Since I am living in Malaysia now, I pay attention to Malaysia’s economy. There are many reasons to be positive but the large consumer and government debt in Malaysia is a serious concern. They do have many administrators that say the right things, the question is going to be whether those statement define policy action or if they are ignored.
India and Indonesia have experienced large stock market declines and currency devaluations recently. The Malaysian Ringgit has declines 10% against the US $ in the last 3 months. Malaysia is holding up ok, but is venerable as these international loses of confidence often sweep over countries (and move from country to country).
There is a real risk that the current account could slip into a deficit for the first time since the fourth quarter of 1997, Macquarie Group Ltd. analysts said in a report this month.
“We are aware of this situation and we are aware of some of the measures to be undertaken to make sure that Malaysia remains in a surplus position,” Abdul Wahid said, without elaborating on the steps. “It is still a surplus and we are managing it.”
The surplus is narrowing on increased overseas investment and property buying, higher imports for infrastructure projects, lower palm oil and rubber export prices and the acquisition of new aircraft by Malaysian Airline System Bhd., the minister said.
The main foreign exchange earner recently seems to be selling property, that isn’t a good way to be earning foreign currency (selling assets). It is ok to do this to some extent, but relying on large inflows this way is very risky (and self defeating over the long term if it is too large). Even though palm oil and rubber exports are declining a bit, I believe they are still strong sources of foreign currency so that is good.
I decided to take a look at some historical economic data to see if some of my beliefs were accurate (largely about how well Singapore has done) and learn a bit more while I was at it.
I just picked countries that interested me and seemed worth looking at. I looked for some around the starting position of Singapore and close to Singapore geographically. And looked at Panama as the closest match to Singapore (for Singapore’s main 1970 asset, convenient for shipping lanes, and very close for GDP per capita).
Malaysia and Singapore were 1 country after independence (from 1963-1965).
I can’t imagine more than a couple countries could reasonably be argued to have had better economic performance from 1970 to 2010 than Singapore (Korea? China? Who else?). Singapore had very little going for it in 1970. They had a good location for shipping and that is about it macro-economically. No natural resources. No huge storage of wealth. No preeminence in science, technology or business.
It seems to me that Singapore actually did have 1 other thing. A government that was to preside over a fantastic economic growth success. You won’t find many textbooks talking about the way to economic success is a very well run government. And there is good reason for that, I believe. Relying on a very well run government will nearly always fail. In some ways Singapore was like Japan but with significantly more government influence on the way economic development played out.
I was surprised how poorly the USA has faired. It isn’t so surprising that we lagged. People forget how rich the USA was in 1970. The USA is still very rich but bunched together with lots of other rich countries instead of way out ahead as they were in 1970. And in 1970 the lead was already contracting, for what it had been earlier. But even knowing the relative performance of the USA had lagged, I was surprised by how much it under-performed.
I was also surprised with India. I knew they have done poorly but I didn’t realize it had been this poor. The failures to greatly improve infrastructure, education and the stifling effect of their bureaucracy have been causing them great harm. They have been doing some good things in the last 10 years especially but still have a long way to go. Their premier education is actually pretty decent. The problem is the other 90% of the education is often poor and many people (especially women) hardly have any education at all. It is very hard to get ahead when you fail to take advantage of the talents of so many of your people.
Related: Singapore and Iskandar Malaysia – Chart of Largest Petroleum Consuming Countries from 1980 to 2010 – Chart of Nuclear Power Production by Country from 1985-2009 – Top Countries For Renewable Energy Capacity
There is an increasing trend to move from the USA to another country to work and live. This is not surprising to me. Recently this has picked up quite a bit; I am surprised by the velocity at which this interest in moving (I figured it would be a long term mega trend but not so drastic, so quickly). Economic changes are often quite surprising in how rapidly they move forward.
An interesting survey shows USA investors have become much more interested in relocating in the last two years (the data they show though has tremendous volatility over time, so I am not really sure this means much). I wonder how much of it can be explained by investors wanting to get a deep understanding of very promising markets. I wouldn’t image the actual number that do this is huge, but maybe the number considering it is significant. Billionaire investor, Jim Rodgers moved to Asia because he sees Asia as key to the future. One of the reasons I moved to Malaysia this year was to get a in depth understanding of what South East Asia is like (it is not a deciding reason, at all but maybe the 4th or 5th reason).
I believe the globalization of the employment market is a long term trend that will continue – especially for “knowledge workers.” The USA rested on the post WW II economic domination for nearly 50 years. The policies also helped this continue: investing in science and engineering, favoring entrepreneurship… But other countries have realized the value of these things (and the USA is slipping – not investing nearly as much in science and engineering and favoring large corporations that give politicians large amounts of cash over innovation – see things like the incredibly outdated “intellectual property” system, SOPA, favoring huge financial institutions…
The combination of long term policy weakness, the inevitable decline in the USA to world ratio of economic wealth, and the financial crisis caused by the policy weaknesses have seemingly greatly accelerated the trend. The next 2 or 3 years will determine if that is a permanent acceleration or if we go back to a slower pace – but on the same path. My guess is that we will stay on this path but the pace will not follow the level surveys might indicate (showing interest in such a big change is far different from actually moving).
There don’t seem to be any decent estimates of Americans living abroad. The US State Department claims releasing their estimates would be a national security risk? And the Census bureau says it would cost too much to try. Wild guesses seem to be between 4 and 6 million.
There is a great deal focus recently on the “99%” (via occupy wall street and the like). The truth is these are mainly about the 5% or 10% (those rich, but not quite as rich as the richest 1% – and much further from the richest than they were a few decades ago). As I have written before, most of those in the USA (also Europe, Japan…) are rich (though this is changing, a greater percentage of the USA is not rich, looking globally, than maybe any point since the 1930s).
We get confused because many near us are even richer and think that means the rest of us are very poor. But those in the USA are often in the 5% or 10% – not the 30% or 60% or 90% they seem to think they are. $50,000 in annual income puts you in the top 1% globally. $25,000 puts you in the top 10%.
I agree with the desire to reduce the political and market corruption, as I have written for years.
For the 99% (or the 90% anyway), I really think the best things are government policies that reduce corruption and increase market forces. Letting actually capitalism work instead of political and corporate cronyism failing to let markets work as they should. Also giving education and the chance to build a better life for yourself are important. Thankfully many countries have been doing very well on this front: Singapore, Korea, Brazil, Ghana, China… That doesn’t mean there are not huge issues to still address for most of the 90%, there are.
Microfinance in general, and Kiva in particular, are one great way to help. Again it isn’t perfect. And those getting the loans are not given an easy life. They are given a chance to try and build there business to improve there economic condition. This isn’t a certain success. And I do worry that taking on too high an interest rate, or loan amount, can leave people worse off than before. But when looking at the system of microfinance I really like the opportunity it gives people, who haven’t been given many.
Those getting loans have to make smart personal finance and business decisions. If they do well they can greatly improve their financial situation. I made several more loans today, using money repaid by previous borrowers. I try to find loans where I am able to help fund a investment that will improve capacity (but that isn’t always possible) – a new machine that makes them more efficient for example. I also try to avoid loans where the interest rate is over 30% (which might seem very high, but rates below 20% are very rare given the economics of these loans – they are very costly to service). What Kiva does is provide the funds people like me lend as interest free loans to the partner banks. The idea is that this allows partner banks to provide more capital for loans (obviously) and at a lower rate because the bank isn’t having to pay interest on the funds.
My loans today went to: Mali, Honduras, Senegal, Ecuador, Togo, Philippines and in the photo above El Salvador. The Curious Cat Kivans group has now lent $12,925 in 320 loans. We now have 11 members, join up and help give people an opportunity to improve their economic condition.
The chart shows the oil production over the last decade by the top oil producing countries. Production totals include crude oil, shale oil, oil sands and NGLs (the liquid content of natural gas where this is recovered separately). Excludes liquid fuels from other sources such as biomass and coal derivatives.
The chart show 3 clear leaders in production Russia, Saudi Arabia and the USA (with the USA firmly in 3rd place). Those 3 were responsible for approximately a third of the total oil production in 2009. Russia greatly increased production. During the last decade world production increased from 72 million barrels a day to 80 million barrels a day. Russia accounted for 51% of the increase, close to 4 million barrels a day.
The next 11 countries are pretty closely grouped, with slightly increasing production over the period as a group. Brazil, the last country with over 2 million barrels of production a day in 2009, has the largest percentage increase in the period, producing 79% more in 2009 than they did in 1999. Russia increase production 62% over the period. The other countries ranged from a 23% increase (Canada) to a 25% decrease (Norway). The USA increased production 7% and China increased production 18%. World production increased 11%.
Last year I posted a chart showing oil consumption by the top oil consuming countries over the last 2 decades; showing all countries using over 2 million barrels of oil a day. The USA consumed 18.7 million barrels a day in 2009. Only China was also over 5 million barrels, using 8.2 million in 2009. Japan was next at 4.4 million.
If you’re keen to surf or lie on the beach you’re all set to have an adventure for peanuts. As long as you steer clear of tourist-trap resorts, you’ll struggle to spend more than $23.50 a day. Nourish your inner cheapskate and buy souvenirs away from the tourist areas; head to the central market in Denpasar or Ubud’s Pasar Sukowati.
Eastern Europe used to be dirt cheap back in the good old days of the Cold War. Now that peace has broken out, costs are on the up. Poland, though, is still at the inexpensive end: a daily budget of $29 will easily get you around the country.
Poland is a nation that’s been run over so many times by invading forces that it’s become bulletproof. Now this EU member is on the rise, so get in quick before the prices go up for good. Rural towns are picturesque and cheap to visit; tiny towns like Krasnystaw in the Lubelskie region are a miser’s wonderland.
If you’re looking for a scuba-diving destination where you can put your entire budget into going under, Honduras is the place to be. With sleeping budgets as low as $12 a night and meals available for even less you can really stretch out the funds.
Sitting pretty next door to the Caribbean Sea, you’ll have plenty of time to count your pennies as you sun yourself on the golden beaches. The developers haven’t invaded quite yet, but you’d better get in quick, before the good old days slip into the past.
After snorkelling and kayaking around Roatan’s West Beach, splurge on a visit to the Unesco-listed Archaeological Park of Copan; entry is $18.
In previous posts I have shown data for global manufacturing output by country. One of the things those posts have showed is that manufacturing output in China is growing tremendously, but it is also growing in the United States. The chart below shows manufacturing production by country as a percent of GDP. China dominates again, with over 30% of the GDP from manufacturing.
Chart showing manufacturing output, as percent of GDP, by country was created by the Curious Cat Economics Blog based on UN data* (based on current USA dollars). You may use the chart with attribution.
For the 14 biggest manufacturing countries in 2008, the overall manufacturing GDP percentage was 23.7% of GDP in 1980 and dropped to 17% in 2008. I left India (15% in 1980, 15% in 2008), Mexico (20%, 18%), Canada (17%, 13%), Spain (25%, 14%) and Russia (21% in 1990 [it was part of USSR in 1980], 15%) off the chart.
Over the last few decades Korea, and to some extent China, are the only countries that have increased the percent of GDP from manufacturing. China has not only grown manufacturing activity tremendously but also other areas of the economy (construction, mining, information technology). The countries with the largest manufacturing portions of their economies in 2008 were: China 32%, South Korea 25%, Japan and Germany at 21%. The next highest is Mexico at 18% which declined slightly over the last 15 years (with NAFTA in place). Globally, while manufacturing has grown, other areas of economic activity have been growing faster than manufacturing.
The manufacturing share of the USA economy dropped from 21% in 1980 to 18% in 1990, 16% in 2000 and 13% in 2008. Still as previous posts show the USA manufacturing output has grown substantially: over 300% since 1980, and 175% since 1990. The proportion of manufacturing output by the USA (for the top 14 manufacturers) has declined from 31% in 1980, 28% in 1990, 32% in 2000 to 24% in 2008. The proportion of USA manufacturing has declined from 33% in 1980, 29% in 1990, 36% in 2000 to 30% in 2008. While manufacturing output has grown in the USA it has done so more slowly than the economy overall.
Related: The Relative Economic Position of the USA is Likely to Decline – Manufacturing Data, Accuracy Questions – Top 12 Manufacturing Countries in 2007 – Manufacturing Employment Data: 1979 to 2007 – USA Manufacturing Output Continues to Increase (over the long term)
* I made edits to the 1980 Brazil manufacturing data and 1980, 1985 and 2008 China manufacturing data because the UN data only showed manufacturing data combined with mining and utility data. And I am using older UN data that had manufacturing separated from mining and utility figures for China in the other years.
While Europe’s financial crisis continues India grew GDP by 8.6% in the first 3 months of 2010. China continues to grow quickly as do many emerging countries, including Brazil. India’s Q4 GDP grows at 8.6% y-o-y
India’s economy had grown 6.7 percent in 2008/09, and the Jan-March 2009/10 growth rate matches the revised data for the second quarter of 2009/10.
Manufacturing output grew 16.3 percent on year in the quarter as consumers bought more cars and other goods, while farm output grew an annual 0.7 percent helped by a good winter harvest. The government expects the economy to grow 8.5 percent in the current fiscal year that started on April 1 on the prospects of a better farm output and a global recovery
The farm sector, which forms nearly 17 percent of the economy but is dependent on monsoon rains, is expected to do well in 2011 as the weather office has predicted a normal monsoon for the country. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week said an annual economic growth rate of 10 percent is needed in the medium term to address the problems of poverty and malnutrition.
Even as Singh aims for high economic growth, inflation has come to haunt his government and appears to be undermining its support base. Wholesale prices, the most closely watched inflation gauge in India, rose 9.59 percent in April from a year earlier amid the government officials claim that headline inflation had peaked.
Headline inflation numbers have been consistently higher than the official forecasts. The wholesale price inflation vaulted above the RBI’s end-March 2010 inflation forecast of 8.5 percent in January and crossed the 10-percent mark in February.
Although food price inflation has eased from its peak of 20 percent in December, it is still above 16 percent. Rising cost pressures are also dragging down the pace of manufacturing growth, as evidenced by a second-straight monthly decline in the HSBC Market Purchasing Managers’ Index in April. The rapid acceleration in the world’s second-fastest growing major economy after China is boosting consumer demand far ahead of what can be met by existing supply capacity.
The economies of India, China, Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, Vietnam… are still a fairly small fraction of global GDP but their share continues to grown. And the next few years look to continue this trend. Keys to how quickly they grow their share of global GDP are avoiding bubbles (which then burst), avoiding excessive government debt, continuing to build strong infrastructure for continued development and to what extent growth slows in Europe, USA and Japan due to the credit crisis and excessive consumer and government debt.
The emerging economies have done a good job avoiding the credit crisis failures visited by the large banks on the wealthiest economies but the dangers of slipping up are large and costly. The largest economies have lots of wealth even after allowing bankers and wall street to siphon off huge amounts for themselves. Less wealth economies will suffer much more than the wealthiest countries if they fall prey to the same political and economic failings. And those special interest (crony capitalism) favors are no less (I would say even more, in fact) likely in those countries than they are in the richest countries.
Mark Mobius is an investment manager with Franklin-Templeton that I have invested with for over a decade (through the Templeton Emerging Markets Trust and Templeton Dragon Fund – they are closed end funds). I believe in Templeton’s emerging market investment team and Mark Mobius and believe his thoughts are worth paying attention to. He recently wrote an overview on Emerging Markets:
In Mexico, GDP contracted 10% y-o-y in the second quarter of 2009 as a result of the global economic crisis and swine flu outbreak. In comparison, GDP fell 8% in the first quarter of the year. Declines in the manufacturing, construction and retail sectors had negatively impacted GDP during the period.
Since 1995, portfolio inflows into emerging markets have totaled more than US$123 billion. A significant amount, considering it includes the US$49 billion in net outflows in 2008 as a result of the global financial crisis. The recovery in emerging markets and hunt for attractive investment opportunities, however, saw these funds return just as quickly with inflows totaling more than US$44 billion in the first seven months of 2009, nearly 90% of the outflows registered all of last year.
Emerging markets account for more than 80% of the world’s population. With economic growth accelerating and population growth decelerating, per capita income is one the rise. In our view, markets such as China, India and Brazil stand at the front of the class.
As of end-August 2009, the benchmark MSCI Emerging Markets index had a P/E of 16 times, cheaper than the MSCI World index which was trading at a P/E of 21 times.
On the heels of the Japanese economy shrinking at 12.7% rate 2 quarters ago, the Japanese economy grew at a 3.7% annual rate in the second quarter. Japan is the 2nd largest economy (after the USA). Japan’s economy leaves recession:
Japan is heavily reliant on its exports so growth overseas could bode well for its recovery.
The French and German economies both grew by 0.3% between April and June, bringing to an end recessions in Europe’s largest economies that have lasted a year. Analysts had not expected the data, suggesting recovery could be faster than previously expected.
And Hong Kong recorded growth of 3.3% in the three months from April to June. That data was also better than had been expected, with the government subsequently increasing its forecast for growth in the whole year.
The global economic recovery seems to be taking shape more quickly than anticipated. However, we are still far from in the clear. The risks to short term economic recovery are still great. And the largest long term economic problems for the USA (massive federal debt, huge consumer debt [both the government and the people living far beyond their means] and an very expensive and harmful health care system) have not been addressed. If we are very very lucky the increased saving rate in the last 6 months will continue but it is very questionable if that will continue.