Monday, February 1, 2010

Thirty Year Bear Market

An economic forecaster once told a class I attended that he loved to make thirty year forecasts because no one would remember his forecast when the events actually occurred. So he could collect his fee without fear of request for a refund. I will make a thirty year forecast, nonetheless. We are in for soft and declining markets for the rest of my life.

The unfolding of the banking problems in the past two years and the ongoing subsidization of the housing and stock markets via low-to-negative real interest rates will have predictable effects. The current situation is complicated by the de facto pegging of the dollar by international central banks. The real effects of the subsidization are wealth transfers from productive to unproductive factors of production. The chief beneficiaries of the transfers are beneficiaries of government (both employees and welfare recipients), investors and speculators in assets, including stocks, currency, bonds, commodities and real estate. The chief losers are savers in cash and productive workers.

The debt of the US government is growing in absolute numbers to an extent unparalleled in history. Generally, large government debt increases have been associated with monetary expansion and inflation. This time, central bank dollar pegging has limited inflation in the US. The pegging is a form of international inflation. That is, the nations that are supporting the dollar are making their citizens poorer in order to keep them working.

Ultimately, the complex deception becomes untenable. The public starts to question why harder work is met with ever lower rewards. Larger and larger transfers to asset holders are required to keep markets steady, and workers will become poorer and poorer, driving increasing numbers out of the labor market. Democrats and collectivist altruists will say that the deprivation of the productive is in the public interest.

It has become apparent that the US government will not allow the stock and real estate markets to fall. As well, it cannot afford to pay off its massive, ever-increasing debts. So it will depreciate the dollar.

The alternative to stock markets that are soft and retain value only because of government subsidy and dollar holdings that are vulnerable to hyper inflation is commodities. But there is no reason to trust the stability of commodity markets. The pegging system coupled with carry trade and hedge fund activity ensures support for the dollar when it weakens.

The forces for inflation and dollar (and international currency) depreciation are far more powerful than the forces for stability, for the debt is growing too quickly to ever be repaid; the Fed is creating a bubble in US Treasury debt; and the Fed has shown that it will not permit real estate or stock markets to fall. So in the long run, over thirty years, commodities will be better than dollars. But it will be a bumpy road.

Given the uncertainty, firms cannot think long term in the new world socialist order and so sustainable economic growth is out of the question for the foreseeable future. Likewise, the growth absorbing power of government will ensure a declining economy. Innovation in the US once powered the world's advancement, but unless the Asian nations more aggressively permit entrepreneurship, there is no longer a growth engine. It certainly is not the United Socialist States of America. As George Soros pushes for an American society ever more closed and totalitarian, opportunities for shorting and going long on commodities and currency become greater.

Do not expect the highs of the early 2000s to be significantly surpassed in real dollars. But there will be plenty of inflation to confuse everyone.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.