With euphoria returning to equity markets, it's worth remembering that stocks are unlikely to make you really rich. We have some ideas what might though.
Barry Ritholtz is convinced that once the current short-term bounce is over with, the recent cyclical bear market in gold will resume. The reality is of course that neither Mr. Ritholtz, nor anyone else actually knows the future. Therefore, he cannot know whether the bear market is or isn't over. However, judging from the remainder of his post, he actually seems to think that the secular bull market in gold is over. In our opinion there is no evidence for that, and we will explain below why we think that he and others in the long term bear camp are wrong. Further below is the evidence marshaled by Mr. Ritholtz (actually, apart from the technical analysis he provides, it isn't really evidence at all – it reads like an unsupported opinion). Sure enough, gold has no yield, no conference calls, and no income statements (paraphrasing Jim Grant). That is actually the beauty of it. But that does not mean it 'has no fundamentals', nor does it means that it 'cannot be an investment'. We comment on his article (and its errors) further below.
Jim Rogers was recently interviewed by GoldMoney and had plenty to say (as usual):
On Bernanke: "He doesn’t want to be around for the consequences of what he’s doing."
On Fiat: "Paper money doesn’t have a very glorious history, but again, nothing imposed by the government has a very long and glorious history."
On Europe's Crisis: "You can postpone it all you want, but the problems just mount."
On Capitalism: "You are not supposed to take money away from the competent people and give it to the incompetent so that the incompetent can compete with the competent people with their own money. That’s not the way capitalism is supposed to work."
"Inflation is a state of affairs in which there is too much money," Jim Grant notes in this Bloomberg TV interview, however, "It's not too much money chasing too few goods," he corrects the misnomer, "the thing this money chases is variable." Whether it is Iowa farmland, housing, stocks, or bonds, central banks are stuffing us with it. Yes, equities are high, but Grant explains, "beneath the surface of things or not so far beneath the surface of things," it is not at all good, adding that, "Central bank 'original sin'," is akin to Revolutionary France, and he shows no concerns over Gold's recent dip, noting "a general fatigue animus towards gold," that seems predicated on more confidence in central bankers; to Grant, "that confidence is utterly misplaced!"
The crypto-currency Bitcoin is still merely a speck on the global monetary landscape. It is young, experimental, and for all we know, it may ultimately fail to break into the monetary mainstream. However, on a conceptual level some are willing to call it a work of genius and arguably the most exciting development in the field of money for more than 130 years. The outcome is probably binary: Either Bitcoin ultimately fails and the individual Bitcoins end up worthless. Or Bitcoin takes off and Bitcoins are worth hundreds of thousands of paper dollars, paper yen, paper euros, or paper pounds. Maybe more. Those who buy Bitcoin as a speculative investment should consider it an option on the future success of the crypto-currency. We still consider gold to be the essential self-defense asset in the ongoing paper money crisis. The brand-new crypto-currency Bitcoin has to first earn its stripes as a monetary asset by proving itself as a ‘common’ medium of exchange. That is why we view Bitcoin very differently from gold, although the attraction of both has its origin in the demise of entirely elastic, politicized state fiat money. In the meantime, the debasement of paper money continues.
Gold is trading flat today near a one and a half week high hit yesterday as Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke defended the U.S. ultra loose monetary policy.
The selloff in gold ETFs in February underscores the weakness in gold sentiment among retail investors that has been prominent recently.
Interest Rate Observer, Jim Grant, played an important role as explainer-in-chief in the forthcoming movie "The Bubble" - a documentary that interviews the experts that predicted the 2008 crash and asks what happens next. The brief interview embedded below provides a smorgasbord of Grant's thoughts on topics from Fannie and Freddie as government-sponsored titanic hedge funds, his concerns at the unintended consequence of the debt-sustaining mortgage interest deduction, why MBS are not the root of all evil, and how the federal government is socializing risk for bankers. As usual, the ever-so-erudite Grant sums it all up superbly: "American bankers, based on the experience of 2007-8-9, don't know much about banking, but there's one institution that knows still less and that institution is the United States Congress." Adding that the past two or three years have all been about the unintended consequences of federal "spending, promising, and intervening" in finance and banking to delay a day of reckoning, Grant believes a correction is coming but again warns (in as succinct an eleven-word-sentence about our real world as we have seen recently), that "Bankers get the upside and we - the taxpayers - get the downside."
Jim Grant spends exactly the correct amount of time (zero) discussing the "urban myth' of the trillion dollar coin in this brief interview on CNBC; instead deciding to try and strike up some intelligent understanding of the dire situation we face. By providing context for our massive 16 trillion dollar debt (360 million pounds of $100 bills), and explaining how exponential the idiocy has become, Grant brings us full circle as he explains to the money-honey that once upon a time our debt was backed by gold, and "there was only so much gold and so many dollars," thus limiting our exuberance, but "now we have neither the gold covering the dollar nor do we have interest rates constraining us [thanks to Bernanke et al.]; the only thing remaining to constrain us is some sort of civil discussion, a numerate discussion about the debt," which it appears the bespectacled and bow-tie-bound bond brain-box hopes is possible. "The debt has increased twice as fast as federal receipts," he warns, adding correctly that "the United States is truly submerging."
For those bored with watching how much higher Getco and Citadel's algos can take the market on a resolution that is adverse for the US economy, that cuts consumer spending and cash flow, that does not address the real issue: government drunken sailor spending, and that means America will now labor for the next two months without being able to incur one additional dollar in net debt courtesy of breaching the debt ceiling on the last day of 2012 - in other words your typical kick-the-can-for-two-more-months non deal, we have good news: Jim Grant of Grant's Interest Rate Observer has released a compilation of his best articles from the past year for free to anyone who still cares about what actually may be happening in the US economy, besides the obvious - endless fiscal and monetary stimuli from both the Fed and Congress, which like, any lunch, are never free, even if the final invoice may take a while to arrive.
In March 2012, Okayama Metal & Machinery became the first Japanese pension fund to make public purchases of gold, in a sign of dwindling faith in paper currencies. Okayama manages pension funds for about 260 small and mid-sized companies in the Okayama area. "By diversifying currencies, we aim to reduce risks associated with them," said Yoshi Kiguchi, the fund's chief investment officer. "Yields become stable if you put small amounts into as many types of holdings as possible." Of its 40 billion yen ($477 million) in assets, the fund has invested around ¥500 million-¥600 million in gold, he said. Initially, the fund aims to keep about 1.5% of its total assets of Y40bn ($500m) in bullion-backed exchange traded funds, according to chief investment officer Yoshisuke Kiguchi, who said he was diversifying into gold to “escape sovereign risk”. Other pension funds in Japan are following their lead according to the Wall Street Journal. Japanese pension funds are diversifying into gold "largely to mitigate the damage from possible market shocks"... Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking Corporation said it has secured more than Y2 billion in investments from two pension funds for a gold fund it started in March.
The anchoring bias in the world's major sovereign bond markets (most notably those that have printing presses) is tremendous. As Jim Grant notes during this interview with Lauren Lyster, the blind indifference to the possibility of rising interest rates now is extremely similar to the indignance to the possibility of interest rates falling during the 1970s and 80s. In a broad and insightful few minutes Grant sheds a critical light on the similarities between then and now and fears that our unshakable confidence in the ability of the PhDs running our world monetary policy is false and that the market will eventually win out. The fear that is dominant among central bankers is indeed that of deflation and there is little to no fear of inflationary concerns and notes that there is a less than small probability that the world falls out of love with the US government's financial position. The truly humbling lesson of cycles past, he notes, is that they don't issue a press release (or ring a bell) at the turning point. "Things can remain seemingly excessive, until you turn your back and the reversion to some sort of mean begins." Grant believes we are approaching that, if not having already begun, that path back to reasonableness in interest rates. Grant continues with a discussion of potential income-generating ideas (in prime rate or leveraged loan funds) and concludes with his views on Bernanke's miscalculcations and most recent regime shift, the concerning idiocy of Japan (who seemingly can neither "procreate, nor re-inflate"), MMT, and the path to total central planning.
It is apparent, according to Jim Grant in this excellent discussion on CNBC, that we are living in a world where only PhDs know what is best for us all. As the Fed hides behind the political cover of its dual mandate to centrally-plan our lives, the Fed-fighter notes "we are off the common-sense-mandate and in a PhD-Standard." In the brief and wonderfully erudite segment Grant guides the erstwhile CNBC Fed-cheerleaders to a new reality of inflation not being what they think it is (i.e. not the PCE Deflator but more prosaically too much money chasing too few products exemplified in bloated real estate prices in the past and now equity prices), of a '32-inch' yard, and of a dream-like world where we "return to capitalism", and markets are finally "allowed to clear." As ever, Grant is worth the price of admission as he explains how the 'monetary mandarins' have interjected themselves between us and the public price mechanism as the Fed's 'influence' has grown exponentially since its inception.
Never try to teach a pig to sing, advised Robert Heinlein. It wastes your time and it annoys the pig. Similarly, never try to convince a central banker that his policies are destructive. After five years of enduring crisis, market prices are no longer determined by the considered assessment of independent investors acting rationally (if indeed they ever were), but simply by expectations of further monetary stimulus. So far, those expectations have not been disappointed. The Fed, the ECB and lately even the BoJ have gone “all- in” in their fight to ensure that after a grotesque explosion in credit, insolvent governments and private sector banks will be defended to the very last taxpayer. Conventional wisdom is that such moves are justified during this period of economic slowdown, as everyone agrees that the market is ’deleveraging’. But as the consistently excellent Doug Noland points out, this idea of deleveraging (i.e. reduction of available credit) in the US is a myth.
One of the most astute financial analysts in the world, Jim Grant, founder of highly respected Grant's Interest Rate Observer, was asked by Maria Bartiromo on CNBC yesterday “how high can gold go”? Grant responded that "there is no telling."
You put Jim Grant on TV and someone mentions the Fed and the result every single time is the equivalent of waving a red curtain in front of a rabid bull. This time was no different, as the Interest Rate Observer once again let Bernanke, with whom he clarified is no longer on speaking terms, have it. The ensuing central-planner bashing was in line with expectations, and just as we presented yesterday in "The Experiment Economy", so too does Grant believe that the Fed is "learning by doing" and follows up by clarifying that this is an experiment, "and we are lab rats in the financial markets." He then proceeds to lament that the credit markets, clueless NYT econopundits notwithstanding, have now lost all informational value as every rate instrument is purely in the manipulated domain of the Fed. "We are all living in a land of speculation and manipulation" is Grant's summary of the current predicament of anyone who wishes to trade these "markets" and it may as well be the best synopsis of the New (ab)normal. And aside from an odd detour into Government Motors, Grant once again hones in on the only true antidote to central planner idiocy, gold: "the best thing about gold is that it's got no P/E multiple. Gold is a speculation on an anticipated macroeconomic outcome, the systematic debasement of currencies by central banks. Why wouldn't they do QE4? What intellectual argument do they have against doing it again, and again, and again." Well...none.