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Performance of Stocks, Bonds, and Gold In an Inflationary Environment
Published : February 29th, 2012
953 words - Reading time : 2 - 3 minutes
( 2 votes, 5/5 ) Print article
 
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Jeremy Grantham's GMO group has produced an interesting study showing the performance of three asset classes against inflation.

I think the true correlation is with negative real interest rates rather than inflation itself. In an inflationary period, interest rates tend to lag the increase in inflation, producing negative real rates.

But in a period of economic decline in which the Fed lowers rates artificially, negative real rates can also be created and rather more easily than some amateur economic theorists believe.

To slightly complicate matters, the markets tend to anticipate, tend to act on expectations before the reality of something. So we might see something like gold or interest rates signaling a period of inflation well ahead of its appearance, if they are allowed to seek their own levels in the market.

If you think about it, the correlation with negative interest rates makes sense. In a period of negative rates, all currency heavy financial instruments are probably facilitating the confiscation of wealth by the official banking system. Since gold has relatively little counterparty risk if properly held, it is likely to be considered a safe haven, in addition to other hard assets and stronger alternative currencies if such things are available.

Unfortunately for analysis, things are never so simple in real life.

In addition to negative interest rates, there are other forms of wealth confiscation, including the fraudulent mispricing of risk, outright fraud itself, and currency devaluation.

And finally, there is the sort of price manipulation which the Western central banks engaged in for a long period of time in strategically selling off portions of their gold in order to hold the price lower in a disastrous attempt to manage the financial markets and silence the warning signal from gold as asset bubbles began to build in the credit markets and the Bretton Woods global monetary agreement began to fall apart.

And so what might have been a gradual price increase in gold and silver instead became a powerful rally as the markets sought to correct to the primary trend once the banks stopped being net sellers of gold. Now the financial system can only use other means in order to try and control their ascent to a genuine market clearing price based on years of monetary inflation. There are various estimates of what that eventual price might be, but it most certainly is much higher than where the price is today.

Years of underinvestment in mining has created a dangerous shortage of gold and silver relative to potential demand. Various financial instruments have been introduced to provide 'paper gold and silver' to meet that demand. In addition, even physical exchanges like the LBMA have been pushed to dangerously high rates of leverage as demand for bullion outstrips available supply. And so the markets drift inexorably into great opaqueness and repeated frauds because the world of paper has unhinged itself from reality across multiple fronts. The problem is that the state of the currency feeds into all finanical markets and so a mischief done there spawns its children everywhere.

As one might suspect, the credibility trap in which the financial engineers find themselves causes occasional outbursts of hysterical animosity and antagonism against the reactions of the markets, and the reality of their own economic chickens coming home to roost.

This is a recipe for disaster, and we can thank the Anglo-American banking cartel, and their gullible accomplices in the other western banks, for it when it happens. When Dick Cheney said, "Reagan proved that deficits don't matter" what he did not realize was that he was reading the epitaph for the dollar reserve currency system that had been in place since the end of WW II. They do matter, but sometimes the lags in time between cause and effect can be deceptively reassuring.

Debt may not matter in the short run, and Keynes had some very good and valid points to make about government stimulus during short periods of economic slumps to avoid feedback loops and the spiral of decline. As an aside I wonder, if Keynes came back and saw what his acolytes were saying in his name, if he could stop throwing up. When he found new facts he changed his mind, and I suspect he might have changed his and strongly cautioned against turning a remedy into an addiction to support habitual corruption and unsustainable privilege. But I do not know if he was that honest of a intellect, or would have merely gone along with the rest for the benefits of his class.

Huge deficits over long periods of time to finance non-structural consumption and underwrite malinvestment and currency manipulation are almost invariably toxic. The 'vendor financing' that gave rise to the age of 'Asian miracles' is the rope which will be used to hang the capitalist system unless strong measures are taken to clean up the corrupt system that grew up to support and profit from this economic Frankenstein.

The only reasonable course of action is for the West to nationalize its TBTF banks, dismantle them gracefully while keeping their depositors whole, and give up their dreams of global and domestic financial domination by adopting a system of real capitalism based on market pricing, price discovery, competition kept intact from monopoly through effective regulation and law enforcement, transparency and a climate of honesty. But that would visit restraint, inconvenience, and even some pain on the powerful and privileged, those who have benefited greatly from this long charade, so it will be resisted to their bitter end.

While the stock and housing market bubbles have burst, the bond bubble, which includes the US dollar as a bond of zero duration, remains to be resolved and marked to market.



 


 

 

 

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