Where are we in the secular (post-2000) bear?

Mish Shedlock’s investment management company, Sitka Pacific, provided this chart in their September letter (as a non-client, I only get delayed copies):


One lesson to be learned here, which they get into in the letter, is that prices bottom before valuation multiples. In the bears of the 1910s, ’29-early 40s and ’66-82, inflation appeared late in the game. BTW, this meshes with Kondratieff theory, where inflation leads to disinflation to deflation then inflation again, with asset values moving in tandem.

So, be prepared to buy in this coming wave down, if we get a nice drop over the next year or so, because select equities could be a nice hard asset to own through the turmoil in the currency and sovereign debt markets, which is likely to spread to the US, UK, Germany and Japan by later this decade.

Taleb video: credit crunch not black swan, moral hazard now worse

From Bloomberg:


Some great comments on the OMB (“lying on their forecasts”), Geithner (“who has a mortage on a house not far from mine… who didn’t understand risk and real estate prices”), Summers (“uses wrong mathematics in his papers” and has “systemic arrogance”), and Bernanke (“the one who crashed the plane”).

He has praise for David Cameron, whom he thinks understands how to solve the crisis.

Plenty of fodder for inflationists and bond bears here: Hard assets like metals and agricultural land would be a good way to protect value. Forget the stock market and most real estate.

Does anybody, such as professors, now understand the issues he raises? No. Don’t go to business school, but if you go, don’t take any business class that has equations in it: “it’s all bogus.”

Marc Faber and Mish Shedlock on inflation vs. deflation

View on the Yahoo! Tech Ticker by clicking here.



I’m with Mish in this debate of course, since a credit implosion trumps a money printer, I but have the utmost respect for the adroit Swiss. The two of them have much more in common than either has with most other money managers or commentators.

I totally agree with Faber that the US is not a civilized nation anymore, entirely due to the expansion of the state. I could say the same about the UK, Canada, Australia and most of western Europe. The whole region feels like a big kindergarten where the teacher wears a .380 and a bulletproof vest.

I’m with Hendry

Taleb thinks hyperinflation is a strong enough possibility to justify way OTM bets on gold (long) and bonds (short). The one bit I agree with is the long gold / short stocks play (though I think gold is likely to fall with stocks, just not as much), and I suspect that deflationist Hendry would concur.

Hendry thinks that deflation is here to stay, that nations will start to default, and that the market will at least start to worry about sovereign defaults by nations like Germany and the US (even if they don’t actually default, he’ll make money in that situation as the price of insurance goes up).

(The video cuts off when Hendry passes the mic, and I don’t have a link to the rest. If anybody else does, please post it.)  (EDIT: http://2010.therussiaforum.com/news/session-video3/ Minute 24:00 and after. Thanks Charles!)

Hendry makes a point I’ve made myself: the euro is like gold for countries like Greece (they can’t print it) so it will have to default.

Hendry says his porfolio is inspired by Nassim, but basically the opposite. He’s fed up with other people’s opinions. The hedge fund guys are “so uncool.” He doesn’t talk to brokers, and he reads nobody else’s research.

Debt loads are bound to squeeze all of the vitality out of the risk takers in the market.

UK interest rates are at the lowest since the Bank of England was established in 1692. He is betting that the central banks won’t raise rates in the next 4 months and he will make 4x his dough if right.

He thinks the sovereign default scenario today is like the mortage bond situation three years ago.

Now, who is the true contrarian? Is hyperinflation really a black swan right now? Every chat board on the net has been buzzing about it for years. When Taleb said every human being should short treasuries, every human being agreed with him!

Is the commodities rally done?

Here’s the daily continuation chart of commodity index futures since July. Note the new highs on weakening momentum:

Source: futures.tradingcharts.com


The oil and base metals markets are similar. Here’s the base metal index, from kitcometals.com:


And oil futures, from stockcharts.com (3-year chart):


See also:

Copper looks set to fall hard (12/21/09)

Fade the reflation trade

Another short post here.

Within a week or two I expect a correction or change of trend regarding this “reflation” theme we are seeing. The bond panic is coinciding with toppy looking activity in oil, precious metals and grains. I’m buying puts on crude today with the July contract at 65.33.

The dollar is also a buy here against the Euro, Swiss Franc and likely the Pound and Aussie. I’m long UUP, the dollar bull ETF, along with Treasuries.

Time to sell TBT and buy TLT.

The Treasury double short fund TBT has had a great run since New Year’s, when the long bond yielded just 2.5%, the lowest level since the WW2 era. I suspect that a lot of readers were with me on my bond short back then, as most bearish-minded folk had been chomping at the bit to short Treasuries (or had already been short while they ran up from summer 2008).

Now I think it’s time to think about buying this horribly overvalued security again simply because it is so universally hated.

Mish takes Peter Schiff to the cleaners

Mish has composed a detailed post on the many ways in which the vociferous Peter Schiff has been dead wrong on just about everything in this crash (the two actually had a little debate in December 2007). Mish’s post is essential reading for anyone who is considering following Schiff’s investment advice. In his own way, the man is usually just as wrong as the Pollyannas that he challenges on bubblevision.

Here is an excerpt:

Schiff’s Investment Thesis

  • US Dollar Will Go To Zero (Hyperinflation).
  • Decoupling (The rest of the world would be immune to a US slowdown.
  • Buy foreign equities and commodities and hold them with no exit strategy.

12 Ways Schiff Was Wrong in 2008

  • Wrong about hyperinflation
  • Wrong about the dollar
  • Wrong about commodities except for gold
  • Wrong about foreign currencies except for the Yen
  • Wrong about foreign equities
  • Wrong in timing
  • Wrong in risk management
  • Wrong in buy and hold thesis
  • Wrong on decoupling
  • Wrong on China
  • Wrong on US treasuries
  • Wrong on interest rates, both foreign and domestic

That’s a lot of things to be wrong about, especially given all the “Peter Schiff Was Right” videos floating around everywhere. The one thing he was right about was the collapse of US equities and no part of his investment strategy sought to make a gain from that prediction.

I will admit that I was nearly taken in by Schiff’s thesis back in 2006 when I first became bearish on the economy and stock market. I even opened an account for someone with his firm, but the only thing I did with it was short the US market — I took none of his brokers’ advice on favored mining juniors.

I owe Mish and Robert Prechter a huge debt of gratitude for beating some sense into me with solid logic. Readers can easily check my archives to see my pre-crash stances on commodities, gold stocks, Treasuries, the dollar, the Swiss Franc and the Euro and the inflation/deflation debate. I can report that things have turned out very well for those who went against the crowd of contrarians, swallowed their fear of the dollar, and shorted not just US stocks but almost everything else in sight. All the world was a bubble.

On the need to stay nimble

Yes, the deflationists were right and hopefully all made some money or at least avoided terrible losses, but nobody can afford to get cocky. The markets do not trade on fundamentals on anything but the longest time-frames, so the ability to read the prevailing mood and adjust accordingly is a critical part of asset management. So is the willingness to contradict yourself and change your mind.

I see now that this deflation can last even longer than I had suspected, and that there may be even ways to avoid hyperinflation, such as negotiated Treasury debt forgiveness, but there is no need to try to guess about outcomes that are years away when you know how to read the signs as they come and remain humble and liquid enough to change your stance as needed.

By the way, Mish manages client accounts

Mish is an investment advisor representative with Sitka Pacific (not Euro Pacific!), a firm that manages private accounts on a percent of assets fee basis. I am not a client, but I would not hesitate to suggest giving them a call. I am working on setting up my own firm of this type, which offers many advantages over hedge or mutual funds, especially when set up with the protections that Sitka Pacific has included. My own style of trading is somewhat different from any of the strategies Mish uses (for example, I am willing to go net short or to a majority cash position), and of course I am not always in agreement with Mish on every aspect of the markets.

Cool-headed interview with John Nadler of Kitco

Nadler is great to read because he’s in the precious metals industry (Kitco is a bullion dealer), but he isn’t a perma-bull. He takes a non-hysterical approach to the market, and provides insights into internal supply and demand forces.

This is a long interview, published here. Here’s an excerpt:

“…If deflationary pressures really take hold, we may have a case of “reverse hedge” developing, whereby gold might still fall to the mid-$600s or even as low as the low $500s, but still fall less in percentage terms than other assets might. In that case, investors would still be better off holding some gold and lots of cash rather than equities or real estate and such. Hopefully we don’t head into that deflationary spiral because that could hurt a lot of higher-priced producers of gold. Certainly a lot of the mining companies would have to reconsider what projects to mothball if that happens.

If we don’t go into that vortex and confidence returns by whatever means, things could stabilize. Stability in gold would imply a trading range between $650 and $850. It’s definitely a blow to the doomsday newsletter writers, who thought the circumstances we are seeing now were the ideal scenarios they’d dreamt of as far back as we can recall. They know, however, that the world of $2,000 gold is not one they would want to live in.

The fact that in July gold had trouble surpassing $930, (not even matching the March highs when Bear Stearns failed), was definitely a big wake-up call as to what was going on. And of course what’s going on is that a lot of people had already bought gold starting at $252 and all the way up to $400 and $600. When this big crisis hit, if they spotted their 401(k) accounts off by 38% and their gold holdings ahead by 50% or 60% or much more, it wasn’t a hard decision to make. They liquidated that which was profitable in order to mitigate their losses. That’s why they’d bought their gold to begin with.

So the latecomers, those who were rushing in, having put off their gold purchases until it became a burning issue, basically got caught trying to buy into this “runaway train” scenario. The few people who tried cost-averaging higher-level purchases of $900 to $1,000-plus were the freshest of buyers during these past couple of weeks. The difference we spotted in retail transaction patterns is that this particular cycle in the gold market brought out quite a few sellers, along with new buyers. So there’s very good two-way activity going on in the physical market.

TGR: The gold bullion coins appear to have a very high premium over the gold spot price, so there still seems to be some fear out there, or is it shortages?

JN: Some issues in the physical market are really grossly misinterpreted. Observers are not doing anyone any favors. My perception is that we have a contingent of pundits who are extremely panicked that this is a very poor reaction by gold to the crisis, and it will make them look bad. It already has. Now they’re trying to manufacture this global stampede into gold by panicking investors and by scaring them with stories of supplies running out. No one will argue that there are higher levels of individual investor interest, but it’s nothing “unprecedented.” They’re trying to make it out as unprecedented, and that’s simply not the case. Perhaps it says more about how short a time such pundits have spent in these markets.

TGR: Just how real is the shortage in coins, then?

JN: Specifically, what’s going on with the coins is that most of the mints of the world do not operate on a “produce-then-wait-and-see” basis. They don’t pre-mint hundreds of thousands of coins and put them on the shelf waiting for buyers to materialize. They basically operate on a mint-to-demand policy.

Because of the prolonged bear market in the ’80s and ’90s, most of them had slimmed down to bare essentials and, in fact, a lot farm out some components of the coin manufacturing process, such as blanking. The U.S. Mint is one of them. They ran into some blank coin quality problems in silver back in March, with about half a million silver blank rejects. That put them behind the production schedules, and when demand indeed kicked in for physical small coins, they were unable to fulfill commitments on a timely basis. This does not mean they ceased production. In fact, most of these mints consider small-item production quite profitable, which implies that they have added shifts, are finding new suppliers of blanks and new refiners for material, and augmenting production to meet the demand. Inventory build-up is one of their top current priorities.

Look back in recent history at the classical gold rushes, if you will. During the first one, in that inflationary period in the late ’70s and early ’80s, some 16 million Krugerrands were sold globally. The market events of 1987 brought on the next wave of buying, and that is when the U.S. Mint sold more than 1.25 million ounces of gold. Nor should we lose sight of the fact that in the ’91 recession, just a few short years later, they only sold a quarter million ounces. And then we go to about 1999 before Y2K. Again, they suspended sales of certain products like silver rounds, which were being hoarded by people expecting the end of the world. Next would be May of 2006, with the North Korean and Iranian political tensions. Again, very good robust sales, but nothing of the magnitude of ’80 or ’87, and similar to what we’ve had since last year. But at best, I think this year the U.S. Mint will sell about 750,000 or 800,000 ounces. It’s not the level of 1987’s stampede or panic, so I don’t see why they’re trying to make it out to be something bigger than it is.

TGR: Why is there such a premium, though? Just because they’re undersupplied?

JN: Yes, once the retail shops saw the Mint selling coins on an allocation basis, with some restrictions to build up inventories, the retailers started raising premiums on coins that they couldn’t basically get to fulfill previously sold orders. They raised their bids; they also raised their offer. It’s really limited to items like the silver rounds and some of the smaller fractional coins.

But in terms of Kitco getting supplies, basically we took the attitude that if we could not get a commitment from our distributors and suppliers as to a firm premium and/or a delivery date or both, we simply removed the items from the order pages in the online store. Those order pages are limited to items we are confident we can deliver at a decent price within a decent number of days. I know that the list is looking pretty slim, but we do have product to sell, and our pool accounts have never had any shortage of underlying material to secure; namely, 1,000-ounce bars of silver and 400-ounce bars of gold. We continue to offset 100% of all pool account purchases for the peace of mind of our clients.

And we’re adding back a lot of the items that had been removed. For instance, we just got several tens of thousands in gold coins and about a quarter million in silver coins from the Royal Canadian Mint. We’re getting Austrian gold and silver coins in very soon, and I’m sure that the U.S. will restart its sales to distributors once they switch dates on the coins to 2009. This is, coincidentally, the period when mints cease producing old (current year) dating and start with the new ones, and the switchover generally creates a bit of a glitch, too. At any rate, there will be product. We have eggs, thus we will have the omelet as well.

TGR: So it would be prudent to wait a bit.

JN: Absolutely. People are not good consumers if they go out and pay $5 over spot on $10.50 silver just to secure something that they think they’re going to have to barter at the grocery store….”