How Even Investment Bulls Can Get a Good Idea from the Bears

Mark Skousen

Named one of the "Top 20 Living Economists," Dr. Skousen is a professional economist, investment expert, university professor, and author of more than 25 books.

I am bullish on the stock market, but I heard something from a couple of investment bears at the annual FreedomFest conference last week that may point to a new opportunity to earn precious profits.

The annual event just concluded Saturday night in Las Vegas, and one of the panel discussions that I found to be especially valuable was the debate between the bulls and the bears about the future direction of the stock market. Even though the gloom-and-doom stock market forecasters failed to sway me to their side, I found at least one of their ideas worthy of serious consideration.

As a hedge against a possible stock market pullback and the risk of inflation, gold is an alternative asset that you may want to buy. I personally think owning precious metals such as gold and silver coins with a small percentage of your assets is a smart way to diversify your assets generally. But the market’s advance during the past couple of years enhances the appeal of owning precious metals.

Easy-money Fed policies should steer investors away from equities and the U.S. dollar and toward buying gold, as well as the British pound sterling and the euro, money manager Alex Merk advised. Merk, president and chief investment officer of Merk Investments LLC., of Palo Alto, California, explained that the U.S. Federal Reserve Bank’s policies are starting to fuel inflation.

However, the fall in the price of gold last year and rising inflation in the United States are boosting the investment prospects for gold, Merk said. For that reason, Merk launched a new gold exchange-traded fund in May. The Merk Gold Trust (OUNZ) seeks to provide investors with a way to buy gold and have the option of taking physical delivery of the precious metal.

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“I like gold because there is too much debt in the world,” Merk said. “Governments such as the United States, Japan and others cannot afford high interest rates.”

Another bearish investor who spoke at the event was Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, based in Westport, Connecticut. Schiff also likes gold as an investment.

“Inflationary policies will create bubbles and not produce real and sustainable economic growth,” Schiff warned.

Improved corporate earnings are a “mirage” and driven by the Fed’s easy-money policies, Schiff cautioned.

“What will bring the party to the end is when the Fed later this year needs to admit it was wrong about the economy, which is not recovering as hoped,” Schiff said.

Official measures of U.S. inflation already are above 2%, Schiff said. The risk is that the Fed will need to respond to prop up the dollar’s value or incur a dollar crisis with runaway inflation, he added.

Alex Green, an investment analyst and author, countered the investment bears by saying that U.S. corporate profits are at an “all-time record high.”

The risk of a bear market can be negated by using stops to protect investment profits, Green said.

In addition, none of the great investors analyzed Fed policy, Green said.

Instead, they searched for companies selling for less than they are worth, held them and profited, said a second bullish speaker, Donald Smith, president and chief investment officer of New York-based Donald Smith & Co. Inc.

Even though I agree with the bulls, I also see merit in the arguments of the bears when it comes to owning some gold. Not only do I like gold coins, but also publicly traded precious metals mining stocks, such as Silver Wheaton (SLW). If inflationary expectations return, the precious metals may be well worth buying.

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If you want to hear the full debate between the bulls and the bears or listen to any of the other presentations that took place at FreedomFest, I encourage you to order tapes at to gain the benefit of the top-notch speakers who joined me there. I order the full set of tapes each year and listen to them all.

You Blew It! TSA Literally Becomes a Joke

“TSA is the gold standard of airline security.”
– John Pistole, director, TSA (Thousands Standing Around)

Last week, roughly 2,000 people joined me for the annual FreedomFest conference in Las Vegas, and it offered an opportunity to poke fun at the TSA, a federal agency that seems to probe and prod a bit too aggressively even when encountering innocent and harmless passengers. We performed a modern-day version of Camelot as our featured entertainment during Saturday evening’s gala and included a humorous scene of Sir Lancelot trying to arrive from France to aid King Arthur but encountering excessive delays in passing through TSA security on his journey.

The audience, consisting of freedom lovers who value liberty, laughed at the folly of a brave knight needing to suffer the indignities of TSA screening before he could help a king. It was easy to laugh Saturday night, but real TSA screening is a royal pain.

I swapped stories with other attendees about going through TSA security lines on our way there. It reminded me of a time last year when I saw a sign from the so-called Transportation Security Administration (TSA) that read “Eight Most Common Reasons for Security Delays.” It warned against putting liquids in carry-ons, failing to take off shoes, etc.

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They forgot to list the #1 reason for delays: the TSA itself. The TSA causes long delays by (1) never having enough screening machines for the number of travelers, especially during peak travel hours; and (2) insisting on travelers going through time-consuming body scanners instead of metal detectors — requiring about five times longer to go through the process.

This inefficiency is typical of government compared to private enterprise. It usually takes me only a few minutes these days to check in with the airlines (with some exceptions). There seldom are any delays unless I have to change my flight. Even checking luggage doesn’t take too long anymore.

But the hassle of airline security never seems to improve. Real delays occur at airline security — where I almost always find long lines. Those delays largely are the fault of the TSA. It is typical of government. Whether you need to wait in line at the post office, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for a driver’s license or the IRS office, it involves dealing with government bureaucracy. Compare that lack of consideration to a privately run grocery store or bookstore. When long lines develop in those places, most of the time new check-out clerks are added rather quickly. The market responds! TSA should follow suit.


“I surrender to the TSA.”

In case you missed it, I encourage you to read my e-letter column from last week about how Wall Street is similar to Las Vegas. I also invite you to comment in the space provided below.

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