Kondratieff Wave analysis says we've entered a long, harsh winter. "Buy Gold" says this analyst...
GLOBALLY renowned as an economic forecaster, author and speaker, Ian Gordon is founder of the Longwave Group, specializing in the Longwave Principle originally expounded by Russian economist Nikolai Kondratieff in the early 20th century.
Also assisting select mining companies in financings, Ian Gordon now believes that gold and the precious metals sector will continue to provide very secure investment options, despite the economy slipping into a Kondratieff Winter, as he explains here to the Gold Report...
The Gold Report: According to your analysis based on the Longwave Principle, we are now in Winter, when the economy dies, the stock market crashes, and we enter depression. Could you describe this concept?
Ian Gordon: The basis of the Longwave Principle is the Kondratieff Cycle. Russian economist Nikolai Kondratieff developed his thesis on this in the 1920s. The cycle lasts approximately 50 to 60 years. I call it a lifetime cycle, because we live only one cycle in a meaningful way. For that reason, it is also very difficult for anyone to recognize where we are in the cycle because we haven't lived it that period before.
For example, we are now in the depression stage, but no one really refers to it that way. I do believe we are in depression because the real number on US unemployment is somewhere around 17%. That to me is a depression.
TGR: You call this period the Winter...
Ian Gordon: I've broken the cycle into the four seasons, and others have done the same – with Spring being the birth and rebirth of the economy, Summer being the time when the economy reaches its fruition, Autumn being the feel-good period. Kondratieff called Autumn the plateau period because it's when the economy levels out and it's also the season – always – of massive speculation in stocks, bonds and real estate.
There are indications of each season changing, and you have to know where you are in a cycle to be able to predict where you're going. At the Longwave Group, we've been able to demonstrate with a lot of comfort where we are in each of the seasons, when we change seasons and so on.
TGR: And the debt created in the previous period, Autumn, led to this depression stage?
Ian Gordon: Debt is a major part of it. Speculation is also a contributing factor. We went into Autumn between 1980 and 1982 and similarly between 1920 and 1921. Four events anticipated each of those Autumns. One was a peak in interest rates, second was a peak in prices, third was a bear market in stocks and fourth was a recession.
And then you go into this massive speculation in stocks, bonds and real estate in the Autumn because once the Federal Reserve takes interest rates quite dramatically down from the peak, money floods into the banks. It's also the season when you get the biggest build-up in debt. Any debt chart in the United States, for instance, shows that the debt really starts to take off at the beginning of what Kondratieff called Autumn.
When the big speculative bull market ends, it indicates that we're going into Winter. And Winter is when all the huge debt that's been built into the economy is wrung out, either through payback or – in most cases – bankruptcy. Creditors and debtors alike suffer very, very much during the Winter period. It causes a crisis in the banking system because banks are the biggest creditors. If you look at the last Winter after the 1929 stock market peak, some 10,000 US banks failed by 1933. In fact, when Roosevelt became president, he closed all banks for 10 days and sent in examiners. Banks deemed to be okay were allowed to reopen, and basically the doors stayed closed on the rest.
So, we're now in the Kondratieff Winter. I've argued the real peak in the stock market occurred in 2000; that was certainly the speculative peak on the Nasdaq. At that time, too, consumer confidence peaked. Alan Greenspan decided he didn't like Winter, and to save the American economy from a depression, he cut interest rates from 6% to 1%, and pushed enormous amounts of money back into the banking system to try to refloat the economy.
Greenspan did achieve his aims to some extent, but in effect, he really built up the debt level to absolutely unmanageable proportions and particularly in the housing market, which resulted in this huge speculative phase in real estate.
That housing market bubble burst, and it has a lot further to go on the downside. The stock bear market that began after the Nasdaq peak – and it has never gotten anywhere close to that level since – began for the Dow in October 2007.
TGR: If we infer that each season lasts about 15 years, give or take five, we're pretty much halfway through Winter now. Is that right...?
Ian Gordon: I don't think we are. This is the first Kondratieff Winter in which the entire world has been subjected to a fiat system [with money not backed by Gold Bullion or any other tangible commodity]. It's so much easier through the printing process to try to stave off the bad days. As I've said, Greenspan made it appear that Winter hadn't started by printing all this money. And we did have a bear market. The Dow dropped – what? – 35%, and the Nasdaq dropped almost 80% into 2002.
TGR: You indicated that the major thing that happens during Winter is debt gets taken out, either through bankruptcy or payback. Where does hyperinflation fit in that picture?
Ian Gordon: I am very much a deflationist. Taking the debt out of the system is in itself a deflation process. You can see it in falling housing prices. As debt comes out of the housing and mortgage markets, it deflates prices. We're going to see the same in stock prices. Wealth is being reduced considerably, and that is deflationary.
A lot of people who argue for inflation say that all the money being printed eventually has to go through the banks back into the economy. But it's like being on a treadmill. You running as fast as the treadmill goes, but you don't get anywhere. The Federal Reserve is printing copious amounts of money trying to re-start the economy. Unfortunately, the rate of debt being taken out of the system eventually will overwhelm their ability to do that.
TGR: Your Winter Warnings indicates that as we move through this collapse, China will become a scapegoat in terms of other governments implementing policies that will harm Chinese exports. If the Chinese GDP is growing and they're already becoming less reliant on exports, could they have a milder Winter than Europe and the US?
Ian Gordon: I think perhaps the Chinese Winter will be the worst of all, and again we have a parallel. China is the US of the '20s. The US came out of World War I as the world's largest creditor nation, with a major significant growth in its industrial prowess – all of which China is today.
At that time, the US government was paying down debt, and it wasn't that significant anyway. And now, the Chinese government doesn't have much debt either. But in the US, corporations and consumers of the Roaring '20s built up huge amounts of debt.
You see parallels in the housing market in the '20s to what we see today in China. A lot of suburbs were developed because people had automobile or railway access to the suburbs. At the same time, we had a major development of skyscrapers in city centers, monstrous buildings carrying monstrous debt.
China is in that kind of process. What happens when you get so wealthy, you're exporting so much, particularly to the United States, the Chinese government takes the US Dollars and credits the bank with Renminbi. The bank has all this money on hand. So a local businessman goes to the bank and says, "I want to build a factory and build toys for Toys 'R' Us in the United States." The banker says, "Fine." He has all this money; he makes the loan; the borrower goes and builds his factory. Somewhere across town, someone else goes to another bank and does the same, and again and again with different borrowers and lenders. It's the mal-investment that occurs when you have so much money floating in the system.
TGR: And then what?
Ian Gordon: Eventually, the United States, the biggest importer of Chinese products, cannot continue buying at that level. Despite the pace of growth in China's economy, it still takes probably at least 50 years, maybe more, to develop a middle class. Those are the people who have the wherewithal to spend. So, it's going to take China a long, long time; it's still very much an agrarian economy.
For these reasons, I think China's banking system will go the way the US banking system did in the '30s, and the whole economy will go into a collapse. But out of it, she will rise as did the US as the greatest economic, financial and political power. She will be the world leader.
TGR: You went into Buying Gold early on, back in 2000, but you've also said that cash is one of the best investments. What makes cash a good investment during the Winter period?
Ian Gordon: Because it's deflationary. The value of everything your cash can purchase is going down, so you can buy more. For instance, when we were renting a house in Phoenix, we were told you can buy 4,500-square-foot homes here for $150,000. You can't even build them for that kind of money today. If you have $1 million in cash now, it might buy you one really nice home where I live in White Rock, BC, but in four or five years' time, it might buy you five of them. We're seeing that in all sorts of things; even automobiles are getting cheaper.
TGR: Why wouldn't US investors have all their money in gold? And when they need to pay bills, they convert it into cash? That's assuming that gold ultimately will retain its value, whereas all fiat currencies are going to come down.
Ian Gordon: I don't know that all currencies are going to come down relative to each other. For years I said the Euro was a cobbled political currency that would never survive a Kondratieff Winter. And we're starting to see that's likely to happen. Everybody is trying to pick the winner. Right now they're picking the US Dollar. Before they were picking the Euro. Except maybe the Renminbi, all the currencies are vulnerable. Definitely the Yen is very vulnerable because the ratio of debt to GDP in Japan is so massive already.
TGR: So if the currencies are all vulnerable, should we put all of our cash into gold and basically liquidate it for cash when we need it?
Ian Gordon: One problem with that is we don't know how the government will respond to those who own gold. It's dangerous to put all of your eggs in one basket. You'd be trusting the politicians not to do what Roosevelt did in 1933. After he confiscated gold, Americans kind of got around it by investing in gold companies. They were very profitable, and all the money, all capital ultimately flowed to gold because it was the only thing people trusted. It was going to gold because that's where people wanted to be.
That led to a major number of discoveries made, including, in Canada, all along the Abitibi Greenstone Belt and in British Columbia. They couldn't have been made without money. By 1940, according to the US Bureau of Mines, 000 gold mines were operating in the United States. Of course, those were the ones that people reported. People panning gold up in Alaska didn't tell anybody that they were an operating mine. They were just hoarding the gold.
TGR: So, it's a combination of owning gold and gold stocks. Or should we say precious metals – including silver...?
Ian Gordon: As for silver, it didn't really work as a monetary instrument in the early 1930s. Although at that time US coinage from the Dollar to the dime was minted in silver, so there was certainly hoarding of silver coinage during the last depression. During this depression silver may well take on a monetary role, since the price of gold might take that metal out of reach of many people. I think only the precious metals work – again because of the stock market debacle that I see occurring. We know that investing in precious metals worked in the '30s. People were pushing their money into gold stocks because they wanted to be in gold in any shape or form.
TGR: Because you're suggesting that all Gold Mining companies will increase in value during this timeframe, should the average investor be concerned about which specific gold companies to invest in?
Ian Gordon: Certainly the producing companies will go up with the rising price of gold. Don't forget in the early '30s the Gold Price was fixed at $20.67 and it wasn't raised to $35 until 1934. But even so, people were investing in the gold companies, both explorers and big producers such as Homestake.
Today, I tend to put my money into the juniors because that's where I see the leverage to a rising Gold Price. But you've got to be very, very selective and very cautious. You have to evaluate management of these companies. In Canada, particularly in Vancouver where most of the junior precious metals companies are situated, we're living with these people. It's very tough in the United States, where you have to rely much more on what others tell you. Fortunately, a lot of very reputable newsletter writers and so on are trying to do a good job in their recommendations.
TGR: What's your strategy for finding good junior prospects?
Ian Gordon: I try to find companies that will make me 10 times my money in two years. I'm not going to say that happens every time, but it has happened fairly frequently. We've had a number of 10-baggers. A few of those that give you 10 times your money can make up for a fair number that are wrong.
TGR: Where do you hunt?
Ian Gordon: I look at companies that others are ignoring or have lost interest in because people feel they haven't accomplished much. I also look at companies where I really like the management – managers who are truly committed to their shareholders and not themselves. And through the years, when I invest in a company, I tend to stay in it if I can see a double in 10 months.
I think that it is important that your readers do their own due diligence on Gold Mining companies. They are very speculative and may not be suitable investments for everyone. They should consult with their investment advisor before making any investment decision.
TGR: In 2008, we saw junior gold stocks, all gold stocks, go down. Fund managers were selling anything they could because they needed cash. You're predicting another major financial collapse in the US. Why will it be different this time?
Ian Gordon: I think the run to gold will become very extreme this time around, but in many cases these gold stocks today haven't recovered from their highs of early 2008 anyway. If you look back on the past Winter, when the Dow lost 48% of its value between September and November of 1929, Homestake crashed. But in subsequent downs, Homestake went up. I feel that will happen again.
TGR: What would you do?
Ian Gordon: Let me put it this way. I have almost 100% of my investment money in these kinds of stocks. I don't really have much cash sitting in my investment accounts.
TGR: How long do you think the Winter is going to continue? And when do you guesstimate this next crash will hit? When was the next rally in the last Winter?
Ian Gordon: The stock market recovered 50% of its losses in a rally into April of 1930. That's very similar to the rally we went through from March 2009 to mid-January this year. Now, we're on the downturn again in the market, and I am predicting that this one will take us down to somewhere about 5250 on the Dow either this year or early next year. And then we'll get another rally. Hope springs eternal.
But then I think the whole stock market bottom will be reached in 2012. The only reason I am picking 2012 is I am a huge fan of a great cycles guy, who died in 1955, called W. D. Gann.
TGR: Oh, yes...
Ian Gordon: He did a lot on anniversaries and so on, and 2012 happens to be the 30th anniversary of the 1982 bottom, which was the beginning of the big speculative Autumn bull market. And it's the 10-year anniversary of the first bottom, in 2002. The market peaked in 2000 and dropped in 2002. It's also the 80th anniversary of the 1932 Winter bear market bottom, after the Dow had dropped 90% from its 1929 high.
That's why I wrote a piece on my website called "This is It" in 2007, and one of the things that convinced me was when I saw those Bears Stearns funds sort of going bankrupt in July 2007. That was the 20-year anniversary of the '87 crash, the 100-year anniversary of a big market crash back in 1907, the 150th anniversary of a big 1857 crash. All these Gann kinds of numbers came in at the same time in 2007. That was so compelling that I was absolutely convinced that 2007 was the end. And that's proved to be correct.
TGR: So you're saying the market is going to be drop by half this year.
Ian Gordon: Yep. I think we're going to have a crash in stock prices this year. But I am staying long in my gold stocks.
TGR: Will this Winter end in 2012 then?
Ian Gordon: No, it's just the bear market bottom. Remember the bear market bottomed in 1932. But the Great Depression didn't really end until World War II. The Winter continued even though the bear market had bottomed.
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