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Morning in Arizona
Rainbows over Canyonlands - Dave Stoker

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Here Comes 2011

Welcome to 2011, the year of the Long-Term Evolution (LTE), A.K.A., G4 wireless connectivity. Only Verizon Wireless is offering it as I write this, but only through USB Modems.  Smartphones will be out later this year; so it’s here but just not available now to change your life.

The promised upgrade in broadband, whether we want it or can afford it, is a perfect metaphor for the upcoming collision between economic reality and political machinations.  One of three things will happen as the 112th Congress is sworn in; a) it will continue business as usual, b) it will change spending in Washington DC, or c) our creditors will take away our charge card. America is unprepared for all three. Choice b would be not to raise the federal debt – much easier said than done. Choice a will debase the Dollar and cause inflation before the second leg of the 2008 Depression starts (Oh, and you thought we were pass that crisis?).

In 2010, the big winner was gold and silver amongst other commodity products. Below are charts showing 1 year, 6 months, 3 month returns of the major futures markets. Silver was up 83.5% and Gold was up 29.5%. Stock averages trailed; The Russell 2000 was up 26.3%; NASDAQ 100 was up 19%; the S&P 500 was up 12.9%, followed by the DJIA, which was up 11.2%.

The 30-year Treasury Bond was up 5.6% for the year and the 10-year Note was up 4.2%. The US Dollar was up 1.2%. However, December was unkind to the 10-Year Note, as it lost 3% and the 30-Year Bond lost 4.2%.

On Monday, the stock market blasted off into triple digit territory, closing up 93 points. Optimism was everywhere in the air, not to mentioned an extra 850 billion in tax cuts to goose prices. I believe the DJIA will cross 14,000 this year and the S&P 500 will also cross 1450. The market will be wildly overvalued at that point, as the market is currently only recklessly overvalued, with more potential headwinds in the second half of the year from a slowing Chinese economy, a double-dip recession in Europe, and housing bubble collapses in Australia and Canada.

Gold and silver was savaged this Tuesday morning; February Comex gold last traded down $44.60 at $1,378.30 an ounce. Spot gold last traded down $36.40 at $1,378.50. The London P.M. gold fix was $1,388.50 versus the previous P.M. fixing of $1,405.50.  Silver futures for March delivery fell $1.617, or 5.2 percent, to $29.508 an ounce, I expect a consolidation period could last until the spring. This will range-bound gold’s price to $1,300 to $1,500.

Cost-Push inflation is being reflected in oil and food prices. Gasoline is now over $3.00 a gallon, on its way to $4-$5 a gallon this year. This inflationary pressure will weigh on a fragile consumer’s pocketbooks, therefore, GDP growth. Higher prices, combined with city and state firings of employees (layoffs is when you have a chance of getting your old job back) suggests higher unemployment and increase the chances a double-dip recession by the end of the year.

Fed Chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, has openly expressed a desire to inflate asset prices while holding down inflation on the theory that not doing so will reopen the door to deflation.

The minutes to the December 14th FOMC policy meeting was released today which said in part, “While the economic outlook was seen as improving, members generally felt that the change in the outlook was not sufficient to warrant any adjustments to the asset-purchase program, and some noted that more time was needed to accumulate information on the economy before considering any adjustment,”.

Only a neurosurgeon’s scalpel could be so precise. In my view, we can only wait to see which of the Fed’s missions will fail.

Conventional Wisdom is propagating that the private sector will ride to the rescue of the economy and President Obama’s reelection. Why would they? Demand is absent in the marketplace for goods in all but the luxury segment. Even the low-end retail segment is fading. Bottom-up stimulation is being withdrawn from the economy as state budgets, which spend locally, are being slashed, unmercifully.

If American business was serious in creating jobs here in America, they would be demanding trade protectionists’ measures to protect American workers. Once upon a time, business and the Chamber of Commerce did such things. Sadly, if we update the year by a decade, as the Eagle’s sang in their song Hotel California, “We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969”.

Below are my 2010 predictions with comments. Four of my predictions were right, three were too early, and four missed the mark. Without government intervention, my record would be eight out of eleven.  The take away is I was too conservative in my thinking which err on the on the side of caution for investors. Since the economy and the financial markets are disconnected like never before, and the government’s heavy hand has all but destroyed real price discovery, analyzing what is happening and predicting the consequences of those findings are becoming more and more a fool’s errand.

2010 Predictions
I. The bond market will suffer its worst lost since 1994.
Too early. The bond market began selling off in the 4th quarter. QE II artificially suppressed interest rates.
II. Gold will surpass $1,800.00 per oz.
Too early. The direction was right, the magnitude was off. It went from $1,100 to $1,421 or 29.5%.
III. The Democratic Party will lose the House and barely retain the Senate.
IV. The FDIC will temporarily run out of funds to shut down bad banks.
The FDIC left open 900 bad banks otherwise they would run out of funds.
V. At least two states will default on their general obligation bond interest payments, roiling the municipal bond markets.
Too early. The municipal train wreck will occur this year.
VI. Either, Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, of Ben Bernanke, will leave the administration before 2011.
Lawrence Summers, bye bye.
VII. State and Federal taxes will rise in 2010.
Silly me. I thought politicians would do the right thing instead of extending the Bush tax cuts.
VIII. Inflation will rise above 5% at least one quarter in 2010.
Prices are rising but it is not being reflected in the CPI. Stay tuned.
IX. The yearly high for stocks will occur in the first half of the year.
Quantitative Easing II (QE II) saved the stock market.
X. At least one western democratic government will fail and be replaced with another democratically elected government.
The UK and Australia
XI. Residential real estate prices will drift lower YOY on the S&P Case-Shiller HPI
Year-on-year, sales are up 0.2% for the 10-city adjusted index but are down 0.8% for the 20-city index 

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