Will the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction Vanish in 2013?
In 2013, Congress is expected to explore a number of tax reforms in order to address staggering deficits and a crippling $17 trillion in debt owed by the Federal government.
No proposed tax reform will be more controversial this year than attempts to alter the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction (HMID).
Considered the holy grail of tax deductions, the annual tax break to homeowners, which provides more than $100 billion a year in tax relief, could see significant changes, thus affecting the finances of millions of Americans.
But in order to understand how these changes could affect you, one needs to understand how this tax break became so monstrous in the first place, and what the impact of such proposals could have on the housing markets.
In fact, this very issue proves why even grander tax reform is necessary right now in the United States.
Your Best Strategy for Playing This QE Rally
Don't worry. The bubble "Quantitative Easing" has built is still intact. For now.
However, even though there's breathing room, don't think it's time to breathe easy. There will be Hell to pay, just not now.
And I have found three opportunities to take advantage of the next phase in this unsettling market.
But let's gather some perspective first.
The news that the Fed might taper QE bond purchases gave the bond (and stock) markets a fit of the vapors and caused gold to careen toward $1,200 an ounce.
Can the Fed Cause a Stock Market Crash?
A recent article by Paul B. Farrell of MarketWatch said that there is a 98% risk of a stock market crash before the end of 2014.
He said in the article "bubbles are everywhere. . .ready to blow."
That's quite a statement. One key reason Farrell expects a crash? Federal Reserve policies.
He believes that the three major bubbles that have blown up in the past two decades were caused in large part by the Fed's loose monetary policies.
The three bubbles are: the Asian financial bubble that resulted in the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, the Dot-Com bubble of the late '90s and early '00s, and the credit/housing bubble that resulted in the 2008 financial crisis.
For readers unfamiliar with the term bubble, it simply means a financial asset whose price has been driven far beyond any rational analysis of its true worth. And although they look like they will rise forever, since there is little substantial basis for the valuation, these asset prices will eventually pop just like a soap bubble.
The pop results in a substantial drop in price – in other words, a crash.
Farrell quotes SocGen's global strategist Kit Juckes as saying all these bubbles were "fueled by the Fed keeping policy rates below the nominal growth rate of the economy far too long." Juckes went on to call current conditions the "bubble with no name."
He may be on to something. Even members of the Federal Reserve are worried.
In the mid-May meeting of the Fed's Advisory Council, some members expressed "strong concerns" over the Fed's low interest rate policies and its bond purchase program, which some members said could result in an "unsustainable bubble" in the stock and bond markets.
Thus, we've had the talk in recent weeks about 'tapering' the Fed's purchases of bonds.
A History of the Gold Standard
This history of the gold standard explains why there's a growing group of advocates calling for its return…
President Herbert Hoover made a statement in 1933 that rang true for centuries and still rings true today for many: "We have gold because we cannot trust governments."
Hoover was talking about how governments have never been able to resist the temptation to inflate the amount of paper money issued until that paper money becomes nearly worthless. Gold, meanwhile, has been a reliable preserver of wealth for literally centuries.
Some nations have tried to meld the two together – gold and paper money – through the use of what is called the gold standard.
A gold standard is a monetary system where paper money is directly convertible into a fixed amount of gold. In other words, the value of paper money is backed by gold.
England was the first country to adopt such a monetary system in 1822 and its use soon spread around the world, including in the United States.
Why the U.S. Dollar is Rising – And Why It's Still Doomed
Many have wondered – and rightly so – why the U.S. dollar is rising even though the U.S. Federal Reserve has done just about everything possible to debase the currency over the past five years.
Over the past two years, the U.S. Dollar index, which measures the dollar against a basket of major world currencies, is up by more than 12.6%.
Part of the answer is that most of the world's other central banks have pursued easy money policies similar to the Fed's. In the so-called "currency wars," the U.S. dollar has one major built-in advantage.
"The U.S. has never defaulted," explained Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald. "The world may hate our guts, but when all hell breaks loose, they all love our dollar."
Also helping to explain why the U.S. dollar is rising is that it remains the world's reserve currency – the money a majority of nations use to buy commodities such as oil — and that the U.S. economy, for all its warts, is in better shape than most of the other developed economies in the world.
"The dollar the best-looking horse in the glue factory," Fitz-Gerald said.
So it wasn't too surprising that when the Fed recently hinted that it might start "tapering" its quantitative easing (bond-buying) policies later this year, the U.S. Dollar index spiked 3.1%.
But Fitz-Gerald said that investors still need to be wary of the stronger U.S. dollar going forward.
This Sept. 2 Event Could Send the U.S. Dollar Crashing
Beware: The IRS Is Putting More and More Armed Agents in the Field
"A Career In Action! As an IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) Special Agent, you will pull together your accounting and law enforcement skills. CI special agents are duly sworn law enforcement officers who investigate complex financial crimes associated with tax evasion, money laundering, narcotics, public corruption, and much more. Are You Ready For The Challenge?" – from www.irs.gov
Now that sounds exciting. Part accountant… Part cop… All IRS. Opening soon at a theater near you.
But what would the Internal Revenue Service do with armed agents? We've already seen what the IRS can do when it's not packin' heat. They wield considerable power to collect taxes, or at least make lives miserable, so why would they require the extra coercive power of firearms?
The IRS doesn't exactly advertise the fact that they field armed, sworn officers, but they have been making more appearances lately.
The Fed Or the Fundamentals? What's Behind Stock Market Moves?
What's driving the stock market – the Fed or company fundamentals?
The answer, of course, depends whom you ask.
Has most or all of the growth in the market over the past few years been due to the Fed's massive QE easy money stimulus?
Or is it fundamentals like earnings per share and the price/earnings ratio?
We asked three experts to weigh in: Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald, Money Morning Capital Wave Strategist Shah Gilani and Brian Wesbury, the chief economist at First Trust Advisors.
Here's their take.
Different Fed Chairman, Same Bad Monetary Policy in 2014
One of these economic alchemists may likely assume the job of Ben Bernanke. If so, pray for us.
Last week, President Obama indicated that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke will likely step down in January when his term ends. After taking office in 2006 under then-President George W. Bush, Bernanke has facilitated the greatest economic transfer of wealth from America's grandchildren to banks and foreign nations in the name of sustaining the Keynesian vision of the economic stimulus.
But with Bernanke's departure, it is unclear just who will take the reins of the Federal Reserve, and what policies they will seek to maintain or discard five years after the height of the financial crisis.
Here are the five top contenders that we expect to make Obama's shortlist for next Fed Chairman. And each one of them should give us a great deal of concern due to their commitment to the same tired economic theory and policies that they are convinced will eventually work if we just keep doubling down.