Should people buy gold to get protection from inflation? The increasing use of Federal Reserve money printing because of the “Repo” crisis implies that the Fed will accidentally trigger a repeat of the terrible inflation of the 1970’s. During that era investors were able to protect themselves by holding short term bonds because the yields kept up with inflation (when a short term bond matured the proceeds could be reinvested at higher rates as inflation rose). But in the post-2008 post-GFC era rates have been artificially low and could be held down to zero by the Fed. Thus investors would not be able to replicate the benefits of short term bonds during a repeat of the 1970’s level of
Traditionally gold has tracked the inflation rate, in a hugely lumpy manner, until the great stock crash of 2008. Based on its historical behavior of correlating with inflation it should only be about $800 or $1,000 an ounce; instead it trades at $1,513. The theoretical reason for the 50% premium over hypothetical intrinsic value is that this is like a call option on the future: what if future inflation is much worse, thus justifying a high price for gold today? The reason to stop using the old paradigm that gold simply tracks the CPI inflation index and instead start viewing gold differently, is that CPI or PCE inflation indexes are something based on lifestyles of the masses; by
It seems a many financial advisors and financial commentators are making an increasing amount of negative comments about the U.S. dollar and U.S. Treasuries. I disagree with them. I remember the 1970’s when there were many scary headlines about the end of Bretton Woods monetary agreement, Watergate, Nixon’s resignation, the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, the two OPEC oil shortages of 1973 and 1979 that severely damaged the economy, and the US embassy hostage situation in 1979 in Iran, etc. The dollar went down in value and the economy performed poorly while inflation increased dramatically in the 1970’s. Gold went up from $43 in August, 1971 to a peak of $880 in January, 1980. The inflation-adjusted price return of the
The U.S. imports far less than it exports; by contrast some countries are very export dependent, for example Germany exports half of what it produces. We export 12% of our GDP and only 6% to places outside of North America. This allows us to have more leverage since the rest of the world needs us more than we need them. This is even more true due to the growth of domestic oil fracking. The result of a trade war would be skewed in the direction of hurting other countries more than the U.S. will be hurt. The U.S. also attracts more skilled immigrants than other countries (vital to manufacturing the winning new technology). The “Middle Income Trap” theory that
Today the Federal Reserve held a two-day meeting and released a statement. They didn’t change their rates but the marketplace changed the rates dramatically downward. The ten year Treasury bond yield dropped from 2.61% to 2.525%, a drop of 8.5 basis points, several times a typical day’s movement. The technical traders who follow chart patterns have felt the rate might never go below 2.62% and would instead go above 3% and stay above that, thus the decline significantly below 2.62% is a shocking technical indicator matter, implying the “Invisible Hand” of the market “knows” that a recession will soon come. The futures market estimates a 50% probability of an eventual Fed easing of the Fed’s official rate. The drop
The annual federal deficit budget is 5% of GDP, or 7% if count some one-time excluded items. The percentage has been growing. The government has relied upon foreign investors and central banks to buy U.S. Treasury’s. The Treasury Bills have been used as the world’s money, thus absorbing the funding needs of the U.S. If foreigners decide to stop this then the dollar would drop in value and the Federal Reserve would have to monetize the deficit, creating inflation. As long as the other major economies have so many significant contingent financial problems (the negative interest rates in the EU and Japan, the huge debts in China and Japan) then the world economy will continue operating the same way.
The dollar crashed last night against the Yen in a Flash Crash, dropping 3% (a very significant figure), before settling in to a 1% decline to 107.5 Yen to a dollar. This demonstrates a potential risk that the Yen could appreciate roughly 10% or even 20% to reach fair value. Its price is held down by Japan so that they can encourage exports through devaluation. If global investors get burned by a US stock crash they may decide to withdraw funds from the US, thus making the dollar go down and the Yen to go up. This would force Japan to have even deeper negative interest rates, thus pulling down global interest rates. If Japan devalues that can cause
Regarding the concern that interest rates will rise to dangerously high levels, I doubt this will occur. The fear that Quantitative Tightening, where the Fed sells its holdings of bonds to undo QE, will make rates go up a lot is incorrect. When QE was implemented from 2009-2014 it didn’t create inflation and probably only lowered interest rates by 0.5%. The reason yields went down was because of global fears of falling into a debt/deflation trap and because other Developed countries (the EU, Japan, Scandinavia, Switzerland) had negative rates. I don’t see things getting better in Europe; probably the economic problems have not been truly solved in Japan. Thus since the fundamental reason for low yields in the U.S.
Yesterday’s dramatic bond market crash may make some people worry about rising rates, but I disagree. First, this year has seen an unusual degree of tax cut stimulus with huge federal deficits. This stimulus acted to make economic statistics including employment, hotter than normal, which resulted in rising interest rates. However, the typical scenario of a big stimulus package is a 5.5% GDP growth, not the 3.2% for the first half of 2018. The fact that the economy is growing 2% slower than it should (based on tax cuts) implies the stimulus may soon fade away and thus reduce the risk of inflation. During the two days before the monthly BLS Payroll Employment report bond yields tend to go
The yield curve spread between 2 year Treasury bond and ten year is 21.5 basis points, it was about 25 a week ago, and is consistently dropping to new lows not seen since last economic top of 2007. Economists say that a declining spread eventually moves the yield curve to inversion which is a symptom of recession, and partly a cause of it. Global rates have already inverted as have some domestic esoteric short term bond swap contracts for 2 and 4 year maturities. The old paradigm that the ten year Treasury yield is the same as nominal GDP hasn’t worked since 2008 crash because a new world exists where major regions such as the EU and Japan