Real Interest Rates
For the last thirty years economic policy makers have been in the business of promoting asset prices higher through easy credit. Global policy makers are meddling in markets so that the economies they feel responsible for can achieve what seems to be a consensus objective of muddling through. A policy of meddling to muddle, if you will. QBAMCO's critical 'inflation' insights, and Tourette's-ridden ranting, reflect the simple realities of what real-world consequences occur when policy makers succumb to the perceived political imperatives of perverting economic data. In this combined note, Brodsky and Quaintance scrub away at the misconceptions related to inflation, raise doubts as to the incentives of central banks to share the true loss of their currencies' purchasing power with the public, and extend this to try and get a truer sense of money, inflation, and real value today - all of which seem grossly misunderstood, despite our best efforts, in the marketplace. Simply put, they point out that, "It should not be considered acceptable to be in a profession – as a political economist, policy maker or investor – in which self-delusion has become a necessary requirement for success and perpetuating that delusion is harmful to the broad economy over time. Yes, but the “public good” you say? Ah, but for how long?"
One of the few sane economists out there is Michael Pento of Pento Portfolio Strategies (formerly of Peter Schiff's Euro Pacific Capital).
Here is an interesting interview he did with Bloomberg back in December where he discusses his typical range of topics: Gold, Inflation, and Interest rates
Presenting The Interactive "Wiggle-Room Index" Or Which Countries Will Be Forced To Bail Out The Developed WorldSubmitted by Tyler Durden on 01/26/2012 17:13 -0400
Update: literally seconds after this article was posted, we receive news that the IMF will seek Saudi contribution to the European bailout fund. There you have it - you enjoy that implicit US protection Saudi emirs? It is about to cost you.
While it is best to pray that NASA will find some very rich and not so intelligent life on Mars so it can bail out the world as it sinks deeper and deeper into a untenable debt hole (which somehow can be "filled" only by issuing more debt at least according to tenured economists at ivy league institutions), a strategy of planning for a realistic outcome may not be a bad idea. The question then is who in the world has some/any spare leverage capacity to incur even more debt and use the proceeds to fund a Eurozone-American-Chinese collapse. Enter the Economist's "wiggle-room index." The publication, best known for recently introducing the "shoe thrower index" (remember the Arab Spring and how Fed induced runaway inflation generated a "democratic" revolution across MENA?) has compiled a list of those developing world countries which still have capacity to provide credible global bailout capital (in fiat form of course - after all that is the only thing that the Ponzi understands) or as the Economist says, the "emerging economies that have the most monetary and fiscal firepower." So if you are on this list (ahem China, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia) - our condolences - you are about to be dragged into the epic slow-motion ongoing collapse of the developed world, kicking and screaming, with some 44 caliber persuasion if needed, but you will be there, before it all falls apart. The time to repay all favors to Uncle Sam is coming.
Gold rose 2.5% yesterday and broke $1,700/oz to $1,712.80, its biggest one-day gain in the past 4 months, as the US Federal Reserve’s 11 out of 17 members voted that interest rates would likely remain near zero into late 2014. Investors sought safe haven refuge into gold fearing their portfolios would lose value as Central Banks flood the markets with loose monetary policies and more cash for governments that can't seem to manage their balance sheets. A group of 7 major economies now have interest rates that average .5%. Silver also rallied up 4%. Today's Comex February gold option expirations will show more activity in the gold markets. One trader stated that gold's gains on Wednesday could be due to a huge cover on a short position before today's option expiration.
While lately not much, if anything, has changed in our and the broader secular outlook on gold, which has been and continues to remain the only currency equivalent that isolates devaluation risk, and excludes counterparty risk while being an implicit bet on the stupidity of those in charge (the fact that various tenured "Ph.D. economists" hate what it represents for their tenure prospects of course only makes the bullish case far stronger). True, in the past month it has surged from $1520 to $1660 but only Ph.D. economists (indeed, that 200 DMA proved to be a complete non-event) could not have foreseen that year end liquidations in a desperate drive to shore up liquidity (as explained here) by institutions, always end, and the reversion to the above thesis sooner or later reappears. So while it won't say much new, below we present Nomura's just released Gold Sector Initiation, which is a must read for new entrants to the field of physical and paper representations of gold, as well as a timely reminder for everyone else that in the past 3 years nothing has changed with the fundamental thesis, and in fact recent actions have merely reinforced it (and if we indeed have a €1 or €10 trillion LTRO, then watch all resistance levels in the metal get blown off).
Last week we heard from Nomura's bearded bear as Bob Janjuah restated his less-then-optimistic scenario for the global economy. Today his partner-in-crime, Kevin Gaynor, takes on the bullish consensus cognoscenti's three mutually supportive themes in his usual skeptical manner. While he respects the market's potential view that fundamentals, flow, valuation, and sentiment seem aligned for meaningful outperformance, it seems actual positioning does not reflect this (yet). Taking on each of the three bullish threads (EM policy shift as inflation slows, ECB has done and will do more QE, and US decoupling), the strategist teases out the reality and what is priced in as he does not see this as the March-2009-equivalent 'big-one' in rerisking (warranting concerns on chasing here).
Gold coin purchases gained 13% last year and will increase 2.7% in the first half. Purchases of gold bars increased by 36% to nearly 2,000 (1,194) metric tonnes, concentrated in China, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. East Asia demand for gold bars rose 53% to 456 metric tonnes. India rose 9% to 297 metric tonnes and western markets demand for gold bars rose 41% to 335 metric tonnes. Central banks increased net purchases by a massive fivefold to 430 tons last year, and may buy another 90 tons in the first half, GFMS said. Combined official holdings stand at 30,788.9 tons, data from the London-based World Gold Council show. “Attitudes among central banks haven’t really changed,” Thomson Reuters GFMS annual survey said. “There’s still that desire to come into the gold market to diversify some of the assets away from foreign exchange and to boost gold holdings.” The Thomson Reuters GFMS annual gold survey also predicts that gold will struggle in the first half of the year, increasing in the later half towards $2,000. It also says the gold bull market is losing steam and predicts an end to the run as economies recover next year and interest rates begin to rise.
"What we have on our hands is a good old fashioned quagmire" is how Morgan Stanley's Mike Wilson sets up his surprisingly non-sheep-like perspective on the troubles that US equity investors may be about to face. Expanding on MS's bearish strategic (fundamental) forecast, that we discussed earlier in the week, Wilson combines the 'liquidity vs negative-real-rate' thesis (that the Fed's liquidity is perhaps no longer 'good' for stocks) with his own views on ECRI's weakness (very 2008-like in relation to ECO surprises), household debt deleveraging (more and longer), how much QE3 is already priced in and what will its effect be when it comes (less and less positive in nominal and real terms), investor sentiment (very bullish), long-term technicals (weak breadth), and short-term earnings expectations (deteriorating and weighted to 'weak' financials to end with the pragmatic realist perspective that perhaps 'the gig is up'.
History is full of other examples of once proud nations that, facing problems for decades (or even centuries), completely unwound in a matter of years. The Ottoman Empire. The Ming Dynasty. Feudal France. The Soviet Union. Bottom line, when the real change comes, it comes very, very quickly. Think about the pace of change these days. It’s quickening. Europe is a great case study for this– when concerns about Greece first surfaced, European leaders were able to contain the damage. There was disquiet, but it soon dissipated. Fast forward to today. We can hardly go a single day without a major, market-rocking headline. And European politicians’ attempts to assuage the damage have a useful half life that can be measured in days… sometimes hours now. Like the Ottomans, the Soviets, the Romans before them, Western civilization is entering the phase where its rate of decline will start looking like that upside-down hockey stick.
It wasn't a fun week for gold. By the close on Friday, the metal was down 6.7% (based on London PM fix prices), the biggest weekly decline since September. It got downright irritating when the mainstream media seemingly rejoiced at gold's decline. Economist Nouriel Roubini poked fun at gold bugs in a Tweet. Über investor Dennis Gartman said he sold his holdings. CNBC ran an article proclaiming gold was no longer a safe-haven asset (talk about an overreaction). While the worry may have been real, let's focus on facts. Have the reasons for gold's bull market changed in any material way such that we should consider exiting? Instead of me providing an answer, ask yourself some basic questions: Is the current support for the US dollar an honest indication of its health? Are the sovereign debt problems in Europe solved? How will the US repay its $15 trillion debt load without some level of currency dilution? Is there likely to be more money printing in the future, or less? Are real interest rates positive yet? Has gold really lost its safe haven status as a result of one bad week? And one more: What is the mainstream media's record on forecasting precious metals prices?
Stock markets globally had a torrid year with the S&P500 down 1.3%, the FTSE down 8% and the CAC and DAX down 19% and 15% respectively. Asian stock markets also fell with the Nikkei down 17%, the Hang Seng 20% and the Shanghai SE down 22%. The MSCI World Index fell 9%. Thus, gold again acted as a safe haven and protected and preserved wealth over the long term. While gold reached record nominal highs at $1,915/oz in August, it is important to continually emphasize that gold remains well below the real high, adjusted for inflation, in 1980 of $2,500/oz. Gold today at $1,625/oz is 18% below the record nominal high of $1915/oz in August 2011. More importantly, gold remains 46% below its real high of $2,500/oz. Global money supply continued to rise in 2011 and helped push gold prices to all-time highs on the fear of currency debasement. If accommodative monetary policies continue as the dominant tool for central banks, precious metals will almost certainly continue to benefit. Were this trend to turn, responsible monetary policy actions could hinder returns. We see no prospect of this in the short term – and little prospect in the medium term.
Bullion banks remain positive on gold for 2012 with major banks predicting an average gold price of between 13% and 28% above today’s spot at $1,595/oz. It will be interesting to see if these forecasts get as much international media coverage as the poll of 20 hedge fund managers has. UBS have reiterated their bullish outlook for gold and believe gold will average $2,050/oz in 2012. This is 28% above today’s spot price of $1595/oz. Goldman Sachs said overnight that gold will average $1,810/oz in 2012 – which is 13% above today’s spot price. Barclays Capital have said this morning that gold will average $2,000/oz in 2012 – which is 25% above today’s spot price.
Eric Sprott Fights PM Manipulation Fire With Fire: Calls Silver Producers To Retain Silver Produced As "Cash"Submitted by Tyler Durden on 12/10/2011 03:14 -0400
In what is likely the most logical follow up to our post of the day, namely the news of the lawsuit between HSBC and MF Global over double-counted gold, or physical - not paper - that was "commingled" via rehypothecating or otherwise, we present readers with the monthly note by Eric Sprott titled "Silver Producers: A Call to Action" in which the Canadian commodities asset manager has had enough of what he perceives as subtle and/or not so subtle manipulation of the precious metal market, and in not so many words calls the silver miners of the world "to spring to action" and effectively establish supply controls to silver extraction to counteract paper market manipulation in the paper realm by treating their product as a currency and retaining it as "cash". To wit: "instead of selling all their silver for cash and depositing that cash in a levered bank, silver miners should seriously consider storing a portion of their reserves in physical silver OUTSIDE OF THE BANKING SYSTEM. Why take on all the risks of the bank when you can hold hard cash through the very metal that you mine? Given the current environment, we see much greater risk holding cash in a bank than we do in holding precious metals. And it serves to remember that thanks to 0% interest rates, banks don’t pay their customers to take on those risks today." And the math: "If silver miners were therefore to reinvest 25% of their 2011 earnings back into physical silver, they could potentially account for 21% of the approximate 300 million ounces (~$9 billion) available for investment in 2011. If they were to reinvest all their earnings back into silver, it would shrink available 2011 investment supply by 82%. This is a purely hypothetical exercise of course, but can you imagine the impact this practice would have on silver prices?" And there you go: Sprott 'reputable' entity to propose to fight manipulation with what is effectively collusion, which in the grand scheme of things is perfectly normal - after all, all is fair in love and war over a dying monetary model. Who could have thought that the jump from "proletariats" to "silver miners" would be so short.
Gold traded higher after the ECB interest rate cut yesterday, prior to sharp selling that came into the market at 1335 GMT. This led to gold falling 2% on the day and it is now down 1.3% on the week – again outperforming many equity indices. Market News International (MNI) reported that market sources said that the Bank for International Settlements, the Bank of England and the Federal Reserve have been “good sellers of gold” after it had popped to a fresh session high of $1,755.90/oz. The MNI report has not been explored and there have not been any official denials of official selling. From a trading perspective there is at least a ring of truth to the MNI report as the sharp fall in the gold price was counterintuitive given there was no negative gold news and indeed the news was bullish with significant risk ahead of the EU summit and continued ultra loose monetary policies and negative real interest rates. Given the scale of the coordinated intervention in markets by central banks recently one would have to be completely naïve to dismiss the report out of hand. There is of course the historical precedent of the London Gold Pool which ended in failure. However, before jumping to conclusions it would be good if the MNI report was looked at and some questions asked - in the finest traditions of journalism.
Our framework centers on the idea that humanity is facing a set of predicaments quite unlike anything else in the history books. Because this time there are no borders to cross in search of safety; the entire world is involved. On a global basis, we've never experienced collective debt loads of this magnitude. Never before has an entire set of intertwined currency systems -- all debt-based money -- collectively been backed by nothing more than the hope of a larger future, and never before have this many people had to figure out how to move from more-concentrated to less-concentrated energy sources (from fossil fuels to sun- and wind-based alternatives). The convergence of exponential trends in population, energy depletion, debt accumulation, and an economic model that is hooked on growth will combine to produce quite an interesting, if not challenging and disruptive, future. The funny thing about complex systems is that they are unpredictable, and therefore preparing for what may come is a non-trivial (yet absolutely essential) task. The immediate question for most people is What should I do? We break down the intelligent responses into three big buckets: financial, physical, and emotional. In this report, I detail the financial steps that everyone should undertake right now to manage future risks using the framework that I use to assess and understand the financial world and markets. My approach is founded as faithfully as possible on facts and data. But my views on how the markets operate are formed from personal experience, observation, and connecting a few dots that rely on opinions and sometimes beliefs. Therefore, this financial and investing framework is something that you should only accept if it works for you -- and reject if it does not.