Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Whither Gold?

Gold went up today just four days after I blogged that I was mostly in cash. I just wrote a column for a popular local newspaper called the Lincoln Eagle that should come out in a few days and I suggested that there are four scenarios that might evolve: (1) bank failures/inflation; (2) deflation/inflation; (3) inflation/stagflation and (4) steady course. Jon Nadler of Kitco had suggested that we were in for a higher interest rate regime like we saw in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but I do not believe that it will be possible for the Fed to successfully execute a deflation or regime of high interest rates followed by a moderate (by 2010 standards, not by 1950 standards) re-inflation as was done under the Carter and Reagan administrations. It is likely that interest rate hikes will lead to stress on banks and additional unemployment. I do not believe that Obama is naive as was Carter to appoint a Fed chairman with the discipline to raise rates. Paul Volcker was exceptional and has not been equaled in the Fed's history. Even there, he reversed his monetarist policy by the early 1980s.

This time around the scenario is much worse. We are at zero (negative real) interest rates and ten percent unemployment. If the Fed raises interest rates then there will be additional unemployment and the Honorable Barney Frank will blow his stack as well as some other things. Moreover, with less reserves the banks will be expected to earn money like everyone else, by working for it, and that will make them unhappy, and the American public cannot allow bankers to be unhappy. It is not part of the American way.

So which way is gold going to go? In situations like this I use the coin flip test. Heads market up short term, tails market down short term. It kept coming up tails, so I'm staying put for now. But not in the long term.

The time for Obama to demand that the Fed clamp down on interest rates was this year. The Fed could have triggered a recession, higher unemployment and higher welfare payments, and the economy would have had two or three years to improve after a year or two of high rates. Instead, Bush handed the banks nearly a trillion dollars, the Fed tripled the monetary base and the money supply is growing like bamboo. Obama added additional handouts, and the likelihood of any sort of fiscal and monetary discipline is now an impossibility for the Messiah of Bloat.

Although I remain in dollars this week, I am watching this closely as my strategy is not wise for the long term.

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