Wave of Debt Payments Facing U.S. Government

NY Times

WASHINGTON — The United States government is financing its more than trillion-dollar-a-year borrowing with i.o.u.’s on terms that seem too good to be true.

But that happy situation, aided by ultralow interest rates, may not last much longer.

Treasury officials now face a trifecta of headaches: a mountain of new debt, a balloon of short-term borrowings that come due in the months ahead, and interest rates that are sure to climb back to normal as soon as the Federal Reserve decides that the emergency has passed.

Even as Treasury officials are racing to lock in today’s low rates by exchanging short-term borrowings for long-term bonds, the government faces a payment shock similar to those that sent legions of overstretched homeowners into default on their mortgages. Continue reading

Jim Rogers Says, Gold Will Hit $2,000 and USA Will Lose Status As The World’s Reserve Currency

Good Time To Buy Gold

Good Time To Buy Gold

Famed investor Jim Rogers is “quite sure gold will go over $2000 per ounce during this bull market.”Rogers’ confidence gold will continue to rally stems from a view the U.S. dollar is on its way to losing status as the world’s reserve currency.”Is it going to happen? Yes,” Rogers says. “I don’t like saying it [and] I’m extremely worried about it but we have to deal with the facts. America is not getting better [and] the dollar is going to be replaced just like pound sterling [was].”Rogers didn’t offer a timetable, and it’s likely gold would exceed $2000 per ounce if the dollar were to lose its reserve status.Still, “I wouldn’t buy gold today,” Rogers says. “I think I’ll make more money in other commodities, which are cheaper,” as discussed in more detail here.Among many others, Rogers is “worried about the fact the U.S. government is printing huge amounts, spending gigantic amounts of money it doesn’t have,” the investor and author says. “People are very worried [and] skeptical about paper money [and] looking for places to protect themselves. The best way is to buy real assets. [That] has always protected one during currency turmoil, and it will again.”

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Jim Rogers – Buy Commodities, Short the Dollar and Long Bond

by John Kimelman
Monday, April 20, 2009
provided by

The legendary investor is sticking for now with the two Cs: China and commodities.

Well, bank executives and investors can breathe a sigh of relief: Jim Rogers has covered the short positions on financial stocks he put in place ahead of last year’s massive meltdown.

But just because this influential investor isn’t betting that big banks will fall much further doesn’t mean he’s confident they will stage a lasting rally either. He feels similarly about U.S. stocks in general.

“I am skeptical about the rally, and the world economy for the next year or two or three,” he says. “But if stocks go down, I can make money with commodities.”

Rogers, now 66, gained fame as George Soros’ hedge-fund partner in the 1970s and 1980s. After retiring from professional money manager in his late 30s, the Alabama native tooled around Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America visiting emerging markets, one by one. His resulting book, Investment Biker, helped to popularize emerging market investing at the outset of a bull market for the sector.

He also helped to popularize commodity investing, which for decades was the province of niche investors. In the 1990s, he developed commodity indexes based on futures contracts that in recent years have been turned into exchange-traded funds available to all investors. His 2004 book, Hot Commodities, came ahead of a surge prices for energy, metals, and agriculture.

Since its inception in July 1998, the Rogers International Commodities Index has gained 158%, while the S&P 500 has fallen 23%. And that gain for the commodities index comes despite the fact that it’s lost more than half of its value since last July. At these levels, Rogers has been a buyer.

These days, Rogers, now 66, is sticking close to home in Singapore with his wife, Paige Parker, and two small daughters. He’s about to release his latest book, A Gift to My Children: A Father’s Lessons for Life and Investing (Random House), in which he encourages other people’s children to travel widely and learn Mandarin so they can reap the rewards of China’s economic boom.

Recently, Rogers talked to Barrons.com by phone from his Singapore home.

Q: When you last did a lengthy interview with Barron’s magazine a year ago (see “Light Years Ahead of the Crowd,” April 14, 2008) you were lightening up on emerging markets investments. Well, you called that one right. But now that many of those markets have fallen from their highs of recent years, are you more optimistic?

A: No. I’ve sold all emerging markets stock except the ones in China. I bought more Chinese shares in October and November during the panic, but I have not bought China or any other stock markets including the U.S. since then. I’m not buying anything in China right now because the Chinese market ran up maybe 50% since last November. It’s been the strongest market in the world in the past six months and I don’t like jumping into something that has been that run up. Still, I’m not thinking of selling these stocks either. I think if it goes down I’ll buy more. I think you will find that it’s the single strongest market in the world since last fall.

Q: In your latest book, you talk of China as the great investment opportunity of the 21st century, just as the U.S. was in the 20th century. What percentage of a typical American investor’s portfolio should be in China?

A: If they can’t even find China on a map, I don’t think they should have anything in China. They should know something about China before they invest there. If they have the same convictions that I do then they should probably have a lot. If you asked me that question in 1909 about the U.S. stock market, I would have said to put 100% of your money in the U.S.

Q: Might it make sense to have a greater weighting in a diversified mix of Chinese stocks than in U.S. stocks?

A: Well yes. Just as in 1909, if you were German or Chinese, you should have had the largest percentage of your money in the United States. The idea of investing is to make money, not to have some sort of political agenda.

Q: That being said, you currently think Chinese stocks are bid-up now, so you’re not buying at these levels. So what have you been buying lately?

A: I have been buying commodities through the Rogers commodity indexes I developed because my lawyer won’t let me buy individual commodities. I recently bought the all four Rogers indexes — the ElementsRogers International Commodities Index (ticker: RJI) as well as the three specialty indexes, the International Metals (RJZ), the International Energy (RJN), and the International Agriculture (RJA.) That’s how I invest in commodities and that’s what I bought last week. I have been buying these shares since last fall and up to last week.

Q: Though you got out of emerging markets last year before they fell hard, you seemed be caught by surprise by the fall-off in commodity prices last year. Is that right?

A: Yes, I was surprised. I did not expect commodities to go down that much and in retrospect it was a period of forced liquidation for many (professional) investors. You know AIG went bankrupt, which was huge in commodities. Lehman Brothers was big in commodities.

But at least I was shorting the investment banks at the time and other financials such as Citigroup and Fannie Mae. So I was hedged by being long commodities and short the other things such as financials and as you know most of them were down from 80% to 100%, so I more than made up on my shorts than I lost on my longs. So thank God for (the stock decline in) Citigroup and thank God (for the decline) in Fannie Mae.

Q: Now despite the recent stock-market rally that started in March, many U.S. stocks are trading well off their 2007 highs. How come you see no value to this market?

A: I am not buying U.S. companies mainly because I think we may have seen a bottom but I don’t think we have seen the bottom. I am skeptical about the rally, the world economy for the next year or two or three. But if stocks go down, I can make money with commodities. In the 1970s, commodities went through the roof even though stocks were a disaster. In the 1930s, commodities rallied first and went up the most long before stocks pulled it together.

Q: Can you summarize the reasons for your bullishness about commodities?

A: It depends on the supply and demand. And we have had a dearth of supply. Nobody has invested in productive capacity for 25 or 30 years now. The inventories of food are the lowest they have been in 50 years and you have a shortage of farmers even right now because most farmers are old men because it has been such a horrible business for 30 years. And as for metals, nobody can get a loan to open a mine as you know. Who is going to give you money to open a zinc mine? It takes at least 10 years to open a mine so it’s going to be 15 or 20 years before we see new mines come on. Nobody has been opening mines for 30 years and they are not going to. And in the meantime reserves are declining. As for oil, the International Energy Agency came out recently with a study showing that oil reserves worldwide were declining at the rate of 6% or 7% a year.

That does not mean that if suddenly the U.S. goes bankrupt that everything won’t collapse in price. But I would rather be in commodities because it’s the only thing I know where the fundamentals are improving. They are not improving for Citibank or General Motors but the supply situation in commodities is such that when demand comes back, then commodities are going to be the best place to be in my view.

Q: What do you think of bonds?

A: I am anticipating shorting bonds — the U.S. long bond. It’s about the only real bubble around that I can see right now — other than the U.S. dollar. I am not shorting bonds at this moment because I’ve shorted plenty of bubbles in my day, and I have learned that you better wait because they go up higher than any rational person can anticipate. But my plan is to short the long bond in the U.S. sometime in the foreseeable future.

Q: I’ve read that you think the penchant of the last two presidential administrations for bailing out failing U.S. companies is a big mistake and will contribute to prolonging this recession. You argue that it’s best to let these companies all go bankrupt. How bad can the economy get?

A: Yes, politicians are making mistakes. In Japan, the problem has lasted for 19 years. I hope that it doesn’t last 19 years in the U.S. The approach that works is to let them (U.S. banks and automakers) collapse and clean out the system. The idea that phony accounting is the solution (through changes in mark-to-market rules) is ludicrous. And the idea that a debt problem and an excessive spending problem can be cured with more debt and more spending is ludicrous.

It’s laughable on its face, but politicians think they’ve got to do something. Unfortunately, they are doing the wrong things and they are going to make it worse.

Q: Thanks for your time.

S&P predicted to Fall by 30%: That’s Gary Shilling’s Forecast

yahoo-finance

Posted Dec 19, 2008 12:33pm EST by Aaron Task in Investing, Commodities, Recession

The S&P 500 could fall to as low as 600 in 2009 and “alternative assets” like commodities and currencies will provide no shelter for investors, says Gary Shilling, president of A. Gary Shilling & Co.

Having been appropriately bearish heading into this year, Shilling sees “few good places to hide” in 2009. Currently, Shilling is long Treasuries and the dollar, but notes the bond market’s rally is getting long in the tooth.

Other than defensive plays like utilities and consumer staples, Shilling is short stocks. His “S&P 600” prediction, a 33% drop from current levels, is based on a view that S&P earnings will be $40 per share next year (vs. the consensus of $83) and the index will trade with a P/E multiple of 15. (Here’s the math: $40 EPS x 15 P/E = 600.)

Shilling is also short commodities and remains bearish on emerging markets, most notably China. The theory China, most notably, could “decouple” from the U.S. doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, Shilling says, as evinced by the slowdown of China’s economy and the fact their middle class isn’t large enough to sustain growth internally.

Against that backdrop, Shilling isn’t only bearish on China as an investment, he sees the potential for major social upheaval in the world’s most populous nation.

Nouriel Roubini warns that the worst is yet to come

RGE Content: Weekly Roundup

RGE Lead Analysts | Nov 1, 2008

On Nouriel Roubini’s Global EconoMonitor, Nouriel Roubini warns that the worst in markets and economies is yet to come.   On October 23rd, Nouriel predicted the potential shutdown of financial markets.   A day later U.S. stock futures suspended trading after declines of more than 6% at opening tripped the circuit breakers.   Nonetheless, Nouriel does not expect another Great Depression, but states that policymakers must act quickly and wisely.

Here are the main elements of Nouriel’s outlook:  Tsunami of corporate defaults;  2-year U-shaped U.S. recession that threatens to turn into an L-shaped one if policymakers do not regain control of the financial system;  global re-coupling to the U.S. will advance from non-U.S. markets to non-U.S. real economies – not even the strongest emerging markets such as Brazil and China will escape global re-coupling;  vicious cycle of deflation in goods markets, labor markets, commodity markets, financial markets, corporate and household earnings, and aggregate demand;  de-leveraging to reduce excess debt in municipalities, households and some firms;  U.S. stock markets declining another 20-30%,  bottoming fall 2009 at the earliest, then moving sideways for years post-recession if growth remains anemic as it did in Japan after its 1990s real estate and equities bust;  U.S. unemployment rise to reach 8-9%;  the demise of the shadow banking system.

According to Nouriel, USD assets, commodities, U.S. and international equities, housing, and the USD are quite risky right now.  Seek safety in cash or cash-like instruments such as T-bills and bonds of safe, large governments.  Though he believes the U.S. dollar will retain its reserve currency status for decades, its status will gradually erode.

Given the size of the expected contraction in private aggregate demand (likely to be about $450 billion in 2009 relative to 2008), Nouriel argues that a fiscal stimulus to the order of $300 billion minimum (and possibly as large as $400 billion) will be necessary to partially compensate for the sharp fall in private aggregate demand.  And don’t miss Nouriel’s testimony before the Joint Economic Committee.

Fed To Buy Frozen Money Market Assets

Show Me The Money

Show Me The Money

New Money Market Investor Funding Facility (MMIFF)

Fed To Buy Frozen Assets To Meet Redemptions from Money Market Accounts

Federal Reserve will help finance purchases of up to $600 billion in assets from money market mutual funds which have suffered redemptions from investors seeking the safety of government debt. The program start date should be announced by the end of this week. Holy Hell, what’s next?

In Debt Up To Our Eyeballs!?

We Went A Little Overboard

We Went A Little Overboard

Government Can’t Fix It

Personally, I believe the biggest it’s a problem that so many Americans are looking to this year’s presidential candidates, Barack Obama and John McCain, to save our financial system. How did we become so financially weak that we surrender our economic independence to politicians? Where does it say in the Constitution that the government should solve our financial problems?

And why have so many people throughout the world come to expect financial life-support from their political leaders? It seems most people will vote for anyone who promises a chicken in every pot and a guaranteed mortgage payment.

We’re in the midst of a problem neither candidate can solve: A lack of comprehensive financial education in our school systems. What else explains the economic blunders committed by our political and financial leaders? Or why so many consumers are in debt up to their eyeballs? Or why millions of people expect a quick government fix of some kind?