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POSTED ON November 8, 2010  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

Michael Pento’s Market Commentary

It seems the Fed has given up on the idea that the country can build a viable and stable economy through the conventional means. Instead, our central bank has resorted to once again growing GDP and increasing employment by the creation of asset bubbles. This is a dangerous game that no one, least of all the Fed, knows how to play.

We learned this past Wednesday that the FOMC decided to increase its purchases of longer-dated Treasuries by $600 billion within the next eight months. That means the Fed is on course to fund about 75% of our annual deficit! Such figures are the stock in trade of banana republics. While most of the rest of the world is fighting inflation and strengthening their currencies, we are doing everything in our power to end the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve.

Canada, China, India, Brazil, and Australia have all recently taken steps to raise interest rates and/or curtail bank lending. Compare that to the US, which has left interest rates at near-zero for almost two years. While other central bankers are tamping down expansionary rhetoric, Fed Chairman Bernanke is on record saying that he will do everything in his power to push up inflation (which he considers too low) and dilute the dollar. Foreign central banks and other investors may soon reconsider their plans to park cash in dollar-denominated assets. In fact, there has been a series of angry statements from top economic policymakers in Beijing, Berlin, Moscow, and Sao Paolo that show rising discontent with Washington.

The Fed rationalized its decision to upset the global monetary order in a November 4th op-ed by Chairman Bernanke entitled, “What the Fed did and why.” Here’s an excerpt:

“Although asset purchases are relatively unfamiliar as a tool of monetary policy, some concerns about this approach are overstated. Critics have, for example, worried that it will lead to excessive increases in the money supply and ultimately to significant increases in inflation. Our earlier use of this policy approach had little effect on the amount of currency in circulation or on other broad measures of the money supply, such as bank deposits. Nor did it result in higher inflation. We have made all necessary preparations, and we are confident that we have the tools to unwind these policies at the appropriate time. The Fed is committed to both parts of its dual mandate and will take all measures necessary to keep inflation low and stable.”

But the facts contradict Bernanke’s claims that monetary policy has not pushed up inflation. The Fed began the current round of accommodation in September of 2007 with a 50 basis point reduction in the Fed funds rate. At that time, the M2 money stock was $7.40 trillion. It has since jumped 18.5% to $8.77 trillion. This increase is showing up in the form of higher prices.

The 19 commodities that make up the CRB Index have soared 55% since the beginning of 2009. Unless the Chairman desires to return to an environment where oil is trading at $147 a barrel, these surging commodity prices are already placing consumers and corporations under inflationary duress.

Here’s where the danger lies ahead. Before the recession began in 2007, the ratio between M2 and the monetary base was about 10:1. If the Fed sticks to its announced schedule, the size of the base should grow from $1.96 trillion to about $2.6 trillion by June of 2011. Once banks start lending again and expanding base money through the fractional reserve system, M2 could increase exponentially. An increase in the money supply to $26 trillion (in line with the historic 10-to-1 ratio) would result in a major inflationary shock. However, even if the money multiplier were to remain much lower, the M2 money stock would still be much higher than today. In fact, the compounded annual increase of M2 in the last 4 weeks is currently over 9%.

Unless Bernanke has a “road to Damascus” moment, the money supply will continue to grow and inflation will accelerate over the course of the next few years. To make matters much worse, the interest expense on the nation’s debt could reach over 40% of all revenue by the year 2015.

Faced with negative real interest rates, rapidly rising inflation, and a chronically weak dollar, foreign holders of US Treasury debt and other dollar-denominated holdings may begin to lose their nerve. They may start to repatriate their savings and thereby send Treasury yields soaring. The Fed – which is the Treasury’s buyer of last resort – will then be faced with a perilous decision. The central bank will have to either join foreign sellers of US debt in sending interest rates higher (in the hopes of giving the dollar some footing and allowing high rates to encourage the return of real buyers) or ramp up the printing presses to keep the long end of the yield curve from spiking. It should be obvious that the Fed has already made that decision. They will never allow rates to rise. The debt will be monetized.

I have no doubt that Bernanke will be remarkably successful in his stated goal of driving inflation higher. I simply disagree with his nonchalance about the long-term consequences. There is currently no easy exit strategy for the Fed. There is only the prospect of Americans suffering through either a deflationary depression or hyperinflation. To survive such storm requires careful planning. If only we could convince the big chief to stop doing his rain dance…

POSTED ON November 3, 2010  - POSTED IN Key Gold Headlines

Super-Rich Investors Buy Gold by Ton
Reuters – A survey of private wealth managers catering to high net worth individuals has shown that the world’s ultra-rich are selling currencies and buying gold “by the ton.” One notable difference from past downturns is the demand for physical gold, as opposed to just ETFs and mining stocks. Anecdotal evidence from bankers shows the wealthy buying tons of gold for physical delivery, then storing the assets away from the banking system.
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Drinks Are Free as Bartenders Refill Punchbowl
Bloomberg – Noted Bloomberg columnist William Pesek openly challenges the myth of central bank independence. In the 13 years since the Bank of Japan was granted “independence,” it has left interest rates near zero the entire time. To explain why, Pesek brings the illustration to American shores. He imagines what would happen if Fed Chairman Bernanke were to try to raise interest rates under present conditions. The answer? Immediate Congressional subpoena, followed by a quick resignation. ECB President Trichet is in the same boat, but with 16 irrational captains. And Pesek sees the problem as only getting worse. Come to think of it: when was the last time you heard anyone in Washington say the words “exit strategy”?
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Gold May Climb to Record $1,650 an Ounce on Fed Easing, Goldman Forecasts
Bloomberg – The headline says it all. Goldman Sachs, which in August cautiously raised its guidance on gold to $1,300 by the end of this year, is now forecasting that the bull trend will continue until this time next year. This is all predicated on the Fed continuing its easy-money policies with abandon. If trends were to reverse, then a re-evaluation would be necessary. Meanwhile, with no sign that the Fed is even considering a reversal, Goldman’s new price target is looking to become obsolete faster than Betamax.
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Commodities to Extend Rally on Federal Reserve’s “Game Changer,” UBS Says
Bloomberg – The Fed’s second round of quantitative easing (QE2) will be a “game changer” for copper, gold, and palladium, according to a report from UBS commodities analysts. A new round of inflation is a “virtual certainty”, which is bullish for commodity prices. The report cited a Goldman Sachs estimate that the ultimate tally for QE2 will be $1 trillion. UBS’ gold target for 2011 has been raised to $1,400/oz.
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POSTED ON November 3, 2010  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Michael Pento

It seems the current Chairman of the Federal Reserve is of the belief that diluting the dollar is the cure for everything from a recession to male pattern baldness. And like other snake-oil salesmen before him, Mr. Bernanke is heavy on promises and light on results. Here are five prescriptions that money printing can’t fulfill:

  1. Lower the corporate tax rate. The US corporate tax rate is the second highest in the developed world, after Japan. Lowering this tax would help American businesses compete with foreign corporations and unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of our workforce. In addition, lowering taxes on capital goods purchases and retained earnings would also encourage expansion projects, new hiring, and therefore general business development.
     
  2. Reduce crippling regulations. There isn’t a much better example of the current environment of excessive red tape than the number of “Czars” running around the White House: 28, at last count. Ronald Reagan had just one. These sub-cabinet level offices simply advise the President on how to further fetter American businesses and launch umpteen “independent probes” every time an issue comes up. But even officials not given the Imperial Russian title are busy making life hell for small- and medium-sized businesses because there is too much power in Washington.
     
  3. Learn to compete with foreign workers. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, and mandated benefits and regulations add even more to the cost of employment. We need to repeal these laws and allow wages to adjust freely to market conditions. Initially, incomes may drop, but if we also lower taxes while reducing the rate of inflation, workers’ real disposable income may actually increase. Meanwhile, as our economy’s underlying strength is rebuilt, American workers will finally be able to compete with foreign workers on a level playing field. If we ignore these reforms, high-quality jobs will continue to flow overseas.
     
  4. Improve America’s educational system. According to a recent report put out by the National Academies of Science and Engineering, the US ranks 21st in science and 25th in math out of 30 industrialized nations. And, according to the World Economic Forum, the United States’ K-12 education system now ranks 48th in the world. How can our workers compete in the 21st century without the necessary technological skills to fill highly paid positions? We need to dramatically reform our public educational system by injecting a massive dose of free markets into the mix. Whether this involves charter schools, private schools, vouchers, or a combination, public schools must be forced to compete for students and funding. If consumers were given a true choice by offering tax credits to those parents that opt-out of the public system, it would go a long way towards establishing an environment that purges mediocrity and rewards excellence.
     
  5. Balance the federal budgets. Balancing a budget simply means spending only what you take in as revenue. If we were to adopt that simply strategy, it would ensure that: tax rates would never have to rise sharply just to service debt, the Fed would never have to print money to ‘monetize’ the debt, interest rates would be lower, and spending that benefits one generation would never be paid for by generations to come. A stable currency, low taxes and the ability to pay down debts are necessary ingredients for a growing workforce and a viable middle class.

Unlike the snake oil of printed money, these genuine therapies take time and effort, and sometimes have painful side effects. The quack remedies offered by Dr. Bernanke promise to cure all ills with no effort on the part of the patient.

If the measures I propose are established in concert, we would lay the groundwork upon which to rebuild the country’s goods-producing sector. If allowed to flourish, manufacturing can create the needed jobs to lower the long-term unemployment rate and restore the county’s economic vitality.

The Fed’s plan, by contrast, has only one predictable consequence: inflation. Indeed, Bernanke has already been remarkably successful in sending asset prices higher. Not only are most commodities soaring in dollar terms, but the broader measures of the money supply have started to surge as well. The compounded annual rates of change in MZM and M2 over the last month are 13.3% and 9.1% respectively. The prices-paid component of the September ISM manufactures survey jumped to 71, and the YoY increase in the PPI is 4%. Sure, we can look to the Dow or the stabilization of home prices and say the Fed’s magic is working, but just because the headache has gone away doesn’t mean you’ve cured the stroke. We can look to the inflation indicators to see that the Fed has failed to stop the bleeding.

Remember, the Fed is now printing dollars to purchase the bulk of US Treasuries at auction, in a process called debt monetization. It is that process of the Fed expanding the money supply to subsidize federal debt that is causing domestic prices to surge. It will not be very long before the consumer acutely suffers from this dangerous policy. On this point, history is clear: inflation has caused the destruction of every middle class and every economy that has sought it as a solution.

There are no quick fixes to our current economic predicament, but there are fixes. It’s up to the American people to decide they’ve had enough of Ben ‘Rasputin’ Bernanke and they’re ready for some tough medicine. When that happens, I’ve got some great specialists to recommend.

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POSTED ON November 3, 2010  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff
As the world awaits another $500 billion flood from Bernanke’s printing press, central bank governors from Brasília to Tokyo are preparing to respond in kind. This is the monetary equivalent of a nuclear war, except instead of radiation, bombs of inflation threaten to make the world economy uninhabitable for saving and productive enterprise.

While much of the attention has been focused on China and accusations that it is a “currency manipulator,” the first shot in this war was clearly fired by the US Federal Reserve. Last month, the Fed came out with a statement that, for the first time ever, said inflation is rising at a rate “below its mandate.” That is, they acknowledged that the deflation threat had passed, that prices were stable – but they still intended to send prices higher.

Since the Bretton Woods Agreement was signed in the wake of World War II, the global monetary system has been based on the US dollar. This means that when the Fed decides to create trillions of dollars of inflation, other countries can’t simply say, “let them dig their own grave.” Instead, because their international transactions are denominated in dollars, they feel a pressure to maintain relatively stable exchange rates between their currencies and the dollar.

Most countries do this informally and have their own (bad) reasons for maintaining a certain level of inflation. China, however, is more literal in its devotion to the dollar system, perhaps due to its psychology as a new arrival on the world stage. So, in recent history, the People’s Bank of China has largely maintained a “peg,” by which it currently offers to pay 6.8 RMB for every dollar deposited, no matter how many extra dollars the Fed prints. To put it another way, China, and to a certain extent the entire world, is on a Dollar Standard — like the Gold Standard, but based on another fiat currency instead of a precious metal.

What this also means is that China does not intentionally devalue its currency against the dollar, but only to keep pace with the dollar. Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said as much in an interview on October 26: “Uncontrolled” issuance of dollars is “bringing China the shock of imported inflation.” Most emerging markets are the same way. In order to prevent rapid economic dislocations, and often to appease their powerful export lobbies, these countries seek to maintain a status quo versus the dollar – whether through inflation as with China or capital controls as with Brazil and South Korea, or both.

In short, the currency war is really just the rest of the world trying to shield itself from a barrage of nuclear dollars.

The end result is that the entire civilized world is locked in a race to inflate, and no fiat currency is truly safe. In my brokerage business, I advise clients to buy companies – not currencies – in countries that I believe will thrive in the war’s aftermath. China could dump the peg tomorrow and, after a period of adjustment and write-offs, would continue to grow apace. The UK, on the other hand, is happy to be locked in a competitive devaluation as it helps the government avoid imminent default while it puts through budget reforms. But regardless of their strategic positions, all major central banks will likely engage in some money printing to keep their currencies level with the rapidly devaluing US dollar – until the greenback loses its reserve status. (This may happen sooner than later, if an agreement this month between China and Turkey to stop using dollars in their transactions is any indication.)

As the Fed seeks to blow up the global monetary system, I take comfort in the fact that gold cannot fight a currency war because it is not a currency. Gold is money. Currencies used to be backed by money until the global fiat system was introduced under President Nixon. Fiat currency can be printed at will until the economy collapses, as has happened many times in history. Money is impossible to devalue at the whim of politicians because it is naturally scarce. Even in the ruins of Europe after the Second World War, when there was no central authority and chaos reigned, an ounce of gold was worth what it always had been.

If we are witnessing a fight to the death among fiat currencies, then gold is surely the Red Cross – a peaceful arbiter and source of mercy for our accumulated savings. While I do believe that life will go on after this war, as with all others, the thought of the world’s savers all hiding their assets safely in gold brings to mind the old question: What if they gave a war and nobody came?

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POSTED ON November 3, 2010  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

The following article was written by Mary Anne and Pamela Aden for the November 2010 edition of Peter Schiff’s Gold Letter.

7 October saw gold soaring to record highs while silver shot up even more, reaching a 30-year high. Yes, the stronger phase of the bull market is flexing its muscles.

Gold’s exceptional rise has now reached our current target level at $1,350. It’s been a super rise, up 55% since April 2009… or, to put it another way, gold has soared 17% in the last 10 weeks alone!

POSTED ON October 31, 2010  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

The following article was written by Mary Anne and Pamela Aden for the October 2010 edition of Peter Schiff’s Gold Letter.

7Gold’s strength is unusual. Just when we thought that gold was taking a breather from its stellar rise, it quickly turned up.

Gold has already surpassed its June record high. Its decline through July was moderate, giving up less than 8%, and this action is bullish.

Someone is clearly buying up gold at every opportunity. Is it central banks, hedge funds, or nervous investors?

We think it’s all of the above.

POSTED ON October 29, 2010  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

There has been so much discussion recently about “QE 2” that you would think the entire financial sector were about to embark on a transatlantic cruise. Unfortunately, they, and we, are not so lucky. In the year 2010, “QE 2” doesn’t refer to a sumptuous ocean liner, but a second, more extravagant round of “quantitative easing” – stimulus. In the past, this technique was simply called “printing money.” As if the nation has not already suffered enough from the first round, Captain Ben Bernanke and the Fed are determined to compound the damage by hitting us with another monetary juggernaut. Their stated goal is to boost the economy and create jobs. However, since economic growth cannot be achieved by printing money, their QE 2 will sink just as surely as the Titanic.

POSTED ON October 6, 2010  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

By Peter Schiff

Much of the content of the latest Fed statement, released on September 21, echoes the central bank’s previous post-credit crunch pronouncements: there is still too much slack in the economy, interest rates are still going to be near-zero for an “extended period,” and the Fed will continue to use payments from its Treasury purchases to buy yet more Treasuries. But this recent statement uses a new turn of phrase that should have Americans very upset. The Fed says that “measures of underlying inflation are currently at levels somewhat below those the Committee judges most consistent, over the longer run, with its mandate.” Though the wording treads lightly, it should not be taken lightly. It may signal the final push toward dollar collapse.

The Fed’s dual mandate, since an amendment in 1977, has been to promote “price stability” and “maximum employment.” While often discussed as if both goals are complementary facets of one mandate, they tend to have been at odds during every recession since the Great Depression. The problem is that central banks tend to keep interest rates too low for too long (usually to create a feeling of prosperity credited to the government), which then causes major asset bubbles. When the bubbles pop, there is a period of high unemployment during which prices are supposed to fall. Then, the central bank must choose between boosting short-term employment through inflation or defending price stability by allowing assets to return to a reasonable market value. Aside from the early 1980s chairmanship of Paul Volcker, the Fed has always chosen more inflation.

But they’ve never admitted it.

The Fed statement said, “inflation is likely to remain subdued for some time before rising to levels the Committee considers consistent with its mandate.” Notice that there is no mention of a deflation threat here — as quantitative easing has effectively quashed that possibility — but rather “subdued inflation for some time.” The Fed defines inflation differently than I do, as an increase in consumer prices rather than the amount of dollars in circulation. By my definition, massive inflation has already been created, which is reflected in the fact that prices for houses, consumer goods, stocks, and bonds haven’t fallen steeply and stayed down since the dot-com and mortgage bubbles popped. But even by the Fed governors’ definition, they acknowledged that we are experiencing inflation — just not enough for their taste.

Apparently, according to the renegade policy of the Fed, we’re not paying enough for food, energy, clothing, healthcare, or education. No matter that nearly 20% of the population is unemployed or underemployed, that each US taxpayer’s share of the federal debt is now some $121,000, or that average tuition at a private university is set to rise 4.5% this year to $27,325. Apparently, these factors do not affect “price stability.”

Some might say that a certain amount of inflation must be permitted when unemployment is so high — that the dual mandate involves trade-offs. If that were the case, then when we were in a boom period like the ’90s or mid-2000s, the money supply should have been shrunk. Also, there is ample evidence that falling prices during the Great Depression actually provided life-saving relief to the unemployed. The truth has always been that whatever the question you ask the Fed, the answer is inflation. With prices drifting steadily upward since its establishment in 1913, I dare to ask: has the Fed ever achieved its dual mandate?

The market has certainly lost any hope of price stability in dollar terms. Since the Fed statement was released, gold prices have hit new all-time nominal highs, silver is the highest since the Hunt brothers tried to corner the market in 1980, and the Aussie dollar (a commodity currency) is nearing its own record highs. Even housing is headed back up. Meanwhile, the dollar index has hit a new 7-month low. In short, holders of US dollars are trading for any real assets they can acquire.

A confounding factor is the strong performance of US dollar-denominated bonds. When the Fed creates inflation, that erodes the value of fixed-asset investments like bonds, which can’t adjust their returns to the new price level. So many commentators are pointing to the record low bond yields as evidence that inflation is not a threat. But this is a misreading of the situation. What is overlooked is that when the Fed prints more dollars, it typically uses them to buy bonds. Traders know this, so they are stocking up on bonds at ridiculous prices just to flip them to the Fed. They don’t care that, in the long run, the Fed’s policies will destroy the bonds’ value because in the short run, the weak dollar policy serves as a tremendous subsidy to bond sellers.

All the salient indicators tell me that the global dollar crisis has entered a new phase. The Fed is getting more aggressive about money printing because it really doesn’t have any other politically viable options. I’ve always said the Fed uses inflation to give appearance of prosperity, but I never expected them to come out and say it. You don’t give warning when you’re about to rob somebody, because then the victim might take precautions — in this case, buying gold and foreign equities. We should be angry at what the Fed has pledged to do to us, and frankly I’m surprised there hasn’t been more of an uproar. But more important is to figure out how you are going to protect yourself.

Follow us on Twitter to stay up-to-date on Peter Schiff’s latest thoughts: @SchiffGold
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POSTED ON September 30, 2010  - POSTED IN Original Analysis

The following article was written by Mary Anne and Pamela Aden for the September 2010 edition of Peter Schiff’s Gold Letter.

7Gold is looking good. Over the past few weeks, it surged from $1160 to near $1250. That’s an impressive 7.8% monthly rise, and even though gold is rapidly approaching its all time record high, it’s poised to move still higher.

What’s Driving the Gold Price Up?

There are several key factors coming together at the same time and all of them are bullish for gold. But if we had to boil it down, the bottom line is uncertainty. This makes investors nervous, which has always been good for gold. But is this response rational?

POSTED ON September 30, 2010  - POSTED IN Key Gold Headlines

Gold Demand Jumps 36% as Investors Step Up Purchases of ETFs, Council Says
Bloomberg – Private investors and central banks are stepping up purchases of gold-backed ETFs. Concerns about sovereign debt in Europe and the continuing viability of the dollar have sent gold prices up 30% year-over-year. In June, Gold shattered all previous nominal records against the euro, pound sterling, and Swiss franc. With the Federal Reserve reiterating its pledge to keep interest rates near zero and the EU setting up a $1 trillion bailout fund for its weaker member-states, individuals, institutions, and creditor governments have found gold to be the last reliable safe haven. As investors pour into ETFs for liquidity and accounting purposes, gold moves off the market and into vaults, allowing holders of physical gold the benefit of rising prices without counterparty risk.
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