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The Global Outlook For 2023
Dennis Miller

January is time to look ahead for the year. Sadly, way too much depends on the Federal Reserve and world central banks.

Michael Howell writes:

“It has been a bleak year for many investors. Global investors have lost $23tn of wealth…so far in 2022. …. That is equivalent to 22 per cent of global gross domestic product”

When bureaucrats create money out of thin air, they create a mess. Alasdair Macleod tells us:

“Monetary policy makers face an acute dilemma: do they prioritize inflation of prices by raising interest rates, or do they lean towards yet more monetary stimulation to ensure that financial markets stabilize, their economies do not suffer recession, and government finances are not driven into crisis?

…. The inconvenient truth is that policies of monetary stimulation invariably end with the impoverishment of everyone.”

While Fed chairman Powell appears hell-bent on bringing inflation back down to a 2% target, many fear he will cave under political pressure…and inflation will continue to soar. Investors are scrambling to avoid “impoverishment.”

The US dollar is under fire. Macleod adds:

“Led by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council is turning its back on the dollar for payment of oil and gas.

…. China has signed a 27-year supply agreement with Qatar for its gas. President Biden attempted to secure an agreement with Saudi Arabia…. He left with nothing.”

It’s time for a big picture discussion.

As a client of WHVP, I contacted Managing Partner Urs Vrijhof-Droese. His global perspective is excellent.

WHVP are asset managers, investing clients’ money around the globe. There are no model portfolios, for over 30 years they’ve invested real money and been held accountable.

Their investment challenges are complex. They must factor in various currencies as part of the equation. Unlike many US portfolio managers, they also invest in precious metals to hedge against inflation.

DENNIS: Urs, thank you for taking time to help educate our readers about what is happening around the world.

While pundits predicted 2022 to be a good year, their predictions did not come true. How did we do in 2022?

URS: Thank you Dennis for having me.

Since the financial crisis, markets have generally only known one direction – up. Central banks fueled markets with ultra-loose policies for over a decade. People tend to forget reality; thinking the party would go on forever.

It was a challenging year, but we ended 2022 on decent terms. In the fall of 2021, we began positioning our portfolios more conservatively. As you said, our portfolios are usually tailor made so we do not have one performance number. Overall, we ended the year in mid-single-digit negative territory.

Our main headwind was the USD, which strengthened by about 8% in 2022, meaning a devaluation of the counterpart, the six currencies CAD, CHF, EUR, GBP, SEK and JPY. The third quarter was particularly difficult.

As the USD started weakening, we recovered many of our losses. We are pleased, since it shows that the underlying investments held up very well – most of the negative performance came from the strong USD, which in our perspective will not be sustainable.

DENNIS: Spain announced a $10.6 billion package to “ease inflation pain”. The US “Inflation Reduction Act” was estimated to cost almost $2 trillion. What a joke!

Victor Davis Hanson tells us:

“Federal tax revenue has increased almost every year since 2010. Sometimes it has grown by nearly a half-trillion dollars per annum, even as we sink deeper in debt.

Our crisis, then, is one of spending what we do not have rather than one of declining revenue.”

World banks created trillions and politicians went on ridiculous spending sprees, inflation is a world-wide problem.

Until governments around the world curtail their spending, will inflation continue to destroy our wealth?

URS: Central banks have become overzealous with their fiscal policy. That is not how the system was set up. The central bank’s primary task should be to keep inflation under control and, in cases of chaos, become the lender of last resort. However, they’ve focused on politicians and Wall Street. Whenever things got uncomfortable, central banks jumped in to help.

Early on, central banks struggled to get inflation up to 2%. They never really questioned the system back then. When inflation started to overshoot, the Fed officials said it was “transitory” holding off on increasing interest rates. The lag in reaction helped their “member banks,” Wall Street and the politicians.

Now the Fed, and world central banks, are behind the 8-ball. They were forced to react because they risked riots from people who were severely affected by rising prices. It was interesting that the combination of almost non-existent interest rates and the fractional reserve system, the desired 2% inflation target was so difficult to reach. As they pushed all this money into banks, it sat there like unused gunpowder.

Most politicians don’t understand how the monetary system works, and don’t care as long as they can keep spending. With higher inflation, politicians’ tasks should be to curtail unnecessary spending and not finance any more stimulus packages. Stimulus packages just add more gunpowder into the system, increasing inflation even further.

As long as the politicians don’t reign in spending, there is a high risk, that inflation will stay well above target.

DENNIS: Since 2008, world banks have spent freely, while coordinating their efforts to create relative parity among world currencies. Now, world banks are raising rates.

When you factor in the additional borrowing necessary to fuel huge US deficits, do you feel some other currencies will do better than the USD?

URS: Yes. The potential for a weaker USD is very high.

The U.S. ignored inflation. It’s like a wildfire. There was one hotspot, the watchdogs were not careful, and now the situation is almost out of control. They reacted, rapidly raising interest rates, attracting foreign money, strengthening the USD.

When investing globally, it’s important to keep short-term movements in perspective and focus on long-term trends.

The Swiss franc has been a very effective way to protect your wealth, especially compared to the USD. Inflation became a worldwide issue, rising above 10% and more. In Switzerland, the high was about 3.5%.

The strength of the Swiss franc (CHF) helped reduce the impact from our main trading partners in the Eurozone. The higher prices from imports have been leveled out by the much weaker Euro. The U.S. is also an important trading partner. While the U.S. dollar became stronger against the CHF, it didn’t stay that way, ending the year very close to where it started.

Unlike many countries, the Swiss central bank is entirely independent from politics. Not just in theory, but also in reality. We are confident, that this will continue to be the case.

DENNIS: Gold held its own in 2022, what do you see happening going forward?

URS: Despite short-term volatility, gold has proven itself as a long-term store of wealth.

The interest rate increases caused gold to suffer. Expecting central banks to “walk their talk,” as things get tough, is questionable.

We anticipate central banks lowering their interest hike steps and eventually stopping. Corporate profits should decline, negatively impacting share prices.

We expect inflation will come down, however, not even close to 2%.

This is a great environment for gold. If gold starts to rally, silver and mining companies will follow.

Gold could easily hit $2,000 and silver to $30 per ounce. Expecting it to shoot “to the moon” appears unrealistic. Eventually?? Maybe, but taking profits and rebalancing regularly is key.

If central banks stick with the plan, we will get through this faster. Company evaluations will be reasonable again and free market interest rates will return. We seek out companies that will provide good performance for the next decade.

DENNIS: Wolf Street reports on the status of the USD as the global reserve currency:

The USD share is dropping and now Russia, China and Japan are dumping US dollars.

Do you see the downward trend continuing?

URS: Good, tough question. Many governments want to reduce their U.S. dependency, the question is how they dump their USD.

Countries generally hold USD in the form of debt. As the debt matures, they don’t renew it. The U.S. will have to find another lender, at much higher interest rates, which could lead to a further devaluation of the USD.

DENNIS: One final question. Bloomberg reportsCredit Cracks Widen With Distressed Debt Ballooning. They estimate it to be near $650 billion.

Inexpensive credit was extended to companies not normally considered creditworthy. Until that is purged out of the system, do you see things turning around softly and quickly?

URS: In a word, no. Banks provided cheap credit for companies that had no chance to survive. As debt matures, companies roll over to new debt; a fun game when rates are at 5,000-year lows. Today it is difficult to find lenders if you don’t have a proven business case.

Soft landing? Maybe for a short time, but it’s a dead-end street.

Central banks have their backs against the wall – trying not to show they’ve lost control. Thinking there is an easy way out is naïve.

Editor’s note: While I’ve been a client of WHVP for over a decade, I have no other financial arrangement with them of any kind.

An offshore asset manager is a great diversification method for those who are so inclined. I am happy to give them a forum in exchange for sharing their global perspective for our readers’ benefit.

Dennis here.

While the world recovers from the political fantasies, plus an unwarranted stock market bubble, individual investors must remain diligent and stay on top of things. Investing in assets denominated in foreign currency can provide much-needed diversification and safety.

Eight years ago, I vowed to keep our newsletter FREE! I plan to keep my promise.

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Investing retirement money is totally different from how we invested in the past. You are no longer trying to get rich; your goal is to make your money last for the rest of your life so you can enjoy your golden years. Successful retirement is a combination of having enough money to enjoy a comfortable lifestyle without constantly having to worry about your future.

I’m here to teach you now. Not as a young stock broker or adviser who doesn’t understand you at all, but as a fellow retiree.

I’ve always been an educator. First as a consultant with Fortune 500 companies – training hundreds of executives at places like GE, Mobil, Shell, Schlumberger, HP, IBM, Corning Glass, Eastman Kodak, AC Nielsen, and Johns-Manville.

I loved what I did. I was an active international lecturer for 40 years, and authored several books on sales and sales management, a contributor to the American Management Association and a member of the Mensa Society. And, proud to say, a former US Marine.

Since 1990, I’ve been a serious student of investing – devoting many hours a day to reading and speaking with investment managers, authors, analysts, and anyone who could broaden my knowledge of investing.

A few years ago, David Galland, former partner with Casey Research, convinced me to write a book titled Retirement Reboot. The book tells how the government’s new low interest rate policy would derail our generation’s retirement dreams if we did not change the way we invest. David also convinced me to write a newsletter, “Money Forever”, which gave practical advice on how retirement money should be invested safely. It was shelved with the sale of the company that published it, but I continue on.

I’m so lucky to do what I love to do every day – helping people understand how to make their nest egg last.

Today, I am a regular contributor to MarketWatch, as a “RetireMentor”. I pride myself on taking on conventional wisdom from the perspective of someone who has actually been retired. There are times when conventional wisdom is simply bad advice.

Ask anyone who has taken a lump sum payout of their 401(k) about the huge knot in their stomach, knowing their nest egg must last forever. Regardless of how you made your money, we are all money managers now; it has to last.

But enough about me – how can I help YOU?

I hope you find the information I share in the Advice Corner helpful – and please sign up for my FREE Newsletter – I will send you weekly updates on the new content that I’ve written from around the Web.

Thank you!

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