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Michael Pento Warns: Stock Market May Go Off the Cliff, Stagflation Like Never Before
"It’s Beyond the Twilight Zone to Have $13 Trillion in Debt with a Negative Yield”
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Welcome to this week’s Market Wrap Podcast, I’m Mike Gleason.
Coming up Michael Pento of Pento Portfolio Strategies joins me for a tremendous interview on what he sees as pending doom in the stock market and why he believes we’re in for a bout of stagflation that will make the 1970s look like a walk in the park. He also makes a compelling case for gold during an interest rate environment that he believes will soon be turning profoundly negative in real terms. So don’t miss a must-hear interview with Michael Pento, coming up after this week’s market update.
Following yesterday’s Independence Day celebrations, perhaps more Americans will wake up to the need to declare their independence from the financial system. One of the best ways to do that is by shifting dollar-denominated wealth from bank and brokerage accounts into physical precious metals.
Although the public isn’t yet clamoring in huge numbers to buy bullion, we have seen some encouraging price action of late in metals markets. The main fireworks have been in gold – rising to a multi-year high – and palladium.
This week, palladium posted a new all-time high. Palladium prices currently come in at $1,568, up 0.7% since last Friday’s close. Its sister metal platinum is down 3.5% on the week to trade at $809.
Turning to the monetary metals, which are selling off a bit here today during thin trading in the futures markets on this holiday weekend – surprise, surprise. Gold shows a slight weekly decline of 1.0% now to bring spot prices to $1,396 per ounce. Silver, meanwhile, continues to play second fiddle to gold and has yet to generate any real upside momentum of its own this year. For the week silver is off by 2.2% with essentially all of that decline coming here today and is at $15.03 as of this Friday morning recording.
Gold bugs took notice of President Donald Trump’s newest attempt to re-shape the Federal Reserve. He had previously floated Herman Cain and Stephen Moore as nominations to the central bank’s Board of Governors, but they each withdrew after coming under attack by the media and getting preemptively rebuked in the Senate by “Never Trump” Republican Mitt Romney.
Earlier this week, President Trump announced plans to nominate two new candidates to fill the remaining seats on the Fed’s Board of Governors.
One is a conventional pick, Christopher Waller of the St. Louis Fed. Along with St. Louis Fed President James Bullard, Waller is regarded as dovish and would likely be a voice for the interest rate cuts currently favored by the White House.
Trump’s other pick is less conventional – and of more interest to sound money advocates. He has tapped one of his economic advisors and a longtime gold standard proponent named Judy Shelton.
Yahoo Finance Newswoman: So we know President Trump has had trouble getting some of his recent Fed picks confirmed in the past. Do you think it'll be different this time around?
Mainstream News Media Commentator: Well, that's a great question. Judy Shelton seems to have preferred the going back on the gold standard, which I'm not sure how popular that idea will be.
Sarah Bloom Raskin: Judy Shelton is somebody who has some unorthodox views. She's known as a gold bug, for example.
CNBC Newswoman: What do you make of her previous support for going back to a gold standard?
Stephen Moore: Well, look, I'm one who's always believed we should make the dollar as good as gold. You want the dollar anchored to something.
That last comment was from Stephen Moore, who has off and on advocated for a gold or commodity-backed dollar. But Moore and now Judy Shelton also advocate for the Fed to cut rates, citing low inflation and efforts by Europe and China to gain trade advantages through depreciating their currencies.
If Shelton makes it through the Senate – which may be an uphill battle – it wouldn’t be the first time the Fed had a policymaker who advocated a gold standard in theory but not in practice. Former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan was a pro-gold free-market economist before becoming an easy money, bubble blowing central banker.
We will certainly be watching Judy Shelton’s nomination process with interest. It will be good to see some of her sound money ideas at least being brought up in the public discourse. But there is simply too much political pressure in opposition to sound money for the Fed to move toward a gold standard anytime soon.
A larger sound money movement needs to be built first, one that makes the moral and practical case for declaring independence from fiat money and its abuses by bankers and politicians.
Thomas Jefferson himself once said of fiat money that it “is liable to be abused, has been, is, and forever will be abused, in every country in which it is permitted."
The author of the Declaration of Independence believed that precious metals were a necessary foundation of a free and fair economy. The Founders specifically wrote gold and silver into the U.S. Constitution as the legal tender of each of the states.
Restoring Constitutional money to the United States is going to be a long and difficult battle. The Federal Reserve and the financial and political interests that control it won’t give up their power to print voluntarily.
It will probably take a crisis event that causes the public to lose confidence in the dollar. Then, perhaps, the current monetary order will be called into question and have a chance of being replaced with a system of sound money.
In the meantime, Americans should prepare themselves financially for more currency manipulation and depreciation ahead. You can gain a measure of independence from the inflationary fiat system by putting your own finances on a hard money standard with backing in gold and silver bullion.
Well now, without further delay, let’s get right to this week’s exclusive Money Metals interview.
Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome back Micheal Pento, President and Founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies. Michael's a well-known money manager and a terrific market commentator and author of the book The Coming Bond Market Collapse: How to Survive the Demise of the U.S. Debt Market. He's a regular guest right here on the Money Metals Podcast and we always love having him on.
Michael, thanks for the time again today and welcome back.
Michael Pento: Great to be back on your program.
Mike Gleason: Well Michael, when we spoke last in March, you noted something very important, that being the equity markets were celebrating the Fed's shift to a more dovish posture. At that time, the Fed hadn't actually done much. They were telegraphing a pause in rate hikes but still selling assets. The celebration continues today but, in point of fact, the Fed still hasn't done a whole lot. It's all about expectations and right now everyone is sure they will be cutting rates in July. They're getting a lot of mileage out of a little more than some jawboning. The S&P 500 is up 20% from its December lows. What do you make of these expectations? Is the FOMC going to meet them with some aggressive rate cutting or do you think people are going to quickly find out that talk is cheap and the economy is headed for recession regardless of what the Fed does?
Michael Pento: Well, first of all, the market's doing well this year but that's because the calendar changed and the market went up after going down 30%... the Russell was down almost 30%, 28%, the S&P was down 20%. So, you pretty much just reversed what happened in the fall of 2018. So, this is not a runaway stock market by any means and people are going crazy how well the market's doing. It's actually, I think, it's putting in a triple top, that would be my best analysis of the situation. And the reason why I say that… well, before I go into that let me answer your question first, so you're asking me, will the Fed cut rates? I believe the Fed will cut rates later this year. I think they'll probably go 25 basis points in July and the reason why I think they'll go 25 basis points in July is that they are trying to catch up to what the bond market has already done.
So, if you look at the bond market, the Fed funds money market rates right now, the effective Fed funds rate is about 2.38%. And the 10-year treasury is below 2%. So, you have a pretty significantly inverted yield curve, which really hurts banks' profits and diminishes their rationale when it comes to making a loan. In other words, they're not going to make a lot of loans when they don't have a lot of profit margins. And they think the economy's slowing because of the reduction in nominal rates on the long end of the yield curve and they don't want to make loans to people who probably aren't going to pay the loan back because then their capital will go away. So, that's the reason why I think the Fed is going to cut rates in July. But the market is 100% convinced that they're going to cut rates probably as much as 50 basis points.
So, two or three rate cuts this year, and I will say that that is a possibility. However, if the Fed is aggressively cutting rates it's because the global economic recession is well underway. That would be the rationale behind cutting interest rates so aggressively. Don't forget that at the end of last year we had a Fed that was absolutely avowed to raise rates to 3% and then another 50 basis points… so 3% was what they deemed as being neutral… and then they were going to go above 50 basis points, right? You remember this? And you'll also recall that the balance sheet withdrawal process, the burning of cash, was supposed to be on autopilot. In other words, the Fed's destruction of its balance sheet to the tune of maybe two trillion dollars was supposed to be on autopilot. That all changed. So, they've gone a pretty trenchant difference, they've gone more than a country mile as they say, from being one central bank is going to raise rates to three and a half percent and drained the balance sheet down from four and a half trillion to around two trillion to one that is now supposed to be aggressively cutting rates?
I'll just say one more thing about this. The fact that the Federal Reserve is going to be cutting rates, they have two and a half percent, less than two and a half percent, before they go to zero. So, the question I have and I don't have the answer, I have a model that tells them what the answer will be, but I am willing to guess based upon the myriad and the plethora of evidence that I have that merely cutting rates by 25 basis points in July is not going to be nearly enough to stem the tide of a global recession, which by the way I believe has already begun.
Mike Gleason: You recently wrote a great piece on corporate debt, stating that it's a bubble that will eventually pop. You made a comparison between today's corporate debt and the housing bubble of 2007 and the dot com bubble of 2000. You pointed out that both Ben Bernanke and Alan Greenspan attempted to shirk responsibilities for the massive bubbles the Fed creates, the claim was that nobody can identify a bubble before it bursts. We know that isn't exactly true. You've done it and anyone willing to take an objective look can see that debt is one of the next bubbles likely to burst. The obligations are so large that they simply cannot be paid. Talk about the bubble in corporate debt if you would and what would you think are some signs that listeners should be watching for that maybe the reckoning is about to arrive?
Michael Pento: I have to laugh when I hear people tell me, "This is time is much better than 2008… because in 2008, don't you know, that there was all kinds of malfeasance in the banking system." And people were making loans to people who couldn't pay back those loans, mortgages that were going to default, but there was only about one and a half trillion dollars’ worth of subprime mortgage debt. But I went and did the numbers myself and added up triple B debt, leveraged loans and junk bonds… and triple B is just one notch above junk… and basically the covenants behind these triple B loans make them essentially junk. That number is 5.4 trillion dollars. And what makes me laugh is, when I look back and I hear people on CNBC and all the financial networks, all the pundits come out, the carnival barkers, will tell you that in 2019 there are no massive dislocations, there are no excesses in the economy.
Well, how do you explain the fact that there are now 13 trillion dollars’ worth of sovereign debt that has a minus sign in front of it? Is it normal for a Japanese, a Swiss and a German 10-year note to have a negative yield? Think about that. Central banks have gone so insane concurrently that they have now forced bond yields so low that going out 10 years they get paid to borrow. And that hasn't caused any dislocations or malformations in the stock market or the junk bond market or the leveraged loan market or the housing market or the stock market? That is insane, prima facie. It's a prima facie case for insanity, in my opinion.
Mike Gleason: Let's talk about China for a bit. China has always been a tough one for us to evaluate. There have been people speculating that Chinese central bankers have blown a massive bubble of their own and the bursting of that bubble is imminent, but if they were close to a crisis, they've done a pretty good job of keeping the wheels on thus far. You've been watching developments in the Chinese banking sector and perhaps things are starting to get serious there. The Central Bank of China recently took control of a Chinese bank when it failed. There are certainly other banks then buried in bad debts. What are you expecting from China in the months ahead and what you think it will mean for investors here in the U.S.?
Michael Pento: Well, you have to understand, just to stay at 36,000 feet, China quadrupled their debt since 2007. And when any nation, not just China but any nation… and by the way there has been no nation that has done that in the history of mankind… but any nation that will quadruple the amount of existing debt outstanding in 12 years and have done so by an edict from the central government is sitting on a massive pile of unproductive loans that will go bankrupt. Baoshang Bank is just one example. This is replete throughout China and even in Hong Kong where their banking system is many, many times the size of their GDP. So, you're going to have a situation where – and this is by the way speaking parenthetically as I tend to do – why I am bearish on the global economy, not because of trade conflicts or conflagrations so much, more to the fact that China can no longer be the engine of global growth, responsible for one third of global growth since 2008.
They can't do it anymore because they're sitting on 40 trillion dollars’ worth of debt dung that they cannot pay back. And if China's not the global engine of the world, then Europe is going to suffer. It might surprise you to know, maybe not you but your audience and certainly those that watch mainstream financial media, it might surprise everybody to know that Japan, Europe, the U.K. and China are all in a manufacturing recession. Now that is not something that Michael Pento came up to talk about on Money Metals. That is public information released by governments, they're publicly released, purchasing managers indexes. They all show that all of those countries I mentioned and much of the developed world is in a manufacturing recession. Now, I want to pose this question to you. How can China, which was erstwhile in the habit of providing one-third of global growth by building out massive unproductive fixed asset investments, how can China possibly be growing at 6% if their manufacturing base is in a recession?
The answer is that they are not growing at 6%. China is lucky if they're growing at all because China has a shrinking labor force and plunging productivity. And if China isn't growing, then Europe's in deep trouble and Asia's in trouble and the Korean nation is in trouble and Japan is in trouble. And even in the United States, our manufacturing, the new order component just released for June, the manufacturing new orders component of ISM was 50. Flat. No growth. So, we are in the midst of a global manufacturing recession. We are in the middle of, according to Fact Set – which is the definitive voice on earnings on the S&P 500 – we are in the middle of an earnings recession that's going to last for three quarters. So, it’s not the second derivative of earnings growth is falling, so we're not going to grow from 24% earnings to maybe 20% or 15% or 5%, earnings growth is going to be negative, according to Fact Set, for three quarters in a row.
You add that to a manufacturing recession and then you add it to the fact that we have a stock market that is near all-time record high valuations – if you look at price for sales, if you look at total market cap to GDP. I'm not trying to scare people. I manage money for a living so I can't short the market and buy gold always and hope to be in business. So I have a model that tells me when to get net short and when to overweight gold, which we are at this point. Because, by the way, when you live in a world where interest rates are going towards zero and below, the carrying cost of gold doesn't look so bad. I could put a bar of gold in my safe at home that earns no interest and I can lament the fact that I'm not sitting in a bank earning 10% with my cash. But if I'm sitting at my house looking at my bar of gold and saying, "Gee, I'm forgoing almost nothing at the bank, and because interest rates are negative in a real sense because inflation is the goal of every horrific central banker on the planet, I'm actually making money, much more than I would in the bank.” Because gold, for 5,000 years, has maintained its purchasing power.
So, I'm not trying to scare people, I'm just telling people that this is not normal. It is not normal to have one-dollar worth of sovereign debt that has a negative yield and it's certainly beyond the twilight zone to have 13 trillion dollars’ worth of sovereign debt with a negative sign in front of it. It is certainly completely abnormal to have the stock market at a record high valuation when you're in the middle of an earnings and manufacturing recession globally. So, if you think I'm trying to scare you, you're wrong, but if you think you want to go and call your local broker and put your money into a closet index fund and go to sleep at night, don't be surprised if very soon you wake up and find out you're in the middle of an event much like we saw in December of 2018, or October of 2008, or March of 2000, where are you at the cusp – especially in those last two I mentioned, the recession of 2000 and the recession of 2008 – where you are on the cusp of going off the cliff in the stock market.
And this time around, we don't have the tools available to readily pull us out of deflationary depression because, as I just mentioned, bond yields are already in the toilet of history. So, there is not going to be any rapid relief from plummeting bond yields around the world and there certainly isn't going to be this fiscal response coming from countries which are already massive overly indebted. We have a problem; it's going to take a lot of fiscal and monetary wrangling to get out of. That takes time, but in the interim I wouldn't be surprised to see the stock market lose half of its value again for the third time since the year 2000.
Mike Gleason: Obviously, a lot of black swans circling about and certainly a number of very interesting situations that we could see unfold here and obviously confidence is a big reason that the central bankers have been able to sort of get us out these messes in the past, and you've got to wonder if anybody's going to have any confidence in them this time around.
Well, Michael, I wanted to kind of further the point on gold before we let you go. These markets have been pretty range bound for a while, talking about gold specifically, sliver as well. Gold finally broke out to a five year high recently, driven primarily by escalating tariffs and maybe perhaps the Fed will be cutting rates. Do you see gold finally starting a new trend higher here or are we going to drop back into the range?
Michael Pento: That's not a prediction any longer, it's the fact. You just said it, it's a fact. Gold massively broke out of that $1,350 ceiling that it was staring at. It went all the way well into the $1,400s. It pulled back here recently but what a wonderful buying opportunity, in my humble opinion. The fact is that we live in a world where money is going to be mostly free for a very long time because central banks have gotten into the business of eviscerating markets. So, for instance, in Japan, the Bank of Japan now owns 80% of all ETFs and over 50% of the entire Japanese government bond market. So, when do I have to worry about the Bank of Japan raising rates? They can't even get out of the business of buying ETFs, manipulating their stock market, or trying to manipulate their stock market higher. Likewise, with the ECB, when are we going to talk about raising rates? They threatened they were going to raise rates but now they're talking about lowering rates and getting back into QE.
And the same can be said for the United States. We were talking about draining the balance sheet and raising rates back to, normal now not being five and a quarter percent like it was in 2007, but they're talking about trying to get to three and a half and they barely got to two and a half, and now we're supposedly heading back to zero. So, the competition for a real currency, a real money, a real store of value, is going to increase exponentially and why would people go anywhere else but what's proven for millennia to be the best place to store your wealth and your purchasing power?
So, I predict that rates going to be… well it’s not a prediction because rates are already at zero… I think the United States will soon be back to zero and then after that back into Quantitative Easing, which means you're going to get a much higher rate. And by the way, you should understand that if rates are zero and you get even one basis point of inflation, real interest rates are negative.
But I can't see them stopping until they get 2% inflation. So, your real interest rates will be -2% but that's the way the government measures inflation and they do a hell of a bad job doing that. So, if the government's measuring it at two, it's probably closer to eight. You're going to get profoundly negative real interest rates, which is rocket fuel for gold, and why anybody would have nay faith in any fiat currency, not just hating the dollar, but how could you have faith in the euro over the dollar, or the yen, or the yuan? You have to have the belief that gold will rise and will continue to rise in all currencies, and I think that dynamic is just getting started.
Mike Gleason: All these central bankers are pretty much going from the same playbook, this Keynesian world that we live in and never-ending money creation.
Well, we'll leave it there for today, Michael. We appreciate the time as always and love getting your comments. Before we let you go though, please tell people a little bit about Pento Portfolio Strategies and then how they can contact you and then also follow you more closely.
Michael Pento: Well great. So, the website is PentoPort.com. On the website you can see all of my media appearances and you can get my weekly commentary. For $49 a year you can get access to a podcast that really gets into the minutia and the data points that you absolutely need to know about what's really going on in the world. You can't get that from mainstream financial media that much anymore really. Then you can become a client because I actually have a portfolio that's designed to protect your principal while we wait for this occurrence to happen, I believe a minimum of 35% downturn in the market.
And then I also believe most importantly after, if you want to have a chance to actually protect your principal, make a little money while you wait hopefully, then capitalize on the destruction of this mirage of an economy and a market… on the backend of that, I think we're going to have, we will engender, a protracted period of stagflation like we've never before seen. So, it's going to be the '70s on steroids, but for a long time. There's a model on how to invest for that.
So, you have to know when to buy bonds and when to buy stocks. What kind of stocks? When to be short stocks. All these things are imperative because 80% of the stock market now, 80% is on autopilot just like the Fed’s balance was supposed to be. 80% of the market is passive investing strategies. In other words, strategies are designed by machines to mimic the momentum of the stock market, and when that breaks, you're going to see nothing but offers and no humans to support the stock market. No fundamental reason, no fiscal, no monetary reason will come in time to protect you.
That's where I come in, and if you're interested in capitalizing on that, and then after the central banks master the business of destroying your currency, and they get to the 2%, but it will really be more like double digit inflation, you have to know what to own. So, if you're interested in that, my email is [email protected]. the website is PentoPort.com, and the office number here is 732-772-9500.
Mike Gleason: Money can be made in any markets, and obviously preserving wealth may be also the big key, and somebody like Michael, of course, has a great handle on all of that, and definitely I think you should take his advice there.
Well, thanks Michael. I hope you have a great 4th of July week and enjoy the rest of your summer as well, and we look forward to catching up with you again before long. Take care.
Michael Pento: Thank you so much.
Mike Gleason: Well, that will wrap it up for this week. Thanks again to Michael Pento of Pento Portfolio Strategies, for more info please visit PentoPort.com. You can sign up for his email list, listen to his midweek podcasts and get his fantastic market commentaries on a regular basis. Again, just go to PentoPort.com.
Mike Gleason: And don't forget to tune in here next Friday for next Weekly Market Wrap Podcast, until then this has been Mike Gleason with Money Metals Exchange, thanks for listening and have a great weekend everybody.