Well, my fellow Slope-a-Dopes, you may have noticed that I have been completely turned upside down by this week's developments. Let me be clear, my crazed compromised counter comportment has nothing to do with the fact that the sitting U.S. president was re-elected. After all, every single national poll, swing state survey, and comprehensive electoral college considerations, had the President as the winner by a cushy considerably comfortable count. In this age of definitive digital data mining, why anyone would have been surprised by the well known outcome entirely eludes even eye. The only truly shocking surprise, would have been if the dastardly dog delivery dirtbag had beaten the coy corrupt community creep. So what has utterly upset & upended your favorite Idiot Savant's uneven universe?
Economists the world over can take comfort that the laws of supply and demand still largely rule the marketplace. However, we believe there is a noted exception for a yellow, largely useless metal. A metal that just happens to have shaped the world’s monetary systems for the last several thousand years. Gold’s “supply” traditionally defined as global mining production is virtually meaningless in determining its’ price. How can this be? Gold, even when viewed as a commodity, is unique in that it is not consumed. Rather than supply in the traditional sense, what drives the gold price is the percentage of the existing stock (170,000 tons) that is available for sale on any given day. Gold, in our opinion is what is often referred to as a Giffen good. We believe that a massive revaluation of gold denominated in dollars can happen quite suddenly, almost overnight. But not because of any sustained long term demand for gold, but simply because owners of metal simply withdraw it from sale, sending the stock to flow ratio to infinity. This is why understanding gold’s stock to flow ratio is so vital. What happens to the “price” of gold when it ceases bidding for dollars? Zero. Or infinity. Take your pick.
Yesterday, we were offered 'hopes and prayers' by Gluskin Sheff's David Rosenberg. However, as he warned then, there are some things to be worried about. From the wide gaps in voting patterns across socio-economic lines and the expectations that populist policies will be the hallmark of Obama's second term to the mixed-to-negative data across employment data, consumer spending indications, housing, and Europe; it appears the market is starting to price in some positive probability of a fiscal cliff and these macro data do nothing to subsidize that reality. While the President does not face the Great Recession of four years ago, he does confront the "Not So Great Recovery" nonetheless.
Against the backdrop of a tepid US recovery, Eurozone recession and stuttering growth across emerging markets, investors are beginning to focus on how the 'status quo' outcome impacts the odds of cliff-avoidance; which after all, if there is one thing economists agree on, it is that a US and global recession will ensue if the legislated tax increases and spending cuts worth roughly 3.5% of US GDP take effect next year. UBS believes that if the US economy dips into recession, operating earnings -which are near peak levels - could easily plunge by a fifth. Risk premia would climb, particularly because the US and the world have run out of policies that could lift their economies out of recession. Those factors point to significant downside risk (at least 30%) for global equity markets if the US falls off the 'cliff'. Yet the S&P500 remains within a few percentage points of its cyclical highs. Accordingly, as we have previously concluded, investors assign a very low probability to the ‘cliff’ and a 2013 US recession, which UBS finds 'darn surprising' that this much faith in common sense prevailing in Washington amidst such divisive politics. But for all the attention the ‘cliff’ deserves, UBS notes the fundamental challenge for the US (and many other countries) is to address fiscal stability as a long-term necessity, not a short-term fix.
The U.S. Presidential race is now behind us. And this morning the world woke up and realized that all the issues the election postponed now lie before us. It's becoming increasingly clear the way our leaders will "address" these challenges will be to throw increasing gobs of our citizens' current and future wealth at them. Until, of course, that simply doesn't work anymore...
We are programed to cheer and act out our sheep-like roles in partisan politics when, like the game, unless we have money bet on the outcome the actual winner will have absolutely no impact on our lives. The bottom line is that voting percentages generate credibility for the failed American political system. "There's not a dime's worth of difference between the Democrat and Republican parties." George Wallace, 1966 Alabama governor and presidential candidate. Romney lost for two main reasons: First, as he correctly noted during the campaign, 47 percent of American families are dependent on government handouts and they voted for what was in their own best interests; and second, the GOP leadership antagonized the 10 percent of the Republican Party electorate who supported Ron Paul for President. And so over the next four years the people will be provoked and buy more guns they will never have the courage to use to defend themselves against an all-powerful government. The game will go on until the time is up for our nation. It is time we as a generation man up for liberty to redeem ourselves in the tear-filled eyes of future generations. The American people must work peacefully to restore the Articles of Confederation now or else suffer the permanent consequences of the fall of America.
Once upon a time there was a myth that the equity market can only go up, year after year, with the average annual return according to such esteemed counting institutions as Ibbotson, at 10% or more. Then, we got the November 7, 2000 presidential election, which took place when the S&P was 1432. Fast forward to today, skipping the second and third elections in the interim, and going straight to today's fourth presidential election. The closing S&P today? 1428. We have now had four presidential elections... and a funeral - that of the "stock market always rises" myth. But wait, it gets worse. The numbers above are nominal. When adjusting for the real purchasing power lost in the past 12 years, whose best indicator in a regime in which CPI data is constantly fudged and manipulated, is the price of gold, one can see that 3 presidential elections later, the S&P 500, when priced in gold terms, is now 83% lower. In other words, how is that wealth effect working out for you? And where will the stock market be in another 3 presidential elections in either nominal or real terms? One can only hope that Japan is not prologue...
Forget Florida. This election it is all about Ohio: without Ohio, Romney's winning chances plummet (as can be observed at the following interactive chart), even if one ignores history which is that since 1862 no Republican has won the presidency without winning Ohio. This is a fact well-known to the Obama administration, which explains why the incumbent has spent so much time in the ravaged state, where he has spent so much time ruminating on the the Ohio "unemployment rate miracle." Sure enough, in September, the Ohio unemployment dipped to 7.0%, the lowest since September 2008! On the surface, a tremendous metric and great improvement for a state that would have certainly been firmly in the pro-GOP camp had Obama not been able to hammer on this statistic time and time again. Yet, as always, the unemployment rate is only part of the story. The bigger question is whether or not another data set is being fudged to make the Ohio jobs situation appear better than it is in real life. The answer is, predictably, yes.
With the US elections approaching next week, as well as the threat of another fiscal cliff showdown looming, we look at how the expansive Central State has come to dominate both private society (i.e., the community) and the marketplace, to the detriment of the nation’s social and economic stability. We examine six critical dynamics that will lead to the devolution of Peak Government. "Governments, desperate for more revenues, ignore public resentment and loss of trust, which only deepens the disconnect between those in government and the public. And the private citizenry sees a lack of accountability, soaring public debt, accounting trickery, political dysfunction, and mal-investment of public funds as the hallmarks of their government."
Other than some obligatory arrests for disorderly conduct, the Occupy Wall Street movement celebrated its one year anniversary this past September with little fanfare. While the movement seems to have lost momentum, at least temporarily, it did succeed in showcasing the growing sense of unease felt among a large segment of the US population – a group the Occupy movement shrewdly referred to as “the 99%”. The 99% means different things to different people, but to us, the 99% represents the US consumer. It represents the majority of Americans who are neither wealthy nor impoverished and whose spending power makes up approximately 71% of the US economy. It is the purchasing power of this massive, amorphous group that drives the US economy forward. The problem, however, is that four years into a so-called recovery, this group is still being financially squeezed from every possible angle, making it very difficult for them to maintain their standard of living, let alone increase their levels of consumption.
It seems engines are revving and it may be time to go forward to the past. Earlier this month, a large and well respected asset manager that has begun taking positions in gold expressions issued a report in which it began to justify gold’s relative value. One metric it used was comparing the quantity of currency in the world to the quantity of gold. The report concluded that using this metric, the relative value of gold would be about $2,500/ounce, a significant premium to its current spot price. The analysis posited gold’s value upon a return to the gold standard, posing the question: “what if the entire world’s gold were used to back the global supply of fiat currency?” We agree with the logic of dividing base money by gold holdings to find gold’s “intrinsic value” (as per Bretton Woods and our Shadow Gold Price), but we believe the reasonable value upon conversion to a gold standard would be many multiples higher than $2,500/ounce.
Whether it's deleveraging, spare capacity, dollar debasement, productivity gains, or just plain old obesity, in real purchasing power terms, an hour of your time has never been worth less. In the 40 years since Nixon's 1971 fiat-fiasco, the value of the average hourly earnings for US citizens has dropped 90% in terms of Gold. The last time that our labor's efforts garnered such a low value saw a twenty year credit-blown releveraging (from 1980 to 2001) to save-us-all; we suspect that debt saturation will limit the ability of any central bank to create such a 'recovery' in labor-value once again. Since the peak in 2001, 60 minutes of your valuable time has lost 81% of its purchasing power! Is this what globalization looks like?
Legendary oilman T. Boone Pickens famously calls America’s oil imports ‘the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of the world.’ Pickens is referring to the money that is paid each year to oil exporting nations, particularly those in the Persian Gulf which raked in around $100 billion last year. No doubt, this is an enormous transfer of wealth. But it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the TRILLIONS that Ben Bernanke gives the world’s elite. It constitutes, by far, the greatest transfer of wealth in history, vastly exceeding America’s energy imports. It’s an unconscionable, immoral, ridiculous game. But there’s good news– we can stop playing whenever we want. We don’t HAVE to hold their worthless currency. We don’t HAVE to keep transferring our purchasing power to an elite group. We can “opt-out”. Trade as much of their paper as you can for something REAL, especially physical precious metals.
Both capitalism and democracy promise the opportunity for upward mobility. Capitalism offers upward mobility to anyone with a profitable idea or productive skillset and work ethic. Democracy implicitly promises a "level playing field" of meritocracy, where talent, drive and hard work open opportunities for advancement. Crony capitalism offers wealth to the class that already possesses it. Feudalism bestows "rights" to wealth to a favored few. In a way, upward mobility is a real-world test of a nation's economic and social order: if upward mobility exits in name only, then that nation is neither capitalist nor democratic. Stripped of propaganda and misleading labels, it is a feudal society or a crony-capitalist economy masquerading as a capitalist democracy. The wealth that could have been transferred to the next generation has been consumed suporting a "middle class" lifestyle and providing the next generation with what was once the basis for advancement: a university education, healthcare insurance, a reliable vehicle, etc. Now that jobs are hard to find and compensation is low, the next generation still needs the accumulated wealth of the household to get by. That is not upward mobility, it is downward mobility, on a vast and largely unnoticed scale.
Hands down, the best way to trade stock market volatility day today is simply not to do it, cash out, and purchase hard assets, in particular, precious metals.