Monday, November 16, 2009

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and he carries his banners openly. But the traitor moves among those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the galleys, heard in the very hall of government itself. For the traitor appears not a traitor - he speaks in the accents familiar to his victims, and wears their face and their garment, and he appeals to the baseness that lies deep in the hearts of all men. He rots the soul of a nation - he works secretly and unknown in the night to undermine the pillars of a city - he infects the body politic so that it can no longer resist. A murderer is less to be feared.
∑ Cicero, 42 B.C.

Silver Prices to Hit New Highs in 2010
By: Marc Davis,
Silver may yet outshine gold in 2010 as spot prices for the white metal respond to the prospect of a surge in industrial demand. With a little additional help from investment demand, silver may even rally into the $25 an ounce range.

So says Chintan Parikh, a commodity analyst at the CPM Group – a leading New York-based commodities research, consulting, asset management and investment banking organization.

“Prices may spike as high as $25,” he says. At the very least, it should breach its most recent high, which was set at $20.79 in the spring of 2008, he adds.

Parikh says much of this impetus for higher prices is being driven by the fact that traditional industrial end users of silver, such as the ever-burgeoning global electronics industry, have in recent weeks begun to replenish severely depleted inventories.

In fact, silver inventories became so run-down during the financial crisis that it may take up to six months to fully rebuild them to normal levels. Parikh also notes that demand from the industrial sector tends to be quite price inelastic, meaning that buyers have few options other to pay prevailing prices.

Bernanke: Fed will keep eye on sliding dollar
WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Monday said the central bank will monitor the sliding U.S. dollar but pledged anew to keep interest rates at record lows to nurture the economic recovery.

In remarks to the Economic Club of New York, Bernanke engaged in a delicate dance. He tried to bolster confidence in the dollar without taking any real action.

"Bernanke is trying to use words — not interest rates — to prevent the dollar from going even lower," said Jay Bryson, global economist with Wells Fargo Securities.

Bryson and other analysts said they didn't think Bernanke was signaling that the Fed would join with central bankers in other countries to intervene in markets to strengthen the dollar. But that is an option for the Fed if the dollar were to start plunging.

Bernanke's remarks gave a brief lift to the dollar in trading Monday. But it resumed its fall after traders focused on his assertion that the central bank would hold interest rates low for an extended period. The dollar has posted double-digit declines against other major currencies since spring.

Low interest rates could put additional downward pressure on the dollar. And economists say a free-fall in the value of the dollar, while unlikely, can't be entirely dismissed. Still, low rates are needed to encourage consumers and businesses to spend more and fuel the economic rebound.

"We are attentive to the implications of changes in the value of the dollar," Bernanke said in rare remarks about the greenback. The Fed, he said, will continue to "monitor these developments closely."

Debt dynamics will hold back economy
We believe that U.S. government and private debt levels will diverge over the next four or five years as the authorities attempt to use government debt to replace the private debt that is almost certain to decline substantially. U.S. total debt is presently just under $55 trillion, comprised of public (government) debt of about $15 trillion and private debt (U.S. corporations and individuals) of about $40 trillion. The similarities to Japan at its 1989 economic and market peak leads us to believe that we are close to the same road map that Japan was on starting at that time and continuing until today. With that said, we expect current U.S. government debt of $15 trillion to double to about $30 trillion and private debt to drop in half to about $20 trillion over the next 4-5 years.

We expect private debt, particularly that of households, to decline sharply, correlating to patterns following the Great Depression and Japan in 1989. The consumer won’t soon go back to the old ways of borrowing and spending that led to the internet bubble and the housing and stock market bubble of a few years ago.

Only after the private sector rebuilds its balance sheet can we expect them to resume normal levels of spending and saving. However, we still won’t be out of the woods since the government’s balance sheet will be the next dilemma for the country. The government will have to rebuild its balance sheet just as the private sector is doing now. The government expansion of debt will more than likely drive their debt to over 200% of GDP. This is where Japan’s debt is now, and just this week Fitch warned that they may have to lower the ratings on Japanese sovereign debt. Hopefully, Japan and the U.S., after the government debt build- up, will both be able to unwind the debt without inflation becoming a major problem (Granted, that is a big assumption). As you can see this is a very precarious situation that every country will experience after going on a speculative binge where they wind up borrowing more than $5 of debt to generate $1 of GDP.

The bottom line of all this is that we expect the government debt to explode to $30 trillion from $15 trillion presently and the private debt to contract to about $20 trillion from the present $40 trillion. This process we expect will be associated with a weak economy and the continuance of the secular bear market in stocks which started in 2000.

The Day Gold’s Fate was Sealed
By Andrew Mickey, Q1 Publishing
Back in March, when the S&P was sliding back to 1997 levels and wiping away years of gains every couple of weeks, the prospects for gold became more attractive than ever.

In March the Fed officially announced it would be monetizing government debt. In an official announcement the Fed announced it would “purchase up to $300 billion of longer-term Treasury securities over the next six months.” This was in addition to its purchases of more $1 trillion worth of agency debt and mortgage-backed securities.

On top of all that, Chairman Bernanke forthrightly declared in a 60 Minutes interview the Fed was “printing money.”

There’s no turning back from this point. The U.S. government continues to set record deficits. Even the rosiest projections – those from the Whitehouse – have the annual deficit remaining at $700 billion a decade away. The U.S. dollar is in a big hole and there are no responsible (i.e. non-inflationary) ways out of it. And gold is becoming an increasingly attractive save haven.

“Every few decades, the right conditions come along to make an absolute fortune in gold and gold stocks. Right now the conditions are right.”

Everything is in place for gold. And as gold makes incrementally new highs and rebounds from the eventual and unexpected corrections, there will be more opportunity.

But at this stage in gold’s run, there’s a simple two step strategy to make a fortune in gold in the next few years.

Step 1) Make a plan to buy gold and gold stocks over the next three to five years
Step 2) Stick to the plan

Paper promises, golden hordes
TWO hundred metric tonnes of gold would occupy a cube of a little more than two metres on a side; it would fit into a small bedroom. But India’s purchase of that volume of gold from the IMF last month has had an outsize impact on the markets, helping push the price well above $1,100 a troy ounce.

For bullion bulls, the implication is clear: central banks no longer trust the creditworthiness of other governments. And if they have lost confidence, private investors should do the same. The next step in this chain of reasoning is to assume a stampede (or at least a quick trot) by other central banks into holding the yellow metal. Gluskin Sheff, a Canadian asset-management firm, suggests that if China followed India’s lead, bullion could hit $1,400 an ounce.

Job Losses Demystified
By: Peter Schiff, Euro Pacific Capital, Inc.
As the unemployment rate crossed the double digit barrier for the first time since Michael Jackson learned to moonwalk, President Obama announced that he will convene a “jobs summit” to finally bring the problem under control. Using all the analytic skill that his administration can muster, the President is determined to figure out why so many people are losing their jobs and then formulate a solution. That's a relief; for a while there, I thought we were in real trouble! In fact, the absolute last thing our economy needs is more federal government interference. If Obama really wants to know what's behind entrenched joblessness, he should start by looking at the man in the mirror.

Obama is pursuing, with unprecedented vigor, the same policies that have for decades undermined our industrial base and yoked us to an unsustainable consumer/credit driven economy. This doubling down on Washington's past failures is destroying jobs at an alarming rate. Today we learned that the September trade deficit surged by 18.2%, the largest gain in ten years. Much of the deficit resulted from Americans spending Cash-for-Clunkers stimulus money on imported cars – or “American” cars loaded to the sunroof with imported parts. In exchange for more domestic debt, we have succeeded only in creating foreign jobs.

An article in this week's New York Times by veteran writer Louis Uchitelle confirmed a fact that I have been alleging for years. Uchitelle pointed out that foreign outsourcing of component manufacturing has led to consistent overstatement of U.S. GDP and productivity. The connection goes a long way to explain why we keep losing jobs even as GDP is apparently expanding.

As our economy becomes less competitive due to higher taxes, burdensome and uncertain regulations, and capital flight, more manufacturing and services will be outsourced to foreign firms. However, the flaw in GDP calculation allows the output of those foreign workers to be included in our domestic tally. Since we count the output but not the worker responsible for it, government statisticians attribute the gains to rising labor productivity. To them, it looks like companies are producing more goods with fewer workers.

The reality is that we are producing less with fewer workers. The added “productivity” comes from higher unemployment and larger trade deficits. This is a toxic formula that will have lethal economic consequences.

Ganesha and the Price of Gold
By Ron Hera
Central bank gold is the proverbial elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. With official gold holdings of 29,633.9 tonnes of gold worldwide, compared to world gold production of roughly 2,400 tonnes per year, central bank gold sales, leases and purchases, have a huge influence over the gold price. Central banks are changing their reserve asset compositions and a number of central banks, led by India and China (which has been the world’s largest gold producer since 2008), are buying gold. Evidently, the full faith and credit of the United States of America isn’t what it used to be. Faced with a weakening world reserve currency, the questionable status of the world’s largest economy, and unsustainable US government spending, central banks are rendering a quiet vote of no confidence on the US dollar.

The US economy, the US government, US banks, and US stock markets exhibit various problems including unemployment, looming commercial real estate defaults, the US budget deficit, a massive public debt and huge unfunded liabilities, residual toxic assets on bank balance sheets, mounting mortgage defaults and credit card delinquencies, an emerging stock market bubble, etc. Unless the economic problems of the US can be addressed, the US dollar will quite probably loose its status as world reserve currency. Whether a transition to a new world reserve currency would take place in a cooperative manner, e.g., a managed retreat of the US dollar, or in a more disruptive way is unclear.

The proverbial elephant in the room is on the move and the room is not very big in comparison. It seems likely that Western central banks are holding off further gold sales, at least while discussions on a new world reserve currency, i.e., IMF Special Drawing Rights (SDRs), are taking place. Led by India and China, key IMF members want gold included as a component of the a world reserve currency. As long as using gold as a component of a new world reserve currency is a possibility, not only are central bank gold sales on hold but central banks will almost certainly continue to buy gold in the foreseeable future.

There is no fundamental reason for the current gold price trend to reverse in the foreseeable future, and, despite the steep rise of the gold price in 2009, gold does not appear overvalued. It seems possible, although unlikely, that if gold were to again be marginalized in a new world reserve currency regime, as it was under the US dollar standard after 1971, central banks might again start selling and more aggressively leasing gold at some point in the distant future. In that case, the gold price would eventually fall, perhaps to some stable, lower level, once again reflecting the conflicting desires of central banks to both leverage their gold reserves and also maintain their value. However, given the global financial crisis stemming from of the US dollar’s 64-year reign as world reserve currency, it seems much more likely that central banks will guard their hoards jealously in coming decades.

Alternatively, if a new world reserve currency were to emerge having a significant gold component, what would then be a certainly higher gold price would likely remain at a higher level indefinitely. It also remains possible that the decline of the US dollar could accelerate or that the apparent differences between Eastern and Western central banks could become more acute, in which case the gold price could rise more rapidly and the process of deploying a new world reserve currency might be accelerated as well as potentially disruptive.

The Hindu deity Ganesha, widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles, is readily recognizable because he has the head of an elephant. Gold languished from 1971 until 2009 as a commodity that central banks had little better to do with than to systematically dissipate through sales and leases, while the most significant problem they thought they faced was the risk of dishoarding too much too quickly. From 1971 until 2009, central bank gold entering the market was a factor of the gold price and a risk for investors. After 38 years, the effective termination of central bank gold sales has rather abruptly removed that obstacle.

Desiring to mitigate risks associated with the US dollar, central banks, led by India and China, have, in effect, promoted gold from its 38-year status as a non-financial commodity once again to its historical role as the premier global financial asset. This historic change in central bank policy signifies a profound break with the past and broadcasts a clear message: gold is a world-class financial asset fairly valued at more than $1,000.00 per troy ounce. With this momentous event, the words “as good as gold” again have meaning.

An analysis of supply and demand fundamentals suggests that the current gold price does not indicate an asset price bubble, and the historic change in the status of gold by central banks implies a major revaluation not yet reflected in the gold price. As the restructuring of the global economy continues, particularly with respect to the world reserve currency, there is a clear possibility that the gold price will move up sharply from current levels.

How Will Niagara Falls Fit Through a Garden Hose?
By Jeff Clark, Senior Editor, Casey’s Gold & Resource Report
While physical gold will protect our wealth, it’s the gold stocks that can potentially make us wealthy.

Once again, to get a sense of the Lilliputian size of the gold industry, I compared it to several other leading industries and stocks.

The value, as measured by market capitalization, of all gold producers around the world is less than Walmart’s. Every gold stock would need to nearly double just for the industry to match ExxonMobil. The oil and gas industry is about 12 times bigger.

When your neighbors and relatives and co-workers and friends all start clamoring to buy gold stocks, the pressure on prices will be enormous, rocketing our positions upwards.

Meanwhile – and admitting we’re first and foremost gold bugs – the picture for silver is even more dramatic. The potential for silver stocks is jaw-dropping.

If the gold industry is tiny, then silver’s $9 billion market cap makes it a nano industry. The entire silver industry is over 21 times smaller than gold’s! If gold explodes, silver will go supernova.

Consider these macro-facts about a micro-market and what they reveal about silver’s enormous potential:

There are over 200 companies in the S&P 500 with a market cap larger than the entire market of silver producers

There are five times more gold stocks than silver.

Total silver production in 2008 was valued around $10.3 billion (at today’s prices). That represents just 1.5% of the $700 billion bailout last year, and 0.006% of the current U.S. monetary base.

Of the 20 largest silver producers, only five actually call themselves a “silver” company, due to the fact that about 73% of all silver mined is a byproduct of other metals mining.

Any flood into the silver market would overwhelm it. In other words, the rise will be stunning. While it’s not going to happen tomorrow, I strongly suggest you get on board before that rocket ship takes off.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll have a mania in gold. And because the gold and especially silver markets are so tiny, the rush into them will be like trying to push the contents of Hoover Dam through a garden hose. Our positions will go absolutely ballistic.” –Doug Casey, September 2009

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