Thursday, 31 December 2009

Outsourcing; a thing of the past?


Just time for a snippet today. I noted this article trumpeted by the BBC. Apparently companies are no longer outsourcing quite so much to India et al and are instead bringing work back on shore. The number one reason is failure of outsourcing to deliver the benefits promised; the curse of the indian snake-oil salesman?

What intrigued me though was the lack of a mention for the good old Pound Sterling. Beaten into submission by profilgate government money printing, our currency is devalued and set to fall further in 2010. This makes UK wages and costs look a little better compared to foreign opposition.

It is small reason to be cheerful if you are a manufacturer; excepting that the cost of all your raw materials is goingt o sky-rocket.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

How did the commenters do in 2009


Yesterday we looked at the 3 bloggers of Capitalists@Work to see how we did for 2009. Pretty well overall, considering what a mess the year was!

Last January we asked the readership to leave in the comments their predicitions so below are the best and worst of that bunch.

Steven L -  well this regular commentator who has his own blog, did pretty well. He called Obama to spend trillions, the dollar to fall and the stock market to recover. Only the Pound dropping below the Euro was wrong. That is a lot of better calls than many media economists made!

Houdini - Another blogger who chipped in was Houdini, his predictions were oil to rise spectacularly, Obama to be a disaster. On the no tos good side, the FTSE was set to be mediocre and the far east to collapse.

Dearime - A fine commenter ton many sites, said to buy kiwi dollars. That would have proved to be a shrewd move.

Craig - A banker no less, had one pure home run among a set of pretty good predictions, that there would be another massive rescue of the banks. See any more of that for 2010 Craig?

newmainia, The loss to blogging that is newmania had seemingly prescient predictions for 2010 in 2009. Spot on with his comment that David Cameron would have to choose between the popular and the right policies.

Croydonian, blogger extraordinare, and all round fine fellow, did not think Russia would intervene in Armenia or the caucus region - a better choice than our own ND there...

Lilith - Did not get any right, but wins the best picture award, see above!

Overall it must be said there was far more accurate predictions than bad ones. Lots of people wishfully thought we may be rid of Gordon Brown but that is to be expected.

Time to pay closer attention to these come the end of this week!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

How did we do on 2009 Predictions?


OK, here are our predictions for 2009 that we made on Jan 1. Now is a good time to see where we got to before coming up with our new set for 2010 on New year's day: We normally get 66% plus, can we keep up our accuracy?

ND is first up
1 - natural gas prices to fall dramatically. Well see this - pretty spot on to say the least. Hope you put the short on!
2- CPS and HMRC to struggle  - this is one that did not really happen.
3 - Obama to be tested by a series of events, well yes they did happen, but perhaps not on the scale of what may have been expected. Afghanistan and Climate Change not really distracting too massively form his domestic agenda.
4 - BHP to be in the news - well if you had followed and bought in, then you would have done well in this share this year, see here.

CU next, only 50/50 so far -
1. Oil as a massive investment opportunity with prices to end at over $50 and perhaps more. Home run.
2. US Dollar to fall dramatically, tick, China to allow Yuan to float, cross.
3. Gilts strike - well there was a minor one, but 2010 will see this prediction come to fruition.
4. UK inflation below 0% , well RPI has been for some time, but CPI never touched it in the end.

 BQ, next - work to do as we are only just over .5

1. Hundreds of bankruptcies - well banks decided not to pull too many plugs although there were quite a few nonetheless, no more big names followed Woolies.
2. Public sector pay to cause problems and a rebellion over Royal Mail - tick to both, the former maybe not in strikes yet, but they are all in the pipeline.
3. Election speculation, but no election - yup,.theme of the year.
4. ITV to struggle - another big yes, huge problems there , so much so they have struggled even to find a new management team!

So overall, BQ wins with 3/4, CU gets 3/4 (qualified) and ND 2/4

8/12 - 66% - so we just keep our mark. Tomorrow I will look at what the commentators said....

Saturday, 26 December 2009

The end of the decade quiz

1


2

3
4
5








6
7 ............................8.......................9................................10









11................12.......................13..................14...................15...........................16








.17 .............................18...................19
20.......................21






If these are the answers, what is the question.

Should keep you going until New Year.
The pictures are all clues


A} Minus $420million
B} £118,000 a year
C} $300 million
D} 789 million
E} $300 billion
F} £117 Billion so far
G} 1.5 billion a year average
H} 21.1 million
I} £180
J} £16 million pot
K}$275
L} 30,000
M} 14.3%
N} 2,986,000 a day
O} £1.7 billion
P} £373,000
Q} 35.3%
R} Zero
S} 3,600
T} £829.7 billion net.
U} 88p


A-7 Jacko's debt at his death.
B-8 average claim of an MP's expenses.
C-13 estimated cost of the movie.
D-9 Cost of Dome on sell off.
E-USA estimate of the cost of its measures to tackle the Y2K bug
F-18 cost of the bank bailout so far. With liabilities rises to 850bn.
G-12 Annual UK cost of the Iraq war.
H-11 Jordan's earnings from the books she has written but never read.
I-21 Blunketts rail claim that finished him off.
J-20 Fred's pension pot, now a bit less.
K-19 The ounce price of Gordon's gold in 1999 at historic low point sell off.
L-5 Complaints to BBC about Ross.
M-3 Tesco share of UK all UK retail.
N-2 Daily average sales of The SUN.
O-16 Fantasy level of tax Libbers claim will be raised by the mansion tax.
P-17 Mandelson's first resignation, the dodgy loan amount.
Q-15 Tony Blair's share of the vote for his historic 2005 third 1/2 term.
R-1 Total number of county councils controlled by the government in England after the 2009 local elections.
S-6 Total new laws passed since 1997-2008,almost 1 a day.
T-10 net public sector debt to November.
U-4 Aunty Jacq's bathplug.

Happy New Year

Friday, 25 December 2009

Elf and Safety {2}

if you've sneaked off from your family for a break....

HSE Guidance - the singing of 'Festive Songs'

pt1

Rudolph the red nosed reindeer

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer

had a very shiny nose.

And if you ever saw him,

you would even say it glows …

You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities for All policy, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

Little Donkey

Little donkey, little donkey on the dusty road;

Got to keep on plodding onwards with your precious load …

The RSPCA have issued strict guidelines with regard to how heavy a load that a donkey of small stature is permitted to carry, also included in the guidelines is guidance regarding how often to feed the donkey and how many rest breaks are required over a four hour plodding period. Please note that due to the increased risk of pollution from the dusty road, Mary and Joseph are required to wear face masks to prevent inhalation of any airborne particles. The donkey has expressed his discomfort at being labelled 'little' and would prefer just to be simply referred to as Mr. Donkey. To comment upon his height or lack thereof may be considered an infringement of his equine rights.


We Three Kings

We three kings of Orient are

Bearing gifts we traverse afar -

Field and fountain, moor and mountain

Following yonder star

Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'cash for gold' etc, gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipients name or perhaps give a gift voucher.

We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Facemasks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels


Merry Christmas

Festive Season. Elf and Safety

if you've sneaked off from your family for a break....

HSE Guidance - the singing of 'Festive Songs'

pt1

The Rocking Song

Little Jesus, sweetly sleep, do not stir;

We will lend a coat of fur,

We will rock you, rock you, rock you,

We will rock you, rock you, rock you:

Fur is no longer appropriate wear for small infants, both due to risk of allergy to animal fur, and for ethical reasons. Therefore faux fur, a nice cellular blanket or perhaps micro-fleece material should be considered a suitable alternative.

Please note: only persons who have been subject to a Criminal Records Bureau check and have enhanced clearance will be permitted to rock baby Jesus. Persons must carry their CRB disclosure with them at all times and be prepared to provide three forms of identification before rocking commences.


Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow -

In a one horse open sleigh,

O'er the fields we go -

Laughing all the way

A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

While Shepherds Watched

While shepherds watched

Their flocks by night,

All seated on the ground

The angel of the Lord came down

And glory shone around …

The union of Shepherd's has complained that it breaches health and safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year that they should watch their flocks via cctv cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts.

Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his / her glory all around she / he must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.


Merry Christmas

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

A Holiday Trip to the Opera

A HAPPY CHRISTMAS to all readers !

And in the festive spirit, we've been to the opera for a viewing of that seasonal classic, Infidelio, or The Scouser Lady Macbeth.

In case you don't know the plot ...

* * * * * * *

Toni and Cheri, two tireless seekers after wealth, make their annual pilgrimage to visit the fabulously rich Silvio at the Palazzo Fribi. Cheri has let it be known that she’d like a large car for Xmas, but there has been a hilarious mix-up in translation and to her disgust, Silvio gives her a Japanese camper van (Nissan Dorma). She lets her anger be known, making a dreadful scene.

Silvio responds with the classic tenor aria Ou va la jeune indoue? (what’s up with her indoors?). Embarrassed, Toni replies in kind with his explanation: she had humble Scouse beginnings and is a bit keen on material possessions and status symbols. He sings La donna é mobile (she’s a terrible social climber).

But Cheri is still kicking up rough, and Toni reprimands her: Regnava nel silenzio (Shut it! You’re not the Queen!). Yet still she carries on, and Silvio is not impressed with Toni’s inability to bring her to heel, singing L'amour est oiseau rebelle (your lover is a disobedient wazzock). Toni leaves, ashamed by her behaviour.

Cheri recognizes that her tantrum is getting her nowhere and decides to try a different approach. She tells Silvio she has seen on Italian TV that he is the proud possessor of a magnificent instrument: is this true ? Silvio is visibly flattered and so, emboldened, she asks if she can finger his Magic Flute. Her host gets it out for her in a trice and she reaches for it eagerly: but he is taken aback and sings Che gelida manina (blimey, your hands are cold!)

However, she proves adept at playing the flute, and Silvio expresses his pleasure with her performance - Vesti la giubba (look at the gob on that!)

Suddenly, there is commotion: Toni has returned, bringing with him the unmistakable figure of Prescotti, whom he briskly introduces with Largo al factotum (meet my fat sidekick). They forcibly drag Cheri away from Silvio and his flute, and bundle her off in the Nissan Dorma. Silvio, who was beginning to enjoy himself, reacts angrily, and as the trio drive away the air is ringing with his final curse: Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre (you’re all toast, I can arrange rendition for the lot of you !)

ND

QE not yet working according to Bank of England!


OK, this is my last serious post before Xmas, I am sure everyone has better things to be doing right now (after reading this of course).

But there latest Bank of England meeting notes are very interesting. The line I am intrigued by is the one that says with Money Supply growth falling QE is not working. Funny that, I agree with regards to money supply, but assets have boomed these last 6 months. The FTSE is up 53%, Gold is up, oil is up etc.

Now the Bank expects the real impact of QE to be felt in the economy with a lag, so that will be next year then!

Does this mean that instead of a big bust in the first few months of the year we will have a huge boom? Clearly the Bank think that..makes pickaing a strategy hard. Except that the Bank have been wrong about nearly everything for 2 years now - so perhaps the best thing to do is plan for the opposite.

I do also get the impression that QE is not about to be stopped on these numbers, which is bad for the Pound and good for Equities.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Eating those words




C@W managed to find a couple of menus from the Christmas political parties this year.

See what you've been missing



Nulabour Christmas dinner

{Spinners Arms }

Melted ice caps sorbet
Miliband’s a Melon

{main}

Gordon's glossed over economic turkey with a hint of lemon
Ainsworth’s cooked goose,
Baroness Ashton's Brussels sprouts
Ali Campbells’s Roasted poll-tatoes ,
Jaqui's Manberries Sauce,

Hazel Blears' nutty stuffing,
Prescott’s tiny sausage wrapped in bacon
(pigs in a blanket)

Red Flag cabbage, Green-bean shoots of recovery, Hash Browns
lashings of hot gravy train.

Alternative –

Brown's a chicken supreme

or Darling’s beef {with Gordon}.

Porky Pies

Selection of cooked books.

Dessert

Peter Mandelson’s mince pies and whipped-up media cream
Ed Ball's a flaming pudding
Harman's a fruitcake and Hain's Tangerines with core vote crumble.

Fine electoral whines or spirits {of Tony}
Bitter Lemon with bendy in the wind political Straw

Gordon’s crackers and joke budgets.
Paper Crowns

Games available in family room:
Gilts Jenga, Clouseau, Its a knockout,RISK of default, Snakes and Losers, Go for Broke

Cappuch-schemos

Quantitative eating

Bill: £8,500 + per taxpayer

Services not included or provided.


BluLabour Christmas banquet

{Winners enclosure Epsom.}

Windsor soup

Palm off ham

Main

Suckling Hogg

Duck House a l'Orange

Range of thick cuts

Damien Greens

Bercow’s Brandy butter-up

Dan Hannan Brussels spouts

Roast UK peasants

Eric Pickles onions

Hickory smoked Hammond

Grilled Porterhouse Blue

Roast past snips with Immigrated cheese

Dessert

EU-rolly over poly

election Dates and 'give a figs'

Osborne's a plum duff.

Licorice Allsops

Eton Mess

EU Referendum fudge

Followed by Port and Ken's B.A.T cigars.
Blue blood cheese, Ritz crackers, Rich tea or Kirkbrides take the biscuits, David Davis sour grapes.
and Boris Johnson's Tory Crackers.

Followed by games at the second home:

Scrabble for power, Right wing Charade, 10 year Monopoly, Connect 40 {seats}, Pass the pigs.


The Lib Dems?

The importance of Greece


To a casual observer, you may not even have noticed the problems that are afflicting our fellow Europeans, Greece. This is a country whose long socialist and corporatist rule has led it to a terrible financial position. Public sector wages and the size of the public sector is high. They have a huge military for an imaginary war with Turkey and a corrput private sector that pays very little in the way of tax.

As such their bonds have been under huge pressure, unable to make the grade so to speak the ratings agencies (still trusted I see despite the debacle they made of sub-prime) have started to downgrade Greek debt.

The Greeks have now, Ireland style, settled on a policy of mass austerity to try and cut out the danger of a default and of being kicked out of the euro.

The importance of Greece though is that in 2010, the issue of Sovereign debt will dominate the global news. the US, UK, Japan and virtually all major countries are trying to issue too much debt. If the great recession does not gently peter out (which is the most optimisitc view one could take), then Government debts are going to be the number one story.

Also, if these debt issues get out of control they are being used as a marker the major investment banks to mark a bnig sell-off in Stocks and shares around the world.

Greece might seem like a small country with problems far away, but they could soon be our problems and are set to dominate the agenda at home in the run up to the election.

Monday, 21 December 2009

The Very Definition of Self-Serving

Brown added: "One of the frustrations for me was the lack of a global body with the sole responsibility for environmental stewardship. I believe that in 2010 we will need to look at reforming our international institutions to meet the common challenges we face as an international community."

That would be, err, around July 2010 ? And it would need a very powerful General Secretary ? With enormous powers and budget ?

Just guessing.


ND

Hello Sailor Prescott ! We Enjoyed Your Copenhagen Triumph

A cracking edition of the Observer yesterday, and it's Big Personality time. First up is Sailor John Prescott, on great form.

'I lobbied John Kerry, Al Gore and the Chinese environment minister Xie Zhenhua, telling them they had to "wriggle more" to get a deal. The translator fell silent, but when I mimed a wriggle to Xie, he smiled and understood what I meant.'

I expect he did, and it is probably a better explanation than *sleep deprivation* for those black eyes you were sporting for the cameras last night. Gordon Brown will be eternally grateful for your intervention, Giovanni.


He should also benefit from the wisdom of
John Griffin, founder of the ubiquitous Addison-Lee cab company. There's an approach to debt management for you, Prime Minister - and a few other pithy offerings you might like to ponder.

He'll have enjoyed Anthony Seldon's comments on Tony Blair, though. 'Insensitive, conspicuous displays of affluence' - such a cruel thing to say at Christmas.


Finally, an update on the
Guy Hands / EMI saga we covered last week. In response to being sued by the man, it seems Citigroup are going to force his Hands and make him sell up. No Christmas Number 1 for him!

ND

Sunday, 20 December 2009

UK Public Borrowing out of control


At £20 billion a month, the latest public sector borrowing requirement number to be published this week, the UK's finances are officially out of control.

We currently have printing money, low interest rates and Government spending out of control. Never in my life has the year ended on such an abysmal macro note for the UK. 2010 may well end up as difficult as 2009, which is not what many are seemingly thinking with all the talk of a recovery now.

John Smith, the ex-Labour Leader, once berated John Major for borrowing £20 billion in a year (even inflation adjusted this is less than £40 billion in today's money)!

What a shocking set of numbers this is - the overspend per month is equivalent to the entire annual spend of the Department for Transport and Department of Overseas aid combined.

No wonder the Treasury is getting nervous, I would guess the UK can only really sustain a few more months like this before there is a severe run on the gilts market that will force up base rates significantly - and so ensure a double dip recession. The story you hear from Labour, that it is the spending that is keeping us out of a deeper recession, is rapidly becoming the opposite of the truth.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Climate change deal

Well, as predicted with perfect accuracy here on Thursday, the climate change conference has not proved to be a success.

For the most part it appears that China played a very tough game with the US and led the poorer world astray. Now we have a 'starting position' for the next talks. All very predictable so far.

The idea of the bigger countries doing a deal though is a sound one. The idea that everyone has to buy in is madness.

Why try and get mad Hugo Chavez on board? There is nothing Venezuela can really add and as Chavez takes them back to the stone age their small emissions will fall anyway. On a different level it is the same with Saudi Arabia, they are not going to agree so let's not bother.

In fact, when they next gather in Mexico the thing to do is just invite the really polluters of the world plus some of the countries who may become so; realpolitik will deliver a solution that left-wing attempts at global consensus never will.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Climate change doom is strangely familiar


As the world's leaders all agree that they must all agree, it might not be a bad thing to wait a few more months for another summit.

Cast your minds back to a decade ago when the big threat to mankind was a global virus.
The millennium bug that was going to cripple our economies and lose all our money,crash our planes or end all texts forever was coming. The hysteria was reaching climate change proportions and the anticipated costs were even higher.

Wikipedia has the just the USA's costs for preparing for the bug at an estimated THREE HUNDRED BILLION DOLLARS. If that were true, that would be double the global cost of the current climate change deal estimated at $150bn.
Some articles claim the worldwide cost was more Dr Evil in proportions. ONE TRILLION DOLLARS. About the same cost as the Vietnam war. Some even go up to two trillion dollars.

There is no conclusive evidence that there was any threat from the bug, or anything that was done to prevent it or any money spent , did anything at all. The whole thing may have been a giant hoax.

Supporters of all the money spent say hey it worked. We fixed everything so the world didn't end.

Supporting view

This view holds that the vast majority of problems had been fixed correctly, and the money was well spent. The situation was essentially one of pre-emptive alarm. Those who hold this view claim that the lack of problems at the date change reflect the completeness of the project, and that many computer applications would not have continued to function into the 21st century without correction or remediation.

Opposing view

Others have claimed that there were no, or very few, critical problems to begin with, and that correcting the few minor mistakes as they occurred (the 'fix on failure' approach) would have been the most efficient and cost effective way to solve the problem. Editorial writing in the Wall Street Journal called Y2K an end-of-the-world cult and the hoax of the century. The opposing view was bolstered by a number of observations.

  • The lack of Y2K-related problems in schools, many of which undertook little or no remediation effort. By September 1, 1999 only 28 percent of US schools had achieved compliance for mission critical systems, and a government report predicted that "Y2K failures could very well plague the computers used by schools to manage payrolls, student records, online curricula, and building safety systems"
  • The lack of Y2K-related problems in an estimated 1.5 million small businesses that undertook no remediation effort. On 3 January 2000 (the first weekday of the year) the Small Business Administration received an estimated 40 calls from businesses with computer problems, similar to the average. None of the problems were critical.
  • The lack of Y2K-related problems in countries such as Italy, which undertook a far more limited remediation effort than the United States. In an October 22, 1999, report, a US Senate Committee expressed concern about safe travel outside of the United States. The report stated that overseas public transit systems were considered vulnerable because many did not have an aggressive response plan in place for any problems. Internationally, the report singled out Italy, China and Russia as poorly prepared. The Australian government evacuated all but three embassy staff from Russia. None of these countries experienced any Y2K problems regarded as worth reporting.
  • The absence of Y2K-related problems occurring before January 1, 2000, even though the 2000 financial year commenced in 1999 in many jurisdictions, and a wide range of forward-looking calculations involved dates in 2000 and later years. Estimates undertaken in the leadup to 2000 suggested that around 25% of all problems should have occurred before 2000. Critics of large-scale remediation argued, during 1999, that the absence of significant problems, even in systems that had not been rendered compliant, suggested that the scale of the problem had been severely overestimated.

So, possibly twice the cost of saving the world was spent in the USA to prevent global meltdown, when there may have been no threat at all, or the threat fixed itself.

Was there scientific consensus on Y2K? Were there believers and deniers? Governments believed, especially the west. Computer companies believed, and profited from that belief. The media created a global panic and went overboard on the story with ever more doom laden stories. Does all this have a familiar ring to it?

Anyway, the good news. We forgot all about it about 2 hours after all those journos got locked out of the Dome on New years eve, and never mentioned it again until now.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Gazprom, Contracting

The Gazprom contracts saga rumbles on: and we know they’ve reached a sticky point when their main man Medvedev (no relation) has to ask the Grauniad to carry an op-ed PR puff, promoting the status quo. He is often a bit less measured in his pronouncements on the matter elsewhere: but the game is up unless the big European buyers let him off the hook for political reasons.

If we cast our minds back a year, Gazprom was trumpeting its new ‘Troika’ comprising Russia, Qatar and Iran, to drive ‘GasPEC’, sorry, the Gas Exporting Countries Forum. So, in its first year, did the Troika manage to ‘increase the level of cooperation’, a.k.a. keep gas prices up ? Did it hell: as predicted they have halved.

We always said that GasPEC would fail because Russia would never accept committee decisions. Now, it’s clear, there’s another reason: the Qataris (or more specifically, the companies producing gas in Qatar), who clearly understand the concept of sunk costs, have cheerfully trashed the market, increasing their sales in Europe by 66%, substantially at the expense of Gazprom. So much for producer discipline.

Russia, however, has not given up hope on this front and has manoeuvered to get one of its men as the new head of the Forum. With uncharacteristic subtlety they have installed not an aggressive Gazprom apparatchik from central casting, but a solid engineer from Stroytransgas, one Leonid Bokhanovsky. Subtle appointments and Grauniad articles ! They must have engaged a new firm of lobbyists.

Stroytransgas is the biggest pipeline construction company in Russia (that’s Big), and having done business with both companies I’d say the difference between it and Gazprom is a bit more than academic – though obviously Bokhanovsky is there to do Putin’s business.

Let’s see him rein the Qataris in. Last I heard, the Gulf states needed all the revenues they could get …

ND

Copenhagen a failure of negotation strategy

Looking on from afar I am not at all shocked at what looks like a failed meeting taking place in Copenhagen.

This was always going to be one of the most complex negotiations ever undertaken. Yet the whole two week debate did not even start with a real draft on the table. Instead everything appears to have been done from scratch.

Anytime you enter into a negotiation all sides have to know what is on the table. The rules have to be set out before the start. It is negotiation 101.

But none of that has happened in Copenhagen, it seems most countries are happy to make radical cuts in CO2 emissions; but there is so little agreement on how to do this and how to get the rich to pay the poor compensation.

A sad aspect appears to me that a marxist doctrine consumes the developing world, arguing that rich capitalists give them money in return for not developing. Rich countries have other ways of ensuring poor countries don't develop - just don't give them anything. Outside the conference anti-capitalists argue for an agreement that pushes humanity back to the stone age - unsurprisingly no one wants to agree to that either.

Perhaps most worrying appears to be China's game-playing. Leading the poor nations when it is no such thing, blocking progress on technical issues. China plays a hard game, no doubt hoping for 10 more years of sclerosis so it can modernise itself unhindered by ecological considerations.

On a positive, the outline drawn up by this meeting will be a good start for the next one which may only be a few months away.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

BA:Turkeys DO vote for Christmas

This story has been running for a few days. It seemed at first that the Union was trying to play hardball by threatening something very over the top.

But lo and behold, they actually meant it. Loony Communist Derek Simpson has decided to lead his Union members out on a strike over Christmas.

Will this strike finish BA? No, BA has £1.9 billion of cash at hand and facilities. Even if the strike costs £200 million, there is plenty of slack for BA management to fight with. However, as the airline is still loosing £2 million a day anyway so this cash reserve is dropping at a fairly fast rate. If BA was unable to turn itself around by the middle of 2010 then the problems could be very serious.

All of this ignores the horrendous pension deficit that the company has to manage of £3.7 billion, which is also draining annual cash flows.

In all this the staff at BA seem like lost sheep. Paid more than their rivals they don't want to lose their jobs and at a personal level, who would? But the reality of changes in air travel, from full service to no service as a rule, has changed the game. As has the massively volatile oil price and the recession. The crew are being led into a charge of the light brigade by very poor union leadership. There is no turning back the clock in the airline business and wishing easyjet and Ryanair would go away will not solve their problems. The strike should be called off before it turns really bad. BA's brand is suffering and their rivals are gaining by the actions of BA staff.

BA is in a bad way long-term. They have a top management team in Willie Walsh and his crew, but the mountain they face is huge; I could not buy the shares at 196p.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Blair, Hattersley and Kierkegaard: Moral Giants All

We have had quite enough of Blair and his juvenile apologia. If the Fern Britton interview presages how he proposes to conduct himself before Chilcot, he deserves to be shredded.

I might have been wrong, but I sincerely believed it” – such is the intellectual quality of the NuLab ethical doctrine. I lied in good faith. But Blair is just the novice: his tutor was Roy Hattersley:

"I refuse to believe that any teenage girl would ever get pregnant in order to obtain a council flat. And even if I am wrong about this, it is to my credit that I do not believe it."

Genius. There have been some pretty self-focussed thinkers in the pantheon - Descartes, Lessing, Nietzsche, Freud, (and our good friend Newmania) (– sorry Paul!) but we need to invoke Kierkegaard himself for humourless, self-indulgent, self-referential, solipsistic ethical cant that is the equal of our NuLab moral giants. Kierkegaard whose hero was Abraham because he was willing to kill his son when he heard a voice in his head. Kierkegaard of “the teleological suspension of the ethical”, and “the passion is the truth”. Sancta simplicitas, as Hus said at the stake, of the old peasant woman he saw adding her pious bit of firewood to the blaze.

Let’s be clear. Being ‘sincere’, self-deluding, or prone to believing convenient nonsense, says nothing about the rightness or morality of your cause, only something about you. Sancta simplicitas – but you’re no simpleton Blair, so don’t assume it’s your ticket to Heaven.

And I’m no Catholic, but I think you’ll find the Pope is with me on this.

ND

Monday, 14 December 2009

Shaking Hands at EMI

EMI was never an obvious acquisition for Guy Hands, as we said at the time: it lacked the key characteristic of his previous successes – steady, conventional cash-flow for ease of subsequent securitisation. Instead he acquired a business that he hoped to transform via a fanciful two-pronged strategy of Hands-on cost-cutting, and innovation in channels to market and pricing.

Innovation & cost-cutting in the media business - did he think he was Murdoch ? Or was the Devil making work for idle Hands ?

So, instead of sticking to the business and financing models he knew, he wanted the whole world in his Hands. He accepted the helping Hands of a standardised CitiCorp finance package on offer at the time of acquisition. Clap Hands ? Nope: it’s all gone sour and now it’s Hands on deck. Suing his bank ! - biting the Hands that feed.

Time to put your Hands up, Guy, you’re playing losing Hands here – losing Hands-down, in fact. No cash in Hand(s). Time to shake Hands and walk away.

Sorry about that, folks, don’t know what came over me.

Now wash your Hands.

ND

Dubai saved by Abu Dhabi after all


Yes, those friendly UNITED Arab Emirates have decided enough face has been lost and now the process of recovery can begin. Indeed, the whole Middle East took a battering on the markets re the Dubai default.

Now though this damage can be repaired. The Hedgies and traders who bought Middle Eastern bonds will be very pleased with themselves now!
Also, this news should push the markets to have a nice festive end to the year, if not a major bounce.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Conflicting news shows a City on the edge

On the one hand, Government backed LLoyds has 90% take-up for its recent record breaking rights issue. Why people are so keen to own a bank which has the bust HBOS book with all its horrors is beyond me. I sold banks back in the summer when prices were getting very toppy.

On the other we have the Gartmore IPO, which has had to slice its offer price, as the market does not appear so keen to back this fund management business.

This latter position show that weaker companies are not going to be able to come to market easily. However, the predictions for a strong revival in IPO's for next year maybe premature.

Government back issues are still all the rage; but fund raising for more normal times are struggling.

The markets remain on edge.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Friday fun - Top Chumps


Top Chumps.

The latest addition to the Political Personalities line is an amalgamation of Top Chumps and Tragic the Gathering
Can you asses the cards of these modern day Superheroes and check the ratings?

The Brown Goblin
Charisma - 2
Communication - 2
Guile & Cunning - 9
Ruthlessness - 6
Ability - 7

Outwitted at Granita Pass by Blair the Cleric, he retreated to the swamp and amassed a goblin army.
Wounded Blair and forced him to flee with the Gold and Crown at battle of Backstab Pass.
Brown became uncrowned King shortly afterwards.


Catchphrase - Right thing to do.
Special Power - Obfuscation
Magic Colour - Brown




Abduction card image
Sir Vincent of Cable,
the Venerable Crusader
Charisma - 7
Communication - 7
Guile & Cunning - 1
Ruthlessness - 2
Ability - 7

After the fall of Lovelyland centuries ago the crusader was reduced to wandering the political deserts seeking a quest.
He fought alongside Captain Ashdown of the guard and later Menzies the old.
Eventually he found a young lad who had run away from a village to seek his fortune and taught him the ways of the Shites Templars.

Catchphrase - I was the first to see the crisis coming...
Special Power - Always available for interviews
Magic Colour - Burnished Gold

Now, stats and write ups needed for

Nick Clegg
Nick Griffin
George Osborn
Dave Cameron
Ed Balls
Alistair Darling
Peter Mandelson
Harriet Harman

Best will be packaged into a Lord of the Spins 'special edition' ready for Christmas.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

What PBR? It was only politics...

Yes, yesterday we had the Pre-Budget report, today it is forgotten already. Why?
Well the Tories say they will reverse the main NI tax rise, the markets have shrugged off any thoughts about it and carry on, guided by other news. Even the bankers have little to worry about as all they have to do it sit on payments until mid-April instead if January.

None of the really long-term proposals will ever get enacted as the Government won't win the next election (outright) anyway.

So this will all be forgotten very quickly.

However the point about bankers bonus's could be a very clever political calculation. Labour know they have managed to blame bankers and not Brown's recklessness for the recession - when of course it was both. Now they have set-up a situation where there are big easy loopholes for the Banks to get out of the 'supertax' bind. I think the Government hopes the banks jump through the loopholes, just in time for an election where the Government can then attack the bankers and initiate a class-war type struggle, accusing the Tories of all being bankers' and such like. It reeks of Alistair Campbell plotting....

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Irish Budget vs. UK PBR

Our two counties (CU holds both passports) are very linked in the crisis. Ireland is in a slightly worse position than the UK only because it is in the Euro and so does not have a free currency to devalue.

Here is how the Irish are making amends. Swinging cuts to defeat the deficit threat, led by the politicians. Compare to Alistair Darling's tiny efforts of today.

Yet let the truth be known, what the Irish do this year the UK may well be doing next year, post and election.

What should be in the PBR Speech

- An apology for the absolute lies told last year and in the budget that the economy would recover in the 2nd half of 2009. Instead some more accurate predictions for next year, allowing for a shallow double dip and growth of about 1% at best for GDP.

- An admittance that Government spending is going to overshoot to just shy of £200 billion this year. An analysis showing that 50% of this is now a structural deficit, meaning spending cuts are needed to reduce the deficit.

- Some much needed tax reductions for business and the low-paid. 5% of business taxes and thresholds raised to £8,000 for all people. Paid for with VAT hike to 7.5%, re-imposition of stamp duty on all house sales and raising capital gains tax to 25%.

- A plan to sell-off stakes in RBS and Lloyds within 3 years, as well as the sell-off of the channel tunnel and other large infrastructure assets.

- The beginning of a shift to taxes on energy consumption and away from income taxes, to be revenue neutral in aim.

- A promise of an immediate 6 month review of all Government spending with the outcome to be a 15-20% cut in the amount of spend by Government within 2 years. No sacred cows in defence, NHS or foreign aid.

- A commitment to end Quantitative Easing to ensure that the UK can maintain the low interest rate environment for as long as possible to see us through the next phase of the recession.
I'll be amazed if a single point is raised - yet it is all common sense...

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Not a happy December



Today so far the FTSE has fallen 1.6% and is not showing much sign of a recovery. True the market has not collapsed in recent weeks; but it has been going sideways foLinkr some time. The sickly banks of RBS and Lloyds are well down from their recent highs, in fact RBS is only 30p down from 50p recently. That is quite a haircut.

Why so bad today - well where to start, possible UK ratings downgrade, tax hikes forecast in the tomorrow's PBR, Dubai debt default not as easy to get past as people had hoped.

All in all a horlix - my whole portfolio is red today, not a single winner! sadly, I think this is the shape of things to come next year. We avoided the expected October crash, but I fear the bear will be back early in 2010.

Monday, 7 December 2009

Why Labour cuts don't hurt.


Government statement in full.
Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, First Lord of the Treasury.


We are determined to reduce government current borrowing, that started in America,by half before 2014. In order to achieve this, but not to damage front line public services I have come up with the following proposals.

1} The government will put all of its copper coins into a bottle shaped jar every night until Xmas 2010.
2} The government will only allow value brand custard creams or plain biscuits at government or government sponsored meetings.
3} Government entertaining will now be allowed only within the House of Commons restaurants, which are already subsidised. The Foreign Office, when entertaining foreign diplomats or Heads of State may use the Michelin-starred Heston Blumenthal Little Chef in Popham.
4} A really good rummage through the sofa cushions of all government buildings.
5} A new tax on Tory toffs. Known as the Toffin tax. This will apply to anyone who went to a top 10 private school {decided by amount of fees paid} and who is not a member of the Labour party. This is expected to raise several quid.
6} The positioning of an all party 'Ideas box' at the entrance to the HOC into which opposition parties might drop us some of their policies that we can then pass off as our own.
7} The police and any other Public Sector workers who cannot strike by law will face a 15 year pay freeze.
8} No public sector worker shall earn more than an equivalent worker in a hedge fund, Premiership football club agent, or bank director job.
All PS salaries over £150,000, not in marginal seats or Labour held councils , will have to achieve written permission from the PM to be approved.

10} A curb on expensive media events.
In future when the Prime Minister wants to recycle something he said many times before as a new idea he will just email newspapers with the relevant links to where this has already been reported, in what year, what the response was etc. We will supply a fresh picture of the smiling/serious PM and a snappy new soundbite for the initiative.
This one is called
Helping to Save Ourselves.

These 10 points are estimated by the Treasury office to raise around £400 billion pounds and secure our AAA rating until May.
G.Brown.
{Acting PM}

RBS staff can't wait to leave

Yes, but not those high paid investment bankers; no this time it is the workers of Ulster bank.

You gotta love stories like these, you can tell when a CEO has done too well on arguing for redundancy packages to be good when virtually everyone wants redundancy - even arguing for it and getting the union involved. The chance of a few weeks money at the expense of what must be a not-very-exciting job is just to much for these people to not jump at.
I love the bit where people are demanding re-thinks on having their redundancy application turned down. I feel their pain, as I was turned down for voluntary redundancy once and it was very annoying!
Must be great for morale...but also perhaps says people in Ulster are not that afraid of not finding a new job...