By Peter Schiff, President and CEO Euro Pacific Capital
The past four years or so have been extremely frustrating for investors like me who have structured their portfolios around the belief that the current experiments in central bank stimulus, the anti-business drift in Washington, and America’s mediocre economy and unresolved debt issues would push down the value of the dollar, push up commodity prices, and favor assets in economies with relatively low debt levels and higher GDP growth. But since the beginning of 2011, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has rallied 67% while the rest of the world has been largely stuck in the mud. This dominance is reminiscent of the four years from the end of 1996 to the end of 2000, when the Dow rallied 54% while overseas markets languished. Although past performance is no guarantee of future results, a casual look back at how the U.S. out-performance trend played out the last time it had occurred should give investors much to think about.
The late 1990s was the original “Goldilocks” era of U.S. economic history, one in which all the inputs seemed to offer investors the best of all possible worlds. The Clinton Administration and the first Republican-controlled Congress in a generation had implemented policies that lowered taxes, eased business conditions, and encouraged business investment. But, more importantly, the Federal Reserve was led by Alan Greenspan, whose efforts to orchestrate smooth sailing on Wall Street led many to dub Mr. Greenspan “The Maestro.”
Towards the end of the 1990’s, Greenspan worked hard to insulate the markets from some of the more negative developments in global finance. These included the Asian Debt Crisis of 1997 and the Russian debt default of 1998. But the most telling policy move of the Greenspan Fed in the late 1990’s was its response to the rapid demise of hedge fund Long term Capital Management (LTCM), whose strategy of heavily leveraged arbitrage backfired spectacularly in 1998. Greenspan engineered a $3.6 billion bailout and forced sale of LTCM to a consortium of Wall Street firms. The intervention was an enormous relief to LTCM shareholders but, more importantly, it provided a precedent that the Fed had Wall Street’s back. Read More..