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Debt Crisis Hit Stock Market Turmoil Continues Benefiting Gold

Stock-Markets / Credit Crisis 2010 May 07, 2010 - 06:34 PM GMT

By: Andy_Sutton

Stock-Markets

Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleThe obvious pick for a topic this week would be yesterday’s fearful plunge in US Markets. However, absent a well-defined culprit for the plunge (so far), it seems pointless to speculate on what really happened. I am still sifting through my own observations of that ten-minute span as well as those sent to me by subscribers. There are reports of index ETFs with near zero volume and unfilled orders at the market.


Yesterday should also serve to remind us of the possible pitfalls associated with using stops. There were countless times in 2008 when stops weren’t filled. It happened again yesterday. Truly it was an awful day well before 2:40 with the Dow already off several hundred points. Looking at the bigger picture, yesterday was the fourth 90% down day in two weeks. The market’s disposition has clearly changed for the worse. All this aside, there are a couple of other topics that need to be discussed, which have an even larger bearing on what is going on behind the scenes.

The ‘Strong Dollar’ is Back?

For the past several weeks, the proclamations of a ‘strong dollar’ have been floating around the airwaves. Commentators will point at the rising USDollar Index and mistakenly assume that everyone wants our currency because our economy is recovering so nicely. What they fail to understand and/or convey is how the index is calculated. The index is nothing more than a weighting of the value of various currencies versus the Dollar. The Euro is currently 57.1% of the index and is in freefall thanks to out of control sovereign debt. Our policymakers should be taking notes on the developments in Europe. At any rate, since currencies are traded in pairs, when one half of the pair falls, the other rises.

This recent surge in the US Dollar index, while good for us in terms of the cost of European imports has nothing to do with the strength of our currency. I’ve said this time and time again. We have to hope for bad things to happen to the rest of the world to keep the Dollar afloat. The true barometer of the strength of a currency is the cost of Gold in that currency.  Even as the Dollar index has risen over the past several months, Gold priced in Dollars has risen right along with it. Gold is sniffing out exactly the points made above. People are fearful of paper currencies, and while they dump the Euro in favor of the Dollar in the short run, they are also loading up on Gold, the ultimate money.

The reality shown above is not a one or two day event, but a three month trend, which is intact even in a period of extreme market distress. Many people will try to draw parallels between 2008 and the present. By that logic, they argue that Gold should be falling since we’re flirting with another period of all-out liquidation. However, 2008 was largely a liquidity crisis whereas today we are facing that plus the bankruptcy of roughly 20 nations and the possible disintegration of at least one currency along with it. Yes, the sovereign debt crisis is that bad. Granted, the emerging divergence between the equity markets and Gold (shown below) is in its infancy, but it is a very important development and needs to be pointed out now.

Will Greece Pay Up?

On the front burner and driving the current hysteria is the situation in Greece. While the EU has come together to bailout the embattled nation, there are legitimate fears that:

  1. The bailout isn’t big enough and is merely a band-aid. Apparently folks have been paying attention to the bailout of the US financial system.
  2. The EU won’t be willing (or able) to extend the bailout
  3. The people of Greece will not accept austerity measures
  4. The people of Greece will dismiss their standing government in favor of one who will continue the current welfare state.
  5. Greece will not pay back its neighbors for the bailout

I would contend that all of these are legitimate concerns. Several days of intense rioting and national strike by the people of Greece are making it very clear that at this point they have no intention of being under the thumb of austerity. This is what happens when you create a welfare state. Again, our policymakers should be taking notes. The country can’t pay back what it already owes, hence the ‘need’ for a bailout. How is a reasonable person to accept the notion that somehow Greece will now be able to pay back the money already owed plus another $146 billion in bailout loans?

Yanking the carpet out from under a welfare state is going to have monumentous social implications. The people of Greece are likely to dispatch their current government in favor of one who will take a disposition similar to that of Iceland and tell the lenders of the bailout money and the country’s creditors in general to take a real long walk off a short pier.

It would be bad enough if this problem stopped at the Greek borders, but unfortunately, it is nearly systemic in Europe, and in fact extends across the Atlantic as well.

Freddie Mac Continues to Bleed

In a harsh reminder of the perpetual state of bailout that the US has entered, Freddie Mac announced earlier this week that it will need another $10.6 Billion from the Treasury by the end of June to cover first quarter losses of $6.7 Billion. This wil run Freddie’s tab to well over $50 Billion with no end in sight.

Back in 2008, the USGovernment pledged to guarantee that both Freddie and Fannie Mae maintain a positive net worth. This has led to periodic infusions of cash into what is now admitted to be a black hole at both companies. What is most concerning about these actions is that there is little or nothing being done to end the reliance on bailouts. At the root of this problem lies the reality that people, for various reasons, cannot pay their mortgages. For many it is because of job losses. If we’re going to borrow and throw money down a black hole, it would have made a lot more sense to use the $50 Billion to build some factories that would employ workers who would produce goods made in the US. That would have put people to work and at the same time would have helped us ease our reliance on foreigners. Instead, we throw the money away, choosing to perpetuate a broken system.

April Jobs Report

As of this writing, the April jobs numbers are available. The economy ‘added’ 290,000 jobs in April, with generous upward revisions to both February and March. What is disconcerting about this report is the fact that we now know that roughly 600,000 new census workers are in place, yet these folks don’t appear to be attributed to the government’s portion of the non-farm payroll. BLS is claiming that of the 573,000 jobs created so far this year that 483,000 were created in the private sector. Yet looking at the Federal Government’s workforce over the past few months there hasn’t been much of an increase at all.

So either government is trimming the sails in other areas or the census workers aren’t being counted as government employees, but are instead being credited to the private sector. A recent Gallup survey seems to bear out this discrepancy in that it concluded that government hiring was outpacing private sector job creation. While we don’t yet have the birth/death adjustment to April’s numbers, it is clear that something is amiss. The headline and U-6 unemployment rates rose to 9.9% and 17.1% respectively. State and Local government workforces continued to shrink in April, outlining the dire circumstances that continue to face many geographic areas.

With the cost of insurance on European bank bonds surging to a pre-Lehman high, it is apparent that at the very least, there is again a severe ripple in the credit system, this time at a sovereign level. Given debt levels around the globe it is quite likely that damage control will take precedent over containment.

By Andy Sutton
http://www.my2centsonline.com

Andy Sutton holds a MBA with Honors in Economics from Moravian College and is a member of Omicron Delta Epsilon International Honor Society in Economics. His firm, Sutton & Associates, LLC currently provides financial planning services to a growing book of clients using a conservative approach aimed at accumulating high quality, income producing assets while providing protection against a falling dollar. For more information visit www.suttonfinance.net

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