Imagine a day when you go to buy a quart of milk, ask the price, and the cashier says, “that’ll be a tenth ounce silver.” As the US dollar’s decline accelerates, several efforts around the country are trying to make this vision a reality.
Historically, paying for items in silver or gold was actually quite common. We happen to live in an unusual time and place where generations have grown up trading exclusively in paper. While my parents still used dimes made of silver, we have now gone several decades with no precious metals in any of our official coinage. But this system of money by government fiat is unsustainable.
While the practice of bartering precious metals directly for goods and services has continued on a small-scale over the last few decades, the 2000s saw the beginning of organized efforts to revive gold and silver as money.
by John Browne, Senior Market Strategist at Euro Pacific Capital
Despite loud huzzahs from a variety of boosters who proclaimed that Chairman Bernanke spoke with gravitas and wisdom at the first ever Federal Reserve press conference, the wider investing public clearly saw the performance as unconvincing. During and immediately after the proceedings the prices of gold and silver rose strongly to new highs as the U.S. dollar plummeted. The affair seemed to solidify the understanding that Bernanke and his cohorts have no intention whatsoever to reverse the current trend of inflation and a weakening dollar.
With all the preliminaries swept away, it appears that the great dollar slide that we have long feared will not be interrupted. In the last year alone, the dollar has fallen 25 per cent against the Swiss Franc, (the gold standard of fiat currencies) – with one quarter of that decline coming since the beginning of April alone. Against gold itself (the gold standard of all forms of money), the decline has been even worse, 31 per cent so far this year, and 8 per cent this month.
Ominously, the dollar index (the broadest measure of dollar strength) is just a percentage point or two above the all time lows that it set before the financial panic of 2008 sent spooked investors into the apparent safety of America’s deep and liquid Treasury market. It appears that spell has now been fully broken.
In the world of precious metals, silver spends a lot of time in the shadow of its big brother gold.
Gold, with its high price-to-weight and distinctive yellow tint, has always occupied a special place in the human psyche. To many people across many ages, gold is simply the ultimate form of money – and, as a long-term, stable store of value for one’s personal wealth, I agree it’s hard to beat.
However, rare circumstances are aligning today that I believe will make silver the true champion of this bull run.
WHAT’S DRIVING PRECIOUS METALS?
Gold and silver are both benefitting from a perfect storm in the sector.
Dollar devaluation means that much of the ‘gains’ we see are really just losses by people holding dollars. In other words, if your dollars lose 50% of their value, it’s going to take twice as many of them to buy the same ounce of gold.
But the rally is based on more than simple inflation. Precious metals are regaining their role as the ultimate reserve asset. That means many, many more people are buying and holding these metals than at any time in the last thirty years.
by Michael Pento, Senior Economist at Euro Pacific Capital (www.europac.net).
In current economic analysis, inflation is largely in the eye of the beholder, and depending on how you choose to look, very different stories emerge. In the U.S., food and beverages count for just 16.4% of the CPI calculation. The Chinese apparently believe that the basic necessities of life should count for more, assigning a 33% weight to the nutritional components. These differences in measurement are partially responsible for the divergent inflation climate in both countries, and make most people believe that inflation is fickle and localized. From my perspective, inflation is a global wave that will ultimately swamp all shores.
As the world’s economic leaders gather in Davos Switzerland, much of the discussion has been focused on a report jointly issued by the Global Economic Forum and McKinsey & Co. which forecasts a $100 trillion increase in global debt in the coming decade. The authors of the report argue that such an increase will be needed to maintain global economic health. Strangely, while acknowledging how the massive increase in credit caused the global financial crisis of 2008, the report’s authors admit no fear of even greater leverage today. They conclude: “Credit is the lifeblood of the economy, and much more of it will be needed to sustain the recovery and enable the developing world to achieve its growth potential.”
But the global credit stock has already doubled from $57 trillion in 2000 to $109 trillion in 2009, with disastrous consequences. The WEF report wouldn’t be so alarming if it wasn’t emanating from a gathering of global central bankers, business leaders and politicians. These are, unfortunately, the folks with all the power to turn these ideas into reality.
CSPAN’s show, Newsmakers, aired this weekend. Their guest was Congressman Ron Paul. Most of the questions revolved around economics and the Federal Reserve. It’s refreshing when Dr. Paul is given the proper amount of time to explain his positions without the interruptions that always occur on the mainstream media outlets.
Ron Paul appeared on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” this morning to discuss true free markets. Paul has previously called inflation a “hidden tax”. Now he’s calling it taxation without representation.
When asked about recent Economic Nobel Prize winner, Paul Krugman’s Keynesian worldview. Paul shakes his head, laughs, and half-jokes that he prays every night that Krugman’s ideas would just disappear.
by Neeraj Chaudhary, Investment Consultant, Euro Pacific Capital
It’s starting to look like Chinese labor has had enough. Led by workers at the Honda Motors plant in Zhangshan, and perhaps spurred by the suicides of ten workers this year at Foxconn Technology (a supplier to high technology companies such as Apple, Dell, and Hewlett-Packard), Chinese factory workers and other laborers across the country are going on strike. In so doing, these workers are defying the orders of their government-run unions and risking dismissal by their employers. I believe that this monumental step in the development of China’s economy will result in a positive outcome. From an international perspective, these strikes may do more than improve working conditions in Chinese factories; they may, in fact, force a currency reform (long-delayed by the Chinese Communist Party) that will have serious implications for the global economy.
Since at least 2001, when China acceded to the World Trade Organization and accelerated its dramatic export-led growth, American businesses and workers have complained bitterly that Chinese manufacturers enjoy an unfair advantage by virtue of the PRC’s currency manipulation. The argument – which Americans also alleged against the Japanese in the 1970s and ’80s – is that by inflating its currency, the government of China is deliberately keeping the prices of its goods low, thereby taking market share from US businesses and jobs from US workers.
The Economic Policy Institute recently estimated that the United States lost 2.4 million jobs since 2001 to China alone. Economist Peter Morici estimated that the US economy would likely be $1 trillion larger than it is now were it not for our trade deficits with China.
Ron Paul, in his Texas Straight Talk column, discusses the failure of Keynesianism and why the founding fathers insisted on only gold as silver as currency:
This past week several emerging and ongoing crises took attention away from the ongoing sovereign debt problems in Greece. The bailouts are merely kicking the can down the road and making things worse for taxpaying citizens, here and abroad. Greece is unfortunately not unique in its irresponsible spending habits. Greek-style debt explosions are quickly spreading to other nations one by one, and yes, the United States is one of the dominoes on down the line.
Time and again it has been proven that the Keynesian system of big government and fiat paper money are abject failures in the long run. However, the nature of government is to ignore reality when there is an avenue that allows growth in power and control. Thus, most politicians and economists will ignore the long-term damage of Keynesianism in the early stage of a bubble when there is the illusion of prosperity, suggesting that the basic laws of economics had been repealed. In fact, one way to tell if a bubble is about to burst is if economists start talking about how the government and the Central Bank have repealed the business cycle.
The truth is the laws of economics are constant and real, no matter how inconvenient they might be to politicians and bankers. This reality is setting in and the bills are coming due. In the mean time, countries that have no money have bailed out other countries that have no money, except for the phony money created by politicians, bureaucrats, and their partners-in-crime at the central banks. This may be preventing big well-connected banks from having to take on massive losses, but it is all at the expense of the taxpaying citizen.
by Neeraj Chaudhary, Investment Consultant, Euro Pacific Capital
With the mainstream media focusing on the country’s leveling unemployment rate, improving retail sales, and nascent housing recovery, one might think that the US government has successfully navigated the economy through recession and growth has returned. But I will argue that a look under the proverbial hood reveals a very different picture. I believe the data shows that the US economy is badly damaged, and a modern-day depression has begun. In fact, just as World War I was originally called The Great War (and was retroactively renamed after World War II), Peter Schiff has said that one day the world will refer to the 1929-41 era as Great Depression I, and the current period as Great Depression II.
For starters, look at unemployment. During Great Depression I, unemployment broke 25%. If government statistics are taken at face value, the current unemployment rate is 9.9%, but a closer look reveals that the broadest measure of unemployment is currently at 20% – and rising. So, today’s numbers are in the same ballpark as the ’30s even though the federal government is using unprecedented measures to keep the economy afloat. Remember, in Great Depression I, FDR never ran a deficit nearly as large as President Obama’s. Moreover, the Federal Reserve of the 1930s still had a gold standard with which to contend, while today’s Fed has increased the monetary base with impunity. Yet even with all that intervention, unemployment figures still indicate that we have entered depression territory.
What is demoralizing to an unemployed person is not simply being let go, it is being unable to find a new job for an extended period of time. And this is where Great Depression II really rears its ugly head. According to the US federal government’s own data, the median duration of unemployment is now over five months – and rising. This is the highest it’s been since the BLS started compiling this statistic in 1965. As workers start to go this long without jobs, they eat into their savings. Eventually – and especially in a country with a savings rate as low as ours and debt as high as ours – they run out of cushion and hit the street. Formerly middle-class people have to make decisions never thought possible: do I eat in a shelter or go hungry in my home?