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No Respect
Contributed Opinion

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Michael Ballanger Sector expert Michael Ballanger reflects on how Rodney Dangerfield's famous one-liner applies to today's gold market.

Rodney Dangerfield Wikimedia Commons

In March 1967, for most of the adult population in North America, the most popular comedians were almost all television series personalities, such as Carol Burnett, Buddy Ebsen and Dick Van Dyke. These stars were the softcore comics enjoyed by the parents of the Boomer generation, whose appetite for laughter was sated by inoffensive gags, slapstick and one-liners.

For my crowd, however, the sanitized, Wonder Bread content of the '60s could not survive the onslaught of underground, drug-fueled witticisms of people like Lenny Bruce, whose outrageous anti-establishment rants resulted in him being blacklisted from Hollywood and banned from television.

As the '60s wore on, the underground mantle was passed on to comedians like George Carlin and Richard Pryor, who were able to present two completely different acts, with the heavily censored TV versions violently contrasted with their nightclub acts, which were obscene, politically charged and outright raw. Sitting in the high school cafeteria every Monday morning, my friends and I would always get into a critique of whichever corny stand-up comedian wound up as filler on the Ed Sullivan Show, where such notables as Bill Cosby and Godfrey Cambridge would appear regularly until their careers took off.

One such morning, after doubling over with laughter the previous evening for a solid 8-10 minutes, I asked if anyone had seen "this guy from New York called Rodney Dangerfield," to which they all said "No." I raved about his self-deprecating "schtick," filled with one-liners like "I don't get no respect. My son takes his mother to a father-and-son banquet!" or "My wife only has sex with me for a purpose. Last night it was to time an egg!" or my absolute favorite: "I drink too much. The last time I gave a urine sample it had an olive in it." All were followed, at one time or another, with two words "No respect."

Dangerfield's show-stealing routine that night on Ed Sullivan was repeated again a month later, and on the following morning, my classmates absolutely chastised me, using descriptives for Rodney like "ridiculous," "so unhip," and "outright disgusting." But to no one's surprise, it could not deter me. For the next two decades, I never missed a chance to see him perform, his live show insanely off-color and riddled with four-letter words, but never with one shred of political satire or innuendo. The crescendo performance of Dangerfield's career was as nouveau-riche businessman Al Czervik in "Caddyshack," where he dominated every scene with lines like, "He called me a baboon; he thinks I'm his wife!" and "Last time a saw a mouth like that it had a hook in it!" He got a lot of respect in that film and deserved it.

Whenever I look at the gold market these days, the only words that come to mind are "no respect." Trillions of international currency units created out of thin air to rescue the global bull market in stocks, with Wall Street and Main Street the main recipients. What is interesting is that since the Fear-Greed Index hit the famous "1" mark in mid-March, when the Fed announced intentions to buy every single security found in all hedge fund portfolios regardless of name or location, including junk bonds, stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs), the evidence shows that they actually have not purchased any of the said securities, as the chart below would confirm.

Once again, the brain surgeons over at the Fed talked a good game but that is all it was—a game designed to stem the panic that was threatening to (and did) derail the bull market. I believe that what happened by the end of the week was that Wall Street suddenly woke up to the realization that the Fed had shifted loyalties from Wall Street to Main Street, largely due to the public perception that they were, once again, exactly as happened in 2008, being picked over by the bailout kings in favor of foreign banks and elitist-owned corporate America.

Whether or not the Fed was "politicized" after mid-March is a moot point; the S&P 500 stopped dead in its tracks a hair below the 200 daily moving average (dma) at 297.47. It also reversed just after the April 29 Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) testimony by newly appointed hero and soon-to-be-announced "Man of the Year" for 2020, Jerome Powell, the "serial printer of last resort," whose remarks were focused primarily on Main Street as opposed to Wall Street. This, in an important election year, is good for the incumbent and not so good for political donations from the white gloves gang in New York.

As for gold, I have the distinct impression that after the normal first-of-month institutional flows are spent with a distinctly newfound bullish bias toward gold and the miners, a more meaningful correction, not unlike 2009, could get rolling. On Friday morning (May 1), the flows have taken gold and the miners from deeply negative on the opening to positive on the session, which suggests that the generalists have made the move to own precious metals. Since the generalists tend to be late to the party, it is bearish near term but undoubtedly bullish longer term, as global allocations are less than 0.5% and at the end of 2011, they were nearly 5%.

Having navigated through numerous bull and bear markets with varying degrees of success (and failure), the key to survival is once again found in the preaching of the late Richard Russell, who always claimed that "the winner in a bear market is he or she that loses the least." In bull markets, the victory lap specialists always make the mistake of confusing bull markets with brains, and it is this misplaced complacency that arrives as your arch enemy. Hubris is the harbinger of failure and one way to sidestep that trap is to keep preservation of capital as your primary objective in times like these.

I always keep a large cash position in place, and certainly until the evidence clearly indicates that the global economy can recover. Even the gold and silver markets, as ridiculously undervalued in U.S. dollar terms as they are, cannot withstand the impact of a deflationary wave that totally swamps the efforts of the Fed and its money-printing brethren around the globe. Safety over stardust; caution over calamity; modesty over hubris. . .

Speaking of "no respect," I always know when gold is in trouble because my trusty canine compadre "Fido" is usually not to be found within a hundred feet of me and my sailing quote monitors and Jim Cramer dartboards. The only dog in history truly clairvoyant, he gives me a hint that gold is due to bottom when I see him peering into the den to see if it is "safe," sniffing the floor in search of broken shards of wine bottle glass and or ill-targeted beer tankards.

Well, this week I went out to his tool shed "hiding hole," forgetting that I was wearing my virus-preventing surgical mask (made from an old hockey sock and some tie-downs) and when he saw me approaching, he went into full "attack mode," chasing me to within one arse-bite of an outcome as I scampered through the garage door to the sounds of primal growls and gnashing fangs.

No respect, indeed.

Originally published May 1, 2020.

Follow Michael Ballanger on Twitter @MiningJunkie.

Originally trained during the inflationary 1970s, Michael Ballanger is a graduate of Saint Louis University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in finance and a Bachelor of Art in marketing before completing post-graduate work at the Wharton School of Finance. With more than 30 years of experience as a junior mining and exploration specialist, as well as a solid background in corporate finance, Ballanger's adherence to the concept of "Hard Assets" allows him to focus the practice on selecting opportunities in the global resource sector with emphasis on the precious metals exploration and development sector. Ballanger takes great pleasure in visiting mineral properties around the globe in the never-ending hunt for early-stage opportunities.


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