As Barron’s notes in this recent interview, Marc Faber view the world with a skeptical eye, and never hesitates to speak his mind when things don’t look quite right. In other words, he would be the first in a crowd to tell you the emperor has no clothes, and has done so early, often, and aptly in the case of numerous investment bubbles. With even the world’s bankers now concerned at ‘unsustainable bubbles’, it is therefore unsurprising that in the discussion below, Faber explains, among other things, the fallacy of the Fed’s help “the problem is the money doesn’t flow into the system evenly, how with money-printing “the majority loses, and the minority wins,” and how, thanks to the further misallocation of capital, “people with assets are all doomed, because prices are grossly inflated globally for stocks and bonds.” Faber says he buys gold every month, adding that “I want to have some assets that aren’t in the banking system. When the asset bubble bursts, financial assets will be particularly vulnerable.”
On the error of the Fed’s ways:
The Fed has been flooding the system with money. The problem is the money doesn’t flow into the system evenly. It doesn’t increase economic activity and asset prices in concert. Instead, it creates dangerous excesses in countries and asset classes. Money-printing fueled the colossal stock-market bubble of 1999-2000, when the Nasdaq more than doubled, becoming disconnected from economic reality. It fueled the housing bubble, which burst in 2008, and the commodities bubble. Now money is flowing into the high-end asset market – things like stocks, bonds, art, wine, jewelry, and luxury real estate.
Money-printing boosts the economy of the people closest to the money flow. But it doesn’t help the worker in Detroit, or the vast majority of the middle class. It leads to a widening wealth gap. The majority loses, and the minority wins.
The neo-Keynesians would argue that if the Fed hadn’t flooded the system with money, things would have been much worse. That might be true, but they would have been worse for a shorter period of time.
On the Bubble:
I am suggesting that in the fourth year of an economic expansion, near-zero interest rates will lead to a further misallocation of capital. I thought the U.S. market would have a 20% correction last fall, but it didn’t happen. I also said the market might explode to the upside before the correction occurred. We might be in the final acceleration phase now. The Standard & Poor’s 500 is at 1650. It could rally to 1750 or even 2000 in the next month or two before collapsing. People with assets are all doomed, because prices are grossly inflated globally for stocks, bonds, and collectibles.
There has been a huge credit bubble in China, and it isn’t going to end well. Its economy officially grew 7.7% in the first quarter. In reality, it is growing 4% a year, at best. Figures on Chinese exports to Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore don’t agree with the import figures of those countries. In each case, reported exports are much larger than reported imports.
On wealth divides and Social Unrest:
Again, the economy of the rich is booming. There has been huge wealth accumulation in Asia in recent years. But the middle class has experienced diminishing purchasing power. Throughout history, growing wealth inequality has been corrected either peacefully, through taxation and wealth redistribution, or by revolution, as in Russia. I am not sure we will have a revolution in the Western world, but I can see European voters turning against the arrogance of the bureaucracy.
Investors don’t fully comprehend what happened in Cyprus. In the event of future bailouts, bank depositors will lose a percentage of their money. Money in the bank isn’t 100% safe anymore.
Gold is down 30% from its 2011 peak of $1,921, but has far outperformed financial assets since 1999. A correction was overdue. I have about a 25% allocation to gold and buy some every month. I want to have some assets that aren’t in the banking system. When the asset bubble bursts, financial assets will be particularly vulnerable.
Gold is easier to carry than a Lamborghini.
Most of my gold is in a safe-deposit box in Switzerland, but I am shifting it to Asia.