More pain in the markets. Another bad day and night for markets of all kinds around the world, and more ahead today. Watch China resume trading around 11.15am (our time) — everyone else will be. Big falls, hundreds of billions of dollars in losses, investors large and small hit, the Chinese government in pain, but still it didn’t step in to support the market in yesterday afternoon’s sell-off. The uselessness of spending around US$200 billion in the forlorn attempt to stop the rot has finally registered with Beijing.

Joe Hockey was clueless, mouthing inanities about how the global economy is strong, especially China. The situation in China is clearly troubling a lot of people, not comforting them. He thinks tax cuts are the big policy reform, not making sure the Aussie economy can withstand a nasty sell-off in global markets. But someone is going to make a bomb once all the dust has settled. Just as they did in the GFC and in the big eurozone crisis sell-offs from 2010 through 2012. Buyers of all kinds with deep pockets and nerves of steel (and friendly bank managers) are buying the shares, gold, oil, copper, etc) that is being sold off in the current panic.

At the moment, the number of buyers is smaller than the number of sellers, but the markets are being cleared (except in China, where trading rules stop dealings when shares fall 10% in a day). Losses will continue until the situation clams down, but those who hold their heads make the fortunes, just as they did in the terrible days from mid-September 2008 when Lehman Brothers collapsed and the world seemed to be collapsing back to the dark days of the 1930s. This is not being Pollyannaish, just realistic. Remember, for every sale of a share in ANZ, CBA, BHP, Woolies, Beach Energy, Fortescue, etc, there’s a buyer. Some purchases might be brave (Fortescue), others will be an amazing bargain. Remember that when you hear all the babbling experts and their opinions. By the way, you can rule out “Fed rate rise” headlines next month as a result of the market rout. — Glenn Dyer

Call it ‘kitchen sinking’. That’s when companies throw out everything, including the kitchen sink when they reveal the end result of a corporate review. It’s usually associated with a change of CEO and aims to lump as much of the losses and clean-up with the departed boss. And that’s what we got yesterday from contractor UGL. New CEO Ross Taylor, who took over from the former long-term CEO Richard Leupen last November, said the write-downs were necessary to “reposition the business for its future”. But the write-downs totalled more than $300 million and were almost nitpickingly obsessive. For example, UGL took a $63 million write-down on goodwill related to its rail businesses; $55.6 million of write-downs “associated with the resources slowdown”; a $27.8 million write-down to settle project claims; $26.7 million of restructuring charges; and a $13.2 million charge to reflect a more conservative method of accounting for tender costs. UGL also said it plans to save $33 million annually by getting rid of 200 full-time employees and removing duplicated jobs following last year’s $1.2 billion sale of property arm DTZ to TPG, the private equity group. You get the picture. — Glenn Dyer

Hardline BlueScope has form. BlueScope Steel is trying it on again, threatening to close its Port Kembla steelworks and cut 5000 jobs if unions don’t agree to $200 million in cost savings and the loss of around 500 jobs. It’s a heavy-handed threat the company trotted out a few years ago when it was demanding compensation and assistance regarding the carbon tax (it got around $100 million from the then-nervy Labor government). CEO Paul O’Malley and his retiring chair Graham Kraehe are very tough when it comes to negotiating with unions. The dominant union at the Port Kembla steelworks is Bill Shorten’s AWU, so Captain Zinger won’t take too kindly to the threats. If BlueScope were to make good on the threat, most of the 5000 jobs would go, and probably so would BlueScope, because it would have to take losses of upwards of $3 billion, plus clean-up and other costs in fixing up the Port Kembla site. And the silly investment community reckons this is a good thing. China is causing a lot of problems as it pumps tens of millions of tonnes of steel products into export markets because of weak domestic demand. That’s helping the likes of BHP, Rio Tinto and Fortescue, but not BlueScope and its rival, Arrium (which is also a major iron ore exporter). — Glenn Dyer

Peter Fray

Get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for $12.

Without subscribers, Crikey can’t do what it does. Fortunately, our support base is growing.

Every day, Crikey aims to bring new and challenging insights into politics, business, national affairs, media and society. We lift up the rocks that other news media largely ignore. Without your support, more of those rocks – and the secrets beneath them — will remain lodged in the dirt.

Join today and get your first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12.

 

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW