Guest Post from Mike Gleason with Money Metals Exchange
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Mike Gleason: It is my great privilege now to be joined by James Rickards. Mr. Rickards is Editor of Strategic Intelligence, a monthly newsletter and Director of the James Rickards Project, an inquiry into the complex dynamics of geopolitics and global capital. He’s also the author of several bestselling books including The Death of Money, Currency Wars, The New Case for Gold and The Road to Ruin. In addition to his achievements as a writer and author, Jim is also a portfolio manager, lawyer and renowned economic commentator, having been interviewed by CNBC, the BBC, Bloomberg, Fox News and CNN, just to name a few. And we’re happy to have him back on the Money Metals Podcast.
Jim, thanks for coming on with us again today. We really appreciate your time as always and, how are you?
Jim Rickards: I’m doing great Mike, great to be with you. Thank you.
Mike Gleason: Well Jim, I figure a good place to start here is with one of your most recent books. We want to get your take on the state of the world economy. In your book titled The Road to Ruin: The Global Elites’ Secret Plan for the Next Financial Crisis, you make some very interesting comments. Now while the financial media is talking about booming stock markets and accelerating GDP growth, you aren’t quite as optimistic. We both know that most of the growth we’ve seen in recent years has been built with huge amounts of central bank stimulus and the fundamental problems that drove the last financial crisis have hardly been resolved. In fact, you think the next financial catastrophe isn’t too far away and many among the elite are getting ready for it. If you can, briefly lay out some of what you’ve been seeing.
Jim Rickards: Sure Mike, you touched on two different threads. One is, let’s call it the short to intermediate term, which is how’s the economy doing? What would the forecast be for the year ahead? What do I think about stocks and so forth? That’s one part of the analysis, but the other one is a little bigger and a little deeper, which is what about another major financial crisis, a liquidity crisis, global financial panic and what would the response function be to that.
Let me separate. They’re related because, I mean the point I always make is that there’s a difference between a business cycle recession and a financial panic. They’re two different things. They can go together, but they don’t have to. For example, October 29, 1987, the Stock Market fell 22% in one day. In today’s Dow terms that would be the equivalent of 5,000 Dow points, so we’re at 26,000 or whatever, as we speak, a 22% drop would take it down about 5,000 points. You and I both know that if the Dow Jones fell 500 points that would be all anybody would hear about or talk about. Well, imagine 5,000 points. Well, that actually happened in percentage terms in October 1987. So, that’s a financial panic, but there was no recession. The economy was fine and we pulled out of that in a couple of days. Actually, after the panic, it wasn’t such a bad time to buy and stocks rallied back. Then, for example in 1990, you had a normal business cycle recession. Unemployment went up. There were some defaults and all that, but there was no financial panic.
In 2008, you had both. You had a recession that began in 2007 and lasted until 2009 and you had a financial panic that reached a peak in September-October 2008 with Lehman and AIG, so they’re separate things. They can run together. Let’s separate them and talk about the business cycle. I’m not as optimistic on the economy right now. I know there’s a lot of hoopla. We just had the big Trump Tax Bill and the Stock Market’s reaching all-time highs. I mean, I read the tape. I get all that, but there are a lot headwinds in this economy. There’s good evidence that the Fed is over-tightening.
Remember the Fed is doing two things at once that they’ve never done before. They’re raising rates. I mean, they’ve done that many times, but they’re raising rates, but at the same time, they’re reducing their balance sheet. This is the opposite of QE. I’m sure a lot of listeners are familiar with QE, Quantitative Easing, which is money printing. That’s all it is. And they do it by buying bonds. Then when they pay for the bonds from the dealers, they do it with money that comes out of thin air. That’s how they expand the money supply. Well, they did that starting in 2008 all the way through until 2013, and then they tapered it off and the taper was over by the end of 2014, but they were still buying bonds. So, that was six years of bond buying. They expanded their balance sheet from $800 billion to $4.4 trillion.
Well, now they’re putting that in reverse. They grabbed the gear and they shifted it into reverse and they’re actually not dumping bonds. They’re not going to sell a single bond, but what happens is, when bonds mature, the Treasury just sends you the money, so if you bought a five-year bond five years ago and it matures today, the Treasury just sends you the money. Well, when you send money to the Fed, the money disappears. It’s the opposite of money printing. So, the Feds are actually destroying money, actually reducing the money supply, so they’re raising rates and destroying money at the same time. It’s a double whammy of tightening and I don’t believe the U.S. economy’s nearly as strong as the Fed believes. They rely on what’s called the “Phillips Curve,” which says unemployment’s low, that’s a constraint and wages are going to go up and inflation is right around the corner. And that’s part of the reason they’re tightening, but there are a lot of flaws in that theory.
First of all, the basic Phillips Curve theory is junk. It’s just not true. We saw that in the late ’70s when we had sky high unemployment and sky-high inflation at the same time. We’ve also seen it recently when we’ve had low unemployment and disinflation at the same time. So, you start by saying the Phillips Curve is junk, but even if you thought there was something to it, there’s so many problems with it in terms of labor force participation demographics, debt deleveraging, technology, et cetera, that it just doesn’t apply under the current circumstances.
So, the Feds are tightening for the wrong reason. They are tightening at the wrong time and there’s a lot of evidence that a lot of the growth in the fourth quarter was consumption driven, but that was debt driven. People charged up their credit cards, consumer debt spiked. The savings rate is near a very long-term low. It doesn’t look sustainable, so lots of reasons to think that the Fed’s going to overdo it, get it wrong, tighten, throw the economy either into a recession or very low growth with disinflation, so I’m just not buying the inflation “happy days are here again” story.
There’s also good reason to believe that the Tax Bill will not be as stimulative as people expect. All that’s truly going on is the running up the deficit by another trillion dollars and we’re already way into the danger zone and then that’s actually a drag on growth. So, there’s a good reason to think the economy is going to slow, that by itself would take the wind out of the Stock Market and close it at the potentially very serious Stock Market correction, at least 10%, maybe as much as 20%. We’re talking about going down as I say 5,000 or 6,000 points on the Dow before the end of the year, so that’s one scenario.
The scenario I talk about in my book really involves a financial panic. Now, the thing there is that these are not that rare. I already mentioned the one, really two-day panic in 1987, but in 1994 you had the Mexico Tequila Crisis. In 1997, you had the Asian Peninsula Crisis. In 1998, you had the Russia Long-Term Capital Management Crisis. In 2000, you had the dot.com meltdown. In 2007, the mortgage meltdown. In 2008, the financial panic. These things happen every five, six, seven years, not like clockwork, but that’s a typical tempo for these kinds of meltdowns and it’s been nine years since the last one. So, nobody should be surprised if it happens tomorrow. I’m not predicting it will happen tomorrow. I’m just saying nobody should be surprised if it does, whether it’s tomorrow, or next month or next year, or even a year and a half from now, don’t think for one minute that we’re living in a world free of financial panics.
By the way, these two things could happen together. You could have a slowdown that leads to a financial crisis, a replay of 2008. But here’s the difference and this is really the point of your question, Mike. In 1998, we had a financial panic and Wall Street got together and bailed out the Hedge Fund Long Term Capital Management. In 2008, we had a financial panic and the Central Banks got together and bailed out Wall Street, so each bailout gets bigger than the one before it. In the next panic, whether it’s this year or next year, who’s going to bail out the Central Banks. In other words, each panic’s bigger than the one before. Each response is bigger than the one before going down this chronological sequence.
The next one is going to be the biggest of all. It’s going to be bigger than the Central Banks and you’re only going to have one place to turn. If you had to get global liquidity right now, the Fed’s at that one and half percent in terms of the target Fed funds rate, so they most they could cut is one and a half percent to get back to zero. There’s good evidence that to get the U.S. economy out of a recession, you have to cut interest rates three or four percent. Well, how can you cut them three percent when you’re only at one and a quarter, one and a half percent. Well, the answer is you can’t, so then what’d you do? Well, then you go to QE, but they already did that.
They haven’t unwound the QE. They started to and that’s what I mentioned, but they haven’t unwound it. The balance sheet is still around four trillion dollars, so what’d going to go to eight trillion, twelve trillion? I mean, some people would say, “Yeah, what’s the problem.” Those are the modern, monetary theorists, Stephanie Calvin, Paul McCulley, Warren Mosler. There’re a bunch of them that think that there’s no limit in the amount of money the Fed can print, but there is a limit. It’s not a legal limit. Legally the Fed could do it, but there’s a psychological limit. There’s an invisible competence boundary that you cross when people just say “You know what, I’m out of here. Get me out of dollars. Get me into gold, silver, fine art, land. Whatever. Crypto-currencies, if you like. Whatever it might be but get me into something other than dollars because I’ve lost confidence in the dollar.” And we’ve seen that before also.
So, putting that all together, in the next financial panic and nobody should be surprised if it happens tomorrow, it’s going to be bigger than the Central Banks. They’re going to have to turn to the IMF for liquidity. The IMF has a printing press also, that’s the International Monetary Fund. They can print this world money called the Special Drawing Right of the SDR, so yeah, they can pull trillions of SDRs worth trillions of dollars. One SDR is worth about $1.50. They could pull trillions of SDRs out of thin air and pass them around, but here’s the point and I spoke to Tim Geithner about this, former Secretary of the Treasury. It takes time.
The last time they did this … and by the way, it went completely unnoticed, the panic was in ’08 and in August and September of 2009, the IMF did issue SDRs to help with global liquidity, but that was almost a year after the panic. The point is, the IMF is slow and clunky. It’s not the fire department. I mean, they might be like a construction crew that can come in and put in a new foundation, but they’re not the fire department that can help you when the building’s burning down.
So, what they’re going to have to do is what I call Ice 9. They’re going to have to freeze the system. First, starting with money market funds, then bank accounts, then stock exchanges, they might reprogram the ATMs to let you have $300 a day for gas and groceries. They’ll say, “well, why do you need more than $300 a day to get some food and gas in your car? Why do you need more than that? We can’t let you take all your money out of the bank. We can’t let you take your money out of the money market funds. We can let you sell your stocks.” And I describe all this in the book in detail with a lot of endnotes. You don’t have to read the endnotes unless you want to, but this is all documented. It’s all publicly available. It’s not some science fiction scenario. This plan is actually in place and I describe how.
Just to wrap up, I expect a weaker economy than the mainstream in 2018. Perhaps, a stock market crashing based on that alone. I also expect another financial panic. It’s impossible to say when, but eight years on, nine years on, I would say sooner than later. And this response function is going to be something that people haven’t seen since the 1930s.
Mike Gleason: Now, let’s talk specifically about gold, safe haven assets, including metals are way of vogue these days, at least among the mainstream public. Now, most investors likely will be flatfooted and probably won’t see the next financial crisis coming just like the one in 2008, until it’s too late. Confidence in the U.S. dollar and the financial system is hard to shake without plenty of good evidence that both are in trouble. We’re even seeing some gold bugs beginning to lose faith. They know that there is plenty of risk out there that you just laid out, but they are growing tired of watching just about everything outperform precious metals. What are you saying these days to people who might be thinking about selling gold and say, joining the party in the stock markets?
Jim Rickards: Well, let me spend some time on that, but just to say a kind word about the people you’re describing. Look, gold just finished a four-year plus bear market. It lasted from August 2011 to December 2015. In that bear market, gold went down about 45% peak to trough, and if you use the about $240 price from 1999 and just scale that up to $1,900 and then back down again to $1,050, which is where it was in December 2015, that was a 50% retracement. And by the way, my friend Jim Rogers, one of the greatest commodities traders in history, co-founder of the Quantum Fund with George Soros, a legendary commodities trader, he said to me … and he has a lot of gold. He expects gold to go much higher, as do I, but he said, Jim, “Nothing goes from here to there.” Meaning, he’s reaching way up to the sky up into outer space. He says, “Nothing goes from here to there without a 50% retracement along the way.”
And I think that was very good advice. Well, okay, but we’ve had the 50% retracement. That’s behind us. We’re in a new bull market now. There was a bull market from August 1971 to January 1980 and gold went up over 2,000%. From January 1980 to August 1999, there was a very long, 20-year grind it down bear market, and gold went down about 70%. Then you had a new bull market that lasted from August 1999 to August 2011 and in that 12-year bull market, gold went up over 700%. Then you had another bear market from August 2011 to December 2015 and as I said, gold went down 45%. We’re in a new bull market. It started in December 2015.
Now, here are the facts, gold goes up and down. Lead’s volatile and we know there’s manipulation. People get discouraged and they buy gold and then some hedge fund or China comes along in the gold futures market and slams the price down. “Oh, gee, why did I buy it?” I get all that. I understand the discouragement. I understand how difficult it is to watch stocks go up and Bitcoin go up and I’m sitting here with gold and it just seems to be going sideways, but it’s not true. In 2016, gold went up over 8%. In 2017, gold went up over 13%. So far in 2018, gold is up 3%. You take the entire period from the bottom of the last bear market to the beginning of the bull market, December 2015 to today, gold is up over 25%. It’s been one of the best performing asset classes of all the major asset classes. It’s not crazy like Bitcoin, but Bitcoin’s collapsing, which I also predicted some time ago.
So, the truth of the matter is 2016-2017 are the first back-to-back years of gold gaining since 2011-2012, although at that point, it was already off the top. It’s more a statistical anomaly that gold went up in the year 2011. Yeah, it did, but it was way down, way off the peak in September of that year. But now we have two back-to-back years of gold going up very significantly. We’re in year three, 2018, is year three of this bull market. It’s off to a very nice start. The fundamentals are good. Their technicals are good. The supply and demand situation is good. We haven’t even gotten into other potential catalysts, including War with North Korea, loss of confidence in the dollar, financial panic. Even a normal business cycle recession or if inflation gets out of control, there’s just a whole list of things that are going to drive gold higher.
And the last point I want to make, Mike, is that gold is doing this performance against headwinds. The Fed has been raising rates. When you raise nominal rates and you tighten real rates, that’s normally a very difficult environment for gold and yet, gold’s going up anyway. Can you imagine what’s going to happen when the Fed has to back off… because right now, as I said, they’re over-tightening. When this economy slows, and that data starts rolling in later in the first quarter and early second quarter of 2018, the Fed’s going to do what they call “pause.” It doesn’t mean they’re going cut rates. That’s somewhere down the road, but they pause, which means that they …
Right now, they’re like clockwork. They’re going to raise every March, June, September, December – 25 basis points each time, boom, boom, boom, boom like clockwork. But, every now and then they don’t. They skip. They pause. Well, if your expectation is they’re going to raise and then they don’t, they pause, that’s a form of ease. It’s ease relative to expectations. That’s what’s going to happen later this year. All of a sudden, this headwind’s going to turn into a tailwind and gold’s going to get an even bigger boost. I see it going to $1,400 over the course of this year, perhaps higher. My long-term forecast for gold, of course, is $10,000 an ounce, but that’s … and I’m not backing away from that. That’s just simple math. That’s the implied noninflationary price of gold if you need to use gold to restore confidence in a monetary system in a financial panic or liquidity crisis where people have lost confidence. That’s not some made up number. That number is actually fairly easy to calculate, but you don’t go there overnight. You got to get to $2,000 and $5,000 before you get to $10,000.
I think right now, we’re in a new bull market. It’s going to run for years. We’ve got that momentum. We’re off the bottom, but people are always most discouraged at the bottom, right? Well, that’s the time you should buy. It’s just human nature. I’m not faulting anyone. I’m not criticizing anyone, it’s just human nature to say, “Oh man, I’m so beaten down. I’m so sick of this. I’m so tired of this.” Well, that’s usually the time to buy and guess what, it is.
Mike Gleason is a Director with Money Metals Exchange, a national precious metals dealer with over 50,000 customers. Gleason is a hard money advocate and a strong proponent of personal liberty, limited government and the Austrian School of Economics. A graduate of the University of Florida, Gleason has extensive experience in management, sales and logistics as well as precious metals investing. He also puts his longtime broadcasting background to good use, hosting a weekly precious metals podcast since 2011, a program listened to by tens of thousands each week.
Thanks to Mike Gleason with Money Metals Exchange
The Deviant Investor