Category: Gold

Interview with Anthem Hayek Blanchard on AnthemGold

What is AnthemGold?AnthemGoldLogo

AnthemGold is a cryptocurrency company focused primarily on making gold easy to own and, ultimately, to become a preferred currency. Each ANTHEM (AGLD) is backed by one gram of physical gold, securely vaulted with a nonbank operator and fully insured.

But looking at the bigger picture, our goal is to bring gold and cryptocurrency together to create the world’s most stable form of money… to become a Gold Standard, if you will, in verifying supply chain management when it comes to the transfer and storage of physical, fungible items of value such as precious metals.

Do you see AnthemGold as a service to be primarily used by people to transact in gold, or as a way for people to easily buy gold as a store of wealth?

Ultimately, I think it will be more of the latter – storing gold as a form of wealth – but I believe the reason people will want to buy our form, AnthemGold, is that it will be a superior way of owning gold, allowing digital transferability via peer-to-peer, decentralized networks.

How does an AnthemGold transaction compare to a traditional bank transaction?

A transaction using AnthemGold can be performed for mere cents and executed in seconds, compared to significant dollars and several days of delay for traditional bank transactions. For example, I recently sent several thousand dollars via the traditional banking system. It cost over a hundred dollars in fees and it took several days.

In stark contrast to a bank, AnthemGold provides a fully gold-backed cryptocurrency that is transferable across the Ethereum global computer network. The one gram of physical gold that backs each ANTHEM is securely vaulted at a nonbank vault and is also fully insured. What this means is that not only is each ANTHEM fully backed with gold – the world’s ultimate store of value for 5,000 years – but they are also fully protected from confiscation and from company failure.   

What are the implications of AnthemGold for the banking industry?

The current state of affairs in banking is bizarre due to excessive government control,  regulations and compliance. When you look at the countless hours that financial service companies spend on compliance, it is absurd, and it is getting worse. People who work in financial service companies will confirm this. For example, I know an investment banker who spent the first 7 months of his first job learning all the compliance rules, instead of focusing on strategies to build wealth and value for the company’s clients.

Unfortunately this is the reality, but it is something people don’t understand when they look at cryptocurrencies and marvel at how they are gaining in value. If you add up the cost of banking fees and calculate all the time wasted waiting for bank transactions and banks following compliance rules, then you begin to see the value of a decentralized and low-cost cryptocurrency. Sadly, we have become used to the current archaic government-controlled system, thinking it normal that every bank is directed and constrained by an increasingly authoritarian centralized system.

45 minutes is the average time I have to spend, when I am dealing with a bank, and I probably interact with a bank or financial service institution 25 to 30 times a year. So when you add this up, I am wasting two waking days of my life each year.

But a decentralized cryptocurrency like AnthemGold’s eliminates the need for a lot of this wasteful and time-consuming management. A cryptocurrency is so much more efficient than the current hierarchical structure. It is comparable to what innovative tech companies have done to disrupt their industries with decentralization. Think of Airbnb and Uber.

What could a decentralized cryptocurrency like AnthemGold mean for the future of banking and financial services?

Ethereum cripto currency vector logoThe current model means that almost all payment systems must clear through the centralized banking system. Banks have this special privilege for a host of reasons such as legal tender laws, bank charter laws, the Fed wire system, etc.

Fast forward to the present, and there is no denying that we are well into the digital age, and are now at the dawn of the decentralized age. Bitcoin made it possible for trust to be established in a decentralized world, and that very innovation itself has allowed us to look beyond the current Bitcoin model.

The future is in decentralization and voluntary groups, rather than involuntary compliance and a dominant centralized system. This has major implications. For example, a government today can put a lien or a freeze on an account, but in a decentralized world this couldn’t happen. It completely changes the relationships, enhancing trust, efficiency and security. In short, it changes the whole nature of the game.

Banks traditionally make money through payment services and lending, supported by protectionist government regulations that make it extremely difficult, even impossible, for any other business to duplicate a bank’s services. But although the payment system is still largely controlled by the banks, cryptocurrencies are now offering another option. Once cryptocurrencies start taking the payment business away from banks, the only big advantage that banks will have is their ability to supply credit and their access to tap into the government to monetize debt.

What is the potential market for cryptocurrencies?

The amount of gold above ground is estimated to be around $7 trillion in value, whereas Bitcoin, currently the largest cryptocurrency, is only $30 billion. So it is still early in the day, and there is so much opportunity facing us. There is easily 100x left in the space, maybe even 300x or 400x. In ten years time, the cryptocurrency market could easily be worth a trillion dollars.

Look at it another way. The gold market trades at around $22 trillion a year, which is more than the Dow Jones Industrial Index, the S&P 500 and most of the world’s currencies combined.

What are the implications of negative interest rates on cryptocurrencies?

A great question. Not only do the numbers support the market potential for cryptocurrencies, but the reasoning is there as well in our current environment of negative interest rates. As banks continue to pump out easy money and credit, this creates the demand for more cryptocurrencies because people want a currency that is not continually being debased. So it’s a feedback loop.

Once interest rates go meaningfully below zero, then it is cheaper to keep cash in a vault than to hold cash as excess funds at the central bank. The question then becomes, “How much does the central bank trust the commercial banks?” The central bank might start to enforce penalties for keeping cash reserves in a bank vault rather than with the central bank. As you can imagine, once the central bank starts to demand this cash, the system will start to fall apart. Quickly.

Another way to address this is to limit or even ban cash, a trend we are seeing in other countries. As long as governments can force central banks and financial institutions to hold cash on their ledgers, they can easily apply negative interest rates or taxes. Correct?

Exactly. That’s a big part of it. Restricting or banning cash puts more money into the banking system, to create higher excess reserves.

Many people, especially Americans, are accustomed to pricing everything in U.S. Dollars, seeing the dollar as a reliable measuring stick for valuing goods and services. But where or when do you see the tipping point when people wake up and realize that the dollar – and other fiat currencies – are not the ultimate measuring stick and that alternatives do exist?

When you look at places like Venezuela or Ukraine, the people have already woken up. In Venezuela, you hear of people setting up Bitcoin mining equipment and having to transact in Bitcoin because there is no other way to exchange goods and services, except for simple barter. Ukraine has a lot of Bitcoin activity, even a network of Bitcoin ATMs, which is fascinating given that Ukraine is a relatively undeveloped country, still struggling to break free from the crippling institutions of the Soviet era.

Cryptocurrencies make good sense when you understand how they allow people to transact globally, securely, at high speed and with low costs, and to hold assets safely and independent of government interference.

Since AnthemGold is backed by gold, do you expect the price of ANTHEMs to be more stable than other cryptocurrencies, and do you expect them to track the price of gold?

Yes and Yes. We expect ANTHEMs to track the price of gold, similar to how a one gram ingot tracks the price of gold, with a small premium being attached to it due to its form factor. For example, a one gram ingot would have more utility than a one kilogram bar because it is easier to spend a one gram ingot, due to its small size and divisibility.

What do you hope to achieve with AnthemGold?Virtual Currency Icons Set Flat Style

My hope, and our team’s goal, is to play a material part in protecting people’s wealth and their individual store of value and in particular, guarding against a scenario of civil unrest, such as will occur if inflation takes off. We hope to do this by building up the cryptocurrency infrastructure as quickly as we possibly can. At the end of the day – and without wishing to sound dramatic here – this is a matter of survival because human beings must have ways to transact. But this is still very early days, and the coding language needs to be further developed. After all, Bitcoin is not even ten years old. Like anything in our developing world, it takes a while for technology to advance and then for people to adopt something new until it soon becomes quite commonplace.

Is there anything else you can add?

A brief history lesson, if I may, but an important one concerning gold and the future of money.

My entire career has been spent in the precious metals business, and my father, James U. Blanchard III, spearheaded the movement for Americans to legally own gold once again, a right we lost in 1933 and thankfully regained in 1975, in large part due to my father’s incessant lobbying for legalization.

My parents created James U. Blanchard & Company in 1975, a precious metals and rare coin company that at one time was the world’s largest. Following in their footsteps, even my own three names reflect my aspirations and my heartfelt mission: Anthem (the freedom-seeking hero of Ayn Rand’s novella), Hayek (the Nobel prize-winning economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek) and Blanchard (continuing the family tradition).  

In conclusion, the coming marriage of gold and cryptocurrency is my heritage, my expertise, my vision and my passion, and it is something that I take very seriously. AnthemGold’s experienced team has created an innovative gold-backed cryptocurrency that simply and securely allows you to acquire, store and spend gold worldwide, with silver and other precious metals soon to be added. This, if I may be so bold, is the future of money.

Where can people find out more about AnthemGold?

One of the best places to go is our AnthemGold page on BnkToTheFuture.com an online investment platform.

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2017 War on Cash

US dollars and troops2017 War on Cash

Overshadowed by colossal events such as Brexit, the U.S. election and the Dow nudging 20,000, investors may not have noticed an escalating war over the past year: the sinister War on Cash.

We have previously covered the ongoing “currency wars” of central banks that continually try to depreciate their currencies with lower interest rates and quantitative easing. But this goes even further because it is a war on actual, physical, paper cash.

Unprecedented Strikes Against Cash

2016 saw prominent academics and politicians shamelessly writing about the benefits of reducing or even outlawing cash. Former Secretary of the Treasury, Lawrence Summers, called for the U.S. to get rid of the $100 bill.

Former Chief Economist for the IMF and Harvard Professor, Ken Rogoff, published a book entitled The Curse of Cash, followed by numerous op-eds and endorsements by the New York Times and Financial Times endorsing a ban on cash. Australia is currently reviewing whether it will ban its $100 note.

India’s Prime Minister, Narenda Modi, announced without warning on November 8 that all 500 and 1,000 rupee notes would cease to be legal tender. Although claiming these were “high-denomination” notes, they actually equate to approximately US$7.50 and US$15 respectively, and they constitute 86% of the country’s cash currently in circulation!

Banning Cash: Rationale versus Reality

One of the biggest reasons cited for banning cash is to cut down on crime. While it is true that criminals prefer cash for the anonymity and the ease of transactions, there is no reason to believe enterprising criminals will stop their activity because transaction costs will be higher.

Criminals will easily substitute other forms of payment: lower denomination bills, other valuables like silver or gold bullion, diamonds, bitcoin, etc. Even Tide detergent has been found used as a common currency for drug trades.

The popular press surmised Tide was used by drug users because it could be stolen easily and traded for a quick fix. Yet this misses the point of why drug dealers would accept Tide as a currency at all.

The reason Tide became a currency was because it fit most of the properties of what makes a currency viable. It is recognizable (given the brand name), homogenous, easily divisible, and it has a (relatively) high value-to-weight ratio, making it portable. Bottom line: criminals are enterprising enough to surmount all kinds of obstacles inherent in illicit trade, so banning cash will not turn them into law-abiding citizens.

The next reason for banning cash is a little closer to the truth; to curb black and grey market transactions and collect all of the taxes the government is currently missing out on. India’s actions are squarely aimed at this because most Indians make virtually all daily business transactions in cash.

Further, the government will be receiving a report on any Indian citizen who deposits more than 250,000 rupees as a result of trying to rid themselves of the now illegal notes. The intention will then be to assess a tax and penalty on any of this money, if viewed by the government as unreported income.

While this may give a little boost to government coffers in the short-run, it is likely to backfire because the overall effect will be to tamp down economic activity in general, leading to even less wealth creation and less tax revenue.

The Real Reason for a Ban on Cash

The biggest reason for banning cash, especially in developed countries, is for governments to have the ability to enact even more extreme negative interest rates. Rogoff and others are actually quite transparent about this, recognizing that if banks charge an ever larger negative interest rate on deposits, savers have the option of withdrawing their money in cash and stuffing it under a mattress or in a vault, costing them less in relative terms than paying the bank to hold their money.

This highlights the ludicrous position in which central banks have put themselves, yet it is obviously the next logical step in their fallacious reasoning. To a central banker, if zero interest rates have not sufficiently spurred an economic boost with increased borrowing and spending, then the next step is to make interest rates negative, something we are already witnessing on a smaller scale.

But if minimally negative interest rates do not work, then their logic is to remove the next barrier to make interest rates even more negative. Thus the wrong intervention of the first action necessitates further interventions that distort the regular function of banks and interest rates even more.

Savers and Investors

The biggest surprise of the recent currency bans and proposals to ban currency in developed countries has been the lack of protest from citizens. Most people already use credit and debit cards for many transactions anyway and don’t seem to see the problem.Many coin bank of yellow and white metal. Cash closeup.

However, if negative interest rates are imposed on regular bank accounts, and savers have no way to withdraw their money, they will likely become more a lot more interested in what is really going on here. Fortunately, many alternatives exist to regular currency, and while governments may try to curb an exodus to these alternatives, it will likely be hard for them to do so, given the myriad of substitutes available.

For example, gold and silver will remain popular substitutes, as well as other alternative assets like other commodities and real estate; perhaps Tide detergent will even become more widespread as a common currency! Technology will also enable the ownership of these assets to be transferred and verified more readily.

In any case, investors and savers need to stay properly diversified and remain informed…..

Time For Holiday Rebalancing

Ho Ho Ho or Ho-Hum?

Stock market investors are looking to have a rollicking Christmas this year, while holders of bonds and precious metals may feel like they are getting a lump of coal. Yet taking a closer look at what has developed in the markets since the U.S. Presidential election reveals that not all may be merry and bright. In short, it is time for rebalancing your portfolio.Work life balance concept

What’s driving the stock market

Since November 8, the S&P 500 is up nearly 6%, while the Dow has catapulted 8% and is looking to break 20,000 by year’s end, leading many to call this the Trump Rally.

The first thing to keep in mind is that the stock market typically rallies in an election year, and most new Presidents enjoy a “honeymoon rally” after the election, as chief economist David Rosenberg has noted. Markets hate uncertainty, so a close election that didn’t end in a tie and drag on for months gave the stock market a sigh of relief as the ambiguity ended.

Second, also as Rosenberg has ably pointed out, the S&P is largely being driven by two sectors the market perceives to benefit from the new administration: energy and financials. These two sectors are only 20% of the S&P 500 but they have accounted for nearly all of the gains; the other sectors have remained virtually flat.

Take a step back

There is nothing inherently wrong with this because sectors do go in and out of favor; but it is telling that this is not a broad-based rally. It also adds more political risk because market participants believe these sectors will benefit from deregulation. This probably could not happen due to the political games played in Washington, but even if it does occur, it will take a very long time to work through the political process.

Finally, the S&P 500 is now at the third most expensive valuation level ever, exceeded only by the dot-com bubble and a very brief point right before the Great Depression (as measured by the CAPE ratio). This is not a timing device or even a prediction that markets are set to crash, but it does mean that over the next 10 to 12 years, investors should expect low single-digit annual returns or worse on average.

The Fed is not the cause of bond yields rising

Many have attributed the spike in bond yields and interest rates to the anticipation, and the subsequent action, of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates. This is only partly true.

Remember that the Fed can only set interest rate targets on the rate that banks lend to one another. This certainly influences the attitudes of other bond buyers, but it is a relatively small market. And with the Fed out of the QE game for now, they are not directly intervening in the larger bond market.

What is a much larger force in the bond market is China, which has been furiously dumping U.S. Treasury Bonds. China has gotten rid of so many U.S. bonds that they have now given the title of largest holder of U.S. debt to Japan!

China is likely doing this to try to prop up their falling currency, the yuan, as they battle a credit crisis of their own. Although it hasn’t received a lot of mainstream press, things are getting so bad that China briefly suspended the bond futures market, and has been injecting emergency loans into the banking system.

China’s woes are an article for another day, but the bottom line is – watch out for China!

Low-priced gold and silver – exactly what you want right now

Gold and silver bugs are probably feeling more like the Grinch this season as they have watched gold tumble 11% and silver almost 13% since November 8. Yet this is exactly what you should expect and want.

Remember the purpose of precious metals in a portfolio; not to produce lots of juicy returns or return on capital, but to preserve capital. Indeed, year-to-date, gold is still up 7%.

So if precious metals are expected to hold value or even appreciate in times of inflation or when stocks fall, then they should conversely be expected to fall in times of dollar strength and stock market rallies.

This negative correlation to stocks is exactly what makes gold and silver so valuable and important as a stabilizer and insurance policy in a portfolio. It is also why we consistently recommend a 10% to 15% Hand writing the text: Where to Invest?allocation.

Rebalance your portfolio now

The slump in precious metals combined with the sharp rally in stocks at the end of the year signifies the perfect time for most individual investors to rebalance their portfolios.

Rebalancing to your target weightings automatically allocates money away from expensive assets (like stocks) to assets that are likely undervalued such as gold and silver. So this holiday, take cheer in knowing you can take some money off the table and sleep soundly at night with a well-balanced portfolio that is primed and ready for whatever 2017 may bring….

Inflation is the 24 Hour Tax on Everything

Wallet and stethoscopeInflation is the 24-Hour Tax on Everything

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that inflation, after “being given up for dead,” is coming back to life. While that may appear to be the case on the surface, inflation has been alive and well – hiding out beneath the official government statistics for years.

The WSJ is referring to the data released last Friday by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, known as Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE), which measures the change in actual spending and prices and is the Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation.

More specifically, the article was referring to Core PCE, which is PCE excluding food and energy, and is currently at a two year high of 1.7% on a year-over-year basis. The other measure of inflation is the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which has also been markedly higher, coming in at a 1.5% annual increase as of this past September.

Inflation is NOT a Good Thing

With inflation getting closer to the Fed’s 2% target, WSJ’s columnist Greg Ip casually comments that “This isn’t bad news. To the contrary, markets and central bankers alike will be relieved the world is no longer skirting a deflationary abyss.” But while central bankers might welcome this news, consumers will not.

Sustained inflation in consumer prices is never a positive for any economy, and is also not necessarily an indicator of a growing one. Prices may rise due to changes in supply and demand, and therefore help to reallocate resources and signal those changes; but an overall and sustained increase in prices is different.

If the price of an item rises for consumers, they will then stop buying it or switch to a cheaper item or cut back on another category in order to accommodate the household budget. Therefore, the only way for all prices to rise indefinitely and consistently is for new money to be constantly created and injected into the economy.

This of course is merely a tax on consumers because the new money and consistent increase in prices makes the consumer poorer. Contrary to popular economic theory today, there is no threat of a“deflationary abyss”. During the nearly 100 year history of the classical gold standard, prices gradually declined an average of 2% to 3% per year as technology and productivity increased, giving consumers the benefit of these advancements in the form of lower prices.

Inflation is Worse Than Reported

This week, Visual Capitalist made a stunning infographic using AEI’s Mark Perry’s (equally as interesting) inflation observations. Over the past 20 years, from 1996 to 2016, total inflation has been 55% as measured by the CPI.

However, digging into the Bureau of Labor’s data and then channeling down to the various items that make up the CPI basket of goods, you can see that inflation varies greatly from one type of good to the next.

For example, things that have increased more than the average 55% include tuition (up almost 200%), childcare (122%), medical (105%), food and beverage (64%) and housing (61%) – in other words, virtually all of the living essentials needed to survive or raise a family.

Counteracting this, items that fell in price included TV’s (96% decline!), toys (67% decline), and software and cell phone service (66% and 45% respectively). Clothing and furniture declined slightly, while new cars increased only slightly.

Obviously the dramatic decline in electronics, software and toy prices has brought wonderful benefits, but these are still largely discretionary items, and they take up a much smaller portion of most household budgets. The average family is therefore likely facing more than the average 55% increase in prices over the last 20 years.

Indeed, in his latest book, David Stockman has modified the CPI to put heavier and therefore more realistic weights on the four essential items of everyday life: food, energy, shelter and medical care. Using this measure, he finds the actual inflation rate over the past 29 years (when Greenspan became Fed Chairman) has been 3.1% per annum, rather than the official CPI rate of 1.7% per annum.

How to Protect Yourselfdates falling dollar

Unfortunately, inflation will continue to be a problem for any person living in a country whose money is a fiat currency that is being debased by their government – which includes nearly all modern economies today.

Thankfully, there is nothing stopping you from converting some of that fiat paper money directly into your own store of hard currency: physical gold and silver. During the past twenty years, while the official CPI increased 55%, gold has increased in value 235% and silver 282%.

Time to buy gold and silver, perhaps?

Gold is Never a Bad Investment

Gold HistoryGold is Never a Bad Investment

Listen to a gold bug long enough and it seems like gold will always go up in price, and you can never own enough gold. But common sense tells us that “trees don’t grow to heaven” and, likewise, the price of gold won’t go to infinity.

Although we have previously gone over the many reasons why gold is a great investment and a crucial addition to any portfolio, it also helps to take an honest look at when gold didn’t do so great in terms of its price history. Doing this gives us a greater understanding of gold as an asset class, what to expect and why – despite some poor periods – it still stands out as a solid investment.

An Early Wild Ride

Gold advocates will often remind you that “Gold will never go to zero, unlike other financial instruments such as individual stocks or even bonds.” This is true, and will likely remain true given gold’s scarcity and historical precedent as money and a universally recognized medium of exchange. Unless someone figures out how to turn straw into gold, we can be fairly confident in this prediction.

However, while there is great comfort in owning gold, it still technically means that gold could go down in price by a significant amount. So what were some of the worst times for gold?

When the link between the dollar and gold was severed by President Nixon in August of 1971, gold went from an average of approximately $40 per ounce to nearly $200 at the end of 1974, an almost 400% increase!

At this time, President Ford made it possible for citizens to hold gold and bullion once again. If you were someone who eagerly went out and purchased the newly legalized gold for the first time beginning in 1975, you would have seen your shiny new investment’s value cut in half as gold plunged from nearly $200 an ounce to a low of $103 in less than two years.

A Spectacular Bull Run

However, gold then went on to make one of its most spectacular bull runs in its history, reaching a new all-time high of $843 per ounce in January of 1980, from its previous low of $103 in September of 1976. This represented an increase of over 700% in less than three and a half years; annualized, this works out to around 85% per year.

Yet the massive price run in such a short period led to a collapse to $300 per ounce by June of 1982, a more than 60% decline in less than three years. Of course, this entire episode was during the stagflation of the 1970’s where gold took off in the face of extreme inflation, only to be brought back to earth by Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volker’s very high interest rates.

This shows us that in its early history of trading freely against the dollar, gold had some wild gyrations with drawdowns as much as 50% and 60%. Yet even if someone had terrible timing and purchased gold at nearly $200 an ounce beginning in 1974, holding it through the extreme times of the 70’s and early 80’s still produced a gain of 50% as gold settled down to $300 per ounce.

The Worst Time in Gold’s Price History

The worst time for gold was still to come in terms of its price against the dollar. After its spectacular run and subsequent decline, gold continued to be fairly boring and it gradually declined in price overall.

From $300 per ounce in 1982, gold eventually bottomed out at $253 in July of 1999. In contrast, the Dow Jones Industrial Average racked up over 1,300% in the same period.

Given gold’s bottom of $253 in 1999, and its previous all-time (although very brief) high of $843 in 1980, we can see the absolute worst performance for gold in its entire history: a decline of 70% over a nearly 20 year period. 

Lessons to Learn

On its face, this sounds uninspiring. However, first consider that this unfortunate scenario wouldSt Louis Fed Graph
require some incredibly unlucky timing and poor assumptions. To achieve this, an investor would have to buy their entire gold allocation on one day that just so happened to be an all-time high, and they would then have to sell all of their gold on a coincidentally unlucky day when gold was at an all-time low.

Most investors spread their purchases over time, and rebalance accordingly, taking advantage of price changes. It is therefore not likely that anyone would realize this full 70% loss.

Secondly, even if an investor did experience a full 70% loss over nearly 20 years, this represents an annualized 6% loss per year. This is certainly a painful time, but if this investor was following something like our 10% recommended allocation toward gold, the total effect on their portfolio would only be a drag of 0.6%.

We have often talked about gold being an alternative currency and more of an insurance policy than a high-performing asset class. Although this 20 year period was the worst in gold’s history, it still ended up ‘costing’ the investor only 0.6% per year, similar to or even less than other forms of portfolio insurance. Ironically, that 20-year low period has been followed by a gain for gold of over 350% from 2000 up to the present!

What happened after this low in July of 1999? Gold went on to a new all-time high of nearly $1,900 per ounce in September of 2011, a 650% gain or just over 18% annualized. This is a perfect example of how we as investors cannot predict the timing of these asset class moves, and why a Secure Your Wealthportfolio balanced between major assets takes advantage of this uncertainty.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that gold certainly has its ups and downs, and it would therefore be foolish to put 100% of your portfolio into gold. Yet a careful analysis shows that gold is still less volatile and has smaller drawdowns than the stock market.

Given its non-correlation to other major financial assets, it remains an incredible diversifier and a vital form of portfolio insurance.

This Time, it IS Different

This Time it IS Different

It's Different

It IS Different

The four most dangerous words in the world of finance, often repeated, are “This time it’s different.” During both of the last two major booms and busts, a common belief was that the new internet age was different (2000) and later, that housing was also different (2008).

However, used to describe our current interest rate environment (particularly negative interest rates), the over-worked phrase actually does ring true.

Financial journalist and observer Jim Grant noted at a recent investment conference that research on interest rates shows that over the past 5,000 years of history, there has never been an instance of negative interest rates… until now.

The ever quick-witted Grant remarked, “If these are the first sub-zero interest rates in 5,000 years, is this not the worst economy since 3,000 B.C.?” Perhaps. Or maybe this is just the first time in history where we have central banks active in monetary policy, attempting to drive interest rates as low as possible.

Record Negative-Yield Debt

The current amount of debt sporting a negative yield continues to grow. In early 2016, there was over $5 trillion in negative yielding debt. This grew to nearly $12 trillion by the end of June, and it is now closer to $13.4 trillion!

Not only has more debt become negative in yield, but it is increasingly happening to longer term debt. Yields on 10-year government bonds have become negative for Germany, Switzerland and Japan.  

Remember that bond yields are an inverse to bond prices. As bond prices get bid up, their yields go down.

What makes this unique is that bonds are a relatively simple financial instrument. Bonds do not have the subjective valuation that applies to stocks, and this makes the math and the logic of bonds fairly straightforward.

A person can buy a stock from another person while thinking it still has the potential to go higher, given higher growth prospects for the company. The price is based on one person’s subjective valuation.

On the other hand, bonds are not as subjective. If you buy a bond at a certain price, with a certain coupon payment, then the yield is a mathematical certainty. It is the yield you will receive per year if you hold the bond to maturity, and if it pays the principal in full without defaulting.

What Bond Buyers are Saying

By stark contrast, today’s current bond buyers are purchasing a security where they know they will lose money if it is held to maturity. For example, if you buy a bond today with a negative 0.5% yield, and it has five years until maturity, then after five years, you will be paid back less than what you originally paid for the bond. Even with the coupon payments you received during the life of the bond, the total payout will be equivalent to getting a minus 0.5% return on your money.

Therefore, we must make one of two different assumptions about current buyers of negative yielding debt. One assumption is they could be anticipating the bonds will continue to go up in price and that they will then sell them for a profit. In other words, the negative yields will become even more negative, and they will sell the bonds before maturity.

Unfortunately, this requires the buyer to believe there will always be a ‘greater fool’ out there who is willing to accept a higher price than what the original buyer paid. It it not unlike those who bought houses before 2007 on the premise they would flip them to a higher bidder. Remember that with bonds, someone must be holding these financial instruments at all times.  

The second assumption is that buyers are perfectly fine accepting a negative yield, and are willing to ‘pay for the privilege’ of lending out their money. This goes against all basic laws of finance. It only makes sense insofar as these buyers have no other place to put their money, and are therefore choosing the lesser evil.

But this is a weak explanation, because they could put their money in cash and get at least a zero percent return. Also, this doesn’t seem to make sense for longer maturity debt, as it means these buyers think negative interest rates are here to stay for at least ten years or more.

Both of these scenarios point out how this time, it is very different, and we are living in a twisted financial world, a world only exists because of the manipulations and distortions of central banks.

It is always precarious to try to make predictions, but it seems that there will come a time in the not too distant future when people will look back at this period and say “What were people thinking?”Secure Your Wealth

Like a frog languishing in a slowly heating pot of water, investors have warmed up to the environment of negative interest rates, not realizing how absurd and dangerous the situation has become. But take time now to assess, and be well prepared for the inevitable.

In this zero/negative interest rate environment, it is stunning to consider that since 2000, the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average) has increased in value 63% while silver has increased in value 289% and gold has increased 380%…. an annualized return of 23.75%!

Cash, anyone? Or gold!