Friday, 10 February 2012

Tanzania: Gold Biggest Contributor

FOREIGN EXCHANGE earnings from Gold Mining operations have overtaken those from tourism in Tanzania, according to the latest government data.

Rising Gold Prices have led to the value of gold exports quadrupling over the past six years to $2 billion. There are now however calls for Gold Mining firms to pay more tax to the Tanzanian government.
"Tanzanians look at the Gold Price and think the country should get more out of it," Sebastian Spio-Garbrah, managing director and chief analyst at consultancy  DaMina Advisors, tells the Financial Times.

In common with a number of African governments, Tanzania is looking at ways of extracting more money from its Gold Mining industry, with the 2010 Mining Act proposing to raise the tax on gold production royalties from 3% to 4%.

"Almost all African countries are changing their mining laws and making them tighter," says Spio-Garbah.
"It's nothing out of the ordinary."

The Tanzania Mining Report, published last week by Business Monitor International, predicts that Gold Mining in Tanzania could be poised for strong growth.

"Growth of Gold Mining, which has slowed down in recent years would recover and post strong growth in 2013," the report says.

"Much of this growth will be driven by African Barrick Gold, which has four projects in the country [but] poor infrastructure could be a significant obstacle on production growth and may see projects delayed."
BMI's report also says that higher taxes could see Gold Mining firms concentrate their efforts on other parts of Africa.

"Tax rises, combined with lack of adequate infrastructure and the absence of huge mineral deposits compared with many of its neighbours could push investors elsewhere on the continent," the report says.
"We have heard that before, haven't we?" responds Tundu Lussu, and environmental lawyer who has done extensive research on the Gold Mining industry.

"Investors in mining will be taxed like everybody else and if that makes the sector less attractive to them then they’d choose between staying and paying fairly or leave and stop the raping of our non-renewable resources."

Elsewhere in Africa, Congolese delegates at a Gold Mining conference being held in Cape Town this week were abducted and beaten, Bloomberg reports. At least five people were attacked by men protesting Congo's election results.

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Goldbug, 09 Feb '12

Dollar to Collapse

In the absence of a galvanizing narrative, America is marching towards the abyss...


THE NOTION that the very same economic forces currently plaguing Greece et al are somehow not relevant to America does not hold water. As goes the rest of the world, so goes the US, writes Chris Martenson.


When we back up far enough, it is clear that money and debt are there to reflect and be in service to the production of real things by real people, not the other way around. With too much debt relative to production, it is the debt that will suffer. The same is true of money. Neither are magical substances; they are merely markers for real things. When they get out of balance with reality, they lose value, and sometimes even their entire meaning.

The US is irretrievably down the rabbit hole of deficits and debt, and that, even if there were endless natural resources of increasing quality available at this point, servicing the debt loads and liabilities of the nation will require both austerity and a pretty serious fall in living standards for most people.

Of course, the age of cheap oil is over. And as Jim Puplava says, the oil price is the new Fed funds rate, meaning that it is now the price of oil that sets the pace of economic movement, not interest rates established by the Fed.

However, of all the challenges that catch my eye right now, the one most worrisome is the shredding of our national narrative to the point that it no longer makes any sense whatsoever. I'm a big believer that our actions are guided by the stories we tell ourselves. To progress as a society, having a grand vision that aligns and inspires is essential.

But when words emphasize one set of priorities and actions support another, any narrative falls apart. At a personal level, if someone touts their punctuality but chronically shows up hours late, the narrative that says "this person is reliable" begins to fall apart.

Likewise, if a company boasts about being green but its track record belies them as a major polluter, the "green" narrative fizzles.

And at the national level, if we say we are a nation of laws, but the Justice Department selectively prosecutes only the weak and relatively powerless while leaving the well-connected and moneyed entirely alone, then the narrative that says "we are a nation of blind justice and equal laws" falls apart.

I wish this was just some idle rumination, but I see more and more examples validating the importance of alignment of narrative and behavior. Because when there is a disconnect between words and actions, anxiety and fear take root.

Unfortunately, there is quite a lot to fear and be anxious about in the most recent State of the Union address and GOP response.

The recent State of the Union speech by Obama, and its Republican response, are both remarkable for what they say as well as what they don't say. The summary is this: The status quo will be preserved at all costs.
Here are a few examples of the sorts of disconnects between rhetoric and reality that are absolutely toxic to the morale of all who are paying the slightest bit of attention.
Obama
Let's never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same. It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom. No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.
We've all paid the price for lenders who sold mortgages to people who couldn't afford them, and buyers who knew they couldn't afford them. That's why we need smart regulations to prevent irresponsible behavior.
It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom? Is Obama aware of what Erik Holder is up to over there in the Justice Department? The robo-signing scandal alone has thousands and thousands of open and shut cases of felony forgery that can and should be applied to as many individuals as were directly involved, from top to bottom in every organization that was engaged in the practice.

Here's the reality. Under Obama, criminal prosecution of financial fraud fell to multi-decade lows during what is and remains one of the most target-rich environments in living memory.

(Source)
Obama
And I will not go back to the days when Wall Street was allowed to play by its own set of rules.
So if you are a big bank or financial institution, you're no longer allowed to make risky bets with your customers' deposits. You're required to write out a "living will" that details exactly how you'll pay the bills if you fail – because the rest of us are not bailing you out ever again.
Has Obama checked with the Federal Reserve to assure they are on board with the new 'no bail out' policy? Because last I checked, they were the ones mainly involved in bailing out the big banks and providing swap lines and free credit to anyone and everyone that needed help, US or foreign.

To be fair, Obama can make no statement or claim about what the Federal Reserve can or can't or will or won't do. It is not under executive nor even legislative control. If, or I should say when, the Federal Reserve bails out the next bank or country or whomever, it's "the rest of us" who will be paying the bill – in the form of eventual inflation.
Obama
[W]orking with our military leaders, I've proposed a new defense strategy that ensures we maintain the finest military in the world, while saving nearly half a trillion Dollars in our budget.
Let's review the proposals for military spending then. The language above is nearly impossible to decode. What is really being said is that proposed defense increases have been scaled back, and that this is what is being called savings.

In 2000, Defense spending was $312 billion Dollars. In 2012, the proposed budget calls for $703 billion, a 125% increase in 12 years.

What the plan he mentions really calls for is spending increases in 5 out of the next 6 years. The lone holdout is 2013, when the plan calls for cutting spending by a whopping $6 billion less than the amount already approved for 2012.

Somehow that all translates into rhetoric that implies cuts of "nearly half a trillion Dollars."
As Lily Tomlin used to say, "As cynical as I am, I find it hard to keep up."
GOP Response
"The routes back to an America of promise, and to a solvent America that can pay its bills and protect its vulnerable, start in the same place. The only way up for those suffering tonight, and the only way out of the dead end of debt into which we have driven, is a private economy that begins to grow and create jobs, real jobs, at a much faster rate than today."
This platitude-laden set of ideas is blissfully blind to the role of energy in the story, the amount of debt in the system, and the fact that both parties have contributed equally over the years to the predicament at hand.
How exactly is it that the private economy is supposed to flourish here, with the Federal government borrowing more than a trillion Dollars a year and oil at $100 per barrel? The simple truth is that the US government needs to begin borrowing at a rate lower than the previous year's economic growth. If GDP grows at 2%, then the total debt pile must not grow by anything more than 2%. That is the only way that the official debts can shrink relative to the economy.
GOP Response
"We will advance our positive suggestions with confidence, because we know that Americans are still a people born to liberty. There is nothing wrong with the state of our Union that the American people, addressed as free-born, mature citizens, cannot set right."
Last I checked, the original vote tally in the Senate on the National Defense Authorization Act, which empowered the armed forces to engage in civilian law enforcement activities and selectively suspended the habeas corpus and due process rights (as guaranteed by the 5th and 6th amendments to the Constitution), passed by a voice vote of 93 to 7 in the Senate.

It's kind of hard to swallow the idea that the GOP stands with Americans as "a people born to liberty" when their members are in perfect lock-step with the Democrats, chipping away at the most basic and cherished freedoms. There's no difference between the parties when both seem intent on limiting individual freedom and increasing the power of the government to reach into and examine our daily lives.

The above examples are not meant to pick on any one person or party or set of ideas, but to illuminate the profound gap that exists between what we are telling ourselves at the national level and the actions we are undertaking.

Again, it is the gap between what we tell ourselves and what we do that creates a sense of unease, anxiety, and oftentimes fear. When we hear words "X" but see actions "Y" over and over again, it is hard not to come to the conclusion that the words are meaningless; empty rhetoric designed with polls and focus groups in mind, but little else.

It is the blind obedience to the status quo that worries me the most, as it raises the likelihood that nothing of any substance will be done until forced by circumstances, at which point, like Greece, we will discover that the remaining menu of options ranges from bad to worse.

In neither Obama's address nor the GOP response do we hear anything about Peak Oil, a stock market that has gone nowhere in ten years, or the fact that with two wars winding down there ought to be massive savings from defense cuts that we can capture. There's lip service to the idea of using more natural gas to begin weaning us off our imported oil dependence, but no commensurate trillion-Dollar program offered to rapidly build out the infrastructure necessary to utilize that gas in a meaningful way.

A more honest set of messages would note that mistakes were made, opportunities squandered, and priorities misplaced. It would note that the US is on an unsustainable course with respect to spending, debts, and liabilities. There would be an explicit admission that having your central bank print trillions in "thin air" money in order to enable runaway deficit spending is a dangerous and foolish thing to entertain.

Most obviously missing is a national narrative that is coherent and comports with the facts. Both parties basically imply that if we elect a few more of their type, do a little of this and then tweak a little of that, then we will get our nation back on track.

There is no call to a shared sacrifice for something greater. There is nothing to rally around except a laundry list of disconnected programs; a little something for everyone. There is no overarching theme under which everything else can be hung, such as a space race, a civil rights movement, or a massive upgrading of our national infrastructure.

A good narrative is one that inspires people and is based in reality but also asks something larger of us that we can share in. What is our vision for this country? Where do we want to be in ten years? How about twenty? How will we get there, and what will be required? What should we stop doing, what should we start doing, and what should we continue doing?

None of these things are on display, and all are badly needed if we are going to make the most of the next twenty years.

Of all the facts that got skimmed over or avoided in the State of the Union extravaganza, the fiscal nightmare in DC was probably the most glaring. Yes, both parties have decided to talk about the deficit, but neither is giving the appropriate context.

For FY 2012, the federal government is projected to run a $1.1 trillion deficit. Let's compare that number to the projected revenues:

 (Source)
The $1.1 trillion deficit is 42% of total revenues and 73% of all income taxes. That is, in order to spend what the US currently spends without going further into debt (i.e., to have no deficit), income taxes must immediately increase by 73%(!).

This is the sort of territory that, were the US any other country, would have already landed its debt markets – and likely its currency, too – in very hot water.

Historically, countries that have run deficits 40% greater than revenue for more than two years have experienced profound financial and political crises. The US is now in its fourth year of inhabiting this rare territory.

How can it keep doing this when every other country that has tried has gotten into trouble? Simple. The Federal Reserve has enabled such egregious deficit spending by buying up mind-boggling amounts of government debt. This has both kept rates low and created a lot of additional buying demand for Treasuries.
Exactly how much US debt is the Fed buying? Under Operation Twist, the Fed has bought anywhere from 51% to 91% of all gross issuance of bonds dated six years or longer in maturity.

(Source)
It is quite obvious that the Fed has been a major participant in the bond markets and a major reason why Treasurys are priced so high and offer so low a yield.

It seems that it is well past time to speak directly to the enormous fiscal deficits in a credible way, not merely bemoaning them being too high. And we're also overdue for an adult national conversation that it's unwise and unsustainable for a country to lean on its central bank to print up the difference between receipts and outlays.

There is a clear relationship between high oil prices and recessions, confirming the idea that the price of oil has the same impact on the economy as higher interest rates (perhaps even more so nowadays). Both are a source of friction. With higher interest rates, less lending and less consuming happens. With a higher price of oil, more money gets spent on energy, much of it sent to foreign producers of oil, and thus less money is available for other consumption.

Both higher oil prices and higher interest rates cause people to think a bit more before pulling the trigger on either ordinary spending or a big capital project.

Note that all of the six prior recessions were preceded by a spike in oil prices. In the case of the double-dip 1980s twin recessions, oil remained elevated after the first recession was (allegedly) over. Don't be fooled by the logarithmic nature of the chart below – note that the typical decline in oil prices between the recession-inducing peak (blue lines) and the recovery-enabling trough (green lines) was a substantial 30%-50%:

(Source)
Also note in the most recent data that oil prices happen to be at roughly the same level that triggered the first recession in 2008 (the purple dotted line).

If we needed one simple chart to help us understand why trillions of Dollars of stimulus and handouts are not causing the economy to soar, this is the chart that explains the most. High oil prices and recessions are highly correlated, and it's not too much of a stretch to postulate that economic recoveries and high oil prices are inversely correlated.

Note also that the above chart is not inflation-adjusted. If it were, it would show that there have been exactly zero recoveries when oil prices are near or over $100 per barrel.

For those counting on an economic recovery here to lift all boats and assist the bailout efforts, the burden of history is upon them to explain why this time we should ignore the price of oil.

I say we cannot. Policy planners and citizens alike should be ready for disappointing market and economic activity in response to the usual bag of printing, borrowing and delaying tricks.

The State of the Union speech and GOP response neither accurately portray the true fiscal condition of the US, nor present a compelling narrative that speaks either to the realities of today or a future we might like to head towards.

The US is simply on a fiscally ruinous path, and neither party seems up to the task of laying out the story in a way that is mature, clear, and direct.

No recovery has ever been possible from oil prices this high, nor with debt levels this extreme, and it is quite improbable to think that both conditions could be overcome with anything less than a completely clear-eyed view of the true nature of the predicament faced.

Decades ago, Ludwig Von Mises captured everything discussed here elegantly:
There is no means of avoiding the 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.
Our current dire fiscal condition, our leaders' dysfunctional unwillingness to address the flawed behavior that caused it, plus many other recent events both in the US and in Europe, point to the idea that a voluntary abandonment of further credit expansion is just not on the menu.

That leaves us with some final and total catastrophe of the involved currency system(s) as the inevitable outcome.

At this point, time to prepare is your greatest asset. But as we can see from the precarious global economic situation described above, time is running out. Use what remains wisely.
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Chris Martenson, 09 Feb '12

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Commodities Volatile while some banks mask write-downs

The Gold Price fell to $1643 per ounce by Tuesday lunchtime in London – still 1.1% up for the week so far – while stocks and commodities suffered another battering as Greek debt fears once again rattled the markets.

Copper fell 1.9%%, while WTI crude oil lost over 2%, dropping to $76 a barrel.

Fiat Currency of Gold Coins?
The Silver Price dropped to $30.21 – 0.8% up on last Friday's close.

"Gold continues to benefit from the current pessimism regarding the global economy [and] the realisation that the Eurozone debt issue is far from being resolved," says today's note from Standard Bank's commodity analysts.

"We expect physical [gold] demand to be quite decent in the coming days," adds Edel Tully, precious metals strategist at UBS.

"After the recent washout, gold positioning is far from extended, and this is quite a bullish signal for price strength ahead."

Stock markets meantime fell Tuesday for the fifth session running, with the FTSE100 here in London dropping through 5000 – a level it first crossed on the way up in August 1997.

The finance ministers of France and Belgium today pledged to "step in" if necessary and bail out the part-nationalized Dexia banking group.

Dexia received a bailout worth around €6 billion in 2008. Its share price fell to a low of €0.81 Tuesday morning – 44% below where it closed last week – after ratings agency Moody's placed Dexia on review for downgrade, citing "concerns about the group's sizeable reliance on short-term funding and the consequent liquidity gaps".

Last week Fitch, another ratings agency, referred to Dexia's "structural weakness" and warned that the bank faces growing difficulties in getting access to funding.

Several European banks have now "marked to market" the Greek government bonds they own, making writedowns of 50% or more. But others – including French banks BNP Paribas and Societe Generale and the Franco-Belgian Dexia Group – have so far only recorded the 21% loss agreed at a Eurozone summit in July.

"It's no coincidence that the banks with some of the biggest holdings of Greek debt took the smallest writedowns," says Peter Hahn, professor of finance at Cass Business School in London and a former managing director at Citigroup.

"You've got banks, which are supposedly comparable, putting different values on their assets. That destroys the credibility of the banking system, and is one of the reasons why the shares are being hit so badly."

"The market is increasingly worried about the potential of the Greek crisis and the calamity that could be created if there was a messy default," says Jane Foley, senior currency strategist at Rabobank in London.

"We could be in for a shakeout even larger than the Lehman shock," adds Hideki Amikura, Tokyo-based foreign exchange manager at Nomura Trust Bank.

"While last week saw precious metals largely following equities on a downward slope, gold and silver's moderate gains this week are a positive sign that they are returning to favor on haven demand," reckons one bullion dealer here in London.

"Investors will be reassured that last week's rout [of gold] was driven more by a flight to cash to meet margin calls and mitigate losses on equities than by a fundamental shift in perceptions of gold's value."

Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who chairs the Eurogroup of single currency finance ministers, confirmed Tuesday morning that he has cancelled a meeting of Eurozone ministers scheduled for October 13 to discuss whether or not Greece should receive the next installment of its bailout funding, worth over €8 billion.

The cancellation follows Greece's announcement on Sunday that it expects to miss its deficit-cutting targets for 2011.

Greek finance minister Evangelos Venizelos said today that the government has enough money to last until mid-November if the next installment is delayed. He has previously said it would run out of money by the middle of October.

Dollar and Sterling Gold Prices remain broadly where they closed on Friday 23 September, while the Euro Gold Price is up 1.7% over the same period. In the so-called commodity currencies, the Gold Price has risen 2% against the Canadian Dollar in that time and 3.4% against the Australian Dollar – recovering most of the losses in that currency incurred towards the end of last month.

Looking to Buy Gold?...
Ben Traynor, 04 Oct '11
Editor of Gold News, the analysis and investment research site from world-leading gold ownership service BullionVault, Ben Traynor was formerly editor of the Fleet Street Letter, the UK's longest-running investment letter. A Cambridge economics graduate, he is a professional writer and editor with a specialist interest in monetary economics.

Trouble Coming Soon

Ready Access to real bullion is the only defence
WE HAVE OBSERVED world financial markets – including the gold market – for more than 40 years, watching the Gold Price move from $42 per ounce through what we are seeing today, writes Julian Phillips of GoldForecaster.

More importantly we've seen why the Gold Price has moved over these decades and fully understand the monetary history and role of gold. The events of the last three years have interrupted the currency experiment that used paper notes not redeemable either in gold or in anything else except more paper notes.

Right now we're watching the most recent experiment. The Euro, which is only one decade old, suffers the consequences of sub-par financial management, and it's taking Europe to the brink of failure. It's touch-and-go as to whether the Eurozone or the Euro will survive the present crises.

The Eurozone bailout package almost doubled in size to cope with Greece, Ireland and Portugal, to over €400 billion. The markets smiled at first, but then sank back into trepidation as the Italian government had to pay the highest interest ever for funds at a recent auction. When markets keep on being disappointed it signals something far more than just a temporary correction. As markets just dip slightly it's becoming clear that they're in a sort of denial, waiting for something to trigger what we're expecting at any time.

How is this driving gold, which is sitting now around $1,600 after having fallen from a peak of over $1,900? Look at the funds that hold physical gold. They've fallen by less than 2%, which is hardly significant.

Look at the demand from Asia. It's coming in at the lower levels as it has done in past falls; this fall, however, is far more significant. Look back when speculators and banks drove gold from $300 to $390, then farther back to $326 in 2005 – short-term traders can (under the right market conditions) drive prices a long way. In the more recent, 2008 case, Investor Meltdown created conditions where covering margins triggered 'stop loss' protections and the search for liquidity allowed for the precipitous falls.

It was just like a threatened body drawing its limited blood supply to its center, boosting its concentrated central defenses but starving its peripheries, which are now in danger of dying off, endangering the entire body. But gold is at the center and only got a shock.

But was that a change in trend? Have gold and silver market conditions changed, fundamentally?

We're now at the point where solutions and reformation must take place in the monetary world, far faster than governments are capable of and require a degree of consensus that looks unlikely to be achieved. So, what next?

The last couple of weeks have seen nearly all global markets falling, in concert. Yes, they're trying to recover, but this is dependent on some good news coming forward before December. It may be that failure to resolve the Eurozone debt crisis precipitates a far more dramatic set of market events as many important nations' economies confirm deflationary conditions and recessions.

The markets are telling us that bad news is on the way. Far more than just a downturn is being indicated by market behavior. Major structural changes will be forced on the developed world. It's losing wealth to the emerging world and oil producers. The recovery prospects are more than dim. There's far too much debt for the developed world to repay, so more debt will cripple it. Inflation to cheapen money is an alternative (and one the Fed prefers to deflation) but accompanied by a liquidity crisis and banking seizure, will more than likely lead to a degree of inflation that is uncontrollable.

We are on the brink of structures failing, spiraling the financial world into such a bleak scene comparable with the 1930s and the Second World War are valid.

The markets have not yet discounted that picture. And gold and silver prices pulled back solely in the search for liquidity, not because the safe-haven qualities of gold and silver evaporated. With the US Dollar the only standing safe haven in the currency world and one not too far away from its own meltdown, gold and silver have yet to really show their historic qualities. We're very close to a major financial accident that will cause far deeper problems for the developed world.

Many investors have seen the writing on the wall and have seen it since 2008. Now, the writing's more alarming than in 2008. The 2008 scene was when there was more economic strength than there is now. Now, the warnings come on the back of a developed world economy that is failing to grow, failing to resolve debt crisis, and failing to lead its way back to economic health. Disaster doesn't give that much warning. When it comes, a tranquil scene suddenly panics, while irreparable damage is done.

Whether this forecast is correct or not, we can all see that we have to be prudent and take precautionary measures to safeguard our wealth. If we don't, then we'll lose it. We're at the point when we need to be ready for the worst and situate ourselves out of harm's way. If the storm doesn't come, we can always come out of shelter and carry on. But if it does, when we come out of shelter we'll be able to do much more. Are you ready?

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Julian D.W. Phillips, 04 Oct '11
From Bullion Vault

Sunday, 25 September 2011

The Death of the Dollar is Nigh

The Gold Report
If dollar-dumping turns from a trickle into a flood, look out. Exploding prices (aka exorbitant inflation) resulting from the devaluation of the dollar will compound the problems we saw in 2007–2009. Catastrophe will come when everybody realizes that the dollar is an "IOU nothing." That's the downside in the decade(s) ahead, according to Casey Research Chairman Doug Casey. But an optimist at heart, in this exclusive interview with The Gold Report, Doug also identifies some reasons to be hopeful.

The Gold Report: You've been talking about two ticking time bombs. One is the trillions of dollars owned outside the U.S. that investors could dump if they lose confidence. And the other is the trillions of dollars within the U.S. that were created to paper over the crisis that started in 2007. Are these really explosive circumstances that will bring catastrophic results? Or will it just result in a huge, but manageable, hangover?

Doug Casey: Both, but in sequence. One thing that's for sure is that although the epicenter of this crisis will be the U.S., it's going to have truly worldwide effects. The U.S. dollar is the de jure national currency of at least three other countries, and the de facto national currency of about 50 others. The main U.S. export for many years has been paper dollars; in exchange, the nice foreigners send us Mercedes cars, Sony electronics, cocaine, coffee—and about everything you see on Walmart shelves. It has been a one-way street for several decades, a free ride—but the party's over.

Nobody knows the numbers for sure, but foreign central banks, and individuals outside the U.S., own U.S. dollars to the tune of something like $6 or $7 trillion. Especially during the recent crisis, the Fed created trillions more dollars to bail out the big financial institutions. At some point, foreign dollar holders will start dumping them; they are starting to realize this is like a game of Old Maid, with the dollar being the Old Maid card. I don't know what will set it off, but the markets are already very nervous about it. This nervousness is demonstrated in gold having hit $1,900 an ounce, copper at all-time highs, oil at $100 a barrel—the boom in commodity prices.

Some countries are already trying to get out of dollars, but it could become a panic if the selling goes from a trickle to a flood. So, yes, it's a time bomb waiting to go off, or maybe a landmine waiting to be stepped on. If a theatre catches fire and one person runs out, soon everybody rushes toward the door and they all get trampled. It's a very serious situation.

TGR: If panic erupts on the U.S. dollar, would products manufactured in the U.S. become super-cheap or super-expensive?

DC: They would become super-cheap. Everybody says that devaluing the dollar will stimulate U.S. industry because the products will become cheaper and foreigners will buy them. This is a huge canard everybody repeats and nobody thinks about. Yes, it is true for a while, but if devaluation were the key to prosperity, Zimbabwe should be the most prosperous country in the world as it has already collapsed its currency.

A strong currency is essential for a strong economy. Sure, a strong currency can hurt exporters for a while. But, a strong currency encourages manufacturers to invest in technology, and become more efficient. It rewards savings and results in the growth of capital that's critical for prosperity. A strong currency allows businessmen to buy foreign companies and technologies at bargain prices. It results in a high standard of living for the country, and yields social stability as a bonus. The idea that decreasing the value of currency to stimulate exports is a short-lived, stupid and counterproductive solution to the problem. People seem to forget that while the German currency was rising about sixfold from its level of 1971, and the Japanese yen about fourfold, those countries became the world's greatest export economies. It didn't happen despite a strong currency, but in large measure because of it.

TGR: Given that the U.S. is the world's biggest consuming nation, wouldn't fleeing the dollar create a big consumer vacuum in the international community? Doesn't the rest of the world want to keep up the high level of exports to these U.S. consumers?

DC: That's exactly why the U.S. is in such trouble; it's idiotically focused on consumption, while only production can create prosperity. The world doesn't need to stimulate consumption. This is another canard, because everybody has an infinite desire for goods and services. I know for myself, I'd like not just a car, but 10 Ferraris, a couple of Gulfstreams and 10 houses around the world. So, by myself, I have an infinite desire for goods and services. Multiply that by 7 billion other people. The only way to gratify those desires is by producing enough to trade with other people to give you what you want. When so-called "economists" think the problem is that we don't have enough consumption, that shows that the profession itself is bankrupt. It's actually quite embarrassing.

TGR: But other countries currently produce enough of what the U.S. wants. With U.S. dollars, that trade won't look good on their side eventually.

DC: The problem is the U.S. doesn't produce enough in return. The U.S. has been lucky to have a currency that has, so far, been accepted by everybody. But when everybody realizes that the dollar is an "IOU nothing" on the part of a bankrupt government and a society that doesn't really produce anything anymore, it's going to create a worldwide catastrophe. Those $7 trillion held by foreigners are going to become instant hot potatoes.

TGR: Considering what you said a moment ago, that the world doesn't need to stimulate consumption, you must find some irony in the Obama administration's plan to stimulate consumption again in the U.S. as a way to spur some economic growth.

DC: I'm afraid that after being counseled by the fools that surround him, Obama talking about economics is like the blind leading the doubly dismembered. They want to spend $450 billion trying to create new jobs—but these are government jobs, where you have people digging holes during the day and filling them up at night to create the appearance of employment. No government has any idea what the market really wants and needs. There should be zero government involvement in this. The government cannot and should not even try to create jobs. If Obama wants to stimulate the economy, he can decrease the size of the government. I would say a 90% reduction would be a good starting figure.

TGR: But that will create even more unemployment. That's one of the big concerns. States laying off employees could increase unemployment even more.

DC: It is wonderful that states are starting to lay off employees. Once they lose their state jobs, which suck wealth from taxpayers, maybe those people can find real, productive jobs providing goods and services that people actually want and will pay for voluntarily. So I'd argue that getting rid of state employees is essential to a sound recovery plan.

TGR: You warned early on in the 2008–2009 economic crisis that it would really be more of a hurricane. In the last year or so, we've been in the eye of the hurricane and there's more turmoil to come. Will the other side of the storm be worse than the first? And given the recent economic news, do you think we have moved out of that eye?

DC: Yes, I think we are moving out of the eye and going into the other side of the storm. This storm will be much more severe because we haven't solved any of the problems that caused the hurricane in the first place. The fact that governments all over the world have created trillions of currency units has only aggravated those problems. Now, I expect exploding prices to compound the problems that we saw back in 2007, 2008 and 2009. That will devastate the prudent people in society who saved money. They saved it in the form of currency, and wiping out their savings will be catastrophic.

TGR: Will this affect only North America and Europe?

DC: Mostly North America and Europe, but it's going to be very serious in Japan, too. It could be even more disastrous in China. The Chinese real estate market bubble is very inflated, driven by the lending of Chinese banks that won't be able to recover their loans. They will all go bankrupt, taking out the Chinese populace's savings with them. At the same time, those who own real estate will find it worth vastly less than what they paid for it. Those problems will create social disruptions in China, leading to riots, perhaps even revolution, and who-knows-what. The fallout is going to be terrible.

TGR: Many pundits and economists still project growth in China, albeit at a lower rate, and anticipate further expansion of the middle class.

DC: The 21st century will be the Chinese century, but the distortions and misallocations of capital that have occurred over the last 30 years—notwithstanding the truly phenomenal progress the country has made—are serious and have to be washed out. I am a huge bull on China for lots of reasons, but I am bullish for the long run. I think it is going to go through the meat grinder over the next 10 years. I don't know how it will come out; maybe China will break up into five or six different countries. Actually, that would be a good thing. Most of the world's nation-states are artificially constructed and too big to be manageable as political entities.

TGR: Your outlook on China fits right in with something you've been saying for years—about this being the "Greater Depression," which is also the topic of your upcoming presentation at the sold-out Casey Research/Sprott Inc. "When Money Dies" summit next month in Phoenix. Your opening general session talk is entitled, "The Greater Depression Is Now." We are now four years into it, based on your 2007 start date.

DC: Actually, depending on how long a historical scale you look at, you could say that, for the working class in the U.S. anyway, the depression started in the early 1970s. After inflation, after taxes, their take-home pay hasn't risen in real terms for 40 years. But the definition of a depression that I use is "a period of time during which most people's standard of living drops significantly."

Net savings shows that you're living within your means and putting aside capital for the future. In the U.S., people have been living above their means for many years—that is what debt is all about. Debt means that you are borrowing against future production, which is exactly what the U.S. has been doing.

TGR: So, how long will this Greater Depression last?

DC: It doesn't have to last long at all. It could be quite brief if the U.S. government, which is basically the root cause, retrenches vastly in size and defaults on the national debt, which is essentially an enormous mortgage, an albatross around the neck of the next several generations of Americans. The debt will be defaulted on one way or another, almost certainly through inflation. I simply advocate an honest, overt default; that would serve to punish those who, by lending to the government, have financed its depredations. Distortions and misallocations of capital that have been cranked into the economy for many years need to be liquidated. It could be unpleasant but brief. The government is likely to do just the opposite, however. It will try to prop it up further and make it worse—compounding the problem by expanding the wars. So, it could last a very long time. In that sense, I'm not optimistic at all. I think there is little cause for optimism.

On the other hand, I'm generally optimistic for the future. There are only two causes for optimism. First, smart individuals all over the world continue, as individuals, to produce more than they consume and try to save the difference. That will build capital, which is of critical importance. They should just save by holding paper currency. Second, expanding and compounding technology will increase the standard of living. Remember that there are more scientists and engineers alive today than have lived in all previous history combined. Those two factors countervail the government stupidity around us. Whether they will be overwhelmed and washed away by a tsunami of statism and collectivism, I don't know.

TGR: You say that the U.S. government is the root cause of this problem. Isn't that putting too much blame for a worldwide problem on one nation?

DC: The institution of government itself is the problem, and the problem is metastasizing like a cancer all over the world. But, sad to say, the U.S. is the most serious offender because it is currently both the most powerful and the most aggressive nation-state. It has been greatly abetted by the fact that the U.S. currency has been accepted globally. The U.S. dollar is, in effect, the reserve that backs all the other currencies in the world. That is why the U.S. government has been the most destructive from an economic point of view. Furthermore, military spending—which in the U.S. equals that of all the other militaries in the world combined—is purely destructive. It serves no useful economic purpose at all. The military is no longer "defending" anything—least of all liberty. It's actively creating enemies and provoking conflict. So, yes, I think the U.S. government is actually the most dangerous force roaming the world today.

TGR: Do you see that changing after the next election?

DC: No. I think the chances of Obama being reelected are high, simply because more than half of Americans are big net recipients of state largesse. The U.S. has turned into a larger version of Argentina politically, where the electorate is effectively bribed to vote for the biggest thief. It is likely to turn out much worse than Argentina, however. Unlike the Argentines, the U.S. government is fairly efficient. And, unlike Argentina, the U.S. is rapidly turning into a police state.

Electing a Republican might be even worse, though. With the exception of Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, the potential Republican candidates absolutely make my skin crawl. So, no, there is no help on the horizon. The U.S. government is spending about $1.5 trillion more this year than it takes in, and it is not going to cut that. In fact, foolish spending to bail things out will increase. And, worse than that, the Fed has artificially suppressed interest rates for three years. Interest accounts for roughly 2% of $15 trillion official national debt, or $300 billion per year. As interest rates inevitably rise, that interest amount will grow. At 12%—and I'm afraid they'll have to go even higher than that—it would add another $1.5 trillion just in interest payments.

I absolutely see no way out without a collapse of the U.S. currency and a total reordering of the U.S. economy.

TGR: When Money Dies, the title of your summit, implies some return to a gold standard. How do you see that playing out?

DC: Nothing is certain, but when the dollar disappears—and it's going to reach its intrinsic value soon—what are people going to use as money? Will we gin up another fiat currency like the euro? The euro is likely to fail before the dollar. My suspicion is that people will want to go back to gold. It's not because gold is anything magical, but simply the one of the 92 naturally occurring elements that—for the same reasons that make aluminum good for planes and iron good for steel girders—is most useful as money. In fact, the reason that gold has risen as high as it has is that the central banks of third-world countries—places that don't have large gold reserves, such as China, India, Korea, Russia, even Mexico—have been buying the stuff in size.

TGR: The concept of going to a gold standard seems impossible in the sense that there is only so much gold above ground—6 billion ounces? Maybe $11 trillion worth? But it's only a fraction of the U.S. GDP. Even with gold at $2,000 an ounce, that leaves an immense gap. In that scenario, how do you convert to a gold standard?

DC: In terms of today's dollars, gold should probably be a lot higher than it is. I don't know what the number will be, because a lot of those dollars will disappear in bankruptcies; they will dry up and blow away. It's like a real estate development that was worth $1 billion on somebody's books; when it fails, that's $1 billion destroyed. It's a question of the battle of inflation (with the government creating dollars to prop things up) against deflation (where businesses fail and wipe out dollars). But put it this way: the U.S. Government reports it owns about 265 million ounces. Its liabilities to foreigners alone are at least $6 trillion. If they were to be redeemed for a fixed amount, that would require roughly $22,000/oz. gold. And that doesn't count dollars in the U.S. itself.

I'm a bargain hunter and a bottom fisher, and bought most of my gold at vastly lower prices. But I think gold is going much higher because most people still barely even know that the stuff exists. As inflation picks up, they are going to want to get rid of these dollars—but what other monetary commodity can they turn to? So, gold is going higher. I'm still accumulating gold.

TGR: You said that the storm as we emerge from the eye of the hurricane will be worse than it was on the other side. If they don't own gold, how do investors protect themselves?

DC: It's very hard to be an investor in today's world because an investor is someone who allocates capital in a way to create new wealth. That is not easy in today's highly taxed and regulated economy. It's late in the day, but not too late, to buy gold, silver and other commodities. Productive assets are good to own. Of course, the easiest way to buy most productive assets is through the shares of publicly traded companies, but the stock market is quite overvalued in my opinion, so that's not the best option right now.

In addition to trying to build personal holdings of gold and, to a lesser degree, silver, I think people should learn to be speculators. This is not to be confused with gamblers, who rely on random chances. Speculators position themselves to take advantage of politically caused distortions in the marketplace. In a true free market society, you would see very few speculators because there would be few such distortions. But regulations, taxes and currency inflations are likely to keep markets very volatile. Good speculators will position themselves to take advantage of bubbles, and identify bubbles that have been blown to their maximum and are about to deflate.

Government actions are going to force people to become speculators, whether they like it or not. Most won't like it, and very few will be good at it.

TGR: What bubbles might speculators look to exploit?

DC: I'd say the world's biggest bubble is real estate in China, but real estate bubbles are just starting to deflate elsewhere, too—in Australia and Canada, for example. It's relatively hard to short real estate, of course. Shorting bank stocks is an indirect way to play it. I'd say bonds are the short sale of the century. They're going to be destroyed. Bonds pose a triple threat to capital because:

Interest rates are artificially low, and as interest rates rise—which they must—bonds will fall.
Bonds are denominated in currencies, and most currencies, let's say dollars, are going to lose a lot of value.
The credit risk of most bonds, certainly those issued by governments, is high.

On the long side, mining stocks are very cheap relative to the price of gold right now. I'd say there's an excellent chance of a bubble being ignited in gold mining stocks, especially the small ones; in fact, I'd put my finger on that as likely being the easiest way to make a killing.

TGR: Technology was one of the two areas of optimism you mentioned earlier. Do you see a bubble forming there?

DC: You have a point, but I'm not sure you can talk about technology stocks as a whole; technology is too variegated, too vast a field. Although, I've long been a huge believer in nanotech, which is likely to change the world as we know it. With gold stocks, however, you can jump into a discrete universe, that's likely to become a mania.

TGR: Thank you for the tips, Doug, and as always, for your thoughtful insights.

Doug Casey, chairman of Casey Research LLC, is the international investor personified. He's spent substantial time in over 175 different countries so far in his lifetime, residing in 12 of them. And Doug's the one who literally wrote the book on crisis investing. In fact, he's done it twice. After The International Man: The Complete Guidebook to the World's Last Frontiers in 1976, he came out with Crisis Investing: Opportunities and Profits in the Coming Great Depression in 1979. His sequel to this groundbreaking book, which anticipated the collapse of the savings-and-loan industry and rewarded readers who followed his recommendations with spectacular returns, came in 1993, with Crisis Investing for the Rest of the Nineties. In between, his Strategic Investing: How to Profit from the Coming Inflationary Depression broke records for the largest advance ever paid for a financial book. Doug has appeared on NBC News, CNN and National Public Radio. He's been a guest of David Letterman, Larry King, Merv Griffin, Charlie Rose, Phil Donahue, Regis Philbin and Maury Povich. He's been featured in periodicals such as Time, Forbes, People, US, Barron's and the Washington Post—not to mention countless articles he's written for his own various websites, publications and subscribers.

At the sold-out Casey/Sprott Summit "When Money Dies," more than 20 seasoned investment pros, economists and freethinkers will provide their insights and advice on the coming currency collapse and what you can do to protect your assets. Listen to the timely investment advice and specific stock recommendations of North America's top financial experts from the comfort of your home—in 20+ hours of power-packed audio recordings on CD (or MP3). Pre-order now and save $100 off the regular price.

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