Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Debt Lunacy and Gold

I rarely watch business commentators on the news. After-all, when they are telling you what’s happening it’s already old news and most of their opinions are meant to get a rise out of you, not really inform you. The other day I happened to turn on the news – don’t ask me why – I get most of it in real time long before it hits the airwaves. Anyway, there was a panel of “experts” debating whether the US would raise the debt ceiling in coming days to pay for the government, country and treasury markets to operate. In other words, no rise in the ceiling and the US would be in default.

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One side argued that the ceiling might actually not be raised this time since austerity is the key word in Washington these days and the incoming congressmen may put up a fight. The other side meanwhile argued that it would be financial Armageddon if the ceiling were not raised, as it would prevent the Treasury from making payments on bonds and notes. The fact that this was even up for debate was even more startling. Have we really run out of things to say that we must now speculate on an event with a foregone conclusion?

If there was a split screen one every TV set in America, then this debate would have proven to be one of the biggest comedy hits of the year. This is what you would have seen:

Screen one – the pundits predicting doom and a default

Screen two – the Treasury market rallying and yield moving lower

Screen three – Republicans agreeing to the debt ceiling rise

It’s amazing what real time technology can tell you. The rise of the debt ceiling is a NON-EVENT and something that you should only pay attention to because it is inevitable and will continue to be as long as fiscal idiocy rules on Capitol Hill. The market you should ALWAYS be watching is the bond market. It carries more weight that even the stock market.

The Name is Bond

The bond markets are usually accurate predictors of the real strength of the economy. For the past few years they have been predicting low inflation and economic stagnation. They were right on both counts. But, late last year yields began to turn higher in anticipation of economic growth ahead. They have since stabilized. But, as far as pending default of US debt or even the probability of a downgrade of AAA ratings on US Treasuries…neither is on the horizon.

While moving higher, interest rates are still not telling us that there is a strong recovery ahead. Jobless claims are decreasing, GDP is increasing and the Manufacturing Indices which measure economic activity amongst manufacturers is also rising. But, these moves are not translating to sales on the ground. While the recent Christmas selling season was strong, many companies reported poorer than projected sales numbers. The conclusion here is that while sales overall were higher than the prior year, they still missed the expectations of the markets. Many retailers like Best Buy saw their share tumble. The conclusion that we can draw from stronger manufacturers data confirms that the increase in manufacturing may have been the result of inventory replenishment and not for incremental sales increases. This is the type of data that the bond market is focusing on and the reason we are not seeing soaring rates. The economy is getting stronger, but it is not close to being strong. The key remains employment growth
and the housing market – both of which are still listless.

A Hole in the Golden Parachute?

Gold prices plunged last week. Well, not really, but it sure looked like they did. I mean they fell by more than $50 on just one day – that qualifies as a plunge right? Ok, in dollar terms it looks bad. But in percentage terms it’s barely a blip. Gold has not even fallen by 10% yet, a move that would signify the first real correction in the metal in years. But, that has not stopped the talking heads from declaring the gold trade dead. I mean why did it go up in the first place?

Oh, right. It went up to combat the currency debasement being carried out by Central Banks Worldwide. I guess that has come to a screeching halt! Quite the contrary. Debasement continues. Gold will fall in US dollar terms if the US dollar gets stronger against other currencies, which it is doing now against the Euro. That’s one reason gold is falling. The second reason is the notion that increasing interest rates will cause a migration out of gold, which pays no interest, into interest bearing vehicles. The third reason is that gold has moved in a straight line up for two years and might just be correcting as investors lock in profits. I would be inclined to agree with the third reason. The first two are still in play. Currency debasement is here to stay and interest rates are not going to soar higher.

A Cheap Way to Play Gold

For investors this is the time to start looking at gold plays and setting up your target entry prices. In a couple of days I will be sharing my “cheap gold play” on a conference call that you can join in on.

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I actually hope gold goes lower just to give us an even better entry point. The case for owning gold is still strong and as long as there are printing presses in Europe, Asia and North America, governments will print money and ultimately force the price of gold much higher.

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