Why didn't the top 20 companies make any profit in 2016?

In your monthly update released in november (https://youtu.be/sPDd9cibY9A?t=59m18s), it was excellent how you brought up the fact that the top 20 trading companies were not bringing in any profit due to a lack of trade. But I was hoping you could elaborate a little more on this. What factors do you think are causing this enormous lack of trade and leading to a massive decline of profits in the top 20 trading companies? I know it may not be possible to produce an insight on this matter due to secretive factors that only the trading companies know about. This is like what happened during the 2008 mortgage crisis. Economist knew that banks were lending out huge amounts to corporations to create leverage, but nobody knew that they were relying on mortgages to lend out huge amounts of money - it was a secret. And in that case, it may only be possible to create a post-crisis analysis on why the trading crisis will occur, when it finally blows up. But if there are known factors that you know about, i take a keen interest in learning more about this.

Official response from submitted

My point there was to highlight that international trade (what carries/profits those companies) had taken a tremendous hit since 2008....as further evidence that the so-called "recovery" was an ideologically and politically promoted misreading of an economic crisis that has cut far more deeply into contemporary global capitalism and lasted far longer (thereby worsening the damage) than anyone foresaw. The decline of mass purchasing power in the advanced countries of western Europe, north America and Japan has badly affected not just those areas but also the newly emerging capitalist industrial powers of China, India, Brazil and so on. The way to see it is in the shipping/trading companies who bear a big part of these "bad effects." There is nothing secret about all this. The problem is the denial or desire of mass media and political leaders to distract the public from what this means by focusing instead on whatever "good economic news" there is. In almost all circumstances, the economy displays both good and bad economic data. the uneven development of economies guarantees that. So the question is how to interpret an always complex or mixed bag of news. But the advertising mentality fixes instead on what sells and so media and political leaders fix our attention on what makes them look best.

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  • Daryl MacFarlane
    commented 2017-02-04 10:40:51 -0500
    I think I understand now thanks to your answer. So if I’m comprehending correctly, the hit to profits across all the trading industries is a crisis that effectively been generated by the previous 2008 crisis, which caused massive real-unemployment and a decrease in consumer spending which the world still hasn’t fully recovered from.

    Further more, it seems that it’s very possible trade has massively suffered due to the continually deteriorating economic situation in Europe right now. Not only is the European economy increasingly in shambles, but people feel economically insecure and do not want to spend money buying imported goods.

    Here is another thing i have in mind: Barack Obama and Saudi Arabia colluded in order to get Saudi Arabia to stock pile huge amounts of oil, so that years later, Saudi Arabia could flood the market with absurdly cheap oil. The reason for doing this is two-fold: it massively hurt Venezuela which relied on selling its oil at the previous market value it was sold it, and it massively hurt Russia which exports its oil to Europe. But at the same time, this could have easily affected the top trading companies that rely on exporting oil to generate a huge portion of their profits. So the side effect of the United States trying to wage an oil war on its “enemies”, looks like it could be having severe side-effects for trading companies that relied on shipping oil for its profits. They don’t get paid nearly as much to sell cheap oil. So this is the theory i have so far. If you have any comments on this theory, i would very much like to hear your thoughts.

    Thank you for your answer Wolff, you helped me get the ball rolling on figuring out the nature of the huge loss of profits in the trading industry. Now i have a basic idea to work from.
  • Richard Wolff
    responded with submitted 2017-02-04 10:17:57 -0500
  • Daryl MacFarlane
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-02-04 06:57:18 -0500