Starting with events in the U.K., the Eurozone, and then on to China and Japan, this post will tie together various idea all suggesting a major slowdown in global trade is on the way.

U.K. Retailers Squeezed to Extinction

Sales reports from retail associations are subject to spin in any direction depending on whether their motive is positive to encourage shopping because “everyone else is”, or negative, hoping to get tax breaks or other concessions from politicians.

In this case, the director of the UK’s retail federation says retailers face being “squeezed to extinction“. Given several retail bankruptcies and more expected, the story rings true.

Please consider Retailers face being “squeezed to extinction”

As many as 40,000 are expected to lose their jobs, with more forced to work on reduced hours, as the full force of the consumer slowdown starts to makes its effects felt on the high street.

After the collapse of Barratts Priceless, the shoe chain, Hawkin’s Bazaar, the toy shop and D2 Jeans last week, a clutch of other names are expected to go to the wall, said Stephen Robertson, the director general of the British Retail Consortium.

“This feels, talking to retailers, that there is more pressure than there was back in 2008. Back then there had been a relatively good run up until that point, and sales were certainly down, but margins were holding up.

“This time, it’s not just about the poor sales performance it’s about the underlying profitability. We have seen a blizzard of deals and promotions, so gross profit margins will have been punished.”

“It might not be an official recession, but we are in a retail recession,” he said. Last month De Mello predicted 20,000 retail job losses in 2012, based on a 1pc rise in shop vacancy rates.

“Dear George” Ritual Lies About Price Inflation

Every few months, Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England has been forced to write to Chancellor George Osborne to explain why UK inflation is so much above target.

And every time, Mervyn King has trotted out the same set of excuses, proving the BOE (central bankers in general) do not really care about inflation mandates, they simply do what they want.

For a humorous analysis please consider Inflation: The truth about those Dear George letters

Many cultures have bizarre ceremonies which once had a function but become mere empty rituals. One of Britain’s goes by the name of ‘inflation targeting’.

Every year the Chancellor stands before the House of Commons and in his Budget statement declares he is instructing the Bank of England that consumer price inflation should be two per cent.

He does this in the full knowledge that he has no desire whatsoever that the Bank should actually try to get inflation to two per cent – because that would mean increasing interest rates to a level he thinks might threaten growth.

Every few months the Bank’s Governor, Sir Mervyn King, writes to the Chancellor. His letters say, roughly: ‘Inflation is above target, because we didn’t try to get it to the target, because meeting the target would have been a bad idea.’

Chancellor George Osborne then sends a reply, which amounts to the following: ‘Good. I’m glad you didn’t try to meet the target I set you. You are quite right in thinking that would have been a bad idea.’

The arrangement has become a farce. In fact, during the past 45 months the consumer price index has been below two per cent in only six of them.

UK Price Inflation Peaks, Deflationary Pressures Mount

If Mervyn King hits his inflation target, he will not care much for the reasons why:

  1. UK Retailers are in a massive price squeeze, unable to pass on costs
  2. Huge numbers of layoffs are coming up
  3. UK Manufacturing is in contraction second straight month
  4. All of Europe is headed for a nasty, prolonged recession

By the way, the impacts of the above four points on the UK deficit will not be pretty, However, if it’s any consolation, I believe UK price inflation peaked in October at 5%.

Official Recession Coming Up

The recession many not be “official” just yet, but it has likely already started with the UK PMI in a second straight month of contraction.

Figures from the seasonally adjusted Markit/CIPS PMI recorded a UK manufacturing sector contraction of 47.6 in November; this is the lowest recorded level since June 2009.

Commenting on the report, David Noble, Chief Executive Officer at the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply, said: “It looks like it’s going to be a bleak winter for UK manufacturers with the PMI showing very little to be positive about at the moment. Exports orders, which UK manufacturers are increasingly dependent on, continue to decline as the Eurozone crisis impacts demand in US and Asia as well as Europe.

Slowdown in European Trade Coming Up

In general, Eurozone nations are in deep trouble because of tax hikes and various austerity measures. Indeed, all of Europe is in trouble, even the non-eurozone countries like the UK and the trade surplus countries like Germany. 

Sampling of Links to Consider

  1. Portugal Car Sales Plunge 60% in December, 31% for Entire Year; Spain Car Sales Plunge 17.7% to 1993 Levels

  3. Eurozone Manufacturing Contracts 5th Straight Month; New Orders Fall Faster than Output

  5. Promises Go Out the Window as Spain Undertakes Huge Tax Increase Coupled With Biggest Budget Cut in History; Depression in Spain will Worsen

  7. Explaining Italian Christmas Season Sales (It’s Far Worse Than Previously Reported); How Various Austerity Measures Will Affect Spending in 2012; Emails from Italian Readers; Massive European Recession On the Way

  9. “It’s a Mistake To Pursue a United States of Europe” says German Supreme Court Justice in Spiegel Interview ; Interpretation of Interview from Saxo Bank Chief Economist

  11. French Unemployment Hits 12-Year High (It’s Going to Get Much Worse); Sarkozy Outlines Jobs Plan (Mathematically It Can’t Work)

Slowdown in Global Trade Coming Up

Any country dependent on European sales is in trouble and that includes China.

In turn, China will need fewer imports of raw materials from places like Australia and Canada. China will also need less technology from Japan and that has Japan worried.

Please see Japan Proposes Nonsensical Deal to China: “I’ll Loan You a Nickel if You Loan Me a Nickel”; Japan Worries About Servicing Its Debt for details.

Think the US will Be Immune?

One has to be a major Pollyanna to think the US will be immune from all of this.

I can already show the US has been impacted: China to Withdraw Support for Foreign Investment in Autos; Three Reasons China Will Not Be a Boon to Global Auto Sales

Chinese Regime Change Dynamics

To top it off, a regime change is coming this year in China. It is highly likely China will be a shift away from construction, real estate, and fixed investment as a means of growth and that too will reduce China’s needs for commodities from Australia as well as truck equipment from Caterpillar.

For a look at Australia, please consider 4 out of 5 Australians Worry about Debt; New Reality – Owing More on Your Home Than You Own; Shocking Year for Corporate Collapses

This macroeconomic chain-of-events portends a major slowing in global trade with huge worldwide consequences and missed budgets everywhere you look.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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