By Chris Berry (@cberry1)
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In the 19th century, geopolitical tensions were at the fore as Great Britain and Russia jockeyed for position in much of Central Asia with an eye on protecting British interests in India. At risk was control of land and sea routes for trade. Ultimately, other countries including China, Afghanistan, and some in Europe would be drawn in and would set the stage for geopolitical rivalries which still exist today.
This geopolitical chess match became known as The Great Game, a phrase coined by Arthur Conolly, a British intelligence officer in India at the time. Control of land and sea meant not only economic security, but also the ability to project economic and political power far beyond one’s borders. The common belief that the sun “never set on the British Empire” was at risk.
About the same time (late 19th Century) in Germany, a self-taught engineer named Ferdinand Porsche built what is widely believed to be the first electric vehicle. Mr. Porsche wouldn’t found his famous automobile company until 1948. He could have hardly realized it at the time, but this invention would be the eventual catalyst for the emergence of a “new” Great Game. However, today it isn’t countries that are the main players and it isn’t trade routes that are at stake. The new players are companies and what is at stake is energy usage for mobility and continued enhancement quality of life.
By Chris Berry
For a PDF version of this note, click here.
- To call Q3 “challenging” is an understatement. Growth momentum is increasingly absent.
- Most metals were relentlessly forced downwards in Q3. Gold declined .13% (almost wiping out its gains YTD), silver fell .11% (down 13% YTD), and copper swooned 4.96% (down 9.42%YTD).
- Rather than pinpoint an “elephant in the room”, there are multiple negative catalysts including slower growth in China, a relentlessly stronger US Dollar, and excess commodity supply.
- Geopolitical events including the downing of Malaysian airline’s MH17, the potential spread of the Ebola epidemic, and the “rise” of ISIS have not had a significant effect on metals prices. The “metals” disconnect has many analysts, myself included, puzzled.
- It raises the question of whether or not the current downturn is structural rather than a “normal” cyclical downturn from which we always expect to recover.
- Q4 themes and catalysts may include a stimulus package in China aimed at boosting consumption, continued US Dollar strength (negative for gold and a deflationary precursor) , an announcement of QE in the Euro Zone, and the end of QE in the US.
In Deflation’s Grasp?
We have discussed the inflation/deflation debate many times in the past. It now seems clear that deflationary forces are predominant. Falling commodity prices, sparked by excess global supply and muted demand, aging societies, a stagnant velocity of money, and the ubiquity of technology continue to conspire to suppress and overwhelm the Federal Reserve’s attempts to stoke inflation.