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Old 06-01-2010, 07:05 AM   #241
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Many "experts" predict inflation, many others predict deflation.
My quote says "Inflation is trending downward", which it is. That isn't a prediction. It is an observation. But if one were to predict future inflation, they might want to reconcile that prediction with the observation that inflation has fallen since all of the supposed money creation.
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Old 06-01-2010, 07:48 AM   #242
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I think we have enough hindsight now to understand it did prevent collapse.
Of course we do. It's obvious to anyone willing to look at the facts. But not everyone is.
The immediate crash of the credit market and of certain big banks was stopped by handing them lots of free money. And even today money is being pumped into the economy, money that we don't have (as most countries are deep in debt).

Quantitative easing was recently reduced. And look how the stock markets have behaved since.

Has the collapse been prevented? I'm not convinced. Maybe it has just been delayed. Corporate debt has been changed into public debt, but is this really sustainable? Spain has had a failed bond auction if I remember well, and even Germany just had one. The bond market hasn't blown up yet, but it can't believe the free money will keep coming the way it has until now.

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My quote says "Inflation is trending downward", which it is. That isn't a prediction. It is an observation. But if one were to predict future inflation, they might want to reconcile that prediction with the observation that inflation has fallen since all of the supposed money creation.
You indeed didn't predict anything. My bad, my reply wasn't clear and I quoted the wrong part of your message. I tried to defend against your statement that the gold story starts with fact but then continues with predictions of hyperinflation. I don't own gold specifically to protect against hyperinflation. Even during deflation it might have its advantages. And certainly during devaluations (the Greek drama resulted in a de facto devaluation of the Euro vs the other currencies). I wanted to point out that I don't pretend to know about future inflation or deflation. I should have been clearer and quoted a different part of your message.

You did indeed observe that inflation was trending downwards (as opposed to predicting it).

I'm not contradicting that observation. But what inflation is currently doing in the US doesn't mean that high inflation isn't a risk further down the road or elsewhere. In my country it looks like inflation is back, though the trend could change at any time:



P.S. I hope I'm not scaring anyone into hasty and regrettable decisions. I'm just trying to explain my current point of view. You should know that I tend to be relatively extreme in most of what I do. This is often but not always an advantage.
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Old 06-01-2010, 09:09 AM   #243
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In my country it looks like inflation is back, though the trend could change at any time:


I wonder how much of that latest spike in inflation is due to the Euro losing about 25% of it's value in just a few months, making imports like oil more expensive. Still, the spike is quite small relative to the plunge in the Euro.
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Old 06-01-2010, 09:44 AM   #244
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And that is because many people aren't conducting an economic analysis, they are engaging in political argument disguised as economic analysis. . . . We don't need to look at the facts. We don't need to consider how the decline was arrested and how all of the worst case predictions failed to materialize. All we have to do is project future calamity 10, 15, 20 years down the road. That way we can pretend forever that "it's too soon to tell". It's far easier to do that then to admit that your world view is flawed.
Easier still--build an extreme strawman argument and then ridicule it.
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Old 06-01-2010, 09:57 AM   #245
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Sorry, industry jargon.

Simply put, what merger arbitrage strategies do is some variant of the following:

Company A announces this morning that it is buying company B and paying $50 a share, with the closing to happen in about 6 months. The stock of B Corp. jumps to $48 and flatlines. Our merger arbitrageur checks out the deal, determines it is highly likely to be consummated, and buys B Corp. stock at $48. Perhaps Mr. arb spends a little money hedging downside in B Corp. stock, or perhaps he goes naked. In 6 months time he collects $50/share for his B Corp. stock thus earning gross returns of a shade over 8% annually. Risk in this strategy is mitigated by due diligence, perhaps some hedging, and the fact that most arbs will diversify broadly over a number of deals so that a single deal going wrong does not make that much of a difference. Some arbs will try to juice returns with leverage, but I believe the mutual funds I own generally do not employ leverage.
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Old 06-01-2010, 10:06 AM   #246
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Warning: I do not suggest that anyone buy gold. I know someone who got burned big time the last time gold was in a bull market. He didn't get out in time and didn't live long enough to see it recover.
I'm just trying to explain why I think it makes sense to me to own some, especially at this time. It's a good diversifier but it has its disadvantages. It has gone up a lot and could go down a lot. If you want to buy some, I recommend using your time machine and buying it in 2001 ;-)



My euros suffered a lot this year and it may not be over. Stocks are suffering. Real estate is not doing well. Banks are in trouble in Spain, maybe tomorrow in my country. Etc.
I personally don't care about the specifics of the catastrophes that might happen. Anything that causes a flight to safety would likely be good for my gold and compensate losses in other assets. (until the day that for one reason or another people don't want gold anymore, which is why I try not to overdo this) I lost buying power in my euros this year, but part of that loss was offset by gold moving up. I didn't own enough gold for it to compensate for all the buying power that my euros lost, but it's better than nothing and if things continue to worsen, gold will probably react much harder. (though I kind of expect extreme volatility and am aware that one day it will probably crater hard - by then I hope to have moved most of it into a more traditional portfolio)



I'm not especially preparing for this kind of situations, though it's nice to know that part of my money isn't just ones and zeroes in a computer that might disappear, but in a portable form that I could take elsewhere to build a new life. As interest rates are very low, so far I'm not losing much.

Wars do happen, my parents lived through the last war. It's one of the many reasons why it would be nice to have a big garden, but the risk seems low so I stay in a rental apartment until (hopefully) real estate becomes cheaper here. (prices are at a historic high; they may or may not go down from here; I'm hoping there will be a return to the mean)



Sounds great.



I don't own gold to help me survive in the short term. I own it hoping it will help to better preserve my capital in the long term. (until I find a better asset allocation or strategy). I'd try to get my food and water by different means, but not give up my gold.
Sooner or later things would improve and it would be nice not to have lost everything.
But if gold becomes illegal or crashes, I could lose it, yes. Therefore I don't bet the farm on it.



Most people have survived there, but many families have lost their wealth.
If I would wake up tomorrow and the euro would only be worth 1/3 of what it's worth today, my gold would probably mean that my chances at E-R might not be completely lost. (because gold would likely react very hard to such an event on such a scale) Same thing if the Eurozone would break up. I don't expect that to happen, but while it's improbable, it's technically not impossible.

We're each trying to cope with these strange days as good as we can.
Maybe I'll regret my choices and then you can tell me "told you so".
I'm trying to give it my best shot.

As others have pointed out... gold is not really a long term investment... it IS a hedge that some take in rough times... because it is an emotional purchase... and emotions are running very high right now about a pending collapse...

But when you break down the reasoning that people say why they buy gold... it just does not hold water.

Take yours.... IF the Euro was worth 1/3 of what it is today... how does that affect your life? My first question I ask... 1/3 based on what The US$? Most people throw out 'the dollar is falling' or for you 'the Euro is falling' and don't really know what that means..

So, if it is the dollar... right now it is 1.22 euro to 1$... so make that .40 to $1... you will experience some inflation IMO... but how much does that change your lifestyle? Probably not as much as you think...

Now, let's just use %s.... you have a portfolio... and it drops by 2/3rds... you now have 33% of what you had...

The other guy used 10% of his portfolio to hedge... (and I bet you do not put 10% of your portfolio in gold... but I have been wrong before... just go with me here)... and after this big crash... gold goes up 50%... this portfolio is now worth about 44%... sure, it is better than the first one, but I don't think that the first portfolio person will be in a soup line and the second on easy street... both are hurting a lot... SO, your hedge did not do what you intended... you still have a problem with ER..
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Old 06-01-2010, 10:26 AM   #247
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A
Take yours.... IF the Euro was worth 1/3 of what it is today... how does that affect your life? My first question I ask... 1/3 based on what The US$? Most people throw out 'the dollar is falling' or for you 'the Euro is falling' and don't really know what that means..

So, if it is the dollar... right now it is 1.22 euro to 1$... so make that .40 to $1... you will experience some inflation IMO... but how much does that change your lifestyle? Probably not as much as you think...
I am a European citizen living in the US, so I can relate to this. From 2001 to 2007, I have seen the dollar lose about half of its value relative to the Euro (and even more relative to gold). Yet I saw no change to my lifestyle (my own personal inflation rate is close to zero over the 2004-2009 period) because the majority of my wealth was denominated in the same currency as my spending (US$) so the exchange rate was of little importance as long as I did not have to spend money in Euros (or in gold). Of course, had I moved back to Europe in 2007 or had my supermarket decided to require payment in gold bullions, my wealth would have taken a huge hit.

Edit: Lately I have started to denominate my finances in onces of gold as an exercise. I found that, between 2004 and 2009, my net worth (in oz of gold) managed to increase about 20% despite the big increase in gold prices vs. the US $. It was still disappointing given how aggressively I have contributed to my portfolio between 2004 and 2009. But imagine my surprise when I found out that, in the mean time, my expenses (in oz of gold) have plummeted about 60%! So I am in fact much better off today with the once of gold near $1,200 (NW = 23 x expenses) than I was in 2004 when the once of gold was near $400 (NW = 8 x expenses), despite the fact that the vast majority of my assets were denominated in US dollars all the while.

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Old 06-01-2010, 10:48 AM   #248
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IF the Euro was worth 1/3 of what it is today... how does that affect your life? My first question I ask... 1/3 based on what The US$? Most people throw out 'the dollar is falling' or for you 'the Euro is falling' and don't really know what that means..
The Euro has dropped compared to most major currencies. I usually track it by comparing it to special drawing rights (XDR), a basket of major currencies.
Much of what I consume is imported. If the Euro drops, then our imports will become more expensive (like oil). In the short run a devaluation doesn't change much but in the long run it makes life more expensive, unless the other currencies devalue too, which is a possibility. Even if you don't consider it an important problem, I don't mind making a buck from it as a side-effect of holding gold.

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but how much does that change your lifestyle? Probably not as much as you think...
Difficult to say in advance, but being mostly in cash with an amount large enough to retire early, I'm not as confident as you that a devaluation won't hurt me.

(I'm not planning to remain this vulnerable, I'm trying to design a diversified portfolio, but am not ready to buy equity at this time - I hear the Bogleheas go "boo hiss!" and do understand that I may be foolish to try to somewhat time my entry point; value investors on the other hand maybe would agree that entering at a lower PE10 wouldn't hurt, provided such a lower PE10 presents itself)

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Now, let's just use %s.... you have a portfolio... and it drops by 2/3rds... you now have 33% of what you had...
The other guy used 10% of his portfolio to hedge... (and I bet you do not put 10% of your portfolio in gold... but I have been wrong before... just go with me here)... and after this big crash... gold goes up 50%... this portfolio is now worth about 44%... sure, it is better than the first one, but I don't think that the first portfolio person will be in a soup line and the second on easy street... both are hurting a lot... SO, your hedge did not do what you intended... you still have a problem with ER..
I would be amazed if gold only went up 50% when cash drops 66%. I would expect gold to overreact because of the resulting panic, but of course I could be wrong.

Also, I don't own enough gold to make up for 100% of possible currency problems, but do you know many people who would dare to buy enough gold for that? Are you recommending me to invest 50% in gold?
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Old 06-01-2010, 10:50 AM   #249
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Sorry, industry jargon.

Simply put, what merger arbitrage strategies do is some variant of the following:
Thank you.
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Old 06-01-2010, 01:10 PM   #250
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Thank you.
NP.

Of course I should note that whether any of this is a good idea or even appropriate as an investment for any particular person is an exercise left up to the reader...
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Old 06-01-2010, 01:17 PM   #251
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Quantitative easing was recently reduced. And look how the stock markets have behaved since.
Perhaps even more telling, the ECB has stepped into quantitative easing in a big way and in spite of this stimulus their market is not exactly going wild.

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(I'm not planning to remain this vulnerable, I'm trying to design a diversified portfolio, but am not ready to buy equity at this time - I hear the Bogleheas go "boo hiss!" and do understand that I may be foolish to try to somewhat time my entry point; value investors on the other hand maybe would agree that entering at a lower PE10 wouldn't hurt, provided such a lower PE10 presents itself)
Your looking for value doesn't seem foolish to me, quite the contrary. In my practice the foolish thing is to not pay attention to valid measures of valuation of whatever a person may buy. And realistically, all investing when one gets beyond insured savings and high quality short duration bonds is speculating. Some things are smart speculations, many more things are dumb speculations. I am long gone from gold, though I have invested in gold and gold miners on and off for close to 40 years. Gold may be getting ready to go to the moon, but it is starting from a high enough perch that a big fall could be very harmful. I tend to be very aware of risk in any investment, and my experience has been that risk goes up with price, even if this might be contrary to some academic's theory. In fact, I usually take comfort if my practice is contrary to Professor Ivory's research.

Ha
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Old 06-01-2010, 01:18 PM   #252
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I am a European citizen living in the US, so I can relate to this. From 2001 to 2007, I have seen the dollar lose about half of its value relative to the Euro (and even more relative to gold). Yet I saw no change to my lifestyle (my own personal inflation rate is close to zero over the 2004-2009 period) because the majority of my wealth was denominated in the same currency as my spending (US$) so the exchange rate was of little importance as long as I did not have to spend money in Euros (or in gold). Of course, had I moved back to Europe in 2007 or had my supermarket decided to require payment in gold bullions, my wealth would have taken a huge hit.

Edit: Lately I have started to denominate my finances in onces of gold as an exercise. I found that, between 2004 and 2009, my net worth (in oz of gold) managed to increase about 20% despite the big increase in gold prices vs. the US $. It was still disappointing given how aggressively I have contributed to my portfolio between 2004 and 2009. But imagine my surprise when I found out that, in the mean time, my expenses (in oz of gold) have plummeted about 60%! So I am in fact much better off today with the once of gold near $1,200 (NW = 23 x expenses) than I was in 2004 when the once of gold was near $400 (NW = 8 x expenses), despite the fact that the vast majority of my assets were denominated in US dollars all the while.

fascinating analysis. it's a unique way to show gold's gains against paper and things priced in paper.

the dow/gold ratio is down to ~ 8 to 1. i think it will go to 4 or 5 to 1 before gold's domination is over (10+ years and counting so far..).
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Old 06-01-2010, 01:26 PM   #253
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Perhaps even more telling, the ECB has stepped into quantitative easing in a big way and in spite of this stimulus their market is not exactly going wild.

Ha
I have not followed it closely, but I was under the impression that the ECB was sterilizing its purchases of sovereign debt, no?
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Old 06-01-2010, 01:45 PM   #254
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I have not followed it closely, but I was under the impression that the ECB was sterilizing its purchases of sovereign debt, no?
I have read this, and if it is being fully implemented I guess this might explain the lack of market response. There could also be another issue. If the ECB is actually sterilizing these purchases of troubled assets, they are effectively destroying their balance sheet by replaced good assets with troubles ones. As an investor, I would have doubts about this too.

I have another question I hope you will address, Brewer- in your description of merger arb funds you gave the bulldozer analogy. Thinking about this, how exposed they are depends on how highly correlated the closings of their separate merger bets might become in times of crisis. I can see these closings today as more or less independent events. What was the experience during the credit crisis?

They may be good investments in any case, but this is the gotcha factor that I wonder about.

Ha
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Old 06-01-2010, 01:57 PM   #255
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I have another question I hope you will address, Brewer- in your description of merger arb funds you gave the bulldozer analogy. Thinking about this, how exposed they are depends on how highly correlated the closings of their separate merger bets might become in times of crisis. I can see these closings today as more or less independent events. What was the experience during the credit crisis?

They may be good investments in any case, but this is the gotcha factor that I wonder about.

Ha

You are welcome to analyze to your heart's content, as the funds I invest in are registered retail mutual funds. I own both of the two merger arb funds that I know of, MERFX and ARBFX. MERFX has a longer track record and slightly lower expenses, but is bigger and therefore slightly less nimble. As I imagine you will have no trouble believing, there are plenty of hedge funds doing this stuff, ranging from specialists to just occasionally dabbling.

MERFX looks to have had two negative years in the last 20, down 5.7% in 2002 and 2.3% in 2008. Details: MERFX: Performance Overview for MERGER FUND (THE) - Yahoo! Finance

ARBFX looks to have had two down years in the last 10, down .2% in 2005 and .6% in 2008. Details: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pm?s=arbfx

Note the expense ratios and the lack of tax efficiency.
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Old 06-01-2010, 02:00 PM   #256
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Thanks Brewer. Can you say how you see the risk I mentioned?
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Old 06-01-2010, 02:11 PM   #257
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Easier still--build an extreme strawman argument and then ridicule it.
If the shoe fits . . .
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Old 06-01-2010, 02:37 PM   #258
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"Middle-age spread: Long the spot, short the distant months."

Ha, not sure if you have ever tripped upon Wallace & Grommit, but they had another take on the subject of your tagline.

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Old 06-01-2010, 02:41 PM   #259
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Of course I should note that whether any of this is a good idea or even appropriate as an investment for any particular person is an exercise left up to the reader...
You're a mindreader, also.
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Old 06-01-2010, 02:42 PM   #260
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Thanks Brewer. Can you say how you see the risk I mentioned?

Absolutely, I understand the risk you mention. I think that the possibility of ramping up of correlation of deal failure risks is a very real issue, although difficult to quite put my arms around. I think that the performance record of these funds through some very challenging environments ('08-'09 in particular) suggests that it is perhaps less than terrifying, though. I also suspect that in a crisis environment (when correlations gap toward 1, generally) merger arbitrageurs who are not leveraged have some innate protection in that these are frequently partially or all equity deals on both sides (i.e. company A is really offering its shares in exchange for Company B's shares), so the arb position is long the target, short the acquirer. In such cases, when everything goes into freefall both the long and the short equities drop and you are more or less market neutral.
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