Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Faber: Zimbabwe's Mugabe is Ben Bernanke's Mentor

By Andrew Mellon

Today the leading Austrian economic think tank, the Ludwig von Mises Institute held a conference at the University Club in Manhattan in which Marc Faber, famed contrarian investor and publisher of the “Gloom, Boom and Doom Report” gave his perspective on the financial crisis and his outlook for the future.

Below are his main points and entertaining quotes:
  • Central banks will never tighten monetary policy again, merely print, print, print
  • Bubbles used to be concentrated in 1 sector or region in the 19th century, but off of the gold standard this concentration has ended
  • “The lifetime achievement of Greenspan and Bernanke is really that they created a bubble in everything…everywhere.”
  • “Central banks love to see asset prices go up,” and their policy reflects their desperation to perpetuate this
  • US housing bubble that Greenspan could not spot (even though he has recently spotted bubbles in Asia) stands in stark contrast to that of Hong Kong in 1997, where prices fell by 70%, yet none of the major developers went bankrupt; this was a result of a system not built on excessive debt like that of the US
  • “You have to ask what they were smoking at the Federal Reserve,” during the housing bubble, as prices were increasing by 18% annually when interest rates started to steadily rise in 2004
  • Over the last couple of years, when the gross increase in public debt has exceeded the gross decrease in private debt, markets have risen, whereas when private debt growth has outpaced public debt growth, markets have tanked
  • The next 3-5 years will be highly volatile

  • Americans must re-think what constitutes a safe asset; in a “traditional” period, one would generally rank from most to least safe assets: cash, Treasuries, corporate bonds, equities, commodities
  • However, last year Economist Gregory Mankiw articulated the position which according to Faber essentially echoes that of Fed #2 Janet Yellen and pervades much of the Fed generally, that “The problem is that people are saving money instead of spending, and we have to get the bastards spending to keep the economy going,” so the key is to inflate the money supply at something like 6% per annum
  • Thus, Faber says “As far as I’m concerned, the Federal Reserve will keep interest rates at 0, precisely 0…in real terms”
  • As such, cash and longterm bonds will be a bad place to hold one’s money; equities are an avenue to preserve wealth (but this is a risky proposition, given the effects of rampant currency depreciation); precious metals are a sound place for wealth preservation
  • As for the US being the most important economy for the world, there is a sea change going on right now; recently car sales in emerging economies (such as Brazil, China) are outpacing those of the US, Europe and Japan; oil consumption in emerging markets is increasing, while in the developed world it is contracting; the whole world does not depend on American consumption anymore – 60% of total exports are now going to the emerging world when one includes E. Europe; the US is still a large economy but it is not growing, while the growth in the emerging world is and will continue to be strong
  • “People still think of emerging market economies as poor cousins, but because 80% of the world’s people are here, in aggregate the consumption is huge.”; these are not saturated markets and they are growing rapidly
  • “Everybody should have 50% of their money in the emerging world, outside the West.”; people should also keep the custody of their assets overseas
  • Contrary to what the talking heads are saying, markets are not out of control, central banks are out of control printing money.
Read the rest here.


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