Monday, October 20, 2014

The 10th Man....What a Correction Feels Like

By Jared Dillian


Back in the summer of 2007, when I was working for Lehman Brothers, I had a vacation to the Bahamas planned. This was unusual for me. Up until that point, in six years of working for Lehman, I had taken about five vacation days—total. But my wife and I were going to a semi primitive resort on Cat Island, the most desolate island in the Bahamas. Interesting place for a vacation. Suffice to say that it’s plenty hot in the Bahamas in August.

The market had been acting funny for a while, and I had a hunch that there was going to be trouble while I was gone, so I bought the 30 strike calls in the CBOE Market Volatility Index (VIX). I was betting that volatility was going to go up a lot in a short period of time. In fact, these options—which I spent a little over $100,000 on—would be worthless unless there was outright panic. I gave instructions to my colleagues to sell the call options if the VIX went over 35. (Note: my memory on the details of the trade, like the strike of the options and the level of the VIX, is a little hazy. The specifics might have been different, but you get the general idea.)

So there I was, sunning myself at this primitive resort on Cat Island and the world was melting down, and I was completely oblivious to what was going on back on Wall Street. Coincidentally, the local Bahamas newspaper had a picture of black swans on the cover one day. I staged a photo of me in a hammock reading the newspaper with the black swans on it. I still have that photo.

I got back to civilization and checked the markets. I saw the chart of the VIX. I could hardly contain myself. If my colleagues had executed the trades properly, I would have had a profit of over $800,000. But when I got back to work and opened my spreadsheet, I found that I’d made less than $100,000. What I had failed to consider was that if the world actually was blowing up, the guys would have been too busy to execute my trade.

So there is this whole idea of state dependence that we have to consider when we’re talking about the market. Like, you might have a plan to buy stocks when the index gets below a certain level, but when the market gets to that point, you: a) may not have the capital; and b) might be panicking into your shorts. It’s nice to have a plan, but, paraphrasing Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.

I remember reading Russell Napier’s book about bear markets, called Anatomy of the Bear. It talked about all the big bear markets in the US, including the granddaddy of them all, the stock market crash of 1929 and the Great Depression. One of the things that I learned from this book was that if you can time the bottom exactly right, you can make a hell of a lot of money in very short order. For example, if you had bought the lows in 1932, you could have doubled your money in a matter of months.

I wanted to do that. I prayed for a bear market, so I would get my chance.

Little did I know that I would get my chance just two years later—and blow it.

When the market is down 60%, it’s scary as hell to buy stocks. Hindsight being 20/20, you can say, “What, did you think it was going to zero?” Actually, yes—in March of 2009, people thought it was going to zero.
But for those people who: a) had capital; and b) weren’t terrified, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

A Thousand Days with No Correction


So let’s talk about a). Does everybody have capital? Remember, the hard part of this is not picking bottoms. Many people can do this quite capably. Panic/liquidation is very easy to spot. But few people have the ability to take advantage of it, because they’re fully invested.

As for b), you tend not to be terrified if you have capital.

Everyone knows by now that the stock market is correcting. The price action is pretty terrible. Will it get worse? I think so. We’re seeing excesses (corporate credit, growth stocks, IPOs) that we haven’t seen in many, many years. It’s been over 1,000 days since we’ve had a correction of any magnitude. With the market down about 5%, nobody is particularly worried, because every other time the market was down 5%, it ended up going higher.

Back to state dependence. What is it going to feel like if the market goes down further? How will people behave if the S&P 500 gets to, say, 1,700?

I can tell you what it will be like if the S&P gets to 1,700. It’s going to be like it was in August of 2007 when my coworkers forgot to sell my VIX calls because they were buried under an avalanche of panicked sell orders from institutional money managers. Pre-algorithmic trading, the trading floor used to get pretty noisy. I used to be able to tell you what the market was doing just from listening to the floor. At SPX 1,700, trading floors will be very noisy.

It’s been so long since we’ve had a correction, I’m guessing that most people have forgotten what a correction feels like. When you go that long in between corrections, people are sitting on a mountain of capital gains. And unless the capital gains really start to disappear, there is little pressure to sell. But if you’re the owner of, say, airline stocks, and you’ve watched them evaporate to the tune of 30%, that tends to focus the mind a little bit.

As with any steep correction, there will be fantastic opportunities, but they will only be available to those who have capital. Remember, bear markets don’t just destroy the bulls’ capital, they destroy the bears’ capital, too.

Bear markets destroy everyone’s capital.
Jared Dillian
Jared Dillian

The article The 10th Man: What a Correction Feels Like was originally published at mauldin economics


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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Commodity Market Summary for Week Ending Friday October 17th - Crude Oil, Gold, U.S. Dollar, Coffee and More

Our trading partner Mike Seery brings us his take on this volatile commodities market, read in detail as Mike includes his stops and so much more......

Crude oil futures in the November contract had a wild trading week in New York currently trading at $83 a barrel after settling last Friday at 85.82 as prices actually breached the $80 mark before reversing in yesterday’s trade to settle down nearly $3 for the trading week. Crude oil futures are trading below their 20 day and $13 below their 100 day moving average telling you the trend is clearly bearish and if you are short this market place your stop above the 10 day high which currently stands at 90.75 and that stop will be lowered on a daily basis as I missed this market and am currently sitting on the sidelines as the chart structure was awful when the breakout occurred so I’m kicking myself at the current time.

I definitely am not recommending any type of long position in crude oil as I think prices will continue to head lower especially with Saudi Arabia coming out stating that they will not cut production as they are looking for lower prices to squeeze U.S output as this market still has further to go in my opinion and 79.78 in yesterday’s trade will be retested once again so continue to take advantage of any rally making sure you place the proper stop loss also maintaining a proper risk management of 2% of your account balance on any given trade. Crude oil prices have dropped from $104 a barrel in late June to today’s price levels dropping over $20 or 20% as consumers will definitely benefit when they hit their local gas stations and that should also help improve the U.S economy.

The fundamentals in crude oil are extremely bearish as worldwide supplies are extremely high while supplies here in the United States are at record highs so it’s very difficult to rally as we don’t have the spike up in price like we used to when Middle East conflicts erupted which is a good thing for the United States. TREND: LOWER
CHART STRUCTURE: POOR

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Gold futures in the December contract had a volatile trading week in New York still trading above its 20 day but below its 100 day moving average telling you that the trend currently is mixed as prices hit a 4 week high in Wednesday’s trade at 1,250 however we are down about $3 this Friday afternoon currently trading at 1,239 as the trend still remains neutral as I’m sitting on the sidelines. A possible spike bottom was created around the 1,185 level as I was short this market from around 1,278 getting stopped out at the 2 week high around 1,235 so right now I’m waiting for a better chart pattern to develop as the chart structure is somewhat poor at the current time as the U.S dollar has been pressuring gold in recent weeks but the dollar looks like its created a short term top as well.

The problem I have with gold at the current time is with all worldwide problems and the stock market experiencing huge volatility this week gold prices should be sharply higher from today’s prices levels so this tells me that this market remains weak and if you think a top has been created at 1,250 sell at today’s price of 1,239 risking $11 or $1,100 per contract, however like I’ve stated before I am sitting on the sidelines waiting for a trend to develop. At the current time many of the commodity markets are experiencing very few trends and as a commodity trader you do not want to trade just too trade so you must have patience as at the current time there have not been any new breakouts in several weeks except for a select few.
TREND: MIXED
CHART STRUCTURE: POOR

The U.S Dollar experienced an extremely volatile trading week settling last Friday at 86.00 currently trading at 85.28 up about 20 points this Friday afternoon as volatility has exploded in bonds, stocks and many of the commodities as prices hit a 2 week low this week stopping out my recommendation around 85.30 as currently I’m sitting on the sidelines. If you took my original recommendation when prices broke out above the contract high of 81.20 back on the 25th of July this trade worked out very well but now look for other markets that are trending as this market will probably consolidate as it rallied about 600 points in the last 4 months, however I do believe we are in the midst of a long term bull market as Europe and Japan continue their quantitative easing as the United States has basically ended there quantitative easing so fundamentally speaking that should keep the foreign currencies weak against the U.S dollar. The chart structure currently is poor as this market generally is one of the least volatile of all the commodities, however with the stock market swings this week that sent volatility back into the dollar while sending shock waves through the currency markets as well so sit on the sidelines and look for another market with better chart structure. TREND: MIXED
CHART STRUCTURE: POOR

Coffee futures in the December contract are trading above their 20 & 100 day moving average however prices hit a 2 week low today as prices have become extremely volatile to the fact of hot & dry weather once again in Brazil causing concerns of another poor crop as prices settled last Friday at 220.40 currently trading at 210.70 down this Friday afternoon on a forecast of rain hitting key coffee growing regions next week. At the current time I’m sitting on the sidelines in this market as prices have become extremely volatile as I will wait for better chart structure to develop however I do think prices are limited to the downside due to the fact that Brazil probably will produce another poor crop this year as coffee is grown on trees and when a drought occurs those trees can be stressed for several years unlike the grain market where you can grow a brand new crop the next year. I’ve talked to a large coffee producer down in Brazil and he still is extremely bullish stating that he thinks the crop production numbers will be lower than what is currently estimated but only time will tell but the trend is neutral to higher at the current time but look for a better market with better chart structure.
TREND: NEUTRAL
CHART STRUCTURE: POOR

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Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Invest in a Difficult Market

By Casey Research

Many experts hold dim views of the current state of the US economy—but what’s a prudent investor to do to make a profit? Find out what the blue-ribbon faculty of economists and investment pros at the recently concluded Casey Research Fall Summit thought.

Lacy Hunt, senior executive VP of Hoisington Investment Management Company and former chief economist at the Dallas Fed, says the main reason that the global economy continues to falter is that all countries borrow too much and save too little.

“275% total debt to GDP is the critical threshold. Every world economy of importance is above that level and moving higher.” He finds today’s monetary policy “impotent.” The Fed, Bank of England, and Bank of Japan are trying to solve the problem of too much debt by borrowing more, which has short-term benefits, but will be disastrous long term.

Too much borrowing, says Hunt, guarantees that we’ll get more asset bubbles. Because the United States is the least indebted of the three countries, it will continue to outperform Japan and Europe. He predicts that the dollar will rise against other major currencies and that inflation, as well as interest rates, will remain low.

Christian Menegatti, managing director of economic research at Roubini Global Economics, is convinced that we’re at the end of a supercycle and won’t see a normalization of monetary policy for quite some time.
Like Lacy Hunt, Menegatti predicts that global interest rates will stay low. On the positive side, he doesn’t believe that we will see secular stagnation; in other words, a full “Japanification” of the US is unlikely.

The current economic recovery in the US is weaker than that in the 1930s, claims Worth Wray, chief strategist at Mauldin Economics. He says while nominal interest rates are the lowest they've ever been, real rates could go lower.

When the Fed’s QE3 is over, he predicts that growth will weaken and rates will fall further. “Without another dose of stimulus, the US will likely slide into recession.”

Taking a global view, he thinks that China’s slowdown could cause the Australian housing bubble to pop, and that commodity prices will drop over the next few years, which will hurt resource rich countries like Australia, Norway, and Canada.

He recommends to buy U.S. Treasuries and to diversify across asset classes that thrive in different economic environments to strengthen your portfolio against a possible crisis.

Diversification is also the number one tip from the expert panel on “Building a Crisis Proof Portfolio” at the Casey Summit, consisting of Worth Wray and Casey editors Alex Daley, Terry Coxon, Dan Steinhart, and Dennis Miller.

They say a crisis can take one of two forms:
  1. A “standard” crisis, where stocks crash but the financial system remains intact. In that scenario, you want to own US government bonds because they’ll retain their safe-haven properties.
  1. A “reset,” meaning a complete implosion of the global financial system. Government bonds won’t save you from that type of crisis. Instead, you’d want to own real, non-financial assets, such as physical gold and silver, as well as farmland and other real estate.
For “Future Tech You Can Profit from Now,” Alex Daley, chief technology investment strategist at Casey Research, suggests to look for companies that offer game changing benefits or savings and that focus on “where businesses and people spend their time and money,” like OpenTable or Zillow.

Daley recommends three companies with great upside from his Casey Extraordinary Technology portfolio.
He says there’s no need to worry about the broader market if you can find great companies with consistent growth. “Look for 40% revenue growth over the same quarter last year; that’s the magic number.”

To get all of Alex Daley’s stock picks (and those of the other speakers), as well as every single presentation of the Summit, order your 26+-hour Summit Audio Collection now. It’s available in CD and/or MP3 format. Learn more here.

The article How to Invest in a Difficult Market was originally published at casey research


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How Can There Not Be a Currency Crisis?

By Casey Research

The Fed claims that signs of economic stress are very low, but savvy investors feel otherwise. With geopolitical unrest expanding and central banks doing the opposite of the right things, is a currency crisis barreling toward us? See what Mish Shedlock had to say about the state of world finance at the 2014 Casey Research Summit:


Even though the Summit is long over, you can still benefit from every presenter… every panel discussion… every investment recommendation. Order the 2014 Summit Audio Collection and you’ll receive all of that, plus all slides used in the presentations and a bonus highlight reel. Choose between instantly available MP3 files or CDs… or get both for maximum convenience.

Order now so that you’re well positioned to thrive in the coming crisis economy.

The article How Can There Not Be a Currency Crisis? was originally published at casey research


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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Calling into question what we are being told about ISIS, QE and Ebola

By John Mauldin


A note has been circulating among economists, calling into question the wisdom of another group of economists who wrote an open letter to the Federal Reserve a few years ago suggesting that one of the risks of their quantitative easing program was increased inflation. Since we have not seen CPI inflation, this latter group is calling upon the former to admit they were wrong, that quantitative easing does not in fact cause inflation. To no one’s surprise, Paul Krugman has written rather nastily and arrogantly about the lack of CPI inflation.

Cliff Asness has responded with a thoughtful letter, with his usual tinge of humor, pointing out that there has been inflation, it just hasn’t been in the CPI. We’ve seen it in assets instead. That money did go someplace, and it has disrupted markets. So why is Cliff’s letter a candidate for Outside the Box, when the markets seem to be bouncing all over heck and gone?

Because, come the next crisis, there is going to be another move for yet another round of massive quantitative easing. And the justification will be that increases in the money supply clearly don’t have much to do with inflation.

I should note that while I did not agree with the original letter (I thought we were in an overall deflationary environment, and I wrote that the central banks of the world would be able to print more money than any of us could possibly imagine and still not trigger inflation – views came in for considerable pushback), my reasons for believing QE2 and QE3 were problematic dealt with other unintended consequences. And ultimately, as global debt gets restructured (which will take many years) inflation will become a problem. Did you notice how Greek debt spreads blew out yesterday? It’s not just about oil. And trust me, France is going to be the new Greece before we know it. The people who think they can control markets and direct investors like sheep are going to be in for a huge surprise, but the nightmare is going to be visited upon the participants in the market.

We then move to a few thoughts from Peter Boockvar, in a letter he writes to savers, noting that the same people who brought you quantitative easing are also responsible for the demise of any income that might possibly have come from saving.

I wish I had good advice for your savings, but I can’t advise buying stocks that have only been more expensive in 2000 on some key metrics right before you know what, and I can’t recommend buying any long term bond as the yields also stink relative to inflation. With the Fed now saying that the dollars in your pocket are now worth too much relative to money in people’s pockets overseas and thus joining the global FX war, maybe you should buy some gold, but I know that yields nothing either. You are the sacrificial lamb in this grand experiment conducted by the unelected officials working at some building named Eccles who seem to have little faith in the ability of the US economy to thrive on its own as it did for most of its 238 years of existence. Borrowers and debt are their only friends. To you responsible saver that worked hard your whole life, may you again rest in peace.

And then we finish with some thoughts from our friend Ben Hunt, who takes exception to being told how to think and believe and act by “those smart people with degrees” who only want to do what’s best for us. Not just in economics but with regard to ISIS and Ebola and everything else. After reading Ben’s essay I called him and said, “Me too!”

I am tired of being manipulated, placated, spin-lied to (if it’s not a word it should be), mutilated, spindled, and folded.

We have to keep our eyes open and entertain the possibility that central banks will “lose the narrative,” that is, their ability to control markets with simple statements. The BIS recently had this to say:

Guy Debelle, head of the BIS’s market committee, said investors have become far too complacent, wrongly believing that central banks can protect them, many staking bets that are bound to “blow up” [at] the first sign of stress.

Mr. Debelle said the markets may at any time start to question whether the global authorities have matters under control, or whether their pledge to hold down rates through forward guidance can be believed. “I find it somewhat surprising that the market is willing to accept the central banks at their word, and not think so much for themselves,” he said. [Source: Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, “BIS warns on 'violent' reversal of global markets”]

The 10 year US Treasury slipped below 2% earlier today, but has rebounded somewhat to 2.06% as I write. Oddly, the yen seems to be strengthening slightly as the stock markets once again fall out of bed. Oil continues to weaken. As noted above, Greeks spreads are blowing out. Super Mario needs to get on his bike and start peddling before that concern spreads to other nations almost as insolvent. France will soon be downgraded again. Don’t you just love October?

What an interesting time to hold a midterm election. Have a great week!
Your really thinking through the implications of a stronger dollar analyst,
John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box

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The Inflation Imputation

By Cliff Asness, AQR Capital Management LLC

In 2010, I co-signed an open letter warning that the Fed’s experiment with an unprecedented level of loose monetary policy – in amount, and in unorthodox method – created a risk of serious inflation. Sporadically journalists and others have noted that this risk has not come to pass, particularly in consumer prices.

Recently there has been an article surveying each of us as to why; seeming to relish in, when provided, our various rationales, presumably as they sounded like excuses. It seems none of the responses provided what the authors clearly wanted, a blanket admission of error. I did not comment for that article, continuing my life long attempt not to help reporters who’ve already made up their mind to make fun of me – I help them enough through my everyday actions, they don’t need more!

More articles of similar bent keep showing up. The authors seem to find it amusing that four years of CPI data wouldn’t get people to change their economic views, while ignoring that 80 years of overwhelming evidence has not dissuaded Keynesians from the belief that this time, if they could only run everything, not just most things, they’d really get it right.

Focusing my attention, as was predestined, Paul Krugman lived up to his lifelong motto of “stay classy” with a piece on the subject entitled Knaves, Fools, and Quantitative Easing. Some lesser lights of the Keynesian firmament have also jumped in (collectivists, of course, excel at sharing a meme). Responding to Krugman is as productive as smacking a skunk with a tennis racket. But, sometimes, like many unpleasant tasks, it’s necessary. I will, at least partially, make that error here, while mostly trying to deal with the original issue separate from Paul’s screeds (though one wonders if CPI inflation had risen in the last four years if Paul would be admitting his entire economic framework was wrong – ok, one doesn’t really wonder – and those things never happen to Paul anyway, just ask him).

Let me say up front that this essay will satisfy nobody. Those looking for a blanket admission of error will get part of what they want; a small part. Those hoping I hold the line denying any misstep will also be disappointed. I believe truth, as is often the case in similar situations, lies in the middle of these and I prefer truth, as I see it, to any reader walking away sated.

We indeed warned about the risks of inflation in 2010 and the CPI has been, to put it mildly, benign since then. First, to give the baying crowd just a bit of what it wants (I will take some of it back soon), our bad (I say “our” but obviously I speak only for myself). When you warn of a risk and it doesn’t come to pass I do think you owe the world this admission, even if you later explain what it means to warn of a risk not a certainty, and offer good reasons why despite reasonable worry this particular risk didn’t come to pass. I, and many other signatories, live in the world of economic or political prognostication, in my case money management, where if you get a bit more than half your calls right you are doing quite well, more than a bit more than half, you’re doing fabulously. I’ll put our collective record up against Krugman’s (and the Krug-Tone back-up dancers) any day of the week and twice on days he publishes.

Let’s start with the big one. We did not make a prediction, something we certainly know how to do and have collectively done many times. We warned of a risk. That’s a very specific choice people like the open letter writers, and Paul, have to make all the time, and he knows this, but that doesn’t deter him. Rather, Paul engages in the old debating trick of mentioning this argument himself and dismissing it. This technique worked for Eminem at the end of Eight Mile. But let’s not be fooled by chicanery (silly Paul, you are no Rabbit). If I had wanted to make a prediction, I would have made one. I didn’t, nor did my fellow signatories. Frankly, if there are any economists, aside from those never-uncertain-but-usually-wrong like Paul, who did not think such unprecedented Fed action represented at least a heightened risk, I think it was malpractice on their part.

An honest Paul Krugman (we will use this term again below but this is something called a “counter-factual”) would have agreed with our letter but qualified that while heightened, he still didn’t think this risk would come to fruition and that he thought it was a risk worth running. Still, I will give the critics half credit here, accept half blame, and issue a demi mea culpa. By writing the letter we clearly thought this risk was higher than others did, and wished to stress it, and it has not (as most commonly measured) as of now come to bear. Our, and my, (half) bad. I hope that makes the critics (half) happy and they can stop copying each other’s articles over and over again.

Of course being able to call out risks, not just make firm predictions, is quite important. If you believe the risk of an earthquake is 10 times normal, but 10 times normal is still not a high probability, it’s rational to warn of this risk, even if the chance such devastation occurs is still low and you’ll look foolish to some when it, in all likelihood, doesn’t happen. If you can’t point out risks you are left with either silence as an option, or overly and falsely self-confident forecasts. Perhaps the latter may work for former economists turned partisan pundits but the rest of us will have to live with the ex ante and ex post ambiguity of discussing risks.

It’s a real subtlety but I think there is truth somewhere in between the current attack meme of “you predicted inflation risk and were wrong and are now hiding behind the word ‘risk’“ and “we only said it was a risk so we cannot be wrong.” I think when you boldly forecast a risk you are saying more than “this might happen but either way I can’t be blamed” and something less than “this will happen and I stake my reputation on it.” We should all be mature enough to know the difference, but apparently that ship has sailed......

Not surprisingly, the above stress on risk jibes with my personal view of monetary policy, one that might not be shared by all my co-signatories. I tend to think it matters less than most think, and matters less often than most think. I tend to view it, for finance fans, in a “Modigliani Miller” (MM) framework, where most corporate financing transactions are paper-for-paper, mattering little. But, in the MM framework bankruptcy costs do matter. Therefore most corporate capital structure decisions are irrelevant, except to the extent they increase the chance of serious financial distress, in which everyone but the lawyers lose (in many models this risk must be balanced against the tax advantages of debt).

From this perspective, slight adjustments to the target Fed funds rate based on exquisitely sensitive perceptions of the probability of economic overheating or slowdown probably make little difference (and don’t even start me on the dots), but deflation or excessive inflation are important to avoid as their damage can be great. They are the bankruptcy costs of monetary policy. Thus, I think sounding the alarm, not making a prediction, that experimental and aggressive monetary policy raised one of these risks was appropriate. But, still, I think most people engaged on the topic spend a lot of time talking about monetary policy in the same way dogs spend a lot of time talking, yes in their secret dog language, about the cars they chase. The cars aren’t affected and generally don’t care.

Now, if you thought the above was an excuse on par with, continuing my canine fixation, “the dog ate my inflation,” and not the demi mea culpa I intended, you’re really going to hate the full blown non-conciliatory excuses about to come.

Economically, I think what everyone of any political or economic stripe missed, certainly including myself, was how little money would circulate, how little would be lent and then spent. In econo-geek, how low the money multiplier would be. Money kept by banks at low but positive interest rates at the Fed clearly isn’t doing much of anything, creating inflation as we feared, or helping the economy as they hoped. To the extent inflation worriers like us were wrong, so were those predicting great economic benefits. The Fed clearly wanted this money lent by banks and spent by companies on investment and by people on consumption.

They didn’t get that, and we didn’t get the inflation we feared. This is not to say that low interest rates, real and nominal, and high prices for risky assets (and the supposed “wealth effect” that comes with them) were not Fed goals. They clearly were. But it seems these intermediate goals have not had their desired effect on the real economy.

Quantitative easing (QE) and other inventive forms of loose monetary policy have simply been less than hoped or feared. Some may declare Fed policy a great success as we’re not in a depression, but they can’t show any counter-factual, and given that this money has largely sat dormant, albeit presumably lowering risk premia (raising asset prices), it’s likely we’d have a similar record-weak recovery with or without it. How this is a victory for one side of the debate or another is beyond me, but obviously clear to Paul and his back-up singers. Of course, it’s also clear to Paul that the 2009 stimulus package saved us from this same second Great Depression (but more stimulus would of course have been much better). Yep, and if we traded good cash for just one more “clunker” we’d be growing at 5% per annum by now with a normal labor participation rate.

By-the-way, ignored in the critics’ review of the original letter was the line, “In this case, we think improvements in tax, spending and regulatory policies must take precedence in a national growth program...” On this I’m unapologetic. We were right, we’re still right, and thanks to people like Paul we’ve moved in the wrong direction. But that’s a fight for another day.

In a field without a broad set of counter-factuals we all stick too much to our priors and ideologies, and perhaps I’m doing that now. But at least I see it, and that’s always step one. Paul is stuck on step zero (if he ever gets up to “making amends” I will be around but given his history he might never get to me). But, if you’d like to advance past step zero, Paul, we’re still waiting on why Keynesianism failed to fix the Great Depression (no doubt not quite enough stimulus; just one more Hoover Dam would have done it, or, as they called it back then, “Dams for Clunkers”), strongly predicted a deep post-WWII depression, didn’t predict stagflation, and generally was on a the downward spiral to the intellectual dustbin until the great recession resuscitated it, not as a workable intellectual doctrine, but as an excuse for politicians to spend on their constituents and causes.

Also remember, much like when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, nothing is over yet. The Fed has not undone its extraordinary loose monetary policy and is just now stopping its direct QE purchases. When monetary policy is back to historic norms, and economic growth is once again strong, a normal number of people are seeking and getting jobs, and inflation has not reared its head, I think we can close the books on this one, still recognizing that forecasting a risk and having it fail to come to bear is not a cardinal sin. But which one of those things has happened yet? Paul, and others, should by now know the folly of declaring victory too early.

At the risk of enraging a whole different group (I promise I’m not denying anything I’m just making an analogy, and one I know is very far from dead on) I’m amazed that a Paul Krugman can look at 15+ years of the earth not warming and feel his beliefs need no modification or explanation, but 4 years of the CPI not inflating is reason not simply to declare victory, but to decry those who disagree with him as “Knaves and Fools.” In fact, rather than also anger Mr. Gore and Steyer, I hope they find this paragraph supportive as I’m saying these debates are rarely settled in either direction in short time frames. Now, if I were cheekier (cheek is not denial!) I’d ask if perhaps our letter was right and the inflation we predicted is in fact occurring in the depths of the ocean? Or, maybe we should ex post relabel our letter a warning of the risk of “extreme price action” including of course the extreme stability we have experienced in CPI these last few years.

Now, while not pointing to the actual ocean it is fascinating where inflation has shown up. Don’t limit your view of inflation to the CPI. No, this isn’t a screed where I claim to have invented my own consumption basket showing inflation is rising at 25% per annum – though some of those screeds are interesting. It’s the far simpler observation that we have indeed observed tremendous inflation in asset prices since this experiment began (of course this was part of the Fed’s intent – but it was meant to stoke real activity not an end unto itself!). Stocks, the spreads on high yield bonds, real estate, you name it.

Inflation is hard enough to forecast, but where it lands is even harder. If one counts asset inflation it seems we’ve indeed had tremendous inflation. While admittedly difficult to prove, as is any of this if we’re being honest as economics rarely offers proofs, you’d be hard pressed to find many economists or Wall Street professionals who don’t see current extremely high asset prices, and low forward looking returns to investors, as at least a partial consequence of the cocktail of QE, loose monetary policy, and financial repression. I understand Paul and others wanting to avoid this as not only does it show that they have no right to crow on inflation, but that the policies they advocate, and we decried, have had little effect on the economy but instead have, at least partially intentionally, exacerbated the inequality Paul spends the other half of his columns excoriating (while of course living himself off the global median income in protest and solidarity).

By the way, again the critics somehow manage to skip another prescient forecast in this same short open letter. We explicitly worried that the Fed’s policies “will distort financial markets and greatly complicate future Fed efforts to normalize monetary policy.” That’s econo-geek for “will drive financial market prices up and prospective returns down, and create financial instability when the Fed tries to stop.” Again, while this would perhaps not surprise the Fed, which actively desired low interest rates and a “wealth effect,” it seems that a fair reading shows that this much maligned letter wasn’t as wrong as the critics say, and was very right in ways the critics ignore.

Moving on, please recall that many, not all, supporters of QE and very loose monetary policy in general, did so exactly because they thought it would create some inflation, and they thought (and many still think) that’s what the economy needs. We, we the letter signers, are responsible for our own forecasts, but you might forgive us a bit for taking the other side at their word!

Bottom line, the half mea culpa above was not a throw away. When you go out of your way to warn of a risk and after a suitable period that risk has not come to bear, at least where everyone, including you, expected it, you should admit some error, and I do. But there is a still a big difference between pointing out a risk and making a forecast (hence the half admission!). A big reason this risk hasn’t come to fruition is, while not as dangerous so far as we thought, it appears QE was only mostly useless. To the extent even that is only mostly true, where effects did show up, it actually caused rather a lot of inflation, but inflation that went straight into the pockets of those who needed it least and whom Paul wouldn’t swerve his car to avoid. That is, it inflated financial assets, benefited the rich, and enhanced inequality.

So, to those who’ve been waiting for one of us to say it, you can have half the mea culpa you clearly want, but mostly Paul is wrong, and twisting the facts, and doing so as rudely and crassly as possible, yet again.

The rest of the JV team of Keynesians who have also jumped on board are doing the same thing, just with more class and less entertainment value than the master.

Now for a real prediction: Paul will continue to be mostly wrong, mostly dishonest about it, incredibly rude, and in a crass class by himself (admittedly I attempt these heights sometimes but sadly fall far short). That is a prediction I’m willing to make over any horizon, offering considerable odds, and with no sneaky forecasts of merely “heightened risks.” Any takers?

Cliff Asness is Founding and Managing Principal of AQR Capital Management, LLC

Dear Saver, May You RIP

By Peter Boockvar, The Lindsey Group LLC

Dear Saver,
To the forgotten and misunderstood soul, may you rest in peace. There just seems that nothing can save you now. You were bloody and battered after the stock market bubble crashed in 2001 and 2002. Afterward, you stuck with stocks but also decided to play it safe in real estate. That was ok for a few years but your stock portfolio fell again by 50% and while you have a great new kitchen and wood paneled library, the value of your house is now worth much less than your mortgage. I know, renting can be so much easier! But some guy named Greenspan said something about a wealth effect.

Finally you said enough is enough. You wanted a safe, conservative place for your savings where living off fixed income of mostly CD’s and bonds was possible. Maybe you’d buy an occasional stock again but maybe not. You called your local branch banker and were told that for the privilege of being a Platinum Honors client that you would be able to secure a better rate on a money market savings account. Nice! You were told that you’d be able to get .10%, more than triple the standard rate of .03% that the average person gets! Disgusted, you went online and saw this great add on the Bank of America website, it said “With a Featured CD I can earn a fixed rate on my nest egg.” Sounds enticing until you scrolled down the page and saw it paid .08% for a fixed 12 month term. It had to be a typo but unfortunately it was not.

Questioning now how you can ever retire on your savings after working hard for the past 40 years, you decided to find out who can possibly be responsible for these pathetic yields when you know your cost of living is rising well above the 1.5-2% that these statisticians at the government keep telling you. You ask what an hedonic adjustment is? Don’t worry about it because the purchasing power of your money relative to inflation has been declining day after day for at least 6 years now. This is madness you say. I agree.

You started to read the papers and watched the news and learned that the men and women that work at the Federal Reserve, mostly economists who call themselves central bankers, sit around a large table and decide what the right interest rate should be. Ok you say, they are smart, they have models created by people that likely did really well on their SAT’s, they know what they’re doing and this can’t last. Well, I’m sorry to say to you, we’re 6 years into zero interest rates and these people have no intention of ever saving your savings. You’re screwed and even though they say it’s in your best interest because zero rates and money printing will help the economy, don’t believe them anymore because the strategy has failed. After all, If these policies actually worked, I wouldn’t be writing this letter to you.

I wish I had good advice for your savings but I can’t advise buying stocks that have only been more expensive in 2000 on some key metrics right before you know what and I can’t recommend buying any long term bond as the yields also stink relative to inflation. With the Fed now saying that the dollars in your pocket are now worth too much relative to money in people’s pockets overseas and thus joining the global FX war maybe you should buy some gold but I know that yields nothing either. You are the sacrificial lamb in this grand experiment conducted by the unelected officials working at some building named Eccles who seem to have little faith in the ability of the U.S. economy to thrive on its own as it did for most of its 238 years of existence. Borrowers and debt are their only friends. To you responsible saver that worked hard your whole life, may you again rest in peace.

Sincerely yours,
Peter Boockvar
Managing Director
Chief Market Analyst
The Lindsey Group LLC

Calvin the Super Genius

By Ben Hunt, Ph.D., Salient


People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they don’t realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world.  – Bill Watterson, “Calvin and Hobbes”

Here is the most fundamental idea behind game theory, the one concept you MUST understand to be an effective game player. Ready?

You are not a super genius, and we are not idiots.  The people you are playing with and against are just as smart as you are. Not smarter. But just as smart.  If you think that you are seeing more deeply into a repeated-play strategic interaction (a game!) than we are, you are wrong. And ultimately it will cost you dearly.  But if there is a mutually acceptable decision point – one that both you and we can agree upon, full in the knowledge that you know that we know that you know what’s going on – that’s an equilibrium. And that’s a decision or outcome or policy that’s built to last.

Fair warning, this is an “Angry Ben” email, brought on by the US government’s “communication policy” on Ebola, which is a mirror image of the US government’s “communication policy” on markets and monetary policy, which is a mirror image of the US government’s “communication policy” on ISIS and foreign policy. We are being told what to think about Ebola and QE and ISIS. Not by some heavy handed pronouncement as you might find in North Korea or some Soviet-era Ministry, but in the kinder gentler modern way, by a Wise Man or Woman of Science who delivers words carefully chosen for their effect in constructing social expectations and behaviors.

The words are not lies. But they’re only not-lies because if they were found to be lies that would be counterproductive to the social policy goals, not because there’s any fundamental objection to lying. The words are chosen for their  truthiness, to use Stephen Colbert’s wonderful term, not their truthfulness.

The words are chosen in order to influence us as manipulable objects, not to inform us as autonomous subjects.

It’s always for the best of intentions. It’s always to prevent a panic or to maintain confidence or to maintain social stability. All good and noble ends. But it’s never a stable equilibrium. It’s never a lasting legislative or regulatory peace. The policy always crumbles in Emperor’s New Clothes fashion because we-the-people or we-the-market have not been brought along to make a self-interested, committed decision.Instead the Powers That Be – whether that’s the Fed or the CDC or the White House – take the quick and easy path of selling us a strategy as if they were selling us a bar of soap.

This is what very smart people do when they are, as the Brits would say, too clever by half. This is why very smart people are, as often as not, poor game players. It’s why there aren’t many academics on the pro poker tour. It’s why there haven’t been many law professors in the Oval Office. This isn’t a Democrat vs. Republican thing. This isn’t a US vs. Europe thing. It’s a mass society + technology thing. It’s a class thing. And it’s very much the defining characteristic of the Golden Age of the Central Banker.

Am I personally worried about an Ebola outbreak in the US? On balance … no, not at all. But don’t tell me that I’m an idiot if I have questions about the sufficiency of the social policies being implemented to prevent that outbreak. And make no mistake, that’s EXACTLY what I have been told by CDC Directors and Dr. Gupta and the White House and all the rest of the super genius, supercilious, remain-calm crew.

I am calm. I understand that a victim must be symptomatic to be contagious. But I also understand that one man’s symptomatic is another man’s “I’m fine”, and questioning a self-reporting immigration and quarantine regime does not make me a know-nothing isolationist.

I am calm. I understand that the virus is not airborne but is transmitted by “bodily fluids”. But I also understand why Rule #1 for journalists in West Africa is pretty simple: Touch No One, and questioning the wisdom of sitting next to a sick stranger on a flight originating from, say, Brussels does not make me a Howard Hughes-esque nutjob.

I am calm. I understand that the US public health and acute care infrastructure is light years ahead of what’s available in Liberia or Nigeria. I understand that Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas is not just one of the best health care facilities in Texas, but one of the best hospitals in the world. But I also understand that we are all creatures of our standard operating procedures, and what’s second nature in a hot zone will be slow to catch on in the Birmingham, Alabama ER where my father worked for 30 years.

The mistake made by our modern leaders – in every public sphere! – is to believe that they are operating on a deeper, smarter, more far-seeing level of game-playing than we are. I’ve got a long example of the levels of decision-making in the Epsilon Theory note “A Game of Sentiment“, so I won’t repeat all that here. The basic idea, though, is that by announcing a consensus based on the Narrative authority of Science our leaders believe they are stacking the deck for each of us to buy into that consensus as our individual first-level decision. This can be quite effective when you’re promoting a brand of toothpaste, where it is impossible to be proven wrong in your consensus claims, much less so when you’re promoting a social policy, where all it takes is one sick nurse to make the entire linguistic effort seem staged and for effect … which of course it was. The fact that we go along with a game – that we act AS IF we believe in the Common Knowledge of an announced consensus – does NOT mean that we have accepted the party line in our heart of hearts. It does NOT mean that we are myopic game-players, unerringly led this way or that by the oh-so-clever words of the Missionaries. But that’s how it’s been taken, to terrible effect.

I am calm. But I am angry, too. It doesn’t have to be this way … this consensus-by-fiat style of policy leadership where we are always only one counter-factual reveal – the sick nurse or the sick economy – away from a breakdown in market or governmental confidence. I am angry that we have been consistently misjudged and underestimated, treated as children to be “educated” rather than as citizens to be trusted. I am angry that our most important political institutions have sacrificed their most important asset – not their credibility, but their authenticity – on the altar of political expediency, all in a misconceived notion of what it means to lead.

And yet here we are. On the precipice of that breakdown in confidence. A cold wind of change is starting to blow. Can you feel it?

W. Ben Hunt, Ph.D.
Chief Risk Officer, Salient
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The article Outside the Box: Calling Into Question was originally published at mauldin economics


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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is this the "Sea Change" some have warned us about?

By John Mauldin


Did you feel the economic weather change this week? The shift was subtle, like fall tippy toeing in after a pleasant summer to surprise us, but I think we’ll look back and say this was the moment when that last grain of sand fell onto the sand pile, triggering many profound fingers of instability in a pile that has long been close to collapse. This is the grain of sand that sets off those long chains of volatility that have been gathering for the last five years, waiting to surprise us with the suddenness and violence of the avalanche they unleash.

I suppose the analogy sprang to mind as I stepped out onto my balcony this morning. Texas has been experiencing one of the most pleasant summers and incredibly wonderful falls in my memory. One of the conversations that seem to occur regularly among locals who have a few decades under their belts here, is just how truly remarkable the weather has been. So it was a bit of a surprise to step out and realize the air had turned brisk. In retrospect it shouldn’t have fazed me. The air has been turning brisk in Texas at some point in October for the six decades that my memory covers, and for quite a few additional millennia, I suspect.

But this week, as I worked through my ever-growing mountain of reading, I felt a similar awareness of a change in the economic climate. Like fall, I knew it was coming. In fact, I’ve been writing about it for years! But just as fall tells us that it’s time to get ready for winter, at least in more northerly climes, the portents of the moment suggest to me that it’s time to make sure our portfolios are ready for the change in season.

Sea Change

Shakespeare coined the marvelous term sea change in his play The Tempest. Modern day pundits are liable to apply the word to the relatively minor ebb and flow of events, but Shakespeare meant sea change as a truly transformative event, a metamorphosis of the very nature and substance of a man, by the sea.
In this week’s letter we’ll talk about the imminent arrival of a true financial sea change, the harbinger of which was some minor commentary this week about the economic climate. This letter is arriving to you a little later this week, as I had quite some difficulty writing it, because, while the signal event is rather easy to discuss, the follow on consequences are myriad and require more in-depth analysis than I’ve been able to bring to them on short notice. As I wrestled with what to write, I finally came to realize that this sea change is going to take multiple letters to properly describe. In fact, it might eventually take a book.

So, in a departure from my normal writing style, I am going to offer you a chapter by chapter outline for a book. As with all book outlines, it will be simply full of bones but without much meat on them, let alone dressed up with skin and clothing. I will probably even connect the bones in the wrong order and have to go back later and replace a leg bone with a rib, but that is what outlines are for. There is clearly enough content suggested by this outline to carry us through the next several months; and given the importance of the subject, I expect to explore it fully with you. Whether it actually becomes a book, I cannot yet say.

I should note that much of what follows has grown out of in depth conversations with my associate Worth Wray and our mutual friends. We’ve become convinced that the imbalances in the global economic system are such that the risks are high that another period of economic volatility like the Great Recession is not only likely but is now in the process of developing. While this time will be different in terms of its causes and symptoms (as all such stressful periods differ from each other in many ways), there will be a rhyme and a rhythm that feels all too familiar. That should actually be good news to most readers, as the last 14 years have taught us a little bit about living through periods of economic volatility. You will get to use those skills you learned the hard way.

This will not be the end of the world if you prepare properly. In fact, there will be plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the coming volatility. If the weatherman tells you winter is coming, is he a prophet of doom? Or is it reasonable counsel that maybe we should get our winter clothes out?

Three caveats before we get started. One, I am often wrong but seldom in doubt. And while I will marshal facts and graphs aplenty to reinforce my arguments, I would encourage you to think through the counter factuals presented by those who will aggressively disagree.

Two, while it goes without saying, you are responsible for your own decisions. It is easy for me to say that I think the bond market is going to go in a particular direction. I can even bet my personal portfolio on my beliefs. I can’t know your circumstances, but if you are similar to most investors, this is the time to make sure you have a truly balanced portfolio with serious risk management in the event of a sudden crisis.

Three, give me (and Worth, whom I am going to draft to write some letters) some time to develop the full range of our ideas. To follow on with my weather analogy, the air is just starting to get crisp, and winter is still a couple months away. Absent something extraordinary, we are not going to get snow and a blizzard in Dallas, Texas, tomorrow. We may still have some time to prepare, but at a minimum it is time to start your preparations. So with those caveats, let’s look at an outline for a potential book called Sea Change.

Prologue

I turned publicly bearish on gold in 1986. At the time (a former life in a galaxy far, far away), I was actually writing a newsletter on gold stocks and came to the conclusion that gold was going nowhere – and sold the letter. I was still bearish some 16 years later. Then, on March 1, 2002, I wrote in Thoughts from the Frontline that it was time to turn bullish on gold. Gold at that time was languishing around $300 an ounce, near its all time bottom.

What drove that call? I thought that the future directions of gold and the dollar were joined at the hip. A bit over a year later I laid out the case for a much weaker dollar in a letter entitled “King Dollar Meets the Guillotine,” which later became the basis for a chapter in Bull’s Eye Investing. As the chart below shows, the dollar had risen relentlessly through the early Reagan years, doubling in value against the currencies of America’s global neighbors, causing exporters to grumble about US dollar policy. Then the bottom fell out, as the dollar made new lows in 1992. From 1992 through 2002 the dollar recovered about half of its value, getting back to roughly where it was in 1967. Elsewhere about that time, I predicted that the euro, which was then at $0.88, would rise to $1.50 before falling back to parity over a very long period of time. I believe we are still on that journey.



One of the biggest drivers of economic fortunes in the global economy is the currency markets. The value of your trading currency affects every aspect of your business and investments. It is fundamental in nature. While most Americans never even see a piece of foreign currency, every time we walk into Walmart, we are subject to the ebb and flow of global currency valuations, as are Europeans and indeed every person who participates in the movement of goods and services around the globe. In fact, globalization means that currency values are more important than ever. The world is more tightly interconnected now than it has ever been, which means that events which previously had no effect upon global affairs can trigger cascades of events that affect everyone.

I believe we are in the early stages of a profound currency valuation sea change. I have lived through five major changes in the value of the dollar in the 45 years since Nixon closed the gold window. And while we are used to 40% to 50% moves in the stock market and other commodity prices happening in just a few years (or less), large movements in major trading currencies typically take many years, if not decades, to develop. I believe we are in the opening act of a multi-year US dollar bull market.

To continue reading this article from Thoughts from the Frontline – a free weekly publication by John Mauldin, renowned financial expert, best selling author, and Chairman of Mauldin Economics – please click here.

The article Thoughts from the Frontline: Sea Change was originally published at mauldin economics


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Monday, October 13, 2014

Commodities Market Summary for Monday October 13th - Crude Oil, Natural Gas, Gold, Coffee

November crude oil closed lower on Monday. The high range close sets the stage for a steady to higher opening when Tuesday's night session begins. Stochastics and the RSI are oversold but remain neutral to bearish signaling that sideways to lower prices are possible near term. If November extends the decline off June's high, the 62% retracement level of the 2009-2011 rally crossing at 80.80 is the next downside target. Closes above the 20 day moving average crossing at 90.64 are needed to confirm that a low has been posted. First resistance is the 10 day moving average crossing at 88.63. Second resistance is the 20 day moving average crossing at 90.64. First support is last Friday's low crossing at 83.15. Second support is the 62% retracement level of the 2009-2011 rally crossing at 80.80.

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November Henry natural gas closed higher on Monday as it consolidates some of last week's losses. The high range close sets the stage for a steady to higher opening when Tuesday's session begins trading. Stochastics and the RSI are oversold but remain neutral to bearish signaling that sideways to lower prices are possible near term. If November extends last week's decline, September's low crossing at 3.812 is the next downside target. Multiple closes above the late August high crossing at 4.163 are needed to confirm an upside breakout of the late summer trading range. Closes below July's low crossing at 3.786 would confirm a downside breakout of the late summer trading range. First resistance is the reaction high crossing at 4.184. Second resistance is the reaction high crossing at 4.487. First support is September's low crossing at 3.812. Second support is July's low crossing at 3.786.

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December gold closed higher on Monday as it extends this month's short covering rally. The high range close sets the stage for a steady to higher opening when Tuesday's night session begins trading. Stochastics and the RSI are neutral to bullish signaling that sideways to higher prices are possible near term. If December extends this month's rally, the 38% retracement level of the July-October decline crossing at 1246.00 is the next upside target. Closes below the 10 day moving average crossing at 1214.20 would confirm that a short term top has been posted. First resistance is the 38% retracement level of the July-October decline crossing at 1246.00 . Second resistance is the 50% retracement level of the July-October decline crossing at 1265.50 . First support is October's low crossing at 1183.30. Second support is monthly support crossing at 1179.40.

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December coffee closed lower due to profit taking on Monday. The low range close set the stage for a steady to lower opening on Tuesday. Stochastics and the RSI are overbought but remain neutral to bullish signaling that sideways to higher prices are possible near term. If December extends the rally off September's low, weekly resistance crossing at 24.30 is the next upside target. Closes below the 20 day moving average crossing at 19.79 are needed to confirm that a top has been posted.

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Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Broken State and How to Fix It

By Casey Research

The United States of America is not what it used to be. Unsustainable mountains of debt, continuous meddling by the government and Fed to “stimulate the economy,” and the U.S. dollar’s dwindling status as the world’s reserve currency are very real threats to Americans’ standard of living. Here are some opinions from the recently concluded Casey Research Fall Summit on the state of the state and how to fix it.

Marc Victor, a criminal defense attorney from Arizona and a staunch liberty advocate, says there’s really no such thing as “the state”—“it’s just some people bossing other people around.”

Not everyone wants to fix things, he says; the bosses like the status quo. For example, aside from drug lords, DEA agents are the ones benefiting most from the “War on Drugs.”

Victor believes that democracy and freedom are incompatible, since “democracy is majority rule, and freedom is self-rule.” If you want to bring true freedom to America, he says, winning hearts and minds is the only way to reboot this country and create a free society.

Paul Rosenberg, adventure capitalist, Casey Research contributor, and editor of “A Free Man’s Take,” views America’s future similarly. He thinks the United States is in a state of entropy.

The bad news, says Rosenberg, is that there will be no revolution. The good news is that the peak of citizens’ obedience to the state is behind us, and people are getting fed up with the government’s shenanigans.

Real change is slow, he says, so we must work persistently to create a better world.

Stephen Moore, chief economist at the Heritage Foundation, says the problem is liberal economic policy: Red states in the US, he says, have blown away blue states in job creation since 1990. Texas alone accounts for the entire net growth of the US economy over the past five years.

As another proof point in favor of a free market economy, Moore emphasizes that both Obama and Reagan took office during terrible economic times. While Obama has raised taxes and instituted Obamacare, Reagan cut taxes and regulation. As a result, the Reagan economic recovery was almost twice as robust as the Obama “recovery.”

One of the US’s biggest problems, says Moore, is that companies can’t reinvest profits because dividend, capital gains, and income taxes all have increased under Obama. Corporate taxes in the rest of the world have dramatically declined in the last 25 years, but in the US, they haven’t budged. The average corporate tax rate around the world is 24%—in the US, it’s 38%.

Overall, though, Moore is bullish on the U.S. economy. American companies, he says, are the best run in the world, if only the US government would adopt less economically destructive policies.

Doug Casey, chairman of Casey Research, legendary speculator, and best-selling financial author, isn’t so optimistic. First of all, he says, we’re in the Greater Depression right now, which began in 2008. He fears it’s too late to repair America, but says if anyone would attempt to do so, the following seven step program would help:
  • Allow the collapse of “zombie companies” (companies that are only being held up by government handouts and other cash infusions).
  • Abolish all regulatory agencies.
  • Abolish the Federal Reserve.
  • Cut the size of the military by at least 90%.
  • Sell all US government assets.
  • Eliminate the income tax.
  • Default on the national debt.
Of course, says Casey, that’s not going to happen, so individual investors shouldn’t hope for a political solution or waste their time and money trying to stop the inevitable collapse of the U.S. economy. The only way to save yourself and your assets is to internationalize.

He recommends owning significant assets outside your home country: for example, by buying foreign real estate. You should also buy and store gold, “the only financial asset that’s not simultaneously someone else’s liability.”

Casey’s suggestions include going short bubbles that are about to burst (like Japanese bonds denominated in yen), selling expensive assets like collectible cars and expensive real estate in major cities, as well as looking toward places like Africa as contrarian investment opportunities.

Nick Giambruno, senior editor of International Man, agrees that internationalizing your wealth—and yourself—is the most prudent way to go for today’s high net worth investors. It ensures that “no single government can control your destiny,” and that you put your money, business, and yourself where they are treated best.

You should internationalize each of these six aspects of your life, says Giambruno: our assets; your citizenship; your income/business; your legal residency; your lifestyle residency; and your digital presence.
Regarding your assets, you can find better capitalized, more liquid banks abroad, and using international brokerage accounts can provide you access to new investment markets.

To hear all of Nick Giambruno’s detailed tips on how to go global, as well as every single presentation of the Summit, order your 26+-hour Summit Audio Collection now. It’s available in CD and/or MP3 format.

Learn More Here


The article The Broken State and How to Fix It was originally published at Casey Research.


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Friday, October 10, 2014

Yield Hungry Baby Boomers Are on a Death March

By Dennis Miller

Today’s forecast: yield starved investors forced into the market by seemingly permanent low interest rates will continue to be collateral damage. For some, that collateral damage may involve more than the loss of income opportunities… many could be wiped out completely.

At the Casey Research Summit last month, I asked the participants in our discussion group: “If there were safe, fixed income opportunities available paying 5 - 7%, would you move a major portion of your portfolio out of the market?”

They all answered a resounding, “Absolutely.”

Participants relying on their nest eggs for retirement income said they felt forced into the market for yield. Their retirement projections weren’t based on 2% yields, the rough rate now available on fixed income investments. They’d planned on 6% or so. What other choice do they have now?

The Federal Reserve knows seniors and savers are collateral damage. Former Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has openly acknowledged that the Fed’s low interest rate policy is designed to prompt savers to take more chances with riskier investments. In their book Code Red, authors John Mauldin and Jonathan Tepper shine a harsh light on that policy, writing:

Central banks want people to take their money out of safe investments and put them into risky investments. They call it the “portfolio balance channel,” but you could call it “starve people for yield and they’ll buy anything.”

I have to agree with Mauldin and Tepper.

The collateral damage inflicted upon seniors and savers is twofold. First, it’s the loss of safe income opportunities. The Fed’s low interest rate policies have saved banks and the government an estimated $2 trillion in interest alone. $2 trillion added to the balances of 401(k) and IRA accounts would sure bolster a lot of desperate retirement plans.

But there’s no sign the Fed will reverse its low interest rate policies in the foreseeable future. So, yield starved investors, including throngs of baby boomers maturing into retirement age each day, play the market and risk their nest eggs in the process.

The Federal Reserve has succeeded in forcing savers to take billions of dollars out of fixed income investments to hunt for better yields. Take a look at the chart below showing the S&P 500’s performance since 2004. The Index has almost tripled since its 2009 bottom. There hasn’t been a major correction in well over 1,000 days.


When the bubble burst in 2007, the S&P took a 57% drop. I had friends just entering retirement who suffered 40-50% losses. Their stories are not uncommon, and some are now back at work—and not by choice.

This is the second form of collateral damage, and it can be much more devastating. It’s one thing to lose an income opportunity and call it collateral damage, but quite another to lose 50% or more of your life savings. If the market drops radically, as it did less than a decade ago, the life savings of many baby boomers could be destroyed.

No one knows when the next correction will occur. However, many pundits believe a major correction is due. Others say we can continue on the same track, much like Japan has done for 25 years. Here’s what we do know: the Fed has made it clear that it plans to hold interest rates down for quite some time.

When you invest money earmarked for retirement, you risk trying to time the market. Even seasoned investors would be foolhardy to think they’ll have enough time to easily exit their positions and lock in gains.

It never works that way.

Now is the time for caution. Whether you’re a do it yourself investor or work with an investment professional, it’s a good time for a complete portfolio analysis with an eye on this question:

What happens to my portfolio if the market completely collapses?

There are concrete steps you can take to avoid catastrophic collateral damage. Sticking to firm position limits, diversifying geographically (including international holdings), non correlated assets, setting trailing stop losses, and holding short-duration bonds come to mind.

Be wary of any advisor touting the “buy and hold” philosophy. They’d point to the chart above and note that the market went from 700 to 1,900+ in five years. If investors are patient, it will come back after the next drop. Unfortunately, seniors don’t have time to sit around and wait.

No one can guarantee the market will rebound as quickly as it did in the last decade. It’s not the “buy” in “buy and hold” that concerns me. There are excellent companies out there that pay healthy dividends and will rebound relatively quickly. Depending on your age and financial condition, it’s the indefinite holding that could be a problem.

If you’re not comfortable holding an investment for a decade or more, consider using a stop loss. After all, would you rather suffer a major loss and hope against hope that the market rebounds fast, or be proactive and keep your nest egg intact?

The best way to avoid becoming collateral damage is to take safety precautions before the next big, bad event takes place. One easy (and free) way to start strengthening your financial know how is to read our e-letter, Miller’s Money Weekly. Each Thursday my team I cover hot button financial topics and share the tools income investors need to live rich in today’s low yield world.

Click here to begin receiving your complimentary copy today.

The article Yield Hungry Baby Boomers Are on a Death March was originally published at millers money


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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Understanding Options.....Easier Then You Think

If you have not taken the time to do this, do it asap while it's still available. You know our trading partner John Carter from his wildly popular free trading webinars and John has found yet another way to make learning to trade options in any size account even easier. With his latest FREE eBook.

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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gold: Time to Prepare for Big Gains?

By Casey Research

Years of a severe downturn in the gold market have left very few bulls to speak out in favor of the yellow metal. Here are some positive opinions on the future of the precious metal, from the recently concluded Casey Research Fall Summit.

David Tice, founder of the Prudent Bear Fund, believes we are heading for a “global currency reset” that will reduce the role of the dollar in global trade. Central banks, he says, don’t possess all the gold they claim to, and the unwinding of the paper gold market probably isn’t far down the road—it could even ignite the next major crisis.

The paper gold market (for example, exchange-traded funds like GLD) has massive leverage, with a ratio of 90:1 or 100:1 of paper claims on gold bullion. If only a small fraction of owners convert their paper to physical gold, says Tice, it will create a “no bid” price environment and cause the price of gold to explode.
He believes that once the paper gold market collapses, gold will be priced on the basis of supply/demand for the physical metal—which means it could be headed for $3,000 to $8,000 per ounce.

Ed Steer, editor of Casey Research’s popular e-letter Gold and Silver Daily, is equally bullish on gold… in the long term, because right now, he believes the gold market to be rigged: “Central banks intervene; that’s what they do.”

They control not only gold, but also silver, platinum, palladium, copper, and oil. He says there are two possible reasons that Germany hasn’t gotten its gold back that it had stored in the U.S. — either the gold doesn’t exist or there’s so much paper written against it that it can’t be moved for collateral reasons.

While there’s not much an investor can do about gold manipulation, Steer believes that the manipulators’ schemes will blow up in their faces sooner than later.

Summit regular Rick Rule, chairman of Sprott US Holdings, isn’t worried about the bear market in gold.
“What matters is your response to the bear market,” he says. “If you have the wits, courage, knowledge, and cash to take advantage of them, bear markets are great.”

He’s keeping his eyes peeled on junior gold mining stocks, which, he says, are hugely attractive right now.
“Our market has fallen by 75% in three years. That means it’s 75% more attractive than in 2010, when we were all in love with it. Within a few years, we’ll look back on today’s low prices as the good old days.”
Louis James, chief investment strategist of Casey’s Metals & Mining division, also welcomes the opportunities to buy low that the current slump in gold prices provides.

He personally owns stock of three of the junior miners present in the Map Room at the Casey Fall Summit. All three of them have exceptionally high-grade projects that are delivering what they promised.

To get all of Louis James’ stock picks (and those of the other speakers), as well as every single presentation of the Summit, order your 26+-hour Summit Audio Collection now. It’s available in CD and/or MP3 format. Learn more here.


The article Gold: Time to Prepare for Big Gains? was originally published at casey research


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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Video: Obama’s Abandoning the Saudis for Iran and Dooming the Petrodollar

By Alex Daley, Chief Technology Investment Strategist

I sat down with Jim Rickards, author of many best selling economics and investing books, including his latest, titled The Death of Money. In this exclusive interview, Jim shares his view on the changes in U.S. foreign policy—the newly announced partnership with Iran to help fight ISIS and recent moves away from the petrodollar deal with Saudi Arabia—and what they mean for the dollar, gold, and investment markets in general.

This interview just scratches the surface of the topics Jim covered in his speech at the most recent Casey Research Summit in San Antonio. You can grab a complete recording of that speech, and all 25 of the others, in the Summit Audio Collection, which is on sale with a juicy preorder discount for just a few more days.



Alex Daley
Chief Technology Investment Strategist
Casey Research



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Monday, October 6, 2014

War, Peace, and Financial Fireworks

By Casey Research

Politics has long been a driver of international markets and fickle financial systems alike. Everything is connected. Here are some voices from the just concluded Casey Research Fall Summit talking about cause, effect, and war.

James Rickards, senior managing director with Tangent Capital Partners and an audience favorite at investment conferences, says the Middle East, Russia, and China are all working against the U.S. dollar and for gold.

America’s recently improved relationship with Iran is actually bad for the petrodollar, he claims, because the Saudis and the Iranians are bitter enemies. The Russians, for their part, aren’t sitting idly by while the US imposes sanctions on them—aside from Putin being able to freeze US assets in Russia, Rickards believes that Russian hackers may already have the ability to shut down the New York Stock Exchange.

China does want a strong dollar because it still holds over $1 trillion in dollar-denominated assets. But Beijing is aware that eventually the dollar will depreciate, so it’s buying gold to hedge against a decline in the value of the US currency. Current gold reserves are estimated to be between 3,000 and 4,000 tonnes of gold; the ultimate target may be 8,000 tonnes.

Rickards thinks that we are approaching a period of extreme volatility in the U.S. markets and recommends allocating 10% of one’s portfolio to physical gold.

Bud Conrad, chief economist at Casey Research, also is a petrodollar bear. For the past 40 years, he says, the petrodollar has bestowed extraordinary privileges on Americans, but that era is now coming to an end.
Dozens of countries have already set up bilateral trade agreements that circumvent the US dollar. Dollars as a percentage of foreign reserves have declined from 55% in 1999 to 32% today—and could reach 18% by 2019, says Conrad. Ultimately, the petrodollar will fail, which will lead to a rise in sought-after commodities, especially gold.

Conrad thinks the greatest danger we face may be a combined financial and political collapse. Current geopolitical problems are even worse than economic problems, he says, and the trend is toward more, not less, war. Wars, on the other hand, often precipitate financial collapse.

Grant Williams, portfolio and strategy advisor for Vulpes Investment Management in Singapore and editor of the hugely popular newsletter Things That Make You Go Hmmm…, wholeheartedly agrees.

War and financial turmoil have always been inextricably linked, says Williams. Both occur in natural cycles, and one often causes the other. He believes that we’re in an extended period of economic peace because the Federal Reserve has used monetary policy “to abolish the bottom half of the business cycle.”

Although that may sound like a good thing, it is not. The business cycle, argues Williams, is inevitable and natural; we need it to cleanse the economy. But the Fed has leveraged to such unsustainable levels to “keep the peace” that the inevitable fallout will be that much worse.

He foresees serious wars to accompany the coming financial turmoil. Today’s geopolitical setup, he says, is similar to 1914’s. In 1914, France was a fading former giant (that’s Japan today); Britain was a waning superpower, no longer able to guarantee global security (that’s the US now); and Germany was an emerging industrial power huffing and puffing and making territorial claims (today, that’s China).

Rather than all out war, Marin Katusa, Casey’s chief energy investment strategist, believes the new “Colder War” will be fought by economic means, specifically through domination of the energy markets.
While Europe is using less oil than it did over a decade ago, says Katusa, it’s depending more on Russia for its energy. North Sea oil and gas production is in decline, and Norway’s production has reached a plateau and is dropping. Russia, on the other hand, owns 40% of the world’s conventional oil and gas reserves.

The solution, Katusa says, is the “European Energy Renaissance.” As Putin tightens the thumbscrews on his energy trading partners, more and more EU countries are waking up to the fact that they will have to produce their own energy to gain independence from Russia. As the best ways to play this new paradigm, Katusa recommends three undervalued North American companies that are in the thick of the action.

To get Marin Katusa’s timely stock picks (and those of the other speakers), as well as every single presentation of the Summit and all bonus files the speakers used, order your 26+-hour Summit Audio Collection now. They’re available in CD and/or MP3 format. Learn more here.


The article War, Peace, and Financial Fireworks was originally published at casey research


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