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The 2008 Year Review and Outlook For 2009

By Peter Grandich      Printer Friendly Version
Jan 5 2009 1:59PM

www.grandich.com

I could’ve sung “It was a very good year for me in the markets if not for one big blunder - mining and exploration stocks. Foreseeing the economic and stock market crisis in October 2007 and urging reads to sell all stocks (except those related to precious metals) and actually shorting the stock market (and covering just under 8,000 on the Dow) proved to be an almost perfect year. Unfortunately, my black eye came from the annihilation of the junior resource stocks. Even knowing what I know now, I would still find it unfathomable that these stocks could nearly totally disintegrate. It does prove one thing - I put my pants on one leg at a time just like everybody else

Those of us who fool ourselves into thinking we can predict the future on a regular basis by looking into a crystal ball really end up learning only one thing: how to eat broken glass. With this in mind, I will attempt to look out into 2009 and beyond. Keep in mind that if I had any real degree of certainty, I would be writing this from my own island in the Pacific.

The Big Picture - When it comes to the good old U.S.A., I believe there’s one overwhelming view one must take despite all the political rhetoric and “I’m okay, your okay? from the “Don’t worry, be happy? crowd on Wall Street; America is trying to operate on a failed business model. While doing so, Americans have truly mortgaged their futures on a far worse situation than the sub-prime fiasco.

While there should be more bull markets to come (hopefully in our lifetime), I think one must understand that the crisis we’re currently in is going to be just a pimple to what our children and grandchildren are facing. This 30 minute video will go a long way in explaining the disaster facing us not too far down the road. I urge, no make that implore you, to send this video to everyone you know. I know in my heart it’s true and truly a prophetic message for the 21st century. If you can’t accept these findings, I don’t believe you should take any more time reading my comments.

Okay, I assume since you’re still reading, you’ve accepted the facts, figures and estimates given in the video. The $64,000 question (if our government handles it the question could likely be $6 trillion) is, “What should one do going forward??

Praying is a good start, really. As David Walker said in the video (Davis is America’s 21st century financial prophet), we’re suffering from a fiscal cancer and the cure is nowhere to be found. I doubt the average American is not only unaware of this, but even if they now were, dealing with the current crisis has already been too overwhelming. I doubt very much they have the stomach to do anything about this cancer any time soon. This is only going to add to the problem in the future.

After you’re done praying, I think there are some cold hard facts we must make part of our future planning:

  • America is a fallen empire. Its ability to be the world’s #1 economic power is gone. We’ve gone from the world’s biggest creditor nation to the world’s biggest debtor nation. When we add the tremendous debt of states, municipalities and consumers themselves, we see the American people drowning in a sea of red. This debt will greatly impair our government and our fellow Americans’ ability to operate and to live a lifestyle that has become unsustainable.

  • Uncle Sam is no longer the world’s favorite Uncle. In fact, to many in the world, they hope he never comes to visit again. The loss of political and economic clout may not be seen in our daily lives, but it will impair us nevertheless.

  • No matter what any politician tells you, taxes can only go up. Medical costs will continue to rise sharply. Government services will either be curtailed or end. On the State and local government level, things are actually worse because they can’t print money.

Pandora’s Box is the 78 million baby boomers that have already started to qualify for Social Security and soon Medicare. As this video will show, they are going to be an economic tsunami to the Social Security and Medicare system. (Watch this video. It was made “before? the credit crisis).

The financial playing field going forward is unlike anything ever faced by Americans. No matter what the financial services industry tries to portray (and the airwaves and print media is full of things can only get better predictions), the pieces that make up the playing board are mostly landmines that can wound or destroy players. Opportunities to profit will still exist but the methods used to capture them will be radically different.

2009 Outlook - What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, the overwhelming majority of professionals and individual investors still had no real idea what was unfolding and before them. I find it ironic that the vast majority of so-called experts who are calling for a much better 2009, were the same folks who failed miserably in 2008. I guess one of these years they have to end up right.

Being the bearer of bad news is not profitable nor a way to win friends. In October 2007, when I suggested selling everything but precious metals and going short, the vast majority couldn’t phantom the coming carnage.  And, even if they thought it was possible, their advisors talked them out of it. The professional community touted “Buy and Hold? as the savior to all portfolios. “It always comes back,? was their spiel. You would think the world would beat a path to those few who had the foresight to see it beforehand. Unfortunately, most investors are like a herd of deer in the headlights and/or are hoping “it always comes back? happens one more time (then they can run to for the hills).

One of the major problems with so many people “stuck? is they will indeed be sellers if they’re fortunate to recapture some of their heavy losses. The problem there lies in how much more percentage-wise prices must rise versus what they fell in order to get whole again. Another related issue is time. It is one thing for a 30 or 40 year old person to wait it out, but so much of the nation’s wealth is held by seniors. These folks have not only seen their wealth cut in half or more but have seen decent fixed income rates fall tremendously. We also have so many people who have had financial plans that used an 8%, 10% or more rate of return target in order to reach their “dream? retirement. Those dreams are now nightmares that aren’t going to disappear overnight.

There’s going to be an ample supply of equities for sale if and when the stock market rises.

One thing is for sure, the book DOW 36,000 is now strictly a collector’s item.

U.S. Stock Market - There’s good news and bad news. The Good? I don’t see another 50%+ drop from here. If it did occur, life as we know it has gone from bad to worse. The bad? Despite an avalanche of “bottom is in, bottoming process underway, we’re going higher yada, yada, yada? forecasts, the “Don’t Worry, Be Happy? crowd is going to see membership continue to dwindle and it’s public mouthpiece, CNBC-TV, will be searching for new bulls as recycling of old ones no longer works.

On December 16, 2008, the Fed fired what history may show as their biggest silver bullet through a cannon but it did little to change the uphill battle. Yes, the positive spin will continue and be enhanced by the Obama “magic carpet ride? but the overwhelming bearish fundamentals should continue to pressure the market for the foreseeable future. A minimum retest of the lows around 7500 is likely in the first quarter and, depending on if it holds or not, will go a long way in deciding if I jump back in.

What’s lost among the sea of wounded bull cries is that in bear markets like this, not only do we see deleveraging but also shrinkage in multiples people are willing to pay. S&P 500 forecasts for 2009 range from about $65 to $80. I think the market can bare a 15x multiple at best and depending how bad things get, as low as 10x to 12X. That means the S&P 500 could see a low of 650 or a high of 960. It’s currently around 895. In this scenario, buying the dips and selling the rallies seems to be the only way to make money in equities as a whole. I do think oil equities are going to become attractive sooner rather than later. I also believe if and when equities in general are worthy, overweighting in foreign markets versus the U.S. will be the way to go (one reason for this is most countries are cutting taxes while the U.S. can only raise them. History has shown raising taxes are not good for the economy).

Gold Investment Comparison Chart

Gold Investment Comparison Chart

Precious Metals - TOUT-TV (CNBC) and the like continue to spew out how gold failed to fire in 2008 given all the turmoil. Let me ask you something, if your house was in the middle of a big hurricane and after it was over, it was the only one still standing and sustained no real damage, would you care about anything else?  Of course not. If one bought gold on January 1, 2008, instead of any other investment, they would still have everything they had come January 1, 2009. How many people wish all they did was break even in 2008? Gold continues to offer not only that result, but gains of 20% or more in 2009, IMHO.

Silver is a base metal but still gets bundled up with precious metals. Like in 2008, I think it will mostly follow gold versus lead it.

Platinum appears to have seen its lows and while the upside may be limited in 2009, so appears the downside.

Base metals - I’ve been bearish on them for about two years. As we begin 2009, there isn’t anything to change that view other than further declines which could bring us to the point where accumulating them for 2010 and beyond could be worthy. Stay tuned.

I do think uranium has bottomed and can work its way back to triple digits in the next 24-36 months.

Oil - I threw my hat back into the bullish camp in the waning days of 2008.

U.S. Dollar Index - I’ve had a constant saying for the last few years that “the only party that doesn’t know the U.S. Dollar is dead is the U.S. Dollar. “If I was wrong and it was only sick, trust me the trillions of dollars being created and pumped into the system was its death warrant. Pity the poor souls on Tout-TV who say the Fed will be able to remove these trillions of thin-air created dollars from the system without causing inflation. If you believe that one, you should join those who believe Elvis is still alive and on an island somewhere with Jimmy Hoffa. Look for a test of the low 70s by years-end, if not sooner.

U.S. Treasuries - The one remaining bubble that should burst in 2009. While the 10-year can still get below 2% yield, the time has come to short treasuries. We may go down before going up, but by years-end I think this strategy can be a winner.

Mining and Exploration Shares - Can it get any worse? Since I didn’t think it could be this bad to start with, maybe I’m not the person to answer this. I do know gold is doing well, mine production is falling, new big discoveries are few and far between and someday juniors will be needed again to do the grunt work (hopefully in my lifetime).

I’m gathering updates from our client companies and hope to bring them to you ASAP.

Closing Comment - Most of us have made another set of resolutions for 2009. And most of us will sooner or later failed to keep them. Why? I believe it’s because we try to do it with our own strength, not God’s. Never in the history of mankind has the world seem on the wrong path. Many will suffer. I truly believe the only saving grace comes from the Creator of all that was and is good in the world.

They say you can’t guarantee anything but death and taxes. I’m going to guarantee you one more thing; Trust and love God with all your heart and do the same to others and life will become much easier and enjoyable no matter what.

GRANDICH PUBLICATIONS, LLC.
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Peter Grandich is Chief Commentator at Agoracom.com, Canada’s largest small-cap investment community and the only provider of monitored communities to public companies. Grandich is formerly publisher of the internationally-read Grandich Letter, which began publishing in 1984 and has amassed a loyal army of readers. Grandich’s commentary can now be viewed on his blog at www.Grandich.Agoracom.com.

 

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