Oct 31

Solutions for Everything, Answers to Nothing

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Could one day’s Financial Times be the best £2.50 humanity ever spends…?
 

WEDNESDAY we picked up an issue of the Financial Times, writes Bill Bonner in his Diary of a Rogue Economist – the so-called pink paper due to its distinctive color.
 
We wondered how many wrongheaded, stupid, counterproductive, delusional ideas one edition can have.
 
We were trying to understand how come the entire financial world (with the exception of Germany) seems to be singing from the same off-key, atonal and bizarre hymnbook. All want to cure a debt crisis with more debt.
 
The FT is part of the problem. It is the choirmaster to the economic elite, singing confidently and loudly the bogus chants that now guide public policy.
 
Look on practically any financial desk in any time zone anywhere in the world, and you are likely to find a copy. Walk over to the ministry of finance…or to an investment bank…or to a think tank – there’s the salmon-pink newspaper.
 
Yes, you might also find a copy of the Wall Street Journal or the local financial rag, but it is the FT that has become the true paper of record for the economic world.
 
Too bad…because it has more bad economic ideas per square inch than a Hillary Clinton speech. It is on the pages of the FT that Larry Summers is allowed to hold forth, with no warning of any sort to alert gullible readers. In the latest of his epistles, he put forth the preposterous claim that more government borrowing to pay for infrastructure would have a 6% return.
 
He says it would be a “free lunch” because it would not only put people to work and stimulate the economy, but also the return on investment, in terms of GDP growth, would make the project pay for itself…and yield a profit.
 
Yo, Larry, Earth calling…Have you ever been to New Jersey?
 
It is hard enough for a private investor, with his own money at stake, to get a 6% return. Imagine when bureaucrats are spending someone else’s money…when decisions must pass through multiple levels of committees and commissions made up of people with no business or investment experience – with no interest in controlling costs or making a profit…and no idea what they are doing.
 
Imagine, too, that these people are political appointees with strong, and usually hidden, connections to contractors and unions.
 
What kind of return do you think you would really get? We don’t know, but we’d put a minus sign in front of it.
 
But the fantasy of borrowing for “public investment” soaks the FT.
 
It is part of a mythology based on the crackpot Keynesian idea that when growth rates slow you need to stimulate “demand”.
 
How do you stimulate demand?
 
You try to get people to take on more debt – even though the slowdown was caused by too much debt.
 
On page 9 of Wednesday’s FT its chief economics commentator, Martin Wolf (a man who should be roped off with red-and-white tape, like a toxic spill), gives us the standard line on how to increase Europe’s growth rate:
“The question […] is how to achieve higher demand growth in the Euro zone and creditor countries. [T]he Euro zone lacks a credible strategy for reigniting demand [aka debt].”
It is not enough for people to decide when they want to buy something and when they have the money to pay for it. Governments…and their august advisers on the FT editorial page…need a “strategy”.
 
On its front page, the FT reports – with no sign of guffaw or irony – that the US is developing a “digital divide”.
 
Apparently, people in poor areas are less able to pay $19.99 a month for broadband Internet than people in rich areas. So the poor are less able to go online and check out the restaurant reviews or enjoy the free pornography.
 
This undermines President Obama’s campaign pledge of giving every American “affordable access to robust broadband.”
 
The FT hardly needed to mention it. But it believes the US should make a larger investment in broadband infrastructure – paid for with more debt, of course!
 
Maybe it’s in a part of the Constitution that we haven’t read: the right to broadband. Maybe it’s something they stuck in to replace the rights they took out – such as habeas corpus or privacy. 
 
We don’t know. We only bring it up because it shows how dopey the pink paper – and modern economics – can be.
 
Quantity can be measured. Quality cannot. Broadband subscriptions can be counted. The effect of access to the internet on poor families is unknown.
 
Would they be better off if they had another distraction in the house? Would they be happier? Would they be healthier? Would they be purer of heart or more settled in spirit?
 
Nobody knows. But a serious paper would at least ask.
 
It might also ask whether more “demand” or more GDP really makes people better off. It might consider how you can get real demand by handing out printing-press money. And it might pause to wonder why Zimbabwe is not now the richest country on earth.
 
But the FT does none of that.
 
Over on page 24, columnist John Plender calls corporations on the carpet for having too much money. You’d think corporations could do with their money whatever they damned well pleased.
 
But not in the central planning dreams of the FT. Corporations should use their resources in ways that the newspaper’s economists deem appropriate. And since the world suffers from a lack of demand, “corporate cash hoarding must end in order to drive recovery.”
 
But corporations aren’t the only ones at fault. Plender spares no one – except the economists most responsible for the crisis and slowdown.
“At root,” he says of Japan’s slump (which could apply almost anywhere these days), the problem “results from underconsumption.”
Aha! Consumers are not doing their part either.
 
Summers, Wolf, Plender and the “pink paper” have a solution for everything. Unfortunately, it’s always the same solution and it always doesn’t work.
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Oct 31

Tea Leaves & $2000 Gold

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Yes, some people are still forecasting $2000 gold by year’s end…
 

BOB and BARB Moriarty launched 321gold.com over 10 years ago, adding 321energy.com the better to cover oil, natural gas, gasoline, coal, solar, wind and nuclear energy as well as precious metals.
 
Previously a US Marine fighter pilot, and holding 14 international aviation records, Bob Moriarty here tells The Gold Report why he’s 100% certain that a market crash is looming… 
 
The Gold Report: Bob, in our last interview in February, we had currency devaluation in Argentina and Venezuela, interest rate hikes in Turkey and South America, and a cotton and federal bond-buying program. Just eight months later in October, we’ve got Ebola, ISIS and Russia annexing Crimea plus a rising US Dollar Index. We’ve also got pullbacks in gold, silver and pretty much all commodity prices. With all this news, what, in your view, should people really be focusing in on?
 
Bob Moriarty: There is a flock of black swans overhead, any one of which could be catastrophic. The fundamental problems with the world’s debt crisis and banking crisis have never been solved. The fundamental issues with the Euro have never been solved. The world is a lot closer to the edge of the cliff today than it was back in February.
 
About ISIS, I think I was six years old when my parents pointed out a hornet’s nest. They said, “Whatever you do, don’t swat the hornets’ nest.” Of course, being six years old, I took stick and went up there and swatted the hornets’ nest, which really pissed off the hornets. I learned my lesson.
 
We swatted the hornets’ nest when we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. What we did is we empowered every religious fruitcake in the world. We said, “Okay, here’s your gun, go shoot somebody. We’ll plant flowers.” We are reaping what we sowed. What we need to do is leave them to their own devices and let them figure out what they want to do. It’s our presence in the Middle East that is creating a problem.
 
TGR: Will stepping back allow the Middle East to heal itself, or will there be continued civil wars that threaten the world?
 
Bob Moriarty: We are the catalyst in the Middle East. We have been the catalyst under the theory that we are the world’s policemen and that we’re better and smarter than everybody else and rich enough to afford to fight war after war. None of those beliefs are true. The idea that America is exceptional is hogwash. We’re not smarter. We’re not better. We’re certainly not effective policemen.
 
The Congress of the United States has been bought and paid for by special interest groups: part of it is Wall Street, part of it is the banks and part of it is Israel. We’re just trying to do things that we can’t do. What the US needs to do is mind its own business.
 
TGR: You’ve commented recently that you’re expecting a stock market crash soon. Can you elaborate on that?
 
Bob Moriarty: We have two giant elephants in the room fighting it out. One is the inflation elephant and one is the deflation elephant. The deflation elephant is the $710 trillion worth of derivatives, which is $100,000 per man, woman and child on earth. Those derivatives have to blow up and crash. That’s going to be deflationary.
 
At the same time, we’ve got the world awash in debt, more debt than we’ve ever had in history, and it’s been inflationary in terms of energy and the stock market. When the stock and bond markets implode, as we know they’re going to, we’re going to see some really scary things. We’ll go to quantitative easing infinity, and we’re going to see the price of gold go through the roof. It’s going to go to the moon when everything else crashes.
 
TGR: How are you looking at the crash – short term, before the end of this year? How imminent are we?
 
Bob Moriarty: Soon. But I’m in the market. Not in the general market, but I’m in resources. There’s a triangle of value created by a guy named John Exter: Exter’s Pyramid. It’s an inverted pyramid. At the top there are derivatives, and then there are miscellaneous assets going down: securitized debt and stocks, broad currency and physical notes. At the very bottom – the single most valuable asset at the end of time – is gold. When the derivatives, bonds, currencies and stock markets crash, the last man standing is going to be gold.
 
TGR: So the last man standing is the actual commodity, not the stocks?
 
Bob Moriarty: Not necessarily. The stocks represent fractional ownership of a real commodity. There are some really wonderful companies out there with wonderful assets that are selling for peanuts.
 
TGR: In one of your recent articles, “Black Swans and Brown Snakes“, you were tracking the US Dollar Index as it climbed 12 weeks in a row, and you discussed the influence of the Yen, the Euro, the British Pound. Can you explain the US Dollar Index and the impact it has on silver and gold?
 
Bob Moriarty: First of all, when people talk about the US Dollar Index, they think it has something to do with the Dollar and it does not. It is made up of the Euro, the Yen, the Mexican Peso, the British Pound and some other currencies. When the Euro goes down, the Dollar Index goes up. When the Yen goes down, the Dollar Index goes up. The Dollar, as measured by the Dollar Index, got way too expensive. It was up 12 weeks in a row. On Oct. 3, it was up 1.33% in one day, and that’s a blow-off top. It’s very obvious in hindsight. I took a look at the charts for silver and gold – if you took a mirror to the Dollar Index, you saw the charts for silver and gold inversely. When people talk about gold going down and silver going down, that’s not true. The Euro went down. The Yen went down. The Pound went down and the value of gold and silver didn’t change. It only changed in reference to the US Dollar. In every currency except the Dollar, gold and silver haven’t changed in value at all since July.
 
The US Dollar Index got irrationally exuberant, and it’s due for a crash. When it crashes, it’s going to take the stock market with it and perhaps the bond market. If you see QE increase, head for your bunker.
 
TGR: Should I conclude that gold and silver will escalate?
 
Bob Moriarty: Yes. There was an enormous flow of money from China, Japan, England, Europe in general into the stock and bond markets. What happened from July was the equivalent of the water flowing out before a tsunami hits. It’s not the water coming in that signals a tsunami, it’s the water going out. Nobody paid attention because everybody was looking at it in terms of silver or gold or platinum or oil, and they were not looking at the big picture. You’ve got to look at the big picture. A financial crash is coming. I’m not going to beat around the bush. I’m not saying there’s a 99% chance. There’s a 100% chance.
 
TGR: Why does it have to crash? Why can’t it just correct?
 
Bob Moriarty: Because the world’s financial system is in such disequilibrium that it can’t gradually go down. It has to crash. The term for it in physics is called entropy. When you spin a top, at first it is very smooth and regular. As it slows down, it becomes more and more unstable and eventually it simply crashes. The financial system is doing the same thing. It’s becoming more and more unstable every day.
 
TGR: You spoke at the Cambridge House International 2014 Silver Summit Oct. 23-24. Bo Polny also spoke. He predicts that gold will be the greatest trade in history. He’s calling for $2000 per ounce gold before the end of this year. We’re moving into the third seven-year cycle of a 21-year bull cycle. Do you agree with him?
 
Bob Moriarty: I’ve seen several interviews with Bo. The only problem with his cycles theory is you can’t logically or factually see his argument. Now if you look at my comments about silver, gold and the stock market, factually we know the US Dollar Index went up 12 weeks in a row. That’s not an opinion; that’s a fact. I’m using both facts and logic to make a point.
 
When a person walks in and says, okay, my tea leaves say that gold is going to be $2000 by the end of the year, you are forced to either believe or disbelieve him based on voodoo. I don’t predict price; I don’t know anybody who can. If Bo actually can, he’s going to be very popular and very rich.
 
TGR: Many people have predicted a significant crash for a number of years. How do you even begin to time this thing? A lot of people who have been speculating on this have lost money.
 
Bob Moriarty: That’s a really good point. People have been betting against the Yen for years. That’s been one of the most expensive things you can bet against. Likewise, people have been betting on gold and silver and they’ve lost a lot of money. I haven’t made the money that I wish I’d made over the last three years, but I’ve taken a fairly conservative approach and I don’t think I’m in bad shape.
 
TGR: Describe your conservative approach.
 
Bob Moriarty: The way to make money in any market is to buy when things are cheap and sell when they’re dear. It’s as simple as that. Markets go up and markets go down. There is no magic to anything.
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Oct 30

Peak Oil? How About Peak Oil Storage?

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Here’s how cheap US energy promises an ‘epic’ turnaround in the US economy…
 

MATT BADIALI is editor of the S&A Resource Report, a monthly investment advisory focusing on natural resources from Stansberry & Associates.
 
A regular contributor to Growth Stock Wire, Badiali has experience as a hydrologist, geologist and consultant to the oil industry, and holds a master’s degree in geology from Florida Atlantic University.
 
Here he tells The Gold Report‘s sister title The Mining Report that cheap oil prices and the economic prosperity they bring can make politicians and investors look smarter than they are. Hence Badiali’s forecast that Hillary Clinton…if elected in 2016…could go become one of America’s most popular presidents. Yes, really.
 
The Mining Report: You have said that Hillary Clinton could go down in history as one of the best presidents ever. Why?
 
Matt Badiali: Before we get your readership in an uproar, let me clarify that the oddsmakers say that Hillary Clinton is probably going to take the White House in the next election. Even Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet said she is a slam dunk. I’m not personally a huge fan of Hillary Clinton, but I believe whoever the next president is will ride a wave of economic benefits that will cast a rosy glow on the administration.
 
Her husband benefitted from the same lucky timing. In the 1980s, people had money and felt secure. It wasn’t because of anything Bill Clinton did. He just happened to step onto the train as the economy started humming. Hillary is going to do the same thing. In this case, an abundance of affordable energy will fuel that glow. The fact is things are about to get really good in the United States.
 
TMR: Are you saying shale oil and gas production can overcome all the other problems in the country?
 
Matt Badiali: Cheap natural gas is already impacting the economy. In 2008, we were paying $14 per thousand cubic feet. Then, in March 2012, the price bottomed below $2 because we had found so much of it. We quit drilling the shale that only produces dry gas because it wasn’t economic. You can’t really export natural gas without spending billions to reverse the natural gas importing infrastructure that was put in place before the resource became a domestic boom. The result is that natural gas is so cheap that European and Asian manufacturing companies are moving here. Cheap energy trumps cheap labor any day.
 
The same thing is happening in tight crude oil. We are producing more oil today than we have in decades. We are filling up every tank, reservoir and teacup because we need more pipelines. And it is just getting started. Companies are ramping up production and hiring lots of people. By 2016, the US will have manufacturing, jobs and a healthy export trade. It will be an economic resurgence of epic proportions.
 
TMR: The economist and The Prize author Daniel Yergin forecasted US oil production of 14 million barrels a day by 2035. What are the implications for that both in terms of infrastructure and price?
 
Matt Badiali: Let’s start with the infrastructure. The US produces over 8.5 million barrels a day right now; a jump to 14 would be a 65% increase. That would require an additional 5.5 million barrels a day.
 
To put this in perspective, the growth of oil production from 2005 to today is faster than at any other time in American history, including the oil boom of the 1920s and 1930s. And we’re adding it in bizarre places like North Dakota, places that have never produced large volumes of oil in the past.
 
North Dakota now produces over 1.1 million barrels a day, but doesn’t have the pipeline capacity to move the oil to the refineries and the people who use it. There also aren’t enough places to store it. The bottlenecks are knocking as much as $10 per barrel off the price to producers and resulting in lots of oil tankers on trains.
 
And it isn’t just happening in North Dakota. Oil and gas production in Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and even parts of Texas is overwhelming our existing infrastructure. That is why major pipeline and transportation companies have exploded in value. They already have some infrastructure in place and they have the ability to invest in new pipelines.
 
The problem we are facing in refining is that a few decades ago we thought we were running out of the good stuff, the light sweet crude oil. So refiners invested $100 billion to retool for the heavier, sour crudes from Canada, Venezuela and Mexico. That leaves little capacity for the new sources of high-quality oil being discovered in our backyard. That limited capacity results in lower prices for what should be premium grades.
 
One solution would be to lift the restriction on crude oil exports that dates back to the 1970s, when we were feeling protectionist. It is illegal for us to export crude oil. And because all the new oil is light sweet crude, the refiners can only use so much. That means the crude oil is piling up.
 
Peak oil is no longer a problem, but peak storage is. If we could ship the excess overseas, producers would get a fair price for the quality of their products. That would lead them to invest in more discovery. However, if they continue to get less money for their products, investment will slow. 
 
TMR: Is everything on sale, as Rick Rule likes to say?
 
Matt Badiali: Everything is on sale. But the great thing about oil is it is not like metals. It is cyclical, but it’s critical. If you want your boats to cross oceans, your airplanes to fly, your cars to drive and your military to move, you have to have oil. You don’t have to buy a new ship today, which would take metals. But if you want that sucker to go from point A to point B, you have to have oil. That’s really important. There have been five cycles in oil prices in the last few years.
 
Oil prices rise and then fall. That’s what we call a cycle. Each cycle impacts both the oil price and the stock prices of oil companies. These cycles are like clockwork. Their periods vary, but it’s been an annual event since 2009. Shale, especially if we can export it, could change all of that.
 
The rest of the world’s economy stinks. Russia and Europe are flirting with recession. China is a black box, but it is not as robust as we thought it was. Extra supply in the US combined with less demand than expected is leading to temporary low oil prices. But strategically and economically, oil is too important for the price to get too low for too long.
 
I was recently at a conference in Washington DC where International Energy Agency Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven predicted that without significant investment in the oil fields in the Middle East, we can expect a $15 per barrel increase in the price of oil globally by 2025.
 
I don’t foresee a lot of people investing in those places right now. A shooting war is not the best place to be invested. I was in Iraq last year and met the Kurds, and they’re wonderful people. This is just a nightmare for them. And for the rest of the world it means a $15 increase in oil.
 
For investors, the prospect of oil back at $100 per barrel is not the end of the world. With oil prices down 20% from recent highs and the best companies down over 30% in value, it is a buying opportunity. It means the entire oil sector has just gone on sale, including the companies building the infrastructure.
 
As oil prices climb back to $100, companies will continue to invest in producing more oil. And that will turn Hillary Clinton’s eight-year presidency into an economic wonderland.
 
TMR: The last time you and I chatted, you explained that different shales have different geology with different implications for cracking it, drilling it and transporting it. Are there parts of the country where it’s cheaper to produce and companies will get higher prices?
 
Matt Badiali: The producers in the Bakken are paying about twice as much to ship their oil by rail as the ones in the Permian or in Texas are paying to put it in a pipeline. The Eagle Ford is still my favorite quality shale and it is close to existing pipelines and export infrastructure, if that becomes a viable option. There are farmers being transformed into millionaires in Ohio as we speak, thanks to the Utica Shale.
 
TMR: What about the sands providers? Is that another way to play the service companies?
 
Matt Badiali: Absolutely. The single most important factor in cracking the shale code is sand. If the pages of a book are the thin layers of rocks in the shale, pumping water is how the producers pop the rock layers apart and sand is the placeholder that props them open despite the enormous pressure from above. Today, for every vertical hole, drillers create long horizontals and divide them into 30+ sections with as much as 1,500 pounds of sand per section. A single pad in the Eagle Ford could anchor four vertical holes with four horizontal legs requiring the equivalent of 200 train car loads of sand.
 
Investors need to distinguish between companies that provide highly refined sand for oil services and companies that bag sand for school playgrounds. Fracking sand is filtered and graded for consistency to ensure the most oil is recovered. Investors have to be careful about the type of company they are buying.
 
TMR: Coal still fuels a big chunk of the electricity in the US Can a commodity be politically incorrect and a good investment?
 
Matt Badiali: Coal has a serious headwind, and it’s not just that it’s politically incorrect. It competes with natural gas as an electrical fuel so you would expect the two commodities would trade for roughly the same price for the amount of electricity they can generate, but they don’t. The Environmental Protection Agency is enacting emission standards that are effectively closing down coal-fired power plants. And because it is baseload power, you can’t easily shut it off and turn it back on; it has to be maintained. That means it doesn’t augment variable power like solar, as well as natural gas, which can be turned on and off like a jet engine turbine. So coal has two strikes against it. It is dirty and it isn’t flexible.
 
Some coal companies could survive this transition, however. Metallurgical coal (met coal) companies, which produce a clean coal for making steel, have better prospects than steam coal. Along with steam coal, met coal prices are at a six-year low. 
 
Generally, I want to own coal that can be exported to India or China, where they really need it. Japan has replaced a lot of its nuclear power with coal and Germany restarted all the coal-fired power plants it had closed because of carbon emissions goals. We are already seeing deindustrialization there due to high energy prices. Cheap energy sources, including coal, will be embraced. I just don’t know when.
 
TMR: Thank you for your time, Matt.
 
Matt Badiali: Thank you.
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Oct 29

QE Finished, Gold Fans Clearly Crackpots

Gold Price Comments Off on QE Finished, Gold Fans Clearly Crackpots
The US Fed just ended quantitative easing. Anyone thinking history or gold worth a look must be a crackpot for worrying…
 

TIME WAS the Gold Standard simply existed…like rain or snooker tables, writes Adrian Ash at BullionVault
 
Zero rates and quantitative easing are the monetary equivalents today. Doing anything else puts a cental bank into the “hall of shame” according to Bloomberg. The Financial Times gasps that today the US Fed’s “grand experiment is drawing to a close…”
 
Oh yeah? The world hasn’t yet seen the last of US quantitative easing, we think. Not by a long chalk. QE is getting new life after 15 years in Japan, the world’s fourth largest economy, and it has barely begun in the single largest, the Eurozone. 
 
Only China to go, and the QE Standard will be truly global. But financial markets and pricing mechanisms the world over are already through the looking glass. After $3 trillion of US Fed asset purchases, climbing back to the other side will take more than a month’s rest from extra money printing. 
 
The Gold Standard, meantime, now exists only to fill space when financial hacks run out of other silly things to talk about. 
 
Take this classic Phil Space nonsense, for instance, from the Washington Post.
 
To recap… 
 
Over a week ago, billionaire tech-stock investor and former PayPal boss Peter Thiel appeared on right-wing shock jock Glenn Beck’s TV show. He mumbled something about the value of money…reality…and the virtual world of monetary politics we’ve all lived in since 1971. 
 
Nothing to see or hear in that. Even the laziest gold bug can see US president Nixon’s decision to end the Dollar’s gold link changed nothing and everything all at once. Metaphysical mumblings are the best anyone’s since managed in trying to understand how humanity got beyond itself in that moment.
 
Yet on Friday, Thiel’s comments were picked up by a right-leaning think tank blogger…and finally last night, this “unthink” piece appeared at the Washington Post online. 
 
So what? Well, George Selgin, new Cato Institute director, said earlier this month that anyone challenging the way money currently works must do better if they want to be taken seriously. Amateur bug-o-sphere stuff only makes things worse.
 
But Selgin underplayed the task ahead, I fear. QE, zero rates and unlimited money-supply growth are big, important issues. Today’s US Fed meeting proved that once again. 
 
On the other side of the debate however, even the most qualified and serious economist daring to doubt the sanity of printing money to buy up government debt, mortgages, stocks or other nation’s currencies now looks like a “crackpot” to most politicians, financiers and reporters today.
 
Because, hey! Nothing bad has happened. No inflation, currency destruction or financial apocalypse fuelled by money-from-nowhere. 
 
Not yet. And now the Fed is turning off the taps. For now.
 
What could possibly go wrong? We must be crazy to bother owning gold as financial insurance, never mind worrying about how money itself…as basic to civilization as the written word…is being bent and remade in the latest central-bank experiments.
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Oct 19

I See Two Horsemen

Gold Price Comments Off on I See Two Horsemen
Patience needed, but the Dollar has been rising with the Gold/Silver Ratio…
 

The BLACK LINE is where we have been, writes Gary Tanashian in his Notes from the Rabbit Hole. The blue line is a projection of what a typical correction (whether a healthy interim one or a bear market kick off) might look like.
 
 
We used real charts of the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 to gauge the entry into the current correction and now the resistance points to the expected bounce off of the US market’s first healthy sentiment reset in quite some time. But our cartoon above gives you the favored plan on how the correction could play out.
 
Last week, the market bounced on what can only be viewed as a sad attempt by a Fed member (a perceived Hawk, no less) to jawbone a stop to the impulsive bearishness. The strength of the US Dollar and first decent correction since 2011 seems to have spooked the folks over at Policy Central and suddenly they are talking QE again. That does not inspire confidence, if you are a bull.
 
Be that as it may, we have been due for a bounce to clean out the over bearish and over sold conditions. We are making no claims to know whether or not this is a bear market kick-off because when the process is complete per the sketch above, a trade-worthy rally should materialize when a notable low is ground out.
 
An impulsive straight line drop, to support though it is in many cases (ref. the real charts of the Semiconductors and the Banks), and recovery on policy makers’ jawboning is not usually a path to sustained recovery.
 
NFTRH is managing a bounce (the first ‘up’ phase of the blue line above) until/unless it proves it is more than that. Traders should be nimble. If the projection proves out, a renewed decline into November could follow, which should come out of a good setup for bearishly inclined traders.
 
Moving on, volatility is back and while it seemed to come out of nowhere, it was easily readable in advance by steadily declining junk vs. quality bond yields spreads, declining index and sector participation rates and of course, the strong US Dollar (which is decidedly not on the favored agenda of asset-friendly policy makers), among several other indicators we tracked into and through the first part of the correction.
 
Per the scenario above, in the likely event a bottom has not yet been registered, one will eventually be ground out and it should be good for a trade at least. Personally, I have positioned for a bounce right here but that is not recommended for anyone who is not willing to trade on a dime, in-day and in-week. The answer to the question ‘cyclical bull ender or not?’ does not need to come yet, but there is going to be data galore going forward. We’ll work the data as it comes in. Meanwhile, an intermediate bear trend is in force.
 
We had gauged the outperformance of the Emerging Markets (EEM vs. SPY) for much of this year, but when the ratio broke down we noted it in real time. So we shorted the EM’s and prepared for coming bearishness in US markets. We have been charting Europe’s decline for months now, initially shorting Spain, which had previously been our guide to the upside speculative impulse that took hold in Europe.
 
Global markets are nearly but not yet broken with Europe and the World index at key big picture support, the Emerging Markets having made a false breakout and failure, China actually looking interesting here, Japan playing the ‘push me, pull you’ game with its currency and Canada doing some bearish things as the TSX not only loses its blue sky breakout, but starts snapping support levels. The TSX-V (CDNX) is leading the way down and is flat out destroyed right along with any speculative spirits in the world of scammy little Canadian ‘resource’ plays.
 
Early in 2014 we charted the CCI index of commodities, and its hold of critical support at 500 as well as its resistance to the breakout and rally that followed. More recently we managed the decline to and through that support level while maintaining a “not interested” stance the whole way. Commodities can bounce with any ‘inflation trade’ bounce (watch TIP-TLT and other inflation expectations indicators) that may manifest.
 
We were not interested in commodities because we were given no reason to have a favorable view of inflation expectations, which through the TIP-TLT ratio were gauged to be burrowing through the floor week after week. This was also another negative for the US stock market, which had been feasting like Goldilocks on the bears’ porridge.
 
Foremost among the indicators have been Yield Curves generally favoring US stocks and hurting gold, until the curve burst upward beginning last week. This has not surprisingly come with the US stock market correction. If the market bounces, the curve can decline and junk-quality bond spreads can bounce. Also, the VIX needs a rest.
 
The big daddy of indicators however, has been the Two Horsemen, i.e. the Gold-Silver ratio and the US Dollar rising together. This was an indicator of failing liquidity which NFTRH and indeed our public website, noted in real time.
 
It is the indicators even more so than straight up technical analysis that will help us decide whether or not the bull market has ended as we move forward through coming data points.
 
Deflationary and economic growth troubles across the globe are blamed for the recent strength in the US Dollar and to a degree that holds merit. The other support has been the very real economic recovery in the US (beginning with the Semiconductor sector) born of very unreal (i.e. unnatural and unsustainable) policy inputs.
 
Naturally, it stands to reason that if Dollar compromising policy is promoted to keep assets aloft, then a strong Dollar is unwelcome. Because not only would it begin to eat away at exporting sectors like manufacturing, but it would also make assets less expensive. But that should be a good thing, no? Declining prices in things like oil, food and services? Not on the one-way street that is our current system of Inflation onDemand.
 
The Yen is strong lately and the Euro can gain a bounce bid. This means that the USD can continue to weaken from its impulsively over bought and over loved levels. But on the big picture USD has been moving upward from a long-term basing pattern.
 
Gold is meantime favored over silver, given the move in the Gold/Silver Ratio and diminishing global liquidity. Beyond that, gold’s fundamentals have not been constructive for some time now, no matter how often idealists click the heels of their ruby slippers.
 
That was then, this is now. Gold is counter cyclical per the Gold-Commodities chart in this post. This one chart is the very reason that NFTRH never did take its focus off the biggest picture view of an ongoing global economic contraction in progress. This would be the gateway to a real bull market in gold mining stocks, but it is also the more difficult pathway because the inflationists get weeded out along the way as silver does not go to the moon and lazy analysis gets punished, not rewarded.
 
Gold stocks are counter cyclical and macro indicators, and they say we may be at the start of grinding out a counter cyclical phase. But note the word grind. That’s what it has been and what it could continue to be for a while yet. As gold slowly asserts itself vs. cyclical commodities, cost-input fundamentals gradually improve in the industry and as gold slowly asserts itself vs. stock markets an important component of investor psychology slowly comes into place.
 
Patience…the macro does not pivot over night.
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Oct 16

Marc Faber: Get Gold, Get Ready for QE99

Gold Price Comments Off on Marc Faber: Get Gold, Get Ready for QE99
Tapering QE to zero, if it happens this month, will be temporary reckons Marc Faber…
 

SWISS-BORN and -educated Marc Faber’s distinct voice is a common sound on CNBC and Bloomberg TV when it comes to big-picture forecasting in investments, says Sumit Roy at Hard Assets Investor.
 
Publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom Report, Faber’s views on the markets are highly regarded. Here I spoke to him about the recent moves in stocks, the Dollar and gold.
 
HardAssetsInvestor: What’s your view on the stock market? Is the recent volatility a sign of a top or will stocks hit new records by the end of the year?
 
Marc Faber: The likelihood that we have something more serious now is quite high. There has been considerable technical damage in the market, with approximately half of Nasdaq and Russell 2000 shares already down 20% or more from their highs. Combine that with the fact that Treasury bond yields have again declined meaningfully, and it suggests the economy is not on a very sound footing.
 
We are in a period of elevated prices. From real estate to equities to bonds, there is a lot of excess. Going forward, the return on these assets will be very disappointing.
 
HAI: The strength in the bond market has surprised a lot of people. We’re seeing record-low interest rates for German and other European bonds. And even in the US, the 10-year yield is now hitting a new low for the year. Why are investors buying these bonds?
 
Marc Faber: The bond market is manipulated by central bank buying of government debt. Yields are lower than they would otherwise be if the Fed and other central banks didn’t buy them. Secondly, the decline in yields may be a sign that bonds buyers don’t believe in the global recovery story when it comes to the economy. In fact, the low yields on bonds would suggest that we may be entering a period of deflation.
 
HAI: The US Dollar has been rising and hit a four-year high earlier this month. Is the Dollar going to continue to rally from here?
 
Marc Faber: The trade and current account deficit of the US has been coming down because the balance in the energy trade has improved a lot. The US is almost oil self-sufficient. It’s become the largest crude oil producer in the world.
 
And even though the US economy is not doing particularly well, it’s in a slightly better position than the European economy. Thus, there are some reasons the Dollar should be stronger.
 
That said, based on sentiment figures, everybody is now bullish on the US Dollar. Usually when you have this kind of consensus, what can happen is a powerful contra-move. In other words, the Dollar could weaken for a while. That would be good for stocks and precious metals.
 
Additionally, if the Fed finds that the Dollar is too strong, it can print money. But you just don’t know what these academics will eventually decide to do. That’s why I recommend investors have a diversified portfolio, because nobody knows what the world will look like five years from now.
  
HAI: The Fed has said it’s going to end QE this month and raise interest rates sometime in 2015. Do you believe that will happen?
 
Marc Faber: It won’t raise interest rates for a long time. Certainly not in real terms. It’s possible that it’ll end QE4 and that the asset purchases come to an end. But only temporarily. When it introduced QE1, my view was that it would go to QE99. And I still maintain that view.
 
HAI: You’re saying that it’ll have to come back and do QE again sometime in the future?
 
Marc Faber: Yes. One of the reasons we have weak growth in the Western world, and in the US, and in Japan, is because of government interventions with fiscal policies. Spending – supported by money printing – has led to an ever-expanding government as a percent of the economy. And the bigger the government is, the slower economic growth will be. The extreme is when the government controls everything in the economy, such as under the socialist/communist planning system.
 
HAI: One way investors can hedge against all these risks is gold. We saw prices reach a low of $1183 last week, but it’s bounced back since then. What do you make of gold right now?
 
Marc Faber: I’ve advocated owning gold since the late 1990s. It is a safe investment in times of monetary uncertainty and monetary inflation. I would keep roughly 25% of my assets in gold.
 
HAI: Do you consider it an investment that’s going to stay stable? Or something that can increase in value from current levels?
 
Marc Faber: We had a huge bull market in gold that outperformed just about any other investment between 1999 and September 2011. We’re now three years into a correction phase. Can gold drop below $1000 first before it goes up meaningfully? It’s possible. Because as you know, there has been some manipulation in the gold market. However, gold will go higher over time.
 
HAI: Do you have any thoughts on oil’s big decline? Prices are down $20-25 per barrel since June.
 
Marc Faber: The markets have become quite volatile, largely because of money printing. This concerns not just oil, but all commodities. The price of corn, wheat, soybeans are all down around 50% from the highs. They can be down for a while, but in my view, they will not stay down.
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Sep 30

Bond Bubble vs. the Ice Age

Gold Price Comments Off on Bond Bubble vs. the Ice Age
Deflation and zero yields forever? Or a bond bubble bigger than we can comprehend…?
 

It SHOULD be striking that government bonds, in nominal terms, have never been this expensive in history, writes Tim Price on his blog, ThePriceOfEverything.
 
Even as there have never been so many of them.
 
The laws of supply and demand would seem to have been repealed. How could this state of affairs have come about? We think the answer is three-fold:
  1. The bond market is clearly not perfectly efficient;
  2. Bond yields are being manipulated by central banks through a deliberate policy of financial repression (and QE, of course);
  3. Many bond fund managers may be unaware, or unconcerned, that the benchmarks against which they choose to be assessed are illogical and irrational.
What might substantiate our third claim?
 
It would be the festering intellectual plague that bedevils the fund management world known as indexation. Bond indices allocate their largest weights to the most indebted issuers. This is the precise opposite of what any rational bond investor would do – namely, to overweight their portfolio according to those issuers with the highest credit quality (or perhaps, all things being equal, with the highest yields).
 
But bond indices do exactly the opposite. They force any manager witless enough to have fallen victim to them to load up on the most heavily indebted issuers, which currently also happen to offer amongst the puniest nominal yields.
 
As evidence for the prosecution we cite the US Treasury bond market, the world’s largest. The US national debt currently stands at $17.7 trillion…with a ‘T’. Benchmark 10-year Treasuries currently offer a yield to maturity of 2.5%. US consumer price inflation currently stands at 1.7%. (We offer no opinion as to whether US CPI is a fair reflection of US inflation.) On the basis that US “inflation” doesn’t change meaningfully over the next 10 years, US bond investors are going to earn an annualised return just a smidgen above zero per cent.
 
How do US Treasury yields stack up against the longer term trend in interest rates? The following data are from @Macro_Tourist:
 
10-year US Treasury yields since 1791
 
The chart shows the direction of travel for US market rates since independence, given that the Continental Congress defaulted on its debts.
 
Now, it may well be that US Treasury yields have further to fall. As SocGen’s Albert Edwards puts it:
“Our ‘Ice Age’ thesis has long called for sub-1% bond yields and I see this extending to the US and UK in due course.”
As things stand, the trend is with the polar bears. The German bond market has already broken down through the 1% level (10 year Bunds at the time of writing currently trade at 0.98%). 
Deutsche Bank Research – specifically Jim Reid, Nick Burns and Seb Barker – recently published an extensive examination of global debt markets (“Bonds: the final bubble frontier?”, hat tip to Arnaud Gandon of Heptagon Capital). Deutsche’s strategists ask whether bonds constitute the culminating financial bubble after almost two decades of them:
“After the Asian / Russian / LTCM crises of the late 1990s we entered a supercycle of very aggressive policy responses to major global problems. In turn this helped encourage the 2000 equity bubble, the 2007 housing / financial / debt bubble, the 2010-2012 Euro Sovereign crisis and arguably some recent signs of a China credit bubble (a theme we discussed in our 2014 Default Study). At no point have the imbalances been allowed a full free market conclusion.
 
“Aggressive intervention has merely pushed the bubble elsewhere. With no obvious areas left to inflate in the private sector, these bubbles have now arguably moved into government and central bank balance sheets with unparalleled intervention and low growth allowing it to coincide with ultra-low bond yields.”
The French statesman George Clemenceau once commented that war is too important to be left to generals. At this stage in the game one might be tempted to add that monetary policy is far too important to be left to politicians and central bankers.
 
We get by with free markets in all other walks of economic and financial life – why let the price of money itself be dictated by a handful of State-appointed bureaucrats?
 
We were once told by a fund manager (a Japanese equity manager, to be precise – rare breed that that is now), around the turn of the millennium, that Japan would be the dress rehearsal, and that the rest of the world would be the main event. Again, the volume of the mood music is rising in SocGen’s favour.
 
We nurse no particular view in relation to how the government bond bubble (for it surely is) plays out – whether yields grind relentlessly lower for some time yet, or whether they burst spectacularly on the back of the overdue return of bond market vigilantes or some other mystical manifestation of long-delayed economic common sense.
 
But Warren Buffett himself once said that:
“If you’ve been playing poker for half an hour and you still don’t know who the patsy is, you’re the patsy.”
The central bank bond market poker game has been in train for a good deal longer than half an hour, and the stakes have never been higher. Sometimes, if you simply can’t fathom the new rules of the game, it’s surely better not to play. So we’re not in the business of chasing US Treasury yields, or Gilt yields, or Bund yields, ever lower – we’ll keep our bond exposure limited to only the highest quality credits yielding the highest possible return.
 
Even then, if Fed tapering does finally dissipate in favour of Fed hiking – stranger things have happened, though we can’t think of any off the top of our head – it will make sense at the appropriate time to eliminate conventional debt instruments from client portfolios almost entirely.
 
But indexation madness is not limited to the world of bonds. Its malign, unthinking mental slavery has fixed itself upon the equity markets, too. Equity indices, as is widely acknowledged, allocate their largest weights to the largest and most expensive stocks. What’s extraordinary is that even as stock markets have powered ahead, index trackers have enjoyed their highest ever inflows.
 
The latest IMA data show that more UK retail money was put into tracker funds in July than in any other month since records began. We accept the ‘low cost’ aspect of tracker funds and ETFs; we take serious issue with the idea of buying stock markets close to or at their all-time high and being in for any downside ride on a 1:1 basis. 
 
But there is a middle way between the Scylla of bonds at all-time low yields and the Charybdis of stocks at all-time high prices: Value.
 
Seth Klarman of the Baupost Group once wrote as follows:
“Stock market efficiency is an elegant hypothesis that bears quite limited resemblance to the real world. For over half a century, disciples of Benjamin Graham, the intellectual father of value investing, have prospered buying bargains that efficient market theory says should not exist.
 
“They take advantage of the short-term, relative performance orientation of other investors. They employ an absolute (not relative) valuation compass, patiently exploiting mispricings while avoiding overpaying for what is popular and trendy. Many are willing to concentrate their exposures, knowing that their few best ideas are better than their hundredth best, and confident in their ability to tell which is which. 
 
“Value investors thrive not by incurring high risk (as financial theory would suggest), but by deliberately avoiding or hedging the risks they identify. While efficient market theorists tell you to calculate the beta of a stock to determine its riskiness, most value investors have never calculated a beta. Efficient market theory advocates moving a portfolio of holdings closer to the efficient frontier. Most value investors have no idea what this is or how they might accomplish such a move. This is because financial market theory may be elegant, but it is not particularly useful in formulating a successful investment strategy. 
 
“If academics espousing the efficient market theory had no influence, their flawed views would make little difference. But, in fact, their thinking is mainstream and millions of investors make their decisions based on the supposition that owning stocks, regardless of valuation and analysis, is safe and reasonable. Academics train hundreds of thousands of students each year, many of whom go to Wall Street and corporate suites espousing these beliefs. Because so many have been taught that outperforming the market is impossible and that stocks are always fairly and efficiently priced, investors have increasingly adopted strategies that eventually will prove both riskier and far less rewarding than they are currently able to comprehend.”
That sounds about right to us. Conventional investing, both in stocks and bonds on an indexed or benchmarked basis, “will prove both riskier and far less rewarding” than many investors are currently able to comprehend.
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Sep 28

Cash Starved Mining Stocks Go Bang

Gold Price Comments Off on Cash Starved Mining Stocks Go Bang
Tough times for Australian miners are not letting up…
 

RICHARD KARN is managing editor of the Emerging Trends Report.
 
Speaking here to The Gold Report, he notes how nearly 150 mining companies listed on the Australian Stock Exchange went into bankruptcy during the fiscal year that ended June 30, and another 23 have gone under since then. Now Karn believes a fresh wave of Aussie mining stock failures will hit when the current financial quarter ends September 30. A major shakeout at some point appears likely…
 
The Gold Report: When we interviewed you in April, you said the pending demise of zombie companies on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) was a good thing because there were too many deadbeats in the specialty metal sector. Has that process worked its way through the system or are there still some “walking dead” making it difficult for investors to pick out the promising companies?
 
Richard Karn: Unfortunately, the latter is still the case. According to the Australian Securities & Investment Commission (ASIC), 146 companies in the mining sector went into administration (bankruptcy) during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. As Luke Smith pointed out last month in your publication, yet another 226 resource companies did not have sufficient cash to meet their anticipated expenditures for this quarter.
 
Since then another 23 resource companies have failed, and as of Aug. 25, 2014, 17 more had not paid their listing fees and were suspended from trading on the ASX.
 
So no, we do not think the process is over.
 
TGR: How are companies accessing capital today?
 
Richard Karn: By and large, they’re not. We’ve been picking up on some positive activity in the base and precious metal sectors, but that mostly has yet to trickle through to the specialty metal sector.
 
In the case of specialty metal companies, most are unable to raise money either from the capital markets or from their shareholders. Failed or abysmal uptake of rights issues and the like continue to be common. Many companies are literally being starved of cash.
 
TGR: Can companies sell some of their assets to cover costs on other projects?
 
Richard Karn: Asset sales are difficult in the current environment because so many companies are now so desperate to sell that it has become a buyers’ market. That being said, the Chinese have been stepping in to snap up the occasional bargain.
 
TGR: If companies have no more options, how long can they keep the lights on?
 
Richard Karn: Not long. The end of the quarter is September 30, and companies will have to disclose their financial situations. We expect a fresh wave of failures within the next six to eight weeks as more resource companies become insolvent.
 
We don’t know what the catalyst will be, but for some time we’ve been expecting a final selling frenzy that will mark at least an intermediate-term bottom in the specialty metal sector.
 
Some assets are so mispriced that the market appears to be pricing in failure well before the fact. In fact, so sure is the market that a number of these companies will fail that they are trading for less than the cash they have on hand, literally placing no value whatsoever on their resource projects.
 
Final washouts often occur when markets are oversold, and the specialty metal sector remains oversold. The spark for the selloff could be another failed rights issue or poor uptake on an option scheme, either of which would reflect a fundamental lack of confidence in management.
 
It could be some unknown – perhaps an otherwise meaningless threshold event – that “spooks the herd,” and shareholders just start selling everything indiscriminately to ensure they recover some of the money they’ve invested.
 
It could be that it finally dawns on investors that a number of these junior resource companies hold a lot of each other’s stock, which they are carrying on their balance sheets at par as a liquid asset when in actuality those shares are so illiquid they could not be sold except at a steep discount – and could well crash the share price in any case.
 
As I said, we do not know what will spark the selloff – just that it is coming.
 
And when the selling has been exhausted, it will constitute at least an intermediate bottom in the specialty metal sector.
 
In the final shakeout, we are anticipating a number of mismanaged companies will deservedly go under – as, unfortunately, will some quite good companies – and some very good projects will be picked up very inexpensively.
 
And being able to pick up outstanding assets for very little money always marks the bottom of the cycle, because it increases the odds of success as the cycle turns up again.
 
TGR: What characteristics should investors look for to avoid these doomed ventures?
 
Richard Karn: At the moment I would avoid small-cap specialty metal companies that are carrying any debt, especially if they are not cash-flow positive. If or when their ability to service that debt is called into question, it will likely be too late to get out.
 
In addition to reading financial statements to get a grasp of their financial situations and those circumstances just mentioned, I would look at what managements are actively doing to help their long-suffering shareholders.
 
For example, have they reduced staff, cut expenditures and taken a cut in salary themselves or are they still maintaining a “resource boom” lifestyle at their shareholders’ expense?
 
Most important, I would look for either positive cash flow from operations or sufficient cash on hand to sustain operations through to some pivotal event the market has been waiting for, such as commencing production, receiving project funding, permits or approvals, or receiving the results of a bankable feasibility study, etc. – something that will demonstrate management is delivering on its promises.
 
TGR: Could the recent repeal of the mining tax in Australia help all of these companies, or will it only impact large operators?
 
Richard Karn: The Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) did not apply to the specialty metal end of the resource sector in Australia, so its repeal will have little direct impact on these companies.
 
Indirectly, however, repealing the tax serves returns Australia to the ranks of the safest, most mining-friendly jurisdictions in the world, and at some point that will indeed lead to increased investment flows into the specialty metal sector.
 
What markets fail to fully appreciate is that many, and arguably most, of the technological advances we enjoy today, whether found in consumer electronics or transportation or renewable energy sources or military hardware, rely on secure, uninterrupted supply of a range of specialty metals.
 
With military conflict raging across the Middle East and North Africa; a full-fledged arms race between the countries with claims to the South China Sea, notably China and Japan; and the numerous potential conflicts brewing throughout the world, now more than ever secure supply of these specialty metals should be a very high priority. Should a war erupt, common sense, as well as history, dictates the first victims will be the very notion of globalization, free market economics and “just in time” delivery.
 
If it were in China’s strategic interests to stop exporting rare earth elements or tungsten or antimony or graphite, to name just a few of the specialty metal markets China controls, all of which are crucial to a range of military applications, there is absolutely nothing anyone could do about it.
 
Of the 50 specialty metals we track, more than 40 could be mined economically in Australia alone, thanks to its unique geology.
 
We’ve been writing about this trend for more than six years now, but except for a relatively brief period from mid-2010 through late 2011, in the panicked response to China cutting off supply of REEs to Japan, the aftermath of the global financial crisis has squelched the market’s appetite for mining projects in general and specialty metal projects in particular. They require the long-term commitment of capital and a sustained effort to put into profitable production.
 
The flood of liquidity sloshing around the planet since 2008 in search of a return appears to have such a short investment horizon that mining projects are largely off the radar.
 
So nothing has been done. There’s been a lot of talk, a lot of bureaucratic posturing and comic sputtering as World Trade Organization complaints are ignored or unfair business practices perpetuated, but nothing has been done. And the longer this continues, the more vulnerable the West becomes.
 
The specialty metal price spike the West suffered in 2010-2011 in panicked response to the Chinese curtailing exports of REEs will be nothing compared to what a “shooting war” would provoke.
 
Thinking otherwise is the height of naiveté.
 
TGR: Thank you for your insights.
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Sep 24

Stupid Writ Large

Gold Price Comments Off on Stupid Writ Large
Battling the forces of BBTs and DMN our hero invites them to pull the other one…
 

FOR SEVERAL WEEKS, the tragic soul of The Mogambo has been troubled by subtle undertones in The Force, writes the tragic Mogambo Guru from inside his bunker, inexplicably using an old Star Wars metaphor.
 
Which brings up the interesting question as to how a Jedi light-saber would fare against a couple of belt-fed .50 caliber machineguns at point-blank range.
 
Other than pondering those kinds of deeply philosophical questions, it was the old “It’s quiet. Too quiet” kind of thing, where you are always nervously looking over your shoulder, and seeing enemies lurking in every shadow, every nerve on the razor’s edge. Trigger fingers twitching, too, which is difficult to say five times quickly, which only proves the point.
 
For instance, I started sensing strange vibrations in what people were saying, such as Paul Krugman, Janet Yellen and others, as concerns monetary policy.
 
And when I call them up to demand an explanation, and maybe helpfully explain how they are mere Earthling idiots who don’t know squat about economics, they won’t take my calls!
 
I mean, I clearly tell the receptionist that I am the Fabulous Mogambo Genius (FMG) on the line here, and I am calling to explain to them how their whole idiotic Keynesian idea of Quantitative Easing has been a big, fat, flatulent bust, and I want to find out what they are going to propose to do next, as concerns monetary policy, and it better NOT be any more of that stupid Quantitative Easing crap, as I am prepared to clearly and loudly detail how they must be the biggest idiots in the whole world to actually believe that the profound inflationary and bankrupting stupidity of vastly increasing the money-supply (and thus vastly increasing debt), and then committing that same incredible, suicidal folly over the long-term, could possibly, highly-improbably, one chance-in-a-million, one chance-in-a-zillion years, work!
 
But, alas, I never get through to anyone. Ever!  Even after I CLEARLY explained to the receptionist who I am and exactly why I, the Fabulous Mogambo Genius (FMG), am calling, so as to hopefully speed things along.
 
Even parsing their oily remarks through a Junior Mogambo Ranger Secret Decoder Ring (JMRSDR) yielded, alas, nothing.
 
Thus, I am left exhausted and confused, with an increased sense of dread, as actually befits the situation, but knowing little else about what’s ahead, monetary-wise.
 
Nonetheless, I instinctively knew something BIG was up, as my furrowed brow, exaggerated startle-reflex, and a frenzy of buying gold, silver, and defensive armaments so colorfully indicated. 
 
And, thinking about it, with your heart pounding, covered in a cold, clammy sweat, you suddenly realize that, alarmingly, the only thing it COULD be is a new, colossal attempt by the Federal Reserve and the government to somehow, some miraculous way, some fabulous way, some glorious deus ex machina way, please, please, please let this new version of massive Quantitative Easing work, even though 2,500 years of global economic history, a sad tale of one dirtball government after another bankrupting itself, with or without creating paper money in its death throes, proves that it can’t, and it won’t.
 
Of course, since I am the aforementioned Fabulous Mogambo Genius (FMG) of story and song, I always knew that the ultimate fate of grotesquely expanding the money supply to expand the size of government was to inexorably have to, in one fashion or another, relive the infamous “bread and circuses” policies of ancient Rome, the government desperately placating the teeming, impoverished masses, suffering as they are from rising prices, a large, oppressive government and abysmal living conditions, by giving them food and entertainment, which is a disastrous policy that always leads to Bad Bad Things (BBT).
 
So, was I more paranoid and cynical than usual, or was something actually, you know, up.  But what?
 
Who knew that it would be brought to my attention by Zerohedge.com, with the chilling title “It Begins”? When I saw it, I thought I heard banshees wailing, and ravenous wolves howling in the distance, growing frightfully closer. Ever closer.
 
“It Begins”, I am sorry to say, is not the title of a terrific new horror movie, a grand and glorious gore-fest of bloody, gun-happy shoot-’em-up action, fiery explosions, high-speed car chases and hordes of mutant zombies who mostly look like beautiful lingerie models, only less clothed.
 
Instead, “It Begins” refers, even more horribly and tragically, to an article in Foreign Affairs magazine, written by Mark Blyth and Eric Lonergan, of the Council on Foreign Relations, which is spooky enough.
 
 
To save you the trouble of rubbing your eyes in complete disbelief, it goes on that “Rather than trying to spur private-sector spending through asset purchases or interest-rate changes, central banks, such as the Fed, should hand consumers cash directly.”
 
Giving cash away! It’s bread and circuses, alright, in spades!  “Here’s some money to buy your own food and circus!” Wow!
 
The authors, who are so wrong about so many important things in the article, are nonetheless absolutely right when they say “In the short term, such cash transfers could jump-start the economy”!!!
 
The three concluding exclamation points were added by me, as a clever and clearly dramatic emphasis, to make sure that you completely understood that millions of consumers suddenly spending lots of new, free cash will certainly make the economy go!! Wow! What a boom it would cause!
 
The most laughable part is when they said that giving people cash “wouldn’t cause damaging inflation, and few doubt that they would work. The only real question is why no government has tried them.” Hahahaha!
 
I told you they were wrong about some things, and here are three at once, because, firstly, it certainly WOULD cause inflation, however you define “damaging”.
 
And, contrary to the laughable conclusion of the authors, nobody doubts that it would work! Nobody! Lots and lots of new money continually pouring into an economy would NOT make a boom? Hahahaha!
 
And the reason that no government has tried it is because it is Stupid Writ Large (SWL), as in “No government that tried giving away money to the population lasted long enough to write it down.”
 
The authors thought they were so smart to anticipate the Disagreeable Mogambo Naysayer (DMN) loudly objecting “Because terrifying inflation is guaranteed to ensue, you morons, and poor people would be more and more poor and starved, and they will all get testy about their kids crying from hunger, and they can’t stay warm in the winter, or get out of the rain, and everything goes downhill pretty fast when people are rioting in the streets, and pretty soon you can’t get a good pizza anywhere within miles.”
 
Instead of wincing and slinking away in shame at my cruel scorn, they write, hilariously, “Other critics warn that such helicopter drops could cause inflation. The transfers, however, would be a flexible tool. Central bankers could ramp them up whenever they saw fit and raise interest rates to offset any inflationary effects.” Hahahahahahaha!
 
Central bankers could give away more and more cash “whenever they saw fit,” and yet there will be some glorious time when the Fed sees “fit” to stop giving away money and thus cause an economic slowdown, risking asset-price deflation that is leveraged a 100-to-1? Hahahaha! As Monty Python would say, “Pull the other one!”
 
And raising interest rates to somehow sterilize a tsunami of cash? I care about interest rates when I am receiving more and more cash and price inflation is roaring?  Hahaha! I’m busting a gut here!
 
But jocularity and complete stupidity aside, somebody must be expecting some new income, as Chuck Butler of Everbank reports that “July Consumer Credit (read debt) grew by $26 Billion, and June’s number was revised upward to $18.8 Billion from $17.2 Billion. But, $26 Billion!”
 
He, as well as I, characterizes it as “off the charts folks, as if 2008 never happened! What the heck is going on around here? Doesn’t anyone ever learn lessons?”
 
Dave Gonigam of the 5-Minute Forecast parses it down to “Of that total, $5.4 billion came in credit cards — a surge previously unseen during the anemic ‘economic recovery’ these last five years.” 
 
“Of the remaining $20.6 billion, most of that was in auto loans, very little in student loans.”
 
So do these people suddenly have jobs, explaining their spending spree? No. In fact, ever fewer people have jobs.
 
And if you want some bad news on the employment front besides the usual upsetting stories about high unemployment and how jobs are disappearing faster than a pizza at a Super Bowl party, the booklet titled “Pocket World in Figures” from The Economist magazine, has a table titled “Largest Manufacturing Output” which puts the United States at the top of the list, at $1771 billion.
 
This puts us a measly $14 billion ahead of China, which is bad enough, but when you look at the next chart down the page, under “Largest Services Output”, the United States is again number one, at $10,574 billion, while the second place is held by Japan at a measly $3,904 billion, and China at a distant $3,172 billion.
 
In short, five times as many US workers are providing services as are employed manufacturing something.  Probably has something to do with explaining our $40 billion-per-month trade deficit! Hahaha!
 
But lamenting the gaping trade deficit aside, it is this terrifying kind of weird, economy-distorting “services” thing, and the bizarre thing about giving money away to people, that will almost certainly lead to new fiscal policy accommodating them both, since behavior that was once considered idiotic, suicidal desperation, is now the only way out.  Probably connected with a new war, if history is any guide.
 
And when the government starts doling out all that luscious cash, and calling it our patriotic duty to spend all this new cash, it’s party time! Par-tay!
 
And if this “give money directly to people” thing plays out even vaguely as proposed, then you will happily have some time left to accumulate lots of gold and silver during the Big Monetary Party (BMP) that will surely follow, and you will have some time to think and idly daydream of what their prices will be at the calamitously inflationary end of the aforementioned Big Monetary Party (BMP), when everything else is ashes and heartache. Astronomic!
 
Whee! This investing stuff is easy!
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Sep 18

US Dollar Index Still Rising

Gold Price Comments Off on US Dollar Index Still Rising
When the you-know-what hits the you-know-where, people buy what the…? 
 

“WE CONTINUE to believe that we are moving into a ‘strong US Dollar world’,” wrote Louis-Vincent Gave, the investment strategist, in a recent note to his investors, says Chris Mayer in The Daily Reckoning.
“This makes for a very different set of winners and losers, and very different portfolios, than what most investors have been used to over the past decade or so.”
I think there is a good case for a strong US Dollar for the rest of this year and into next. We’ll look into the argument here and what its chief effect is likely to be.
 
Gave’s comments inspired me to set down my own. In his note, Gave shared a chart showing the Dollar Index since circa 1985. The Dollar Index measures the value of the Dollar against a basket of foreign currencies. The Euro makes up more than half the index (and European currencies did before the creation of the Euro). The Yen, Pound and Canadian Dollar fill out the bulk of the rest of the basket.
 
I share the chart because I think the pattern shown might surprise you. After all, didn’t the US government run widening deficits after the crisis? Didn’t the central bank engage in “money printing”? And wouldn’t you expect these would drive the Dollar lower?
 
You might’ve. Plenty of people did. And they were (and are still) wrong. “As things stand,” Gave wrote, “we are basically trading roughly at the same levels that have prevailed for most of the post-2008 crisis period.”
 
 
I think there is a good case for a strong US Dollar for the rest of this year and into next.
 
In fact, the US Dollar Index recently put in an 11-month high. There are a few reasons I’d point to for that strength against foreign currencies to continue.
 
First, the US trade deficit continues to shrink. According to the latest readings in June, the deficit shrank by 7%. When the trade deficit shrinks, that means fewer net Dollars flow overseas. Hold that thought.
 
Second, the federal deficit is also shrinking. For the fiscal year ending September 2014, the deficit will be around $500 billion. That’s less than one-third of what it was in 2009 – the recent peak. Lower deficits means fewer Dollars injected into the system.
 
Now put the two together. You know basic economics. What happens when the supply of something gets tighter? Its value rises, assuming demand stays the same.
 
Aye, what about Dollar demand? There is steady demand for US Dollars from abroad, because it is the world’s reserve currency. Meaning just about everyone uses it to settle up international trade.
 
As Gave writes in his book, Too Different for Comfort, it’s not easy to unseat a reserve currency. After running through some history, Gave concludes:
“A reserve currency is thus a bit like a computer operating system – it pays to use the one that everyone else is using, and the more people use one system, the less incentive there is to switch. Once a reserve currency gets entrenched, therefore, it is exceedingly difficult to dislodge, because the benefits of the new currency have to outweigh those of the old one, not by a little, but by a lot.”
Of course, the Dollar’s standing won’t last forever. But I think we can safely say the US will remain the standard for years yet. There is simply no competitor on the near horizon. Not even one that’s close. True, a variety of emerging markets and other countries have learned to use other currencies to settle transactions. That’s just good sense. They’ve been caught short of Dollars before and had to endure a crisis of some sort as a result. But these transactions are small in the scheme of things.
 
Meanwhile, those foreign markets are growing and the demand for Dollars ought to remain at least stable. Thus, the Dollar Index is putting in that 11-month high.
 
Part of the US Dollar strength also comes from the fact that there are lots of attractive assets in the US that foreigners like to buy and own. They have to pay for them in Dollars. Gave makes this point in his book, too. When the US Dollar gets cheap, Brazilians rush in to buy condos in Miami. Canadians pick up second properties in Arizona. Russians buy New York condos. Foreign pension funds buy up US debt, stocks and real estate.
 
And whenever there is a crisis, what do people do? They go to cash, and that means US Dollars. They buy US T-bills. When the you-know-what hits the fan, it is still the Dollar they retreat to. They’re not buying Chinese Yuan. Gold is another asset seen as a safe haven, but the gold market is tiny and off the radar of the big pools of money out there. When a big fund wants safety, it turns to cash – US Dollars.
 
So let’s say the Dollar stays strong. What effect could it have?
 
It could drive US interest rates even lower. If you look at the 10-year securities of the big EU countries, Japan, Canada and other developed nations, you find that interest rates are all lower than in the US But as Gave asks, “Why own 10-year bonds yielding 1%, or Japanese government bonds yielding 0.5% in falling currencies, when you can own 10-year US Treasuries denominated in a rising Dollar yielding 2.5%?”
 
This is the question the market will be asking itself soon, especially as/if that Dollar Index continues to make highs. Then you can expect to see US Treasury yields falling to levels where these other developed markets already sit.
 
All is to say that if you are looking to get out of the US Dollar, cool your jets. As long as the trends above are in place, the Dollar Index might be on the verge of a bigger rally.
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