Michael Pento describes for us what may be coming in the bond and fixed income markets and the impact on the stock market (negative) and on gold and silver prices (very positive) in 2018. He also shares some of his very strong feelings about Bitcoin and the crypto-currencies which he describes as a ‘scam’.
Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome in Michael Pento, President and founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies and author of the book, The Coming Bond Market Collapse: How to Survive the Demise of the U.S. Debt Market. Michael is a well-known and successful money manager and has been a regular guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business News, and also the Money Metals Podcast, and shares is astute insights on markets and geopolitics from the perspective of an Austrian School economist’s viewpoint.
Michael, welcome back. Thanks for joining us again and how are you?
Michael Pento: I’m doing fine. Thanks for having me back on Mike.
Mike Gleason: Well, Michael, you focus a lot on the bond markets. Let’s talk for a minute here as we begin about the bubble that has been created and maintained there, and then we will get into the potential ramifications for precious metals. I was researching this morning and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 2.242% on December 20, 2015, just after the Federal Reserve made the first rate hike in the current cycle of raising the Fed funds rate. Today, the 10-year yield is 2.327%, a tiny increase from two years ago, so the yield has barely budged despite the funds rate ratcheting up a full percentage point higher. Now, the funds rate isn’t directly tied to Treasury yields, but shouldn’t this tightening be translating to higher yields? Why is that not happening?
Michael Pento: What a great question to start off the show. So, I’ll just dovetail on what you just said and say that in the beginning of 2017, the yield on the 10-year note was 2.4%, or just around that level. Now, as you said, it’s 2.32%. So, there’s a very good reason for why this is happening because the long end of the bond market is concerned with inflation and if the Fed is hiking rates from pretty much zero to one and a quarter percent as we sit today, the effective Fed funds rate is just a little bit above 1%, that doesn’t mean that the yield should go higher on the long end of the yield curve. Actually, what that does mean, is that the Fed is vigilant, for now at least, on fighting inflation.
They’re reigning inflation out of the economy. That means the long end is going to come down to meet the short end, and I will tell you on that front that in the beginning of 2014, 260 basis points was the spread on the two and 10-year note. And we’ve had five rate hikes since then and guess what the spread is today as we record this interview, 51 basis points. So, you don’t have to have an advanced degree in calculus to figure out that you have two rate hikes left, two, assuming that the two-year note rises commensurately with the Fed funds rate, two rate hikes left before the yield curve is completely flat.
And the problem is that when I’m reading a lot of material in the past few days that the all-knowing pundits on Wall Street from the big brokerage houses, the big wire houses, are claiming that we’re going to have five rate hikes. Mike, five rate hikes between today, December 6th and the end of 2018, five. Not two, five. That means the Fed funds rate is going to be well above where the 10-year note yield is trading today, so you’re going to have a massively inverted yield curve by the end of 2018. Not only that, you pile onto the fact that central banks are going from a $120 billion worth of counterfeit confetti each month to zero by October. So, if you’re not worried about a recession, if you’re not worried about an inverted yield curve, if you’re not worried about the central banks moving their massive bid from stocks and bonds and if you’re not worried about the stock market imploding in the next few quarters, if not months, you should be.
Mike Gleason: Interest rates are essentially the price of risk and the market seems to be saying there just isn’t much. However, you and I both know there is plenty, as you just discussed there, but this is bubble has persisted for years now. The truth is we don’t have real properly functioning markets and this extraordinary mispricing of risk will go on until, and probably suddenly, it doesn’t. What signals are you watching for in the bond markets, if you would expand on that, that would indicate the game is about up and are you seeing any of those signs?
Michael Pento: Well, you have to watch high yield spreads and the nominal yield. If you see those yields starting to spike, then you should worry. They were spiking a few weeks ago. They’ve since come down a little bit, but keep an eye on that. There were good break-even spreads, inflation break-even spreads. I watch those very insidiously. Of course, like we just talked about, you watch for the yield curve to invert.
When the yield curve flattens out and inverts, it means this – and it doesn’t really matter why it happens – some people will say, well, I hear this Mike, that you shouldn’t worry about the yield curve inverting this time because it’s inverting because. Because, the 10-year (German) bund is yielding .29%. Mario Draghi over in Europe is bending the whole yield curve to the south in Europe and that’s putting pressure on our yields here in the United States.
Well, that’s true to some extent, but let me ask you a question, if the yield on the 10-year bund was .5% not too long ago, why is it .29% now in light of the fact that everybody knows the ECB is going to taper from 60 billion euros of QE today to 30 billion come January, and eventually stop their QE probably in October around the same time the Fed steps up their monthly sales to 50 billion.
The answer is because the economy is slowing. It’s very clear to me, the economy and inflation is slowing. That it’s putting further pressure down on long-term yields. That means the yield curve is going to invert and it’s not different this time. What that means is that if you’re a depositor at the bank and you’re going to be getting say X% on your money, whatever it is, one, two percent on your money, and then the private banks make the same loans are yielding the same as they’re paying in deposits, it no longer benefits the bank to lend out money. So, money supply growth crashes and that means deflation starts to diffuse across the economy and that means asset bubbles crash.
And I just want to make one thing very clear. What happened this week, this week happened, this data point was breached. The total market capital stocks is now a staggering 140% of GDP. Yes. It did reach 140% of GDP. That ratio has only been higher at one time in history and that was during just a few short months around the very peak of the NASDAQ bubble. Outside of that very short duration, that ratio for decades was 50%. So, we don’t just have a regular stock market bubble, we have an epic Stock Market bubble that is couched within the biggest bubble in fixed income that the world has ever seen and it’s not going to end very well.
Mike Gleason: Now, let’s talk about what a bursting of the debt bubble might mean for precious metals. One could argue that if real interest rates move sharply higher, it will weigh on metals, which don’t offer a yield at all. It’s zero or even negative real interest rates that gold bulls want to see. But that certainly hasn’t been the case in recent years. Maybe gold and silver will respond as safe-haven assets in the turmoil in markets created by a collapse in bonds will drive demand for metals. What would you expect the long overdue reckoning in bonds will mean for gold and silver prices, Michael?
Michael Pento: The last time we had an inverted yield curve in a recession was circa 2006-2009. And gold benefit is very greatly leading up to the Great Recession, but if you look on your data points and see what happened in 2008, gold did not do very well at all. And that was partially because real interest rates rising is not good for gold, but it was also the case that there was a huge dollar short occurring at that time.
So, people were borrowing in dollars and investing in the so-called BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China. When it became evident that we were having a global recession, the manifestation of the global recession, people had to unwind those carry trades. So, in other words, they sold renminbi and they sold the ruble and they went back into dollars driving the value of the dollar way up. That crushed gold in the short term. But then you remember, from 2009 all the way to really late 2011, early 2012, gold had a huge run and that’s because deficits absolutely soared. We had annual deficits in this country were well over a trillion dollars. We’re going back there again and then the dollar started to again weaken.
This time around there is no massive dollar short. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. In this next iteration of a recession, there may actually be dollar weakness. Even though you have rising real interest rates, which has always been the death knell for gold, you’re not going to have that rise in the dollar. That will mollify or attenuate the swollen gold prices, if there is any at all, but on the other end of this recession, and once this recession becomes manifested and you see the Fed going from wherever they are at that juncture, maybe 2% back to zero and then QE… and then we have Mr. Marvin Goodfriend on the Board of Governors – he’s been nominated by Donald Trump – he wants negative, nominal interest rates. He wants to ban cash. You’re going to have universal basic income. You’re going to have negative nominal rates. You’re going to have QE. You’re going to have perhaps even helicopter money. You’re going to have some version of that dangerous inflation cocktail and that has to be incredibly bullish for gold.
Mike Gleason: It sounds like a “perfect storm” sort of scenario there for the yellow metal. These days, when you talk about markets, the topic of bitcoin and crypto currencies is almost certain to come up. Bitcoin hit $13,000 earlier today [$16,000 today – Monday – Editor] as we’re talking here on Wednesday afternoon. It’s epic run higher this year cannot be ignored. Have you taken any interest in this space? We’d like to get your thoughts on where this phenomenon is headed.
Michael Pento: Well, you were you asking me about crypto-currencies. I’ve been on record for well over a year saying that it’s a scam. I’ve been wrong for well over a year. I will never own a crypto-currency in my life. I will never own a bitcoin or Etherium or any of these things. When you think about it Mike, what is a crypto-currency. Well, what you really own … You always see these pictures of people holding a coin with a B on it with a dollar sign through it. That’s not a bitcoin. A bitcoin, and I’m far from a computer programmer, so please understand, but from my knowledge of what a bitcoin is, it’s a private key. So, what you actually own is a private key, which is just a series of letters and numbers. I think it’s about 64 of these. It’s a series of letters and numbers, characters, that exist not even in tangible form, they exist in the Internet, so they exist digitally. So, how could a bunch of numbers be considered money?
The definition of money, it has to be portable, tangible and it has to be transferrable, but the most important factors of money, they have to be extremely rare and virtually indestructible. Now, what the heck is extremely rare or indestructible about numbers and letters? They’re very, very common and they have zero utility. Bitcoins and crypto currencies have zero utility. Let me repeat that. Zero utility outside of that ecosystem. So, you have to agree, in order to believe in Bitcoin, that this chain of numbers and letters can be worth $13,000 per unit and that that chain of numbers and letters is money, but outside of that ecosystem, there’s zero utility and you have ask yourself what good is it to be able to move numbers and letters via the Internet. Well, you could move U.S. dollars electronically over the Internet.
What you really should be asking is how can I move gold. Gold, which is all the properties of money, gold has. And most importantly, it’s virtually indestructible and extremely rare. There are over a thousand crypto-currencies, so various versions of those numbers and letters in the private key. There’s an immutable open ledger that is used to transfer bitcoins, but you can use a private blockchain to move gold. There are companies that do that. That’s the value of the blockchain. The blockchain’s value is not to move letters and numbers over the Internet and then somehow think that unit could be anywhere near $13,000. It’s a scam. It’s going to come crashing down and I’ll not be a part of it.
Mike Gleason: Well, I don’t think anyone’s going to wonder where you stand on that, thanks for honest assessment on that. Now, what are your thoughts on Jerome Powell taking over for Janet Yellen as the new Fed Chair. He’s a mainstream dovish-minded economist from all indications, so will it be more of the same, or do you have any insights on what a new Powell Fed will look like?
Michael Pento: Well, everybody says he’s going to be more of the same. He’s another dove like Janet Yellen, but you have to understand – and there’s two things I want to mention about Mr. Jerome Powell. Everybody knows he’s nominated by Donald Trump, but why did Donald Trump make the switch from Janet Yellen to Powell? Well, Mr. Powell is going to assent to two things. Number one, what does Donald Trump love to talk about more than almost anything else? Well, he likes to talk about how great the stock market’s doing, so I can assure you one thing is Jerome Powell will not allow the stock market to go down very much, very quickly. That’s number one.
Number two, Donald Trump is on record now, not Candidate Trump, President Trump is on record saying, he wants a weaker currency and he’s also a lover of debt. So, I expect in the long run, maybe not the short run because you’ve seen this baton has been passed to Mr. Powell, who’s going to carry on with Janet Yellen’s interest rate hikes and the reduction of the balance sheet. But, once the recession hits and the stock market turns south, and I’m talking about the 10% hit that I see happening very, very soon is going to quickly morph into 30%. And once we get 30% plus down in the stock market, you’re going to see Mr. Powell reverse course very quickly, because Mr. Trump can no longer brag about the stock market when it’s down 30%. And you’ll see all those things that I mentioned, some variation of that cocktail and that is negative interest rates, QE, universal basic income and helicopter money.
Mike Gleason: Well Michael, as we approach the end of the year here and start looking forward to 2018, I would like to ask you what you think people might be talking about this time, say a year from now, in the markets? What are a couple of those key events that you see happening in the next 12 months and also, your outlook for gold next year?
Michael Pento: Well, I think you’ll be talking about the epic crash of crypto-currencies a year from now. I think a year from now, you’ll be talking about the inversion of the yield curve. I think you’ll be talking about a crash in inflation and the onslaught of deflation. You’ll be talking about a crash in the major markets and in the capital markets. You’ll be talking about a reversal in the Fed’s monetary policy. You’ll be talking about a falling dollar and you’ll be talking about gold, which will be well over $2,000 an ounce by the end of next year, given the fact that construct I just laid out. If half those things that I just mentioned occur, gold will be well on its way to its all-time record nominal high.
Mike Gleason: It should be a very interesting year. I know we have talked a lot with you and you, of course, write a lot about the oscillations between the inflation cycle and the deflation cycle. And it’s always great to get your commentaries here and read them on a regular basis. We always appreciate your time, Michael. Thanks so much for the times you’ve come on this year and I certainly look forward to doing it again. Now, before we let you, please tell people how they can follow you more regularly, get those great commentaries in their email inbox each week, and also other information that they might need to know if they would like to potentially become a client of your firm there Pento Portfolios Strategies.
Mike Gleason: Well, thanks again Michael. Enjoy the Christmas season and I look forward to our next conversation in the New Year. Take care and thanks for all you do.
Michael Pento: God bless you. Merry Christmas Mike.
Mike Gleason: Well that will wrap it up for this week. Thanks again to Michael Pento of Pento Portfolio Strategies. For more info just visit PentoPort.com. You can sign up for his email list, listen to the mid-week podcasts and get his fantastic market commentaries on a regular basis. Again, just go to PentoPort.com.
And don’t forget to check back here next Friday for our next Market Wrap Podcast, until then this has been Mike Gleason with Money Metals Exchange. Thanks for listening, and have a great weekend everybody.