Inflation

All posts tagged Inflation

Had dinner last night with an old family friend at a fancy restaurant. One of the topics that came up for discussion was the stock market and whether the recent rally was sustainable. While I didn’t have any concrete information about the numbers, I felt that the rally in the face of declining quarterly revenues, growing unemployment, increased savings and what could be a permanent drop in consumption didn’t make any sense to me.

But today I read an email from Joan Mauldin.  He always provides great information and sure enough, he had the very data I was looking for. I’ve omitted some of the information for the sake of brevity (and its still pretty long!).

Rising Unemployment and Inflation

When the employment numbers come out, my usual routine is to go the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and peruse the actual tables (www.bls.gov). I was rather surprised to see that the actual number of people employed in the US rose by 120,000. That has certainly not been the trend for a rather long time.

So, are things back on track? Is the recession just about over? Is that a green shoot? I don’t think so.
First, there are actually two surveys done by the BLS. One is the household survey, where they call up a fixed number of homes each month and ask about the employment situation in the household and then take that data and extrapolate it for the economy as a whole. So, while the number of employed rose, the number of unemployed rose a lot faster, by 563,000 to 13.7 million. In addition, there are 2.1 million who are “marginally attached” to the workforce. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.

According to the survey, headline unemployment rose 0.4% to 8.9%, the highest level since 1983. But if you count those who are working part-time but want full-time work, as well as the “marginally attached,” the unemployment rate (called the U-6 rate) is an ugly 15.8%.

For whatever reason, the markets were happy that the headline number of the other BLS survey, the establishment survey of lost jobs, was “only” 539,000, down from a negatively revised 699,000 in March. At least, the thinking was, the numbers were not getting worse, though it is hard for me to be encouraged by half a million lost jobs. That may not be the worst of it, however, since 66,000 jobs were temporary workers hired for the 2010 census, and the BLS estimated that the birth-death ratio added 226,000 jobs as a result of new business creation. Really? This will mean that there will likely be a major revision downward at some future point. The number will likely be well over 600,000 in the final analysis.

Further, it is likely that we will see at least another 1.0-1.5 million lost jobs over the rest of the year, taking unemployment very close to 10%. As an aside, the Treasury used an unemployment rate of 9.5% in their stress test of the banks, which suggests the test was not all that stressful. And, showing further weakness, there were 66,000 fewer temporary jobs. If there was really a nascent recovery, you would see a rise in temporary workers.

Average wages rose by a mere 3.2% on an annual basis, and by just 0.1% for the month, and the average work week was at an all-time record low of 33.2 hours. In nearly any inflation scenario, rising wages play an important part. This suggests that inflation is not in our near future.

I kind of agree on the inflation part. It may not be in our near future. But it is definitely on the horizon. The Federal Reserve has expanded the base money in existence 100% in the past year by lending it to banks. Right now the banks are keeping it as their reserves in the Fed and the Fed is encouraging this by paying them interest on it. But they will slowly lower the interest rate paid to banks to encourage them to lend this money out. Due to fractional reserve lending, this money lent out will be several times more than the money the Fed gave the banks and the money supply will probably increase 100% too. This has to cause inflation, but it will hopefully be controlled and not like Zimbabwe’s 100,000% inflation per year! Although, one of the reasons the US can get away with this is the Dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. Still, I’m bullish on the long-term prices of gold.

While Wal-Mart and other low-cost retailer sales are up, Saks and other high-end retailers are down by as much as 30%. There is a new frugality in vogue. Consumer spending is going to fall, and when it does find that new level it is going to grow more slowly than in the past.

That is why the recovery is going to be a long slow Muddle Through. This recession will end, as all recessions eventually do. We will see a positive number, maybe as early as the 4th quarter. Employment should turn back up, albeit slowly, after that.

Typically, in a recession jobs are lost because sales slow and production is not needed. When sales recover, so do jobs.

But we are permanently destroying jobs in this recession, all up and down the food chain and in numerous industries. There will be fewer cars made, for a long time. Less demand for financial service jobs. Housing construction will be a long time recovering, well into 2011 or 2012. And less construction means fewer jobs.

Where Will the Jobs Come From?

Going forward, there are simply going to be fewer jobs to make “stuff,” as we consume less. We can’t rely on many of the old jobs and industries to come back in short order, as has been the case in the past. In order for new jobs to be created, we are going to have to create new businesses and expand current ones.

The vast majority of new job creation in the US is by small businesses and entrepreneurs. Yet today small business faces a tough environment. Banks have tighter lending policies. Venture capital is tough to find. Competition in a shrinking economy is brutal.

And the Obama administration wants to raise taxes on small businesses by raising taxes on the “rich.” 75% of those rich he targets are small businesses who need capital in order to grow, but are having trouble getting it from banks.

Sure, entrepreneurs will do what they have to do, and higher marginal tax rates will typically not keep them from working as hard as possible to make their businesses successful. If the tax rates of the large majority of businessmen and women go back to the pre-Bush level, it will not make us close our businesses, but it will cut down on the capital we have available to expand. It will slow down economic growth and hinder job creation. There is just no getting around that fact.

There is a reason that high-tax states have higher unemployment rates and lower job growth. Taxes have consequences for economic growth.

The sad reality is that it is going to take a long time to get back to acceptable employment levels in the US. It now takes an average of over 21 weeks to find a new job, a new record. Stories from friends in the financial services business are particularly difficult, as there are many very highly qualified people for every job that comes available. And it is not going to get better any time soon.

How could we add 120,000 new jobs while unemployment is going up? Because the number of people looking for jobs is growing far faster, as more and more young people come into the market place and couples now find they both must look for a job. And that is a trend that is going to continue.

So many bullish analysts talk about the second derivative of growth, by which they mean that we are slowing our descent into recession. But it is not the second derivative that is important. What is important is that the first derivative, actual growth, return. Until that time, unemployment will continue to rise, which is going to put pressure on incomes and consumer spending, and thus corporate profits.

Profits in the first quarter, with nearly 90% of companies reporting, are down over 50% from last year and are 18% less than estimates. Yes, inventories are down, but so is final demand from consumers and businesses. There is a reason that GM and Chrysler are shutting down for two months this summer. That will percolate throughout the economy.

As the realization that the economy is not due for a robust recovery sinks in, I think the chances for another serious bear market test of the stock market lows will become increasingly high. As David Rosenberg said in his final memo from Merrill Lynch (and good luck to him in his new position, where I hope we all still get to read his very solid analysis!), if a few weeks ago someone had said you could sell all your stocks 40% higher, most of you would have hit that bid.

Now that price has in fact been bid. Do you want to gamble on a renewed bull run in the face of a continually shrinking economy? I suggest you give it some serious thought, or at least put in some very real stop-loss protection.

Whether or not you believe that the rally is short-lived, definitely check out a restaurant in the Century City Mall called RockSugar. I highly recommend it.

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.

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.

Over a year ago, I wrote about China threatening to stop buying US Treasuries.

According to an article in the New York Times, it now looks like China is losing it’s appetite for US debt :

In the last five years, China has spent as much as one-seventh of its entire economic output buying foreign debt, mostly American. In September, it surpassed Japan as the largest overseas holder of Treasuries.

But now Beijing is seeking to pay for its own $600 billion stimulus – just as tax revenue is falling sharply as the Chinese economy slows. Regulators have ordered banks to lend more money to small and medium-size enterprises, many of which are struggling with lower exports, and to local governments to build new roads and other projects.

All the key drivers of China’s Treasury purchases are disappearing – there’s a waning appetite for dollars and a waning appetite for Treasuries, and that complicates the outlook for interest rates, said Ben Simpfendorfer, an economist in the Hong Kong office of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

By itself, this is a concern for our government. Recently, it sold billions of 3 year treasuries at a 1.2% yield! But when the demand for treasuries eventually dries up, yield should start jumping higher. But to make matters worse, the government will start a slew of public works projects and bailouts, for which we will have to borrow even more money. At some point the demand will simply fall short of the supply.

Here’s an interesting note by James Quinn on investmentrarities.com:

As the politicians scurry to “save” capitalism through the use of communist measures, more Americans are becoming disheartened. The definition of communism according to Webster’s is:

A system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed.

George Bush, Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke have decided to seize money from the vast majority of Americans who lived within their means, utilized debt sparingly, and worked hard to get ahead, and give it to the most appalling failures in our society. They have shoveled billions to banks that operated their businesses like gambling parlors. They have shoveled hundreds of millions to people who bought houses with no money down, interest only mortgages and fraudulent loan applications. They are now rewarding automakers who made the wrong vehicles, pay 30,000 workers per year to not work, and have only been able to “sell” cars by giving them away with 0% financing to any schmuck who could sign on the dotted line. These acts fit the definition of communism. We are now more communist than China.

So what are the repercussions of our monetary policy? According to Chuck Butler of Everbank.com (which I highly recommend):

US government will have to ratchet the yield on these bonds up so high to attract investors… OR… Allow a general debasing of the dollar to allow those purchases of Treasuries to be made at a discounted clearing price.”

A lot of people will disagree, but during these economic times, we’ll see inflation and not deflation. And gold will continue to be a store of value and a hedge against inflation. Even though its quite popular to bash gold and call it a lousy investment, the fact remains that gold has been one of the best performing assets during the past decade. I’ve been buying gold coins since 2005 and while the price of gold is up around 50% since then, the premiums on gold and silver coins has increased more than twice that. (Premium is what you pay over the spot price of gold). This shows an increasing demand for gold coins.

Gold and silver coins will be the next bubble! The bubble has barely started and should take 2-3 years to play out.

The media has been going on and on about deflation. Long-term bond prices have also been trending up and long term yields have been dropping, which means that the market thinks there will be long-term deflation. Even the Consumer Price Index numbers that came out claim that inflation is under 2% annually!

(Of course, if you’re one of the unlucky 533,000 people who lost their jobs last month, you really couldn’t care less about deflation).

Let’s first look at the Government reported numbers.

                      May   June  July  Aug.  Sep.  Oct.  Nov.   ended     ended                      
                             2008  2008  2008  2008  2008  2008  2008 Nov. 2008 Nov. 2008

All items..........    .7   1.2    .9   -.2   -.1  -1.2  -2.1     -12.9        .7

Food and beverages    .3    .8    .9    .6    .6    .3    .2       4.2       6.0
Housing...........    .5    .5    .7    .0   -.2    .0   -.1       -.8       3.1

Apparel...........   -.2    .0    .8   1.0    .0  -1.2    .2      -3.9        .2
Transportation....   2.1   4.0   1.8  -1.7   -.7  -6.0 -10.9     -52.1     -10.4

Medical care......    .1    .2    .1    .3    .3    .1    .2       2.7       2.7
Recreation........    .0    .2    .4    .5    .2    .0   -.1        .8       1.9

Education and
  communication..    .3    .5    .5    .2    .0    .2    .2       1.6       3.4

Other goods and
  services.......    .5    .6    .5    .2    .2    .3    .1       2.4       4.4

Special indexes:Energy............   4.5   6.8   4.0  -3.2  -1.7  -9.0 -17.8     -70.8     -14.3

Food..............    .3    .8    .9    .6    .6    .3    .2       4.1       6.2
All items less
food and energy    .2    .3    .3    .2    .1   -.1    .0        .1       2.0

Lets start with the largest expense for most people, housing.

Yes, house prices have decreased. However, if you’re already a home owner or a renter then you’re probably not seeing any benefit. The only people who’re benefiting are those people who can actually qualify for a home loan and have enough cash for a down-payment. The 100% financing loans have disappeared as a result of the tightening of the lending standards. As I mentioned in the last post, it’s not the cost of credit, buts the availability of credit that is important.

Energy prices actually have dropped down from $147/barrel to around $40/barrel in the past 5 months. However, I heard billionaire T Boone Pickins on the radio today say that OPEC is going to keep cutting production until oil is back up at $75/barrel. In the long run, I agree with him. While a global recession might reduce the demand for oil, there are 3 billion people in Asia who are getting a little richer every day and want air conditioning, cars, motorbikes and other luxuries that consume oil. Without alternate energy sources, oil prices have to rise. The current price drop is likely to be short-lived.

According to official numbers, education costs have only gone up 1.6%-3.4% in the past year. However, my MBA program has seen a much higher percentage increase in tuition than last year, and it might see another increase next year (according to a letter I received from the Dean of my Business School).

Likewise, medical costs have also gone up only 2.7%, but my health premiums and medical costs seem somehow higher than that.

And while food and beverage prices have only seen an official 4.2-6% inflation, prices of food items that I consider my staple diet like Tyson Chicken Wings and Sirloin Steak Burgers at Costco have gone up about nearly 50% in the past 2 years.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve is printing money like its going out of style. (And at this rate, it actually might). In theory, increasing the money is inflationary. That’s one reason why a house that cost $30,000 in the 70’s costs $300,000 today. More money in circulation means every existing dollar is now worth less. At least thats the theory. Increases in productivity and technology have managed to improve our standard of living despite this inflationary pressure, but there must be some point at which you start seeing inflation. Maybe we’re at that point now.

The government has committed to more money on financial bailouts than its ever spent in its history. According to an article in the SF Gate, the Financial Bailout may end up costing the taxpayer $8.5 trillion dollars.

According to an article on CNBC, that’s more than the cost of almost everything else the US government has spent on even adjusting for inflation!

Here are estimates for the major US government expenditures (all figures inflation-adjusted):

Hoover Dam: $782 million

Panama Canal: $7.9 billion

Gulf War: $98 billion

Marshall Plan: $115.3 billion

Louisiana Purchase: $217 billion

Race to the Moon: $237 billion

Savings & Loan Crisis: $256 billion

Korean War: $454 billion

New Deal: ~$500 billion

Iraq/Afghanistan/War on Terror: $597 billion

Vietnam War: $698 billion

NASA Budget since inception: $851.2 billion

World War II: $3.6 trillion

Total = $7.63 trillion

I thought this was the most interesting section of the SF Gate article:

The Fed’s activities to shore up the financial system do not show up directly on the federal budget, although they can have an impact. The Fed lends money from its own balance sheet or by essentially creating new money. It has been doing both this year.

The problem is, “if you print money all the time, the money becomes worth less,” Rogers says. This usually leads to higher inflation and higher interest rates. The value of the dollar also falls because foreign investors become less willing to invest in the United States.

Today, interest rates are relatively low and the dollar has been mostly strengthening this year because U.S. Treasury securities “are still for the moment a very safe thing to be investing in because the financial market is so unstable,” Rogers said [That’s Diane Lim Rogers, chief economist with the Concord Coalition, not Jim Rogers!]. “Once we stabilize the stock market, people will not be so enamored of clutching onto Treasurys.”

At that point, interest rates and inflation will rise. Increased borrowing by the Treasury will also put upward pressure on interest rates.

In the past 10 years gold is up 300%+. That’s about 300% better than the return on the S&P500 over the same time period! This is not an indication of deflation.

And what does veteran investor Jim Rogers think about this? In a recent Bloomberg interview he predicted that the dollar is “going to lose its status as the world’s reserve currency,” adding, “It will be devalued and it will go down a lot. These guys in Washington, they want to debase the currency.”

“They think that if you drive down the value of your money, it makes you more competitive, now that has never worked in history in the long term,” said Rogers.

Paul Watson of the Prison Planet states:

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, warned that advanced nations will be hit by violent civil unrest if the elite continue to restructure the economy around their own interests while looting the taxpayer. Strauss-Kahn’s comments echo those of others who have cautioned that civil unrest could arise, specifically in the U.S., as a result of the wholesale looting of the taxpayer and the devaluation of the dollar.

How long will it be before Americans realize the looming specter of hyperinflation spells disaster for their life savings? How long will it be before we see rioting in the streets on a par with the scenes witnessed in Iceland over the weekend, where the Icelandic krona has lost half its value in a matter of weeks?

I’m not buying the deflation argument. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprized to see 10-12% inflation for the next several years. I’ve been buying gold coins since gold was $500/ounce and I’ve adding to my position on pullbacks. Maybe in a few years time, $850 gold and $12 silver may look like a bargain!

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.

Online retailers have been fairing better than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. One school of thought is that affluent buyers make up a bigger portion of online buyers and they fare better during recessions, which means online retailers are likely to do better.

Another line of reasoning suggests that there is a perception among buyers that there are better deals online than in stores. So its the bargain hunting, not the higher incomes that is driving people to shop online. I think there’s some truth to this.

Last week, I needed to replace the battery on my motorola KRZR cellphone. The battery was no longer holding charge and had developed a slight bulge in the middle as well. I went to the Verizon store and they told me I was out of luck, and would have to buy a new battery for $40 plus tax.

Instead, I bought a cellphone battery online for only $6.41 delivered! I had to wait 2 days, but I got a whopping 85% discount!!!

For some reasons, retailers think that replacement batteries should cost 40-50% of the cost of a new electronic item. If you’re willing to spend a few minutes doing the research and wait 2-3 days, then you can usually save at least 60% of the cost. Now whether your time is worth that 60% in savings is another question.

Incidentally, that battery link goes to a niche store I built initially to buy cheap iPod batteries, which cost a ridiculous $79 plus tax at the local Apple store. I bought my battery replacement kit for $20 online instead!

But getting back to my main point, I think that with inflation eroding the purchasing power of the average American, more people will turn to online shopping. And with gas prices being so high, people are more likely to limit they’re driving to the mall.

So there are two lessons to learn here.

1. If you own stocks of retail stores, ditch them and buy online retailers instead.

2. Look online for bargains.

Maybe it’s time to look at Amazon’s stock (AMZN)?

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.

The meeting started off with a humorous cartoon video of Charlie Munger running for US president. There was also a short video of Warren Buffett playing a role on tv-soap “Days of our lives” and Susan Lucci actually appeared live at the meeting.

Rather than a boring annual meeting discussing the various aspects of BRK’s business, Warren Buffett instead started fielding questions from the audience, which went on for several hours. Except for which stocks BRK was buying, no question was taboo.

Here’s some interesting points from meeting:

1. Most of what you learn about Business school is crap.

You only need 2 courses, how to value a business and how to think about stock market fluctuations. Unfortunately most professors end up teaching what they know, which consists of complex formulas and other useless stuff.

I kind of knew this, even though I am going to start B-school in the fall.

2. Develop good communication skills.

That’ll be useful in life regardless of what you do.

3. Non-professional investors should diversify their investments, both in terms of stocks and also in terms of time.

Buffett also recommended buying a low-cost index fund.

4. Be frugal, spend less than you earn, and invest a portion of your income.

5. The best investments are simple ones.

If an investment is overly complex it is usually never a good one. Buffett invested millions in PetroChina (PTR) after only reading the annual report. He realized the business was worth several times more than its current stock value and that there was sufficient margin of safety to invest.

6. Always be ethical and honest in your business deals.

All of the managers of the individual business owned by bRK are upright and ethical. As a result, Buffett doesn’t feel the need to micro-manage them and lets them do whatever they want. This fits in well with BRK’s philosophy. Whenever Buffett and Munger agree to buy a business, its set in stone. Whether there is “a nuclear explosion in New York, a flu epidemmic or Federal Chairmain Ben Bernanke runs off with Paris Hilton to South America“, the deal will go through. Yes, he actually said that.

7. Invest in yourself.

A person’s potential always greatly exceeds his realized performance. Invest in yourself and try to maximize your performance.

8. Read good books.

Two of the books Munger recommends are Yes and Influence. I strongly recommend Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T Munger, which is a beautiful hardcover book filled with Munger’s wit & wisdom. It also makes a great gift. One of my friends even called it one of the “all time best finance books“.

9. America is a rich country and may not need to save as much as other countries.

Maybe saving money isn’t necessary for the US, although it does look like we’re exporting ownership in US assets which is not good.

10. Financial innovation for risk diversification should be banned.

The current credit crisis and meltdown in the banking sector was caused by innovative financial products that were designed to make money for the financial institutions. Munger said that the online grocery delivery company, WebVan was a pretty asinine idea, but compared to the current bankers, those execs looked like geniuses!

11. The US Dollar is likely to weaken over the next decade.

A lot of BRK’s businesses have global sales, so a weakening dollar will result in improved profits. For example, BRK owns 200 million shares of Coke, of which 80% of its income comes from global sales.

12. We’re likely to see very high inflation over the next several years.

Inflation is bad, but BRK will profit more, than if there was no inflation.

13. Don’t buy BRK stock.

If you have time to go through the universe of stocks and pick winners, then do that instead of investing in BRK. BRK can only buy huge companies because buying a small company barely puts a dent in the annual revenue. You might be able to get better returns on your own.

Of course, there were several hours of Q & A so this is just a small tidbit. If you’d like to read the whole script you can do so at The Investment Advice of Warren Buffett.