Reviewing my Predictions from Last Year

So here it is, another year. “Another year over, and a new one just begun,” as John Lennon said before Yoko added her cacophonic voice. I just it’s time to look over last year and see look at some of the predictions I made. Specifically at the start of the year and in May, I said:

  • That we would see the end of all of this deflation talk. In terms of the major media, we more or less have. It don’t see anyone talking about deflation in the mainstream media today, but I expect that to change. I think we’ll see a resurgence of deflationary talk as the stock market loses ground. Deflationary talk seems to follow stock market collapses the way flies swarm to carrion, and this stock market seems prone for another leg down. When it does, get ready for more talk of deflation.
  • I also said that long-term government bonds were not a good place to park your money last year. Well, let’s look at the benchmark of Hoisington Long Term US Treasury fund. It opened last year at around $19.50 and went straight down the whole year to end at around $14. OUCH. Of course, this hasn’t stopped Dr. Lacy Hunt from yammering about what a great investment government bonds are, but it’s not everyday you can lose a third of your investment on government bonds. Way to go, Van Hoisongton investors.
  • I said that Barrick Gold was a good place to put your money, and I made a good a good 30% or so off of trading that stock on the way up. Look ma, no doctorate in Ecnomics!

Well, I’m feeling pretty smug about last year. As for this year, I’m thinking Barrick should hit $50 a share or so on the next 90 days, which will make me a fair amount of money. I’m also thinking that we’ll see another significant stock market decline, so hold onto your hats stock investors. This years going to be really hairy.

Signs of the Times

Here’s some interesting news that has hit the wire in the last couple of days:

  • A new hedge fund dedicated to hyper-inflation is being created. Personally, if you really believe hyper inflation is coming, wouldn’t you just buy gold? Why on Earth invest in a hedge fund that can go broke on its big leveraged bets?
  • Speaking of leveraged bets, Obama is speaking of giving the Federal Reserve yet more authority in order to regulate the financial system to make sure that the kinds of crashes don’t happen again. Let’s review folks. It wasn’t until the Federal Reserve was founded in 1913 that we had depressions in the first place. Up until then, we had plenty of downturns and panics, but never a depression. Since the founding of the Fed, we’ve had the Great Depression and, now, this. Clearly, the solution is to just keep giving more authority over to the private banking consortium known as the Federal Reserve and hope that they clear up things. That ought to work great.
  • The people who followed Dr. Lacy Hunt’s advice and bought long term US Treasuries are down quite a bit. Holders of the 30-year Treasury are down roughly 25% since the start of the year. That’s gotta hurt.

The world has been going on it’s merry way the last few months. The dollars been gradually decreasing month after month much to the chagrin of the those predicting continued deflation. Gold’s been near its high and the stock market has just meandered about. Nothing truly Earth shattering has been occurring of late, just a lot of what was expected, including the State of California going broke. It’s projected that June is the last month for California’s budget. After that, that state’s out of money.

I find it bizarre that the state with one of the most onerous tax burden’s in the one going broke first. The state has a 10% income tax tacked onto a 9.25% sales tax. In addition, the state taxes corporations that do business in its state a minimum of $700 even if they didn’t declare a profit. How did these guys go broke again? Oh, yea, excessive government spending. That’s the funny thing about budgets, they expand to fill whatever money is available for them. The state ended up spending too much on things like prisons as it the three strikes law caused more people to spend their lives in jail and their “Health and Human Services Department” (which chews up 28% of the budget. What exactly does the Health and Human Services Department do, you might ask? I’m not sure, let’s check.

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Checking My Scorecard

Every now and then, I make predictions in this blog. Today seemed as good a day as any to take a look at my prior predictions and see how they faired. As a life long Cassandra, I can’t really say that I hate to say I told you so. Honestly, I love saying I told you so.

Specifically, I told you:

  • In November I told my readers that the bonds of Genworth Financial seemed like a good buy. I took my own advice and bought some. They paid over the weekend, realizing me an annualized 20% or so.
  • In January, and many times since, I have repeatedly warned that Dr. Lacy Hunt’s advice to plow money into long term US Treasury obligations was a recipe for disaster. So far this year, the 30-year US Treasury bond is down 20.9%. Ouch!
  • That Barrick Gold was a screaming buy in October of 2008. I loaded up on Barrick at $20.85 a share in November. Last week I sold my Barrick stock for $35.50 a share and took the money and put it straight into GLD. Extra credit: Since that date, GLD (gold bullion) has appreciated and ABX has fallen. Sometimes I just get lucky!
    • That we had witnessed the end of deflation and that this year would see the start of a rampant inflation that would last for years.

    Now, for the longterm prediction that’s the real clincher. Continue reading Checking My Scorecard

Can the Fed Tighten the Money Supply in Time?

Lately I’ve been reading opinions about the market that tell their readers not to be too worried about inflation. Sure, they’ll admit that expanding the money supply correlates sharply with inflation, but they tell me that Ben Bernanke will take all that liquidity out of the system when the time is right. I have no idea where they get this idea; Alan Greenspan certainly wasn’t able to contract the money supply after he inflated it to ward off recession. Do we really believe that Ben Bernanke is going to do any better?

One opinion I read indicated that mopping up inflated money supply. After all, all the Fed had done was monetized the government’s debt. Since that debt is held in the form of US Treasury bonds, it should be easy to contract the money supply again by simply selling the bonds. The author of this opinion was rather misinformed, because they did not seem to understand that when the Fed monetizes bonds, it does so with money that it yanks out of thin air. The money then enters the system by way of the bank. Continue reading Can the Fed Tighten the Money Supply in Time?

Attention Dr. Lacy Hunt: Your Plan’s Not Going So Hot

The United States and the United Kingdom are both pursuing similar strategies to deal with this global recession: print more money. France and Germany are taking a rather different track and talking about reducing government spending. Germany went so far as to argue before the last G-20 meeting that if it were to reduce itself to “stimulus” spending, then it would become a burden on the rest of Europe; their reasoning being that they would eventually have to raise taxes to pay off their increased debt load and that that would cause a drag on the rest of the European economy.

It looks like Keynesianism isn’t a huge hit in France or Germany, as they are managing to avoid the peer pressure of their deficit spending neighbors. I’m sure Helicopter Ben is calling them up saying, “Come on! Everybody’s doing it.” But no dice. In fact, the President of the European Union Mirek Topolanek recently came out and called Obama’s plan to get us out of the recession a “road to hell“.

Ouch. Continue reading Attention Dr. Lacy Hunt: Your Plan’s Not Going So Hot

Conspiracy Theories That Surround The Federal Reserve: Part II

My last entry explored the popular conspiracy elements contained in G. Edward Griffin’s The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve In part two of this series, I’m going to be looking at the particular conspiracies that I have come to accept as part of the formation of the Federal Reserve.

The period of American history that is crucial to understanding the formation of the Federal Reserve is the last 1800s. Unfortunately, this is a period of American history where most Americans are completely ignorant. US history as it is taught in most schools pays scant attention to this period in history. The US History most of us learn in school spends most of its time discussing Colonial History, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and Cold War. No major wars occured during the late 1800s, so its just not considered worth spending much time on. If anything, the only time this period in history gets mentioned is by Democrats trying to remind us how bad this period of time was- back when the goverment’s role was small and bureaucrats and regulators had overrun the nation. This “Gilded Age of the Robber Barons” (as they term it) was surely a vicious time that we can’t afford to go back to.

I derided this attitude in a prior blog, “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Robber Barons?” The people who attack this period in history most, tend to be those who understand it the least. The Industrial Revolution was underway during this period and society was in upheaval.The United States was becoming a mammoth industrial power and the real wages of the working man increased dramatically; real wages for labor have only stagnated since, so let’s not be too hasty in our condemnation of this era of the Robber Barons. The foundations of the nation we would become today were all laid during that period. Continue reading Conspiracy Theories That Surround The Federal Reserve: Part II

Deflation? Only for the Stock Market

I have to take a moment to pat myself on the back.

Around the start of the new year, I said that deflation was not going to be the main concern, and instead, it would be inflation that was going to be making a comeback. As it turns out, the January numbers are in and CPI inflation is up, not down .  Gold closed at $993 an ounce today and is poised to soon break into new all-time highs. In this way, gold is serving its traditional purpose — as the canary in the coal mine warning all of us that things are not well and that danger, (in this case, inflation) is on the way.

Not everything is going up, however. Yesterday, the Dow Jones closed at a 6-year low. Today it went down even more — so now it’s flirting with its 10-year low. The Dow-Gold ratio, which I’ve talked about before, is rapidly reaching new lows. Dividing the Dow’s close of 7365 by gold’s close of $993 gives us a Dow-Gold ratio of 7.4, which is the lowest it’s been in roughly 20 years.

But it’s going to keep heading down even further than that. Soon, we should be seeing a Dow-Gold ratio of three or even two …

Imagine the Dow at 5000 and gold at $2500 an ounce and you get an idea of what the future holds. Continue reading Deflation? Only for the Stock Market

Out of the Mouths of Economists

I read a lot of different perspectives from different angles on the state of our economy. I expect opinions to vary in what I read. In fact, I need the different perspectives to help give me the complete picture, but sometimes what I read is so outlandish that I almost spit my drink out onto my monitor. Case in point is John Mauldin’s recent “Outside the Box” guest column written by Dr. Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington. 

Rather than expect you to read it, I’ll summarize it for you:

  1. Tax cuts are a better way to stimulate the economy rather than one-off stimulus checks because people are more likely to spend an increase in permanent income rather than a temporary windfall. 
  2. The annual turnover rate of each dollar in circulation (termed velocity by economists) is going to slow down because of deflationary pressures despite Ben Bernanke’s best efforts. 
  3. In prior economic downturns, consumer prices have continued to fall for sometime. Because of this, long-term government bonds have proven to be excellent investments during these deflationary contractions. Since we’ve got a ways to go with ours, go load up on Treasury Bonds.

It was the last suggestion that made me lose my cookies. At first I thought I must have misread the concluding sentence of the column, but when I went back, there it was: “As a hedge against a recurrence of a prolonged debt deflation, some investors may want to consider even larger positions in high quality, long term Treasury securities.” WHAT!

How on Earth could two people pen an article that starts off talking about how furiously Ben Bernanke is running the printing presses and conclude with ‘go long on bonds’? Aren’t these people educated? Oh wait, I think I see the problem. The article was written by “Dr. Lacy Hunt.” You see, any ignorant person can spout off some bit of economic nonsense, but it takes a PhD in Macroeconomics to really strike gold when it comes to nonsensical statements. As I wrote in my book, “What Do You Mean My Money’s Worthless?” Macroeconomics is a junk science devised by a hack named John Maynard Keynes. To say it’s littered with fallacious concepts is to not understand the nature of the problem; it’s not littered with fallacies, it’s based on them! Should macroeconomists get anything right it’s not because of their economic training, but in spite of it. 

The problem that this article makes is based on the fallacy that the an economy can be understood as a mathematical phenomenon rather than as a psychological one. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against mathematical descriptions of complex systems. I got my BS in Chemistry. I can tell you all about them. But the economy is not a buffer solution and Ben Bernanke is not a chemist trying to calculate the right about of acid to add to bring the pH of the solution back from being overly basic.
Economies are simply collections of people and resources. Economics then is a study of how individuals or societies make decisions regarding how to allocate their labor and resources, and how those decisions can be improved. To look at them as impersonally as a chemist monitors a pH electrode is to assume that you can not only understand what’s going on, but can be in control of it. Of course, that’s exactly the illusion that government bureaucrats love, which is why Macroeconomics exists at all.

This article supposes that we in the United States are undergoing an economic crisis similar to the Great Depression or 1872-1894 series of banking panics or Japan’s Lost Decade. Long term government bonds did well in those times, so they should do well now. What seems completely lost on the authors is that, in two of those crises, the currency in question was backed by gold. In all three of these crises, the countries in question were running a trade surplus and were nations made of savers. That is nothing like the crises we are in right now. We are a nation of debtors and we are finding ourselves simply unable to take on any more debt. Into this breech steps our fearless central banker to create all the money anyone would want to spend; arm in arm with the central banker, is our government that, as always, is here to help. It figures it can borrow and spend all the money that the consumers won’t.

It’s ironic, but these economists who seem the US economy as a series of cogs and gears don’t seem to understand the concept of an open system. In chemistry, an open system is free to gain or lose energy from outside. Therefore an open system does not have to reach equilibrium because it can be receiving energy that keeps it constantly out of a state of equilibrium. It is only when the system becomes closed and is no longer able to receive energy from the outside that it must seek an equilibrium and, eventually, cease being dynamic.

These economists are looking at the US as a closed economy where the economy is slow to respond to the printing of money from the central banker. They don’t seem to understand that it is actually an open system receiving a great deal of energy from the outside in the form of continual infusions of goods and services from our trade partners who may want to get paid back someday. Are we to expect that the other nations of the world are just going to continue to loan us money as interest rates hover at zero, the central banker has gone on a printing spree, and our government has dedicated itself to running trillion dollar deficits until moral improves? Do we not expect that some other nation might want to use some of its savings for itself and, should that happen, interest rates will go up and not down. That’s ignoring, of course, the possibility that the United States might simply default on the debt entirely.

Perhaps, instead of comparing our situation to past economic crises, these two should have compared it to the economic collapses that dot the third world? Or perhaps they should have studied Chemistry.