Saturday, January 16, 2016

Renewables Ramp Up as Financial Crisis Looms.

Greetings, again! I have a few bits of information from Robert Scribbler, Raul Ilargi Meijer and James Kunstler on the state of fossil fuels, renewables, and the general economy.

First, about the problems fossil fuel companies are encountering due in no small part to the switch to renewables.

From Robertscribbler:

The Carbon Bubble is Bursting
11 January 2016

I admit it. I felt sorry for those poor, duped oil, gas and coal company investors back during the early part of 2015. Many of these guys, fed a constant stream of bad information from the financial news sources, at the time were still enraptured by the notion that fossil fuel stocks were then cheap and that the situation was nothing more than some kind of golden buying opportunity.

Now, six months later, 41 US oil and gas companies have gone bankrupt, powerful major oil companies like Exxon and BP are in the range of 20-40 percent losses in stock price year-on-year, most gas companies have seen even more severe losses, and most coal companies have been reduced to junk stock status (see Arch Coal declares bankruptcy). TransCanada, the parent company of the canceled Keystone XL Pipeline, is challenging United States sovereignty with its 15 billion dollar lawsuit. But it’s questionable if the company will even exist long enough to see the results of its NAFTA-based legal challenge.

Typical example - Stock price of Arch Coal.
Source: CNN Money via Robertscribbler
It’s like the curse of Solyndra has been revisited on the entire fossil fuel industry. But while the renewable energy industry is undergoing its biggest boom ever, the fossil fuel industry’s own bad investments, bad performance, bad decisions, and overall bad impacts on pretty much everything from the increasingly wrecked global climate, to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, to Oklahoma fracking earthquakes, to the debacle that is the Porter Ranch gas leak, are sinking it even faster than its carbon emissions are melting the Arctic sea ice.

Back during 2013 and 2014 we warned that continued investment in oil, gas and coal companies was a really bad idea — one that probably represented the worst malinvestment in the history of finance. A carbon bubble that was worse even than the bad real estate investments that led up to the financial collapse of 2008. Trillions-upon-trillions of dollars encouraged by more than 500 billion dollars worth of subsidy support globally from the world’s governments each year. And to what end? Producing fuels which, contrary to wind and solar, increase in price the more you use them even as they wreck the very natural wealth that is the basis for healthy economic systems the world over.

And now the markets are being driven to the brink by just such a terrible malinvestment.

But it's not just the switch to renewable energy (i.e., wind, solar, hydro, biomass) that's causing solvency problems for the fossil fuel energy companies.  In case no one's been paying attention, there's been a severe slowdown in China.  Couple the slowdown and renewables with the austerity craze in Europe, the backfire of the China slowdown into the emerging market countries, US/UK/EU sanctions against Russia, and the current oversupply of oil on the market, and the papered-over global financial crisis of 2008, and you've got a whole network of troubles.

From Raul Ilargi Meijer of The Automatic Earth:

Debt Rattle January 13 2016
Raul Ilargi Meijer
The Automatic Earth

“Deflation is upon us and the central banks can’t see it.”

Beware The Great 2016 Financial Crisis, Warns Albert Edwards
Larry Eliot Economics Editor
UK Guardian 12 January 2016 (bolding mine)

The City of London’s most vocal “bear” has warned that the world is heading for a financial crisis as severe as the crash of 2008-09 that could prompt the collapse of the eurozone. Albert Edwards, strategist at the bank Société Générale, said the west was about to be hit by a wave of deflation from emerging market economies and that central banks were unaware of the disaster about to hit them. His comments came as analysts at RBS urged investors to “sell everything” ahead of an imminent stock market crash. “Developments in the global economy will push the US back into recession,” Edwards told an investment conference in London. “The financial crisis will reawaken. It will be every bit as bad as in 2008-09 and it will turn very ugly indeed.”

Fears of a second serious financial crisis within a decade have been heightened by the turbulence in markets since the start of the year. Share prices have fallen rapidly and a slump in the cost of oil has left Brent crude trading at barely above $30 a barrel. “Can it get any worse? Of course it can,” said Edwards, the most prominent of the stock market bears – the terms for analysts who think shares are overvalued and will fall in price. “Emerging market currencies are still in freefall. The US corporate sector is being crushed by the appreciation of the dollar.” The Soc Gen strategist said the US economy was in far worse shape than the Federal Reserve realised. "We have seen massive credit expansion in the US. This is not for real economic activity; it is borrowing to finance share buybacks."

Edwards attacked what he said was the “incredible conceit” of central bankers, who had failed to learn the lessons of the housing bubble that led to the financial crisis and slump of 2008-09. “They didn’t understand the system then and they don’t understand how they are screwing up again. Deflation is upon us and the central banks can’t see it.” Edwards said the dollar had risen by as much as the Japanese yen had in the 1990s, an upwards move that pushed Japan into deflation and caused solvency problems for the Asian country’s banks. He added that a sign of the crisis to come was the collapse in demand for credit in China. “That happens when people lose confidence that policymakers know what they are doing. This is what is going to happen in Europe and the US.”

The Royal bank of Scotland shouted the day before, "Sell EVERYTHING!"

Debt Rattle January 12 2016
Raul Ilargi Meijer
The Automatic Earth

As things shape up the very way we always said they would, others claim ownership of the story.

“China has set off a major correction and it is going to snowball. Equities and credit have become very dangerous, and we have hardly even begun to retrace the ‘Goldlocks love-in’ of the last two years..”

RBS Cries ‘Sell Everything’ As Deflationary Crisis Nears 
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Telegraph UK 11 January 2016

RBS has advised clients to brace for a 'cataclysmic year' and a global deflationary crisis, warning that major stock markets could fall by a fifth and oil may plummet to $16 a barrel. The bank’s credit team said markets are flashing stress alerts akin to the turbulent months before the Lehman crisis in 2008. "Sell everything except high quality bonds. This is about return of capital, not return on capital. In a crowded hall, exit doors are small," it said in a client note. Andrew Roberts, the bank’s credit chief, said that global trade and loans are contracting, a nasty cocktail for corporate balance sheets and equity earnings. This is particularly ominous given that global debt ratios have reached record highs. "China has set off a major correction and it is going to snowball. Equities and credit have become very dangerous, and we have hardly even begun to retrace the "Goldlocks love-in" of the last two years," he said.

Source: The Telegraph UK via The Automatic Earth

Mr Roberts expects Wall Street and European stocks to fall by 10pc to 20pc, with even an deeper slide for the FTSE 100 given its high weighting of energy and commodities companies. "London is vulnerable to a negative shock. All these people who are ‘long’ oil and mining companies thinking that the dividends are safe are going to discover that they’re not at all safe,” he said. Brent oil prices will continue to slide after breaking through a key technical level at $34.40, RBS claimed, with a “bear flag” and “Fibonacci” signals pointing to a floor of $16, a level last seen after the East Asia crisis in 1999. The bank said a paralysed OPEC seems incapable of responding to a deepening slowdown in Asia, now the swing region for global oil demand Morgan Stanley has also slashed its oil forecast, warning that Brent could fall to $20 if the US dollar keeps rising.

It argued that oil is intensely leveraged to any move in the dollar and is now playing second fiddle to currency effects. RBS forecast that yields on 10-year German Bunds would fall time to an all-time low of 0.16pc in a flight to safety, and may break zero as deflationary forces tighten their grip. The European Central Bank’s policy rate will fall to -0.7pc. US Treasuries will fall to rock-bottom levels in sympathy, hammering hedge funds that have shorted US bonds in a very crowded “reflation trade”. RBS first issued its grim warnings for the global economy in November but events have moved even faster than feared. It estimates that the US economy slowed to a growth rate of 0.5pc in the fourth quarter, and accuses the US Federal Reserve of “playing with fire” by raising rates into the teeth of the storm. “There has already been severe monetary tightening in the US from the rising dollar,” it said.

It is unusual for the Fed to tighten when the ISM manufacturing index is below the boom-bust line of 50. It is even more surprising to do so after nominal GDP growth has fallen to 3pc and has been trending down since early 2014. RBS said the epicentre of global stress is China, where debt-driven expansion has reached saturation. The country now faces a surge in capital flight and needs a “dramatically lower” currency. In their view, this next leg of the rolling global drama is likely to play out fast and furiously. “We are deeply sceptical of the consensus that the authorities can ‘buy time’ by their heavy intervention in cutting reserve ratio requirements (RRR), rate cuts and easing in fiscal policy,” it said.
Of course, James Howard Kunstler predicted this past Monday that what is coming up is a era of discovery, in which investors, particularly the big players on Wall Street, and the people in general find out just what financial assets are sound and which are very, very dodgy -- so dodgy as to be a bill of goods, like Collateral Debt Obligations (CDOs) and Collateral Debt Obligations of Collateral Debt Obligations (CDOs, Squared) which recently have been reinvented as Bespoke Tranche Opportunities. And with the recent beginning of the 2010s junk bond debacle, the bursting of the fracking bubble and other financial and economic reversals underway or looming just ahead, these new financial shenanigans are going to end up in an extremely bad way.

James Howard Kunstler
Clusterfuck Nation 11 January 2016

It looks like 2016 will be the year that humanfolk learn that the stuff they value was not worth as much as they thought it was. It will be a harrowing process because a great many humans are abandoning ownership of things that are rapidly losing value — e.g. stocks on the Shanghai exchange — and stuffing whatever “money” they can recover into the US dollar, the assets and usufructs of which are also going through a very painful reality value adjustment.

Of course this calls into question foremost exactly what money is, and the answer is: basically a narrative construct. In other words, a story explaining why we behave the way we do around certain things. Some parts of the story have a closer relationship with reality than other parts. The part about the US dollar has a rather weak connection.

When various authorities — the BLS, the Federal Reserve, The New York Times — state that the US economy is “strong,” we can translate that to mean giant companies listed on the stock exchanges are able to put up a Potemkin façade of soundness....

I suppose the loss of faith in value of all kinds will play out sequentially. It is starting in financial “assets” because so many of these are just faith-based stories, and in this quant-and-algo age it has gotten awfully hard to tell what is good story and what is just a swindle. One wonders, for example, how many well-dressed young people at the bond desks have been able to pawn off sub-prime car loans bundled into giant, tranched bonds with attractive yields to hapless counterparts at the asset allocation desks of the pension funds and insurance companies. My guess is the situation is at least just as bad as it was 2007.

The problem is that when this sucker goes down, to paraphrase the immortal words of George W. Bush, you have to wonder how much other stuff of everyday life for everyday people it will take down with it. The discovery phase of our predicament began ever so crisply in the very first business week of the new year.

"Fasten your seat belts; it's going to be a bumpy ride!" (Bette Davis as Margo Channing in Applause)


No comments: