Monday, March 30, 2009

Government Thinks It Knows Best, Market Disagrees

The 'Helicopter Economics Investing Guide' is meant to help educate people on how to make profitable investing choices in the current economic environment. In addition to the term helicopter economics, we have also coined the term, helicopternomics, to describe the current monetary and fiscal policies of the U.S. government and to update the old-fashioned term wheelbarrow economics.

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If the Obama administration is trying to crash the U.S. stock market they are doing an excellent job. If not, they should all take a class in PR 101. The U.S. government announced that it is displeased with the progress the automakers have made with their restructuring plans (like somehow the government knows how to run an auto company), got the CEO of GM to resign, and is threatening to withhold bailout money from them and force them into bankruptcy. This would be devastating to the economies of the politically important swing states of Michigan and Ohio and for this reason it is not likely to happen. Nevertheless, all investors are paying this morning for this political cat and mouse game, with both the Dow and Nasdaq selling off around 4% as I write this. A crash level drop of 5% is a real possibility at the moment.

When the automakers received their first bailout in the fall, this blog stated it was only a stopgap measure to tide them over until after the election and a new bailout would be needed then. This has indeed happened right on schedule. While we constantly say, there is no such thing as a single bailout for an insolvent financial institution, the same is obviously true in many other industries as well. There is also no question that the automakers have been some of the worse run companies in the U.S. for decades, at least until the banks and brokers took the lead in this respect in the 2000s. Bailouts almost always have long term negative consequences, but this has not stopped the U.S. from establishing a de facto 'too big to fail policy' and it now seems to be moving toward state directed corporate socialism. Government management is an oxymoron if ever there was one. This is out of the frying pan into the fire economics.

Also weighing on the market is the upcoming G20 summit. Other countries, being led by Germany, are not interested in printing an endless stream of new money for economic stimulus plans and the BRIC countries want an alternative reserve currency. A coordinated policy for global stimulus is not likely to result from the meeting later this week as was hoped for by the Obama administration. This leaves the U.S. and Britain, the big money printers, holding the bag. Consequently, both are likely to have to print more money in the future. The BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries want to establish a new reserve currency, at first consisting of a blend of dollars, euros, yen and pounds. No immediate policy shift will officially take place at the summit, but this likely represents a sea change in international currency policy. Both pieces of news are devastating for the U.S. dollar, which somehow ignored reality this morning and rallied strongly.

While it would be nice to do so, investors can't ignore politics. Deep down, there is really very little difference in a number of respects from the current administration and the last administration. Spending huge amounts of taxpayer money on bailouts was and is part of the agenda. If the spending can't fully be funded with taxpayer money (and this was a reality from the beginning), any amount of money necessary will be printed to cover the costs. The dollar will eventually lose a lot of its value because of this and there will be a lot of inflation. The Bush administration though was at least aware of the sensitivities of the stock market, while the Obama administration seems oblivious at best. The drop this morning, taking place during a nascent rally, is not the first time the current administration has stuck its foot in it and it probably won't be the last.

NEXT: Next Few Trading Days Are Important

Daryl Montgomery
Organizer,New York Investing meetup

This posting is editorial opinion. Like all other postings for this blog, there is no intention to endorse the purchase or sale of any security.

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