"When misguided public opinion honors what is despicable and despises what is honorable, punishes virtue and rewards vice, encourages what is harmful and discourages what is useful, applauds falsehood and smothers truth under indifference or insult, a nation turns its back on progress and can be restored only by the terrible lessons of catastrophe." … Frederic Bastiat

Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God. – Archbishop Chaput


Friday, September 20, 2013

Return of the Status Quo

Gold has now surrendered half of the gains that it put on as a result of Wednesday's FOMC announcement that the TAPERING was on hold. It is currently trading at 1337 as I type these comments.

While the US equity markets are a bit weaker, the S&P 500 is still sitting firmly above the 1700 level. Interest rates on the Ten Year are near 2.75% while the grain markets are imploding lower and crude oil continues to drop off its best post-FOMC announcement levels.

In short, we are pretty much back to where we were prior to the FOMC. Why do I say this? Simple - this morning Fed governor Bullard managed to do what many in the Fed have been doing since May of this year, namely, jawboning the markets and setting them up for another possibility of tapering later this year. What has it been, 2 days since we got that FOMC press release and here we already are talking about starting the Tapering once again. Good grief! This is like some sort of sick version of the movie  "GroundHog Day".

It seems as if these people simply cannot restrain themselves from yakking away whenever a microphone is present. I do not know about some of you, but I get the distinct impression from watching these events unfold that the Fed literally has no earthly idea what to do next. They would like to start reducing the amount of bond buying but understand that they cannot, given the current economic conditions. So they talk about it perhaps to comfort themselves or even persuade themselves,  that they really are being responsible stewards of the nation's monetary policies and are aware of the inherent dangers in a near-endless barrage of money printing. The truth is that the Fed is trapped in a net of their own making and I think some of these governors realize it. Maybe some of them are making speeches as a sort of CYA strategy just in case history is not kind to them. They can point to their various speeches and say: " Hey I was out there making a case for ending this QE stuff. Don't blame me!"

As I have written repeatedly this week, these QE programs have managed to take on near immortality simply because the job market in this nation is so pathetic that many consumers simply do not have the confidence or financial wherewithal to taken on new and large loads of debt. Velocity of Money keeps moving lower, not higher and thus the driving force needed to generate strong, upward price pressures in the economy is not there. With wages flat and many working at part time jobs, where is the force going to come from to propel economic activity in this nation strongly higher?

IN a debt based system, more and more, larger and larger, amounts of debt have to be taken on for the economy to grow. It is difficult to do that if consumers are afraid to spend with the same reckless abandon as they did during the boom years. Remember when re-financing was the coolest trick in town - turn your house into a giant ATM machine and use the savings from the lower rates to go and buy that new ATV or Jet-ski? Those days are long gone so if the consumer cannot tap their home equity and wages are going nowhere, where is the cash going to come from?

Maybe the Fed should just skip this nonsense about buying MBS's and Treasuries and just send checks to every tax paying household in the US to the tune of $85 billion each and every month? I don't know about you, but I think this money would get directly injected into the economy a helluva lot faster than it does by sitting in the reserves of the big banks or in the equity markets.I guarantee you that if I were to receive a nice, big, fat check from the Fed each and every month, I would have my ATV upgraded to a woodgrain dash and chrome wheels. Heck I would buy a new Polaris RZR just for fun! A nice COBALT boat would somehow find its way into my establishment also!

Obviously I am being facetious here but I think my point is made - most of this new money being created by the Fed is not moving into the system.

What ails this nation cannot be fixed by Fed action only; it requires STRUCTURAL REFORMS, and we are not going to get that while the current administration remains in office. It really is that simple.

At this point in time, seeing that inflation is not a serious concern of most market participants, it is going to take an issue dealing with CONFIDENCE to take gold sharply higher into a sustained uptrend. Remember gold is an asset that pays no interest; therefore it must appreciate in value if it is to be of any benefit to those who buy it as an investment. That means we must have all of the elements in place that are required to drive the price of gold higher.

First and foremost among those is CONFIDENCE, especially in the currency of a nation. A loss of confidence in a nation's currency results in rising prices as the currency's loss of value is reflected in that area first. This is why I keep coming back to the commodity complex as a whole... we must see a broad-based upward move in the commodity complex before gold will find strong, SUSTAINED, new speculative inflows. Currently we are not getting that.

Perhaps at some point this will change - we will try our best to note that if it does. As far as I am concerned we are essentially in uncharted waters and all of us are trying to use the wisdom and experience we have gained from the past to decipher how this mess is going to end. It is certainly a challenge to say the least.