Bonds

Signs Of The Time, Part 82

I had a tough choice to make earlier tonight- either watch President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Speech, or finish up doing laundry.

After all my clothes were put away, I saw on my Internet service provider’s home page some jibberish about how some “shadow of crisis” had passed. I pulled up a transcript of the President’s speech tonight and sure enough there was this:

America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this:

The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong.

At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry, and booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth. It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next fifteen years, and for decades to come…

Mark my words. The “shadow of crisis” hasn’t passed. It was merely papered over. Keynesian “enlightenment,” government intervention, bailouts, stimulus packages, quantitative easing, QE 1, QE 2, QE 3, willing-and-able presstitutes, and what do we have? The Not-So-Great Recovery. Answer me this- if the economy is so strong, why have interest rates been effectively at zero for how many years now? “But Janet Yellen and the Federal Reserve are going to start raising interest rates soon.” We’ll see, but if they do, I suspect rates will be raised incrementally, and I can’t help but wonder if the next few years won’t resemble the early part of last decade when a housing bubble inflated (and eventually popped) under the guise of a strong economy, but with the Fed slow on the trigger to raise rates and take way the punch bowl. This time around, we could even have multiple asset bubbles (in bonds? housing? stocks?) formed before the next installment of the longer financial crash arrives. Who knows exactly how the next crisis will play out, but I’m pretty sure the end result will be much uglier than the last episode. Not many bullets left for Uncle Sam and the central bank to use.

One more thing. “We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth.” God forbid anyone scratch the surface to reveal how many more trillions of dollars of debt has been piled on our financial house of cards in order to kick the can down the road a little bit more. There’s no escaping the fact that the United States is the world’s largest debtor nation. And another inconvenient fact happens to be that taking on significant debt is akin to slavery.

“Freer to write our own future.” If only it were true. Financial reckoning day is more like it.

I’ll leave Survival And Prosperity readers with this. Back in the early 1990s while attending the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign I remember listening to a recording of “The Rat Pack” in action. Frank Sinatra was chiding Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. Now, the “Chairman Of The Board” made an observation that better describes the situation we’re in than what the President Of The United States said this evening:

You’ve had your fling and you flung it.

Enjoy the “good times” while they last, then prepare to batten down the hatches.


Scene from The Final Countdown (1980)
YouTube Video

Note that it’s not the end of the word I’m talking about here. But things will definitely suck for a while before the economy and society gets better again. By that time, we’ll probably be well on our way to having passed the baton to China.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Marc Faber: Gold Going Up 30% In 2015

“BullionVault, an online service for investors to buy and sell physical gold and silver, said its Gold Investor Index fell in December to an almost five-year low.

The gauge, which measures the balance of buyers against sellers, slipped to 50.5 from 52.1 in November, the London-based company said in an e-mailed report today. That’s the lowest level since February 2010 and marked the biggest drop since 2013. A reading above 50 indicates more buyers than sellers…”

-Bloomberg.com, January 6, 2015

Regular readers of Survival And Prosperity know that Swiss-born investment advisor/money manager Marc Faber has been a gold bull for some time. And the publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report is so confident about a rising price of gold in 2015 (in spite of all the negative sentiment among investors) that he made an eye-opening prediction yesterday. Sara Sjolin reported on the MarketWatch website Tuesday afternoon:

“I’m positive [that] gold will go up substantially [in 2015] — say 30%,” Faber, whose investment letter is called the Gloom Boom Doom Report, said at Société Générale’s global strategy presentation in London on Tuesday.

“My belief is that the big surprise this year is that investor confidence in central banks collapses. And when that happens — I can’t short central banks, although I’d really like to, and the only way to short them is to go long gold, silver and platinum,” he said. “That’s the only way. That’s something I will do.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

BullionVault

Dr. Faber repeated his recent “bubble in everything, everywhere” statement while in London. Sjolin added:

“We simply have highly inflated asset markets. Real estate is high, stocks are high, bonds are high, art prices are high, and interest rates and short-term deposits are basically zero,” Faber said. “The only sector that I think is very inexpensive is precious metals, and in particularly precious-metals stocks.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Faber, who became well-known for advising clients to get out of the U.S. stock market one week before the October 1987 crash and for predicting the 2008 global financial crisis, appeared on CNBC’s Squawk Box back on September 19, 2014, and warned viewers:

Today, the good news is we have a bubble in everything, everywhere- with very few exceptions. And, eventually, there will be a problem when these asset markets begin to perform poorly. The question is- what will be the catalyst? It could be a rise in interest rates not engineered by the Fed, because I think they’ll keep interests rates at zero on the Fed funds rate for a very long time… We could have essentially a break in bond markets at some point. We also could have a strong dollar. A strong dollar has already happened in the last two months signifies that international liquidity is tightening. And when that happens, usually it’s not very good for asset markets.

Dr. Faber also sees a potential investing opportunity in emerging markets, which you can read about in Sjolin’s piece on the MarketWatch website here.

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Robert Shiller On Bonds: ‘Doesn’t Clearly Fit My Definition Of Bubble’

I just blogged about Yale economics professor Robert Shiller on December 30- when he appeared on CNBC that morning and talked about housing. He would know, considering he spotted the U.S. housing bubble last decade and the dot-com bubble a few years earlier.

These days, Dr. Shiller is turning his attention to bonds. Pat Regnier reported on the Money magazine website on January 6, 2015:

Since at least 2009, some market observers have called the bond market a bubble.

Shiller, however, resists applying the B-word to bonds. “It doesn’t clearly fit my definition of ‘bubble,’” he says. “It doesn’t seem to be enthusiastic. It doesn’t seem to be built on expectations of rapid increases in bond prices.” (Shiller spoke with Money in December.)

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Dr. Shiller talks more about bonds in that Money piece, which you can read in its entirety on the magazine’s website here.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)

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Sunday, January 11th, 2015 Bonds, Bubbles, Crash Prophets, Investing No Comments

Marc Faber, Jeremy Grantham, Jim Rogers, And Peter Schiff All Sound The Alarm

I find it both funny and disturbing that the financial types who missed the U.S. housing bubble/bust and global economic crisis that was readily-visible by the second half of 2008 are now claiming the U.S. economic “recovery” is on solid footing and there are no asset bubbles in sight.

Meanwhile, the few individuals who correctly-predicted that carnage- including Marc Faber, Jeremy Grantham, Jim Rogers, and Peter Schiff- are sounding the alarm again.

Here’s what each of these “crash prophets” have been saying lately (the following statements have all been blogged about previously on Survival And Prosperity).

Swiss-born investor and money manager Marc Faber warned CNBC Squawk Box viewers on September 19, 2014:

Today, the good news is we have a bubble in everything, everywhere- with very few exceptions. And, eventually, there will be a problem when these asset markets begin to perform poorly. The question is- what will be the catalyst? It could be a rise in interest rates not engineered by the Fed, because I think they’ll keep interests rates at zero on the Fed funds rate for a very long time… We could have essentially a break in bond markets at some point. We also could have a strong dollar. A strong dollar has already happened in the last two months signifies that international liquidity is tightening. And when that happens, usually it’s not very good for asset markets.

“A bubble in everything, everywhere.” Reminds me of what British-born investment strategist Jeremy Grantham said right before the asset bubbles popped during the “Panic of ’08.” Speaking of Grantham, he penned in his November 2014 quarterly investment letter entitled “Bubble Watch Update”:

I am still a believer that the Fed will engineer a fully-fledged bubble (S&P 500 over 2250) before a very serious decline…

My personal fond hope and expectation is still for a market that runs deep into bubble territory (which starts, as mentioned earlier, at 2250 on the S&P 500 on our data) before crashing as it always does. Hopefully by then, but depending on what the rest of the world’s equities do, our holdings of global equities will be down to 20% or less. Usually the bubble excitement – which seems inevitably to be led by U.S. markets – starts about now, entering the sweet spot of the Presidential Cycle’s year three, but occasionally, as you have probably discovered the hard way already, history can be a snare and not a help.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Fully-fledged bubble (S&P 500 over 2250) before a very serious decline…”

The S&P 500 stands at 2,058 this Sunday- only 192 points away from Grantham’s bubble “target.”

There’s also investor, financial commentator, and author Jim Rogers, who was talking U.S. equities on RT’s Boom Bust on December 26, 2014, when he remarked:

I know the bear market will come… The next bear market, Erin, is going to be much worse than the last one because the debt has gone through the roof. Debt worldwide, including the U.S., has skyrocketed, and we’re all going to have to pay a terrible price for all this money printing and all this debt.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Finally, there’s Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff, who argued on The Schiff Report YouTube video blog on Halloween 2014:

When this illusion collapses, this fantasy of a U.S. economic recovery- because everybody believes there’s no recession anywhere in sight, that we’re years away from a U.S. recession- when in fact, another recession is right around the corner. And in fact, it will be worse than the recession that we had in 2008, 2009, if the Fed does not come in with QE 4…

I expect Janet Yellen to react to this coming recession the way Ben Bernanke reacted to the last one. The way Alan Greenspan reacted to the last one. Because that’s the only playbook we’ve got. And remember, when this recession starts, they can’t start with rate cuts. Rates are at zero. You can’t cut from zero. All they can do is revamp QE. And believe me, it’s going to have to be a lot bigger than QE 3. QE 4 is going to have to be bigger than QE 3 for the same reason QE 3 had to be bigger than QE 2- the economy builds up a tolerance. The more addicted to QE, the more QE you need to get any kind of result. And this last result was minimal in the real economy. I mean, yes- the Fed was able to get the stock market to go up, but the real economy never experienced any real economic growth. The average American is worse off today than when QE began. By far. Incomes are down. Real employment is down. Net worth is down. Poverty is up. Government dependency is up. The cost of living is up. Nothing has improved, except maybe the level of optimism on Wall Street…

This crisis is not really going to be about a credit crisis. Not private credit. It’s going to be about debt. Sovereign credit. It’s going to be about the dollar. A currency crisis. A sovereign crisis. Which is going to be very different than the crisis we had in 2008. It’s a crisis of an excess of QE. Of an overdose of QE. That’s the one that’s coming. That’s the one that we have to prepare for. That’s the one that I have been warning about since the beginning…

Schiff, who’s also a financial commentator and author, has been the most vocal of the four in warning of economic pain dead-ahead of us.

Jim Rogers talking the day after Christmas about the coming bear market alerted me to the fact that all these “crash prophets” whom I regularly-follow on this blog are now sounding the alarm at the same time. To summarize their recent warnings:

Marc Faber- “A bubble in everything, everywhere.” Actually, I believe he still likes Asia and Asian emerging economies.
Jeremy Grantham- “I am still a believer that the Fed will engineer a fully-fledged bubble (S&P 500 over 2250) before a very serious decline.”
Jim Rogers- “The next bear market… is going to be much worse than the last one because the debt has gone through the roof.”
Peter Schiff- “An overdose of QE. That’s the one that’s coming. That’s the one that we have to prepare for. That’s the one that I have been warning about since the beginning.”

At the start of 2015, it will be interesting to see how the next couple of years play out, for I believe Americans will get the chance to experience quite a bit of the above in that time period- whether they want to or not.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Marc Faber Shares 2015 Outlook, Talks Bonds, Stocks, Precious Metals

Yesterday, Swiss-born investment advisor/money manager Marc Faber appeared on Bloomberg Television’s In the Loop. Speaking with Brendan Greeley, Betty Liu, and Erik Schatzker, the publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report shared his outlook for 2015. Dr. Faber told viewers:

I’m saying that we will have a lot of volatility and a lot of surprises, that’s why I keep on recommending diversification. And I just like to mention that hedge funds in 2014 and active money managers had a bad year. Almost 90 percent of active managers underperformed the S&P 500. And hedge funds, by-and-large, the average is up about 1 percent. But the portfolio that has actually done well is the All Weather portfolio of Bridgewater Associates, because they diversified- they were also in bonds…

So I’m diversified. I still think that the sentiment about stocks in the U.S. is much too bullish, much too optimistic… I think the Treasury market is not such a bad alternative given my view that the global economy is actually slowing down, and given the low yields you have in Japan and Europe.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Famous for advising clients to get out of the U.S. stock market one week before the October 1987 crash and for calling the 2008 global economic crisis, Dr. Faber told the Bloomberg audience that when it comes to stocks, he prefers to invest in Asia and emerging economies of Asia than in the U.S.

The “crash prophet” added one more thing. Faber said:

I tell you, I prefer physical precious metals stored outside the U.S. But if you cannot own physical precious metals, I believe that whereas the sentiment about the stock market is bullish, and about investments in general, and whereas I believe that most assets are in kind of a bubble- we have a credit bubble- I have to say that sentiment about precious metals is incredibly negative. And all these experts are predicting gold price to drop to $700. Well understood, these are experts that never owned a single ounce of gold in their lives. So they missed the five-fold increase since 1999. But they all know that the price of gold will go to $800- they’re right about it with a lot of authority. And they also say these are people that never gave a gold jewelry to their girlfriends and saw the smile of these beautiful girls after they received the jewelry.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“Marc Faber: Diversify Amid Volatility, Surprises in 2015”
Bloomberg TV Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Jim Rogers: Coming Bear Market In Stocks Will Be ‘Much Worse Than The Last One’

Well-known investor, financial commentator, and author Jim Rogers was on RT’s Boom Bust last Friday. He spoke with host Erin Ade about stocks and commodities (among other financial topics). On stocks, Rogers told viewers:

The breadth has been terrible. Most stocks are down- most U.S. stocks are down in 2014. They’re not up, whatever the averages are doing. It’s not been a good year for most investors in nearly any asset, unless you happened to own bonds or the U.S. dollar…

When asked about a coming bear market in equities, the former investing partner of George Soros warned:

I know the bear market will come… The next bear market, Erin, is going to be much worse than the last one because the debt has gone through the roof. Debt worldwide, including the U.S., has skyrocketed, and we’re all going to have to pay a terrible price for all this money printing and all this debt.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Ade also asked Singapore-based Rogers about the greatest opportunity in commodities right now, to which he responded agriculture. The chairman of Rogers Holdings advised the audience:

Buy yourself some rice. Buy yourself some sugar…


“Jim Rogers on Russia, China, and commodities”
YouTube Video

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Nouriel Roubini: ‘Mother Of All Asset Bubbles’ To Pop In 2016

One of the original “crash prophets” of the 2008 global economic crisis is now sounding the alarm over what he sees in 2016.

I first mentioned Nouriel Roubini, a former Treasury official under the Clinton administration, a professor of economics at NYU, and chairman of Roubini Global Economics, in my old blog Boom2Bust.com several years ago. Roubini correctly-predicted the financial crisis, but “Dr. Doom”- as the financial media likes to call him- had become more optimistic this year. On May 14, 2014, he “debated” fellow “prophet” Peter Schiff on CNBC’s Fast Money, saying:

We’re printing a lot of money but it’s not creating credit. It’s not creating inflation. And if we had not done this policy, this Great Recession would have become a Great Depression. So, inflation is going to stay low. Gold prices are going to fall. And I don’t believe that the dollar’s going to collapse. Actually, I believe the dollar’s going to become stronger in the next few years- just the opposite of what Peter thinks.

But these days, Dr. Roubini is starting to sound gloomy again. Last week, I happened to come across a Yahoo! Finance interview with Roubini from earlier this month. From an exchange with editor-in-chief Aaron Task:

TASK: Nouriel Roubini is often referred to as “Dr. Doom”- affectionately of course- but the NYU professor and chairman of Roubini Global Economics is not always downbeat. He prefers “Dr. Realist,” and in February 2013 Roubini told Yahoo! Finance and this reporter that, “The mother of all asset bubbles had begun, and would eventually be bigger than the 2003-2006 bubble.” Since that time the S&P 500 is up about 40 percent, so Nouriel, that was a great call if you were long, and bubbles are great if you’re long and you get out in time. Where do you see- what inning, if we use the baseball analogy, are we in in this bubble from your point of view?
ROUBINI: We’re in middle-later innings. Next year we’ll have economic growth. We’re still easy money. I think that this frothiness that we’ve seen in these financial markets is likely to continue- from equities to credit to housing. And in a couple of years, most likely, this asset inflation is going to become asset frothiness. And eventually, an asset and a credit bubble. And eventually, any booming bubble ends up a bust and a crash. I don’t expect that happening next year, but I would say that valuations in many markets- whether its government bonds or credit or real estate or some equity markets- are already stretched. They’re going to become more stretched as the real economy justifies a slow exit, and all this liquidity is going into more asset inflation. And so, two years down the line for them to shake out, but not before then.
TASK: A couple of years down the line, okay.
ROUBINI: Yeah. 2016 I would say.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“Roubini: U.S. equities will be strong until 2016”
Yahoo! Finance Video

Dr. Roubini gave this advice to investors:

At this point, I would be neutral or underweight U.S. equities compared to other markets.

As for “best bets” in 2015, he told viewers:

Several I would say. I would say, dollar strength relative to the euro, relative to the yen, relative to the commodity currencies, relative to fragile emerging markets. And a bet on commodities further another leg down, certainly industrial metals like copper and others linked to China. Those will be two of the stories for 2015.

Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Robert Shiller On Stocks: ‘I’ve Been Wondering If I Should Pull Out’

I haven’t mentioned Robert Shiller, the Yale professor credited with correctly-calling the “dot-com” and housing busts, on Survival And Prosperity since August. The “crash prophet” had just penned “The Mystery of Lofty Stock Market Elevations” on The New York Times website on August 16 and warned:

The United States stock market looks very expensive right now. The CAPE ratio, a stock-price measure I helped develop- is hovering at a worrisome level…

That being said, Dr. Shiller appeared on CNBC Tuesday morning and told viewers the following when asked what he’s doing with his own money:

I worry about valuation in the stock market. And I’ve been wondering if I should pull out. But I have not. And in fact I’m still thinking that even at the CAPE ratio of 27, the expected return is still higher than you expect to get on either housing, on real estate, or fixed income. So it still seems like- I feel a little trepidation because I know my own indicator is looking kind of scary. I wouldn’t over go into the market, but I wouldn’t be completely out either.


“Scary market indicator: Shiller”
CNBC Video

Shiller mentioned that the CAPE ratio is now 27. It should be noted that in that August 16 Times piece he added:

I wrote with some concern about the high ratio in this space a little over a year ago, when it stood at around 23, far above its 20th-century average of 15.21. (CAPE stands for cyclically adjusted price-earnings.) Now it is above 25, a level that has been surpassed since 1881 in only three previous periods: the years clustered around 1929, 1999 and 2007. Major market drops followed those peaks.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

I’d feel a little trepidation too knowing what’s happened to the stock market when that CAPE ratio surpassed 25.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s note: I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein)

Source:

Shiller, Robert. “The Mystery of Lofty Stock Market Elevations.” The New York Times. 16 Aug. 2014. (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/17/upshot/the-mystery-of-lofty-elevations.html?_r=1&abt=0002&abg=0). 10 Dec. 2014.

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Wednesday, December 10th, 2014 Bonds, Crash Prophets, Housing, Investing, Stocks No Comments

Jeremy Grantham: Fed Will Engineer Another Stock Bubble, Crash

Today I spent my lunch reading the latest quarterly letter from British-born investment strategist Jeremy Grantham. Last time around, the founder and former chairman of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo & Co. (GMO)- which oversees $120 billion in client assets as of September 30- was predicting a bubble in the U.S. stock market. From “Summer Essays”:

My recent forecast of a fully-fledged bubble, our definition of which requires at least 2250 on the S&P, remains in effect.

As the S&P 500 sits at 2,051 as I type this (199 points below that bubble benchmark), Grantham- whose individual clients have included current Secretary of State John Kerry and former Vice President Dick Cheney- still thinks U.S. equities are headed for bubble territory- before crashing. From his aptly-named “Bubble Watch Update”:

I am still a believer that the Fed will engineer a fully-fledged bubble (S&P 500 over 2250) before a very serious decline…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

For those looking to put their money to work, Grantham lamented:

It is a particularly tough process today with nowhere to hide and no very good investments compared to, say, the time around the 2000 bubble when there were several…

Nevertheless, he offered:

An example of a portfolio that might be used in a world that excludes private equity and venture capital, and for a client who can do without a benchmark and can settle for owning a (hopefully) sensible long-term efficient portfolio. Efficient, that is, in terms of trying to minimize risk per unit of estimated returns…

This example portfolio was comprised of Equities (39%), Fixed Income (30%), Cash/Cash Plus (17%), and Alternative Strategies (14%).

Grantham concluded the essay with more talk about that U.S. stock bubble and crash. He penned:

My personal fond hope and expectation is still for a market that runs deep into bubble territory (which starts, as mentioned earlier, at 2250 on the S&P 500 on our data) before crashing as it always does. Hopefully by then, but depending on what the rest of the world’s equities do, our holdings of global equities will be down to 20% or less. Usually the bubble excitement – which seems inevitably to be led by U.S. markets – starts about now, entering the sweet spot of the Presidential Cycle’s year three, but occasionally, as you have probably discovered the hard way already, history can be a snare and not a help.

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Jeremy Grantham’s made some great investment calls (hence Cheney and Kerry being clients), so his prediction about U.S. stocks having quite a bit more room to run shouldn’t be so easily dismissed.

You can read the entire quarterly letter (.pdf file) on the GMO website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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The Civic Federation Analyzes Chicago’s FY2015 Budget

The last time I talked about The Civic Federation (an independent, non-partisan government research organization that provides analysis and recommendations on government finance issues for the Chicago region and State of Illinois) was back on March 4, when they proposed a five-year plan to balance the Illinois state budget, eliminate its huge bill backlog, and reduce income tax rates. But yesterday, the group released a new report on the City of Chicago’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2015. From their press release Monday:

Civic Federation Supports FY2015 Chicago Budget

Recent Progress Threatened by Pension Funding Crisis, Borrowing for Operations

In a report released today, the Civic Federation announced its support for the City of Chicago’s proposed FY2015 operating budget of $7.3 billion but expressed deep concern for how the City will manage rising pension costs and debt service payments in future years. The full 101-page analysis is available here.

The FY2015 budget closes a $297.3 million deficit with reasonable structural changes including targeted tax and fee increases, vacancy eliminations and other operational efficiencies. The budget also reflects significant actions toward long-term stability including the 2014 pension reform law for the City’s Municipal and Laborers’ pension funds and the continued phase out of the City’s retiree health care subsidy and planned transition of most retirees to coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Mayor Emanuel and his team are continuing to make the reasonable changes and bold decisions necessary to stabilize Chicago’s finances,” said Laurence Msall, president of the Civic Federation. “Two issues, however, threaten to erase all recent progress: the pension funding crisis and the administration’s continued use of borrowing for operations through the issuance of refunding bonds.”

Landmark pension reforms were enacted in June 2014, but only for two of the City’s four pension funds. The City’s Police and Fire pension funds remain dangerously close to running out of funds with market value funded ratios of only 27.0% and 31.7% respectively in FY2013. The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation in 2010 that mandates a sharp $550 million increase in contributions to the Police and Fire funds. This change, even without considering increased contributions to the City’s Municipal and Laborers’ funds, would require a significant increase in the City’s property tax levy, crippling cuts to City services, or both. The Mayor, City Council and State legislators must work together to create a reform framework for the Police and Fire funds that will stabilize the funds at an affordable cost to taxpayers. The Civic Federation also recommends that the City study ways to consolidate its pension funds, including the possibility of merging its Police and Fire funds with suburban and downstate public safety funds.

Over the last three fiscal years, the City of Chicago reduced its annual debt service payments by refunding bonds that are due to mature and extending the life of these bonds for an additional 30 years, a practice referred to as “scoop and toss.” This practice dramatically increases the cost of providing government services. It also could threaten the City’s ability to issue future debt by filling the out years of the City’s debt service schedule with previously issued bonds. The Civic Federation urges the City to develop a strategy for ending this costly and unsustainable practice.

The Federation’s full report also discusses the creation of the City Council Office of Financial Analysis in 2013. The office was intended to give aldermen access to the independent information and analysis they need to be effective stewards of the City’s finances. A delay in fully implementing the office means aldermen will not have access to this resource before they vote on the FY2015 budget.

You can read the 101-page report entitled City of Chicago FY2015 Proposed Budget: Analysis and Recommendations on The Civic Federation’s website here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Tuesday, November 4th, 2014 Bonds, Borrowing, Fiscal Policy, Government No Comments

Marc Faber, Peter Schiff Issue Another Bubble Warning

“I think we are in a gigantic financial asset bubble.”

-Marc Faber on Bloomberg Television’s Street Smart, January 14, 2014

“We have an entire economy that is supported on a foundation of bubbles.”

-Peter Schiff in a MoneyShow Las Vegas presentation, May 12, 2014

These days, the U.S. economic landscape feels a lot like 2007- if you ask me. There’s a tremendous amount of bullish sentiment out there from rising asset prices. Likewise, a number of threats are simmering in the economy and larger financial system- as was the situation seven years ago.

And just like in 2007, “crash prophets” Marc Faber and Peter Schiff are again sounding the alarm on asset bubbles.

Remember- while most other financial types were predicting clear sailing ahead back then for the U.S. economy and housing market, Faber and Schiff correctly-forecast the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble and the financial crisis that reared its ugly head by the autumn of 2008.

Peter Schiff, CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, wrote the following on his company’s website Wednesday:

The truth is the Fed knows the economy needs zero percent rates to stay afloat, which is why they have yet to pull the trigger. The last serious Fed campaign to raise interest rates led to the bursting of the housing bubble in 2006 and the financial crisis that followed in 2008. This occurred despite the slow and predictable manner in which the rates were raised, by 25 basis points every six weeks for two years (a kind of reverse tapering). At the time, Greenspan knew that the housing market and the economy had become dependent on low interest rates, and he did not want to deliver a shock to fragile markets with an abrupt normalization. But his measured and gradual approach only added more air to the real estate bubble, producing an even greater crisis than what might have occurred had he tightened more quickly.

The Fed is making an even graver mistake now if it thinks the economy can handle a measured reduction in QE. Similar to Greenspan, Bernanke understood that asset prices and the economy had become dependent on QE, and he hoped that by slowly tapering QE the economy and the markets could withstand the transition. But I believe these bets will lose just as big as Greenspan’s. The end of QE will prick the current bubbles in stocks, real estate, and bonds, just as higher rates pricked the housing bubble in 2006. And as was the case with the measured rate hikes, the tapering process will only add to the severity of the inevitable bust

According to “Doctor Doom” Marc Faber, the extent of the bubbles goes even further than what Schiff identified. Appearing on CNBC’s Squawk Box earlier today, the publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report warned viewers:

Today, the good news is we have a bubble in everything, everywhere- with very few exceptions. And, eventually, there will be a problem when these asset markets begin to perform poorly. The question is- what will be the catalyst? It could be a rise in interest rates not engineered by the Fed, because I think they’ll keep interests rates at zero on the Fed funds rate for a very long time… We could have essentially a break in bond markets at some point. We also could have a strong dollar. A strong dollar has already happened in the last two months signifies that international liquidity is tightening. And when that happens, usually it’s not very good for asset markets.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

Source:

Schiff, Peter. “A New Fed Playbook for the New Normal.” Euro Pacific Capital. 17 Sep. 2014. (http://www.europac.net/commentaries/new_fed_playbook_new_normal). 19 Sep. 2014.

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Profitable Assets, Professions In Germany’s Hyperinflation Of The 1920s

Since I started being concerned back in 2004 about the prospect of a U.S. financial crash, I’ve been interested in reading about the everyday lives of the people who lived through economic collapses.

Why? Because I believe there are valuable lessons to be learned for what I think is coming down the road for us here in America.

I haven’t really come across any good Great Depression accounts yet (if you know of one- shoot me over a suggestion). But the other night, I happened to stumble upon a rather lengthy article on the website of Der Spiegel (Germany) that provided a great deal of insight of what went on in Germany during their devastating bout with hyperinflation in the 1920s. Alexander Jung even went so far as to identify the financial “winners” and “losers” during that period of time. Jung wrote back on August 14, 2009:

The only objects of real value were tangible assets: diamonds and coins, antiques, pianos and art. The works of contemporary artists like Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Max Pechstein and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff were in especially high demand. And if you had foreign currency, you lived like a king

The stupid ones were those who had nest eggs: the thrifty, holders of government bonds, but primarily the country’s pensioners. In other words, those who received money without having to work for it, who lived on their pensions or the interest on their savings. Large sections of the middle classes saw themselves stripped of their assets, losing almost everything they had set aside for years. Banks, savings banks, and insurance companies suffered huge losses and were left with nothing but their paper money. As a result, they had to start the majority of their businesses from scratch in 1924.

By perverse contrast, the winners of the hyperinflation were those with massive debts; first and foremost the state, but also private individuals who had borrowed money to buy houses, construction land or farmland, and whose loans were slashed by the switch to the rentenmark.

Some industrialists made huge gains from the period of hyperinflation. Hugo Stinnes, whom Time magazine crowned “Germany’s new Kaiser,” built up an immense corporate empire comprising heavy industry, newspapers, ships and hotels — all based on a mountain of debt. As late as the summer of 1922, Stinnes was recommending that people continue capitalizing on “the weapon of inflation.” Indeed manufacturers and craftsmen in general profited from the crisis since they possessed plants and buildings — that is, tangible assets that outlived the currency switch.

Most farmers also did extremely well. “They had money to burn, and spent it willy-nilly,” writer Lion Feuchtwanger recalled. Some bought themselves entire stables of racehorses, others expensive cars. “Farmer Greindlberger drove from the grimy village street of Englschalking to Munich in an elegant limousine complete with a liveried chauffeur, while he himself was dressed in a brown velvet jacket and a green chamois-tufted hat,” Feuchtwanger wrote of the rural rich…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

That last bit about farmers buying expensive cars reminds me of what “crash prophet” Jim Rogers has been telling anyone who will listen:

The farmers are going to be driving Lamborghinis and Maseratis.

Anyway, the quote doesn’t do the piece justice. I recommend you read the entire article on the Der Spiegel site here.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Jim Rickards Suspects China Behind Gold Price Manipulation As It Buys Metal To Hedge Against Dollar Devaluation

Euro Pacific Capital CEO and Global Strategist Peter Schiff just got done interviewing Jim Rickards, an American lawyer, economist, investment banker, and best-selling author. Rickards, who released The Death of Money: The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System, this spring, spoke with Schiff about the global gold markets. What he had to say about China and its steady accumulation of physical gold (reserves now totaling close to 4,000 tons, Rickards speculates) was extremely interesting. Some might say shocking. From the exchange:

Now there’s been a lot of speculation the reason they’re doing this is they want to launch a gold-backed yuan currency to defeat the dollar. That’s not going to happen. That’s not even close. The reason is that the yuan’s not ready to be a reserve currency because they don’t have investable assets. There’s no rule of law. There’s no mature bond market in China. But what they are doing, is creating a very simple hedge position… So you’ve got $4 trillion of paper reserves, most of them U.S. dollars. You can’t dump them. If you’re going to try and sell a fraction… the Treasury market’s big- it’s not that big. If they try and do something more aggressive, the President of the United States can actually stop them just by freezing their accounts. So what you do is buy up a pile of gold. So now, the Chinese want a stable dollar. They would love a stable dollar. But if the U.S. tries to devalue the dollar, tries to cheapen the dollar through inflation- remember, every 10 percent of dollar inflation is a $300 billion wealth transfer from China to the United States. So if you cheapen the dollar with inflation, they lose money on the paper, but they make money on the gold. So they’re building a hedge position. They’re not done yet.

I’ve heard it claimed before that China is accumulating gold to back the renminbi. But Rickards says this isn’t the case. Even more eye-opening than the dollar hedge theory was something he said later on in the interview:

The gold manipulation, by the way, is so blatant at this point, if I were the manipulator I’d be embarrassed… The question is, who’s doing it? And people like to point a finger at the Fed and maybe through the BIS- they have a hand in it. But my number one suspect is China for the reason you mentioned, Peter. If you’re out to buy 3,000 tons, you don’t want the price to be high yet. Maybe later you do. But for now you want the price to be low.


“Interview: Jim Rickards & Peter Schiff Discuss Global Gold Markets [Full Discussion]”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

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Marc Faber On Stocks: ‘A Rebound Is Underway’

Swiss-born investment advisor and money manager Marc Faber is uncharacteristically bullish these days. “Doctor Doom” told CNBC Squawk Box viewers this morning:

Now, a rebound is underway, in my opinion. But, I doubt we’ll make new highs…

In general, I think we’ve moved into a very low growth environment. And given the inflated asset markets- real estate, equities, and bonds- I think the future returns will be very low.


“Perma-bear Marc Faber: We’re seeing a rebound”
CNBC Video

The other week, the publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report told a CNBC Halftime Report audience:

I rather think that we’ll make a peak sometime between the next 30 to 60 days and then go down meaningfully.

If Dr. Faber doubts new highs will be reached in this rebound, did the peak already come and go, somewhat earlier than originally expected?. It kinds of sounds that way.

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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Monday, August 11th, 2014 Bonds, Crash Prophets, Housing, Investing, Stocks No Comments

Peter Schiff: ‘We Have An Entire Economy That Is Supported On A Foundation Of Bubbles’

Tonight I watched Peter Schiff’s presentation at the MoneyShow Las Vegas back on May 12, 2014. The CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital shared his current assessment of the U.S. financial landscape in “Too Big to Bail: Why the Next Financial Crisis Will Be Worse Than the Last”- as well as where he thinks we’re heading. Schiff warned attendees:

There is no economic recovery in the United States at all. There is no evidence of an economic recovery. The U.S. economy is in far worse shape than it was on the eve of the 2008 financial crisis. We have never been in as worse shape as we are right now. But they say, “Whoa! But the stock market went up.” Yeah, of course the stock market went up. You print enough money, you can make the stock market go up. Yes, the Federal Reserve succeeded in reflating the stock market bubble. But that’s all that it did. That isn’t evidence of a strong economy. Stock prices went up from 2002 to 2007. Does that mean we had a sound economy? No. We were on the verge of a complete implosion. The main difference though between the stock market bubble that we have today and the one that blew up, let’s say, in 2000, is that fewer individuals are participating. This is the bubble for the 1 percent. This is for the hedge funds, the private equity guys… The overwhelming concentration of buyers are very wealthy people. The average American is not participating in the stock market to the extent that he was in the 1990s. And so the Fed is not getting the boost to consumption that you would normally have from the wealth effect because a lot of people aren’t feeling the effects of the wealth because they don’t own stocks.

The same thing is happening in the real estate bubble, which the Fed has managed to reflate. The difference again between the real estate bubble we have now and the real estate bubble that popped in 2007 is again- the average American isn’t participating. Home ownership rates are at 19-year lows. You have hedge funds and private equity companies that are buying up real estate. Last month, I think 43 percent of all the properties purchased in America were purchased for cash. These are not typical Americans buying houses to live in. These are investors buying houses to flip, buying houses to rent out. This is not a healthy market. It is an extremely speculative real estate market thanks to the Federal Reserve.

So the Federal Reserve has managed to reflate two bubbles simultaneously.

And of course, the biggest bubble of them all is the bubble in the bond market.

So we have an entire economy that is supported on a foundation of bubbles…


“Peter Schiff at Las Vegas Moneyshow 2014”
YouTube Video

By Christopher E. Hill
Survival And Prosperity (www.survivalandprosperity.com)

(Editor’s notes: Info added to “Crash Prophets” page; I am not responsible for any personal liability, loss, or risk incurred as a consequence of the use and application, either directly or indirectly, of any information presented herein.)

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