Santa Comes Early…But Not For Everyone

The markets continue to rally to 52-week highs on the back of very positive earning releases and the impending passage of the tax bill. Shrugging off a downgrade of Spanish Sovereign Debt and a huge earning miss by a major retail bell weather, Best Buy. When a market shrugs off bad news and continues to rise, the bulls are firmly in charge.

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Investor sentiment is increasingly positive and that can be a scary indicator. But, for now the direction is higher and a strong end of the year finish is in the cards. Notwithstanding dismal home sales and continuing poor employment data consumers who have money are buying more “stuff” this year than last. In another sign of increasing confidence, consumers are buying more things for themselves this year. This is an important note since it points to a recovery in sentiment, which can be a powerful driver for future growth. So, what about those who don’t have? Are they in for another coal filled holiday season?

Not to be left out, the government in its largesse in on the verge of passing yet another extension of unemployment insurance…for another 13 months. That should make golf course owners very happy. Instead if calling it unemployment insurance, lets call a spade and a spade and call it what it is: welfare. Heartless aren’t I? Not so fast.

I am all for unemployment insurance that has an end in sight and does not encourage people to stay at home and collect government dole outs. Remember when unemployment insurance lasted for a few months and NOT three years? Why offer incentives not to work and then call them social safety nets? It’s pandering at its worst and will continue to reward those who are not seeking employment.

Of course, the other side will take the position that jobs are hard to come by. True, good jobs are hard to come by, but jobs are available to those more interested in working – even temporarily  – in fields that may be beneath them. There is no shame in a hard days work regardless of whether it is behind a desk or a fast food counter. So, now you have a country where you can get paid by the government for doing nothing, avoid paying mortgage payments for months, even years, thanks to banks that are being subsidized by the government, receive free food and health subsidies from the government…all the while listening to the rhetoric from the very same government who tells you that cutting debt is a priority. Bull$%@t…and Merry Christmas!

Gold and Interest Rates

Gold prices have fallen sharply – maybe the sky isn’t falling…just yet. But, before you go unloading your bullion consider that the percentage fall in gold prices is barely 5% from its highs, not even a minor correction. But, there is a whiff of optimism in the short term and the bond market is signaling it. 10-year rates are solidly above 3% and 30-year yields are well above 4%. There are two ways to look at this. Either the economy is signaling a solid 2011…or bond buyers are finally seeking higher returns for loaning bankrupt country money.

Gold does not pay the holder “rent” for holding it, but neither does it carry any obligations. Historically during periods of high interest rates, investors tend to look at options that pay them money on their money, especially when inflation is not a concern. This time however it might be different. Inflation, as measured by a flawed Consumer Price Index, is not in the pipeline. So, when comparing apples to apples (for those of you quick to point out gold’s last record run in the late 70s and early 80s when rates were in the double digits) gold prices may not fall this time even as interest rates rise, especially if the rising rates are the result of lack of confidence in currencies as well as growth. Can both occur? Can rates rise and currencies also fall at the same time? It seems like a contradictory observation…unless growth is not so much the result of real economic resurgence but government orchestrated stimulus like the above mentioned unemployment insurance boondoggle.

At the end of the day nothing that has happened in the past three years, or past ten years for that matter, has been a cause to celebrate if you are a holder of US Dollars. The national debt and the annual deficit have assured us of one thing: there are more dollars in circulation today then there were yesterday. That in itself is reason enough to look at any serious correction in gold – something in the order of 15% or more – as a serious buying opportunity.

Best Regards,

Kevin Raymond.

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