Monday 31 March 2008

EU Energy Policy: How to Run the 3-Minute Mile

If someone asks: how could an athlete run the mile in 3 minutes?, it is arithmetically correct to reply: by running 30% faster. But this would not be a satisfactory answer.

And that’s the only way one can view accounts that purport to show how ‘Big Bill’ Barosso’s energy scheme for 2020 stack up.

Witness: one of CU’s top Sunday stories yesterday was an article on this report, snappily entitled Compliance Costs for Meeting the 20% Renewable Target in 2020. As a service to C@W readers I have sifted through its 156 pages of graphs, charts and tables. Now as we know, forecasts of this type are basically horoscopes with numbers: but what numbers they are !

52% of the renewables will be biofuels: wind-power a mere 10.6%. Sorry greenies, we’ll still be burning stuff.

70% of biofuels will be imports, mostly coming from maize, wheat and S.E.Asian palm oil – impact on food production not quantified. The report’s authors admit that further analysis is required as to whether global biofuels markets are up to this task. (They might like to ask whether would-be food eaters are up for it as well.)

Although the UK’s ‘burden-share’ is to meet a mere 15% of energy demand from renewables, compared to the EU average of 20%, it will incur by far the most costs: € 5 to 6.7 billion p.a. by 2020, as compared to € 3 bn for each of France and Germany. (For aficionados of reality-checking, take a look at the graph at Fig 14 for implausibility.)

Lastly, this little gem: the cost of complying with the transport [sector] obligation is 10 times higher than the cost of meeting the electricity and heating targets, and the carbon savings themselves are far less certain”.

Whoopee. As we’ve said many times before, if any of this is going to happen there would need to be some serious signs of massive efforts being taken right now. Which we don’t see …


Sunday 30 March 2008

Brief Sunday Round-up

....CU is still having broadband problems and so this will have to be a short post as having to cag bandwidth of the father in law. Here are the 5 best stories I have seen this weekend in the Sunday Papers:

Tesco hits US trouble - Fresh and Easy stores not so successful after all. Plenty of UK journalists hyped this one - depsite the very poor record the UK has at exporting retail to the US.

Euro energy costs -the price of renewable is set to hit Uk households hard, a good follow up to Nick Drew's pieces below.

HSBC under pressure- Bank stratgies still being questioned.

Icelandic freeze - Credit crunch puts paid to 'glorius economy.'

Web 2.0 - New dotcom boom to balance the crisis in financial markets?

Back to work tomorrow...

Friday 28 March 2008

Supping With Sarkozy: Use a Long Spoon

One of the more serious problems of having a PM like Brown, ridden as he is with doubt and insecurity, hesitation and inferiority, is that anyone who flatters him can have whatever he wants.

And, let's be clear, Sarkozy - who can play Brown like a fiddle - wants plenty from the UK public purse. In particular, as first predicted on C@W here 9 months ago, he is looking for contributions to his immense nuclear decommissioning bill.

And he knows all too well the cheap beads with which to entrance our native chief: a modicum of flattery, a soupçon of faux-gratitude, a hint of cooperation over Sangatte, a nod in the direction of CAP reform, and a mention of more French troops for Afghanistan. Pressing all the buttons with the light touch of an elegant finger, the other fingers crossed firmly behind his back (doubtless to be raised in traditional Anglo-Saxon salute on conclusion of the state visit).

Oh yes, and some kind of partnership on developing nuclear power (read: we may get slightly higher priority on buying some key components of nuclear reactors that only the French currently build). This has been heavily hyped, but the entire 14 pages of the agreed communiqué contains only these 52 words on the subject, and pretty thin they are too.

"Improve the efficiency and effectiveness of nuclear development projects, including in safety and pre-licensing, through our nuclear regulators working closely together to share information on nuclear safety, security and waste management, action which could be extended to other interested European partners (and which could include as appropriate other items of common interests)"

"Extended to other interested European partners …” Oh yes, Sarkozy wants nothing less than an EU Common Nuclear Policy. And – mark my words- it will involve in the rest of us picking up his tab.

And he’s just found his first sucker subscriber. Get a grip, Brown, it’s our money he’s after !


Thursday 27 March 2008

FSA - The Watchdog That Didn't Bark

Finally, then, a fairly frank admission by the FSA that it was asleep on the Northern Rock job.

I have never worked in banking: but from my energy-sector experience it has been clear that the FSA (and its predecessor the SFA) has form, when it comes to being asleep on duty.

In 1995 the new wave of 'energy merchants', Enron well to the fore, turned up in London and insisted on being financially regulated.
Oh no, said the SFA, oil trading takes place under an exemption (clever lobbying by the oil companies) and no-one trades anything else in the energy line: Go Away, you are Wasting Our Time.

To cut a long story short, Enron
et al had to frighten the SFA with an account of the exotic energy derivatives they intended to trade; and the SFA reluctantly agreed to allow them to be regulated - bizarre though this sounds.

Fast-foward to 2000, and the arrangements for trading electricity are being reformed (prop: Ofgem, then under Callum McCarthy who is now, err ... FSA chairman!). The volume of electricity trading is expected to increase dramatically under the new set-up, and the FSA is invited to become engaged in the process.
Oh no, says the FSA, no-one is spec-trading even gas, let alone electricity: Go Away etc etc.

To cut the second long story short, those who knew better thrust under the FSA's nose details of just how much spec-trading was going on in gas and electricity already - it was rather a lot - and the FSA went away embarrassed and wiser.

"Egregious business model at Northern Rock ? Oh no ..." - you can just hear the response, can't you?


Tuesday 25 March 2008

In the US "cash is trash" - £ to follow?

You may have noticed last week that the US Federal Reserve is dropping interest rates like crazy to try and avert a real recession.

This may or may not be successful, time will tell.

However, one huge effect of this has been the huge fall in the value of the dollar. This has many effects, the most pernicious being encouraging inflation - but this seems to be what Ben Bernanke, Fed Chairman is looking for to fight the depression.

On the other hand, it has led to a strange set of domestic circumstances in the US. The inflation rate (which is as skewed as the UK's, see Ed's comments in the post preceding this) is at 3% and climbing. Interest rates are at 2.25%. This means putting your money in a bank is likely reduce your wealth. For example, HSBC US is offering one of the best rates - 3.05% pa.

Yikes - this means you have to either spend your money or invest it in something that is going to at least hold its value - no easy thing in the current markets. Certainly holding any savings in cash is a bad idea.

The UK is likely to follow the US in this respect in the near future.The Bank of England is likely to cut rates and inflation is rising - so although we probably won't go into negative territory like the US things will get close. This will make for some risky investment decisions having to be taken by investors - including fund managers who will be forced to reduce their cash pools to generate acceptable returns.

The pound in your pocket is heavily affected by this - perhaps we should all convert our spare cash to Euro's or Renminbi to maintain its least these are safer havens in these interesting times!

Monday 24 March 2008

David Cameron says government inflation figures are wrong

Glad to see the Tories are finally catching up with what everyone has know for a long time. My posts of this go back years, for example. The Telegraph has run an excellent inflation monitor for a long time too.

With the high commodity prices and rising oil price inflation here is to stay for some time. About time the Opposition to the Government focused on this

Sunday 23 March 2008

Easter Sunday Business Round Up

I have secured a small window of opportunity to do this round-up having made the family chocolate pancakes - if only such easy joy was to be found at the moment in the world of business and economics.

The ten most interesting business stories are below, as usual:

Heavy City job losses to come
- This one is a bit close to home for me, but it does seem inevitable that the round of redundancies will start straight after Easter.

Bear Stearns redundancies - 8,000 to come. And to build on the link above, virtually all London staff.

Darling's howl at the wind - The UK Chancellor asks the banks to come clean about losses. This shows just how little he understands - no one has any idea how big the losses are until the CDO's are sold on or are paid off less than in full. This may not be for years to come.

Forensic analysis of HBOS - to find the perpetrators. Interesting to note how the directors bought into the stock - in support or in the know?

B&B to face struggle - Long in a hard position, B&B has had its rating cut by Moody's - more asset sales likely.

The End of the World - Hysterical, in both senses of the word, piece in the Independent writing off capitalism. At least there is something here to raise a laugh!

Euro-Capitalism at work - Failed Air Italia is going to be 'rescued' again by Berlusconi. It amazes me how attached to national airlines countries are, considering they never make any money.

Sovereign funds - will they get much of a return on their Western Banking investments?

PFI costs to soar - The best article of the week is in the Guardian. The hidden consequences of the credit crunch. Already expensive PFI deals are going to look even worse. prepare for cuts in services at schools and hospitals coming to a place near you soon.

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Move along, nothing to see here - FSA

Ahem, the FSA is to investigate market abuse into the share price movements of HBOS today. To them there is a pattern which suggests market manipulation - by hedge funds no doubt.

Could this be the 4 hedge funds in deep-do at the moment that are desperate for a quick profit hit - (no names named at this point I am afraid)

As for HBOS - well CU does not own and has not traded any shares in this organisation, just in case you are reading MR Regulator.

We just tell it like it is, perhaps people do read this after all...

Fisking Brown's "Security Strategy"

As is well known, ‘security’ is the last refuge of the scoundrel hoping to wrap himself in the flag and command unthinking, unquestioning all-party support. Today’s National Security Strategy shows all the signs of being drafted by a clever Civil Servant (typos and all: to spare their blushes I will show them where they are for a small consideration).

But some how it doesn’t ring true. Take, for example, the Guiding Principles. I quote

2.1 Our approach to national security is clearly grounded in a set of core values. They include human rights, the rule of law, legitimate and accountable government, justice, freedom, tolerance, and opportunity for all.

Unless we have to ‘do business’ with people who see things differently, in which case we will roll over and hope they tickle our tummies - & not with the bayonet. Oh, and get Goldsmith to change his Opinion again, while we're at it.

2.2 We will be hard-headed about the risks, our aims, and our capabilities.

And how’s this for hard-headed ? We invent the risks (Saddam’s 45-minute WMD’s threatening Cyprus); we exacerbate them (by prodding faraway people with sticks) and we overstretch our resources to breaking-point and beyond, dreaming of an empire-scale military capability that last existed in the late 1940’s

2.3 Wherever possible, we will tackle security challenges early...the way to reduce the security consequences of issues such as climate change and rising energy demand is to take the tough decisions now to tackle them.

Unless they appear to be expensive and/or will not materialize in the life of the current Parliament, in which case we will hatch grandiose plans, and do precisely nothing. But then again, we only said ‘decisions now to tackle them’, not ‘decisions to tackle them now’. Haha ! Sharp cookies, these Civil Service strategy-drafters !

2.4 Overseas, we will favour a multilateral approach.

Right up until the UN declines to pass the Resolution we want. Then we’ll ask the US where & when to turn up for the next big adventure. Come one guys, two countries, that’s ‘multi’, isn’t it ? Get Goldsmith over here again ...

2.5 At home, we will favour a partnership approach. Traditionally, the Government has been expected to deal with the threats and risks to national security …

But we are rather hoping to offload this burden to Someone Else, and particularly in ways that are off balance-sheet

2.6 Inside government, we will develop a more integrated approach.

Well now I think about it - we won’t. I mean, we know BERR (formerly DTI) is trying to get energy costs down to keep our industries in business, whilst DEFRA (formerly BEARDY) is ecstatic about high energy prices because it will force everyone to give up using energy – but, hey, competing viewpoints are healthy for the battle of ideas, no ?

2.7 We will retain strong, balanced and flexible capabilities.

Sorry, as a former soldier my will-to-fisk has deserted me at this point, we are in a realm beyond parody

2.8 We will continue to invest, learn and improve to strengthen our security.

I am not making this up, you know


Tuesday 18 March 2008

The Gas Gottta Come From Somewhere

Swiss energy firm EGL has just signed a deal for a (relatively modest) quantity of gas from Iran. Well, we’re always being told we need to diversify our sources - specifically, diversify away from Russia - not least by the USA which vehemently opposed Russian gas imports to Europe in the first place.

Needless to say, the USA has decided they don’t like Europeans buying gas from Iran either. Unfortunately for their position, such an import deal does not violate either UN sanctions or indeed the US Iran Sanctions Act (a typical piece of US extra-territorial judicial reach), so their complaint is that it “violates the spirit” of sanctions.

They had better learn to live with it. Unless you believe in (a) frankly infeasible levels of nuclear and/or renewable energy developments; (b) a very decisive move in favour of coal (see our earlier post on energy policy); or (c) the complete collapse of European energy demand in an economic meltdown – then WE WILL NEED GAS. Lots of it.

And the more diverse the sourcing, the better.

Meanwhile, over at Robert Peston, commenters are getting exercised by the idea of Euro-utilities taking over British Energy. Does anyone believe in free trade ?


Monday 17 March 2008

Emergency times

The FTSE100 fell over 200 points today or 3.16%, taking the losses for the year close to 20%. A great start to the year so far for us all. Together with a housing market slump there is precious little to invest in save gold at the moment.

In a significant move today the Bank of England stepped in to push another £5 billion into the money markets to keep some semblance of order. The issue was 5x over-subscribed.

All I can say is it may be a case of wishful thinking on this week's vote that the leader so far is no more UK casualties. (The market was led down by HBOS - do none of you read my posts?!)

Still, this reaction an Alistair Darling budget is even more than i expected; I am glad we only have them once a year!

Sunday 16 March 2008

Sunday Business Round Up - Bearly moving

The tabloids and other papers may be happy with the Shannon Matthews/ Scarlet Keeling stories, but really in terms of all of us there is only one story in town.

Bear Stearns has become a US Northern Rock. This is going to hit the markets all week for starters and set off a new herd of bears to visit all parts of the world. Sadly it also guarantees a US recession and with it a probable UK one. Apart from this there are some interesting long-term developments and reactions to the UK Budget non-event.

How Bear Stearns collapsed - worth a read for the full background

Goldmans hit by new write-downs - Even the masters of the universe are in trouble.

Dollar in freefall - Will the central banks act to support the dollar? Don't bet on it, this is a key policy of the US at the moment.

Northern Wreck next stage - Danish bank complains about unfair competition, the first of many no doubt.

City airport expansion
- It bids for Southend airport, eyeing all business class expansion.

Airlines gang up on BAA - Ferrovial will live to regret its purchase, even if a break-up allows it to gain some value.

Countrywide problems - Estate agent in real trouble, this is a much bigger story than it first seems. As the agencies collapse the signal the future of the housing market in the UK, whatever the Government or cheerleaders say.

Budget summary - How has it affected you?

Dubai expansion - Sovergein funds to cash in whilst the chips are down in the West

Shell off again - Reserves down due to global turmoil in the physical sense.

Saturday 15 March 2008

The Bear Market

A post to react to the huge story that is the collapse of Bear Stearns in the US. BS, as it will hence forth be known, is an 85 year old bank and the 5th largest investment bank on Wall Street.

After the emergency Fed funding it is another Northern Rock, with a wrecked Brand and a questionable business model. It is interesting to see the wolves come out to buy it. JPMC who are the most likely acquirer were one of the few banks to avoid the worst of the sub-prime mess, although they are still credit crunched. Even our own RBS has suggested it may be interested in an acquisition.

However, RBS is just BS-ing here and trying to show how it is not is so much troubel itself; the acquisition of ABN is not going so well as yet to enable management to try another big buy and in addition its low capital ratio and haemorrhaging share price make this story pure spin.

In fact, my new poll will make for good reading later this week; we posted last week that some of our own institutions are in more trouble than they are letting on, will this contagion spread to London?

Friday 14 March 2008

Not So Green ... As Cabbage-Looking

GDP trumps GHG – every time

This week’s pitiful Badger-Budget was trailed as being green, but in the event there were no green signs that might be remotely consistent with the Herculean enviro-energy endeavour that NuLab has signed us up for.

As we’ve discussed here before, the EC’s “20/20” scheme for reducing European greenhouse gas (GHG) output calls for expenditure and effort on a humungous scale, of the order of magnitude of waging a major war or, less violently, of an undertaking like the German Einheit. Several percent of GDP would be required - around €12 per citizen per week - over a sustained period, starting soon.

So you’d expect to have heard a rather loud starting-pistol being fired on Wednesday. But no. Which reinforces the strong suspicion that when times are tight, GHG can go hang; it’s GDP that wins every time.

Entirely consistent with this is today’s news that the messianic ACL Blair is to lead the global charge towards 50% reductions in GHG by 2050. This would be the same Blair that as PM banged on endlessly about climate change being the biggest problem facing the world, while presiding over a significant increase in the UK’s emissions, after half a decade of reductions under his predecessors.

Who better to front up for a similar conceit on a global scale ?

GDP trumps GHG every time. If politicians wish us to take their pious outpourings seriously, they will need to stop hoiking the entire Eurocracy from Brussels to Strasbourg once a month – and awarding themselves energy- hungry £ 750 TVs at public expense !


Thursday 13 March 2008

Gold hits $1000; Feel that inflation...

Gold has hit $1,000 today, one of our key predictions for events that would happen this year. With the dollar falling in value you would expect nothing less and also it is of note that oil is no $110 a barrel.

To think 10 years ago oil was just $18 a barrel!

What we are seeing is the huge inflationary effects of the Fed and other central banks printing money to create liquidity in the fight against the credit crunch. how this squares long term with large reductions in interest rates is beyond me...unless we are doomed to follow the Japanese deflationary model.

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Budget update

Yawn, the most boring budget for ages. Given the difficult straights in which the Government finds its badly managed finance there were not too many tax rises. Boring budgets are good budgets though, they mean less taxes have been raised.

The tax rises are generally on the consumption side which is overall a good thing; at least you can try and avoid some of these taxes if you want too.

However, the over-arching feeling is of the nanny-state reaching into our lives even further, trying to dissuade us from bad behaviours like drinking a glass of red or driving a car.

This is less a budget than a missionary statement which shows the dead hand of Gordon Brown behind even the minutiae.

There are some more specific energy points that I will leave to Nick Drew to cover off later in the week.

As an assessment though it shows how poorly a state the country is in, over-taxed to the point at which the Government dare not raise too much more revenue even when it needs to. Instead making us poorer in the future by borrowing now to cover future spending. We have not even had a recession and are already at a 2.9% budget deficit, this could easily shoot to near on 5% in the next couple of years. Bumpy ride ahead.

Credit Crunched

As of yesterday the US Fed and Bank of England tried another round of liqiuidity bombing of the market in response to yet another contraction in lending. They have tried this before and it worked then, but the real issue is that the problems keep coming back and the banks remain unwilling to lend to one another.

The UK budget is out in a little while, but in the City some of our biggest banks are in real difficulties right now in terms of trying to get enough capital together to keep their business together.

The further fall in the UK mortgage market is also creating problems for the major banks that have the big mortgage portfolio's.

I wonder what news will come out of HBOS, RBS and Alliance & Leicester in the next few days, it is not business as usual that much is certain.

Budget update later.

Tuesday 11 March 2008

Pre-Budget post

The UK Budget is tomorrow and even the newspapers are getting themselves into a flap about what may or may not happen.

Canny readers of this blog have been voting on the post to the right all week on the likely outcome: all round tax rises.

The only piece missing is the details of who is to suffer. Having studied the incumbent of 11 Downing street for some months now, I think Badger himself is unlikely to know many answers as they hunt the floor for the backs of envelopes upon which Gordon has sent through his myriad and contradictory instructions.

Do in the Non-Dom's! Leave them alone!
Tax petrol and all things green! No stop it!

All very contradictory. However, the spin today is at a new level, suggesting pure doom and gloom, this comes straight from the spin playbook so that the relatively bad news tomorrow is welcomed as better-than-expected.

Whether this will work we can judge with Thursday's media response. For my interest I am intrigued to see the guesstimates for UK growth and government borrowing for the coming year as I expect these to be heroic!

These are key because if there any surprises this year there is little fiscal room to manoeuvre for the government and next year may well be an election year. A quiet budget is not a good budget from this perspective as it shows no new ideas or change going into what will be choppy waters on the macroeconomic front.

As for my predictions;

some wheeze on national rate of tax
petrol tax to rise
another attack on airlines/air travel
Non-doms to get some get out clauses, but still to be hit
minor reliefs for pensioners etc.

Monday 10 March 2008

Isn't It Funny How Bears Like Honey - and Oil, and ...

“European governments have been told to plan for an era of conflict over energy resources, with global warming likely to trigger a dangerous contest between Russia and the west for the vast mineral riches of the Arctic” - Grauniad

We don’t want to fight, but by Jingo if we do
We’ve got the ships, we’ve got the men, we’ve got the money too
We’ve fought the Bear before, and while … while …


… while *ahem* the rest of our Euro-allies have absolutely no stomach for fighting, it’s true

The Russians shall not have the Arctic Circle !


Sunday 9 March 2008

Sunday Papers Roundup

A quick Drew round-up this week, starting as is my wont with an energy item:

UK biofuel producer sees shares slump, seeks funding. But why, you may ask, when the EC mandates increasing use of biofuels ? Because US agri-business is being subsidised to produce the stuff and they are dumping. This is just the start of major biofuels controversy to come …

… because food price inflation is really taking off and food-for-fuel is one of the (several) reasons

It’s to be ‘green’ taxes from Darling on Budget Day. The Sunday papers have got their well-informed votes in - here and here - on CU’s sidebar poll. But how do they know, he asked naively – anyone remember when a budget leak meant the Chancellor’s head on a platter ?

A big IT contractor gets the boot from the UK government. Has the worm turned – at last ?

The government and BAA have fixed the evidence on the 3rd Runway case. And we are supposed to be surprised ...

Predators target Virgin Media. Beardy in the money again

Finally, margin calls have stuffed Peloton and Carlyle Capital. Déjà vu, anyone? Oh yes, you read it, err, at C@W first – on Friday !


Friday 7 March 2008

On the Margin

. . . an uncomfortable place to be

Spooking the markets this week has been Carlyle Capital, vehicle of the mighty Carlyle PE group, which reportedly failed to meet four margin calls, is in default, and has halved in market cap.

Carlyle (motto: "a disciplined and conservative investment approach") thought it was safe enough with a portfolio of AAA mortgage- backed securities issued by US-government sponsored companies, the so-called Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Yes, government- sponsored … AAA.

And perhaps Ron Beller also thought he was on firm ground. He’s the husband of Gordon Brown’s newly-appointed adviser Jennifer Moses: but his highly-geared Peloton Partners collapsed last week, valueless after being completely wiped out by margin calls.

Dangerous things, margin calls – remember Trading Places ? The good guys thwart the bad guys by engineering a run on the Orange Juice market that the latter have been trying to corner. And it’s margin that does the damage.

We are destined to find out just how much exposure to rapidly-downgrading asset-backed instruments is held by a vast swathe of highly-leveraged investment vehicles. The margin will find them out – and the dominos will keep on falling.

A good weekend to all !


Thursday 6 March 2008

Hillary Clinton hints at a dream ticket with Barack Obama

The Times have a story about the race for The White House. I think we know how this one goes already.

(Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are enjoying a meal at Juanita's Bar and Grill in El Paso)

"Look Barack, It's silly to continue with this contest. It is only going to damage the Democratic Party."

"I agree. You should step down"

"Me ! I have been chasing after the Presidency for 10 years!"

"And I am afraid that it shows"

"But Barack, I have been in politics all my life. My husband was the president. I have been studying economics and Washington protocol since for ever.."

" Mrs C, no-one cares about that. They voted for farm hand Bush. Twice. What people want is a sincere, warm , gladdening, friendly smile. Not the twisted grimace of a statistician on a stag weekend in Las Vegas.
When people look at me they see Lewis Hamilton.
When they look at you they see Christine Hamilton.
Only a certified maniac would hand a baby over to you to kiss.
Women want TO HAVE my babies !"

"But I have all the experience, all the lobby know how.I know how Washington works..."

" Look Hillary, and don't take this the wrong way, but , well , you see you just come across as a Creepy, Compulsive, Weird, Obsessive, Satanic , Grasping , Scheming, Anxious, Unscrupulous , Unprincipled , Genetically Mutated sort of Needy Social Cripple.

And I don't mean that in a bad way.

I come across like Wil Smith in Independence Day. You come across like Glen Close in Fatal Attraction"

"But Obama, you really don't know anything about politics. You don't have any policies.."

"Well let's ask these waitresses. Hey girls .. Hillbilly here is gonna talk about the Sub Prime. Gather round"

"Ahh, well , I need some notes, and advisers.. but well , I mean the situation .. A balancing of equity with provision of need. A review to be called upon to investigate the whole spectrum of welfare borrowing requirements to set aside , erm , the long term reflation of the economy and erm , move prices towards incomes...erm.."

{ The waitresses are getting bored and begin moving away. Barack Obama stands up and cries..}


{The waitresses go wild . Cheering comes from the entire crowd. One girl faints. }

"You see Billary , people hear me and think Shaft, He's the man !"
"They hear you and think Shaft, here it comes."

"I see, so what is your plan Barack ?"

"Look. I will be President. You could be Vice-President or Secretary of the Treasury. I will go around doing all the smiley , shaky-handy stuff , you do the serious behind the scenes business."

"And you will step down and support me in..... how long."

"A year baby , maybe two. Three at the most . Then it will be our time.."

Hi are you guys ready to order ?

Yes Ma'am. I would like a steak like my politics. Medium, with lots of options but on the side, and the entire choice of vegetables and condiments so there is something for everyone.

And you Miss ?

I would like my steak well done.

You have been baby.. Cheers.


And while we are at work . . . even wicked capitalists can subscribe to


No cutesy little smiley faces here – just the stone cold truth of friendship.

1. When you are sad -- I will help you get drunk and plot revenge against the sorry bastard who made you sad.
2. When you are blue -- I will try to dislodge whatever is choking you.
3. When you smile -- I will know you are plotting something that I must be involved in.
4. When you are scared -- I will rag you about it every chance I get.
5. When you are worried -- I will tell you horrible stories about how much worse it could be until you quit whining.
6. When you are confused -- I will use little words.
7. When you are sick -- Stay the hell away from me until you are well again. I don't want whatever you have.
8. When you fall -- I will point and laugh at your clumsy arse.

Friendship is like peeing your pants - everyone can see it, But only you can feel the true warmth.

Send this to 10 of your closest friends, then get depressed because you can only think of 3.


Wednesday 5 March 2008

The Capitalists . . .

. . . are at work !

but will post again when time allows. (Watch that gold go)

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Remember the Postal strike ?

One of the consequences of last summer's postal strike was an agreement on working practices with postal workers.

The early start time of postal workers was moved to a later start in the morning and all mail deliveries arrive at sorting offices later than previously. Postal staff have to sort all mail and deal with incorrect items and packages before commencing their rounds. Most offices have had to or will have to cut staff while the size of mail rounds, if anything, actually increases due to more domestic housing being built.

One consequence of this that I haven't seen reported is that the priority premium service , the guaranteed 9 am delivery package, has very little chance of being delivered before 9 am as either the packet does not arrive to be delivered from the office or the postal workers are forbidden from leaving to begin mail deliveries until ..... 9 am !

Seeing as this is a very very lucrative GUARANTEED service whose starting cost is £9.40 for a letter that should in theory be arriving the same time as a 1st class letter costing just 34p, it is a wonder that Royal mail have not changed the conditions or moved it to 10.30 am.

Postcom will attack them over this as it is the flagship service and one of their previous 99% successfully met key performance targets.

Anecdotaly canny Ebayers are using this service, checking the delivery time online , and then receiving a full refund when the item is delivered past 9 am, effectively getting a FREE service that would cost some £20 - £40 from a courier.

Allan Leighton answers on a postcard please...or maybe a 9 am special ?

Sunday 2 March 2008

Sunday Business Round Up - 2nd March

It is the time of the week again to review what has been making the news in the world of business. This is the first week we have no mention of Northern Rock in a long-time. Instead, some old stories re-surface, inflation, pensions, banks in trouble - the major hemes just keep on going with no resolution yet in sight:

CU is away on business, see pic to the left, for most of next week and so posting from me will be light.

BAE Scandal - This just won't go away, too many dirty secrets with many more yet to be exposed.

HSBC part a - Major US activist suggest HSBC bail out of the US sub-prime mess.

HSBC part b - The last major UK bank to report has some quite hefty sub-prime issues.

Peloton collapse - the first of many UK hedge funds to blow-up, or the exception?

Rentokill failure - 3 years of new CEO, still a business with no meaning.

Virgin to quit Telly - Well not, quite, but to be getting out of the content market when you own distribution is a very odd move.

Non-doms to flee - Hmm, more pressure on the Government, we'll see what really happens.

Story of the week - 3UK
- Best article by a mile which takes in dot com woes, Brown tax raids, poor management and technology changes; first class.

Premier Foods - A warning, that stagflation works in funny ways, with this stock which should be a gimme, instead in trouble

Pension crisis - Another report shows how badly the provisioning is currently in the UK - at a time when the demographics mean we should be in the opposite place.