RF's Financial News

RF's Financial News

Sunday, March 3, 2013

This Week in Barrons - 3-3-2013

This Week in Barrons – 3-3-2013

Those feared words, “The U.S. Government is here to Help”

A friend of mine – Paul M. (got me thinking) and some CMU students asked me:  “Who ends up suffering due to the skyrocketing costs of higher education?”

-       An average 4-year college education costs over $100,000.
-       60% of students incur student loan debt – averaging over $27,000.
-       Professional degree loan debt is an additional $100,000, with Doctors incurring over $200,000 in additional debt.
-       State Universities can’t keep with infrastructure, and (in many cases) have raised tuition over 80% in the past 3 years.

Combine this with the housing bubble of 2008 (28% of current mortgages are still underwater), and this gives us millions of new college graduates either unemployed or underemployed, 60% carrying student loan debt, and their parents with their largest asset virtually worthless.  But don’t worry, the U.S. Government is here to help – with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). 

The main reason Obamacare is going to hurt our young people is that it will make them purchase health insurance, even when the odds of them using it are low.  Currently 27% of 27 to 34 year olds do not carry health insurance.  After January 1, 2014 – they will ALL have to, or pay a fine/tax.  Obamacare is built on the premise that our young people are needed to purchase insurance and NOT use it – so that their premiums will be available to pay for the care of others (often much, much older).  The ONLY flaw in the plan is that our young people don’t have the money (unemployed or underemployed).  A single, 25 year-old making $23,00 a year would need to pay 6.3% of their income ($1,449) to Obamacare.  This is $120 a month that they don’t have and won’t use. 

Adding insult to injury:
-       Approximately 60% of all personal bankruptcies in the United States are related to medical bills.  And approximately 41% of all working age Americans have medical bill problems.
-       According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. is currently experiencing a shortage of at least 13,000 doctors, that will grow to a 130,000 doctor shortage in 10 years.  Not counting the fact that 40% of all doctors are over the age of 55. 
-       U.S. ambulance industry makes more money each year than the movie industry.
-       Approximately 10% of all U.S. employers plan to drop health coverage completely when the major provisions of Obamacare go into effect in 2014.
-       16,000 new IRS agents are being hired to help oversee the implementation of Obamacare,
-       Currently there are more than 56 Million Americans on Medicaid, and under Obamacare 16 Million additional will be added.
-       Currently there are more than 50 Million Americans on Medicare, and Obamacare will add an additional 23 Million by 2025.

The only nice ending to this is to potentially invest in medical facility REITS (Real Estate Investment Trusts) or other medical investments that pay a high dividend. 

The Market...

“I know that it is painful.  Anytime you buy something and it loses 10, 15, or 20% of its value, it makes you mad and then you question yourself.  But always ask yourself the same basic question: ‘What has changed?’   If the answer is nothing, then the only thing I can logically surmise is that while holding gold through this big dip is painful, I have to think that in the end, it is the right thing to do.

I wrote this in Barrons, of October 2006.  In May of 2006, I was looking like a genius as gold hit $725 an ounce (up from $300).  But by October it was trading at $560 – a drop of 22%.  The story was a simple one.  There was a housing bubble, a credit bubble and a debt bubble all brewing, and Gold was the only thing that made sense to own at the time.  I bought MORE gold, and the rest is history.

Today is much different than 2006, and the reasons for owning gold are bigger than they were in 2006.  Gold is the ‘anti-currency’ and the ultimate ‘money’.  Money is a storage of value for our production.  In order to store value, you need to be: rare, portable, divisible (make change), accepted universally as a medium of exchange, fungible – meaning it needs to possess the same value everywhere, and stand the test of time as a storage agent (it can’t be worth less next week).

So if Gold it's not dead, why is it struggling?  First off, has anything changed? Nope.  On Tuesday The Ben Bernanke told the banking committee that he was going to keep QE in effect for a long time.  But if The Ben Bernanke is destroying our currency, shouldn't gold be going up?  Yes it should be, and it is my bet that it will again.  But with the advent of Gold ETF’s, we’ve allowed Central bankers (via paper currency) to manipulate the price of the metal to make it look like there's no inflation.  The same Central banks that are using the paper market to drive metal prices lower, are then using the physical market to BUY the metal itself.

So what happens?  Either the illegal naked shorting, forward leasing, paper derivatives win the day and gold goes back down, or the physical demand outstrips supply, and coupled with the Central bank’s currency printing; prices rise in spite of the illegal activities.  In 2006 I sided with the idea that nothing had changed and economic disaster was in the wings.  Here in 2013 I suggest that we're still facing an economic disaster, coupled with a deranged Federal Reserve, who prints trillions as though it has no downside to it.  While nothing is ever written in stone, and no investment is without risk, when the head of the biggest central bank on earth says he's going to keep printing currency, and we see Japan wanting in on the game, and we see Draghi in Europe suggesting that the ECB has a lot more to give, then I have no choice but to go with logic.  I'm a buyer of metals on this dip.

Does the stock market deserve to be at All Time Highs?  Nope – on Friday alone:
-       We had the sequester looming.
-       The PMI numbers out of China were horrible.
-       U.S. incomes dropped the most in 20 years.
-       U.S. disposable income after taxes took the biggest plunge since 1959.
-       AND U.S. GDP came in with virtually 0 growth!

I think the only thing that will stop this lunacy is if the velocity of money increases to the point where we finally get a huge surge of inflation.  That would short circuit everything, and we would spiral downward quickly.  As long as Bernanke is willing to dole out free money, and the banks aren't pumping it into the economy, this game of an ever-rising stock market stays intact.

In the next several days (with everyone and his brother looking for all time highs), the market could easily pull off a correction instead.  So I’m still uncertain as to the direction of this market.  My guess is that we take out the all time high, just so they can say they did, and then we finally roll over for a while.  One tool you can use to try and decipher this mess is the XLF – the exchange traded fund (ETF) for the financial community.  In rough terms, the market really can't go anywhere without the financials and the XLF is their barometer.  If the XLF were to break up and over 18, then the rally would be intact.  If the XLF were to fall below 17, one could surmise we were finally going to get our overdue correction.

Because of all this slop and chop, trying to get brave and go "too long" or get short – well, I think it best to just to let this congestion pass.


The past week we sold out of SPN (+1.00), PTEN (+4.00), MS (+3.50), and SPY (+9.00). 

My current short-term holds are slim indeed and mostly underwater:
-       SIL – in at 24.51 (currently 18.25) – no stop yet
-       GLD (ETF for Gold) – in at 158.28, (currently 152.58) – no stop ($1,571.90 per physical ounce), AND
-       SLV (ETF for Silver) – in at 28.3 (currently 27.65) – no stop ($28.45 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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