Parable of the Hot Dog Stand and the Son Who Went To College

There once was a man who lived by the side of the road and sold hot dogs.

He was hard of hearing, so he had no radio. His eyes not so good, so he didn’t read the newspaper.

But he sold good hot dogs. In fact, his were the best.

He put up signs on the highway telling how good they were.

He stood by the side of the road and cried, “buy a hot dog”


People bought, business was good.


He increased his meat and roll orders.

He bought a bigger stove to take care of his trade.

With his profits he sent his son to college so that he would have a better life.

One day his son came home from college with a freshly minted diploma.

His son said: “Father, haven’t you been listening to the radio?

There’s a big recession coming, people are cutting back. Your business will dwindle, your profits erode; you may even be forced to close!”


”Well, my son’s been to college, he reads the paper and he listens to the radio and he ought to know”.

So the father cut down on his meat and roll orders,

Took down his advertising signs, and no longer bothered to stand on the highway to tell people how good his hot dogs were.


Sales Plummeted, Literally Overnight!


“You were right son, sales have fallen off terribly”, the father said to the son.

“We certainly are in the middle of a horrible recession. It’s a good thing you’ve been to college so you know these things.”

Doug Casey on 2009: Another Year of Shock and Awe

In their annual forecast edition, the editors of BIG GOLD asked Casey Research Chairman and contrarian investor Doug Casey to provide his predictions and thoughts on issues everyone’s thinking about these days. Read what he has to say on the economy, deficits, inflation, and gold…

Doug Casey on 2009: Another Year of Shock and Awe

In their annual forecast edition, the editors of BIG GOLD asked Casey Research Chairman and contrarian investor Doug Casey to provide his predictions and thoughts on issues everyone’s thinking about these days. Read what he has to say on the economy, deficits, inflation, and gold…

The $1.1 Trillion Budget Deficit

My reaction is that the people in the government are totally out of control. A poker player would say the government is “on tilt,” placing wild, desperate bets in the hope of getting rescued by good luck.

The things they’re doing are not only unproductive, they’re the exact opposite of what should be done. The country got into this mess by living beyond its means for more than a generation. That’s the message from the debt that’s burdening so many individuals; debt is proof that you’re living above your means. The solution is for people to significantly reduce their standard of living for a while and start building capital. That’s what saving is about, producing more than you consume. The government creating funny money – money out of nothing – doesn’t fix anything. All it does is prolong the problem and make it worse by destroying the currency.

Over several generations, huge distortions and misallocations of capital have been cranked into the economy, inviting levels of consumption that are unsustainable. In fact, Americans refer to themselves as consumers. That’s degrading and ridiculous. You should be first and foremost a producer, and a consumer only as a consequence.

In any event, the government is going to destroy the currency, which will be a mega-disaster. And they’re making the depression worse by holding interest rates at artificially low levels, which discourages savings – the exact opposite of what’s needed. They’re trying to prop up a bankrupt system. And, at this point, it’s not just economically bankrupt, but morally and intellectually bankrupt. What they should be doing is recognize that they’re bankrupt and then start rebuilding. But they’re not, so it’s going to be a disaster.

The U.S. Economy in 2009

My patented answer, when asked what it will be like, is that this is going to be so bad, it will be worse than even I think it’s going to be. I think all the surprises are going to be on the downside; don’t expect friendly aliens to land on the roof of the White House and present the government with a magic solution. We’re still very early in this thing. It’s not going to just blow away like other post-war recessions. One reason that it’s going to get worse is that the biggest shoe has yet to drop… interest rates are now at all-time lows, and the bond market is much, much bigger than the stock market. What’s inevitable is much higher interest rates. And when they go up, that will be the final nail in the coffins of the stock and real estate markets, and it will wipe out a huge amount of capital in the bond market. And higher interest rates will bring on more bankruptcies.

The bankruptcies will be painful, but a good thing, incidentally. We can’t hope to see the bottom until interest rates go high enough to encourage people to save. The way you become wealthy is by producing more than you consume, not consuming more than you produce.

Deflation vs. Inflation

First of all, deflation is a good thing. Its bad reputation is just one of the serious misunderstandings that most people have. In deflation, your money becomes worth more every year. It’s a good thing because it encourages people to save, it encourages thrift. I’m all for deflation. The current episode of necessary and beneficial deflation will, however, be cut short because Bernanke, as he’s so eloquently pointed out, has a printing press and will use it to create as many dollars as needed.

So at this point I would start preparing for inflation, and I wouldn’t worry too much about deflation. The only question is the timing.

It’s too early to buy real estate right now, although a fixed-rate mortgage could go a long way toward offsetting bad timing. It would let you make your money on the depreciation of the mortgage, as opposed to the appreciation of the asset. Still, I wouldn’t touch housing with a 10-foot pole – there’s been immense overbuilding, immense inventory. And people forget: a house isn’t an investment, it’s a consumer good. It’s like a toothbrush, suit of clothes, or a car; it just lasts a little bit longer. An investment – say, a factory – can create new wealth. Houses are strictly expense items. Forget about buying the things for the unpaid mortgage; before this is over, you’ll buy them for back taxes. But then you’ll have to figure out how to pay the utilities and maintenance. The housing bear market has a long way to run.

The U.S. Dollar and the Day of Reckoning

It’s very hard to predict the timing on these things. The financial markets and the economy itself are going up and down like an elevator with a lunatic at the controls. My feeling is that the fate of the dollar is sealed. People forget that there are 6 or 8 trillion dollars – who knows how many – outside of the United States, and they’re hot potatoes. Foreigners are going to recognize that the dollar is an unbacked smiley-face token of a bankrupt government. My advice is to get out of dollars. In fact, take advantage of the ultra-low interest rates; borrow as many dollars as you can long-term and at a fixed rate and put the money into something tangible, because the dollar is going to reach its intrinsic value.

The Recession

This isn’t a recession, it’s a depression. A depression is a period when most people’s standard of living falls significantly. It can also be defined as a time when distortions and misallocations of capital are liquidated, as well as a time when the business cycle climaxes. We don’t have time here, unfortunately, to explore all that in detail. But this is the real thing. And it’s going to drag on much longer than most people think. It will be called the Greater Depression, and it’s likely the most serious thing to happen to the country since its founding. And not just from an economic point of view, but political, sociological, and military.

For a number of reasons, wars usually occur in tough economic times. Governments always like to find foreigners to blame for their problems, and that includes other countries blaming the U.S. In the end, I wouldn’t be surprised to see violence, tax revolt, or even parts of the country trying to secede. I don’t think I can adequately emphasize how serious this thing is likely to get. Nothing is certain, but it seems to me the odds are very, very high for an absolutely world-class disaster.

Gold’s Performance in 2008

The big surprise to me is how low gold is right now. It’s well known that even if we use the government’s statistics, gold would have to reach $2,500 an ounce to match its 1980 high. I don’t necessarily buy the theories that the government and some bullion banks are suppressing the price of gold. Of course, with everything else going on, the last thing the powers-that-be want is a stampede into gold. That would be the equivalent of shooting a gun in a crowded theatre; it could set off a real panic. But at the same time, I don’t see how they can effectively suppress the price. Either way, the good news is that gold is about the cheapest thing out there. Remember, it’s the only financial asset that’s not simultaneously someone else’s liability. So I would take advantage of today’s price and buy more gold. I know I’m doing just that.

Gold Volatility

Gold will remain volatile but trend upward. I don’t pay attention to daily fluctuations, which can be caused by any number of trivial things. Gold is going to the moon in the next couple of years.

Gold Stocks

Last year, it seemed to me that we were still climbing the Wall of Worry and that the next stage would be the Mania. But what I failed to read was the public’s indirect involvement through the $2 trillion in hedge funds. On top of that, while the prices of gold stocks weren’t that high, the number of shares out and the number of companies were increasing dramatically. Finally, the costs of mining and exploration rose immensely, which limited their profitability.

The good news is that relative to the price of gold, gold stocks are at their cheapest level in history. I still have my gold stocks and the fact is, I’m buying more. I’m not selling, because I think we’re starting another bull market. And this one is going to be much steeper and much quicker than the last one. I’m not a perma-bull on any asset class, but in this case I’m forced to go into the gold stocks. They’re the cheapest asset class out there, and the one with the highest potential.

***

At a time when equities markets are tanking, 401(k)s and IRAs lose 20%-40% of their value, and Treasuries are the next bubble to burst, gold and gold stocks are safe-haven investments that can help prudent investors get through the economic crisis unscathed. For more on gold, major gold stocks, and other gold-related investments, check out BIG GOLD… our no-risk, 3-month trial subscription with 100% money-back guarantee makes it easy. Click here to find out more.

Credit Card Crisis Looming – Effect on Banks

Today we have another guest editorial from Olivier Garret of Casey Research. As he points out, one tiny benefit of this financial debacle is the tightening of credit card standards that leads to less junk mail to shred.

It astounds me how the financial stocks are still capable of the occasional bullish day like last Friday, up 6%. These banks are in trouble and it ain’t over soon.

The Credit Crunch, Close Up and Personal

By Olivier Garret – CEO, Casey Research, The Casey Report

Within the last year, the true extent of the real estate debacle and ensuing credit crisis in the United States has become blatantly obvious.

But now there is a new phenomenon rearing its ugly head: a credit crisis of the individual that is hitting a large number of Americans straight in the pocketbook. The reason: credit providers have started to batten down the hatches.

According to a November report by the Federal Reserve, nearly 60% of banks severely tightened their lending standards on credit card loans and 65% on other consumer loans in the last three months. As unemployment and delinquency rates go up and lenders are trying to minimize their risk, the average American all of a sudden finds himself cash strapped… this at a time when home equity has dried up, 401(k)s and IRAs are losing value by the day, and many common stocks are barely worth the paper they’re printed on.

“We’ve been hearing about the liquidity crisis affecting banks for quite a while,” Joe Ridout, spokesman for the advocacy group Consumer Action, told the Washington Post. “Now we’re seeing it transform into a crisis affecting people’s personal finances as well. The next wave of the financial crisis may well be a credit-card-related crisis.”

Credit card companies are indeed clamping down hard on customers. Many Americans may have noticed that while their mailbox used to burst with junk mail of the “You’re Pre-Approved!” sort, these days the influx has slowed down to a dribble. That’s no coincidence – credit card direct mail offers in the third quarter of 2008 have seen a 28% drop year-over year as Visa, AmEx & Co. are struggling to cope with a tidal wave of defaults.

Moody’s Investors Service reported that charge-off rates rose 48% in August compared to the same month last year, the 20th consecutive year-over-year increase. This number is expected to go even higher in 2009, potentially exceeding the charge-off rates during past recessions.

Thus, credit card members are increasingly coming under scrutiny – and not just those in the subprime category. Customers with a credit score of 700, who were deemed “most creditworthy” just a year ago are not anymore. According to cardratings.com, 730 is the new 700.

The palette of “risk factors” has also broadened. Aside from late bill and mortgage payments, now location, profession, and even shopping behavior are considered. If you live in a high-foreclosure area, work in the real estate, auto, or construction business, and buy your household necessities at Wal-Mart, you’re likely on the target list.

One of the measures credit card issuers have devised to reduce risk is slashing credit limits in half. 60% of banks lowered the credit ceiling for existing nonprime and 20% for prime customers. And, as a testament that the intended “trickle-down effect” of the Fed’s massive rate cuts didn’t work at all, many companies have kept their interest rates at the same level or even raised them by two or three percentage points. Late fees, too, have been increased.

This tightening of credit translates directly to people’s shopping habits. While Black Friday weekend brought an overall growth of 0.9% in sales from last year, retail sales data show that that wasn’t enough to save the month of November. The MasterCard SpendingPulse reading noted that electronics and appliance sales dropped by 25% in November, luxury goods by 24%, and sales at clothing and department stores by 20%. Foot traffic decreased by 19% from 2007, meaning shoppers visited fewer stores.

C. Britt Beemer, CEO and founder of America’s Research Group, who has correctly predicted percentage changes in Christmas retail sales for 16 of the last 17 years, published his first negative forecast (of -1%) in 23 years, calling the 2008 Christmas shopping season a “perfect storm” for retailers.

Even as the average American is battening down the hatches and reining in consumption, the Federal Reserve seems to be going the opposite way, judging from the $700 billion bailout package that has – literally within weeks – ballooned into an estimated $8.5 trillion colossus. But despite throwing fistfuls of money at the problem, says Bud Conrad, Casey Research chief economist and editor of The Casey Report, “all the king’s horses and all the king’s men haven’t been able to put Humpty back together again.”

We don’t know whether the Humpty Dumpty economy can be saved… what we do know, though, is that every crisis holds danger and opportunity. By making the trend your friend instead of swimming against the stream, you can preserve your assets and profit handsomely, especially in highly volatile environments like the one we are seeing now. To learn more about how to generate double- and triple-digit returns in a crisis, click here.

The Real Cost of the 2008 Recession

The Real Cost of the 2008 Recession

By Olivier Garret, CEO,

The Casey Report, www.caseyresearch.com

It took the statisticians of the National Bureau of Economic Research almost a year to confirm what the rest of us already knew, that the US registered a significant decline in economic activity, thus officially entering a period of recession.  While I am pleased that the members of NBER take their duties seriously, thereby ensuring that they don’t leap to any hasty conclusions, I only wish that similar moderation could be displayed by their colleagues at the Fed and the Treasury.

Unfortunately, the facts prove otherwise.  Three months before the recession was officially declared, Paulson and Bernanke have embarked on the largest bailout program ever conceived with the blessing of a lame-duck president and a complicit Congress – a program which so far will cost taxpayers $8.5 trillion. This staggering sum encompasses:  loans backed by worthless assets ($2.3T), equity investments in bankrupt companies with negative net worth ($3.0T), and guarantees on crumbling derivatives and other hollow collateral ($3.2T).


Back in September I was stunned that Paulson was able to make his case and win the support of Congress for a $700 billion bailout package (more than the total war spending in Iraq to date).

How could Americans (or more accurately, their representatives) agree to give such a broad mandate with so few checks and balances?  Have we become completely numb?

While I realize that many of our compatriots have been running large credit card balances and interest-only mortgages with little thought as to how they would repay their debt, one would expect a little more restraint when dealing with the financial future of the largest economy in the world.

Operating under the assumption that our largest financial institutions are “too big to fail”, in the span of a few weeks we went from pledging to spend $1 trillion to $3 trillion – a commitment which then grew to $5 trillion before ballooning to a staggering $8.5 trillion.

At the rate we are going, we will be dealing with double digits – in trillions- before the end of the year.

And while all off that money is not yet spent, make no mistake – these are real commitments with serious liabilities attached to them.

I have heard the argument that an equity infusion is not the same as spending money.  While I would agree that in an arms-length transaction this might actually be the case, our government is definitely paying a large premium.  What is the real value of Citicorp or AIG?  Since they are quasi-bankrupt (and would be totally bankrupt without massive injections from the Fed), a reasonable businessperson might pay a token price for their equity and the assumption of their enormous liabilities.  Before doing so however, a buyer would have to see some significant value in buying these entities as a continuing business.  In most cases, a buyer would not want to assume the company’s liabilities but would prefer to buy selective unencumbered assets in a bankruptcy proceeding.  Any money our government pays above what a reasonable person would pay in an arms-length transaction is real spending and should more accurately be called a grant.

While defenders of the too-big-to-fail policies argue that providing guarantees is not the same as granting money, the reality is that these guarantees are necessary to prevent the collapse of financial institutions currently lacking the necessary collateral to meet their loan covenants.  Should their loans be called, we could actually find out the real value of their assets.  The fact is that in-spite of Paulson’s and Bernanke’s efforts, deleveraging is already happening.  Although at a slower pace, one asset class after another is being adjusted down towards its intrinsic value, which is usually not much.  Make no mistake; many of these guarantees will eventually be called in by lenders.  In due time, unless our government is able to inflates its way out of this bottomless pit, it will have to honor most of these guarantees.

So how does $8.5 trillion dollars compare with the cost of some of the major conflicts and programs initiated by the US government since its inception?  To try and grasp the enormity of this figure, let’s look at some other financial commitments undertaken by our government in the past:

As illustrated above, one can see that in today’s dollar, we have already committed to spending levels that surpass the cumulative cost of all of the major wars and government initiatives since the American Revolution.

Recently, the Congressional Research Service estimated the cost of all of the major wars our country has fought in 2008 dollars.  The chart above shows that the entire cost of WWII over four to five years was less than half the current pledges made by Paulson and Bernanke in the last three months!

In spite of years of conflict, the Vietnam and the Iraq wars have each cost less than the bailout package that was approved by Congress in two weeks.   The Civil War that devastated our country had a total price tag (for both the Union and Confederacy) of $60.4 billion, while the Revolutionary War was fought for a mere $1.8 billion.

In its fifty or so years of existence, NASA has only managed to spend $885 billion – a figure which got us to the moon and beyond.

The New Deal had a price tag of only $500 billion.  The Marshall Plan that enabled the reconstruction of Europe following WWII for $13 billion, comes out to approximately $125 billion in 2008 dollars.  The cost of fixing the S&L crisis was $235 billion.

The best deal ever for a government program was the Louisiana Purchase, a deal with the French that gave us 23% of the surface of today’s US for only $15 million ($284 million in today’s dollars).  Why couldn’t Paulson and Bernanke display the financial acumen of a Thomas Jefferson?

How will our country repay its debts?   The current bailout represents 62% of our GDP.  Our current deficit of almost $11 trillion may exceed our GDP next year.

Recently the Treasury has been able to place new debt; investors have liquidated equities and bonds and sought refuge in the relative safety of the dollar and government bonds.

As we move forward however, our government will need to attract trillions of dollars annually to fund its programs and commitments.  The foreigners who have financed our irresponsible spending for many years will no longer be able to afford it, let alone finance more of our reckless behavior.

As a matter of fact, several countries have already announced their own bailout packages to prop up their domestic economy.  And, unlike during WWII, when Americans invested their savings to support the war effort and fund our government’s deficit, our citizens are in debt themselves with no savings left to invest.

In the near future, the Fed will have no choice but to turn on the printing presses and start operating them around the clock to create the money that can’t be raised in the capital market.

These actions will lead to a significant debasement of the dollar and a major appreciation of gold and all commodities (real assets).

Once this inflationary cycle starts, foreigners will realize that their investments in T-bills are depreciating rapidly.  There will be a massive exodus that will put more pressure on the dollar and on interest rates.  Our weakened US economy will be faced with the rising cost of capital and a painful period of stagflation.  Trillions of dollars will have been wasted.  Our government will have mortgaged America and the ensuing debt will have to be paid by future generations.

Not a very bright picture, to be sure, but the Casey Research team strongly believes that there are opportunities in every crisis. Preserving your assets and even profiting in times of crisis by making the trend your friend is the focus of Casey’s flagship publication, The Casey Report. We have helped subscribers get positioned in commodities in the late ‘90s, buy grains in 2006, and short financial stocks 18 months ago… resulting in double- and often triple-digit returns.

To learn more about the trends we predicted and, more importantly, the emerging trends we now foresee, click here now.

Should the Big Three Be Allowed to Fail?

This editorial about the Big Three bailout comes from Casey Research. I would only like to make a small addendum to the title and ask: “Should the Big Three Be Allowed or Forced to Fail?”

Should the Big Three Be Allowed to Fail?

By Olivier Garret

CEO, Casey Research

The Casey Report

The fact that after over 30 years of consistent mismanagement and decline, there is still any discussion on whether or not we should allow the now significantly smaller “Big Three” automakers to fail is clear evidence that Washington has lost all common sense.

Why, when after more than three decades of continuous restructuring, GM, Ford, and Chrysler have not been able to change their culture, high-cost basis and ill-conceived strategies, does anyone believe yet another break would change anything? Are they going to be better off next year, or the year after that, or even five years from now? Just because their situation has become even more precarious, it doesn’t mean that they will be more successful going forward… more likely the opposite.

“The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results,” said Albert Einstein.

The best thing that could happen to the auto industry is the Big Three filing for bankruptcy protection. As a former turnaround professional, I am convinced that the tools afforded by the bankruptcy courts would allow these companies to restructure dramatically, thus allowing them to renegotiate and drastically lower most of their liabilities. Management would be overhauled, pensions renegotiated, union agreements tabled and made more flexible. Everything that these three companies have attempted to do for years, and could never achieve, would now be possible.

So, why in the world is management siding with the unions in their appeal to Congress?

Because under bankruptcy protection, management becomes accountable to the court, many of their perks and benefits would be curtailed, and they could, heaven forbid, even lose their jobs.

The auto industry, its unions and allies are therefore quick to point out that they, too, are “too big to fail” (have we heard that before?), that the American economy would not recover from the job losses and the economic impact of failures that would have far-reaching implications.

The Center for Automotive Research (CAR) has just released a comprehensive study on the impact of a 100% failure of the Big Three in the U.S.:

  • In the first year, the U.S. economy would lose 3 million jobs (about nine additional jobs for each auto worker that is laid off). It would lose another 2.5 million in year two and 1.8 million in year three.
  • U.S. personal income would decline by over $150 billion in the first year and another $250 billion in the next two years.
  • Our government would also lose $60 billion in 2009 and almost another $100 billion in the next two years.

I agree – it poses a very grim scenario.

In fact, Senate Bill Sec. 402 seeks to “(C) preserve and promote the jobs of 355,000 workers in the United States directly employed by the auto industry and an additional 4,500,000 workers in the United States employed in related industries; and (D) safeguards the ability of the domestic automobile industry to provide retirement health care benefits for 1,000,000 retirees and their spouses and dependents.”

Obviously, the $25 billion approved by Congress on September 24, 2008 is already falling short. It is clearly not enough to deal with a problem of that scale and, the car makers lament, needs to be doubled immediately. But in case you wonder, the industry and its unions do reserve the right to come back for more…

So let’s review some of CAR’s assertions in light of what we know:

Auto sales are forecast to decline from 16.1 million in 2007 to 14.9 million in 2008. 2009 can be expected to be much worse. Spending on capital goods such as cars and trucks will be affected long-term as a result of excessive consumer debt, tighter credit terms, higher unemployment, and a serious recession (or depression).

If car sales decline dramatically, manufacturing capacity has to be reduced to match demand. This means that the less productive plants would be shut down, employees laid off, and that the supply chain would have to adjust accordingly. This is basic economics so far.

Now comes our choice: On the one hand, we have some highly productive global manufacturers that produce fuel-efficient vehicles the U.S. consumer wants and can afford to buy. On the other hand, we have three inefficient companies that produce unattractive gas guzzlers and are plagued with high legacy costs and liabilities (Big Three workers make $73/hr, Toyota’s $48, the average manufacturing worker makes $32). Why should U.S. taxpayers subsidize these losers? Is it so that they can continue to compete unsuccessfully with productive manufacturers and avoid any dramatic (and much-needed) changes in their way of doing business?

In light of the fact that throwing good money after bad almost never works out, I think the U.S. taxpayers should not bail out GM, Ford, and Chrysler. A common-sense alternative would be to save our tax dollars and allow the most efficient manufacturers to gain market share and hire more workers. Ultimately the U.S. market will post sales of 12 to 15 million cars annually. If it takes one, two, or three million fewer workers to produce the cars U.S. consumers can afford to buy, so be it.

A farmer with one modern wheat combine can do the job of a thousand 18th century farm hands. That is a lot of unemployed farm workers, yet nobody demands to return to those good old days. Productivity and efficiency do result in job losses and dislocation, but eventually progress creates new jobs and additional wealth.

Whether a Honda, GM, Toyota, Ford, Hyundai, or VW, currently each and every car still requires one engine and four wheels. Each manufacturer uses basically the same domestic and overseas suppliers, and each has dealers selling its cars (most dealers represent a broad spectrum of brands and will sell whatever car the market wants). The argument that GM closing its doors would result in the loss of 2 million jobs or more is ludicrous as the competitors that pick up the slack will hire workers and buy more from their suppliers. While that may not be good for Detroit, it may be good for the Carolinas or Tennessee.

Simply, business shifting from certain players in the industry to others is called competition. Capitalism and competition are the forces that have made the U.S. the most successful economy for many decades. Granted, it is a harsh reality, but it works, and so far no other system has come even close to creating as much wealth for most of its agents.

Anyone who follows our flagship newsletter, The Casey Report, knows our stance: we hope, most likely in vain, that the new administration will finally come to the realization that no entity is too big to fail. Besides, bankruptcy reorganizations have a much greater chance of success with larger corporations, as they usually have lots of assets to dispose of — assets that can be sold cheaply to new enterprises, which are then able to build businesses on a much sounder basis. In the process, there is innovation and progress.

The choice is clear: Either the Obama administration can continue on the path of nationalizing entire segments of our economy (so far banking, insurance, auto – next, health, airlines…) and run them into the ground. Or it can let poorly managed companies fail, thereby making it easy for successful businesses and new entrepreneurs to buy the assets of these organizations. Step back and let the markets work their magic instead of blaming the market for ills that were created by special interests and poorly designed regulations.

***

Throughout history, the markets have shown “riptides” – powerful trends that can make or break a market sector and, in their wake, the people invested in that sector. It’s quite obvious that the U.S. auto industry’s day in the sun is over… maybe for good. But just like the tide going out to sea and coming back to shore, for every dying industry, another one emerges.

Investors with the knack to recognize those potent trends have made fortunes in the past, simply by getting in while the investing masses were still clueless. One of them is Doug Casey, famous contrarian investor, speaker and book author. Time and time again, Doug and his team at Casey Research have correctly predicted the next riptide… if you want to know what’s coming next, learn more here.

Lost Principles in Economically Uncertain Times

Lost Principles

By Olivier Garret

CEO, Casey Research

As the economic crisis continues to unfold, recently a sense of uncertainty has begun to pervade the market. Even dyed-in-the-wool risk takers admit that they don’t know what to think anymore. Inflation, deflation, recession or depression – there are so many vagaries that it appears to be anyone’s guess what will happen next.

Despite the current, volatile environment, though, our expert team at Casey Research maintain their core prediction: that a highly inflationary cycle is not far off. While we, along with several external experts, continuously review our assumptions and conclusions and encourage dissenting opinions and analysis to avoid biased conclusions, so far we keep returning to our views about what’s coming. That said, the hardest thing to predict is not what will happen, but when.

The way I see it, the swift, far-reaching and mostly ill-conceived reactions from most of the world’s governments under the leadership of two apprentice sorcerers (Bernanke and Paulson) have until now resulted in a widespread run for an exit to nowhere, a deep credit freeze, and total and indiscriminate mistrust in the market and all of its players.

The fact remains that in the last year, many principles that have long been rooted in the success of capitalism have been thrown out of the window.

  • First, market players discovered that the longest-lasting asset bubble in recent history was made possible by poor regulations (as opposed to lack thereof), greed, and the misunderstood and misrepresented risks of credit derivatives.
  • Second, we found out the real meaning of “too big to fail.” If a business is large enough and has enough clout, it doesn’t matter how poorly managed it has been, it will be bailed out at the expense of taxpayers (us) and investors (us again).
  • Third, we found that the rating systems the financial markets had been relying on have been misleading investors and failing to identify some of the riskiest asset classes. As a result, investors and all other economic agents are left with no means of evaluating risk as they conduct business, hence the credit freeze and rush to cash.
  • Fourth, to add to the confusion, the U.S. Fed and Treasury, followed by many other central banks, have been altering the rules of the game by the minute (buying toxic waste at face value, bailing out certain financial institutions but not others, becoming shareholders of several behemoths in the banking and insurance industry, and trumping all accepted rules of creditors’ and stakeholders’ priority, prohibiting the shorting of certain classes of assets on a moment’s notice).
  • Last but not least, the U.S. presidency, weakened by almost eight years of mismanagement, has continued to show total lack of leadership. It has empowered a couple of technocrats to run the country’s finances without leadership until a new administration gets in and, hopefully quickly, figures out what to do. To make matters worse, the EU has shown its ugliest face and demonstrated a fact we all truly knew but didn’t want to recognize until recently — that economic unity and coordination is easy in good times but almost impossible when the going gets tough.

No wonder economic actors are wreaking havoc as they race for shelter.

Add to this the fact that all natural resources have been hammered by the combination of a credit freeze and lower real and anticipated demand from most industrial nations.

Finally, junior exploration stocks – being very thinly traded and rightfully considered to be in a higher risk class — have been hammered twice as hard as the rest of the markets (hence the performance of the TSX-V, which has lost 76% in the last year and 30% in the past 30 days alone). The fact that many hedge funds had to unwind large positions in such a small market certainly did not help values.

What does this mean for investors in this market?

We all have suffered significant losses in our portfolios, and although our choices may have reduced some of the downside, quality companies have been hit almost as hard as fly-by-night juniors with no future.

Several of our companies are trading at or below cash value and get no goodwill for the significant assets and outstanding management teams they have assembled.

Although there is no way to tell when we will hit a bottom in these markets, we believe that once tax-loss selling season is over and reality settles in, we will see the beginning of a slow recovery process for the best of the juniors. Investors who have the ability to stay the course and are invested in the highest-quality juniors will recover from their losses and benefit from what will eventually be another bull market in commodities.

Precious metals and agriculture, followed by certain segments of the energy sector, will lead the way to widespread price increases across the range of commodities. While we can’t predict the exact timing of this run, the fundamentals are in place once the world economies take a turn for the better or at least stabilize somewhat.

Here is why:

  • The current crisis is taking tremendous amounts of needed capacity off the supply pipeline. Whether it be energy, base metals, or agricultural goods, projects to bring online expensive oilfields and alternative fuel sources are being shelved and will take years to get back on track. Mines are closing and projects are being canceled, thereby removing much of the supply; the credit squeeze is cutting down on agricultural investment, and working capital constraints will dramatically limit supply.
  • The world’s demographics are not changing, nor are the aspirations of a hard-working, fast-growing middle class in emerging economies. The changes that drove commodity markets up for the last few years are long lasting and real.
  • Peak Oil and peak-everything. There is limited supply for many commodities, and although there are alternatives (curbing consumption and finding alternative sources of energy), it takes large investments to do so. In current markets, many of these investments are going to be put aside until the next crisis/shortage hits – at which point we will have years of a commodities bull run before an equilibrium is reached.
  • We anticipate that China, Russia, and India will take advantage of low commodity prices to secure very large, long-term supply commitments while the Western world licks its wounds and tries to recover. By the time we do, an even larger portion of the world’s available resources may no longer be available on the markets, for example oil and gas.

In the last edition of Casey Energy Opportunities, Marin Katusa pondered how the U.S. is going to replace the supply of uranium when the HEU program with Russia is set to expire in 2013. The answer is that the U.S. will struggle to replace 40% of its needs, and this will benefit a handful of U.S. suppliers with proven reserves. Currently shares of these companies, which have the cash to develop resources or are already producing with positive cash flows, are incredibly cheap – a win-win situation. Eventually similar opportunities will come from copper and strategic metals.

  • We can expect the world to continue to be a very unstable place, where regional conflicts can quickly spread and spin out of control, with obvious impact on the smooth supply of key commodities (Gulf region, Nigeria, former Soviet republics, to name a few). In fact, a widespread financial crisis could precipitate those events as conflicts are often linked to economic hardship.
  • The unprecedented deficits, a wave of bailouts, and growth in the money creation by central banks in the Western world will eventually lead to massive inflation. In the U.S. alone, the monetary supply has increased by 50% since early September. This will unequivocally reverse the current short-term deflationary pressures and lead to a steep devaluation of the dollar and other major currencies. At that point, precious metals and all tangible assets are poised for a strong recovery.

So, if you ask me if I am still bullish on the resource sector, my answer yes, now more than ever. Juniors are juniors, and when things go wrong, they get beaten down. The strong ones with great teams and lots of cash will survive and prosper, the others will disappear. When commodities come back with a vengeance, there will be fewer companies, almost all with good projects… and those who are invested in these few companies will see a very sizeable appreciation of their capital as the broader public returns.

It’s very hard to be a contrarian investor, especially when all forces seem to be against you, but one thing the markets have taught me is that memory on the Street is unbelievably short, and they will come back.

***

Not only is the economy presently going haywire, there’s also still the boogeyman of Peak Oil looming on the horizon. While oil prices are at a low not seen for a while, it is all but certain that this sweet relief for motorists won’t last very long.

When oil prices come roaring back, the energy market will virtually explode… and,  if you are safely positioned in the right stocks by then, your bank account will too. Learn more about how being a contrarian investor can earn you a fortune – click here.

Stratfor Sees Short U.S. Recession

I just read Stratfor’s 4th quarter projection courtesy of John Mauldin’s newsletter.

These people are very sharp and have a respected track record.

When it comes to geo-political stuff all I can do is read it; I certainly can’t take issue with their analysis other than to say that the Israeli contact I just met with personally indicates a different tack with Iran than Stratfor seemed to indicate.

Another no surprise bulletin is that Russia has energy wealth and intends to torment Europe as much as possible. If the oil price doesn’t go too low and they have the money, Russia will mess with the U.S. by getting more involved in Cuba, South & Latin America and Mexican criminal activity.

But what really shocked me is that Stratfor suspects the U.S. recession will not only be short, but could be over with by year end. 2008 is the year end they implied.

Stratfor believes our underlying economy is strong and that the banks are essentially sound. Did I read that right?

Now Europe and Asia are another story and will likely suffer in 2009. (Doesn’t that mean we will too?)

Since commodities are going lower, yes – oil too, then so will gold. And the food prices will go down too. This is the first time I have heard that people eat less in recessions, but go figure. Unless those food price spikes were 100% evil speculators and not hungry 2nd and 3rd world peoples finally putting something in their mouth besides dirt and flies.

Naturally, gold and silver will go in the toilet too, then. If commodities go down, the U.S. dollar stays strong and there is no industrial demand for silver, gold or the PGMs then why not just own dollars?

I’m just not sure I can buy all of that.

Time will tell.

As they say at the TREND letter ($50 discount through this link only!), it’s your money – take control!

The Trend Letter Flash Report – Is There Any Good News?

the TREND letter ($50 discount through this link only!) issued a flash report this evening; one of the key benefits to subscribing to this fantastic financial newsletter.

Will we see inflation or deflation?

The topic of inflation versus deflation is discussed again in today’s flash report. There are great arguments on both sides, but I feel the editors of the TREND letter ($50 discount through this link only!) hit it right on the head. (hint: What happened, and continues to happen, in Japan can give us some important clues)

The question is: how can you profit from this crisis?

Unfortunately I can’t give out all of the info in this important flash report. But I can give you this excerpt that follows.

Is there any good news?

Given that we are calling for deflationary forces to win out in the near term, many subscribers are asking if there is any good news here – there is. We believe that this deflationary period, although painful, will be fairly short lived – meaning it will hit hard and then could be over and done in a short time frame.

If we are correct in our call for a fierce short term deflationary period, we can then be optimistic that there will be some excellent buying opportunities in some key sectors. We made some serious money in the bull market in resource stocks and we strongly believe that there will huge profits to be made in the gold, silver, energy and other emerging markets after we get through the current crisis.

We all need some good news, and that good news is that some people do have a clue how to profit out the other side of this financial crisis.

You are going to want to be a subscriber to the TREND letter before this time comes. Check out this important resource and if you choose to subscribe, use one of the $50 discount links above – they are exclusive to my blog.

U.S. in Crisis Mode – What’s Next?

U.S. in Crisis Mode — What’s Next?

By Olivier Garret, CEO

Casey Research – The Casey Report

In the last few weeks, it has become clear that the current financial meltdown is not our usual, run-of-the-mill crisis. It’s supersized, inexorably linked to the rest of the world, ruled by chaos, and precariously perched atop a mountain of debt. “What makes this crisis different from some of the earlier ones,” says IMF Historian James Boughton, “is that the interlinkages among financial institutions are much greater now than they used to be.”

Daily efforts to “thaw credit markets,” “provide liquidity,” and “support financial stability” only add to the myriad market dislocations. And despite what we may hear from politicians and the news media, recovery is unlikely to be “just around the corner.”

The party really is over. We are facing hard times, no matter what the government does. If it continues to prop up the sick markets, it will only delay and worsen the inevitable deep recession.

To survive the current financial crisis and the accompanying economic downturn, we must understand the big picture, and how it will be affected by the slew of “support” from the federal government.

Casey Research accurately predicted the specifics of the crisis in its International Speculator edition of March 2007:

For one thing, at the point that falling prices leave homeowners with mortgages exceeding the value of their homes, default rates will soar. This, in turn, will put lenders that hold large amounts of mortgage debt at risk, and possibly jeopardize the solvency of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, since they guarantee much of this debt. If these mortgage giants faced collapse – and they are already in well?documented trouble – a government bailout involving hundreds of billions of dollars would be a likely next step.

The impending calamity – mass housing foreclosures, failing banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in ashes, millions of personal bankruptcies – is so dire… most people can’t even conceive of it. And indeed it may not hit us this year, or next, but the market always corrects itself, and this time will be no exception, sooner or later.

We have said before, and we repeat again: Rig for stormy weather.

Now the Casey Research team forecasts something outside the realm of any recent experience: the Greater Depression may be looming on the horizon.

Doug Casey coined the term “Greater Depression” in his best-selling book Crisis Investing, published in 1979. Today it resounds throughout the land; even CNN’s Glenn Beck recently used it in an op-ed piece. And the signs are increasing that a depression may indeed be what we are moving towards.

On September 30, 2008 (end fiscal 2008), the Congressional Budget Office reported a record federal budget deficit for the year of $455 billion, up $293 billion (or 181%) from fiscal 2007.

And that does not yet include the Fed’s bailout package for failing banks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and various other “economic stimuli.” The chart below shows that the $700 billion agreed to by Congress may have been a very optimistic estimate.

On October 3, President Bush signed into law the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. With this Act, Congress and the president have ensured a runaway government deficit next year… one sure to exceed $1 trillion. Along with total federal debt outstanding already around $10.3 trillion, unfunded liabilities of at least $50 trillion, and many new programs and tax rebates promised by both presidential candidates, this does not bode well for the global economic outlook.

As if that was not enough, during the past few weeks, the Fed increased the country’s monetary base by as much as 20% to shore up the financial systems.

Federal budget deficits facilitate “loose” (expansionist) monetary policies, and these policies set in motion the business cycle. As the economy enters the cycle’s “bust” phase, massive federal deficits have left the government with only one option — to try to inflate itself out of the current crisis, regardless of the impact on the value of the dollar.

A rapidly growing money supply at the same time the biggest credit bubble in 25 years bursts makes for a less than desirable scenario – one that could make the stagflation of the ‘70s look like a walk in the park. In March 1975, industrial production fell by nearly 13% while the yearly rate of CPI growth jumped to around 12%. It took another seven years and a second recession before the U.S. was able to break from the stagflation cycle.

What we are likely in for now is an unprecedented period of price inflation, economic depression, and high unemployment, i.e., not just stagflation but depflation (inflationary depression).

Depflation will affect the entire population, and its effects on people’s personal finances will manifest in multiple ways.

  • Purchasing power declines as prices for consumer goods increase faster than wages.
  • Taxes levied on businesses and individuals increase when nominal incomes rise.
  • Late recipients of new money incur cost of additional hidden tax.
  • Cost of money (interest rates) increases, hurts investments in capital goods, stocks and bonds.
  • Once expectation sets in, it becomes a self-feeding phenomenon, taking years and a severe recession to work itself out.

Just like a shot of adrenalin administered to a sick patient generates an apparent revival, only to have the patient collapse as soon as the injection wears off, the artificial monetary injections by the Fed will do the same. Paraphrasing former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, “Once you have a little [monetary] inflation, you need a little more”. As with any medicine, its effects wear off and become less potent the more “injections” are received.

At this stage, your primary goal should be asset protection. Once that is in place, you will be in a better position to hunt for the opportunistic profits one can only find in times of crisis.

***

If you had known all this was happening, what would you have done differently?

If you had seen this coming, you could have moved to protect yourself and your portfolio. You could have shorted financials and bond insurers, like MBIA. You could have played more in the gold fields.

But how could you know all this was going to happen?

We at Casey Research have long foreseen what is unfolding right now… and those investors who followed our recommendations have successfully preserved their wealth.  We believe in making the trend your friend… otherwise it can be a fearsome enemy.

Which is what The Casey Report is all about – giving you the pertinent and well-researched information on big economic trends unfolding at this moment, and how best to invest to make them work for you, instead of against you. Find out more about the power of the trends, and about The Casey Report, by clicking this link now.