How Bad It Is and What to Do Next

So, how bad is it out there for businesses these days? In two words:

Getting worse.

I’ve been traveling extensively for work and all you hear from people are complaints about the economy. In New York, the cab drivers can’t make their daily wages. In Tampa, I find the roads quiet, lacking traffic in a surreal atmosphere. In Chicago, the once “hottest” restaurants are empty. In Baltimore, the airport is empty. In Miami, crime is up and absolute condominium auctions are the vogue. In all cases, I find airline flights are half full at the most.

Job losses so far in the U.S. this year stand at 1.9 million. President-elect Obama is predicting that we will lose another two million jobs in 2009.

Businesses around the world are suffering from the global recession. Almost no one is being spared. The U.S. housing boom that peaked in 2005 was literally a house of cards that fell, taking everyone down.

Looking forward, my biggest concern has to do with the debt the U.S. government is accumulating and the ever-increasing supply of U.S. dollars in the system.

Ben Bernanke and Hank Paulson are, in my opinion, as close to dropping dollars from airplanes that we are going to get. The amount of monetary and economic stimulus is unprecedented. Unfortunately, the money is being proverbially dropped from airplanes into the backyards of banks that are hoarding the cash instead of lending it out to small businesses that need it.

More action will likely be taken to help small businesses in the weeks and months ahead. The negative here is that the entire stimulus is essentially being created with debt and a printing press of U.S. dollars. In the end, this will come back to haunt investors who are not prepared.

Today, people are running to U.S. dollars, pushing down the yield on government T-bills. As many of the government bailouts will eventually prove themselves to be a waste of taxpayer money, I believe the viability of the U.S. dollar will come into question.

You can prepare for this today by ensuring your portfolio has exposure to non-dollar denominated instruments such as gold or quality gold stocks. It’s no secret that getting your hands on gold bullion bars these days has become next to impossible. The only gold dealers out there that have them are asking unrealistic premiums. But the depressed state of the stock market, in my opinion, has made the large, quality gold-producing stocks a viable alternative.

** What he said…

“Prepare for the worst economic period ahead that we have seen in years, my dear reader, as that is what I see coming. I’ve written over the past three years about how, in the late 1920s, real estate prices fell first before the stock market and how I felt the same would happen this time. Home prices in the U.S. peaked in 2005 and started falling in 2006. The stock market is following suit here in 2008. Is a depression coming? No. How about a severe deflationary recession? Yes!” — Michael Lombardi, about 1.9 million jobs ago, in PROFIT CONFIDENTIAL, January 21, 2008.