Tag Archives: FED

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – IT’S GETTING INTENSE!

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The general equity market had its worst December on record, with the averages down 10% and more. Gold related securities, however, began to prove their worth as an undervalued “safe haven” and an “uncorrelated” asset class. Gold bullion was up 4.9% and the gold mining stocks were up more than double that. One month of outperformance is not enough to establish a new trend, and the gold miners were still down for the entire year, but December does demonstrate how quickly trends can change. For lots of reasons which we outline below, we believe December may have been just the beginning of the resumption in the long-term bull market for gold related securities. The charts below provide a vivid picture of the most important long-term trends, and the prospects for substantial gains in our portfolio of gold mining stocks.                                                                               

While short term fluctuations and volatility can often dominate our thinking, we think the following charts provide valuable long-term context. There is no question that gold related securities are influenced by trends in the general capital markets, viewed as a “safe haven” from a decline in other assets, and heavily influenced by the direction of the US Dollar. The recent strength in the US Dollar, and the continuous rise in the general market have clearly undermined the performance of gold related assets. We believe the charts below show that the S&P average is likely closer to a long term high than a low, that the US Dollar is closer to a high than a low, gold bullion has been “consolidating” for 4-5 years, while gold related securities (represented here by the GDX ETF), are clearly near a long-term low, and may be emerging from its base.

First, the chart below shows the performance of the S&P 500 index, virtually straight up from the bottom in 2009, an unprecedented continuous rise. Most important, of course, is the decline which began in December, the sharpest correction in the last decade, and that has continued the first day of 2019. Should this decline continue, and there are lots of reasons why it should, gold related securities may be one of the very few safe havens.

The next chart is the performance of the DXY, the ETF representing the performance of the US Dollar, since 2005, versus other major trading currencies. You can see that the US Dollar has been trading very near its high and that has no doubt undermined the price of gold bullion in US Dollars. There is a lot of discussion as to whether our Fed, led by Jerome Powell, will be able to raise interest rates further at the same time the Fed balance sheet is reduced, both of which has contributed to the strong US Dollar. Should he decide to back off these programs, which we believe will be the case, that should contribute to a weaker US Dollar, and the chart shows the downside risk over time. A materially weaker US Dollar would be a strong tailwind to the price of gold related securities.

The next chart shows the price of gold bullion, represented by the GLD ETF, since its decline in 2012. You can see that the decline was 39% from the high to low. Since 2013, GLD has been in a trading range of about 20% from a little over 130 to a low of 105.  Right now GLD is trading about 8% below its “breakout” point of just over 130.

The following chart shows the performance of gold mining stocks, represented by the GDX ETF. You can see how substantially GDX has underperformed gold bullion, down 75% from the high of 2012 to the low in late 2015. The “trading range” since 2013 has been a very wide 56%, and you can see that GDX is still a lot closer to its low within the trading range than GLD. The “catchup” in GDX to get back to the high of the trading range in 2016, when GLD was a little over 130, would imply a 48% move, versus only 8% in GLD. We believe that December may have demonstrated the beginning of a positive move in GLD, and the beginning of the inherent upside leverage in GDX. We believe that the gold miners, which declined twice as much as GLD on the downside, could demonstrate even more leverage on the upside from this historically low base. Their December performance begins to demonstrate that potential.

Lastly, we provide a chart of Homestake Mining versus the Dow Jones Average during the depression of the 1930s, so even the prohibition of private gold ownership in 1934 was not sufficient to end that bull market in gold mining companies, even as the official gold price remained at $34./oz.

In terms of current news that supports our long term conviction, both bond and stock markets have had to digest lots of news in recent weeks, and it hasn’t always been pretty. Capital markets don’t like uncertainty, which exist relative to trade tariffs, the clearly slowing economies worldwide (US, Europe, Japan, China), the uncertainty regarding our Fed’s plan relative to interest rates, the exploding US deficits, Mario Draghi’s announcement of an end to QE in Europe, the ongoing political turmoil in and out of the White House, the collapse of Bitcoin and the crypto-currency market. The result has been more volatility, especially in the stock market, than we have seen in years. Intra-day moves of 3-4% have become common place, which in and of itself creates a level of discomfort among investors.

There are major macro developments, within the broad brush concerns above:

  • The new US fiscal year started in October, and the stated (now called “on-budget” by some) deficit was $100.5B in October, versus $63.2B last year. November came in at $205B vs. $139B last year. For two months, the deficit is $305B. vs. $202B, up 51%. The actual debt is up $334B, reflecting “off-budget” items, the largest of which is Social Security obligations. We continue to suggest that the “on-budget” deficit will be closer to $1.5 trillion in the current fiscal year, and the total debt will be well over $1.5 trillion, due to government spending (up 18% so far YTY),  higher interest costs, higher defense spending, higher VA support, health care support, THE WALL, etc. There seems to be rare bipartisan agreement right now regarding an unwillingness to talk about the explosion of the deficit and the debt. It is just too disturbing. All the deficit hawks have put their heads in the ground. THERE IS NO POLITICAL WILL in this area.
  • There is an ongoing move away from the US Dollar, the world’s dominant reserve currency since 1944. China, Russia, and mid-east countries are increasingly using the Yuan and gold for oil trades. There is also a consistent reduction within foreign exchange reserves, of US denominated securities. This has been accompanied by accumulation of physical gold, which can’t be diluted by a computer key-tap.
  • There are many indications that China is accumulating far more gold than they have announced. Recall that three years ago China announced that their Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) had increased ownership to 1600 tons from 1000 tons over the previous five years. Considering that China is the largest miner of gold on the planet, 400 tons per year, and nothing leaves the country, an increase of 600 tons over five years is obviously an understatement. It may be Chinese government agencies other than the PBOC that is holding it, but they are government “affiliates”. Various sources have reported that thousands of incremental tons have moved into the hands of various government agencies in recent years, and we would not be shocked if China announces at some point soon that they own 10,000 tons or more.  This would be substantially more than the 8,400 tons owned by the US, currently assumed to be the largest holder.  This would allow the Chinese to create a trading currency backed in some way by their gold ownership, joining, or even replacing the US Dollar as the primary trading currency worldwide. Surprisingly, based on reported gold holdings, Russia (which continues its aggressive gold purchase program) is in the best position to make their currency convertible into gold. Both China and Russia could have multiple political reasons to link the Ruble or Yuan to gold, provide more credibility to their currency than the US can provide.
  • Jay Powell’s newfound uncertainty over the pace of further rate increase provides the possibility that Quantitative Tightening is slowing down, if not stopping altogether should our economy weaken further. It is now clear that fourth quarter GDP will be more like 2% or so than the 4.5% in Q3. Especially in light of slowing economies elsewhere in the world, which will slow further if interest rates are moved higher, Powell may find that the next important course of action is “QE4” or whatever they choose to call the new monetary accommodation.
  • Since September, foreign purchases of US Treasury securities can no longer be made, financed by low interest (or negative interest) borrowing abroad, with currency hedging providing an overall positive carry. Borrowing costs abroad have gone up modestly, hedging costs as well, so the guaranteed positive return has gone away, removing some material portion of the $5-6 trillion of annual demand for US Treasury securities. Since $5-6T of US Treasury Securities have to be “rolled” over the next twelve months, the $1.5T of incremental government debt has to be financed, and the absence of perhaps $2-3T that was previously invested (and hedged) by foreigners, provide a total of something like an incremental TEN TRILLION of US securities that has to be bought in the next twelve months. People… ($10,000,000,000,000) this is a lot of money and could be a strain on the financial system, to put it really mildly.
  • The market for “leveraged loans” and high yield loans has shown serious signs of strain in just the last sixty days. Wells Fargo and Barclays Bank failed to sell $415 million of debt on Ulterra Drilling Technologies, a manufacturer of drilling bits. Blackstone received their funds to help in their buyout of Ulterra, but WF and BB are hoping to market the debt in a better environment in ’19. There were a number of other deals actually pulled from the market in Europe over the last several weeks. The Financial Times said today that the “’junk bond’ market, whether in loans or bonds – has frozen up, and the US credit markets have ground to a halt….not a single company has borrowed money through the $1.2T US high-yield corporate bond market through mid-December…..we haven’t seen the results at yearend, but if the freeze remained in place, it would be first month since November 2008 that not a single high-yield bond priced in the market..”

Our conclusion from all of the above is that our economy and, indeed, the worldwide economy will have very modest growth, at best. The debt load is too heavy, and the unintended consequences of ten years of monetary promiscuity have yet to play out. Equity investors right now assume that Jay Powell will more or less stick to his plan of generally higher interest rates, even if at a much slower pace. If he “cries wolf”, however, the equity markets would rally, but we don’t think for long. The last recession of ’08-’09 required “monetary heroin” to the tune of $4T in the US alone, but each hit has to be bigger to keep the addict functioning. Once capital markets realize that, a more major downdraft is likely. 

In the long run: we believe there will be a new monetary paradigm, and gold related securities will be an important part of a more disciplined fiscal/monetary approach. The ownership of gold has protected one’s purchasing power for the last five thousand years, the last two hundred years, the last 105 years (since the Fed allowed the US Dollar to be diluted by 98%), the last 47 years (since 1971, when the gold window was closed), the last 18 years (since 2000, when deficit spending accelerated once again).

It is of course true that since 2012 gold and gold related securities have been poor investments, but, in the sweep of history, that is a mere blip. With a new level of financial uncertainty compounded by geopolitical concerns and fiat currency dilution rampant around the world, it is only a matter of time before gold establishes itself again as “the real money”. Gold is not the only hedge against inflation, but, among the possibilities, it is currently the most undervalued.  As James Grant, the preeminent monetary historian has said: “A gold backed monetary system is not perfect, but it is the least imperfect system”. We don’t expect a new gold backed monetary system to be in place any time soon, but any small progress in that direction will allow for substantial appreciation in gold related assets.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

Roger Lipton

 

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY REPORT – THE ECONOMY, FED’S BALANCE SHEET, INTEREST RATES, GOLD

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY REPORT – THE ECONOMY, FED BALANCE SHEET, INTEREST RATES, GOLD

A PROGRESS REPORT: IN SUMMARY

THE ECONOMY

Meet the new economy, very similar to the old economy. While the Trump administration touts the 3% (and moving higher) economy and history making low unemployment rate, real GDP growth came in at 2.3% in Q1, down from the 3.2% peak of Q3’17 and 2.9% in Q4’17. Both of the H2’17 reports were inflated by storm remediation expenses. Keep in mind that government spending, now at a record level, contributes to GDP, so the “organic” economic growth is very similar (within a couple of tenths) to the 2.3% average under the Obama administration, even in spite of deficit spending that is ramping higher. The 3.9% low unemployment rate is a function of a participation rate moving lower, not materially more employment. There is no question that things are a lot better than nine years ago when 600,000 workers were let go each month and there are more companies looking for workers as the necessary skills are often not present. Balancing the picture: while the tax cut has now kicked in, so have higher gasoline prices, and the consumer savings rate is moving higher once again after coming down late last year. Our readers know that we look at restaurant sales as a predictable leading indicator of the general economy. Today’s Miller Pulse headline tells us that April sales were “the highest since 2016”.  Unfortunately, the 1.6% sales gain in April was overcome by negative traffic of 0.7%, the 26th straight month of traffic decline. Two year same store sales rose 1.2% in April, vs. 1.1% in March and a 1.8% decline (the storms no doubt) in February.  If we consider that prices are rising by a couple of percent per year, traffic is running down 3 or 4% over two years. “Down so far, down looks like up to me” is the country western song writer’s way to put it.

THE FED’S BALANCE SHEET AND INTEREST RATES

We all know that the Fed is normalizing it’s balance sheet, by $10B/month in Q4’17, then $20B/month in Q1’18, now at $30B/month in Q2, going to be $40B/month in Q3 and $50B/month in Q4. These reductions are supposed to be “automatic” as treasury securities and other holdings mature and the balance of the planned decrease is liquidated. We have discussed before how interest rates have steadily moved upward, beginning exactly last October when the normalization started. The planned reduction got behind almost immediately in Q4’17, kept pace through in Q1’18 and April’18, though not making up the shortfall of Q4 and has gotten further behind in early May. Our analysis shows that the cumulative shortfall is about $30B at this point, and of course that can change week to week. It may be no coincidence that interest rates are back to their high this morning, with the ten year at $3.05%, as the Fed tries to reduce by $15B or more this week to catch up. The bottom line is that the Fed’s balance sheet normalization is more than likely to drive interest rates still higher, at least that’s the way it looks so far. This interest rate rise in turn affects housing (see Home Depot stock this morning), auto sales, consumer interest expense, and contributes to a stronger dollar which undermines the general economy further.

GOLD and GOLD MINING STOCKS

The stock market has been up eight days in a row (until today), interest rates (and the dollar) have been firming slowly (more than “firm” this morning) so there continues to be no urgency to look to gold as a “safe haven”. We have pointed out in the past that neither higher interest rates nor a strong dollar are a death knell over time for gold related securities but in the short run a weak dollar and lower interest rates are better. Considering the recent strength in the dollar and the steady march of interest rates higher this year, the fact that gold bullion is virtually unchanged for the year and the mining stocks are down only modestly is not terrible performance. The gold mining companies, which is our primary way to participate in this out of favor asset class, are holding the “real money” in the ground for safekeeping. It’s just a question of time until they bring it north and exchange it for the “colored paper of the day”, at much higher dollars per ounce than today.

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY REPORT – CENTRAL BANKS BUYING BIG! – SELL TO WHOM?

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – CENTRAL BANKS ARE BUYING BIG – SELL TO WHOM?

It is becoming increasingly clear that currency creation by Central Banks of major industrialized countries is reaching dangerous proportions.

We all know by now that Central Banks have artificially suppressed interest rates, in the (so far) vain hope of encouraging capital investment and stimulating economic growth. We shouldn’t forget that the flip side of that process involves “mis-allocation” of financial resources, as (1) companies “reach” for return in deals that make little economic sense with investment capital with so little interest rate cost and (2) individuals that similarly “misallocate” their savings, reaching for yield they need without understanding the risk involved. This process will inevitably run its course and there will be a lot of damage, perhaps far exceeding the 2007-2008 financial crisis, but the timing is of course uncertain.

Another increasingly dangerous corollary of Central Bank currency creation is the purpose to which those funds are put to work. It is well known by now that the US Fed, the European Central Bank and others have been active to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars in the fixed income markets, which have been instrumental in keeping rates low. This has artificially inflated bond prices, in turn driving investors into the equity markets for alternative returns. What is not so well known is that Central Banks have been buying hundreds of billions of dollars of equities. Since major Central Banks cumulatively hold over $11 trillion of foreign currency reserves, it is natural that they should want to diversify those reserves away from the currencies which are being continuously diluted. Along with steady buying of Gold (which we suggest is the “real money”), the Central Banks have increasingly added equities to the portfolio mix.

The Bank of Japan has been buying Japanese ETFs at the rate of $53 billion per year, and now holds over 71% of those ETFs. The bank is now one of the top 5 owner of 81 companies within Japan’s Nikkei 225 index. As reported by Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, the Japanese Financial Services Agency (Japan’s SEC) is now “paying close attention” to this phenomenon.

The European Central Bank has been buying 60 billion euros worth of bonds monthly, and Mario Draghi is going to update their plans tomorrow. In the meantime, Deutsche Bank CEO, John Cryan, has said: “There has been absolutely no price discovery now in corporate bonds….which is a very dangerous situation”.

The Swiss National Bank has been steadily buying equity securities, including US based companies. Equity securitie, as of Q3’16, comprised 20% ($128 billion) of their of their $643 billion in foreign exchange reserves, up from 7% in 2009, including investments of $1.7 billion in Apple, 1.08 billion in Exxon, and $1.2 billion in Microsoft.

Here in the US, our Fed has talked about beginning to unwind our $4.2 trillion balance sheet by no longer reinvesting the funds from securities that are maturing. The result of this form of money “tightening” can only be a guess, especially relative to already soft economic trends.

These are serious amounts of capital being to work in an increasingly dangerous way. To some extent, Central Banks are biased toward continued equity (and bond) buying, because their absence from the marketplace would cause a price decline and trillions of dollars of “paper losses” on their respective balance sheets.

I’ve been in the financial world for many decades, and learned (the hard way) that when you get the feeling you are “responsible” for supporting a particular market, the best possible strategy is “get out of the way”, take the current loss before it inevitably becomes much larger. The key question, at this point for Central Banks, now becomes “Sell to Whom?”.

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE- EVERYTHING’S UNDER CONTROL……SURE!

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – EVERYTHING’S UNDER CONTROL…SURE! – Believe that and I’ve got a bridge to sell you 🙂

Some economists, stock market strategists, and investment advisors have referred to the current economic situation is “goldilocks”, GDP growing modestly (sub 2%) but about to firm up, inflation under control (also sub 2%), the Fed continuing to “normalize” rates with the latest 25 basis point increase and another scheduled for December. Everything is even promising enough that the Fed is talking about beginning to pare down their $4 trillion balance sheet at the end of this year. (I can’t resist interjecting here that balance sheet reduction remains to be seen and the end of ’17 is a long way off.)

However…..while the financial world is relatively quiet, for the moment, the underlying problems have not gone away. The following chart provides us a simple picture of what Central Banks have “wrought” over the last 8-9 years.

While the US Fed has taken a break from money printing, their slack has been taken up by the ECB, BOJ, BofE, and SNB. Lots of economists have reflected that the appropriate money printing in ’08 saved the world from a financial collapse, and we can’t disprove that, but you can see that  $7-8 trillion has been printed subsequent to early ’09, and the curve now is steep as ever. Wouldn’t it be nice if all we had to do to create prosperity was rely on the Central Banks to provide the cash. We could all stop working, collect, and spend the cash. Unfortunately, goods and services have to be produced at competitive prices if an economy is to flourish. You would think that Central Bankers would understand this, but surgeons “cut” and Central Bankers “print”.  You would think that $11 trillion of new money since 2006 would have stimulated the US (and worldwide) economy rather substantially. That’s an incomprehensible amount of money. (Lebron James makes $40,000,000 per year. It would take him TWO HUNDRED SEVENTY FIVE THOUSAND YEARS to earn $11 trillion.) That’s true, but bringing the discussion back to earth, the result in this case is that US GDP growth has averaged 1.3% from 2007 until 2016, still sub 2% since ’10. It happens that the US economy grew at 1.3% during the US depression of 1930-1939, so I propose that what we have experienced, and are about to experience,  is not “goldilocks”. The Central Banks around the world have been essentially “pushing on a string”.

The same problems exist today that were in place ten years ago, but the numbers are a lot larger. We continue to believe that there is no graceful way to “normalize” the situation. We don’t blame Janet Yellen. She didn’t create this mess. It was the politicians, of both parties, over the last thirty to forty years. We believe that there will be no more than one more rate hike this year (right now an apparent 38% probability for December) but interest rates will still be very low historically, and “real” interest rates will still be negligible, if not negative. As far as reducing the Fed balance sheet, Janet Yellen discussed a modest pace of reduction. If this reduction starts at all, it will be a form of “tightening” that, along with the modest rate increases,  our still fragile economy will not easily withstand. We believe that the current series of interest rate increases, as well as the initiation of the Fed balance sheet reduction, will just be precursors to the next round of stimulus.

We believe that the price of gold, marking time lately, will resume its long term rise, as the next round of stimulus comes into view. This is, after all, what Central Bankers do.

 

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – DEFICITS ARE NOT BEING DISCUSSED, THE NEW “THIRD RAIL”

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – DEFICITS ARE NOT BEING DISCUSSED, THE NEW “THIRD RAIL”

There is not too much new, during just the last two weeks, in the way of fiscal/monetary developments. Governments, and their Central Bank (supposedly independent) agents have to adjust fiscal and monetary policy but between the US governmental dysfunction, the ongoing concerns over Brexit, and the French election there hasn’t been much time to get much actually accomplished.

In terms of fiscal and monetary affairs here at home, the political debate goes on as to whether the proposed tax cuts, which are now emerging as the centerpiece of the Trump agenda,  will help or hurt our economy.  Our conclusion on this front is that when the tax cuts finally take place they will be far less than has been discussed in the campaign and the early days of the Trump administration. The resulting impact on the economy will therefore be materially less than is  hoped for.

A well established “Third Rail” of political discourse is the absolute necessity of adjusting non-discretionary spending, especially entitlements, if the budget is ever going to come close to balancing. Entitlements, interest on the debt, defense, and benefits including social security and disability payments, food stamps, medicare and medicaid make up 75% of the $4 trillion annual government budget. If only $1 trillion (25% roughly), is discretionary, it would obviously take an enormous cut in those services to seriously reduce the current “apparent” $587B annual deficit. We say “apparent” because what you see is not what you get, and we will discuss this later.

A new Third Rail, in addition to entitlement reform, has now emerged, and that is discussion of the Deficit itself, and the impotence of either party to seriously reduce it. When the Democrats were in charge, only the Republicans cared. Now the Republicans are in charge, and only the Democrats care.  A point we must make in this regard, is that the Deficit that you see is not the Deficit you get. The Obama administration managed to bring the annual deficit down, to be sure, from over 9% of GDP, but the “under 3%” figure they trumpeted was seriously misleading.  In the fiscal year ending 9/30/16, while the stated annual deficit was $587 Billion (up from the low of $470B the prior year), the actual cumulative debt went up by $1.25 Trillion, a difference of a cool $663 Billion.  This is NOT a one year phenomenon, such as a result of “working capital” changes from one year to the next. We published back in October, 2016, year by year numbers over 9 years. In summary: For the nine years ending 9/30/16, the total of reported annual deficits was $7.755 Trillion, but the cumulative debt went up by $10.392 Trillion, higher by $ 2,637 Trillion.  This difference is the result of “special” expenditures (“non-recurring”?) that do not run through the normal budgeting process. Be that as it may, the debt must be repaid at some point and, at the very least, interest on the debt must be paid. The interest  rate is abnormally low at this point, but this is unlikely to be the case forever. There is relatively little discussion, by either party, of the deficit in the current year, and the potential increase in the total debt. When there is no discussion, you can count on the fact that there is a reason. Neither political party is willing to undergo the pain that reducing the deficit would entail. The Democrats will take the opportunity, at a time of their choosing, to cast blame for potential cuts (EPA, Planned Parenthood, The Wall, Entitlements, etc.etc.etc.) on the Republicans, but neither party is prepared to deal with the reality of the spending situation.

This debt buildup is important, especially since it continues to grow materially faster than the economy which it supports and supposedly stimulates. We harken back to the findings described in the highly respected (by most) 2010 economic treatise “This TIme is Different” by Reinhart and Rogoff.  They studied the link between different levels of debt  and countries’ economic growth over the last two hundred years. In summary, countries with a gross public debt exceeding 90% of annual economic output (GDP) tended to grow more slowly. Above the 90% threshhold (the US, at 85% in 2009,  is now close to 110%), average annual growth was about two percentage points lower than countries with public debt less than 30% of GDP.  There, of course, can be no absolute certainty that the Reinhart/Rogoff studies are currently relevant. However, the US economy has in fact struggled for almost ten years now, recovering from the financial crisis of 2008-2009 far slower than our federal administration and their economic advisors would have liked, or predicted. There is, at the very least, the possibility that Reinhoff and Rogart are directionally correct, and it will be increasingly difficult for our economy (or the worldwide economy by extension) to accelerate GDP growth, considering that the debt burden continues to grow on a relative basis.

Our conclusion: President Donald Trump has made it clear that he is not afraid of debt. He is less concerned about deficits than about defense, infrastructure spending, and protecting entitlements. The cumulative debt, and the Reinhoff/Rogart drag on the economy, will continue to grow, faster than GDP in the short term. Whether expenditures run through the normal “budget” or not, it remains to be seen whether it is well spent and will truly stimulate GDP growth. We’ve seen enough of the new administration to conclude that directional changes could be “business friendly” but not material enough to be game changing in the short run. The recently positive consumer and business sentiment readings will become more of a “show me” situation, since public economic stress will not be relieved in the short run. The 65-70% of the economy that is dependent on the US consumer will not kick into high gear quite yet. Amazon, Netflix, Google, and Apple can’t carry the economy by themselves. The rate of GDP growth will continue to be disappointing.

In terms of our interest in gold related securities: interest rates will remain relatively low, Central Banks worldwide will remain dovish to support still fragile economies. Assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate and art will remain at their elevated levels, perhaps move even higher as investors search for appreciating assets. Gold related securities, perhaps  the most currently undervalued asset class , will narrow the valuation gap that has developed over the last several years.

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL MONETARY REPORT – GOLD CONSOLIDATES – ECONOMY STAGNATES – CANDIDATES HAVE NO CLUE

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SEMI MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY REPORT – GOLD CONSOLIDATES – ECONOMY STAGNATES – CANDIDATES (as far as we can tell) HAVE NO CLUE

The capital markets, including the gold market, were little changed during September. Our portfolio was up slightly better than gold bullion which was up 0.7%. For the year, we are outperforming gold bullion which is up 23.8%. As we have said before, we have participation with both gold bullion and the miners, and our portfolio should move more than bullion itself, especially on the upside. We expect the capital markets, as well as the gold market to be more definitive once the US presidential election is concluded. Neither candidate has indicated any policies that would be negative for gold.

It might be a good time to go back to economic basics, of paramount consideration within the political landscape. We continue to believe that the US debt will eventually strangle (completely) our economy, which has grown steadily but very slowly for a decade, not coincidentally since the debt burden accelerated. Zero interest rates, have helped our government to keep the annual deficit to “only” $600 billion in the latest 12 months, still growing faster than the lackluster economy, but has also penalized the saving public in the process. That is why so many “mature” individuals, normally of retirement age, continue to work. Many investors put their “heads in the ground”, assume their IRAs and 401ks will be OK over the long term, especially since they have done well since the ’08-’09 decline. The more conservative (I would say “realistic”) investor, understands that the stock and bond market performance has been (the Fed admits) largely supported by Central Bank easy money policies. The investor like myself, more aware of monetary history, has been less willing to “reach for yield” in an increasingly risky environment.  For every million dollars a family has in the bank, if they want to keep the funds “safe” in US Treasury securities (which will not “default”, just be inflated away), they earn: maybe $6000 annually with a 1 year maturity, less than $10,000 per year for 5 years, about $16,000 annually for 10 years, all of it taxable. Not too many families currently have many millions in liquid savings, so it is understandable that the savings rate is (out of desperation, perhaps) going up as interest rates come down, and workers don’t retire. The Central Bank P.H.D. model, which calls for better consumer spending with lower interest rates, and higher inflation at some point (to inflate away the government debt) is not working. This is true not only in the US, but in Europe, Japan, and China, the world’s largest economies. I say again, the model is not working. When you are in a hole, the remedy is not to “keep digging”.

As we listen to the economic portion of the debate by the two presidential candidates, and their plans, or non-plans, to adjust government spending and get the projected rise in the yearly deficit under control, keep in mind the following inconvenient facts. The U.S. government has spent about $4 trillion in the fiscal year just ended. Pensions (Social Security, etc.) amounted to $1,105B (26.9%), Health Care (Medicare,Medicaid,etc.) was $1,124B (27.4%), Defense was $817M (19.9%), Welfare (Families, Unemployment, Housing, etc.) was 9.8%, Interest on the Debt, even with very low interest rates,  was $318M (7.7%). There is not the political will, in either party, to materially reduce spending within the above categories, and this represents the bulk of the budget.  In our view, it won’t happen until after the next financial crisis, which we believe will be much larger than the last. Most asset classes will be much lower and gold related securities will be much higher at that point.

It should be clear to all that our convictions have not changed. We are always available for your questions/concerns.

Special Note : If you are interested in this subject matter, you can view, FOR FREE, the three youtube videos I produced, only 3 minutes each, with links on our Home Page. Even more illumination you will get from Harry Browne’s books, the most profound of which we provide for free with a paid subscription to this website.

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY REPORT – GOLD “CONSOLIDATES” AS INVESTORS FEAR RATE HIKE – “PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM”

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SEMI-MONTHLY MONETARY UPDATE – GOLD “CONSOLIDATES” AS INVESTORS FEAR INTEREST RATE HIKE – “PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM!” (Woody Allen reference to Ingrid Bergman in 1942 film, “Casablanca”)

The capital markets, and gold related securities are fluctuating again, just as they did several months ago, with a pending interest rate hike (25 bp, big deal!). It is not the order of magnitude of the increase that investors fear, but the symbolic “direction”, possibly leading to more interest rate hikes in the future. This traditionally means lower prices for most asset classes, as investors require higher dividend and interest yields to compete with higher interest rates on the lowest risk government backed securities.

We continue to feel that interest rates will not rise materially. The debt, around the world, is too large and higher interest rates on newly issued paper would choke respective national budgets. Also, as far as the US rates, the export portion of our economy cannot afford the higher dollar which would result from higher rates. Our economy is barely running at a positive rate, in spite of near zero rates and trillions of monetary stimulus. This is supported just this morning with weak retail sales numbers from August, and the recently reported turndown in auto sales, in spite of heavy discounting. A higher Fed Funds Rate would accomplish only one thing. It would give the Fed room to come back down when the economy weakens further, which would be impossible from today’s rates already near zero. Rates will go up one day, but it will not be at the Fed’s choosing. They will have lost total control at that point, and the long term de-leveraging process will be entering its inevitable crisis stage.

As far as Gold is concerned, investors should understand that most investors consider higher interest rates negative for Gold, since gold ownership brings no dividend or interest. Minimal interest rates therefore allow Gold to be competitive in this regard, and right now the $13 trillion of negative yielding worldwide sovereign debt, and trillions more at negligible rates, allows Gold to be relatively attractive. Gold ownership allows investors to get all their money back in the future, rather than be guaranteed to get less than invested with a negative yield. This reality however, doesn’t get fully considered, as investors automatically sell almost all asset classes when an interest rate rise is expected.

Also relative to Gold’s presumed risk if rates go up, this is an inaccurate “myth” in any case. Gold’s performance depends on lots of other monetary and fiscal factors, such as prevailed from June, 2004 to June of 2006 when Gold increased in price from $390 to $630, up 62%. It so happens that Alan Greenspan raised interest rates by 25 basis points seventeen times. It also happens that the US deficit was “consolidating” after coping with Y2K, the dotcom crash and 9/11, before rising sharply to finance two wars later in the decade. More recently, the last time we had an actual rate rise, 25 basis points in December, 2015, precious metal securities bottomed almost precisely with the rate rise, and had a strong five months immediately thereafter. In the second half of May’16, gold investors feared a rate rise and in this case, when it did not materialize, Gold went straight up in June. Equity markets, in general, reacted similarly, both in January, and June, in the first case after an actual increase in rates, and in June after it was a false alarm.

So, “Play It Again, Sam”. Earlier this week, the US operating deficit for August was announced, a cool $107 billion, on the way to about $600 billion for the fiscal year ending September ‘16, and expected to continue rising.  We don’t know whether rates will be increased in September or not, but the market is reacting as it did in December and May. We suspect (can never be sure, of course) that the price of Gold will act just fine in very late September and/or October, whether a rate increase in announced or not.

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MONTHLY MONETARY UPDATE – GOLD HAS BEST QTR. IN 30 YRS. – FED STANDS STILL, WHAT NOW?

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ABOUT GOLD, THE FED, THE CHINESE YUAN (ALL GROWN UP)

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INCLUDED IN YOUR ANNUAL SUBSCRIPTION:

  • Broad economic insight. As described in “Restaurants/Retail – Why Bother?” the restaurant and retail industries provide a leading indicator of far broader economic trends. You no longer have to be the last to know.
  • Two to three analytical pieces per week (“Roger’s Rap”) personally written by Roger Lipton describing corporate developments within his industry specialization, including their relevance to the broader economy.
  • Periodic “macro” discussions personally written by Roger Lipton, analyzing fiscal and monetary matters that will likely affect your investments and your business.
  • Opportunity to “Ask Rog” about your personal concerns, regarding individual companies or broader economic trends. Roger will use his best efforts to answer questions submitted, obviously limited by the number of requests . He may answer your question by email directly and/or include your question with his “Roger’s Rap” releases.
  • You are provided access to “Friends of Rog”, depending on your financial and operational needs. The outstanding individuals suggested here, have been personally “vetted” by Roger over decades. Roger receives no compensation based on whether or not use their services.
  • A free copy of the legendary best selling book, How you can Profit from the coming devaluation, as shown at right, written in 1970 by Harry Browne, which predicted the 2000% rise in the price of gold. This profound piece is more relevant today than ever, so Roger re-published it in 2012. This book will help you preserve the fortune you are in the process of accumulating.