Will 2009 present an opportune time to diversify from stocks to gold?
"The government can't cure a disease that has been more than a decade in the making. The U.S has built up gigantic financial imbalances, and debt levels the world has never seen. Massive increases in public debt and spending can't replace the lost private-sector debt and cutbacks in consumer spending, allowing us to go on our merry way. The stock market is experiencing a snap-back rally, similar to what we saw in 1930, after the Crash of 1929.
You don't look that old.
Hickey: I wasn't around. They had a name for it, the 'little bull market.' It came about after the Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to 3.5% from 6%, and later to 1.5%. President Hoover had ordered federal departments to speed up construction projects, and the state governments to expand public works projects. He went to Congress asking for a huge tax cut and a doubling of spending on public buildings, dams, highways and harbors. That sounds familiar. Hoover predicted the crisis would end in 60 days. He received widespread praise for his intervention.
We see where you're going, but what about today?
Hickey: The market has had its worst crash since the Great Depression, and a new president is promising to pull out all the stops. We'll have massive infrastructure spending on roads and bridges. We'll have more tax rebates, and the government has made bailout commitments of more than $8 billion to support various markets. It has bailed out almost the entire banking system.
The stock market has rallied about 20%, and could go up 40% or 50%, as the little bull market did. Then reality is going to set in -- the reality that the economy is terrible, the unemployment rate is going to rise, the Fed's policies are imprecise. The dollar could get killed sometime this year, causing all kinds of problems. We have a more protectionist Congress. Deficit spending is unlikely to work. In sum, we have a date with more traditional bear-market levels. You'll see the single-digit P/Es [price/earnings multiples] that were typical in 1982, '74 even 1930 and '32. The market will go down significantly, and then make a bottom."