SCORCHED EARTH ECONOMY – The Casey Files

Published on Financial Sense online, by David Galland, July 3, 2008.

Here at Casey Research we have been on the record as bearish on the outlook for the economy for some years now. Lest you think that is loose boasting, I can offer proof in Doug Casey’s August 2005 article, the dramatically titled “Profiting from the End of Western Civilization”.

In that article, he looked ahead and saw the inflation that the government’s loose money policies made inevitable. A quote.

“Of particular importance is that the U.S. dollar has been used as a gold substitute for decades by other countries. This has been very convenient for the U.S.-we can create almost infinite numbers of greenbacks and give them to people in other countries in exchange for real wealth. Idiotically, central banks abroad have been holding those dollars as backing for their own currencies …

… So, we are calibrating our investments toward a serious economic slowdown, but with high inflation. Some people would call that Stagflation. But given the severity of both sides of that formula, the situation may be better described in terms of Scorched Earth. Or, because people seem to find concepts ending in “flation” handy, Stag-flagration.

Businesses and personal net worth will be devastated at the same time that costs run out of control.

How to Play It?

Our strongest recommendation is to position your portfolio in anticipation of higher inflation and, in time, a turnaround in interest rates. The latter is because interest rates, which are still near a 50 year low, can only go up as the inflation rises to the point of banner headlines (at which point, the government is hoping, the economic downturn will have moderated).

In fact, we think the move towards higher interest rates is a trend that will surprise many, but, once it gets going in earnest (and corporate bond yields are already on the rise) last for at least the next several years.

In terms of other investments, it’s worth noting that in the last major bull market for tangibles, back in the 1970s, oil was the best performing investment, followed by gold, U.S. coins, silver and stamps.

Today the range of investment vehicles you can use to make the trend your friend is greatly expanded a wide variety of specialized ETFs (though an added layer of analysis is required to sort the strong, well structured, high volume variety from the thinly traded variety of suspect parentage). And while they continue to require patience, the highest quality junior Canadian gold exploration stocks remain one of the most prospective investments you can make. A number of these companies are now sitting on proven big discoveries, but thanks to the stop-start markets, are significantly undervalued. They won’t stay that way long.

Whatever you do, don’t be complacent at this point. If we are right, then the economic crisis will soon head into its next and most dangerous stage. Certainly, we should feel the heat, and maybe worse, by the end of the year. Therefore, at the very least, you’ll want to take measures now to protect yourself. For our own portfolios, we believe that the best defense is a good offense, and so are positioning ourselves in the sectors that will profit, and profit big, as the stag-flagration sweeps across the global economy … (full long text).

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