The BIG Short: Fast Forward Into Recession
The very dynamic year 2018 comes to an end and the events of this year will shape the coming decade and beyond. We are witnessing a rapid transformation and disruption of our global word order, and the end-game of the domination of Western-style democracies.
Main events of the past 12 months
- TARIFF MAN hits the Chinese Dragon: The self-proclaimed tariff man has started a full-scale trade war with China. However, the ultimate USG goal is to weaken or at least slowdown China on its path to become a dominant world power, which has started to flex its muscles not only in the South China Sea but also in Cyber Space. More than 90% of all DOJ followed economic espionage cases and 2/3 of all economic theft cases in the US are linked to China, which is accused of a sophisticated “rob, replicate, replace” strategy. The damage of these activities is much bigger than from any unfair trade practice – and the US not willing to tolerate this any longer. Therefore, any wishful thinking of a quick resolution of the trade dispute is an illusion. EU naively watching at the sidelines.
- The Great Populist Revolution: After the US and France, Italy and Brazil have followed the sweet seduction of populist leaders, more countries will follow. Be attentive – this happened during an economic upturn! Western democratic systems seem to have reached their limits in a largely trend-based, social media-driven society, and we might have reached the end-phase of this form of governance with the renaissance of managed democracies and authoritarian leaders. Assuming an economic downturn in 2019, this development will accelerate. Yellow vests in France are just the beginning.
- The Fake Avalanche: Led by the US President, the general public and every individual has been filled up with a mountain of fake news, misleading information and lies. The post-truth age is reality and it plays into the hands of government and corporate manipulators. It will lead to an identity crisis of traditional, social media and all types of electronic publications. There is an urgent need for credible answers and the build-up of a quality check/stamp by this industry.
- The End of the Rules-Based World Order: UNSC Members have finally driven the UN into meaninglessness. Today, the UN has lost all ambition to act as an international body to manage, calm or solve global conflicts. We are completely dependent on the power-based boots on the ground politics of the dominant nations, who deliberately destroy rules-based global systems and processes. UN useless, WTO obsolete, Climate Agreement dead, EU disintegrating – and the results start to materialize: unchained cyber-attacks and warfare, technology and energy used as a power instrument, open chemical attacks, and state-sponsored murders, journalists killed or in prisons, international contracts dumped, resistant superbugs and viruses on the rise. We are entering a truly Darwinian world order.
Other important events in 2018 included the (official) start of Genetically Modified Humans (GMH) in China, the Mueller investigation and economic and reputational cracks in technology giants like Apple, Google, and Facebook.
Review Forecast 2018
We had dared to make a series of forecasts for 2018 at the end of last year – some in stark contrast to banks and other analysts. Without going into the details and the reasoning, the review shows as follows:
- The Return of the Dollar: Correct
- US turning against China: Correct
- Energy Price Surge: Wrong
- Inflation Reloaded: Neutral
- Cryptocurrency Breakdown: Correct
- Bears go Hunting: Correct
- King BoJo plays Hamlet: Correct
- French Renaissance: Wrong
Now to the more important look into the crystal ball of 2019 developments:
- The Ugly R-Word on the Wall: US and parts of Europe will move into recession area in the 2nd half of 2019. Trade wars, rising interest rates in USD and EUR, fast de-leveraging, end of quantitative easing, fiscal tightening of many G20 states and the end of the China boom will all happen more or less simultaneously and lead to a contraction of global output and consumption.
- Continued Confrontation Between US and China: The battle has only started. The US will try to further harm the economic, technological and military rise of China. Interim negotiation results will be celebrated publicly, but not last long.
- China Economy Faltering: China will not be able to compensate for the abrupt barriers to the US market and the hostile environment for their leading technology companies. We expect the first real and painful contraction in China, with a massive impact on the employment and housing market. New markets, that are currently opened, will not be able to compensate in time. How a generation, which has experienced nothing but double-digit growth will cope with this situation, is yet to be seen.
- Fake Trump Bubble Bursts: Congress will start impeachment procedures against Donald Trump for alleged criminal behavior. The biggest fake bubble with more than 6.000 officially counted lies and grossly misleading statements, that were published by POTUS while in office, will start to burst and haunt him. And many knives are prepared, both in the US and abroad.
- The End of Germany’s Golden Decade: Welcome to reality, Germany’s export-oriented engineering, car and machine building industries have driven an employment and tax revenue boom in Germany over the last ten years. With a capex contraction in China and mounting barriers to international trade, Germany will be one of the countries to suffer the most. It will backfire now, that over the past ten years, critical investments into infrastructure, education, and future technologies have not happened, and that necessary structural reforms were neglected.
- To Brexit or Not to Brexit: The biggest ever national humiliation continues. The most probable scenario is: Theresa May will not bring her Brexit deal through parliament. The UK will ask the EU for a delay/suspension of Article 50 for 6-12 months. A cross-party coalition will agree on a much softer Brexit, with the UK staying in the customs union. Labour will achieve new elections as a bargain price for agreeing to this deal. The Tory party might split.
- EU under Fire: 2019 will be a year of truth for the EU. Parliamentary elections and the quest for a new Head of the Commission as well as the ECB will bring the big topics to the center stage: austerity vs. free spending, the role of the ECB, liberalism vs. nationalism, depth of integration, solidarity on the borders, budget 2020 without the UK as a payer. A lot will depend on the direction France will take in 2019 and the willingness of net payers to shoulder additional costs in order to contain disintegrative forces.
- Ukraine and Russia: both the Russian and the Ukrainian leadership might profit from a re-ignited frozen conflict, that turns into open fighting, a real war in Ukraine is close to reality. Putin might use the tiredness of EU member states of going against Russia and the political bombshell of an impeachment process against Trump to test the resilience of the West with a further landgrab in Ukraine. The current schism between Ukrainian and Russian Orthodox church would deliver a perfect pretext for action.
- Energy Prices: Recession ahead, and Chinese production on the brakes, we expect a further downturn in energy prices towards the 30 USD/barrel price range. Only a middle east war would be a real game changer to this trend.
- USD: in contrast to this year, we see the USD weakening in the coming 12 months: a fast deteriorating US economy, together with a weakened US President, and international trading partners who try to get at least partially independent from the USD, will lead to less demand for USD. However, an un-orderly no deal Brexit and a new Euro crisis originating in Italian and/or French spending fantasies have the potential to reverse this macro trend.
- Inflation and Interest Rates: Interest rates will go up, both in the US and Europe – and in our opinion faster and stronger than many believe. Central banks will only stop monetary tightening once the economy has moved into recession at the end of 2019. Until then, tariffs and tight labor markets will lead to a pick-up in inflation.
- Bear Party: This time bulls will wait in vain for a market rebound. Profound corrections into bearish spheres on all major stock markets in the making, biggest losses in Germany and UK.
- Cyber Attacks: Prepare for new waves of aggressive cyber attacks. While the US and the UK will be in retaliation mode against China and Russia, respectively, we might see a new dimension of attacks both on the government and corporate level.
The good news: (1) there are many ways to invest successfully during recessions, every risk is an opportunity; (2) nobody can claim that there were no warnings; (3) the catharsis is needed prior to any new lasting and healthy upswing.
And finally, the sectors on which we are bullish for 2019:
- Emerging Markets, i.e. Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey
- Agricultural Goods
- Selected Real Estate
- Military and Defense
- Alternative Energies
- Genetic Engineering and Health
- AI and Cyber
We wish you a great, successful and healthy start into 2019!