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Friday, June 26, 2009

The very smart money is betting on inflation

[B]etting against deleveraging is probably not a smart thing to do. Not until it’s over…which is not until the leverage built up in the bubble era has been removed. And with total debt levels at 370% of GDP…and the government adding even more debt…we’re a long way from there.

But what do you do, dear reader? Buy Treasuries in anticipation of another crash in stocks? Or mortgage your house, long-term fixed-rate, in anticipation of fed-caused inflation?

Ah, there’s the tough question. We know where the dumb money is…but where’s the smart money? Jeff Clark says it’s short stocks. But there’s some very smart money that is betting that the government will turn this around. They’re putting their money on inflation…or even hyperinflation. Our old friend, Marc Faber, for example, says he is sure the United States is headed for hyperinflation. If so, shorting stocks may not be such a shrewd move. Stocks could soar too – as investors try to buy anything and everything that didn’t have dollar signs on it.

You see, there are two ways to deleverage an economy.

The obvious way is the traditional, honest way – in which people actually try to pay their debts. This causes the problems we see as falling asset prices, bankruptcies, joblessness and the other hallmarks of a Great Depression.

But the feds have their hearts set on preventing a depression. And they’re doing it the only way they can…by the old ‘hair of the dog’ technique. The economy suffers from too much debt – so they’re going to give it more! Much more. The whole pooch! The whole kennel! Then, they round up every stray mongrel in town. What happens when they run out of dogs? Well…that’s a discussion for another day.

We have had many laughs following the feds and their war against capitalism. They’re gambling an amount nearly equal to the entire U.S. GDP to try to prevent people from getting what they have coming. In the process, they’re almost certain to make a mess of things.

The smart money is betting that they fail to stop deleveraging. But the very smart money is betting that they create a new, worse problem – inflation, maybe hyper-inflation. Inflation reduces the real value of debt…but in a perverse and unpredictable way. Debtors don’t pay their bills; savers pay them. Inflation – like bailouts – rewards the least responsible players…those who have gotten themselves heavily in debt…and punishes those who have done the ‘right’ thing. As Germany saw in the ’20s, it de-stabilizes the whole society…leading to extremely unwelcome outcomes.
--from "Two Ways to Deleverage an Economy" by Bill Bonner (6/10/2009)


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