Our rather pessimistic articles of late on the housing bubble, the ominous warnings from a long list of financial experts and their suggestions on how to best weather the impending financial hurricane have been refuted by none other than the well read author of our "Crazy Man" articles (see "A Crazy Man's Rant or Right On? You be the Judge" and "Crazy Man's Rant - He's Crazy Like a Fox!") who sees things completely differently. Who is right - the eternal optimist with a different take on the economic environment or the big bad bears? Below are his comments.
"I have been beset, of late, by a number of anomalies in what I read and know about the economy and how they translate into an imminent housing collapse and how those linkages to other major segments of the economy would cause general economic bedlam.
Be that as it may, I am convinced that we are in the early stages of a multi-year secular commodities bull market.
I am equally convinced of "peak oil" and the merits of energy investments whether they be for reasons of supply, geopolitical or for environmental reasons.
I am also convinced of the large and continuing incremental demand for base metals and other commodities by the growing economies of Asia centered around China and India.
And, finally, I am totally convinced that this demand for base metals and other commodities will continue to escalate even if recession becomes the order of the day in the United States and other developed western economies because of the explosion of savings and demand by the growing middle class of Asia.
I am puzzled, however, as to why you are so convinced that housing demand and prices are on the brink of tanking.
As I see it the recent increase in short term interest rates are not that unsettling (John Mauldin, in his recent article entitled 'When Will the Fed Stop?' supports my contention making the point that from an historical basis the Fed funds rate is not that high given the fact that from 1946 through 2000 the median fed fund rate was over 6% and yet the U.S. economy grew rapidly during that period) and the almost permanently static longer term interest rates continue to make housing a tremendously affordable proposition. In addition, institutional lenders continue to bend over backwards to accommodate buyers.
Your "Our Worst Nightmare" articles on the housing market (see "Our Worst Nightmare - The Puncture of the Current US Housing Bubble" and "Our Worst Nightmare - The Bubble Has Burst") are sensationalist and misleading. Housing is a hard commodity. It is real, concrete, can be seen and used. Compared to paper representing bonds and equity shares, it is tangible just as all other commodities are. So if we are really in a commodity secular bull cycle, why should we despair over the suggested imminent collapse of the housing market? Where is the nightmare? Moreover, if the FED continues to be accommodative in terms of money supply, interest rates and credit generally, why should the buoyant housing market fall apart prompting all the other elements of the economy dependent upon it to do the same? Again I ask: where is the nightmare?
As I see it, official employment figures indicate a strong economy and the CPI index is not in the least inflationary. Also, surveys of consumer and producer confidence stand almost at multi-year highs. Knowing that Robert Prechter preaches that public attitudes and social mood lead to behavior and activity - not the other way around as we almost all believe - this public optimism bodes well for a continuation of the current economic reality. With an always accommodating FED policy of M3 annual growth in the money supply of almost ten percent, all should be sweetness and light for continuing consumer led demand and economic growth. As I see it, all your 'ominous warnings and dire predictions' are also way off base and are alarmist at best.
You go on and on in your "Ominous Warnings and Dire Predictions" articles (see "Ominous Warnings and Dire Predictions of the World's Financial Experts Part 1 and 2 of a 6 part series) about all kinds of things but:
a) fail to address why so many people are so optimistic given the obvious inflationary consequences of growth in the money supply, bubble-like housing prices and a loss of affordability because of rising house prices.
b) fail to express concern that official numbers relating to the Consumer Price Index, unemployment, GDP and other measures of economic reality are largely bogus and
c) fail, most importantly, to mention the unfunded liabilities of Social Security IOU's, Medicaid, Medicare and its new drug plan, Freddie and Fannie Mae and the Pension Guaranty Corporation which purportedly backstops underfunded private and public sector defined benefit pension plans.
Now I may be talking out of both sides of my mouth here but I also feel strongly that this lengthening list of economic fundamentals are, indeed, alarming and can not continue indefinitely without a blow up. Politicians and central bankers along with their cheerleaders in the brokerage, banking and mutual fund industries, assisted by a largely ignorant and culpable popular news media, will, however, do their best to leave the toiling masses largely ignorant of economic realities for as long as possible.
Inevitably though, when the 'dam breaks' or the 'deck of cards' collapses, it will be quick and calamitous in its magnitude and impact. That is why I am well positioned in precious metals (gold and silver bullion, mining company shares and some well placed long term precious metals warrants to reap the major benefits of leverage these assets continue to give my portfolio) but somewhat less so in base metals and energy. That is my comfort zone which allows me to sleep soundly because it is the best way to protect my hard earned equity and prosper from the fallout of the coming financial collapse. The only thing I do not know is the extent of this future financial dislocation or its timing. What the heck, life wouldn't be very interesting if we could predict the future with absolute certainty, now would it?
For what it is worth, and I have been laughing all the way to the bank of late, I believe we are in a genuine commodities bull market and, as such, see no need to spend much time paying attention to the daily ebbs and flows of the market for these investments. I have done my research and analysis and taken a position. I periodically review the performance of my investments, fine tune them on occasion and then get on with my life confident that the markets will develop as we know they are destined to with our assets safe and growing. If there is a fiscal hurricane approaching as you suggest I am confident my portfolio is secure. (See "Warning! Fiscal Hurricane Approaching! Is Your Portfolio Secure?").
Call this the standard 'buy and hold' approach if you will, but it isn't. Traditional buy and hold investing makes a fetish out of percentage asset allocation between market sectors, stocks and bonds, picking individual stock winners and pruning losers all in the name of 'balance and diversification. "Lighten up and enjoy the commodities ride."
The bottom line conclusion appears to be for investors to strategically position themselves in a wide variety of assets including precious metals, mining shares and long-term warrants.