Yesterday was a good day for stock market investors. Prices went up. The Dow rose 254 points, leaving us uncertain about its near-term intentions.
Of course, we’re always uncertain. But sometimes we’re more uncertain than others. What seems certain to us is that stocks are a bad bet.
You might find this interesting, dear reader:
Guess who was better off at this stage following the beginning of the crisis. The investor in the Great Depression? Or, the investor today?
Well, we haven’t done the calculation ourselves, but we’ve heard from two different sources that if you take inflation and re-invested dividends into account, investors during the Great Depression were actually ahead. The difference is in the dividends. In the 1930s, companies paid substantial dividends; today, they don’t.
But yesterday a report came out that told investors that manufacturing activity was picking up. After so much bad news for so long, that was all they needed. They switched back to “risk on” mode.
Back and forth…to and fro…
Mr. Market is making us wait. But for what?
We expect stocks to go down until they finally reach their rendezvous with the bottom. We saw one estimate that put the final bottom seven years into the future. But who knows? All we know is that it hasn’t happened yet. And since we believe it must come sooner or later, we conclude that it must be ahead of us…because it is not behind us.
Since a lower low lies ahead, we see no reason to invest in stocks at all. The odds are against us. Besides, what’s the hurry? The good companies will still be around seven years from now. And the bad companies? Well, we wouldn’t want to invest in them anyway…
But where…how…are we going to make some money in the next seven years? That is a good question, dear reader. We’re so glad you asked.
Do you have a good answer? Hope so, because we don’t.
The only reliable bull market of the last ten years has been in gold. The yellow metal lost $2 yesterday, closing at $1,248. That is only $14 below its all-time high. Which means, while we’ve been watching Bernanke, Jackson Hole, and stocks – gold has been quietly creeping up…
..stocks go down; stocks go up – and gold keeps moving up…
..fiscal stimulus, monetary stimulus, quantitative easing – and gold keeps moving up…
..recovery…no recovery – gold keeps moving up…
..inflation…deflation – and gold keeps moving up…
Are you beginning to see a pattern?
Yes, gold is in a bull market. It moves up on bad news. It moves up on good news. It moves up on no news at all.
And if we’re right about how this period of Great Correction ends, the price of gold in dollar terms should go up much, much more.
But here’s the important thing. Gold is money. You can use it to buy things. In terms of what gold will buy, it does not seem undervalued to us. Much has been written on the subject. But as near as we can tell, gold is now fairly priced.
Go ahead; buy all you want. It is a good way to maintain your wealth and protect it against the monetary and economic calamities that are doubtless coming. And if you expect to make a lot of money on it, you’ll probably succeed. When the Bernanke Fed loses its grip – which it will – and when the public gets on board the gold bull market – which it will – gold speculators will probably make a lot of money.
We’ve been a gold bug for the last 30 years. Two thirds of that time was miserable, punishing and humiliating. Only the last 10 years have been rewarding. We expect the next 10 years to be even more rewarding.
But the reward now is different. It is speculative…not inherent. When we bought gold in ’99, we were buying an undervalued asset. We were buying real money, cheap. We made our money when we bought.
Now, gold is fully priced. It is a still a good way to save money. But we cannot expect to make money by waiting for the metal to revert to the mean. It’s already at the mean. Gold is now a speculation.
A warning: we still have not had the sell-off in the financial markets that we expect. The Dow has still not sunk down to 5,000. The lights are still on at banks that should have been put out of business months ago. The public still believes another “stimulus” effort might do the trick. Leading economists still believe they can manage the economy back to growth and prosperity.
We have not hit bottom yet. Far from it.
When we do, the price of gold could be substantially lower. Which is okay with us. We bought years ago. We’re happy with our gold holdings and don’t really care if the price drops. Heck, we’d be happy to see the price back below $1,000; we’d buy more.
But speculating on a rising gold price is a different thing. Most likely, speculators will be wiped out once or twice before gold hits its final top.
And more thoughts…
Wolf, Stiglitz, Krugman – we love these guys!
They pushed the world’s governments to undertake huge “stimulus” programs. Of course, the stimulus programs didn’t work. They couldn’t work. All they could do was to disguise the facts and delay the necessary adjustments.
But these fellows don’t care about that. They are the technicians, scientists, and engineers of finance. They have measures of financial health – GDP, employment, inflation, etc. They may not be able to make anyone better off…but they can damned sure move those indicators. At least, they believe they can.
Spend enough money and you can move the GDP up. Hire enough people and you can get unemployment down. It’s not that complicated.
So, the engineers went to work two years ago. You know the rest of the story. That is how we got where we are. They turned valves. They connected wires. They adjusted dials and switches. They put at risk nearly an entire year’s worth of US GDP – on the idea that an economy can be controlled and managed, just as if it were a brewery.
How many cans do you want? Just work backward to figure out what inputs you need – how much grain, how much sugar, how many cans, how much electricity… It’s not rocket science, for Pete’s sake.
The trouble is…managing an economy is not science at all. And these guys are not scientists. They have no controlled experiments. They have no test panels nor test results. They have no peer reviews. They have no proper theories – none that can be disproven or confirmed. They just have crackpot ideas and quack treatments.
And now, Paul Krugman is on television in the US calling for another $800 billion program of boondoggles, bailouts and bumph. “Stimulus,” he calls it. Claptrap is what it is.
for The Daily Reckoning Australia