"Most investors go about their job trying to identify ‘winners’. But more often than not, investing is about avoiding losers. Like successful gamblers at the racing track, an investor’s starting point should be to eliminate the assets that do not stand a chance, and then spread the rest of one’s capital amongst the remainder." So as the year draws to a close, it may be helpful if we recap the main questions confronting investors and the themes we strongly believe in, region by region.
The 40%-plus drop in oil prices over the past 6 months has garnered a lot of attention recently, most of it focused on the economic stimulus lower oil prices should provide the global economy, the impact on currency and fixed-income markets, and the increase in economic pain suffered by exporters such as Iran and Russia. However, based on historical data, the potential increase in geopolitical tail risk that lower oil prices may represent is an overlooked consequence that, while low probability, would have an outsize impact on the global economy.
This is it, folks; this is the endgame right in front of our faces. The year of 2014 is the new 2007, with all the negative potential but 100 times more explosive going into 2015. Our nation has wallowed in slowly degrading financial conditions for years, hidden by fake economic statistics and manipulated stock prices. All of it has been a prelude to a much more frenetic and shocking event. We expect a hailstorm of geopolitical crises over the next year to provide cover for the shift away from the dollar. Ultimately, the death of the dollar will be hailed in the mainstream as a “good and necessary thing.” They will call it “karma.” They will call it “progress.” They will even call it “decentralization” and a success for the free market. But it will not feel like a positive development for the American public, who will suffer greatly as the dollar crumbles.
"Distinguished Economist Willem Buiter Joins CFR as Senior Fellow
Willem H. Buiter, a renowned macroeconomist and global chief economist at Citigroup, has joined the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) as an adjunct senior fellow. His work will focus on geoeconomics, deglobalization, international financial institutions, and global economic governance. “We are thrilled to have someone of Willem Buiter’s experience and reputation joining CFR,” said CFR President Richard N. Haass. “His presence will make an already strong economics program that much stronger.” Buiter is the newest addition to CFR’s Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, which provides analysis on how economic and geopolitical forces interact to influence world affairs."
"This small group of horrible people are willing to put the world on the line so their lineage can continue to rule the world while the rest of us struggle to simply stop the financial bleeding that has become a 15 year epidemic. This all sounds like the stuff of fiction novels but unfortunately the facts tell us this is all too real. What is hard for me to believe is that we so readily ignore and deny the most essential lessons of history. Perhaps the foremost being that the political class will always be willing to sacrifice the working class in order to retain its power."
It has been centuries since the Portuguese last dominated the world's seaways, but in glancing over recent headlines one would be forgiven for thinking that their pirates are still running around. With the economy still reeling from the effects of the devastating financial crisis in 2010-11, Portugal has been rocked by a series of corruption scandals which go to the very core of the political and financial establishments. Portugal's economic divergence relative to Europe’s core is striking; it has even been overtaken by an average of the newcomers that joined the European Union in 2004, many of which are former communist countries. This in spite of Portugal receiving billions in structural reform funds from Brussels for almost three decades now – a process which is still ongoing. So how did this significant underperformance come about?
- Fall of the Bond King: How Gross Lost Empire as Pimco Cracked (BBG)
- Hong Kong 'Occupy' leaders surrender as pro-democracy protests appear to wither (Reuters)
- Ashton Carter, Ex-Pentagon No. 2, Emerges as Obama Favorite for Defense Secretary (WSJ)
- Oil, the Ruble and Putin Are All Headed for 63. A Russian Joke -- for the Moment (BBG)
- New U.S. oil and gas well November permits tumble nearly 40 percent (Reuters)
- Swedish government on brink of collapse (AJ)
- China says Britain has no moral responsibility for Hong Kong (Reuters)
- Indian Labs Deleted Test Results for U.S. Drugs, Documents Show (BBG)
The topic of ‘currency war’ has been bantered about in financial circles since at least the term was first used by Brazilian Finance Minister Guido Mantega in September 2010. Recently, the currency war has escalated, and a ‘sanctions war’ against Russia has broken out. History suggests that financial assets are highly unlikely to preserve investors’ real purchasing power in this inhospitable international environment, due in part to the associated currency crises, which will catalyse at least a partial international remonetisation of gold. Vladimir Putin, under pressure from economic sanctions, may calculate that now is the time to play his ‘gold card’.
The dust has barely settled on the latest high profile banker suicide in which Deutsche Bank's associate general counsel, and former SEC regulator, Charlie Gambino was found dead, having hung himself by the neck from a stairway banister, and here comes the latest sad entrant in the dead banker chronicles of 2014 when earlier today, the Post reports, a Citigroup banker was found dead with his throat slashed in the bathtub "of his swanky downtown apartment, authorities said Wednesday."
Despite the apparent economic and profit news improvements recently, JPMorgan CIO Michael Cembalest notes there are a few instances where people are still flipping out. It’s worth reviewing them, he suggests, as they're indicative of risks and opportunities in financial markets heading into 2015, and of the continued presence of central banks affecting asset prices.
‘Gold wars’ are intensifying with just 16 days left to polling day in the Swiss Gold Initiative. If the Swiss vote to revert to having 20% of currency reserves in gold, the Swiss National Bank will be forced to make huge purchases of gold bullion. Switzerland and its ‘Gold Initiative’ would contribute to driving the price of gold higher - likely in the short term and contributing to higher prices in the long term. Understanding the important recent past and what has led to the forthcoming Swiss Gold Initiative is important and why we look at it today. This context is all important and is essential reading for all who wish to understand the key issues in the debate, for all who invest in and own gold internationally and for all Swiss people.
Throughout history, in most cases of economic collapse the societies in question believed they were financially invincible just before their disastrous fall. Rarely does anyone see the edge of the cliff or even the bottom of the abyss before it has swallowed a nation whole. This lack of foresight, however, is not entirely the fault of the public. It is, rather, a consequence caused by the manipulation of the fundamental information available to the public by governments and social gatekeepers.
There are things in this world which simply look plain stupid, and then there are those that at closer examination prove to be way beyond stupid...
Gold and crude oil have been in a slow motion free fall of late, even as U.S. equities rally but ConvergEx's Nick Colas looks at the value of each asset class relative to the other two and assess their historical relationship. For example, you currently need 1.72 ounces of gold at $1178 to “Buy” one S&P 500 index at 2032. That is cheap to the 30-year average of a 1.86x ratio, putting fair value on U.S. stocks 8% higher. Separately, it currently takes 25.1 barrels of crude to buy the S&P 500, versus the 30-year average of 27.8, making stocks look cheap by 11%. Closing out this analytical triangle: you need 14.5 barrels of oil to buy an ounce of gold, but the 30-year average is 16.6. Bottom line using these long-term ranges: U.S. stocks look mildly cheap to oil and gold, but drops in those commodities would erase the difference just as easily as a further rally in stocks. Gold looks cheap relative to oil and should be $170 higher, or oil should trade closer to $71.
Non-bombastic overview of the forces influencing the capital markets in the week ahead.