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New Multi-year Gold Rally Has Emerged

New Multi-year Gold Rally Has Emerged

New Multi-year Gold Rally Has Emerged

The dollar price of gold has been on a roller-coaster ride for the past six years. But the past six weeks have been a turbocharged version of that. Investors should expect more of the same for reasons explained below.

The six-year story is the more important for investors and also the more frustrating. Gold staged an historic bull market rally from 1999 to 2011, going from about $250 per ounce to $1,900 per ounce, a 650% gain.

Then, gold nose-dived into a bear market from 2011 to 2015, falling to $1,050 per ounce in December 2015, a 45% crash from the peak and a 51% retracement of the 1999-2011 bull market. (Renowned investor Jim Rogers once told me that no commodity goes from a base price to the stratosphere without a 50% retracement along the way. Mission accomplished!)

During that precipitous decline after 2011, gold hit a level of $1,417 per ounce in August 2013. It was the last time gold would see a $1,400 per ounce handle until last month when gold briefly hit $1,440 per ounce on an intra-day basis. At last, the six-year trading range was broken. Better yet, gold hit $1,400 on the way up, not on the way down.

The range-bound trading from 2013 to 2019 was long and tiring for long-term gold investors. Gold had rallied to $1,380 per ounce in May 2014, $1,300 per ounce in January 2015, and $1,363 per ounce in July 2016 (a post-Brexit bounce).

But, for every rally there was a trough. Gold fell to $1,087 per ounce in August 2015 and $1,050 per ounce in December 2015. The bigger picture was that gold was trading in a range. The range was approximately $1,365 per ounce at the top and $1,050 per ounce at the bottom, with lots of ups and downs in between. Yet, nothing seemed capable of breaking gold out of that range.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Trade War Is Back

The Trade War Is Back

The Trade War Is Back

President Trump shocked markets yesterday when he announced that a new, heavy round of tariffs on Chinese goods will take effect this Friday. Complacent markets had assumed that a trade deal would get done, that it was just a matter of sorting out the details. Now that is far from certain. Failing a last minute deal, which is certainly possible, the trade war is back. And it could get worse.

What most surprised me about the new trade war was not that it started, but that the mainstream financial media denied it was happening for so long. The media have consistently denied the impact of this trade war. Early headlines said that Trump was bluffing and would not follow through on the tariffs. He did. Later headlines said that China was just trying to save face and would not retaliate. They did.

Today the story line has been that the trade war will not have a large impact on macroeconomic growth. It will. The mainstream media have been wrong in their analysis at every stage of this trade war. And it did not see this latest salvo coming.

The bottom line is that the trade war is here, it’s highly impactful and it could get worse. The sooner investors and policymakers internalize that reality, the better off they’ll be.

For years I’ve been warning my readers that a global trade war was likely in the wake of the currency wars. This forecast seemed like a stretch to many. But it wasn’t.

I said it would simply be a replay of the sequence that prevailed from 1921–39 as the original currency war started by Weimar Germany morphed into trade wars started by the United States and finally shooting wars started by Japan in Asia and Germany in Europe.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Real Problem With Modern Monetary Theory

The Real Problem With Modern Monetary Theory

The Real Problem With Modern Monetary Theory

MMT supporters will point to 2008 and say, “Just look at QE. In 2008, the Federal Reserve Balance sheet was $800 billion. But as a result of QE1, QE2, and QE3, that number went to $4.5 trillion. And the world didn’t end. To the contrary, the stock market went on a huge bull run.We did not have an economic crash. And again, inflation was muted.”

Fed chairman Jay Powell has criticized MMT, for example. But its advocates say Powell and other Fed officials hoist themselves on their own petard. That’s because they are the ones who actually proved that MMT works. They point to the fact that the Fed printed close to $4 trillion and nothing bad happened. So it should go ahead and print another $4 trillion.

This is one of the great ironies of the debate. The Fed criticizes MMT, but it was its very own money creation after 2008 that MMT advocates point to as proof that it works.

Their only quibble is that the benefit of all that money creation went to rich investors, the major banks and corporations. The rich simply got richer. MMT advocates say it will simply redirect the money towards the poor, students, everyday Americans, people who need healthcare and childcare. It would basically be QE for the people, instead of the rich.

And it will go into the real economy, where it will boost productivity and finally give us significant growth.

When I first encountered these arguments, I knew they weren’t right. Both my gut feeling and my more rigorous approach to my own theory of money told me MMT was wrong. But I must admit, their arguments were more difficult to answer than I expected. I had a tough time uncovering the logical flaws.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Exposing the Myth of MMT

Exposing the Myth of MMT

Exposing the Myth of MMT

Yesterday I discussed modern monetary theory (MMT) and how it’s become very popular in Democratic circles.

That’s because it allows for much greater government spending without having to raise everyone’s taxes. And everyday citizens could get behind it because it promises to fund lots of programs without seeing their taxes raised.

What’s not to like?

If MMT were just a fringe idea with a few fringe followers, I wouldn’t waste my time or your time on it. But it’s coming your way, so it is important to understand it.

If you missed yesterday’s reckoning, go here for a refresher.

The people who are thinking about MMT, who understand it at least in some superficial way, are the people who are driving the policy debate or running for president.

Many mainstream economists and money managers have attacked MMT, including Fed Chairman Jay Powell, Larry Summers, Paul Krugman, Kenneth Rogoff, Larry Fink, Jeff Gundlach, Jamie Dimon and Ray Dalio.

But much of their criticism is unjustified (see below for more). I’m an opponent of MMT — but for different reasons. As far as I know, I’m the only analyst who’s raised the objections I list below.

Today, I’m going to show you what I believe to be the real problem with MMT.

Again, it’s easy to see why so many politicians on the Democratic side would be such big supporters of MMT.

Some or all of them have come out in support of the following programs:

Free college tuition, student loan forgiveness, Medicare for all, free child care, universal basic income (UBI) and a Green New Deal. Some support them all.

Needless to say, that’s going to cost a lot of money. Just consider the Green New Deal alone.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

2019 Headwinds Are Getting Stronger

2019 Headwinds Are Getting Stronger

In 2017, every prominent economic forecasting entity was shouting from the rooftops about “synchronized global growth.” This was a reference to the fact that not only were certain economies growing, but they were all growing at the same time.

Chinese GDP growth had come down but was still substantial at 6.85%. U.S. GDP growth was posting solid gains of 3.0% in the second quarter of 2017 and 2.8% in the third quarter. Japan and Europe were not growing as quickly as the U.S. and China, but growth was still accelerating from a low level.

Synchronization was a big part of the story. Growth was not isolated and episodic. Growth was fueling more growth in what seemed to be a sustainable way. The world economy was firing on all cylinders.

Then in 2018 the global growth story came screeching to a halt. Japanese growth went negative in the third quarter of 2018. Germany also went negative. Chinese growth continued its drop (6.5% in the third quarter) instead of stabilizing.

The U.K slowed partly because of confusion around Brexit. French growth slid amid riots triggered by a proposed carbon emissions tax. Australian home prices declined precipitously because export orders from China dried up and Chinese flight capital slowed to a trickle due to Chinese capital controls.

The U.S. economy held up fairly well in 2018, with 4.2% growth in the second quarter and 3.5% growth in the third quarter. But much of that growth was inventory accumulation from foreign suppliers in advance of proposed tariffs.

That inventory growth will likely dry up once the tariffs are either imposed or abandoned early this year. Fourth-quarter growth in the U.S. is currently projected at 3.0%, continuing the downtrend from the second quarter.

What happened?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The United States Is Going Broke

The United States Is Going Broke

Those who focus on the U.S. national debt (and I’m one of them) keep wondering how long this debt levitation act can go on.

The U.S. debt-to-GDP ratio is at the highest level in history (106%), with the exception of the immediate aftermath of the Second World War. At least in 1945, the U.S. had won the war and our economy dominated world output and production. Today, we have the debt without the global dominance.

The U.S. has always been willing to increase debt to fight and win a war, but the debt was promptly scaled down and contained once the war was over. Today, there is no war comparable to the great wars of American history, and yet the debt keeps growing.

In a new Weekly Standard article, the celebrated James Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer reviews not only the current debt and deficit situation but provides an overview of the U.S. national debt since George Washington and Alexander Hamilton.

Grant makes the point that the debt has been increased and decreased on a regular basis but never until today was there a view that the deficit didn’t matter and could be increased indefinitely.

He points out that it took the United States 193 years to accumulate its first trillion dollars of federal debt. And amazingly, that it will add that much in the current fiscal year alone.

Grant also describes how these historic debt management efforts have been bipartisan.

Republicans Harding and Coolidge reduced the debt; the Democrat Andrew Jackson actually eliminated the debt in 1836. Today there is bipartisan profligacy. The article lays out the big picture and the likelihood of a U.S. debt crisis sooner rather than later.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

One Step Closer to Recession

One Step Closer to Recession

As you know by now, the Federal Reserve raised interest rates again yesterday, its eighth increase since the rate hike cycle began in 2015.

In his post-announcement press conference, Jerome Powell cited a strong economy, low unemployment, solid growth, etc. He said that “It’s a particularly bright moment” for the economy.

Barring significant developments, the Fed may raise rates again in December and perhaps three times next year.

Meanwhile, the Commerce Department announced this morning that second quarter U.S. GDP expanded at a 4.2% annualized rate, confirming the earlier estimate.

On the surface it might look everything is great, that it is a particularly bright moment for the economy. But if you take a hard look behind the numbers, a different picture emerges.

A lot of the cheerleaders say Trump’s programs of tax cuts and deregulation will produce persistent trend growth of 3–4% or higher.

Such growth would break decisively with the weak growth of the Obama years. It would also make the U.S. debt burden, currently at 105% of GDP, more sustainable if GDP were to grow faster than the national debt.

There’s one problem with the happy talk about 3–4% growth. We’ve seen it all before.

In 2009, almost every economic forecaster and commentator was talking about “green shoots.” In 2010, then-Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner forecast the “recovery summer.” In 2017, the global monetary elites were praising the arrival (at last) of “synchronized global growth.”

None of this wishful thinking panned out. The green shoots turned brown, the recovery summer never came and the synchronized global growth was over almost as soon as it began.

Any signs of trend growth have been strictly temporary (basically moving growth from one quarter to another through inventory and accounting quirks) and are quickly followed by weaker growth. In the first quarter of 2015, growth was 3.2%, but by the fourth quarter that year growth had fallen to a near-recession level of 0.5%.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Free-Riding Investors Set up Markets for a Major Collapse

Free-Riding Investors Set up Markets for a Major Collapse

Free riding is one of the oldest problems in economics and in society in general. Simply put, free riding describes a situation where one party takes the benefits of an economic condition without contributing anything to sustain that condition.

The best example is a parasite on an elephant. The parasite sucks the elephant’s blood to survive but contributes nothing to the elephant’s well-being.

A few parasites on an elephant are a harmless annoyance. But sooner or later the word spreads and more parasites arrive. After a while, the parasites begin to weaken the host elephant’s stamina, but the elephant carries on.

Eventually a tipping point arrives when there are so many parasites that the elephant dies. At that point, the parasites die too. It’s a question of short-run benefit versus long-run sustainability. Parasites only think about the short run.

A driver who uses a highway without paying tolls or taxes is a free rider. An investor who snaps up brokerage research without opening an account or paying advisory fees is another example.

Actually, free-riding problems appear in almost every form of human endeavor. The trick is to keep the free riders to a minimum so they do not overwhelm the service being provided and ruin that service for those paying their fair share.

The biggest free riders in the financial system are bank executives such as Jamie Dimon, the CEO of J.P. Morgan. Bank liabilities are guaranteed by the FDIC up to $250,000 per account.

Liabilities in excess of that are implicitly guaranteed by the “too big to fail” policy of the Federal Reserve. The big banks can engage in swap and other derivative contracts “off the books” without providing adequate capital for the market risk involved.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Don’t Miss the Signs of Another Slow-Motion Meltdown

Don’t Miss the Signs of Another Slow-Motion Meltdown

If you’ve ever lived through a life-threatening emergency — whether a car crash, train wreck or a steep fall (hopefully not) — you have noticed that time seems to slow down.

You witness your personal jeopardy in slow motion. A memorable example of this is the film The Matrix, in which the hero, Neo, could dodge bullets since time moved in slow motion for him.

According to the best science, time does not actually slow down for those in jeopardy, nor do their perceptions slow down. What happens is that the stress and novelty of the experience causes the brain to create extra layers of memory, a saturation effect, compared with everyday experiences.

According to researcher David Eagleman, “The more memory you have of an event, the longer you believe it took.” So yes, time does seem to slow down in a crisis, but it’s a cognitive illusion.

That slowing down effect is important to bear in mind as we encounter the 20th anniversary of the Russia-LTCM financial crisis of September 1998 and the 10th anniversary of the Lehman-AIG financial crisis of September 2008.

For investors, those events were the financial equivalent of falling off a tall building or being strapped in during a plane crash. If you lived through them, you’ll recall some hours that seemed like days and days that seemed like weeks.

Of course, investors recall where they were and what they did during the absolute height of the panics — Sept. 28, 1998 and Sept. 15, 2008.

Most investors may not be aware that these peak panic moments had actually been playing out for over 15 months in both cases. Investors who closely observed the early signs of trouble had ample time to get out of the way of the panic itself.

In fact, most investors were oblivious to the early warnings. That 15-month build-up was a real slow-motion event, not an illusion.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

New Reality of China’s Failing Economy Is Coming Soon

New Reality of China’s Failing Economy Is Coming Soon

I’ve written for years that Chinese economic development is partly real and partly smoke and mirrors, and that it’s critical for investors to separate one from the other to make any sense out of China and its impact on the world.

My longest piece on this topic was Chapter Four of my second book, The Death of Money (2014), but I’ve written much else besides, including many articles for my newsletters.

There’s no denying China’s remarkable economic progress over the past thirty years. Hundreds of millions have escaped poverty and found useful employment in manufacturing or services in the major cities.

Infrastructure gains have been historic, including some of the best trains in the world, state-of-the-art transportation hubs, cutting edge telecommunications systems, and a rapidly improving military.

Yet, that’s only half the story.

The other half is pure waste, fraud and theft. About 45% of Chinese GDP is in the category of “investment.” A developed economy GDP such as the U.S. is about 70% consumption and 20% investment.

There’s nothing wrong with 45% investment in a fast-growing developing economy assuming the investment is highly productive and intelligently allocated.

That’s not the case in China. At least half of the investment there is pure waste. It takes the form of “ghost cities” that are fully-built with skyscrapers, apartments, hotels, clubs, and transportation networks – and are completely empty.

This is not just western propaganda; I’ve seen the ghost cities first hand and walked around the empty offices and hotels.

Chinese officials try to defend the ghost cities by claiming they are built for the future. That’s nonsense. Modern construction is impressive, but it’s also high maintenance. Those shiny new buildings require occupants, rents and continual maintenance to remain shiny and functional. The ghost cities will be obsolete long before they are ever occupied.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Prepare for a Chinese Maxi-devaluation

The news is being dominated by breathless headlines about the new trade war between the U.S. and China. But this trade war has been brewing for years and came as no surprise to readers of my newsletter, Project Prophesy. In fact, the new trade war is simply a continuation of the currency wars that began in 2010.

I’ve warned for over a year that President Trump’s threats of tariffs should be taken seriously, while most of Wall Street discounted Trump’s talk as mere bluster. Now the trade wars are here as we expected, and they will get much worse before they are resolved.

Currency wars arise in a condition of too much debt and too little growth. Economic powers try to steal growth from their trading partners by devaluing their currencies to promote exports and import inflation.

But China can’t keep going with tariffs.

They only import about $150 billion of U.S. exports. At the rate they’re going, they’ll run out of goods to impose tariffs on. Trump can keep going because the U.S. imports so much more from China than they buy from us.

But the Chinese are obsessed with not losing face. Chinese President Xi has just been named in effect dictator for life. He doesn’t want to start out his new dictatorial regime by backing down from a stare-fest with Donald Trump. So he needs another option.

For China to keep fighting, they need an asymmetric response; they need to fight the trade war with something other than tariffs.

China holds over $1.2 trillion of U.S. Treasury securities. Some analysts say China can dump those Treasuries on world markets and drive up U.S. interest rates. This will also drive up mortgage rates, damage the U.S. housing market, and possibly drive the U.S. economy into a recession. Analysts call this China’s “nuclear option” when it comes to fighting a financial war with Trump.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Fed Is on a Collision Course

The Fed Is on a Collision Course

Is the Trump economic boom a mirage? The data say yes, but the Fed models say no. The Fed has a long track record of sticking to its model-based approach and missing major turns in the U.S. economy.

Current Fed policy will push the U.S. economy to the brink of recession later this year. When that happens, the Fed will have to reverse course and ease monetary policy. This will send the dollar crashing while gold and the euro soar.

At first, the claim that the Trump economic boom is nothing special seems contrary to the happy-talk headlines coming from CNBC, Fox Business, Bloomberg and other mainstream business media outlets.

Those economic cheerleaders recite the stimulative effects of the Trump tax cuts and point to the Atlanta Fed forecast that second-quarter GDP will be 3.9% (as of the July 11 update).

The Atlanta Fed estimate of 3.9% is in line with forecasts from National Economic Council head Larry Kudlow, Art Laffer (proponent of the eponymous Laffer curve), Steve Moore and others that say Trump’s programs will produce persistent trend growth of 3–4% or higher.

Such growth would break decisively with the weak growth of the Obama years. It would also make the U.S. debt burden, currently at 105% of GDP, more sustainable if GDP were to grow faster than the national debt.

There’s one problem with the happy talk about 3–4% growth. We’ve seen this movie before.

In 2009, almost every economic forecaster and commentator was talking about “green shoots.” In 2010, then-Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner forecast the “recovery summer.” In 2017, the global monetary elites were praising the arrival (at last) of “synchronized global growth.”

None of this wishful thinking panned out. The green shoots turned brown, the recovery summer never came and the synchronized global growth was over almost as soon as it began.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A New Global Debt Crisis Has Begun

A New Global Debt Crisis Has Begun

Emerging-market debt crises are as predictable as spring rain. They happen every 15–20 years, with a few variations and exceptions.

In recent decades, the first crisis in this series was the Latin American debt crisis of 1982–85. The combination of inflation and a commodity price boom in the late 1970s had given a huge boost to economies such as Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Mexico and many others, including countries in Africa.

This commodity boom enabled these emerging-market (EM) economies to earn dollar reserves for their exports. (By the way, we didn’t call them “emerging markets” in the 1980s; they were the “Third World” after the Western world and the communist world.)

These dollar reserves were soon supplemented with dollar loans from U.S. banks looking to “recycle” petrodollars that the OPEC countries were putting on deposit after the oil price explosion of the 1970s.

I worked at Citibank from 1976–1985 during the height of petrodollar recycling and even discussed the process personally with Walter Wriston, Citibank’s legendary CEO. In the 1960s, Wriston invented the negotiable eurodollar CD, which was later critical to funding those EM loans.

Wriston is considered the father of petrodollar recycling once the petrodollar was created by Henry Kissinger and William Simon under President Nixon in 1974. I remember those days extremely well. The bank made billions and our stock price soared. It was a euphoric phase and a great time to be an international banker.

Then it all crashed and burned. One by one, the lenders defaulted. They had squandered their reserves on vanity projects such as skyscrapers in the jungle, which I saw firsthand when I visited Kinshasa on the Congo River in central Africa. Most of what wasn’t wasted was stolen and stashed away in Swiss bank accounts by kleptocrats.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The “Axis of Gold” Just Got Stronger

The “Axis of Gold” Just Got Stronger

As you probably know by now, President Trump backed out of the nuclear deal with Iran and is re-imposing harsh sanctions.

And just this morning, Trump announced that he’s canceling the much-anticipated nuclear summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un because of Kim’s recent belligerent comments.

What does that mean, aside from the added geopolitical risk to markets?

As you’re about to see, you can now expect what I call the “Axis of Gold” to get even stronger. And it has potential to accelerate the demise of the dollar-based international system.

The Axis of Gold includes Russia, China, Iran and Turkey. I would also include North Korea in that list, although as a junior member.

These countries are forming a trading and financial network revolving around gold and are acquiring massive amounts of physical gold to support it. They are steadily moving toward a gold-based balance of payment system.

Why is this happening?

Well, if you’re on the receiving end of American sanctions like Russia, Iran or North Korea, you want a way to work around these sanctions. And gold is a powerful alternative.

Let’s first consider North Korea.

With the summit called off, there’s every reason to expect that North Korea will only intensify its nuclear program.

But how can North Korea obtain the foreign nuclear and missile technology it requires to advance its program?

By using gold.

If a rogue state wants to acquire ballistic missile components or equipment to enrich uranium, it can’t buy them through SWIFT, the international payment system. But it can use gold.

Gold can’t be hacked or traced. Unlike digital money in bank accounts, it can’t be frozen. You just put it on a plane or ship and send it to its destination.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“Ice Nine” Comes to China

The war on cash has been going on for decades. The U.S. abolished the $500 bill in late 1969. (The old $500 bill featured a portrait of President William McKinley, by the way. I remember seeing a few when I was a kid.)

Today’s $100 bill is only worth 10 cents on the dollar compared with the $100 bill of 1969.

Europe will abolish the 500 euro this year. We all recall what happened in India in late 2016 when India abolished the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes (worth about $10 and $20, respectively); there was mass chaos as peasants lined up to turn in the old notes for digital credit.

ATMs were shut down because the replacement notes were too big for the ATMs!

Now the war on cash is being taken to a new level. China, the world’s most populous country and the world’s second-largest economy, has said that physical cash may soon become obsolete.

China has huge digital payments platforms developed by their own companies Tencent and Alibaba, in addition to traditional credit and debit cards and mobile phone payments.

Movements like this might start slowly, but they gain momentum and end quickly. Cash can be expensive to handle because vendors have to hire armored cars to move it, buy machines to count it, pay premiums to insure it and risk losses due to theft.

Those costs only make sense if they can be spread among a high volume of cash. Once cash usage falls below that critical threshold, the handling costs per unit are too high and merchants quickly abandon cash altogether.

China may be getting close to that tipping point, and will get there sooner if the government pushes cash off the ledge by regulation.

This is consistent with the Communist plan for total control of their people.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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