And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because you have done this, you are cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon your belly shall you go, and dust shall you eat all the days of your life: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; it shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.

– Genesis 3:15

GUALFIN, ARGENTINA – “Aiyeeeee!”

This was the second aiyeeeee in less than 24 hours. The first came when a “raton” – a long-legged, oversized South American mouse – ran across the floor and darted under the bed.

Elizabeth is a very good sport and not given to dramatic outbursts. But the sight of the rat-like animal loping towards her caused a shriek.

The second aiyeeeee was much worse. It was as if the devil himself had appeared at the door of our little casita. Elizabeth jumped up on the bed shaking in absolute horror.

“There’s a snake… and it’s coming right for me!”

Sure enough, a five-foot-long reptile was headed for her – his head raised, his tongue darting out. He had probably tracked the raton into the house.

 

 

King of Debt

We’ll come back to our weekend adventures, but first, an update. Bloomberg:

The U.S. recorded a $215 billion budget deficit in February – its biggest in six years – as revenue declined.

Fiscal income dropped to $156 billion, down 9 percent from a year earlier, while spending rose 2 percent to $371 billion, the Treasury Department said on Monday. The deficit for the fiscal year that began in October widened to $391 billion, compared with a $351 billion shortfall the same period a year earlier, according to the Treasury report.

The data underscore concerns by some economists that Republican tax cuts enacted this year could increase the U.S. government debt load, which has surpassed $20 trillion. The tax changes are expected to reduce federal revenue by more than $1 trillion over the next decade, while a $300 billion spending deal reached by Congress in February could push the deficit higher.

Looking ahead, we predict that U.S. government debt will pass $40 trillion by 2028.

The Fed will never “normalize” policy. And when the next recession/crisis comes, the King of Debt, Donald J. Trump, will respond with even more budget-busting initiatives. (What else could he do?)

The feds are running record peacetime deficits with no emergency in sight. GDP is growing. We have “more than full employment” (whatever that means). And stocks are still near record highs.

You can imagine what we will have when stocks crash, unemployment goes to 10%, and the economy enters a recession!

But that story will take time to develop. In the meantime, we’ll tell you what happened here.

 

 

Getaway House

This past weekend was not easy on the Bonner party.

Nature – red in tooth and claw – seemed to be against us. We had taken two horses over to the valley where we grow our grapes. It is an idyllic place where we built a little getaway house, a marvel of adobe and stone, overlooking the vineyard. The grapes are almost ready for harvesting.

Water was running in the river. The temperature was perfect, birds were singing in the trees, and the sun was shining.

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Bill shares a picture of the countryside on the way to the valley

In a way, it is the ultimate “bolthole,” far from everything and everyone… no telephone reception, no electricity, no TV, no nothing.

The only other residents in the valley are Carlos – who tends the grapes – his wife, and their two small children.

We built the house ourselves. It is tiny, but has running hot and cold water (cold in the morning… hot in the evening) and minimal power from a car battery hooked up to a solar fence charger. It is heated by the sun, with no moving parts or advanced technology.

We cook over an open fire… and have dinner by candlelight outside on the veranda.

It is a delightful place. But a little wild.

 

 

First, the aforementioned raton came running in as we prepared for bed.

Then, the snake slithered towards Elizabeth when we got up in the morning.

And all night long, bugs – unseen and uncatalogued – bit us.

The raton was not really a problem. But the snake seemed to mean business. Fortunately, your editor has read the Bible. He knows how to deal with a serpent.

It just happened that he had a hoe ready to hand, for he had been working around the house with one. Hearing the cries of desperate horror, he grabbed the hoe and attacked the snake’s head.

Between the iron hoe and the soft serpent head, it was not much of a contest. It was a win-lose deal, and the loser was soon scooped off the floor and tossed outside.

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The snake gets on the “lose” side of a win-lose deal

Treacherous Track

One of the horses had developed a limp, so we released it to make its way back to the corral on its own.

Our plan was to ride up to one of the “puestos” [mountain outposts] which had been abandoned since the old woman who lived there died a year ago.

But without the horses, we resolved to take the shorter, but more difficult, track on foot. “You just follow the path,” our foreman Gustavo had advised.

This we did. And did. And did. Almost straight up the side of the mountain.

After 15 minutes, your editor was played out. A further 15 minutes, up, up, and up… and between gasps for scant air… he was beginning to think.

“I wonder whether it is really such a good idea? A fair-skinned, middle-aged couple from sea-level North America… the elder of whom in his 70th year… who spent his life sitting in front of a computer in a comfortable office… with no training or preparation for Andean hiking… far from anyone or anything… on a treacherous track at 10,000 feet in the mountains…

“What could go wrong? A sprained ankle? Sun stroke? Heat stroke? Or worse?”

The list of things that could go wrong grew in our minds.

But we kept going, begrudging every step, until… the path rose to the very top of the mountain… and disappeared. Out of breath. Out of path. Out of energy. We turned around and went back down the mountain.

“Hey Gustavo,” we followed up later, when we got back to the ranch house.

“I thought you said we could just follow the path.”

“Yes… you just follow the path. It’s pretty rough. And very high. And then, when you get to the top, well, you have to just make your own way down to the puesto.”

“But how are you supposed to know where the puesto is?”

“Well, I guess you just have to know.”

Regards,

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Bill

MARKET INSIGHT: HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO THE BULL

By Chris Lowe, Editor at Large, Bonner & Partners

Say happy birthday to this bull market.

Last Friday, the bull market in U.S. stocks celebrated its ninth year.

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After bottoming out at 676 on March 9, 2009, the S&P 500 has traded for 2,267 days without a 20% drop.

That makes it the second-longest bull market in history. It’s second only to the bull market of 1987 to 2000, which lasted for 3,109 trading days.

– Chris Lowe

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MAILBAG

In the mailbag, more talk of tariffs

Trump’s tariffs are actually the retaliatory response to others’ tariffs. The other countries have a choice to reduce tariffs and thus reduce costs for all. The bulls**t is from the folks saying fabricators will lose jobs at the expense of steel workers’ gains. It won’t happen that way because countries will adjust their tariffs down to avoid the 25% Trump has started!

– Earl E.

I agree with some of what you say, but if China sells a car to the USA, there is a 2.5% tariff. If the USA exports one to China, there is a 25% tariff. How is that win-win for America? Here in Australia, we do a lot of these deals. That’s why we are $600 billion in the hole.

– David H.

I agree 100% with you. Tariffs never have been and never will be good for the economy. They prop up the companies that fail to modernize and economize their operations, and cost the consumer more – in this case, anything made with steel and aluminum.

– Pete G.

Oh, get real, Bill! If the patsy sends us refrigerators, cars, and washing machines, and all he wants in exchange are pieces of green paper with dollar signs printed on them, doesn’t that seem like a win-win deal to you? Nobody forces the patsy to do that deal. Actually, Trump thinks it’s bad, and wants to give the patsy less green paper with dollar signs for his refrigerator. So how does your theory work in practice? Doesn’t it look like your paper with dollar signs print on it is more desired than refrigerators? At least for now? Stop being such a moron!

– Marius M.

Free trade benefits investors and the winners in markets where true fair competition exists. I am less convinced it benefits workers in industries which are rigged and where workers take years to become skilled. They cannot just change industry like that; life is not like that.

The assumption is that there is a level of human scrapheap waste acceptable to free trade advocates (90% of whom need one skill which is not being ripped off by charlatans after their pot of gold). So really, the debate is about whether human lives can be treated as disposable commodities by powerful investors and CEOs, or whether societies should be more cohesive and caring. There is no right answer; there is an ethical line to be laid out. The question is: Who lays it out?

– Rhys J.

Count me among the one in five that agrees with you on trade and other matters. Because you are one of only a select few who looks at the root causes of the economic imbalances, which in most cases is FFM (Fed Funny Money).

– Art M.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT…

Cryptocurrencies have been falling in 2018…

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