Thursday, September 30, 2010

Shrinky Dinks: The Yield Curve Edition

With long-term interest rates sinking, the slope of the yield curve is becoming increasingly more flat.  Given that short term interest rates are near zero, every decline in the long end of the curve causes the curve to flatten.  The spread between the yield on the 10-year and 3-month US Treasury has been shrinking rapidly in 2010.  After peaking out above 350 basis point (bps) in late 2009 and early 2010, today the spread broke down to its lowest level since January 2009.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Congressmen Weiner and Waxman Set Gold Hearing

Just as the government is trying to prevent people from investing in anything other than T-Bills by raising taxes on taxable interest and dividends to confiscatory levels, it's also trying to prevent you from parking your wealth in assets, like gold, that compete with the paper dollars issued by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury. A press release from Rep. Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, not yet (as of this instant) posted on Mr. Weiner's Web site, announces that a September 23 hearing of the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection (a subcommittee of Rep. Henry Waxman's Commerce Committee) will focus on "legislation that would regulate gold-selling companies, an industry who's [sic] relentless advertising is now staple of cable television."

From the press release: "Under Rep. Weiner's bill, companies like Goldline would be required to disclose the reasonable resale value of items being sold." That's great. Are Mr. Weiner and Chairman Bernanke also going to agree to print on every dollar the reasonable expectation that its value will be eroded by inflation?
Gold investors (or speculators) are already punished by the federal government by having their investment, even in a gold exchange-traded-fund, taxed at the higher rates that apply to collectibles rather than long term capital gains.

Not to mention the fact that Mr. Weiner's regulatory push seems as much aimed at conservative journalists as at the gold-dealers. The press release says, "Goldline employs several conservative pundits to act as shills for its' [sic] precious metal business, including Glenn Beck, Mike Huckabee, Laura Ingraham, and Fred Thompson. By drumming up public fears during financially uncertain times, conservative pundits are able to drive a false narrative. Glenn Beck for example has dedicated entire segments of his program to explaining why the U.S. money supply is destined for hyperinflation with Barack Obama as president."

Imagine the uproar if a Republican-majority Congress started investigating and having a regulatory crackdown on big advertisers in liberal outlets such as the New York Times. The First Amendment freedom-of-the-press crowd would be marching in the streets.

The whole situation is amazing. If Mr. Weiner really wants to calm fears about hyperinflation, the last way to do it is to have a government hearing cracking down on the people warning of it.
The press release reports that "invitations to the hearing have been sent to the representatives of Goldline International, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumers Union and other potential witnesses, including former Goldline employees." Mr. Weiner might also consider calling John Paulson and George Soros, who have also reportedly been buying gold lately, though Mr. Soros was also quoted as calling it a bubble. But Mr. Paulson saw the housing bubble coming so he might be right about the inflation risks, and Mr. Soros is a big funder of left-wing causes, so neither of them would fit with the objective of the hearing.
Anyway, we are looking forward to the hearing, which should be quite a show.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Eric King posted this interesting chart showing mutual fund cash levels.   According to King mutual fund cash level has declined to its lowest levels ever:
“The percentage of liquid assets (aka mutual cash levels) was 3.4% in July.  This is the lowest percentage cash level ever and is near levels that accompanied the 2007 equity market peak.”
You’re likely familiar with the myth of cash on the sidelines, however, if mutual fund managers are any sign of bullishness it’s clear that they’re quite bullish. The last two times we witnessed cash levels near these levels were directly before the 1999 market implosion and the 2008 market debacle. Surely it’s unwise to use any single indicator to make market decisions, however, this is one macro indicator that is worth noting.

Lunch is for wimps

Lunch is for wimps
It's not a question of enough, pal. It's a zero sum game, somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn't lost or made, it's simply transferred from one perception to another.