This Week in Barrons – 3-24-2013
“We are NOT Cyprus. We are NOT some 3rd World Country!”
Last week’s report produced a lot of mail telling me that the U.S. would never confiscate our money – this is America, not some 3rd world country – we’re too big to fail and have too many rules. Not to ‘beat a dead horse’ – but the U.S. DID exactly that in 1933. President Franklin D. Roosevelt saw the economy grinding to a halt, and needed a way to kick start it out of the “Great Depression.” His cabinet decided the best way to expand the economy was to expand the money supply. But in 1933 the money supply (unlike today) was backed by gold. So to expand the money supply we needed to have more gold on hand, and the only way to obtain more gold quickly was to demand it from the American citizens. On April 5th, 1933 Executive Order #6102 required all persons to deliver on or before May 1, 1933, all but a small amount of gold coin, gold bullion, and gold certificates owned by them to the Federal Reserve, in exchange for $20.67 per troy ounce. Under the Trading With the Enemy Act of 1917, as amended by the recently passed Emergency Banking Act of March 9, 1933, violation of the order was punishable by a fine up to $10,000 or up to ten years in prison, or both. This prompted hundreds of thousands of citizens to turn in their gold at their local Federal Reserve Bank – in exchange for $20.67 – the accepted, general price for gold at that time.
But wait a minute. If Gold was $20/ounce, and the U.S. had already printed all the money that it could based upon the amount of gold that they had in storage, what good is buying gold from the public and paying $20 an ounce for it? Isn’t that a wash? Absolutely. But once they obtained all the gold, and refined it into US bullion, the government then declared the NEW PRICE for gold to be $35/ounce. You see by declaring that gold is NOW worth $35/ounce instead of $20 – they could print more money in order to bridge that 70% gap that they had just created. And the American citizens just ended up eating a 70% currency devaluation as well as the corresponding inflation. So to all that say: “The U.S. would NEVER do what Cyprus is trying to do” – well, they already did.
Having said that, I know that owning gold and silver isn’t perfect. But just last week, a glitch at Chase Bank had tens of thousands of depositors showing an online balance of $0.00. This caused an immediate run on the bank’s ATM’s – and Chase was quick to apologize and update their balances. But it begs the question: If you had to absolutely PROVE (on paper – without any help of electronic records) how much money you had in any given bank at any one time – could you?
I was reminded (by a reader) of the Stanley Druckenmiller article a couple weeks back, where Mr. Druckenmiller blasted the current administration and our current seniors for passing along an insurmountable debt burden onto our youth. The title of the article was: “Don’t let your Grandparents Steal your Money.”
Mr. Druckenmiller is one of the best-performing hedge fund managers of the past 30 years. He points out that the mushrooming costs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, with unfunded liabilities as high as $211 trillion, will bankrupt our nation’s youth and pose a much greater danger than the country’s $16 trillion of debt currently being debated in Congress. “I am not against seniors,” said Mr. Druckenmiller. “What I am against is current seniors stealing from future seniors. Unsustainable spending will eventually result in a crisis worse than the financial meltdown of 2008. What is particularly troubling is that government expenditures related to programs for the elderly rocketed in the past two decades, even before the first baby boomers started turning 65. In 2011, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare accounted for 44 percent of the government’s $3.7 trillion in expenditures, up from 34 percent in 1990. The seniors have a very, very powerful lobby. They keep getting more and more transfer payments from younger generations through what’s essentially a pay-as-you-go system. As the elderly population rises, the number of workers who pay into Social Security is dropping. By 2030, there will be about two workers per retiree, down from 3.4 workers in 2000.”
Mr. Druckenmiller thinks:
- Stocks may continue to rise due to buy-backs and the new retail investor, but those gains probably won’t last due to too much leverage and too much debt.
- We should change the eligibility ages for Social Security and benefit structure for wealthy retirees.
- We need to remove the disincentives for those who would rather work in their later years.
- We need to add a federal consumption tax because seniors consume about the same amount as people in their 20s or 30s, yet pay less in income taxes.
- We need to tax dividends and capital gains so as to shift the tax burden as the population ages
- To avoid double taxation, the government could abolish corporate taxes, which would also eliminate some incentives for companies to move business abroad.
We built a system of dependency and trust, and the system is breaking down. I’m finding better places for my money than cash, and I figure those who live in Cyprus (about now) are finding the same.
This week, The Ben Bernanke held a Q&A session on the economy and the Fed’s actions. After reading a prepared statement, he started talking about the thresholds that the Fed has established. For example, they have stated that “the Fed will keep buying until the unemployment is under 6.5%". The Ben Bernanke told us that these thresholds are just "signposts", not absolutes. He then said that this very easy money policy could go on for a long time past those signposts. Basically what he's telling us is that they're looking at everything, and there is no real way that he can stop printing. The Ben Bernanke also admitted: "the stock market may be hitting new highs in nominal terms, but is still far away in real terms." This is due to inflation, but it’s nice to hear our Central banker saying that while the DOW is hitting new highs, the returns are (in fact) lower.
When I look at the market, the image that appears is one of a market that is desperately tired, in need of a rest, but that is consistently being jammed higher. And then we have the issue of the "late comer". A “late comer” is someone that has missed the entire 2009 to 2013 run up, and is NOW asking if it's time to jump back into the market. On one of the technology bulletin boards I frequent, I noticed a post last week by a gent asking if the members thought it was a great time to finally get back in the market because the market had just put in its all time high. I desperately wanted to ask him where he had been for the past 5 years, but I thought the better of it. But then the responses that he got were even more interesting. Many of the site's members pitched in to say that they had just recently jumped back into the market themselves.
In any bubblemania I’m reminded of a quote: “the market can remain irrational, longer than you can remain solvent." In other words, the market can keep doing (whatever it is doing), longer than any reasonable mind would think. And secondly, as the mania begins to get ‘long in the tooth’, it invariably pulls in those that resisted all along the way. I tend to think that some of the starts and fits that we’re seeing is a market that wants to rest, but the late comers detect any red as a pull back and jump in.
I’m positive for this coming week because we have just put in a tremendous quarter, and with the quarter ending next Friday, Wall Street would like nothing better than to be able to send out quarterly statements showing tremendous gains. Between that and the folks jumping in late, I now know why there was no real correction in the last few weeks.
Let’s assume we reach an all-time high on the S&P this week, the quarter ends, and the new monthly money comes in. Does the market just continue higher? It could, simply because the underlying strength of the market is coming from a man with a printing press. But here's a small question for you – what if you looked at the Fed's balance sheet, and it showed a figure that could only correspond to The Ben Bernanke printing $115 Billion last month, instead of the $85 billion that he told us about. How would we figure out where the excess $30 Billion went? Is it possible that when the market looks tired, and he knows something like Cyprus is coming down the pike, that he ramps up the digital press a little higher and spreads it around so that the market doesn’t go down?
My point is that the market is beyond artificial at this point, and is bordering on absolute fiction. Companies like Fedex, Caterpillar, Deere, UPS, Oracle and a dozen others have come out saying things are weak out there. They are missing earnings, but the market still holds solid or goes up. This is all because of Benji Bucks, and until they stop printing, there isn’t any real reason that the market can't keep going up.
While I'm still under the delusion that at some point we're going to get a 4 or 5 % pull back, the fact is that between Benji Bucks and latecomers to the party, we could easily just push higher. My only problem with this is that the higher this market goes on a fake premise, the harder it is going to fall. The people that jump in at 14,500 are going to look good if we get to DOW 16K. But when the wheels come off, will they be smart enough to get out? History says no, and that there will be much pain and suffering - again. If we're going to get a pull back, it makes the most sense for it to start late in the first week of April - after they print up their quarterly statements, and all the managers can look like real geniuses. Then the market could put in a correction.
I am playing this rally with caution. I lean long, pick up a few stocks and do my best not to get blindsided. As long as the DOW closes above 14,383 we should be able to keep the illusion alive. A close under that would signal increased danger. A close over 14,540 probably signals more gains to come. But be wary of sector rotation. One-day materials are bid-up in a big way, and the next two days are spent crushing the same sector that was bid-up. It’s vicious out there, so be careful.
Last week I sold National Oilwell Varco (NOV) for no gain, WPX Energy (WPX) for no gain, and Iron Mountain (IRM) for $0.20. I liked COST over $104 and bought it on Friday. I currently like DECK, and would dive in around $50.80, or after it breaks over its Wednesday high of $51.16. A couple miners like AUY have started to move, and are bringing NEM and AEM along with it. We purchased some GDXJ (the ETF of junior miners) a while ago for our ‘long term’ account. I’m seeing that the GDX (ETF of senior miners) is starting to move. A move over $38.60 would put it on the radar – and the GDX getting over $39.30 would make it a buying opportunity.
My current short-term holds are performing nicely (with gold and silver still lagging):
- COST – in at 104.10 (currently 105.20) – stop at entry,
- NUAN – in 19.10 (currently 19.86) – stop at entry,
- SNDK – in at 52.19 (currently 55.19) – stop at 54.50,
- SIL – in at 24.51 (currently 18.15) – no stop yet
- GLD (ETF for Gold) – in at 158.28, (currently 155.68) – no stop ($1,606.20 per physical ounce), AND
- SLV (ETF for Silver) – in at 28.3 (currently 27.80) – no stop ($28.67 per physical ounce).
To follow me on Twitter and get my daily thoughts and trades – my handle is: taylorpamm.
Please be safe out there!
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