federal reserve

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Unless you’ve just woken up from a week-long coma, you already know that Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve, announced the Fed is going to maintain its Zero-Interest Rate Policy for the next 2-3 years. It is also going to buy $500 billion worth of mortgages every year until the economy improves.

One opponent of this measure was president and CEO of the Dallas Federal Reserve, Richard Fisher. Fisher maintains that buying bonds probably won’t help stimulate the economy. Instead, it will however increase inflation, and expectations of inflation.

As one of the richest members of the Fed, we should probably listen to him. Worth an estimated $21 million, Fisher has worked as a Banker and a Hedge Fund Manager. And he’s been voicing inflation concerns since 2005.

While opposing the Fed’s stance on bond purchases, his personal portfolio is well positioned to benefit from any inflation that might occur due to it.

Fisher owns about $1 million worth of gold in the form of the gold ETF (GLD), $250,000 in uranium, and over 7,000 acres of land in the Mid-West.

In a prior post, I mentioned that everyone’s portfolio deserves an allocation to gold. As a percentage of his portfolio, Fisher’s allocation to gold is sitting at about 5%. In addition to gold, real estate is also inflation hedges. (While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend uranium as an inflation hedge, it is a commodity and thus being somewhat uncorrelated to either stocks or bonds, would provide some value in a portfolio).

So he’s definitely set up his investments to benefit from inflation.

What else does he own? Several million in Texas Municipal Bonds – earning him tax-free interest on his money. And a lot of blue-chip stocks like Eli Lily and Du Pont along with MLPs like Magellan Midstream Partners. You can check out the entire list here.

Nothing like a well-balanced portfolio to live out your retirement years in case your cushy government pension runs out!

Today’s post is an excerpt from What If Stocks Were Priced In Gold? posted at Experience Is Everything.  While the post is incredibly interesting it is rather long. The portion I’ve quoted explains why gold will likely outperform the dollar and stocks over the next few years. It follows that you should invest in gold. Even though, I’ve been recommending gold since it was at $495/oz back in December 2005, it’s still not too late.  If the below mentioned scenario comes true, you’ll be happy you did!

For much of the last century the dollar was tied to gold, and while the relationship was never perfect — and the U.S. government betrayed the union many times, in many different ways — there was at least some relationship, which helped pull the ratio down. Eventually, excessive inflationary printing caught up with the government in the 1960s, and it became clear it wouldn’t be able to honor redemptions against the dollar at the price it had fixed. Nixon essentially defaulted on the U.S. promise to redeem dollars for gold by taking the U.S. off the standard in the 1970s — and this, more than anything else, allowed inflationary pressure to drive general prices into the stratosphere. This was the moment the Dow-to-gold ratio approached 1:1. To fight rising prices, Paul Volcker, the Fed Chairman at the time, pushed the Fed’s target interest rate past 20% and barely saved the U.S. economy from collapse.

For most of the next 20 years, gold fell and stock prices rose. Meanwhile, the U.S. government capitalized on the lie it had created and printed more and more money. Who really cared? Everyone was making money in the stock market, and prices remained relatively stable. In fact, every time prices failed to act “correctly,” the Fed simply changed the rate at which it would lend to banks. But the illusion of the monetary policy game couldn’t last forever; people used easy money printed by the government to buy assets they couldn’t afford throughout the economy — especially houses. Finally the pressure was just too much, and everything started unraveling in 2007. But the gold market seemed to understand the game couldn’t last, and around 2000 it started a slow, steady rise.

Relative to everything, the number of dollars in the system in early 2009 is almost incomprehensible. Once de-leveraging reaches its nadir — and it’s coming soon — those dollars are going to hit the economy and drive prices much higher.

What have we learned about stocks in such periods of rising prices? Not only do they fail to perform, but adjusted for inflationary price pressures, they actually underperform. General prices and unemployment will continue to rise. The consumer will continue to be unable to consume. Corporate earnings and dividends will continue to collapse as a result. Stocks are going lower — probably much lower.

And what about the price of gold? It will almost certainly continue to increase — not only because people will flock to its long historical stability and consistency, but also because there are simply so many more dollars (and yen, and rubles, and euros) in the world. Remember, the U.S. isn’t the only country printing innumerable sheets of currency. And in that context, remember also that inflationary price increases have almost nothing to do with increased demand, but rather they are the result of currency devaluation and destruction — through printing.

I just want to share two more charts with you. The first should give you a little perspective — it is a historical chart of gold, in both nominal and real dollars. Notice the real price of gold in 1980 (in 2007 dollars) was $2272 per ounce. If I’m correct about inflation and the fate of the dollar — and I’m confident I am — then we are nowhere near the historical high in gold. But I don’t think we’re merely going to re-test that high — I think we’re going to blow through it as the dollar loses value.

In the 1930s, as corporate earnings and dividends disintegrated, the Dow lost nearly 90% of its value from peak to trough. The U.S. was a creditor nation with a huge manufacturing base. The dollar was tied closely to gold. Since its peak in October 2007, the Dow has lost less than 50% of its value. The U.S. is a debtor nation with a relatively small manufacturing base. I can’t say it enough: we borrow profusely, we manufacture very little, and we consume gluttonously. Nonetheless, the consumer has now lost almost all his purchasing power, and corporate earnings and dividends are going to suffer massively as a result.

In 2007, the Dow peaked at about 14,150. To give you some perspective, an 85% drop in the Dow from peak to trough would put it at about 2100.

I know its easy to imagine the Fed has magical powers. I’ve fantasized about such things myself at times of extreme weakness — that maybe the Fed will “somehow” figure out a way to fight and defeat the unprecedented evil specter of inflation it is foisting on its unsuspecting children. Sometimes I do believe that our Lord and Savior Barak Obama will wave his charmed “unicorn horn of change” and all will be well again. Likewise, at times I feel like I could let Uncle Ben Benanke take me just about anywhere in his helicopter of prosperity. My faith in the reverend John Maynard Keynes runs deep, as I hope, and hope, and hope. I find myself gleefully clicking my heels together and repeating, “the dollar is almighty, and the Stars and Stripes will prevail.” And when I am in this wonderful place, I have confidence that someday soon, we’ll all be buying houses with no money down, and with no jobs. Our driveways and backyards will once again overflow with boats, motorcycles, and sports cars.

Then I think about the 1930s. And suddenly I am wide-awake.

Let me ask you a simple question, and I want you to actually think about it. Do you really think we can’t get to the 1930s again? Do you really think that we’re going to return to the exuberant excess of the past few decades? If so, let me disabuse you of the notion: the United States was in much better shape, economically, going into the Great Depression than it is now. Prosperity is not coming back to the U.S. as we know it. We are in a lot of trouble.

Is a Dow-to-gold ratio of 1:1 so incomprehensible? Again, it has happened before — several times. But I’ll even take it a step further: what about a Dow-to-gold ratio of .5? Or less? I promise you, if the Fed fails to soak up all the dollars it’s putting in the system, that’s exactly where we’re going. And what, you may ask, does the Fed use to “soak up dollars?”

I’ll be glad to tell you that too. When the Fed needs to take dollars out of the system, it sells Treasuries (which means it buys dollars). The problem is, the U.S. debt-load is astronomical. Who, exactly, is going to buy that debt from the Fed? And at what interest rate? Remember, if the Fed is desperately trying to take dollars out of the system, there can be only one reason: it is scared of rising prices caused by inflation. But if the Fed floods the market with Treasuries, it will achieve exactly the opposite effect it’s looking for — it will cause rates to rise, probably dramatically. Do you really think the Chinese and the Japanese are going to buy Treasuries at a 2% yield if the Fed is panicking and trying to buy dollars to stop an inflationary price explosion? If so, you’re delusional. Chinese and Japanese people are smart. They’re not going to fund an inflationary dollar at 2%. Ever.

In the past it might have worked. Of course, in the past, the U.S. money supply was much smaller, and our ability to borrow was much stronger. But those days are gone.

As if I haven’t terrified you enough, the last thing I’m going to leave you with is really scary. It is a link to an excellent article by Mark J. Lundeen, whose insight into this economic catastrophe has been stupefying since long before all of this even started. Embedded in the article is a chart that shows historical dollars-in-circulation, relative to U.S. gold.

With that, I think I’ll let you do the rest of the math. Sleep well.

I strongly recommend you subscribe to his blog. And don’t forget to add some gold & silver to your portfolio.

What’s the difference between a pigeon and a Wall Street banker?

The pigeon can still make a deposit on a Porsche!

Meanwhile, in what looks like a stunning display of stupidity, the Federal Reserve recently hired someone to “assess the safety and soundness of domestic banking institutions.” The new employee is none other than Former Bear Stearns chief risk officer (from 2006 to 2008) Michael Alix. Unbelievable! The Fed hired the guy who let Bear go bust.

Regular readers know that I’ve been saying the US government is broke for a while now. As if our national debt and unfunded future debt obligations weren’t enough, Henry Paulson proposed spending $700 billion to buy mortgages and other toxic “assets” from banks. Well, not only does the Treasury now want to spend bailout cash on all kinds of financial companies (from banks to bond insurers to specialty-finance firms like GE Capital) it’s becoming more and more obvious that the government didn’t actually have $700 billion lying around. The Treasury has borrowed $600 billion since mid-September, and it wants to borrow a record total of $550 billion during the fourth quarter of 2008 to help stabilize the financial sector.

In July, the Treasury estimated third-quarter borrowing would be $171 billion. It actually borrowed $530 billion, $300 billion of which was for its Supplementary Financing Program, launched in September, to keep Wall Street from melting down.

While people may argue that this was the best thing to do (of course you should bail out your buddies on Wall Street!), the fact is that this level of government borrowing and spending will have an inflationary affect. It’s still not too late to buy some gold coins and hedge against it.