Investment Advice

  • Several people have emailed me regarding what to do with their investments. I am not Warren Buffett and I don’t have a crystal ball so what I say here should be checked against other knowledgeable analyses. Keep in mind that most people are full of s–t. Everyone thinks they are a genius in an up market. In a down market, everyone still thinks they are a genius, like gamblers because they count their successes and don’t count their losses. Most economists, securities analysts (I used to be one), institutional traders (I used to be one), fund managers (I used to be one) etc are ill-trained, poorly educated, not well-rounded, and basically go with the herd. They sound good but they don’t know a thing about real economic behavior. Account representatives are even worse. Their job is to get you to do something without concern to wether you make or lose money (if you find one that doesn’t fit the mold, hold onto him or her for dear life).
  • First any investment in money market, CD, US Treasury, or other strictly dollar denominated assets including actual cash or deposits on hand should be converted to non-cash assets or non-dollar denominated assets. There are several internet banks and other companies that will allow you to keep accounts in dual currencies or more. My assumption is that the dollar is in for a crash. My theory is that if I am right, then you will make a lot of money. If I am wrong, there is little to suppose that the Euro or Canadian dollar or the Yen or Yuan will do badly. Either way you are probably pretty well protected.
  • Precious metals are always an inflation hedge but you are depending, again, on perception of value as opposed to real value. It is not likely that Gold ever again be “money.” hence it will always be a commodity and thus subject to the rules and trends of the commodity trading marketplace. The same holds true for corn, oil, and other commodities. yes they are likely to increase in value (and they present an inflation hedge as well) but you probably should not venture into commodities now unless you are already a successful commodity trader. Pick an ETF or other fund and let someone else make the trading decisions.
  • Stocks are not necessarily bad particularly if the company does not depend upon US consumer spending, and if the company does not hold or depend upon receiving US dollars. If it is getting Euros in payment for goods and services or other currencies around the world that are not pegged (i.e. a currency whose value is derived from whatever the value of the U.S. dollar is — BE CAREFUL),  then if it is a good company it will do well in the intermediate term even if it gets hit with the usual over-selling that occurs when an economy fails. 
  • Don’t stop looking at fundamentals just because it is in another currency. It is true that you “make money” if the dollar dives and the foreign stock dives less, but that is not a very safe strategy. Find even financial institutions that are oversold because of the general fear of bank failures. Avoid Citi, BOA, Lehman, and all of the other major national banking groups. They are all at risk. Think about the firms that figured out the crash months or years ago, like Goldman Sachs and see how they are doing now. 
  • Bonds are not necessarily bad either for the same reason, and the same with CD equivalents etc. As long as principal interest, dividends etc are paid in Euros or some other currency not tied to the dollar, you should do OK, if you pick right on the company or mutual fund.
  • Keep in mind that most people are unwilling to accept the coming crash and that they may be right and that I may be wrong.
  • Why Euros? Because it is the ONLY currency of consensus. 2 dozen countries are involved in the Euro, thus giving you immediate diversification of risk. 
  • Real estate: Avoid bargain locations — they might never come back, avoid locations that might be affected by flooding from rising sea levels, use leverage if you can afford the staying power, and stay in for the long haul (3-5 years minimum). This is a non-cash asset whose value will rise proportionately to the decline in the value of the dollar. If the dollar does not decline, and you have avoided problematic locations, you will still be OK. 
  • Jewelry: For short term trading and turnovers in the marketplace there are probably some profits to be made. I don’t recommend it. There are a lot of people who know more at a glance than you would with an electron microscope and a handbook.
  • Lending Money: Tie the interest payments and the principal to the real rate of inflation and use an index like oil rather than the CPI which at this point has been rearranged so many times the tires are worn out. 
  • Borrowing Money: Avoid borrowing at ridiculously high rates (in case I am wrong) and avoid if possible, the imposition of indexing on inflation. If indexing is going to occur, argue for the CPI, which the government will keep at the lowest possible levels in order to keep social security and other payment increases to a minimum. A reasonable loan will put you in the position of tremendous leverage and profit if I am right and still give you ordinary returns on investment if I am wrong.

Economic Status report

Back from a cross country trip for 6 weeks accumulating data “on the ground.” I am have discovered that the ripple effects of the economic mismanagement, the mortgage meltdown, the credit crisis, the housing crash, and many other factors are playing havoc not only with our current status but with our prospects. These are the things that the next President will face.
 
They are also the issues that the current administration adn the current congress face but are slow to admit, fully appreciate or address. There is nothing on the horizon that seems to indicate that these issues will be tackled any time soon.
 
The following article is at least as good as anyting I could have wirtten. Pay Special attention to the assertion that commodities are becoming the new currency. It heralds a return to an advanced hybrid barter system that can be gamed if you spend the time, but that will threaten the way of life for millions of Americans who cannot spend the time, or who don’t know where to turn for sound, truthful financial advice in the coming crash.
 
While the publications of the Handbooks is still in the works, I have decided to take a proactive role in approaching local, state and federal officials who are now concerned with inflation, large scale currency devaluation, social services, real estate and other tax revenues, and bank failures.  
 
PAUL B. FARRELL
11 reasons Bernanke’s recession lasts till 2011
Timing the next bull: Kick-start it in 2008? Or is it a long secular bear?

 

11 reasons Bernanke’s recession lasts till 2011

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. (MarketWatch) — Remember that hot 1973 Stealer’s Wheel song marking the end of the Nixon era? “‘Cause I don’t think that I can take anymore. Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with you!”

 

It’s still a perfect metaphor. Testifying before Congress: Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on the left. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson on the right. The American public stuck in the middle.
 Last summer they assured us the subprime-credit crisis was “contained.” We now know that was a big lie. They knew, had the facts, early warnings, lied and are still lying. More proof? They just told Congress: “America will avoid a recession.” New data tells a different story.

Clowns to the left … jokers right … stuck in the middle … can’t take it anymore.
But we have to, we have to hang on at least 10 months more, praying they won’t do too much more damage. But I’m afraid they will: more lies, blunders and incompetence will drag out this bear. Like the song says: “Got a feeling something ain’t right.”
Read the new InvestmentNews, a professional journal for financial advisers. The lead headline grabs you: “Bad times for stocks could last many years.” A long secular bear.
Do you believe it? That’s the big question today: When’s the next bull? How long will the bear last? And forget Washington’s rhetoric about “no recession.” The truth is, you can call it a “bear,” “slow growth,” a “downturn,” a “recession” — call it whatever you want. Timing’s the real question. How long will it last? When will it bottom? 2008? 2011?
Test your timing skill. You tell us, what’ll drag this out 30 months, like in 2000-2002? Or shorten it? Here are 11 critical factors for your timing equation, things that could make this bear-recession shorter or longer. You tell us. Add a comment. What’s your prediction: How long before the next bull?
1. Stagflation: Bernanke’s no-win Achilles heel
Reading Fed-watcher William Fleckenstein’s new book, “Greenspan’s Bubbles: The Age of Ignorance at the Federal Reserve,” you get the feeling that for 18 years America’s banking system was run like a “new age” hippy commune, by a Ayn Rand free spirit who believed “anything goes.”
Now the Fed’s run by a college professor and Fleckenstein says he’s “in over his head.” Except this is the real world, a $13 trillion economy in a $48 trillion world, not a college seminar on economic theory.
In the 1970s Nixon faced a similar problem, convinced then by Fed Chairman Arthur Burns: “No one ever lost an election on account of inflation.” Wrong! Low rates generated inflation not growth. That stagflation triggered a bear/recession. Is Professor Ben trapped, repeating history?
2. Housing-credit meltdown: We’ve got a long way to go!
It’s far from over folks and still spreading: Years of inventory, foreclosures, building slowdown, risky bond insurers, weak rating agencies, funds holding bad debt, freezing exits and fuzzy math on values. Yet Bernanke and Paulson still live in a Washington bubble of wishful-thinking fantasies.
Economic realists say what’s needed is a massive $1.6 trillion demand-driven program (that’s the record cash Corporate America’s hoarding) not a dinky $160 billion supply-side “appease the voters” giveaway that ends up increasing the odds of a lengthy Nixon/Burns style bear-recession.
3. Commodities: World’s new reserve ‘currency,’ not dollars
Forget paper money and IOUs. Commodities are the world’s new “currency:” Hard stuff like oil, grains, metals, gold. And that means America is financing the growth of our enemies, surrendering our long-term economic power for short-term oil-guzzlers and plastic toys. We are responsible for making Russia and China into threatening world powers. Buffett warned us. We’re selling the farm, piece by piece.
4. Toxic derivatives: World’s $516 trillion ticking time bomb
Derivatives are great for deal-by-deal risk management in a $48 trillion GDP world. But leverage them 10 times over across the globe and we got a financial “weapon of mass economic destruction.”
Bill Gross warns that the world’s new unregulated “shadow banking system” is printing new money, now at $516 trillion, out of thin air, with no “central banks of last resort” backing up the “Frankenstein” monsters they’ve created.
5. Massive debt: Everywhere, trade, federal, states, local
America’s Comptroller General David Walker, Congress’s head accountant who is leaving his position next month, warns our government is “bankrupting America.” Using unethical accounting worse than Enron’s. Fiscal responsibility lost. He sees “striking similarities” with Rome. Both parties are gluttons in a spending orgy.
We spend-spend, load debt on future generations, then use accounting gimmicks to hide our greedy excesses: Hidden earmarks. Supplemental war appropriations. Meaningless IOUs after stealing from Social Security.

 

6. America’s new ‘pushers:’ Banks feeding consumer addicts
Trader’s Daily captured it perfectly: “Never underestimate the power of the superpsycho, hyper-spending American consumer. Where there is no cash, they will sell their soul. Or just charge it. Let’s just not think about what it all means for credit-card debt down the road.”
Meanwhile, the credit meltdown is making banks desperate for money. A recent Chase credit-card commercial fuels consumer addictions: Wife wants bigger television. Husband smiles. They shop to the pounding drumbeat of Queen’s hit 80s song: “I want it all, I want it all, I want it all … and I want it now!” Tag line: “Chase what matters!” Yes, Chase debt, all you addicts. Forget saving, spend like there’s no tomorrow.
7. More wars: Pentagon predicts bigger, costlier conflicts
The Pentagon’s internal studies see a perfect storm accelerating wars worldwide: Global population growth, limited natural resources and global warming. Our war machine is exploding. The Pentagon gets over 50% in the new federal budget. We’re only 21% of the world’s GDP, yet spend 47% of the world’s total military expenditures.
Our power-hungry mindset is becoming self-destructive, suicidal. Remember Nixon strategist Kevin Phillips’ warning: “Most great nations, at the peak of their economic power, become arrogant and wage great world wars at great cost, wasting vast resources, taking on huge debt, and ultimately burning themselves out.”
8. Greed: Wall Street and Corporate America’s defining ‘value’
Values start at the top. But the top won’t change for 10 months. Leadership, statesmanship and character are vanishing. Five short years ago Corporate America and the mutual fund industry were consumed by greed. How quickly we forget.
It’s worse today. We see greed consuming not just Wall Street’s clueless CEOs, but the entire industry: Outrageous bonuses of $38 billion amid mega-billion write-offs. Fire sales of billions more American equity to sovereign nations.
From the top down, greed is driving America from bubble to bubble. Wall Street’s already fueling the next bubble, trading on a volatile market.
9. Democracy failing: America now run by 35,000 lobbyists!
Forget government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” is now a small group of 35,000 highly paid, greedy lobbyists demanding handouts. They run America from the shadows, for those at the top of the economic food chain and vastly outnumber Washington’s 537 elected officials.
Nationally there’s an estimated quarter million lobbyists, with hundreds of millions of dollars to buy favors in campaign contributions. Politicians talk “change,” but America’s lobbyists will still be working for their special interest clients in 2009. And they’ll fight all “changes.”
10. America’s already in a recession, and in denial
This year’s elections will be a huge factor in lengthening the recession. Our lame-duck government will delay action on critical issues. It reminds me of my days counseling addicts and alcoholics. Change never happens until they admit they have a problem. Same here.
Paulson and Bernanke cannot admit there’s a recession. They’d have to take blame for America’s failed policies. And congressional Democrats are weak co-conspirators in this meltdown. Nobody has the guts to take responsibility. They’re all like addicts and alcoholics, in denial, giving lip-service to “change,” while they blame the other guys and support ineffectual stimulus plans.
Vote for whomever, but this lame-duck mindset plus lingering partisan rancor will push any recovery at least into 2009, probably delay the next bull till 2010 or 2011.
11. Class warfare: Superrich vs. Main Street America
No matter who wins, the presidential campaign is warning us: A major battle’s coming between “the rich and the rest;” over taxes, benefits, cuts, power.
For years the media collaborated with Wall Street and Corporate America, hyping “Ownership, the New American Dream,” where everyone benefits, shares the wealth, gains a piece-of-the-action, ownership in “The Dream” through the magic of housing, stocks, growth, profits, retirement plans. But the housing-credit contagion killed the dream.
Yes, the superrich did get richer. But “the rest” didn’t. And they’re waking up to a widening gap. A backlash is brewing and will explode … delaying a recovery and a new bull.
Clowns to the left, jokers right, we’re stuck in the middle. Can’t take it anymore? Add a timing comment. Tell us: When’s the recovery? Next bull? Late 2008? Not till 2011? End of Story

 

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