Monday, March 31, 2014

SP500 ETF Trading Strategies & Plan of Attack for This Week

Index ETF Trading Strategies: Stocks have kick started this week with a 0.85% pop in price but the big question is if the market can hold up. Last week stocks repeatedly gap higher and sold off with strong volume telling us that institutions are slowing phasing out of stocks (distribution selling) unloading shares into strength and passing them onto the a average investor to be left holding bag.

I want to show you a couple charts which show the price action, volume and money flow of the SP500 so you have a visual of what I am talking about.

30 Minute Intraday SP500 Chart – ETF Trading Strategies

In the chart below you can see the price gaps followed by selling. Why is this important? It is important because during a down trend the market makers and big money plays who have the money and tools to manipulate the markets will allow the market drift higher or they will run price up in overnight or premarket trading when volume is light. Once the 9:30am ET opening bell rings volume and liquidity spike which allows the big money player to sell remaining long positions and or add to short positions they have.

If you look at the blue on balance volume line at the bottom of the chart you can clearly see that more contracts are being sold than bought which is typically an early warning sign that the market is about to fall farther.

ETF Trading Strategies
 

Automated Trading System – 30 Minute ES Futures Chart


Below is a marked up screen shot of my automated trading system which I use for timing both futures and ETF trading strategies. The color coded bars tell you the market trend along with the strength of buyers and sellers.

When you couple market cycles, trends, volume/money flow, along with chart patterns we can forecast and trade markets with a high degree of accuracy in terms of market direction and timing.

Automated Trading Systems
 
My Index ETF Trading Strategies Conclusion:
 
Just to be clear on the current market trend and my overall outlook let me explain a little more. Overall, the broad stock market remains in an uptrend. Thursday and Friday of last week we started getting orange bars on the chart telling us that cycles, volume, and momentum are now neutral. It’s 50/50 on which way the market will go from here, so until the market internals (cycles, volume, breadth) push the odds in our favor enough for a short sell trade or a new long entry we will not add new positions to our portfolio.

It is important to understand that nearly 75% of stocks/investments move with the broad market. So we don’t want to add more long positions when the odds are not in favor of higher prices. Trading in general is not hard to do, but creating, following, executing properly money and position management is. If you have trouble with following or creating an ETF trading strategy you can have my ETF trading system for rising, falling and sideways markets traded automatically in your trading account.

Learn more here about my Automated Trading Systems

See you in the market! 
Chris Vermeulen



Sign up for one of our Free Trading Webinars....Just Click Here!



Inflation Is Coming, What to Do NOW

By Jeff Clark, Senior Precious Metals Analyst

We’ve all heard of the inflationary horrors so many countries have lived through in the past. Third world countries, developing nations, and advanced economies alike—no country in history has escaped the debilitating fallout of unrepentant currency abuse. And we expect the same fallout to impact the U.S., the EU, Japan, China—all of today’s countries that have turned to the printing press as a solution to their economic woes.


Now, it seems obvious to us that the way to protect one’s self against high inflation is to hold one’s wealth in gold… But did citizens in countries that have experienced high or hyperinflation turn to gold in response? Gold enthusiasts may assume so, but what does the data actually show?

Well, Casey Metals Team researcher Alena Mikhan dug up the data. Here’s a country-by-country analysis…...

Brazil

Investment demand for gold grew before Brazil’s debt crisis and economic stagnation of the 1980s. However, it really took off in the late ‘80s, when already-high inflation (100-150% annually) picked up steam and hit unsustainable levels in 1989.

Year Inflation Investment
demand
(tonnes)
1986 167.8% 20.0
1987 218.5% 42.8
1988 554.2% 61.5
1989 1,972%* 86.5
1990 116.2%** -74
Source: The International Gold Trade by Tony Warwick-Ching, 1993; inflation.eu
*Measured from December to December
**Year-end rate

During this period, investment demand for bullion skyrocketed 333%, from 20 tonnes in 1976 to 86.5 tonnes in 1989.

And notice what happened to demand when inflation began to reverse. Substantial liquidations, showing demand’s direct link to inflation.

Indonesia

Indonesia was hit by a severe economic crisis in 1998. The average inflation rate spiked to 58% that year.

Year Inflation Investment
demand (t)
1997 6.2% 11.5
1998 58.0% 22.5
1999 24.0% 11.0
2000 3.7% 8.5
Sources: World Gold Council, inflation.eu

Gold demand doubled as inflation surged. It’s worth pointing out that investment demand in 1997 was already at a record high.

Also, total demand in 1999 reached 120.8 tonnes (not just demand directly attributable to investment), 18% more than in pre-crisis 1997. But overall, once inflation cooled, so again did gold demand.

India

While India has a traditional love of gold, its numbers also demonstrate a direct link between demand and rising inflation. The average inflation rate in 1998 climbed to 13%, and you can see how Indians responded with total consumer demand. (Specifically investment demand data, as distinct from broader consumer demand data, is not available for all countries.)

Year Inflation Consumer
demand* (t)
1996 8.9% 507
1997 7.2% 688
1998 13.1% 774
1999 4.8% 730
Sources: World Gold Council, inflation.eu
*Includes net retail investment and jewelry

Gold demand hit a record of 774.4 tonnes, 13% above the record set just a year earlier. In fairness, we’ll point out that gold consumption was also growing due to a liberalization of gold import rules at the end of 1997.

When inflation cooled, the same pattern of falling gold demand emerged.

Egypt, Vietnam, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Here are three countries from the same time frame last decade. Like India, we included jewelry demand since that’s how many consumers in these countries buy their gold.

Year Egypt Vietnam UAE
Inflation Consumer
demand (t)
Inflation Consumer
demand (t)
Inflation Consumer
demand (t)
2006 6.5% 60.5 7.5% 86.1 10% 96.0
2007 9.5% 68.5 8.3% 77.5 14% 107.3
2008 18.3% 76.8 24.4% 115.8 20% 109.5
2009 11.9% 58.4 7.0% 73.3 1.6% 73.9
Sources: World Gold Council, indexmundi.com

Egypt saw inflation triple from 2006 to 2008, and you can see consumer demand for bullion grew as well. Even more impressive is what the table doesn’t show: Investment demand grew 247% in 1998 over the year before. Overall tonnage was relatively modest, though, from 0.7 to 2.5 tonnes.

Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates saw similar patterns. Gold consumption increased when inflation peaked in 2008. Again, it was investment demand that saw the biggest increases. It grew 71% in Vietnam, and 27% in the United Arab Emirates.

And when inflation subsided? You guessed it: Demand fell.

Japan

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan to kill deflation pushed Japan’s consumer price inflation index to 1.2% last year—still low, but it had been flat or falling for almost two decades, including 2012.

Year Inflation Consumer
demand (t)
2012 -0.1% 6.6
2013 1.2% 21.3


In response, demand for gold coins, bars, and jewelry jumped threefold in the Land of the Rising Sun.

One of the biggest investment sectors that saw increased demand, interestingly, was in pension funds.

Belarus

Unlike many of the nations above, citizens from this country of the former Soviet Union do not have a deep-rooted tradition for gold. However, in 2011, the Belarusian ruble experienced a near threefold depreciation vs. the U.S. dollar. As usual, people bought dollars and euros—but in a new trend, turned to gold as well.

We don’t have access to all the data used in the tables above, but we have firsthand information from people in the country. In the first quarter of 2011, just when it became clear inflation would be severe, gold bar sales increased five times compared to the same period a year earlier. In March alone that year, 471.5 kg of gold (15,158 ounces) were purchased by this small country, which equaled 30% of total gold sales, from just one year earlier. Silver and platinum bullion sales grew noticeably as well.

The “gold rush” didn’t live long, however, as the central bank took measures to curb demand.

Argentina

Argentina’s annual inflation rate topped 26% in March last year, which, according to Bloomberg, made residents “desperate for gold.” Specific data is hard to come by because only one bank in the country trades gold, but everything we read had the same conclusion: Argentines bought more gold last year than ever before.

At one point, one bank, Banco Ciudad, even tried to buy gold directly from mining companies because it couldn’t keep up with demand. Some analysts report that demand has continued this year but that it has shown up in gold stocks.

What to Do—NOW

History clearly shows there is a direct link between inflation and gold demand. When inflation jumps, or even when inflation expectations rise, investors turn to gold in greater numbers. And when gold demand rises, so does its price—you can guess what happens to gold stocks.

With the amount of money the developed countries continue to print, high to hyperinflation is virtually inevitable. We cannot afford to believe in free lunches.

The conclusion is inescapable: One must buy gold (and silver) now, before the masses rush in. The upcoming inflationary storm will encompass most of the globe, so the amount of demand could push prices far higher than many think—and further, make bullion scarce.

Your neighbors will soon be buying. We suggest beating them to the punch.

Remember, gold speaks every language, is highly liquid anywhere in the world, and is a proven store of wealth over thousands of years.

But what to buy? Where? How?

We can help. With a subscription to our monthly newsletter, BIG GOLD, you’ll get the Bullion Buyers Guide, which lists the most trustworthy dealers, thoroughly vetted by the Metals team, as well as the top medium- and large-cap gold and silver producers, royalty companies, and funds.

Normally I’d suggest that you try BIG GOLD risk free for 3 months, but right now, I can offer you something even better: ALL EIGHT of Casey’s monthly newsletters for one low price, at a huge 55% discount.

It’s called the Casey OnePass and lets you profit from the huge variety of investment opportunities we here at Casey Research are seeing in our respective sectors right now—from precious metals to energy, technology, big-picture trend investing, and income investing.

Click here to find out more. But hurry—the "Casey OnePass" offer expires this Friday, April 4.

The article Inflation Is Coming, What to Do NOW was originally published at Casey Research



Sign up for one of our Free Trading Webinars....Just Click Here!


Friday, March 28, 2014

Why Gold Is Falling and a Gold Forecast You May Not Like

The bitter truth about what may happen to gold is not all that exciting and likely don’t want to know, but you need to understand what is unfolding as we speak…..

Long story short, the prices of bonds look as though they are about to rally once again. Mounting fears of a stock market correction has money flowing into bonds which in turn will drive interest yields lower yet gain.

But the BIG PICTURE of what he FED said the other week about how they plan to raise rates in 2015 and cut QE down to $55 billion per month hurts the long term outlook for gold.

This news may not sound that important, it actually is and undermines the price of miners, silver and gold in a big way. Find out why gold is falling and the threat that could trigger a much larger meltdown in the long run with my gold forecast video.



Chris Vermeulen
Subscribe to my > ETF Trading Newsletter


Sign up for one of our Free Trading Webinars....Just Click Here!


U.S. Government Is Unaffordable and Unsustainable, Says David Walker

By David Walker

Former Comptroller General of the United States David Walker talks about the trouble with Obamacare and the sky high national debt. 

Just for starters he covers  how much to spend on national defense and outlines his top 3 reforms to fix the U.S. government.


Want more insightful talk on your money and investments? Subscribe now to Sound Money in your email, in iTunes, or via RSS. Email iTunes RSS

Here are a few highlights:

“America can definitely be made great again. It’s not too late, but what we need is a wakeup call, a call to action and a specific course correction to try to be able to make sure that we don’t repeat history.”

“President Obama promised … that he was going to be a uniter rather than a divider, and unfortunately, he hasn’t done that. Our financial condition today is much worse than when President Obama took office.

Frankly, from George Washington, who was our first president, to William Jefferson Clinton, who was our 42nd president, we only accumulated $5.5 trillion in debt—and now we’re up to $17.5 trillion.”

“The government is going to always do more for the poor, for the disabled, and for the military, but … promises way too much and it subsidizes way too many people, and the result of that is that it creates a system that is unaffordable and unsustainable.”

“What a lot of people don’t realize is built into the Affordable Care Act, is a bailout provision for insurance companies. So that taxpayers are probably going to be on the hook for, you know, some large payments due to meet those guarantees.”



Sign up for one of our Free Trading Webinars....Just Click Here!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Understanding Covered Calls

By Dennis Miller

The strategy I’m writing about today is one of my favorite, guaranteed moneymakers. These are trades we can all easily make, requiring no capital outlay and guaranteed to make a profit or you don’t make them. What’s the catch? We might occasionally find ourselves lamenting how much more money we might have made.


Experienced investors have likely figured out that I’m talking about a stock option called a “covered call.” Buying options is for speculators, and that’s not what I’m talking about today. I want to show you the one and only option trade that meets my stringent criteria for comfort.
Covered calls:
  • Are easily understood;
  • Are easy to implement;
  • Require no market timing to make your predetermined profit; and
  • Require minimal time for investors to manage.
In addition, you can calculate your profit clearly at the time of the trade (if there’s no hefty gain, you pass on it); the risks are financially and emotionally manageable; and the upside potential is excellent with covered calls. Let’s begin with the boilerplate stuff first before we discuss strategy.

There’s an options market that allows people to buy and sell options on stocks. Speculators have made millions of dollars trading options without owning a single share of stock. That’s the wrong place to be with your retirement nest egg. I’m going to show you how an average investor with an online brokerage account can supplement his income in a safe, easy, responsible, and conservative manner.

Let’s start with a basic premise: money is consistently made on the sell side of the transaction. Selling one type of option is the only strategy that will meet our stringent criteria.

Before we proceed, here’s a need-to-know glossary for covered calls:

Stock option. An option is a right that can be bought and sold. There are markets for trading options in an orderly manner. Two transactions may occur between the buyer and seller. The first is the transaction when the right (option) is sold. The second transaction is “optional” and at the discretion of the buyer. If the buyer exercises his right (option), the seller is required to complete an agreed-upon stock transaction. Today we’re focusing on covered call options.

Covered Calls. When you sell a covered call, the buyer purchases the right to buy a certain number of shares of stock which you own, at an agreed upon (strike) price, at any time before the option expires (known as the expiration date). The option buyer is not obligated to buy your stock; he has the right to do so. You’re obligated to sell the stock if the buyer exercises the option. The term for this is your stock gets “called away.” Regardless, you keep the money you were paid when you sold your option.

There are four elements to an option transaction:
  1. the price of the option in the market (what you can buy or sell it for);
  2. the number of contracts (each contract is 100 shares);
  3. the price of the underlying stock (referred to as strike price); and
  4. the expiration date.
Option price. This is the price the option is bought or sold for. This changes as the price of the underlying stock moves in the market and the time frame moves closer to the expiration date. Readers will see that there are two prices: “bid” and “asked,” just like stocks. When you sell an option, this completes the first part of the transaction. The money changes hands and is yours to keep, regardless of what happens later. Cha-ching!

Strike price. This part of the transaction is agreed upon when the option is bought/sold. Let’s assume the buyer purchased a call (a right to your stock) at a strike price of $55/share. Should the buyer choose to exercise his option, the buyer pays you $55/share, and you (through your broker) deliver the stock, regardless of the current market price of the stock.

Expiration date. Options generally expire on the third Friday of every month. When looking at the options trading platform on any major stock, you’ll find options available for several months in advance. You’ll notice that the longer the remaining time, the higher the price of the option.

At the time the stock option is bought/sold, all of the elements above are agreed upon. The buyer has until the expiration date to exercise his option. The numbers of shares and selling price have already been determined. If your stock is called away, you’ll see the cash come in to your brokerage account, and the shares will automatically be delivered to the buyer.

Never sell a call option without owning the underlying stock; it’s much too risky for your retirement nest egg.
Option contract. An option contract is for 100 shares of the underlying stock. Options are sold in contracts, and the prices are quoted per share. For example, if you see an option price of $1.15, the contract will cost $115 ($1.15 x 100 shares). If a buyer/seller wants to have an option on 500 shares, he buys five contracts.

There are two types of options: puts and calls. We’re going to discuss the only option strategy that meets our stringent, conservative criteria: selling a covered call.

Why would an investor buy a call option? Buyers of call options are generally speculators who believe that a stock will appreciate above the strike price before the option expires. If they guess right, they can make a lot of money.

The vast majority of call options expire worthless. The rules are simple. Don’t sell an option unless you own the underlying stock. (This is referred to as a “naked call”.) Don’t buy options—period!

A Savvy Strategy

We’ll use a fictional company – ABC Products – for an example. Say we bought the stock in October 2012 for $40; the market price one year later (in November 2013) was $55/share. Why would we want to sell a covered call?

In November, ABC was $55/share. We’ll say its current dividend is $0.55/share. The March call option at a strike price of $57 is selling for $1.10/share—twice as much as the current dividend.

Assume that on December 20, you either called your broker or went online and brought up ABC in your trading platform. You would have seen the current bid and asked prices. Assume it sold for $1.10/share.
Now, one of four things could have happened:
  1. The stock didn’t go over the $57 strike price, so the stock was not called away. In approximately 90 days, you’d have received $0.55/share in dividends, plus $1.10 for the option, for a total of $1.65. You just added more than double the dividend to your yield without spending a penny more of your investment capital. What do we do when the option expires? Look for another juicy opportunity for the June options and do it again!
  2. Let’s take the worst case scenario: the market tanked. You had a 20% trailing stop in place. You got stopped out at $44—$11/share lower than the November price. But wait a minute, what about the covered call? The value of the option would also have dropped and sold for mere pennies. If you got stopped out of the stock, you could have bought back the option at the same time. For the sake of illustration, say you bought it back for $0.04. You netted $1.06/share profit. Instead of losing $11/share, your loss became $9.94. If you didn’t buy back your option, you’d have had huge risk exposure should the stock jump back up. It isn’t worth the risk, so you’d spend the few pennies it takes to close out your position.
  3. You wanted to exit your position before the expiration date. If the stock rises above the strike price of the option, generally the price of the option will move right along with it. If the stock moved to $59/share, you would “buy to close.” The market price should be close to $2/share; however, that would be offset by the fact that you sold your stock for $59.00 share. If the stock remained stagnant or started to drop and you wanted to exit your position, the market price of the option would decline more rapidly. You’d likely buy back your option at a profit.
  4. The most difficult situation emotionally is when the stock rises well above the strike price and gets called. Let’s assume that in March, ABC has appreciated to $59/share. Your option is called at $57 (the strike price). You make a profit of $2/share from the time you sold the option, plus the $1.10/share for the option and the $0.55 dividend, for a total of $3.65/share. For the 90-day time frame, you earned 6.3% on your money ($55/share), or 24.9% on an annualized basis, net of brokerage commission. Yet we’ll lament the fact that you could have made more.
In each case, you haven’t invested any more capital. You make 100% profit on the call in two cases. The worst case is you generally break even on the options should you want to exit early. In the vast majority of cases, selling covered calls is straight profit on top of your dividends.

Here are some guidelines:
  • Sell covered calls for stocks you own and would gladly keep.
  • Sell covered calls to expire after the dividends are paid.
  • Sell covered calls at a strike price above the current market price of the stock, referred to as “out of the money.”
  • Don’t lament the times your stock gets called. You took a nice profit, and there are plenty more opportunities out there.
  • Use stocks that are heavily traded, as they are more liquid.
  • To calculate gains for any stock and option price combination, please use our option calculator, which you can download here.
Selling selected covered calls is a great way to turbocharge yield without any additional investment. At the same time, it will mitigate a bit of risk. If you have a 20% trailing stop in place and the stock gets stopped out, your 20% will be offset by the profit you made on the option sale. While most investors are starved for yield, you can find yield in the safest and easiest manner possible.

Each month, we look at the Miller’s Money Forever portfolio and recommend and track covered calls on some of our positions. If you're not a current subscriber, I highly recommend taking advantage of our 90-day, no-risk offer. Sign up at the current promotional rate of $99/year, and download my book and all of our special reports—really take your time and look us over. If within the first 90 days you feel we're not for you, feel free to cancel and receive a 100% refund, no questions asked. You can still keep the material as our thank-you for taking a look. Click here to subscribe risk-free today.

The article Covered Calls was originally published at Millers Money


Attend one of our FREE Trading Webinars....Just Click Here!


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Peter Schiff Shares His Offshore Strategies

By Nick Giambruno

I’d bet that most International Man readers are familiar with Peter Schiff. He is a financial commentator and author, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, and is known for accurately predicting the 2008 financial crisis.

He also has a very keen understanding of internationalization. Peter shares with me his strategies in this must read discussion below that I am happy to bring exclusively to International Man readers. (If you are not already a member, you can join for free here.)

Nick Giambruno: Peter, do you see the potential for another financial crisis in the U.S. playing out in the not so distant future?

Peter Schiff: Unfortunately, yes. I mean, how soon is very difficult to tell. In fact, right now you’ve got a high level of complacency. The stock markets are rallying to new highs, nominal highs. People seem to be convinced that the worst is behind us, that the central banks of the world have solved their problems by papering them over. But, you know, I don’t think they’ve solved anything. I think they’ve compounded the underlying problems that caused the last crisis, and so now the next crisis will be that much worse because of what the central banks did, in particular the Federal Reserve.

The Fed is right now trying to prop the economy up, the housing market up with cheap money, and it is operating under the delusion that one day it can take that cheap money away and the economy and the housing market will just sustain on their own, but that’s not possible. The Fed is building an economy that is completely dependent on that cheap money. And so if you take it away, the economy implodes, but if you don’t take it away, then it’s worse.

Nick Giambruno: So what measures do you see coming into place—things such as capital controls?

Peter Schiff: Well, certainly as currencies depreciate, governments look to try to find ways to stop the bleeding. What’s really is going on with inflation is that you have a huge transfer of wealth from savers and lenders to debtors, and of course the US government is the world’s biggest debtor, but a lot of American voters are in debt too.

If you’re a saver and you don’t want to watch your assets confiscated through the printing press, then you’re going to try to protect yourself. You might do that by moving your dollars abroad, converting them to foreign currencies, trying to get out of harm’s way, and that’s when you have the government potentially coming in with capital controls.

Putting taxes on foreign currency transactions or maybe outright prohibiting them altogether, that will make it more difficult for you or more expensive to take protective measures. I think we’ve already got the beginnings of capital controls in the United States. The government is making it very difficult for Americans to do business abroad. Many foreign financial institutions, banks, and even bullion depositories are refusing to do business with American citizens for fear of retaliation by the IRS or other government agencies.

Nick Giambruno: So what can Americans and others living under a desperate government do to minimize this risk?

Peter Schiff: Well, the first thing that you could do is minimize your purchasing power risk. So you don’t have to get your money into a foreign bank or foreign brokerage account to get out of the dollar. I help Americans diversify globally within a US account, but their portfolio consists of foreign assets, whether it’s foreign bonds, government bonds, corporate bonds, foreign stocks, dividend-paying stocks, commodities, or precious metals. These are all things that will protect purchasing power in an inflationary time period, and things that the federal government—the Federal Reserve—can’t levy the inflation tax on.

If you’re more worried about political risk—about the US government seizing your assets—then you want to take the next step. This is not just getting out of the dollar, but getting your money out of the country. But again, the US government is making that more difficult right now.

I know personally. I set up a foreign brokerage firm as a subsidiary of my foreign bank, which I also set up, called Euro Pacific Bank. I did this predominantly for foreigners who were having trouble investing with my US brokerage firm. The securities rules and regulations are now so onerous that it almost caused me to view any foreigner as a terrorist. So if somebody in Australia wanted to open up an account with me, there was so much paperwork involved that oftentimes they would just give up halfway through the process. So what I did is I set up this foreign bank so that I wouldn’t have to operate under those confines, so I can be more competitive to a foreign investor, but I can’t offer these services to Americans.

My foreign bank is no different than many other foreign banks. In order to really protect the privacy of my foreign customers, I can’t accept American customers. And if I accepted American customers, my compliance cost would be so high that I would have to charge my foreign customers more for transactions to try to stay in business. So to mitigate all that regulation and the potential of having to share all the information on my foreign clients with the US government, I’m just not taking American customers with my foreign bank.

Nick Giambruno: So Euro Pacific Bank, where is it headquartered and why did you choose that jurisdiction?

Peter Schiff: It’s in St Vincent and the Grenadines (the Caribbean). I did it for a number of reasons: it’s close to me, but also because of the banking laws. You have secrecy, privacy, and you have no tax. They’re not going to impose any income tax on my company as an offshore bank, they’re also not going to impose any taxes, any withholding taxes on my bank’s customers’ interest income or their capital gains. And no one is going to pierce the wall of secrecy. You’re going to have to go in to a St. Vincent’s court and get a local court order to get any information from my bank.

The bank is regulated, but it’s not nearly as onerous as the type of regulations that I would face trying to do this business from the United States. In fact, some of the things we’re doing offshore might be completely impossible because they would no longer be economically viable if I tried to do them in America, but I can do them offshore because the government doesn’t impose these artificial barriers.(Editor’s Note: You can find out more about Euro Pacific Bank here.)

Nick Giambruno: Generally speaking, which countries are you particularly bullish on?

Peter Schiff: It’s kind of like a monetary or economic triage; I’m always looking around the world to see which countries are in the least bad shape, which countries are the least reckless and the least irresponsible. You really can’t find any one country that’s doing it perfectly. You just have to find the ones that are making the fewest mistakes.

And I think high on that list are Singapore and Hong Kong. Those markets are relatively free of regulation, free of taxation. I mean, it’s not nonexistent, but on a relative basis you have a lot more freedom there, and so you have a lot more prosperity there. You have much better economic fundamentals. And not just in those two places, but in Southeast Asia in general, in a lot of the emerging economies, you’ll find a lot less government and a lot more freedom. People are working harder, they’re saving, they’re producing, and they’re exporting. You don’t have these trade deficits, budget deficits, and you don’t have armies of people looking to retire on government entitlements. In Europe, we still like Switzerland even though they are making mistakes tying their currency to the euro. I think eventually they will change that policy. Scandinavia, we have been investors in Norway, we’ve been investors in Sweden. Also Australia and New Zealand have been longtime favorites. We’ve been investing down there or even closer to home in Canada. We do have some investments in South America. We’re diversifying around the world trying to get into the right countries, the right currencies, the right asset classes.

Nick Giambruno: On a different note, we’ve seen the number of US citizens renouncing their citizenship sharply increase. We have also seen high-profile people like Tina Turner and Eduardo Saverin give up their US citizenship. Would Tina be eligible to use Euro Pacific Bank?

Peter Schiff: Yes, once you renounce your US citizenship. The only people who can’t bank with me are American citizens, or green card holders. So once you are no longer an American citizen, as long as you don’t reside in the United States, then you are welcome at the bank.

I think a lot of people are doing this obviously for tax reasons, although they can’t necessarily claim it’s for tax reasons. You have to fill out a form if you want to renounce your citizenship—which, by the way, you can only get from a foreign embassy or consulate. Those forms used to be free. Now they’re $500 apiece. So think about that. If they can charge you $500 for that form, they could charge $5,000, they could charge $5,000,000. They could basically make it impossible for you to leave. And they’re trying to make it more difficult ever since Eduardo Saverin from Facebook went to Singapore.

Now the government is trying to come up with all sorts of ways to punish Americans who try to give up their citizenship, and this really is the sign of a nation in decay. Fifty years ago, nobody would want to give up American citizenship. They would cherish it. The fact that so many people are paying tremendous amounts of money to get this albatross off their neck shows you how much times have changed, that an American passport is not an asset to be cherished but a liability that people are willing to pay to get rid of.

Nick Giambruno: And what about yourself? Do you believe you are adequately diversified internationally?

Peter Schiff: I think my investments are; I own a lot of foreign stocks. I have a lot of precious metals, I have a lot of mining shares. But I still live in the United States, so I’m obviously still vulnerable here. My family is here, so I haven’t done anything about a physical exit strategy. Although I do think I have financial resources that would afford me the ability to relocate, but I haven’t actually taken any steps other than setting up a foreign business. I have the foreign bank in the Caribbean. I have a brokerage firm Euro Pacific Canada, and so I’ve got offices up there.

I’m also thinking about opening up an office in Singapore and trying to move more of my business—particularly my asset management business—to move it from the US. Not only because of favorable tax treatment outside the US, but because of the regulatory environment. If you want to be globally competitive, you need to be in an area where you can minimize these costs because if I have those costs and my competitors don’t, then I am at a disadvantage. And also because I think that over time people are going to be more and more hesitant about sending their money to the United States. So if I’m going to manage money, I might have to manage it offshore, because I think people will be worried about sending it here. They might be worried that the US government might take it.

If it ever gets really, really bad that you feel that you have to leave, by then it might be illegal to take any gold or silver out of the country. Right now you can take more than $10,000 worth of cash or cash equivalents—which would include gold bullion—out of the country as long as you tell the government that you’re taking it. And if you don’t tell them and they catch you, there’s a big fine and jail penalty. But one day it might not be the case. It might be that you are prohibited from taking any significant amount of money out of the country, and who knows what the penalty might be if they catch you. But if it’s already out of the country, then you don’t have to worry, because you’re leaving with nothing and the money is on the other side of the border waiting for you.
 
Nick Giambruno: So the idea is to preempt capital controls?

Peter Schiff: Yeah, well, you get out the window before they slam it shut. That’s the whole idea, and right now those windows are shutting all around as more and more offshore institutions are saying “no thank you” to an American customer. But the other reason that you want to act sooner too is if they impose exchange controls or fees on purchasing precious metals. They don’t ban them, but they have a big tax on the transaction or a big tax on the foreign exchange. If you want to buy Swiss francs, they can have a transaction tax. You want to get your money out of the dollar before those taxes are imposed, because if you wait until they’re imposed, then you can’t get as much money out, because a lot of it is being lost to taxes.

In getting out of the dollar, you’re trying to avoid the inflation tax, but they’re hitting you with some other kind of tax in the process because that’s really what they are trying to do. A lot of people are worrying about the income tax or the estate tax and they go through elaborate means to try to minimize those taxes, but then they leave themselves vulnerable to what might be the biggest tax of all: and that’s the inflation tax. So you have to act to protect yourself before so many people are trying to protect themselves that the government makes it almost impossible to do so.

Editor’s Note: Internationalization is your ultimate insurance policy. Whether it’s with a second passport, offshore physical gold storage, or other measures, it is critically important that you dilute the amount of control the bureaucrats in your home country wield over you by diversifying your political risk.

You can find Casey Research’s A-Z guide on internationalization by clicking here.
The article Peter Schiff Shares His Offshore Strategies was originally published at International Man


Still time to get a seat for our free webinar this Thursday night....Sign up NOW!


The Best Low Cost, High Benefit Life Extension Technique Available Today

By Patrick Cox

The scientific consensus that has held sway for four decades regarding both exposure to the sun and vitamin D has collapsed. What has emerged in place of the old "settled science" is the knowledge that most people in North America are seriously vitamin D deficient or insufficient. The same is true for northern Europe, and the implications are staggering.

Simply put, unless you're one of the few people with optimal serum D levels—such as lifeguards and roofers in South Florida—you can cut your risks from most major diseases by 50 to 80 percent. All you have to do is get enough D. It also means we can significantly reduce both healthcare costs and the staggering national deficit by taking a few simple steps.

I advise all my readers to get and keep their vitamin D levels up. This is simply because the economic benefits of doing so are so profound. I've come to the conclusions you'll read below because my job as a tech investment advisor requires that I survey thousands of the most recent scientific studies. In the last few years, an overwhelming flood of new evidence has been produced supporting the view that the medical and nutritional establishments have been fundamentally wrong about vitamin D's physiological role and optimal dosage.

I'll include a number of links at the end of this report to researchers and organizations with enormous credibility. They have journal articles online with voluminous footnotes. I would encourage you to then verify even their information and act accordingly.

If researchers are right, the benefits of raising your serum D levels to about 40 ng/ml are enormous. If they're wrong, the risks associated with the recommended therapy are trivial, if not nonexistent, especially if done through supplementation. This is simple Bayesian analysis.

If you do take my advice and perform further research on this subject, you will still encounter holdouts who assert that unprotected exposure to sunshine is always dangerous and that a normal diet supplemented by a daily multivitamin provides sufficient vitamin D. Behind the scenes, however, even the NIH has moderated its position on vitamin D without taking too much blame for having resisted those who have urged reassessment for decades.

Changing Vitamin D Standards and What They Mean

 

Now we know that very few people have optimal serum levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], the principal form of vitamin D circulating in the blood. Moreover, those with more melanin manufacture less vitamin D in their skin, so they suffer disproportionately from diseases exacerbated by vitamin D deficiencies.
Dr. Michael Holick, the researcher most responsible for this radical change in thinking, has described the current state of widespread vitamin D deficiency as a "silent epidemic." It's a serious public health problem that affects virtually all diseases. To understand this change in thinking, we need to review briefly the history of vitamin D and our understanding of its functions.

In the 1890s, the crippling, bone softening children's disease rickets was still widespread in northern states, which has more pollution and a thicker ozone layer than the Northwest. Ozone blocks the invisible component of sunshine, ultraviolet B (UVB), which produces vitamin D in the skin.

In the early 1900s, it was demonstrated that summer midday sunshine prevented rickets. As a result, there was an effort to educate the public, and nearly everybody learned that a little sunshine was good for you. If you're of baby boomer age, your mother undoubtedly told you to go outside and get some sun. That's why.
Ironically, the beginning of the end of this attitude came in 1923 when a means of producing dietary D was found. University of Wisconsin-Madison biochemistry professor Harry Steenbock discovered that the vitamin D content of milk and other organic substances could be increased with ultraviolet (UV) irradiation. This led to the widespread enrichment of milk and the near elimination of rickets. Slowly, the perception of sunshine as healthy began to fade.

For the most part, scientists lost interest in the biological role of sunshine for higher animals. Dr. Michael Holick was the notable exception. For the last thirty years, Holick has been gathering data, doing research, and studying the role of sunshine and vitamin D.

As a graduate student, Holick first identified the major circulating form of vitamin D in human blood as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. He then isolated and identified the active form of vitamin D as 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D. He determined the mechanism for how vitamin D is synthesized in the skin, and demonstrated the effects of aging, obesity, latitude, seasonal change, sunscreen use, skin pigmentation, and clothing on this vital cutaneous process.

Thanks to his work, we now know that D is not actually a vitamin. It is a "prohormone," meaning that it's a precursor form of a steroid hormone created by conversion in various organs. This active hormone regulates multiple important biological functions. Every single cell in the body has a D receptor—even stem cells. When I asked Holick what the source of his epiphany was so long ago, he explained that it was the simple fact that D is a critical nutrient without a natural food source. It is so important biologically that early humans could manufacture D even during famines.

For that reason, he questioned the conventional zero-tolerance approach to sun exposure that has held sway with dermatologists since the 1970s. Holick, a professor of dermatology himself, lost his teaching position when he published his findings. When he wrote a book on the subject, he was targeted by a well funded PR campaign aimed at debunking him by the leading dermatological organization. Supposedly objective journals refused to publish his exhaustively documented research—research now accepted as both accurate and pioneering.

An Emerging Scientific Consensus

 

About five years ago, the vitamin D climate began to change. Of late, Holick has finally received the recognition he deserves, and he now serves on multiple prestigious boards as well as advises the NIH. He is, incidentally, professor of medicine, physiology, and biophysics at the Boston University School of Medicine.
Holick explains that new breakthroughs in other areas have helped him make his case. With advances in computer processing and the decoding of the human genome, for example, it now appears that a remarkable 2,000 genes are influenced by vitamin D.

In retrospect, it's odd that the lessons learned from the rickets epidemic were not applied sooner to osteomalacia, which is essentially rickets of the aged. In fact, Dr. Holick and others have demonstrated that osteomalacia is preventable and treatable using vitamin D. Osteoporosis, for example, is also related to lack of vitamin D.

That discovery alone is legitimately worthy of a Nobel prize. In Holick's words, though, it's only the tip of the iceberg. Though Holick began documenting the connection between vitamin D insufficiencies or deficiencies and health problems thirty years ago, the scientific floodgates have opened only in the past few years.

Optimal vitamin D serum blood levels, attained through sunlight or supplementation, dramatically reduce the risk of many diseases other than bone maladies. Many of the most serious are ameliorated by an astonishing 50 to 85 percent. These diseases include cancers, from breast and colon to deadly melanoma skin cancers. Yes, that's right. The really nasty skin cancers can be prevented by getting moderate, sensible sunshine or through vitamin D supplementation. Non-melanoma skin cancers do increase somewhat with sun exposure, especially with sunburns. These skin cancers, however, are relatively benign, as they don't tend to spread to other parts of the body. They're easily detected and removed because they appear on skin exposed to the sun.

Melanoma, on the other hand, is the deadly skin cancer that most people erroneously relate to sunshine. Melanomas, however, do not tend to occur on parts of the body that get direct sunlight. This not only argues against the notion that sunshine directly causes them, it makes them less likely to be detected. The bottom line, which is worth repeating, is that the incidence of truly nasty melanoma skin cancer goes down significantly with sensible exposure to UVB-containing sunshine or with vitamin D3 supplementation. Other effects of vitamin D include improved skin tone in general.

Wider Potential Benefits to Vitamin D Supplementation

 

This is not the end of the list, though. The big killers and most expensive diseases respond similarly to adequate D. I'm talking about hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. So do type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes (to a lesser extent), rheumatoid arthritis, peripheral vascular disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, autoimmune diseases, and apparently even viral diseases such as H1N1 and AIDS.

It takes about 100 international units (IU) to raise serum blood levels by 1 ng/ml in a healthy adult. To get into the optimal range— 40 to 60 ng/ml—one would therefore have to take 4,000 IU daily. It would take even more if you were obese, are taking certain medications, or have one of a number of medical conditions that degrade or prevent the creation of usable D. The evidence, incidentally, is that 10,000IU is entirely safe.
Consider this projection: Once the requisite low-cost vitamin D therapies are fully adopted, Americans could save $50 billion annually in direct and indirect costs of disease. This in turn would have a real impact on our total healthcare spending.

My opinion, based on discussions with experts, is that adults who treat the big killers with sufficient vitamin D could see average increases in life expectancies of six to eight years.

Pertaining to UVB and latitude, Holick says that from Los Angeles south, UVB is present in sunshine year round, though it can be blocked by clouds. Even the palest among us will be unable to get sufficient UVB from sunshine in more northern latitudes. In Boston, for example, UVB is blocked by the angle of the sun from November through February. Edmonton, Canada has no UVB from mid-October through mid-April. Young people can store enough D during summer months to make it through the winter. Older people cannot.

Many of the benefits of D appear rapidly. Holick and others who prescribe D in clinical situations report that patients often experience dramatic improvements in quality of life within months. Not only do hypertension and bone density respond quickly, the neuromuscular impact of D is such that many of those who experience body pains and muscular weakness are quickly relieved when their serum blood levels are adjusted. Depression, irritable bowel syndrome, and various other maladies can respond extremely quickly to the sunshine vitamin.

The Future of Vitamin D Research and What to Do Now

 

Before giving you the links I promised, I'd like to make a few general observations. One is that in every age, much of the mainstream scientific establishment has considered itself to have achieved a final understanding of core scientific issues. It is also true that, in retrospect, it has never been the case. Science is rightly a process of discovery, not a set of established facts.

Recall one recent example of this authoritarian fatuousness: the US government dietary establishment's long insistence that fats are bad. My nutritional scientist wife told me decades ago that this was untrue. It took many years, however, before the importance of omega-3 fats was generally recognized. Remember when eggs, coffee, and chocolate were bad for you?

Moreover, change and scientific progress continue to accelerate at an unbelievable pace. The next decade will see accelerating breakthroughs in world-changing technologies. They include stem cell sciences, as well as RNA interference, cellular engineering, and other life-extending technologies.

The single best source for information about vitamin D and sunshine is Holick's book, The Vitamin D Solution: A 3-Step Strategy to Cure Our Most Common Health Problem. In keeping with the conventions of my profession, I should tell you that I have no personal financial interest in promoting Dr. Holick's book.

In the meantime, his website will provide you with far more information than is included in this article. Another useful site is Grassroots Health. This activist group includes leading scientists dedicated to increasing understanding of vitamin D. Yet another great site is that of an amazing writer out in Arizona, a great read is the "Vitamin D Deficiency Syndrome".

While sunshine and vitamin D supplements do not have a direct "invest in this" recommendation I can give you, I can ask you to consider the bigger picture. If optimal levels of vitamin D can help you avoid disease, as the research suggests, vitamin D could be considered nature's easiest, most direct life extension technique. This investment in your health is just as important as any market based investment you could ever make.


Stay Ahead of the Latest Tech News and Investing Trends...
Each day, you get the three tech news stories with the biggest potential impact.




Get more of our "Gold and Crude Oil Trade Ideas"

 


Monday, March 24, 2014

Why Junior Gold Mining Stocks Are Our Favorite Speculations

By Laurynas Vegys, Research Analyst

Despite last week’s pullback, the precious metals market is off to an impressive start in 2014. Gold is up 10.6%, silver 4.3%, and the PHLX Gold/Silver (XAU) 17.1%. Gold, in particular, had a great February, rising above $1,300 for the first time since November 7, 2013. This has led to some very handsome gains in our Casey International Speculator portfolio, with a few of our recommendations already logging triple digit gains from their recent bottoms.

Why Junior Gold Mining Stocks Are Our Favorite Speculations


One of Doug Casey’s mantras is that one should buy gold for prudence, and gold stocks for profit. These are very different kinds of asset deployment. In other words, don’t think of gold as an investment, but as wealth protection. It’s the only highly liquid financial asset that is not simultaneously someone else’s obligation; it’s value you can liquidate and use to secure your needs. Possessing it is prudent.

Gold stocks are for speculation because they offer leverage to gold. This is actually true of all mining stocks, but the phenomenon is especially strong in the highly volatile precious metals. Most typical “be happy you beat inflation” returns simply can’t hold a candle to stocks that achieved 10 bagger status (1,000% gains). In previous bubbles—some even generated 100 fold returns. And we may see such returns again.

It’s Not Too Late to Make a Fortune

Here’s a look at our top three year to date gainers.


What’s especially remarkable is that all three of these stocks shot up much more than gold itself, on essentially no company specific news. This is dramatic proof of just how much leverage the right mining stocks can offer to movements in the underlying commodity—gold, in this case. Two of the stocks above are on our list of potential 10 baggers, by the way.

So have you missed the boat? Is it too late to buy?


Looking at the chart, two bullish factors jump out immediately:
  • Gold stocks have just now started to move up from a similar level in 2008.
  • Gold stocks remain severely undervalued compared to the gold price. A simple reversion to the mean implies a tremendous upside move.
Now consider the following data that point to a positive shift in the gold market.
  1. After 13 consecutive months of decline, GLD holdings were up over 10.5 tonnes last month. The trend is similar to other ETFs.
  1. Hedge funds and other large speculators more than doubled their bets on higher gold prices this year.
  1. Increase in M&A—for example, hostile bids from Osisko and HudBay Minerals to buy big assets.
  1. Apollo, KKR, and other large private equity groups have emerged as a new class of participants in the sector.
  1. Gold companies’ hedging of future production—usually a sign of insecurity among the miners—shrunk to the lowest level in 11 years.
  1. China continues to consume record amounts of gold and officially overtook India as the world’s largest buyer of gold in 2013.
  1. Large players in the gold futures market that were short have switched to being long.
  1. Central banks continue to be net buyers.
To top it off, there’s been no fallout (yet) from the unprecedented currency dilution undertaken since 2008—and we don’t believe in free lunches. The gold mania train has not yet left the station, but the engine is running and the conductor has the whistle in his mouth. This means…..

Any correction ahead is a potential last-chance buying opportunity before the final mania phase of this bull cycle takes our stock to new highs, well above previous interim peaks.

In spite of the good start to 2014, most of our 10 bagger gold stocks are still on the deep discount rack. And you can get all of them with a risk free, 3 month trial subscription to our monthly advisory focused on junior mining stocks, the Casey International Speculator.

If you sign up today, you can still get instant access to two special reports detailing which stocks are most likely to gain big this year: Louis James’ 10 Bagger List for 2014 and 7 Must Own Stocks for 2014.
Test drive the International Speculator for 3 months with a full money back guarantee, and if it’s not everything you expected, just cancel for a prompt, courteous refund of every penny you paid.

Click Here to Get Started Now

I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity in front of us—while shares are still relatively cheap.
The article Junior Mining Stocks to Beat Previous Highs was originally published at Casey Research


Get in on Thursdays FREE webinar before it's to late...."How To Trade Options – The Complete Roadmap"


Sunday, March 23, 2014

China’s Minsky Moment?

By John Mauldin


In speeches and presentations since the end of last year, I have been saying that I think the biggest macro problem in the world today is China. China has run up a huge debt, and the payments are coming due. They seem to be proactive, but will it be enough? How much risk do they pose for the global system?

This week as I travel to Cafayate I have asked my young associate Worth Wray to write up his research and our conversations on China. Worth has lived in China; and with his (and my) access to people with their fingers on the pulse of China, he has come up with some valuable insights. The hard part for him was to keep it in a single letter. China is a such a huge topic that writing about it can easily yield a tome.

I am lucky to have enticed Worth to come to work with me. He is extraordinarily talented and insightful as an economist, has the boundless energy of youth (which means he seemingly doesn’t sleep), and spent the last five years deep in one of the best training grounds that a young analyst could have. He brings his own extensive Rolodex to our organization. In the not too distant future, we plan to start writing a joint letter on portfolio design and construction, translating the macro insights we have into real world portfolios that can inform your own investing. Lots of I’s to dot and T’s to cross, but we are making progress.

I am delighted to be able to bring a talent like Worth to your attention. So let’s let him talk China to us and see where it takes us. [Note: as I do the final edits here in Cafayate, I see that Worth did an outstanding job of bringing the data together and making the story understandable. You want to take the time to read this!]

A Front Row Seat
By Worth Wray

Before I teamed up with John last July, I worked as the portfolio strategist for an $18 billion money manager in Houston, TX that, among its other businesses, co-managed (with an elite team of investors from the university endowment world) one of the largest registered funds of funds in the United States.

For a bright-eyed kid from South Louisiana, it was a life changing experience. I had a front-row seat for every investment decision in a multi-billion-dollar portfolio for almost five years; and along with my colleagues and mentors in Texas, North Carolina, New York, Shanghai, and Singapore, I had the chance to meet and interact with a long list of the most sought-after hedge fund, private equity, and venture capital teams. I often found myself in the same room with honest-to-god legends like Kyle Bass, John Paulson, JC Flowers, and Ken Griffin … and I forged lasting some friendships with their portfolio managers and analysts.

As you can imagine, the information flow was addictive. I spent thousands of hours poring over manager letters from six continents, doing my best to connect the global macro dots ahead of the markets and coming up with question after question for everyone who would return my calls. That experience plugged me in to an enduring network of truly independent thinkers, forced me to see the world from an entirely different perspective, and put me in an ideal position to figure out what it takes to navigate the unprecedented (not to say strange) investment challenges posed by a “Code Red” world.

Sometimes, combing through a mountain of manager letters felt like reading the newspaper years in advance. I remember watching with amazement as a free-thinking global macro investor named Mark Hart made a fortune for his investors by shorting US subprime mortgages and then shifted his focus to what he argued would be the next shoe to drop – a series of sovereign defaults across the Eurozone.

Mark explained how the launch of a common currency had allowed historically riskier borrowers like Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and France to issue sovereign debt for the same borrowing cost as Germany did… without any kind of fiscal union to justify the common rates. The resulting debt splurge led to a big increase in fiscal debts, drove an unwarranted rise in unit labor costs across the southern Eurozone, and essentially activated a ticking time bomb at the very foundations of the euro system. It seemed obvious that rates would eventually diverge to reflect the relative credit risks of the borrowers, but the market didn’t seem to care until it got very bad news from Athens. We all know what happened next.

Just as Mark and his team at Corriente Advisors had predicted, spreads blew out in Greece, then in Ireland, then in Portugal, then in Spain… and it now appears that Italy and France are veering toward a similar fate. When the euro crisis finally broke out, my colleagues and I were waiting for it, because Mark had already walked us through his playbook for a multi-act global debt drama.

Instead of blowing up in spectacular fashion, the Eurozone crisis has taken far longer to resolve than a lot of investors and economists expected (Mark, John, and myself included); but the euro’s survival thus far has been largely the result of extensive Realpolitik and an increasingly hollow narrative from Mario Draghi and the ECB laying claim to the wherewithal to “do whatever it takes” to preserve the single-currency system. Meanwhile, as Corriente understood, the likelihood of major defaults across the Eurozone rises every day that the ECB does the bare minimum to resist France’s and Italy’s slide toward deflation. It’s not over until the fat lady sings.

The point I am trying to make is that Mark saw the fundamental imbalances behind the global financial crisis in time to launch a dedicated fund in 2006, and he saw the root causes of the ongoing European debt crisis in time to launch a dedicated fund in 2007… precisely because he thinks of the global economy as one interconnected system peppered with a series of unstable and still unresolved debt bubbles. Mark is one of the most forward-thinking investors I have ever met and one of the best in recent decades at spotting the big imbalances that spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

I can’t tell you if he will be right about the next phase of the global debt drama. Predicting the actions and reactions of elected and unelected officials is next to impossible in a Code Red world, but some people have an eye for fundamental imbalances. And since Mark has been largely right in identifying the major debt bubbles that have plagued the world since 2007, John and I can’t comfortably ignore his warning.

As Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff argued in their still-authoritative history of financial boom and bust over the past eight hundred years, “When an accident is waiting to happen, it eventually does. When countries become too deeply indebted, they are headed for trouble. When debt-fueled asset price explosions seem too good to be true, they probably are.”

The Bubble That Is China

Following his prescient calls on the subprime debacle and the European debt crisis, Mark identified in 2010 another source of instability that he warned could shake the global economy. And it took me by surprise. He warned that China was in the “late stages of an enormous credit bubble,” and he projected that the economic fallout when that bubble burst could be “as extraordinary as China’s economic outperformance over the last decade.”

To my knowledge, Mark Hart and his team at Corriente were the first of many global macro managers to anticipate a hard landing in the People’s Republic of China. Mark argued that the Middle Kingdom would land very hard indeed, popping speculative bubbles in the property and stock markets, sending foreign capital flying out the door, and triggering a rapid collapse in the renminbi … and even if the Chinese government could manage its economy away from a deflationary bust, they would be forced to devalue the renminbi to do so. In other words, Mark saw a much lower renminbi under almost every outcome.
It was a mind-blowing concept to me that the main driver of global growth (at the time) could not only implode but even drag the rest of the world down with it.

I can’t share the original Corriente China presentation with you for legal reasons, but here are a few public notes published by the Telegraph’s Louise Armistead after she attended one of Mark’s presentations in November 2010. These may look like obvious observations today, the sort you can find plastered all across the internet, but very few people were actually paying attention four years ago. And the data has only gotten worse since 2010 as rampant credit growth and insidious shadow lending have continued to fuel greater and greater capital misallocation.

In the presentation, which amounts to a devastating attack on the prevailing belief that China is an engine for growth, the financier argues that ‘inappropriately low interest rates and an artificially suppressed exchange rate’ have created dangerous bubbles in sectors including:
Raw materials: Corriente says China has consumed just 65pc of the cement it has produced in the past five years, after exports. The country is currently outputting more steel than the next seven largest producers combined – it now has 200m tons of excess capacity, more that the EU and Japan's total production so far this year.
Property construction: Corriente reckons there is currently an excess of 3.3bn square meters of floor space in the country – yet 200m square metres of new space is being constructed each year.
Property prices: The average price-to-rent ratio of China's eight key cities is 39.4 times – this figure was 22.8 times in America just before its housing crisis. Corriente argues: “Lacking alternative investment options, Chinese corporates, households and government entities have invested excess liquidity in the property markets, driving home prices to unsustainable levels.” The result is that the property is out of reach for the majority of ordinary Chinese.
Banking: As with the credit crisis in the West, the banks’ exposure to the infrastructure credit bubbles isn’t obvious because the debt is held in Local Investment Companies – shell entities which borrow from Chinese banks and invest in fixed assets. Mr Hart reckons that ‘bad loans will equal 98pc of total bank equity if LIC-owned, non-cashflow-producing assets are recognised as non-performing.’
The result is that, rather than being the ‘key engine for global growth’, China is an ‘enormous tail-risk’.

The markets may damn well prove Mark right, along with a host of other managers who either jumped on his bandwagon or reached the same conclusions independently; but it seemed downright crazy in 2010 to think that the main driver of global growth could abruptly become its biggest threat within a few short years.

On a personal note, I obsessed over China’s culture, economy, and political system for years in college and then witnessed the country’s transformation firsthand during my time at Shanghai’s Fudan University in the summer of 2007. Then and later, I marveled at China’s strength relative to the developed world and the seemingly invincible central government’s ability to keep the economy chugging along with credit growth and fixed investment while it hoped for the return of its developed world customers then mired in the Great Recession.

It wasn’t what I wanted to hear … but I had to accept that Mark could be right. He had clearly identified a major imbalance which has continued to worsen over the last few years, and now we are just waiting for the next shoe to drop.



Four years later, Chinese production is slowing in the shadow of a massive credit bubble and in the face of aggressive reforms. Disappointing investment returns are revealing broad based capital misallocation; property prices are cooling (relative to other countries); and commodity stockpiles are mounting.

With China’s new policy of allowing defaults (historically, China’s default rate has been 0%), there is a real risk that follow-on events could spin out of control, raising nonperforming loan ratios and sparking a panic as bank capital is significantly eroded.

In the meantime, the renminbi is trading down, most likely due to an intentional effort by the People’s Bank of China to aid in the slow unwinding of leveraged trade finance.

Now the signs of a Chinese slowdown (and thus a global one, as the world is geared to 8% Chinese growth) are clear, and people around the world are meeting uncertainty with emotion. With that in mind, let’s dig into the data that really matters and try to get to the heart of China’s dilemma.
China’s Minsky Moment?

“China is like an elephant riding a bicycle. If it slows down, it could fall off, and then the earth might quake.” – James Kynge, China Shakes the World

After 30 years of sustained economic growth topping 8% and a successful bank cleanup in 2000, the People’s Republic was well on its way to blowing through the “middle income trap” and transitioning to a more advanced consumption-based economy. But then in 2008 the banking crisis in the United States abruptly ushered in a painful era of balance sheet repair across the developed world and delivered a demand shock to emerging markets. Rather than allow the Chinese economy to fall into recession at such an inconvenient time, the Party leadership sprang into action to stimulate demand with its largest fiscal deficit in more than 60 years and to mobilize bank lending with historically low interest rates and enormous liquidity injections.



As you can see in the charts above, China’s total debt-to-GDP (including estimates for shadow banks) grew by roughly 20% per year, from just under 150% in 2008 to nearly than 210% at the end of 2012 … and continued rising in 2013. Even more ominous, corporate debt has soared from 92% in 2008 to 150% today against the expectation that China’s government would always backstop defaults. That makes Chinese corporates the most highly levered in the world and more than twice as levered as US corporates, just as  corporate defaults are happening for the very first time in more than 60 years.



By another measure, China has accounted for more than $15 trillion of the $30 trillion in worldwide credit growth over the last five years, bringing Chinese bank assets to roughly $24 trillion (2.5x Chinese GDP) and prompting London Telegraph columnist Ambrose Evans-Pritchard to tweet John and me a short message: “China riding tail of $24 trillion credit tiger. Tiger will eat Maoists.” And to that, I would respond that I hope the tiger doesn’t find its way to France. (You can follow John and Worth on Twitter at @JohnFMauldin and @WorthWray.)

Looking further into the debt problem, China is steadily incurring more and more credit for less and less growth – suggesting that the newer debt is less productive because it is being put to unproductive uses – as you can see in Chart 2 above. That explains why many analysts believe China’s official reported nonperforming loan ratio of 1% is more like 11% – or more than 20% of GDP.

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.



Get our "Gold and Crude Oil Trade Ideas"


Weekly Futures Recap With Mike Seery for week ending March 21st

Natural gas prices are trading below their 20 day but above their 100 day moving average in the April contract telling you that the trend is mixed as prices have broken down recently hitting a 7 week low in last Fridays trade as warm weather is on the horizon. The trend has turned negative at least here in the short term as I would sell a futures contract at the break out of 4.40 and place my stop loss at the 2 week high which currently stands at 4.73 risking around $3,300 if your trading the large contract or $850 dollars in the mini contract as the chart structure is very solid allowing you to place a tight stop loss minimizing risk. The long term trend is higher in natural gas as prices rallied to 5.20 last month due to the cold weather however I am trading with the short term trend which is lower while making sure that the chart structure is solid before entering so currently this meets criteria.
TREND: LOWER
CHART STRUCTURE: SOLID

Coffee futures in New York finished lower for the 6th consecutive trading session finishing lower by about 2800 points for the trading week hitting a 4 week low in today’s trade and if you followed my recommendation in yesterday’s blog when prices hit 181 which was the 10 day low I was recommending to take profits and move on as this market remains neutral at this time so sit on the sidelines and wait for better chart pattern to develop. Prices are trading below their 20 day but above their 100 day moving average telling you the trend is mixed and as I stated yesterday I believe a possible good entry to get long this market is around 160 level which is about the 50% retracement from recent lows to highs as I don’t believe this bull market is over it was just overextended to the upside. I keep in contact with several Brazilian coffee producers and they still believe that the crop is devastated and prices eventually will move higher so look for a possible entry point below the market as prices still remain weak finishing down over 300 points this Friday afternoon right near session lows.
TREND: MIXED
CHART STRUCTURE: POOR

Sugar futures were down about 35 points this week hitting a 4 week low as prices continue to the downside and I still remain neutral this market as I’m waiting to see better chart structure as the trend currently is mixed so look for some other commodity that has a strong trend and just keep an eye on sugar at this time. The 50% retracement from contract lows of around 15.00 to the recent 4 month highs that were hit earlier in the month was 18.50 which is about 350 points divided by 2 equaling 175 points so currently the 50% retracement is at about 16.75 which is just an eyelash away so if you’re looking at possibly getting long this market look to buy around that level. Sugar futures are trading far below their 20 day and right at the 100 day moving average as the next support levels are all the way down at 16.00.
TREND: MIXED
CHART STRUCTURE: SOLID

The 10 year notes in Chicago this week sold off sharply due to the fact of Janet Yellen’s testimony stating that bond purchases that the Federal Reserve has been doing for several years now will come to an end in September with the possibility of rates rising 6 months after that date sending the yield on the 10 year note to 2.77% & in my opinion I think the bond market has started their bearish trend. Prices are trading below their 20 and 100 day moving average hitting an 8 week low and I’m recommending selling the futures contract at today’s price placing your stop above the 10 day high at 125 risking around $2,000 per contract as the trend has turned bearish and I think this could be a special situation as interest rates look to finally start to rise after years of record low rates.
TREND: LOWER
CHART STRUCTURE: EXCELLENT

Still time to sign up for this weeks webinar "How to Trade Options - The Complete Roadmap"


ShareThis