Council Of Economic Advisors
When asked that question last year at the New Orleans Investment Conference Greenspan had two words for the interviewer.
Ten years ago this week, Alan Greenspan left his post as head of the US Federal Reserve, facing disgrace among hard money advocates, which largely persists to this day. However gold investors can learn an important lesson from how little influence Greenspan, one of the gold standard’s most eloquent backers, had during his 18-year tenure.
So how do you grow household wealth by $18 trillion in the face of these dismal real world trends? In a word, with a printing press. But what happened today is that Draghi showed he is out of tricks and Yellen confessed she is out of excuses. Yes, this sucker is going down. And this time all the misguided economics professors turned central bankers in the world will be powerless to reverse the plunge.
The Fed needs to extricate itself from manipulating the financial markets. It needs to end backstopping market liquidity. It must never again print Trillions of new “money” out of thin air. Because so long as the marketplace perceives that the markets are "too big to fail", there will be speculative excess, major securities markets mispricings and Bubble fragilities. No one – average investor or sophisticated financial operator – has a clue as to the degree Fed policies have distorted asset prices.
Moments ago, in an embarrassing setback for the president, Senate Democrats in a 52-45 vote - short of the required 60 supporters - blocked a bill that would give President Barack Obama fast-track authority to expedite trade agreements through Congress, a major defeat for the president and his allies who "say the measure is necessary to complete a 12-nation Pacific trade deal that is a centerpiece of the administration’s economic agenda." But don't count it out yet: the WSJ cites Mitch McConnell who told reporters shortly before the vote, which he expected to lose, that “This issue’s not over" adding that "I’m hopeful we’ll put this in the win column for the country sometime soon.”
This morning both the SNB stunner from two weeks ago, and the less than stunning ECB QE announcement from last Thursday are long forgotten, and the only topic on markets' minds is the startling surge of Syriza and its formation of a coalition government with another anti-bailout party - a development that many in Europe never expected could happen, and which has pushed Europe to the bring of the unexpected yet again. And while there is much speculation that this time Europe is much better positioned to "handle a Grexit", the reality is that European bank balance sheets are as bad if not worse than in 2014, 2013, 2012 or any other year for that matter, because none of ther €1+ trillion in NPLs have been addressed and the only thing that has happened is funding bank capital deficiencies with newly printed money. You know what they say about solvency and liquidity.
For all those who think the upcoming carnage to the shale industry will be "contained" we refer to the following research report from the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. For the impatient ones, here is the punchline: "The $300–$400 billion overall annual economic gain from the oil & gas boom has been greater than the average annual GDP growth of $200–$300 billion in recent years—in other words, the economy would have continued in recession if it were not for the unplanned expansion of the oil & gas sector."
With 1.3 million Americans having lost (or about to lose) their emergency unemployment benefits, President Obama is back from vacation and ready to re-start the blame-and-shame game (supported with the now ubiquitous crowd of needy entitled onlookers, ready to faint on command). As he explains, "this is money that helps pay the bills while folks work hard to find their next job..." as long as it's well-paying and not at McDonalds. Of course, the uncomfortable truth is...
*BOEHNER SAYS EXTENSION OF UNEMPLOYMENT AID MUST BE PAID FOR
But that's what the rich are for, right?
It’s ironic that in a day and age where Keynesian economics is the “accepted view” we still don’t pay enough attention to what Keynes said about inflation: "By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of their citizens. By this method they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some..." The problem today is that some people believe inflation is lower than it actually is. The Consumer Price Index CPI is used to measure the cost of maintaining a certain standard of living. Now it measures the cost of maintaining a certain level of satisfaction. You can argue the magnitude of the inflation understatement but you can’t argue that the official numbers are accurate. Under reporting inflation has led to many predictable outcomes.
It is hard to believe that the end of the year is fast approaching. This weekend's list of things to ponder covers a range of issues that caught our attention this week. Will the economy continue to grow, are stocks under owned, what about Fed - rising credit risk (and collapsing credit risk premia) and the question of "when or if to taper?" These are all important questions that all investors must answer as the new year rapidly approaches.
All the histrionics over the next Fed chairman, pardon chairwoman, choice are over. WSJ reports that Obama is set to announce Mr., pardon Mrs Janet Yellen as Bernanke's replacement tomorrow at 3 pm at the White House. "The nomination would conclude a long and unusually public debate about Mr. Obama's choice which started last June when he said that Ben Bernanke wouldn't be staying in the post after his term ends in January. Mr. Obama gave serious consideration to his former economic adviser, Lawrence Summers, who pulled out in September after facing resistance from Democrats in the Senate." However, while a Yellen announcement, largely priced in, in a normal environment would have been good for at least 10-20 S&P points, with the debt ceiling showdown the far more immediate concern, the choice of the Chairwoman may not be the buying catalyst that it would have otherwise been.
Earlier this month, in an article for “Project Syndicate” famous American economist Nouriel Roubini joined the chorus of those who declare that the multi-year run up in the gold price was just an almighty bubble, that that bubble has now popped and that it will continue to deflate. Gold is now in a bear market, a multi-year bear market, and Roubini gives six reasons (he himself helpfully counts them down for us) for why gold is a bad investment. His arguments for a continued bear market in gold range from the indisputably accurate to the questionable and contradictory to the simply false and outright bizarre. But what is most worrying, and most disturbing, is Roubini’s pathetic attempt to label gold bugs political extremists. It is evident from Roubini’s essay that he not only considers the gold bugs to be wrong and foolish, they also annoy him profoundly. They anger him. Why? – Because he thinks they also have a “political agenda”. Gold bugs are destructive. They are misguided and even dangerous people.
Put down the Sunday newspaper; grab a pot of coffee; and call 'mom' and tell her she has to read this. Doug Rudisch has written a far-reaching summary of the true state of the world and 'why policy has failed'. Simply put, there is no faith in the system; real underlying faith and trust in the system, as opposed to the confidence born from economic steroid injections or entitlements. There also is a subtle but important distinction between faith and trust versus confidence. Faith and trust are longer term and more powerful concepts.There is more going on than a temporary lull in animal spirits that current fiscal and monetary policy will cure. If that was the case, it would be working already... We have ended up with a system where the worst of the risk takers have the ability to take the most risk and are currently taking it at extreme levels. We wish we could be more prescriptive and offer more solutions for the problems. But in order to solve a problem, you must first realize you have one. With respect to the Fed, we don’t think the U.S. realizes it has a problem.
Bloomberg reported recently that Russia is now the world's biggest gold buyer, its central bank having added 570 tonnes (18.3 million troy ounces) over the past decade. At $1,650/ounce, that's $30.1 billion worth of gold. Russia isn't alone, of course. Central banks as a group have been net buyers for at least two years now. But the 2012 data trickling out shows that the amount of tonnage being added is breaking records. Based on current data, the net increase in central bank gold buying for 2012 was 14.8 million troy ounces – and that's before the final 2012 figures are in for all countries. This is a dramatic increase, one bigger than most investors probably realize. To put it in perspective, on a net basis, central banks added more to their reserves last year than since 1964. The net increase – so far – is 17% greater than what was added in 2011, which was itself a year of record buying. The message from central banks is clear: they expect the dollar to move inexorably lower. It doesn't matter that it's been holding up against other currencies or that the economy might be getting better. They're buying gold in record amounts because they see a significant shift coming with the status of the dollar, and they need to protect themselves against that risk. Embrace the messages central bankers are telling us – the ones they tell with their actions, not their words.
"Absent an immediate crisis - and sometimes in the face of one - governments will often struggle to meet great challenges. The short-term palliatives we are currently pursuing go against everything a long-term oriented society should aspire to achieve. Growing entitlements are popular with voters and with those whom they elect, for obvious reasons: because the bill never seems to come due. But come due it will. Our spending is completely out of control, and, as of now, it seems as if the situation will have to become calamitous before we act. Let’s hope that it won’t then be too late."
-Seth Klarman, Baupost