Dohmen makes the case for a worst-case scenario
TERRY SAVAGE email@example.com Oct 27, 2008
Bert Dohmen, publisher of The Wellington Letter, accurately predicted the current credit crisis.
Updated: May 3, 2013 12:14PM
When everyone is telling you that this credit crisis could not have been predicted, you can point to one man who boldly -- and incredibly accurately -- told you exactly what was going to happen. His name is Bert Dohmen, publisher of The Wellington Letter for the past 30 years (Ddohmencapital.com), one of my all-time favorite newsletters.
On March 24, 2008, I interviewed Bert on the publication of his book, Prelude to Meltdown. His predictions, below, were frightening. But his forecast today is even more shocking.
Dohmen's view in March 2008:
Having sent out a warning when the Dow Jones Industrial Average made its first close above 14,000 in July 2007, Dohmen was exceedingly bearish by March 2008:
"The world has seen the greatest credit bubble ever seen by man. . . . The enormity of this problem is beyond anything we have ever seen in financial history.
"The size of the leverage and the financial instruments that are outstanding, and now defaulting, are beyond the ability of any central bank, or all of the central banks combined, to bail out. We've never had a situation where the central banks were not big enough to bail out a situation -- but we have it now."
". . . My forecast is that the next big crisis will be the credit default swaps -- a $45 trillion, highly leveraged market. These are basically insurance policies that buyers of mortgage securities (CDOs) bought against a mortgage default. Banks and hedge funds 'wrote' this insurance. . . . Now that the mortgages are defaulting, the sellers are saying they don't have the capital to make good on the insurance.
"The key word over the next year is counter-party risk, because these were unregulated side deals. . . . The regulators were totally asleep."
Dohmen's not worried about inflation. Instead. he sees a deflationary collapse and recommends U.S. treasury securities.
That was back in March 2008.
What Dohmen says now:
Bert Dohmen nailed it! We spoke over this past weekend and I asked him about Warren Buffett's very public decision to support the markets by buying stocks.
Dohmen says it is a "patriotic" move on Buffett's part. But not necessarily a smart move, based on history. Dohmen points out that markets are mathematical, and 50 percent bounces in a bear market are typical. But often that's not the end of the big decline:
"Most bear markets, after a major bubble has burst, decline 80-90 percent, going back to where the bubble started. In the United States, that's what happened after the 1929 crash. During the 1973-74 bear market, the broad ValueLine Index was down over 80 percent. In 2000-2002, the NASDAQ composite was down over 80 percent. So until a major index is down over 80 percent, I will not even start looking for a bottom!"
Dohmen notes that since this was a financial bubble that has burst, the most significant decline is likely to occur in an index of financial sector stocks, such as the exchange traded fund -- XLF -- that tracks many of these companies: "So far it is down from around 38 in 2007 to 13 now, which means there's a ways to go on the downside for financial companies."
One year ago, on Oct. 15 2007, his newsletter was headlined "Top of the Rally" -- calling that rise from mid-summer 2007 a "fake-out rally."
Today he's predicting another fake-out, saying: "Shorter term, we're due for an oversold rally. People will bargain hunt thinking they're getting buying opportunities of a lifetime, and they'll all be trapped at the top of this rally."
When is that likely to happen? "We'll tell our subscribers. But I can say the worst is still ahead over the next several years for stock market investors.
"We are seeing the greatest de-leveraging in the history of mankind, because it was the greatest financial bubble we've ever seen. This is a flight to cash, because no one has cash. Cash is the rarest commodity that you will find in any household. And it could take 17 years from the 2000 top in the stock market to reach the next good buy point for long-term investors. . . . In the meantime, it will be a great environment for traders, with plenty of tradable rallies and declines. But forget buy and hold."
I couldn't leave it at that. Isn't there something optimistic to say? He reminded me that false optimism doesn't help and is not an obligation of the media, or me. His final words: "Use any rally to sell."
I shuddered, but having read Dohmen's insightful advice for 30 years, I take his views seriously.
Now we'll see: Buffett the Bull, or Bert the Bear. The markets will decide who's right. And that's the Savage Truth.
Terry Savage is a registered investment adviser. Distributed by Creators Syndicate. Copyright Terry Savage Productions Ltd.