dollar

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According to a quote in the Telegraph, HSBC has issued a new report stating that the Federal Reserve’s ultra-loose monetary policy is forcing China and other emerging countries to create a new global currency “order”. According to David Bloom, HSBC’s currency chief, the dollar looks like the sterling did after World War I.

For those a little dusty on their history, the British pound sterling (so called because it’s value was backed by sterling silver) was the world reserve currency until the 1930’s. After that, the sun set on the British Empire and the sterling was replaced by the US dollar. Now it seems the dollars time in the sun has come to end as well. The Telegraph article states:

Crucially, China and rising Asia have reached the point where they can no longer keep holding down their currencies to boost exports because this is causing mayhem to their own economies, stoking asset bubbles. Asia’s “mercantilist mindset” of recent decades is about to be broken by the spectre of an inflation spiral.

A monetary policy of near zero rates – further juiced by quantitative easing – is completely incompatible with circumstances in most of Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. Divorce is inevitable. The US is expected to hold rates near zero through 2010 to tackle its own crisis.

Mr Bloom said regional currencies would emerge as the anchor for their smaller trading partners, with China, Brazil, or South Africa substituting the role of the US. Australia is already linking its fortunes to China through commodity ties.

This is nothing new, but it is the first time a major bank has openly stated this. But the important question hasn’t been answered.

What does it mean to the average American?

In order to obtain the necessary financing to fund the multi-trillion dollar stimulus/bailout package the government needs to sell bonds. Traditionally, the Chinese and other foreign governments have used their excess reserves of US dollars to purchase these bonds. If we switch to some other currency (or mixture of different currencies), the amount of US dollars held by foreign governments will decrease and the demand for US treasuries that yield next to nothing will decrease substantially. In order to entice the buying of these treasuries, the interest rates will have to jump substantially higher. And when this happens, the cost of the US government’s debt will start to rise. As will the cost of borrowing for US citizens and businesses. The government already pays nearly a billion dollars a day in interest payments (hat tip: Silver Bars Direct: Why $1,000 gold is now significant). If this cost were to double, and we add in the additional $9 trillion in debt the white house has admitted it is likely to borrow, we’re looking at over a trillion dollars a year in debt payments.

In order to repay this interest (and maybe the original principle too), do you think the government is likely to raise taxes or just print more money? If it prints more more, its just fueling the debt spiral which will lead to Zimbabwe-type hyper-inflation.

So what should you do?

Invest in hard assets that have been proven to keep their buying power during inflationary times.  Along with gold and silver bullion, buy some cheap land to either farm, hunt or bury your precious metals! And if you’re one of those people who think buying gold and silver is useless then hold on to your dollars and watch them become even more worthless. Since 1900, when the dollar coin actually contained silver, the dollar’s purchasing power has dropped to only4 cents. This trend is only like to get worse.

Purchasing-Power-of-the-US-Dollar-1900-2005

Disclosure: I own gold & silver bullion, numismatic coins and mining stocks.

In a previous post on Deleveraging, I promised I’d talk about an interesting long-short bond trade that I entered last week.

If you believe that US Treasuries are over-valued, or foreigners will lose their appetite for US debt thus forcing up the interest rates, you’re probably looking to short treasuries.  Ok, maybe you haven’t looked in to shorting anything.  In that case, may be you should read this link on Barrons and then come back. (Barron’s thinks that investors are buying gold as an alternative to near-zero yielding treasuries.)

One of the ways to short the Treasuries is buying the UltraShort Lehman 20+ Treasury ProShares (TBT).  This ETF returns twice the inverse of the daily movement in the 20 year T-bill. However, these things never move in a straight line and can be extremely volatile.

Instead, I decided to do something a little esoteric.

I shorted the iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) and netted $112.10 per share.  I used that money to buy an equivalent dollar amount  of the Alliance Bernstein Global High Income Fund, Inc. (AWF) at $8.29 (that’s buying about 13.52 shares of AWF for every share shorted of TLT).  Unlike the TBT position however, this position yields a dividend! AWF has a yield of ~13.4% while the short TLT position had a negative yield of 3.5% (since I shorted the ETF I need to pay this dividend), which results in a positive net dividend yield of ~9.9%.

Since TLT and AWF might sometimes move in sync, you’d think this portfolio would have a lower volatility than just TBT. Just to be sure, I also calculated the standard deviation of this portfolio on a bloomberg terminal at school and the resulting standard deviation was about 30% lower than for each individual ETF. (The standard deviation is often used by investors to measure the risk of a stock or a stock portfolio. The basic idea is that the standard deviation is a measure of volatility: the more a stock’s returns vary from the stock’s average return, the more volatile the stock. In short, less volatility is better).

Check out the graphs of TLT, AWF and TBT. Remember, TLT is a short position so you need to multiply the returns by -1 and add it to AWF.

long corporate bonds - short US treasuries

From the chart you can see that yesterday both TLT and AWF trended higher and predictably TBT lost value.  However the combined portfolio was slightly positive.

After last years volatile returns, anything that reduces volatility in your portfolio is a good thing!

Note that AWF is mainly comprised of short-term US corporate debt and some soverign bonds. There is a some foreign currency risk involved but with the US Dollar being a lot higher than it was a year ago, I’m willing to take this risk.

[Disclaimer: In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m long AWF (short-term corporate bonds) and short TLT (long-term government bonds).]

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.

Regular readers know I’ve been pretty pessimistic on the outlook of the US economy and bearish on the US dollar as well. However, since it seems like everyone is echoing the same sentiment, could it be that we’re due for a short (or medium) term spike in the US Dollar?

According to Lou Basenese, editor of the The Alpha Intelligence Alert, think it’s time to go long the USD.
Here are some of the reasons he cites:

1. Bernanke & Paulson Rediscover “Verbal Intervention.” Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke finally got off their duffs to defend the dollar. Paulson got things started in Qatar on Sunday. Speaking to the leaders of the Gulf oil states, he urged the countries to think twice about abandoning their dollar peg, as “ending the peg is not the solution to the inflation problem.” And Bernanke stepped up today. Speaking, via satellite, to an international monetary conference in Spain he insisted Fed policy will be a key factor, “ensuring that the dollar remains a strong, stable currency.” After such a long silence, this week’s tag team approach is nothing but a positive development.

2. The “Smart Money” is Cashing In. The smart money – Wall Street institutions – tends to be a great leading indicator. If you can figure out what they’re doing in time. Right now they’re sending a clear signal – take profits on your bearish dollar bets. Case in point, as the dollar met heavy selling on May 21, the smart money took almost $100 million in profits out of Currency Shares Euro Trust (NYSE: FXE). Enough to top the Wall Street Journal’s “Selling on Strength” screen. And this isn’t the first time the ETF recently made the list. All told, the increased selling activity indicates the smart money fears we may never see such high prices again.

3. George Soros Changed His Mind. Even the smartest investors are entitled to a mulligan. After bouncing roughly 3% off the March lows, in recent weeks, George Soros told the Wall Street Journal he is now “neutral” on the dollar. And expects it to strengthen over the next 12 to 18 months. Accordingly, he “greatly reduced his bets against the greenback.” Bottom line – we should pay attention when this hedge-fund phenom changes his mind. Here’s why, copied and pasted from my first article in defense of the dollar…

“A trader named Jean-Manuel Rozan once spent an entire afternoon arguing about the stock market with George Soros. Soros was vehemently bearish, and he had an elaborate theory to explain why, which turned out to be entirely wrong. The stock market boomed.”

“Two years later, Rozan ran into Soros at a tennis tournament. ‘Do you remember our conversation?’ Rozan asked. ‘I recall it very well,’ Soros replied. ‘I changed my mind, and made an absolute fortune.'”

My guess is he will make a fortune on this change of heart, too.

4. The Fed is Done. Okay. Maybe one more cut looms on the horizon. But after that, it’s time to get back to fighting inflation and hiking rates. Futures traders awoke to this same reality once revised GDP numbers were released May 29. They ratcheted up their bets that the Fed would raise rates in late October, putting the odds at 88%. Before the release, odds of an October hike stood at 70%. As I said last time, the Fed will hike again. Soon. And such moves will immediately strengthen the dollar.
5. Busted Rhymes and Tattered Clothing. The crickets are chirping among the rappers and super models. It’s been a long time since we’ve heard (even rumors) about the world’s fashionistas and rhyme-slingers extolling the virtues of the euro over the dollar. In other words, when pop-culture embraced the dollar hating, it signaled the inflection point. And it’s time for them to get caught on the wrong side of the trade for such foolish speculation.

6. The Retail Investor is (Blindly) Headed for the Slaughter. Sad as it may be, the retail investor tends to always show up late to the profit party. Right now they’re headed to the slaughter. The proof – the number and popularity of currency ETFs literally exploded in recent years. As one long-time advisor told an IndexUniverse.com reporter, “I’ve never seen this much interest in currency ETFs before…There’s just a pile of money coming into these funds now.” And that pile, according to my research, sits around $4 billion, despite most of the ETFs being less than two years old. This reminds me of my days back at Morgan Stanley. Whenever management decided to launch our own Small Cap Growth Fund for example, because the asset class was so “hot,” the asset class was too hot. It was time to recommend our clients take profits. And now that betting against the dollar is fashionable on Main Street, it’s time we head the other direction or risk getting burned like the rest of the performance chasers.

7. New President = Clean Slate. Whether Barrack “Haven’t-Been-to-Iraq-In-A-While” Obama or John “I-Have-Anger-Issues” McCain gets the nod, a new president will get a clean slate to establish their very own dollar policy. At least temporarily. And thanks to record crude prices, expect the new Commander-in-chief to move from the current administration’s weak lip service to more meaningful actions in support of the dollar.

8. We’re Still Not Decoupled. At least not from Europe. Doubts about euro-zone growth continue to pop up. The latest – a weaker than expected composite purchasing managers index reading, compiled by the Royal Bank of Scotland and NTC Economics. The measure from across the 15-nation euro-zone slumped to 51.1 in May, the worst in nearly five years. Bottom line – the European Central Bank is in a pinch. It can’t hike rates in the face of a slowdown. And it can’t cut rates with inflation running around 3.5%. In the end, the stalemate buys the dollar time to narrow the interest rate gap.

9. Institutions are Secretly Hedging their Bets. It’s not news that international stock funds significantly outperformed U.S.-focused funds over the last seven years. Or that the dollar decline aided their outperformance. However, few realize these very same funds are now protecting their portfolios against a dollar rally. Three of the top money managers in the business (Harris Associates, Dodge & Cox and Henderson Global Investors) are now hedging up to 55% of their currency exposure. A big jump, considering the international funds from Henderson and Dodge & Cox never hedged their exposure since opening in 2001.
And last but not Least…

10. The Dollar Decline is Getting Too Long in the Tooth. As I said before, “the cyclicality of the markets instructs us that the pendulum will eventually swing back the other way.” Combine that with Einstein’s theory of relativity and one thing is clear: Although the “real” value of our flat currency may never recover, its relative value certainly will. And with the worst of the financial crisis probably behind us, I stand by my conviction. The worst of the dollar weakness is behind us, too.

Consider this my second warning that the dollar will rise. And soon. That makes now perhaps the last opportunity to position your portfolios for maximum gain.

Good investing,

Lou Basenese

If you do feel like going long, Rydex Strengthening Dollar 2x Strategy (RYSBX) is a good way to enter this trade.

If the dollar does strengthen, there’s a good chance my commodity investments (includes gold and oil stocks) and foreign currency ETFs will decline. I might use RYSBX to hedge against the rising dollar.

gold bullion coins, krugerrands, maple leafs, australian gold nuggets, american golden eagle

Based on continuing weakness in the dollar, gold briefly breeched the $1000 level yesterday along with oil hitting an all time high of $111 per barrel. I had a really strong suspicion that we’d see $1000 gold by mid-March.

Despite what Bernanke and Paulson said last summer, the housing bubble has spread to other parts of the economy and subprime mess has not been contained. In a last ditch effort to prevent banks from collapsing, the Federal Reserve announced a bailout of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and other banks, promising to exchange bogus mortgages for Treasuries during a 28 day window. They named this Term Securities Lending Facility (TSLF) but it’s just a good old bail-out.

Of course, the stock markets loved this move because it means the Fed is going to prevent banks from failing. However, this $200 Billion bail-out doesn’t come without a cost. The Fed is going to have to print an extra $200 Billion to cover this deficit. But it was a clever move, because Bernanke didn’t have to cut interest rates before the 17th of March, when he’s slated to do so anyway. Another move like that might have created a panic in the markets instead!

Bloomberg reported today that OPEC is going to make about $927 Billion dollars from the sale of oil this year. That’s almost $1 Trillion dollars! Worldwide, sovereign wealth funds (SWF) are thought to be worth about $2.8 Trillion. Considering that the combined wealth of global nationalized assets is about $12 Trillion, that’s really impressive. It probably means that SWFs and OPEC will start buying up pieces of America, since they really can’t do much else with all those US Dollars. Of course, they could buy Treasuries, but it seems like everyone’s now realizing that they’re useless as the dollar keeps on devaluing. Meanwhile, the US government is helpless against stopping the sale of US assets. Our own SWF is negative $9 Trillion, so we have some catching up to do before we can actually buy anything. I think the government’s best bet is to make all those Trillion worthless by printing more and more dollars. Bernanke knows this and so far he’s doing a bang up job. Of course, this leads to severe inflation, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Considering how wrong our economic advisers have been so far, I think it’s safe to assume the 0.3% GDP growth that’s forecast for the year is a tad optimistic. While everyone’s still denying it, I think we’re already in a recession and along with inflation, that amounts to a 70s style stagflation scenario.

Considering that consumer spending has slowed down and is likely to continue, US companies are going to go through some tough times. How do you protect your stock investments then? You can’t sell them and move to cash, because the US dollar is sliding too. Coupled with inflation, your wealth is going to slowly (or maybe not so slowly) erode over the next several years.

Here are some investment ideas:

1. Diversify into foreign currencies: I like Australian Dollars, Swiss francs, Japanese Yen. Jim Rogers likes Chinese Remnimbi and Warren Buffett like the Brazilian Real. Take your pick.

2. Buy US giants with international exposure: Consumer staples have historically done very well over the past 60 years, regardless of the economic scenario. I like stocks with a decent dividend yield like Pfeizer (PFE), Johnson and Johnson (JNJ), Merck (MRK), Unilever (UNL), Proctor & Gamble (PG), Kraft Foods (KFT) and Anheuser-Busch (BUD).

3. Invest in agriculture: Bush’s moronic plan to reduce our reliance on foreign oil by substituting ethanol has only resulted in a surge corn prices. The economic growth in countries like China, India, Russia and Brazil is increasing the size of the world’s middle class. These people will be improving their diet and adding more meat and veggies. They’ll also be drinking more milk. There’s already surge in global prices of all of these soft commodities. There are quite a few ETFs that will help you profit from these trends, like PowerShares Agriculture (DBA) which consists of 30% soy, 28% wheat, 23% corn, 16% sugar, Van Eck Agribusiness (MOO) [8% Monsanto, 8% Mosaic, 8% Komatsu, 8% Potash Corp] and PowerShares Commodity (DBC) [33% crude oil, 20% heating oil, 14% wheat, 11% aluminum, 10% corn, 10% gold].

Along with this, a demand for fertilizer will result in compannies like Potash Corp (POT) doing very well. If you’d like to invest in milk, American Dairy (ADY) and Dairy Crest (DCG) are too suggestions, but I haven’t done much research on them.

4. Buy Gold: I don’t think it’s too late to start investing in gold. You can buy gold coins and bars, the gold ETF (GLD) or mining stocks (GDX).

5. Invest in Metals: The global boom is creating a huge increase in the demand for metals like copper, iron, aluminum, zinc, etc. Mining stocks like BHP and RIO have done very well. Indian company, Sterlite (STL) also looks like it has good long term prospects.

6. Invest in Infrastructure: Not only is America’s infrastructure collapsing, but global growth makes betting on infrastructure a safe bet. I like Brookfield Infrastructure Partners (BIP).

7. Invest in Oil and Gas: Major oil companies like Exxon-Mobile(XOM) have served its investors well for decades. I’ve also invested in direct oil drilling programs, which go out and drill wells with your money and give you a share of the proceeds. I also like Canadian Royalty Trusts that invest in oil fields. There a few new ETFs that buy heating oil and gasoline futures. I’d stay away from these as their performance is as yet unknown and they might be subject to backwardation and contango.

8. Invest in Water: Water pipes all over the US are breaking. Built after WWII, these pipes had a lifespan off about 50 years. As the nation replaces these pipes over the next several years, cast-iron pipe companies are set to make a killing. Check out NorthWest Pipe (NWPX) and the water ETF (PHO).

I don’t know about the rest of US, but Nevada and Southern California are going to face a huge water shortage in the next decade. Most of the water comes from Lake Mead and the tremendous population growth in Las Vegas and Henderson has tapped the limits on the lake’s capacity. Check out this photo:

Lake Mead Hoover Dam

Dont’ you think a company that owned the water rights in Nevada and California would make a decent amount of cash over the next few years.


As I stated in my last post, the government is bankrupting our economy. I asked Chuck Butler of Everbank.com why is the government trying to weaken the dollar and if there was any advantage to having a weak dollar?

He was gracious enough to answer my question:

It’s a political thing… If the Gov’t can show that they are doing what they can for Manufacturing, that equals votes. The main thing though is the dollar is used to attract foreign investment. I’ll explain.

The Gov’t is running a huge deficit, and as long as they are running a huge deficit, they are in need of foreign investment to finance that deficit. The amount of financing needed each day is over $2 Billion.

When a Gov’t needs to attract investment, they can do 1 of 2 things.
1. They can raise interest rates aggressively to attract investment, or…
2. they can allow a debasement of the currency, which acts as a clearing mechanism for investments. When a foreign entity buys a U.S. asset, they need to convert their currency for dollars… If dollars are cheap vis-a-vi the foreigner’s currency, they are in essence buying that asset at a discount.

Given these two choices, a Gov’t will always choose #2… raising interest rates would bring an economy to its knees… so #2 is the always the choice… and that’s where we are today.

There you have it folks! Debasing the currency is always the better choice! I’m so glad I bought some gold. There also seems to be some evidence that foreign countries are finding the US dollar cheap enough to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US!

An added bonus to debasing the currency is that the 30 year bond, which pays less than the current rate of inflation, will be worthless in 30 years. In other words, the government will be repaying its debt with worthless currency. Suddenly the $57 Trillion of future debt obligations (Social Security and Medicaid) doesn’t seem so bad!

There’s always someone at a party who’s claiming their investment asset of choices is the best. In 1999, it was stocks. In 2005, it was real estate. Right now, I’m claiming its Canadian Income Funds and commodities like gold. But is there an investment that’s actually better than something else?

Many proponents of the stock market have claimed that it is better than real estate. It’s more liquid and there’s never been a 10 year cycle where the S&P 500 had a down year. Of course, that’s rubbish. Ever try selling your stocks when the market is tanking? You’ll get taken to the cleaners. According to CNN Money, stocks follow a 16 year cycle. They go up for 16 years and then they’re roughly flat for the next 16 or so years.



Right now the Dow Jones Index is almost where it was back in early 2000. Adjusting for inflation, you’re still underwater. There’s also an often quoted comment about the stock market returning 11.5% a year over the long run. According to Ben Stein, this is factually incorrect. Over a rolling 20 year period since 1900, the stock market has on average returned just under 8%. Real estate also has had similar cycles. In Southern California, where I live, the market was down from 1991 to 1996, after booming for several years. Then in 1997 until 2005 it boomed again. Right now its falling again. Similarly in Salt Lake City, another market I follow and invest in, real estate boomed from 1991 until 1997 and then was stagnant until the end of 2004. Since 2005, its been in on the upswing again.NAR, the National Association of Real Estate, often cite the fact that nationwide, real estate has never gone down. That’s a useless fact unless you’re going to be buying a house in every major city in every state. Locally, real estate does follow periodic and somewhat predictable cycles. Between 2000 and 2005, when the stock market was tanking, real estate performed wonderfully.

And like stocks and real estate, commodities also have their own cycles. Chuck Butler , President of Everbank.com just sent me this email, “… the current Bull Market for commodities is at about 7 years and running… History shows us that (going back 200 years) that Bull Markets in Commodities have trends that last 17-22 years”. If you had bought gold in 1971 for $35/oz, you would’ve done extremely well by selling it in 1980-81 for nearly $800/oz. However, between 1982 and 2000 it languished and you might have given up and sold everything in 1999 after seeing the tremendous returns of the stock market. After all, nothing beats the stock market, right!

But $800/oz gold is here again. I’ve been investing since 2005 when it was around $500/oz. Gold has tripled since its lows of 2000 and is probably set to rally even further as the US Dollar continues its slide.

Even businesses are not free from cycles. There are times when businesses are cheap to buy (if you have the money) and are great money makers, and there are times when they are expensive (although easy with cheap money and easy liquidity) and tough to sustain at a profit.

So essentially there is no ideal investment. No single investment will yield substantial returns, year after year, for extended periods of time. Either you have to be on top of the economic factors that affect the various cycles, and keep switching in and out every few years or decades, or you need to diversify your assets so you have equal exposure to various different asset classes.

So unless you have exposure you US & foreign stocks and bonds, global real estate, currencies, commodities like oil & gas, precious metals, building materials like steel, lumber and copper, and even your own businesses, your investment portfolio is incomplete.

Claiming that one investment is better than another is just the result of ignorance. (Unless you decide to get a job as a day-trader, in which case trading indexed futures is probably the best vehicle, although the toughest to succeed at. But thats not an investment, its more like a job!)

There’s been a lot of talk regardimg the weakening US dollar and its effect on your wealth. Many people believe it can’t last and the dollar will rebound. Others think that it still has more room to fall.

I personally think that it will continue to fall so long as the government does nothing to stop the reasons for the weakness. Here’s a good explanation by Mark Hutchinson.

The U.S. greenback will remain generally weak for two key reasons:

* First, the United States is still running a $700 billion balance-of-payments deficit with the rest of the world. Asian central banks have been financing this by buying U.S. Treasury bonds. As we now also know, German regional banks have also been financing it by buying subprime mortgage debt. [It’s particularly good for the balance-of-payments ledger when foreigners buy subprime mortgage debt, helium-filled dot-com stocks, or the Brooklyn Bridge, because the profit that domestic shysters make from selling worthless assets to foreigners counts as income.] Nevertheless, both these once-favorable trends are showing signs of ending. This means the United States has to export more, which means the dollar must drop still more against the euro, sterling, yen, renminbi and the currency of anyone else that might be persuaded to buy U.S. products if they’re cheap enough.

* Second, the dollar will remain weak and probably get weaker – at least in the short run – because U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke has twice recently cut short-term interest rates: a half-percentage point [from 5.25% to 4.75%] on Sept. 18, and a quarter point [from 4.75% to 4.50%] on Oct. 31. Since the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan are all closer to raising interest rates than reducing them, Fed rate cuts make the even less attractive by comparison. And many analysts see additional rate reductions to come.

So assuming you agree that this trend is likely to continue, how have you positioned yourself to either hedge against or profit from this?

While I’ve been screaming about Australian Dollar parity, the Canadian Loonie has launched a stealth attack against the Almighty Dollar. After achieving parity on the 20th September, it’s rallied almost 10% since then. Today it hit $1.09 in after-hours trading.

But I’m not complaining. Last month I received over $440 from Canadian Royalty Trusts. As the US Dollar keeps dropping, my income from the Trusts keeping increasing! (Although in theory, since they sell oil and gas which are priced in US dollars, a strengthening of the Loonie squeezes their profit margins. But lets ignore that fact since oil is near $100/barrel and I expect gas prices to start creeping up too).

But before you start buying up CurrencyShares Canadian Dollar Trust (FXC) in excitement, you should consider that a strong Loonie is bad for the Canadian economy. Their exports are more expensive to foreigners which is a problem since they export a lot. And the strength of their currency is causing Canadians to drive south across the border in US and spend their money here! (Which funnily enough, is great for us).

U.S. analyst Dennis Gartman, who was among the first to predict the loonie’s ascent past parity five years ago on the simple premise that Canada “has stuff the world wants,” said the Canadian currency is now on such a roll that it may be difficult to reverse quickly.

“The Canadian dollar is like an aircraft carrier and you can’t stop that on a dime, it’s got a lot of momentum. It’ll stop when one of your major exporters closes shop and says he can’t compete anymore.”

Gartman has disagreed with critics of the high dollar, saying that in the long run a strong currency is good for Canada because it will force businesses to compete in the world despite the high currency.

However, he is not long the Canadian dollar and predicts any rise above US$1.10 will be unsustainable.

But I’m still long the Australian Dollar and I expect it to achieve parity within the next 12 months.

With Bloomberg reporting today that Gisele Bundchen, the world’s highest-paid supermodel, has refused to accept payment in U.S. dollars, the dollar’s downtrend is receiving more negative publicity.

Giselle joins the ranks of billionaire investors like Warren Buffett, Jim Rogers and Bill Gross who are pessimistic on the dollar’s future. The 27 year old Brazilian model has made $33 million in income so far this year.

According to the Treasury Department’s data, U.S. investors bought $198 billion in foreign securities this year through August, 72 percent more than in the same period last year.

Sovereign wealth funds run by the largest exporters and oil producers, including China, Singapore and Qatar are also liquidating US dollar positions. Its projected that these funds may grow from a current $2.5 trillion to $17.5 trillion by 2017 and shift more than $500 billion out of the dollar over the next 3 years.

If I were you, I’d try to sell ahead of them. There’s a saying in the market. If you’re going to panic, make sure you panic before everyone else does!