This Week Began to Change My Mind

This week has shifted my mind.  I am a big advocate of the permanent portfolio as described by Harry Browne.  My mind has not changed on that.  We live in an uncertain world, especially now, and we should invest our money in a way that hedges against that uncertainty.  As Richard Maybury says, the permanent portfolio is not perfect, but it is the best strategy I know of.

With that said, my opinion shifted this week as to what the near-term future holds.  In the last couple of months, I saw more signs that the U.S. economy was heading back into recession.  It's hard to say that we ever came out of a recession, since the government never allowed the necessary correction to take place.  However, it looked as though the second wave was coming with more bad news.

I still think there is major trouble ahead in the economy, but I see it potentially playing out in a different way in the short term.  Last Thursday, the European bigwigs announced that they had a plan to deal with Greece.  They said it would involve a 50% haircut to bondholders.  I wrote about it here.

But what I saw as big news was what happened with the stock market.  The Dow was up over 400 points at one time during that day.  It finished up over 300 points and is now above the 12,000 mark.  Meanwhile, gold has come back to life and is now above $1,700 per ounce.

This is the story that began to change my mind.  It is like stock buyers were looking for an excuse to buy.  Investors do not like the small returns in the bond market.  These returns will not even keep up with price inflation.

We have to remember that the Fed has tripled the money supply in the last 3 years.  While the commercial banks have kept most of this new money as excess reserves with the Fed, it still has its repercussions.  I am wondering if this new money is finding its way into the stock market.  I never would have expected the next bubble to show up in the stock market, but I can't be absolutely sure at this point.  I still think there is a greater likelihood of seeing a bubble in the gold price or in gold stocks.

If there is new money finding its way through the economy, this might delay the effects of the next recession.  We may start to see rising prices come sooner that I thought.  If this new money holds off another recession for now and we start to see a mini-boom, then we could see higher stock prices as well as higher gold prices.

I previously said that I recommend the majority of your money be put into a setup like the permanent portfolio.  That has not changed.  I also said that a speculation strategy could be to take a small portion of your additional investment money and split it between shorting stocks and buying gold/ gold related investments.  I figured that either stocks would go down or gold would go up.  I now see a greater probability that both could go up together.

If you have any short positions in stocks, I would sell some of them if we see a brief pullback in stocks this week.  I would be a little heavier in cash and gold right now rather than having a strong short position in stocks.  I am still not betting that stocks will continue to go up (although there is that exposure in the permanent portfolio), but I am not betting as much that they will go down either.  I am less bearish on the stock market and I see a greater chance that we will see price inflation show its ugly head soon.  If that is the case, gold and gold stocks will do well.