Links 31 March 2020

Global Macro / Markets / Investing:






Leith van Onselen
Latest posts by Leith van Onselen (see all)


  1. The Traveling Wilbur

    Mrs told me to get tissues from the, well, anywhere that had ’em today. I asked her “Which ones?”.
    “The ones that remind me of you of course, sweetie.” She replied.
    She giggled, and then I looked at the empty box on the table – Soft and Thick.

  2. The self-isolation blues.
    Just rang the local restaurant.. “Hello” “Do you do takeaways?”
    “What’s 157 – 73?”

  3. My teenage kids have been very good at social isolation. They have been staying home and keeping to themselves. Watching tv, playing computer games and sleeping. Hang on a minute. They’ve been doing this well before corona hit. OMG, they are just lazy.

    • haroldusMEMBER

      I’ve been doing the 8yo maths problems and marking them too.

      She could do better.

      • Sums it up. You might have to divide your time amongst the family to get a multiplying effect or there could be negative feelings that subtract from the households social harmony.


    … No mention of the decimated travel / tourism sector …

    Billions in property sales on ice: could lead to defaults … Brent Melville … BusinessDesk

    More than $200 million in daily residential property sales have been shelved until the end of April as buyers and sellers sit out the four-week covid-19 shutdown period.

    Latest estimates by the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand are that around 5,800 residential deals, worth some $3.7 billion, will be delayed until late April or possibly into early May.

    Those numbers are based on a three-year average, but could potentially be closer to last year’s 6,700 transactions for the comparable four-week period. At the national median sale price of $640,000, that would put total impacted property transactions closer to $4.3 billion. … read more via hyperlink above …

  5. By subtracting the expected deaths of roughly 16,000 in Wuhan, based on China’s annual death rate over two and a half months, they estimate that the urns show that the coronavirus outbreak could have resulted in approximately 26,000 deaths. It is currently unclear, however, how many of the urns have been used.

    It is unlikely that the official 2535 deaths are accurate

    • first of all: first they say there were 56k cremations in Wuhan n the fourth quarter of 2019 and few % less in years before but than they claim
      “expected deaths of roughly 16,000 in Wuhan, based on China’s annual death rate over two and a half months

      and than they estimate

      they estimate that the urns show that the coronavirus outbreak could have resulted in approximately 26,000 deaths. It is currently unclear, however, how many of the urns have been used.

      if there were 26k more urns than 16k they expected that means they used 42k urns so assuming all used that’s 42k deaths in two and half months

      now back to

      In the fourth quarter of 2019, Wuhan also saw 56,007 cremations, a figure 1,583 higher than the fourth quarter of 2018, and 2,231 more than the fourth quarter of 2017, according to data released by the Wuhan civil affairs agency.

      so 56k per quarter is 47k in two and a half months (not 16k as they claim) so more urns were needed than what was delivered

      our societies became so detached from death (one of the integral parts of life) that we cannot even grasp that people normally die and that corona doesn’t increase death toll so much.
      Even if 26k died from corona that would be not as tragic for a city of that size.

      • I think the complaint was that the official figures were bogus, An under reporting of 26,000 deaths has the effect of luring the responders such as us, into devoting less resources to a response and therefore leading to more deaths, as a direct result of Chinese lies. That is why Boris is livid. Reading between the lines it appears that his nationals have died on account of those same lies.

        • Why would western countries complain when China actually reported quite high case fatality rate. It will turn out that mortality rate is at least an order of magnitude lower than what chinese indicated

          number of dead on it’s own is quite meaningless in this sense whether it is 26k or 3k

          if we assume that mortality rate is closer to case fatality rate in countries that did a lot of testing than 26k dead in Wuhan would indicate that more than half or Wuhan population got infected at some time.

          • They complain because of your last paragraph. It has massive ramifications for the general population and the responders.

          • I know that but, no data countries have in the west are any better

            how can they complain about chinese data when theirs is even worse (beside Germany, and few smaller countries)

    • Ronin8317MEMBER

      If someone died from coronavirus before a test kit is available, then they are not counted. Wuhan only had 3000 kits a day, so they won’t be wasting it on the dead.

    • Methinks our new Chinese “australians” might want to keep their gobs shut about deserving government assistance for their ip’s. Seeing as these new “australians” have been clearing the shelves of everything to send back to the motherland. If they aren’t careful they might find themselves very unwelcome in supermarkets or in the country in general.

      • There’s a game called “who gets a ventilator” and it will test social cohesion if locals start missing out.

        • That sounds like a fun game. When does it start?

          Don’t know if I’ll play myself, but will def watch


    British Scientific Advisors: China Covering Up Full Extent Of Virus, Could Be 40 Times Worse Than Reported … Zerohedge

    China’s efforts to blame coronavirus on a US army delegation to Wuhan infuriate No. 10 as Boris Johnson’s advisers say Beijing’s statistics on its cases could be downplayed by a factor of 40 … UK Daily Mail

  7. TheRedEconomistMEMBER

    Bills Gates speaks to CNN. Most clarity I have heard on Corona Virus peak and the need for a complete shut down.

    Also when applying for any work, I now attach my “Resume” and not “CV”

  8. Just imagine if all that money in tax havens and corporate executive pay had been reinvested over the neoliberal period, rather than funneling all the flows into the faerie fluff stock market full of algos [waves at BlackRock et al – my latency] or shorters providing liquidity to the market [tm] where squillions can go poof on butterfly wings ….

    On the other hand its curious some call a temp wage subsidy a UBI as it would have no testing and would be distributed to everyone regardless of employment status.

    Anywho its going to be fun seeing how this wage subsidy effects quotes for goods and services in the near and far term, not to mention the consumables used and their availability. I mean in my old business contracts it was clearly stated that we were not liable for force majeure wrt labour or supplies.

    Its quite interesting to see that a virus wrote the epithet to neoliberalism, contra to all its claims over some decades, something without agency or ideology and older than our species ….

    Thank you Chicago school and funders …

    • Drats. Sorry to hear =(
      How many of us have that coming… i reckon i do at some stage of this. Be very lucky to hang on to a job i think.
      Husband in better positon. In state govt and got an email the other day to say there wont be any redundancies in next 6 months. So a firing freeze.. instead of the usual hiring freeze.

      • roylefamilyMEMBER

        The first step to government assistance follows.

        Get your MyGov account going. Log in. On the first page there are links to Virus assistance. Follow them and in a couple of clicks you are registered.

        Centerlink will be in contact.

        Then think of something to do.


    This is very much “sabotage” as Veblen would have understood it: “a deliberate restriction of the productivity of capital and labor in order to keep prices and profits higher.”

    Here’s a good companion read to the NYT ventilator story. Monopolies are the reason we don’t have enough ventilators.

    A great thread on the dangers of monopoly.

    The problem is that monopolies aren’t just bad because they raise prices, they’re bad BECAUSE THEY ARE MONOPOLIES. Monopolization allows firms to attack workers, suppliers and customers, and to extract monopoly rents that can be diverted to corrupt our political process.

    Financialization of everything + health care profiteering + the failure and corruption of every last institution + 30 years of bi-partisan neo-liberalism + 30 years of mistaking rising debt for rising prosperity = The Bill Is Now Due And Payable. Uncle Sam of course could pay it but the leeches and parasites have taken over the host.

    • ErmingtonPlumbingMEMBER

      That twitter thread is just jaw dropping Skip.

      The part about the Ventilators was bad enough but the bit on dialysis machines made me want to shoot someone.

      Could this kinda shyte be why the US has such a high homicide rate (as well as too many guns of course)


    looks like Australian epidemic is over, but they’ll keep us locked down for a while under the excuse that it may come back
    in reality, large % of population is probably already over the infection (serum tests will tell us once we get released out of detention)

    other countries look similar
    Italy, Spain, France, … all turning the curve
    even USA is turning the curve

    in two-three weeks it will be all over, even in countries where mo measures have been taken

    • I’m hoping for the best here but I suspect the new cases are low because prior to current lockdowns many of our new cases were people who had travelled here by plane or cruise ship. So the new cases we are seeing now are no longer from travellers but instead local transmission only.

      If we removed all the infected travellers from our confirmed numbers and just had local transmission what would be the percentage increase per day then? If that were still increasing at a significant rate then we still have a problem. But the lockdowns should be having an effect with that still.

    • OK, I have been looking at your posts for some time and I thought I might make a comment or two.
      Firstly, I think you are more or less right about the mortality rate. I think it is around 0.3 to 0.5% and as you say serology testing would help with the final mortality figure.
      However, I don’t agree with your assumption that large number of Australian population is already over it.

      The most important and informative figure is the COVID 19 positive rate.
      That is Number of positive COVID 19 cases / Number of total Covid 19 tests.
      At the moment, that figure is 1.7% in Australia, 2.5% in South Korea and around 75% in USA.

      While I don’t have the figures for Europe, I would imagine it would be similar to USA numbers.

      This means that Australia is very early in this Pandemic and has a long way to go.
      Coupled with the seasonality effect, I must say I am not really looking forward to this winter.

      Disclaimer – I work in the field.

      • My comment above may backup what you mentioned regarding number of tests vs confirmed. However, could it be possible that the reason ours is at 1.7% and Korea’s at 2.5% is because we are both doing extensive testing? Where as US is not.

        • I’m wary of our definition of ‘extensive testing.’

          Up until last week, we were pretty much only testing epidemiological links to overseas. Even now, qualifying for testing with no epidemiological link (i.e. locally acquired) is on very restricted criteria so it would be interesting to see the COVID-19 positive rate for locally acquired cases versus overseas acquired cases. I suspect it would be multiples of the current figure of 1.7% .

          • Yes it is a possibility that we are just not testing for local transmission. I think that due to the lack of accurate data like this, we need to be cautious rather than dismissive of this virus and its potency. So if we want get everything back to normal quickly we need a sh1t load more accurate data.

      • When I say large number of people I mean numbers that are something like two or even three orders of magnitude higher than confirmed cases.
        What would that tell is is that virus is much less deadly and much more contagious. (How else to explain cases where a single person infected 30 or 50 others in few hours on some functions like a wedings or a conferences). I doubt mortality rate is going to be even 0.1% more likely 0.01%. Initially mortality was probably much higher but virus weakened since, and became for contagious and less deadly in last two generations.

  11. Received a message from a friendin China asking for advice about investing etc. Her Chinese husband had dinner with some bankers the other day and they told himto buy gold or real estate (basically get their savings , of which they almost have none, into hard assets), esp before June because that was when they thought the currency would be devalued. They’in re a third tier city. Make of that what you will. Friend wad3 thinking of gold and definitely not real estate.

    • Property is poor asset for high inflation periods.

      Such move would cause revolution in China, savings gone and no welfare … people would riot
      Remenber Tiananmen

        • that’s exactly what I was thinking of
          in early 70s when inflation was still relatively low, real house prices were rising, when inflation hit 15% in mid 70s houses prices started to fall and by 1979 (during high inflation period) lost almost half of real value

  12. factory worker

    I was just looking through Gumtree Boats and Jet Ski section.
    Wow is all I can say, so many 2 year old boats hardly ever used, all asking reasonable amounts yet with seemingly no takers. Then there are the beyond hopefuls wanting the full purchase price saying it was only used once or twice (which is probably true based on the condition) but who cares how often it was used or how much you owe when it’s a buyers market.
    I called one of the over priced offerings to see if I could Low-ball my way into a nice new boat. I got feed a sob story that almost had me in tears (well not really). He was in construction but first the 2019 downturn now this Corona virus shutdown then his wife said enough, so he needs to sell the boat quick for a good price so he can rent an apartment. Interesting story but what does that have to do with the price, especially when there are lots of other boats to choose from? Needless to say I got told to F-off.
    I wonder if the next caller will like the story more?

      • Yep not only F-off but also how I should crawl back up my mothers C where I belonged.
        Very colourful language even for a construction worker.

    • Interesting interactions you can have with those transactions.

      I remember using ebay to sell my car. A bloke called up to arrange to inspect and part way through the call tells me he is actually in suburb [x] having come down from a rural town because his child is in hospital. Sounded like a ploy to soften me up on price. Since I worked at said hospital, I said let’s meet there – I will bring it to parking lot (I had staff access). He suddenly went cold and I sold it to someone else.

      Moral of the story: be prepared to be hard nosed if you are going to go after bargains at the moment, it will be impossible to tell the scammers from genuine hard luck stories. And I would not be riding into unfamiliar suburbs with a lot of cash and some punter you do not know who probably lives in a cul de sac away that there will be currency on board.


    Most regions recorded double digit growth in new dwelling consents in year to February, Statistics NZ says … Greg Ninness … Interest Co NZ

    A total of 37,882 new dwellings were consented throughout the country in the 12 months to the end of February, the highest number in 45 years according to Statistics New Zealand.

    That was up 10.6% on the previous 12 months, with townhouses and home units showing a 31.1% increase, followed by apartments up 9.4%, stand alone houses up 5.1% and retirement village units up 4.5%.

    However stand alone houses remain the most popular type of accommodation, with 22,508 consented in the 12 months to February, followed by 8670 townhouses and units, 4451 apartments and 2253 retirement village units. … read more via hyperlink above …
    Building consents issued: February 2020 … Statistics NZ

      • We have it, and only courts can put someone into a detention. Police can do it temporarily if you are causing or about to hurt others directly. Police has time limits for detention and courts need to have a say.

      • We have a constitutional right to go to the shops to replace our left handed mice if they wear out.