Stuart Varney on why food prices have skyrocketed in past year

Monty Pelerin has a great post on how government statistics are lying to people about inflation.  He makes an appeal to the real inflation in food prices.  While the excessive creation (electronically not via printing) of fiat money results in high food prices, the EPA has just decided to increase the ethanol content of gasoline to 15% from 10%.  This will not help food prices either, since it is more lucrative for farmers to receive a government subsidy to grow corn for ethanol than for food or for livestock feed.

The Bible treats agricultural growth as a direct gift from God himself.  For us to take our grains a piss them into cars because of worry that God can’t keep the planet from turning into a ball of fire is something that will ultimately lead to His judgment of our society.  It is immoral to burn food in cars.  We have abundant petroleum products are for that purpose.  Meanwhile, Americans (and yes, we in Canada) are feeling the pinch of inflation.  This is just going to get worse, much worse, as central banks around the world solve their sovereign debt and other insolvency issues through the creation of more fiat money.   Monty Pelerin has another excellent post (Why High Inflation Is Inevitable) explaining why the Bernanke must continue to ease–the US government is insolvent.  If the Bernanke doesn’t ease, the politicians will fire him and replace him with someone who will.  Food, energy and other costs of the real things people need will continue to pinch people’s budgets until it will cost one’s entire wages just to survive.  That what happened in Weimar.

Hat tip: Monty Pelerin

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Reflexions on how to invest in an inflationary environment using leverage

The clear winners during the Weimar inflation were debtors.  This according to historian Adam Fergusson, author of When Money Dies (pdf link).  Indeed, it pays to owe money during inflation and even 2% inflation is theft–stealing from anyone who has lent money.

I have said in previous posts that the only reason that home owners win is because they enjoy a cheap debt product, a mortgage, and that as time passes, inflation reduces the value of the mortgage, while it appears in nominal dollar terms that their house has increased in value.  But if measured in something more stable, like gold, real estate hasn’t really improved in value over the course of the last 100 years.  It is just the dollar that has fizzled out.

Thus, I conclude that leverage that is under control and manageable, is the best weapon against inflation.  What is leverage that is under control?  (1) Keep debt to equity near or below 1:1; (2) Use debt to  purchase of a cash-flow producing investment, such as a dividend paying stock or rental housing, which in covers the interest payments and creates income;  (3) Avoid consumer debt.

In any case, here is the video in which Adam Fergusson explains how debtors win:  they pay off mortgages with “postage stamps” (i.e., eventually, the cost of postage stamps is similar to the total mortgage debt).

Hat tip:  Zero Hedge

The dollar has no intrinsic value III

“There is no means of avoiding a final collapse of a boom brought about by credit expansion. The alternative is only whether the crisis should come sooner as a result of a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion or later as a final and total catastrophe of the currency system involved.” – Ludwig von Mises (hat tip Jim Quinn)

My prediction for the current debt crisis:  John Boehner and the establishment Republicans will form a coalition with the Congressional democrats to sell out the American people.  They will raise the debt ceiling, Obama will sign the bill, Bernanke will officially begin QE3, and it will be business as usual.  The dollar will continue its downward spiral and much of world is going to starve to death.  During the Weimar Republic, food became the most expensive part of people’s budget.  Gonzalo Lira explains why food production fails during times of hyperinflation: Is Farmland A Smart Hedge Against Inflation?

Weimar America: II. O Happy Day, a compromise has been reached (rev.)

Update:  I learn from Rick Moran that the $38.5 billion in cuts weren’t from the quarterly deficit but of the annual budget.  I revised the post to reflect that.

I am as delighted about the compromise arrangement between Obama and Congress as anyone.  You see, my portfolio is 125% hedged against hyperinflation.  Congress has cut 38.5 billion.  That’s seems like a lot of money doesn’t it?  Let’s just all proclaim the victory.  You see, when the US Federal government is spending 1,600 billion per year more than what it brings in, $38.5 billion cuts less than 2.4% of the deficit.

Let’s try to get some perspective on this.  The Federal Reserve Bank is buying most of debt now since Japan is rebuilding in the aftermath of the Tsunami and the earthquake, and the Chinese are rebalancing their portfolios away from US debt while buying into the Canadian resource sector, among other things.  When Ben Bernanke buys the debt, it is called monetization; i.e., the money is created out of nothing and put into circulation via government spending.  This is creating hyperinflation–just look at commodities: gold is at $1475, oil at $113, silver over $40.  Now $38.5 billion savings will mean that the US will only borrow 97.6% of what they were planning to borrow before the compromise.  That’s a big deal.

Imagine your family had too much debt and expenses.  Every year you bring in $100,000, and borrow $50,000 while spending $150,000.  Now, you have a growing debt base, but you are not making a penny of payments on it to reduce its principle, and balance is now at $500,000.  Your payments are 2% interest, and so you are paying $10,000 of that $150,000 just to service the debt.  You’ve got a problem, because in one year that debt could cost you 5%, in which case your debt payments would become $27,500, and so you would have to borrow another $17,500 that next year just to cover the extra interest, so now instead of  borrowing $50,000, you are borrowing $67,500.  This is called a debt death spiral.  So lets say you and your wife compromise, and you decide to reduce your overspending by 2%, i.e., now instead of borrowing $50,000 you only add $49,000 to your $500,000 debt.  So in year two, your interest at 5% is only $27,450, meaning that you will only have to borrow $67,450 in year two.  Wow.  You’ve really made a difference by cutting your deficit by 2%!  Congratulations.

Thanks to the Tea Party we have a cost cutting Congress.  So I am now predicting that hyperinflation will be slowed down by a day or two.

Great job guys!  It makes my job as an investor easy:

Long: Canadian oil & gas sector; long Canadian gold mining companies, physical gold and silver (Sprott Physical Gold and Silver Trusts)

Short: US dollar.

Weimar America: I. It’s starting

I have been flabbergasted by the lag between the price of crude oil, now at $108, and the cost of certain Canadian junior and intermediate oil companies, whose share prices have not kept up with commodity prices.  The market seems to be saying, “Hey, I’ve seen this trick before.  I buy the oil companies, thinking I can take advantage of oil prices, and then the price goes down and I am left holding a bag of money-losing companies.”  Well that could be true.  But then again, this could be the start of Weimar America.

In Weimar Germany, when hyperinflation started, people initially slowed down their buying of consumer goods because they felt that the prices weren’t normal, and that they should soon fall back to some level of sanity.  But instead, prices continued to rise.  Thus, they were forced to pay higher prices.  They soon learned that the time to buy was immediately after receiving money.  One of my professors who was a boy during Weimar Germany recounted how, the moment his parents were paid, he had to rush with their money to the market before the prices went up.

Now this is happening all around us.  I know that Ben Bernanke is saying that high prices are due to commodities, and that they will come back down.  But I doubt that you can come up with a single time that he’s ever made an accurate prediction. Here are some signs that Weimar America is now here.

(1) Car prices:  I bought a RAV4 in February because the price hadn’t changed in over a year and because Toyota Canada offered me free 36 month financing.  I felt that car prices would be going up because of commodity prices.  The earthquake in Japan has shut down parts factories and now production will cease in Toyota’s North American plants.  Similar shut downs will likely occur to other manufacturers around the world who depend on parts from Japan.  Supply will go down and this will cause car prices in the near term to increase steeply.  But don’t expect prices to go down once those Japanese factories are back online.  This is a catalyst for pushing prices steeper, where they must go.

(2) Oil prices:  The crisis in Libya and in other oil producing countries has lead to $108 WTI and $121 Brent.  The crises are not going away, because many are caused by instability due to food inflation.  Don’t expect crude to come back down in price.

(3) Precious metal prices:  Despite those who call gold a bubble, gold seems to have found support at $1400.  Silver has been experiencing unreal gains.  Investors who want to have some exposure to physical metal would do well to establish a starting position lest prices don’t come back down.

(4) Flight of capital:  Wegelin & Co., a Swiss bank that caters to wealthy clients with beaucoup bucks to invest is leaving the United States and has written up a eight page, double column, writ of divorce, entitled, “Farewell America“, explaining that the new bank regulations that the Obama led government has put into place are not worth the trouble.  Besides, they say, the USA is now in a major debt situation that it can’t get out of because (1) Foreign creditors are now decreasing their net debt to the US; (2) the US is running its entitlement programs as a ponzi scheme; and (3) Federal Reserve Bank is monetizing the Federal debt.  They are recommending that their clients completely leave the United States.  They won’t be coming back until things are fixed, if then.

Here is a salient excerpt from “Farewell America”:

The sensibilities of their own capital market: this is what the smart guys in the IRS have very probably failed to take into account. Their onesided regulatory proposals, focused on maximizing the tax take, are based on the entirely unproblematic and undisputed attractiveness of the USA as a place of investment for investors from all over the world. We believe this assumption to be utterly wrong. Why?

A glance at the USA’s debt situation suffices to show that apart from oil, there is really only one element of strategic importance that the USA will need in the coming years: capital. The (declared) public debt – national, state and community – amounted to some 70 percent of GDP in 2008. With the absorption of further debt in the wake of the financial crisis, by 2014 the level of explicit debt is likely to be significantly above 100 percent of GDP. By then the interest will have doubled from around 10 percent of total public revenue to around 20 percent, on moderate assumptions.

This is generally well known. What is generally less well known is that in the USA too, as in so many ailing European states, this explicit perspective reveals less than half the truth about what has been implicitly promised by the state in the way of future benefits. Correctly accounted – that is, as probable future payment flows discounted to present values – the picture would look a good deal bleaker. There are studies, such as the one by the Frankfurt Institute in November 2008, that reckon with a total level of debt for the USA of up to 600 percent (!) of GDP.

April 7 is my “Farewell America” date.