s top lenders would still need liquidity assistance from central banks if they were to collapse, according a top regulator. That case made clear that the needs of a so-called global systemically important bank in crisis would outstrip the bloc’s bank failure fund, as well as a planned additional facility…”


How Hyperinflation Heralded the Fall of German Democracy…

“So fast was the inflation that pay became worthless within days. As Berlin journalist Friedrich Kroner put it, “the spanking brand-new bank note, still moist from the printers, paid out today as a weekly wage, shrinks in value on the way to the grocer’s shop.” His advice was to “buy, buy, buy.””


Big drop in German exports to China raises fears over EU’s economic powerhouse…

“Falling exports to China are among a number of indicators that Germany’s manufacturing sector is suffering from a sharp decline at the start of this year, including lower factory output, plummeting demand and a shrinking backlog of orders, which could slow growth in the EU’s largest economy.”


Qatar’s energy minister warned on Tuesday the “worst is yet to come” for Europe’s oil and gas shortages, saying a warm winter had prevented greater difficulties in recent months.

“Saad al-Kaabi and his Saudi counterpart Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said a lack of investment in oil and gas, as the world tries to transition to cleaner fuels to prevent global warming, risked causing an energy crunch.”


Czechs take next step to eliminate Russian oil from Polish-owned refineries.

“The Czech government is looking to eliminate all dependence on Russian oil in the coming years, and thus end its exemptions from a European Union ban on imports from Moscow last year.”


Russia considers gasoline export ban, sources say.

“The Russian government is considering a possible gasoline export ban to prevent domestic fuel shortages and price hikes following a decision to reduce subsidies for refineries, industry and government sources told Reuters on Tuesday.”


Papua New Guinea, US sign defence and maritime pact.

“The United States has signed a defence and maritime surveillance agreement with Papua New Guinea (PNG) during a visit by the top US diplomat as Washington aims to counter China’s influence in the Pacific region.”


China opposes trade agreement reached between U.S. and Taiwan.

“China firmly opposed the agreement reached between the U.S. and Taiwan, urging the U.S. to “carefully handle economic and trade relations with Taiwan”, China’s ministry of commerce said on Tuesday.”


Beijing hits back at U.S. allies and ‘anti-China’ G-7 summit.

“State-backed Chinese mouthpiece Global Times called the Group of Seven summit an “anti-China workshop” on Monday, after Beijing summoned Japan’s envoy and berated Britain in a fiery response to statements issued at the weekend in Hiroshima.”


Chip war: Apple strikes major US-made semiconductor deal.

“Apple says it has struck a multi-billion dollar deal with chipmaker Broadcom to use more US-made parts. Under the multi-year agreement, the two US companies will develop components for 5G devices that will be designed and manufactured in America.”


Samsung faces threat of first-ever strike…

“The threat of strike action comes at a sensitive time for Samsung, which posted a record $3.4bn loss in its chip division in the first quarter. It has been forced to cut chip production amid an industry slump and the US-China technology rivalry.”


Power outages due to scorching heat lead to street protests in Uttar Pradesh [India].

“As the blistering heatwave continues to scorch India, the residents of Uttar Pradesh find themselves grappling with the devastating consequences of temperatures reaching up to a searing 45 degrees Celsius leading to surging demand for electricity resulting in distressing and frequent power outages across the region.”


Israelis Blame Government for Economic Woes as Prices Continue to Soar.

“A new survey by the Israel Democracy Institute shows a clear majority of Israel see Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies as the cause of their financial hardships… Nearly 60 percent of Israelis believe the Netanyahu government is to blame…”


Argentina introduces larger bank note amid galloping inflation.

“Argentina has put a new 2,000-peso bill into circulation as the country endures one of the world’s highest inflation rates that has decimated the value of the local currency. The new bank note is worth double the previous highest bill in circulation…”


You can read the previous “Economic” thread here. I’ll be back tomorrow with a “Climate” thread.

If you found value in this content, please help me continue this work by becoming a patron of my work via Patreon. And if you are already a subscriber or have donated – thank you! It is an enormous help as the cost-of-living crisis ratchets up here in the UK.

22nd May 2023 Today’s Round-Up of Economic News

What happens when $2 trillion is sucked out of the global economy? It may not be pretty.

“Central banks have been credited with averting a global depression twice over the past 15 years: Once after the 2008 financial crisis, and again at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

“But the tactics they deployed to restore confidence and keep money flowing from banks to the economy amounted to a high-stakes experiment — one that may be impossible to unwind without destabilizing the financial system.” [Photo is actually of the Corryvreckan Whirlpool by the island of Jura.]


Worries may be growing about a global financial crisis, but not at the Bank of England.

“Businesses, in particular, are becoming increasingly nervous. Based on responses to the latest Global Risk Survey from Oxford Economics, they think banking system strains and tightened credit supply now pose the greatest threats to the global economy. Most strikingly, a full-blown financial crisis is no longer viewed as a remote possibility.


UK and US regulators were told of a state-led drive to “rig” interest rates in the 2008 financial crisis, but covered it up, evidence indicates…

“At the height of the 2008 financial crisis, when bank lending had almost ground to a halt, central banks around the world urged calm. But behind the scenes, the investigation reveals evidence that they were pulling levers to restore calm artificially – measures which would later be ruled to be against the law in the UK.”


Bond Market Caught Between Fears of US Debt Default, Rate Hikes… A Fed pause in June, once seen as certain, no longer assured…

“Bond traders are losing faith that the Federal Reserve is done tightening monetary policy and will ride to the rescue with rate cuts this year.”


Even Flirting With U.S. Default Takes Economic Toll…

“Even if a deal is struck before the last minute, the long uncertainty could drive up borrowing costs and further destabilize already shaky financial markets. It could lead to a pullback in investment and hiring by businesses when the U.S. economy is already facing elevated risks of a recession, and hamstring the financing of public works projects.”


[US] Bankruptcies are skyrocketing — and that’s only half the story…

Why so many bankruptcies? The answer is one word: capital. Regardless of an economy’s growth, capital is needed to run businesses. Working capital. Equipment and property financing. Cash flow to buy inventory and pay salaries. And unfortunately that capital has become much, much more expensive, and much less available.”


Hedge Funds’ Ultra-Bearish Oil Bets Signal US Recession Angst.

“Money managers that trade derivatives linked to oil and fuel prices are about as bearish as they’ve been in more than a decade, suggesting they’re braced for a recession that could cause contracts from crude to jet fuel to take another tumble.”


Oil drilling is collapsing in the US as producers rein in output, mirroring a recent plunge in rigs searching for natural gas.

“Rigs targeting crude declined by 11 to 575 this week, according to data released Friday by Baker Hughes Co. It’s the biggest weekly drop since September 2021. The pullback was led by the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico…”


G7 alarms climate activists over support for gas investments…

“The April meeting of G7 climate ministers eventually agreed, despite tussles between Japan and European nations, that gas investments “can be appropriate to help address potential market shortfalls” following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the disruption it has caused in global energy markets.”


Norway faces backlash from campaigners for ‘reckless’ pursuit of Arctic oil and gas.

“Norway last year overtook Russia as Europe’s biggest natural gas supplier and says it is now seeking to maintain Europe’s energy security by exploring the Barents Sea for further resources.”


Rome climate protesters turn Trevi fountain water black…

“The protesters from the Ultima Generazione (Last Generation) group held up banners saying “We won’t pay for fossil [fuels]” and shouted “Our country is dying.” Uniformed police waded into the water to take away the activists, with many tourists filming the stunt and a few of the onlookers shouting insults at the protesters, video footage showed.”


Thousands mass for pro-EU rally in Moldovan capital, amid tensions with Russia.

“A huge pro-EU rally has taken place in Moldova’s capital Chisinau, organised by the country’s President Maia Sandu. An estimated 75,000 people turned out to support Moldova’s push to join the European Union.”


Europe’s politicians impose price caps to address soaring food costs.

Europe’s retailers and governments are locked in their fiercest tussle over food costs for 50 years, with policymakers resorting to price controls to tackle the worst cost of living crisis for a generation. Despite lower energy prices easing overall price pressures, growth in the cost of food has continued to soar…”


Cost of fish and chips soars to £9 as Rishi Sunak urged to help takeaways with bills [UK]…

“Chancellor Jeremy Hunt slashed energy bill support to businesses by 80% in the Spring Budget from £18bn to £5bn, forcing many small businesses including takeaways to pass on costs to consumers. Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey called on the Rishi Sunak to reverse the cut.”


One million in UK switch off broadband due to cost of living crisis, charity warns…

“The charity said its survey showed broadband – an increasingly essential service with many job applications, utility bills and local council services moving online – was becoming out of reach for greater numbers of households.”


Starvation, skipping meals and living in a freezing car: The brutal reality of life on the poverty line in 2023 Australia – as the cost of living crisis spirals out of control…

“Families have been sharing their gruelling stories of surviving on the poverty line, with some existing on just $6-a-day for essential living costs including housing, food and bills.”


Australia’s big supermarkets increased profit margins through pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, analysis reveals…

“Guardian Australia analysis of Coles and Woolworths financial accounts over a five-year period show the dominant supermarkets were able to use the pandemic to not just sell more goods, but also increase the amount they profited from sales.”


Surge in strikes at Chinese factories after Covid rules end…

“For most of the strikes, the root cause is money. Although China’s economy is gradually recovering from the battering it took during three years of strict zero-Covid measures, factories are still struggling. And the worsening political relations between the US and China are starting to make themselves felt in the economy.


China Bars Purchases of Micron Chips in Escalation of US Clash.

“China issued its latest salvo in an escalating semiconductor war with the US, announcing that Micron Technology Inc. products have failed to pass a cybersecurity review in the country. In a statement Sunday, Beijing warned operators of key infrastructure against buying the company’s goods…”


China’s $23 Trillion Local Debt Mess Is About to Get Worse.

“In 2021, a remote coal town in northeastern China was forced to undergo an unprecedented financial restructuring. Its struggles since are an ominous sign for President Xi Jinping as other heavily indebted municipalities look set to follow suit.”


Crippling heat waves deepen Asia’s reliance on Russian energy.

“The extreme heat that’s been scorching Asia in recent weeks has produced one clear beneficiary — Russia. As countries across the region scramble to make sure they have enough coal, gas and fuel oil to keep the lights on, Russian energy being shunned by the West is looking increasingly attractive.”


“F**K”: Imran Khan let’s it out as power cuts during live address, netizens in splits…

“During his live address, Imran Khan lost his temper as he witnessed a power cut and there was a complete blackout. Once there was a blackout, he was heard abusing in the video that has gone viral over the internet.”


Israelis Take to the Streets for 20th Week of Protests Against Netanyahu’s Judicial Coup.

“Protest organizers in charge of the main demonstrations in Tel Aviv are focusing this Saturday’s protest on what they say is the ‘raiding of the public coffers’ by Israel’s ultra-Orthodox coalition parties, just as the government prepares to pass the state budget in the coming days.”


Yemeni riyal falls to 1,320 to dollar as president calls for financial aid…

“The Yemeni government’s efforts to stem the devaluation of the riyal, which included shutting down unlicensed exchange firms, providing oil and goods importers with dollars, suspending the internal transfer system between exchange shops known as hawala, and restricting the smuggling of foreign currencies out of the country, have largely failed.”


Sudan’s Crisis Is Pushing Egypt to the Brink…

“In the past month, it is estimated that over 90,000 Sudanese refugees have journeyed into Egypt; the real numbers are likely much higher, as thousands are waiting at the border—without shelter, safe drinking water, and reliable food—to cross over. Yet Egypt itself is not the ideal safe haven: it is currently grappling with an economic crisis, severe food shortages, and a devaluation of its currency, the Egyptian pound.”


Heavy fighting in Khartoum hours after Sudan rivals agree to upcoming ceasefire…

“Multiple truces have been violated since fighting broke out five weeks ago… Khartoum residents — who for weeks have been sheltering from brutal urban warfare amid desperately low supplies of food and vital resources — were sceptical that this time would be any different.”


Sudan war hits crucial gum arabic business…

The golden blobs of resin tapped from thorny acacia trees are an emulsifying agent used in everything from soft drinks to chewing gum and pharmaceuticals. Sudan is the world’s largest producer of the raw gum which is a major source of foreign currency for the northeast African nation.”


You can read the previous “Economic” thread here. I’ll be back tomorrow with a “Climate” thread.

If you found value in this content, please help me continue this work by becoming a patron of my work via Patreon. And if you are already a subscriber or have donated – thank you! It is an enormous help as the cost-of-living crisis ratchets up here in the UK.

19th May 2023 Today’s Round-Up of Economic News

El Niño could cost the global economy $3 trillion…

“The shift to El Niño, which is characterized by warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific Ocean, in conjunction with accelerating climate change, means a wide array of exacerbated hazards may be coming down the pike. Those impacts come with a surprisingly steep price tag.”


G7 summit gets underway in Hiroshima as Japan warns world leaders on nuclear weapons.

“…experts warn nuclear instability is again on the rise, with Russia hinting at the potential use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, and concern about a conflict between China and the United States over Taiwan.”


Global debt nears record highs as rate hikes trigger ‘crisis of adaptation,’ top trade body says.

“The global debt pile grew by $8.3 trillion in the first quarter to a near-record high of $305 trillion… The finance industry body said the combination of such high debt levels and rising interest rates has driven up the cost of servicing that debt, triggering concerns about leverage in the financial system.”


The world’s richest are leaving the poorest to deal with the global debt crisis alone.

“Without fixing the debt and poverty crisis, we won’t even get close to fixing the global climate crisis, which threatens us all… The unfortunate reality is that, for many leaders in the Global North, international assistance is now a secondary priority, as domestic issues and Russia’s war in Ukraine are dominating their agendas.”


Why are central bank forecasts so wrong? Failure to spot inflation dents central banks’ credibility…

“Advanced economies are experiencing the most acute — and most enduring — outbreak of inflation for a generation. Yet almost all rate-setters failed to spot the degree to which price pressures would ratchet up — and stick around, despite record amounts of monetary and fiscal stimulus.”


Slowing U.S. economy gets closer to recession, leading index signals.

“The U.S. leading economic index fell 0.6% in April and declined for the 13th month in a row, pointing once again to a potential recession later in the year… The leading economic index, also known as the LEI, is a gauge of 10 indicators designed to show whether the economy is getting better or worse.”


Overexposed US regional banks could sell commercial property loans.

“Many U.S. regional lenders may have to consider selling off commercial real estate (CRE) loans at a steep discount after breaching key regulatory thresholds for exposure to the troubled sector, according to new data and market sources.”


First Republic CEO on bank’s collapse: ‘Everything changed overnight’.

“The former CEO of First Republic told House lawmakers Wednesday that his bank “was contaminated” by the widespread panic that followed the March 10 fall of Silicon Valley Bank, a development “no one” at his company could have anticipated.”


More than 1 in 6 adults have depression as rates rise to record levels in the US, survey finds…

“Nearly 3 in 10 adults have been clinically diagnosed with depression at some point in their lifetime, according to the survey, which is also a record high. The Covid-19 pandemic took an undeniable toll on mental health. Rates of clinical depression had been rising steadily in the US but “jumped notably” in recent years, the Gallup data shows.”


Drug Shortages Near an All-Time High, Leading to Rationing.

“A worrisome scarcity of cancer drugs has heightened concerns about the troubled generic drug industry. Congress and the White House are seeking ways to address widespread supply problems… the United States remains heavily reliant on medicines and drug ingredients from India and China.”


[UK] Food banks forced to buy groceries due to shortages.

“The Trussell Trust said 13% of food in emergency parcels was bought, whereas before the pandemic it was all donated. Donations do not always match their most-needed items meaning charities have to buy more to cover shortages.”


Swiss parliament to investigate Credit Suisse collapse…

“The move comes after two sub-committees supported a deeper investigation into how the government, Swiss central bank and financial market regulator acted in the run up to the emergency rescue of Credit Suisse.”


Corporate Psychopaths: Unmasking the Silent Threat to Financial Stability…

“The study… looked at Bernie Madoff’s behavior throughout his life including during his business dealings, his trial, and his time in prison. It warns that while people with some psychopathic personality traits tend to get ahead in corporate finance, their recklessness and greed can bring down organizations and even entire economies.


The EU Is Deeply Divided Over Nuclear’s Role In The Energy Transition.

“While the U.S., the UK, and even Japan are doubling down on nuclear energy in the wake of the energy crisis, the European Union has seen divisions among member states over the role of atomic power in the climate goals only deepen since the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the spike in energy prices.”


How is Australia trying to sell a major gas expansion? By badging it ‘sustainable’…

“A major rebranding exercise has been under way by the NT and the federal governments in relation to Middle Arm. Documents obtained by the ABC in December show the original business case for a “sustainable” development precinct described it as a “new gas demand centre”.”


Ecuador’s president dismisses legislature as it tries to oust him, in a move that promises turmoil.

“In disbanding the National Assembly, Guillermo Lasso made first use of the Ecuador presidency’s nuclear option under the constitution in conflicts with the legislative branch. His first move was to push a package of tax cuts…”


The governor of Bolivia’s central bank has said his country faced “a liquidity crisis”, but “not a solvency crisis”, as it runs short of foreign exchange.

“One Bolivian bank failed last month after a run on deposits, and regulators plan to repay dollar depositors in local currency. Several observers tell Central Banking that the move could exacerbate Bolivia’s reserves crisis….”


Soybean and sugarcane producers have blocked the highway connecting Cochabamba and Santa Cruz in Bolivia for the second day in protest against diesel shortages…

“In Bolivia, the government implemented decrees 4910 and 4911 that reduced fuel sales to big buyers of gasoline and diesel from 20,000 to 5,000 liters in order to control the fuel and prevent smuggling. Farmers at the protest that left hundreds of trucks and cars stranded say they feel criminalized…”


Argentina president, protesters slam IMF debt, austerity as economy creaks.

“Argentine President Alberto Fernandez and protesters in Buenos Aires pushed back against the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Thursday amid heightened tensions with the lender as the country faces nearly 109% inflation and dwindling dollar reserves.”


Ghana IMF loan: Will $3bn solve the economic crisis?

“The size of Ghana’s debt is now almost 90% of the total annual value of its economy… The country’s foreign reserves are virtually empty… if past experience is anything to go by, this cash injection from the IMF will not necessarily solve the country’s long-term economic problems.


Eskom Warns South Africa Faces Record Power Cuts This Winter…

“The country faces a “difficult winter” as it heads into the cold months with 3,000 megawatts less capacity than last year, Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. acting Chief Executive Officer Calib Cassim told reporters on Thursday.”


A second exile: Sudanese refugees flee again to destitute Chad…

“Moussa, 68, is one of 60,000 Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children, who have poured over the border since war broke out on April 15, seeking safety in Chad, one of the world’s hungriest, most neglected countries.”


Why Tunisia’s political and economical crisis is Europe’s problem too…

“Tunisia’s economy is on the verge of collapse… But what happens in Tunisia doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the physical distance between Europe and Tunisia is unlikely to shield the continent from the consequences of the North African country’s authoritarian descent and the unravelling of its democracy…”


I’ll kick all refugees out of Turkey, Erdoğan rival vows.

“The leader of Turkey’s opposition has pledged to repatriate millions of refugees to their home countries, toughening his rhetoric ahead of a hotly contested runoff election next week… “I am announcing here: I will send all refugees back home once I am elected as president, period,” Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu declared, according to Turkish media.”


‘This is Lebazuela’: Lebanon’s broken economy turns to the dollar.

“The world’s worst financial crisis has turned Lebanon into a “cash dollar” economy that risks becoming a haven for money-laundering, according to a damning new World Bank report… The financial collapse, worsened by the coronavirus pandemic and the huge explosion in Beirut’s port in August 2020, is the most extreme of any country in modern times.”


Crippled economy fuels former Pakistan PM Khan’s protests.

“The tumultuous campaign by Imran Khan, Pakistan’s most popular politician, to reclaim power has been driven by an economic crisis that ordinary people say has left them unable to feed their families. Violent clashes erupted last week…”


Economic crisis on the rise in Nepal… If the current economic crisis in Nepal continues, it could lead to a Sri Lanka-like crisis…

“It is for the first time that the government has accepted that the country is under recession as it is mainly hit by a reduction in industrial production, lower investment, liquidity crisis, high-interest rates, burgeoning trade deficit, lower capital expenditure, and a decline in revenue collection.”


Vietnam Faces Power Cuts Amid Heatwave.

“The biggest city in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, is looking to conserve electricity usage amid a heatwave that has depleted water reservoirs for hydropower, the source generating around one-third of Vietnam’s electricity.”


You can read the previous “Economic” thread here. I’ll be back over the weekend with a “Climate” thread.

If you found value in this content, please help me continue this work by becoming a patron of my work via Patreon. And if you are already a subscriber or have donated – thank you! It is an enormous help as the cost-of-living crisis ratchets up here in the UK.

17th May 2023 Today’s Round-Up of Economic News

Global shipping routes face a level of “threat and coercion” not seen since the Second World War, a UK foreign minister has said.

[NB I hope readers understand that I am not endorsing UK foreign policy or perspectives here; I feel the need to add that disclaimer in these febrile times!]

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Britain’s Minister for the Indo-Pacific, said the fight for resources and domination was having a dramatic effect on international shipping.

“Speaking at the Seapower Conference in London, she said rivalry between leading maritime countries including Russia and China was undermining free trade in the Indo-Pacific. She also warned of an environmental emergency, with the world needing to address a depletion of fish stocks that could lead to a collapse in livelihoods.”


What do high US inflation and China’s deflation risk mean for the global economy?

“…The fire and ice situation serves to complicate a fragile global economic recovery that is already being haunted by the Russia-Ukraine war and persistent China-US trade tensions.”


Global Economy Risks Stalling as China, Germany Juggernauts Slow…

“The latest data suggest that key parts of the upbeat case for a global pickup aren’t working out as hoped. China’s reopening, after an abrupt pivot away from Covid Zero policies, has run out of steam — and a mild winter in Europe hasn’t been enough to revive Germany’s industrial base.”


Surveillance: ‘Discretionary Recession’ Creeps Across Retailing [US]…

“On one hand, US retail sales showed that Americans are still spending, albeit with more borrowed money and their savings. On the other, transactions are clearly slowing. We saw this today with Home Depot, which gave a disappointing forecast…”


[US] Property owners are starting to unload troubled office buildings at fire-sale prices, a sign that the office market slump is moving into a new phase where more landlords are ready to capitulate.

“In recent weeks, Blackstone sold the Griffin Towers office complex in Santa Ana for $82 million, or about 36% less than the firm paid in 2014…”


The former bosses of two US banks that collapsed in March, sparking global fears over the state of the financial industry, say the failures were caused by “unprecedented” circumstances. The remarks come in testimony prepared for a hearing in Washington on Tuesday.”


“Bosses of failed US banks accused of putting profits over safety…

“Why did you let things get this bad? Why did you ignore admonitions from regulators?” said Sherrod Brown, the Democratic chair of the Senate banking committee. “There is a simple answer — the same answer we find to most questions about big banks’ failures: because the executives were getting rich.”


IEA says oil price downturn ignores looming supply crunch.

“Weeks of declining oil prices due to concerns over a possible recession clash with the outlook for scarce supply and robust demand later in the year, the International Energy Agency said on Tuesday.”


‘Halt button’ hit on drilling in US oil and gas slowdown…

“An oversupply of equipment is a stark sign that drilling in US shale energy regions is levelling off, as producers respond to lower commodity prices and pressure from Wall Street to direct spare cash to shareholders.”


Fires Rage in Canada’s Main Energy Hub, Threatening Region’s Oil Production.

“Shifting fires across Canada’s main energy-producing province are prompting drillers to throttle back production once again, more than a week after the spate of blazes began, and officials are warning of worsening conditions ahead.”


Why Britain’s contorted planning system is forcing developers to buy up trout farms… Housebuilders warn that red tape is bringing industry to a halt…

“Developers have realised they can get around so-called nutrient neutrality restrictions, which ban them from increasing the amount of nitrates in the water supply, by buying up trout farms – and then closing them down.”


After enduring shortages, Britain to review horticulture and egg supply…

“Britain, grappling with a cost-of-living crisis and food inflation not seen for almost 50 years, will review its horticulture and egg supply chains after shoppers faced shortages, the government said on Tuesday… The tight conditions have helped to push British food price inflation to levels not seen since 1977…”


A former Tory minister said families don’t have a ‘right’ to low food prices as she told people to live within their means.

“Ann Widdecombe said that people who cannot afford to make a cheese sandwich should not ‘do the cheese sandwich’.”


ECB to hike twice more and more could come as inflation stays hot: Reuters poll.

“”The messaging from several ECB speakers … has clearly been on the hawkish side since the meeting, and their consumer expectations survey just showed higher inflation expectations,” noted Ruben Segura-Cayuela, Europe economist at Bank of America. “Unless something breaks, we can only reiterate our view that – despite the cracks appearing in the outlook – two more 25 bps hikes are the lower bound.””


UBS flags $17 billion hit from Credit Suisse takeover…

“UBS estimates a negative impact of $13 billion from fair value adjustments of the combined group’s assets and liabilities. UBS also sees $4 billion in potential litigation and regulatory costs stemming from outflows, the bank said.”


South Africa can keep coal fired plants running longer, climate committee says.

“South Africa’s climate policy body on Monday suggested the government could delay retiring its ageing coal-fired power plants to address electricity shortages and said a power crisis had put the country on track to meet its climate goals anyway.”


Fighting continues to rage between government troops and rebel militia forces in Sudan, despite efforts to impose a ceasefire.

“And this programme has heard increasing reports of civilians being murdered and raped, along with large scale looting.”


Sudan: Vendors, farmers suffer amid rising prices and fuel shortages.

“North of Khartoum, in the Sudanese Nile River State, the combat zone seems far away but its destructive effects are deeply felt. The 1-month long fighting has deepened the humanitarian crisis in the country, where one in three people already relied on humanitarian assistance before the war.”


Tunisia Faces Economic Crisis Amidst Migrant Surge…

“Located at the northernmost point of the continent, Tunisia is a popular departure point for refugees attempting to reach Europe via Italy, many of whom come from Sub-Saharan Africa, Syria, and Sudan… To make matters worse, Tunisia’s political and economic situation has been struggling since its democratic turn following the Arab Spring protests in 2011…”


Turkey’s economic crisis expected to deepen after Erdoğan tops poll.

“The Turkish lira, which has devalued steadily in recent years including halving in value in one year alone, dropped close to a historic low as markets opened the morning after Sunday’s vote.”


A French investigating magistrate on Tuesday issued an international arrest warrant for Lebanon’s central bank chief Riad Salameh, a source close to the case said.

“Salameh earlier failed to appear for questioning by French investigators who want to know how he amassed sizeable assets across Europe, his lawyer said.”


Imran Khan’s Face Off With Pakistan Army Escalates After Arrest.

“Since his ouster as prime minister last year, Imran Khan has played a high-stakes game of challenging Pakistan’s powerful military. Now it’s reaching a breaking point… All the while, Pakistan’s historic economic crisis is only worsening, with stark examples of surging prices, poverty and desperation emerging by the day.”


At least 16 killed as Pakistan tribes clash over coal mine…

“Darra Adam Khel is in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Kohat district, home to a large coal reserve. The area was part of the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), a semi-autonomous region that was merged with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in 2018.”


Bangladesh rocked by power cuts as Cyclone Mocha hits LNG supply…

“Millions of Bangladeshi citizens have been hit by frequent power cuts in recent months, as erratic weather patterns and high global energy prices have made fuel supply to power plants unreliable. The outages have irked residents, leading to protests across the country in recent months.”


Argentina raises interest rate to 97% as it struggles to tackle inflation.

“Central banks across the globe are struggling to rein in inflation, but it’s a particular problem in Argentina, where the annual inflation rate soared above 100% last month. That’s the highest level since the early 1990s, and currently, Venezuela and Zimbabwe are the only two countries experiencing higher inflation than Argentina…”


Venezuelan bills for power and water soar as subsidies cut back.

“Venezuelans are battling fast-rising utility bills as subsidies from the cash-strapped government dwindle, leaving many paying large chunks of their salaries for electricity and water despite regular blackouts and mains water shut-offs.”


You can read the previous “Economic” thread here. I’ll be back tomorrow with a “Climate” thread.

If you found value in this content, please help me continue this work by becoming a patron of my work via Patreon. And if you are already a subscriber or have donated – thank you! It is an enormous help as the cost-of-living crisis ratchets up here in the UK.

15th May 2023 Today’s Round-Up of Economic News

What dangers are lurking in the shadows of the global financial system?

“…The non-banks, or “shadow banks” as they are sometimes called, don’t face the capital or liquidity requirements of regulated banks nor are their activities as transparent. The IMF has said there is little regulatory or supervisory oversight of these non-banks and that they have “virtually no loss-absorbing capital”.

“The non-bank sector includes pension or superannuation funds, insurers, hedge funds, private equity funds, private credit funds and many other entities, often pursuing leveraged strategies…

“…banks can be exposed to non-banks indirectly, through a commonality of asset holdings.

“If property fund managers face a flood of redemptions and have to sell assets to raise cash, for instance, it would have depressing flow on effects to the value of the security banks hold against their property loans as well as for the solvency of their customers…

“Commercial real estate might, as it has in the past, be the most obvious source of problems and contagion between the non-bank and regulated banking sector but no-one really knows what’s lurking within the shadows of the system.”


Why the world should fear a commercial property crash. Working from home spells trouble for the office sector…

“The spread of commercial property yields [in the US] over 10-year Treasuries (American gilts) is only 0.5pc. To return the spread to normal, average commercial property prices need to fall from peak to trough by about 22pc. So far, average prices have only dropped by about 7pc, leaving a large fall still to come.”


G7 finance ministers warn of “uncertainty” on global economy.

“G7 finance ministers have warned of “heightened uncertainty” surrounding the global economy and the need to address regulatory gaps in the banking system in the wake of recent financial sector turmoil… The finance ministers also noted the need to fill “data, supervisory and regulatory gaps” in the banking system…”


The Pain of Silicon Valley Bank’s Collapse Is Being Felt by These Depositors…

“Funds held at foreign branches are not subject to deposit insurance protections,” the spokesperson said, adding that the bank’s creditors can file claims on what they are owed… “In fairness, it has always been true that foreign deposits are not covered by U.S. insurance,” said Christopher Curtis, a retired U.S. financial-regulatory attorney who worked at the FDIC in the early 1990s.”


Investors predict ‘imminent’ US high-yield bond sell off…

“The US Federal Reserve’s quarterly Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey this week showed that 46 per cent of US banks plan to raise their lending standards due to worries about loan losses and deposit flight.”


Bankruptcies Are Up 216% and We Aren’t Even Halfway Through 2023 [US]…

“The most recent S&P data show 2023 corporate bankruptcies rising at an alarming clip. Data show 236 bankruptcies were recorded through the end of April 2023 (109 had been recorded over the same time period last year). UBS also found in a recent study that bankruptcies worth $10 million or more had a rolling average of about 8 per week.”


Recession? Corporate America’s Earnings Say It’s Already Arrived.

“As the US economy teeters on the brink of recession, Wall Street is already enduring what could turn out to be the most prolonged corporate profits downturn in seven years. With the first-quarter earnings season drawing to a close, the profits of S&P 500 companies are estimated to have dropped 3.7% on average, compared to a year ago.”


“Worst freight market since the Great Financial Crisis.” [US]

“This statement is common across social media. Now we have some evidence to support it… The current trucking spot rate is below the 2019 seasonal equivalent. While this alone is bad, the worst news is that operating costs for trucking companies (not including fuel) are up more than $.30/mile in that same period.”


US oil and gas rig count falls to lowest since June 2022 – Baker Hughes.

“The U.S. oil and natural gas rig count fell this week to its lowest in nearly a year, as gas rigs slumped by the most in a week since February 2016, energy services firm Baker Hughes Co said in its closely followed report on Friday.”


Shoppers and fast food fans face a shortage of home produced chicken amid claims supermarkets are refusing to pay farmers enough to cover soaring costs. [UK]

“The empty shelves and rationing of eggs and vegetables that was seen in recent months is likely to be repeated for many fresh British chicken products, according to experts at the British Poultry Council (BPC).”


Neo-Nazis clash with police and counter-protesters at anti-immigration rally in Melbourne [Australia].

“A group led by the self-proclaimed neo-Nazi Thomas Sewell was expected to meet at state parliament at midday on Saturday for an anti-immigration protest, which an anti-fascist group planned to disrupt by rallying 30 minutes earlier, according to multiple posts on social media.”


Dublin migrant camp set on fire after violent protests.

“Anti-immigration protests turned violent in Dublin over the weekend as tents belonging to homeless refugees were set on fire. Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach, said he condemned the violence “unreservedly” and described it as “malign opportunism”.”


French mayor forced out of office by far-right protests over immigration.

“Bitter divisions in French society over immigration are erupting once again after a small-town mayor in western France resigned in the face of far-right protests, an arson attack and death threats linked to his approval of building an immigrant asylum center close to a primary school.”


Disastrous Clamp Down on Migrants Rights in Italy.

“After impeding the ability of search and rescue organizations to save lives in the Mediterranean Sea, Italian authorities have now passed a law restricting the rights of people who manage to reach its shores. Named after a terrible shipwreck in which more than 80 people died in March, the government’s Cutro decree became law last week.”


Erdogan heading for a runoff in Turkey’s knife-edge elections.

“Turkey’s fiercely contested presidential election appears likely to go to a second round after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan failed to secure 50% of votes cast to decisively extend his 20-year rule. The high stakes election will ultimately decide the fate of a key NATO ally and regional power broker at a time when Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has plunged much of the world into uncertainty.”


G7 and EU to ban restart of Russian gas pipelines.

“The G7 and EU will ban Russian gas imports on routes where Moscow has cut supplies, according to officials involved in the negotiations, the first time pipeline gas trade has been blocked by western powers since the invasion of Ukraine.”


Safety Fears Surround the New Trade in Russian Oil.

Moscow is increasingly reliant on a large number of tankers that in previous years may have been demolished because of their age… The G-7’s measures cut off Russia’s main export market — Europe. But just as importantly, they restricted access to insurance and an array of other services for crude purchased by anyone at more than $60 a barrel.”


Head of Russia’s crime agency suggests nationalising key parts of economy…

“We are essentially talking about economic security in a war,” Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Investigative Committee, told a conference that was streamed online. “Let’s go along the path of nationalising the main sectors of our economy.””


Iraq And Iran Ignore U.S. Sanctions In Talks To Expand Energy Ties.

“As a result of harsh US sanctions, billions in Iraqi funds owed to Tehran have been frozen. Due to the sanctions on Iran, Iraq is only allowed to receive Iranian energy imports and pay for them via waivers that extend up to 120 days.”


Iran Blames Foreigners for Strikes at World’s Biggest Gas Field…

“Iranian energy workers have organized several strikes since October seeking higher pay and better conditions, coinciding with wider public anti-government protests. Iran has blamed the US and Israel for stoking the street protests…”


Tehran has refused to comment on the embarrassing revelation that China’s private ports are complying with a ban on Iranian shipping.

“Ali Nazi, Deputy Director of Ports and Maritime Organization told ILNA news agency on Saturday that such “information is confidential.” China has handed over most main ports to the private sector and foreign companies. These operators do not allow Iranian ships to dock, for fear of being subject to US sanctions.”


Shipping groups press Chinese counterparts for sanctions-proof contracts… Measures against Russia and worsening tensions over Taiwan have spooked the sector.

“Shipping groups are increasingly seeking break clauses in contracts with Chinese businesses that would make it easier for them to walk away from deals if western governments impose sanctions on Beijing.”


China holds rates, adds more liquidity as recovery struggles.

“China’s central bank rolled over maturing medium-term policy loans while keeping the interest rate unchanged on Monday, as expected, but markets expect monetary easing may be inevitable in the coming months to support the economic recovery.”


As global recession looms, China unlikely to rescue economy again: Report.

“As rest of world teeters on the brink of recession, last thing Western policymakers want is for China, biggest driver of global economic growth since 2008 financial crisis, to have a lopsided recovery. But that is what is unfolding…”


Brazil Debt Is the Source of High Rates, Central Bank Chief Says…

“Campos Neto said it’s not the central bank’s fault when the government issues a bond and pays yields of 6% above inflation, like Brazil did recently. “There is a risk that justifies the real interest rate is 6%,” he added.”


Argentina plans emergency economic measures to avoid big devaluation.

“Argentina will announce on Monday a new round of emergency government measures, including raising interest rates 600 basis points to 97 per cent, to try to stave off the country’s worst economic crisis in two decades.”


Bean Shortage Drives Up Cost of Even the Cheapest Cup of Coffee.

“The global cost-of-living crunch has pushed coffee drinkers to get their fix from cheaper brews. But a shortage of robusta beans is making it increasingly difficult to find a budget-friendly cup… Brazil, the second-largest grower of the variety, has seen its crops hurt by drought, and there are also concerns that Indonesia’s output could suffer following heavy rains.”


‘Sustainable’ pension funds accused of greenwashing over billions held in oil and gas firms…

“Carbon Tracker Initiative said that asset managers have invested $376bn (£295bn) in oil and gas companies, despite publicly pledging to back efforts to limit global temperature rises to 1.5C.”


You can read the previous “Economic” thread here. I’ll be back tomorrow with a “Climate” thread.

If you found value in this content, please help me continue this work by becoming a patron of my work via Patreon. And if you are already a subscriber or have donated – thank you! It is an enormous help as the cost-of-living crisis ratchets up here in the UK.

12th May 2023 Today’s Round-Up of Economic News

Debt in advanced economies is piling on to global challenges, says World Bank president.

“Developed economies across the world are facing a debt problem, and that’s piling onto other headaches in the global economy as central banks continue to grapple with persistent inflation, according to World Bank President David Malpass.

“Speaking to CNBC’s Martin Soong at the G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors’ meeting in Japan, Malpass emphasized that record-high global debt levels need to be addressed for stability.”


QE and the central bank hangover that just won’t end…

What if the sophisticated sounding operations central banks wheeled out in the wake of the global financial crisis and the pandemic to keep the system ticking over were really just a cover for something far more basic: “Money printer goes brrr.”


The deflating credit bubble could hurt more than just the banks.

“… as investors — and American politicians — uneasily watch those banks, there is another sector that also deserves our attention: life insurance… a decade of extremely low rates has created distortions across the financial world and it could take a long time for these to unwind. That attrition problem goes far beyond the banks.”


An Update On The Banking Crisis…

“The regional banking crisis has continued after the failure of Silicon Valley Bank. Rapid increases in short-term interest rates have pushed the cost of funds for some banks above the interest rate that they can conservatively earn on a loan portfolio.


PacWest plunges 29pc as US banking crisis rages on.

“Shares in PacWest plunged by more than a quarter on Thursday after warning that customers were continuing to pull deposits from the embattled US regional lender. The California-based bank said that deposits fell by nearly a tenth last week after it confirmed it was exploring a potential sale…”


“It’s really the perfect storm”: Empty office buildings across U.S. could lead to financial meltdown…

“”I see a tsunami of loans coming due,” said Christopher Rising, co-founder and CEO of Rising Realty Partners, a Los-Angeles based commercial real estate company. Rising Realty Partners spent $35 million to remodel a historic Los Angeles building into an impressive office space that remains nearly empty…”


Luxury home prices have fallen globally for the first time since the 2008 global financial crisis, according to a report Wednesday from Knight Frank.

“Prices dropped by 0.4% in the 12 months to the end of March across the 46 leading luxury markets the real estate firm tracks. Though slight, the slump is a drastic about-face from a peak of 10.1% growth seen in the fourth quarter of 2021 and the first negative reading logged since 2009.”


Swedish real estate sector rattled as refinancing worries surface… “The closer we look at Sweden the worse things seem to appear,” said James McMorrow, Europe commercial property economist at Capital Economics.

“For a decade global commercial real estate companies took advantage of rising property values and low interest rates to load up on debt. But many will need to refinance their borrowings just as interest rates touch their highest levels since before the 2008 financial crisis.”


[UK] Interest rates rise to 4.5%, the highest level since global financial crisis 15 years ago.

“The Bank of England has announced another rise in interest rates to to 4.5% – the 12th increase in a row. Rates are now at their highest level for 15 years, since the global financial crisis in 2008, after seven out of nine members of the Bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) voted for the increase.”


Audit finds holes in ECB’s management of bank credit risk.

“European Central Bank supervisors are often too lenient with banks in how they manage credit risk, especially in the case of the worst performers, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) said on Friday in a report that highlighted a number of shortcomings.”


Struggling with debt, local governments across China call for help from Beijing.

“Authorities in the southwestern province of Guizhou have hired a state-owned debt management company, as analysts warned of a potential financial crisis sparked by “domino-like” bankruptcies among local authorities.”


Slump in China bank loans, prices raise more worries about recovery, adds pressure on central bank.

“New Chinese bank loans tumbled far more sharply than expected in April, adding to worries that the economy’s post-pandemic recovery is losing steam and putting pressure on the central bank to ease policy.”


China’s slow consumer inflation, deepening factory gate deflation to test policy…

“The weak consumer price rise reinforces the signals from this week’s trade data suggesting domestic demand remains lacklustre, while the deflationary impulse in producer prices underlines the strains on factories – a double-whammy for the world’s second-biggest economy as it tries to shake off the COVID-induced damage.”


Argentina Is Going Broke to Stall a Full-On Currency Collapse.

“Argentina’s fight to prevent its problematic currency from a total meltdown is leaving the central bank, by some estimates, broke… Without easy-to-spend cash on hand, questions are swirling about how much longer the government can continue to defend the peso from an all-out collapse.”


Blackouts Fuel Pandemic-Like Rout in South African Markets.

“The rand weakened to its worst level in three years and yields on local-currency bonds rose as concerns over South Africa’s continuing energy shortage and deteriorating economic outlook intensify among investors.”


At least seven people killed by police gunfire in Guinea protests.

“An anti-government movement is planning new protests in Guinea after its leaders said at least seven people were killed and 32 wounded during demonstrations in the capital, Conakry, and other cities.”


One dead, 30 injured in new wave of unrest in Senegal.

“Violence during protests in the Ngor neighbourhood of the Senegalese capital, Dakar, has killed one teenager and wounded 30 people as young protesters took to the streets against an increasingly “repressive state”.”


Communal violence and civilian deaths in Sudan fuel fears of widening conflict.

“The deaths of dozens of civilians in fighting in the far south of Sudan and an outbreak of communal violence in the restive Darfur region have fuelled fears that communities across the frontier regions of Africa’s third biggest country are being drawn into the bloody contest between two rival generals.”


Tunisians’ View of Economic Crisis – the Struggle Continues [terrible drought, too].

“Almost three-fourths (72%) of Tunisians say the country is heading in “the wrong direction.” Tunisians view management of the economy (94%) as the most pressing issue for the government to address, followed by unemployment (45%), poverty (21%), and health (21%).”


North Africa backslides toward swirling debt troubles.

Tunisia and Egypt are edging closer to major debt crises that could suck in a volatile North Africa region and pose tough choices to wealthy Gulf Arab neighbours, investors and analysts warn. The countries are already being challenged by shortages of essential goods and financial market dysfunction…”


Clashes erupt outside banks in Lebanon.

“Beirut protesters on Tuesday gathered in front of Lebanon’s biggest banks to demand their deposits back after it was blocked by local lenders. The flow of money has been under tightly controlled measures since the economic meltdown in the small Mediterranean country started 3 years ago.”


A crushing economic crisis in Lebanon has impelled members of the security forces to take on side hustles to get by, raising concerns about security in the eastern Mediterranean country.

“Soldiers in Lebanon have seen their salaries diminish to around an eighth of their value in dollar terms since the country’s economy began tanking in late 2019.”


Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ordered the release of the former prime minister Imran Khan, after declaring his arrest earlier this week “invalid”…

His arrest led to widespread civil unrest. Ten people have died and 200 police officers have been injured in the violence, and the government has called in the army to three of its four provinces to help restore order.”


Wall Street Takes Up Hedges Against Debt Ceiling Doomsday…

“Back in 2011, a similar standoff triggered an unprecedented credit downgrade of the US government and a 16% drop in the S&P 500 over the span of 10 days, while the VIX climbed to 48.”


US debt crisis could crash the world’s economy, warns Treasury Secretary…

“Ms Yellen said: “All of these analyses show that we would fall into – if this lasted for any meaningful period of time – a very substantial downturn.” Traders believe there is only a very small chance of the debt ceiling not being lifted in time to avoid disaster, but the ongoing impasse between the government and the opposition is starting to raise concerns.”


Alarming drop in mining derails drive for Net Zero.

“The International Energy Agency says that to reach net-zero emissions by 2050, we need to be producing six times the current global output of mineral inputs just to build the turbines, transmission lines, batteries and other items essential for low-carbon energy infrastructure. Instead, we are mining less than we did in 2019.”


You can read the previous “Economic” thread here. I’ll be back tomorrow with a “Climate” thread.

If you found value in this content, please help me continue this work by becoming a patron of my work via Patreon. And if you are already a subscriber or have donated – thank you! It is an enormous help as the cost-of-living crisis ratchets up here in the UK.