Market Boredom and QE3

The markets are officially boring me to death. Gold and silver have stemmed their dramatic declines to an extent, and this is giving people the courage to buy. I still think it’s a little early, but buying here is not the worst thing in the world. I personally would love to see another month or so of consolidation.

I get the sense that the next important period for the markets will be mid to late June, which is when we’ll have a better idea of the future of quantitative easing. I personally don’t think the economy has the strength to stand on its own legs. The Fed understands this, and at this point they are trying to raise confidence. If consumer confidence continues to rise as it has the past 3 months, QE may be off the table. However, rising food and gas prices coupled with a persistently weak labor environment can quickly take its toll on consumer confidence. We’ll see how this plays out.

The key to this entire economic puzzle remains housing. If the Fed decides to ease up on quantitative easing, housing will probably suffer, but not as much as people think. Banks, in part because of legislation, have taken a very conservative stance. For example, it is very hard to get a loan to buy condos because banks have the underlying fear that the condo association will go bust. But the reason the condo association is in danger of going bust is because banks won’t give qualified borrowers loans! As you can see, tightness in credit tends to have a snowball effect. There is definitely money to be lent, it is just not being lent yet.

The one positive for housing is that home values have become so extreme in many parts of the country that cash buyers are scooping up properties left and right. This is creating a floor in housing, which is exactly what banks need to feel comfortable unloading their huge inventory. After putting in some kind of bottom this year, it is more likely that housing will trade sideways than experience another 20-30% decline. And if there is another 20-30% decline, savvy investors will be buying even more, that’s a guarantee.

Most people don’t know that housing pretty much went nowhere from 1912-1945. Some would take this as their cue to get the heck out of housing. But remember, within this extended downward cycle was the great boom of the 1920′s. Those who chose to ignore housing missed out on great profit opportunities. Also keep in mind that you are effectively hedged with 30-years of fixed money at sub-5% rates. If an inflationary Armageddon does arrive, you’ll do just fine.

Anyway, late 2011 into 2012 is where I was always focused on. Some interesting things should occur that will affect our investment decisions. Focus on interest rates and gold.

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