Global Economy

I’m a fan of Jim Rogers. He wrote a book ten years predicting a run in commodities. He also wrote one of my favorite books, Adventure Capitalist, a fascinating story of his journey around the world where he talks about the macro-economy of each place he visits.

Here’s a recent video on Bloomberg. He thinks US stocks suck and the US Bond market is the last bubble left and mentions TBT. Here’s my post on my short bond trade. There may even be a currency crisis in the US and other countries. I still think its a good time to buy gold!

WSJ had an interesting article on New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key. A former foreign-exchange trader, he takes supply-side approach to the global recession.

“We don’t tell New Zealanders we can stop the global recession, because we can’t,” says Prime Minister John Key, leaning forward in his armchair at his office in the Beehive, the executive wing of New Zealand’s parliament. “What we do tell them is we can use this time to transform the economy to make us stronger so that when the world starts growing again we can be running faster than other countries we compete with.”

That idea — growing a nation out of recession by improving productivity — puts Mr. Key and his conservative National Party at odds with Washington, Tokyo and Canberra. Those capitals are rolling out billions of dollars in stimulus packages — with taxpayers’ money — to try to prop up growth. That’s “risky,” Mr. Key says. “You’ve saddled future generations with an enormous amount of debt that then they have to repay,” he explains. “There is actually a limit to what governments can do.”

In the 1980s, New Zealand’s government implemented a wide-ranging program of economic liberalization, including deep reductions in tariffs and subsidies, and privatization of state-run industries. The plan, nicknamed “Rogernomics” after then-Finance Minister (now Sir) Roger Douglas, was akin to Reaganomics, and the island nation grew smartly.

But while the U.S. and Australia broadly continued their economic liberalization programs under both right- and left-wing governments, New Zealand didn’t — until now. Over the past nine years, Helen Clark’s left-wing Labour government rode the global economic expansion and used the revenue surge to expand government welfare programs, renationalize industries, and embrace causes like global warming. As a result, the economy stagnated while Australia took off.

Mr. Key’s program focuses first on personal income tax cuts, which — given that the new top rate, as of April 1, will be 38% — are still high, especially when compared to Hong Kong and Singapore. “We just think it’s good tax policy to lower and flatten your tax curve,” he says. “People will move in labor markets and they look at their after-tax incomes.”

Cutting the corporate tax rate — which is now 30% — isn’t as crucial just now as keeping liquidity flowing, Mr. Key argues. “A lot of [companies] won’t pay tax if they don’t make money,” he reasons. “So they might be slightly less focused on corporate tax in the immediate future. Longer-term, they will be.” Why? Corporate money is “mobile.” “If you really are out of whack with the prevailing corporate tax rates, and there’s been a global shift toward countries lowering their corporate tax rate, then you’re not likely to attract capital, or you’re likely to lose capital.” Mr. Key and his coalition partner, the ACT Party — Mr. Douglas’s party — want to eventually align personal, trust and company tax rates at 30%.

But ultimately, Mr. Key says his biggest fear is rising inflation on the back of rising money supplies. “Economic theory will tell you that inflation is going to rise — and that inflation will be exported around the world. . . . In the short term, I’m not criticizing U.S. policy: I think inflation is probably the thing that’s going to be necessary to get them out of the current issue. [Federal Reserve Chairman Ben] Bernanke sort of signaled that. But longer term, inflation is cancerous to your economy.”

Another person who agree that spending doesn’t help bring us out of the recession is Peter Schiff. He thinks that reducing the size of the government is what will do that job. He also think that letting the big financial firms fail would actually help the economy!

Gerald Celente runs The Trends Research Institue and has been analysing economic news and data and predicting trends for over 20 years. He advocated buying gold in 2001 when it was under $300/oz and has been accurate in a lot of his predictions.

Right now he’s predicting a revisting of the Great Depression era with huge vacancies in commercial real estate, large amounts of unemployment, a spike in gold prices. He also thinks we’ll see a surge in crime rates and a tax revolution with a revolt against property taxes first followed by school taxes. He thinks Obama’s promise for change is hokum and has no faith in his economic stimulus plans. On the bright side, he doesn’t believe this is the end of the world and says that a new technological revolution similar to the internet in the early 90s will bring us out of it.

Check out this very interesting video:

One person who obviously doesn’t believe him is Elliott Spitzer. He just bought a $180 million office building in Washinton DC, just down the street from the now infamous Mayflower hotel. He paid about $42 million in cash for this acquisition!

Eliott Spitzer is quoted as being optimistic about the real estate market!

May be I’ve been posting too much doom and gloom in the recent past. Do I really think we’re on the cusp of a global financial meltdown? No, I do not. But Telegraph does. Here’s an excerpt from an article which says the meltdown has already started:

If mishandled by the world policy establishment, this debacle is big enough to shatter the fragile banking systems of Western Europe and set off round two of our financial Götterdämmerung.

Austria’s finance minister Josef Pröll made frantic efforts last week to put together a €150bn rescue for the ex-Soviet bloc. Well he might. His banks have lent €230bn to the region, equal to 70pc of Austria’s GDP.

“A failure rate of 10pc would lead to the collapse of the Austrian financial sector,” reported Der Standard in Vienna. Unfortunately, that is about to happen.

Europeon banks may face write-downs of $25 Trillion dollars! In compaison, Nouriel Roubini’s estimate of $1.8 Trillion in write-downs for US banks seems like chump change.

Whether it takes months, or just weeks, the world is going to discover that Europe’s financial system is sunk, and that there is no EU Federal Reserve yet ready to act as a lender of last resort or to flood the markets with emergency stimulus.

Under a “Taylor Rule” analysis, the European Central Bank already needs to cut rates to zero and then purchase bonds and Pfandbriefe on a huge scale. It is constrained by geopolitics – a German-Dutch veto – and the Maastricht Treaty.

But I digress. It is East Europe that is blowing up right now.

The sums needed are beyond the limits of the IMF, which has already bailed out Hungary, Ukraine, Latvia, Belarus, Iceland, and Pakistan – and Turkey next – and is fast exhausting its own $200bn (€155bn) reserve. We are nearing the point where the IMF may have to print money for the world, using arcane powers to issue Special Drawing Rights.

This doesn’t sound very encouraging. If there was ever a time to start investing in gold coins, it’s now! If you can’t afford gold, you might want to consider silver coins. Silver prices have been on a tear over the past 3 months. The graph’s been up linearly over 40%!

I read a very interesting article on called De-leveraging is Not Deflation.

Here’s a partial extract:

“Inflation, as this term was always used everywhere and especially in this country, means increasing the quantity of money and bank notes in circulation and the quantity of bank deposits subject to check. But people today use the term `inflation’ to refer to the phenomenon that is an inevitable consequence of inflation, that is the tendency of all prices and wage rates to rise. The result of this deplorable confusion is that there is no term left to signify the cause of this rise in prices and wages.”

— Ludwig von Mises

It’s true that just about every asset class is coming down in price right now. This, however, is not deflation — as I have said so many times recently, much to many readers’ unqualified chagrin. To the contrary, these declines are the products of de-leveraging — not deflation — and the distinction is nearly incalculably important, although the subtlety seems to elude even the most astute these days.

If the previous premise is true (which it is), any removal of money from the economy would eventually result in an increase in the value of our currency, relative to everything else. And that, in turn, would eventually translate into lower prices in dollars. But that’s clearly not what is happening. No, the Fed is printing money, sending the amount in the economy higher than ever seen in U.S. history. That’s not deflationary. That’s inflationary.

Just so you’ll know, here’s the definition of inflation I’m using. And before you pooh-pooh it with too much eagerness, remember that one of its authors, F.A. Hayek, won the Nobel Prize in economics in 1974.

Look, the thing we should be worried about is relative value, not “inflation,” per se. It’s not about the growth of M0, or M1, or M2 (or even M3, if you keep up with shadowstats.com), so much as it is about what the money supply is doing relative to everything else that is happening. I know assets are falling in price — believe me, I get no shortage of reminders every single day. But the amount of money in the system — not just M0 — is increasing at a tremendous rate. I won’t argue that the relative value of things like real estate and equities are going to continue to drop — maybe even dramatically, and for a long time — in terms of demand (or lack thereof). No, what I’m most concerned about is that demand will stay extremely low, and yet prices will rise anyway because of the increase in the amount of money in the system.

But it’s not just money; it’s also Treasuries. The Fed has specifically stated that its objective is to stimulate “inflation” (by its definition). It wants prices to rise, and it’s going to do everything it can to find success. But the amount of money in the system is unprecedented. When the Treasury bubble starts to collapse, yields are going to explode. Yes, the Fed will probably print more money to buy down the long-end of the curve, but how long will that work? Some people say years, but how? Do you really think the Chinese and the Japanese are going to keep funding that sort of behavior? Or even more importantly, do you think they’re just going to sit on their current holdings? Probably not, and if they start dumping Treasuries, yields are going much higher.

It’s not a matter of if this is going to happen. Yields can’t stay where they are for any sustained amount of time, and once they start rising, so will prices. But will demand for, say, houses have increased? No. Cars? No. Boats? Televisions? No. Why? The American consumer is tapped out.

Credit card companies are tightening limits prodigiously. Teaser rates are all but gone. Home equity has dried up. The consumer has driven two-thirds of our economy for at least the last few decades, and now the consumer is dead. There’s another aspect to this that I won’t go too deep into: the American consumer protects his or her credit score for one reason — to obtain future credit. But the consumer also knows that loans have dried up — not just today, but for the very distant future as well. You know these consumers have to be thinking about defaulting; if they can’t get loans anyway, why would they not default on thousands of dollars in unsecured credit card debt? I plan on writing more about this in future articles, but suffice it to say, I think credit card companies are going to give us the next blow to our collective stomach, and it’s going to hurt.

So here we have a situation in which demand is gone, and yet prices and rates are rising — because of inflation (printing money) and the Treasury collapse. And that’s the point: it’s not going to come from just one source. It’s not just going to be inflation (printing money). It’s not just going to be the collapse in Treasuries. It’s not just going to be the nearly unfathomable costs of the stimulus packages that are coming online in the next two years. It’s going to be the confluence of all of it. And if I’m right about the continued deterioration in credit markets, things will be even worse.

You think it’s not different this time? Add it all up, in real dollars — the staggering amount of debt, the parabolic rise of currency in the system, the annihilation of real-estate investment, and the demise of the consumer. $8.5 trillion committed to bailouts and stimulus packages. Oh, yes it is different this time. It’s very different.

Credit cards didn’t even exist in 1930, and the dollar was backed by gold. Credit cards barely existed in 1973. Nixon had just taken us off the gold standard, and look what happened? Volcker was immensely lucky to have stopped hyperinflation, and look at the extreme measures he had to employ to do it.

Of course, every time I bring all of this up — which is a lot lately — somebody starts talking about the velocity of money. And pretty soon after that, somebody starts talking about the multiplier effect.

Yes, the U.S. employs a fractional reserve system, and while that system certainly lends to rising prices and yields, the amplifier effect is not inflation. Like the printing of money, the fractional reserve system is only one ingredient in the poison that lends to the ultimate catastrophe inspired by central banks: rising prices and increased costs of borrowing.

And then there’s velocity…

While I am eternally grateful to my critics for forcing me to defend the theories I hold dear, I sometimes fatigue of the incessant snapping at my heels by people who want me to know that the velocity of money has slowed down. I know the velocity of money has slowed. It doesn’t matter. It’s not going to stay this low for long, and when it starts speeding up, it’s not going to be a “good thing.” Treasuries are going to break, rates and prices are going to rise, and all that money pressing against the dam is going to find a crack. Why? It has to. People will flee from dollars that are losing value. They will extract all the dollars sloshing around the system, and they will buy commodities and durables in order to preserve the value of their wealth.

Remember, just because the dollar is losing value does not mean that the concomitant subsequent rise in certain asset classes necessarily means that demand for all assets has increased dramatically — as it did during previous eras of easy money. Demand for assets economy-wide can continue to wane even as people spend dollars as fast as they can get them in the midst of rising prices. And this is a very important distinction: prices can rise because of demand, but prices can also rise because of excessive increases in the amount of money in the system. If prices are rising without a simultaneous increase in demand, well, I can’t think of a more dangerous economic environment to be in.

You don’t believe it can happen? You think there’s a huge demand for houses, cars, and boats in Zimbabwe? Prices there are rising exponentially, but there is very little demand for assets — other than staples, of course. What do you think their velocity of money is?

Do you think’s long Gold? You bet he is!

In my next post I’ll talk about an interesting long-short bond trade I entered on Tuesday.

A couple of days ago, legendary investor, commodity bull and one-time partner of George Soros, Jim Rogers, was interviewed by Betty Liu of Bloomberg’s Singapore office. It seems that Jim Rogers is also of the opinion that Fannie Mae is going to lose a lot of money along with other investment banks.

He’s still bullish on commodities like oil and food grain and he’s bearish on the US Dollar. Surprizingly, he’s also bullish on Arline stocks.

Here’s an excerpt of the relevant portions of the interview:

Financial Sector

LIU: All right. Jim, first, talk to us about the story of the week that we’ve seen so far, Lehman Brothers, you know, you’ve been very critical so far about what’s been going on on Wall Street, the accounting, all of that. Do you believe, I mean this is relevant – do you believe that Lehman Brothers is in fact in so good shape that they’ve got no liquidity problems or what’s your view on this right now?
ROGERS: Well, okay, I am still all – short all of the investment banks on Wall Street through the ETF. I know they are all in trouble. I know most of them have phony accounting. And you know, in bear markets, they all go down to eight. So, I just presume they are all going to go to eight before it’s over, before the bear market is over.
LIU: Do you believe that we could another Bear Stearns as we did in March?
ROGERS: Oh, why not, sure. There are certainly – and I’m also short Citibank and I’m also short Fannie Mae. So, you know, some of these companies have – have horrendous balance sheets and if the bear market has a ways to go, which in my view, it does, then you are going to see some really, really low prices. But, Betty, there’s nothing unusual about this, just go back and look at any previous bear market. Financial stocks sell at unbelievably low prices during bear markets. This was not going to be any – well, this one may be a little different because it’s just going to be worse for the financial companies during this bear market, because the excesses during the past five or ten years have been so horrendous in the financial communities.

LIU: All right. And Jim, you know, I want to turn back to, of course, the Fed and the banks and all of that. You were talking before about some of the stocks that you’re short on. Are you short on Lehman Brothers?
ROGERS: I’m short the ETF, Betty, the investment bank ETF, which means I’m short all of them. I am not short any specific investment banks. First of all, I have too many friends at all of those places, I don’t want to short any of them specifically. So, I am just short at the ETF, which means I am short all of them, I mean some would do well, some will do probably too badly, but the ETF in my view is going to go down a lot more.
LIU: Well, does what happened with Lehman Brothers over the past week, does it perhaps stoke your interest in shorting Lehman along with Citigroup? And Fannie, I believe is the one you talked about as well.
ROGERS: I’m already short Fannie Mae and Citibank, and have been for sometime. I’m just going to kind of stay with the ETF. It’s easier for somebody like me, who’s too lazy to spend a lot of time on any specific one, except for Citibank and Fannie Mae.

Monetary Policy

LIU: All right, Jim. So, tell us, you have also been very critical of the Fed and Ben Bernanke. I want to ask you first one thing. How do think the Fed has handled so far what’s been going on on Wall Street? You think that they helped situations or actually made things worse?
ROGERS: They made things worse, Betty. They printed huge amounts of money, which has caused great inflation which could cause the dollar to go down, and the Federal Reserve has taken on something like $400 billion of bad assets on to its balance sheet. Now, you and I as American taxpayers are going to have to pay off that debt some day. What’s Bernanke going to do? Get in his helicopter, and fly around, collecting bad debt? Is he going to start repossessing cars, repossessing houses that go bad? I mean, this is insane Betty, the Federal Reserve has $800 billion on its balance sheet. They have already committed $400 billion to bad debt. What then they are going to do next? Where are they going to get the money the next time things start going wrong?

Investment Strategy

LIU: Okay. Okay, well, given that scenario, Jim, as an investor, where are you going to put your money right now?
ROGERS: I own commodities, I have been buying agriculture, I bought airlines today. I bought a lot of airlines around the world today, both stocks and bonds. Swiss franc, Japanese yen, renminbi, these are the few things I have been buying recently.

Airlines

LIU: You bought airlines? A lot of people are very bearish on the airlines, talking about the fuel cost. Why are you buying airlines?
ROGERS: Well, Betty, you just got through the same why, everybody is very bearish. No, I don’t buy things just because people are bearish, but I fly a lot, and the planes are full. You cannot buy a new – if you order a new plane today, you couldn’t get it for several years. This Boeing and Airbus have problems. You read every day that the airlines are cutting back their capacity. Fares are going up. I mean, Betty, everybody knows about the fuel cost. Is there any airline left that doesn’t know we have fuel problems? They are adjusting for all of it.
LIU: Well, that’s true. But there’s also talk about bankruptcies in the airline industry. And you think some could go bankrupt?
ROGERS: How much more bullish in the news do you want? Twenty-four airlines have gone bankrupt this year. That’s great news. You know, five out of the seven largest American airlines went bankrupt during this decade. So, fine. Bankruptcies are signs of bottoms, not signs of tops.

Commodities

LIU: Right. You know, staying with oil and commodities, we’ve seen a pullback in some commodities in recent months. But which commodities do you like right now, Jim, and which don’t you like?
ROGERS: Well, I mean, yes, a lot of commodities have come down pretty hard. If people are talking about a bubble, I’d like to know what they’re talking about. I mean, many commodities, nickel, zinc, lead are down 50 percent. Silver is down 80 percent from its all-time high. Sugar is down 80 percent from its all-time high. What kind of bubble is that? Cotton is down 40 percent from its all-time high. Coffee is down 60 percent from its all-time high. I have been buying agriculture recently, I’m holding off a little bit right now because it looks like Congress is determined to do something to drive down commodity prices. If they do, it’ll be a fantastic buying opportunity and I’ll buy more.
LIU: Jim, you – .
ROGERS: But what I bought most recently is more agriculture.
LIU: More agriculture? In China, did you buy?
ROGERS: I bought agriculture stocks in China. It’s not legal for – I mean, it’s almost impossible for foreigners to buy commodities – commodities and sales in China.
LIU: Right. Okay, also, you’ve said before that we’re half- way through the commodity bull run. You still think that, or I mean how long can this bull run last for?
ROGERS: Well, Betty, there are number of acres devoted to wheat farming. It’s been declining for 30 years. The inventory of food is at the lowest level in 50 or 60 years. We are burning a lot of our agricultural products in fuel tanks now, as fuel. That’s useless, that’s hopeless. Talk about a bubble, that’s a bubble. It’s crazy that we’re spending so much money burning our agricultural products as fuel. But you can go on a long time, nobody has discovered any major oil fields for over 40 years. Betty, all the oil fields in the world are in decline. I mean, there’s been one lead mine opened in the world in 25 years. The last lead smelter built in America was built in 1969. Unless somebody starts bringing on a lot more capacity soon, that bull market has got a ways to go.

Oil

LIU:All right. Jim, also talk to us about oil. You know, you’ve been very bullish on oil. We’ve had a lot of people talk about, you and I had a debate about whether or not there’s speculation in oil markets right now. You say no, others say yes, like Soros, he says it’s going to bubble. What do you know that others don’t about the oil market?
ROGERS: Look, look, Betty, there are always speculators in every market. Look at the New York Stock Exchange right now. You think there aren’t any speculators down there on the floor of the stock exchange? There are always speculators. That’s what business is all about. I submit to you that most of the people and – I don’t know about most of the people, I shouldn’t say that, but we know that the IEA, the definitive authority on oil has said that the world has an oil problem. The Saudis have told Bush that we have an oil problem. Betty, if there is lot of oil, please, would somebody tell us where it is, so we can all invest in it? The world has a serious oil problem. Now, Betty, that does not mean that oil cannot go down 50 percent. During this bull market since 1999, oil has gone down twice by 50 percent, going down by 50 percent in 2001 and again, in 2000 whatever it was, ‘05 or ‘06. So sure, you can have big reaction in any bull market. But that’s not the end of the bull market. There is no supply of oil unless you – somebody can tell us where the oil is, the bull market in oil has years to go despite new corrections which may or may not come.
LIU: Well, but you know, and I know you always hate having me ask you about – about limits or caps and all of that. But, given the supply/demand situation that you’re talking about, how high can oil go?
ROGERS: Betty, I know you – how you’re paid to ask questions like that, but I don’t know the answer. I’m not smart enough. I know that unless somebody discovers a lot of oil, the price of oil can go to $150, $200. You pick the number.

U.S. Dollar

LIU: All right, Jim. And I’ve got to turn to the dollar very quickly. What do you make of the comments by Bernanke earlier this week, noting the dollar slide, you have been very, very critical of Bernanke on this.
ROGERS: It is astonishing. Now, this is a man that under oath in Congress said, “If the price of the dollar goes down, it doesn’t affect ordinary – it doesn’t affect most Americans.” So, I almost fell out of my chair when I saw him say that. We know the man doesn’t know about markets, we know he doesn’t know about the currencies. Now, we know he doesn’t even understand civil economics, simple economics. So, I was astonished to see him, what, two or three days –
LIU: Right.
ROGERS: – suddenly said, “Well, if the dollar goes down, it affects us all.” It’s called inflation. So, somebody’s been teaching him economics. It’s about time, he should go back and take Economics 101.

Previously I had mentioned several ways to invest for a recession or a major downturn in the US economy. In that post, I stated that one of the ways to hedge against the declining dollar (apart from my favorite method of buying gold) was investing in foreign currencies.

Several people emailed me asking how to buy foreign currencies.

A few were concerned that they would have to travel overseas and open a foreign bank account. Luckily, it isn’t so difficult. You have 3 choices.

1. Buy Currencyshares ETFs. You can choose between several currencies like Australian Dollar (Ticker: FXA), Swiss Franc (Ticker: FXF), Japanese Yen (Ticker: FXY), Euro (Ticker: FXE), etc. If you have a brokerage account, its as easy as buying stock. This is probably the easiest method. They also pay monthly dividends and are quite similar to buying a foreign currency CD.

2. Open on account with Everbank and invest in their foreign currencies CDs or directly open an account in a foreign currency.

3. Open on account with Interactive Brokers and directly buy foreign currency (this is probably the most hassle so you’re better off sticking with the top 2 methods).

If you’re interested in buying foreign stocks, the easiest way is to buy the ADRs (American Depository Receipts). However a lot of foreign stocks do not trade in the US as ADRs. A good way to play the foreign markets is to buy foreign ETFs. For example, if you’d like to buy blue chip dividend paying swiss companies, the Swiss Helvetia Fund (ticker: SWZ) is a great investment. (I also happen to like the Swiss Helvetia Gold Coins too!). If you think Singapore’s economy is doing well, you can buy the iShares Singapore Index ETF (ticker: EWS). Or if you like Brazil, you can buy the iShares Brazil Index (ticker: EWZ).

For a more comprehensive list of foreign ETFs check out How To Conquer The World For Fun & Profit. If you’re interested in learning more about currency trading or investing in foreign currencies, I strongly recommend Everbank’s free daily newsletter about the currency markets, the Daily Pfennig. It’s really good.

Property prices in India have been on a tear for quite a while now. One of the condos I bought in Ahmedabad in 2006 doubled in just over a year. While the growth has been pretty tame since then, I was nonetheless quite surprised.

But in other parts of India the market has actually begun to correct. After the housing downturn of America, UK, Spain and Australia, it’s finally India’s turn to feel some pain. According to the Economic Times of India, prices are cooling down. The real estate prices in some cities have come down as much as 25%.

Land prices in the national capital region (NCR), Mumbai suburbs, Bangalore and Hyderabad have corrected by up to 25% as property developers slow down their land purchases. Poor sales and lower availability of credit at higher cost have prompted property developers to end the mad rush to acquire land. Some of the developers have even backed out of land deals which were agreed upon as the slowdown hit the sector.

Prices have come down by up to 25% in Mumbai’s distant suburbs, including Thane and Belapur, and pockets of Hyderabad and Bangalore, according to property consultancy firm Knight Frank India.

I think the reason why Ahmedabad shot up so fast between mid-2006 and mid-2007 might have been because it was declared a mega-city and thus suddenly popped up on everyone’s radar. Despite being invested in the market, I wasn’t entirely happy to see prices shoot up so much. I guess that was because we had paid cash – if I had been fully leveraged with 10% down, I might be singing another tune!

Regardless, property prices still seem exorbitantly high in many places in India. Hopefully the 25% correction will bring some much need relief to the average middle class family.

Here’s an incredibly interesting video about how the Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan directly helped the rich become Super Rich by keeping interest rates artificially low. The low interest rates and easy liquidity caused a spike in asset prices (ever wondered what causes inflation?).

I’ve long maintained that globally, assets are no longer a function of value but a function of liquidity. The video explains how leverage has helped home borrowers become incredibly wealthy. I didn’t become super wealthy, but I did profit by using the same idea. Unfortunately, instead of growing a million into a billion, I started out with Zero and made proportionally less. (although technically, I made an infinite return of return!).

In England there are currently 30,000 people earning over half a million pounds a year, and over 50 Billionaires. All of them work in finance related industries like hedge funds and private equity firms.

10 hedge fund managers pulled in 500 million dollars last year with a lucky few pulling nearly 1 Billion dollars!

It also explains the discrepancy in risk-adjusted returns for these finance wizards. They made obscene amounts of money without taking on any risk. Their financial wizardry is what caused the financial crisis with the subprime loans. Of course, they weren’t left holding the bag! It was the shareholder and maybe at the end of the day it might even result in the US tax payers having to bail large investment banks like Bear Stearns.

Check out this video by the BBC starring Robert Preston – its very enlightening.

Oil just broke through $115 per barrel today. While this may come as a shock to many , I’ve been preparing for it for the past 2 years. All the signs of an oil shortage have been visible in the media, but most people have either been ignoring it, been in denial or been too focused on what Paris Hilton or Brittany Spears have been up to!

China and India together have  a third of the world’s 6.66 billion people. If 10% of these 2.2 Billion people start buying cars, that’s 220 million new cars on the planet ready to start guzzling more gasoline. I think thats the current number of cars in the US, so effectively the demand on oil is set to double over the next few years. And along with Tata Motors new $2,500 car, you can be sure that eventually atleast 20% or more of India’s and China’s population will be driving cars instead of cycles or mopeds that give 247 miles/gallon. That 247 number is  not an exaggeration. Owners of Suburbans should refrain from crying right now.

Based on the growing prosperity in just these two countries, the demand for the world’s resources is growing at a furious pace. Unfortunately, oil is a key component of prosperity and the global supply of it is somewhat stagnant. Despite a few  new oil fields being found here and there, new reserves are not keeping up with the depletion. According to one report, all the oil in Alaska would last the US for only 6 months.

If you think that gas prices are high at over $3.50 per gallon (I just paid $3.95 for mid-grade for my wife’s Acura TSX), wait until summer. There are reports that the refineries are absorbing the cost of high oil prices right now (and some of them have hedging contracts in place to mitigate this high price), but within a few months they’ll be passing this burden on to the consumers. Oil prices at the pump could very well hit $5 and if this trend continues, it could hit $8/gallon. 

In the UK, petrol (that’s what the rest of the world calls gas) costs about 1 pound per litre, which equates to $7.50-8.00 per gallon. Now you Suburban owners can cry now if you like. Or you can start investing in oil related investments like Canroys and oil drilling programs.