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Friday, August 31, 2007

German Consumer Confidence August 2007

Consumer confidence in Europe's largest economy, Germany,dropped for the first time in six months at the end of August, according to Gfk's confidence index for September, which is based on a survey of about 2,000 people. The consumer climate index projected for September fell to 7.6 from 8.5 in August.

The economic outlook sub-index also fell to 48.4 from 64.8, while the income expectations sub-index dropped to 9.2 from 27.9. There was also a decline registered in households' willingness to spend, with that sub-index dropping to 6.4 from 9. To get some idea of where we are, here is the complete index for the last 12 months. As we can readily see, during the last three months nothing has been trending upwards, and the economic outlook and income expectations components have been moving notably down.

Now if we look at the individual components we can get a clearer picture. Firstly the consumer climate:

Really this is not so bad as might have been expected, the climate was much worse back in January and February, just after the 3% increase in VAT. Confidence subsequently picked up, but it may well now have turned again.

If we look at the economic outlook sub index, this seems to have peaked back in May-June, and be now trending down in a way which conforms to the picture we have been getting from the GDP data.

The consumer propensity to spend sub index also makes interesting reading. We can see a marked propensity to spend in the last months of 2006, and then a sudden drop at the start of 2007. The VAT rise is evident. What is also evident is that the effect of the VAT rise has not worn off, as many suggested it would. The 3% increase in costs is still there, and remains there, and the impact will continue. Conclusion, increasing consumption taxes is NOT a way to pay for the health and pension costs associated with an ageing society. It is simply counterproductive, as we are now about to see, I fear.

Finally lets take a look at the income expectations sub-index. This is perhaps the most interesting one of all. Now many of you may remember that early this year there was a lot of talk in the press, and over at the ECB, about how German wages and salaries would start to rise as unemployment dropped and the recovery gathered pace. This was one of the reasons behind the "strong vigilance" expression in the ECB statements. Well if you look at the expectations index you will see that from March to June many people in Germany seemed to believe this story, despite the fact that wages have actually been pretty flat. But as we can see, reality is sinking in, and the German wage earner no longer believes the Goldilocks recovery story, which is one of the main reasons I don't either see this trend as a knock-on effect of sub-prime scandals or as simply a short term blip, but rather I think it forms part of the normal course of events we have become so used to in the German economy context.

As I say in this post, perhaps it is about time that people started to adjust their 2007 German GDP forecasts, to take into account the evident underlying reality there.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

German Q2 2007 GDP Under The Microscope

The German Federal Statistics Office published the detailed breakdown of the Q2 2007 GDP data this morning. Really there were no surprises, and growth was as previously announced (August 14) at 0.3 percent slowing from 0.5 percent in the first quarter. This means that German GDP has grown at 0.8% so far this year, and if this performance was simply repeated in the second half German growth would be around 1.6% for 2007. But the German economy is slowing notably (see below), so they will be lucky to see 1.5% growth for whole year 2007, and downside risks abound so the final number may be considerably below this. Let's take a look at why.

First off quarterly German growth since Q1 2006 (Eurostat data):

As can be seen the German economy has now been slowing since Q4 2006, and if we treat Q4 2006 (due to the pre VAT rise burst in activity) as something of an anomaly, then we can see a steady decline since Q2 2006. In the present global environment my opinion is that this trend is unlikely to be reversed.

There are a number of reasons for this, as explained extensively in this post (and this one) the German economy is essentially structurally dependent on exports for growth. So lets look at what has been happening to German export performance in recent months:

As we can see the level of German exports has been virtually stationary since February 2007. Now if we look at the % change month-on-month:

Again it is clear that the rate of increase in German exports has been slowing steadily since September/October 2006, but that again the stationary level since at least February 2007 is pretty clear.

Now if we move to construction activity:

Again a similar picture emerges, with the pronounced slowdown since February being evident. This is even clearer if we look at percentage changes month on month:

Since February activity has declined in 3 of the 4 months, whilst in the other month (May) it was virtually stationary.

What can we conclude from all this. Well, if we take into account that domestic private consumption in Germany is virtually flat (and domestic public consumption is constrained by the need to reduce the deficit) we can see that at the present time German GDP is being virtually exclusively pulled by fixed capital investment. The time series for retail sales will give some idea of what has been happening to domestic consumption:

This pattern should by now be not entirely unfamiliar, which leaves us as I say, almost exclusively with fixed capital investment to pull the train, and this gives additional significance to the ZEW Economic Sentiment index published earlier this week. Basically it is hard to see investment remaining buoyant in this climate. So, the bottom line is, that downside risks abound, and on my forecast, German GDP will be struggling hard to break the 1.5% annual threshhold for 2007.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Germany's Employment Connundrum

German unemployment has again fallen this month, and quite significantly:

The Federal Labour Agency said the number of jobseekers was down by a seasonally adjusted 45,000 last month, against economists’ expectations of a 30,000 fall, putting the jobless rate at 9 per cent. Internationally comparable figures calculated by the German statistical office using the more restrictive International Labour Office definition put the rate at 6.3 per cent in May. The new data brought the total fall in unemployment over the past 12 months to 671,000 and well over 1m since the start of the labour market recovery about two years ago. Employment showed an equally healthy picture, with 41,000 jobs created last month.

This is evidently very good news, but how do we interpret this data? Well with some caution I would argue. This is not, however, the normal response. Bertrand Benoit in the FT article linked to above is not atypical in this sense.

Benoit is almost gleeful:

The rapid fall in unemployment, long the most visible symptom of the “German disease”, has also proven wrong the doomsayers who said the country faced a future of growth without job creation.

He does, however, qualify this statement by pointing to Germany's evident structural dependence on exports:

Yet separate releases on Tuesday underscored what economists see as Germany’s vulnerable spot: its dependence on foreign markets.

Retail sales were up just 0.7 per cent in June against expectations of a 1.2 per cent rise. That followed a 2.5 per cent drop in May. Sales in the first half of the year were weaker than in the same period last year.
(See my post on this yesterday.)

As Benoit notes the "dichotomy between anaemic consumption and vigorous exports could spell trouble later this year as German exporters felt the impact from slowing demand in the US and the euro’s rising exchange rate" however, he then goes on to approvingly quote Gilles Moec, a senior economist at Bank of ­America, who says:

“We could see some wobbling in the second half, although we are confident about the six-to-nine-month horizon as we expect consumption to grab the baton from exports in supporting growth.”

So the real issue here is whether we might see anything more than "wobbling" here, and whether there are any reasons to question whether domestic consumption will in find resurrect itself and finally "take up the baton".

Well, in order to try and clarify what exactly is happening, and given a handy pointer by the Economist (who had a fairly useful article on the German labour market here), I went over to the Bundesbank, and started to consult their monthly reports.

What I found in the May 2007 edition was the following:

The situation in the labour market continued to improve at a rapid pace during the first few months of 2007 in the wake of the cyclical upturn. Employment rose once again, and unemployment showed a marked fall. The mild weather conditions also played a part in this favourable development. The number of persons in employment in the first quarter of 2007 rose by a total of 175,000, or 0.4%, to a seasonally adjusted 39.45 million. The year-on-year increase went up to around 570,000, or 1.5%, primarily in the form of employment subject to social security contributions. In particular, enterprises in the labour leasing sector, which accounted for just under half of the growth, stepped up their recruitment of new employees. Preliminary estimates by the Federal Employment Agency indicate that other forms of employment, such as low-paid part-time employment (mini jobs), activities in connection with job creation measures and employment opportunities (one-euro jobs) as well as assisted selfemployment have become less significant. Data on short-time working are not yet available for the first quarter. This form of employment is, however, likely to have increased again somewhat temporarily owing to the introduction of seasonal short-time working benefits in the construction sector. This is suggested in any event by the data for December 2006, according to which almost 30,000 more persons were receiving benefits than in November.

There was a further perceptible decline in the official unemployment figure in the first quarter. At a seasonally adjusted 3.91 million, there were 287,000 fewer persons registered as unemployed than in the final quarter of 2006. The year-on-year decline widened to 820,000 persons. At 9.4%, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 0.6 percentage point down on the quarter. Within the space of a year, the unemployment rate had gone down by a substantial 2.1 percentage points.

However, the decline in unemployment in the first quarter of 2007 is likely to have overstated the cyclical influence and the mediumterm trend somewhat. Both the favourable weather conditions and the introduction of seasonal short-time working benefits are likely to have had a certain mitigating effect. The pick-up in the labour market in the second quarter could therefore be somewhat weaker than usual. At all events, there was barely any further decline in seasonally adjusted unemployment in April and the unemployment rate remained virtually unchanged on the month at 9.2%. It is also important to remember that, for demographic reasons, the labour supply is currently decreasing, which means that the fall in unemployment appears to be greater than the increase in employment. This is also due in part to the fact that the Federal Employment Agency is continuing to adjust the unemployment statistics.


The 2007 pay round began in March with wage agreements in the chemical and construction industries. The metal-working and electrical engineering industries followed in May. Firstly, the negotiating partners in the chemical industry agreed on an increase in basic salaries of 3.6% starting from the second month of the term of the agreement, which runs for a period of 14 months. A flat-rate payment of 370 will be made in the first month, and a supplementary 0.7% of a month’s salary for each of the remaining months of the contract. In the construction industry, the negotiating partners agreed on a 12-month pay settlement with no increase in the first month followed by a 3.1% increase in the standard monthly remuneration. Additionally, monthly one-off payments of 0.4% of a single month’s salary are to be made. Owing to the objections of some regional employers’ federations to the outcome of the negotiations, however, a conciliation process has now been initiated. Moreover, the pay agreement in the construction sector, which has not yet been accepted, does not affect the existing minimum wage agreement, which is still valid until the end of August 2008 and which provides for an increase in wages and salaries of 1% as of 1 July 2007. The special payments negotiated in the chemical and construction industries can be modified or completely cancelled at individual firm level by alternative agreements. Pay in the metal-working and electrical engineering industries is to be increased by 4.1% as of June 2007. This is to be followed by a further increase of 1.7% in June 2008. A one-off payment of 3400 has been agreed for the first two months of the wage agreement, and one-off payments of 0.7% of a month’s salary for the final five months. The scheduled increases and special payments from June 2008 may be deferred by up to four months at the individual firm level. The wage agreements in the major industrial sectors are a reflection of the cyclical improvement in the trade union’s bargaining position resulting from above-average capacity utilisation and ample reserves of orders. It is also a question of giving employees a fair share of the reward for the enterprises’ economic success, which has become possible not least owing to the wage restraint of the past few years. Pay agreements in the craft trades were much more moderate than in industry. A negotiated wage increase of 2.5% was agreed in the motor vehicle trade of the Federal State of North-Rhine Westphalia as well as a one-off payment of 350 for the first month of the 12-month wage agreement. In the electrician’s trade, agreement on a 2.4% wage increase was also reached in North- Rhine Westphalia (effective as of 1 February 2007) after 34 months without a pay rise.

Wages are to be increased by a further 2.2% one year later. Similar agreements were also reached in other wage-bargaining areas. According to the Deutsche Bundesbank’s pay rate statistics, negotiated rates of pay in the first quarter of 2007 were 0.8% up on the year, compared with +1.8% in the final quarter of 2006. The latter figure was primarily attributable to the one-off flat-rate payment for Volkswagen employees to compensate for the increase in weekly working hours. Furthermore, there were one-off payments in the chemical industry and in the metal working industry in the first quarter of 2006, which were not repeated on this scale. Excluding one-off payments, negotiated rates of pay went up by 1.2% in the first quarter of the 2007, compared with 1.6% in the final quarter of 2006, when public sector banks paid a Christmas bonus which compensated for the lack of holiday pay.

Construction Costs

Following the continuous rise in the cost of construction services over the past few years, prices went up by no less than 4.3% in the first quarter of 2007, and the year-on-year rate of increase widened to 7.7%. There were price rises on this scale in virtually all subsectors of construction. This surge in construction prices is attributable to the VAT increase on 1 January 2007 and the sharply increased prices of intermediate goods. Added to this was an exceptionally high level of utilisation of machinery and equipment. Construction industry capacity has been run down in recent years, which means that the increasing recovery in demand for construction work is now encountering a scarcer supply. Furthermore, labour cost pressure, which has been moderate up to now, is likely to intensify somewhat against the backdrop of the recent wage agreement. A rise in construction prices, especially in residential construction, is usually also reflected – with a certain time lag – in the prices of older buildings and housing rents. Nevertheless, the fact that land prices are virtually unchanged is continuing to have a dampening effect.

Consumer Prices: VAT perciptible effect

In the first three months of this year, the rise in consumer prices, at a seasonally adjusted 0.6%, was distinctly sharper than in the preceding months. The year-on-year increase in the national consumer price index (CPI) went up from 1.3% in the fourth quarter of 2006 to 1.7% in the first quarter of 2007. This corresponding figure for the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) was 1.9%, compared with 1.3% at the end of 2006.

One reason for the sharp rise in prices, despite the fact that crude oil cost less on average, was that consumer energy prices rose by 2.3% on the quarter and 2.4% on the year. This was due chiefly to the increase in the standard rate of VAT from 16% to 19%, which took effect on 1 January 2007. The higher level of VAT also had a clear impact on the other components (for more information, see the initial results of a macro data analysis on pages 52-53). The cost of industrial goods (excluding energy and tobacco products) increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.5% in the first quarter of 2007, and the year-on-year figure went up from 0.6% to 1.4%. The effect of VAT on prices in the first quarter of 2007 was particularly marked in the case of motor vehicles; the year-on-year rate of price increase widened from 1.1% to 3.0%. There was an interruption in the downward price trend for household appliances. The cost of services (excluding housing rents) increased by a seasonally adjusted 0.8% on the quarter. The corresponding year-on-year rate doubled to 2%, a part in this also being played by the increase in insurance tax from 16% to 19%. As a consequence, insurance premiums were up by an average of 2.6% on the year. Significant VAT effects were apparent in the prices of hairdressing and motor vehicle repairs, for example.

In assessing the overall impact of the VAT increase, there arises the problem that price adjustments are made for other reasons as well at the same time. Therefore, the “normal” price rise excluding VAT has to be deducted from the overall price increase. In the case of the two subcomponents of goods (excluding energy and tobacco) and services (excluding housing rents), it may largely be assumed that the price trend excluding VAT would have been much the same as in the previous two years. In the absence of more detailed information, it would appear reasonable to assume that, in the case of energy, the VAT increase was passed on in full. According to this calculation, the higher rate of VAT contributed around 0.6 percentage point to the quarter-on-quarter rate of increase in the national consumer price index (CPI) and just under 0.8 percentage point to the HICP increase. 2 This increase came on top of advance price adjustments last year, such as the increase in tobacco prices of just under 5% in October. There were also indications of accelerated price adjustments in the case of other goods, such as cosmetics and clothing. If these anticipatory effects are added to the price effects in the first quarter of 2007, the overall contribution of the higher rate of VAT to the year-on-year CPI increase is roughly 1 percentage point.3 The figure is likely to be somewhat higher for the HICP. The price effect of the VAT increase was thus considerable, but smaller than the mathematical effect of a direct full pass-through of 1.4 percentage points to the CPI and 1.6 percentage points to the HICP. Two factors need to be taken into consideration in this context. One is that a reduction in social security contributions in January 2007 provided relief to enterprises. The other is that it may be assumed that there will be further lagged VAT-induced price adjustments in the course of 2007.

Source Bundesbank

According to the Economist

Zeitarbeit, as temporary work is known, accounts for 1% of all jobs, but for perhaps more than half of all those created in the past year. One example of the new breed of employers is time & more, which specialises in health care. It has around 400 people on its books, of whom 300 are nurses; two years ago it had 250. Its founder, Bernd Sydow, who sold his firm to Adecco in April, says that it supplies almost all Berlin's hospitals as well as hospitals in other big cities. Around three-fifths of time & more's nurses are called on for stints of one to three days, often at short notice. Having reduced permanent staffing levels and carrying no reserves, hospitals turn to the agency as their requirements fluctuate. Mr Sydow reckons that eventually about 5% of his clients' nurses will come from an external pool.

Agencies such as Mr Lüngen's, in contrast, do not employ those for whom they find work, as Zeitarbeit firms do, but act as brokers. Last year such firms filled 62,000 jobs in the primary labour market, three times as many as in 2002. As well as running his own agency, Mr Lüngen runs his industry's biggest trade association (there are a handful), whose membership has risen from 23 when it was founded in November 2003 to more than 200.

Regulatory reforms explain only part of the change in the labour market. As companies have come under more pressure, workers' pay has been squeezed: as higher returns on capital have been demanded, the relative price of labour has had to fall. That managers can threaten to move work to central Europe or even farther away has strengthened capital's hand. As a consequence, while company profits have risen steeply, workers have done much less well. In the past six years, the share of wages in national income has fallen from around 60% to little more than 55%.

In part, this has come about through a loosening of Germany's system of industry-wide wage deals between employers' representatives and trade unions. This corsetry was never quite as rigid as it looked: variations on centrally struck wage deals at local level and in individual companies were already part and parcel of it.

However, agreements have become more flexible, notably since 2004. Martin Leutz, a spokesman for Gesamtmetall, the engineering employers' federation, refers to a “huge breakthrough” in that year's wage round, allowing companies to deviate from agreed terms on pay, bonuses and hours if this would secure or create employment, or keep investment in Germany that would otherwise go elsewhere—albeit with the agreement of workers' representatives. More and more companies, especially in eastern Germany, have chosen to bypass the central system altogether.

Moreover, negotiated settlements have been modest. Actual pay rises, indeed, have lagged behind inflation for several years. This year it looked as if labour might at last regain some of its old bargaining power, at least in the metal industries. IG Metall, the country's biggest union, demanded a 6.5% rise from the end of April. When Gesamtmetall said no, the union called short warning strikes.

The eventual settlement, reached in early May, covers 19 months, promising 3.9% in the first year and a further 2.1% in 2008, which can be postponed for up to four months. The average annual cost for the duration, according to Gesamtmetall, is 3.3%. That was the unions' best result for several years. With inflation at 1.9% it amounts to a real increase. But not a big one; and the metal industry has been doing particularly well, with export demand riding high. Workers elsewhere are unlikely to see their pay rise by as much.

Babies Booming in Dusseldorf?

A couple of weeks back Bertrand Benoit of the Financial Times Frankfurt Office had an article on what appeared to be a resurgence in natality in Germany:

A pregnant woman is a rare sight on German city streets. But sit at a café terrace on Düsseldorf’s Königsallee, the city’s main shopping artery, and you will probably spot several swollen bellies. Statisticians in this prosperous city have been scratching their heads lately over figures that suggest Germans, among the most barren of western Europeans, are rediscovering the joys of procreation. In the first quarter of 2007, nearly 15 per cent more babies were born in Düsseldorf than in the same period last year. The Kaiserwerther Diakonie, one of the city’s three large hospitals, reported a rise of more than 16 per cent in births in the first half of the year. This and increases seen in other large cities from affluent Munich to down-at-heel Berlin have triggered ecstatic reports, with newspaper Die Welt predicting “a new baby boom”.

I see. Well I'm not sure what exactly has been happening in Dusseldorf, but I think it is pretty clear that Die Welt (and by implication Bertrand Benoit) have been rather too quick of the mark here. So much so that the German Federal Statistics office had to explicity deny the press account when it recently published its Q1 2007 birth data:

WIESBADEN – As reported by the Federal Statistical Office on the basis of provisional results, the number of live births in the first quarter of 2007 (149,300 children) rose just slightly (+0.4%) on the same quarter of 2006 (148,700). The number of boys born was 76,700, that of girls 72,600. The high rates of increase as reported by some media were hence not achieved.

So the press pumped it up, and the statistical office then had to pump it down. In fairmess of course Benoit only talks about Dusseldorf (and there may of course have been, for reasons yet to be determined, a lot of extra births in Dusseldorf early this year. And, indeed, Benoit was not alone here, nor was Die Welt, this news even made it out to Australia.

What is strange about all this is how our thinking is so asymmetrical on the topic, we cast all kind and manner of doubt on assertions from demographers when they suggest that something new, and more or less unprecedented is happening (and if you don't believe this, just take a look at the data I put together earlier in the week on what has been going on in Ukraine in the last decade or so), but then, at the first sight of a little piece of what seems to be good news (even if in fact the news in question is based on misinformation) we quickly let ourselves come to the "there, I told you so" conclusion.

Even with or without an 0.4% increase in live births at the start of this year, what stands out about the German birth numbers is how they are enormously down on the volume of children being born even as recently as the mid 1990s.

Here's the Federal Statistics Office release for 2006 births:

In 2006, 673,000 live births were registered, that was 13,000 or 1.9% less than in 2005. The number of births has been declining since 1991, with the exception of 1996 and 1997. The number of deaths had fallen continuously from 1994 to 2001, before it increased in 2002, 2003 and 2005. In 2006, there were 822,000 deaths, which was a decrease by 8,000 or 1% on the previous year. This means that in 2006, there was an excess of deaths over births of about 149,000. In the previous year, the deficit of births was by about 5,000 persons smaller. On 31 December 2006, Germany had about 82,315,000 inhabitants. That was 123,000 or 0.1% less than at the end of 2005 (82,438,000)

The thing is, none of this is exactly a new phenomenon, as the graph for the Old East and West German fertility shown below makes clear:

But this doesn't seem to hold our Bertrand back:

"Demography experts warn that it could take months, even years, to determine whether the current uptick in childbirth is a statistical anomaly or if something more fundamental is happening. Yet this has not prevented them from speculating about the factors behind the surge."

In truth it would not seem to be the demographers who need to be prevented about speculating - since by and large they are pretty accustomed to this kind of phenomenon, and are normally by nature cautious people - but rather Benoit himself.

To give you some idea in 1990 - and remember that Germany was already on aggregate below replacement fertility already at that point, 904,930 children were born, so the 630,000 odd last year is about a 30% drop in roughly a decade and a half. At this rate by 2020 Germany would be having about 450,000 childen annually, that would be a drop of 50% in 30 years, or one current generation. Now this isn't bad if you think that German is overpopulated, people need more space, Germans consume too much energy etc. But you do need to start to think about where is the money is going to come from to keep all those older people in pensions. Where it won't be coming from is from the honest sweat of Ukranian migrants, since quite simply there won't be sufficient Ukranians left to come. What is it they say already in Serbia, will the last one out turn the lights off :).

And then I have to ask myself, are the only two possible responses to all of this either superficial haymaking, or dreadful gloom and doom. Well Bertrand Benoit, at least, seems to think so:

"Germany’s demographics have spawned their own branch of non-fiction literature specialising in doomsday predictions about the collapse of the country’s welfare state and medical system. Opinion polls show few young people think they can survive in old age on the basic state pension."

Now all of this is a pity, since in the second part of the article Benoit does take the trouble to give us a run around of a lot of the most interesting and influential ideas which are knocking around in the area of low fertility and its attendant problems. Low fertility trap theorist Wolfgang Lutz gets a look in:

German-speaking countries are unique in having a full generation that has come of age seeing childbearing as abnormal,” says Wolfgang Lutz, the director of the Vienna Institute of Demography. “This has affected the psychology, with a third of young men now saying they never want to have children.

As does US cohort driven fertility theorist Richard Easterlin:

One popular explanation lies in the country’s powerful economic recovery. The link between income expectation and fertility has been generally accepted since the 1980s, when Richard Easterlin, an economist at the University of Southern California, first highlighted the correlation.

Now much as Easterlin cohort work is of some interest in explaining what you could call the "proximate causes" of fertility outcomes (like bad economic conditions in the 1930s producing the first signs of below replacement fertility while improved prospects post-WWII saw the arrival of the baby booms) it is hard pressed to explain the long term structural drivers of the enduring low fertility we are now seeing increasingly spreading across the globe.

We also get a mention of Elterngelt, which may of course have been a factor in some timing decisions in the urban areas:

"Then there is Elterngeld, a new parental allowance. Introduced nationwide in January and modelled on Scandinavian policies, the benefit entitles every new parent to a state allowance worth 67 per cent of their salary if they stop working for a year after having a child."

So my beef here, yet one more time, is not that there aren't some sensible and interesting points in the article, it is that, just as in the case of the Economist, one or two unjustifiable statements are thrown out which then condition the context of everything else which follows. Yet when you look through the piece carefully, it is often hard to see what exactly is being said, or what conclusions we are actually left to draw. Like:

“Ask young mothers now and most will tell you they want to work part-time,” he says. “The ideology has gone now and we have a consensus that mothers – and fathers – should be given the choice as to how best to raise their children.

Doubtless again there is some truth in this, although it would be nice to see some evidence for the assertion. However, whether part time (or temporary Zeitarbeit) is what they want, it is increasingly what they are likely to find. As we will see in my next installment of the great Bertrand Benoit searching for a solid idea wild goose chase.