A Big Crisis is Coming with America’s Weak Dollar Policy

The Dollar Index hit yet another 14-month low early Monday after a Chinese central bank official urged the PRC to diversify its reserves into more euro and yen. A stronger-than-expected GDP report in South Korea also put pressure on the greenback as traders expect other central banks to follow Australia’s lead and raise rates while the Fed stands pat.”The dollar is a significant concern,” says Leo Tilman, president of L.M. Tilman & Co. and author of Financial Darwinism.” You can envision all sorts of crises scenarios where rest of the world stops buying U.S. assets because of the dollar [and] you have higher interest rates and all sorts of recessionary pressures.”With the U.S. Treasury set to auction a record $123 billion of notes this week and the Fed’s $300 billion Treasury purchase program set to expire, those risks should not be taken lightly. Of course, such concerns have been circulating for a while and have not come to fruition, to date.It’s “very difficult to say” when foreigners stop talking about diversifying away from the dollar and take more concerted action, Tilman admits. But “it’s hard to imagine a lot of foreign buyers are going to tolerate further declines in the dollar. “Tilman, whose firm advises institutions on strategic risk management, says the day of reckoning is likely to come within the next year.”A lot depends on how sustainable the recovery in the U.S. is: If the Fed has an ability to start hiking IR, that will mitigate some of the pressures on the dollar,” he says. “But if we see rest of the world starts hiking rates and the Fed lagging behind because the U.S. economy is so fragile, that will be the breaking point. We’re taking the second or third quarter of next year.”

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Sheila Bair Delivers Special Video Message Commemorating 100 Bank Failures

According to the FDIC, your money is safe.

Niall Ferguson says, U.S. Empire in Decline and on Collision Course with China

The U.S. is an empire in decline, according to Niall Ferguson, Harvard professor and author of The Ascent of Money.”People have predicted the end of America in the past and been wrong,” Ferguson concedes. “But let’s face it: If you’re trying to borrow $9 trillion to save your financial system…and already half your public debt held by foreigners, it’s not really the conduct of rising empires, is it?”Given its massive deficits and overseas military adventures, America today is similar to the Spanish Empire in the 17th century and Britain’s in the 20th, he says. “Excessive debt is usually a predictor of subsequent trouble.”Putting a finer point on it, Ferguson says America today is comparable to Britain circa 1900: a dominant empire underestimating the rise of a new power. In Britain’s case back then it was Germany; in America’s case today, it’s China.”When China’s economy is equal in size to that of the U.S., which could come as early as 2027…it means China becomes not only a major economic competitor – it’s that already, it then becomes a diplomatic competitor and a military competitor,” the history professor declares.The most obvious sign of this is China’s major naval construction program, featuring next generation submarines and up to three aircraft carriers, Ferguson says. “There’s no other way of interpreting this than as a challenge to the hegemony of the U.S. in the Asia-Pacific region.”As to analysts like Stratfor’s George Friedman, who downplay China’s naval ambitions, Ferguson notes British experts – including Winston Churchill – were similarly complacent about Germany at the dawn of the 20th century.”I’m not predicting World War III but we have to recognize…China is becoming more assertive, a rival not a partner,” he says, adding that China’s navy doesn’t have to be as large as America’s to pose a problem. “They don’t have to have an equally large navy, just big enough to pose a strategic threat [and] cause trouble” for the U.S. Navy.

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The Days of “Buy and Hold” Are Over, says John Mauldin

The economy is still the pits yet stocks are on a tear. What’s an investor to do in these confusing times?John Mauldin, president of Millennium Wave Advisors, admits the average investor doesn’t “have as many good choices” as in the past.Contrary to what “experts” have told the public for years, now is not the time for buy and hold, Mauldin says. “You can be a trader. You can ride the wave, I’ve got no problem with that but I don’t think you want to buy something and hold it for five years.”That’s because he thinks another correction is coming in the not so distant future.Mauldin, who writes the Thoughts from the Frontline e-letter, does think there’s money to be made in real estate. With prices so depressed in many markets, he says buying property on the cheap and renting it “is a prescription for making money.”

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John Mauldin Tax Hikes Will Kill the Recovery Which Isn’t Real Anyway

The economic recovery currently underway is a statistical mirage, based on easy year-over-year comparisons and inventory rebuilding, John Mauldin, president of Millennium Wave Securities, tells Henry in the accompanying video.The unemployment rate is closer to 12% when you include people who’ve been dropped from the survey and the “underemployment” rate – people working part-time vs. full time – is 17% to 18%, “and rising,” Mauldin says. “That doesn’t feel like recovery.”Mauldin, who writes the popular Thoughts from the Frontline e-letter, predicts the U.S. economy will be back in recession next year because of higher taxes, both new and with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts.”The Obama administration [and] the Democrats aren’t going to be able to help themselves,” he says. “The deficits are going to be running so high they’ll feel – politically — the need to do something. The way they want to solve it — instead of cutting spending is to increase the revenue. That’s going to suck a lot of air out of the room.”As for the long-term, Mauldin worries America could repeat Japan’s experience of a lost decade (or two), if not the Great Depression itself, citing the risk of policy errors such as trying to solve a debt crisis by issuing more debt.

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Why Our Massive Debt Will Kill Us in the End

Now that the worst of the recession is over, Americans are waking up to the fact that we’re borrowing nearly $1.5 trillion per year. Instinctively, this worries us.But why?What’s really so bad about piling on debt in excess of 10% of GDP every year?Japan has been borrowing through the nose for years, and Japan, well… okay, maybe Japan’s not a good example. Japan’s economy has been in the tank for two decades.Actually, Japan’s a great example, says John Mauldin of Millennium Wave Advisors. What’s happened in Japan in the past 20 years is that government borrowing has largely replaced private sector borrowing: The total debt hasn’t risen, but the government’s percentage of it has soared.Unlike private-sector borrowing, which is (usually) productive, government borrowing doesn’t stimulate growth, Mauldin says. This may be at least part of what’s ailing Japan. And as long as we rely on the government to borrow and spend for us, the same thing could happen here. Our economy could become dominated by a huge, inefficient bureaucracy instead of lean, competitive private-sector companies.And that’s the good outcome. The bad outcome is that China and other countries finally get sick of lending us money at rock-bottom interest rates and start demanding real compensation. If that happens, interest rates could soar, stopping the economy in its tracks.

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Robert Shiller, Market Boom “Can’t Be Trusted”

The strength of the recovery in the housing market has surprised a lot of people, including Yale Professor Robert Shiller.”This is historic,” Shiller says of the recent snapback in the Case-Shiller Index. “It’s V-shaped. We’ve never seen it before. That makes it hard to know from statistical basis what it portends.”Are we on track for a repeat of irrational exuberance?With the stock market up more than 50% since March and the Standard & Poor’s Case/Shiller Index on the rise for the last three months, it’s a worry, says Yale Professor Robert Shiller. “Somehow we got into this really speculative mentality and I don’t think we’re out of it yet.”

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Stephen Roach says, U.S. Consumer Deleveraging is Just Beginning

Stephen Roach

Stephen Roach

Stephen Roach: “The market is in for a rude awakening,” said the chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, whose grim outlook seems to remain constant wherever he’s domiciled. “This will be an usually weak recovery,” Roach said. “The damage done to the system [will be] lasting – we are not even close to healing. It’s ‘game over’ for the U.S. consumer. Deleveraging is just beginning.”

Here We Are Again – We Reached Dow 10,000 in March of 1999

Peter Boockvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak, points out a lot has changed since the Dow first broke the magical 10,000 barrier in March of 1999.  While most other assets have gained value, the Dow is stuck in the mud.  Worse yet, we’re not even close to break even if you factor in the fact the dollar has lost 25% of its value in the last 10 years, based on the Dollar Index.

Here’s some of Boockvar’s other sobering stats comparing today vs. the first time the Dow cracked 10,000:

  • Total US debt was $24.6T vs $50.8T today.
  • The CRB commodity index was at 192.40. Today, it stands at 269
  • Gold was at $280. Now, it’s hitting all-time highs above $1,060 per ounce.
  • A barrel of crude oil was $16.44, today it cracked $75.

Elizabeth Warren says, Housing Market Getting Worse

Home Foreclosures Will Last For Years

10 to 12 million U.S. Homes Could Ultimately Go Into Foreclosure

There’s been a lot of talk lately about a recovery in the housing market – even reports of bubbles re-inflating in certain markets. Elizabeth Warren, chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, isn’t buying it. “We see things getting worse in the housing market,” Warren says, citing the pernicious effects of foreclosures, which rose 5% in the third quarter to a total of 937,840, according to RealtyTrac. “The long-term impact of high foreclosure rates on our housing market and overall economy would be disastrous,” Warren warns, citing estimates that 10 to 12 million U.S. homes could ultimately go into foreclosure. “We have to get foreclosures under control. “Why the sense of urgency?

A single foreclosure property brings prices down an average of $5000 for every house in a two-block radius and costs investors an average of $120,000, she says. In its most recent report, Warren’s panel criticized the Treasury’s foreclosure modification efforts as “inadequate” and “targeted at the housing crisis as it existed six months ago, rather than as it exits right now. “Specifically, the Treasury program is targeted at subprime borrowers hit with ballooning mortgage payments vs. prime borrowers hit by job losses.  As for the “morality question” of whether the government should be bailing out homeowners, Warren says “I’m passed that,” noting “there’s plenty of unfairness to go around.”More importantly, “ultimately the American taxpayer — thanks to Fannie, Freddie and FHA — is going to stand behind many of these mortgage,” she says. “We need to be thinking more globally what is cheapest possible way to bring this crisis to an end. “One solution: Force investors holders these mortgages who may be betting on a government bailout to take a haircut, as occurred with GM and Chrysler creditors. “That’s why they call it investing,” Warren says. “You make profits in good times, take losses in bad times. That’s the fundamental part of this [modification effort] that’s missing.”

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