February 25, 2010

What Can't Be Hidden

A Seriously Struggling & Flawed U.S. Economic Model
There are a lot of negative things going on economically in the U.S. One of them being the fact that one in four homeowners are underwater and home values and retirement account values are two of the most important determining factors of consumers purchasing behavior. We are in an economy where over 70% of GDP is consumer spending. The retirement accounts are up for now but valuations are about fairly priced at best on US stocks because right now they are discounting an economic recover probably more along the lines of 2001 than 1931 after our Great Depression or 1990s Japan. These people think the 2000s weren't a continuation of the bubble!!? Hello! Greenspan and the housing bubble. The 1990s and 2000s can be corrected by a 2 year recession we have just had?!! I might even argue that the bubble actually started in the 1980s and even earlier with the consumer leveraging up on credit cards and a long standing government induced housing price bubble. The housing based economy is set up on a phony premise of everlasting cheap gasoline and fuel prices, endless supply of credit and perpetually rising home prices.

International Turmoil
There is a real threat of sovereign debt defaults like what we saw with Iceland just recently. Greece, Spain, Dubai and Japan are at risk of default and possibly eventually other major countries. The stock market hasn't realized or priced in additional defaults. That could start a domino effect. I was reading about the Asian currency crisis in the late 1990s. It all began in the small country of Thailand (then seemingly insignificant) and spread to South Korea, Japan, Brazil and Russia. Are Iceland and Dubai like a Thailand was then?

The strange thing so far I'm reading is there was lack of banking supervision prior because they were actually exploited by government giving public loans disguised as private and major asset bubbles were busting around this same time as well. A lot of these Asian countries had less than 30% of GDP comprised of exports which in my view gives some clout to the Austrian economists on what is possible in none Latin American economies and even ones as big as the U.S. There have been a lot of currency crisis in Latin America because of the cyclical nature of their economies among other reasons. In my view what happened in Asia in the 90s and in Iceland just recently shows that currency crisis are possible in a large country like the United States. It's hard to envision a scenario for the US for rates on our bonds not to go up and assuming the economy must continually be jump started and defense spending stays the same there could be serious trouble for the dollar and a following of the rest of the Western nations.

What good is deficit spending and artificial GDP growth like in China where there are empty cities if you still have to pay the piper for decades of juiced excess like here in the U.S.?

When it comes to the possibility of a continuing rise in stock valuations and a lasting improvement "absent stimulus" in the U.S. economy and even China's the burden of proof is on you bulls.

Some Links to Think About
"While deficit hawks have long warned that policymakers need to curb deficits and debt, the new wrinkle is that the U.S. budget deficit picture has worsened so much largely because tax revenues have fallen off so sharply that the government is likely to reach a crisis point much sooner than under past forecasts."


"The 2009 Social Security and Medicare Trustees Reports show the combined unfunded liability of these two programs has reached nearly $107 trillion in today's dollars! That is about seven times the size of the U.S. economy and 10 times the size of the outstanding national debt."


What Happened To The Green Shoots?

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Delusions of Grandeur

Is it actually possible that the green shoots were merely the result of short-term stimulus and inventory shifts by companies? Is it possible that the trajectory of GDP could go sideways or fall for years or even a decade or two after a serious unprecedented structural shift in the economy?

Bernanke said today many times that the current budget deficit is unsustainable. He also said that deficits of over 3% of GDP are unsustainable over time. These two facts would be troubling but lawmakers and the FED believe they are temporary because solid economic growth will shortly return.

All scenarios revolve around the premise of a solid recovery returning. It has to because we are facing a falling tax base and baby boomers retiring. I'm afraid a stagnant economy like Japan in the 1990s will not even be considered by lawmakers when it comes to spending programs and balancing the budget. But I guess why would it? The U.S. has produced one of the greatest economic track records ever in history. Even more rare and impressive about it is the history of economics on the whole when it comes to other countries is often a very dismal one.

Whether or not things get under control shorting treasury bonds and the dollar should be a good long-term macro play. Of course it is difficult here with the potential for at any time a panic rush to dollars but if there continues to be a flock that creates a mini bubble shorting the dollar seems like a no brainer because at the least it will fall from debasing.

Some articles and videos I have come across recently

Deathbed of Keynesian Economics Will Be in U.K.

Jim Rogers: The Dollar is Doomed

February 19, 2010

Net Tangible Asset Value Stock Plays,Oil & Retail

I crunched oil and natural gas stock Delta Petroleum's DPTR net tangible asset value to be around $515,000 vs a $368,000 market cap.

I'm pretty bullish on commodities and oil with Bernanke being re-confirmed. He's going to drop dollar bills from helicopters or even outer space if he has to to get the economy going(or just to hold its ground). Commodities have done very well the past 10 years because of inflation whether one wants to believe CPI or not. Gold has outperformed the major US indices since 2000.

Retail stock Borders BGP is just over net tangible asset value but has been beaten down a lot lately. I'd especially like to see some commitment by institutions with upgrades because it very well could continue to drop.

full disclosure: no position in BGP or DPTR at time of writing