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Posted by Peter Schiff on 04/04/2014 at 2:11 PM

In recent years a good part of the monetary debate has become a simple war of words, with much of the conflict focused on the definition for the word "inflation." Whereas economists up until the 1960's or 1970's mostly defined inflation as an expansion of the money supply, the vast majority now see it as simply rising prices. Since then the "experts" have gone further and devised variations on the word "inflation" (such as "deflation," "disinflation," and "stagflation"). And while past central banking policy usually focused on "inflation fighting," now bankers talk about "inflation ceilings" and more recently "inflation targets".  The latest front in this campaign came this week when Bloomberg News unveiled a brand new word: "lowflation" which it defines as a situation where prices are rising, but not fast enough to offer the economic benefits that are apparently delivered by higher inflation. Although the article was printed on April Fool's Day, sadly I do not believe it was meant as a joke.

Up until now, the inflation advocates have focused their arguments almost exclusively on the apparent dangers of "deflation," which they define as falling prices. Despite reams of evidence that show how an economy can thrive when prices fall, there is now a nearly universal belief that deflation is an economic poison that works its mischief by convincing consumers to delay purchases. For example, in a scenario of 1% deflation, a consumer who wants a $1,000 refrigerator will postpone her purchase if she expects it will cost only $990 in a year. Presumably she will just make do with her old fridge, or simply refrain from buying perishable items for a year to lock in that $10 savings. If she expects the cost of the refrigerator to decline another 1% in the following year, the purchase will be again put off. If deflation persists indefinitely they argue that she will put off the purchase indefinitely, perhaps living exclusively on dried foods while waiting for refrigerator prices to hit zero.

Economists extrapolate this to conclude that deflation will destroy aggregate demand and force the economy into recession. Despite the absurdity of this argument (people actually tend to buy more when prices fall), at least there is a phantom bogeyman for which to conjure phony terror. Low inflation (below 2%) is even harder to demonize. Few have argued that it has the same demand killing dynamics as deflation, but many say that it should be avoided simply because it is too close to deflation. Given their feeling that even a brief bout of minor deflation could lead to a catastrophic negative spiral, they argue for a prudent buffer of 2% inflation or more. But the writer of the Bloomberg piece, the London-based Simon Kennedy, quotes people in high positions in the financial establishment who offer new arguments as to why "lowflation" (as he calls it) is a "threat" in and of itself. And although the article was primarily concerned with Europe, you can be sure that these arguments will be applied soon to the situation in the United States.

The piece correctly notes that those struggling with high debt tend to welcome high rates of inflation. The math is simple. By diminishing the value of money, inflation benefits borrowers at the expense of lenders. By repaying with money of lesser value, the borrowers partially default, even when paying in full. The biggest borrowers in Europe (and the United States for that matter) are heavily indebted governments and the overly leveraged financial sector. Should it come as a surprise that they are the leading advocates for inflation? The writer admits that higher inflation will help these interests manage their debt burdens and in the case of the financial sector, profit from the increased lending that low interest rates and quantitative easing encourage.

On the other side of the ledger are the consumers, the savers, and the retirees. These groups want lower prices and higher rates of interest on their accumulated capital. Such a combination will lead to higher living standards for those who have worked and saved for many years in order to enjoy the fruits of their efforts. But these types of people are simply not on the "must call" list for our best and brightest economic journalists. As a result, we only get one side of the story.

The article also points out that higher inflation gives businesses more flexibility to retain workers in periods of weak growth. The argument is that if sales revenue falls, companies will not be able to lower wages, and will instead resort to layoffs to maintain their profitability. However, this is only true in cases involving labor union contracts or minimum wage workers. In all other cases, business could reduce wages in lieu of layoffs. Plus, if prices for consumer goods are also falling, real wages may not even decline as a result of the cuts.

In circumstances where wages cannot be legally reduced, as is the case for unionized or minimum wage workers, layoffs are often the employer's only option for keeping costs in line with revenue. However, inflation allows employers to do an end run around these obstacles. In an inflationary environment, rising prices compensate for falling sales. The added revenue allows employers to hold nominal wage costs steady, even when the raw amount of goods or services they sell declines. When inflation rages, higher skilled workers will often demand, and receive, pay raises. But low-skilled workers, who lack such leverageare usually left holding the bag.

In other words, politicians can impose a high minimum wage to pander to voters, but then count on inflation to lower real labor costs, thereby limiting the unemployment that would otherwise result. So what the government openly gives with one hand, it secretly takes away with the other. Workers vote for politicians who promise higher wages, but those same politicians also create the inflation that negates the real value of the increase. But while government takes the credit for the former, it never assumes responsibility for the latter. The same analysis applies to labor unions. Based upon political protection offered by friendly officials, unions can secure unrealistic pay hikes for their members. But the same governments then work to reduce the real value of those increases to keep their employers in business.

Of course, what the Bloomberg writer was really arguing is that governments need inflation to bail themselves out of the policy mistakes they make to secure votes. But two wrongs never make a right. The correct policy would be to run balanced budgets rather than incur debts that can only be repaid with the help of inflation. On the labor front, the better policy would be to abolish the minimum wage and the special legal protections offered to labor unions, rather than papering over the adverse consequences of bad policies with inflation.

So be on the lookout for any more hand-wringing over the supposed dangers of lowflation. The noise will simply be an effort to convince you that what's bad for you is actually good. And although it's an audacious piece of propaganda to even attempt, the lack of critical awareness in the media gives it a fighting chance for success.

Peter Schiff is the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, best-selling author and host of syndicated Peter Schiff Show. 

Catch Peter's latest thoughts on the U.S. and International markets in the Euro Pacific CapitalWinter 2014 Global Investor Newsletter!


Tags:  deflationinflation
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Posted by Peter Schiff on 04/02/2014 at 2:48 PM
So far, 2014 has been a paradoxical year for gold. Many investors aren't even aware that it has rallied almost 8%. On the rare occasion that the financial media mentions the yellow metal, it is only in the context of comparing the recent rise to last year's decline.

In spite of this overwhelming negative sentiment, gold is experiencing a stealth rally as one of the best performing assets of the year. Let's look at some important metrics of the most under-valued sector in this market.

Speculations Reversed

So many investors want to believe that last year was the death knell for the yellow metal that they've stop paying attention to the technical metrics responsible for driving the price down. These metrics have already started to reverse. 

Last year, technical speculators - and everyday investors trading behind them - influenced gold's price more than anything else. Notably, 2013 was the first year since their creation in 2003 that gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) experienced a net outflow of their gold holdings. This played a pivotal role in driving down both the gold price and investor expectations for the yellow metal.

Gold ETFs sold off their holdings by a whopping 881 metric tons last year. GLD, the largest fund, sold 550 of those tonnes on its own. This was influenced by, and then compounded, the effects of extremely bearish gold futures speculators, whose large net-short positions were responsible for some landmark drops in the gold price throughout the year. As is typical with markets, negative sentiment became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

For the previous decade up until last year, physical gold demand had driven the gold bull market. However, ETFs have over this time accumulated a greater and greater share of the market. Thus, last year's sudden ETF sell-off was enough to drive total global gold demand down 15% year-over-year. Even 28% growth in bar and coin demand - resulting in record-breaking total demand - couldn't counter the market's bearish turn. But ETFs are getting back in the game. GLD started adding to its holdings again in February, the first increase since December 2012. And by mid-March, COMEX gold futures contracts had the most net-long positions since November 2012.

Gold Versus Equities

Why are ETF and futures traders reversing their previously bearish positions?

Prices are up in every area of the gold sector. GLD and COMEX futures are both up more than 6% this year. GDX, one of the broadest gold-mining ETFs, is up more than 12%. Even with a sell-off in the last week of March, physical gold was up almost 8% in the first quarter.

Meanwhile, the general stock market is barely performing at all. The S&P 500 and the NASDAQ are up barely 2% YTD, while the Dow is down.

Most importantly, when measured in terms of gold, the Dow has actually started to drop significantly. At the end of March, the Dow was about 12.5 times the gold price. This is already a 9% decline since December. For the majority of the last 100 years, the Dow has traded far below this level.


To get back to its historical average, either the Dow is going to have to drop significantly or gold will have to skyrocket. I believe it will be a combination of both.

Overpriced and Under-Earning

Anyone who really buys the story of economic recovery is likely riding a wave of irrational exuberance after a year in which the major indices hit record high after record high. They don't express the slightest concern that the stock market is already in dangerous bubble territory.

However, one of the most important metrics of stock market valuation completely contradicts this.

The Shiller Price/Earnings Ratio (Shiller P/E) is well-respected for helping analysts like me identify one of the most over-valued markets in history - the dot-com bubble. This metric gauges the return on investment for someone buying into the broader stock market. A higher ratio indicates investors are paying more for shares of companies that are earning less; therefore, they are receiving less value.

At the end of March, the Shiller P/E stood at 25.60 - almost 55% higher than the historical average of 16.5. As you can see in the chart below, the only previous times the ratio has breached 25 were during the 1929 stock craze, the dot-com bubble, and just before the '08 financial crash.

I would not want to be anywhere near an investment with such poor yield.



Don't Look Back

Investors often make the mistake of investing in the last trade, the same way that governments always fight the last war. After a year in which stocks brought in about a 30% return while gold was pummeled, nobody wants to be the first one to jump back into hard assets.

But fortunes are often made by ignoring the popular trend and buying underpriced assets when nobody else sees their value. Sometimes this is a risky maneuver, but in the case of today's gold market, it's as close as we can get to a sure thing.

It's hard to predict what will trigger the next collapse of stocks, but gold is already on the road to new highs. Janet Yellen is gearing up to unleash a new torrent of freshly printed dollars onto global markets. I'd recommend building your ark well in advance.

Peter Schiff is Chairman of Euro Pacific Precious Metals.

If you would like more information about Euro Pacific Precious Metals, click here. For the fastest service, call 1-888-GOLD-160.


Tags:  gold
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Posted by Peter Schiff on 03/21/2014 at 12:54 PM
The red flags contained in the national and global headlines that have come out thus far in 2014 should have spooked investors and economic forecasters. Instead the markets have barely noticed. It seems that the majority opinion on Wall Street and Washington is that we have entered an era of good fortune made possible by the benevolent hand of the Federal Reserve. Ben Bernanke and now Janet Yellen have apparently removed all the economic rough edges that would normally draw blood. As a result of this monetary "baby-proofing," a strong economy is no longer considered necessary for rising stock and real estate prices.

But unfortunately, everything has a price, even free money. Our current quest to push up asset prices at all costs will come back to bite all Americans squarely in the pocket book. Death and taxes have long been linked by a popular maxim. However, there also exists a similar link between debt and taxes. The debt we are now incurring in order to buttress current stock and real estate will inevitably lead to higher taxes down the road. However, don't expect the taxes to arrive in their traditional garb. Instead, the stealth tax of inflation will be used to drain Americans of their hard earned purchasing power.

I explore this connection in great length in my latest report Taxed By Debt, available for free download at www.taxedbydebt.com. But diagnosing a problem is just half the battle. I also present investing strategies that I believe can help Americans avoid the traps that are now being laid so carefully.

The last few years have proven that there is no line Washington will not cross in order to keep bubbles from popping. Just 10 years ago many of the analysts now crowing about the perfect conditions would have been appalled by policies that have been implemented to create them. The Fed has held interest rates at zero for five consecutive years, it has purchased trillions of dollars of Treasury and mortgage-backed securities, and the Federal government has stimulated the economy through four consecutive trillion-dollar annual deficits. While these moves may once have been looked on as something shocking...now anything goes.

But the new monetary morality has nothing to do with virtue, and everything to do with necessity. It is no accident that the concept of "inflation" has experienced a dramatic makeover during the past few years. Traditionally, mainstream discussion treated inflation as a pestilence best vanquished by a strong economy and prudent bankers. Now it is widely seen as a pre-condition to economic health. Economists are making this bizarre argument not because it makes any sense, but because they have no other choice.

America is trying to borrow its way out of recession. We are creating debt now in order to push up prices and create the illusion of prosperity. To do this you must convince people that inflation is a good thing...even while they instinctively prefer low prices to high. But rising asset prices do little to help the underlying economy. That is why we have been stuck in what some economists are calling a "jobless recovery." The real reason it's jobless is because it's not a real recovery!  So while the current booms in stocks and condominiums have been gifts to financial speculators and the corporate elite, average Americans can only watch from the sidewalks as the parade passes them by. That's why sales of Mercedes and Maseratis are setting record highs while Fords and Chevrolets sit on showroom floors. Rising prices to do not create jobs, increase savings or expand production. Instead all we get is debt, which at some point in the future must be repaid.

As detailed in my special report, when President Obama took office at the end of 2008, the national debt was about $10 trillion. Just five years later it has surpassed a staggering $17.5 trillion. This raw increase is roughly equivalent to all the Federal debt accumulated from the birth of our republic to 2004! The defenders of this debt explosion tell us that the growth eventually sparked by this stimulus will allow the U.S. to repay comfortably. Talk about waiting for Godot. To actually repay, we will have few options. We can cut government spending, raise taxes, borrow, or print. But as we have seen so often in recent years, neither political party has the will to either increase taxes or decrease spending.

So if cutting and taxing are off the table, we can expect borrowing and printing. That is exactly what has been happening. In recent years, the Fed has bought approximately 60% of the debt issued by the Treasury. This has kept the bond market strong and interest rates extremely low. But a country can't buy its own debt with impunity indefinitely. In fact the Fed, by winding down its QE program by the end of 2014, has threatened to bring the party to an end.

Although bond yields remain close to record low territory, thanks to continued QE buying, we have seen vividly in recent years how the markets react negatively to any hint of higher rates. That's why any indication that the Fed will lift rates from zero can be enough to plunge the markets into the red. The biggest market reaction to Yellen's press conference this week came when the Chairwoman seemed to fix early 2015 as the time in which rates could be lifted from zero. That possibility slapped the markets like a frigid polar wind.

Janet Yellen may talk about tightening someday, but she will continue to move the goalposts to avoid actually having to do so. (Or as she did this week, remove the goalposts altogether). As global investors finally realize that the Fed has no credible exit strategy from its zero interest policy, they will fashion their own exit strategy from U.S. obligations. Should this happen, interest rates will spike, the dollar will plunge, and inflation's impact on consumer prices will be far more pronounced than it istoday. This is when the inflation tax will take a much larger bite out of our savings and paychecks.  The debt that sustains us now will one day be our undoing.

But there are steps investors can take to help mitigate the damage, particularly by moving assets to those areas of the world that are not making the same mistakes that we are. In my new report, I describe many of these markets. Just because the majority of investors seem to be swallowing the snake oil being peddled doesn't mean it's wise to join the party. I urge you to download my report and decide for yourself.

Peter Schiff is the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, best-selling author and host of syndicated Peter Schiff Show. 

Catch Peter's latest thoughts on the U.S. and International markets in the Euro Pacific CapitalWinter 2014 Global Investor Newsletter!


Tags:  debteconomytaxes
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Posted by Peter Schiff on 03/07/2014 at 5:45 PM

Everyone agrees that the winter just now winding down (hopefully) has been brutal for most Americans. And while it's easy to conclude that the Polar Vortex has been responsible for an excess of school shutdowns and ice related traffic snarls, it's much harder to conclude that the it's responsible for the economic vortex that appears to have swallowed the American economy over the past three months. But this hasn't stopped economists, Fed officials, and media analysts from making this unequivocal assertion. In reality the weather is not what's ailing us. It's just the latest straw being grasped at by those who believe that the phony recovery engineered by the Fed is real and lasting. The April thaw is not far off. Unfortunately the economy is likely to stay frozen for some time to come.    

Over the past few weeks, I have seen just about every weak piece of economic news being blamed on the weather. First it was lackluster retail sales that were chalked up to consumers being unable or unwilling to make it to the mall. (This managed to ignore the fact that online sales were similarly weak - which would be unexpected for a nation of snowed in consumers). Then came the weak auto sales that were ascribed to similarly holed up potential car buyers. However, this ignores that while GM and Chrysler sales were way down, sales for luxury cars like BMW, Mercedes and Maserati, surged to record high levels (more on that later). No one offered a reason why wealthier motorists were able to brave the cold. A number of other data points, such as lower GDP, productivity, ISM and factory orders were also ascribed to the elements.

Analysts also blamed the weather for weak housing sales and mortgage applications, which both hit multi-year lows. The idea being that hibernating buyers could not get to real estate open houses or to the bank to process loans. This idea ignores the fact that the weakest home sales over the last few months have come from the states west of the Rockies, where temperatures have been above average.

Of course the biggest weakness ascribed to the snow and ice has been the very disappointing employment reports over the last few months. Analysts faced a very difficult task in squaring these reports, which showed fewer than 187,000 new jobs created in December and January combined, with the accepted narrative that the recovery was firmly underway and that the economy was no longer dependent on the Fed's monetary support. 

For these desperate economists the weather was a godsend. Mark Zandi had virtually guaranteed that job creation was being deferred by the weather and that hiring would come roaring back once the mercury started rising. The weather has become such a handy and versatile tool for economic apologists that we may expect that financial news stations will start featuring meteorologists more heavily than financial analysts. Move over Jim Cramer, hello Al Roker. 

The weather continued to be horrible in February and as a result, there were wide expectations thattoday's February jobs report would be similarly bleak. But this morning's release of a detailed a slightly better than expected 175,000 new jobs, thereby convincing economists that the economy was so strong that it is overcoming the drag created by the weather. This lays aside the fact that 175,000 jobs should not be causing any optimism. After years of sub-par job growth, I believe a recovering economy would be expected to create more than 300,000 jobs per month in order to make a real dent in underemployment. Those levels, once routine in past decades, seem untouchable today. But weather-related pessimism had caused economist to ratchet down their predictions to just 150,000 jobs in February. Based on that, today's numbers were seen as a win.

But economists are ignoring the likelihood that the weather was never a major factor. Take the cold out of the equation and you would be left with a mediocre February number following two consecutive monthly disasters. This does not change the downward trajectory. In fact, the number may be revised lower in future months, as has been the norm in the years since the economic crisis began.

Drilling deeper into the report will provide little reason for optimism. The labor force participation rate stayed at generational low and the unemployment rate edged up. On the other hand, the long-term unemployed (those out of work for more than 27 weeks) increased by 203,000 to 3.8 million. Furthermore, over half of the jobs created were low-paying or part-time jobs in education, health care, leisure and hospitality, government, and temporary services. Higher paying information jobs declined by another 16,000 following last month's 8,000 loss, and manufacturing added a scant 6,000 jobs. 

The report also contained data that shows how older workers are coming out of, or postponing retirement. This trend is likely caused inadequate savings rates, low interest rates, and increases in the cost of living that are rising faster than official CPI numbers. Not only does this point to falling living standards, but the jobs being taken by these older workers would normally be filled by younger, less skilled workers, who are left unemployed, buried beneath a pile of student debt and living in their parent's basements.

In truth, economic activity persists in good weather and bad. Winter is largely predictable. It comes around once a year, basically on schedule. Consumers are used to the patterns and know how to deal them. But don't tell this to today's economists.

A much more plausible explanation to me is that the economy has been weak recently because it is weak fundamentally. The data deterioration corresponds not just to unseasonably low temperatures but also to the diminishment of monthly QE from the Federal Reserve. If you recall the highly anticipated "taper" finally began in mid- December. From my perspective the Quantitative Easing has become the sunshine that drives our phony economy. Diminish that sunshine and the economic winter spreads.

But the sad fact is that QE can push up prices in stocks and real estate, but can do very little to affect positive change in the real economy. That's why I believe that BMW's are selling like hotcakes even as Chevies sit on the lot. Our current policies help the wealthy at the expense of everybody else. Unfortunately, I don't think the economy will improve as long as the QE keeps us locked into a failing model. What's worse, once the weather warms and the economy does not, look for Janet Yellen to first taper the taper, then to reverse the process completely.

So be very wary of the rationalizations that come from economists. I believe they are being used to hide the truth. I just can't wait to see the excuses they come up with once the flowers start blooming in April. They will be doozies.

Peter Schiff is the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, best-selling author and host of syndicated Peter Schiff Show. 

Catch Peter's latest thoughts on the U.S. and International markets in the Euro Pacific CapitalWinter 2014 Global Investor Newsletter!


Tags:  economy
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Posted by Peter Schiff on 03/06/2014 at 6:28 PM
Before Bear Stearns and Lehman collapsed, the market for physical gold was limited to a relatively small group of investors who understood the havoc inflation was wreaking on our savings and the US markets. As the financial crisis took hold, a flood of new and inexperienced buyers entered the market, creating an opportunity for unscrupulous metals dealers to swindle their way to massive profits. This is what drove me to launch my very own gold dealer, Euro Pacific Precious Metals, to provide a safe alternative for those who were taking my advice to diversify into sound money. In our first year of business, I released Classic Gold Scams and How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off, a free report that has saved countless investors from losing their shirts. 

Fast forward several years and the markets look like a film on repeat. We are once again building toward a massive financial crisis - one that will make 2008 seem like the good old days. Unfortunately, the majority of investors are once again playing the US markets and shunning gold. I encourage my readers to consider diversifying into precious metals now, while the market is still distracted. To this end, and in preparation for the inevitable mad rush when conventional investors again flock to safety, I have updated and re-released my Classic Gold Scams report to help newcomers learn how to buy gold and silver the right way.

The Bait-and-Switch

The majority of precious metals scams revolve around a core tactic: the bait-and-switch.

First, the company lures you in with the promise of a good deal on a product you're genuinely interested in buying. Once they have you on the line, a fast-talking broker will try to convince you that a different product is a better match for your needs. This new product into which they've "switched" you is almost always a rip-off.

In the precious metals world, this usually involves an over-priced numismatic or "collectible" coin. The salesman will explain that the unique qualities of this coin make it even more valuable than its metal content. "Why just buy gold, when you could buy a piece of history?" Or so the argument goes.

The entire bait-and-switch technique is designed to confuse you. The dealer preys on your insecurities by making you feel like you don't have enough knowledge to make a choice for yourself.

Keep Gold Simple

Let me share a secret that these scammers don't want you to know: gold is gold is gold.

The majority of savvy investors like you and I are buying gold and silver as a hedge against inflation and the collapse of the US dollar. It doesn't matter what form our gold takes, as long as it is pure, easily recognized, and authentic.

Sure, there may be rare, historic coins for which well-educated collectors will pay good money. But you need a firm understanding of these coins' unique traits to correctly assess their value. Without this understanding, it is virtually impossible to select the proper coins to add to your collection or get a fair price when it is time to sell. For most of us, such coins are way beyond our expertise and carry far too much risk.

All we need to protect our wealth is pure gold bullion. Fortunately, the market for bullion is very simple and easy to understand. A complete list of common gold products is included in the Classic Gold Scams report.

That's the only secret to beating the bait-and-switch scammers: know exactly which product you're interested in buying ahead of time - and stick to your guns.

The Price Protection Racket

When gold started falling from its highs in 2011, an old-time scam re-emerged: the price protection racket. This tactic is extremely popular with some of the largest gold dealers out there.

In this scam, the dealer guarantees that if the price of gold falls within a certain timeframe, the investor can buy at the lower price. Usually the price protection lasts for about a week after placing your order.

On the surface, price protection sounds great. Who wouldn't want to be able to avoid short-term market fluctuations when buying precious metals?

Of course, there's a catch. These price protection programs rarely apply to the common bullion coins that carry the lowest premiums. Invariably, these schemes are only applied to overpriced numismatics or collectors' edition coins. That's the only way dealers can afford to offer such a sweet deal. The margins are already huge on collectors' coins, so allowing buyers to adjust their purchase price has a negligible effect on the dealer's bottom line.

What's more, the price protection program often includes an additional fee on top of the purchase price. This builds in an additional cushion to make sure the dealer always comes out ahead.

At the end of the day, price protection is just a scare tactic aimed at investors too concerned with short-term volatility. This fear actually reveals that they're buying gold for all the wrong reasons.

Buy Gold for Gold

The right reason for most investors to buy gold is as a long-term hedge against inflation and financial instability.

Gold is humanity's oldest form of money and wealth preservation. A hundred years ago, a gold coin could buy you a custom tailored suit. The same is true today. The purchasing power of gold remains relatively constant over the long-term.

On the other hand, fiat money has historically always failed. The US dollar has not been backed by gold since 1971, which means it has lasted more than four decades as a purely fiat currency. The history of great empires suggests that its time is almost up.

Each of the Federal Reserve's announcements of another program of money-printing brings that crash - which I have termed the "Real Crash" - closer to fruition.

Remember, if the US economy were really recovering, the Fed's manipulative policies would not be necessary. Also, gold wouldn't be seeing the dramatic recovery it has thus far enjoyed in 2014. It's up 13% since its December lows!

There's Still Time

If you missed out on the great gold rush of the '00s, don't let the next opportunity pass you by. I believe gold's bull market has a long way to run, and now is a great time to establish holdings or add to existing holdings.

But be aware that for most investors, the physical gold market is completely new and foreign. That has created an environment in which unscrupulous dealers are thriving. Before you buy, read my recently updated Classic Gold Scams report to learn how to tell a deal from a swindle. There is no need to learn these lessons the hard way, or to let fear of the unknown keep you from safeguarding your family's savings for future generations. 

Peter Schiff is Chairman of Euro Pacific Precious Metals, a gold and silver dealer selling reputable, well-known bullion coins and bars at competitive prices. 

Click here for a free subscription to Peter Schiff's Gold Letter, a monthly newsletter featuring the latest gold and silver market analysis from Peter Schiff, Casey Research, and other leading experts. 

And now, investors can stay up-to-the-minute on precious metals news and Peter's latest thoughts by visiting Peter Schiff's Official Gold Blog.



Tags:  gold
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Posted by Peter Schiff on 02/21/2014 at 10:41 AM

Two pieces of business news announced this week provide a convenient frame through which to view our dysfunctional and distorted economy. The first (which has attracted tremendous attention), is Facebook's blockbuster $19 billion acquisition of instant messaging provider WhatsApp. The second (which few have noticed) is the horrific earnings report issued by Texas-based retail chain Conn's. While these two developments don't seem to have much in common, together they shed some very unflattering light on where we stand economically.

Given the size and extravagance of the Facebook deal, it may go down as one of those transactions that define an era (think AOL and Time Warner). Facebook paid $19 billion for a company with just 55 employees, little name recognition, negligible revenues, and little prospects to earn much in the future. For the same money the company could have bought American Airlines and Dunkin' Donuts, and still have had $2 billion left over for R&D. Alternatively they could have used the money to lock in more than $1 billion in annual revenue through an acquisition of any one of the numerous large cap oil producing partnerships. Instead they chose a company that is in the business of giving away a valuable service for free. Come again?

Mark Zuckerberg, the owner of Facebook, is not your typical corporate CEO. Through a combination of technological smarts, timing, luck, and questionable business ethics, he became a billionaire before most of us bought our first cars. And in the years since social media became the buzzword of the business world, Wall Street has been falling over backward to funnel money into the hot sector. As a result, it may be that Zuckerberg looks at real money the way the rest of us look at Monopoly money. It also helps that a large portion of the acquisition is made with Facebook stock, which is also of dubious value.

But even given this highly distorted perspective, it's still hard to figure out why Facebook would pay the highest price ever paid for a company per employee - $345 million (more than four  times the old record of $77 million per employee, set last year when Facebook bought Instagram). The popular talking point is that the WhatsApp has gained users (450 million) faster than any other social media site in history, faster even than Facebook itself. Based on its rate of growth, the $42 per user acquisition cost does not seem so outrageous. But WhatsApp gained its users by giving away a service (text messaging) for which cellular carriers charge up to $10 or $20 per monthIt's very easy to get customers when you don't charge them, it's much harder to keep them when you do.

Boosters of the deal expect that WhatsApp will be able to charge customers after the initial 12-month free trial period ends (it now charges 99 cents per year after the first year). Based on this model, the firm had revenues of $20 million last year. But what happens if another provider comes in and offers it for free? After all, the technology does not seem to be that hard to replicate. Google has developed a similar application. More importantly, no one seems to be projecting what the cellular carriers may do to protect their texting cash cows.

WhatsApp gives away what AT&T and Verizon offer as an a la carte texting service. As these carriers continue to lose this business we can expect they will simply no longer offer texting as an a la carteoption. Instead it will likely be bundled with voice and data at a price that recoups their lost profits. If texting comes free with cell service, a company giving it away will no longer have value. People will still need cellular service to send mobile texts, so unless Facebook acquires its own telecom provider, it can easily be sidelined from any revenue the service may generate.

Some say that texting revenue is unimportant, and that the real value comes from the new user base.  But how many of the 450 million users it just acquired don't already have Facebook accounts? And besides, Facebook itself hasn't really figured out how to fully monetize the users it already has. In other words, it is very difficult to see how this mammoth investment will be profitable.

From my perspective, the transaction reflects the inflated nature of our financial bubble. The Fed has been pumping money into the financial sector through its continuous QE programs. The money has pushed up the value of speculative stocks, even while the real economy has stagnated. With few real investments to fund, the money is plowed right back into the speculative mill. We are simply witnessing a replay of the dot com bubble of the late 1990's. But this time it isn't different.

In another replay of that spectacular crash fourteen years ago, the appliance and furniture retailer Conn's has just showed the limits of a business built on vendor financing. In the late 1990's telecom equipment companies almost went bankrupt after selling gear to dot com start-ups on credit. For a while, these "sales" made growth and profits look great, but when the dot coms went bust, the equipment makers bled. Conn's makes its money by selling TVs and couches on credit to Americans who have difficulty scraping up funds for cash purchases. For a while, this approach can juice sales. Not surprisingly, Conn's stock soared more than 1500% between the beginning of 2011 and the end of 2013. These financing options are part of the reason why Conn's was able to keep up the appearance of health even while rivals like Best Buy faltered in 2013.

But if people stop paying, the losses mount. This is what is happening to Conn's. The low and middle-income American consumers that form the company's customer base just don't have the ability to pay off their debt. The disappointing repayment data in the earnings report sent the stock down 43% in one day.

In essence, Conn's customers are just stand-ins for the country at large. In just about every way imaginable, America has borrowed beyond its ability to repay. Meanwhile our foreign creditors continue to provide vendor financing so that we can buy what we can't really afford.

So thanks for the metaphors Wall Street. Too bad most economists can't read the tea-leaves.

Peter Schiff is the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, best-selling author and host of syndicated Peter Schiff Show. 

Catch Peter's latest thoughts on the U.S. and International markets in the Euro Pacific CapitalWinter 2014 Global Investor Newsletter!


Tags:  economy
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Posted by Peter Schiff on 02/11/2014 at 7:47 PM

In our current age of spin and counter-spin, there is no contortion too great for a politician to attempt. On occasion, however, the threads of one story become entangled with another in a manner that should deeply embarrass, if the media were sharp enough to catch it.

This happened last week in response to the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) bombshell report on how Obamacare incentives could reduce the size of the labor force by more than two million workers by 2017. While the report did not reflect the Republican spin (that the law will cause employers to kill jobs - -it will, but for reasons not detailed in the report), the reaction of the White House and congressional Democrats set a new mark in rhetorical boldness. In the ultimate act of making lemonade from lemons, they described the findings as unabashed good news. But to do so, they had to contradict their previously expressed views on unemployment insurance.

Last week, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the low cost of Obamacare health insurance will give workers the flexibility to leave the work force if they choose. He agreed with the CBO's opinion that many individuals work at jobs that they don't really value solely because the positions provide health insurance. So, whereas Obama once said, "If you like your health care plan you can keep it," he is now saying, "If you don't like your job, you can leave it."

The subsidies built into Obamacare are exceptional in their severity. As has been noted by many observers, even relatively small increases in income can result in substantial losses in federal subsidies. With health care costs eating up increasingly large portions of personal incomes, it is easy to see why health care subsidies could be the deciding factor for many people to stay home.

But this dynamic is the opposite of what the President and his allies are arguing in the ongoing debate about extending unemployment benefits. Republicans have pointed out that people are discouraged from taking marginal jobs because weekly government checks represent a more attractive option. The White House has responded with deep derision, with the President himself saying that he never met a single American who would prefer a check from the government to a check from an employer. (Perhaps he should get out more?)

In fact, he has accused Republicans of insulting the unemployed by insinuating that they are lazy. However, he is now guilty of the same thing.  Of course, it was never about the unemployed being lazy, but about them not being stupid.  If the government pays you not to work, either with cash or health care, some would be stupid to pass up the offer.  Even more absurdly, Democrats have said that unemployment benefits keep people in the labor force by requiring them to look for a job in order to receive benefits. (This ignores the simple fact that job search claims are self-reported and that the government has no mechanism to verify their authenticity.)

But what is the difference between quitting a job you don't really want, because the government provides you with a health care subsidy, and not taking a job you don't really want because the government gives you an unemployment subsidy?   While it's true that most Americans would gladly give up unemployment benefits if a good job came along, it is also true that the same people may pass on an unattractive job as long as they could get by without it. In fact, very low wage jobs can't compete at all with the full spectrum of benefits offered by unemployment, such as unlimited personal days, zero commuting costs, and lack of oppressive bosses. And while it may be rational for some individuals to hold out for something better, is the economy really better off with people deciding not to work?

The Obama administration is arguing that Americans who leave the labor force voluntarily will benefit the overall economy by their ability to take care of family members, get advanced degrees, or chart their career development without regard to the need for immediate employment that health concerns often require. That is wishful thinking. The economy is already being hamstrung by the lowest labor force participation rate since the late 1970's. Should we celebrate the likelihood that Obamacare incentives will knock it down even further? By showing how the participation rate will likely fall further as a result of Obamacare, the CBO study shows that law will put upward pressure on the federal deficit for years to come.

It's ironic that the Obama administration is claiming credit for liberating women from the workforce. But before 1960s, most married women already enjoyed those luxuries.  But when taxes and inflation rose to pay for the roll out of the welfare state, the single income household went the way of black and white TV. In the 70's and 80's the huge influx of women into the workforce was heralded as a great boost to the economy. Oh how times have changed.

The truth is that most people would prefer not to have to work, and many plan their lives so they can leave the workforce at their earliest convenience. Being freed from the drudgery of daily labor as a result of rising productivity (as was the case for much of our history) is clearly a positive development. More stuff with less work means higher living standards. To the extent that individuals drop out due to accumulated personal savings, society benefits both from the work required to generate the savings, and the productive investments it supports. But if people leave the labor force due to government transfer subsidies, our collective standard of living must drop, as fewer people contribute into the economic pot and more people take from it.

The bottom line is that any society will get more of what it subsidizes and less of what it taxes. By providing a low-income subsidy, Obamacare will encourage some people to take a pass on the drudgery and inconvenience of working. Unemployment insurance does the same, at least temporarily. The White House should learn to keep its story straight. 

Peter Schiff is the CEO and Chief Global Strategist of Euro Pacific Capital, best-selling author and host of syndicated Peter Schiff Show. 

Catch Peter's latest thoughts on the U.S. and International markets in the Euro Pacific Capital Winter 2014 Global Investor Newsletter!



Tags:  obamaSubsidiesunemployment
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Posted by Peter Schiff on 02/11/2014 at 2:47 PM
Lawyers for Viacom, on behalf of “The Daily Show,” have verbally refused to either make the unedited footage of my interview available, or to release it to me for fair use.   They have also refused to put that refusal in writing, as they do not want me making it available to the public.
 
They are hiding behind the legal protection afforded them by the "Adult Talent Release" that unfortunately I signed without having read.  That release gives the Daily Show the right to edit my comments in any manner they choose.  Apparently it also shields them from liability from the fraudulent conduct that induced me to consent to be interviewed in the first place.  Not only did representative of The Daily Show repeatedly assure me, both verbally and in writing, that they would not take my comments out of context, nor deliberately try to portray me in an unfavorable light, but they did so during the four-hour interview itself, which is one of the reasons I want that footage released.   But this type of dishonest, unethical, and hypocritical behavior is exactly what I should have expected.   The Daily Show sees nothing wrong with committing fraud so long as they can profit from it.   
 
Below I have reproduced a copy of the release that I signed, as well as the letter my attorney sent to Viacom that prompted their verbal refusal to release the unedited interview.













Tags:  appearancesDaily Show
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Posted by Peter Schiff on 02/06/2014 at 10:06 AM

Gold is the simplest of financial assets - you either own it or you don't. Yet, at the same time, gold is also among the most private of assets. Once an individual locks his or her safe, that gold effectively disappears from the market at large. Unlike bank deposits or stocks, there is no way to tally the total amount of gold held by individual investors.

I like to call this concept "dark gold." This is the real, broader gold market that exists below the surface-level transactions on the major exchanges. It's impossible to know precisely how much dark gold exists around the world, but we do know that it is enough to render "official" gold holdings insignificant. That's why I don't buy and sell gold based on the decisions of John Paulson, or even J.P. Morgan Chase. It is a long-term investment that requires a deep understanding of the nature of money - and how little Wall Street's media circus really matters.

Observing Dark Gold

Think of dark gold like dark matter. Dark matter is a mysterious substance that scientists hypothesize is an essential building block of our universe. All we know is that the universe is a certain size and that a huge amount of its mass is unobservable - this is what we've come to call dark matter.

We haven't yet looked directly at dark matter. We can only observe phenomena that suggest there is a substance we aren't seeing and can't quite measure.

Likewise, dark gold is an essential building block of global financial stability. But the extremely private nature that makes it so valuable also makes it nearly impossible to directly observe.

But every now and then, we get a glimpse into the hidden undercurrents of dark gold. In the past year, the Federal Reserve slipped up in a big way and momentarily poked a hole that we can peek through to see what's happening with some of the largest stores of dark gold in the world.

Gib Mir Mein Gold!

A year ago, the big news was that the Bundesbank, Germany's central bank, would begin the process of repatriating a portion of its foreign gold reserves, including 300 metric tons stored at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. 

The controversy really started in late 2012, when Germany simply wanted to audit its gold reserves at the Fed. They were denied this access, so the Germans switched their approach. If they weren't allowed visitation with their holdings, they would instead demand full custody. In response, the Fed said it would oblige - within seven years!

As of the end of 2013, a Bundesbank spokesman reported that only 5 tons had been transported from New York to Germany so far, leaving the repatriation far behind schedule.

"But wait," some might argue, "the repatriation process might be delayed, but we know the gold is there. Central bank holdings constitute the most visible gold in the world. These institutions report their holdings to the world regularly. The gold at the Fed isn't dark gold at all!"

If this is a true and certain fact, then why was the Bundesbank denied a third-party audit of its gold in the Fed's vaults? The closest we've seen was an internal audit by the US Treasury last year. Of course, the US government holds the sovereign privilege of answering to no one but itself, but that hardly makes for reassuring statistics on which to base one's investments.

Golden Distractions

The truth is that we have no clue of the official gold reserves of any central bank in the world. All the Fed has to do to convince me otherwise is let an outside party into its vaults and count the gold. They've shown lots of paper; now show us the money!

It is very simple to count bars of gold where they exist. And it is clearly moral (and generally good business) to return assets that are held in trust when the creditor demands them. The Fed's reluctance on both counts suggests that there is more to this story than meets the eye.

Fortunately, the veracity of the Fed's claimed gold holdings has little bearing on the long-term precious metals investor. It's the same with gold futures contracts and the daily spot price. These have no effect on whether or not you have a chest of real money buried in your backyard.

So why is it important that intelligent investors do keep some gold "buried" in their possession? Germany's repatriation scandal begins to answer this question. The maneuverings of the New York Fed are like the patter and flourish of a magician - it distracts you from the real trick being played.

Or, in this case, where the most impressive piles of dark gold reside.

China Going For Gold

I'd bet that Western central banks are very pleased that the media has latched onto the dustup between Germany and the Fed. It means they are paying much less attention to the massive unreported stores of gold that many observers believe China has been accumulating, and which could have dire repercussions for the US dollar reserve system.

China last reported its gold reserves in 2009, clocking in at 1,054 metric tons. In the official rankings, this makes China's reserves the sixth largest in the world. Germany comes in second with 3,387 metric tons (or so they hope), and all nations trail the United States' claimed 8,133 metric tons.

Many speculate that China's reserves have grown far beyond its official number in the past five years. However, the People's Bank of China (PBOC) is playing its cards close to its chest.

Last year, a deputy governor of the PBOC tried to convince the world that its reserves have not changed much since 2009. He explained that the Chinese government is keeping a limit on its gold reserves, because "if the Chinese government were to buy too much gold, gold prices would surge, a scenario that will hurt Chinese consumers."

But a quick look at the numbers coming from the Chinese government shows that they just don't add up. 

China is the largest producer of gold in the world, pulling an estimated 437 metric tons of gold from the earth in 2013 - way more than runner-up Australia, with only 259 metric tons.

On top of this, China imported far more gold than any other country in the world in 2013. Via Hong Kong alone, China imported 1,158 metric tons of gold last year - a more than 107% increase from 2012.

This gold is not leaving the country in large quantities. Sure, China is the biggest exporter of gold jewelry to the Western world, but the value of these trinkets is negligible compared to the thousands of tons of bullion they are creating and importing.

Jim Rickards has estimated that China has probably added at least 1,000 metric tons to its reserves every year since 2010, meaning it has well over 4,000 metric tons today.

This is a conservative estimate. Wikileaks documents claim that China actually imported more than 2,000 metric tons from Hong Kong in 2011 alone.

If this is the case, when China does finally reveal how much gold it's holding, it will leap from the sixth largest reserves in the world to the second, easily surpassing Germany in a single bound. 

They might even give the US a run for its money.

Out From Under

It's no longer a secret that China would prefer a "de-Americanized world." Whether it's the PBOC or average Chinese consumers hoarding all this dark gold, the effects will be the same when China decides it is fed up with the funny-money central banking system long dominated by the US dollar.

It certainly seems like the East is preparing for this endgame. Several new physical gold vaults have opened in Singapore in the past year, Moscow recently launched a spot gold exchange, and Dubai is planning a new spot gold contract for this year. Let's not forget that the Hong Kong Exchange bought the London Metals Exchange in 2012, and there have been rumblings of physically moving it to Hong Kong.

If China were to initiate a gold-backed currency attractive to international trade partners, its government and citizens are poised to become extremely wealthy and powerful overnight. Americans, on the other hand...

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Some investors avoid the gold market because of its innate unofficial nature. But in a time when governments are in a race to tax anything that moves and inflate anything that prints, gold's privacy becomes the difference between preserving wealth or facing destitution.

I challenge my readers to worry less about the short-term movements in the gold futures market, or even which central bank has what holdings. Understand that gold is a deep, global market that has witnessed the rise and fall of countless empires. Your decision is simple: you either own it, or you don't.

Peter Schiff is Chairman ofEuro Pacific Precious Metals, a gold and silver dealer selling reputable, well-known bullion coins and bars at competitive prices. 

Click here for a free subscription to Peter Schiff's Gold Letter, a monthly newsletter featuring the latest gold and silver market analysis from Peter Schiff, Casey Research, and other leading experts. 

And now, investors can stay up-to-the-minute on precious metals news and Peter's latest thoughts by visiting Peter Schiff's Official Gold Blog.



Tags:  Chinagold
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Posted by Peter Schiff on 02/03/2014 at 1:33 PM
Everyone keeps asking why I would agree to be interviewed by "The Daily Show," knowing well the program's poor reputation for journalistic integrity. I'll tell you why. Take a look at the written assurance the show's producers sent me before I agreed to anything.

From: [redacted] [mailto:xxxxxx@thedailyshow.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 12, 2013 4:13 PM
To: Andrew Schiff
Subject: RE: FW: The Daily Show
 
We NEVER edit out of context.  Meaning we never ever show responses to a question we never asked.  For starters it LOOKS BAD!  But in all seriousness it's not our prerogative to attack our interview subjects & slander them (unless they say really horrible, awful, racist things... but last I checked Peter doesn't say such things!).
 
The general idea is to pretend this is a real news interview & correct our correspondent when he/she asks goofy questions.  Our questions usually come from misunderstanding the other side's arguments, for example.  We want our interview subject to play the straight guy & that way they look normal & we look like the fool.
 
In this case Samantha Bee is our correspondent.  She'll take things she heard at these fast food strikes & report them back to Peter.  Peter tells Sam why she may be mistaken, or what the strikers aren't taking into account, etc.  That's the general idea.  And we'll go over all of this before we start up the cameras next week.  (Peter & Jena can also discuss these concerns over the phone tomorrow.)
 
But rest assured-- NOTHING will be edited out of context.
 
If you guys have any other questions or concerns don't hesitate to bring them up!
 
[redacted]
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
604 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019


Tags:  appearancesDaily Show
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