The Post-Crash Party Continues

Gold took off yesterday…closing at $1020. Here at The Daily Reckoning, we’re impressed. But we’re not that impressed. Gold, of course, is half of our Trade of the Decade, which we announced almost 10 years ago. We’re bullish on the metal…have been for a very long time. But recent comments in this space have made readers wonder what the Hell is going on…so we will spend a few minutes clarifying.

First, we hope you bought gold many years ago. That would make it simpler. Then, we could say: hold! Gold is an antidote to paper. There is so much paper…and so much more apparently on the way…that the gold play seems like a winner. It’s a bet that the money system that has been around since August ’71 is going to fall apart.

We still think that is a good bet. Our Trade of the Decade remains. Buy gold on dips; sell stocks on rallies. We’ve done well with this trade; we’ll stick with it a bit longer.

But what if you don’t own gold? The yellow stuff is now over $1,000. In fact, it looks like $1,000 could be a new support level for the metal – with most of the support coming from the Chinese. China has relatively little gold in its central bank. It must see what we see – the weakness of the dollar and of the dollar-reserve monetary system. It must worry about the value of the $2 trillion or so it has in dollars. It must also wonder how it is going to run its economy if the dollar falls apart. American buyers were its consumers of first and last resort. To whom will China sell if its most important customers’ money becomes worthless?

Recent comments by a group of Chinese officials make it clear that they are thinking of these things…and that they have decided to add more gold to their reserves. In fact, all the central banks have become net buyers. No more selling off gold reserves. That is seen as a mug’s game – which it is. Replacing gold with paper? C’mon, what were they thinking?

So China is a buyer. Trouble is, it has to be a discreet buyer. It has too much money. It could cause the price to skyrocket overnight. Then, it would be paying too much. So, perhaps it does what we do – China buys on dips! For example, the order may have gone out: buy gold whenever the price goes below $1,000.

We don’t know what their buying strategy is…but the Chinese are probably going to be big buyers over the next few years.

Should you buy along with the Chinese? Should you compete with the Chinese for each ounce of gold that comes on the market?

Good question. Unfortunately, we don’t have a good answer. So let’s try a different question: Is gold going up or down?

The answer to that is simpler: gold is going up…then down…then up again. It is going up because the feds – including the feds in China – are encouraging speculation. Then, it is going down when the next phase of the bear market reasserts itself and the speculators run for cover. Then, it is going back up…much farther and faster…when the Fed becomes desperate and finally throw caution – and dollars – to the wind. We’re confident this last stage will arrive. Our hesitation is that it will take much longer than we expect. Gold may rise in a deflation…but it soars in a period of inflation. That period could be a long way off.

The feds can’t revive the consumer economy. Despite all you read…the consumer economy is probably going to limp along for many years. No boom in consumer spending = no inflation.

“US retail sales surge as economy strengthens,” announces a Reuters’ headline. Don’t believe it. Between the seasonal adjustments and the feds’ giveaways the retail sales numbers are meaningless. The real story is that there is little – or no – real organic improvement in the economy. The largest banks that get federal bailout money, for example, have actually reduced their lending for 6 months in a row.

But the feds can stimulate speculation. The dollar has become the ‘carry trade’ currency. The big players borrow in dollars…and use the money to speculate – against the dollar! They buy gold. They buy Brazilian bonds. They buy aluminum futures. They buy stocks.

The Dow rose 108 points yesterday. Oil rose over $72. Almost all commodities are up – except natural gas.

The post-crash party seems to be going well. It may continue. But the underlying problems of the real economy have not been corrected. They will rise up like zombies in a bad horror movie and bring the party to a close. Absent support from the Chinese, the price of gold will probably go down along with everything else. Which brings us back to the question we dodged.

“Dad, I made $2,000 just in the last couple of days…on that gold play I got in. But I’m nervous…should I sell it?”

Jules has graduated from college. He’s investing his meager savings, trying to put together a big enough stake so he can take a year off from work and concentrate on his career as a composer and performer.

“Jules…I don’t know,” began the answer. “But you’re a young guy. You can afford to speculate. If it goes your way, you make money. If it goes against you, you learn something…and you have plenty of time to recover.

“It looks to us as though this party is going to continue for a while. If I were you…I’d stick with it a while longer.”

Our advice to a man of 21 is not the same as our advice to a man of 60. The older man would get older advice:

“Gamble not thy whole wealth on the gold market,” we would say.

The older man needs gold. But he needs it as insurance…as a reserve against catastrophe…as a form of savings. The Fed has been negligent and derelict. It is not protecting America’s money and Americans’ wealth. The average fellow has to do it himself. He has to have reserves of his own…reserves of real money – gold.

He should buy. He should hold. He should buy the dips. But he should not speculate on higher prices…nor risk his wealth gambling in the gold market. Most likely, after this speculative boomlet, the price of gold will go down. How much? How far? For how long? Of course, we don’t know the answer to those questions.

We’re not buying now. But we already have our position in gold. We will add more – on the next big dip.

“Why capitalism fails” is the intriguing and misleading headline of an article in The Boston Globe. It is a reminder of the theories of Hyman Minsky, who pointed out the obvious: capitalism is inherently unstable…it proceeds in booms and busts…not steady, incremental growth. Of course, that is just the way it works – like nature herself. And that’s why people don’t like capitalism…they can’t control it. So, whenever a bust comes, they imagine that it has ‘failed’ or ‘broken down.’ Then, they propose ways to fix it.

“Since the global financial system started unraveling in dramatic fashion two years ago, distinguished economists have suffered a crisis of their own,” starts the article. “Ivy League professors who had trumpeted the dawn of a new era of stability have scrambled to explain how, exactly, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression had ambushed their entire profession.

“Amid the hand-wringing and the self-flagellation, a few more cerebral commentators started to speak about the arrival of a ‘Minsky moment,’ and a growing number of insiders began to warn of a coming ‘Minsky meltdown.’

“‘Minsky’ was shorthand for Hyman Minsky, a hitherto obscure macroeconomist who died over a decade ago. Many economists had never heard of him when the crisis struck, and he remains a shadowy figure in the profession. But lately he has begun emerging as perhaps the most prescient big-picture thinker about what, exactly, we are going through.

“A contrarian amid the conformity of postwar America, an expert in the then-unfashionable subfields of finance and crisis, Minsky was one economist who saw what was coming. He predicted, decades ago, almost exactly the kind of meltdown that recently hammered the global economy.”

Economists went off their heads in the last few decades. They thought capitalism would make us all rich. And they thought capitalism automatically tended toward beneficent equilibrium.

Here at The Daily Reckoning, intuitively, we guessed the contrary. The system produces a kind of orderly chaos…in which the rich are frequently impoverished, the proud are humbled…and the goofballs who think capitalism fails inevitably make things worse.

Until tomorrow,

Bill Bonner
The Daily Reckoning

The Daily Reckoning