Friday, 24 August 2012

Wake up and smell the coffee . . .

I was never a Lance Armstrong guy. I came too late to cycling and rightly or wrongly I'm always a little uneasy with preachy people. That's probably unfair of me since Lance managed to raise huge piles of cash for cancer research and thats certainly something to be proud of and for me to admire.

The trouble is that its hard to believe the times that riders such as Pantani and Armstrong set a dozen years ago on heavier bikes up the same mountains that are still ridden today. Some of these times are 20minutes faster than in 2011. I think Lance in accepting the ban and trying to brush aside the case against him as some form of injustice is probably and sadly avoiding reality.

Reality of course is not always the friend of markets. Someone will have to explain to me how all the Chinese talk of stimulus has led us to the point where the Shanghai Stock Exchange hits a three year low. What happened to the massive stimulus of 08-09? Why now are we watching the comparatively technical injection of capital into banks via repurchase agreements of various forms. Could it be that we are seeing a leadership who has decided to save it's bullets for a worse time? If the Chinese don't come along for the ride at Jackson Hole will "buy 'em-up Ben's" actions, if there are any, have the effect that the  endless models run by the Fed and associated think-tanks calculate they will have?

The falling prices for Iron Ore and Coal are testament the slowing Chinese economy. Iron Ore is reportedly trading at below $100/tonne (officially reported in PLATTS at 105 on Wednesday) and is therefore down over 30% for the year. This mimics what we were seeing in Chinese Steel prices and of what we know of record coal stockpiles. 

The channels are well and truly stuffed and as I pointed out yesterday mining projects are now being suspended. Of course for my Aussie brothers this is not good. The airpocket in commodities prices has kept things ticking along in the lucky country. The AUD a couple of months back look sick at 0.97'ish and I was sure we wold see 0.90. What I didn't allow for was that the news vacuum would somehow conspire to make things all look rosier than they really are. It's a sell again, no matter what Buy'em-up Ben does at his Gabfest 2012.

Not all commodities of course have been seen as China proxies. I was reading today about the way  arabica coffee beans have dropped 30% so far this year. It's the premium component of most espresso based coffees and as the European per-capita coffee consumption is the highest in the world maybe I shouldn't have been surprised that the falling GDPs and rising unemployment numbers had taken there toll on this most simple of luxuries. Thus leading me to ask what other small luxuries might start to be under pressure? Will Italians buy pre-grated parmesan from Kraft!? There always comes a point when some things get put aside in favour of prudence.

I really enjoyed stage 6 of Vuelta today. Rodriguez is very stylish, but ultimately I fear doomed.

On stage 11 we will see Froome take the red leaders jersey because of the time trial. The test of truth will effectively put a nice gap in the relationship and barring another tactical blunder like last years Sky will get what they want a win in Spain that they felt they were cheated of last year. One interesting piece of speculation is would Wiggins then contest the Giro to complete the team slam. I wouldn't if I was him as I think winning back to back tours would be a greater legacy. Oh, and I'm not so sure I want to see Wiggo in a pink skin tight body suit in a time trial.

Wiggo with Paul Weller of the Style Council - very mod
Enjoy the weekend and safe riding . . . 


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