“You ever hear the story of Mr. Faded Glory?
Says he who rides a pony must someday fall.
I’ve been talkin’ to my alter, says “Life is what you make it.
And if you make it death well rest your soul away, away, away.”
“Crown of Thorns“
In this issue of The Institutional Risk Analyst, we turn the camera eye on two different perspectives on the continuing crisis affecting the U.S. economy, the Fed’s deflationary monetary policy and the surging price of gold. We look at how the rapid changes now underway in how consumers and investors alike view the dollar will affect the risk picture facing banks, companies and individuals. BTW, tomorrow IRA cofounder Christopher Whalen will be travelling back to the heartland to visit our friends at Indiana State University. We will give a talk entitled: “Do Americans Need a New Deal?” More on this theme next week.
Last week The IRA traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the latest event sponsored by our friend Alex Pollock at American Enterprise Institute, “Living in the Post-Bubble World: What’s Next?” We received a great deal of media buzz before and after the event, but the most poignant comment came in this unexpected and very disturbing letter from Dianna in Rockford, IL:
“I have no way of knowing if this message will ever actually reach you. Nevertheless, I want to extend a most sincere message of appreciation for one of the comments you made during recent participation in an American Enterprise Institute symposium. You are the only financial guru /analyst whom I have heard make any reference to the devastating impact of extraordinary quantitative easing on “grandma” and her carefully laid financial plans. Many middle class retirees have no generous government or corporate pension. We have had to plan and save prudently for retirement. Now, as we watch returns on CD’s plunge from an average 5% to an anemic 1.5%, we also experience a plunge from a comfortable retirement into a state of severe “penny-pinching”. You were correct…not only do we have to cut back on gifts for the grandchildren, we are also drastically curtailing many discretionary purchases, travel to spend time with family and so forth. I have heard NO other analyst speak to this impact on responsible retirees who thought they had done all the right things to prepare for the “golden years”. It just felt good to realise that there is at least one individual who has given any consideration to this fallout from “Fed” policies.”
Now you know why we at IRA take time away from our business to engage in public debate about how the world of finance affects real people. And you also see the horrible damage that the Bernanke Fed is inflicting upon real American in order to bail out the large Wall Street banks. And the irony is that all of this damage and sacrifice by Dianna and tens of millions of American individuals and businesses who depend upon interest income to survive will be for naught. The Big Banks will have to be restrructured in any event using the resolution authority in the Dodd-Frank legislation.
We also heard from our friend Henry Smyth, proprietor of Granville Cooper Asset Management Ltd., which features a unique gold fund that is comprised solely of rolling forward positions in the noble metal. The fund is domiciled entirely out of reach of America’s spendthrift government and settles via Julius Baer in Zurich. (Disclosure: IRA co-founder Chris Whalen is a neighbour of Smyth and an introducing party of GCAM.)
Smyth, who we know from our Mexico days, has been pestering us since the summer about a chart created by his colleague Zeke Brustkern that illustrates the growth of the demand for gold over the past decade and how the increased estimates each year understate the actual market performance. Click here to see the gold chart which Smyth explains below:
“What this graphic aims to elucidate is the evolution of parabolic estimates of the future of gold price over the last five years. Starting with five years of data, from Sept. 2000 through Sept. 2005, a growth projection is forecasted through Sept. 2012. Each subsequent year another projection is crafted adding the additional data points into the curve’s slope estimate. Five curves are portrayed in all, representing data from Sept. 2000-Sept. 2010, all projecting through 2012. What becomes clear is that despite using estimation methods intended to represent rapid parabolic growth, the estimated values continue to fall short of the real asset value appreciation. With the exception of 2008/2009, each passing year has brought substantial upward revision of growth projections, and has continued to do so throughout 2010.”
Consider these two data points: First, an American retiree named Dianna who has seen her retirement savings rendered worthless by the ill-considered policy actions of the Federal Open Market Committee. Second, the action of the gold market, which is likewise suggesting that fiat paper dollars have no value. If you take the two observations together, it suggests to us that the Fed’s actions are feeding global deflation and that the next leg down in the U.S. financial markets could be particularly severe — especially if the Fed resumes printing more funny money.
While some analysts are calling for a mild devaluation of the dollar, what we see forming ahead could be something far more dramatic and potentially disruptive to the world economy, namely a protracted period of deflation driven by the subserviant position of the Fed vis-a-vis the largest banks. This new shrinkage will not only see gold moving higher but will also see the dollar collapse a la the FDR dollar devaluation of the early 1930s. This crisis is being caused by Fed zero interest rate and quantitative easing (“QE”) policies.
As we have said before and we’ll say again, the FOMC’s zero rate policies imply that the dollar and all assets denominated in dollars have no value. Stocks, bonds and other financial assets depend upon income to make these obligations money good. Without a positive return, there is no reason to hold dollar assets. When President Abraham Lincoln introduced fiat paper dollars backed by nothing to finance the Civil War, these pieces of debt originally were convertible into Treasury notes that paid interest. But the need of a growing nation for a means of exchange rendered such devices irrelevant.
Today the situation is reversed. Non-commercial demand for dollars is collapsing in much of the global economy, in part because the Fed is transferring something like three quarters of a trillion dollars annually from individual and corporate savers to the Wall Street banks. And even this vast subsidy will be insufficient to prevent the ultimate restructuring of the top three U.S. banks. What will Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the other members of the FOMC say to Dianna and the millions of other Americans impoverished by their policy errors when we have to break up the top-three U.S. banks anyway?
Forget more QE. If the FOMC does not soon allow interest rates to rise and thereby rebalance the policy equation between American savers and borrowers, then we fully expect to see gold prices climb further. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and the FOMC will hand the detractors of the central bank led by Rep Ron Paul (I-TX) the political issue they need to eliminate the Fed once and for all. And President Barack Obama will be wearing the concrete booties that once belonged to President Herbert Hoover. Unlike your worthless greenbacks, you can take that to the bank.
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