Monday, September 24, 2007

Keynes on Cyclical Bottoms

While reading "Essays in Persuasion" by John Maynard Keynes, I came across this:

"The time which elapses before production ceases and unemployment reaches its maximum is, for several reasons, much longer in the case of the primary products than in the case of manufacture. (Note: by primary products, he means commodities) In most cases the productive units are smaller and less well organized amongst themselves for enforcing a process of orderly contraction; the length of the production period, especially in agriculture, is longer; the costs of a temporary shut-down are greater; men are often their own employers are so submit more readily to a contraction of the income for which they are willing to work; the social problems of throwing men out of employment are greater in more primitive communities; ..."

So when looking for cyclical bottoms, these are some additional factors that can help determine how long until an industry rationalizes. For the pulp industry and my investment in SFK Pulp Fund, the main problems which seem to apply are:
A. many small productive units that are not well organized
B. the costs of a temporary shut-down are great
C. the social problems of throwing men out of employment in primitive communities

I would also add my own problem: High leverage. Many pulp companies have taken on significant debt, which makes stopping operations and "giving up" not a viable option.

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