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New Chinese Oil Bids in Africa

Posted in China, Oil, Sub-Saharan Africa by teslik on October 12, 2009


A few interesting new pieces on Chinese efforts to wade into African oil markets: First, from the FT, a report that China is looking to pour billions of dollars into Guinea to prospect for oil. As the piece notes, this is likely to draw ire from human rights groups, who have hammered away at the Guinean government for the military massacre of opposition demonstrators last month. Now they will almost certainly jump on China for propping up said government.

Meanwhile, one of China’s national oil companies is in talks with Ghana’s government and wants to partake in the development of oil deposits in deep water off the Ghanaian coast. This sets up a potential clash with Exxon, which has bid $4 billion for a stake in the project.

All of this comes on the heels of reports that China is looking to ramp up its operations in Nigeria.

For more detail on all this, I definitely recommend CFR’s backgrounder. Also, this report from Chatham House.

Update: Exxon has apparently succeeded in its $4 billion bid to buy a stake in Ghana’s offshore oil fields from the Dallas-based Kosmos Energy.


Posted in Charts, Food by teslik on September 23, 2009

A fantastic graph mapping every McDonald’s in the United States:


(Put together by Stephen von Worley, and noted by Felix Salmon and Mark Perry.) As Perry points out, you can go to a place in between the towns of Glad Valley and Meadow, both in South Dakota, that is 107 miles from the nearest Mickey D’s!

Public Debt in China and Russia

Posted in Public Debt by teslik on September 9, 2009

The following graphs are from a cool new interactive posted by the Economist. The interactive gives multiple ways of examining public debt, country by country. The first map, below, shows total 2009 public debt per capita:

public debt per capita

This one shows the yearly rate of change from 2008 to 2009:

public debt rate of change

There are several interesting subplots here, but my main comment is about China and Russia. Each has very low public debt per capita (certainly unsurprising for China, given its population), but each was also among the countries with the most rapid increases in public debt over the past year. Just eyeballing the chart, the only other country I see with comparably low per capita debt, and comparably high debt growth rates, is Chile.

Has Bubbly Bottomed Out?

Posted in Charts, Luxury Goods by teslik on September 2, 2009

Conflicting headlines! A new article from the Wall Street Journal — “Champagne’s Bubble Burst” — notes that champagne bottlers picked 32% fewer grapes this year and will produce 44% fewer bottles overall, due to expected cutbacks in consumer spending. FT Alphaville, by contrast, put a positive spin on the wine industry’s fortunes in a post this morning entitled “Wine Doing Fine.” After getting slammed in late 2008, the piece notes, the Liv-ex 100 Fine Wine Index is up 10 percent year to date and jumped 5 percent in August alone. See the chart below.


Of course, these two facts are perfectly reconcilable. Indeed, the fact that some wine/champagne producers are scaling back production might have something to do with their stock bounce. Still, I found it interesting that the FT put a positive gloss on things while the Journal did precisely the opposite.

Workplace Suicides

Posted in Charts by teslik on September 1, 2009

Workplace suicides, i.e. those which occur physically in the workplace, spiked last year to their highest level since 1992, when the BLS started keeping track. The New York Times posts the following chart and notes some interesting related statistics on its Economix blog.


The State of Subprime

Posted in Charts, Debt Markets, Real Estate Markets by teslik on August 24, 2009

Both of the following are from the NY Fed. Here, first, is a state-by-state look, as of May 2009, at how many subprime mortgage loans have been made per 1,000 housing units. The darker the red, the more subprime loans (Florida is the highest at 27.0 loans per 1,000 homes).


Here, next, is a chart mapping the change in the same statistic over the past six months (through May). Darker green means a sharper reduction in the number of subprime loans per 1,000 homes.


Mostly it tracks that the states with the highest percentage of subprime loans have had the highest pullbacks. But notice also the discrepancies. The subprime markets in California and Nevada, which are smaller than the market in Florida, are nonetheless receding at a faster rate. Virginia’s relatively modest subprime market is receding quite quickly. Same with Wyoming’s. And Texas’s relatively broad subprime market, like Florida’s, isn’t receding as fast as you might expect.

America’s Uninsured

Posted in Charts, Healthcare by teslik on August 20, 2009

This from Gallup, on the percentage of uninsured Americans by state. The state with the highest percentage of uninsured persons is Texas, at 26.9%. The lowest is Massachusetts, at 5.5%.

2009 -08-04-consumer-confidence-better

ETF Benchmarks

Posted in Charts, ETFs by teslik on August 19, 2009

Yesterday Izabella Kaminska wrote an excellent blog post for FT Alphaville on some of the not-so-visible risks associated with ETFs. Many ETFs, and particularly those trying to track commodity indexes or leveraged or inverse investments, have drawn heat of late for failing to effectively track their respective benchmarks. I had actually been looking at related charts a few days ago. I’m posting one below:


The red line is the S&P 500 index. The blue line is the ProShares Short S&P 500 ETF, which seeks to replicate the inverse of the S&P (before fees and expenses). The ETF has an expense ratio of 0.95%, so you can reasonably expect that it will lag the exact inverse of the S&P by about 1% per year, or perhaps a little more once you factor in the firm’s administrative expenses as it deals with dividend payments, taxes, etc. In fact, over the past year, the ETF has underperformed its benchmark by 36.1% (the S&P has fallen 23.26%, so its inverse has risen 23.26 percent; the ETF, meanwhile, has fallen 12.84%). If I bought an ETF seeking to track the inverse of the S&P, and the S&P lost over 23% in a year, I would be pretty annoyed if I also lost money (and significant money at that).

Chart via Google Finance

Economists v. Everybody Else as Forecasters

Posted in Charts, Prediction Markets by teslik on August 14, 2009

The Journal’s Real Time Economics blog reports that the Philadelphia Fed has released the results of a survey it conducted of professional economic forecasters–and that 75% now expect the United States to emerge from recession in Q3 2009 (up from 54.5% three months ago). Well I checked in over at Intrade, and it turns out the general public has seen an even more dramatic swing of faith in the U.S. economy’s prospects for the quarter. Whereas three months ago, Intrade’s contract priced in a 40% chance of positive U.S. growth in Q3, now the market is pricing in a 90% chance. See the chart below.


A Bumpy Ride Down for the LDP

Posted in Charts, Elections, Japan by teslik on August 13, 2009

Five decades of Liberal Democratic Party dominance in Japan might be coming to an end this year. Courtesy of a nice interactive from the FT, here’s a chart of Japan’s annual GDP growth since the party first took power in 1952.