Will the masters of disaster ever be proven right?
On CNBC's "Futures Now, " "Dr. Doom" Marc Faber presented a dire assessment of a broad range of investments, from the American stock market to bonds and real estate, proclaiming that "it's a colossal bubble in all asset prices, and eventually it will burst, and maybe it has begun to burst already."
The publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report, who is now calling for a 30 percent crash in the S&P 500, put it even more succinctly at the very end of the interview Tuesday: "We're all doomed! We're all doomed!"
That view was echoed by Peter Schiff, CEO of Euro Pacific Capital, though the gold bug is more concerned about a decline in the value of the U.S. dollar, which would help boost gold prices.
"I think we're saying the same thing, just with a different accent," Schiff quipped. "I would agree with you that it's a bubble, but if the Fed is determined to fill it with more air, don't you think they may succeed in slowing down the process and so the nominal decline in stocks may not be nearly as great as the decline in the value of the dollar."
But it's worth noting that these calls are not exactly new. Schiff has long been calling for a demise in the dollar that will spike gold, and knows well the power of the word "crash" – he has authored four books with that word in the title. And while the gold trade worked out for many years, those who have forsaken stocks and bought gold over the past two years have clearly made a terrible decision.
Faber has been calling for a major, 20-percent-or-more correction for years. As Bill McBride asks rhetorically on his Calculated Risk Blog, "Since the market is up 40% since his 2012 prediction, shouldn't he be expecting something like a 50%+ decline now?"
Still, Faber and Schiff continue to be popular market voices. Perhaps the American taste for hearing about market crashes is similar to the taste for disaster movies.
"Americans love a stock market crash for the same reason many of them go to Nascar races," said Scott Nations of NationsShares.
"We are addicted to 'big stories,'" added Jim Iuorio of TJM Institutional Services. "We don't want to hear that 'it's a cold winter,' we want to hear that 'it's the coldest winter on record.' The same thing holds true for predictions of the stock market. Fear sells."
Still, Iuorio says there might be something to all these ultra-bearish calls.
"I believe that we are increasing the potential for a dramatic correction in equity market. The fact that the global central bank 'put' has emboldened investors is not a good thing." Iuorio said. "The longer we put off a correction, the greater the potential for a violent move. But I think the bubble is in its early stage, as I don't see mom and pop borrowing money to buy stocks."
Mark Dow, a money manager who writes at the Behavioral Macro blog, says that the "crash" calls come out of a natural human tendency to fear losses more than we prize gains, compounded by the "scars" of the past two crashes and a tendency to misunderstand the impact of the Federal Reserve's stimulative policies.
But for Dow, the masters of disaster actually have a valuable role in the rally.
"The two things that keep this bull market alive are these guys fanning the flames of our memory, and a misunderstanding of the Fed giving these guys a semi-credible leg to stand on," Dow said.
If people weren't told that the rally was a sham and a crash was around the corner, stocks would have risen much faster, he maintains. But thanks in part to the bearish voices, people have continued to be underinvested in stocks, and "higher prices have to drag them out."
Eventually the market will plunge, Dow says. But not anytime soon.
"At some point, memories of the past will fade and animal spirits will kick in. Once we get out over our skis in terms of the economy, that's when we'll get a recession."
Ironically, then, the very fact that bears like Schiff and Faber continually remind Americans what crashes feel like may be just what the market needs to continue its slow and steady rise. In that way, these oracles of doom may be serving the valuable purpose of preventing the very bubble they warn of.