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Jim Cook

 

RUNAWAY SOCIAL SYMPATHY

Every once in a while I switch the TV channel from Fox to CNBC to see what the liberals are saying.  After listening awhile I get a deep sense of hopelessness and foreboding for our country.  The most important thing for the left is giving money to people.  They are happy to see the growth of food stamps, disability payments, housing subsidies, free healthcare and all the other welfare benefits.  They utterly fail to see the damage it is doing to the recipients.  Whole cities that once flourished have deteriorated into rotting eyesores populated with shambling hulks of chemically dependent drones.  These people are no longer employable.  They have become incompetent and helpless and the liberals can’t see that it’s their doing.

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The Best of Jim Cook Archive

 
Best of Doug Noland
April 9, 2008
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Some argue rather forcefully that we’re now immersed in "debt deflation." I understand the basic premise, but to examine double-digit growth in Bank Credit, GSE "books of business" and money fund assets provides a different perspective. To be sure, our Credit system continues to provide sufficient Credit to finance massive Current Account Deficits. And it is this ongoing outflow of dollar liquidity that stokes both indomitable dollar devaluation and global Credit excess. Many contend that inflationary pressures are poised to wane as the U.S. economy weakens. I’ll suggest that inflation dynamics will prove much more complex and uncooperative. There is further confirmation of this view - that the bursting of the Wall Street finance Bubble will have a significantly greater impact on asset prices than on general consumer pricing pressures.

The analysis gets much more challenging in the commodities markets. The simple view holds that commodities are just another Bubble waiting their turn to burst. This thinking gained greater acceptance last week, with the sharp reversal of prices and unwind of speculative positions. And it goes without saying that major speculative excess has developed throughout the commodities complex ("par for the course"). I am as well sympathetic to the view that liquidations by the leveraged speculating community could lead to some major price instability. Yet it’s my sense that there really is much more to the commodities story – and inflation, more generally – that is not widely appreciated.

The bursting of the Wall Street finance and U.S. Credit Bubbles marks an End of an Era. But the start of a deflationary spiral? Importantly, these bursting Bubbles are in the process of consummating the demise of the dollar as the world’s functioning "reserve currency" and monetary standard. Examining global markets, I note the ongoing strength of currencies in China, Russia, Brazil, and India, for example. Considering mounting financial and economic imbalances in all these economies – not too mention histories of less than exemplary monetary management – I can state categorically that these are fundamentally very weak currencies. Today, however, it’s all relative to the sickly dollar. In the face of rampant domestic Credit growth, these currencies nonetheless attract endless global finance and appreciate.

When it comes to Ending of Eras, I am increasingly fearful that we are falling deeper into a precarious period devoid of a functioning global currency regime necessary to discipline Credit excess and restrain mounting inflationary pressures. And as long as dollar liquidity inundates the world economy, domestic Credit systems across the globe enjoy the extraordinary capacity to inflate domestic Credit and use this new purchasing power for the benefit of their citizens and economies. And, in particular because of their enormous populations, as long as the Chinese and Indian Credit system enjoy the freedom to inflate at will there will remain significant upside pricing pressure for energy, food, and various goods and commodities in limited supply – hedge fund speculative excess and/or bust notwithstanding.

I throw this analysis out as food for thought. I am increasingly of the mind that commodities should be differentiated from U.S. financial assets when it comes to the consequences from the bursting of the Wall Street finance and leveraged speculating community Bubbles. Prices will likely remain hyper-volatile but (unBubble-like) well-supported by underlying fundamental factors. Similarly, I believe general inflationary pressures may likely prove more significantly influenced by runaway global Credit excesses than by the Wall Street and U.S. asset price busts. If this proves to be the case, perhaps the greater risk is a bursting of the Treasury Market Bubble. It may take some time, but an enormous supply of government debt is in the offing and – let’s face it – these instruments will become only less appealing over time. It also begs the question as to the advisability of aggressive Fed rate cuts. They are having little influence on the bursting Wall Street Bubbles but possibly huge effects on global inflationary forces. Little wonder the ECB is so hesitant to lower rates.

Doug Noland is a market strategist at Prudent Bear Funds. Their website is www.prudentbear.com.