The 2 Sided Loonie
The chart mashup shows the difference in labour unit cost between Canada and the U.S. in the top panel and the steady drop in the CAD relative to the USD since 2011 (middle panel) and the Canadian balance of trade in the bottom panel.
Only about 30% of Canada's GDP is derived from exporting and most Canadian exporters will enjoy the CAD falling against the USD because most of their export trade (75%) is to the U.S.
But the Loonie remained relatively high against the USD for 5 years (2002-05) and that led to purchasers of Canadian exports to look for alternative sources and that led to more layoffs in Canadian production plants (Bombardier cut 1700 jobs, Kellogg cut 500, Heinz cut 740, Blackberry cut 4500 - Bloomberg).
Layoffs are not easily reversed, and as the top panel of the mashup shows, the Canadian unit labour cost is 14-15% above the U.S. making it that much harder to sell into the U.S. or anywhere else (IMF via Reuters).
As a consumer society, disposable income is also shrinking in Canada as the price of everything we import goes up against the falling CAD and a falling safe haven status compounded by the end of the Canadian Immigrant Investor Program this month which only attracted 130,000 people since the 1986 inception (Globe & Mail).
The foreign investor class has good reasons to look at their Canadian asset portfolios and high on the list will be negative yielding real estate bought in the last 10 years. We could see some drama on the MAR-MOI charts this year if real estate inventory for sale surprises to the upside.
2014 U.K. Edition
Just kidding; not you dear reader unless you work in app building, robotics or machine language; or as Tom Friedman says, "as long as you are not average". Oh and he also said "Think Like an Immigrant: "We are all new immigrants to the hyper connected world, and new immigrants are paranoid optimists. I better understand what world I’m living in, what the biggest trends are and pursue them with more energy, vigor and persistence than anybody else.”
It should be obvious to everyone that the trend is a new machine software revolution that is capable of replacing not only the middle but the top as well; and Mark Carney, new immigrant that he is, knows the trend.
The Bank of England will cut up to 100 jobs following a 'Value for Money' review, as part of £18m of savings to be made by 2016. The jobs will be cut from the bank's support division, known as Central Services, and equates to roughly 10pc of the workforce in that area. In total the Bank has roughly 3,600 staff. The review, launched last autumn shortly after the arrival of Mark Carney, the Bank Governor, looked at staff deployment and spending and identified savings of £18m to be made by 2016, roughly 10pc of the spending that was under review. Central Services will now be reorganised following the review, providing "new opportunities" for some staff, while other jobs "will not be filled as staff retire or move on". "It is envisaged that there will be between 80 100 redundancies, subject to staff consultation," the Bank said. "The Bank is working closely with the Bank’s union to ensure that affected staff will receive support to find alternative employment." The Telegraph Jan 31, 2014
How long do you think the divergent spread between earnings and housing unaffordability will last?
(see Demographia update for a 3rd party view of value)
The 3 charts above are EOY 2013. Current Charts are here.
Average is Officially Over
“If you cannot justify your singular ability to add value every day, you will be in trouble; that’s the big difference between us and our kids. We got to find jobs, they will have to invent them.”
"Countries that Enable will Thrive" (3.04min)
Or watch the Keynote by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman at the 2013 Maryland Competitiveness Coalition’s Economic Summit "How the merger of globalization and the IT revolution is impacting the economy and the future of work." (47.43min) QUOTES:
...if we stopped competing with low wage producers and turned our attention to our own failing institutions and cruddy infrastructures?
Imagine if we built armies of scientists, engineers and artists and exported value instead of drudgery.
IMAGINE (John Lennon) Recorded live at Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival '91 with Blue Note on Aug. 24-25, 1991
Bass – John Patitucci
Drums – Jack DeJohnette
Piano – Gonzalo Rubalcaba
Debt Fuel Ignition Failure
This 4-chart mashup looks at Canadians (households and business) continuing to vigorously pile on debt at an even steeper angle of acquisition than before the crash into the 2009 pit of gloom.
Canadian business has been busy reducing its labour cost but not fast or deep enough to maintain productivity or create new orders greater than before the pit.
The 5 years of Canadian negative output is a surplus boon to other countries and their productivity programs.
If we are willing to increase productivity to maintain our living standard, but reject reducing our labour cost by the expedience of withering real wages, then we have to build better machines and algorithms for production. That means changing skills from low cost physical labour to comprehensive high value intellectual labour and management combined.
If we are not willing to compete on productivity, debt will take a long time to transform into equity and will be limited in its ability to leverage.
Meanwhile Canadians blithely pile on debt. Are you over leveraged? Figure it out.
Are You Qualified?
Here is a continuation of the theme that North American Labour needs to retrain that I posted about last month from the point of view of who is benefiting from wealth creation.
Now, this chart mashup shows the Beveridge Curve which is the inverse relationship between the unemployment rate and the vacancy rate. It demonstrates that since the Pit of Gloom in 2009, the unemployment rate has been falling while job vacancies have been rising, BUT the counter-clockwise outward shift indicates a higher unemployment rate along the job openings curve. Employers cannot fill job vacancies either because labour is unwilling or untrained. The longer the unemployed remain so, the less likely they will fit the demands of the employer; hence the question "Are you qualified?". Can you retrain while you are idle? Can you move to where the demand for labour is?
Employers are increasingly free to locate near or attract high skill low cost labour from a giant "free trade" low barrier pool.
It's another realization that the compounding effects of multilateral "trade" agreements since post WWII (GATT 1947, WTO 1995) have been changing the value of labour. Since 1994, NAFTA has been the arbiter of disputes via the dispute settlement system known as "Chapter 19" and members have agreed to ignore conventional national judicial review in favour of NAFTA's panel review. The removal of dispute resolution from judicial systems is a hallmark of Capital's ability to not just lobby government but to become government. The latest but not yet manifest "trade" agreement is TPP (Trans Pacific Partnership 2010) which aims to "liberalise the economies of the Asia-Pacific".
TPP meetings and negotiations are kept secret except for what WikiLeaks has managed to publish and ...
... anti-globalization advocates accuse the TPP of going far beyond the realm of tariff reduction and trade promotion, granting unprecedented power to corporations and infringing upon consumer, labour, and environmental interests. One widely republished article claims the TPP is "a wish list of the 1%" and that "of the 26 chapters under negotiation, only a few have to do directly with trade. The other chapters enshrine new rights and privileges for major corporations while weakening the power of nation states to oppose them." (Wikipedia)
"We're in California, isn't there a better way of doing that?" Elon Musk
The bottom 50% of most national populations is participating in less than 10% of its wealth, and the top 10% of populations is wheeling and dealing with over 50% of its national wealth. If you are in the bottom 50%, you are working at the wrong trade if your desire is to enjoy just some of the benefits of those above you; for instance more free time.
It's doubtful that in this period of history there is any point in waiting or voting for your governors to move you up the ladder because the 10% make up the rules of the game. The only remedy I can see is to retrain so that you have a skill that the top 10% needs and that the bottom 50% doesn't have.
Here are some high quality and free educational providers, Khan Academy and EdX to get you started and an interview with Elon Musk "A lot of education is vaudevillian" from April 17, 2013 at the Khan Academy office in Mountain View (48min).
Canadians did not see that the housing bubble was over in 2Q 2010. The last 3+ years have been a gift to real estate sellers at the expense of retail sellers of stuff. As aggregate demand for stuff declines, so will labour force participation as jobs evaporate.
Here's a wild hypothesis: with the announcement today of closing Pixar Canada after 3+ years in Vancouver, some +/- 100 employees are probably thinking of selling just as many condos that were bought during this same mirage market time period. If incomes fall there is an upper limit to the Household Percent Debt to Income ratio. The dynamics are to get another job to continue making payments; sell or default.
U.S. Dollar & Wage Trend
The top half of this mashup is the U.S. CPI for 200 years.
Inflationists are still waiting for a big surge in prices and while they might be determined to bid up prices of real estate, collector cars and discretionary baubles bangles and beads, general price inflation is in a 1%-3% per year range in both Canada and the U.S.
In the U.S. we are seeing uptick moves to the top of the CPI range along with what appears to be a solid uptrend in wages since 2012. The wage trend also fits nicely with a definite uptrend in the USD/CAD ratio that's been on since 2011. A stronger USD helps American wage earners buy more stuff which encourages employers to hire more people.
On the Canadian side, CAD wages rose along with the strong CAD$ out of the 2009 pit of gloom and by 2011 according to the charts above, the gears shifted and as Canadian wages continued to accelerate, U.S. wages slumped until the USD/CAD ratio hit its last low in late 2012. Now for the past year the US$ has been in a solid uptrend and U.S. wages have been moving up as well with higher highs and higher lows.
A lot of global debt is priced in US$ and so the demand for US$ may not be anywhere near exhausted.
Canadian wages seem to be forming a cap (? on chart above) and in a range that might correct. If the USD/CAD ratio continues to climb the wall of worry, it is going to change a lot of portfolio construction globally and locally as Canadian real estate value perception falls against a rising U.S. dollar.
We know that overpriced Canadian real estate is a negative yield generator (case study). If the Currency markets sell the Loonie and rush to the senior currency (the US$), get ready for real estate markdowns in a Canadian neighborhhood near you.
Vancouver is the giant, and I have drawn a couple of lines on the chart where I think we will see a lot of action.
History, Charts & Curated Readings
"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement; and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana Vol. I, Reason in Common Sense
"History, real solemn history, I cannot be interested in.... I read it a little as a duty; but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars and pestilences in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all - it is very tiresome." Jane Austen spoken by Catherine Morland in 'Northanger Abbey'