Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Great Depression Optimists

We’ve discussed the sport of bottom-calling the last few weeks and what an unreliable pastime it often proves to be. But, on the other hand, it’s nothing new. Even back at the beginning of the Great Depression, experts and authorities were failing to assess the actual state of the economy.

In retrospect, their words are pretty enlightening. Consider the following quotes…

We will not have any more crashes in our time.”--Economist John Maynard Keynes, 1927

There will be no interruption of our permanent prosperity.”--Myron E. Forbes, President, Pierce Arrow Motor Car Co., 1/12/28

Stock prices are not too high and Wall Street will not experience anything in the nature of a crash...increasing due in large measure to inventions such as the world never before has witnessed...This is a new and tremendously powerful factor in the business world.”--Professor Irving Fisher of Yale wrote in the New York Times on September 5, 1929, a month before the Crash.

American industry has reached a point where a break in New York stock prices does not necessarily mean a national depression.”--Associated Press dispatch, 12/28/29

No Stimulants Needed!”--New York Herald Tribune, 1/23/30

President Hoover predicted today that the worst effect of the Crash upon unemployment will have been passed during the next sixty days.”--Washington Dispatch, 3/8/30

While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed the worst and, with continued unity of effort, we shall rapidly recover.”--President Herbert Hoover, 6/29/30

The worst is over without a doubt.”--James J. Davis, Secretary of Labor, 8/29/30

We have hit bottom and are on the upswing.”--James J. Davis, Secretary of Labor, 9/12/30

The depression has ended.”
--Dr. Julius Klein, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, 6/9/31

A wonderful thing about human beings, especially American human beings, is our abiding sense of optimism. In our haste to display it, though, we often find ourselves jumping the gun. So the next time you hear someone declaring an official end to the current round of bad economic times—right in the face of scary local and anecdotal news you know to be true—just shake your head and think of the overly-optimistic pronouncements the experts and authorities made at the beginning of the Great Depression.



Certainly, do not abandon your hope and optimism! That’s not the point of this e-letter. These two essential beliefs can keep you afloat and motivated to find the answers you need right now. You have only to read Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning to understand the true value of hope and faith in the midst of trying times. Viktor not only was a survivor of a Nazi death camp, he helped many others survive those horrendous conditions, too…and, it’s almost foolish to even mention, we don’t have it anywhere near that bad.

So nourish and cling to your hope and optimism…just don’t be unrealistic about the actual condition of our economy. In other words, hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Who knows, things may straighten out sooner than expected…but there’s still an awful lot of unraveling of government and institutional shenanigans left to go.

SECOND, it may be really helpful for you to read Man’s Search for Meaning right now. It will inspire you and give you your much-needed second wind. And stay tuned to The Ruff Times. I’ll always do my best to alert you about what’s up ahead.

Trading in Crude and Equities

Is the move in crude oil over?

Is it all over for the S&P500?

Any Gold In Fort Knox?

NYSE Runs Out of Gold Bars: What Happens Next?

In the first Great Depression, the government tried, for several years, between 1929 and 1933, to maintain a fiction that the U.S. dollar was still convertible and as “good as gold”, in spite of having irresponsibly printed more dollars than they had gold to back them. Back in the 1920s, just like during the last 22 years, the Federal Reserve had run its printing press overtime, and, as a result, it couldn’t deliver. The U.S. Treasury eventually ran out of the gold, in the face of overwhelming public demand, resulting in the infamous gold confiscation order, by President Franklin Roosevelt, in 1933. History may be repeating itself, except that the government no longer makes any pretension to maintaining a gold standard, or any standards at all. Instead, nowadays, the futures exchanges offer to trade gold for a floating number of dollars, and, it appears, they have printed more paper contracts than they can redeem, at least when it comes to 1 kilogram bars.

The NYSE-Liffe futures exchange has, it seems, run out of 1 kg bars of gold. Futures markets, like NYSE-Liffe and COMEX, try hard to maintain the fiction that they will deliver physical gold, in completion of executed contracts. Indeed, to prevent fraud, U.S. law requires clearing members to keep a stockpile, of one kind or another, consisting of a minimum of 90% of metal. Up until October, 2008, it didn’t matter. Only about 1% of long buyers of paper gold futures contracts typically took delivery. Now, the situation is very different. Demand has surged and, it appears, one major futures exchange, NYSE-Liffe, and by extension, the COMEX gold warehouses it shares with its larger cousin, are unable to meet the requirements of their contracts, vis-a-vis, delivery of 1 kg. bars. (more)