Category Archives: Investing

Prepare to Be Bled Dry by a Decade of Stagflation, by Charles Hugh Smith

We can hardly wait. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

Our reliance on the endless expansion of credit, leverage and credit-asset bubbles will have its own high cost.

The Great Moderation of low inflation and soaring assets has ended. Welcome to the death by a thousand cuts of stagflation. It was all so easy in the good old days of the past 25 years: just keep pushing interest rates lower to reduce the cost of borrowing and juice credit expansion ((financialization) and offshore industrial production to low-cost nations with few environmental standards and beggar-thy-neighbor currency policies (globalization).

Both financialization and globalization are deflationary forces, as they reduce costs. They are also deflationary to the wages of bottom 90%, as wages are pushed down by cheap global labor and stripmined by financialization, which channels the vast majority of the economy’s gains into the top tier of the workforce and those who own the assets bubbling up in financialization’s inevitable offspring, credit-asset bubbles.

To keep the party going, central banks and governments pushed both forces into global dominance: hyper-financialization and hyper-globalization. Policy extremes were pushed to new extremes: “temporary” zero-rate interest policy (ZIRP) stretched on for 6 years as every effort was made to lower the cost of credit to bring demand forward and inflate yet another credit-asset bubble, as the “wealth effect” of the top 5% gaining trillions of dollars in unearned wealth as asset bubbles inflated pushed consumption higher.

Corporate profits soared as credit became essentially free and super-abundant and globalization lowered costs and institutionalized planned obsolescence, the engineered replacement of goods and software that forces consumers to replace their broken / outdated products every few years.

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Seven Points on Investing in Treacherous Waters, by Charles Hugh Smith

There are very few good investors. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

What’s truly valuable has no price and cannot be bought.

If all investments are being cast into Treacherous Waters, our investment strategy must adapt accordingly. Once we set aside denial and magical thinking as strategies and accept that we’re in treacherous waters, a prudent starting point is to discern the most consequential contexts of all decisions about where and how we invest our time, energy and capital.

The most consequential global context is to first and foremost “invest in yourself”: invest in forms of capital that cannot lose value (for example, integrity, skills and experience) and assets that are not dependent on fluctuations in valuations for their utility. This is the essence of Self-Reliance.

For example, tools retain their utility regardless of their current market value, and so does a house as shelter and yard to grow food. Whether the value drops to $1,000 or soars to $1 million, the property provides the same utility of shelter and sustenance.

In other words, the mindset of speculation–buy low and sell high to accumulate as much money as possible–is not the only context to consider.

A second global context is that speculative winners–assets that rise sharply in value–will increasingly be targets for “windfall” and/or wealth taxes, as well as capital controls, such as limits on selling. If you log a 500% gain, then paying a wealth tax is a small price to pay for such a handsome gain. But such enormous gains will very likely be far more scarce going forward as speculative bets become net drains on capital and speculators exit because their gambling chips are gone or they realize they better conserve what capital is still left.

Meanwhile, back on the Government Ranch, the crying need for more tax revenues will become increasingly dire. As speculative bubbles pop, capital gains will dry up and blow away, and this rich source of tax revenues will have to be replaced with higher taxes and junk fees on whatever income and assets are available for “revenue enhancement,” ahem.

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Understanding the Geopolitical Landscape in 2023… What It Means for Your Portfolio, by Chris MacIntosh

Buy companies that make ships. From Chris MacIntosh at internationalman.com:

Global Geopolitical Landscape

Howard Marks of Oaktree Capital put out a note to clients sometime ago, “I Beg to Differ” and the below paragraph in particular resonated with me.

First-level thinking is simplistic and superficial, and just about everyone can do it (a bad sign for anything involving an attempt at superiority). All the first-level thinker needs is an opinion about the future, as in “The outlook for the company is favorable, meaning the stock will go up.”

Second-level thinking is deep, complex, and convoluted. The second-level thinker takes a great many things into account:

  • What is the range of likely future outcomes?
  • What outcome do I think will occur?
  • What’s the probability I’m right?
  • What does the consensus think?
  • How does my expectation differ from the consensus?
  • How does the current price for the asset compare with the consensus view of the future, and with mine?
  • Is the consensus psychology that’s incorporated in the price too bullish or bearish?
  • What will happen to the asset price if the consensus turns out to be right, and what if I’m right?

The difference in workload between the first-level and second-level thinking is clearly massive, and the number of people capable of the latter is tiny compared to the number capable of the former.

First-level thinkers look for simple formulas and easy answers. Second-level thinkers know that success in investing is the antithesis of simple.

Here is a brief example of how to employ second-order thinking with Taiwan

It is worth considering a lesson from World War 2 because it’s vitally important, and — as far as I can tell — not only do most Americans not know it, but the current bunch of podium donuts in the US don’t appear to either.

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Japan Is Perhaps the Most Important Risk in the World, an Interview with Jim Grant and Christoph Gisiger

The Japanese bond market is a financial time bomb whose fuse has been lit. From Christoph Gisiger and Jim Grant at themarket.ch:

Speculation is mounting that the Bank of Japan is losing control of the bond market. Jim Grant, editor of «Grant’s Interest Rate Observer», believes this could trigger a shock to the global financial system. He also explains why he expects further surges in inflation and why gold should be part of your portfolio.

The news caught markets off guard: On December 20th, the Bank of Japan surprisingly extended the target range for the yield on ten-year government bonds to plus/minus 0.5%. A move that not a single economist had expected.

This week, the Bank of Japan could announce a major policy shift amid rising government bond yields and a strengthening yen. Although barely a month has passed since the BoJ’s last meeting, the bond market is already testing the new upper limit of the yield curve control regime.

«To us, Japanese interest rate policy resembles the Berlin Wall of the late Cold War era, a stale anachronism that must sooner or later fall,» says Jim Grant. For the editor of the iconic investment bulletin «Grants’ Interest Rate Observer,» recent developments in Japan pose an underestimated risk to global financial markets. Not least because virtually no one is talking about it.

In an in-depth interview with The Market NZZ, which has been slightly edited for clarity, Mr. Grant explains what it means for financial markets if the Bank of Japan is forced to scrap its yield curve control policy. But first, he says why he doesn’t believe inflation will end soon, why bonds may be at the start of a long bear market, and why he believes gold is the best choice as a store of value.

«If the past is prologue and if the great bond bull market is over, then on form, we are looking at what could be a very prolonged and perhaps gradual move higher in interest rates»: Jim Grant.

«If the past is prologue and if the great bond bull market is over, then on form, we are looking at what could be a very prolonged and perhaps gradual move higher in interest rates»: Jim Grant.

What do you observe when you look at the financial world today?

Well, it’s always the same, and – here’s the catch – it’s always a little different. The trick is to identify the unique or unusual feature of a familiar cycle. In this regard, it helps to know a little bit of financial history, and to just that extent it helps to be a little old. But what is not helpful is to mistake the past for a certain roadmap to the future.

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Ominous Military & Financial ‘Nuclear Threats’ Could Erupt in 2023, by Egon von Greyerz

The financial threat looks like a sure thing, and the military threat is not far behind. From Egon von Greyerz at goldswitzerland.com:

The world is today confronted with two nuclear threats of a proportion never previously seen in history. These threats are facing us at a time when the world economy is about to turn and decline precipitously not just for years but probably decades.

The obvious nuclear threat is the war between the US and Russia which currently is playing out in Ukraine.

The other nuclear threat is the financial weapons of mass destruction in the form of debt and derivatives amounting to probably US$ 2.5 quadrillion.

If we are lucky, the geopolitical event can be avoided but I doubt that the explosion/implosion of the Western financial timebomb can be stopped.

More about these risks later in the article.

There is also a summary of my market views for 2023 and onwards at the end of the article.

CURIOSITY AND RISK

With a business life of over 52 years in banking, commerce and investments, I am fortunate to still learn every day and learning is really the joy of life. But the more you learn, the more you realise how little you really know.

Being a constant and curious learner means that life is never dull.

As Einstein said:

The important thing is not to stop questioning.

Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

There has been another important constancy in my life which is understanding and protecting RISK.

I learnt early on in my commercial life that it is critical to identify risk and endeavour to protect the downside. If you can achieve that, the upside normally takes care of itself.

Sometimes the risk is so clear that you want to stand on the barricades and shout. But sadly most investors are driven by greed and seldom see when markets become high risk.

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What if the “Black Swan” of 2023 Is the Fed Succeeds? by Charles Hugh Smith

Higher interest rates may end up hurting and helping all the right people. From Charles Hugh Smith at oftwominds.com:

If the Fed succeeding is a “Black Swan,” bring it on.

What if the “Black Swan” of 2023 is the Federal Reserve succeeds? Two stipulations here:

1. “Black Swan” is in quotes because the common usage has widened to include events that don’t match Nassim Taleb’s original criteria / definition of black swan; the term now includes events considered unlikely or that are off the radar screens of both the media and the alt-media.

2. The definition of “Fed success” is not as simple as the media and the alt-media present it.

In the conventional telling, the Fed made a policy mistake in keeping interest rates and quantitative easing (QE) in place for too long, and now it’s made a policy mistake in reversing those policies. Huh? So ZIRP/QE was a policy mistake, OK, we get that. But reversing those policy mistakes is also a policy mistake? Then what isn’t a policy mistake? Doing nothing? But wait, isn’t “doing nothing” maintaining ZIRP/QE or ZIRP/QE Lite?

This narrative makes no sense.

The other conventional narrative has the Fed’s policy mistake as tightening financial conditions, a.k.a. reversing ZIRP/QE, too much too quickly, as this will cause a recession. OK, we get the avoidance of recession is considered “a good thing,” but aren’t recessions an essential cleansing of excessive debt and speculation, i.e. an essential part of the business cycle without with bad debt, zombies and malinvestments build up to levels that threaten the stability of the entire system?

Yes, recessions are an essential part of the business cycle. So avoiding recessions is systemically disastrous. So according to this narrative, the Fed should “do whatever it takes” to avoid recession, even though a long-overdue recession is desperately needed to cleanse the deadwood, bad debt, zombie enterprises and speculative excesses from the system.

So this narrative is also nonsense.

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Doug Casey’s #1 Speculation for 2023

Doug Casey likes gold and uranium. From Casey at internationalman.com:

Doug Casey #1 Speculation

International Man: Will 2023 be the year of central bank digital currencies (CBDCs)? Or will this terrible idea be consigned to the dustbin of history?

Doug Casey: CBDCs are a disastrous idea. But that’s never stopped “the elite” in the past. First, they did zero interest rates and negative interest rates, which I thought was metaphysically impossible. But they did it. Then they went to massive “quantitative easing,” a dishonest euphemism for money printing.

The next thing is going to be Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs), which will give them unprecedented control over the finances of the average person.

On the one hand, it should be cause for a revolution because it will actually turn people into serfs. But on the other hand, the average American has almost no understanding of economics. He has little grip on what’s going on and believes propaganda.

We’re going to get CBDCs in 2023, and this is one of the scariest things on the horizon.

International Man: Will 2023 be the year uranium really takes off?

Doug Casey: Let’s recall the last uranium boom, which we were fortunate enough to catch back in 2001 to 2007. Uranium ran from $10 a pound up to $140 a pound. And that was in the days when the Russians and the Americans still had large nuclear weapon stockpiles, from which they recaptured lots of U-235 for use in reactors. That’s gone.

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Your Government Hates You, by MN Gordon

The government steals your hard-earned money, has plunged the country into debt, and has spent trillions on programs and wars of no discernible benefit to most of the American people. These are not the acts of an institution that loves you. From MN Gordon at economicprism.com:

“Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Capital Consuming Gluttony

Did you know that in fiscal year 2022, federal tax receipts as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) hit a near record high of 19.6 percent?

According to the U.S. Treasury, in FY 2022, total federal tax receipts and additional federal government revenue topped $4.90 trillion.  Yet, over this time, Congress spent $6.27 trillion.  The difference, the 2022 deficit, was $1.37 trillion.

The difference, of course, was made up with debt.  And year after year, decade after decade, these deficits have stacked up into a mega pile of debt.  Presently, the U.S. national debt is over $31.4 trillion.  As a reference point, in December 2000, the national debt was $5.6 trillion.

In other words, over the last 22 years the U.S. national debt has increased 460 percent.  U.S. GDP over this same time, however, has increased just 157 percent, from about $10 trillion to 25.7 trillion.

You’d think with all that cash coming in from near record tax receipts as a percent of GDP Washington could balance the budget.  Maybe it could even run a surplus and pay down some of the national debt.

President Andrew Jackson, for example, paid off the entire national debt in 1835 after just six years in office.  He then took the federal government surplus and divided it among indebted states.

Alas, that’s not how the U.S. government works in the 21st century, where near record tax receipts will never be enough.  Washington’s capital consuming gluttony is well beyond the reach of a human solution.  Nature will have to take its course.

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Doug Casey on Why Uranium has Enormous Upside Potential

Casey is probably right; uranium could be a real home run. From Doug Casey at internationalman.com:

Upside Potential

International Man: What makes uranium attractive as a speculation?

Doug Casey: First of all, consider simple physical reality. Uranium is the cleanest, cheapest, and safest form of mass power generation. I understand that most people will be shocked to hear that, so let me explain.

It’s the cleanest. Unlike coal—which generates millions of tons of pollutants that need to be buried or are dumped into the air—a large nuclear power plant only turns out waste that can be measured in cubic yards.

It’s the cheapest. Of course, this is something that’s very hard to determine since the nuclear industry is burdened with so many counterproductive regulations, controls, and requirements. But uranium itself amounts to less than 5% of the overall cost of running a nuclear plant. In a free market—which we don’t have—nuclear would be, by far, the cheapest type of mass power generation.

And it’s the safest. Notwithstanding what happened at Chernobyl—which failed because of backward and shoddy Soviet technology, or Fukushima, which had literally a one in a million chance of occurring—nobody has ever died of because of nuclear power. But many thousands of people die every year from the pollution caused by burning coal. And when a dam producing hydropower collapses, typically thousands of people die. There are risks and costs to absolutely everything.

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Until Something Breaks, by Bill Bonner

And assuredly, something will break. From Bill Bonner at bonnerprivateresearch.com:

No magic… no genius… and no common sense

 
 

Bill Bonner, reckoning today from Baltimore, Maryland…

 

Last week came more evidence that inflation is not going away. Today, we explain why. MarketWatch:

In data released Friday, U.S. producer prices rose 0.3% in November versus the 0.2% median forecast from economists polled by The Wall Street Journal. The increase in producer prices over the past 12 months slowed to 7.4% from 8.1% in the prior month, and was down from a 11.7% peak in March.

The report, which came in above expectations, indicated that there’s less moderation in price pressures than analysts had expected for last month.

Foretelling much worse inflation sometime in the future, prices for finished consumer goods actually went up at a 16% rate – the highest in 48 years.

Three Major Busts

But that’s the trouble with a ‘sea of lies;’ it inevitably gets stormy. Ships run aground. 

The Fed gave out the lie that it could manipulate the economy and make us all richer. It claimed to be “smoothing” the economic cycle. No more bubbles. No more busts.

But thanks to the Fed, we’ve seen 3 major bubbles in the last 22 years. And three major busts. We’re still in the 3rd one. 

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