Marc Faber: Central Bank Intervention “Will Be Very Painful”

Continuing the theme from our last post, Marc Faber — publisher of The Gloom Boom and Doom Report — argues how central bank policy distorts asset prices. The unwavering commitment to monetary expansion will reach its conclusion when inflation explodes or the system becomes so unwieldy it just collapses.

He takes this analysis a step further, to the social implications of central bank intervention. He says monetary intervention ultimately foments social unrest and must culminate in disaster, be it financial meltdown or war.

 

Advertisements

Cyprus: could something like that happen in Canada?

Marc Faber contends that at some point, everywhere will become like Cyprus.

It will happen everywhere in the world. In Western democracies, you have more people that vote for a living than work for a living. I think you have to be prepared to lose 20 to 30 percent. I think you’re lucky if you don’t lose your life … If you look at what happened in Cyprus, basically people with money will lose part of their wealth, either through expropriation or higher taxation.”

But in Canada? No way!

Well… maybe. Check out page 144 of the 2013 “Economic Action Plan” (I hate that term):

The Government proposes to implement a “bail-in” regime for systemically important banks. This regime will be designed to ensure that, in the unlikely event that a systemically important bank depletes its capital, the bank can be recapitalized and returned to viability through the very rapid conversion of certain bank liabilities into regulatory capital. This will reduce risks for taxpayers. The Government will consult stakeholders on how best to implement a bail-in regime in Canada. Implementation timelines will allow for a smooth transition for affected institutions, investors and other market participants.

The details are not made explicit in the budget document. But remember, your deposit is the bank’s liability. When the budget talks about “certain liabilities” being converted into “regulatory capital,” it kinda sounds like Canadian government might be willing to enact a Cyprus-esque solution to a banking crisis.

Apparently, this is not what they mean. Instead, Ottawa wants banks to issue “contingent capital bonds,” something Carney has advocated. These bonds would provide an above-average return. The catch is that if the bank gets into trouble, the bond is converted into shares. The bank would then have emergency capital without a taxpayer-funded bailout.

I think this is a stupid idea. Sure, I suppose banks should be able to issue whatever kind of bonds they want. However, Ottawa claims it wants to “limit the unfair advantage that could be gained by Canada’s systemically important banks through the mistaken belief by investors and other market participants that these institutions are “too big to fail.” The contingent capital bond doesn’t really do anything about that. The moral hazard still is there, because there remains an implicit assumption — which seems to permeate all Western nations at this time — that if anything bad happens to a bank that made bad investments, the entire world will explode. So the government or the central bank will have no choice but to intervene to “save the world (banks)”! We don’t even know that the government itself would not buy these bonds. Or, in a serious crisis, why they couldn’t just buy preferred bank stocks, like a Paulson plan style of bailout/bail-in.

If the implicit guarantee is still there (and why would it not be? Canada’s banks were bailed out in the financial crisis), then contingent capital bonds don’t address the moral hazard issue. Instead, they just let the moral hazard continue with a wink and a nudge, while someone gets a higher yield bond out of the deal. Meanwhile, the explicit generators of moral hazard, like the BoC, CDIC, and the CMHC, continue to exist without change.

Canada’s Big Five banks hold nearly $3 trillion in assets. Their capitalization is about 8%.  So their leverage is so great that they would not withstand even a moderate crisis on a “bail-in” of converted contingent capital bonds. A 20-30% hit on assets would crush them. The idea is a joke.

Yet, the Canadian government, for all its ineptitude, must reasonably fear that a critical Canadian bank failure is a plausible situation. Whatever their “bail-in” plan entails, you must remember that CDIC insurance covers only $100,000 of your chequing and savings deposits, and short-term GICs. It doesn’t cover your stock account or your RRSP accounts. Don’t count on the ‘geniuses’ in Ottawa to regulate the economy so effectively that all your money will be safe.

— Read more at CBC —

Investing: Silver vs. Gold

Many people want to know about silver. They want to know how it compares to gold as an investment.

Some call silver a “poor man’s gold.” In other words, the average man on the street is more able to go to a dealer and buy a few ounces of silver than he is a few ounces of gold. Yet “poor man’s gold” is not a fair characterization, because it assumes silver and gold belong in the same category simply because they are both precious metals. The reality is that silver and gold are different in important ways.

I recommend that one’s precious metal holdings be MAXIMUM 25% silver. 15% is probably better. Gold should make up the rest.

First, I invite you to check out the Kitco charts and look at recent price behavior.

In April 2011, silver reached a high of $49. But by June 2012, it hit $27. As I write this, it is $29. Measured from the 2011 highs, this is a massive loss. Nearly 50%.

Now look at gold. In September 2011, gold hit a high of $1895. In May 2012, it bottomed at $1540. As of right now, it is $1580. Measured from the 2011 highs, this is a moderate loss. Nearly 20%.

The idea reflected here is that silver is much more volatile.

Look back to 1980. Silver fell from $50 to $3.60 in 1991. Gold, at its worst, fell from $850 in 1980 to $255 in 2001. It’s like losing your house and all your money, instead of just all your money.

So when gold sells off, silver will sell off  harder and faster. Silver bulls will argue that the potential gains are much, much higher with silver than with gold. This is plausible, if only because silver is 40% down from its all time high and gold is 17% down from its all time high, and there are strong reasons to believe that both will move upwards.

Why the volatility? The primary reason is industrial demand, which for gold is very small. It is significant for silver, however. During a panic, the price for raw materials plummets.

Gold is different. You could say it commands a premium. This is essentially because gold is regarded as a monetary metal even though it is not money. Central banks buy and sell gold. They have it in their vaults. Central banks don’t stock silver. Wealthy people want gold in a crisis, and silver is much less interesting. Indian families buy it when their daughters get hitched. Asians use it to protect against inflation.  Silver really doesn’t serve that purpose, and I do not believe it will in the near future.

Silver will probably have a bigger bull market than gold by the time Great Depression 2 hits. But if you want to buy precious metals because you are afraid of people like Bernanke and Carney, then you want gold. Silver is a higher risk trade. Gold will perform better in a panic, which is when silver will perform horribly.

In either case, your objective is to hold until the error cycle reaches its final moments before we enter a deflationary depression. Because at that point, you want to unload all your gold and silver and get currency and bonds from institutions that won’t go broke. It’s a trade that would be harder to time correctly with silver than with gold.

All this being said, there is one other important advantage gold has over silver: your wife or girlfriend will like gold jewelry more than silver jewelry.

%d bloggers like this: