Bonds

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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Sino-Russian Natural Gas Deal Blow To U.S. Dollar Supremacy?

“The Obama administration is playing down an increasingly warm relationship between its main global rivals, China and Russia, that it may have inadvertently encouraged.

U.S. officials maintain there is nothing to fear from the growing alliance between Moscow and Beijing, even as each throws its weight around in neighboring regions like Ukraine and the South China Sea and at international forums like the United Nations, where on Thursday they double-vetoed the latest in a series of Security Council resolutions on Syria.

Yet when coupled with growing cooperation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, in other areas- notably, a new $400 billion natural gas deal and apparent agreement on the crisis in Ukraine- many believe Russia and China may now or may soon represent a powerful new alliance challenging not only the United States, but also the Western democratic tradition that the U.S. has championed globally…”

-Associated Press, May 23, 2014

You may have heard about that $400 billion natural gas deal that was just struck between China and Russia. Or maybe you didn’t, as I’ve noticed the mainstream media hasn’t really been talking about it too much. Most of the outlets that did neglected to talk about the potential ramifications for the U.S. dollar.

There were exceptions. From the BBC News website on May 22:

Some papers are also analysing the impact of the deal on the world currency market.

A commentary in the Beijing Youth Daily says the deal will probably encourage more countries to not trade in US dollars if China and Russia decide to switch to clearing payments in Russian roubles and the yuan.

“The world economy and finance will then embark on a process to get rid of the US dollar, and the dominance of the dollar will gradually lose its support. The US will then face more challenges in its ability to control global economics and politics,” it says…

From Liam Halligan on The Telegraph (UK) website yesterday:

The real danger, in my view, is rather more abstract — but deadly important nevertheless. If Russia’s “pivot to Asia” results in Moscow and Beijing trading oil between them in a currency other than the dollar, that will represent a major change in how the global economy operates and a marked loss of power for the US and its allies.

With the dollar as the world’s petrocurrency, it also remains the reserve currency of choice for central banks globally. As such, the US is currently able to borrow with “exorbitant privilege”, as it has for decades, simply printing money to pay off foreign creditors.

With China now the world’s biggest oil importer and the US increasingly stressing domestic production, the days of dollar-priced energy, and therefore dollar-dominance, look numbered. Beijing has recently struck numerous agreements with major trading partners such as Brazil that bypass the dollar. Moscow and Beijing have also set up rouble-yuan swap facilities that push the greenback out of the picture.

If Russia and China now decide to drop dollar energy pricing totally, America’s reserve currency status could unravel fast, seriously undermining the US Treasury market and causing a world of pain for the West. This won’t happen tomorrow or next year. It’s unlikely even by 2020. But by announcing this deal, Russia and China turned the screw half a twist more…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Then there’s this from Max Keiser, an American filmmaker and host of the Keiser Report, a financial show on RT. From The Washington Times website earlier today:

He said the $400 billion, 30-year deal will further the strategic goals of Moscow and Beijing to diminish the status of the U.S. dollar by conducting world trade in critical commodities such as oil and gas using other currencies.

Russia is the world’s biggest producer of commodities such as crude oil, gold and titanium. China is the world’s biggest consumer of these commodities.

Both countries have chafed for years at having to conduct purchases and sales in dollars, as is customary worldwide. The gas deal announced in Beijing on Wednesday would be the first major commodities contract to be settled in Russian rubles and Chinese yuan rather than dollars.

“This means the U.S. dollar’s days as the world reserve currency are numbered,” said Mr. Keiser, noting that Russia and China have been investing heavily in gold.

Many analysts question whether Moscow and Beijing can succeed in displacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. If that happens, however, it likely would usher in a period of global financial instability and force Americans to pay much more for the massive amounts of imported energy, Mr. Keiser said…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

According to the Economist Intelligence Unit- the research and analysis division of The Economist Group, the sister company to The Economist newspaper- on May 22, it has been reported payments for the gas will be made in Chinese yuan rather than U.S. dollars.

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

Sources:

“China media: Russia gas deal.” BBC News. 22 May 2014. (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-27514395). 25 May 2014.

Halligan, Liam. “Russia-China gas deal could ignite a shift in global trading.” The Telegraph. 24 May. 2014. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/liamhalligan/10854595/Russia-China-gas-deal-could-ignite-a-shift-in-global-trading.html). 25 May 2014.

Hill, Patrice. “Russia’s Putin gains strategic victory with Chinese natural gas deal.” The Washington Times. 25 May 2014. (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/may/25/russias-putin-gains-strategic-victory-with-chinese/). 25 My 2014.

“The Sino-Russian gas deal.” Economist Intelligence Unit. 22 May 2014. (http://www.eiu.com/industry/article/431836627/the-sino-russian-gas-deal/2014-05-22) 25 May 2014.

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Peter Schiff Warns Of Coming Inflation, Accompanying Propaganda

“Crash prophet” Peter Schiff sees inflation getting worse in America. And with it, Washington, the Fed, and the mainstream media spinning rising prices as something that’s beneficial for the general public. The Euro Pacific Capital CEO and Chief Global Strategist added a new entry Tuesday on his YouTube video blog The Schiff Report, and warned viewers of the following:

It’s going to get worse. And, what is the Fed going to do about it? Because the problem is, no matter how high that inflation number gets, they can never admit it’s a problem. Because if they admit that it’s a problem, they’ve got to do something about it. But they can’t do anything about it. Because if they want to fight inflation, what tools do they have? Just one. They’ve got to raise interest rates, which means they’ve got to end quantitative easing. And in order to raise interest rates, they’ve got to start selling their bonds and their mortgages back into the market. That will collapse the real estate market, collapse the stock market, send the economy into a sharp recession, and bring about a financial crisis worse than 2008. So because they can’t do that, they can’t do anything. So they’re going to have to tolerate inflation, no matter how high it gets. They’re going to have to convince us that it’s good for us, no matter how high it gets. They’re going to say, “Oh, well, maybe it’s transitory,” “It’s because of the weather,” “Oh, you know, we had such low inflation for so long, we need a few years of higher inflation to even it all out.” Who knows what kind of excuses Janet Yellen is going to come up with to rationalize why whatever the inflation number is- no matter how high it is- it’s always going to be a good thing?

But I wonder if the media- if the guys at Bloomberg or the guys at The New York Times or the AP or the Financial Times- will ever see through this charade. Will they ever see through this smokescreen and come out and call the Fed out on this? Will they ever say, “You know what, we’ve got too much inflation- this is not good. Do something about it.” And when the Fed doesn’t do something about it, that’s going to be a big problem for the dollar. Because that’s when people realize that this is QE Infinity, that inflation is never going to stop, that the dollar’s value is going to erode away in perpetuity. That’s when the bottom drops out of the market. That’s when the real crisis comes in. Because now the dollar really starts to cave, and puts more pressure on the bond market. That means the Fed has to print a lot more money. A lot more dollars that nobody wants to buy the Treasuries that nobody wants to keep the market from collapsing. That accelerates the inflationary spiral, and puts the Fed in a real box. Because then, it just can’t print the dollar into oblivion. It can’t turn it into monopoly money. Then it has to slam on the breaks. Then it has to really jack up interest rates. Not just a few hundred basis points- ten percent, fifteen percent, twenty percent. Paul Volcker style. Of course, the medicine won’t go down nearly as smoothly as it did back then. Not that it was so great tasting- we had a pretty bad recession in 1980. But that’s nothing compared to what we’re going to go through, because we have a lot more debt now than we had then- it’s not even close. We don’t have the viable economy. We don’t have the trade surpluses or the current accounts surpluses. And we don’t have a federal government that has a long-term financing on the national debt. It’s all financed with T-bills. And we have all these adjustable rate mortgages. We have all these corporations, individuals that are so levered-up. We’ve got all these student loans and credit card debt. We have all this stuff that we didn’t have back in the 1980s that we’re going to have to deal with- thanks to the Fed.


“Media Reports Rising Food Prices as Positive News”
YouTube Video

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

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Russia To Attack Petrodollar?

Here’s another story that’s not getting much attention this week:

Russia threatening to replace U.S. dollar-denominated transactions for their exports

Gleb Stolyarov reported on Reuters.com this morning:

Russia, keen to dodge threatened Western sanctions on its companies over the Ukraine crisis, said on Wednesday it was looking at ways for major state-owned exporters such as energy giants to be paid in roubles.

The idea of major exporters being paid in roubles rather than dollars has been gaining ground in recent weeks in response to sanctions imposed by the West on officials and companies over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and an uprising in Ukraine’s east.

“There are certain risks, but we are preparing a mechanism, we are working on it,” Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told reporters during a visit to Russia’s Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

So exports would be paid for in rubles rather than dollars. So what?

Michael Snyder of The Economic Collapse blog highlighted what could be at stake. Snyder wrote yesterday:

This would essentially be like slamming an economic fist into our nose.

You see, Russia is not just a small player when it comes to trading oil and natural gas. The truth is that Russia is the largest exporter of natural gas and the second largest exporter of oil in the world.

If Russia starts asking for payment in currencies other than the U.S. dollar, that will essentially end the monopoly of the petrodollar

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Snyder continued:

So why is the petrodollar so important?

Well, it creates a tremendous amount of demand for the U.S. dollar all over the globe. Since everyone has needed it to trade with one another, that has created an endless global appetite for the currency. That has kept the value of the dollar artificially high, and it has enabled us to import trillions of dollars of super cheap products from other countries. If other nations stopped using the dollar to trade with one another, the value of the dollar would plummet dramatically and we would have to pay much, much more for the trinkets that we buy at the dollar store and Wal-Mart.

In addition, since the U.S. dollar is essentially the de facto global currency, this has also increased demand for our debt. Major exporting nations such as China and Saudi Arabia end up with giant piles of our dollars. Instead of just letting them sit there and do nothing, those nations often reinvest their dollars into securities that can rapidly be changed back into dollars if needed. One of the most popular ways to do this has been to invest those dollars in U.S. Treasuries. This has driven down interest rates on U.S. debt over the years and has enabled the U.S. government to borrow trillions upon trillions of dollars for next to nothing…

So if Russia really does pull the trigger on a “de-dollarization” strategy, that would be huge – especially if the rest of the planet started following their lead…

So would the rest of the planet follow Russia’s lead? Consider the following from the website for The Voice of Russia, the Russian government’s international radio broadcasting service. Valentin Mândrăşescu reported yesterday:

Of course, the success of Moscow’s campaign to switch its trading to rubles or other regional currencies will depend on the willingness of its trading partners to get rid of the dollar. Sources cited by Politonline.ru mentioned two countries who would be willing to support Russia: Iran and China. Given that Vladimir Putin will visit Beijing on May 20, it can be speculated that the gas and oil contracts that are going to be signed between Russia and China will be denominated in rubles and yuan, not dollars

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Stay tuned. This could get ugly.

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

Sources:

Stolyarov, Gleb. “UPDATE 2-Russia, wary of sanctions, wants exporters to be paid in roubles.” Reuters.com. 14 May 2014. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/05/14/russia-exports-rouble-idUSL6N0O01RI20140514). 14 May 2014.

Snyder, Michael. “De-Dollarization: Russia Is On The Verge Of Dealing A Massive Blow To The Petrodollar.” The Economic Collapse. 13 May 2014. (http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/de-dollarization-russia-is-on-the-verge-of-dealing-a-massive-blow-to-the-petrodollar). 14 May 2014.

Mândrăşescu, Valentin. “Russia strives to exclude the dollar from energy trading.” 13 May 2014. (http://voiceofrussia.com/2014_05_13/Russia-strives-to-exclude-the-dollar-from-energy-trading-5138/). 14 May 2014.

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Marc Faber: ‘Next Step’ Is For Stocks, Bonds To ‘Go Down At The Same Time’

Swiss-born investment advisor/fund manager Marc Faber, who became famous 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, was on the phone with CNBC’s Squawk Box yesterday morning. Dr. Faber warned viewers:

I don’t think that the economy is recovering at all. We have in emerging economies a slowdown, export growth is non-existent, and now- and I have been writing about this now for the last two years- we have geopolitical problems A, in Ukraine and B, in East China Sea…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

The publisher of the monthly investment newsletter The Gloom Boom & Doom Report added this about stocks and bonds:

Since the beginning of the year, the stock market has basically done nothing… but long-term bonds are up 12 percent in terms of total return. Now I believe the next step will be that both stocks and bonds will go down at the same time

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“Dr. Doom’s big bear parade”
CNBC Video

So what does “Doctor Doom” recommend then?:

I don’t see any assets that are terribly attractive. Now, the most under-appreciated asset is cash. Nobody likes cash. Now, on cash, for the next 10 years you will earn precisely zero. In fact, you will lose money, because Mrs. Yellen- she’s a money printer like all the others- and she will make sure that the dollar continues to depreciate in real terms. For the next 6 months, maybe cash is the most attractive… For the next 6 months, opportunities will come along all the time

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)


“Faber: Cash most underappreciated asset”
CNBC 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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Gallup Poll: U.S. Adults Think Real Estate, Followed By Gold And Stocks, Is Best Long-Term Investment

Gallup just conducted an Economy and Personal Finances telephone poll from April 3-6 where they asked 1,026 U.S. adults the following question:

Which of the following do you think is the best long-term investment — [ROTATED: bonds, real estate, savings accounts or CDs, stocks or mutual funds, (or) gold]?

Their findings?:

-30 percent said real estate
-24 percent said gold
-24 percent said stocks/mutual funds
-14 percent said savings accounts/CDs
-6 percent said bonds

Now here’s something interesting. Rebecca Rifkin reported on the Gallup website yesterday:

Lower-income Americans, those living in households with less than $30,000 in annual income, are the most likely of all income groups to say gold is the best long-term investment choice, at 31%. Upper-income Americans are the least likely to name gold, at 18%…

Upper-income Americans are much more likely to say real estate and stocks are the best investment, possibly because of their experience with these types of investments…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Last April, real estate (25 percent) edged out gold (24 percent) in the poll, with stocks/mutual funds coming in at 22 percent.

In April 2012 and 2011, gold (28 and 34 percent, respectively) beat out runner-up real estate (20 and 19 percent, respectively) by significant margins.

Anyone else starting to think that the overall selection of “best long-term investment” for any particular year may be correlated with recent performance?

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)

Sources:

Riffkin, Rebecca. “Americans Sold on Real Estate as Best Long-Term Investment.” Gallup.com. 17 Apr. 2014. (http://www.gallup.com/poll/168554/americans-sold-real-estate-best-long-term-investment.aspx). 18 Apr. 2014.

Jacobe, Dennis. “Gold Loses Luster in U.S. as Investment; Real Estate Gains.” Gallup.com. 16 Apr. 2013. (http://www.gallup.com/poll/161909/gold-loses-luster-investment-real-estate-gains.aspx). 18 Apr. 2014.

Saad, Lydia. “Gold Still Americans’ Top Pick Among Long-Term Investments.” Gallup. 27 Apr. 2012. (http://www.gallup.com/poll/154232/gold-americans-top-pick-among-long-term-investments.aspx). 18 Apr. 2014.

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Cook County Residents To Get Hit With Tax Hikes Soon?

For a while now (last time being earlier this week), I told my girlfriend we were lucky to have escaped the fiscal debacle and revenue grab going on in the city of Chicago.

At the same time, I pointed out that as Cook County residents we’re still on the hook for the same type of nonsense.

Brian Slodysko reported on the Chicago Sun-Times website yesterday afternoon:

Hoping to ward off another credit rating downgrade, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Wednesday that she will soon present a plan to reform the county’s underfunded pension system.

And she’s leaving the door open to hiking property, sales and other taxes.

When asked repeatedly about the possibility of tax increases, Preckwinkle responded: “We’re looking at all the options. Everything is on the table.”

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Slodysko added later in the piece:

Preckwinkle declined to discuss specifics, but she did say that any plan that goes before the Legislature will not have property tax increase language written into the bill

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Okaaay… so that means Preckwinkle’s not “leaving the door open” to hiking property taxes?

Regardless, based on what I see coming down the line for us, it’s only a matter of time.

Last summer, Cook County saw its bond rating lowered by one of the major credit rating agencies supposedly due to its public pension liabilities. I blogged on August 20, 2013:

In the wake of significantly downgrading the City of Chicago’s credit rating, bond credit rating giant Moody’s Investor Service lowered Cook County’s bond rating a notch last Friday. In a news release from the Moody’s website right before the weekend:

New York, August 16, 2013 — Moody’s Investors Service has downgraded the rating on Cook County’s (IL) general obligation (GO) debt to A1 from Aa3, affecting $3.7 billion of general obligation debt. The outlook remains negative.

SUMMARY RATING RATIONALE

The downgrade of the GO rating reflects Cook County’s growing pension liabilities…

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

Stay tuned…

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

Source:

Slodysko, Brian. “Preckwinkle won’t rule out tax increase to strike pension deal.” Chicago Sun-Times. 9 Apr. 2014. (http://politics.suntimes.com/article/chicago/preckwinkle-wont-rule-out-tax-increase-strike-pension-deal/wed-04092014-523pm). 10 Apr. 2014.

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Peter Schiff: No Recovery, Just An Illusion Of Prosperity

I first started paying attention to Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff just prior to picking up his book Crash Proof: How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse (now Crash Proof 2.0, second edition) shortly after its early 2007 release. While some of the calls he made in that controversial text are still playing out, others have already come to fruition.

Subsequently, Schiff has been given credit for correctly-calling the U.S. housing bubble and its burst, and the 2008 global economic crisis.

Being one of Survival And Prosperity’s “crash prophets,” his latest investment recommendations are chronicled on this blog. As are his economic analyses and forecasts as well.

Here’s a recent breakdown of what Schiff sees going on with the U.S. economy and larger financial system, courtesy of a March 21 commentary entitled “Debt and Taxes” that’s posted on his Euro Pacific Capital website:

The last few years have proven that there is no line Washington will not cross in order to keep bubbles from popping. Just 10 years ago many of the analysts now crowing about the perfect conditions would have been appalled by policies that have been implemented to create them. The Fed has held interest rates at zero for five consecutive years, it has purchased trillions of dollars of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, and the Federal government has stimulated the economy through four consecutive trillion-dollar annual deficits. While these moves may once have been looked on as something shocking…now anything goes.

But the new monetary morality has nothing to do with virtue, and everything to do with necessity. It is no accident that the concept of “inflation” has experienced a dramatic makeover during the past few years. Traditionally, mainstream discussion treated inflation as a pestilence best vanquished by a strong economy and prudent bankers. Now it is widely seen as a pre-condition to economic health. Economists are making this bizarre argument not because it makes any sense, but because they have no other choice.

America is trying to borrow its way out of recession. We are creating debt now in order to push up prices and create the illusion of prosperity. To do this you must convince people that inflation is a good thing…even while they instinctively prefer low prices to high. But rising asset prices do little to help the underlying economy. That is why we have been stuck in what some economists are calling a “jobless recovery.” The real reason it’s jobless is because it’s not a real recovery! So while the current booms in stocks and condominiums have been gifts to financial speculators and the corporate elite, average Americans can only watch from the sidewalks as the parade passes them by. That’s why sales of Mercedes and Maseratis are setting record highs while Fords and Chevrolets sit on showroom floors. Rising prices to do not create jobs, increase savings or expand production. Instead all we get is debt, which at some point in the future must be repaid

(Editor’s note: Bold added for emphasis)

“Which at some point in the future must be repaid”

Good luck trying to get your average American in 2014 to wrap their head around that crucial concept.

Once again, I agree with Schiff’s observation of what is going on all around us.

“Illusion of prosperity” is a fine choice of words here, and makes sense that I find a fine economic blog by the same name good reading.

As certain as the “Big One” will eventually hit California, so must our nation’s “financial reckoning day” arrive for all this debt we’ve accrued for some short-term “prosperity.”

You can read Schiff’s entire commentary on the Euro Pacific Capital website here.

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

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Jim Rogers: ‘This Is The Time To Buy Russia’

Investor, author, and financial commentator Jim Rogers has been bullish on Russia for some time now. In fact, by the time I first blogged about his optimism for the country back in February 2013, he had already invested there.

Despite the recent crisis in the Crimea and subsequent sell-off of Russian assets by international investors, the former investing partner of George Soros hasn’t changed his mind about the former Communist nation. Gertrude Chavez-Dreyfuss and Daniel Bases reported on the Reuters website Sunday:

“Russia’s stock market right now is one of the cheapest in the world, and probably one of the most hated,” said investor and commodities guru Jim Rogers, chairman of Rogers Holdings, in Singapore. “This is the time to buy Russia.”

(Editor: Bold added for emphasis)

Chavez-Dreyfuss and Bases added later in the piece:

Rogers, who has been investing in Russia for the last 1-1/2 years, said he bought Russian stocks last week. He said if more sanctions are imposed and the equities market declines further, there would be more buying opportunities in Russia.

Rogers said he is looking for non-energy companies – a tall order considering the RTS Index of 51 leading Russian companies is heavily skewed toward energy (58 percent of the index) and basic materials (13 percent)…

(Editor: Bold added for emphasis)

In January 2013, the Singapore-based investor identified Russia as one market holding the best prospects for investors. Next month, Rogers made it known he had bought Russian bonds and currency. By September, he revealed he had also bought Russian ETFs, but explained:

I don’t want to buy their oil and gas plays because I own enough oil and gas. I’m looking for other kinds of companies in Russia.

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:

Chavez-Dreyfuss, Gertrude and Bases, Daniel. “Analysis: Russia sell-off spurs hunt for bargains.” Reuters.com. 30 Mar. 2014. (http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/30/us-emergingmarkets-russia-investing-anal-idUSBREA2T03720140330). 31 Mar. 2014.

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