"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.
Virtually every day there is an eruption of lunacy from one central bank or another somewhere in the world. In short, the central banks of the world are embroiled in a group-think mania so extreme and irrational that it puts one in mind of the spasm of witchcraft trials that erupted in the Massachusetts Bay Colony nearly four centuries ago. As a practical matter, this mania amounts to a race to the currency bottom and the final extinguishment of the price discovery mechanism in every financial market on the planet. Flying blind, the financial markets are thus bubbling - in the delirium phase - like never before. That is, until they don’t.
"Abenomics is not having clear traction across the country," warned the head of Japan's auto lobby on Thursday as unexpectedly weak domestic sales revealed - yet again - what an utter disaster government policy is. "We feel a sense of crisis about the fact that cars are actually not selling," he exclaimed, saying that, as Reuters reports April sales tax hike was only partly to blame for the domestic sales weakness, citing the government's failure to boost consumption. But, but, but Japanese stocks are up 1000 points in the last 2 days so how can this be?
The Japanese economy may well be getting crushed under the weight of Abenomics (courtesy of an unprecedented in history quadruple-dip recession and a record number of Japanese corporate bankruptcies due to the plunging Yen), but as we wrote previously, Abe has effectively hijacked the nation to his (and Paul Krugman's) stock-market levitating policies and has given Japan a simple choice: either you let us see this disastrous experiment in trickle-down monetarism to its tragic end, or all your pensions are toast. Not much of a choice for a population which has more retirees than any developed nation. And it's not like Japan has much a chance anyway. Which is why the outcome of tomorrow's vote for Abenomics is completely irrelevant, and which the local press says will "unquestionably" be won by Abe in an absolute majority.
The 2% target is low enough that the household frogs in the kettle of hot water never realize they're being boiled alive because the increase is so gradual. The central banks assume their 2% plan to impoverish us all escaped our notice. Apparently it has.
The game has been lost, but central bankers are still on the field, wandering around in disbelief that their unspeakable powers to issue money and credit have failed. You can print all the money you want, but it will never boost wages to keep up with prices.
At the latest ECB press conference Draghi said that. “The monetary policy team had this week discussed buying all assets except gold”; qualifying a claim by fellow member Yves Mersch two weeks ago that gold bullion could be included.” If central bankers truly believed in sound monetary policy the headline would have said “We’ll buy all your gold”. That would have propelled both gold and the European equity markets upwards. As it is markets on the continent get cheaper as the good doctor fiddles.
If there's one absolute truism we hear again and again, it's that central banks are desperately trying to create inflation. Perversely, their easy-money policies actually generation the exact opposite: deflation. Financial and risk bubbles don't pop in a vacuum--all the phantom collateral constructed with mal-invested free money for financiers will also implode.
Precious metals investors (and even precious metals commentators) have a tendency to put the cart before the horse. We familiarize ourselves with the dramatic economic fundamentals which have an enormous impact on the value of precious metals (and the prices for all hard assets). We study the parameters of supply and demand for gold and silver. But we frequently omit learning about the intrinsic properties of these amazing metals.
It seems rather appropriate that just seven days after the US government hit a whopping $18 trillion in debt, mainstream financial media has picked up the IMF’s recent World Economic Outlook report, which puts the US economy as #2 in the world. China obviously has its own substantial problems, but over the last several decades one thing is for certain - China (and Asia in general) is a place where production and savings are valued. The universal law of wealth is to produce more than you consume. The West has completely broken that.
When no lesser establishmentarian than Obama's former chief economist Jared Bernstein called for an end to the US Dollar's reserve status, it raised a few eyebrows, but as the WSJ recently noted, the voices discussing how the burden of being the world's reserve currency harms America, more than just Vladimir Putin is paying attention. While some argue that “no other global currency is ready to replace the U.S. dollar.” That is true of other paper and credit currencies, but the world’s monetary authorities still hold nearly 900 million ounces of gold, which is enough to restore, at the appropriate parity, the classical gold standard: the least imperfect monetary system of history.
A story has been echoing around the financial news for a few weeks: the Chinese economy is now larger than the economy in the US. Not so fast...
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?
Back in March the ECB predicted 2014 inflation would be 1.0%, with prices rising to 1.3% in 2015. Since then one can say that deflation has once again taken hold, and following two consecutive cuts to 2014 inflation expectations, moments ago Draghi just released the ECB's latest set of inflation expectations. In a nutshell: in just 9 short months, the ECB's current year inflation forecast has been cut in half, with 2015 inflation also down nearly 50%, from 1.3% to 0.7%.