Today’s Daily Reckoning will be mercifully brief as your editor has a plane to catch and a newsletter to publish this afternoon. Fortunately, virtually nothing of significance happened overnight that requires analysis, at least nothing that we’re aware of. It was more of the same in commodity markets, with copper and oil going higher as the U.S. dollar slinks lower.
By the way, what has happened to Stern Hu? He’s disappeared from the front pages of Aussie papers. As far as we know, he’s still being held in jail without charge. Do you reckon the writ of habeas corpus exists in the Chinese legal system?
Speaking of jails and steel, BHP says Chinese iron ore imports are recovering and spot iron ore prices are up 38% year-to-date because of the resurgence in Chinese demand. China’s Ministry of Transport says iron ore imports to major Chinese ports were up 35% in July from a year earlier. That’s a lot of steel.
But is it too much?
Is it possible China’s steel industry – which is hovering up so much Aussie iron ore – has excess productive capacity? Would demand for iron ore be lower if the Chinese steel industry were more efficient? And what effect would that have on the Aussie ore industry?
We’ll answer some of those questions in a moment. But first this from the 21st Century Business Herald, “Mr Xu Lejiang Baosteel chairman also confessed the existing of both structural and periodical overcapacity in China’s steel sector. The former refers to the heavy polluting and energy-intensive capacity like construction steel, and must be weeded out. He said that while the latter points to those redundantly advanced capacities that cannot find sufficient demand like ship plate.”
“China’s steel output has taken up 48% of the world’s total in the H1 of this year, further exacerbates the oversupply picture and hurts the healthy industrial development. And Mr Roland Verstappen vice president of ArcelorMittal also said steel overcapacity is quite clear in China and which will press down steel prices, sweep smaller mills out of the market and causes unemployment.”
Full employment is a political objective in China, and probably dictates a fair bit of economic policy making. But if Roland Verstappen and Xu Lejiang are correct and China has too much steel capacity, we reckon it’s something Aussie ore juniors (and their investors) should keep in mind. Of course for there to be a contraction in Chinese steel production, there’d have to be a policy shift…or the entire Chinese economy would have to contract/implode for a period after the popping of its own credit bubble.
But let us leave aside the bubble fall out in China for another day. Let’s get back to Australia. BHP and Rio are larger suppliers to major steel makers. They’d be fine even if Chinese demand fell for a while. But the smaller ore outfits who have made supply deals with smaller mills…they might have a rougher time of it.
By the way, we don’t have time to get into it in detail today, but yesterday we said to keep your eye out for tangible assets at good valuations. By that, we were referring to companies with net current assets at or in excess of their market capitalisation. It’s more complicated than that. But we’ll have to expand on it next week.
Some reader mail?
If my memory is correct – at the beginning of the GFC most/all of the “four pillars” took back on to their balance sheets their “special purpose/investment” vehicles. I certainly recall a statement made by CBA. If that is correct the assets in those vehicles might contain some very problematic loans. Would any of your readers be able to confirm my recollection?
Good questions. Answers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
I read your daily articles with avid interest. The problem I have is that I appear to one of the few on the streets that agree with what you are reporting, and that is, that there are more storms ahead that we are sailing into. I feel like a later day Noah suffering scorn for my opinions to the point.
I have now largely shut up. The media are doing such a great job of shaping people’s perceptions (that the worst is behind us) that I am starting to feel paranoid doubting my own thoughts and publications like your own, a very scary thought. Which pill do you take the red one or the blue one? (The Matrix)
This morning it was the orange pill. And it was called Ibuprofen. The best way to deal with the garbage in the newspapers is not to read them. But the best defence against misinformation is your own education and knowledge. Keep building your ark.
Isn’t it optimistic to suggest there has been a significant change in attitude, especially when the media and government boasts about an ‘end to the recession’ and the stock market keeps rising. People’s spending may have changed not because of any intrinsic shift in attitude but rather because of an extrinsic need to survive, and besides many perceive it as a temporary change.
Further to previous e-letters regarding the misuse of bailout monies given by the American government, an argument exists for just how naive even the most intelligent person is when it comes to even recognising the capacity for individuals to suddenly change attitudes. Let’s use the overused phrase ‘unintended consequences’ for such sheer stupidity.
Institutions (like Goldman Sacks) [sic] go to the Federal Reserve and the president for bailout money but before they receive this money those same people ask oh and by the way if you want us to really survive just let us become a bank (so that we can then multiply that money tenfold under the fractional lending system).
So these honourable men, who dearly want to save the financial system (whose actions of the past ten or more years were the cause of the crisis in the first place) take these billions of dollars of taxpayer monies and promise the government, the people and congress that suddenly they are going to be ‘good’ citizens. Surprise, surprise they choose: not to shore up their books; not to lend this money to good businesses who are the real lifeblood of an economy; but instead to drive up asset prices again via the stock market (and other risky ventures) and then to take half of all those false and unsustainable profits to pay themselves a hefty bonus (again surprise, surprise).
So whilst taxpayers are busy fending off the ravages of deflation and extreme debt a select few have inflated assets (temporarily) for a massive profit. Sadly the media see these profits as good and gleefully describe them as ‘green shoots’. Sadly, it seems the public have swallowed this garbage hook line and sinker.
I guess a change in attitude may come again but only when the economy falls again (and that can’t be far away because all that money which should have gone to assist the economy didn’t). I don’t believe for a moment that a true change in attitude will come until these honourable men are publicly vilified.
The honourable men of Rome were more than vilified after they killed Julius Caeser. They were killed. More from Shakespeare next week!
for The Daily Reckoning Australia