When critics say that Europe is running out of time to deal with the financial crisis I wonder if they are not years too late. Both in Europe responding and those saying it is too late.
It feels to me similar to a situation where I have maxed out 8 credit cards and have a little bit left on my 9th. You can say that failing to approve my 10th credit card will lead to immediate pain. Not just to me, but all those I owe money to. That is true.
But wasn’t the time to intervene likely when I maxed out my 2nd credit card and get me to change my behavior of living beyond my means then? If you only look at how to avoid the crisis this month or year, yeah another credit card to buy more time is a decent “solution.”
But I am not at all sure that bailing out more bankers and politicians for bad financial decisions is a great long term strategy. It has been the primary strategy in the USA and Europe since the large financial institution caused great recession started. And, actually, for long before that the let-the-grandkids-pay-for-our-high-living-today has been the predominate economic “strategy” of the last 30 years in the USA and Europe.
That has not been the strategy in Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Brazil, Malaysia… The Japanese government has adopted that strategy (with more borrowing than even the USA and European government) but for the economy overall in Japan has not been so focused on living beyond what the economy produces (there has been huge personal savings in Japan). Today the risks of excessive government borrowing in Japan and borrowing in China are potentially very serious problems.
I can understand the very serious economic problems people are worried about if bankers and governments are not bailed out. I am very unclear on how those wanting more bailout now see the long term problem being fixed. Unless you have some system in place to change the long term situation I don’t see the huge benefit in delaying the huge problems by getting a few more credit cards to maintain the fiction that this is sustainable.
We have seen what bankers and politicians have done with the trillions of dollars they have been given (by governments and central banks). It hardly makes me think giving them more is a wonderful strategy. I would certainly consider it, if tied to some sensible long term strategy. But if not, just slapping on a few more credit cards to let the bankers and politicians continue their actions hardly seems a great idea.
Related: Is the Euro Going to Survive in the Long Run? (2010) – Which Currency is the Least Bad? – Let the Good Times Roll (using Credit) – The USA Economy Needs to Reduce Personal and Government Debt (2009 – in the last year this has actually been improved, quite surprisingly, given how huge the federal deficit is) – What Should You Do With Your Government “Stimulus” Check? – Americans are Drowning in Debt – Failure to Regulate Financial Markets Leads to Predictable Consequences
Nuclear power provided 14% of the world’s electricity in 2010. Wind power capacity increased 233% Worldwide from 2005 2010, to a total of 2.5% of global electricity needs. Nuclear power generation declined by .72% for the same period.
Burning coal was responsible for 41% of electricity generation in 2010. Burning natural gas accounted for 21% and hydroelectric generation accounted for 15%.
Japan just announced that they have closed their last operating nuclear power plant. They have no nuclear power plant generating electricity for the first time in more than 40 years. It will be interesting to see how low their actual generation totals fall this year. They plan to re-open some of the plants but it is a political issue that is far from settled.
Globally nuclear power production increased 84% from 1985 to 2010. This is a very low percentage. Global output over that period increased much more than that, as did global electricity use. The share of electricity production provided by nuclear power peaked at about 17% for much of the 1990s.
Related: Nuclear Power Production Globally from 1985 to 2009 – Oil Production by Country 1999-2009 – Top 10 Countries for Manufacturing Production from 1980 to 2010: China, USA, Japan, Germany… – Japan to Add Personal Solar Subsidies – Nuclear Energy Institute (statistics)
Another view of data on nuclear power shows which of the leading nuclear producing countries have the largest percentages of their electrical generating capacity provided by nuclear power plants (as of 2009). France has 75% of all electricity generated from nuclear power. Ukraine had the second largest percentage at 49%, then Sweden at 37% and South Korea at 35%. Japan is at 28% compared to 20% for the USA. Russia was at 18% and China was at just 2%.
I really can’t figure out which currency is something I would want to hold if I had the option. It doesn’t really matter, since I am not going to act on it in a very direct way (maybe if I felt very strongly I would do something but it would probably be pretty limited), but I still keep thinking about this issue out of curiosity.
The USA dollar seems lousy to me. Huge debt (both government and consumer). Government debt is huge on the books and huge off the books (state and local retirement – and federal medical care [social security is really in much better shape than people think, though it also has issues 30 + years out}).
The Euro seemed a bit lame 3 years ago. Today it seems crazy to think at least one Euro country won’t default in the next 3 years – and likely more. And if they take steps to avoid that it seems like it is going to make the case for the Euro worse).
The Japanese Yen is much stronger than makes any sense to me. I think it is mainly because of how lousy all the options are. The huge government debt (worse that almost anywhere) and lousy demographics (and the refusal to deal with demographics with immigration or something) are big problems. The biggest reason for strength is that the individuals have huge savings (when your citizens own the debt it is much less horrible than when others do – especially when you are looking at currency value).
The Chinese Yuan is the best looking at the economic data. The problem is economic data is questionable for the best cases (looking at the USA, Japan…). China’s economic data is far from transparent. Their is also great political and social risk. The current worries of a real estate bubble seems justified to me and China just this week took exactly the wrong action – trying to prop up the bubble (in order to decrease the economic slowdown). I can see either of these cases playing out 10 years from now: It was obvious the Yuan was the strongest currency you are an idiot for not being able to see that or It was obvious China was a bubble with unsustainable policies and likely social upheaval thinking that was anything but a sign to sell the Yuan was foolish.
Given all this I think I weakly come down on the side that the Yuan is likely to be the strongest.
The safest play I think is the US dollar (as lousy as it is on an absolute basis the options make it look almost good). It could get clobbered. But that seems less likely than the others getting clobbered.
Smaller currencies have some promise but they can be swamped by global moves. I really have no idea about the Brazilian Real. That might actually be a really good option. The Australian Dollar and Canadian Dollar may also. But those economies are really small. I don’t trust India: they have many good macro-economic factors but the climate for business leaves far too much to be desired (as does the pace of progress fixing those weaknesses). Many economist like them due to demographic factors. I understand that demographic factors will help, but without systemic reform I question how well India can do (it certainly has the potential to do amazingly well, but they seem to be significantly farther away from reaching their potential compared to many countries).
The Singapore Dollar seems good on many levels, but the economy is small. I am not really sure about emerging economies, there currencies can get swamped in a hurry. Thailand and Indonesia experienced this recently. Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia are interesting to me in thinking about what their currencies may experience, I would like to read more on this.
This is more an intellectual and curiosity exercise than something I see directly tied to my investing strategy. But having clear answers of what I thought reasonable scenarios were for currencies going forward that would factor into my investing decisions. Right now, the confusing this causes me, leads me to favor companies that should be fine whatever happens: Apple, Google, Toyota, Intel (I don’t really like Facebook overall but in this way they fit). Lots of the stocks in my 12 stocks for 10 years portfolio, you might notice.
In 2007 wind energy capacity reached 1% of global electricity needs. In just 4 years wind energy capacity has grown to reach 2.5% of global electricity demand. And by the end of 2011 it will be close to 3%.
By the end of 2011 globally wind energy capacity will exceed 240,000 MW of capacity. As of June 30, 2011 capacity stood at 215,000. And at the end of 2010 it was 196,000.
As the chart shows Chinese wind energy capacity has been exploding. From the end of 2005 through the end of 2011 they increased capacity by over 3,400%. Global capacity increased by 233% in that period. The 8 countries shown in the chart made up 79% of wind energy capacity in 2005 and 82% at the end of 2010. So obviously many of other countries are managing to add capacity nearly as quickly as the leading countries.
USA capacity grew 339% from 2005 through 2010 (far below China but above the global increase). Germany and Spain were leaders in building capacity early; from 2005 to 2010 Germany only increased 48% and Spain just 106%. Japan is an obvious omission from this list; given the size of their economy. Obviously they have relied heavily on nuclear energy. It will be interesting to see if Japan attempts to add significant wind and solar energy capacity in the near future.
Related: Nuclear Power Production by Country from 1985-2009 – Top Countries For Renewable Energy Capacity – Wind Power Capacity Up 170% Worldwide from 2005-2009 – USA Wind Power Installed Capacity 1981 to 2005 – Oil Consumption by Country 1990-2009
This chart shows government debt as a percent of GDP based on OECD data. The chart is limited to central government debt issuance and excludes therefore state and local government debt and social security funds.
Economic data is always a bit tricky to understand. It makes some sense that excluding social security would reduce the USA debt percentage a bit. But these debt as a percentage of GDP are lower than other sources show. There are obviously many tricks that can be used to hide debt and my guess is the main thing going on with this data is OECD intentionally trying to make things look as good as possible.
Still looking at historical trends in data is useful. And I believe looking at data from various sources is wise. There has been a dramatic increase from 2008-2010. The USA is up from 41% of GDP to 61%. Spain is up from 34% to 52% (but given all the concern with Spain this doesn’t seem to indicate the real debt problems they have.
Japan and France don’t have 2010 data, so I used a rough estimate of my own based on 2009 data. Greece has been over 100% since 1998 and now stands at 148%, 2nd worst (to Japan) for any OECD country (Europe, North America, Japan and Korea), Italy is 3rd. Ireland is at 61% (up from 28% in 2008). The UK is at 86%, up from 61%.
Related: Government Debt as Percentage of GDP 1990-2009: USA, Japan, Germany, China… (based on IMF data) – Government Debt as Percentage of GDP 1990-2008 – Government Debt Compared to GDP 1990-2007 – Top 15 Manufacturing Countries in 2009
Nuclear power provided 14% of the world’s electricity in 2009. Wind power capacity increased 170% Worldwide from 2005-2009, to a total of 2% of electricity used (38,025 Megawatts of capacity). The USA produced nearly twice as much electricity using nuclear power than any other country, which surprised me.
Another view of data on nuclear power shows which of the leading nuclear producing countries have the largest percentages of their electrical generating capacity provided by nuclear power plants (as of 2009). France has 75% of all electricity generated from nuclear power. Ukraine had the second largest percentage at 49%, then Sweden at 37% and South Korea at 35%. Japan is at 28% compared to 20% for the USA (I am surprised these are so close _ would have thought France and Japan would be much closer). Russia is at 18% and China was at just 2%. As of January 2011, 29 countries worldwide are operating 442 nuclear reactors for electricity generation and 65 new nuclear plants are under construction in 15 countries. Source, Nuclear Energy Institute.
From 1985 to 2009, USA production increased 108%, France 84% and Japan up 77%. South Korea is up 550% (from a very low starting point). Globally nuclear power production increased 80% from 1985 to 2009. From 2000-2009 production increased 5% in the USA and decreased by 1% in France and 13% in Japan. China was up 318% (from a very low level) from 2000-2009 (they did not have nuclear power capacity prior to 1995.
The global capacity of nuclear power was scheduled to increase more rapidly in the future before the earthquake in Japan and the crisis at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. China was going to add a great deal of capacity and is likely to over the next few years (nuclear power plants take many year to bring online so those coming online in the next few years have already had hundreds of millions invested in building them). Several European countries have already announced temporary closing of some plants (especially some plants nearing the end of their originally scheduled lives – which those countries had been in the process of extending).
As a comparison global oil production increased by 10.5% from 1999-2009, while nuclear global production increased by 5% from 2000-2009. From 1999-2009 USA oil production decreased 7%. Russia increased production 62% in the decade, moving it into first place ahead of Saudi Arabia that increased production 10%.
The world today has a much different economic landscape than just 20 years ago. China’s amazing economic growth is likely the biggest story. But the overwhelming success of many other countries is also a huge story. Today it is not the developing world that has governments spending taxes they promise their grandchildren will pay, but instead the richest countries on earth that choose to spend today and pay tomorrow. While “developing” countries have well balanced government budgets overall.
There are plenty of reasons to question this data but I think it gives a decent overall picture of where things stand. It may seem like government debt should be an easy figure to know but even just agreeing what would be the most reasonable figure for one country is very difficult, comparing between countries gets even more difficult and the political pressures to reduces how bad the data looks encourages countries to try and make the figures look as good as they can.
The poster child for irresponsible spending is Japan which has gross government debt of 218% of GDP (Japan’s 2009 figure is an IMF estimate). Greece is at 115%. Gross debt is not the only important figure. Government debt held within the country is much less damaging than debt held by those outside the country. Japan holds a large portion of its own debt. If foreigners own your debt then debt payments you make each year are paid outside your country and it is in essence a tax of a portion of your economic production that must be paid. If the debt is internal it mean taxpayers have to support bond holders each year (but at least when those bondholders spend the money it stays within your economy).
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.
To me, the prospects of a Euro currency surviving over the long term were not helped this week. The markets have behaved as though some great solutions have been adopted but it seems to me the fundamental problems if anything are worse now. It is true the short term is more stable. But at what cost?
“I was stunned,” Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Singapore. “This means that they’ve given up on the euro, they don’t particularly care if they have a sound currency, you have all these countries spending money they don’t have and it’s now going to continue.”
“It’s a political currency and nobody is minding the economics behind the necessities to have a strong currency,” Rogers said. “I’m afraid it’s going to dissolve. They’re throwing more money at the problem and it’s going to make things worse down the road.”
This makes sense to me. The problems with the Euro also explain why the dollar hasn’t fallen more over the last few years. The only significant alternative is the Yen. The BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) are looking to increase the profile of their currencies supposedly – or even forming their version of the Euro (I can’t see how that could happen).
[Rogers suggests] Investors should instead buy precious metals including gold or currencies of countries that have large natural resources, Rogers said. Among other asset classes, he favors agricultural commodities as the best bet for the next decade as well as silver because prices haven’t rallied.
It is very difficult for the politicians in the USA, United Kingdom and other countries to behave fiscally responsible when their taxpayers will eventually have to pay the bill. When you can hope to have others bail you out it seems that much less likely people will behave responsibly. Then again I was skeptical the Euro would be created without first having more consolidation of European governments. There are lots of good things about having the Euro, but in the long run there are very challenging issues to deal with.