China Booms, The CIT Crisis, A Bizarre Commodity Worth Stockpiling, Vancouver and More!

by Addison Wiggin & Ian Mathias

  • China booms, again… the nearly “too good to be true” details of their latest GDP data
  • In the U.S., another financial crisis… The 5 examines CIT
  • Doug Casey says stockpile this “commodity”… heh, you’ll never guess which one
  • Stocks forge ahead… blue chip earnings beats blind the Street


  China has once again snatched the leadoff spot in our daily lineup. And once again, they’ve knocked the cover off the ball.

The Chinese economy expanded at a dizzying 7.9% in the second quarter, their government announced yesterday. That far exceeds analyst expectations and China’s still-impressive 6.1% first-quarter growth. Conveniently, the second-quarter jump — plus revised GDP growth expectations of 8% in the third quarter and 9% in the fourth — puts China perfectly on track for the 8% annual growth they promised earlier this year.

Looking through the fine print of today’s data… oy, these are some la-la land numbers:

  • New lending in the first half soared 201% compared to the year before
  • First-half property sales up 53% per annum
  • Chinese home prices are growing at a 10% annualized pace
  • First-half auto sales up 17% per annum
  • Retail sales up 15% in the first half
  • Inflation down 1.1% from a year ago.

Of course, not all is well over there. Exports, the backbone of the Chinese economy, are down 22% so far this year. Construction starts, another staple of Chinese growth, just ended 11 straight months of decline. But still, today’s numbers show nothing short of a V-shaped recovery for China. Too good to be true? Maybe.

  But here’s one more amazing Chinese stat for today, one we don’t doubt: China’s official foreign reserves now exceed a record $2.13 trillion. At least $763 billion of this sea of money is pure U.S. debt. In spite of all the global turmoil and market ups and downs, China has remained the world’s steadiest accumulator of sovereign debt — namely American Treasuries… a fact of life that will surely haunt us one day.

  Another Chinese debt auction failed this morning. That’s the third time in the last two weeks that the Chinese government was unable to sell as much debt as it planned. In order to continue financing their rabid growth, maybe they’ll have to start selling some assets — like, call us crazy, American IOUs.

  By the way, despite China’s unwavering appetite, global demand for American Treasuries fell by the most this year during May. According to yesterday’s TIC flow data from the Fed, the global community was a net seller of U.S. debt back then. Net selling exceeded $22 billion, the lowest demand for American debt since November.


  Mexico is in deep trouble. The Mexican economy might shrink 7% in 2009, the U.N. forecasts.

“Mexico is the biggest concern in the region,” said Alicia Barcena, head of the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. “It’s an economy that depends very heavily on exports to the U.S., it’s one of the countries with the biggest fall in remittances and it’s also being hit by swine flu. Recovery for Mexico will be difficult and highly complicated.”

  Back in the U.S., here comes another financial systemic risk crisis. The drama du jour is at CIT, a commercial lender not to be confused with Citigroup.

CIT is a small-to-midsize business lender that actually has a lot more in common with Lehman Bros. Like Lehman, the company’s business model is reliant on debt and easy credit — CIT relies on money borrowed from capital markets to finance its loans. And also like Lehman, CIT is saddled with debt of its own — about $35 billion worth.

Having already bailed out CIT with $2.3 billion in TARP bucks, the Obama administration gave the company the cold shoulder (thank heavens) when CIT came knocking for more earlier this week. Evidently, their moronic board was counting on renewed government aid. Now the company has just a matter of days to raise as much as $3 billion. Fat chance, says the market:

This time last week, we compared some eerie similarities between 2008 and 2009… investor attitudes, market behavior and economic indicators are lining up a bit too close for comfort. And now this — what would be the biggest banking failure since Lehman. Oy, could get interesting. Most media outlets are downplaying CIT’s peril, but we’re not so quick to brush it off. Its bankruptcy won’t likely produce a Lehman style meltdown, but on Monday, tens of thousands of businesses might not have a primary source of financing. In this credit environment, do you think it’ll be easy for them to get fast loans from someone else?

  CIT’s plight isn’t helping the dollar one bit. Coupled with the stock rallies this week, the dollar index fell as low as 79.3 yesterday, its lowest level since June 11. As we write, it’s at 79.5.

  Sounds like a good day to by some gold, eh? You wouldn’t be alone today, or this month, for that matter… the spot price has risen to $935 this morning, up about $30 from early July.

  “The idea that Chinese yuan could replace the dollar strikes us as ridiculous today,” writes Chris Mayer. “I am sure the typical British subject in 1922 — when the Empire ruled over 458 million people and a quarter of world’s land area — would have found equally ridiculous the idea that in two decades, his cherished pound would play second fiddle to the U.S. dollar of the former colonies.

“I don’t know what currency will be the currency of choice two decades hence. I will be surprised if it is the U.S. dollar alone. And not knowing is a good reason to own some gold.”

  California’s lousy economy and gold’s worthy valuation has caused a second gold rush. We’ve heard more than one report lately of way more prospectin’ activity than normal in Southern California. For example, Keene Engineering, which makes gold-finding equipment for the average Joe, reported recently that business has doubled in 2009.

It makes sense. Times are tough, jobs are sparse, wages are low, taxes are rising… and here’s perhaps the one true “free lunch” in America. Good luck, fellas.

  “If you’re American and are going to be storing things,” writes Doug Casey, “you probably can’t go wrong building a stash of cigarettes.” Of course, Mr. Casey advocates a healthy private stash of precious metals, but when pressed for what else we should stockpile, he said this:

“They keep raising the taxes on cigarettes — a pack now costs $10 in some places in the U.S. That’s 50 cents per individual cigarette. Even if you don’t smoke — or perhaps especially if you don’t smoke — every time you return to the U.S., you should buy the maximum amount of duty-free cigarettes allowed and store them.

“The other thing Americans should do is buy a lot of shotgun shells, 9 mm, .45, .223 and .308 ammo. Even if you don’t shoot, you can set those aside and store them too, because they’re going to be taxed and regulated to the nth degree. And properly stored, they keep for a very long time.

“In fact, anything regulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — one of the most corrupt, dangerous and useless of all federal bureaucracies — is likely to go up considerably in both price and value. It’s perverse that the U.S. has a bureaucracy to regulate the things you need for a hunting trip or a good party. Maybe their next trick will be to convert the DEA into the Bureau of Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll.’”

That’s vintage Doug, for sure. Hearing him talk about stockpiling cigarettes reminds us of last year’s Investment Symposium, when Mr. Casey lit up during his presentation — not because he really wanted to, but because the (very accommodating) people at the Fairmont told him he couldn’t. What followed was an onslaught against Uncle Sam, the TSA, investment bankers and others who likely deserved it. We expect no less from Doug when we meet next week… stay tuned.

  But market makers aren’t too concerned about all we’ve mentioned above. Earnings season is front and center, and blue chips are beating expectations left and right.

Most indexes climbed over 1% yesterday, driven mostly by an earnings beat from JP Morgan. Their $2.7 billion in profits gave hope to Bank of America and Citigroup — which both topped earnings estimates before the opening bell this morning. We also saw GE, Google and IBM print better-than-expected earnings after the bell. Most of their earnings beats look to have been priced in yesterday. Thus, the market is at a standstill as we write.

  Stocks also got a boost yesterday from the latest jobless claims report. New claims fell by 47,000 last week, says the Labor Department, to 522,000. That’s the lowest level since January. Continuing claims fell by a whopping 642,000, to 6.2 million… a record decline so large, it’s hard to believe.

  Oil’s back on the rise, thanks to this week’s sudden stock optimism. Light sweet crude is at $62 a barrel as we write.

  “I am sick and tired of people going on and on about the poor and health care,” writes a reader of our recent health care debate. “I’ve been poor. I’ve been ‘trailer trash.’ And you know what? I even got sick a few times. For the most part, unless you have a bone sticking out, blood gushing or some terminal illness, a person generally gets over it. Most anyone, even with a government indoctr- , er, education, can figure out to take some NyQuil, eat the lost days’ pay and sleep it off. On the rare occasion I had to see a doctor, I worked (what a concept!) and paid cash for the office visit. And if I had been unfortunate enough to be in a traumatic accident, the hospital would have patched me back together, insurance or not, because they have to by law. Granted, I might have still been working to pay off the debt even now, which is why I found myself being really freakin’ careful not to put myself in any accidents. Funny how that works.

”If people feel so obligated to help the poor, by God, give to charities. I, like most people who are grateful for the opportunity to earn a living, believe firmly in tithing and giving to charities regularly, even in this economic misallocation. Yes, that’s right. I didn’t say crisis, or downturn or anything else. Every problem we are now facing can be narrowed down to two things: the government legislating activities counter to what the market would normally do and the people who took advantage of it.”

The 5: It’s been fun bouncing these reader mails back and forth this week. Per usual, we’ll bump this one to the blog to make space for whatever evokes rabid response from you next week. If you’ve got more to say on health care, take it to the blog.

Have a great weekend,

Ian Mathias

The 5 Min. Forecast

P.S. In just a few days, we’ll jet across I.O.U.S.A. to Vancouver, B.C., for our annual Investment Symposium. In fact, the next time you hear from your 5 Min. crew, we’ll be reporting live from the event. Please, if you run into your 5 Min. editors, stop by, say hello, have a drink… or two! If you’re not sure that you’ll recognize Addison and me, this picture can be your guide.

And if you aren’t able to join us in Vancouver, The 5 will be where it’s at: We’ll share the best of the general session presentations, the breakout sessions, the power lunches and dinner discussions — all while keeping you abreast of the worldly news and trends that’ll shape your daily point of view. Stick around… it’ll be a fun week.

P.P.S.  While you’re readying for Vancouver, be sure to check out our resource trader Alan Knuckman’s latest special report. We’ll be sending his brand-new “no brainier” trading strategy to you tonight. Watch your inbox. 



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