Saturday, August 8, 2015

Distressed Investing

By Jared Dillian 

When most people think of distressed investing, they think of buying CCC-rated bonds at 20 or 30 cents on the dollar, then maybe sitting in bankruptcy court to divvy up the capital structure, making healthy risk-adjusted returns in the end. You just need to hire a few lawyers.

Distressed investors are a different breed of cat. It’s one of those countercyclical businesses, like repo men, who do well when everyone else is getting hammered.

I remember distressed guys killing it in 2002. Most people remember the dot-com bust, but there was a nasty credit crunch that went along with it. Nasty. High yield/distressed investments had some amazing years in 2003 and 2004. Convertible bonds in particular.

Funny thing about distressed investors is that they like to stay within their comfort zone. In my experience, they’re not keen on commodities. Like coal mining, which this week saw one bankruptcy filing and another one in the works. Distressed guys hate commodities because they are just timing the earnings cycle – which is the same as market timing.  Distressed guys want less volatile earnings so their projections aren’t totally dependent on commodity prices rising.

Coal is distressed, all right. But you don’t see the distressed guys getting involved. Even they are too scared!


Here’s a somewhat controversial statement: I think most commodities are distressed. Coal is definitely distressed. So is iron ore. Copper, too. And yes, even gold. Corn and beans have had a nice little run, but metals and energy in particular have been a complete horrorshow.

So I think it’s time to start looking at commodities as a distressed asset class. The assumption is that fair value of these commodities/producers is well above current market prices, and current market prices are wrong because of, well, a lot of things. In particular, a self-reinforcing process where selling begets more selling.

If you’re a distressed investor and you’re buying something at a deep discount, if you have a long enough time horizon, you’ll be vindicated eventually. Sometimes, it takes a long time. Sometimes, not very long at all. It’s pretty great when it works.

I have never had much aptitude for it. But I am trying it now.

Gold: A Special Case


Gold is a little different.

How do you value gold? It has no cash flows. An industrial commodity like copper is pretty easy to value. With gold, you’re trying to gauge investment demand (at the retail or sovereign level), which is hard, against mining production, which is a little easier.

But what an ounce of gold is worth is entirely subjective. More subjective than copper or cocoa or coffee. For example, if everyone started using bitcoin, there would be little to no demand for gold. (For the record, I think cryptocurrencies indeed have had an impact on gold demand.)

Basically, people want gold when they think their government no longer cares about the purchasing power of their currency. In our case, that was when the Fed was conducting quantitative easing, known colloquially as printing money.

But that’s not really what people were nervous about. Think about it. The Fed was printing money for monetary policy reasons. They were trying to effect monetary policy with interest rates at the zero bound. That’s different from printing money to buy government bonds because nobody else wants to. That’s called debt monetization.

When budget deficits get sufficiently large, people worry about things like failed bond auctions, that the Fed will have to step in and be the buyer of last resort. This is the nightmare scenario described in Greenspan’s Gold and Economic Freedom essay.

We had $1.8 trillion deficits not that long ago. The bond auctions were a little scary. I thought debt monetization was a possibility.

The deficit is lower today, mostly because of higher taxes, more aggressive revenue collection, and economic growth. As you can see, the price of gold has corresponded almost perfectly with the budget deficit.


With a small deficit today, nobody cares about gold.

Is the deficit going higher or lower in the future? Higher. Ding-ding-ding, we have a winner. One of the reasons I’m happy owning gold as a part of my portfolio.

Paper vs. Things


Asset allocation gets a lot easier when you figure out that the financial markets are a tug-of-war between paper and things. Sometimes, like now, financial assets (stocks and bonds) outperform. Stocks are overpriced, and bonds are way overpriced. Other times, like 10 years ago, commodities outperformed.

It has to do with the degree of confidence people have in… other people. A bond is a promise to repay. A stock is a promise to pay dividends, or that there will be something left over at the end. A dollar is a promise that it’s worth something, namely, a divisible part of the sum total of the productive abilities of all the people in the country.

These are pieces of paper. Paper promises. When confidence in promises is high, nobody needs gold, coal, or copper. When confidence in promises is low, time to build that underground bunker in the backyard. Confidence in promises is currently at all-time highs. Without making a positive statement either way, I’d say that only in the year 2000 were commodities more undervalued than they are right now.

Sidebar: it is tempting to treat commodities as an asset class, but you should try not to. They are idiosyncratic, and for most commodities, the cost of carry is high enough that it’s impractical to hold them for long periods of time.

Commodity related equities are a different story.

Disclaimer


I’m kind of biased on this, and I always think commodities are undervalued because I’m a deeply suspicious person and I don’t believe promises. I’ve owned gold and silver for years (plus GLD and SLV, and GDX and SIL), and if prices get low enough, I will add to those positions.

Keep in mind that I worked for the government under the Clinton administration. Clinton’s mantra to government employees was, “Do more with less.” The man did a lot to restrain the growth of government—and he was a Democrat!


People resented him for it. They wanted their fancy toys and their boondoggles. Public servants have been much happier under Bush and Obama. Not coincidentally, gold bottomed in 2000, at the end of Clinton’s presidency, and has basically been going up since.

So here is the secret sauce: You want to know when commodities are going up?
Watch the deficit. If someone dreams up free college for everyone, buy commodities with veins popping out of your neck.
Jared Dillian
Jared Dillian

If you enjoyed Jared's article, you can sign up for The 10th Man, a free weekly letter, at mauldineconomics.com. Follow Jared on Twitter @dailydirtnap


The article The 10th Man: Distressed Investing was originally published at mauldineconomics.com.



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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Biggest Trade Ever....No Exaggeration

By Jared Dillian


I won’t keep you in suspense. The biggest trade ever is in demographics. In particular, our rapidly increasing life expectancy.

Quick story. My Coast Guard friends are retiring now. You get to retire after 20 years of service, but some of them have been taking advantage of early retirement and are leaving the service as young as age 40.
Oh my God, what a deal: At age 40, you can bring home about $50K a year and then start a whole new career on the side!

In the old days, you could offer that deal because military folks would die at 47. Now they will live to 100.
Paying out benefits for 60 years to retired military personnel doesn’t sound like a great deal for the taxpayer.
Of course, the military pensions are just the tip of the iceberg. To receive Social Security, you can retire at age 62 (or 67 for full benefits). Again, that’s fine when most people die before 62. The blended life expectancy (for both men and women) is almost 79 years and trending higher.


Or my favorite chart on life expectancy ever, also a rebuttal to those who don’t like capitalism.


If you pay attention to Silicon Valley stuff, you know that Google and Ray Kurzweil and some other folks are working on projects that will allow us to live to 150 or even beyond. That would involve doing a couple of things, first
  1. Curing cancer
  2. Curing heart disease
  3. Curing Alzheimer’s disease
You do these three things, it increases life expectancy by another 10 years or more. And we are actually doing those things!

Once you have a cure for all known diseases (attainable in my lifetime), then you have a different problem. Cells get old and die. The Silicon Valley folks are working on that too. Funny, if you don’t smoke, eat right, and get a little exercise, you will pretty much live to 80, no matter what. What happens beyond that is up to genetics, which we will solve one day. So what will the world look like if people live to 100, 150, or more?

It Looks Like Greece


Greece’s retirement age (to receive benefits) used to be 55 years. Again: retiring at 55, what a deal! I would only have 14 more years to go. People are pretty healthy at 55 (though maybe not the Greeks—they have the highest rate of tobacco use in the developed world).

So if people live way longer than the retirement age, the Social Security system goes kablooey. It just does. And yet people resist all attempts to reform it. We know Social Security is in trouble. George W. Bush tried to tackle it. For all his faults, it was the right thing to do. But he got laughed at.

The first thing we will do is to means-test the benefits, which will just make it more progressive but won’t solve the actual problem. You need to push back the retirement age, like, to 80.

But wait a minute. There aren’t even enough jobs for people to work until age 80.

I know…..

The World Was a Lot Simpler When People Just Died When They Were Supposed To


We’re going to look back at the 1940s-2000s as an exceptional period in economic history—with high, virtually straight line, uninterrupted economic growth. We had debt problems before, but biology has made them intractable.

In fact, the whole profession of economics is based on the very idea that there is population growth and inflation. What happens if birth rates decline? They are. Population growth rates will peak very soon. (By the way, the old Malthusian idea of overpopulation is being discredited.) What does the profession of economics look like with declining populations, people living longer, a dearth of unskilled jobs?

Is it nonstop deflation?

Many economists predict years of global deflation based on this premise. They say that you should buy bonds at any price. It’s a compelling argument. I think we’re going to learn a lot of really interesting things about money velocity in the coming years.

The Trade


Like tech in the ‘90s and energy in the 2000s, health care has been and will be the trade of the 2010s. You have the happy accident of huge technological advances and a government that seems willing, for the time being, to pay for it all. You hear some squawking about the cost of some treatments, but seriously, if you can cure cancer for $250,000, who is going to say no? Especially when that person’s chemotherapy, radiation, and hospital bills could easily exceed $2,000,000.

Lots of folks thought that Obamacare would tomahawk the health care sector. In classic market fashion, it has done the exact opposite. The insurers in particular have been the biggest beneficiary. You probably saw the recent Aetna/Humana merger.

People have tried for years to short biotech. Hasn’t been fun for them.

People have funny attitudes about death, you know. You ask someone if they’d like to live to 100, 120. “Noooooo,” they say. “I wouldn’t want to just sit in a chair.” Me, personally, I’d be okay with sitting in a chair. But the point of these treatments is that you can be active into your 100s. What then?

“I don’t know…” they say.

Are you kidding me? Forever young, my man. I’m 41, and I look a lot younger than my parents at the same age (sorry, Mom and Dad). I’m still DJing parties, for crying out loud.
Still don’t get the point of Snapchat, though.
Jared Dillian
Jared Dillian



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Saturday, June 13, 2015

Heard of the "10 Bagger" Trade?

The term '10 bagger' trade has been around for a while now but frankly it's never been a legitimate strategy for growing any size account.
 
That's what I thought until I saw it done consistently in the video below. There are 3-4 examples of '10 bagger' trades and detail on the HOW and WHY.

Check it out here:

 WATCH: 10 Bagger Trade Examples
  
  • In this video John Carter shows you: 
  • How he made that famous million dollar trade 
  • The #1 goal of every trader uses to consistently make money
  • The difference between trading for income and trading for growth
  • Why you don't want to put it all on one big trade because you can have consistent account growth 
  • The best vehicle you can use to grow an account fast
  • Examples of trades made this year you could have used to grow your account. 
 
 See you in the market,
 Hedge Fund University



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Sunday, May 31, 2015

Free Webinar: The 5 Step Checklist You Can Use to Find the Next Hedge Fund Darlings

Our trading partner John Carter of Simpler Stocks and Options is back this Tuesday evening June 2nd at 8 pm eastern with another one of his game changing free trading webinars and the trading methods he is covering this time are soooo simple.

You probably already know that John's webinars are wildly popular and always fill to capacity so reserve your asap and log in 10 minutes early to guarantee you don't lose your seat to someone on the waiting list.

Register Today

In this Free Webinar John Carter is going to share....

 *  How do you find these stocks in today's unpredictable market

 *  The fundamental criteria every stock should meet before you buy

 *  The technical analysis tool that I almost named my first child after

 *  Why the market conditions are perfect for this opportunity right now

     And much more....

Just Click Here to Reserve Your Seat Right Now

John sent out a great free video as a primer for this event.....Watch it Here

See you Tuesday night,
Ray @ The Hedge Fund University



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Saturday, April 18, 2015

An Insight into What Institutions Get When They Pay Top Dollar

Our trading partner and one of the industry’s most respected traders, Guy Cohen of the OVI Flag Trader, has released a new eBook that you must download and read. Guy is truly the experts’ expert when it comes to options. Over the last 13 years Guy has licensed this proprietary research to institutional clients including the NYSE, the ISE and several brokers.

Fortunately for you his obligations are fulfilled, and he’s now available for the first time in many years to show you his completely unique approach to options.

To celebrate his availability, I asked him to share some of his pearls of wisdom with my valued subscribers. I was just in time because Guy is also contracted to one of his publishers for a new edition of one of his bestsellers. So for starters, he’s written a brand new eBook showing you his uniquely simple approach that you can start implementing immediately. And we have the pleasure of sharing it with you today!

Grab Your Copy Here

In this publication you will learn how to.....

 *  Trade volatility around news events such as earnings (I love this section)
 *  Match the right options strategy with the appropriate chart setup (crucial for all options traders)
 *  Understand the Greeks in seconds (I kid you not...Guy’s approach to this is utterly unique)
 *  Trade for income with full illustrated examples (and I know there’s more to come) and much more.


If you’re interested in trading options at the highest level, from the industry’s leading expert, you will want to grab your copy NOW!

Guy has an uncanny ability to demystify and simplify options, which is why he’s a four time best selling author, and this is exactly what this new eBook will do for you and more.

See you in the markets putting this to work!
Ray @ The Hedge Fund University

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Crude Oil, Divorce, and Bear Markets

By Tony Sagami


Everybody loves a parade. I sure did when I was a child, but I’m paying attention to a very different type of parade today. The parade that I’m talking about is the long, long parade of businesses in the oil industry that are cutting jobs, laying off staff, and digging deep into economic survival mode. The list of companies chopping staff is long, but two more major players in the oil industry joined the parade last week.

Pink Slip #1: Houston-based Dresser-Rand isn’t a household name, but it is a very important part of the energy food chain. Dresser-Rand makes diesel engines and gas turbines that are used to drill for oil.
Dresser-Rand announced that it's laying off 8% of its 8,100 global workers. Many Wall Street experts were quick to point the blame at German industrial giant Siemens, which is in the process of buying Dresser-Rand for $7.6 billion.

Fat chance! Dresser-Rand was crystal clear that the cutbacks are in response to oil market conditions and not because of the merger with Siemens. The reason Dresser-Rand cited for the workforce reduction was not only lower oil prices but also the strength of the US dollar.

If you’re a regular reader of this column, you know that I believe the strengthening US dollar is the most important economic (and profit-killing) trend of 2015.

Pink Slip #2: Oil exploration company Apache Corporation reported its Q4 results last week, and they were awful. Apache lost a whopping $4.8 billion in the last 90 days of 2014.

No matter how you cut it, losing $4.8 billion in just three months is a monumental feat.

Of course, the “dramatic and almost unprecedented” drop in oil prices was responsible for the gigantic loss, but what really matters is the outlook going forward.


CEO John Christmann, to his credit, is taking tough steps to stem the financial bleeding, and that means:
  • Shutting down 70% of the company's drilling rigs.
  • Slashing it's 2015 capital budget to between $3.6 and $5.0 billion, down from $8.5 billion in 2014.
Those aren’t the actions of an industry insider who expects things to get better anytime soon.

I don’t mean to bag on Dresser-Rand and Apache, because they’re far from alone. Schlumberger, Baker Hughes, Halliburton, Weatherford International, and ConocoPhillips have also announced major layoffs. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that the only people getting laid off are blue-collar roughnecks. These layoffs affect everyone from secretaries to roughnecks to IT professionals.

In fact, according to staffing expert Swift Worldwide Resources, the number of energy jobs lost this year has climbed to well above 100,000 around the world.

From Global to Local


Sometimes it helps to put a local, personal perspective to the big-picture national news.

In my home state of northwest Montana, a huge number of men moved to North Dakota to work in the Bakken gas fields. Montana is a big state; it takes about 14 hours to drive from my corner of northwest Montana to the North Dakota oil fields, so that means those gas workers don’t make it back to their western Montana homes for months.

Moreover, the work was six, sometimes seven days a week and 12 hours a day, so once there, they couldn’t drive back home even if they wanted to. This meant long absences… and a good friend of mine who is a marriage counselor told me that the local divorce rate was spiking because of them.

Now the northwest Montana workers are returning home because the once-lucrative oil/gas jobs are disappearing. That news won’t make the New York Times, but it’s as real as it gets on Main Street USA.

From Local to National


Of course, the oil industry's woes aren’t a carefully guarded Wall Street secret. However, I do think that Wall Street—and perhaps even you—are underestimating the impact that low oil prices are going to have on economic growth and GDP numbers going forward.

Let me explain.

Industrial production for the month of January, which measures the output of US manufacturers, miners, and utilities, came in at a “seasonally adjusted" 0.2%.


A 0.2% gain isn’t much to shout about, but the real key was the impact the mining component (which includes oil/gas producers) had on the industrial-production calculation.

The mining industry is the second-largest component of industrial production, and its output fell by 1.0% in January. It was the biggest drag on the overall index.

However, the Federal Reserve Bank said, “The decline [was] more than accounted for by a substantial drop in the index for oil and gas well drilling and related support activities.”

How much did it account for? The oil and gas component fell by 10.0% in January.

Yup, a double-digit drop in output in just one month. Moreover, it was the fourth monthly decline in a row.
Last week’s weak GDP caught Wall Street off guard, but there are a lot more GDP disappointments to come as the energy industry layoffs percolate through the economy. Here’s how my Rational Bear readers are getting ready for GDP and corporate-earnings disappointments that are sure to rattle the markets.
Can your portfolio, as currently composed, handle a slowing economy and falling corporate profits? For most investors, the answer is “no.” Click above to find out how to protect yourself.

Tony Sagami

Tony Sagami

30 year market expert Tony Sagami leads the Yield Shark and Rational Bear advisories at Mauldin Economics. To learn more about Yield Shark and how it helps you maximize dividend income, click here.

To learn more about Rational Bear and how you can use it to benefit from falling stocks and sectors, click here.




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Monday, March 9, 2015

Going Vertical.....Our Next Online Event

There are again signs on the horizon that the next gold bull market may not be far off.

On February 11, Bloomberg reported, “Gold producers with cash on hand are on the hunt for cheap mining assets as rising prices drive shares higher.” $2.7 billion in deals have already been announced or completed year to date—compared to a total of $10.5 billion in 2014.

Private equity firms (the “smart money”) are circling the mining industry for great deals. GDX, the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF, currently has an aggregate price to book ratio of 1.06, while its little brother, the Market Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (GDXJ), trades at 76% of book value.

A stronger US dollar and falling oil prices are presenting two deflationary forces that are good for gold. The last two times oil dropped more than 50% in one year—1986 and 2008—gold rallied over 25% the following year.

Here's our video primer for this weeks event "Are you Going to Buy Low and Sell High this Time Around"

Investors are waking up to the fact that gold is rallying. Among the top 10 non leveraged ETFs are five gold miners ETFs. As of early February, investors had already poured $885.4 million in new assets into GDX—one of the best results among sector ETFs—and GDXJ attracted nearly $226 million.

No one can say for sure if this is the beginning of the next gold bull market. However, what is clear is that once the bull market does get started, the best of the best gold stocks will go vertical.

Successful gold producers may go up 150-200%. But the top ranked junior miners—the companies with quality management and great assets will take a moonshot. 500%, 1,000%, and more is not out of the question.

Casey Research’s free online event GOING VERTICAL aims to help investors understand where we are in the gold cycle, what to expect, and how to prepare their portfolio so they have a real shot at the jackpot when gold rises again.

Just Click Here to Reserve Your Spot

Eight industry stars discuss the most pressing issues of the day......

Pierre Lassonde, cofounder and chairman of Franco-Nevada
Rick Rule, founder and chairman of Sprott Global Resource Investments
Ron Netolitzky, chairman and director of Aben Resources
Doug Casey, chairman of Casey Research
Frank Holmes, CEO and CIO of U.S. Global Investors
Bob Quartermain, president, CEO, and director of Pretium Resources
and Casey Research precious metals experts Louis James and Jeff Clark.

Topics they will talk about in GOING VERTICAL include: 2015 outlook on the gold market; up, down, or sideways?—What to expect from gold’s next leg up, and how even stocks that have dropped 75% or more can come back with a vengeance—How to make money on junior miners even in the midst of a downturn—Which country may end up controlling the price of gold and what that means for investors—4 signs that a bear market is turning into a bull market—Which types of companies institutional investors will flock to first when gold goes up, and how to “front run” them—3 reasons why the best gold producers might double when the gold sector recovers—and much more.

Also, some of the experts talk about their favorite gold and silver companies, naming names—and Louis James reveals one of his favorite junior mining stock with vertical potential.

Register now to watch the event on Tuesday, March 10, 2:00 p.m. EDT. Even if you know you can’t make it at that time, register anyway that way you’ll get an email with a link to the video recording after the event and can watch it at your leisure.

Click Here to Learn More and Register

See you on Tuesday,
Hedge Fund University


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Sunday, March 8, 2015

What Top Hedge Fund Managers Really Think About Gold

By Jeff Clark, Senior Precious Metals Analyst

In the January BIG GOLD, I interviewed a plethora of experts on their views about gold for this year. The issue was so popular that we decided to republish a portion of the edition here.

Given their level of success, these fund managers are worth listening to: James Rickards, Chris Martenson, Steve Henningsen, Grant Williams, and Brent Johnson. Some questions are the same, while others were tailored to their particular expertise.

I hope you find their comments as insightful and useful as I did…...

James Rickards is chief global strategist at the West Shore Funds, 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 is the author of the New York Times best  seller The Death of Money and the national best seller Currency Wars.

He’s a portfolio manager, lawyer, and economist, and has held senior positions at Citibank, Long Term Capital Management (LTCM), and Caxton Associates. In 1998, he was the principal negotiator of the rescue of LTCM sponsored by the Federal Reserve. He’s an op-ed contributor to the Financial Times, Evening Standard, New York Times, and Washington Post, and has been interviewed by the BBC, CNN, NPR, C-SPAN, CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox, and the Wall Street Journal.

Jeff: Your book The Death of Money does not paint an optimistic economic picture. What will the average citizen experience if events play out as you expect?

James: The end result of current developments in the international monetary system will almost certainly be high inflation or borderline hyperinflation in US dollars, but this process will take a few years to play out, and we may experience mild deflation first. Right now, global markets want to deflate, yet central banks must achieve inflation in order to make sovereign debt loads sustainable. The result is an unstable balance between natural deflation and policy inflation. The more deflation persists in the form of lower prices for oil and other commodities, the more central banks must persist in monetary easing. Eventually inflation will prevail, but it will be through a volatile and unstable process.

Jeff: The gold price has been in a downtrend for three years. Is the case for gold over? If not, what do you think kick-starts a new bull market?

James: The case for gold is not over—in fact, things are just getting interesting. I seldom think about the “price” of gold. I think of gold as money and everything else as a price measured in gold units. When the dollar price of gold is said to be “down,” I think of gold as a constant store of value and that the dollar is simply “up” in the sense that it takes more units of gold to buy one dollar. This perspective is helpful, because gold can be “down” in dollars but “up” in yen at the same time, and often is when the yen is collapsing against the dollar.

The reason gold is thought to be “down” is because the dollar is strong. However, a strong dollar is deflationary at a time when the Fed’s declared policy is to get inflation. Therefore, I expect the Fed will not raise interest rates in 2015 due to US economic weakness and because they do not want a stronger dollar. When that realization sinks in, the dollar should move lower and gold higher when measured in dollar terms.

The looming global shortage of physical gold relative to demand also presages a short squeeze on the paper gold edifice of futures, options, unallocated forward sales, and ETFs. The new bull market will be kick started when markets realize the Fed cannot raise rates in 2015 and when the Fed finds it necessary to do more quantitative easing, probably in early 2016.

Jeff: Given what you see coming, how should the average retail investor position his or her portfolio?

James: Since risks are balanced between deflation and inflation in the short run, a sound portfolio should be prepared for both. Investors should have gold, silver, land, fine art, and other hard assets as an inflation hedge. They should have cash and US Treasury 10-year notes as a deflation hedge. They should also include some carefully selected alternatives, including global macro hedge funds and venture capital investments for alpha. Investors should avoid emerging markets, junk bonds, and tech stocks.

Steve Henningsen is chief investment strategist and partner at The Wealth Conservancy in Boulder, CO, a firm that specializes in wealth coaching, planning, and investment management for inheritors focused on preservation of capital. He is a lifetime student, traveler, fiduciary, and skeptic.

Jeff: The Fed and other central banks have kept the economy and markets propped up longer than some thought they could. How much longer do you envision them being able to do so? Or has the Fed really staved off crisis?

Steve: I do not believe we are under a new economic paradigm whereupon a nation can resolve its solvency problem via increasing debt. As to how long the central banks’ plate spinning can defer the consequences of the past 30-plus years of excess credit growth, I hesitate to answer, as I never thought they would get this far without breaking a plate. However incorrect my timing has been over the past two years, though, I am beginning to doubt that they can last another 12 months. Twice in the last few months the stock market plates began to wobble, only to have Fed performers step in to steady the display.

With the end of QE, a slowing global economy, a strengthening dollar, and the recent sharp drop in oil prices, deflationary winds are picking up going into 2015, making their balancing act yet more difficult. (Not to mention increasing tension from poking a stick at the Russian bear.)

Jeff: Gold has been in decline for over three years now. What changes that? Should we expect gold to remain weak for several more years?

Steve: I cannot remember an asset more maligned than gold is currently, as to even admit one owns it receives a reflexive look of pity. While most have left our shiny friend bloodied, lying in the ditch by the side of the road, there are signs of resurrection. While I’m doubtful gold will do much in the first half of 2015 due to deflationary winds and could even get dragged down with stocks should global liquidity once again dissipate, I am confident that our central banks would again step in (QE4?) and gold should regain its luster as investors finally realize the Fed is out of bullets.

The wildcard I’m watching is the massive accumulation of gold (and silver) bullion by Russia, China, and India, and the speculation behind it. Should gold be announced as part of a new monetary system via global currency or gold-backed sovereign bond issuance, then gold’s renaissance begins.

Jeff: Given what you see coming, how should the average investor position her or his portfolio?

Steve: Obviously I am holding on to our gold bullion positions, as painful as this has been. I would also maintain equity exposure via investment managers with the flexibility to go long and short. I believe this strategy will finally show its merits vs. long-only passive investments in the years ahead. I believe that for the next 6-12 months, long-term Treasuries will help balance out deflationary risks, but they are definitely not a long-term hold. Maintaining an above average level of cash will allow investors to take advantage of any equity downturns, and I would stay away from industrial commodities until the deflationary winds subside.
Precious metals equities could not be hated more and therefore represent the best value if an investor can stomach their volatility.

Grant Williams is the author of the financial newsletter Things That Make You Go Hmmm and cofounder of Real Vision Television. He has spent the last 30 years in financial markets in London, Tokyo, Hong Kong, New York, Sydney, and Singapore, and is the portfolio and strategy advisor to Vulpes Investment Management in Singapore.

Jeff: The Fed and other central banks have kept the economy and markets propped up longer than some thought possible. How much longer do you envision them being able to do so? Or has the Fed really staved off crisis?

Grant: I have repeatedly referred to a singular phenomenon over the past several years and it bears repeating as we head into 2015: for a long time, things can seem to matter to nobody until the one day when they suddenly matter to everybody. It feels as though we have never been closer to a series of such moments, any one of which has the potential to derail the narrative that central bankers and politicians have been working so hard to drive.

Whether it be Russia, Greece, the plummeting crude oil price, or a loss of control in Japan, there are a seemingly never-ending series of situations, any one (or more) of which could suddenly erupt and matter to a lot of people at the same time. Throw in the possibility that a Black Swan comes out of nowhere that nobody has thought about (even something as seemingly trivial as the recent hack of Sony Pictures by the North Koreans could set in motion events which can cascade very quickly in a geopolitical world which has so many fissures running through it), and you have the possibility that fear will replace greed overnight in the market’s collective psyche. When that happens, people will want gold.

The issue then becomes where they are going to get it from. Physical gold has been moving steadily from West to East despite the weak paper prices we have seen for the last couple of years, and this can continue until there is a sudden wider need for gold as insurance or as a currency. When that day comes, the price will move sharply from being set in the paper market—where there is essentially infinite supply—to being set in the physical markets where there is very inelastic supply and the existing stock has been moving into strong hands for several years. Materially higher prices will be the only way to resolve the imbalance.

Jeff: You’ve written a lot about the gold market over the past few years. In your view, what are the most important factors gold investors should keep in mind right now?

Grant: I think the key focus should be on two things: first, the difference between paper and physical gold; and second, on the continuing drive by national banks to repatriate gold supplies. The former is something many people who are keen followers of the gold markets understand, but it is the latter which could potentially spark what would, in effect, be a run on the gold “bank.” Because of the mass leasing and rehypothecation programs by central banks, there are multiple claims on thousands of bars of gold. The movement to repatriate gold supplies runs the risk of causing a panic by central banks.

We have already seen the beginnings of monetary policy divergence as each central bank begins to realize it is every man for himself, but if that sentiment spreads further into the gold markets, it could cause mayhem.
Keep a close eye on stories of further central bank repatriation—there is a tipping point somewhere that, once reached, will light a fire under the physical gold market the likes of which we haven’t seen before, and that tipping point could well come in 2015.

Jeff: Given what you see coming, how should the average investor position his or her portfolio?

Grant: Right now I think there are two essentials in any portfolio: cash and gold. The risk/reward skew of being in equity markets in most places around the world is just not attractive at these levels. With such anemic growth everywhere we turn, and while it looks for all the world that bond yields are set to continue falling, I think the chances of equities continuing their stellar run are remote enough to make me want out of equity markets altogether.

There are pockets of value, but they are in countries where the average investor is either disadvantaged due to a lack of local knowledge and a lack of liquidity, or there is a requirement for deep due diligence of the kind not always available to the average investor.

The other problem is the ETF phenomenon. The thirst for ETFs in order to simplify complex investing decisions, as well as to throw a blanket over an idea in order to be sure to get the “winner” within a specific theme or sector, is not a problem in a rising market (though it does tend to cause severe value dislocations amongst stocks that are included in ETFs versus those that are not). In a falling market, however, when liquidity is paramount, any sudden upsurge of selling in the ETF space will require the underlying equities be sold into what may very well be a very thin market.

In a rising market, there is always an offer. In a falling market, bids can be hard to come by and in many cases, nonexistent, so anybody expecting to divest themselves of ETF positions in a 2008 like market could well find themselves with their own personal Flash Crash on their hands.

Unlevered physical gold has no counterparty risk and has sustained a bid for 6,000 straight years (and counting). Though sometimes, in the wee small hours, those bids can be both a little sparse and yet strangely attractive to certain sellers of size.

Meanwhile, a healthy allocation to cash offers a supply of dry powder that can be used to gain entry points which will hugely amplify both the chances of outperformance and the level of that performance in the coming years.

Remember, you make your money when you buy an asset, not when you sell it.

Caveat emptor.

Chris Martenson, PhD (Duke), MBA (Cornell), is an economic researcher and futurist who specializes in energy and resource depletion, and is cofounder of Peak Prosperity. As one of the early econobloggers who forecasted the housing market collapse and stock market correction years in advance, Chris rose to prominence with the launch of his seminal video seminar, The Crash Course, which has also been published in book form.

Jeff: The Fed and other central banks have kept the economy and markets propped up longer than some thought possible. How much longer do you envision them being able to do so? Or has the Fed really staved off crisis?

Chris: Well, if people were being rational, all of this would have stopped a very long time ago. There’s no possibility of paying off current debts, let alone liabilities, and yet “investors” are snapping up Italian 10 year debt at 2.0%! Or Japanese government bonds at nearly 0% when the total debt load in Japan is already around $1 million per rapidly aging person and growing. I cannot say how much longer so called investors are willing to remain irrational, but if pressed I would be very surprised if we make it past 2016 without a major financial crisis happening.

Of course, this bubble is really a bubble of faith, and its main derivative is faith based currency. And it’s global. Bubbles take time to burst roughly proportional to their size, and these nested bubbles the Fed and other central banks have engineered are by far the largest ever in human history.

As always, bubbles are always in search of a pin, and we cannot know exactly when that will be or what will finally be blamed. All we can do is be prepared.

Jeff: If deflationary forces pick up, how do you expect gold to perform?

Chris: Badly at first, and then spectacularly well. It’s like why the dollar is rising right now. Not because it’s a vastly superior currency, but because it’s the mathematical outcome of trillions of dollars’ worth of US dollar carry trades being unwound. So the first act in a global deflation is for the dollar to rise. Similarly, the first act is for gold to get sold by all of the speculators that are long and need to raise cash to unwind other parts of their trade books.

But the second act is for people to realize that the institutions and even whole nation states involved in the deflationary mess are not to be trusted. With opaque accounting and massive derivative positions, nobody will really know who is solvent and who isn’t. This is when gold gets “rediscovered” by everyone as the monetary asset that is free of counterparty risk—assuming you own and possess physical bullion, of course, not paper claims that purport to be the same thing but are not.

Jeff: Given what you see coming, how should the average investor position her or his portfolio?

Chris: Away from paper and toward real things. If the outstanding claims are too large, or too pricey, or both, then history is clear; the perceived value of those paper claims will fall.

My preferences are for land, precious metals, select real estate, and solid enterprises that produce real things. Our view at Peak Prosperity is that deflation is now winning the game, despite everything the central banks have attempted, and that the very last place you want to be is simply long a bunch of paper claims.

However, before the destruction of the currency systems involved, there will be a final act of desperation by the central banks that will involve printing money that goes directly to consumers. Perhaps it will be tax breaks or even rebates for prior years, or even the direct deposit of money into bank accounts.

When this last act of desperation arrives, you’ll want to be out of anything that looks or smells like currency and into anything you can get your hot little hands on. This may include equities and other forms of paper wealth—just not the currency itself. You’ll want to run, not walk, with a well-curated list of things to buy and spend all your currency on before the next guy does.

We’re not there yet, but we’re on our way. Expect the big deflation to happen first and then be alert for the inevitable central bank print a thon response.

Because of this view, we believe that having a very well balanced portfolio is key, with the idea that now is the time to either begin navigating toward real things, or to at least have that plan in place so that after the deflationary impulse works its destructive magic, you are ready to pounce.

Brent Johnson is CEO of Santiago Capital, a gold fund for accredited investors to gain exposure to gold and silver bullion stored outside the United States and outside of the banking system, in addition to precious metals mining equities. Brent is also a managing director at Baker Avenue Asset Management, where he specializes in creating comprehensive wealth management strategies for the individual portfolios of high-net-worth clients. He’s also worked at Credit Suisse as vice president in its private client group, and at Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) in New York City.

Jeff: The Fed and other central banks have kept the economy and markets propped up longer than some thought possible. How much longer do you envision them being able to do so? Or has the Fed really staved off crisis?

Brent: As much as I dislike the central planners, from a Machiavellian perspective you really have to give them credit for extending their influence for as long as they have. I wasn’t surprised they could engineer a short-term recovery, and that’s why, even though I manage a precious metals fund, I don’t recommend clients put all their money in gold. But I must admit that I have been surprised by the duration of the bull market in equities and the bear market in gold. And while I probably shouldn’t be, I’m continually surprised by the willingness of the investing public to just accept as fact everything the central planners tell them. The recovery is by no means permanent and is ultimately going to end very, very badly.

But I don’t have a crystal ball that tells me how much longer this movie will last. My guess is that we are much closer to the end than the beginning. So while they could potentially draw this out another year, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see it all blow up tomorrow, because this is all very much contrived. That’s why I continue to hold gold. It is the ultimate form of payment and cannot be destroyed by either inflation, deflation, central bank arrogance, or whatever other shock exerts itself into the markets.

Jeff: As a gold fund manager, you’ve watched gold decline for over three years now. What changes that? And when? Should we expect gold to remain weak for several more years?

Gold has been in one of its longest bear markets in history. Many of us in the gold world must face up to this. We have been wrong on the direction of gold for three years now. Is this due to bullion banks trying to maximize their quarterly bonuses by fleecing the retail investor? Is it due to coordination at the central bank level to prolong the life of fiat currency? Is it due to the Western world not truly understanding the power of gold and surrendering our bullion to the East? I don’t know… maybe it’s a combination of all three. Or maybe it’s something else altogether.

What I do know is that gold is still down. Now the good news is… that’s okay. It’s okay because it isn’t going to stay down. The whole point of investing is to arbitrage the difference between price and value. And right now there remains a huge arbitrage to exploit. As Jim Grant said, “Investing is about having people agree with you… later.”

Now all that said, I realize it hasn’t been a fun three years. This isn’t a game for little boys, and I’ve felt as much pain as anyone. I think the trend is likely to change when the public’s belief in the central banks starts coming into question. We are starting to see the cracks in their omnipotence. For the most part, however, investors still believe that not only will the central banks try to bail out the markets if it comes to that, but they also still believe the central banks will be successful when they try. In my opinion, they are wrong.

And there are several catalysts that could spark this change—oil, Russia, other emerging markets, or the ECB and Japan monetizing the debt. This “recovery” has gone on for a long time. But from a mathematical perspective, it simply can’t go on forever. So as I’ve said before, if you believe in math, buy gold.

Jeff: Given what you see coming, how should the average investor position her or his portfolio?

Brent: The answer to this depends on several factors. It depends on the investor’s age, asset level, income level, goals, tolerance for volatility, etc. But in general, I’m a big believer in the idea of the “permanent portfolio.” If you held equal parts fixed income, equities, real estate, and gold over the last 40 years, your return is equal to that of the S&P 500 with substantially less volatility. And this portfolio will perform through inflation, deflation, hyperinflation, collapse, etc.

So if you are someone who is looking to protect your wealth without a lot of volatility, this is a very strong solution. If you are younger, are trying to create wealth, and have some years to ride out potential volatility, I would skew this more toward a higher allocation to gold and gold shares and less on fixed income, for example.

Because while I generally view gold as insurance, this space also has the ability to generate phenomenal returns and not just protect wealth, but create it. But whatever the case, regardless of your age, level of wealth, or world view, the correct allocation to gold in your portfolio is absolutely not zero. Gold will do phenomenally well in the years ahead, and those investors who are willing to take a contrarian stance stand to benefit not only from gold’s safety, but also its ability to generate wealth.

One other thing to remember about gold is that while it may be volatile, it’s not risky. Volatility is the fluctuation in an asset’s daily/weekly price. Risk is the likelihood of a permanent loss of capital. And with gold (in bullion form), there is essentially no chance of a permanent loss of capital. It is the one asset that has held its value not just over the years, but over the centuries. I for one do not hold myself out as being smarter than thousands of years of collective global wisdom. If you do, I wish you the best of luck!

Of course, bullish signs for gold have been mounting, which begs the question: could the breakthrough for the gold market be near?

Well, no one knows for sure. But what we do know is that when the market recovers, the handful of superb mining stocks that have survived the slaughter won’t just go up—they’ll go vertical.

Which is why we're hosting a free online event called, GOING VERTICAL, headlined by a panel of eight top players in the precious metals sector, names you'll no doubt recognize. Each of our guests give their assessment on where the gold market is right now, how long it will take to recovery, and what practical steps you need to take to prepare including - which stocks you should own now.

This free video event will air March 10th, 2pm Eastern time. To make sure you don't miss it, click here to register now.



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Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Math Free Guide to Higher and Safer Returns

By Andrey Dashkov

I can make you instantly richer, and safely, by explaining a finance concept with a story about a dog.

There’s a hole in your pocket you probably don’t know about. You may feel instinctively that something is wrong, but unless you look in the right place, you won’t find the problem. The money you’re losing doesn’t appear in the minus column on your account statements, but you’re losing it nevertheless.

Frustrated? Don’t be. I’m going to tell you where to look and how to stop the drainage.

Volatility is every investor’s worst enemy. Over time, it poisons your returns. Unlike a 2008 style market drop, though, volatility poisons them slowly. There’s no obvious ailment to discuss with friends or hear about on CNBC. You only see it when you compare how much you lost to how much you could have earned—and looking back at your own mistakes is not a pleasant thing to do.

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So instead let’s imagine two fictional companies: X-Cite, Inc., an amusement park operator with a volatile stock price that adventurous investors love; and Glacial Corp., a dull, defensive sloth of a corporation whose stock returns are consistent but often lower than those of its more glamorous counterpart.

Average return on both companies’ stocks was 5% for the past five years, but Glacial’s was less volatile. Safety is comfortable, but doesn’t higher volatility mean higher potential returns? Sometimes, but not always. When you accept high volatility, your returns might be higher at times, but they also might be lower. In other words, higher volatility generally means greater risk.

Nothing new so far, but the oft-overlooked point is that boring stocks make you richer over time.
The chart below shows each stock’s annual return over a five year period.


At first glance, Glacial Corp. appears to be the loser. It underperformed X-Cite in four out of five years. Both stocks returned 5% on average during these years, and X-Cite was almost always voted the prettiest girl in town. But for Year 3, it would be easy to persuade investors to buy X-Cite stock. Few would give Glacial a second glance.

Hold for the punchline: X-Cite, the stock your broker would have a much easier time selling you (before you read this article), would actually make you poorer. Let me explain.

I won’t get into any supercharged math here. Glacial is better because it makes you richer eventually. After five years, the total return on X-Cite is 25%. Not bad. Glacial? 27%. If you invested $10,000 in both (assuming no brokerage fees or taxes), at the end of Year 5 you would have earned $2,507 on X-Cite or $2,701 on Glacial.

Year-End Account Balance
X-Cite, Inc.
Glacial Corp.
Year 1
$10,500
$10,300
Year 2
$11,550
$11,021
Year 3
$10,164
$10,801
Year 4
$10,875
$11,341
Year 5
$12,507
$12,701
Total return
25%
27%


Where does the extra $194 come from? It comes from lower volatility. Although X-Cite looks like a winner most of the time, it has a higher standard deviation of returns. Note that X-Cite’s stock price dropped 12% in Year 3. The following year it increased 7%, while Glacial Corp.’s stock price only increased 5%—yet Glacial is still worth more from Year 3 onward. Why? X-Cite’s 7% jump is based on the previous year’s low.

But I promised to keep this note math-free, so imagine a person walking a dog instead. The shorter the leash, the less space the dog has to run around. The longer the leash, the more erratic the dog’s path will be. Standard deviation measures how much data tend to scatter around its mean—the path. As we just saw, low standard deviation also pays you money.

I could stop right here and hope that you take this lesson to heart, but I won’t. As much as I love describing finance concepts using clever company names and dogs, I want you to start making money right now.

I said this advice could make you instantly richer, and “instantly” doesn’t mean “maybe sometime in the future.” In the latest issue of Money Forever, we shared an opportunity to invest into a vehicle built to outperform the market by managing volatility. I was extremely excited to present it to our paid subscribers because I knew they’d love to earn more by risking less. Who wouldn’t?

So please pardon my blatant self-promotion. I work in an industry where 80% of the time the market is obsessed with the wrong stock, and the noise drowns out the right idea. I can silence the cacophony for you, though, and show you where to find the right ideas. And that goes beyond our most recent pick, although you do need it in your portfolio. Money Forever’s mission is to make your money last—plain and simple.

We think this pick will go a long way toward doing just that.

You can check it out and access our full portfolio immediately by subscribing risk free to Money Forever.

It’s about the price of Netflix, but unlike Netflix we won’t bother you if you decide to cancel. In fact, we’re so confident that the Money Forever portfolio can help you “earn more by risking less” that we’ll refund 100% of the cost if you decide to cancel within the first three months.

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The article A Math-Free Guide to Higher and Safer Returns was originally published at millersmoney.com.


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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Free Webinar: How You Generate Consistent Trading Results in Today's Markets

Our trading partner John Carter is back this Tuesday February 24th with another one of his wildly popular free trading webinars. This time John will be covering his trading strategy using "premium decay".

If you have attended one of John's free webinars you know that he has a unique ability to give traders that "over his shoulder" view of how he performs these trades making it very easy to understand.

Best thing of all though, he shows us how this can be done in any size account. Limiting brokerage fees so we can make money even in small accounts.

Get your reserved seat now....Just Click Here

In this free webinar John will discuss....

  *  Why trading options are perfect for newbies, retirees, part time traders, and full time traders

  *  Why options are safer than trading stocks, futures or forex while holding on for bigger winners

  *  One strategy he uses for consistent trading results that you can use the next trading day

  *  The brain dead rules to follow so you can know exactly how to trade this one set up for consistency

  *  How traders get sucked into buying the wrong stocks at the wrong price so you never get suckered into a trade again

      And much more….

Johns webinars are highly attended and usually have a waiting list at start time. Get your seat now then make sure you log in 10-15 minutes early on Tuesday evening to make sure you keep that seat.

Follow this link to get your spot before this webinar is fully subscribed.....Sign Up Now

John has provided a great free video primer for this webinar.....Watch it Now

See you Tuesday!
Hedge Fund University



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