Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Isaac Abrams Showing at Drawing Now at Caroussel de Louvre

Work of my friend Isaac Abrams, a psychedelic artist who lives in nearby Saugerties, New York, has been selected to appear in the  Drawing Now exhibition of contemporary drawing in the Carrousel du Louvre, Paris.  Drawing Now is Europe's leading contemporary art fair devoted to drawings.  Isaac has previously shown at various galleries in Paris and at a host of prestigious venues, including the Whitney Museum.  I own two of his delightful paintings.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Bearish on Gold, Stocks

I have sold more than half of my gold and silver holdings. I am bearish on gold right now, and I think the recent declines can go to $1200.  I am keeping my long-term holdings in gold but selling my short-term holdings.  I will get back in if the current declines stabilize.

The reason for the current declines seems to parallel the declines in the 1980s and 1990s.  When the Fed expands the money supply, part of the credit expansion is borrowed by commodity producers, who expand production.  Because commodities are fungible, expanded production goes directly to increasing supply, hence reducing price. When price declines cause shakeouts in the market, the price stabilizes, but the producers no longer have access to easy credit. Then the cycle renews.  I learned this concept from the late Howard S. Katz.

Unlike earlier cycles, the Fed has imposed a massive monetary expansion, a fresh cycle, on top of the intermediate stages of a bull market.  It is impossible to know how far the gold price will fall, but I  doubt that the current weakness in the gold price will continue for 20 years, as it did from circa 1982 to circa 2002.

I am also gradually selling stocks.  If you have been following the stock market, we are more or less at the peak that provided resistance in 2000 and 2007.  The massive Fed stimulus might change the real values of the peaks so that the current upswing can go further.  The recent news that the Japanese are going to buy assets around the world with counterfeit yen also may help perpetuate the current rally to new highs.

Are American grandmothers going to cash in their CDs and buy stocks?  Are the Japanese going to pump up the US stock market for more than a year?  I am dubious.  I am holding my high-yield securities but gradually selling my index funds and going into cash.  If there is a market correction, I aim to get into natural gas tankers and energy MLPs. I have a number of MLPs now (about six percent of my portfolio is currently in MLPs, including Kayne Anderson, Clearbridge, and Neuberger Berman), and I want more MLPS and natural gas tankers.

Clive Crook's Groupthink

I stayed in my apartment in Astoria, Queens last night because of a dental appointment this afternoon.  Because I keep basic cable there, I watched the mainstream Bloomberg news channel.  Luckily, David Stockman was on.

Stockman has written an interesting book, The Great Deformation,  in which he predicts a collapse of the dollar and advocates a gold standard.  Stockman's prescription is contrary to the preferences of Wall Street, Bloomberg LP, big businessmen, and bankers. However, it is not outlandish.  Without Stockman's insider knowledge of the Reagan administration, I advocate the same ideas; I am delighted to see him on mainstream television.

The program involved former Reagan official  Stockman debating Bloomberg's Clive Crook, a good-looking journalist with an English accent.  Crook says that he likes some of Stockman's analysis, but he longs for "the old David Stockman" who was mainstream and did not advocate outlandish ideas like  dissolution of the federal government  and a gold standard.  Crook was dismissive and insulting; his argument was ad hominem and unsubstantial.  Instead of saying why he thinks that a gold standard won't work, Crook claimed that by advocating a gold standard Stockman placed himself outside the mainstream.

Most good ideas are rejected at first. Nikoa Tesla was told that AC electricity was a perpetual motion scheme; talking pictures were thought to be a fad, as was television.  Who cares if the US establishment, which has created the current dismal social-and-economic situation, finds Stockman's ideas to be outlandish? Their failed ideas have destroyed America's progress.

Anyone who has studied group dynamics knows that Crook's tactics are characteristic of groupthink.  All groups depend on conformity.  Although the pro-Fed establishment is not a small group in the same sense as the jury in Twelve Angry Men, it is a group with norms.  The historical record of the current financial system has been poor all along. The Fed caused the Great Depression; it caused the 1970s Stagflation, and Stockman is right: It has gotten worse since Alan Greenspan's appointment during the Reagan years.

Because the in-group faces a great loss if it loses the Fed or sees restrictions placed on its ability to print money for itself, it needs to defend the status quo. Rather than defend the indefensible, Crook applies power-and-influence tactics aimed at silencing Stockman.  

In a sense, Crook is right: Stockman's ideas are irrelevant to the current group in power. This includes both Democrats and Republicans.  When the Fed was established in 1913, the founders did not anticipate abolition of the gold standard. An argument for abolition of the gold standard would have seemed irrelevant to Woodrow Wilson, who had been a gold Democrat (he did not vote for William Jennings Bryan in 1896).   Twenty years later FDR abolished the gold standard.  The reverse can occur today.