16 Apr 2011

US Will Resolve Debt by Returning to Gold Standard

With so much turmoil going on around the globe, King World News interviewed one of the legends in the business, Jim Grant, Founder of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer.  When asked about the Fed’s arrogance Grant responded, “I think there’s an intellectual cock-sureness that has no grounding.  When you listen to Ben Bernanke as he held forth on Sixty Minutes at the end of last year assuring the journalist doing the interview that he, Bernanke, was 100% sure, 100% certain of what he could do, you cringe because nobody is 100% sure of anything in this world.”

Jim Grant continues:
“Nobody who’s been around the block once or twice is sure of anything except perhaps the date of the week and even that, some days one wonders is it really Wednesday?  So Bernanke he has I think the professional economist’s self confidence that somehow these people imbibe in graduate school.  I think the pseudo scientific nature of quantitative economics empowers them in a way that other mortals could never fully appreciate.  But whatever it is they think they know, I know one thing, and that is they know less.”

When asked about the Great Recession and how it has left its mark Grant replied, “It is notable.  Not so many months passed from the depths of our sorrows in 2008 and 2009 before people seemed to be reverting to much the same kind of financial conduct that was much in evidence in 2005, 2006, 2007.  The cycles are getting shorter.  Then again the government is now in the business of, so it declares, of restoring financial prosperity through main force.

So, after the Great Depression there was nothing like the policy that Ben Bernanke and company have been implementing now.  I don’t think that human beings are much different than they were way back when, but certainly the government’s response to crises is vastly different.”

When asked about gold specifically Grant stated, “To me the gold price takes the form of a very uncomplicated formula, and all you have to do is divide one by ‘n.’  And ‘n’, I’m glad you ask, ‘n’ is the world’s trust in the institution of paper money and in the capacity of people like Ben Bernanke to manage it.  So the smaller ‘n’, the bigger the price.  One divided by a receding number is the definition of a bull market. 

You’ll notice that this had nothing to do with security analysis.  This is conceptualizing, brainstorming, nothing to do with price/earnings ratios, other valuation methods like cash flows.  It is a proposition or a hypothesis on what is driving the gold market.  So the gold market is necessarily a speculative piece of business.  It’s not to be confused with the kind of investment that Ben Graham wrote about.  Anyway, I happen to be bullish on it, but not for reasons that I can readily defend before a member of the fraternity of chartered financial analysts.” 

When asked how the United States will resolve its debt and deficit problems, Grant remarked, “Well, in my mind it will resolve them necessarily by undertaking the step of restoring the dollar to convertibility into gold.”

Jim Grant has become legendary for having one of the top financial publications in the world.  This comment from the Financial Times points out one of the many reasons for Grant’s success, “If Grant could see what was happening this clearly,” wrote John Authors of the staff of the FT, “and warn of it in a well-circulated publication, how did the world’s financial regulators fail to avert the crisis before it became deadly, and how did the rest of us continue to make the irrational investing decisions that make Mr. Market behave the way he does?”

Jim Grant was outstanding in his KWN interview.  Grant covers tremendous ground in this conversation and you will be able to listen to it shortly by CLICKING HERE.

"Raise Debt Ceiling Or Risk Global Recession"- Obama

And people made fun of Hank Paulson for threatening with eternal damnation if congress didn't stamp his multi-trillion blank check to bail out his former co-workers from Goldman. In a step that makes the Kashkari-Paulson threat seem like amateur hour, the teleprompter just received its latest high frequency directive from the Wall Street superiors, promptly delivering the latest MAD message to what continues to be perceived as an idiot audience: "Failure by Congress to raise the U.S. debt limit "could plunge the world economy back into recession," President Barack Obama declared Friday, and he acknowledged that he must compromise on spending with Republicans who control the House to avoid such a crisis. Obama urged swift action, saying he doesn't want the United States to get close to a deadline that would destabilize financial markets. He said he was confident Congress ultimately would raise the limit. "We always have. We will do it again," said Obama, who voted against raising the debt limit as a freshman senator from Illinois."
For those keeping score of the President's numerous accolades, this merely underscores that the president is now in contention for the Nobel Prize in hypocrisy: after all compare this statement to Obama's now supremely ironic remark from March 20, 2006: "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better." They sure do. And in order to replace the current failed leadership, they will gladly start with a new president.
"I'm the person who is best prepared for us to finish the job so that we're on track to succeed in the 21st century," Obama said. That's the heart of his argument for voters to give him a second term over more than a half dozen Republicans seeking the White House.

As the 2012 campaign gets under way, it's being shaped by a deep disagreement over federal spending in Washington between Republicans who control the House and Democrats in power in the Senate and White House. Obama and Republicans compromised a week ago on a spending bill to avert a government shutdown, a preview of the debate that's certain to dominate the coming months on deficits and the ceiling on money the nation can borrow.

The president said that he doesn't expect either side to get everything it wants in negotiations and that he's pushing for "a smart compromise that's serious."

He warned of dire consequences if the debt ceiling is not raised before it hits its limit of $14.3 trillion; the administration says the latest Congress could possibly act is by early July. But Obama said some longer-term questions about where the government trims its operations will have to be left until after the 2012 presidential election.

"I'm confident that the withdrawal will be significant," he said. "People will say this is a real process of transition, this is not just a token gesture"



Look at the CHART ABOVE! Silver is testing the $43 mark..


Extreme Silver Tightness Causing Delivery Problems

With gold and silver still on the move, today King World News interviewed Rick Rule, Founder of Global Resource Investor now part of the $9 billion Sprott Asset Management.  Rick is known as one of the most street smart pros in the resource sector.  When asked about the silver market specifically Rule stated, “Well I think part of what’s happening in the silver market is the fact that the market is in backwardation which is to suggest that the spot price is ahead of the futures price.  This is the opposite of a contango which is what normally what happens in metals markets.  It is obvious that there is incredible tightness in the physical market.”

Rick Rule continues:

“There has been so much physical buying that it’s widely reported that the mints are having difficulty obtaining coin strip in the face of overwhelming coin demand.  There has been suspicion with the March settlement and with subsequent near-term settlements that there will in fact be insufficient silver to meet the settlement requirements in those near month futures contracts.

It’s obvious from those statistics that the near-term silver supply, in particular the physical supply, is extremely tight, and as a consequence of that extremely volatile...We’re in an extraordinarily tight market.”

When asked about gold Rule remarked, “It’s very interesting to talk about the dollar and these other currencies in the context of gold because as has been pointed out, gold is the only currency without a political constituency for devaluation.”

When asked about the US dollar Rule replied, “It is true the dollar is the world’s reserve currency so it’s the fiat currency that everybody is reserving special wrath for, particularly in view of the profligate nature of US debt issuances.  But there’s a bigger problem with regards to fiat currencies that people have, because if you are going to somewhere other than gold, what is the fiat haven?   I don’t see a fiat haven, and that’s problematic.”

Rick Rule is one of the most level headed individuals in the resource world so I take seriously his warnings about tightness in the silver market creating settlement problems in near-term futures contracts. 

Rick covered gold, silver, the US dollar, uranium, oil and other topics in great detail, including what he is doing with his own money and his KWN interview will be released shortly.  You can listen to it by CLICKING HERE.

15 Apr 2011

Dollar Crisis

Every day the fundamental reasons behind the price of gold firm up. It has become almost boring to report the new problems the dollar faces each day. $1650 is coming fast. Alf and Martin are looking quite right in their gold price objectives.
Thanks for the heads up from CIGA Ursel.

Dollar Status
News out this morning from China shouldn’t surprise any of our FutureMoneyTrends subscribers. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, & South Africa) came out with a statement calling for a revamped global monetary system that relies less on the U.S. dollar. Meeting on the Chinese island of Hainan, the group agreed to establish mutual credit lines denominated in their local currencies, NOT in U.S. dollars. They also stated that the current financial crisis had exposed the inadequacies of the current monetary order (code word for dollar). The BRICS are very concerned right now about the inevitable dollar devaluation due to out of control spending and deficits in Washington. They also were frustrated with the advantages and privileges that the U.S. has controlling the reserve currency, calling for a new "broad-based international reserve currency system providing stability and certainty" in an official statement. These statements all come out just after congress and the President agreed to spend and borrow more for fiscal year 2011 then they did in 2010. If congress is to follow through on what they passed to avert a government shutdown (shutdown in name only), then the U.S. will need to borrow at least another trillion in order to get us to October. Of course the debt ceiling is currently by law set at 14.3 trillion which it’s at now, so we are headed to at least 15.3 trillion within the next 6 months. Amazing isn’t it, the first trillion took 204 years and the next one is projected to take 6 months.
So the BRICS are starting to do transactions in their own currencies, pushing for a new reserve currency, and importing record amounts of gold and silver. Yet, more than likely we will have to suffer through more gold bubble talk from the main stream media, when in reality they should be talking about the mother of all bubbles, the dollar bubble.

Mandatory Spending
Doing a comparison of the year 2000 Vs. 2010, we can see that the national narrative and assessment of our current fiscal condition is fatally flawed. Lets look at the changes we have seen in the last 10 years. In the year 2000, 49.3% of Americans had jobs, we also had about the same number of non-working adults as we did children. In 2010, 45.4% of Americans had jobs, 66.8% of men had jobs (the lowest on RECORD), and the non-working adult population grew 27 million, while children under 18 grew by just 3 million. Why note non-working adults and children? Because with 77 million baby boomers, this change in demographics matters big time!
Public school education costs tax payers around $10,000 a year, however a baby boomer entering their retirement years (social security & medicare) costs around $25,000 a year. Now it is important to note that the Federal Government picks up the tab for the retirees and educating a child is shared. What we are trying to point out is that when it comes to how much we are going to have to spend and borrow in order to keep up with entitlements, we have barely scratched the surface. In the year 2000, our fiscal budget was 1.8 trillion, with 197 billion going towards medicare and 232 billion going towards entitlements. By 2010, our budget nearly doubled to 3.4 trillion, medicare spending went up 128% to 451 billion, and entitlement spending went up 140% to 558 billion. Now, the first baby boomer didn’t turn 65 until this year, so all of these spending increases were done before this huge wave of baby boomers began to enroll in these programs. In the last 2 years, our government has already been spending so much that just 2 years ago when President Obama took office, Medicaid spending has gone up by 50%, and as a percentage of the economy, government has gone from 35% to 44%. The advocates for taxing the rich simply don’t understand economics nor our demographics. FutureMoneyTrends.com believes we will see significant changes either to our currency status or our entitlement programs in the next 5 years. If it’s a currency crisis first, then by default the entitlement changes will happen. So which one will happen first? Well, let’s just say at this point changes to the largest voting blocks retiree benefits is politically impossible.


China Holds $3 Trillion worth of US pieces of paper

China’s f oreign-exchange reserves exceeded $3 trillion for the first time and bank lending accelerated, signaling an escalation in the global economic imbalances that Group of 20 finance chiefs are trying to rein in.
China’s currency holdings, the world’s biggest, swelled by $197 billion in the first quarter, the nation’s central bank said on its website. A separate report showed new loans were a more-than-estimated 679.4 billion yuan ($104 billion) in March.
Premier Wen Jiabao’spolicy of restraining gains in the yuan, along with trade surpluses and flows of capital into the fastest-growing major economy have boosted the reserves by $1 trillion in two years. The G-20, gathering tonight in Washington, is seeking to agree on an early warning system that can prevent the type of imbalances in trade and financial patterns that contributed to the 2007-09 global credit crisis.
“Most striking at first sight is how fast the foreign- exchange reserves are rising,” said Mark Williams, a London- based economist for Capital Economics Ltd. “Chinese officials point to the first quarter’s trade deficit as evidence that there is less need for the renminbi rise, but the scale of reserve growth shows that the People’s Bank is still intervening very actively to keep the renminbi down.”

Exceeding Forecasts

The currency holdings at the end of March compared with the $2.98 trillion estimate in a Bloomberg News survey of five economists and $2.85 trillion at the end of last year. M2 money supply rose 16.6 percent from a year earlier, exceeding analysts’ median estimate.
Today’s reports underscore the challenges for China’s policy makers as they seek to stem inflation while at the same time preventing the yuan from soaring. Consumer prices rose 5.3 percent or 5.4 percent last month, the most since July 2008, according to a Phoenix Television report in Hong Kongahead of government figures scheduled for release tomorrow.
The yuan was little changed today at 6.5339 per dollar, about 4.5 percent higher than a year ago. By contrast, Singapore’s currency has climbed 10 percent in that time. That nation, which uses its exchange rate as the main monetary policy tool, today said it will allow further appreciation after a greater-than-forecast acceleration in growth last quarter.

GDP Growth

Government figures tomorrow may show China’s gross domestic product expanded at a slower pace in the first three months of the year, which may help defuse the risks of overheating and help Wen’s campaign to contain consumer prices. The expansion probably eased to 9.4 percent, according to the median estimate, compared with a peak year-on-year gain of 11.9 percent last year.
U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke is among those who have said that excess savings in Asia contributed to inflows of capital into the U.S. The investments helped hold down American borrowing costs, fueling a record mortgage boom that ended with a bust that sparked the global credit crisis.
At a February meeting in Paris, G-20 policy makers produced a list of criteria to use as yardsticks for when dangerous global imbalances are developing. The list included public debt and fiscal deficits, private debt and savings rates, trade balances and net investment-income flows and transfers.
Omitted at China’s behest were foreign-exchange reserves, a sign of the international disparities in spending and saving. In a signal that China may continue to resist the initiative, Li Yong, a vice finance minister, said guidelines could be used as a “political tool” against his nation by the G-20.

Euro’s Impact

Reserves are also affected by exchange-rate swings. Strength in the euro against the dollar might have bolstered China’s holdings in the first quarter, by boosting the value of the dollar-denominated value of assets that are held in the European currency.
Chinese officials are reining in lending to counter inflation after a record expansion of credit in 2009 and 2010, with the central bank boosting interest rates four times since mid-October and raising banks’ reserve requirements.
“We will further improve the yuan formation mechanism and increase yuan exchange-rate flexibility to eliminate monetary conditions that fuel inflation,” Wen said in his speech to a State Council meeting yesterday.


Citi Issues USD Warning: "Significant Downside Risk For USD And JPY If Market Begins To Price In Unsustainable Debt Risk"

As anyone who has been following the VIX, US CDS (which is quite interesting as the US catastrophe trade appears to have become selling CDS to fund gold purchases in euros: more on that eventually), or stock markets in general has grown to appreciate all too well, no matter the amount of perceived risks, the market continues to shrug off any bad news: after all, the Bernanke put means that the greater the systemic shock, the higher the likelihood that the Fed will get involved yet again and push up all risk assets. However, the same can not be said about the dollar. The currency which in 2011 has traded like anything but the world's reserve currency is less than 1 point away from 2009 lows. But that could be just the beginning. Citi's head of FX has released a not warning about the potential coming avalanche to the greenback should debt ceiling negotiations hit a snag: "what we are looking at here is very much the tail risk event that the debt ceiling negotiations unexpectedly hit an impasse. The question is what the impact would be on USD." Englander's summary observations: 1) The USD will be in big trouble if investors get the sense that the debt ceiling negotiations have gone beyond the expected choreography into a zone where there is perceived risk to US credit; 2) More broadly, we think FX markets are increasing the attention they pay to fiscal sustainability relative to monetary policy; 3) The FX response may be non-linear so G10 countries may have a false sense of security in seeing little FX response to deterioration so far. Then again, perhaps a major step down in the dollar is precisely what the Fed wants...
Englander's summary view:
  • The 2011 budget impasse was resolved with little markets impact
  • If a breach of the US debt ceiling comes into question the impact will be larger
  • Since September 2009, a 100bps increase in CDS has been associated with 8% currency weakness …
  • … but there also is a level effect as poorer credits have faced larger FX pressures
Full note:
The USD dodged the 2011 budget bullet last weekend and is now facing the debt ceiling cannonball. Although the debt ceiling is not normally considered a tool by which fiscal consolidation is achieved, it seems likely that there will be a fair amount of brinkmanship before the debt ceiling is raised. Investors and most economists expect political posturing as the debt ceiling debate drags on through late May and June, but no event that affects perceptions of US credit quality. So far US yields are showing no pressure and US CDS is trading well within the range of the last 15 months.
So what we are looking at here is very much the tail risk event that the debt ceiling negotiations unexpectedly hit an impasse. The question is what the impact would be on USD.
Below we present a cross-section analysis across more than 30 major currencies on what impact a deterioration in credit has on the currency. The analysis covers the period September 2009 to the present – September 2009 was the trough in spreads between financial crisis related sovereign credit concerns and the European sovereign credit blow-up, so it gives us a good base for comparison.
We find a surprisingly strong impact of credit deterioration on currencies. A 100bps increase in CDS has been associated with 8% currency weakness over this period, but we also find that countries that started the episode with higher CDS tended to fall more or appreciate less than others. Having a September 2009 CDS level 100bps higher in the cross-section is associated with 7% less subsequent appreciation, given no further CDS deterioration. Hence poor credit seems to represent a headwind to appreciation beyond any additional deterioration.
We have three takeaways from this.
1) The USD will be in big trouble if investors get the sense that the debt ceiling negotiations have gone beyond the expected choreography into a zone where there is perceived risk to US credit;
2) More broadly, we think FX markets are increasing the attention they pay to fiscal sustainability relative to monetary policy;
3) The FX response may be non-linear so G10 countries may have a false sense of security in seeing little FX response to deterioration so far.

The debt ceiling negotiations
We have little to add on the debt ceiling negotiations except to reiterate that there is very little evident concern in either FX or FI markets. Both 10- and 30-year yields are in the year’s range, the 30-year Treasury auction on April 14 was very well received and there is no stress evident on CDS. Last weeks budget negotiations probably had a small negative impact on USD, and the concern about the process is a lingering negative, but the impact of any concrete debt ceiling risks would be much higher.

Impact of credit deterioration
We regress the Sep 2009 to April 2011 change in the value of 33 currencies against the beginning level of their sovereign CDS and the change in the sovereign CDS, the correlation of the currency with the S&P and a dummy to distinguish between G10 and non-G10 currencies.
The strongest association by far is with the CDS variables. The results imply that a currency with a 100bp higher CDS in Sep 2009 tended to appreciate about 8% less through Apr 2011, even if the CDS did not move, while a currency with its sovereign CDS rising by 100bps tended to appreciate about 9% less. (We ran our regressions using USD as a base but in a cross-section regression the base currency does not matter.)
The measure of riskiness that we used, the correlation with the S&P, was marginally significant, indicating that over this long period, the CDS coefficient did not reflect the appetite for risk to any great degree. Being in the G10 had a modest negative effect and being heavily correlated with risk had a marginally significant positive effect but they did not affect the coefficients or results greatly.
Figure 1 presents the actual currency changes as well the changes predicted by the model specified above. For such a simple equation it explains a fair amount of the currency variation. Most importantly for the USD it seems to have quite a bit of explanatory power for the currencies that have performed the poorest versus those that have performed the best. In some regressions we included levels and changes in swap spreads, but these did not seem to provide significant additional explanatory power.

We did not include the EUR in our regression since the combination of national sovereign risks was not necessarily linear. However, we did calculate a debt weighted average of CDS and CDS changes and used the estimated coefficients to get an estimated EUR impact. Interestingly the actual change in the EUR very much matched the predicted and the 96bp increase in debt-weighted CDS suggests that the EUR would be about 8% (11 big figures) higher had the EUR sovereign CDS retained their September 2009 level. That would explain much of the deterioration in EURXXX crosses against commodity and other risk-correlated currencies.
Visually we observe that the currency effect seems to become significantly larger when the CDS level was above about 90bp. Moreover the currency impact seems to kick in as soon as there is any deterioration. We do not want to emphasize this, but it comes back to the risk that there is a false security in having seen no effects till now.

This provides preliminary indication that FX markets have come to focus on debt and creditworthiness in addition to the standard macro variables. It suggests both potential upside for the EUR and other currencies that get their sovereign debt situation under control and significant downside for USD and JPY if markets ever begin to price in concrete risk that debt will become unsustainable.


14 Apr 2011

Government Handing out Free Money to the Rich, then the Wealthy Loan in back at a higher interest rate.

America has two national budgets, one official, one unofficial. The official budget is public record and hotly debated: Money comes in as taxes and goes out as jet fighters, DEA agents, wheat subsidies and Medicare, plus pensions and bennies for that great untamed socialist menace called a unionized public-sector workforce that Republicans are always complaining about. According to popular legend, we're broke and in so much debt that 40 years from now our granddaughters will still be hooking on weekends to pay the medical bills of this year's retirees from the IRS, the SEC and the Department of Energy.
Most Americans know about that budget. What they don't know is that there is another budget of roughly equal heft, traditionally maintained in complete secrecy. After the financial crash of 2008, it grew to monstrous dimensions, as the government attempted to unfreeze the credit markets by handing out trillions to banks and hedge funds. And thanks to a whole galaxy of obscure, acronym-laden bailout programs, it eventually rivaled the "official" budget in size — a huge roaring river of cash flowing out of the Federal Reserve to destinations neither chosen by the president nor reviewed by Congress, but instead handed out by fiat by unelected Fed officials using a seemingly nonsensical and apparently unknowable methodology.
This article appears in the April 28, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone. The issue will be available on newsstands and in the online archive April 15.
Now, following an act of Congress that has forced the Fed to open its books from the bailout era, this unofficial budget is for the first time becoming at least partially a matter of public record. Staffers in the Senate and the House, whose queries about Fed spending have been rebuffed for nearly a century, are now poring over 21,000 transactions and discovering a host of outrages and lunacies in the "other" budget. It is as though someone sat down and made a list of every individual on earth who actually did not need emergency financial assistance from the United States government, and then handed them the keys to the public treasure. The Fed sent billions in bailout aid to banks in places like Mexico, Bahrain and Bavaria, billions more to a spate of Japanese car companies, more than $2 trillion in loans each to Citigroup and Morgan Stanley, and billions more to a string of lesser millionaires and billionaires with Cayman Islands addresses. "Our jaws are literally dropping as we're reading this," says Warren Gunnels, an aide to Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. "Every one of these transactions is outrageous."
But if you want to get a true sense of what the "shadow budget" is all about, all you have to do is look closely at the taxpayer money handed over to a single company that goes by a seemingly innocuous name: Waterfall TALF Opportunity. At first glance, Waterfall's haul doesn't seem all that huge — just nine loans totaling some $220 million, made through a Fed bailout program. That doesn't seem like a whole lot, considering that Goldman Sachs alone received roughly $800 billion in loans from the Fed. But upon closer inspection, Waterfall TALF Opportunity boasts a couple of interesting names among its chief investors: Christy Mack and Susan Karches.
Christy is the wife of John Mack, the chairman of Morgan Stanley. Susan is the widow of Peter Karches, a close friend of the Macks who served as president of Morgan Stanley's investment-banking division. Neither woman appears to have any serious history in business, apart from a few philanthropic experiences. Yet the Federal Reserve handed them both low-interest loans of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars through a complicated bailout program that virtually guaranteed them millions in risk-free income.
The technical name of the program that Mack and Karches took advantage of is TALF, short for Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility. But the federal aid they received actually falls under a broader category of bailout initiatives, designed and perfected by Federal Reserve chief Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, called "giving already stinking rich people gobs of money for no fucking reason at all." If you want to learn how the shadow budget works, follow along. This is what welfare for the rich looks like

Surprise, Debt limit will Increase- Did you think anything different?

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Wednesday that Congress will allow the country to borrow more by agreeing to increase the $14.3 trillion debt limit.
"Congress will pass an increase in the debt limit," Geithner told PBS Newshour.
Republicans have said they are unwilling to raise the debt ceiling without some reforms to the government spending.
Geithner said there were some lawmakers who want to take debt ceiling negotiations "to the brink" and warned that the United States could not take that risk.
"So you want Congress to move as quickly as possible to raise that, and of course, they recognize that they have to do that," he said.

Treasury has forecast that the limit will be reached by May 16. After that point, Treasury can take emergency measures to avoid hitting the debt ceiling. But those actions will only give the United States about a two-month window before Treasury is unable to issue debt to fund government operations.


Dollar Collapse FAQ's

  • What is a fiat currency?
  • Why do fiat currencies always fail?
  • Why will the dollar be the first of today’s fiat currencies to collapse?
  • What happens when the dollar collapses?
  • Why will gold go up when the dollar goes down?
  • Why will gold keep rising?

What is a fiat currency?
A currency that’s created and controlled by a government. In other words, it exists by government “fiat.” Using the dollar as an example, the U.S. Federal Reserve creates new dollars simply by printing them or injecting electronic “reserves” into the banking system. The supply of dollars thus depends on the decisions of our elected officials and their appointed administrators like the governors of the Fed.
An example of a non-fiat currency would be the gold and silver coins that used to circulate in much of the world. There was only so much of each metal, and the supply only increased when some enterprising miner discovered and dug up more. Governments were unable to create this kind of money out of thin air.
Like the dollar, today’s euro, Japanese yen, and British pound are all fiat currencies. And—here’s the crucial point—every single fiat currency that has existed prior to the current batch was eventually destroyed by its government.

Why do fiat currencies always fail?
Put simply, governments are fundamentally incapable of maintaining the value of their currencies. Every leader, whether king, president or prime minister, serves at the pleasure of two powerful constituencies: Taxpayers irate about what they currently pay and violently opposed to paying more, and recipients of government help who demand vastly greater levels of spending on everything from defense, to roads, to old age pensions. Alienate either group, and the result can be an abrupt career change.
So our hypothetical leader finds himself with two choices, the most obvious of which is to level with his constituents and explain that there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Taxes are the price of civilization, but government largess can consume only so much of a healthy economy’s output, so no one person or group can have all they want. This looks simple on paper, but in the real world it opens the door to challenge from rivals who have no qualms about promising whatever is necessary to gain power.
Not liking this prospect at all, our leader then turns to his remaining option: Borrow to finance some new spending without raising taxes. Then create enough new currency to cover the resulting deficit. The anti-tax and pro-spending folks each get what they want, and no one notices, for a while at least, the slight decline in the value of each individual piece of currency caused by the rising supply. Human nature being what it is, every government eventually chooses this second course. And the result, almost without exception, is a gradual loss of confidence in the value of each national currency, which we now know as inflation.
But a little inflation, like a little heroin, is seldom the end of the story. Over time, the gap between tax revenue and the demands placed on government tends to grow, and spending, borrowing and currency creation begin to expand at increasing rates. Inflation accelerates, and the populace comes to see the process of “debasement” for what it is: the destruction of their savings. They abandon the currency en mass, spending it or converting it to more stable forms of money as fast as possible. The currency’s value plunges (another way of saying prices soar), wiping out the accumulated savings of a whole generation. Such is the eventual fate of every fiat currency. The Collapse of the Dollar… tells the stories of five of the more spectacular currency crises, but like I said, they all go this way eventually.

Why will the dollar be the first of today’s fiat currencies to collapse?
For the past few decades, the U.S. has enjoyed an historically unique position. As the most powerful nation in an increasingly globalized world, its currency, the dollar, is in demand as a store of value. That is, investors and central banks in other countries want to hold dollars as alternatives to their own, presumably less stable currencies. This insatiable demand for dollars has handed U.S. consumers and governments a virtually unlimited credit card. And we’ve spent the past two decades maxing it out.
The U.S. is now the world’s biggest debtor nation, and our current economic expansion is only possible because Japan, China, and Europe are willing to finance our trade deficit by, in effect, lending us $800 billion a year. They do this by taking the dollars we pay for their Toyotas, French wine and Chinese electronics, and using them to buy U.S. bonds and other financial assets.
Add it all up, and U.S. debt now comes to about $60 trillion, or $800,000 per family of four, a clearly unsustainable burden. When our trading partners figure out that we’re no longer solvent, they’ll stop lending us money (that is, they’ll use their dollars to buy euros or yen or gold rather than U.S. bonds), and the value of the dollar will plunge. The process has already begun, with decreasing demand for dollars sending the value of the dollar down by more than a third in this decade. But this is just the beginning.

What happens when the dollar collapses?
Many things, most of them bad. When foreign investors and central banks stop demanding dollars, U.S. bond prices will fall, which is another way of saying that U.S. interest rates will rise. Mortgage and credit card rates will soar, sending the U.S. economy back into recession. The U.S. government will respond by opening the monetary floodgates, printing as many paper dollars as necessary to keep the economy from collapsing. This surge in supply will send the value of the dollar through the floor. Prices for most things will skyrocket, and people whose life savings are in cash, bank CDs, or dollar-denominated bonds will be wiped out. Many U.S. financial and manufacturing companies will be ruined, along with their stockholders.
THEN the Dollar Disease will go global. The only reason Japan or Europe have been able to generate their current meager rates of growth is the willingness of U.S. consumers to buy their Hondas and BMWs. As the dollar plunges, Asian and European goods, priced in suddenly-appreciating currencies, will become prohibitively expensive for U.S. consumers, who will respond by buying U.S.-made alternatives or nothing at all. Correctly interpreting this change in buying patterns as a threat to their vital export sectors, European and Asian leaders will respond with the only weapon they have left: monetary inflation. They’ll cut interest rates and buy dollars with their currencies, flooding the world with euros and yen the way the U.S. now floods the world with dollars. The result of these “competitive devaluations” will be a death spiral for all major fiat currencies, in which European and Japanese bonds will, eventually, fare as badly as their U.S. cousins.

Why will gold go up when the dollar goes down?
Until very recently, gold was humanity’s money of choice, for one very good reason: It exists in limited supply, and governments can’t make more of it, so its value tends to be stable. As paper currencies collapse, the world will look for alternatives, one of which is sure to be gold. Massive amounts of global capital will start chasing a very limited supply of gold, sending its value through the roof.

Why will gold keep rising?
All the conditions that led to its quadrupling so far in this decade are still in place. The U.S. and Europe are still borrowing far more than they can ever hope to pay off, and financing the resulting debt with newly-created paper currency. Oil and other commodities are still in short supply, as demand from China and India soars. And almost without exception, the world’s leaders seem unable to grasp the risks inherent in paper currency that can be created in infinite quantities by government.
Three more reasons:
* Gold’s fundamentals are very positive. The world’s mines produce about 2,500 tonnes of gold a year, while demand for gold is currently running about 4,000 tonnes. And new demand from emerging countries like China and India is soaring.
* The Fear Index is flashing a “buy” signal. This index measures the financial markets’ anxiety about the dollar and the U.S. monetary and banking system, and in the twenty years since GoldMoney’s James Turk invented it, each of its “buy” signals has been followed by a marked, sometimes spectacular, increase in gold’s exchange rate. Chapter 11 of The Collapse of the Dollar… explains the Fear Index in detail, but for now suffice it to say it continues to point to a rising gold price.
* Central bank manipulation is about to backfire. The world’s central banks, led by the U.S. Federal Reserve, have been making up the difference between mine production and gold demand by secretly dumping their gold on the market. They do this by lending their gold for a nominal interest rate to “bullion banks” like JP Morgan Chase and Citigroup, which then sell it and invest the proceeds at higher rates. Because the banks are obligated to return this gold to the central banks, they’re “short” the metal. At some point in the future they have to buy this gold back on the open market. If gold’s price is low, they make money, and if it’s high, they lose. Since it’s currently high and rising, these banks are looking at multi-billion dollar losses. And as these losses mount, the pressure grows to bite the bullet and close out their short positions by buying back their gold. When one bullion bank does this, the others will be forced to follow, producing a classic “short squeeze,” in which all the major bullion banks try to buy at once, sending gold through the roof. Chapter 12 of “The Collapse of the Dollar…” offers an overview of the central banks’ machinations. For a far more detailed treatment, see Sprott Asset Management’s 70-page report, “Not Free, Not Fair: The Long Term Manipulation of the Gold Price,” available at www.sprott.com.
Add it all up — favorable demand trends, a Fear Index buy signal, and the coming central bank short squeeze — and the next few years should be spectacular for gold.

What will happen to the US economy and the dollar in the near term

What will happen to the US economy and the dollar in the near term?
Will inflation increase dramatically?
What is the outlook for gold, and where should you put your money?
BIG GOLD asked a world-class panel of economists, authors, and investment advisors what they expect for the future. Caution: strong opinions ahead...

Jim Rogers is a self-made billionaire, author of the bestsellers Adventure Capitalist and Investment Biker, and a sought-after financial commentator. He was a co-founder of the Quantum Fund, a successful hedge fund, and creator of the Rogers International Commodities Index (RICI).

Bill Bonner is the president and founder of Agora, Inc., a worldwide publisher of financial advice and opinions. He is also the author of the Internet-based Daily Reckoning and a regular columnist in MoneyWeek magazine.

Walter J. "John" Williams, private consulting economist and "economic whistleblower," has been working with Fortune 500 companies for 30 years. His newsletter Shadow Government Statistics provides in-depth analysis of the government's "creative" economic reporting practices.

Steve Henningsen is chief investment strategist and partner at The Wealth Conservancy in Boulder, CO, assisting clients interested in wealth preservation. Current assets under management exceed $200 million.
Frank Trotter is an executive vice president of EverBank and a founding partner of http://www.EverBank.com, a national branchless bank that was acquired by the current EverBank in 2002. He received an M.B.A. from Washington University and has over 30 years experience in the banking industry.

Dr. Krassimir Petrov is an Austrian economist and holds a Ph.D. in economics from Ohio State University. He was assistant professor in economics at the American University in Bulgaria, then an associate professor in finance at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is currently an associate professor at Ahlia University in Manama, Bahrain. He's been a contributing editor for Agora Financial and Casey Research.

Big Gold: The US dollar ended 2010 about where it started; does it resume its downtrend in 2011, or are fears about its demise overblown?
Jim Rogers: No, but further down the road.
Bill Bonner: No opinion. But there is more risk in the dollar than potential reward.
John Williams: There remains high risk of a dollar selling panic unfolding in the year ahead, as the US economy tanks anew, as the Fed continuously expands its easing, and as dollar holders dump the US currency and dollar-denominated paper assets. Such would be a precursor to the inflation problem.
Steve Henningsen: Similar to my thoughts last year, I still believe the dollar is headed down long-term, but it could bounce around over the next year. If sovereign debts become a problem again, like I think they will later this year, then everyone will go running back to "Mother Dollar" once again for one last hug before she lies back down on her sickbed.
Frank Trotter: As the economy waffles and the global investing community's attention is drawn from one crisis to the next, I expect the US dollar to bounce up and down in the current range. After that, however, my analysis suggests that measured by the key factors of fiscal and monetary policy, combined with a significant trade deficit, the US does not look as good as our major trading partners, and I thus expect the dollar to decline, perhaps significantly, in the intermediate term. Big geopolitical events may accelerate this or create a flight to US dollar quality, so hold on to your hats.
Krassimir Petrov: I think the dollar resumes lower. I expect QE3 and QE4 - a dollar-printing fest that will eventually sink the dollar. Sure, all fiat currencies are in deep trouble and prone to overprinting, but the reserve status of the dollar actually makes it more vulnerable now. Whether the dollar sinks against other currencies is a fool's game not worth playing. It is like being in the hospital, where all patients are suffering from cancer, and trying to guess who will feel best at the end of next year, or trying to guess who will succumb first. That's why it is so much safer to play the dollar against gold.
What to watch in 2011: stay focused on the sovereign debt crisis and bond yields. Spiking yields will trigger the next stage of the crisis.

BG: Gold has risen 10 years in a row, so some are calling it a bubble, yet it's roughly $1,000 below its inflation-adjusted high. What's your outlook for the metal in 2011?
Jim Rogers: It is hardly a "bubble" when very few own it still. Who knows? Overdue for a correction, but who knows?
Bill Bonner: The smart money is in gold. It will stay in gold until the bull market that began 10 years ago finally reaches its peak. It is extremely unlikely that the top will come in 2011; it's probably years in the future. In the meantime, gold is bound to have a losing year or two. Don't worry about it. Buy gold. Be happy.
John Williams: As the US dollar increasingly is debased, and where gold tends to preserve the purchasing power of the dollars invested in it, the upside to gold in the year ahead is open-ended, restricted only by any limits to the massive downside potential for the US dollar. Any intermittent gold price volatility, extreme or otherwise, will be short-lived. There is no bubble - only increasing weakness in the US dollar - with the gold price fundamentally headed much higher in the years ahead.
Steve Henningsen: I believe gold will once again prove the bubble-boys wrong and end the year positive (I have no idea by how much and don't really care). However, I think this year will be more volatile and that Gold Bugs better remain seated on the precious metals express or they might get squished.
Frank Trotter: I still think that with price inflation on the rise and big political events occurring, there may be room to continue to rise. If stock markets take off, then there will be a reduction in appreciation or even a significant decline, but based on the factors I mentioned above, I don't see that as highly likely.
Krassimir Petrov: Gold still has outstanding fundamentals. I believe that over the course of 2010, the fundamentals have strengthened significantly: (1) "No Exit [Strategy] for Ben" as he unleashed QE2, and will likely unleash QE3, QE4, etc., (2) no more central bank selling of gold, (3) more central banks become buyers of gold, and (4) trial balloons for a global gold-backed currency.
I have no idea how people could even claim that gold is in a bubble - barely 1 out of 100 people have any idea about investing in gold. During the real estate bubble, every second person was involved in it. Maria "Money Honey" Bartiromo has yet to report from the COMEX gold pits; gold fund managers and analysts have yet to obtain rock-star status; and glamorous models are not yet dating the gold guys. Who is the Henry Blodget [co-host of Tech Ticker] of the gold sector, do we have one yet?
Yes, gold will eventually become a bubble, but that feels 5-8 years away.

BG: What's your best investment advice for 2011?
Jim Rogers: Buy the rmb [renminbi, the Chinese currency].
Bill Bonner: We are in a period much like the period following WWI, in which the great debts and losses of the war had to be reckoned with. It is an era of great risk. The US faces many of the same challenges faced by Germany and England after WWI. Like England, it has huge debts. It is a waning imperial power. And it has the world's reserve currency. And like Germany, it is attempting to fix its problems by printing more money. This is not a good time to be long either US stocks or US bonds.
John Williams: As an economist, I look for the US dollar ultimately to lose virtually all of its current purchasing power. Accordingly, for those living in a US dollar-denominated world, it would make sense to move to preserve wealth and assets over the long-term. Physical gold is a primary hedge (as is silver). Holding some stronger currencies outside the US dollar, as well as having some assets outside the United States, also may make sense.
Steve Henningsen: Dramamine (for volatile markets), a stash of cash (for potential investment opportunities), and move some of your assets offshore if you haven't already.
Frank Trotter: My advice is first to look at the other side of your balance sheet - the liability and risk equation - before seeking out absolute gains. What are your goals, what resources do you already have to meet those goals, and what events (health, income stream, upheavals) might impact these risks? Place some assets to hedge these risks directly, then look to diversify globally into markets with higher growth potential than we see here at home, and that may balance your global purchasing power risk. Almost like a religion, we have had the phrase, "Stocks are the only legitimate hedge against inflation" beaten into our heads. I say, look at assets that define inflation like commodities and currencies and evaluate where these fit into your risk portfolio.
Krassimir Petrov: Last year I recommended silver, and I would stick to silver again, despite its phenomenal run. Then it gets tricky. I usually don't recommend diversification, but now I would again recommend a broad portfolio of commodities. Investing during the rest of 2011 should be easy: stay out of real estate, out of bonds, out of fiat currencies, and out of stocks; stay fully invested in commodities, overweight gold and silver.