North Korean strongman Kim Jong Un did the unthinkable and launched a missile over Japan last Tuesday.
Tens of thousands of cell phones went off at once at 6:02 a.m. when that nation's government alerted citizens to the launch.
NHK – the nation's largest public broadcasting network – simultaneously flashed a "black screen" warning that the missile was approaching Japan and that everyone in its flight path should immediately take cover.
Air raid sirens blared in Sapporo on Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island.
People took cover.
Fourteen minutes later, things returned to "normal" when the missile fell into the Pacific.
But what exactly does that mean… normal?
That's hard to say.
My take is that the markets shook off the North Korean missile launch because traders realized very quickly that the situation did not go from bad to worse.
In years past something like this would have caused a massive sell-off, but now – sadly – the financial markets have learned to live with one of the biggest of the six Unstoppable Trends we follow: war, terrorism, and ugliness.
That said, I don't think we're out of the woods by a long shot.
In fact, I think the situation is going to get far more dangerous before it gets better.
Developing nuclear weapons is Kim's insurance policy because it all but guarantees the world will not mess with him, let alone sanction him or overthrow him with a U.S.-led coalition.
That means the possibility of a "hot war" is very real and very dangerous for your money.
Forget the notion of a preemptive strike or a limited engagement that's being bandied about. That's wishful thinking at best and incredibly naïve at worst. Even a single missile fired preemptively in anger is going to have devastating consequences.
More than 20 million South Koreans live within artillery range of North Korea, and that means nuclear weapons aren't the only cause for worries here. Chemical and biological weapons are, too.
Not only could Kim order a strike that takes out key South Korean infrastructure (including many U.S. military assets), but he could lob a few regional missiles into Japan, bringing that nation unspeakable horror the likes of which hasn't been seen since WWII.
Practically speaking, North Korea has very little to lose. Defense expert Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, put it this way in Vox, noting that "there wouldn't be a lot of incentive for [North Korean] restraint."
If Kim Jong Un believes he's going to lose even for a second, he will push every button at his disposal.
Even the button (controlling his nukes).
Kim's in so deep that he cannot back off without losing face and possibly control at the same time.
Worse, unlike other dictators over the years who have fled at the eleventh hour, Kim is so hated he likely has nowhere to go. He will make a last stand both literally and figuratively because he has no other choice.
The only thing to do now is figure out what that looks like and how it plays out.
I'm not trying to ruin your day. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
One of the things I promised you when we started Total Wealth was that we would be taking a good hard look at the events of our time… even when they involve things that are so unpleasant we'd rather not.
Like war, terrorism, and ugliness.
It's one of our Unstoppable Trends and, admittedly, the one I hate talking about if for no other reason than I am the father of two teenage boys, one of whom is draft age and who lives in Tokyo.
But we have to.
I wouldn't be doing my job as Chief Investment Strategist if we didn't.
War, terrorism, and ugliness is a growth industry that encompasses the best and worst of what humanity and the financial markets have to offer at the same time.
With that in mind, we have to hunt for ways to protect and grow our money with it just as we would with any other Unstoppable Trend.
About the Author
Keith Fitz-Gerald has been the Chief Investment Strategist for the Money Morning team since 2007. He's a seasoned market analyst with decades of experience, and a highly accurate track record. Keith regularly travels the world in search of investment opportunities others don't yet see or understand. In addition to heading The Money Map Report, Keith runs High Velocity Profits, which aims to get in, target gains, and get out clean, and he's also the founding editor of Straight Line Profits, a service devoted to revealing the "dark side" of Wall Street... In his weekly Total Wealth, Keith has broken down his 30-plus years of success into three parts: Trends, Risk Assessment, and Tactics – meaning the exact techniques for making money. Sign up is free at totalwealthresearch.com.