Add legendary photographer> Annie Leibovitz to the list of celebrities either in bankruptcy or close to it, joining Stephen Baldwin and Lenny Dykstra as well-known (and well-compensated) individuals finding themselves long bills and short cash.
Awash in overleveraged real estate and unpaid invoices for private jets, you can t help but feel a quiet pang of schadenfreude, but also sadness for them. It s unquestionably worse to have had money and lose it than to never have it at all. But just like millions of other Americans prior to 2008, they developed a dangerous habit of living far beyond their means. It was the wealth effect writ large.
As evidenced by the soaring savings rate, from negative in 2005 to near 7% today, along with a near-religious interest in frugality and thrift, that s a trend which has clearly reversed and is benefiting the economy as a whole more than any government stimulus program ever could.
From Cash for Clunkers to the so-called stimulus checks," efforts to revive the economy have centered mostly on promoting consumption. Commentators and politicians have repeatedly made the point that we want people to spend money, not simply stuff it into a savings account.
They re patently wrong. When money is saved, it s not buried in an underground vault but invested by bankers, who, in a free economy, turn around and make loans with that savings to homeowners, established companies and promising new start-ups.
This is what the advocates for big government spending don t seem to understand. Consumption represents the end of the productive cycle. Savings, and thus investment, is what fuels the economy forward. The recent uptick in the savings rate is an encouraging sign.
Now at a nine-month high is the Mexican peso, which melted last year as investors fled risk during the credit crisis but is now benefiting from both higher energy prices and an increased appetite for risk. While I admit to still nursing losses from last year s bullish call, the peso s recent strength, which can be captured via CurrencyShares Mexican Peso (FXM),
CurrencyShares Mexican Peso Trust (FXM) 1 year>
Government Craters Commodities ETFs
Leave it to federal regulators to completely destroy the growing and successful market for commodity-based ETFs.
After two years of successful operation, the popular U.S. Natural Gas Fund (UNG),
Running on Empty
U.S. Natural Gas Fund (UNG) 2 years>
Similarly, iPath Dow Jones UBS Natural Gas (GAZ),
Essentially, the regulations have made these previously accurate and efficient instruments nearly worthless. Individual investors who might want exposure to commodities such as natural gas must now opt for highly leveraged futures markets or expensive, off-exchange alternatives. Is that what the CFTC wanted?
What makes the limits even more bizarre is that they come at a time when natural gas prices have plummeted, down more than 50% year to date. If speculators are having an effect on natural gas, they re pushing it lower -- not bullying it higher.
The funds themselves weren t clamoring for these arbitrary and disruptive regulations. Neither were investors, who had been happily and voluntarily snapping up shares in an attempt to hedge against inflation and diversify their portfolios. Nor were consumers, who now enjoy the massive benefit of lower energy prices.
Who does the regulation benefit? Only the regulators themselves. This latest salvo against open markets and free trade is a feeble attempt to legitimize a branch of government that does nothing but prevent law-abiding citizens from trading among themselves.