As always the four great variables in human history are weather, disease, war, and religion. The first two are of God and the latter of men.
Weather spans a wide range of natural phenomenon including earthquakes, and similarly religion includes secular movements and philosophies such as fascism and communism, essentially godless religions that involve the ordering of the relationship of the individual with a higher power that is not supernatural.
I do not address stocks, including the miners, specifically as I see that investment sector as extraordinarily risky. Tell me what the Fed and ECB will do and I will tell you how stocks will perform. That is the nature of this market. The pricing of stocks remains largely inefficient, and often with a fraudulent intent.
As I am comfortable with stagflation as an economic forecast, stocks most likely will not perform well in real terms. However, they could be targeted by the Fed as they implement nominal GDP growth and it puts more weight on selective inflation within the stagnant real economy.
Stocks tend to play the role of a variable hedge in my forecast and my own portfolio. The bigger investments are bonds, including cash which is a bond of zero duration, and alternative currencies like gold and silver, oil and income producing physical assets.
The most significant development of the past year has been revelation of fraud and the growing power of the monied interests to subvert reform and the rule of law.
1. Wall Street dropped some of its pretense to fairness and softer forms of fraud and resorted to overt theft as MF Global stole significant sums of money, bonds, and bullion assets directly from customer accounts, under the eyes of the regulators, and transferred the money to its global bankers who refused to give it back.
Trend: Theft by the financiers will continue and intensify. The victims will be vilified to blunt public reaction.
2. The Eurozone came under unremitting assault by the ratings agencies and their associated banks and hedge funds. The Euro is an inherently 'difficult' currency to manage and has always been more susceptible to broad swings in value. This is because it is an economic union without a comprehensive political and financial union. It more closely resembles the original thirteen states of the US under the Articles of Confederation than it does a comprehensive Republic.
Trend: The Eurozone will continue to struggle to find a balance between political and financial factors, and will evolve into a stronger union of fewer members. Germany and France will continue to emerge as the great Western European power. The UK will be preoccupied by its own set of severe internal problems and regional unrest as austerity bites deeply. The UK will begin to act as more of an Anglo-American agent in the Eurozone. It may take on more of the character of an Orwellian state.
3. The Federal Reserve is expanding its power as a monetary authority and regulator of the financial system in an extra-Constitutional manner. The Fed is determined to fight the deflationary forces of global trade and credit contraction by expanding its balance sheet. They have little fear of inflation. Hyperinflation is highly unlikely in the absence of an exogenous shock. Stagflation is the new normal disguised somewhat by government statistics.
Trend: The Fed will start a new program of 'nominal GDP targeting' without stated limits in size of activity, as it will be defined by the scope of its objectives. The bond bubble will continue particularly in the long end of the curve. It will falter and breakdown at some point, but this is not likely in the near term unless some external standard is imposed or exogenous force intervenes.
4. A currency war is well underway in the aftermath of the closing of the gold window and the erosion of the Bretton Woods agreement, into an uneasy floating exchange rate system known informally as 'Bretton Woods II.' This currency war manifests in currency devaluations and pegs in support of mercantilism, particularly in the developing countries. It is a form of neo-colonialism supported by the great multinational corporations.
Trend: Global trade will begin to come under greater political assault as the exchange rate mechanism fails to impose a reasonable balance on the flows of goods and capital. The SDR is the most likely replacement for the US dollar as the world migrates towards a dual currency regime with one currency for domestic only use and an international unit for the settlement of world trade. The composition of the SDR will be a major point of contention between the BRICs and the Anglo-Americans.
5. The US political process is dominated by Big Money, a system in which a small number of people choose the candidates which will be allowed on the final ballot despite great pretense of a selection process and primaries. Despite the usual emotional heat expressed by a minority on each side in any competitive process, the end result is that no candidates can be chosen without being vetted and approved by the monied interests. This tends to continue to promote and support a status quo.
Trend: There may be a third party candidate, and perhaps one other fourth party of any real significance, but the end choice will be between Obama and Romney who are the corporate candidates. Strong voter dissatisfaction will cause minority parties to secede from the two major political parties, including at least one crypto-fascist movement and one progress movement. Watch for a rising current of racism, and attempts to make prejudice socially acceptable, and a growing class hatred. There will be major riots and demonstrations each summer from now until 2020 or a return to representative government.
6. As the global monetary regime continues its change, the US dollar continues to be stretched thinly. Despite all the odds and strong opposition from Western central banks and monetary authorities, gold has sustained an eleven year bull market.
Trend: Gold is in a bull market that will last until around 2020, or until the global monetary system reaches a sustainable equilibrium with a replacement for the US dollar as the reserve currency that is acceptable to the new economic powers. Silver and gold will continue to move with significant volatility as their prices increase. Bonds are the current asset bubble. At some point this may break as the housing market has done, and this will have a negative impact for gold if interest rates on the short end turn positive. This may not happen if inflation increases faster than interest rates rise.
7. China and Russia have replaced their command and control communist economies with command and control oligarchies. The power of China is the exploitation of labor, and of Russia, natural resources. Despite their calm outward appearance, there is significant turmoil beneath the surface, often regional in nature.
Trend: The governments of the world will continue to be shaken by the restructuring of the world economy. Change and calls for reform will most often be met by repression, often harsh. The world will continue to develop into three or four spheres of influence, with the greatest unrest and limited wars on the fringes of those spheres. The most frequent conflicts will be where Europe meets Asia, and Asia meets the subcontinent.
I hesitate to put forward such a gloomy outlook, but this is in keeping with the forecast I put out in 2005 and it seems that most of the trends have occurred and even intensified. This is a period of great change, and this presents both risks and rewards.
And as always, against the backdrop of great events, while nations rise and fall, the life of the ordinary family goes on. 'There are these three things that endure: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is Love,' for it is the highest likeness to God in this world.