Jan Strupczewski at Reuters reports that Eurostat released data today showing the industrial production in the eurozone fell by 20% in March from the year previous. From February, industrial production for the 16 members of the monetary union fell 2% in March.
"Industrial production accounts for roughly 17% of euro zone gross domestic product and the grim March output data could mean the economy shrank more than economists expect.However, Germany, the largest economy in the eurozone, announced flat industrial production in March last week, though exports continued to drop--see Daily Sources 5/8 #4.
'Following today's release this indicator is pointing to a -2.2-2.3% quarter-on-quarter reading in Q1. This suggests downside risks to our 2% forecast,' said Saleem Bahaj, economist at Goldman Sachs.
Eurostat also revised down production data for February to a monthly fall of 2.5% from the initially reported decline of 2.3% and, in year-on-year terms, to a plunge of 19.1% from 18.4%."
2. CHINESE INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION UP 7.3% IN APRIL YOY, EVEN AS ELECTRICAL GENERATION DOWN AS MUCH AS 4% YOY AND INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTS IMPORTS FALL BY 14.3%
The AFP reports that Chinese industrial output rose by 7.3% in April year over year according to data released by the National Bureau of Statistics today.
"The figure was down from 8.3% growth in March, and 11.0% in February, according to earlier data issued by the government.On May 5, the China Electricity Council released preliminary data that electricity generation was down 3.55% from a year previous and that the finalized statistic--to be released later this month--was likely to be a 4% decline. This was also in the face of CLSA Asia Pacific Markets' positive PMI reading for April--see Daily Sources 5/5 #3 for both of these. I find the notion of industrial production continuing to increase at annual rates of 7% or more difficult to reconcile with electrical generation decreases of annual rates of up to 4%.
'It was a small fluctuation in a generally upgoing trend,' said Lian Ping, a Shanghai-based economist with the Bank of Communications.
'It's rather unlikely it will go back to a rate of around five percent,' he said.
Growth in industrial output--a main gauge of activity in factories and plants across China--hit lows of little more than five percent at the end of last year."
"Exports of industrial products totaled 566.2 billion yuan (~ $83 billion ) last month, a steep decline of 14.3% from the same month in 2008, the statistics bureau said."3. CHINA BANKING REGULATORS PROPOSE RULES FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF CONSUMER LENDING FIRMS AS WESTERN BANKS EXIT CHINESE FINANCIAL SECTOR IN ORDER TO SHORE UP BOOKS
Sky Canaves at the China Journal reports that the China Banking Regulatory Commission told Xinhua that it had issued a draft of new regulations that establish guidelines for the establishment of new consumer financing corporations. Although there was a record number of new loans made in the first quarter and April, consumer lending accounts for only 12% of total loans--see Daily Sources 5/7 #2 and Daily Sources 5/12 #2.
"Under the proposed rules, domestic and foreign-invested consumer finance companies would be able to make loans for durable goods, as well as general-purpose personal loans, in amounts up to five times the borrower’s monthly income.Canaves notes that private consumption currently accounts for about 35% of Chinese GDP. Chen Qiong, an official with the commission said,
The finance companies would not be allowed to accept deposits and would have to maintain a minimum registered capital of 300 million yuan (~ $44 million). Prospective applicants should have at least 80 billion yuan in total assets, five years of experience in consumer financing, and profitability in the last two fiscal years, according to the draft rules."
"The establishment of consumer finance companies will expedite an increase in personal consumption, thus driving increases in the production and sales volumes of manufacturers and retailers, while also driving demand in related industries and altering the GDP’s over-reliance on exports and fixed asset investment."In the meantime, Louise Story and David Barboza at the New York Times reports that Bank of America agreed yesterday to sell about a third of its 16% stake in China Construction Bank for $7.3 billion.
"[A] person involved in the deal said Bank of America agreed to a private placement sale to a consortium that includes China Life Insurance, Temasek Holdings of Singapore and the private investment firm Hopu Investments of China, which is partly controlled by Fang Fenglei, the Chinese partner of Goldman Sachs. ...4. CHINA MAY HAVE RESTARTED AS MUCH AS 1.4 MMT OF ALUMINUM CAPACITY IN APRIL AS RIO TINTO DEAL LOOKS LIKELY TO SOUR
Bank of America’s move comes a few weeks after Allianz and American Express sold nearly $2 billion worth of shares in another big Chinese bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, according to Reuters. The Royal Bank of Scotland also recently sold its stake in the Bank of China."
Richard Dobson at Bloomberg report Ru Xiaojie, an analyst at Aluminum Corp. of China Ltd., indicated at a conference today that the country may have restarted as much as 1.4 million metric tons of capacity in April. Ms. Ru indicated that the country may produce as much as 12.6 million tonnes of aluminum this year. Alcoa notes there is oversupply on the market. Meanwhile, the Rio Tinto Chinalco deal appears unlikely to go through.
5. KAZAKH PRESIDENT SIGNS BILL INTO LAW SENDING MORE GAS VIA RUSSIA, EU NABUCCO EFFORT DOESN'T SECURE FEEDSTOCK PARTICIPATION AS THE U.S. SEEMS TO RELAX SUPPORT FOR NABUCCO
Upstream online.com reports that Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has signed into law Kazakhstan's agreement with Russia and Turkmenistan today to carry more natural gas via the Central Asia-Center pipeline system, which would take the gas to Europe through Russia.
"The Russian pipeline plan is expected to transport up to an extra 10 billion cubic metres of Turkmen gas a year and the same volume of extra Kazakh supplies, according to the original deal."Last Friday's the EU, meaning I infer Andris Piebalgs, signed an "energy agreement" with Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Egypt regarding a southern transit corridor. The Southern Corridor Summit apparently failed to seal the deal with other key meeting participants: Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, ie most of the feedstock, which now appears to have gone north. On Friday the rumor that the US was not unequivocal in its support for Nabucco was mooted at the USDOS daily press briefing:
"QUESTION: Robert, just a quick thing on energy issues. The new Obama Administration envoy for energy Richard Morningstar was in a conference in Bulgaria, and he seemed to say that the Nabucco pipeline, which is EU-backed, was not, quote, 'the holy grail,' and suggested that the Russian alternative, South Stream, might work as well. Is this part of the reset in relations with Russia and the US? And what’s the US position on the two pipelines?
MR. WOOD: I think it--I think--and I haven’t seen the remarks from Ambassador Morningstar. But we have always supported diversification of energy supply and resources. And--but I don’t have the specifics with regard to the two pipelines. I haven’t heard--you know, only--I’ve only heard what you have said about it. I’d have to talk to Ambassador Morningstar to get further clarification. But as I said, we want to see a diversification of energy resources in that region, as we said, and worldwide in general."
6. OFFICIAL KREMLIN STRATEGY FORECAST EXPECTS RESOURCES TO BE CENTER OF FUTURE INTERNATIONAL DISPUTES
Al Jazeera reports today that the Kremlin released its National Security Strategy today which forecast that
"The attention of international politics in the long-term perspective will be concentrated on the acquisition of energy resources.The document identified the Middle East, the Barents Sea, the Arctic, the Caspian Sea and Central Asia as likely loci of future resource conflicts. (h/t Leanan at the Oil Drum's Drumbeat.)
Amid competitive struggle for resources, attempts to use military force to solve emerging problems can't be excluded.
The existing balance of forces near the borders of the Russian Federation and its allies can be violated."
7. BANK ROSSI CUTS RATES ON OIL PRICE INCREASES, WHILE OPEC MONTHLY OIL REPORT SHOWS INCREASE IN SUPPLY IN APRIL, BIGGEST CHEATER IS IRAN
Emma O’Brien at Bloomberg reports that Bank Rossi cut its benchmark interest rates effective tomorrow today, the refinancing rate, seen as the limit for borrowing, was cut to 12% from 12.5% and the repurchase rate charged on central bank loans was cut to 11% from 11.5%.
"Bank Rossii has been buying foreign currency on the market as a way of reducing the ruble’s volatility and controlling its advance, [First Deputy Chairman Alexei] Ulyukayev said. The central bank is purchasing dollars and euros at about 37.20 versus the basket, after earlier defending 37.25, MDM [Bank]’s [Mikhail] Galkin, [head of fixed-income and credit research in Moscow] said, adding that policy makers bought about $1 billion yesterday."The ruble has been climbing on stronger oil prices.
Spencer Swartz at Environmental Capital reports that OPEC's monthly report released today found that its eleven central members increased oil production by 220 kb/d.
"The production increase--as if the global recession and rising oil prices weren’t already a good enough deterrent--further diminishes the prospect of OPEC announcing any production cut when it meets in Vienna May 28. After months of reducing its output by around 150,000 barrels a day more than its OPEC quota obliges it to, Saudi Arabia, OPEC’s top dog, will be in no mood to hear Iran talk about more cuts when the Persian state is pumping some 400,000 barrels over its quota, according to OPEC’s latest data.Jackson Thies and Mine Yücel at the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank produce a graph showing OPEC production as a percentage of the (implied) quota in February and March:
The kingdom was already annoyed privately in March when OPEC last met about the “cheaters” within OPEC. Ditto with the other OPEC Gulf producers, like Kuwait, which have also been carrying their full weight of OPEC cuts and forgoing oil revenue.
The April rise in production 'buries the chance of a fresh cut,' says one analyst who tracks OPEC closely."
The EIA produced a graph of OPEC surplus capacity versus price in today's Week in Petroleum report as well:
All fundamentals--even with the reduction in commercial stockpiles reported on below--do seem to point toward a downward pressure on price.
8. UZBEKISTAN, VIA SOUTH KOREA, TO ALLOW NATO SUPPLY TO AFGHANISTAN VIA NAVOI, OBVIATING MANAS CONTROVERSY
Deirdre Tynan at EurasiaNet.org reports that Uzbek President Islam Karimov announced during the state visit of South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak that a cargo airport in the city of Navoi is being used for non-lethal supply of NATO forces in Afghanistan.
A South Korean corporation is heading a renovation project at the airport which would convert it into a world-class air freight hub.
"South Korea’s involvement in the project provides a face-saving way for the resumption of US-Uzbek strategic cooperation, capping over a year of US diplomatic efforts to bridge the rift that opened amid the fallout from the 2005 Andijan massacre.Though the deal is publicly a commercial arrangement between South Korean and Uzbek entities, the US Transportation Command in late 2008 conducted a market survey which concluded that the hub at Navoi could provide "an integrated commercial-based solution to meet US forces’ transportation requirements to Afghanistan." In late February, the Kyrgyz Parliament voted nearly unanimously to formally cancel the US lease to Manas, giving the President the power to serve US forces an eviction notice within 180 days--see Daily Sources 2/20 #4. In the beginning of February the Kyrgyz President, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, announced in Moscow that he had secured $150 million in aid from Moscow, the forgiveness of $180 million in debt, and $2 billion in loans. Kyrgyz nominal GDP in 2008 was about $5 billion. US annual aid was running at about $150 million, but mostly was directed to non-governmental recipients--see Daily Sources 2/5 #6. Navoi's use as a supply route for NATO forces came as KNOC signed deals to explore five oil and gas fields as part of an oil for infrastructure strategy being employed by the big four energy importers in Asia--China, India, Japan, and South Korea--see Daily Sources 5/12 #6. If Seoul is coordinating its energy security policy with US general security concerns in Asia that may well, in certain corners of the world, give it a considerable edge, in a way similar to, say, Total's decision to enter a new upstream venture in Venezuela in conjunction with China's CNPC--see Daily Sources 4/14 #6. Tynan's piece at EurasiaNet is well worth reading in full. (h/t FP Passport's Morning Brief.)
Karimov evicted US forces from an air base in Karshi Khanabad in late 2005 as a response to US protests over his administration’s handling of the Andijan events.
The Uzbek-South Korean agreement regarding Navoi airport gives Karimov the ability to deny to Moscow that he has cut a deal with the United States. But at the same time, Washington stands to get what it needs--a transit base that can take over much of the load from the American base in Kyrgyzstan, which is scheduled to close this summer."
9. POPE CALLS FOR TWO STATE SOLUTION TO ISRAEL PALESTINE CONFLICT AND END TO GAZA EMBARGO, ANGERS EVERYONE
Howard Schneider at the Washington Post reports that Pope Benedict called for greater international pressure on Israel for the creation of a Palestinian state as well as urging an end to the embargo on Gaza. Scneider quotes the Pope as telling the crowd in Bethlehem, which is located in the West Bank:
"I call on the international community to bring its influence to bear in favor of a solution. ... I pray too that, with the assistance of the international community, reconstruction work can proceed swiftly wherever homes, schools or hospitals have been damaged or destroyed, especially during the recent fighting in Gaza. ... Please be assured of my solidarity with you in the immense work of rebuilding which now lies ahead, and my prayers that the embargo will soon be lifted."
Unsurprisingly, the pontiff managed to displease everyone, as Israelis condemned him for not making stronger expressions of regret for the Holocaust and Palestinians said that since he did not refer to the situation as the "Israeli occupation," he is a tacit ally of Tel Aviv. However, perhaps Benedict's overriding concern was to assure--in light of his speech in 2006 which highlighted a dialogue of Manuel II Paleologus saying that the spread of faith by the sword was irrational and contrary to God's will which offended so many and the recent televised meeting of US Christian soldiers in Afghanistan mulling over how best to proselytize given their situation--that Islamic community that Catholicism, insofar as he is its highest plenipotentiary, is not a sponsor of what many in the Muslim community regard as a Crusade.
10. MEND SAYS CIVIL WAR EMERGING IN NIGERIA
Platts reports that Nigeria's MEND released an email statement warning oil companies to remove personnel from the region as the conflict with the central authorities flared up.
"Oil companies operating in the region are advised to evacuate their staff within the next 24 hours to avoid them being part of the statistics of an emerging civil war.11. US RETAIL SALES DOWN 0.4% IN APRIL FROM MARCH
All freedom fighters in the Niger Delta have been placed on alert to defend their positions and unleash a horrible toll on the oil industry and the Nigerian economy."
Jeff Bater at the Wall Street Journal reports that US retail sales fell by 0.4% in April from March, according to the latest data from the Commerce Department.
"Sales in March were revised down, decreasing 1.3% instead of 1.2% as previously reported. Sales rose in January and February, after sliding six straight months."Import prices rose by 1.6% in April from March, completely due to the 15.4% increase in petroleum prices during that time. Excluding oil, import prices were down 0.4% in April from March, and 5.6% down in April from a year previous. Including oil, import prices in April were down 16.3% from the year previous, "the biggest one-year drop since the index was first published in 1982."
12. GOVERNMENT ONLY GUY HIRING, BUT GOVERNMENT IS BROKE, WILL IT GO AFTER PREDATORY LENDERS TO SHORE UP REVENUES?
Rebecca Wilder makes the point that the April jobs report showed that the government was adding a record number of jobs, but that this is taking place as state budgets generally are sharply in the red. She notes that federal jobs only account for 13% of all government jobs (as of April), whereas state jobs have a 24% share and local governments account for 64%. She links to Conor Dougherty's story at Real Time Economics which notes that revenue has declined in 45 of the 47 states which have reported their first quarter numbers. The WSJ helpfully provides a map:
Dougherty notes that the steepest decline in revenue was seen in Alaska, where first quarter revenues were down a whopping 74.1%, primarily on oil prices. In the meantime, Bruce Krasting at his blog notes that Goldman Sachs settled with the Massachusetts Attorney General for $60 million in a case which charged GS with predatory lending practices in Boston. Krastings notes:
"This means next to nothing for Goldman Sachs. However, a very dangerous precedent has been set. In the critical years 2005-2007 Goldman was ranked 15th in the League Tables for sub prime and Alt-A origination/securitization. Goldman’s management must be pleased as punch with that poor showing today. Those that ranked high on that list are no doubt consulting with their attorneys.(h/t Yves Smith at naked capitalism.)
If Goldman gets its hand slapped for $60 million over 714 mortgages what does this mean for Countrywide Financial?"
13. FORECLOSURES UP, SPREADING TO SUBURBS, AND CORRELATED TO JOB LOSSES, WHICH ARE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE
On top of this news, Dan Levy at Bloomberg reports that US foreclosure filings rose to a record level for the second consecutive month in April, per data released from RealtyTrac today. 342,038 properties received an auction or default notice in April, as banks have increased their efforts to seize properties.
"Foreclosure filings jumped 32% from the year-earlier period, RealtyTrac said. Filings were little changed from March as some states delayed seizures. Ten states accounted for three-quarters of all foreclosures in April, with California leading the nation."The culprit? "The inevitable result" of steep job losses. (California, incidentally, is one of the state's facing the worst budget shortfall this year.) And Crain's Chicago Business News notes that the foreclosure wave has headed out to the Chicago suburbs from the city proper according to data from the Woodstock Institute, perhaps indicating that the same is happening generally across the nation.
"Foreclosure cases filed in the first quarter jumped between 25% and 70% from the fourth quarter in DuPage, Will, McHenry, Lake and Kane counties, according to new data provided to Crain's by the Woodstock Institute, a Chicago-based housing advocacy group. Meanwhile, foreclosures fell 8% in Chicago, the first quarterly decline in a year.(I also came across this article due to Yves Smith's daily links.)
Across the six-county Chicago metropolitan area, foreclosure filings rose 6% in the first quarter to 17,819, the highest one-quarter total since the housing crisis began in mid-2006.
The shifting locus of new foreclosures shows how the recession and job losses are supplanting subprime lending as the main driver of mortgage defaults, says Geoff Smith, vice-president in charge of research at Woodstock. While the first wave of foreclosures hit hardest in poorer city neighborhoods targeted by high-interest-rate lenders with loose credit standards, the latest round is striking middle-class areas where most borrowers qualified for standard-rate mortgages."
And on top of that, Phil Izzo at Real Time Economics records that the National Association of Realtors reported yesterday that the median single-family home price fell 14% in the first quarter from the year previous to $169,000. Izzo's post includes a useful sortable chart of the rate of change in home prices by region correlated to job losses for the same. "The data are sortable by city, state, price, percent change from a year earlier and unemployment rate." Michael Shenk, a Research Assistant at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland plots a graph of the number of new single family home sales versus the median sales price for those houses:
(I wonder whether the average sales price would look worse than the median sales price.) Shenk notes:
"[T]he most positive sign for housing markets is that the home-price indexes are beginning to suggest that price declines may be slowing. Both the latest S&P/Case-Shiller indexes and the FHFA index indicate some stability in the 12-month growth rate of prices as of February. The FHFA index shows prices actually improving in February, while the Case-Shiller index, which is narrower than the FHFA index in terms of geographic coverage but also includes nonconforming loans which the FHFA index leaves out, simply has prices falling at a slower pace."
(h/t Mark Thoma at Economist's View.)
14. MIT COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE INDEX SHOWS PRICES FELL 28% YOY
In the meantime, the MIT commercial property price transactions-based index developed by Professor David Geltner showed that transaction prices of commercial property sold by major institutional investors fell by 5.8% in the first quarter. The index is now down 21% on the year and 26% below its peak in mid-2007. Geltner commented:
"It's possible that the first quarter of 2009 was the nadir in market sentiment. Sales volume is down almost to nothing, as reflected in our demand index. The prices buyers are willing to pay fell a record 12% in the first quarter and is now 28% below a year ago and 39% below its mid-2007 peak."(I also came across this story via Mark Thoma's blog.)
15. OBAMA ADMINISTRATION TO REGULATE DERIVATIVES
Stephen Labaton at the New York Times reports that the Obama Administration will ask Congress to pass legislation which would require that all derivatives instruments be traded via an exchange and be subject to tight regulatory oversight.
16. COMMERCIAL OIL STOCKS UNEXPECTEDLY FALL, SENATE TO CONSIDER STRATEGIC PETROLEUM PRODUCTS RESERVE
In a sharp reversal from weeks of stock builds, the EIA today announced that commercial stocks of crude oil fell by a whopping 4.7 million barrels in the week ended May 8 to 370.6 million barrels. Though the stocks are still well above the five year historical range for this time of year and at highs last seen in the early 90s, a Bloomberg survey indicated that the median expectation of analysts was for a one million barrel build. Gasoline inventories also fell by 4.1 million barrels, and are now in the middle of the five year historical range for this time of year, versus a split analyst expectation for builds and draws. Distillate stocks built by a million barrels to 147.5 million barrels and are completely counter-cyclical with 40.4 million barrels (37.7%) more in storage than this week last year.
Nick Snow at the Oil & Gas Journal reports that the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will consider a bill introduced by Jeff Bingaman (D-NM)--S. 967, the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Modernization Act of 2009--which would create a strategic petroleum products reserve. Europe maintains products reserves, but the US strategic reserve is entirely made of crude. There are two primary difficulties with creating strategic products reserves:
One: Petroleum products degrade in storage at relatively speedy rates; crudes do not.
Two: The specifications for each petroleum product in the US varies by state. So, for example, gasoline stored for use in Texas would meet the environmental regulations for Texas gasoline, much more lax than those in California.
Of course, in an emergency Washington has in the past relaxed specifications requirements to meet products shortages, so this second objection is more about the rationality of the US products market than a products SPR, per se.