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POSTED ON February 4, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

Michael Pento’s Market Commentary

In a heated debate on the February 1st episode of CNBC’s “The Kudlow Report”, financial commentator Donald Luskin offered his “textbook” definition of inflation as “an overall rise in the general price level.” I countered with the “dictionary” definition. My 1988 edition of Webster’s Dictionary defines inflation as follows: “An increase in the volume of money and credit relative to available goods, resulting in a substantial and continuing rise in the general price level.” [Emphasis added.] These differences are not academic and go a long way toward explaining why economists argue so vociferously.

In an inflationary environment, general prices tend to rise, although particular market segments tend to do so at uneven rates. This is hardly controversial. The more disputed question is why prices rise in the first place. As Luskin is well aware, the US Dollar is backed by nothing but confidence and perception. Its value depends upon our collective belief in its current and future purchasing power, and the hope that its supply will be restricted. When its supply is increased, users of the currency lose faith in its buying power and prices rise.

As a corollary, if dollar-holders believe that the US will have no choice but to monetize trillions of dollars of Treasury debt in the near future, the currency will falter. In this manner, currencies that are backed by nothing but confidence tend to behave like stock prices. The share value of a corporation represents the strength of the company. Likewise, the value of a currency represents the strength of a sovereign state.

Looked at through this prism, the fate of the US dollar in the future may not be all that different from the fate of Enron shares in 2001. In the 1990s, Enron was one of the most respected corporations in America, and the share price soared. But once the accounting scandal broke, and Enron’s profits were proven to be illusory, the purchasing power of its shares plummeted. Eventually, the shares became worthless.

The shares did not collapse simply because Enron issued more shares and diluted value. The big change came when investors lost faith in Enron. Likewise, the US dollar may lose value because of garden-variety dilution, but the real leg down will occur if holders of US government debt lose faith that they will be paid in full. Even if there is the mere perception such an outcome is likely, it will cause the dollar to tank and aggregate prices to rise.

The Fed and Treasury have set out on a deliberate strategy of creating inflation in order to monetize most of the $14.1 trillion national debt— a debt that is growing by well over a trillion dollars per year!

The charts tell the tale. There can be little doubt that the dollar is being debased. The graph below traces the growth of the monetary base, which consists of physical currency and Fed bank credit:

US Recessions 1980 - 2015

 

No doubt here. The supply of high-powered money has exploded.

But it is not only the monetary base that has expanded; take a look at M2, an aggregate of money and money substitutes:

M2 Money Stock 1980 -2015

 

Since the recession began in December, 2007, the M2 money supply has increased by over 18%.

Next is the chart of the CRB Index, a group of 19 commodities used to track the overall price of raw materials:

CRB Index, a group of 19 commodities used to track the overall price of raw materials

The index clearly shows a strong trend upward, suggesting a general loss of value by the USD.

Yet, for my money, the trajectory of gold prices is the best yardstick to measure that value of the dollar. Below is a ten-year chart of the dollar price of gold. It is self explanatory.

ten-year chart of the dollar price of gold 2000 -2011

Now, let’s look at some charts of the US dollar vs. other fiat currencies.

Here’s a two-year chart of the USD vs. the Australian dollar:

two-year chart of the USD vs. the Australian dollar

Here’s a two-year chart of the US dollar vs. the Canadian dollar:

two-year chart of the US dollar vs. the Canadian dollar 2009-2011

Finally, a two-year chart of the US dollar vs. the Japanese Yen:

two-year chart of the US dollar vs. the Japanese Yen 2009 - 2011

Most dollar defenders point to the relative stability of the hallowed Dollar Index, but this only points to a deep flaw in that index; namely, it contains such a high percentage (58%) of the equally challenged euro that it vastly understates the dollar’s weakness.

In our recent “Kudlow Report” debate, Luskin claimed that rising commodity prices no longer provided good inflation signals, saying that “for the last decade or so, the canaries [commodity prices] that we’re using in this mine shaft just aren’t functioning right.”

I’m not sure why Luskin has decided to stop relying on market prices to determine the rate of inflation. Apparently, he now prefers dubious inflation metrics provided by the very government that creates the inflation. This is equivalent to trusting Enron’s bookkeepers over an independent audit. For a smart guy, such faith is surprising.

By contrast, US dollar-holders around the world are increasingly losing faith in our currency and our government. They are tiring of the Fed’s 26-month marathon of zero percent interest rates, and the Treasury’s ballooning balance sheet. They are fearful that their bonds cannot withstand the twin threats of devaluation and default. That’s why the dollar is losing its reserve currency status and inflation rates are rising. But hey, at least Luskin can keep the faith – I just hope he doesn’t mind being the only one.

POSTED ON February 3, 2011  - POSTED IN Key Gold Headlines

Utah Could Use Gold, Silver Under Sound Money Act
New American – The Utah State Legislature is considering a bill that would require the state government to accept taxes and pay obligations in gold or silver upon demand. The “Sound Money Act” cites the US Constitution’s requirement that “no state shall make anything but gold and silver a tender in payment of debts.” That clause has never been repealed, though it was ignored by the courts as the US was gradually taken off the gold standard. This groundbreaking piece of legislation (and fantastic promotional video) could be the start of a movement among the states to return to Constitutional money. Among the coins Utah would accept are: American Gold Eagles, Australian Kangaroos, Canadian Maple Leafs, and South African Krugerrands.
Read Full Article>>

Emerging Markets Feeling the Heat of High Inflation Rates
Economic Times – Emerging markets are struggling under the burden of inflation ‘exported’ from the US. As the Fed prints hundreds of billions of new dollars, export-based economies feel pressured to print an equivalent amount of their local currency to keep their manufacturers from being choked off from the developed markets. The BRIC bloc (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) are all hiking interest rates to try to contain the flood of dollars pouring in, but the Fed’s inflation is too much, too fast. As a result of strengthening currencies abroad, the Economic Times expects rising prices in “commodities such as gold, silver, crude oil, and various other metals.”
Read Full Article>>

Are Investors Becoming Too Bearish on Gold?
Minyanville – January saw investors selling gold bullion and mining shares, but the metal is starting to look oversold. Much of the correction is due to recent rate hikes in emerging markets, leading some to believe the threat of inflation is waning. However, Euro Pacific Precious Metals’ own Chief Economist Michael Pento notes that real interest rates are set to be negative for some time, which historically drives the gold price up. It is noted that since so many gold market timers are quick to sell on even potentially bearish news, the gold market is probably far from the euphoria which characterizes a bubble. Also noted is how many traders are shorting gold, which “makes it a virtual certainty that at whatever price point a reversal eventually occurs, it will be a violent one.” That means a fast leap upward may be due in February. Mr. Pento maintains a price target of $1,600/oz by the end of 2011.
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Gold Standard Fully Supported By… Alan Greenspan!?
Zero Hedge – Joining a chorus that now includes the President of the World Bank and the President of the Kansas City Fed, former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan has publicly voiced his support for a return to the gold standard. Mr. Greenspan, credited by many with planting the seeds for the current dollar crisis, conceded on Fox Business Network that “some mechanism has got to be in place that restricts the amount of money which is produced, either a gold standard or a currency board, because unless you do that, all of history suggests that inflation will take hold.” The re-indexing required to create a new gold standard from the remaining US stockpile would yield a gold price of $6,300/oz.
Read full article >>

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POSTED ON February 1, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

Michael Pento’s Market Commentary

In current economic analysis, inflation is largely in the eye of the beholder, and depending on how you choose to look, very different stories emerge. In the U.S., food and beverages count for just 16.4% of the CPI calculation. The Chinese apparently believe that the basic necessities of life should count for more, assigning a 33% weight to the nutritional components. These differences in measurement are partially responsible for the divergent inflation climate in both countries, and make most people believe that inflation is fickle and localized. From my perspective, inflation is a global wave that will ultimately swamp all shores.

As the world’s economic leaders gather in Davos Switzerland, much of the discussion has been focused on a report jointly issued by the Global Economic Forum and McKinsey & Co. which forecasts a $100 trillion increase in global debt in the coming decade. The authors of the report argue that such an increase will be needed to maintain global economic health. Strangely, while acknowledging how the massive increase in credit caused the global financial crisis of 2008, the report’s authors admit no fear of even greater leverage today. They conclude: “Credit is the lifeblood of the economy, and much more of it will be needed to sustain the recovery and enable the developing world to achieve its growth potential.”

But the global credit stock has already doubled from $57 trillion in 2000 to $109 trillion in 2009, with disastrous consequences. The WEF report wouldn’t be so alarming if it wasn’t emanating from a gathering of global central bankers, business leaders and politicians. These are, unfortunately, the folks with all the power to turn these ideas into reality.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama kept pace with the madness in Davos by vowing to “slash” government debt by just $400 billion in 10 years. However, almost simultaneously the Congressional Budget Office upped its 2011 deficit projection to $1.48 trillion, which is over $400 billion more than it previously forecasted — effectively wiping Obama’s cuts before they are even formally proposed.

The myopia extends into the legislative branch. In a recent appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Senator Harry Reid said, “When we start talking about the debt, the first thing people do is run to Social Security. But Social Security is fully funded for the next 40 years.” Apparently the Senator pays no attention to the non-partisan CBO either. Last week the office states that Social Security will run permanent deficits beginning this year, 5 years sooner than expected. If we aren’t going to be honest about the insolvency of Social Security and Medicare, how can they possibly be fixed, and how can the costs ever be contained? The unfortunate truth here, once again, leads to the conclusion that financing our nation’s entitlement programs will be done courtesy of the Federal Reserve.

The CBO also said that the government will run up an additional $12 trillion in debt over the next decade if current taxing and spending policies remain in effect. Their report contained this foreboding comment: “…a growing level of federal debt would also increase the probability of a sudden fiscal crisis, during which investors would lose confidence in the government’s ability to manage its budget, and the government would thereby lose its ability to borrow at affordable rates.” The fact that our elected leaders fail to understand basic economics, or simply bury their heads in the sand, underscores why inflation will be a major factor in the years ahead.

For me, there is no escaping the conclusion that inflation will continue to surge. Inflation is, after all, the increase in money supply. And there appears to be no escaping the likelihood of massive floods of new money rolling off presses around the world, especially in Washington. But to a degree that is virtually ignored by many economists, a currency’s purchasing power is not only affected by money supply growth but also from the mere perception of it. Just like Enron shares became worthless overnight, if the U.S. is deemed to be insolvent because it cannot pay back its debt, the currency could plummet in a very short period of time, even if that pending supply of dollars has yet to be printed.

When you understand these basic issues, the decision to include precious metals, and other stores of value, in investment portfolios becomes a foregone conclusion.

POSTED ON January 28, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

Back in October of 2009, when Congress first announced the formation of a commission to investigate the cause of the 2008 financial crisis, I knew immediately that their ultimate conclusions would support the agendas of their respective political parties. (Watch the video blog I recorded that day) Particularly, I knew that the commission’s Democrat majority would use the crisis to justify more government involvement in the financial markets. These concerns have now been fully validated.

POSTED ON January 24, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

Michael Pento’s Market Commentary

There can be little doubt that Fed Chairman Benjamin Bernanke has been a very, very good friend to gold investors. However, some of those who have benefited from his largesse now fear that the recent selloff in gold indicates an imminent end to Bernanke’s monetary high-wire act. Most assume that a cessation of the Fed’s stimulative efforts, if it were to occur, would spell the end of gold’s bull run. But a closer reading of Bernanke’s economic philosophy and the Fed’s own recent history, shows that once a central banker begins a strenuous routine, it is very hard, if not impossible, for them to dismount.

It is widely believed that the unemployment rate, core inflation and home prices are the three key pieces of economic data that Bernanke and his Fed cohorts rely upon when formulating monetary policy. Although other data points, such as regional manufacturing surveys and the producer price index (which have rebounded significantly in some cases) attract some attention, they do not carry near the weight of the big three. With the unemployment rate remaining north of 9.4%, YOY core CPI inflation still less than 1% and the Case/Shiller Home Price Index down .8% from the year ago period, the Fed is in no mood to downshift. If anything, my guess is that Bernanke will step on the gas.

More importantly, in light of Bernanke’s often stated conclusion that premature Fed tightening in 1937 and 1938 led to a prolongation of the Great Depression, even if the big three metrics were to show marked improvement, any future increase in interest rates will be moderate and held in abeyance for as long as politically possible.

Despite the fact that some economic data is improving, the foundation of the economy is getting worse. Consumers are now increasing their borrowing again–as evidenced by last week’s number on consumer credit–and our government is now massively overleveraged. But leaving alone the deteriorating nature of these forward looking metrics, the Fed’s own history provides unexpected good news for those holding tight to their gold positions.

The Fed began its last round of rate hikes in June of 2004 when Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan began a sequence of consecutive 25 basis point increases. The Maestro bumped rates 14 times before passing the baton to Bernanke in February of 2006, who continued the program with three more ¼ point increases. The combined efforts took rates from 1% to 5.25% in the span of two years. However, the tightening program did nothing to tarnish the luster of gold. Here’s why.

Since the Fed increased interest rates very slowly from an extremely low level, money supply continued to expand during the long, slow, deliberate campaign of 25 basis point increases. From June 2004 through June 2006 the M2 money supply increased 9.3%, rising from $6.27 trillion to $6.85 trillion. Total loans and leases from commercial banks jumped from $4.61 trillion to $5.71 trillion during that same time period, an increase of 24%. As a result, over the time that the Fed’s dynamic duo waged their phony war against the asset bubbles of the mid 2000’s, the price of gold increased from $395 to $623 per ounce.

The truth is that increases in money supply and bank lending aren’t curtailed very much by a Fed Funds target rate that is increased very slowly from a starting point that is decidedly below the rate of inflation. Currently, Fed Funds is decidedly below the rate of inflation, and is likely to stay there for some time. Therefore, investors need not necessarily fear a run on gold once Bernanke eventually lifts rates from zero percent….if he ever makes that decision.

In addition, investors should keep their eyes on the damage created by these ultra low rates. An enormously destructive housing bubble grew out 1% and 1.5% rates that were in place from November of 2002 thru August of 2004. In our current round, the Fed has kept interest rates near zero since December 2008…more than two years! Why should we expect a different outcome this time around?

A key point to mention is that the credit crisis and collapse of the housing market were not caused by a the Fed bringing rates to 5.25%. Rather real estate prices simply went too high because rates were too low in the years prior. The low rates were the problem. And once home prices became unaffordable to most consumers, banks then became insolvent because millions defaulted on mortgages. After their capital became significantly eroded they were subsequently unable to lend.

The bottom line is that if Bernanke should ever attempt a “dismount” from massive monetary easing, investors should take solace not because he is likely to “stick” the landing, but because the exercise will likely be so futile that owners of gold should continue to shine.

POSTED ON January 13, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

In the early fall of 2009, just before I announced my candidacy for the U.S. Senate, I was introduced to a number of Washington-based political analysts and journalists. Among the group was Stuart Rothenberg, writer of the Rothenberg Political Report, a classic “inside the Beltway” publication targeted at those whose lives and livelihoods revolve around national politics. His acerbic comments regarding my candidacy in the months that followed reveal the enormous chasm that separates the real world from Washington.

POSTED ON January 4, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

Last month, I addressed the hype around gold confiscation, and debunked the myth that collectible or numismatic coins would offer effective protection. But there is another sales pitch that many dealers will use while trying to “up sell” you to numismatics. They may argue that on investment merits alone, numismatics are a better bet. While this may be a more rational line of thinking than the typical confiscation con, it is bad advice for investors hoping to protect their assets in an economic slump.

Think Like a Pro, Not a Schmo

I have long urged investors to keep 5-10% of their portfolios in physical precious metals, and add even more exposure when appropriate through the Perth Mint certificate program and mining stocks. This advice, far outside of the Wall Street mainstream, stems from my view of the kind of crisis we are approaching.

POSTED ON January 4, 2011  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

The following article was written by Mary Anne and Pamela Aden for the January 2011 edition of Peter Schiff’s Gold Letter.

7 In May, gold hit an all-time record high, and then, in September, silver reached a 30-year high. It was super bullish action, exciting to watch and to be part of, and it’s not over yet.

The gold price reached yet another record high on December 31, while silver, copper, palladium, and the CRB commodity index went on to reach new bull market or record highs. While gold has stolen most of the headlines with its 30% run up this year, silver has actually returned an incredible 83.5%… making it the star of 2010.

POSTED ON January 3, 2011  - POSTED IN Key Gold Headlines

Gold Imports by China Soar Almost Fivefold
Bloomberg – The Shanghai Gold Exchange reported that gold bullion imports into China have jumped five-fold since 2009. This reflects strong demand for gold investment among the Chinese, whose local currency, the yuan, is being rapidly devalued to maintain its exchange rate with the US dollar. While prices at the grocery store are rising 5-6% a year in yuan terms, they are falling in terms of gold as the Chinese standard of living rises. The sheer numbers quoted in the report indicate that the Chinese government may have lifted all of its restrictions on gold imports. Still, the result is surprising given China’s status as the world’s largest producer of gold – proving that private demand is outstripping their immense supply. The World Gold Council expects Chinese demand to increase another 43% next year.
Read Full Article>>

Gold Jumps on China’s Fund Approval
The Australian – Gold saw a jump this month after the Chinese government approved the mainland’s first fund giving Chinese citizens access to foreign gold ETFs. Chinese citizens have not previously had access to gold through the stock exchange, as Americans do with ETFs like GLD and CEF. This new Chinese fund will purchase shares in Western ETFs, rather than purchasing and storing its own gold. Still, this is viewed as a major milestone in the entrance of the Chinese into the gold markets.
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Gold Becoming a Hedge Against “Monetary Uncertainty”
CNBC.com – Famed analyst Dennis Gartman explains that precious metals demand is no longer driven by simple inflation concerns, but rather widespread monetary uncertainty. The eurozone is in danger of breaking apart; Washington is working overtime to undermine the value of the US dollar; and, no other paper currency is prepared to fill the void created by the big two. In fact, most other candidates – such as emerging market currencies – are largely backed by dollars and euros. So, central banks are turning to the only viable alternatives: gold and silver.
Read Full Article>>

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POSTED ON December 31, 2010  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

The United States Postal Service announced this week that all future first class postage stamps sold will be the so–called “forever stamps” that have no face value but are guaranteed to cover the cost of mailing a first class letter, regardless of how high that cost may rise in the future. Currently these stamps are sold for 44 cents, but will increase in price if and when the Post Office hikes rates.

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