April 12, 2013
By Dan Denning
|Uh-oh. "The moment of explosion is approaching fast," says an official from the North Korean military. The formal statement from a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People's Army read as follows:|
There hasn't been a real military crisis to take financial markets to the boiling point in some time. In fact, since the collapse of the American real estate bubble in 2007, stock markets have been driven more by monetary policy than anything else. The "Arab Spring" was big news. But markets largely ignored it. Will they ignore the possibility of a war on the Korean peninsula?
Probably. The longer something you expect to happen doesn't happen, the less expectant you get. It doesn't mean the expected event is less likely to happen. It means you become less vigilant over time. You lower your guard. You become complacent. That's when it usually happens.
Still, you'd think that no one who has anything at stake in the Korean peninsula wants a conflict. The adults in the room -- China, the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Russia -- have no interest in an actual shooting war. But stranger things have happened.
The action on Wall Street suggests investors are paying more attention to the Federal Reserve and economic growth than Kim Jong Un. The S&P 500 fell by 1.1% last week. But it was metals and energy stocks, led by the underlying commodities, that got hammered the most. The S&P GSCI index of 24 commodities fell by 2% last Wednesday. That was the largest one-day drop since November.
For more, let's look at David Stockman's article on American decline from The New York Times:
The phenomena -- lower U.S. interest rates and higher Chinese fixed asset investment -- are inseparable in two ways. First, lower U.S. rates led to America's housing boom and consumer credit/spending boom. This increase in consumption created demand for goods from China. China made things and Americans bought them and the world basked in the glow of a two-piston engine of growth.
The second way low U.S. rates and Chinese investment are inseparable is China's currency peg to the U.S. dollar. This requires China to inflate when the U.S. inflates. And the trouble with inflation is that it never goes where you want it to. In the U.S., the Fed's policies have led to a new all-time high on the major stock indexes.
In China, the corresponding credit boom from low rates led to a building and real estate boom. But now there's turbulence.
Martin Wolf of the Financial Times has even gone so far as to pen an article titled, "Why China's Economy Might Topple." Wolf generally speaks on behalf of conventional and institutional thinking. A contrarian would be tempted to view his bearish comments on China quite bullishly. But his main point is that after 35 years of double-digit GDP growth, China will grow more like the advanced economies of Japan in the 1970s and South Korea in the 1990s, at about 6.5% a year.
Officials at China's Development Research Centre of the State Council (DRC) have written a paper called Ten-year Outlook: Decline of Potential Growth Rate and Start of New Phase of Growth. The clunkily titled paper lays out five reasons why China may experience a sharp decline in growth, starting now. Wolf writes:
The laws of economics, to the extent that they exist, apply across all borders and all oceans. Money borrowed must be put to productive use. If it's not, assets have to be written down in value or losses have to be taken. The whole of the last five years have been a central bank exercise in making sure the losses don't destroy the world's banking system.
Is there any refuge? Well, for years we've advocated physical gold and silver as a way to extract wealth from the financial system and store it in tangible form. After the confiscation of bank deposits in Cyprus, this seems more prudent than ever.
But what's this? Gold is getting absolutely pounded too. Sentiment is bearish. Is it time to sell your gold?
If you were a trader, the time to sell gold would have been when it reached $1,900. But if you're not a trader, if you're a wealth accumulator, then you'll relish the chance to buy gold at these prices. You should also be prepared for it to go lower still. Have a look at the chart below.
The chart shows how many Berkshire Hathaway "B" shares it takes to buy an ounce of gold. It's a 15-year chart with weekly prices. Berkshire is a basket of productive enterprises that trades as a stock. You can view it as a proxy for the Fed's efforts to reflate financial asset prices. Gold is gold.
As we've written before, if the ratio goes back to 14 (it's currently at 14.95), it will represent a bottom in gold and a top in stocks. You'd have to assume this would coincide with a big shift in market sentiment. Investors would be back to "risk off." You'd see heavy selling of stocks in the second quarter. And after a merciless liquidation of the gold bulls, a bottom in the gold price.
It's all proceeding as planned. The fall in the gold price, and the carnage in gold stocks, will no doubt make many investors and speculators nervous. But that's exactly what has to happen for the bull market to resume its long-term upward trend. If it were a certain trade, everyone would be in it on the same side. The time to hold your nose and buy is approaching.
for The Daily Reckoning
April 10, 2013
April 08, 2013
April 07, 2013
In 1800, a son from a rich family of refugees from the French Revolution in America,after a survey of business opportunities in America, wrote
There already exist in the United States two or three mills which make very bad powder and which do however a very good business. They use saltpeter from India which is infinitely better than that which is produced in France but they refine it badly.
The son was Eleuthère Irénée du Pont, the family was the Du Pont family – and their firm is now known as EI du Pont de Nemours and Co. EU du Pont's expertise in manufacturing saltpeter came from his training with the French Agency for Powder and Saltpeter (Regie royale des poudres et Salpetres) – and under the tutelage of Antoine Lavoisier, the French chemist, he boasted.
Behind the Dupont fortune was Indian saltpetre. Behind Lincoln's success in the American Civil War was saltpetre. Behind Anglo-French confidence against Germany in WW1 was the control of the saltpetre deposits from India. Germans were able to sink many of these British saltpetre shipments. In turn, Germans with the Haber-Bosch process, in BASF factories, continued the war – without Indian saltpetre or Chilean nitrate supplies