Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Every Decade Sure To Have Their Very Own "Dr. Doom"

We usually will laud the bullish experts who got things right. Many will despise the naysayers, the bearish buggers who seem to be always pessimistic. However, some of them have been prescient in their big calls, and deserve to be applauded. You will find them being tagged as the Dr. Dooms, and every decade seems to have a major one. As a Dr. Doom, they will shout loudest when they feel strongly about something going wrong, but usually you will not hear from them when markets turn bullish - not that they do not like bull runs, but its their attention to detail and them usually having a very high disposition to fear that will cause them not to issue buy signals even they see them. Hence when its bullish, and they are quiet, its good. When its bullish and they keep getting louder, its bad.

Not all of them are as good as the title may hint at. I have rated them out of 10, 10 being excellent.

Dr. Henry Kaufman - Dr. Doom of the 1970s & early 80s (my rating 8.5/10)

He was well-known during the 1970s and early 1980s for the interest rate forecasts he wrote for Salomon, and for their bearish views, generally predicting that bond prices would decrease (interest rate would increase). Thus, he earned the nickname "Dr. Doom." Dr. Henry Kaufman is the president of Henry Kaufman & Company, Inc., a firm specializing in economic and financial consulting. He was previously a managing director at Salomon Brothers and was a member of the executive committee in charge of the firm's four research departments.

Dr. Kaufman was also a vice chairman of the parent company, Salomon Inc. Before joining Salomon Brothers, he was in commercial banking and served as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Unwittingly, this Dr. Doom also triggered a major market rally after years of doom and gloom predictions, Kaufman’s prediction on August 17, 1982 that interest rates would fall sparked a stock market rally that can be dated as the beginning of the 1980’s bull market.

Dr. Kaufman's book, On Money and Markets, A WallStreetMemoir, was published in June 2000. In 1987, Dr. Kaufman was awarded the first George S. Eccles Prize for excellence in economic writing from the Columbia Business School for his book, Interest Rates, the Markets, and the New Financial World.

Dr. Kaufman received his bachelor's degree in economics from NYU in 1948, an M.S. in finance from Columbia University in 1949 and a Ph.D in banking and finance from New York University Graduate School of Business Administration in 1958. He also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from New York University in 1982, and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Yeshiva University in 1986 and from Trinity College in 2005.

Kaufman is known among the insiders in the financial community as a genius at contrarian investing. During the 1970s downturn in New York City he was the buyer of last resort for Con Edison bonds, which resulted in huge gains. Kaufman was buying Con Edison Bonds at 30 percent of face value when the city was told no help was coming from the federal government to keep the lights on in New York. Of course the bonds never defaulted, and the returns were in mega millions to Kaufman.

Kaufman was the largest shareholder of Apple Bank of New York along with many other holdings. He was the financial controller of all of the $320 million Maurice Kanbar received for selling Skyy Vodka and created $190 million in additional profits from this account. One of the investments was buying 32 percent of downtown Tulsa, Oklahoma, at distress prices starting in 2005. Tulsa is one of the few cities that has weathered the U.S. real estate crisis and actually has increased in value. He also was the funding source of capital for Heine Herzog (Mutual Shares which merged with Franklin Templeton), the largest over-the-counter market maker in the U. S. Kaufman also bought buildings in Soho at $30 square foot in the distress times of the 70s and became a legend in value investing when the market climbed to $200 a square foot. His latest venture was going big into Costa Rica real estate last year, let's see if its going to be another winner for him.

Latest Mantras: Kaufman thinks the banks should be broken up ... "A much better approach would be to prohibit any financial institution from remaining or becoming too big to fail. This would require that regulators downsize large financial conglomerates. In this process, the prime targets for divestiture should be financial activities that pose risk to the stability of the deposit function as well as operations that pose conflicts of interest.

Our financial system is at a crossroads. We can either succumb to the forces that are shifting markets toward greater government back-stopping and socialization. Or we can create a structure in which no institution is too big to fail, and a financial system that is supervised effectively by a modernized central bank."

"Why are we so poor at managing our key economic institutions while at the same time so accomplished in medicine, engineering and telecommunications? Why can we land men on the moon with pinpoint accuracy, yet fail to steer our economy away from the rocks? Why do our computers work so well, except when we use them to manage derivatives and hedge funds?"

Kaufman warns: "The computations were correct, but far too often the conclusions drawn from them were not." Why? Selfish, myopic politicians and bankers.

Dr. Marc Faber - Dr. Doom of the 1990s and present time (my rating 6.5/10)

Dr Marc Faber was born in Zurich, Switzerland. He went to school in Geneva and Zurich and finished high school with the Matura. He studied Economics at the University of Zurich and, at the age of 24, obtained a PhD in Economics magna cum laude.

Dr. Doom

Between 1970 and 1978, Dr Faber worked for White Weld & Company Limited in New York, Zurich and Hong Kong.

Since 1973, he has lived in Hong Kong. From 1978 to February 1990, he was the Managing Director of Drexel Burnham Lambert (HK) Ltd. In June 1990, he set up his own business, MARC FABER LIMITED which acts as an investment advisor and fund manager.

Dr Faber publishes a widely read monthly investment newsletter "The Gloom Boom & Doom Report" report which highlights unusual investment opportunities, and is the author of several books including “ TOMORROW'S GOLD – Asia's Age of Discovery” which was first published in 2002 and highlights future investment opportunities around the world. “ TOMORROW'S GOLD ” was for several weeks on Amazon's best seller list and is being translated into Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai and German.

Latest Mantras: Marc continues his bashing of the governments of all developed and overleveraged nations, which he claims will sooner or later default on their obligations. This could be the most scathing critique of the fiat-money system to date, which is the primary cause for the facility with which governments have accumulated untenable debt loads.

"In the developed world we have huge debt to GDP, in terms of government debt to GDP and unfunded liabilities that will come due, and these unfunded liabilities are so huge that eventually these governments will all have to print money before they default."

Faber also said he is turning from a bull to a bear on stock markets in 2010 because there was too much bullish sentiment and whenever there’s a mid-term election then it becomes negative for stocks, “Everybody was looking for further gains in stocks.”

Marc Faber says "the average life span of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years ... Once a society becomes successful it becomes arrogant, righteous, overconfident, corrupt, and decadent ... overspends ... costly wars ... wealth inequity and social tensions increase; and society enters a secular decline."

Robert Shiller - Dr. Doom of 2000s (my rating 9.5/10)

Shiller received his B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1967, S.M. from MIT in 1968, and his Ph.D from MIT in 1972. He has taught at Yale since 1982 and previously held faculty positions at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Minnesota, also giving frequent lectures at the LSE. His book Macro Markets won first annual Paul A. Samuelson Award.

In 1981 Shiller published an article titled "Do stock prices move too much to be justified by subsequent changes in dividends?" He challenged the efficient markets model, which at that time was the dominant view in the economics profession. Shiller argued that in a rational stock market, investors would base stock prices on the expected receipt of future dividends, discounted to a present value. He examined the performance of the U.S. stock market since the 1920s, and considered the kinds of expectations of future dividends and discount rates that could justify the wide range of variation experienced in the stock market. Shiller concluded that the volatility of the stock market was greater than could plausibly be explained by any rational view of the future.
In 1991, he formed Case Shiller Weiss with economists Karl Case and Allan Weiss. The company produced a repeat-sales index using home sales prices data from across the nation, studying home pricing trends. The index was developed by Shiller and Case when Case was studying unsustainable house pricing booms in Boston and Shiller was studying the behavioral aspects of economic bubbles. The repeat-sales index developed by Case and Shiller was later acquired and further developed by Fiserv and Standard & Poor, creating the now famous Case-Shiller index. His book Irrational Exuberence (2000) – a NYT bestseller, and now you know where that phrase came from (no its not Greenspan) – warned that the stock market had become a bubble in March 2000 (the very height of the market top) which could lead to a sharp decline.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal in August 2006, Shiller again warned that "there is significant risk of a very bad period, with slow sales, slim commissions, falling prices, rising default and foreclosures, serious trouble in financial markets, and a possible recession sooner than most of us expected.” Robert Shiller was awarded the Deutsche Bank Prize in Financial Economics in 2009 for his pioneering research in the field of financial economics, relating to the dynamics of asset prices, such as fixed income, equities, and real estate, and their metrics. His work has been influential in the development of the theory as well as its implications for practice and policy-making. His contributions on risk sharing, financial market volatility, bubbles and crises, have received widespread attention among academics, practitioners and policy makers alike.

Latest Mantras: Even if there is a quick end to the recession, the housing market’s poor performance may linger. After the last home price boom, which ended about the time of the 1990-91 recession, home prices did not start moving upward, even incrementally, until 1997. Even the federal government has projected price decreases through 2010. As a baseline, the stress tests recently performed on big banks included a total fall in housing prices of 41 percent from 2006 through 2010. Their “more adverse” forecast projected a drop of 48 percent — suggesting that important housing ratios, like price to rent, and price to construction cost — would fall to their lowest levels in 20 years.

Remember a decade ago with "Irrational Exuberance?" Now he's warning: "Bubbles are primarily social phenomena. Until we understand and address the psychology that fuels them, they're going to keep forming. We recently lived through two epidemics of excessive financial optimism, we are close to a third episode, only this one will spread irrational pessimism and distrust -- not exuberance."

Nouriel Roubini - The Latest Dr. Doom, although he is not comfortable with the tag (my rating: 7.5/10)

Nourel Roubini is an economist and professor at New York University. He was one of the only people to accurately predict the current global economic crisis. Roubini started predicting a possible financial meltdown in 2004, and received the nickname "Dr. Doom" after a 2006 IMF meeting. Roubini, once an obscure economist, has become an in-demand analyst due to his uncannily accurate and pessimistic predictions.NY Times: Dr. Doom (August 15, 2008)

BOAO, CHINA - APRIL 18: (CHINA OUT) Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics and international business at New York University, attends the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) Annual Conference 2009 on April 18, 2009 in Boao, a scenic town in south China's Hainan Province. The BFA Annual Conference 2009 opened here on Saturday with the theme of "Asia: Managing Beyond Crisis." Nouriel Roubini

Roubini hasn't always been right in his predictions: In an August 2008 interview with Barron's, he said as many as 1,400 U.S. banks could fail. That number has been closer to 200, and it doesn't appear that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and state authorities will have to shutter anywhere near the number he predicted.

He warned that the Federal Reserve and other government central banks are fueling a massive new asset "bubble" that -- while not in imminent danger of bursting -- will someday do so with calamitous consequences.

Here is Roubini's argument: The Fed is holding short-term interest rates near zero. Investors and speculators borrow dollars cheaply and use them to buy various assets -- stocks, bonds, gold, oil, minerals, foreign currencies. Prices rise. Huge profits can be made. But this can't last, Roubini warns. The Fed will eventually raise interest rates. Or outside events (a confrontation with Iran, fear of a double-dip recession) will change market psychology. Then investors will rush to lock in profits, and the sell-off will trigger a crash. Stock, bond and commodity prices will plunge. Losses will mount, confidence will fall and the real economy will suffer.

"The Fed and other policymakers seem unaware of the monster bubble they are creating," writes Roubini. "The longer they remain blind, the harder the markets will fall."

Like home values a few years ago, asset prices have risen spectacularly. Since its March 9 low, the Standard & Poor's 500-stock index has gained more than 50 percent. An index of stocks for 22 "emerging-market" countries (including Brazil, China and India) has doubled from its recent low. Oil, now around $80 a barrel, has increased 150 percent from its recent low of $31. Gold is near an all-time high, around $1,090 an ounce. Meanwhile, the dollar has dropped against many currencies. Half of Roubini's story resonates.

...... So, Roubini's new bubble remains unproved. But this doesn't invalidate his warning. We've learned that there's a thin line between promoting economic expansion and fostering bubbles. With hindsight, lax Fed policies contributed to both the "tech" bubble of the late 1990s and the recent housing bubble, though how much is debated.

I don’t believe in gold. Gold can go up for only two reasons. [One is] inflation, and we are in a world where there are massive amounts of deflation because of a glut of capacity, and demand is weak, and there’s slack in the labor markets with unemployment peeking above 10 percent in all the advanced economies. So there’s no inflation, and there’s not going to be for the time being.
The only other case in which gold can go higher with deflation is if you have Armageddon, if you have another depression. But we’ve avoided that tail risk as well. So all the gold bugs who say gold is going to go to $1,500, $2,000, they’re just speaking nonsense. Without inflation, or without a depression, there’s nowhere for gold to go. Yeah, it can go above $1,000, but it can’t move up 20-30 percent unless we end up in a world of inflation or another depression. I don’t see either of those being likely for the time being. Maybe three or four years from now, yes. But not anytime soon.”

Latest Mantras: The shorting of USD is the “mother of all highly leveraged asset bubbles” now in progress. Shorts in the US dollar are being built up to unprecedented levels, and are being used to finance the purchase of every asset class, especially in energy, commodities, and precious metals. This bubble will be pricked by a huge snap back rally in the greenback, the exhaustion of Fed support measures, a growth surprise in the US leading to an early Fed tightening, or a real double dip recession. The inevitable collapse will make the last financial crisis look like a cake walk, and take all markets, especially equities, down to new lows.


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amli007 said...

Hey Dali, to say that Roubini incorrectly predicted that 1,400 banks would fail is not a really fair statement. After all, he’s not the one who decides whether banks and other financial institutions fail, it’s the US government. His conjecture was based on the assumption that there would be no bail-outs by the government, which is a logical conjecture. In summary, we should not just simply say whether so-and-so’s comments were right/wrong in black and white terms. Situations are always in a state of flux.

Bob T said...


On the subject of Gold back in your March Seminar, here's further confirmation that your belief that buying gold is a bunch-of-bull-excrement. There is not enough physical gold to go around!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it back then.

Whistle Blower : Price of Gold is Manipulated y Major FIs

puns said...

Its quite amazing and interesting content.This is truly a great read for me.This post is really an awe-inspiring.Keep up the good work.

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