Martin Weiss: Two recent mega-events — the Wall Street collapse in 2008 and the Washington response in 2009 … the debt implosion and then the money printing explosion — are mind-boggling in their dimensions.
Neither you nor I can know with certainty what the future will bring. But at this particular juncture, we don’t have to poke around in hidden crevices of the economy. Nor must we stretch our imagination to conjure this or that scenario. To get a pretty good idea of what’s likely to happen next year, all we have to do is follow the path of natural consequences from these two mega-events. And that’s what we’re going to do right here and now.
I have assembled our Weiss Research team of analysts to lay out for you, step-by-step, what those consequences are likely to be in the coming year — 11 startling forecasts for 2010.
Mike Larson is one of the only analysts in the country who accurately predicted both the real estate bust in 2005 and the recent real estate bottom in 2009. Today, he is not only our resident expert on real estate, but also our chief Fed watcher, interest rate specialist and analyst of the entire financial sector.
Larry Edelson, joining us from Bangkok, Thailand, was among the very first to predict that gold would one day exceed $1,000 per ounce, and now that day has come. But Larry’s gold forecast is just one of many that illustrate a special skill he brings to as a Director of the Foundation for the Study of Cycles: Timing the markets.
Claus Vogt, joining us today from Berlin, is the man I’ve personally selected to make the picks — and give the signals — for one million dollars of my own money, based not only on his own years of trading experience but also on the input from our entire Weiss Research team.
I can think of no better person to help us forecast the direction of the global economy and global stock markets.
I hasten to add that forecasting what we believe is likely to happen in 2010 is strictly the first part of our program today. During the second, equally important, part we will give you actionable guidance — investment ideas you can USE to take advantage of the profit and income opportunities that flow directly from our forecasts. And to bring you the best of the best ideas we can, I have also assembled a panel of our investment specialists in each major arena.
Ron Rowland, our specialist on ETFs … Nilus Mattive, our specialist on dividend stocks … and Bryan Rich, our foreign currency expert.
From Southeast Asia, we have our Asia stock specialist Tony Sagami, who just completed a reconnaissance tour of Indonesia and … from Southern South America; we have Sean Brodrick, reporting on his visits to resource companies in Chile and Argentina.
Plus I have invited a special guest, Monty Agarwal, one of the nation’s leading experts on hedge funds, sovereign wealth funds, and global money flows.
Thanks to their participation in this special summit, you benefit from some of the most timely, in-depth and fascinating research in the world today.
Mike Larson: I happen to think the research effort has paid off very nicely. For example, look at the absolutely huge companies that failed, were bought out or bailed out last year! And look how many of those companies Weiss Research specifically named as candidates for failure well ahead of time:
Two of the nation’s largest brokers, Bear Sterns and Lehman Brothers … the nation’s largest mortgage lenders, Countrywide Financial and Fannie Mae … the nation’s largest savings and loan, Washington Mutual … and the nation’s second largest commercial banks, Citigroup.
And next, look at the utterly massive government reaction to those failures that we have uncovered: Fed Chairman Bernanke has responded with the most rapid acceleration of monetary expansion in U.S. history.
Before the Lehman Brothers collapse last year — it took nearly 14 years for the Federal Reserve to double the cash and reserves at the nation’s banks.
But after the Lehman Brothers collapse, it took Mr. Bernanke’s Fed only 112 days — barely four months — to double the monetary base. In other words, he accelerated the pace of bank reserve expansion by a factor of forty-five to one.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Geithner and his predecessor responded with the largest bailouts of all time, helping to triple the size of an already-bulging federal deficit.
With 2009 coming to a close, I’d like to take a look back at the role that the big-picture environment has played in determining how currencies, and all financial markets, performed. And how that might change, or stay the same, in 2010.
For 2009, it was all about risk appetite. It was a tug-of-war between risk aversion and risk taking. This dictated what was happening with global currencies, stocks, bonds, commodities … all financial markets. And for most of the year that battle was clearly won by an increasing global appetite for risk.
Here’s how it played out …
After the global financial system was on the brink of collapse in late 2008, it became apparent in early 2009 that disaster had been averted. And when Bernanke announced that he saw “green shoots” in the U.S. economy, it was a green-light for global investors to start dipping their toes back in the water.
Gradually investors started feeling better about the world. And as they felt better, they started taking on more risk. It was a shift in focus, away from the mandate of “return OF capital” back toward one of “return ON capital.”
For global markets this risk-centric investment environment caused a breakdown of historical inter-market relationships and the emergence of a new, and tightly correlated … “risk trade.”
A Recap of the Risk Trade …
In a sense, the risk trade has been easy to understand. The dollar has moved one way and practically everything else — such as currencies, global stocks and global commodities — have moved in the opposite direction.
My table below gives some perspective on this seesaw of extremes in global risk appetite and how it has affected financial markets …
When risk aversion is king, the dollar wins and practically everything else loses. And conversely when risk appetite improves, that trade reverses.
If the final weeks of 2009 are any indication, it looks like risk will remain central to global markets in 2010 …
For example, risks of a sovereign debt crisis are elevating. So is the risk aversion barometer. As for the risk taking state, it’s been underscored by the prospects of economic recovery.
Now, with the perception that the U.S. recovery is on track, market focus is beginning to shift back to the traditional drivers of capital flow: Interest rate differentials and economic growth differentials.
That’s why we’re seeing the U.S. dollar recover, even while stocks and commodities move higher. A clear decoupling of the correlations we’ve seen to this point that has defined the risk taking component of the risk trade.
Sustainable or Unsustainable?
World economies were sitting on the edge of the cliff and have now stepped back a bit. We’ve seen the positive GDP numbers that have technically ended most recessions. But now the forces pulling and pushing between risk aversion and risk taking are about the sustainability of the recovery.
If the recovery proves sustainable, then the market focus should ultimately transition back toward relative growth and relative interest rate prospects between countries.
But the growth argument has a lot of detractors. There are some very serious problems that remain, and risks that make sustainable growth a low probability.
Here are three key threats that could derail the notion of a return to normalcy, which could swing the international environment squarely back into the risk aversion court. And we know, from the table above, how that impacts currencies and all financial markets.
Rising Prospects of a Sovereign Debt Crisis
|Dubai’s woes could mark the beginning of a sovereign debt crisis.|
First it was Dubai that stoked fear in the financial markets over the Thanksgiving Day holiday. Now, Greece has been called on the carpet over concerns that the nation will struggle to meet debt commitments. And Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal are all coming under scrutiny for similar reasons.
Debt problems in a global crisis have the ability to be contagious. And that can destroy investor confidence in the capital markets of such countries, and in the global economy. And when confidence wanes, capital flees … a surefire recipe for falling dominoes.
While ground zero for the credit crisis was the U.S. housing market, new bubbles in real estate are popping up in the areas that were relative outperformers in the downturn (such as China, India and Canada).
When you answer a liquidity crisis with more liquidity, you’re bound to create more bubbles. Central banks and governments have flooded the system with liquidity and money has leaked into assets like commodities, stocks and real estate around the world.
We’ve already seen evidence of restrictions on global trade and capital flows. Considering protectionism was a key accomplice in fueling the Great Depression, this activity represents a major threat to global economic recovery.
|Chinese officials claim that the U.S. duty on Chinese-made tires sends a dangerous protectionist signal.|
After the lessons from the Great Depression, the leaders from the top 20 countries of the world vowed to avoid protectionist activity. But actions from the G-20 countries are speaking louder than words. In fact, new trade restrictions have been erected by most of them since the pledge was made.
Perhaps the biggest factor in the protectionism threat is China’s currency policy. Even after recent visits in China by U.S. President Obama and European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet to lobby for a stronger yuan, the Chinese have remained steadfast on keeping their currency weak.
As this issue with China’s currency gains in intensity, expect protectionist acts to rise in retaliation. And expect collateral economic and political damage.
Bottom line: All of these threats point to the rising probability of a “double dip” recession. Another round of recession would send global investors back into their shell and would swing the risk pendulum back toward risk aversion. And based on the table I’ve presented above, we should expect such a scenario to drive the dollar higher and global financial markets lower.
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