The Dow is Down but Gold is Golden…

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Oh ye fickle gods of the markets – give us a clearer sign!

The Dow dropped again on Friday, for the sixth day in a row – and is now below 12,000. But each drop has been a little hesitant, as if the market wasn’t sure it wanted to go in this direction at all.

Gold, on the other hand, has been stepping out as it if it were in a hurry. The price rose another $1.65 on Friday and now stands at a two month high.

As long-time Daily Reckoning sufferers know, we are not exactly bullish on gold. We buy gold, but we have no real opinion about what the price will be or when it will be there. We like to own gold, in other words, not speculate on it.

Gold is nature’s antidote to human financial chicanery. The more distorted and stretched the world’s money system becomes, the more important it is to own gold to protect yourself.

The FunnyMoneyReport.com keeps us abreast of the latest distortions:

“For starters, our country has become a nation of debt where anybody can get a line of credit. Once reserved for the select few, many Americans are now relying on credit to purchase the essentials of everyday life. Americans no longer save what they earn. Second, the U.S. government for all intensive purposes is bankrupt with a debt in the trillions. Third, the Federal Reserve throughout its existence has continuously devalued our currency by expanding the money supply. They continue to do so, but since they stopped reporting the M3 money supply numbers we no longer know exactly how much they are destroying the currency. Fourth, foreigners are looking for ways to withdraw from U.S. currency holdings into something more stable. Fifth, the housing boom Alan Greenspan created is in the midst of crashing. Anyone with adjustable rate mortgages or home equity loans are getting slammed. Sixth, real wages are going down and the price of tangible assets is going up. Seventh, the Government Accountability Office is warning of a future economic disaster. Eighth, U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson is now organizing more frequent meetings of the President’s Working Group in Financial Markets otherwise known as the Plunge Protection Team every six weeks. The question is why would Paulson be organizing additional meetings of this group if the economy is in good shape?”

Gold is pulled out of the ground only grudgingly and reluctantly. Each year, the total amount of it above terra firma increases by only about 1.7 percent. But paper or electronic wealth (of nominal dollar-based assets) is lighter than air. It puffs, floats, soars, zooms, orbits…and pretty soon, it has lost all connection to the on-the-ground reality of the real economy.

But gold never gets too far from it.

Recently, we’ve been watching an HBO series on the history of the Roman Empire. In last night’s episode, we saw how close the fight between Caesar and Pompey for control of Rome really was. There was cunning and bravery on both sides. But only one side had the gold. When Pompey fled Rome, he made sure that the treasury went with him. But the treasure was waylaid… lost… and then recovered by Caesar. So, in the end, while Pompey may have had more troops, he had no way to pay them. We’ll have to wait until tonight to find out what happens, but we have a feeling that it’s the yellow stuff that will decide what happens.

Every government, before and since, has succumbed to the ‘Golden Rule’ – he who has the gold makes the rules. When things are going well, a government can get by on paper money, I.O.U.s and credit. But when the going gets tough, suppliers, soldiers, and creditors lose faith in paper and promises; they want real money. And gold is real money.

Gold is up in price now simply because there are too many paper and electronic promises floating around. The Financial Times, for example, reports ‘panic selling’ in the derivatives market. It seems that what’s hopping out of everyone’s hands is credit default swaps. Well, credit default swaps are what institutional investors buy when they fear the going might get tough. But now, instead of buying them, they’re selling them…and selling them down to record low prices.

Apparently, a lot of people don’t think a lot of credit will go bad for a lot of time.

But of course, that is just what most people tend to think…right before the gods let out a belly laugh…and things go bad in a big way.

And more views:

*** Now, here’s a real negative for gold. Bloomberg reports that 27 out of 35 analysts are now bullish on the metal. They expect a weaker U.S. economy will drag down the dollar – and boost gold in the process. Rarely do prices rise when experts expect them to. But maybe this time, it will be different…and maybe gold will rise much more than the experts expect.

*** Outlook on the housing bubble, meanwhile, continue to be rosy…if not downright peachy. Everyone admits housing is coming down… but they insist it will come down in a ‘soft landing.’ Soon, we expect to see them begin redefining what soft is.

*** Halloween is over, but the undead are still among us, writes Susan Walker of Elliot Wave Forecast:

“They will be those folks who overextended themselves to buy a handsome Gothic mansion in a friendly subdivision. And they will have one thing on their minds – needing more cash to make their monthly mortgage payments, particularly after their adjustable-rate mortgages are re-set. One estimate suggests that 2007 will be the Year of the Vampire, as $1 trillion-worth of ARMs (or 12% of all U.S. mortgage debt) will be readjusted upward, increasing monthly payments and adding to homeowners’ burdens. The mortgage companies will want more blood from their mortgagees, yet these homeowners have already been bled white: where will they find the cash to make the payments?

“As prices of both new and existing homes fall in many parts of the nation, more ordinary people will become unwilling foot soldiers in the vampire empire, because they won’t be able to refinance their homes. Or, to use the vampire vernacular: They won’t be able to get any more blood from their houses, which will be cold relics of themselves. Homes that once pulsed with life will now be peopled with deathly white homeowners trying to find more cash-blood.”

*** Meanwhile out readers have their gripes, with our politics and our economics:

“This U. S. Navy veteran from WWII is disgusted with the anti-American crap spewed by Daily Reckoning. Having spent a year doing research in London, I know how the non-science British ‘intellectuals’ constantly carp against America, and show their ignorance of America too. ‘Show White Flag’ on a photo of Marines at Iwo Jima is typical left-wing snide vicious stupidity.

“We fought in the Pacific against Imperial Japan (who had made a shameful surprise attack on Pearl Harbor) not for Exxon, etc. but to crush Japanese fascism. At least the Australians and New Zealanders remember the desperate battles near the Solomon Islands in the Coral Sea, and appreciate that we saved them from the ‘tender hands’ of Japanese invaders!!! Churchill appreciated our help. President Truman made the RIGHT DECISION to use two atomic bombs, saving millions of Japanese lives and several hundred thousand American lives (including mine probably) if an invasion had been necessary!!

“Much of your financial stuff is old and elementary. Calling America ‘the empire’ is typical despicable leftist trash. If you think so, send back the Marshall Plan money with interest!”

*** And another:

“Yeah, and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) hurts poor people, too. Here are two examples:

“A young woman whose father is a friend of ours (both poor) took her car to Wal-Mart for repairs. The brain dead mechanic let the car roll off the rack and it broke her axle and damaged the body. Wal-Mart refused to pay for the damages and they couldn’t find an attorney to fight Wal-Mart on a contingency fee basis.

“Another friend of ours is a big game guide in Idaho. He took his 4WD vehicle to Wal-Mart for an oil change before taking his hunters on their hunting expedition. The oil plug came out when they were 20 miles from the nearest human and the engine seized. The same thing happened. He couldn’t afford an attorney and couldn’t find one willing to sue Wal-Mart on a contingent fee basis.

“No wonder Wal-Mart can sell things so cheaply. They have no liability insurance and deny all liability.

“The end doesn’t justify the means (in spite of what Bill Clinton said to the contrary).”

*** And yet another anti-Wal-Mart comment:

“Before praising the dubious ‘virtues’ of Wal-Mart…

” …consider that it is ALSO responsible for creating a LOT of unemployment (especially in the smaller towns). In the small town where I grew up, when Wal-Mart moved in, temporarily DRASTICALLY undercutting the prices of our town’s local merchants, and driving them out of business, the town square quickly turned into a skeleton of its former thriving self. So, of course, the former employees of these merchants were forced to accept employment at Wal-Mart (at reduced salaries).

“Then, once Wal-Mart controlled the pricing of goods sold in this small town, they gradually began raising them. So, after about two years from the time Wal-Mart had arrived, the townspeople had gained very little in the way of savings, and had paid a huge price in their lowered standard of living!

“But this is how Wal-Mart built itself, not by competing with stores in the larger cities, but by targeting the merchants in small towns, and unfairly under-pricing them until they had been driven out of business, then absorbing their employees, and underpaying them while gradually raising prices (to pay for Wal-Mart to be able to ‘take-over’ their next small town victims).

“And don’t even get me started on the ‘quality’ of the merchandise sold by Wal-Mart, to the townspeople (once they had no alterative but to either purchase at this super store, or to drive a long distance to shop elsewhere)!”

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.
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