April 6, 2010
- Congress quietly passes capital control laws… government tightens grip on money leaving I.O.U.S.A.
- How Greece has pushed gold to a new record high
- Alan Knuckman on what’s really driven oil to $86 a barrel
- Dan Amoss offers “one of the best methods of stock market valuation”
- Plus, one step closer to war with Iran (or North Korea)… America’s latest nuclear declaration
It’s easy to feel paranoid these days. Two stories percolating in the blogosphere threw us over the edge this morning. Both involve acts recently passed by Congress. Both are preambles to what we see as a most odious trend.
The first is a provision slipped unceremoniously into the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act, AKA “the jobs bill,” which passed into law on March 18, 2010.
The provision outlines new rules on “Foreign Account Tax Compliance.” The gist is this: Send more than over $50,000 to a foreign bank not on good terms with the U.S. and the IRS will withhold 30% of it for possible tax claw back — and a boatload of your private account information.
“And so the noose on capital mobility tightens,” concludes “Tyler Durden” at Zero Hedge, after parsing the language of the bill, “as very soon, the only option U.S. citizens have when it comes to investing their money, will be in government-mandated retirement annuities, which will likely be the next step in the capital control escalation, which will culminate with every single free dollar required to be reinvested into the U.S., likely in the form of purchasing U.S. Treasury emissions such as Treasuries, TIPS and other worthless pieces of paper.
“Congratulations, bankrupt America — you are now one step closer to a thoroughly non-free market.” Our friends at Zero Hedge do the heaving lifting on this one. If you care at all what’s happening to your country, you’ll take a look, here.
“Capital controls have been used since the days of the Roman Empire,” comments Doug Casey in yesterday’s Whiskey & Gunpowder. “A country debases its currency, raises taxes beyond a certain level and makes regulations too onerous — and productive people naturally react by getting their capital, and then themselves, out of Dodge. But the government can’t have that, so it puts on capital controls. They’re all but inevitable at this point.”
Indeed, they are law. Doug suggests a few things you can do about it, here. Doug will also be live and in person at our Vancouver symposium July 20-23, 2010. The subject of capital controls and alternative investments just gained a whole new level of expedience for this year’s discussion. We’re tentatively theming this year’s symposium: The Assault on Enterprise. Would you join us at the event to discuss what’s happening to the U.S.? Details for the symposium, including available discounts, reside here.
The second disturbing act comes from the Senate.
S.3081 — Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention and Prosecution Act of 2010 would allow the U.S. military to detain U.S. citizens without trial indefinitely in the U.S. based on suspected activity. Our friend Ernest Hancock digs into this bill on his Web site.
Since the Hutaree ring got rounded up in Michigan a week and a half ago, we’ve seen more than one congressperson mouthing off about “our enemies.” They aren’t just Islamic extremists anymore; we must be wary of the “homegrown terrorists” now.
It’s very expensive now to move your money to friendlier tax jurisdictions. Taxes in the U.S. are most assuredly going up. And they’ve developed a fine apparatus to enforce collection. Goodness… we are paranoid.
On to happier economic news…
“There is no question whatsoever that the U.S. dollar will go south in the long run,” Yu Yongding, former head honcho of the People’s Bank of China, wrote in an Aussie paper this morning. “Unless the U.S. economy improves its trade balance, the dollar will fall. But the U.S. cannot improve its trade balance unless the dollar falls.”
The savvy investor should be hunting for a worthy exchange for his dollars. One hint this morning… the Reserve Bank of Australia hiked its main interest rate yet again. It’s now up to 4.25%.
Oddly enough, the dollar is notably higher today, too. The dollar index is up about half a point from yesterday, to 81.6.
In fact, it feels like every currency is holding its own today — except the euro. More grumbling over Greece has bumped the euro down 2 full cents already this week, to $1.33.
With that in mind, grab your iPhone, go to the Stocks app and enter XAUEUR=X
You’ll get a value somewhere around 844… the most euros ever paid for one ounce of gold. Check it out:
Nothing you wouldn’t expect here… Greece is pushing traders out of the euro, and obviously, some don’t want to flee to the dollar. There were some more bickering over the details of Greece’s bailout overnight, and XAUEUR found itself a new record. Et voila.
(By the way, that same trick will work with any currency. Just substitute “EUR” with another currency code like “USD” or “CAD.”)
And don’t put down that i-device yet: “I downloaded the iPhone app earlier today and started using it immediately,” a reader writes this morning. “It’s really great to have all of those timely and informative publications in one easy-to-access place. I especially like the option to view the article in my Web browser. Well done!”
Daily Reckoning? There’s an app for that…
Yesterday, we unveiled The Daily Reckoning’s app for your iPhone, iTouch, Web browser and even your fancy new iPad. Instructions for downloading your DR app are provided here. It’s free. And it includes additional content every day from The 5 Min. Forecast, Penny Sleuth, Whiskey & Gunpowder and more. Enjoy.
Gold priced in greenbacks is looking good this morning, at $1,130 an ounce. Although well off its record closing high of $1,214 set late last year, today’s price is a few bucks short of a two-month high.
Crude oil has found an 18-month high at $86 a barrel. The world’s primary energy source has quietly risen 24% over the last two months and is once again flirting with that invisible line… at what point does a high oil price stop signaling economic recovery and start putting a thumb in the eye of American industry? We suspect it’s right around $80-90 a barrel.
“The speculator blame game has returned,” notes our resident resource trader Alan Knuckman. “This seemingly age-old market argument has reappeared as crude has made new highs above $85 a barrel. My word of wisdom to those who don’t believe in the rally: Sell if prices are too high for their liking. Make your words heard with money not your mouthy opinion, please.
“There are too many moving pieces to drive any liquid market like oil in one direction. Futures prices are just one component of the vast energy market. There are cash market considerations, swaps, over-the-counter dealings and the securities exchange-traded funds that all track crude movements.
“Prices aren’t ‘high’ or ‘low’… they are simply the equilibrium point of price discovery for buyers and sellers. And let’s not forget, something is worth what someone is willing to pay.”
Alan’s Resource Trader Alert readers certainly appreciate his sober approach to pricing crude oil. Last year they cashed in 106% profits on their oil trade, and just yesterday Alan suggested they sell half of a new crude oil spread for around 60% gains. See how you can follow along, right here.
Traders are not willing to pay for U.S. stocks today. The Dow and S&P opened down about 0.3%. It’s just like oil… all a matter of valuation.
“Investors need to understand the long-term trends in stock valuations,” writes Dan Amoss. Starting valuation is crucial to your investing results. Overpaying for stocks near the peak of bull markets is a surefire way to lose money.
“One of the best methods of stock market valuation is based on the work of Yale professor Robert Shiller and his now-famous “Shiller P/E ratio.” The Shiller P/E ratio is calculated as follows: Divide the S&P 500 by the average inflation-adjusted earnings from the previous 10 years. Here is a chart of the Shiller P/E going all the way back to 1880:
“This is the best P/E ratio to use over long stretches of history, because it smoothes out the extreme peaks and valleys in earnings, giving a better framework for thinking about future S&P earnings power. The mean and median Shiller P/E since 1880 are both about 16. Today, it’s about 22. At the last four major bear market bottoms, in 1921, 1932, 1949 and 1982, the Shiller P/E fell all the way into the range of 5-10. This is a far cry from bouncing sharply off of 15 — which we saw at the March 2009 bottom.
“Valuation is the main reason why I expect the bear market to last several more years into the future — probably somewhere in the 2015-2020 time frame. I think we’ll get there through some combination of falling stock prices and modest earnings growth. Rising Treasury yields should drive stock valuations lower.”
If you’re worried about the next market correction, Dan’s your man. His Strategic Short Report readers are well prepared for the next leg down. Join his ranks here — for a limited time — for just $1.
Last today, some unnerving timing: Just a day after we mentioned our concerns over a new war with Iran, the Obama administration announced today it is tightening conditions under which the U.S. would nuke an enemy… except for “outliers like Iran and North Korea.”
Essentially, the U.S. will play nice if nuclear states sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Otherwise, it’s just one more reason for Mr. Obama to push the mythical red button. So North Korea — which signed the treaty, but later withdrew — is vulnerable. Ditto Iran, which has no nukes and did sign the treaty… but hasn’t met Washington’s exacting standards for cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors. (India, Pakistan, and Israel all have nukes and refuse to sign the treaty. But they get a pass because… ummm… errr… they’re different.)
“Surely, you were being tongue-in-cheek when you referred to Iran needing a bomb,” a reader writes. “Yes, it needs one to fulfill their dream and promise to destroy Israel and the USA… unless you think Iran’s statements to said effect were meant to be ignored.
“Please be reminded that if the enemies of this country have their way, all of your vaunted investment advice will be beyond irrelevant… it will be buried… along with you, me and the rest of our countrymen.”
The 5: Umn, yeah, that was our point. Try as we might to ignore the politics, they may have lasting ramifications for any endeavor to build wealth and prosperity over your lifetime.
“There is no longer a question that Iran backs terrorist organizations,” writes another. “The president of Iran has publicly stated that a few well-placed nukes will totally destroy Israel, and that while the Israeli counterstrikes will kill many Arabs/Muslims, the Israelis cannot kill all of Islam. Therefore, it is a good trade…
“I’m not as worried nearly as much about the Strait of Hormuz as much as I am about New York; Washington, D.C.; Paris; London; Bonn; Moscow; Sydney; Tokyo; Beijing; etc. I won’t comment about all of the U.S. bases and involvements, but I do know that the deadly intent of Iran is not one which the U.S. or the rest of the sane world can run from. Play all of the games you want, but you just can’t negotiate with a rabid dog…or a fanatic.”
The 5: And away we go. “Weapons of Mass Destruction: The Sequel.”
The 5 Min. Forecast
P.S. In the 1950s, the writer John T. Flynn outlined the rise of militarism on the heels of a credit binge in Italy in the 1920s that eventually lead to the invasion of Ethiopia. We draw out the parallels in a chapter titled “As We Go Marching” in The New Empire of Debt. If you haven’t read it already, we recommend it.