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Archive for August, 2008

Global recession, credit crisis and inflation

Posted by Adrian on August 28, 2008

As most of the global economies have had their GDP crunched, the overall indicator (or consensuses) is a global slowdown or recession. The US has slowed considerably, contributing to estimates that the world GDP will fall to -0.8 %.

The US economy is by far the catalyst to the global economic crisis, the Federal Reserve slashed their interest rates down to 2.00%, at a time when inflation globally was a problem (and still is); other central banks sent confusing messages with interest rates, some increased rates like the European Central Bank (although tentatively) and the Australian Reserve Bank, Brazilian Central Bank among others; in which now there could be a slashing of interest rates by most of the developed economies central banks, with the US possibly starting to raise rates. It is overall a disproportional global economy that is now unhinging quite dramatically. The UK, Ireland and the EU are all now most likely in a recession, Asia Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Korea are also in recession, with Asia/pacific countries such as Australia and New Zealand technically falling into sharp recessionary conditions.

Effecting the slowing economies is the retraction of the credit markets, or as it was better known just over a year ago; the credit crunch. But the credit crunch quickly became known has the ‘credit crisis’, as the credit markets literally froze up. The CDO (collateralized debt obligations) markets became untouchable and the damage to the banking system has been dramatic with an overall erosion of confidence in that sector. The credit crisis hasn’t even gone half way through and there is still no end in sight. As discussed in Global recession tipping point, gold over sold, oil price shock on the cards. Bank losses continue, the bank failures in the US should be about to occur, most probably all at the same time. Just recently the FDIC has warned that 117 banks could go into bankruptcy, this is of course and underestimate as we may see the hundred plus number appear. The LIBOR rates are showing a tighter and progressively more cautious market with interbank lending, which would indicate the mistrust that the banks have with each other other disclosed toxic assets sitting in undeclared accounts. It will be interesting to see how far the credit crisis reaches the consumer, that has become so leveraged with credit cards to cover high inflation (costs) on food, oil and everything else. The big question is, could the banks at some point cut credit lines to consumers. This is a distinct possibility, if the credit markets do not normalize anytime soon.

But the US economy is in a dysfunctional and confusing state, with a cash rate so low, high inflation, the stock market has had sporadic rallies, then dramatic sell offs, the commodity markets namely oil are (in my opinion) showing instability and volatility with pricing – that appears to be pointing to a large spike at some point in the future (please refer to:Oil lower, volatility market reaction. Oil now showing price instability. Could the mother of all oil shocks be brewing?). The US export markets are solely contributing to the US GDP, but for how long? If the USD strengthens and the rest of the world falls into recession – this will most certainly effect American export sales.

The recent US dollar rally is a good indicator of Europe and the UK’s slow downs, with also parts of Asia slowing too. The USD was one of the most oversold currencies, but I still see some further selling of the USD. If the ECB decides not to cut rates (which I don’t suspect they will do), the EUR could rally. But oil is going to be the USD’s worst enemy, the oil price needs to stabilize before the USD can really regain ground. This could happen if the Federal Reserve increases interest rates, but any rise in the USD would be offset by a major conflict in the middle east, or a new cold war with Russia (Russia could cut it’s oil output).

The commodity markets haven’t finished their bull run. The food markets will fluctuate again, as the developing countries may have crop failures and the festival season in India kicks off; so demand will increase for Rice, wheat, sugar, even Bananas could be at peak production cycles; we could see a major price hike in all food commodities depending on the demand from India and China.

Of course this leads to inflation. All economies are grappling with high oil and food prices, we may not see this diminish. The commodity inflation issues, as mention above could solely be a demand issues and scarcity issue. We could be peak commodities, depending on how robust the mining industry can continue output on iron ore and other metals. But peak phosphorous is just around the corner, we could see other metals and minerals peaking also.

Morbius glass with still follow recession conditions in world economy, there will be two new additions to commentary the on global markets and economy they are: morbius glass: Energy markets, Commodities and Geopolitical analysis and morbius glass: FX watch

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morbius glass: FX watch

Posted by Adrian on August 26, 2008

FX watch: EUR/USD

The last country essentially holding off the greater European Union from falling into an all out recession is Germany. But the German GDP came in very weak. With negatives in both capital and construction investments, overall negative GDP on quarter on quarter of -0.5%. With Germany’s consumer and private consumption contracting quite severely, this would no doubt give enough reason for the European Central Bank to cut rates within the next quarter, or sooner (despite higher inflation in the whole EU economy).

This will inevitably weaken the EUR dollar against the US dollar, which of late has risen against most of the worlds currencies. The only factor keeping the USD from strengthen more is the volatile oil price (caught between 110 support and resistance of 120).

The EUR will continue it’s sell, I would not be surprised if the EUR would fall further below 146 against the USD (surpassing lows seen on the 19th August 2008).

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morbius glass: Energy markets, Commodities and Geopolitical analysis.

Posted by Adrian on August 22, 2008

Energy Market Watch: Japan oil imports increase

Japan that is solely reliant on imported oil has increased 2.78% in July volume up 4.12 million barrels a day. As the oil markets go through a tug of war of fundamentals, demand and geopolitical tensions. It may be a false dichotomy to anticipate a falling oil price anytime soon, even despite the slowing global economy.

The politics of oil will effect the oil price far more dramatically than speculators in the futures market, as discussed in Oil lower, volatility market reaction. Oil now showing price instability. Could the mother of all oil shocks be brewing?; the oil price should stabilize in the 100 -110 range, this is due to market dynamics of liquidity moving back in and out of the oil market. A sudden pull of liquidity out of the oil futures market, may send the oil price down to unsustainable lower oil price. Which could lead to a greater oil shock.

Japan and China will be interesting, in the sense of how both economies (Japan technically is now in recession and China slowing down prior and soon post Olympics) will cope with economies still highly dependent on oil shipped in from the Middle East, particularly Iran.

Yet we are still seeing uncertainty with the geopolitical situation in Georgia, with BP closing down pipes on the 13 August 2008 (since reopened). Which interestingly did not cause the market to rally on the oil price (13 Aug 2008 – $112). All this despite the largest oil pipeline in the world, the Caspian oil pipeline (that passes through Georgia) being vulnerable. There is now a delayed reaction from the market which is responding to a possible broader regional instability in Georgia.

With oil demand from Japan and China still significant, plus the nagging issue of the Iranian Nuclear issue and the current Georgia/Russia conflict. Oil is now sitting above the 120 price support and may ascend higher and may find support at 129 – 130 in the weeks ahead

Please refer to graph, WTI crude: (current oil price $121)

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Global recession tipping point, gold over sold, oil price shock on the cards. Bank losses continue.

Posted by Adrian on August 19, 2008

The markets at the moment are dysfunctional. The US has been in recession in nominal terms since the end of 2007. A slew of economists argued throughout 2008 up to now that the rest of the world would decouple from a US slowdown. A terrible analysis and poorly throughout, luckily most people with common sense knew that the decoupling theory from the worlds largest economy is a fallacy. The world is now falling into recession, lead by the US.

Still a text book boom bust cycle hasn’t really come in to play, the US has a collapsing housing market (second to the 1930’s Great Depression), the credit markets are probably not even half way becoming normalized (if ever) and inflation is still high. Europe and the UK are sliding into a sharp downturn, which is now indicating that the Eurozone is at the tipping point of a harsh recession.

Japan is in a technical recession, that appears to be becoming a broad consumer based one.

So in reference to traditional deflation bust cycles, the markets are showing an unpredictable dysfunction. In other words they are in the extremely volatile in an unstable way. Any investor will have a hard time making money in these markets. Despite global inflation still higher the commodity markets appear, although not entirely, finishing their bull run. The short selling recently of gold is to say the least a brave bet, this of course effected the gold price from 916 on the 1st August 2008 to 790 as of 17 August 2008; the sell off was intense and ridicules at the same time. Still shorting the commodity markets is audacious and only big institutional players would attempt it, but oil dare not come under the same sell off. As mentioned in Oil lower, volatility market reaction. Oil now showing price instability. Could the mother of all oil shocks be brewing?, anyone shorting oil will have their balance sheet destroyed and I imagine some people also got burnt (short selling) on the oversold gold price (now back into 800 range 18th Aug 2008, back to 788-789 19th Aug 2008 – from lows of 772 15th Aug 2008 ) the price still looks so oversold. I doubt we are going to see a dramatic deflation in all commodities, it all depends on the Federal Reserve rate decisions and the US dollar. With the Fed’s track record, it may be unlikely that there will be a rate increase. But even as commodity prices have declined, they still remain high and volatile. Inflation as mentioned is now flowing over to all consumer goods. If consumer prices on goods start to spiral upward, if not contained even a recessionary economy may have little effect in dampening inflation.

The market hasn’t finishing wiping out balance sheets and smashing ‘zombie’ companies into oblivion. It is still disputable where the cyclical bottom to the US stock market will be, I just think there is so much more trouble out there. The en masse bank failures should due soon, of course the ‘to big to fail’ policy is in place by the Fed, but the smaller to mid size banks could ready to go under in a synchronized way.

Still my concern is an oil shock that may be around the corner, Iran has test fired a satellite carrying rocket and Russia is still pushing further into Georgia.

The gold bugs have cried foul on the recent price drop of gold, which has been senseless selling and risky. With gold under priced – the only relief people have holding positions with gold is to continue holding them. Like oil, gold may spike upward on environmental, geopolitical and economic crisis.

(gold spot chart, note support at 772. click on image from larger graph)

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Wildcats #1 Worlds End Christos Gage; Art by Neil Googe and Trevor Hairsine;

Posted by Adrian on August 19, 2008

Wildcats – Worlds End #1 Written by Christos Gage; Art by Neil Googe and Trevor Hairsine

Another solid release from Wildstorm, the World’s End story arc from both the Authority and Wildcats is showing a lot of promise as an interesting development in the Wildstorm universe.

Although I still think that Captain Atom: Armageddon written by Will Pfeifer has been hard to top, he was able to bring a inter-dimensional 4-way, with Captain Atom from the DC universe, Wildcats, The Authority and Majestic. The ‘stranger in the strange place’ story (Captain Atom, y’know from the Batman and Superman universe) mixing up with a crazy Wildstorm universe. With the human race as a kinda helpless bystander, as the 4-way meet up raise hell on each other, with the backdrop being various US cities getting hammered. It was a great read with a cataclysmic changing event at the end. But that is where it ended, typical Wildstorm fashion it ‘died on the vine’ and the story just disappeared. Although there is a kinda dedux (although unrelated to the Captain Atom: Armageddon run) with the DC crossover DreamWar which I haven’t read.

Can World’s End finally get Wildstorm up and going and at least maintain the story arc and leave a nice lasting impression? Remains to be seen. Wildstorm comics has, to say the least, some of the best characters ever created for comics. At times handled extremely well by various writers. The Midnighter run was almost perfect, thanks to writer Keith Giffen; an open alpha and omega story (if that makes sense?), which is good especially with a character like the Midnighter. Very well crafted series by the writer (and writers – Garth Ennis and others) who even managed to extend it from that ‘safe’ 1-6 comic run most companies experiment with these days (Midnighter lasted 20 issues!). Not to forget Chuck Dixon’s The Midnighter/Grifter team up which again was excellent. So there are nice moments with the essential Wildstorm characters. With the Grifter being one of the coolest Wildstorm characters, a good adult character, I would love to see a stand alone comic with him. A ultra violent, sex ridden comic. I am not on the Wildstorm’s payroll, but a good suggestion is for Wildstorm to develop a Marvel style MAX comics style spin off (Wildstorm style); starting with a Grifter run, hey?

But Still Christos Gage, a talented writer has got the reins on the Wildcats World’s End story and it has done a great job with issue 1, clean and nice detailed art by Neil Googe and Trevor Hairsine. Despite my idea of a Max style comic series on Wildstorm, Wildcats World’s End has got that nice flow of violence and adult sexual innuendos (minus any high school drivel). So with the Authority stranded on a destroyed London, trying to help the little survivors out there, The Wildcats based in LA are trying to protect the decimated LA populous (what’s left) from gangs of post- humans (eating survivors). Whilst the Authority is holed up in the damaged carrier, the Wildcats are living in the Halo building (their base) and bringing survivors back for food and medical attention. Then the loony Majestic shows up.

So far so good for the Wildstorm World’s End with Wildcats #1 off to a stella start.

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Oil lower, volatility market reaction. Oil now showing price instability. Could the mother of all oil shocks be brewing?

Posted by Adrian on August 13, 2008

It is extremely hard to find correlation in the market and connect them to other market forces. Other times one can make ‘assumptions’ and interconnect markets. One example is the slowing global economy and the lower oil price, which in some ways is to be expected, especially with demand is slowing in the US and oil supplies appear to be replenishing. China’s slowing down after the Olympics is still speculation, but with the global economy contracting rapidly in the last month – China is slowing more rapidly than expected. Even prior to the Olympics. Yet still Chinese oil demand is up 8.3 million barrels per day, from 8 million (June 2008 ).

So is the recent drop in oil price and indicator that the world is heading into recession?

With the market selling oil, thus bringing the price to 113 (13th august 2008 ) from 146 (15th July 2008 ); what has come into play is several situations, the rapidly slowing European economy, the slowing Asia economy more particularly Singapore and Japan and of course the stagnant and recessionary economy of the US. The European EUR has now gone into retreat under the belief the European Central bank will cut rates. The US dollar has rallied against the high yield currencies as they have declined. But oil output is still high, with OPEC pushing levels to 48yr highs; pledges from the oil countries such as Saudi Arabia to increase output have still yet to eventuate in earnest. No new oil fields have been explored and existing oil fields are struggling with out put. Iran is still is a major player, I suspect they can call the West and Israel’s bluff.

120 was the support, but oil dipped rapidly due too little damage to the Georgian oil pipe lines (Russia’s invasion), US slowdown/demand and so on. The US stock market has been in such a flux of volatility and continues to do so. The new support is now 110, but in my opinion the oil price is showing price instability – the sell off has been a running of funds out of the oil market. Can oil prices collapse near term? Possibly. If liquidity is being run out of the oil market through maybe fear of over regulation and other market factors, we could see oil prices jump all over the place – and go lower.

Despite the theory of speculators and liquidity propping up oil prices, it should be noted that a psychological support will be $100 a barrel. Any lower and we may get an oil shock straight back up into the high 100’s (surpassing the oil shocks that occurred in the 1970’s), mix in a conflict and it could go to $200 year end.

Artificially dragging the oil price lower, from either fear of regulation or panic selling could pose more danger than a sustained high oil price. Like I said earlier, the 100 price most probably will force the market to stop selling.

The oil/futures market is a hard market to speculate in, but there does seem to be some price stability now with the falling oil price. Which could be the new support of 110.

please refer to graph(click on for larger image):

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The morbius glass schlock, horror, 80’s, grindhouse, sex and violence movie marathon; Ninja flicks from 1980’s – Revenge of The Ninja

Posted by Adrian on August 13, 2008

I can see it now, the year 1983 walking into the cinema foyer with my dad to see a movie, in fact I can’t even remember what movie it was. Must of been crap, anyway a movie poster caught my eye, the movie? Revenge of The Ninja (1983), directed by Sam Firstenberg, starring then up and coming Japanese import to US martial arts movies Shô Kosugi .

The handful of movies that were created had a unique Ninja b-grade 80’s feel, with added sleaze, a kinda sleazy pornesque melodrama. Which was cool, bad acting, 80’s hair, 80’s bimbos and ninjas, mafia, death from flying stars and swords. Too me that holds a certain amount of charm, a nostalgic charm from a slew of movies made in the 1980’s that were destined to the VHS market but had a stint at the cinema (for a week).

The Ninja trend kinda died quickly in the West, I would say about 4 years into the mid 80’s. I remember my brother creating a ninja outfit; from memory it looked damn cool too. Martial Art shops sprung up, possibly not on the Ninja trip alone, but nevertheless you could hook up some Ninja goodies, the shoes, the flying stars, the climbing spikes (under the palm), the masks, the metal marbles (to trip up your opponent), jeez even the swords were available!. Until the regulatory bodies decided they wouldn’t want wanna be Ninja’s waging war on each other and slicing and dicing, throwing flying stars and generally going mental with a Ninja arsenal. So a lot of the weapon paraphernalia was scaled back to just the outfits (so you ended up making duplicates of the weapons in school metal/wood shops).

Suffice to say, the Ninja as far as a movie icon in Western cinema stays in that b-grade realm of violence, sex and pseudo Japanese mysticism. Ah but such a good mix, maybe the Ninja will return one day…?

Trailer for Revenge of The Ninja

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Overview of countries effected by credit, liquidity and inflation; recession conditions – Japan, Spain, Iceland, Australia, New Zeland – (update 8). US dollar rises, global recession conditions drop high yield currencies – Australian and New Zealand

Posted by Adrian on August 12, 2008

The point with the US Dollar is that it was so oversold, so depressed as a currency a global slump (recession) inevitably has forced the USD upward.

The European currency (EUR), and the Australian AUD with the New Zealand Dollar NZD all outshined the USD for a prolonged period. With the AUD/USD dropping 10 cents from 0.93 (after highs of 0.97 – July 22nd 2008 ) to 0.87 in 10 days (3 Aug 2008 to the 12 Aug 2008). This is of course because most of the market and more so the Australian and New Zealand central banks, created and over confidence with the AUD and NZD – and the local economies. The Reserve Bank of Australia slammed the breaks on the Australian economy right in the middle of the credit crunch, shoving the cash rate to 7.25% and New Zealand (which has been in recession from last two quarters of 2008 ) cash rate at 8.00% (rates were cut from 8.25%). The retail banks, courtesy of their over lending and greed policy (no risk management) have copped a hammering in the Australian stock market; all from margin lending stock brokers going bust, over leveraged property trusts going bust and the banks exposure to the CDO and US mortgage market. So the banks passed on higher interest rates on credit to the everyday consumer, in some cases 2.47% above the RBA (Australia) cash rate of 7.25%. Essentially the consumer is getting stung for bad gambling by the banking sector.

The point being, the tight credit environment or rapid deceleration of credit markets, is causing havoc in the global banking funding system.

Either way tight credit conditions for Australia and the world for that matter, was going to send the global economy into recession (in which is now at a tipping point). The RBA and the RBNZ have room to move, they may cut aggressively, like the US and soon the European Central Bank – or be dovish and cut conservatively. Global inflation conditions are still too high, even on a dramatic economic slowdown (such as we are having). The exasperation of inflation will occur if the central banks fall in line with US rate cutting policy; it is not unfeasible for the US Federal Reserve, in light of a dramatic global slump, to cut rates down to 1.00%, from the current 2.00%. As most central banks will start to cut rates, the US may also.

Bank economists are now crying out for a rate cut in the Australian economy, this of course will do little for the Australian consumer as the banks will be minimal on passing on RBA rate cuts.

The other concern is the slowing demand from China, this may ease inflation commodity prices, but if the global central banks aggressively start cutting rates. We may see a return to inflation with commodities.

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THE AUTHORITY #1 (Wildstorm) WORLD’S END #1

Posted by Adrian on August 11, 2008

THE AUTHORITY #1

There is a term in economics called flight to quality, usually fits in times of recession or bear markets (stocks, bonds, property etc). It’s a switch to more solid products, or safer ones – say protective stocks, certain commodities and so on. But in basic consumerism flight to quality can also be applied to consumption. After huge excesses in consumerism, when a recession hits the rubbish, or excessiveness disappears (people tighten their purchases). What is left is the quality products, as the consumer desires a better product if he or she has to fork out money for that product. Demand falls off and quality increases to appeal for a tighter market.

This applies to every consumer product you can think of including books and comics, maybe more so with comics. The excess of publications in the last five years was astounding. There was so much and a lot of it was not particularly good. But in happy spend up times, people tend to buy the not so good stuff.

Wildstorm comics is kinda hit and miss, some good products and some not so good. A lot of TV franchise duplication, i.e TV to comic adaption like Buffy, X-Files, Supernatural etc. I suspect those publications are aimed at teenagers but at the expense of creativity. However some books come through that shine, The Authority is one of them. The World’s End series on Wildstorm is one of those ‘turn of event’ type arcs, that comic companies flirt with now and again. Marvel have tried it and not been very successful (as they keep trying to top the last one i.e didn’t leave an impression with their readers), from the Civil War to World War Hulk and to Secret Invasion; then you have DC’s Final Crisis, which was such a layed and confusing (and expensive for the reader) mess – it was hard to follow and you needed to buy a lot of the comics to get the gist of what the hell was going on. But Wildstorm being a smaller subsidiary of DC, with a different reality and universe is able to pack in a ‘turn of event’ arc into a couple of comics, which is good – saves cash for the consumer. So when Wildstorm comes up with a World’s End, it is the real deal. Unlike DC and Marvel that tippy toe into universal ‘events’ in comic books. Wildstorm showed ultimate decimation, the Earth is wrecked, smog, radiation, diseases, plagues (the Warhol virus, that turns an average Joe, or Jane into a out of control beast for 15 mins – then you explode spreading the virus), ‘soul storms’ (with the ghosts of the dead floating around), EMP’s (electro magnetic pulses) that has rendered the Authority Carrier useless and the Authority’s sexy star the Engineer without her silver metal body (she is now in human form), Apollo who can’t stay on the earth for more than a few minutes (because of the smog, he gets his energy from the sun) otherwise he ends up a shriveled sick looking human being. Jack Hawksmoor in a wheel chair looking quite busted up. So Wildstorm allowed the writers to give the earth, it’s super heroes and the human race a major arse kicking (within a handful of comics – now that is value for money!). The Authority was such a good creation by Warren Ellis and Bryan Hitch, and they have had writers really try keep up the standard for a group of characters that essentially force the writer/s to make the book work. In other words, a writer of The Authority tries harder. It’s just the way the characters and interaction works within the context of the stories. It’s like a force of hand for good quality writing. It would be hard to cheapen The Authority legacy.

But World’s End has an intense start to the comic, very well crafted by the writers (in this case three writers!) Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning and Christos Gage. A decimated England and world, a battered Authority, with their massive ship (crashed on top of London). Handful of survivors are helped by the Authority to get refuge (inside the carrier). Good detailed and gloomy art by Simon Coleby and Trevor Hairsine.

It’s worth checking out.

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Overview of countries effected by credit, liquidity and inflation; recession conditions – Japan, Spain, Iceland, Australia – (update 7). The world is slipping into a recession.

Posted by Adrian on August 7, 2008

Global recession is upon us.

America and Europe, with Spain, UK and Ireland as the leading European recession indicators followed by Germany, France.

Asia’s recession economies are currently Singapore and Japan.

Japan is interesting, there has been lagging growth in literally every sector. Just about every index that Japan has is showing a slow down and a rapid one. With recent machine orders stats showing a slight decline (thanks to Chinese demand). Keep in mind domestic demand in Japan will dip dramatically as will slowing external growth. The other point to roll Japan into a protracted global recession, is companies will find it almost impossible to refinance debt. We have seen this with Europe, more so with Spain’s Martinsa Fadesa (MFAD.MC: Quote) going bankrupt and other companies such as French Vodka company Sobieski vodka filing for bankrupt protection. Japan will be no different, once the corporate defaults kick in – the corporate/consumer recession in Japan will be brutal. So at this point there is no doubt Japan is in a recession, or at least one that is seen currently in statistical terms. The hedge is still Chinese demand, but China may slow down significantly. Japan and the rest of Asia, more so China will need to pray to the gods that oil will fall in price.

for reference Japan orders, a -2.5% decline in June 2008:

[JP Machinery orders Jun May Apr Mar Feb 3m avg Con]

Core orders m/m -2.6 A 10.4 5.5 -8.3 -12.3 4.4 -9.6

Core orders y/y 9.7 A 5.1 0.5 -6.2 2.4 5.1

The current falling oil price, now under the 120 support at 118, needs to fall well under $100.00 a barrel. For this price to occur, China really needs to slump economically. This may not happen, equity, housing and other financial markets may correct significantly; but the demand for commodities (more particularly oil) may continue onward.

For Japan to have a ‘mild’ recession – or escape a protracted severe recession, will all depend on the oil price and the credit markets. Oil will not significantly correct anytime soon, as for the credit markets – it’s a horror show.

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