Thursday 30 April 2009

Is Peter Mandelson begining to wish he'd stayed away?

Iain Dale thinks that Mandelson has run out of optimism. Well, it would be hard to blame him.
If you are the Speer in the final days of the Brown Reich. Knowing the realities. Knowing just how big the real debt is, how fragile the economy is, how little the tax receipts will add up to in quarter 2.

No matter how skilled he may be, his leader is not facing realities.
Why pick a fight with the Gurkhas? Why try and bounce through expenses when you know that the opposition has been setting this trap for you for months. When Brown himself abstained over the issue, but now pretends the whole thing was his idea. The government has run out of credibility.
No wonder if Mr Mandelson has begun to feel a bit like this.

Fiat to buy and run Chrslyer

Really, the way out of the Chrysler fiasco in the US has come to this.

First Daimler walked away when they realised that Chrysler makes no vehicles that are of any good quality or wanted in the market. Then the Private Equity players stepped in and now they have been burnt too (they are called Cerebus, you would have expected this with this name - see picture).

Now the US Government has stepped in to save this company. it's finance firm is shot, it makes awful vehicles and lots of the now not to popular SUV's.

In a last throw of the dice the US Government is offering to try and partially bail the bondholers (paying one third of the value of their bonds) and merging the company with Fiat. Fiat thinks its small underpowered cars like the Punto are a great story for the US market. Plus it can introduce the Alfa brand back into the US. This is pure genius, I can't see any downside myself.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Start of a New Downward Phase ? The Stress Tests Are In

The outworkings of the US banking stress tests are nigh, and they don't sound like good news at all. Another huge round of recapitalisation seems to be looming.

This is hardly surprising. With the suspension of marking-to-market the banks were given an easy time and have been hiding behind a dense smokescreen for many months. Obviously, firms that went for so long without modelling (or at least, without disclosing) their exposure to systemic risks were not going to be in a hurry to volunteer such analyses.

But now they've been forced to do it, and even under the relatively benign 'stress' that's been applied, they are revealed as badly under-capitalised.
Benign stress ? Well, all the US authorities have required is input assumptions for a base-case of:

a 2.0% GDP decline in 2009 and a 2.1% GDP gain in 2010, unemployment reaching 8.4% in 2009 and 8.8% in 2010, and house prices falling 14% in 2009 and 4% in 2010

and a “severe-but-plausible” case:

a 3.3% GDP decline in 2009 and 0.5% GDP gain in 2010, unemployment at 8.9% in 2009 and 10.3% in 2010 and house prices down 22% in 2009 and 7% in 2010

Sorry, that's not severe; and the base-case isn't a stress test at all, it's the expected case. As we wrote here 18 months ago, one of the problems of stress-testing

"... is paucity of imagination: the worst we can envisage is what has happened before. When oil was last at $10 (1998!), very few companies were stress-testing for $80. When Enron was the pre-eminent market-maker for every wholesale energy player, few were considering its sudden melt-down: who is modeling the collapse of a really big bank now?"

That was 11 months before the Lehman collapse (and 9 months before $147 oil !) You've to try a lot harder than
an 0.5% GDP gain, for pity's sake, to provide a genuinely illuminating extreme.

In the first instance, it seems, the banks will appeal the results: just as in the UK
(recall our comment on the hints in Turner's Review), banks in the US apparently negotiate their capital adequacy. Then, they'll be out trying to raise vast sums of additional capital. And all against what can only be described as sanguine stress-testing.

There can be many a lull in the storm, many a bear rally in the downward trend. We've just been having one. It may be coming to an end.


Government Waste; Swine Flu leaflets

Really, a few people get the usual dose of flu and it comes to this? The WHO have form for calling for the end of the world; kind of helps their funding to keep everyone panicking.

At the moment we have a small bout of flu except in Mexico. The result is a panic by our government to order flu masks from the US (mark up 150% from last weeks price, go civil service buyers, go) and to issue a leaflet to everyone in the country. After all, there must be many people who have no access to the Internet, TV, Radio, NHS Direct or GP's.

Even the markets, jittery at the moment, have given up and companies like British Airways are rising strongly again.

The country is bankrupt and this is a completely wasteful measure. It does however fulfill the traditional political criteria; something must be done, this is something...therefore the government will look good an in control.
Sadly, I would bet many in Government are secretly willing the Flu to become serious so that they get a bounce in the polls again.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

Poland 4 Brownland 0

It is quite something when the Prime Minister of the 6th largest economy in the world can be humiliated in front of the world's press by the Polish Prime Minister:

"I want to emphasise that banking sector supervision, abiding by the rules and not living excessively on credit are the surest ways of avoiding crisis."

"I should not be speaking as a reviewer of an economic policy of any country. All I can say is that the Polish government, at a time of financial crisis, behaved with full responsibility in terms of public funds and the level of budgetary deficit."

"After a few months, you could see that our economic financial policy has been accepted and understood, both at home and abroad."

"The assumption that we adopted as the method to fight against the financial crisis is not to multiply expenditures but rather to increase responsibility for public funds."

Then again, when you had immoral and inept financial management for a period of 9 years, I guess it is to be expected.

Harman red tape madness

Not content with saddling the British Economy with an total lemon of a budget, the best brains in the Labour Government are determined to go further. Now we have a new equal pay bill.

This comes in a session where it has been noted that the Government has almost no new work to do, but they can make up time for this.

There are many studies showing that , a) Women's pay is getting better every year and b) some gaps are structural due to maternity and women's choices in employment.

Now, at this time of economic woe, when all our companies are struggling just to keep going, we get a new load of useless socialist worker nonsense.

What credibility now does Harriet Harman have for Labour leader...certainly not as a leader of New Labour.

The Government is without shame, where is its vaunted regulation reduction department to combat this tripe? A silence across Whitehall.

Gordon Brown, supposedly in his own mind a champion of business, lets this go by as his power is so diminished within No10.

The saying is that you get the Government you deserve; the UK is a sad and pathetic PC country heading for meltdown on this evidence.

Monday 27 April 2009

Its not what you know, but how much you owe

JJB has secured a company voluntary agreement (CVA) with its landlords. The 11th hour deal effectively removes JJB from the top of our list of most likely not to see 2010, and gives it a valuable lifeline.

JJB is able to walk away from its dud, crippling leases and still owed final rents on the 140 shops it has shut, and move to a monthly, rather than quarterly rent agreement. Enormous help in a cash strapped market and something Brown & co should have been 'encouraging' landlords to deal with a long time ago. JJB can use its existing turnover to pay the rents, instead of having to borrow in advance at ultra high rates.
The story shows how the collapse of Woolworth, much like Lehman Brothers in the financial world, changed the rules. In February, a CVA to rescue to U.K. high-street shoe chains Barratts Shoes and Priceless Shoes failed after landlord voted against it because they didn't want to accept lower rents.Now landlords do not want another large chain to go down, and are willing , within reason , to offer help. JJB owes around £60 million. Landlords would have seen little of that if the company fell into administration, so a deal has been struck, not without considerable loss to themselves. But CVA's, a very rare form of pre administration, that really should become more popular. The "pre-pack" administration is a terrible deal for creditors, and an easy way for a companies owners to buy the stores and stock back cheaply,dumping problem staff, suppliers and liabilities and without any onerous leases.

Struggling JJB saw its shares rise 26 per cent - up 4¾p to 23p - after taking steps to avoid bankruptcy, but it is certainly not safe yet. We do not know if it has happened in this case but there is often a reciprocal renegotiation of leases, allowing the landlord to terminate a shop lease, with minimum notice, if a better client comes along. Not a problem in the current climate, but JJB could lose its best sites when the recovery comes. It also loses its bargaining power in shopping centres and high streets and will unlikely to gain any A+ units unless they have been unlet for a very long time.

Still, good news for the 12,000 odd staff of JJB, who retain their jobs for now at least. Prehaps they should consider a transfer to their rival JD Sports who saw their profits rise 9% in 2008 and trading in the new year has started well. The sports and leisure outfit said pre-tax, post-exceptional profit had risen to £38.2m, from £35m.

Trading the Budget 2009: Update

See this post from last week. I havebeen a bit slow to update as I have been travelling since Thursday afternoon (when I closed all my positions). Somehow the sun of the continent seems better than that of England, certainly there is not the air of despair that I sense on landing at Gatwick. Perhaps not having such incompetents in charge helps the atmosphere.

Anyhow, trading the budget, despite making the right calls the pesky markets did not react as planned, funny that. i guess that is why we are not all millionaires:

PDG - This car company benefited from the scrappage scheme. A full week before I bought it no doubt! I was in at 16.75 and out at 15.75 - so a 6% loss. Just as well I did not leave this until Friday, it ended the week at 14.50

LBUL - Long on gold to fight the fiscal collapse of the Government, in at 33 and out at 35.8. Would have been better if I had stayed in, it ended the week at nearer 37. -(8% up)

XUKS - Short the FTSE in a week of dire news, surely a gimme? Initially, this rocketed and I should have closed the position earlier, ended up only 1% above break even as the index started rallying for some unknownable reason later in the week.

PFC - The idea was that PFC would gain from the oil tax giveaway. Did not really work out, as the share bounced around in the week, I closed at 585 which was just under 1% up on the week.

Overall my conclusion is that after G20 and The Budget, trading the news is a good idea. I am quite up, more so after the G20 but not so much after the budget. Only one call has lost out and that was on a dodgy car dealer so I should not perhaps be so surprised.

What is the next political/financial event that I should look at?

Saturday 25 April 2009

The Triumph of King Coal: a Neat Handbrake Turn by Ed Miliband

This week's statement on the future permitting of coal-fired power-plants is good, worldly-wise strategy: the type we appprove of hereabouts.

Firstly, as
we've been saying for a long while, high-tech coal has a major role to play. Second, the lead-time for implementing so much of the Carbon Capture concept, 'CCS' (which is only medium-tech, but requires a huge amount of infrastructure) is considerable. Third, our needs for new generating capacity are more urgent than that protracted timetable can allow.

So the strategy needs to be stepwise, and that's what Miliband (Ed) has
announced, allowing the industry to get on with it. In particular, he's set a very low barrier for what 'CCS-ready' means:

"The Government will only consider applications if they:

- Confirm sufficient space available to retrofit CCS

- Identify a suitable potential offshore area to store carbon dioxide

- Map a feasible potential transport route from the power station to the storage area and

- Do not have foreseeable barriers to retrofitting CCS.

Together, these criteria will prove a power station is ‘carbon capture ready’."

To put it mildly, these criteria need not be *ahem* very difficult to satisfy. So (provided electricity prices are high enough - and they probably will be) the power companies will crack on with developing new coal plant, which is exactly what they really like to do; and the future can look after itself. If CCS demonstrators work out OK - and the government of the day sees fit to line their pockets with silver - the companies will retro-fit CCS. If either of these two criteria never come to pass, we'll still have the new capacity.

The realpolitik of all this is driving poor Mr Monbiot to distraction, but there it is, George old son. In amongst the wreckage of Brown's hapless, hopeless government Miliband has cleverly squared an awkward circle. He's even spinning it as a victory for the green lobby !

Yes, Miliband (Ed) may indeed be the man to watch for in 2010.


Friday 24 April 2009

Bill Quango MP expenses revealed in the Daily Mail

Daily Mail
"The publication of MP's expenses is causing some embarrassment.
Whilst MP's may claim that all of these expenses are above board and necessary for carrying out the work of a backbench MP or a Multi-Quango holder and for the effective running a constituency office, some expenses seem to defy explanation.

We asked William Quango , the MP for Surreysex East, to explain some of the more unusual items he had claimed on his expense. we were met with the usual litany of "Above board - within the rules - approved by the parliamentary standards committee - It's complicated - Is standard practice - necessary for security reasons - similar levels of expenses to a leading banker or a pop star - Necessary for reasons of travel - Is normal practice in government -not requiring a receipt for MP's"

However a closer scrutiny left a few items demanding clarification
Here are just a few off the list

  • Remmington electric razor foil £12.95
  • Brazilian leg wax £18.45
  • Quicksilver swimming trunks £59.99
  • Cockerel and Hen Topiary £1,200
  • Car air-freshener {pine} £0.32
  • Bazuka Wartner £10.99
  • Jack Nicklaus 5 iron £185.00
  • Horse box £12,955
  • Picnic basket £233.00
  • Chinese meal for 12. Mr Tang's £455.00
  • 12v air horn/klaxon for boat £18.99
  • Valentine bouquet {Mrs Q} £12.99
  • Valentine bouquets and lingerie {Miss X} £556.99
  • Snickers £0.49
  • Timotei fragrant fresh £3.47
  • Swimming pool £28,760
  • Granny flat for parents £245,000
Mr Quango was unable to comment further on expense claims, or his poor attendance record at debates but he did confirm that he would definitely be attending the MP expenses debate in the commons next Thursday.

Daily Mail Reporter

Thursday 23 April 2009

Bleats,spends and leaves. Key budget terms

It can be difficult to understand some of the technical terms in yesterday's historic budget.
Here is a quick glossary for those unfamiliar with some of the economic terms.

{picture: How did the budget go down with the newspapers Gordon?}



There Will Be No V-shaped Recovery

"Hard to find a single economist who believes that the economy would grow by 1.25% in 2010, let alone grow by 3%-plus for the three years after that. Yet, without that turbocharged performance, there is not the remotest possibility of the budget deficit being halved by 2013-14" (Larry Elliott, Grauniad)

In HSBC’s February annual report, the Chairman stated that this is ‘the first just-in-time recession’, meaning that just-in-time industrial structures (and thought-processes) allow firms to cut production overnight. And in the autumn that’s exactly what they did, as we discussed in November. But could it bounce back just as quickly ? Yvette Cooper was wittering on Newsnight that the fabled V-shaped recovery was exactly what we can expect.

But I reckon she’s wrong: and (not being an economist) here’s my illustration from everyday life. Today I took the motor in for its annual service. Doors open at 07:30 and for each of the previous 20-odd years I’ve been doing this, there’s a queue already formed by 07:15, by all those commuters who want to drop the car off before work.

Today, there was no-one else there at all. Would you like a coffee, sir, and no trouble over having a replacement car.

Which (since they haven’t all lost their jobs) means that people are deferring routine car maintenance. Which means, over time, their cars won’t be as reliable as in the past. And factories are the same.

When the just-in-time ‘on’ switch is thrown, the carefully-crafted just-in-time logistics chain won’t work as we’d become accustomed to, resulting in delays, inefficiencies and the need for more working capital.

Add that to Ruth Lea’s concise list of reasons why she doesn’t believe in Darling’s V either. It just ain't gonna happen.


Boom-Bust-Boom ! Juss Like That ...

I overheard Gordon telling the Army Chief of Staff he wanted attacks on the Taliban. I butted in and suggested 45p in the pound.

When I was getting ready for my Budget broadcast, the spin-doctors told me I needed to prepare my pitch. I couldn't find any pitch, so I used creosote.

I went to the doctor the other day, I said “with all the excitement of the Budget I can't sleep'' he said “Try lying on the edge of your bed, you'll soon drop off”

Peter Mandelson told me he was forming a group of choirboys. I said, “Are you having me on?” He said, “Well I'll give you an audition, but I'm not promising you anything.”

So I said to Gordon,
“What on earth shall I tell them the economy is going to do in 2010 and 2011?” And he said . . . . .

Wednesday 22 April 2009

Budget 2009 Reaction: Spin and more Spin

There are many, many reasons to be disappointed with the current Government. That they manage to cram all of them into a single budget is phenomenal.

50% top tax rate for £150k plus earners - really, this raises a pittance. Pure politics to play with the Tories.

'Investment' - in sundry green initiatives, an industrial policy, non-jobs for those who can't get real ones. All very costly, all will have no impact.

£15 billion in public spending cuts - out of over £600 billion. That is like not buying chocolates with your families weekly shopping money; ooh, what a saving!

But worst is the really big lies, the whoppers that are going to mean MASSIVE spending cuts from next year and huge tax rises:

• Economy forecast to shrink 3.5% in 2009 - Um, at least 1/2% out on the downside

• Growth expected to pick up in 2010, expanding by 1.25%. - heroic, be surprised if we manage more than 1/2% in total

• Economy to grow by 3.5% annually from 2011 - Long term trend in 2.5%, so again, pathetic assumptions.

• Public borrowing to increase to £175bn this year - Gulp

• Borrowing levels to rise by £173bn, £140bn, £118bn and £97bn in years after - 4x gulps, plus all wrong as the growth predictions are way off, so these numbers will all expand hugely.

• Consumer price inflation to fall to 1% by end of year. - So QE won't work then, Alistair?

All the hard decisions have been ducked and left to the next Government which Darling knows won't be him. It is the most political budget ever, Labour have betrayed their own country.

I am flying out of the country on business tomorrow - is it worth coming back?

Alternative UK Budget 2009

Well CityUnslicker's really.

(Bill Quango is at home claiming the last of his expenses after yesterday's shock annoucnemnt)

- End public sector pension schemes from today onwards and announce that any new public sector worker will be on a defined contribution scheme like in the private sector.

- Move MP's to defined contribution pension scheme from beginning of next parliament.

- There are over 1000 quango's, promise to close at least 250 throughout the course of this budgetary year.

- Re-impose stamp duty and do not support the housing market. next year, when prices have stabilised will be the time to support this action.

- Increase VAT back to 17.5% as this policy clearly failed.

- Small rises in alocohol and tobacco taxes

- End child benefit for higher earning couples

- Do not encourage people to buy more cars

- Do not raid private sector pensions again when the 1997 raid destroyed the best system in the Western World.

- Don't raise any extra taxes on income, allow people to spend what they have.

- Do not encourage saving this year by raising isa thresholds more than the minimum. Announce a large increase for next year.

-Do not move tax bands with wage inflation, leave them the same, 'reward' those in work.

- Use the savings/tax rises to pay down potential borrowing and at least try and balance the books. Do not issue £200 billion of long-dated guilts that will saddle my toddler children with debt.

That is what I would do, I will not be surprised to see this as the diamtetric of what Darling proposes

Tuesday 21 April 2009

Marks and Spendless a post from back in January about the merits of high vs low end retailers, predicted a further collapse in higher end retailers and difficulties for all except the discounters.

Not everyone agreed. There was a minor disagreement with Anon over who would perform best. Anon commented "How does any of that explain Waitrose's success? And although Tesco are yet to announce their figures they are rumoured to be "disappointing". Aldi and Lidl's growth is static in their established branches and their growth is purely fueled by their expansion. I expect we'll find that Morrisons appear to have succesfully overperformed at Christmas for the second year running."
Ending in my comment;
"But lets not get into a war over it. You put your money into M+S and John Lewis group, Debenhams and Next and I'll put mine into New Look, Primark, Poundland and Asda, and whoever has 2 out of 4 showing a profit by 3rd quarter can claim victory."

Well, I call Primark early. Like-for-like sales, which exclude new openings, increased 5% in the six months to 28 February. Half year profits up 10%. That's on top of the 20% they were up the year before. The margin has taken a hit, but they have finished a new distribution centre that will only make a slick organistation even slicker. Peacock's, another discount fashion retailer reported 8.3% up like-for-like sales earlier this month.
Contrast with Next Plc retail like for likes were down - 6.5% to March.

In a downturn, pick the discounters. They retain their existing customers and pull more from above. Primark's gain is Next's loss.
And need we mention Tesco again? Or have their PR people opened enough champagne for all the positive free publicity they have had today.

Ps the Marks and Spendless post is worth a look if for nothing else but the picture of the model in the M+S bridal lingerie. Grrrr.

Vince's Budget breakfast

CU was at a breakfast in the City today with old timer Vince Cable doing a speech on the Budget and state of the country. Due to excessive sausage sandwich consumption my notes are more illegible than usual due to spillage:

Anyway, on the economy Vince, who repeated his Shell never made predictions when I worked there in the 1930's and so I won't now said:

- UK GDP 2009, -4%

- Unemployment by end 2009, at least 3.5 million

- Government borrowing, £175 billion

- House prices have a long way to fall, he thought back to 3 or 4x average earnings (CU- 50% fall + in total as they reached 8.5x at height of boom)

He thought it would be a very unexciting budget as the Chancellor has fired his guns last year and has no ammo left. He also suggested it was a Monetary solution that was being followed and not a fiscal one. he thought he was very clever talking about Friedman and Keynes.

(CU- And wrong too. What is blindingly obvious is that the Treasury that has the money has splurged in a Keynesian fashion and the Bank of England that has the monetary supply has done QE as a cure. So we have a nice messy mix of both. Might work, might not; definitely the expensive option)

As for the Lib Dems, he said raise no tax threshold to £10,000 and pay for it by removing pensions incentives and harmonising capital gains with income. This is arch Brownian redistribution which even Labour have not tried. So much for Vince being an orange book man. Clearly a long-time since he had to work for a living in the private sector.

The only other thing he said of note was to agree with Reform who have a report out suggesting ways to cut public spending. happily he said all this can wait a while, big questions like public pensions, mass uni education, defence spending all need rationalising. But no now, not with an election in a year. Pathetic. At this point he made one or two partisan jibes, all aimed at George Osborne. Don't think he mentioned Darling once in the speech.

So now you know what a Lib Dem approach would be. Raise taxes, massive redistribution of wealth, promise to cut spending but never do it, bash the Tories. A vote for Vince is a vote for Gordon; can't see how they would ever go into Government with the Tories with these policies.

He had one good answer when someone asked if we should stop talking down the economy. he said all that sort of talk was nonsense, the economy was in a right state and we should admit it and try to fix it, rather than bullshit (quote) that thinking happy thoughts will make things right.

Guess he agrees with my short position on the FTSE then....

Tesco sales hit £1 billion a week.

Tesco weekly sales hit £1 billion
Thirty years after it first broke the £1 billion worth of sales a year mark, Tesco is reporting sales of £1 billion a week.
Its annual results show the company achieved sales of £53 billion and profits of £3 billion.

Seeing as how £1 in every £7 is spent by UK consumers in a Tesco, {probably nearer to £1 in every £6 by now} Why not just hand over the entire budget / Treasury to Tesco management.

There is nothing they don't know about cutting waste, getting the best deal,global markets
currency hedging, new technology, efficiency and turning a profit.
And the employees rate them highly too.

Monday 20 April 2009

Labour Out of Power: Reality Creeps Into the Energy Debate

After years of misinformation and delusion, it is good to report that the enviro-energy lobby has essentially given up pretending the UK can meet its fatuous renewables targets. Formerly, the wind lobby in particular was keen to assert that wind farms could bridge the gap between where we are heading on current trends, and keeping the lights on post 2015. But now, Miliband has

“...asked officials to draw up a new coal plan to meet conflicting warnings about global warming emissions and a looming gap in Britain's energy supplies when old coal and nuclear plants are closed in the next decade”

This is because he has been advised, correctly, that otherwise the lights will indeed frequently be flickering, and periodically going out altogether. (It is to his credit that he even cares about this, because the chances of his being in power at the time – pun intended - don’t seem terribly good.)

He’ll discover – if anyone’s willing to tell him the truth - that renewables cannot, in any circumstances (even with the precipitate collapse in industrial electricity demand), fit the bill. This means, inter alia, there is no chance whatever of the UK meeting its ‘obligations’ either on GHG emissions or on renewables as an end in themselves. Even George Monbiot now recognises this. Of course, this will not stop the renewables lobby redoubling its demands for ever greater subsidy, but it ought to stop them getting it.

All over Europe the same penny is dropping. In Germany, as soon as the next election is safely over and Merkel no longer needs a coalition, she will be ditching their accelerated decommissioning programme for old nukes. This, incidentally, offers hilarious prospects: the old generation of lib-lefties consider the Atomkraft? Nein, Danke! campaign their major achievement in life – and they are all coming up to retirement age, with nothing better to occupy their days than reprising their finest hours on the picket-lines.

This gives Germany a very cheap way out of the bind, because their nukes really can have their lives prolonged at relatively low cost. Ours can’t. But the same thought-process raises the interesting question as to whether some of the old coal plants across the whole of Europe, currently scheduled to be closed under the EC’s Large Combustion Plant Directive (hence the looming shortfall in capacity), can have their lives extended.

My hunch is that it wouldn’t be particularly cheap, because the plants earmarked several years ago for closure under the LPCD won’t have had much more than essential maintenance carried out on them for quite a while. This tends to have a self-fulfilling result. But it could be quicker and cheaper than new-build – and very much so versus the timetable and cost for carbon-capturing plant, the latest fantasy-fiction.

Look forward to a decade of vehement, probably violent anti-coal protests. Arthur Scargill, eat your heart out.


Trading the Budget

Fresh from my recent success of trading the G20 (still continuing, never sold LLOY stake and it has continued to fly in the face of reality). I have below my political based hunches for the Budget from a trading perspective.

As always, Cityunslicker is not a professional adviser and what my investments choices I make are purely for personal opinion and discussion and should not be followed as 'tips.'

Some of the ideas in the budget have been well trailed by now and so their announcement may in fact be a 'buy the rumour, sell the news moment.'

However, the budget this year has much more focus than in a typical year and I think the markets will watch it very closely. If the budget falls over very badly it is quite possible that it will begin the tipping point for the end of the current bear market rally. A 'good' budget will no doubt extend the rally until the annual 'sell in May and go away' phase.

Here are my four investments and the strike prices I received this morning:
PDG 16.75- Pendragon, a car retailer who will no doubt benefit from the now almost confirmed taxpayer giveaway to the motor industry. I nearly went with Inchape, but Pendragon has imminent loan talks with its banks - these are all going well at the moment so is adding bounce to share prices.
LBUL 33.31- I expect the budget to be a very sombre affair for UK plc, with awful numbers that will rock the markets. I have therefore closed my profitless short gold position and opened a long one for this week.
XUKS - (1290)This is a FTSE100 short tracker ETF, buying this as part of a pari with LBUL as I expec the FTSE to run on the back of the budget, even if not by much if the weekly 'up' momentum is strong.
PFC - (580.5)Petrofac is a north sea oil explorer, given trailing comments that Darling intends to cut exploration taxes then these should benefit. They go ex-dividend on Friday so that will give support all this week too.

Budget Week: Darling Facing up to Reality

I was actually quite pleased to see the No11 Spinners around today in the media and various 'Badger' quotes.

In it Darling has agreed that things are bad, the light has gone on and we need to make some urgent changes to the fiscal order of the UK:

- The economy is likely to shrink between 3-4% this year (which makes protestations that this is the worst quarter optimistic)
- Government Spending will hit 10% of GDP
- The tax base could shrink by over 8% - permanently downsizing the UK capacity for public expenditure.
- Unemployment will exceed 3 million

This is, quite simply, the worst position we have been in since WW2. The measures taken to address it need to be drastic and long-term. The people of the country need to know that 2009-2018 might well be diametrically opposite in experience to 2000-2008.

This period of time is two parliaments long. If Labour get it wrong they are very unlikely to be back in power during this period.

Tomorrow, what would Capitalists@Work do and Wednesday a quick reaction to the Budget. Thursday how it will fall apart (or not, if it is a shock budget!).

Badger has it all to do. I actually wish him luck, for all the sickness of Labour, Darling is all that stands between us and a call to the IMF in the next few months - a massive tax and spend expansionary Labour budget will sink the UK. No doubt No.10 is pushing, I hope Darling does not intend to follow-orders and stay loyal and in the bunker to the bitter end.

Sunday 19 April 2009

Budget blog links - Sunday 19th April

For those staying up waiting for Guido news, here are some links to other top bloggers who are thinking about the forthcoming budget:

Old Holborn - Kind as ever to the people, not without merit as usual too.

Conservative Home - some last minute ideas for the Tories

Bear Markets - Short and sweet.

RGE monitor - Good analysis, bit technical, but you need the background if you are going to argue properly with people in the office this week.

Taxtrust - It is, after all, all about tax.

Sunday Open Thread; What would you do in the Budget?

Alistair Darling and his disreputable henchmen have the duty of presenting a budget for UK the next fiscal year this week.

If you were in his shoes what would you do? (token points only for those that say Suicide or Resign)

There are 3 main options:

Fiscally Conservative - Cutting services and reducing debt

Fiscally Neutral - Holding spending down to a level consistent with this year (in the current case, this is actually quite expansionary)

Fiscally Expansionary - Blow a huge debt bubble and hope it drags the economy out of recession enough to enable repayment of the massive debt

What would you do, answers in the comments? Best answers will get hat-tipped an incorporated in the CU budget plan which will be out soon.

Thursday 16 April 2009

Exclusive: Sneak peak of 2009 Budget notes.

Found this envelope and post it note in the back of taxi. As I got in Angela Eagle was getting out.
The post it notes say

Here's a good tip that I used to use. Announce the 2p cut in the basic rate of income tax and while everyone's stunned, quickly and really, really quietly rush out the 245% increase in National Insurance contributions.

PS. Say the word sustainable a lot. Its impossible to overuse that word.

The electric car is coming. But not just yet...

Only last week all the motor press were slamming the [£2,000] electric car subsidy announcement as a "pointless sound bite." Today, reannounced with a bigger subsidy [£5,000] and to include hybrids, it seems last weeks kite flying is out for another float before next week's budget.

If it really is delayed for two years then the whole thing is probably more damaging to the electric car industry than doing nothing. HMG has poor form on making pronouncements that have yet to be thought through, just for the headline. {VED rise - Stamp duty cut - Scrappage tax - New cars discount boost...}. A delay in subsidy, surely only for a complete lack of government funds, will merely put potential buyers off for two years. How does this help the industry? The only sensible reason to wait two years would be to use the intervening time to build the necessary infrastructure to support such vehicles. There was already a special tax break on the Prius,that was so complicated even the dealers couldn't understand how to tell buyers to access it. Will this be any easier? The subsidy already exists in many other countries. China and the USA and Japan. If its offered there, and those countries are also, like Mr Brown, keen to position their countries as world leaders in electric/hybrid/alternative fuelled cars, then why are we waiting? To give them another 2 years head start on top of the decade they have already had?

The scrappage scheme seems to have been been dropped, even though there seems evidence that, amazingly,it works.The growing list of EU countries with scrappage schemes includes: Austria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Spain. It sounds Green enough for Gordon. Why so out of favour now? 0.01% of cars sold in the UK are currently electric. People looking to buy a Prius may be tempted by the £5,000 off. Many fleet operators will have a look, if they are looking at cars at all. But not vans though. Poor LDV. No help from HMG, even though they claim to want to become an electric van manufacturer.
And even if there was a brilliant design of electric car,that could manage 500 mile range, 80mph, was available as a family sized vehicle and complied with the tough safety tests available in 2 years time, would there be the power to run them? ND may have a view of 1,000,000 + cars all sitting on charge every night for 4 - 12 hours.

Ultimately I can't see the economic sense in any of this. What have I missed?

Sting the Spinners: a Modest Proposal

Even for a sober and diligent biz-blog like C@W, it is hard to forswear comment on Guido’s triumph against the Goliath of the government spin machine and its compliant client-base in the MSM.

I have never harboured any romantic notions about traditional news media. A close relative once commanded the front page of a leading Sunday newspaper each week and I was brought up on stories of how the proprietor conducted his tawdry business. While myself editing a student newspaper, on the occasion of running Part 1 of a genuine scoop on overseas political interference in the running of the university, I and the writer were taken to one side by the proctors and informed that if Part 2 were to be written up, we would be sent down.

Friends who pursued the journalistic calling all the way to Fleet Street have often regaled me with stories of how the Lobby system really works. And once, when occupying an office in the same SW1 building as NuLab’s then Westminster base, strolling through the foyer I overheard Mandleson menacing a couple of junior reporters that they would never work again unless they did his bidding to the letter.

But now, for at least a few days, there is widespread wringing of journalistic hands. Yes, they cry,
it takes two to tango, and McPoison's partner was ... us. We have been lazy, supine, craven, complicit in our relationship with the spin-machine. We should have researched our own stories; rejected the innuendos; laughed in the face of the threatening bullies.

I have a suggestion.

This is easy. We all know the Brown Brigade is quite incapable of weaning itself away from its modus operandi of 20 years. Let one of the great organs of the MSM (the Beeb, say) redeem itself by hatching a sting: a genuinely enlightening exposé of the workings of the NuLab skunk-works. When the next opportunity arises - and they happen all the time - let them surreptitiously record verbal briefings, tie them into leaks, and correlate them with news- management stratagems, to present posterity and the voting public with a fully-documented set-piece of how the bastards conduct their business.

I can just the see the Panorama Spin-Special now. Public interest ? There are prizes to be won for this, chaps - how about it ?

No, I thought not.


Wednesday 15 April 2009

The new Government asset bubble

A keen eyed commenter on the previous thread has pointed out this article in the Telegraph.

All the comment in the article is that this is a positive thing to help people out, as if mortgage lending were some kind of social service rather than a straight commercial agreement.

We may feel for people stuck in negative equity, but they were all warned not to buy houses at the top of the market on unsustainable borrowing rates. Caveat Emptor.

What this is proof of is the theme I have run since last weeks scoop (I notice none of the MSM have taken it up, Guido has stolen all their focus). The Banks are being told to lend by the Government. They have targets to hit. This is one way of doing it, not only by getting more money into the market but also pleasing the socialist government by keeping the unable to pay in their homes.

The second huge issue here is that this sort of behaviour will affect property prices again. It will contribute to prices stabilising at too higher rate...if it works. If it does not then these 120% LTV's will soon be 150%+ LTV's - at that rate why would you not just had back the keys, what is the point after all.

We all need to keep a look out for how the mendacious government interference is going to affect us all and the markets they are interfering with. The law of unintended consequences is the clear here in the statue book of UK plc.

I can't wait to see what Alice thinks of it....

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Green shoots; in your dreams Obama

Obama says he sees the green shoots of recovery. it is nothing of the sort, what we are seeing now is the levelling out of the crash phase of the recession.

Now if there were green shoots, it would be into a strong bounce. The stock market is in a nice rally, that is about it. Rallies have a habit of petering out this decade in the US stock market.

As for everything else, the case-shiller index is still looking bad, company credit is bad. The only thing recovering are the banks and they have been bailed out with more money than it took to beat Hitler and Tojo.

Why talk about Obama? Well he is a model for our own Cameron. Obama's Presidency is unlikely to go down as a great success as people tire of the depression. Instead he will slowly lose credibility; partly by constantly saying things are getting better when reality says they are not.

I hope our own Tories have learned the two key lessons here:

1) (Unlike Major and Lamont) Don't spy green shoots that don't exist, it grates on the electorate
2) Don't push Brown out now, let him deal with the coming year of fall and stagnation.

To this end, the UK electoral cycle is more in favour of Cameron than the US is for Obama. Unless Guido gets his way of course....

Monday 13 April 2009

Holiday Guest Post: Recession Affecting Relationships

The economic recession that we’re in is causing stress for everyone and that stress has the potential to put a big strain on relationships. Smart couples are tackling the problem by working together to come up with creative ways to keep their relationship strong despite their financial stress. Unfortunately, many other couples are stuck in a negative pattern of fighting over how to deal with the recession and sabotaging each other in ways that create additional money problems for themselves. Many married couples are feeling more like divorcing than ever before and yet they also feel like they can’t do so because divorce fees are an unnecessary expense in today’s economy.

The recession has forced all of us to change the way that we think about our jobs and the way that we spend our money. Even those people who are not facing unemployment or home loss are finding that they don’t feel free to spend their money as liberally as in the past. Individuals across the world are struggling to adapt to using less money than they are used to spending, a struggle made difficult by the financial habits that we’ve developed over time. The situation is exacerbated for couples who not only have to make individual changes but who also have to work together to adapt to different ways of spending. This requires communicating more about money than in the past and the difficulty of doing so is heightened by the tough emotions and fears that exist because of being in a recession.

Many couples are in trouble because of the fact that they don’t know how to communicate about money and about the changes that must be made during a recession. Both individuals may be scared about the changes and neither wants to set the other off by discussing what’s going on. At the same time, each may be silently blaming the other for not handling the financial situation better. Each stews in anger about how the other is spending and yet fails to constructively discuss ways to change the situation. What ends up happening in most households is that there are a number of fights that may or may not be about money but are never about the underlying fears and big changes that have to be made right now. This fighting causes couples to lie to each other more about money, sabotaging the potential for adapting to the recession. The solution that often comes to mind is divorce but divorce is expensive so couples end up feeling trapped in relationships that they think they want out of.

Smart couples are recognizing that the problem is probably not the relationship but rather the recession and they are teaming up together to get through these tough times. They are working together to live a frugal life, agreeing to individually do small things like using discount codes when shopping or turning the heat off in the home to save on electric bills. They are also using the recession as an opportunity for finding money-saving activities that bring them closer together. For example, they carpool to save on gas money and celebrate the fact that they have this extra time together each day. How couples are dealing with the recession depends on their attitudes about this time. All couples may be impacted by the financial aspect of the situation but their emotional response to it is what determines whether or not the relationship will still be intact once the recession has finally come to an end.

Guest post by Kathryn Vercillo, a writer for which gives away free discount codes and voucher codes. She writes about personal finance, living frugally and saving money at the Money Saving Blog.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Guido rules the waves

Small departure from normal monetary based comment from me. Just wanted to say maximum respect to Guido Fawkes for his revelations about Damian McBride and the sick heart of new Labour.

Our Government, not content with leading us to economic disaster, has at its centre a group of nasty, ignorant and contemptible people; obsessed with hurting the Tories rather than healing the country.

Not only has Guido calmly exposed this (no mean feat to take on the 5th most powerful Government on the planet), but it has also revealed the complicity of much of the mainstream media such as the Telegraph and Mirror journalists in going along with the Government spin merchants.

All power to Guido for the week ahead. The cover up of the original sin always proves more fatal. Blogs are becoming more influential, just see the headlines of all tomorrow's papers.

The Brownadder tries for a Fourth term pt 3

The Brownadder tries for a Fourth term
new BBC comedy/farce
pilot episode
final part

Captain Brownadder was in his bunker surrounded by boxes and boxes of blank postal votes.
He was addressing his team of Lieutenant Geoff and Private Ballsdrick on his latest cunning plan.

"Its perfectly simple. You look down the register of the deceased from 1991, you then use these forms to register them to vote, and then apply for a postal vote at the address we rented, and then when the postal vote comes, you register them to vote for us. Is that clear?"
The two men stared blankly at Blackadder. Lt Geoff raised his hand and asked "But why would the dead be voting sir? There's no ectoplasm tax or dead persons allowance? Surely they couldn't have much interest in whichever side won an election."
"A Euro election too sir" chipped in Ballsdrick. "Well quite. Thank you Private. A Euro election result to boot!" laughed Lt Geoff.

Captain Brownadder pinched the bridge of his nose in a weary resignation and took a deep breath. "Look cretins. The dead are not voting. We are voting for them, in order that they will vote for us, and we remain in power..although sometimes i wonder if its worth the bother, having to be Prime Minister and the Kindergarten Cop. So, lets have a go at a form. Sit down Ballsdrick. Right ..lets see.. Name"

"Children's Secretary"
"A spiritual belief in a higher being that created all life on earth and man in his own image"
Brownadder sighed. "Fine. Which party do you want to vote for?"
"What? "
"Well, we hate that Tony Blair, so I'm going to vote him out"
"I'm the leader of the Labour party now, you idiot"shouted Brownadder.
"Are you sure sir?"asked Ballsdrick.
"Yes, I don't remember any leadership election either sir,"said Lt Geoff. "Is that what these forms are for.. the leadership election of the Labour party?"
Brownadder sighed and dropped his head into his hands. It was going to be a long night.

Capt Brownadder read the reports. Pte Ballsdrick and Lt Hoon stood before him at attention.
Brownadder was furious. The plan to fake voters had not gone well."This is the biggest cock up since someone ordered Apache helicopters without avionics software. Since Tony Blair said 'its not so hot today, I won't need a t/shirt under my shirt just for a speech.' If you will, it is as bad as having to follow John Prescott into the lavy.
One Billion pounds wasted. You Ballsdrick got your team to put "Ballsdrick - Secretary of state for children, on EVERY SINGLE FORM."
"Just like we rehearsed sir" said Ballsdrick proudly.
"But I chose all different names sir," spoke up Geoff. "In fact we had a lot of fun doing it. Joe Hannesburg. Jack O'Lantern. Fred LeShred and so forth."
"Yes. Well that bit of foolishness might not have mattered IF you hadn't put age - zero, on each form."
"Well they are all zero. They all died in 1991."
"And if they were alive today they would be..?"
"Erm..hang on a bit..just take my sock off.."
"They would be eighteen. Eighteen years old! First time voters just registering now. That was the whole point. That was the plan. And you two blew it like a terror list in a transparent folder.
You two will find yourself on a tour of the South East explaining to business where the promised finance is. You are about to find out just how green you can be by taking a fact finding mission to the Arctic circle.. "
"I do have another cunning plan sir"
"Spare me Ballsdrick. Your plans are about as likely to succeed as a manifesto commitment."
"But sir, it is a good one. You make friends with President Obama. Then you stand next to him smiling. Or doing that thing that you do that's sort of like smiling but makes you look like you've swallowed a coat hangar. Then, you get the world leaders to agree to another massive debt creation exercise that will give you funds for a tax cut for the April budget before the Euro elections"

Brownadder stared at Ballsdrick in amazement.
"Ballsdrick. That's brilliant. I'll get all the leaders to London and hold the world's biggest photo opportunity. Then, when they've agreed to my fiscal stimulus we can print,borrow,create,give,take,lend or throw about as much money as we need. I didn't need to create voters for the Euro election, I just needed to buy them. "

"Geoff, Ballsdrick, touch nothing until I return. I'm off to see General Mandelchett for some hosting and PR funds. This is going to be the biggest party since the BBC's 1997 election night special impartial victory bash."

And he swept out of the dugout and was gone.

Saturday 11 April 2009

BrownAdder tries a Fourth pt 2

The Brownadder tries for a Fourth term
new BBC comedy/farce
pilot episode
part 2

Captain Brownadder has rushed to HQ to see Captain Darling of the King's own Pay Corps.

"Captain Darling.. how nice to see you" said Captain Brownadder, walking around the Treasury office.
"Captain Brownadder" said Darling, seated behind his desk, his eyebrows twitching. "What do you want?"
"Well Darling, I was wondering if you could let me have a billion pounds."
Darling snapped the pencil in his fingers in two with a loud snap and leapt to his feet. "A billion pounds. No chance Brownadder. There isn't a single sixpence left. You spent the last of it on that failed gilts purchase. I wouldn't let you near the Treasury again if you were the last Labour supporter in England"
"Well, now you come to mention it.."
"What do you want the money for anyway Brownadder?"
"Oh, just some odds and ends. A printing company, a stack of blank postal voting forms, an electoral role database, 1,000,000 stamps, a few thousand boxes of pens, some chairs, some tables, a conference centre, enough money to pay a large number of the unemployed to do some form filling and enough left over for a slap up binge at Mrs Prescott's pie shop."
"What are you up to Brownadder?"
"I'm starting my own postal service. I've decided against TNT"

Just then the inner doors opened and in marched General Mandelchett.
The two captains leapt to attention.
"Bhaaaa. at ease at ease. Hello Brownadder. I've just been reading briefing notes on the Red Menance."
"The Russians sir?"
"No. Hazel Blears. What are you doing here Brownadder?"
"I just came to ask for some supplies from Captain Darling."
"I hope you said yes, Darling? Captain Brownadder likes to spring supplieses on the electorate."
"Well, you see General, there aren't any supplies left."
"Jhooonsense" cried the General" Take some from the Business Development Fund. They're not doing any good in there. More dust on them than on Tony McNulty's events speaking diary."
"I rather think Captain Blackadder needs more than that sir." squirmed Captain Darling.
"Oh well in that case, tack it onto the Olympics budget. No one will know. And its not as if we shall be around to have to pay for it, what Brownadder?" chuckled General Mandelchett merrily.

Mandelchett crossed to his desk.
"Now help me with my speech to the CBI Darling. Where's my graph...ah thank you. Yes, yes.. I shall say 'things are really beginning to look up'"
"Erm, the graphs upside down sir. It goes downwards" whimpered Darling.
"Then I shall say "things are getting worse less quickly than before." Alright Darling?"
"Well, I suppose so sir. I'm still worried about this Brownadder money sir. Its such a lot."
"What's it for Brownadder?"
"The Euro elections in June sir."
"Of course. You want to have a chance to put yourself to the electoral test and vindicate your leadership under the harsh trial of a genuinely democratic election campaign."
"Well, something like that sir."
"Alright, Quantitative Easing time again, Darling"
"Print more money for Brownadder then sir?"
"No. Guacamole and Gazpacho lunch at the Carlton Club. Come and help me with my dicky tummy Darling. Goodbye Brownadder."

Captain Brownadder made his way back to his bunker. Now for the cunning plan he thought to himself. The most cunning plan since Tony Blair had suggested Rock,Paper,Scissors at Granitas.

to be continued

The Brownadder tries for a Fourth term

The Brownadder tries for a Fourth term
new BBC comedy/farce
pilot episode
part 1

Captain Brownadder is in his bunker addressing Private Ballsdrick and Lieutenant Geoff Hoon.

"This is a crisis. A large crisis. A fourteen storey crisis with acres of glass windows, marble floors, a fountain in the foyer and an RBS logo bolted above the door. I've just received orders that there are to be Euro elections "
"Hurrah and Huzzah!"beamed Lt Geoff happily. "A chance to get out among the masses and put the labour message to the test."
"Geoff. It is not a time for rejoicing,"scowled Cpt Brownadder.
"Why's that sir?" asked a slightly slow Pte Ballsdrick.
"Because we'll be massacred before you can say 'Glasgow East'. Our popularity has fallen faster than a Lloyd's bank share."
BrownAdder paced across his small bunker and sat on his cot. He needed to think.

"Why not call off the elections then sir? I mean, just tell the Frogs to hoppit and kick Mrs Kaiser up the Jacqsi and boot the eyetie wallah, whassisname.. Armando Iannucci, round the plaza."
Brownadder grabbed a Nokia from an ammunition box and hurled it at Lt Geoff.
"You really are a complete Timney! Its a Euro Election. I can't tell Europe what to do. No one can. We must hold the Euro elections, but we must win them, or i'll be out the door as fast as Cherie Blair is to attend a repossessed property auction in Belgravia."

"I have a cunning plan sir" said Pte Ballsdrick.
"Really Ballsdrick," said Brownadder wearily. "As cunning as an MP's second homes staying in the sister's back bedroom housing allowance fiddle?"
"As cunning as a top rate 2p tax cut, that is really a 1op tax rise?"
"Go on then...if you must"
Pte Ballsdrick began to outline his scheme.
"Well, the way I see it is, if the Tories mobilise their support, and then the Lib Dems mobilise their support, and then the SNP mobilise their support then we won't win"
Brownadder spluttered with incredulity. "Ballsdrick, that's as obvious as a 2.5% VAT cut won't encourage spending!"
"But here's the cunning bit sir. If we mobilise all our support AND some extra support then we win."
"And where do we get this extra support from? We can't bring in any more Somalians, they're making a fortune as pirates."
"No sir. We make them"
"We make them. I see. you mean you and I and Lt Geoff.."
"Have sex with girls. " leered Ballsdrick.
"Ballsdrick. That is the most useless plan since I told everyone we could rebuild the economy by lagging each others lofts. First we need some willing, possibly blind girls. Then we need to impregnate them. And then we need to wait 18 years until their offspring are old enough to vote. And in case you hadn't noticed the elections are in 2 months time"
"Ahh. There's always a tiny flaw isn't there sir?"

But then Lt Geoff piped up.
"He might be right though sir"
"Why? He never has been before. Sats tests, exam marking, lottery school placements, higher education funding, school leaving age raised to eighteen but completely unfunded...."
"But sir, if we artificially create more voters somehow, well, then we would be quite likely to win."

"Ok,I'll work on something"sighed Brownadder. "Give me that fag packet that you used to work out the necessary troop commitment for Afghanistan on."
"That's not a fag packet sir.. That's a postal vote. Would you like to use it? Sir, Sir! I say Ballsdrick, he's gone!"

to be continued