Posts filed under “Think Tank”

Words from the investment wise 11.29.2009

Words from the (investment) wise for the week that was (November 23–29, 2009)

As shoppers were emptying their purses on Black Friday bargains, Dubai’s attempt to reschedule its debt roiled financial markets, plunging risky assets into the red. The government of Dubai requested a six-month payment freeze on the $59 billion debt issued by Dubai World – a state-owned conglomerate that has become known for its extravagant real estate projects.

Worries about Dubai’s debt woes rattled investors’ confidence, precipitating a sell-off in equities, high-yielding corporate bonds, commodities and the Baltic Dry Index, while mature-market government debt, the US dollar and the Japanese yen attracted safe-haven buyers. On Thursday and Friday, many emerging-market and high-yielding currencies declined sharply.

A fact not widely known is that Dubai has the worst debt per capita in the world. Ah well …


Source: Peter Brookes, Times Online

The credit-rating agencies promptly downgraded Dubai’s government-related debt and the cost of insuring against default jumped across the United Arab Emirates (UAE) region. As shown in the Bloomberg screenshot below, courtesy of Bespoke, the price of Dubai’s sovereign debt credit default swap (CDS) last week spiked up to 541 basis points. “Now that global markets have stabilized and exited crisis mode, an isolated event in Dubai where default risk doesn’t even spike to its 2009 highs [of almost 1,000 basis points] has caused a global market selloff,” remarked Bespoke.


Source: Bespoke, November 27, 2009.

Geoffrey Yu, strategist at UBS, said (via the Financial Times): “Although the majority of market observers believe the problems in Dubai are not insurmountable, the wider fallout has simply revealed how fragile markets are – and risk appetite may not be as strong as previously assumed, regardless of how profligate central banks globally have been in providing liquidity.”

Also as reported by the Financial Times, Julian Jessop of Capital Economics argued that Dubai’s move was unlikely to affect the positive outlook for emerging markets in the longer term: “We do not believe the events in Dubai mark a new phase in the global crisis. But if they are the catalyst for a more selective approach to investment, that might be no bad thing.”

In terms of banks’ exposure to Dubai, JPMorgan Chase comments (via The Big Picture) that the Royal Bank of Scotland underwrote more Dubai World loans than any other institution. In terms of capital at risk, HSBC has the largest exposure to the UAE.

The past week’s performance of the major asset classes is summarized by the chart below. Gold bullion (not shown on the graph) touched a record high of $1,194.90 on Thursday before tumbling to $1,136.80, but subsequently recovered to close 2.4% up for the week at $1,177.63. Similar volatility was seen in the oil price, with West Texas Intermediate Crude declining by more than $5 at one point on Friday, but later regaining some ground to end the week 1.8% down at $76.05.



A summary of the movements of major global stock markets for the past week and various other measurement periods is given in the table below.

The MSCI World Index (-0.1%) last week marked time, whereas the MSCI Emerging Markets Index (-2.5%) experienced more selling from risk-averse investors. However, the aggregate indices mask greatly varying performances. For example, among mature markets the Japanese Nikkei 225 Index (-4.4%) recorded a fifth consecutive down-week, suffering from the strong Japanese yen that recorded a 14-year low versus the US greenback. On the other hand, the Brazillian Bovespa Index (+1.1%) and the Russian Trading System Index (+1.8%) bucked the broader downtrend among emerging markets.

As far as the US indices are concerned, Friday’s losses wiped out the gains from earlier in the week, reversing a new recovery high of 10,464 made by the Dow Jones Industrial Index on Wednesday. By the close of the Thanksgiving-shortened week on Friday, the S&P 500 Index remained unchanged on the week, whereas the other major indices experienced a second down-week. Five of the ten economic sectors (as measured by the SPDR exchange-traded funds) closed higher for the week, with Telecoms (+1.8%), Health Care (+1.3%) and Utilities (+0.9%) outperforming, and Financials (-2.2%) in the red.

The year-to-date gains in the US remain firmly in positive territory and are as follows: Dow Jones Industrial Index 17.5%, S&P 500 Index 20.8%, Nasdaq Composite Index 35.6% and Russell 2000 Index 15.6%.

Click here or on the table below for a larger image.


Top performers among stock markets this week were Bangladesh (+5.7%), Ecuador (+4.3%), Kuwait (+3.4%), Kenya (+2.1%) and Estonia (+1.9%). At the bottom end of the performance rankings, countries included Cyprus (‑15.6%), Vietnam (-11.7%), Serbia (-8.8%), China (-6.4%) and Greece (‑6.2%). The declines in the Shanghai Composite Index came in the wake of a warning by China’s banking regulator that it would refuse approvals for expansion and limit banking operations if lenders did not meet new capital adequacy requirements.

Of the 98 stock markets I keep on my radar screen, 30% recorded gains (last week 39%), 65% (58%) showed losses and 5% (3%) remained unchanged. (Click here to access a complete list of global stock market movements, as supplied by Emerginvest.)

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Category: Think Tank

Why I am an Optimist

November 28, 2009
By John Mauldin
Subprime Dubai

More Government Data Fun:

Unemployment Claims Were Not Down

Why I Am Optimistic About the Future

The Millennium Wave

New York and My Own Psychic Income

I admit that of late my writings have had a rather dark tone. There are certainly a number of severe long-term problems that we must deal with, and they’re going to serve up a lot of economic pain. But the Thanksgiving weekend with the kids has me in a reflective mood, and one that has only served to underscore my long-term optimism. This week we look at why 2007 will not be the good old days we will yearn for in 20 years, after we briefly visit Dubai and the latest unemployment numbers.

Subprime Dubai

While we in the US spent our Thursday eating turkey and watching football, the rest of the world’s markets went into a downward spiral as Dubai announced it wanted its lenders to give the country a six-month moratorium on some $80-90 billion in debt. This has the potential to be the largest sovereign debt default since Argentina. Somehow this was a shocking development. (How can too much debt and real estate be a problem?) And by markets I mean gold, commodities, oil, stocks, and risk assets everywhere. They all went down. Today the US markets experienced their own sell-off, though not as deeply as the rest of the world.

As I wrote last Friday, the world is now negatively correlated with the dollar, and as money went into the dollar and US treasuries, everything else went down. Vietnam devalues, Greece is looking increasingly risky, Russia wants to devalue some more, the world is still deleveraging, etc. Is this another repeat of 1998, when Russia and the Asian debt crisis tanked the markets?

To get an answer, let’s look at some facts about Dubai. It is one of the Arab Emirates; but unlike its neighbor Abu Dhabi, oil is only about 6% of the economy. While the foundations of the country were built with oil, the country has diversified into finance, real estate, tourism, trading, and manufacturing. It is a small country, with a little under 1.5 million residents, but with less than 20% being natural citizens – the rest are expatriates. The gross domestic product is around US $50 billion.

(Note: and then converting the currency. I found the numbers on various websites and services strangely at wide discrepancies. This seems close to a median number. I think the discrepancy is mostly people confusing the GDP for the United Arab Emirates as a whole, which includes Abu Dhabi, rather than just Dubai.)

Dubai has become a byword for thinking large. The world’s tallest building, underwater hotels, the largest manmade islands (plural), indoor snow skiing in the desert… For links to more information try this from Wikipedia: “The large-scale real estate development projects have led to the construction of some of the tallest skyscrapers and largest projects in the world, such as the Emirates Towers, the Burj Dubai, the Palm Islands and the world’s second tallest, and most expensive hotel, the Burj Al Arab.” The list goes on and on.

UBS suggests that the $80-90 billion in debt may not include rather large off-balance-sheet debt (where have we seen that one?). So, a country with a GDP of $50 billion borrows $100 billion. They build massive projects, which are now among the most expensive real estate in the world. The latest manmade island plans for one million people to buy property there. Seriously. Talk about Field of Dreams.

Then came the credit crunch. Property values dropped by as much as 50%. Sales, say the developers in understatements, have slowed. Seems there was a lot of debt used to speculate on real estate, not to mention buying Barney’s, Las Vegas casinos, banks, etc. And while US banks have little exposure, it seems England has about 50% or so of the debt, with the rest of Europe having the lion’s share of the remainder. Admittedly, the estimates seem to confuse the debt of Dubai with that of Abu Dhabi, so it is hard to know a reliable number, other than that European banks are the most exposed.

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Category: Think Tank

Dubai – The First Credit Crisis Since March Market Recovery

Dubai – The First Credit Crisis Since The March Market Recovery Comment As the first chart shows, Dubai’s sovereign credit default swaps (CDS) are soaring in the wake of the news that Dubai World wants a standstill agreement on roughly $60 billion of debt.  Even though Dubai World is a corporation seeking the agreement, the…Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank

Technical, fundamentals

As technicians don’t care about fundamentals, according to them, in light of the Wednesday morning news from Dubai that so shocked markets on Thursday, we can look at the charts to see at what levels the buyers and sellers acted today. The 50 day moving average in the S&P futures is 1070 and we traded…Read More

Category: MacroNotes


The Conference Board’s consumer confidence index may have improved (48.7 in October to 49.5 in November) and beaten consensus expectations, but it remains firmly in recession terrain. It is so obvious that consumers are tired of the over-borrowing and over-spending days of yesteryear. Despite all the temptations provided by the government, auto buying plans dropped…Read More

Category: Consumer Spending, Psychology, Think Tank

Oh well, there goes the quiet day after Thanksgiving

Well, there goes that quiet half day right after Thanksgiving. The Dubai request for a standstill agreement as a precursor for a hoped for debt restructuring is not a complete surprise considering the weekly newspaper articles on their $80b+ debt overhang. What is the surprise is the lack of any immediate support from Abu Dhabi…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Asia trip, Dubai news, T-Day wish!

David R. Kotok co-founded Cumberland Advisors in 1973 and has been its Chief Investment Officer since inception. He holds a B.S. in Economics from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, an M.S. in Organizational Dynamics from The School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and a Masters in Philosophy from…Read More

Category: Markets, Think Tank

Otis still loves us!

Otis still loves us! The 7 yr note auction was very good as the yield was about 3-4 bps below the when issued and the bid to cover at 2.76 was above the average seen this year of 2.53 and is the 3rd highest of the 10 auctions now seen in ’09. Indirect bidders totaled…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

New Home Sales better than expected

New Home Sales totaled 430k annualized, 26k above expectations and up from a revised 405k in Sept. Months supply continued its decline, falling to 6.7 from 7.4 and is at the lowest level since Dec ’06 and is down from the peak of 12.4 in Jan. Over the past 30 yrs, the average supply is…Read More

Category: MacroNotes

Economic data

Oct Personal Income rose .2% m/o/m, .1% more than expected. Spending rose by .7%, .2% above forecasts but comes after a .6% drop in Sept and 1.3% rise in Aug as the CARS program created lumpiness in the data. Sept income was revised up by .2% and spending lower by .1%. Because headline PCE inflation…Read More

Category: MacroNotes