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The inflation, represented by the rise in prices that the worldwide economy is experiencing, is not the result of supply chain bottlenecks or the war in Ukraine or too little drilling by the oil companies. It is the result of at least twenty years of money printing by Central Banks combined with too much government spending.  The rise in prices is the predictable and obvious result, of the less bothersome dilution of value of the unbacked (therefore unlimited in quantity) supply of colored paper that is used in the exchange of goods and services. When a substantial amount of currency (something like $20 trillion over ten years) is provided by worldwide central bank without a corresponding increase in the availability of goods and services, it doesn’t take a PHD in economics to understand that the price of those goods and services will increase. For the last ten years or so that was mostly represented by an increase in asset prices (stocks, bonds, homes, art, gold bullion, etc.), within the last year finally spreading to energy, food and other consumer goods.

Another important aspect of the unprecedented fiscal/monetary accommodation provided by governments and their central banks has been the suppression of interest rates to near zero levels for more than ten years. Interest rates control economic reward and risk, and when that “regulator” of economic activity is disabled, capital is mis-allocated as investors “reach for yield” in all kinds of risky ways. That is why hundreds of stocks were selling for thirty or forty times estimated SALES, companies were able to raise billions of dollars at virtually no cost and the cryptocurrency market (Bitcoin and Tether and Ethereum and almost twenty thousand others) could amount to over $3 trilllion (that’s a lot of money) at its peak. In short, a multi-faced asset bubble has been created, which has just recently begun to deflate.

Almost every observer agrees that the fiscal/monetary trends of the last twenty years cannot go on. The deficits and the debt and the related economic distortions are too large to be tolerated. At some point the books have to balance. Booms are followed by busts and the longer the party lasts the worse will be the hangover. An overriding corollary is that “you cannot have a sound economy with a sound currency”. If the public does not believe in the medium of exchange paid for their services, they will have less incentive to apply an effort in that direction. This generalization could be playing a part in the lack of work ethic exhibited by so many young people who have become disillusioned with today’s political class.  Because politicians, since time began, are almost always (George Washington being one exception) primarily driven by their own re-election, they do what they can to enrich their constituents. That process has inevitably included creation of as much “support” as possible. This is why there has never been an unbacked (fiat) currency that has survived. It is only a question of time until the politicians of the day dilute their currency into oblivion, and today’s crop of leaders are clearly no different. A US Dollar, as it existed in 1913 when the Federal Reserve was established to control inflation, is worth about $0.02 today, and the future does not bode well.

FWIW to our new readers, this is not a new subject for us. A multitude of previous articles can be accessed by the SEARCH function on our Home Page (“fiscal/monetary”)


The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, announced yesterday the largest interest rate increase, 75 basis points, since 1994, twenty eight years ago. The objective of this first step is to reduce the unacceptably high inflation rate, up about 8% year over year, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI). It should be noted that the CPI has been materially adjusted over the last several decades, each time to understate the actual change in consumer prices. We have reminded our readers repeatedly that the 8% number, calculated on the same basis as in the 1970s when it peaked at 13.5%, would be in the mid-teens.

An essential element of keeping inflation under control is to have positive “real” interest rates, defined as the nominal short term (two to five year) rate less the rate of inflation. The consumer believing that prices will rise faster than the low risk interest rate return on capital will be encouraged to spend today, in essence pulling consumption forward and driving the price of goods upward. Conversely, a rate of inflation below the interest rate will encourage savings, because the goods will be getting cheaper over time in real terms. This is why a balanced economy usually has interest rates a couple of points (200 basis points) above the inflation rate. When real interest rates are materially negative, as they have been for most of the last ten years, inflation is inevitably part of the equation, in this case showing up in asset prices, as we discussed earlier. Over the last year or so, as the (understated) CPI provided a rate in the 5-6% area, and interest rates were in the area of 1%, the negative 4-5% real rate was extremely inflationary and that has only gotten worse most recently as the CPI was reported at 8-9%.

Recall that the legendary Paul Volcker, hired by Jimmy Carter in 1979 and backed by Ronald Reagan after his November, 1980 election, moved the Federal Funds Rate to 18.5%, providing 5% real return against the 13.5% CPI inflation rate. It worked, but the US economy had to endure a serious recession from 1980-1983. Based on today’s reported CPI, Jerome Powell would have to move short term rates to at least 10%, a very long way from the just established 1.75% and the two year objective of 3.75%. One can only imagine how serious a recession would result compared to the 1980 experience. FWIW, the annual operating deficit for the US was about $100B in 1980, and the total debt was about $1 trillion, respectively versus $2 trillion (20x) and $30 trillon (30x) today. That is another order of magnitude of a problem, even in an economy that is 5x as large. In addition: social security, medicare,  medicaid and other entitlements were immaterial in 1980 versus today’s long term (and unfunded) obligations.

POWELL IS, putting it charitably, UNCONVINCING

Jerome Powell, at his press conference yesterday, suggested that the consumer, and the economy, are  strong enough to withstand higher interest rates, and there is at least a chance of a soft landing in the economy even as interest rates move up to the range of 3.75% over the next 18-24 months. He didn’t talk about consumer confidence being at an all time low, credit card debt at an all time high while household savings are back to pre-covid low levels. Higher mortgage rates (6.25% versus the low 3% level a year ago) are starting to affect housing values and auto sales are rolling over with higher finance charges.  Trillions of dollars of stock market wealth has evaporated (including $2 trillion in crypto-currencies alone), along with lower house prices so a negative wealth effect now comes into play. Retail sales are weakening while producer prices (a leading indicator) are still hitting new highs. The acceleration (the 2nd derivative) of labor cost may have peaked but are still rising (the 1st derivative) and lots of manufacturers have yet to pass cost increases on to their customers. The Atlanta Fed, usually optimistic, and prone to downward adjustments over time, just lowered their estimate of Q2 GDP growth to zero, from 0.9%, and 1.5% just a couple of weeks ago. A recession is defined as two consecutive negative GDP quarters, which looks increasingly likely and the first half of ’22 will be negative in any event.

Powell’s commentary included his belief that the 3.75% Fed Funds rate objective is essentially a “neutral” rate, based on a long term 2% inflation rate. Do we need to point out that the current inflation rate is a long way north of 2% and will remain so for years to come? There is no chance that 3.75% will put a serious dent in the current inflation rate. We accept the fact that the CPI could come down a bit, perhaps to the area of 5%, as demand destruction from higher interest rates combines with abatement of the supply chain situation and perhaps a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine, but short term rates would still have to be 7-9%, double the 3.75% current objective. To provide some context regarding the real rate of inflation, as opposed to the CPI version: year over year import prices in May were up 11.7%, and export prices were up 18.9%, without including shipping costs. Since US consumers have to buy goods that were made either here or there, the average of about 15% is much closer to the real rate of inflation than the CPI the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) “cooks up”.

Powell did provide a somewhat “dovish” possibility, saying that future rate increases could be reduced if a reduction of the inflation rate persists over a matter of months. That willingness to back off the current tightening plan increases the likelihood that the Fed will back off prematurely, most likely leaving in place only a 5% inflation rate. Five percent sounds a lot better than what we’ve got right now, but destroys 40% of your purchasing power over 10 years.


Capital markets have been resilient for over ten years because investors, both in stocks and bonds, were convinced that the Federal Reserve was providing a “put” which would, as European, Japanese and Chinese central banks have periodically done, “do what it takes” so keep stock and bond markets from going down.

Powell’s stated dedication to calming inflation, even tolerating a recession if that would set the stage for healthy long term growth, might have been expected to calm the stock and bond markets, both of which have been very weak lately. Most stock market pundits were in fact calling for the 75 bp rise which he delivered. Based on the apparent first step in a constructive direction, after his remarks yesterday afternoon both bond and stock markets rallied strongly. Unfortunately, the strength has evaporated today, with the Dow down 700 points on Thursday. Investors are apparently losing confidence in the logic, the timing, and/or the outcome of the Fed’s newest policy.


It’s often been said that the attractiveness of gold related assets is inversely correlated with the credibility of Central Banks. Gold, used to limit the central bankers’ ability to create unlimited amounts of currency, is essentially in conflict with the banker’s career path. Eight or nine years ago, sitting next to Paul Volcker, I asked him: “What do you think of gold?” His answer: “I’m a central banker so I don’t like gold!”

It seems to us that the credibility of Central Banks has steadily diminished over the last 109 years, from 1913 when the Federal Reserve was established,  to 1933 when FDR precluded US citizens from owning gold and 1934 when he changed the exchange rate from $20.67 to $35.00/oz. (devaluing the Dollar), to 1944 when the Breton Woods Conference established the US Dollar as the Reserve Currency (to be backed by gold), to 1971 when Richard Nixon eliminated the Dollar’s convertibility (at $35/oz.) into gold, to 1980 after gold had just peaked at $850/oz, to 2022 while gold bullion sits at $1830/oz.

In our view, gold bullion, should be more appropriately priced at somewhere between $7,000 and $10,000 per oz., and this is relative to the amount of paper currency that is circulating, as well as the amount of “equity”, assets minus debt, that important trading nations own. Gold has protected purchasing power for three thousand years, for 230 years since Alexander Hamilton’s Coin Exchange Act established gold and silver as the only legal tender in the US, since Y2K just before the dotcom bust and the two wars began, and for 13 years since the Obama administration accelerated government spending, While true that stocks and bonds and cryptocurrencies have outperformed gold as an asset class during the last decade, we believe there will shortly begin a dramatic catch-up phase. The amount of gold that sovereign nations own relative to their paper currency outstanding is at a comparable level to 1971, just before gold bullion went up over 20x in value.


The price of gold bullion should be a lot higher, currently four to five times where it is, and even higher over time. Even more compelling is the opportunity in gold mining stocks, with an upside that is a multiple  of  the move in gold bullion itself. Physical gold bullion is largely bought by the Chinese, Indian, Russian, and European public, as well as their Central Banks. The public in those countries understand how fickle paper currency can be, and the central banks can see how the US is abusing its role as a Reserve Currency by creating trillions of new Dollars. Worldwide Central Banks, with the notable exception of the US, have increased their collective holdings of gold bullion every year since 2009, absorbing about 12% of total worldwide production. Central Bankers may not “like” gold, as we pointed out above, but they collectively buy over 400 tons of it each year.

Gold mining stocks, because they are stocks, are largely purchased by North American stock investors, who have not had the personal experiences of Europeans, Chinese, Indians or Russians that demonstrated the utility of gold as a “safe haven”, a “store of value”, and a “medium of exchange”. Since North American Investors have been otherwise distracted in recent years, we anticipate that the current weakness in the stock and bond markets will bring them back to gold and gold mining stocks in particular. While gold bullion is essentially flat in ’22 and the gold mining stocks are flat to down about 5%, this asset class has in fact proved to be a relatively safe haven in a treacherous stock and bond market.

Gold mining stocks, based on their historical price relative to the price of bullion, should be something like two or three times higher than they currently trade. Gold bullion is down about 15% from the all time high, and the gold mining stocks are down over 50%. Moreover, they also represent VALUE by many measures, including a comparison to other commodity producers as shown below. Highly regarded Incrementum, whose charts we have used below, published a 390 page report in late May, making the case that commodity producers in general and precious metals in particular, are just entering a long term expansion of sales and profits.


We have already entered an extended period of Stagflation, which could, depending on fiscal/monetary developments, segway into a serious recession. Jerome Powell and his Federal Reserve have very little chance of maneuvering the US economy into a soft landing as inflation is tamed. Indeed, his approach seems to be overly optimistic, at best, disingenuous, misleading, or ignorant at worst. Viewed more charitably, he did not create this mess, and can’t be expected to control the outcome. Alan Greenspan started the process in 2001, spending the Dollar into oblivion as he tried to protect the economy from the effects of Y2k, the dotcom bust and the economic fallout from waging two wars. Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, and now Jerome Powell, have proceeded in turn to “play it as it lies” and “kick the can down the road”, just so….”it doesn’t hit the fan on my watch”.

The precious metals complex, and gold mining stocks in particular, should be an effective way of at least protecting one’s purchasing power in a challenging economy, while at best making 5-10x return on investment. A material (i.e.5-10% of one’s portfolio) invested in this asset class has proved to enhance long term capital returns through an investment cycle. Considering that gold mining stocks (1) have not kept pace with the general market over the last ten years nor (2) kept up with the price of bullion that has doubled over the last twelve years and (3) represent statistical value by many investment measures, they represent the opportunity for very substantial capital gains. The credibility that the Federal Reserve  is in the process of losing is supportive of far more demand for gold related assets as a means of protecting purchasing power and generating exceptional capital gains from current levels.

Roger Lipton

P.S. Roger Lipton is General Partner, Managing Partner, and the largest investor (Limited Partner) in RHL Associates, LP, an investing Limited Partnership that is 100% invested in gold mining equities.The minimum investment is $500,000, funds can be invested the first of any month, withdrawn (with no minimum holding period) at the end of any quarter (with 30 days prior written notice). The fee structure is “1 and 10” (1% annual fee and 10% of gains).  This notification should not be considered an offering, which can only be made by provision of a full Offering Circular.




September was a weak month in all the capital markets: stocks, bonds and gold related securities as well. Gold bullion was down about 3.2%, with the gold mining stocks down more because of their leverage relative to the gold price. In the wake of congressional testimony from Fed Chair, Jerome Powell, and Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen,  gold bullion went up almost 2% yesterday, the 30th, and the gold mining stocks followed. Perhaps it is beginning to dawn on investors how disingenuous the presentations were and how hopeless the fiscal/monetary situation is.

First, we have to comment on the absurdity of Powell and Yellen appearing together before Congress, presenting a united front. This is directly contrary to the guiding principle for the last 108 years, that the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury are designed to be independent of one another.

In any event, the talk all month was of the plans for the Federal Reserve to “taper”, that is to reduce the amount of securities they are purchasing (which has been running about $120B per month), allow interest rates to rise, in turn strengthening the US Dollar, which tends to weigh on the price of gold in the short run. For months now Powell has been describing the now obvious escalation in consumer prices (lately at 5%, well above the 2% Fed target) as “transitory” and “isolated”, and reiterating the Fed’s intention to reduce their monetary “accommodation” soon. The Fed would then purchase fewer Treasury securities, leading (some day) to a reduction of the Fed’s $8.5 trillion balance sheet, and allow worldwide interest rates to normalize from levels unseen in the 4,000 year recorded history of interest rates. Recall that after building the Fed balance sheet from $1T to $4.2T in ’08-’09, the taper at the time took it back 10%, to $3.7T before ramping it up to the current $8.5T. Can anyone say $20 trillion?

The problems with the plan, at the moment, are (1) The economy is not strong enough to withstand a material rise in interest rates, and a one point rise in interest rates would cost the US Government an extra $280B a year on its $28 trillion of debt. The burden would not be immediate because existing bonds would continue to exist but more than half of the $28 trillion matures within 5-6 years and it would not take long for the interest expense to build. In addition, the current annual $3T deficit would need to be financed as we go. (2) The Fed has been the “buyer of last resort” with their newly printed currency, its purchases approaching half of all Treasuries issued. China and Japan have been increasingly reluctant to maintain previous buying patterns, which is no wonder as they watch the Fed’s massive dilution of the US Dollar. (3) Jerome Powell was counting on inflation being “transitory” and “isolated”, allowing for the economy to recover without stagnating and allowing for a noticeable but not too burdensome rise in interest rates. You would think that the hundreds of PHDs at the Fed would have noticed that oil and gas prices have risen, menu prices are up, the minimum wage is a lot higher, supply chain challenges are commonplace and Dollar Tree Stores says more items will be priced over one dollar. Powell, just in the last few days, has suggested that inflation is running hotter and may not be as short lasting as he previously thought. He, at the same time, admitted that the economy “is not even close to satisfying requirements for a rate hike”. We can add that 25 or 50 basis points of higher rates is going to have virtually no effect, other than window dressing, on risk and reward within the economy. In 1979-80, Paul Volcker took the Fed Funds Rate to 18% to squeeze out inflation, which precipitated a recession that lasted until late 1982. We need not describe what effect a similar discipline would have on the worldwide economy today. The total US debt was $1 trillion in 1981 and the annual deficit was $100 billion. Though today’s economy is six times as big, today’s deficits and debt are 3-4x as big in constant dollars.

On the disingenuous front: Janet Yellen told us yesterday that the debt is not a problem because interest rates are so low. She did not elaborate that interest rates are so low because our Federal Reserve is buying half our debt with currency minted out of thin air. Yellen also informed our legislators that not increasing the debt limit (again) would be “catastrophic”, because we must, at all cost, pay off our existing creditors. A cynic might call this a “Ponzi scheme”, whereby new investors buy out the old investors.  Jerome Powell, after admitting that the current inflation is surprising, says the Fed is “prepared to use its tools” to control the situation, but he omitted details and the congressional legislators did not press the subject.

Our conclusions are not drawn out of thin air. Taper “talk” is just that. The Fed’s balance sheet has grown from $7.06 trillion on 9/30/20 to $8.49 trillion last week, growing at about $120B a month on virtually a straight line, and we don’t believe it flattens much any time soon. It is interesting that the $1.43 trillion increase is almost exactly half of the $2.7 trillion US deficit in the last eleven months. In short, the beat goes on, and the reasons referenced above indicate that there is no graceful way out of this situation.

Our best guess remains that a “stagflationary” period is ahead of us, perhaps begun already,  similar to the 1970s. On January 6, 1974 the NY Times said “There is One Surfeit: Shortages.” In August, 2021, they said “The World is Still Short of Everything. Get Used to It.” In 1973 the CPI was rising at 5.3% and the Fed Funds Rate was 6.75%. The Federal Reserve predicted that the jobless rate, then at 5%, would average 4.5-5.0% over the next few years, with consumer prices up 4.0-4.5%. Their objective at the time had been 2.5%, similar to today, ex “transitory” influences. By May, 1975, unemployment hit 9% and inflation averaged more than 10% in 1974-5. By 1979, the CPI hit 12% and the Fed Funds Rate reached 18%. In more recent times, Ben Bernanke, Fed Chairman in 2007, predicted that housing prices would remain elevated for the foreseeable future. So much for the Federal Reserve’s predictions and control over the situation. From 1971 to 1979 gold bullion went from $35/oz. to $850/oz.

We believe that the “taper talk”, valid or not, affected all capital markets in the last couple of months, increasing interest rates and improving the US Dollar’s relative value (which weighs on the price of gold), at the same time backing off both the stock and bond markets. On the last trading day of September, while the stock and bond markets meandered, gold and the gold miners were strong, so perhaps this was a case of “selling the rumor and buying the news” (after the Powell/Yellen testimony).

We continue to feel that gold bullion, and the gold miners leveraged to the price of bullion, should be an important asset class within any diversified portfolio.

Roger Lipton





The general market was basically flat in May but gold bullion and the gold miners had a good month. Gold bullion was up about 7.7%, gold mining stocks did approximately double that, and our Partnership’s portfolio mirrored that. The result is that gold bullion has now retraced its earlier loss, is now virtually flat for the year, while the gold mining stocks are now ahead for the year. There is every reason to believe that the last three months for gold related securities are a harbinger of even better performance to come.


It might not be a major factor, but bitcoin, which has likely attracted some potential gold buyers to the “digital gold, as bitcoin enthusiasts like to say, retreated from a high of $64,000 to a low around $30,000. We don’t view bitcoin as anything other than a symptom of the fiscal/monetary folly that has engulfed the civilized world the last ten years, but some speculators who might have “played” with gold or the gold miners have no doubt been seduced by bitcoin. We think, as we have repeatedly suggested, that gold is the real money, a durable and unique store of value and unit of exchange, as demonstrated over thousands of years. For what it’s worth, bitcoin is only one of 10,000 cryptocurrencies, and its dominance among them is being steadily diluted.


The absence of a steady return, in the form of interest or dividends, puts gold bullion ownership at a distinct disadvantage to bonds or stocks. These days, however, there is virtually no return in safe short term fixed income securities. One year US Treasures pay 0.14% and 5 years only gets you 0.79%. The dividend return on the S&P 500 index is only 1.38% and there is a natural risk within stock ownership. With inflation running about 4% in the last twelve months, stocks and bonds have a negative “real return” of about 3%, so gold bullion is not at such a disadvantage. It is worth noting that many of the high quality gold mining companies are now paying dividends of 2% or more, allowing the gold mining stocks to be even more competitive. This is why the performance of gold bullion and the gold mining stocks have correlated strongly with the level of “real interest rates”. The more negative the “real” return on stocks and bonds, the better gold related securities do.


You will be hearing more about the opportunity to earn interest on your holdings of bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies.

At first blush, how can this be? Who is paying this interest, especially since bitcoin cannot be possessed physically?

This is a brave new world. Bitcoin and many of the other (10,000) cryptocurrencies are traded on a variety of exchanges. Some of those exchanges are allowing traders to “short” cryptocurrencies, just as investors have been allowed to short stocks and bonds for ages. To allow this, the exchange has to offer a cryptocurrency “savings account” to owners, in turn allowing the short seller to “borrow” the asset from the exchange, which appropriates it (temporarily) from the true owner. That means the exchange has to “remove” it, somehow segregating it from the owner’s account, providing it to the short seller, allowing for “delivery” to whomever is buying it from the short seller.

Just as when scarce stocks are lent by third parties (such as Fidelity, Schwab, etc) the short seller pays a fee for the “borrow” (can range from a couple of percent to upwards of 50% annually) and 40-50% of that is rebated to the true owner, who allows their stock to be “taken” temporarily by Fidelity or Schwab, and lent out. This can generate a very attractive “return” to the true owner. However, the risk to the lending owner is that the speculative security, which is “hard to borrow” and that’s why the short seller pays the interest charge, may be as risky as the short sellers believe, and decline sharply in price, more than offsetting the interest rebate to the owner. Parenthetically, the true owner can call for a return at any time if they want to sell the stock for any  reason. That in turn, can create a “short squeeze”, when the short seller is forced to buy back the stock, to return it to Fidelity or Schwab, who returns it to the selling true owner.

All of this negates one of the original advantages of bitcoin and the other cryptos, which was to prevent access by  third party agencies.

It also puts the cryptocurrency owner at the mercy of the “exchange”, on which cryptocurrencies are traded and within which ownership is maintained. Coinbase Global, Inc. (COIN) is the largest “exchange”, which came public recently and trades with its own Market Capitalization of about $50 billion. It is a “regulated” (sufficiently?, who knows?) cryptocurrency company that provides customers with a platform for buying, selling, transferring, and storing digital assets. Many exchanges offer a variety of interest rates on many cryptocurrencies. The interest rates vary widely, depending on the exchange and the cryptocurrency, and can sometimes provide even double digit yields.

However…..to earn that return you subject yourself to “third party” exposure, adding the exchange risk to the price risk of the crypto. How much do you really know about the exchange (depository) you have chosen, and what recourse do you have in the event of default?


I asked a good friend of mine, who has a substantial ownership of bitcoin, if he is earning any interest on his holding. He responded that he buys and sells bitcoin through Coinbase. He does not want to allow even Coinbase to appropriate his holding, let alone one of the other exchanges that are willing to pay a high interest rate. As of today, June 2, 2021, Coinbase does not show any interest rate offered on bitcoin, but the BlockFi exchange is paying 5%, Nexo is paying 6%, and Celsius is paying 3.5%, to name just a few.

There is no free lunch. Be careful out there!

Roger Lipton



I cannot resist commenting on, and correcting the latest version of revisionist economic history.

Just yesterday Maria Bartiromo was interviewing Peter Navarro, President Donald Trump’s Director of Trade and Manufacturing and a frequent economic spokesperson. After predictably predicting a weak stock market, burdened by the poor policies of President Biden, his description of the last ten years went like this: “Under President Obama, coming out of the 08-09 crash, the GDP grew by a meager 2%, and the debt doubled. Under Donald Trump, we grew at 3% and the economy was roaring before the pandemic hit.”

Not quite:

Under President Obama, the GDP grew by an average of 1.6%, held down by a negative 2.5% in ’09, coming out of the crash. Excluding ’09, GDP grew at an average of 2.2% over seven years.

Trump’s four years went +2.3% in ’17, +3% in ’18, +2.2% in ’19 and -3.7% in pandemically driven 2020. Excluding the last year, out of Trump’s control, just as Obama’s first year, Trump’s economy grew at an average of 2.5%.

So: A reasonably fair comparison would be that Trump’s economy, buttressed by lower taxes, a trillion dollars of overseas corporate capital repatriated, less legislative burden, and a friendlier business climate, grew three tenths of one percent faster than Obama’s. If one wants to include the first year under Obama and the last under Trump, under control of neither, the average would be 0.95% under Trump and 1.6% under Obama.

As far as the debt is concerned, under Obama the debt went from $10.6 trillion at 1/20/09 to $19.9 trillion at 1/20/2017, an increase of $9.3 trillion over EIGHT YEARS. The debt under Trump increased to $27.8 trillion at 1/31/21, an increase of $7.9 trillion over FOUR YEARS.

Don’t believe anything you hear and very little of what you read!

With that off my chest, the fiscal/monetary chickens are coming home to roost. The factors that we have been discussing for years are becoming too obvious for the financial markets and policy makers to ignore.

The table just below shows the monthly deficit numbers. For the month ending April, the deficit was “only” $226B, down from the explosion of $738B in the first full month of the pandemic last year. Still, we are running 30% ahead of a year ago, which finished in a $3.1 trillion hole, and there is huge spending ahead of us this year. With the trillions that are being thrown around, it seems likely that the deficit for the current year will be over $4 trillion. Keep in mind that our Federal Reserve is buying the majority of the debt that we are issuing to fund this deficit, so we are literally “monetizing” the debt by paying for the deficit with freshly printed Dollars. It is in this context that we have suggested that there is no need to raise taxes on anyone, rich or poor. None of it will supply more than a few hundred billion dollars per year, and there is much less aggravation for everyone if one of Jerome Powell’s hundreds of PHDs pushes a computer button and produces the US version of a digital currency. Of course, inflation will be the cruelest tax, especially on the middle and lower class citizen, but they will likely never understand the cause.

Inflation in consumer goods, rather than the asset inflation we have seen in the last ten years, is finally rearing its beautiful (as far as the Federal Reserve is concerned) head. Post pandemic demand, along with looser purse strings as pandemic relief checks are distributed, is replacing the pandemic induced reduction of demand that has suppressed the economy over the last year. As we wrote last month, some very bright economists are agreeing with Jerome Powell that inflationary indications are “anchored” and “transitory”, but we believe transitory may last longer and not so well anchored as expected. The last twelve months of the CPI are now above 4%, and the CPI is widely considered to be understating the inflationary facts of life.

We consider that there has been an undeniable bubble in all kinds of assets, from Tesla to Bitcoin, to collectible homes worth a hundred million dollars to crypto-art and lots of individual stocks that trade for 50x sales instead of a more modest multiple of earnings or cash flow. Investors of all stripes are reaching desperately for a “return”, as evidenced by the historically low yield spread between high yield debt and US Treasury securities, as well as the asset classes referred to above. As we write this, a number of these upside distortions are in the process of being corrected. Tesla is down from over $900 to under $600. Bitcoin is $43k, down from $64k three weeks ago, the bloom is coming off the SPAC rose, and GameStop is down well over 50% from its ridiculous high. However, the process has just begun and will no doubt play out over a number of years.

Gold and gold mining stocks seem to have consolidated adequately since last August, when interest rates went modestly higher, and have just now established new bullish chart patterns. Negative “real interest rates”, subtracting the inflation rate from the yield on short term treasuries, has a strong correlation with the price of gold. The more negative the “real” interest rate, the more attractive is gold bullion, with no dividend or interest. Almost to the day, last August, when interest rates moved higher, reducing the degree of negativity, the gold price started drifting lower. Real treasury rates never turned positive, but the smaller degree of negativity reduced the urgency for ownership of gold. While interest rates have not gone back down to levels of nine months ago, inflation has picked up substantially, so short term treasuries yield several points less than the 4.2% trailing twelve month inflation rate and gold therefore protects purchasing power very well without paying interest or a dividend. The result is that gold bullion, as well as gold mining stocks have now broken out above their 200 day moving average price lines, so technicians will reprogram their algorithmically driven computers. While gold bullion is still down a percent or two for the year, gold mining stocks are positive for the year and have never been fundamentally cheaper.

It continues to be our conviction that gold mining stocks, in particular, are the single best place to protect one’s purchasing power over the long term, and our investment partnership is invested accordingly. Since there seems to be an increasing interest in this subject, in very quick summation:  I am personally the largest Limited Partner, by far, as well as the Managing General Partner of RHL Associates LP, as I have been for the 28 year life of the Partnership. The minimum investment is $500k and the fee structure is “1 and 10”. Funds can be added on the first of any month and withdrawn at the end of any quarter with 30 days written notice. We remain open to new investors, keep our investors apprised on a monthly basis as to our performance, and can be contacted through this site or by email at lfsi@aol.com.

Roger Lipton



The general market was firm all month, and finished up for the month in spite of substantial weakness the last two days of the month. Gold bullion and the miners were down modestly most of the month (the miners down about 3% until last Thursday) but then got hit as well. Gold bullion finished the month down a little over 6% and the miners more like 10%. There are always a lot of moving parts but it seems like the major force driving gold and the miners lower was the dramatic increase in interest rates, to be discussed just below.

As most of our readers know, while we continue to be actively engaged within the restaurant industry, the majority of our personal liquid assets are invested in gold mining shares. That takes place within our twenty seven year old Limited Partnership, in which we are both the General Partner and the largest investing Limited Partner. Our writing within this website therefore reflects our two most active financial interests, the restaurant industry and the fiscal/monetary scene.


It seems to us that by far the most significant recent influence on the price of gold and the gold mining stocks has been the steady rise in intermediate to longer term interest rates. The charts just below show how the price of gold started trending down, almost to the day back in early August, when rates started moving up. As shown in the charts below, while the 2 yr Treasury has moved hardly at all, interest rates from 5 yrs  to 30 yrs have moved steadily higher.

It is important to note that the ownership of gold (which itself pays no dividend or interest) competes in terms of current yield with short term rates (especially up to 5 yrs, 10 at the most), which have moved hardly at all. The two year still yields next to nothing. While the five year Treasury has moved from 20 bp to 60 bp is, this is only a nominal 0.4%, still almost nothing in terms of an annual return though it is a dramatic tripling of that rate. Even the ten year Treasury only yields about 1.5%, a lot less than the inflation rate, so the ownership of gold still has a “real return” over ten years.

There are two major potential drivers of higher interest rates. The first possibility is that the economy is getting a lot stronger and we don’t believe that is the case. The 4% increase in Q4 GDP was heavily influenced by the new stimulus checks, as well as pent up demand as the pandemic begins to wind down. The second possibility is the bond market’s anticipation of higher inflation, and we believe that is more likely the case. The most recent readings indicate a rate closer to 3% than 2% and the Fed is encouraging it. The Fed balance sheet continues to expand with their bond buying, $1.9 trillion of government spending is about to begin (with more to come), a new currency called Bitcoin has created a trillion dollars out of thin air and there are others such as Etherium. Commodity prices have moved sharply higher and a new $15 national minimum wage will contribute to higher retail prices. Lastly, as shown by the last chart below, the US Dollar has been weak, another harbinger of US inflation.

We should remind you at this point that higher interest rates would be very expensive for the US Treasury, since one extra point of interest on $28 trillion is $280 billion, blowing up the annual deficit even further. Though interest “earned” by Fed T’bill holdings is rebated back to the Treasury (after expenses), there are still many trillions of debt owned by individuals and foreign countries. Volker took interest rates higher from 1979 to 1982 to control inflation but the total US Debt was about $1 trillion then versus $28 trillion today, and the annual defict was about $100 billion versus $3- 4 trillion today. Unfunded entitlements was also a non-factor forty years ago while it is a hanging “sword of Damocles” today. Today’s economy is 7.5x the size of that in 1980, but the debt and the deficits are almost thirty times the size, excluding unfunded entitlements.

We’ve had higher interest rates (both short and longer term) reflecting higher expected inflation along with a sluggish economy before. In the 1970s gold went from $35/oz to $850/oz while stagflation took the Fed funds rate to 18%. Therefore, for all but the shortest term stock traders, negative real returns on short term US Treasuries (up to at least 10 yrs) remain a fact of life and gold related securities retain their allure. Our thesis remains very much intact.


Following the money in and out of Washington, DC: At this point, with foreign purchasers of US debt issuance backing off, our Fed Reserve is purchasing over 60% of newly issued US Treasury securities with new money printed out of thin air. The US Treasury sells the bonds to the Fed, pays interest (at low rates) and the Fed rebates their annual “profit”, derived from interest “earned”, after expenses, to the Treasury. The net effect is virtually a zero-interest cost on unlimited new capital and the Treasury doesn’t even have to issue colored paper. We listened last Wednesday to a congressman congratulating Fed chairman, Jerome Powell, on the Fed’s rebate of $88.8 billion for the year ending 9/30/20, which reflected the Fed’s “profit” after deducting $4.5 billion of operating expenses. This is noteworthy because (1) the $88.8 billion was generated from interest earned on the now $7.5 trillion balance sheet (created out of thin air), consisting largely of US treasury securities and (2) The annual US operating deficit is reduced by this $88 billion. (3) It costs US taxpayers four and a half billion dollars to manage this scheme. And there is no graceful way out of this mess.


As we wrote on this website two weeks ago, suppressed interest rates are a form of price fixing, and price fixing inevitably leads to the misallocation of resources. After the “revolution”, which will likely be financial, political and social, the sun will still rise in the east and set in the west. Life will go on, but the assets will have been reallocated among owners.

We have been fundamental value investors for over four decades and it has served us well over time. There have been successful investors that invest based on chart patterns rather than the corporate fundamentals, and that can work well for short term nimble traders. We believe, however, that, while charts can sometimes alert investors early to changing fundamentals, the charts reflect the fundamentals, not the reverse. We try to follow the advice of legendary investors like John Templeton, who suggested that you should buy “when there is blood in the street” and sell into broad euphoria.


We cannot predict when the general stock market enthusiasm for SPACs and Bitcoin and technology companies selling for 50x SALES will run its course. With that backdrop, the gold miners trade at an Enterprise Value versus EBITDA (operating cash flow) of under 8x versus the S&P 500 index of double that and the spread is the widest in at least 10 years. Gold is the “real money” and the gold miners are storing it for us within their underground vaults (called gold mines). They will bring that currency north to exchange it for the colored paper of the day over time, and that will be reflected in the dividends paid and the price the shares trade for. There are lots of ways to protect oneself from the financial turmoil we foresee. In that context, mining stocks are the most undervalued asset class we know of and should therefore be a meaningful portion of an investor’s liquid assets.

Roger Lipton



The capital markets in January were dominated by the action in Gamestop and other heavily shorted stocks, so the Russel 2000 and Nasdaq indexes were up. The larger indexes, the Dow and S&P were down. Gold bullion was down about 3.2%.  Gold mining stocks, to be expected, were down about double that. However, the year has just begun, the dollar printing presses are preparing to print trillions of stimulus dollars, and the broad background, as discussed below, is moving in favor of the “real money” (i.e. gold, and it’s “little brother”, silver) on almost a daily basis. Additionally, the populist revolution of Robinhood traders, the last few days spilling over to silver, demonstrates how quickly and dramatically mass psychology can turn. It will take more than a group of young traders to move the gold and silver markets sharply higher but the institutions and computer driven trading programs are odd lotters at heart, chasing momentum rather than fundamentals. Gold related securities have had positive fundamentals for a long time now, so it’s just a question of time until the psychology turns. We discuss just below the analogies between Gamestock and the precious metals  before providing an update on the broader fiscal and monetary developments.


Recent short term trading developments seem far removed from precious metals but there are similarities that could come into play.

First, the buyers of Gamestop, from the trading platforms such as Robinhood, were out to punish the fat cat hedge funds that, as they see it, have gotten rich by shorting low priced stocks into oblivion. The new buying from the “little guys” forced the hedge funds that were short to limit losses by covering at increasingly high prices. A critical technical aspect of this situation is that the total short positions had been allowed (by hedge fund custodians such as Goldman Sachs) to be well over 100% of the shares outstanding, called “naked” shorting, and there was no way, until Robinhood suspended trading, that all the shares that had been shorted could be bought back. It should be noted that, while many commentators expressed concern about the price volatility, almost everyone is sympathetic with the little guy, nobody feeling sorry for the hedge funds that took huge losses. At least a couple of multi-billion dollar hedge funds closed their doors in the wake of the unprecedented upsurge.

Here is the application to the gold and silver markets.

First, the prices of gold related securities are thought by many (including ourselves) to be suppressed similarily as Gamestop. In the case of gold, the suppression is by worldwide politicians and their affiliated bankers, who don’t want a rising gold price to bring attention to the huge dilution of the unbacked paper currencies. Gold related securities, especially the gold mining stocks, for no apparent fundamental reason, have therefore participated very little in the asset inflation of the last seven or eight years. The fact is that several large market makers in gold and silver related securities, including futures and options, have paid fines amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars for manipulation of precious metal markets. There has, therefore, been a distortion in the “price discovery” of precious metals, just as we have described for years.

The other important similarity between Gamestop and Gold is the use by the Gamestop short sellers of “naked shorts” as described above. This “paper” that was over 100% of the total “underlying” created a potential demand, once the stock started going up, that was impossible to satisfy except at much higher prices. The term you will hear is “short squeeze”. The number discussed, relative to Gamestop, is that the total short positions amounted to 140% of the shares outstanding, a ratio of 1.4 to 1. NOW GET THIS !  In the gold market, the “paper”, that is composed of derivatives such as options, futures, ETFs, etc., that reside on top of the physical trading of the “underlying” gold is thought to be something like 100 to 1, that’s ONE HUNDRED TO ONE. We don’t mean to suggest that all of that “exposure” is on the short side, but a great number of positions are built on borrowed money, and no doubt a substantial amount is “short”. In addition, buyers (like the “little guys” at Robinhood) in the gold or silver futures market could require “delivery”, rather than a cash settlement, and the short seller would obviously have a bigger problem than just buying back the paper short and taking the loss. They would have to find a seller of physical metal.  It has been reported by dealers of physical gold and silver that there has been a huge increase in demand by retail buyers who expect delivery, not settlement in cash.  This spills over into the derivatives market as physical dealers buy options and futures contract to protect their profit between the time they give a customer their “report” and when the dealer receives, then delivers against payment the physical product.  A final simplistic point is that it takes ten years to bring on stream a newly discovered gold mine. In the stock market, Gamestop could issue more shares at some point and satisfy some of the demand. As it applies to gold, nobody can “issue” new gold bullion overnight. In fact, there are no new large gold mines scheduled to come on stream for years. If potential physical demand is to be satisfied, it has to come from an existing physical holder, and they will likely require a very much higher price.

As always, the timing of a large move in gold related securities continues to be uncertain, but some of the critical catalysts are similar in nature to those that drove Gamestop so dramatically higher. Everyone agrees that there are no possible fundamentals that could justify the recent price of Gamestop, even at $90, up from $20, let alone at a high of $500.  In the case of Gold, we are not suggesting that it should be trading  20-30 times higher, but somewhere between $6,000 and $10,000 an ounce  can be rationally jusified. That could take gold mining stocks up by least 10x and would be adequately satisfying.

With that review of the most current events in the capital markets, below is a continuation of our longer term broad fundamental perspective.


It’s becoming a common refrain: “don’t fight the Fed”, originally coined by the late and great market strategist, Martin Zweig back in the 1980s.

Jerome Powell, Fed Chairman, has made it clear that he will do “whatever it takes” to get back to relatively full employment and balanced economic growth, “balanced” referring to a narrowing of the wealth gap. He has reiterated that he is “not even thinking about thinking about raising interest rates”, signaling that the Fed will continue to expand its balance sheet, keeping interest rates very low, bond markets and the stock markets still supported by the “Fed put”. The Fed’s largesse has no doubt been an important contributing cause of the weakness in the US Dollar, which supports exporting US industries.

A historical footnote: This disillusionment with the US Dollar is similar to 1969 and 1970 when the Europeans, led by France’s Charles DeGaulle, exchanged their predictably diluted Dollars for the US Gold. In the course of just a couple of years, the US Gold holdings were reduced from over 20,000 tons to the 8,400 tons that we still own today.  Richard Nixon famously “closed the gold window” in August, 1971, inflation took off, taking Fed Fund Rates to 18%, and the price of gold went from $35. to $850/oz. by January, 1980. An important corollary is that the amount of gold that  the US, as well as collective worldwide central banks, own, relative to the paper currency outstanding, is today at roughly the same (7-8%) level it was in 1971.

Back to the current situation:

Enter Powell’s predecessor, Janet Yellen, likely to be confirmed by the Senate as new Treasury Secretary. While the Fed and the administration’s Treasury Secretary are theoretically independent of one another, it has long been the case that the Fed is responsive to political concerns. Interest rates have firmed up a bit in the last two weeks, and the dollar has also bounced off its lows since early January.  Some headlines have said that “Yellen does not seek a weaker dollar for competitive purposes”, implying that she will favor a stronger dollar, likely accompanied by higher interest rates. Not exactly. She also said she is in a favor of a “market driven dollar”. All of her remarks indicate that she is agnostic as to where the Dollar trades.

Now let’s see what is going on in the economy and how Fed/Treasury policy will play out.


Retail Sales Are Weak – December sales came in weaker than expected, down 0.7% YTY and November was revised to down 1.4% vs. originally estimated negative 1.1%. Further breakdowns of the overall numbers look even worse. Restaurant sales were down 4.5%, electronics -4.9%, appliances and furniture -0.6%, online sales -5.8% after -1.7% in November.  In essence, aside from restaurant sales, “stuff” in demand due to the Covid seems to have run its course. While we don’t doubt that a certain amount of demand will be released when the Covid-related cabin fever breaks, a case can be made that a traumatized consumer, who have saved or paid down credit balances with stimulus checks may well spend less and save more than was the case before the pandemic. From March through November, 2020, American households saved $1.6 trillion more than a year earlier, while credit balances collapsed at a record 14% annual rate.


Jobless claims in December were 965k, versus an estimate of $790k, in spite of Christmas retail hiring, much higher than November which was revised lower by 3k to $784k.


US real GDP is improving relative to the disastrous 2nd and 3rd quarters, but still down very sharply from a year ago. While it is well accepted that 2020 will be a lost year, economists and commentators are quoting “growth of something like 6% in 2021. Goldman Sachs just raised their forecast from 6.4% to 6.6%, fueled by $1.9 trillion (or something close) stimulus’ effect on disposable incomes and government spending. The reality is, however, that the US economy has been growing at a tepid low to mid 2%+ range for twelve years now. It grew at an average of about 2.3% for eight years under President Obama. In the four years of the Trump administration, with the tailwind of lower taxes, major government deficit spending, less governmental regulation, a trillion dollars of repatriated overseas capital and interest rates very close to zero, GDP grew at an average of about 2.5%. This can fairly be called “the law of diminishing returns”, a lower “marginal return on invested capital” or, less charitably a “misallocation of capital”.

At the same time that economic signals are weakening, inflationary signals are more apparent.

The deficit so far this fiscal year, the three months through December, show a deficit 58% higher than a year ago. Unfortunately the new fiscal stimulus package, proposed at $1.9 trillion, will inflate the government spending again this year. Though the amount is negotiable, President Biden has stated that it is only a “downpayment” on future plans. It seems reasonable to expect this fiscal year’s deficit to at least approach the $3.1 trillion of last year, perhaps even exceed it.

We point out again that the debt increases almost every year at much more than the annual deficit would suggest. This is due to “off budget” spending, and those dollars are in large part borrowed from the social security fund.  The deficit shown above in ’19 was $984 billion but the debt went up by $219 billion more, $1.2  trillion higher in total. The deficit in the Y/E 9/30/20 was $3.1 trillion but the increase in debt was $4.2 trillion. People….these are not  trivial differences, and this huge accelerating debt load will further drag on our economy.

INFLATIONARY SIGNALS ARE APPEARING, though it still may be a way off

First, the parabolic increase in the M2 money supply has to be some cause for concern.

Secondly, reported import and export prices for December are cause for inflationary concern, and this could be one contributing factor to the rise in interest rates and the US Dollar. December import prices were up 0.9% instead of the expected 0.6%. November was revised slightly upward, from 0.1% to 0.2%. Export prices were also up much more than the expected 0.6% in December to 0.9%. November was also revised upward by 0.1% to 0.2%.

Lastly, the seemingly inevitable move to a nationwide $15 minimum wage could also contribute. While it is true that perhaps only 3 or 4 percent of the workforce earn the $7.25 minimum wage, with the lowest paid sector (leisure/hospitality) earning $17/hr, a higher minimum could well provide upward pressure. That $17/hr worker might not be happy earning just over the acknowledged subsistence level, and expect a bit more.  Its also true that employers will attempt to hold the pricing line by absorbing labor increases by way curbing expenses elsewhere, but a great deal of that may already be in place. In any event, we haven’t seen any arguments that a higher national minimum wage will be deflationary.

In spite of the factors provided above, the month to month CPI report doesn’t show much yet, up 0.4% in December but up just 1.4% for the twelve months ending December. The so called core-CPI, less food and energy, was up just 0.1% in December, up 1.6% for twelve months. The Fed, of course, has clearly stated a policy to allow inflation to run higher than 2% annually for a while because it has been under 2% for so long. Keep in mind that, while prices of goods and services (except for major expenses like education and health care) have been stable, asset price inflation has been huge. There is a reason why very rich people are paying over $100M for a residence or a rare painting. They want to own anything but cash. They don’t know what that Van Gogh or oceanfront property will sell for, but they know their cash will lose a lot of purchasing power. As always, inflation is the cruelest tax, affecting the rich the least. They have their land, homes, art, stock and stock options, gold, etc. It’s the lower and middle class that gets hurt, left to wonder why they are making more in nominal terms but have to work harder to make ends meet.

Inflation is in our future, guaranteed, with governments around the world printing currency at an unprecedented rate, with a stated goal of creating of something over 2% for a long time. Short term, however, there is a lot of under-utilized manufacturing capacity, consumer spending is still restrained, and rents (“rent equivalent” is over 25% of the CPI index) are stagnant as city dwellers move out. Education and Healthcare, two of the largest family expenditures, are not in the CPI that is most often quoted by officials. The CPI, also, does not reflect the inflation in asset prices, including speculations such as Bitcoin and Gamestop. For these reasons, the reported CPI may not take off for a while but inflation in the real world is inescapable.


The Federal Reserve and the supposedly independent US Treasury, as a result of at least forty years of fiscal/monetary promiscuity have incompatible masters to serve.

On one hand they are supposed to keep inflation at a tolerable level, these days no higher than a “symmetrical” 2%, At some point that will call for higher interest rates, and normalization to 150-200 bp above the rate of inflation, a range of 3.5-4.0%, providing a “real” return to savers. Unfortunately that would add an unacceptable $800-900 billion of annual interest to government expenses, blowing the deficit even higher, exacerbated further yet because tax receipts would contract as businesses cope with higher interest rates. So….interest rates might edge up, but not by much.

On the other hand the Fed’s second mandate is to foster full employment. This requires relatively low interest rates and continued government fiscal stimulus, which along with a weaker dollar will support US business activities. These policies problematically foster the inflation that they don’t want to get out of control.

The objectives are inconsistent.


When in doubt, the policymakers will pursue the inflation every time. The public, especially the lower and middle class, doesn’t quite understand why they have to work harder and longer to make ends meet.  It is very apparent, on the other hand, when interest rates and/or taxes are going up and unemployment is rising. Far better for the incumbent politicians to stimulate the economy by way of government spending, low interest rates, and a lower dollar. Somebody else can deal with the inflation later on. Paul Volker came along in 1979 and Ronald Reagan stuck with him, enduring the higher interest rates of the early 1980s to squeeze out inflation, but there is no Paul Volker or Ronald Reagan these days and the problems (the deficits, the debt, the tepid economy, the already very low interest rates) are an order of magnitude larger.

The recent runup in speculative securities such as Gamestop could be a forerunner of a similar explosion in gold and gold mining stocks. As discussed above, the disdain for “the fat cats” is driving a populist revolt (with sympathy from both sides of the political aisle) that has driven heavily shorted stocks up by ten times and more in a matter of weeks. The stage could well be set, for a lot of the same reasons as discussed above for precious metal related assets. The Gamestop crowd, at the end of their recent run, broadened their focus to silver and silver miners, and gold rose in sympathy a couple of days ago. As attention is drawn to fiat currency alternatives, the price action of gold, silver, and the miners could start to reflect the compelling fundamentals.

Roger Lipton



There is lots of additional news, all of which only serves to intensify the financial distortions that we have been describing for years. With the US election just days away, there seems to be nobody that expects government (fiscal) or federal reserve bank (monetary) support to be reduced after the election. It is virtually certain to be quite the contrary. Below we will hit a few “high” or perhaps “low” points, while quoting several more well known authorities than ourselves.

We have described many times how debt issuance brings forward demand, at the expense of future consumption. We have also pointed out, as Reinhart and Rogoff described over ten years ago in “This Time is Different” (chronicling 800 years of business history) that once government debt reaches approximately 100% of GDP it is a noticeable drag on productive growth.

Lacy Hunt and Van Hoisington of Hoisington Research said recently: “Countries in a debt trap (our italics) like the US, Japan, the UK and the Euro Area have experienced a fall in short term interest rates to the zero bound, in some cases into negative rates, thus eliminating monetary policy to play a role in supporting the economy.” In other words, once at zero, below zero can’t help much.

Hunt and Hoisington described the increasing burden of the debt buildup this way: “As proof of the connection (between debt and GDP slowdown), each additional dollar of debt in 1980 generated a rise in GDP of 60 cents, up from 54 cents in 1940. The 1980s was the last decade for the productivity of debt to rise. Since then this ratio has dropped sharply, from 42 cents in 1989 to 27 cents in 2019.”

Hunt and Hoisington also said “Debt financed fiscal policy can provide a short term lift to the economy that lasts one to two quarters. This was the case with….2009, 2018 and 2019. However, the benefit of these actions…even when the amount of funds borrowed and spent were substantial, proved to be very fleeting and the deleterious effects remain. The multi-trillion dollars borrowed for pandemic relief in Q2 encouraged the beginnings of a “V” shaped recovery, but this additional debt will serve as a persistent restraint on growth going forward. When government debt as a percent of GDP rises above 65% economic growth is severely impacted and becomes very acute (our italics) at 90%.”

Keeping the above in mind, we present the following chart, provided to us within our subscription to Grant Williams’ “Things that make you go hmmm”. Shown are examples of what was going on, describing profound societal adjustments that have accompanied the debt levels of today. Fifty one out of fifty two times in the past, when debt gets to 130% of GDP, the country eventually defaulted  on its financial obligations, one way or another, which is exactly where the USA is right now.

As the final footnote to this discussion, to demonstrate how dramatic the government intervention has recently been: the legendary investor, Howard Marks, pointed out recently that: “in the four months from mid-March to mid-July of this year, the Fed bought bonds and notes and other securities to the tune of more than $2.3 trillion. That was roughly 20 times what it bought in 18 months during the Global Financial Crisis (of ’08-’09).”  We have it it this way: the “drug addict needs an increasingly powerful ‘hit’ to maintain the ‘high’”.

Take all of this under consideration as you position yourself financially.

Roger Lipton








The big news, after the market close last Friday evening was that Berkshire Hathaway Inc., in the quarter ended 6/30, added $565M of Barrick Gold Corp. (GOLD) to Berkshire’s portfolio. This is a very positive development, not only as a reversal of Buffet’s long held disdain for the “barbaric metal”, but as an endorsement for the ownership of gold mining equities. Buffet has been quoted many times as saying that gold “just sits there”, no dividend, no interest, no growth. With interest rates virtually at zero, gold’s lack of dividend or interest is no longer a drawback. The lack of growth can now be overcome by ownership of a well run mining company that is increasing production and will benefit, in a leveraged way, from an increasing price of their end product. This rationale leads to ownership of Barrick Gold (GOLD) and lots of other possibilities, all of which we continue to own.

EXPECT A DEBATE (got to fill the 24 hour news cycle)

On one hand: $565 Million is a rounding error for Berkshire’s $150B portfolio, far from a major purchase. Barrick is just a gold miner (not gold itself) and the purchase decision was possibly made by one of today’s day to day active portfolio managers at Berkshire, not Buffet himself.

On the other hand: $565M was likely not the end of the buying. It is six or seven weeks since the end of June, the portfolio managers know that Berkshire’s purchase will trigger a great deal of interest not only in GOLD but in the entire gold mining asset class. It is therefore highly likely that more Barrick, and perhaps other mining companies have been bought by now. It is possible also, that Berkshire’s further (perhaps even more substantial) buying contributed to the strong performance since June 30th of the gold mining stocks.  Furthermore, while Buffet himself might not have initiated the move toward gold mining, he was no doubt well aware of the decision and is prepared to defend it.

Parenthetically, it is worth noting that: While Berkshire has purchased a gold mining stock for the first time, sold were billions of dollars worth of JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo and Goldman Sachs. Seems like a parallel path to the “money management” activities of worldwide Central Banks, who have continued to buy gold bullion while they reduce (as a percentage of reserves) their holdings of US Treasuries.


We believe Berkshire’s purchase could provide a psychological inflection point. Though gold and the gold miners have performed well for the last eighteen months, and over the long term,  a money manager puts his professional life at risk (and possibly his marriage as well) by owning a controversial gold related security. An institutional money manager can buy any amount of Microsoft or Apple or even Tesla, and his stakeholders won’t be critical if it doesn’t work, especially since so many competing money managers will be suffering the same fate. On the other hand, everybody has an opinion about gold, well informed or not, so a mistake in this area could be fatal.

In essence, Buffet now provides “cover”.




The “cover” that Berkshire’s purchase provides has the potential of unleashing the upside in the gold related asset class, so let’s look at the upside.

The chart just below shows gold bullion as a percent of US Financial Assets. The chart goes only to 2014, and while it is true that gold has come back to over $1900/oz., up about 60%, the other asset classes are up about the same amount, so the relationship shown still exists. With gold bullion about 4% of assets versus a previous high around 16% there is obviously a great deal of catching up to do.

Compound the above chart with that just below which shows how the gold mining stocks have very substantially lagged the price of gold.  As you can see, the miners strongly correlated with bullion until late 2012. It would now take a triple to catch up.


All the reasons that gold bullion has maintained its purchasing power for 3,000 years, for 200 years, for 50 years, for 20 years, all but between 2012 and now, are very much in place. John Maynard Keynes is quoted as saying: “When the facts change, I change my views. What do you do, sir?” The facts are not only the same as eight years ago, but substantially magnified. Warren Buffet, and his portfolio managers, do not make a lot of long term mistakes, and we join them in the view that we are much closer to the beginning of a new bull market in gold related assets than the end.

Roger Lipton



The capital markets continued to be supported by the Federal Reserve Bank’s continued accommodation, in its effort to counter the pandemic related slowdown. The Fed’s policy, to do “whatever it takes”, not even “thinking about thinking about” higher interest rates or tighter money, supported most asset classes, including gold bullion (up 10.8% in July, and up 29.8% YTD) and the gold mining stocks (which did even better). Our Investment Partnership’s portfolio, virtually 100% invested in gold mining stocks, has performed in a similar fashion. While we are pleased with the progress, we expect gold miners to continue to outperform bullion on the upside and feel it is only the top of the second inning for the major move to come. While gold bullion is now at an all-time high, the gold miners are still down more than 50% from their highs. We expect bullion to at least triple from here over the next 3-5 years and the gold miners to increase by a multiple of that. All the financial factors that the pandemic has brought into focus and magnified are still in play.

Prominent investment strategists at Goldman Sachs and other investment firms, as well as legendary investors such as Ray Dalio are now recommending gold and gold mining stocks as productive portions of a diversified portfolio. Virtually every point they make we have been discussing every month for seven or eight years. Goldman says gold is the “currency of last resort and there is more downside to come with interest rates”. Dalio points out that “China is an adversary, the dollar’s reserve status is at risk, there is no true ‘price discovery’ as the Fed is buying everything in sight, the deficits and cumulative debt are a huge burden on future economic growth, central bank balance sheets are exploding as they purchase stocks and bonds and gold bullion as well, all of which support an important allocation to gold”. Does any of this sound familiar?

In addition to the debt burden, another factor that slows the growth path is the aging population. The increasing portion of the US population represented by older people, similar to trends in Japan, China, and Europe, is shown in the following charts.

Lastly, an important feature of government spending in the US is the increasing burden of entitlements, social security in particular. Entitlements and defense make up about 75% of government spending, and that’s a major reason why the total budget is mostly (‘baked in the cake”. With everything else going on in the world, it is often forgotten that the social security system was put in place in the 1930s when the average life span of an American male was about 65, which today is about 80. There were also A LOT MORE workers contributing than recipients. The chart just below shows the steady contraction of that ratio, from 3.7 down to the low 2s.

The above chart is impressive….but the following chart shows numbers closer to the 1930s when FDR put the program in place, with 159 workers/recipient in 1940, decreasing to “only” 42 workers by 1945.

Combine the above charts dealing with Social Security with the reality of an aging population. Add to that what might be considered “anecdotal” in terms of our impression of the work ethic of the younger working age population. If “America’s Greatest Generation” of workers is being replaced by today’s youth, perhaps less convinced of the morality of capitalism, it is difficult to picture government spending coming down or GDP and productivity accelerating.

All of this is to say that central banks, around the world, will have no alternative to aggressive monetary accommodation. Governments, similarly, will do likewise with fiscal  measures. We can watch this play out currently on almost a daily basis, and this is at a scale unprecedented in modern business history. Gold bullion, based on many parameters which we have described previously, is as cheap now as it was in 1971, before it went from $35 to $850. At $850 it was likely “ahead of itself” but $300-400 would have been a rational range at that point. Accordingly, 8-10 times the current level, which discounted by 50% would be $8-10,000 per oz., can be justified today. The gold mining companies, leveraged to the price of gold, could (and should) go up by somewhere between two and four times that gain. This is the basis by which we suggest  that the gold mining stocks could increase by 10-20x their current levels.

With gold hitting all-time highs, and the gold miners at seven or eight year highs, you will no doubt hear a number of financial commentators suggest that “the easy money has been made”. Some will suggest taking profits, with an objective of getting back in at a lower level. We suggest that if you owned a stock that had gone from $11 to $20, but you think it will be $80 or $90 or $100 in a few years, would you sell it at $20 to try to buy it back at $19 or $18? Probably not :).

Over the very long term, gold should be considered a “store of value” rather than an “investment”. There is, after all, no dividend or organic growth.  At the present time, however, the investment characteristics of this asset class, substantially lagging the increased nominal prices of almost all others, are too compelling to ignore. That is why our investment partnership is 100% invested by way of the above approach.

Roger Lipton



The capital markets were quiet in June compared  to April and May, but still productive for owners of gold related securities.  The general market was up slightly in June, but all indexes except Nasdaq are still down for the year. Gold bullion was up 2.7% (now up 17% for the year. The gold mining stocks, with their cash flow and earnings leveraged to the price of gold, are still cheap statistically and are moving at a dramatic rate. Most impressively, in the last three month, from the low point, gold bullion is up 13% and the gold mining stock indexes are up well over 50%.   As our discussion below shows, the trends are more than adequately clear, all supportive of much higher prices for gold bullion and especially for the gold mining stocks .Moreover, there is no graceful way out of this fiscal/monetary mess.

Pictures can efficiently provide a summary of what has been going on from a fiscal/monetary standpoint over many years, leading us to a considered opinion of what the financial world will look like in the future.

The chart just below shows the current 30 year yields in various countries around the world. It is an axiom that the bond market supposedly prices in some sort of a “real” yield on top of allowing for inflation.  With the US 30 year yielding close to an all time record low of 1.44%, hardly anybody expects inflation to be zero over the next 30 years, which would provide a 1.44% “real yield”. It is a better assumption that the pricing represents expectations of a weak economy as well as the US Fed’s intention to increasingly support the long end of the yield curve.  The 30 year is “bid” to represent a safe haven as well as a short term trade, rather than a 30 year investment.

We can also assume that interest rates will stay very low, if the US Fed has anything to say about it (and so far they have), because it is only the ultra low rates that allow the US to carry the sharply increasing debt load.  The charts below show the ongoing annual budget deficits as well as the increase in the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, whereby the Fed has been financing an increasing amount of the US operating deficit. Lest you think that this will all change once the economy gets going, and the operating surplus will reduce the cumulative debtt: Since 1981 there have been a grand total of four surplus years, the last three under Bill Clinton and the first under GW Bush, before the two wars started. The total surplus in those four years was about $760B, so you can judge for yourself how much of a dent  a stronger economy will make in the current $26 trillion growing debt federal debt burden.

We can also assume that interest rates will stay very low, if the US Fed has anything to say about it (and so far they have), because it is only the ultra low rates that allow the US to carry the sharply increasing debt load.  The charts below show the ongoing annual budget deficits as well as the increase in the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, whereby the Fed has been financing an increasing amount of the US operating deficit. Lest you think that this will all change once the economy gets going, and the operating surplus will reduce the cumulative debtt: Since 1981 there have been a grand total of four surplus years, the last three under Bill Clinton and the first under GW Bush, before the two wars started. The total surplus in those four years was about $760B, so you can judge for yourself how much of a dent  a stronger economy will make in the current $26 trillion growing debt federal debt burden.

You have now seen how the bond market is predicting slower growth, at least in part due to the growing debt burden (around the world), which has been financed largely by worldwide Central Banks.

The last chart shows the steady decline in GDP growth in almost every post-recession expansion since 1981. The most recent ten years is fresh in our mind. A business friendly outsider passed one of the largest tax reductions in history, allowed for repatriation of almost one trillion dollars that had been frozen overseas, reduced the legislative burden on businessmen and encouraged the Federal Reserve Bank to print trillions of new dollars and keep interest rates near zero. The result was a grand total of 2.3% real annual GDP Growth over the last ten years, perhaps 0.1% to 0.2% more in the last three years under President Trump than under President Obama. This can be best described as a minimal “marginal return on investment”.

The coronavirus pandemic will be in the rear view mirror at some point in the next six to twelve months. The trends as described above will not. Rates will still be low, as signaled by Jerome Powell just recently, through 2022. This is because (1) the economy needs the support and (2) the US budget cannot afford higher rates on $26 trillion of growing debt. The annual deficits and cumulative debt will continue to step up by record amounts because that is essentially baked in the cake at this point. Just yesterday Fed Chairman, Jay Powell, reiterated the intention to invest a trillion dollars in all kinds of corporate bonds and ETFs. Also under active discussion is a trillion dollar infrastructure program.

As a result of the domestic debt burden, amplified by similar trends in every major worldwide trading nation, our expectation is that, after the sequential improvement from depression level economic activity, average real GDP growth will be no better, most likely materially worse, than the meager 2.3% average real GDP growth of the last ten years.

We fully expect that gold bullion will outperform equities in the next ten years, just as it has in the last decade. The bond market has outperformed both, as the entire yield curve was repriced downward, but that is less likely, from current levels, in the future.  Gold mining stocks have substantially underperformed the price of gold bullion over the last ten years and we continue to believe that they will be the best performers of all.

Roger Lipton*

*Roger Lipton is the managing General Partner of RHL Associates, LP, a Limited Partnership  that is 100% invested in gold mining stocks.