At the SALT conference, MB Advisors founder and CEO Milton Berg gave an epic interview with Erik Schatzker in which Berg predicted that we are on the verge of a 30 year bear market in both equity and fixed income, and he also gave some sage advice to the average retail investor on what to do with their money at this point.
Does the deployment of helicopter money not entail some meaningful risk of the loss of confidence in a currency that is, after all, undefined, uncollateralized and infinitely replicable at exactly zero cost? Might trust be shattered by the visible act of infusing the government with invisible monetary pixels and by the subsequent exchange of those images for real goods and services? To us, it is the great question. Pondering it, as we say, we are bearish on the money of overextended governments. We are bullish on the alternatives enumerated in the Periodic table. It would be nice to know when the rest of the world will come around to the gold-friendly view that central bankers have lost their marbles. We have no such timetable. The road to confetti is long and winding.
If the world’s economies were really out of intensive care, why would ultra-radical monetary policies like helicopter money be increasingly debated at the highest level of governments? Also, how come 70% of Americans believe the US economy is on the wrong course? And why do almost half of US citizens admit they couldn’t come up with $400 to meet an unexpected need? Yes, I know why ask why? And it is what is, and a bunch of other clichés. But this isn’t normal, it isn’t healthy, and - at least in the opinion of this author—it isn’t going to end well.
“I can’t really explain the current rally. All I know is that prices are dictating policy at the moment. We can deny it. We can rail against it. We can call it a conspiracy.
But in the “other” famous words of Bill Clinton: “What is…is.”
The markets are currently betting the economy will begin to accelerate later this year. The “hope” that Central Bank actions will indeed spark inflationary pressures and economic growth is a tall order to fill considering it hasn’t worked anywhere previously. If Central Banks are indeed able to keep asset prices inflated long enough for the fundamentals to catch up with the “fantasy” – it will be a first in recorded human history.
My logic suggests that sooner rather than later somebody will yell ‘fire’ in this very crowded theater. When that will be is anyone’s guess.
A big move is coming in the S&P 500 and it will take everyone’s breath away. Simply put: The S&P 500 has traded in a multi-year consolidation range with a high of 2134 and a low of 1810. A breakout or breakdown out of this range could result in a measured technical move of the height of the range, i.e. 2134 – 1810 = 324 handles. Consequently a break toward the upside would target 2458 (15% above all time highs) and conversely a breakdown would target 1486 and represent a 30.4% correction off of all time highs.
I’ve outlined the bear arguments in detail in Feeding the Monster, so I won’t bother rehashing them here. However, in analyzing the larger market structures an interesting duality is emerging: A fight for control between the historic precedence of earnings and technicals and a very much divergent development in money supply, one of the key drivers behind stock prices since the financial crisis.
While ending the Fed may still seem like a pipe dream, at least until the market's next major crash at which point the population may finally turn on the culprit behind America's serial boom-bust culture, the U.S. central bank, Levin's proposal would get to the heart of the most insidious conflict of interest in the US: the fact that the Federal Reserve works not for the people of America, but for its owners - the banks.
As the stock market gyrates higher and lower in a fairly narrow range, the spokesmodels and talking heads on CNBC breathlessly regurgitate the standard bullish mantra designed to keep the muppets in the market. They are employees of a massive corporation whose bottom line and stock price depend upon advertising revenues reaped from Wall Street and K Street. They aren’t journalists. They are propagandists disguised as journalists. Their job is to keep you confused, misinformed, and ignorant of the true facts.
I have often written about the emotional and psychological factors that inhibit long-term investment performance (most recently here). Despite repeated studies that suggest investors should just buy “passive index” funds and “hold on” until eternity, the reality is that it simply does not work that way.
If you were raised in a religious household, or were sent to a Catholic school, you have heard of the seven deadly sins. These transgressions — wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony — are human tendencies that, if not overcome, can lead to other sins and a path straight to the netherworld.
In the investing world, these same seven deadly sins apply. These “behaviors,” just like in life, lead to poor investing outcomes. Therefore, to be a better investor, we must recognize these “moral transgressions” and learn how to overcome them.
In this article, Claudio Grass, Managing Director at Global Gold Switzerland, talks to economist and Mises Institute Senior Fellow Thomas DiLorenzo. This exclusive interview covers central bank monetary policies, Keynesian economics, the economic“recovery,“ political correctness, and much more.
Claudio Grass: Thomas, it is an honor to have this opportunity to talk to you. I am also pleased to announce that you will be delivering the keynote speech at the BFI Inner Circle Wealth Forum in Florida on April the 18th and 19th. Let’s get started! Given the limited impact of loose monetary policy thus far, where do you think we are headed on the central bank front? Do you think it is likely that the Fed moves interest rates into negative territory, like many central banks across the globe have already done? What would the implications of such a step be?
Last year, we covered a story coming out of Texas in which the state government was planning to institute a state-controlled "gold depository" that would allow individuals to store their gold in a presumably safe place outside the United States banking system.
This proposition was met with emotionally-charged denunciations from Americans in far away northeastern American states where it was claimed this measure was contrary to the "supremacy clause" and just a terrible idea in general because it undermined faith in the US's central government and the Federal Reserve System.
Well, in spite of the disapproval of New Yorkers, the Texas legislature passed the bill, and the governor signed it into law last June.
Intuitively, we think that central banks might have lent/leased gold to maintain the status quo and mask what is technically a default. However, rather than being used to provide temporary liquidity, it is possible that loans/leases are being rolled. This is not sustainable and implies dual ownership claims.
Going forward, the market is vulnerable to several trends in physical gold trading patterns:
Since 2009, central banks have switched from net sellers to net buyers ; The extraordinary strength in Chinese gold demand as indicated by withdrawals of bul-lion on the Shanghai Gold Exchange, e.g. an astonishing 2,597 tonnes, or more than 80% of all of the gold mined worldwide, in 2015; The rebound in gold held by London-based gold ETFs, which has been increasing since January 2016, as western investors dip their toes back into physical gold; and Net gold exports by the UK – mainly to support strong Asian (especially Chinese) demand - which have been a feature of the market since 2013. But the vulnerability is not confined to current trends in physical bullion.
If there is no gold float, there is nothing supporting more than US$200 Billion of trading every day in unallocated (paper) gold instruments which accounts for more than 95% of gold trading in London.
The convention of trading unallocated gold has been based on a fractional reserve system. It works as long as gold buyers retain confidence that the banks could deliver physical gold if demanded, but our analysis suggests that they could not.
Just 5 weeks ago, on March 28, we noted that the so-called “smart money” commercial hedgers had reached their largest net short position in silver futures in more than a decade. Well, for us to dedicate another post to this situation within such a short time frame, there had to be either a massive reversal in that positioning, or a further expansion in shorts to an all-time record. As the title suggests, the latter is the inspiration for this post.
The prospect for the birth of a new Bull-Run in Silver speaks to a broader cyclical theme that relates to a dying dollar bull, and a corollary cyclical sentiment shift back toward a strong market preference for tangible vs. paper assets.
From its current cyclical low in December of 2015, Silver Bullion has risen 30%. In the broadest of terms, the above referenced theme would suggest the early adoption of a general pair’s trade that was short the dollar and long commodities.
At present, from an Elliott Wave perspective, the 30% rally in Silver is somewhat tentative in terms of whether or not its wave structure is exhibiting impulsive (bullish) or corrective (bearish) patterns.
Over the last couple of week’s, I have written extensively about the breakout of the market above the downtrend resistance line that traced back to the 2015 highs. To wit: “With the breakout of the market yesterday, and given that ‘short-term buy signals’ are in place I began adding exposure back into portfolios.
This is probably the most difficult ‘buy’ I can ever remember making.” I also stated that it was probably a trap and that I will be stopped out in fairly short order. But that is the risk of managing money. It was only a matter of time before the extreme short-term extension of the market begins to correct. Like stretching a rubber band to its limits, it must be relaxed before it is stretched again.
The question is whether this is simply a “relaxation of the extension” OR is this a resumption of the ongoing topping and correction process? Let’s take a look at a few charts to try and derive some clues as to what actions we should be taking next.
If the current bullish price action holds by Friday's close, I am buying this breakout because I have to. If I don’t, I suffer career risk, plain and simple.
But you don’t have to. If you are truly a long-term investor, this rally is just a rally. There is no confirmation fundamentally or technically that the bull market has yet resumed. Such leaves investors with a tremendous amount of downside risk relative to the reward that is currently being offered.
However, investor patience to remain conservatively invested while what seems like a “bull market” is in force is an extremely difficult thing for most to do.
So, if you buy the breakout, do so carefully. Keep stop losses in place and be prepared to sell if things go wrong.
It is important to remember that the majority of those touting the bull market are simply just getting back to even after an almost year-long sludge. For now, things are certainly weighted towards the bullish camp.
If we were miraculously appointed by President Trump to run the Fed, our first act would be to put the gun down. We would announce that, henceforth, anyone waiting for the next rate hike would have to wait a long time.
Because we wouldn’t be making any rate hikes… or rate cuts either. Instead, interest rates would have to take care of themselves. Lenders and borrowers would set their own rates.
But what about if banks got into trouble? Ah… we’d take care of that too. We’d point out that the Fed would no longer lend to them in an emergency. Our announcement: “To any bank that runs out of money: Drop dead.”
Could the stock market move up hard in these upcoming months? Sometimes contrarian sentiment is an indicator of an unexpected stock market rise. And bearish sentiment is overwhelming at the moment, as you can see from the above Bloomberg excerpt.
So are we looking at a break out? It doesn’t seem likely of course for the reasons we and others have enumerated. Stocks are over-extended by any rational measure.
In fact, equities are almost always extended in our view, but it’s worse now. They’re far more expensive than their earnings give them any right to be and the main motivator of the economy remains excessive monetization.
It is interesting to listen to the media when it comes to the dollar. When the dollar was near historical lows, the chatter from the media, Congressional members, and many others was that a “strong dollar policy” was needed to create a stronger economic environment. I suggested then such an idea was “wrong-headed” given the weak economic underpinnings and that a strong dollar would be an anathema to future growth.
Flash forward to today, the strong dollar has dragged on economic growth, reduce exports, weighed on corporate profits and crushed the energy complex. Now, everyone is hoping for a weaker dollar to boost corporate profits and raise oil prices.
Yesterday, while I was at the gym I looked up to see a “talking head” on CNBC stating the markets are only 4% off of their all-time highs. He was making the case, of course, that the “bull market was back” and the recent sell-off was a “buy the dip” opportunity. But is that really the case? Of course, we will never know for certain until we have the clarity of hindsight. However, since we can’t invest with hindsight we must make some assumptions, or should I say “guesses” about what will happen in the weeks and months ahead.
He is correct. The markets are just off of their all-time closing highs as of yesterday’s close as shown below.
However, this is only part of the story as the current action in the market is still reminiscent of “broadening market tops” we have witnessed in the past. A quick review of 2000 and 2007 show some important similarities to the current market environment.
In 2000, as the market began its long and drawn out topping process, the market plunged by 11.2% in early 2000. The market then rallied back to within just 0.5% of setting new all-time highs before the “dot.com” crash set in.
In other words, just because two sets of data may follow a similar pattern, it does not mean there is any direct causal relationship.
However, as VisualCapitalist's Jeff Desjardins was assembling our previous research on Currency and the Collapse of the Roman Empire, we noticed something that was too uncanny to skip past: during the 113-year stretch of time from 192 to 305 AD, an astonishing amount of Roman emperors (84%) were either brutally murdered or assassinated.
This, of course, was a particularly troubled period for the Romans. During the Crisis of the Third Century (235 to 284 AD) specifically, the combined pressures of invasion, civil war, plague, and economic depression threatened to bring down the Empire.
Coincidentally, during this same time frame, the silver denarius went from having 2.7 grams silver to being “silver” in name only. Base metals such as bronze and copper were added to the silver coins to debase the currency, and by the year 300 AD, a silver denarius (or its equivalent) had only a trace of silver left.
Anyone who doubts that the global financial system has run out of (good new) ideas has only to track the recent words and deeds of central bankers and mainstream economists: Slightly-negative interest rates didn't lead people to borrow more? We'll go more negative! Buying up all the government bonds didn't prevent deflation? We'll start buying corporate bonds and equities! Still, it's shocking to see where this endless repetition of the same actions takes us. A recent Bloomberg article, for instance, notes that even though corporate profits are falling and individual investors are dumping equity mutual funds, company share buybacks are surging:
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