The Trump election has ignited a market mania, to everyone's surprise. Our sense is that it reflects an enormous relief that the Obama years of deadlock and do-nothing have finally ended. It's how you would feel if, after eight years, someone finally stopped hitting you with a hammer; you would probably feel pretty good. But in economic terms, nothing real has changed and the relief probably won't last long.
Risk-on versus risk-off is critical once again. Risk-on is when investors take more risk, buying higher-risk stocks and selling bonds and gold. Risk-off is when investors become more risk averse, selling stocks and buying bonds and gold.
Risk-on is what's happening now. The election of Trump has suddenly convinced investors that the economy is going into a period of higher economic growth and higher inflation. Investors are mobilizing their money and credit to buy stocks, particularly junior stocks and companies that supposedly could benefit from a Trump economy, such as construction, military contracting and "inflation plays" including some commodities. Bonds and gold have been sold hard and money is leaving the developing economies to return home to what is expected to be a U.S. economic miracle, resulting in a stronger dollar. Expectations are that the Federal Reserve will now have to be more aggressive in its monetary policy, which has also boosted the dollar.
In fact, we think that risks are rising, not falling, but that's not what the markets think and there is no point arguing with an ongoing train until it derails. And it will derail. Although Trump's victory is an immense change in the political sphere, we think it changes virtually nothing in the financial and economic spheres, where risks have been mounting for decades. We offer you this warning: All the good news from the election is already in the market. Now we will begin to see the problems.
As Morgan, Stanley points out, we don't even know what the Trump economic plan is. If it involves ripping up trade deals and declaring China to be a currency manipulator, his policies could do much more harm than good. A tax reduction without spending cuts will drive the deficit and the national debt load higher at a time when interest rates are rising, putting additional strains on debt markets and investor confidence. Furthermore, nothing is going to happen overnight. It will take years to get the Trump economic plan implemented.
Those commentators euphorically calling for real growth in the U.S. of 4% fail to understand that growth depends on three factors—credit growth, productivity growth and working age population growth. All three are in decline and will take many years to reverse. As Ray Dalio points out, the world is at the end of a credit cycle with governments, corporations and consumers all loaded up with historically high levels of debt. Productivity growth is at historic lows as businesses have cut back investment over the past decade, instead funding financial engineering. The world's working population is aging and there are now far more workers looking to retire and leave the labor force rather than join it and pay taxes.
What are the risks? First and foremost, debt markets are way overextended, both in quantity and in price, at the same time that interest rates have clearly reversed upward. Let's remember how the stock market got to these valuations…cheap money and lots of it. Money is now much more expensive than it was a very short period of time ago. Since early July, the 10-year yield has jumped by 87 basis points. The 30-year yield has risen 83 basis points since early July, reflecting a 13% plunge in price during that time. These are enormous moves in the world's largest and deepest market that acts as a benchmark for every other security on the planet. Higher rates are not going to help an economy burdened with too much debt that is already slowing down along with the rest of the globe.
Second on our list of risks is the EU banking system that is drowning in non-performing loans, too little capital and declining liquidity despite enormous stimulus from the European Central Bank. Meanwhile, there are important elections coming up next month in Austria and Italy that threaten the political stability of Europe.
The Chinese Yuan is collapsing in tandem with falling trade and production figures amid the biggest credit boom in history. There is no good news in the world's second largest economy.
Our sense is that this period of risk-on will not last long and then we will see what the world really looks like. We're guessing it will be very gold friendly.
This article is the collaboration of Rudi Fronk and Jim Anthony, cofounders of Seabridge Gold, and reflects the thinking that has helped make them successful gold investors. Rudi is the current Chairman and CEO of Seabridge and Jim is one of its largest shareholders.
The authors are not registered or accredited as investment advisors. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed reliable but is not necessarily complete and accuracy is not guaranteed. Any securities mentioned on this site are not to be construed as investment or trading recommendations specifically for you. You must consult your own advisor for investment or trading advice. This article is for informational purposes only.
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