Tuesday 31 July 2007

The law of unintended consequences; proposed co-habitation laws

Our great leader, Gordon Brown, currently lecturing the UN in a fashion more reminiscent of a failing Marxist African overlord (I just watched the highlights on CNN, so maybe I'm underplaying the full event and its true impact in geopolitical terms), has recently been espousing about property when in the UK.

Yes, he wants more homes, maybe even on undeveloped land in Southern England, for all his key workers whom he has been so generous too in extending the government payrolls by several hundred thousand (note how key workers are always government employees).

This building will also help to cool the huge demand in the UK and so bring down prices for everyone and help to make Mr. Brown our greatest ever leader.

However, today the news I see is full of the government's soft peddling of a report into co-habitation. Indeed, ministers have said they are 'minded' (that means 100% behind it for those not knowing the jargon) to put this into law.

So now does the law of unintended consequences come into play. if this very intrusive law is made into peoples' personal affairs, they will be less likely to co-habit (they may marry, but it seems unlikely since they are living together unmarried in the first place). This means living alone for longer. When people live alone the overall need for housing increases dramatically, especially the small, one bed and two bed flats which people in this situation would buy.

This is also the cheaper end of the market and so is the property most likely to be bought by the key workers referred to above. So as usual, this policy, as well as being a massive state interference in a supposedly free country, would also wreck Mr Brown's flagship housing policy.

Brilliant, joined-up thinking by the government as usual.

Monday 30 July 2007

Poll results; Emigrate

I would like to thank my (international )readers for voting in the poll this week.

The question was, is it time to emigrate from Britain?

There results were as follows:

14 (58%)
6 (25%)
Over the cliffs of Dover..
2 (8%)
Don't know
2 (8%)

Fairly overwhelming vote to go abroad. Given the floods, Gordon Brown as Prime Minister and Tory collapse int he polls I can't say I am shocked!

Which is fine, except I don't like hot weather all year round, I hate paying high taxes and I only speak English and Spanish; so where would me and the family (Wife, son, dog and new arrival in 3 weeks) emigrate to?

Sunday 29 July 2007

Sunday Business Round Up - 30 July

For your delectation, 10 interesting stories from the UK Sunday business pages, most stories relate to three issues, Market Crash, Private Equity or floods;

hat-tip for pic Fotoshearch.com

Market collapse threatens sell-offs; EMI - Says the Observer, certainly a fall in the market is going to reduce share price expectations and therefore bid prices. Will PE (Private Equity) still be able to fund its mega take-over deals

...however, Emap is still for sale - according to the Murdoch's all is not so awful, with Apax still interested in a related business, EMAP.

..and even the Guardian says ICI still in play - Dutch coming back with a higher offer, hope you bought the shares 2 weeks ago.

HSBC reporting - Bank to admit credit loans situation is getting worse. No surprise there, but an important indicator to the market. HSBC is THE most conservative of our big banks when it comes to lending. They also are more honest and admit when things are hard. Others will be in a worse position than this.

Interest rates stable?- The story here is that the Bank will hold at 5.75% because of the market fall; rather depends on whether there is a big rally this week or not. The market tens to reserve real big falls for September historically.

Oil Prices rise though - The so called 'dip' in inflation pressure is to prove a mirage, with Oil prices reaching historical highs.

So what will the effect of the flood be on Water bills? - Ignore the spin, a timely interview with Severn Trent's CEO in the Telegraph.

Floods to cost £6 billion - A nice overview of all the associated costs and the impact of negative equity. Nice part of the world to buy a house though...

Return to Longbridge
- Will China mass build cars there after all?

BA to get huge fine for price fixing - Yikes, this report says it could be 50% of a year's profits. BA is certainly going through it at the moment.

Friday 27 July 2007

Sovereign Risk

The Chinese have caused a stir by their plans to take a significant stake in Barclays – they have excellent reasons which we covered on Tuesday. Certainly, the former strategy of passive investments in US Treasuries has limited appeal, for them or anyone else. So equities it is – and not only for China the successful manufacturer, but for large numbers of less hardworking producers of natural resources, awash with petro- and other commodity dollars. These ‘sovereign funds’ are set to be even more controversial in their different way as private equity has been – and that’s saying something.

There are a couple of things to note, at the start of this new chapter.

Firstly, as ever the UK is more ‘relaxed’ about being bought up than anyone else. The theory is sound: we support flexibility, liquidity and consequent efficiency in capital movements. Trouble comes when it’s one-way traffic – as we’ve found with our commendably open gas and electricity markets in a Europe that doesn’t always play by the same rules, even if they are the official EU rules (and we should know: we wrote them !) Still, we’re slowly winning that battle, so perhaps we can prevail in the (rather larger) battle to open up global capital. Perhaps. If not, as Mr Slicker says, we can nationalise ‘em if all else fails. So it may be a one-way bet.

Secondly, private equity isn’t just yesterday’s news as the sovereign newcomer ambles towards centre stage. PE – being (frankly) much, much smarter, is in fact aiming to play a clever arbitrage between stockmarket valuations and the truly silly prices sovereign funds are often willing to pay. With their superior technical ability to prise companies out of public ownership, the PE funds plan to warehouse assets they will later sell on to dumb sovereign money.

What sport ! Mega-bonuses all round.


Thursday 26 July 2007

Are Shares over-valued or undervalued?

it is quite interesting in the markets at the moment, everything is very up in the air and lots of traders seem unsure about what will happen next.

I am off out for a few beers with some tonight so will ask for their insight.

Economists (the dismal scientists) as a whole have a bad reputation and a couple of articles this week show why. In effect they like to talk out of both sides of their mouth at the same time (what a kitsch phrase, US phrase! I picked it up last week when I had been 'reached out to telephonically' by a US executive).

Anyway, some of the argument goes around the FTSE 100 being significantly undervalued because the smaller FTSE 250 stocks and AIM markets have increased at a far higher rate and now trade at multiples of 20. The FTSE as an average trade around 12, so in theory they could catch the smaller stocks up and so have some room left to climb yet.

On the other hand say some, the credit crunch is set to bite on the major Private Equity take-overs, making them much harder too pull off as the cost of borrowing goes up. This means that the 'premium' built into the FTSE stocks because of the possibility of take-over should be removed, meaning the FTSE100 should fall.

So whoever is right, the economists as a whole win, with their diametrically opposed models!

My tuppence is that Private equity take-overs could well be replaced, in the form of the Barclay's story ND covered below, by Dubai and Chinese capital. Which means the Stock market is set fair until the credit crunch reaches the consumer at some point probably later this year, early next.

Tuesday 24 July 2007

A good day thanks to China Goldmines

Many people still find the stock markets a fearful thing and choose not to invest. Property seems like a much simpler bet and people can see what they are getting for their money.

The difference with property though is that you need a big sum to invest to make some money. Sometimes in the stock market there are easier ways to make money on a small scale and in a short period.

I was up early this morning and whilst reading the Telegraph, came across this story. China Goldmines had announced an amazing find of new gold, five times more than expected.

Thus is seemed very obvious what would happened when the markets opened. So I went to a broker similar to this one, opened and online account in 10 mins and put forward some cash (...from my overdraft facility, in case you think Mrs. Slicker would leave me with any pennies between paydays).

This took no time at all, the market were already open and the stocks had shot from 120p to 140p. I bought at that price and after hitting 172p, they closed at 167.5p today. This left me with a paper profit of 37.5p per share in a single day. Assuming I had in the region of 700 shares, this left me with a profit on paper of £213.50, less the costs of setting up the account, buying the shares and the cost of the overdraft (about £45). The overdraft is not payable until the month end so if I sell the shares tomorrow, the total costs will be about £32 ( a 21% profit overall).

So £180 for doing very little indeed, certainly no real knowledge of the market, just reading the business pages and reacting to it.

Now perhaps some of you will understand why I am so keen to look through all the business pages at the weekends....

PS All blue skies have clouds that intervene eventually, I came home to find Mrs Slicker in possession of several bags of 'strictly necessary shopping purchases' - no doubt with a cost of considerably in excess of £180.

Chinese Whisper

Trespassing on territory that others perhaps know better ... but the forthcoming major Chinese investment in Barclays seems highly significant. Commentary here suggests it is Barclays Capital’s expertise in financial risk management for commodity transactions that attracts the raw materials-hungry Chinese: and why not ? They have suffered some very bad experiences in commodities trading – the recent oil derivatives scandal for one - and have much to gain from getting their act together.

Barclays, who hired a powerful team of ex-Enron players in 2002, have been well to the fore amongst the banks that have made a serious go of energy trading.

This is all so much more commercially adroit than all that Russian huffing and puffing and finally buying … Pennine Gas (number of customers approx 3). If the 21st century will bring the eclipse of the West, we may be thankful it will belong to China.


Monday 23 July 2007

7 reasons to make the most of 2007

2007 is set to be a good year in economic terms, so make the most of it:

1 - UK growth is currently ticking along at a nicely overclocked 3%. As with all over-clocked goods, this means it will burn out faster and in all likelihood in a more catastrophic manner!

2 - The crap weather has really affected a lot of of our retail companies. Homebase had a 10% sale this weekend past and there will be more to come. Make the most of being able to do cheap DIY whilst the weather is bad. Statistically, the weather is very unlikely to be so bad next summer.

3 - Chances are there will be no election this year. This is a good thing as (for me!) the opposition are in disarray. Sadly, next year if the disarray continues then next year there will be an election and the Government will win by a country mile! This year I can at least travel in hope.

4 - The Stock market and investments are up hugely. Over 20% so far, if you have invested in these at all you will be well ahead of where you were (Up 50% if you have investor in Chinese or South American markets). Next year, is not promising to be such a good year, with the global economy overheating and higher interest rates slowing it down.

5 - Our generous Government has left you more money to spend. In 2008, with Government debt at high levels, taxes are almost certain to go up. At the very least a higher Oil price will mean more tax paid through petrol duty. A raid on our small pleasures such as drinking is on the cards too. More probably, there will be big extra taxes 'to save' the environment (and Government finances...)

6 - Next year the England football team, even if they qualify for Euro 2008, will be again boring the pants off half the population and making the other half scream and shout in frustration. Worse, Germany are resurgent as a national team and will probably win the tournament!

7 - Finally, from our more certain brethren, the world may well end next year, so time to make the most if it now

Sunday 22 July 2007

Sunday Business Round up - 22 July - Sheikhs, Shakes and Interest

It is that time again, 10 of the best stories in the UK Sunday Business pages;

Qatari's to buy Sainsbury's - Easily the biggest story of the week. This is the way we will get all our oil money back, by letting the OPEC countries by our PLC's!

Insurance merger news - Secondly on the M&A front, a merger between Resolution and Friends Provident. What a story for Clive Cowdrey of Resolution.

Thameslink 2000 go-ahead?
- Read the detail though, i think we have heard this before, and now it is only half the scheme.

Credit market affects Man U - All the issues causing the credit crunch have affected the ability of Man U to re-finance. Diddums.

...and Private Equity fundraising - boots will be harder to grow with the higher debt payments.

...but they still want Landrover and Jaguar - PE co's really the only game in town to buy the brands.

Strikes at Royal Mail - Union man Hutton has changed his tone these days?!

Metronet analysis - Taxpayers to fund bill for Gordon vs Ken war.

Trade protectionism over cheap Bra's - the EU fails to live up to its free market mantra.

Story of the week - higher interest rates on the way, because the economy is growing too fast, money supply is out of control and even the Governor of the Bank of England is telling the Government the inflation CPI figure is wrong. Very poor macroeconomic handling at the moment; sadly distracted by Government spin about other things...

Friday 20 July 2007

Saving the 'Honours' debacle

After the quite stunning decision of the police to not prosecute Lord Levy or Ruth Turner after the Cash for Honours investigation, it is time to look to the future.

I wrote a long time ago that a conviction would be a pyrrhic victory in any case. The Politicians would use this as an excuse to push forward with state funded parties and thus reduce even further the democratic process in the United Kingdom.

With the this ending, perhaps now there should be less calling for state funding; after all if there has been no corruption then the system must be working.

However, I saw on the BBC earlier the ludicrous figure of Lord Steel suggesting that there was now definitely a need more state funding.

Instead though, I sugget a period of reflection followed by serious consideration of the future of the House of Lords. Personally, I would like to see an eleceted house to balance the power of the Commons and the Cabinet.

Afer all that has passed, this is has been a good catalyst for a needed change in the way we are governed.

Thursday 19 July 2007

Malco the Clown

No-one wants the lights to be going out in 20 years time. I’m not saying they will. They won’t.”

Of course you're not, Minister, perish the thought. Can't think why you're mentioning it at all, really. This clown (the one in the middle) is Malcolm Wicks, starting his second stint as Energy Minister, by popular demand. Fills you full of confidence, no ?

As well as nucs, the topic Mr Wicks finds particularly exciting is carbon capture and storage, “one of those happy areas where the ethical and the environmental, the commercial and the profitable, come together ". . . He refused to be drawn on details of how much support the government would offer, but concluded .. “you can’t do it on the cheap”.

Oh – that sort of profitable !

Yes, Minister, and that’s exactly what BP and their friends think, too . . .


Wednesday 18 July 2007

Have you seen this Badger?

I have not, since badger (Alistair Darling) became Chancellor barely a peep has been heard. This is not what we have come to expect after 10 years of Gordon Brown at No 11 Downing Street. Yet actually there are some huge economic issues needing action;
- Taxes need to rise to keep up with rampant government spending*
- The 3 year Comprehensive Spending Review needs to be finished and spun to the public.
- The £ is at a 20 year high to the dollar
- Inflation is still not under control by the bank of England.

In effect, the ship for state is not sailing blissfully through the economic waters. And yet Badger has nothing to say. His Master is busy trashing all the previous policies that were so painfully constructed, like Super-Casino's and drug legislation; No time for the minutiae of treasury policy, not now. Only one minor announcement was to support his master's Housing spin blitz and was to suggest rigging the mortgage market as a way of trying to help the public. At least you can see the old Labour and the old Brownite over-intricate manipulation tendencies in the him from this behaviour.

It is as if Broon left the department on auto-pilot.

*oops, he has said they will raise local business taxes, he sneaked this out with some puff about it being for Cross-Rail fantasy project.

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Another fine mess you got me into, Gordon:

So it comes to pass that Ken of this parish has managed to get his own way in the end. The official Labour Mayor of London has triumphed over the Labour Government.

Ken never wanted the PFI deal for the underground network. in his defence he threw millions, hundreds of millions (Other People's Money of course, taxpayers OPM) actually in the way of Gordon Brown's Treasury team. Oh what joy this brought to the poor families of the lawyers and consultants of London.

Now thought Metronet is certain to enter administration. From which it will not likely recover as its backers have had enough and are giving the keys back; A sad end for their shareholders too.

So who has one out of this PFI mess? Repairs have been completed in London, but are behind what was a heroic schedule. More money will be spent on a new group to take-over and now TFL will inherit more control over the network.

This may be a welcome development to many, but the cost to administer this mess is well over £1 billion.

Also key questions remain unanswered, Iain points out how much Mr Brown has to explain of his role. Why does PFI seem to do such a bad job at delivering services?

It seems to me that socialists are incapable of making rational choices and instead seek to complicate and regulate to such an extent that creativity is driven from any process. Profit too is so hated that they try to eradicate any potential. In doing this an unsustainable administrative burden is created, on purpose by the likes of Ken.

Many of the Conservative outright privatisations worked, look at BT and British Airways for example. Even the much derided water companies are doing a better job than the state managed too. Yet the railways were a disaster, even worse than British Rail, that have cost taxpayers more money (£20 billion and counting for Railtrack and its descendants) and this latest tube fiasco adds to that.

Would the railways be better is state hands? Or is it just terrible execution of the privatisation plan as Wat Tyler says?

My gut feeling tells me it is the latter. An example in today's Telegraph speaks volumes. Metronet was required to repaint Lancaster gate grey 3 times by TFL; socialist sabotage by the Newt King.

Sunday 15 July 2007

Sunday Business Round Up - 15 July

Ten of the business stories in the UK Sunday papers that caught my eye:

Brown looking to Insurance - For another tax raid, destroying the pensions industry has not sated his appetite.

Aldermaston US sale- my hunch is that this, our only producer of nuclear weapons, will get sold to Carlyle.

Barlcays all clear to buy ABN
- RBS seems to be holed beneath the water after the anti-competitive Dutch behaviour.

Network Rail Criticised
- All that taxpayer money and still no efficiency...

Record Oil Prices - This will hit inflation, rates will still have to hit 6%, despite the obvious slowdown in the real world.

The Wall of Money - How our economy will be affected by a wall of money coming from abroad.

New tax for housebuilders - Broon returns to form, higher taxes are not going to encourage supply.

Postal Strikes
- The Royal mail, staff and management, continues to dig its own grave.

Lots of Profit Warnings
- But according to official stats we are growing at 3%p.a. and everything is set fair in the UK garden of happiness. Someone is wrong here, but who?

Branson to compete with Second Life- of interest too all Blogpowerers' I am sure.

Saturday 14 July 2007

Gentle post for a Saturday; TM Lewin.

I went shopping today at lunchtime yesterday, something I rarely do. Equipped with a suitable discount voucher I bought a couple of shirts at TM Lewin;Cheaper and better quality than M&S.

Amazingly, these were on sale and I still got a discount. Apparently I have bought £65 shirts for only £22.50, quite some deal.

But Lewin's is one of those stores where there is always a sale. In fact my challenge is to find a sinlge person who has ever paid full price for a shirt there. Truly this retailer deserves to be in with Allied Carpets in the premier world of having permanent discount sales strategy.

I wonder how TM Lewin manages this within the confines of the trading standards act. Perhaps they have a small outpost in a regional airport or farming village where they neve have a sale?

Thursday 12 July 2007

The beginning of the end for the Euroe, part one of many

The Dollar/Pound exchange rate is set well above the 2:1 ratio now. A great time for a holiday to the USA where even tourist rates are approaching $2 to the £. This is likely to stay that way for some time. In fact if anything the macroeconomic situation suggests the pound could go to $2.05 or higher. Interest rates in the US are probably staying where they are and ours could be going up; this implies a strengthening pound.

It is a similar story for the Euro too, as shown in the graph below (thanks X-rates.com!):

The Euro, based on Germany's growth and flight from the Dollar, is also strengthening against the Dollar and other major currencies.

An over-valued currency almost always presages the end of a boom and in the same way a weak currency often presages a time of expansion. Anatole Kaletsky put this well in the Times today.

My take on this though is that the major economies of the world are engaged in mercantilist policies as regards their currencies. America's huge external debt means it is happy to devalue this to reduce any internal effects. China is pegging the Yuan to the Dollar to hold up its exports and Japan is still in a nice export growth phase after its very weak period for the Yen.

The result of all this that the countries of Europe are having to put up with currency changes that have no relevance to their economic situation. For us it means that our exports will suffer again and all the associated industries, as well as Tourism. For the Euro area it is much worse, Spain is already in a near-slump and yet its currency is very strong. Italy too is teetering with excessive debt as always; which is now going up in value very quickly. Even France is unhappy at the effects of the high currency on its economy. The Euro was never a single currency area and it seems the economies have not converged with globalisation. So now a single policy across Europe is showing the cracks in the System.

Unless there is a huge macroeconomic change these internal pressures are only going to get worse. A bumpy ride for Europe.

A question for the readership, would the collapse of the Euro be the factor that unwound the wider European 'EU' project?

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Constitutional Brown.

Our new capable leader, Mr Brown has been very active in the meedia to make it clear he will be a different kind of guy from Mr Blair; The differences between Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde are of a similar nature I believe.

Housing, his topic for today I will deal with later. His other big idea though is constitutional reform. A government with non-Labour ministers, a bigger role for Parliament, a smaller role for the Monarchy.

All well and good but what of the big issues:

- A huge chunk of our laws come from the EU, where the MEP's are mainly UKIP and Conservative.
- Northern Ireland is ruled by a DUP/Sein Feinn coalition
- Scotland has a minority nationalist government
- Wales has a Labour government, reliant on Welsh nationalists
- England has a Labour government, but more Tory MP's and many more Tory votes at the last election.

So really, all goes well except what is the point of his Labour Government. Not in a majority anywhere, except a House of Lords filled with 'dodgy' peers of ex-Labour donors and MP's.

Brown says nothing about this. The elephants in the room are ignored. instead rumours abound of a move to an Alternative Vote system that could keep Labour in power.

The spin never stops; but if this is 'grand strategy' the British people will see through it in short order.

There certainly does need to be a Constitutional Settlement; but the Labour tribe are not the party to offer it to us.

Tuesday 10 July 2007

Here come the Russians . . . Gazprom update

For all those gentle readers who quake at the thought of being dependent on gas from the kindly Gazprom, three entertaining recent news items:

1. "In the near future there will be a deal to further increase the customer base on the British market. Anyone who will be in London for the Wimbledon tennis tournament will know about it." Alexander Medvedev told reporters at an economic forum in St Petersburg last month. And the deal is . . . (drumroll) . . . no not Centrica at all, it’s, ahem, Natural Gas Shipping Services, a small, Cheshire-based gas-distribution business. So although the Wimbledon crowds were much impressed, the Takeover Panel can go back to sleep.

Keep up at the back, we’ve said this before: Gazprom doesn’t pay cash for anything much more expensive than a bus ticket: much too shrewd for that - it’s “asset swaps” all the way. Which probably won’t cut much ice with Centrica’s cash-only shareholders.

2. On the other hand, the Russian Parliament has authorised Gazprom staff to carry firearms ! What isn’t mentioned is that this merely ratifies custom and practice. How do you think they deliver the gas bills to distant, warlord-controlled parts of the empire ? (like Cheshire - eh, Hitch ?)

3. And to cap it all, this week it is announced that western oil companies will be allowed to participate in the gargantuan Shtokman project after all ! Now there’s a thing. And there was us believing Gazprom when they said they were going to do it all on their own, and not develop it as LNG after all. Suggestion: the “lucky winners” – Chevron, Total and Statoil – might want to have a little word with BP and Shell about their experiences first, though.

Back home again to our own long-running story of commercial gamesmanship in the energy sector . . . here and here we’ve commented on BP’s little games over the bung they’d like, to encourage them to play ball with NuLab on carbon-capture. And now we learn that they and their friends would like £ 1 billion sub from HMG to get them to join the game.

Cynic ? me ? no, no, I believe them implicitly.


Monday 9 July 2007

Tony Blair's mission to nowhere

Hi High Toniness, fresh from completing what will turn out to be a seedy list of peerages to end his scarred reign as PM, is off to the Middle East.

I commented at Istanbultory and Ellee's place, that I thought this was a charade and he was meant to fail; hence his appointment. Some people disagreed with me and I wanted to make a further couple of points on the matter.

Firstly, I am racially Jewish and feel a great sense of warmth to Israel, a place I have visited several times, along with Egypt and Jordan. I am no Middle East expert, but did study for a masters degree in international relations.

My heart is torn by the current Isreali position, backed by George Bush, of unilateralism. This policy resulted in the failure of the war in Lebanon and the more successful resistance to the second intifada.

However, the policy is undoubtedly expansionist. Today, Peace Now, an Israeli anti-war group, released their study of the latest Israeli plans for the West Bank. To me these seem nothing short of outrageous. The plan is for hundreds of thousands of settlers in the West Bank. Not only that but they assume control of the key water resources and centres of economic activity.

I can't see how these gains will be acceptable to a Palestinian Government. However, Israel must be gleeful at the break with Hamas and Fatah that has divided their enemy. Hamas is a vicious terrorist organisation and Fatah a despotic and unpopular party. Neither would agree with Israel or has the power to do so.

Into this situation flies Mr Blair, with little chance of success. His record in fighting a war against Iraq also ruins his credibility with key external Arabic influencers such as Saudi, Syria and also Iran (which after all is the state sponsor to the Hezbollah terrorists).

From all this a pattern is clear. Not one that I think will lead to a peace deal in Northern Ireland style terms. Instead the Israeli hawks survey the political divides and wreckage around them and are contemplating the permanent expansion of their highly armed state. This leaves no viable state for the Palestinians without which I can see no long-term Middle East peace settlement. The US effectively is backing this policy in lieu of a credible alternative.

Sunday 8 July 2007

Sunday Business Round Up - 8 July

Better late than never...

Prada are up for sale, this is bound to get reported as it means the MSM papers can put pictures of pretty girls in the business section.....Land Rover and Jaguar look set for a re-run of Rover in 200, sad but true this...have interest rates been put up to far? I think not, with galloping commodity prices across the world.

A great story on flood defence disclosure; the insurers getting tough with government due to under-funding. The Government could also be on the ropes as the pension funds follow up on the BAE scandal. The Government is also apparently on the move to build more houses in Southern England. Will all the speculators who bought green belt land finally get to cash in? Finally on this theme, all the publicity around 'non-doms' has made many people look into this more seriously. An excellent case of the law f unintended consequences.

Will the markets crash? The Guardian thinks so looking at the data. meanwhile across the pond the US is still jittery about massive Chinese imports and the currency issues around the Dollar.

Article of the week goes to Dan Roberts in the Telegraph, with excellent reflections on the emergence of the i-phone has shown up the European illness of state ownership stifling innovation.

Friday 6 July 2007

Business and Politics; Tax

So the HMRC, fresh from claiming it should be able to rob you directly, has now been trumped by the even better news that 'only' a million tax claims are wrong.

Yet this is a 95% hit rate. this is something I am not sure about. How many people don't complain because they are scared of getting an investigation. Having had the once over from the revenue in past years, I know how harrowing the experience can be. Most of the issues that come up are to do with coding, this could well be a minor matter; all the more reason not to phone the revenue.

Tax collections always are, I notice how outrageous the BBC ads are trying to get us to pay that tax.

We all have to pay taxes and the system needs to be fair, but it seems to me that overall the HMRC is far too threatening. The HMRC was significantly changed by David Varney who has now gone on to advise Broon elsewhere. I hope the new leadership decides to change the way enforcement is enacted. After all, with Broon in charge, they are soon going to have even more work to do.

Thursday 5 July 2007

UK Interest rates up again; but US hold?

Well the expected rise has happened today. From the reaction of the bank it seems likely that 6% will be hit, as I predicted and many poo-pooed (Law of averages is catching up with me, I have to be right sometimes...)

But will it stop at 6%; I am not so sure now. The price of oil is rising fast again and the stock markets never caught their cold. Prices of key raw materials like copper are going up sharply too.

But the main factor as ever remains the money supply, which is simply not being restricted, banks are creating money through debt issuance, as is the government through the high PSBR. More money in circulation means higher inflation and there is no escaping it (yes I am a monetarist).
See Fabian Tassano for an excellent pair of graphs on the difficult US position re money supply too.

This is true for the US too, yet the Fed is holding rates as their housing markets slumps in a way that is much harder to 'achieve' in the UK.

Unfortunately, all is set for a huge overshoot, with rates going up further than needed and a recession to follow that will be deeper than 'necessary.' It can be avoided with a sharp reduction in money supply and careful interest rate management, but hard hats required is the likely scenario.

If I knew when this should happen I would be off spending my millions, that is the big trick, the pattern is clear but the timing is opaque.

Wednesday 4 July 2007

The business of football

Football is all the rage for rich overseas magnates at the moment; buying their moment of international glory by paying for new players and generally abusing the game as they wish.

People were afraid of the US investors, like those at Manchester United and Liverpool; but actually more sinister are the ones who are clearly using the game to help get them a sort of 'celebrity immunity.' For this see Roman Abramovich, lucky recipient of much Yeltsin largess and Thaksin Sinawatra, wanted in his homeland for human rights abuses.

Will owning club here keep them safe? You bet it will.

Meanwhile Leeds United, run by more bent businessmen than you would expect to see in Slade Prison, continues to be hounded by its past. Currently super-dodgy chairman Ken Bates is playing eyeball to eyeball with the HMRC to try and get out of £35 million of debt. His mysterious backers, allegedly linked to him via close associates, have arranged a stitch up.

This is now being challenged after demands by MP's and Bates' new threat is to liquidate the club entirely, even though there are seemingly other bidders interested.

There are so many people on each side here I suggest a football match to sort it out between them. Maybe they could all save themselves enriching the lawyers and accountants even further...

As a last word, football is so dodgy even an original east end geezer like Alan Sugar decided to get out. And yet as time goes by, the whole game seems to get more corrupt. Not that it appears to affect the game on the pitch, mind. I wonder where it will all end up?

Tuesday 3 July 2007

This isThe Big One

Here’s one to watch – very carefully. The FT reports
Jean-Pierre Jouyet, France's Europe minister is hinting that France will

. . . push for exceptions to competition policy in discussions with its European partners… the government could seek concessions on energy for example, given its position as Europe's biggest nuclear power generator. "The risk and the benefits of nuclear energy are based in France," said Mr Jouyet. "Through nuclear power we show a certain solidarity [with European aims]. There is a certain asymmetry that must be taken into account." France would argue for a competition policy that did not weaken the big European operator EDF-GdF "because tomorrow we'll have to compete with the Russians".

OK, here’s what this means: it’s real simple. (1) France has the biggest nuclear power sector in Europe, by a mile. Hence, (2) it also has the biggest decommissioning bill.

And (3) they’d like us to pay it for them.

Just watch. You heard it here first.


Hattersley Speaks

From the foot of a Guardian op-ed page, the tub of lard has spoken.

"Today I feel an optimism about the Labour party that I have not since the leader was John Smith... Almost everything Brown did last week - what he said and how he said it - suggests that common sense is on the way in and celebrity politics on the way out… The continuing commitment to long-held principles gives a politician bottom".

It cheers me up no end to read that this paragon of political integrity has placed his lardy seal of approval on McBroon. It is of course the very Roy Hattersley that in the same place on December 9, 2002 wrote:

"There was never the slightest chance that [Gordon Brown] would support top-up fees for universities"

And whose agency blurb runs:

With his dry Yorkshire humour Roy entertains both after-dinner and conference audiences thoughout the world

Roy, you have disappointments aplenty in store. We are certainly entertained. But keep your bottom to yourself.


Monday 2 July 2007

Shadow Cabinet re-shuffle reaction

Well it seems that David Cameron does not listen to me, as he kept Osbourne in a job despite my plea.

I am in esteemed company as he also ignored Iain Dale and Praguetory too. Iain points out that Hague did not want to be moved in any case, rather selfish it seems to me. You can't really be in politics for the money in this day and age.

He has been clever though in his appointment of Dame Pauline Neville-Jones who has been very impressive whenever I have seen her.

Boris Johnson whilst Peter As for the rest, well promoting Gove was inevitable, I am sad to see no place for media friendly Ainsworth's survival in frontline politics in this country is amazing. Surely he has a better calling a a wine taster in Bordeaux? Philip Hammond needs to really help Osbourne get a grip on economic policy; I have my doubts about whether this can happen.

The overall look though is one that is quite good, if you look at a lot of the Labour opposite numbers like Harriet Harman and Ruth Kelly.

If Brown stays until 2009 they will all have plenty of time to turn things around. Anyone would get a boost in the polls with the current security situation.

Sunday 1 July 2007

Sunday Business Round up - 1 July 07

Life must go on as normal to defeat the terrorists says our brave new Prime Minister; as such please find the weekly round up of interesting MSM business stories below:

Cost of smoking to business - Rank group thinks so with its Bingo halls. it will be interesting to see how this works out, but I don't think this change was made with anyone in government caring about the effects on specific businesses.

Crazy story, is is April fool's? - Tim Webb thinks that we can save the planet by re-inventing the CAP for OPEC.

A good Guardian take on the challenges facing Darling - basically we are for the cliff face if house prices collapse.

...and lo it came to pass - according to this Times article.

Interest rates to go up again- but where will they stop. My bet is at 6% because by that time a real shock will hit the system, as suggested here.

BAE mess - this story will run and run, but now the government are going to have to blame the staff to get themselves off the hook from the US Investigation. Outlook, very bleak.

Jones is Minister - At least we have a real business voice in government, albeit not at the cabinet table.

Two contrasting pictures of Private Equity - this it the lefty view that AA-SAGA is a disaster.

...and this the the real picture - from the Times, telling how both companies have grown substantially are management improvements.

OFT gets tough with travel sector - for misleading advertising of prices. I don't see the need for hand-wringing here really, do we not all know what Ryanair are like?