02 December 2009


Real Estate. We are in the midst of an inflationary depression. On one side we have the ravages of debt. On the other, an uneasy coalition between the printing press and the psychology of a people.

The government will continue printing dollars to support the economy. Debt which pushed up asset values will now cause them to deflate as people pay down their debts instead of buying. The over-leveraged will continue to experience pain and their defaults will further damp asset values. The government prints dollars under different names but its key effort is to replace the personal spending that is now devoted to saving.

The rise of gold is unremarkable. Against copper, gold has risen about 40% since the beginning of 2007. Against oil, gold has risen 60%. Against stocks, of course gold is up 120%.

I'm not sure exactly how much gold has risen against "real estate," but with housing prices roughly down about 30% nationally, and gold up around 100%, we can all guess the relevant math.

Of course we are looking at values versus their peak, but that is exactly the point. The point in the past which we pick for measurement is arbitrary; we can only make decisions in the present. We are looking for the point at which we collectively hit our debt maxima, and we are guessing the point at which the government will target for suitable valuation.

Of course, this assumes that the government has any agency in the matter, which it does, but only indirectly.

My biggest mistake in the past 2 years has been trusting in the efficacy of printing dollar bills. It turns out this is an extremely blunt instrument. The government can no more guarantee asset values.

Our collective debt will hold down "real estate." But "real estate" values hold a reflexive power over broad swathes of the economy. The government will thus target a price level based on real estate values.

In this process, the government will anchor the values of all other goods. Tangible, fungible goods will attain a steady state value. Tangible but subjective/discernible goods, another. Subjective paper goods will suffer against common paper but against gold most of all. Gold, the most subjective of goods.

Regardless, under the best of scenarios, we will see "real estate" values depreciate by the scale of each buyer's dreams... assuming these dreams are rooted and leveraged in paper.

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