Monday, November 5, 2007

Gold and Commodity Exposure in Your Portfolio

John Maynard Keynes quoted Lenin as saying that best way to destroy the capitalist system is to debauch the currency. There is debate whether Lenin said it or not. In any case much harm can be done from inflation. Since 1979, the compound inflation rate in the United States has been 3.7%. This has accompanied a lengthy stock market increase and a much larger production of dollars by the Federal Reserve Bank. The US money supply has increased several times, but there is a much larger amount of dollars in circulation around the globe, perhaps as much as 8 or 9 times the number of dollars in circulation in the US. The result of this is that the dollar is at all-time lows against a range of currencies, and has the prospect of depreciating further. The reduction in the buying power of the dollar is beneficial for exporters and may attract some factories back to the US. But it will harm those who hold dollars. In particular, those who hold savings accounts and long term bonds will be harmed as prices increase. Similarly, those on pensions and annuities will be harmed. The days when inflation was merely a domestic affair are over. The depreciating dollar means that many prices are increasing now. If Ben Bernanke continues to inflate the number of dollars (reduce the Fed Funds rate) then there could be a sell-off by foreign governments, who are holding trillions of dollars that are depreciating in value. In turn, this would cause inflation here.

This kind of instability poses as serious a risk to your portfolio as the risk of a stock market decline. A stock market decline is a possibility if the Fed reacts to the sharp dollar declines appropriately, that is, by raising interest rates. If the Fed continues to cater to Wall Street and America's wealthy on food stamps (those who benefit from the stock market increases that unrealistically low interest rates have caused) then the stock market might continue to go up until the inflation gets so bad that nominal interest rates are forced up by inflation. Jim Cramer will literally be forcing senior citizens to eat dog food just so he can see his portfolio increase.

It is conceivable that given the irresponsibility that the Bernanke Fed has demonstrated so far there will be a major inflation. This will exacerbate the income inequality that liberal economists harp on but erroneously attribute to fiscal policy.

Gold stocks have been performing very well this year and I have been quite happy as a result. As well, the metal itself as well as other commodities such as oil and grain have been going up very nicely. If there is a massive dollar depreciation, which is not an unrealistic risk, having a good share of your money in commodities will protect you.

One way to invest in commodity stocks is through the Ivy Natural Resources Fund . The trailing 5 year returns are 34.05% versus 21% for the S&P 500. As well, the Powershares index fund family has a number of commodity and dollar bearish indexes. These include gold, silver, oil, energy, agricultural, commodity index, dollar bearish and a number of others.

The frightening thing about massive inflation is that the investment that you naturally think of as most safe, cash, gets trashed. A dollar held since 1979 is worth about 34 cents today. In a massive inflation, the depreciation would go much further much more quickly.

Friends, I urge you to cover yourselves. The "economic miracle" of the past 25 years has been a three-card-Monty game. The 25-year old bliss in the stock market results from currency depreciation that is inherently unethical (because it is based on stealing from the poor to give to the rich). It will have serious consequences for conservative investors, and possibly end with a major stock market decline. It could be much worse than what I am describing if there is a major sell off of the dollar.

No comments: