Marc Faber says central banks doomed to fail, as Fed, BOJ decisions come under microscope

Central bankers are like alchemists, according to Marc Faber
Central bankers are like alchemists, according to Marc Faber

Central bankers trying to spur growth are like alchemists trying to make gold and they're just as likely to fail, said Marc Faber, the publisher of the Gloom, Boom & Doom report.

"When I think of central banks, I think of alchemists," Faber, also known as Dr. Doom for his pessimistic views, told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday.

"They were trying to mix all kinds of powders and chemicals to produce essentially gold. And they all failed," he said, although he noted that some alchemists did produce other useful chemicals during their ill-fated search for the precious metal.

"But the central banks are just mixing water, in other words, paper money, and the results cannot be a favourable outcome in the long run."

Faber noted that from the 1970s to the mid-1980s, people believed inflation was "forever," but now the same central banks that were fighting inflation were now fighting deflation. This fight was a mistake, he said, claiming that across Asia, price rises were exceeding income gains.

"It's possible that suddenly inflationary pressures will be there, that central banks should then act but they cannot because the system is so overleveraged," he said.

At the same time, Faber noted that the low and negative interest rates globally were hurting pension funds.

"Pension funds, even in these beautiful years of returns, 2009 to today, they have become less funded, they have become more underfunded," he said. "With interest rates at zero and this low, their portion that's in bonds is never going to meet the expected returns of 7.5 percent. It's physically not possible."

This would spell "big trouble" for the pension fund sector and thus workers' retirement funds, Faber cautioned.

That potential outcome was part of Faber's thesis for one of his long-time favorite investment options: Gold.

Faber doesn't expect the major global central banks to raise interest rates above the rate of cost of living increases.

"They are going to continue to print money and the Fed's balance sheet and the other central banks' balance sheets will continue to grow until the whole system collapses and then you and I in gold assets will be better off than in paper assets," he said.

Marc Faber
Adam Jeffery | CNBC

That doesn't jibe with recent central bank decisions. The Federal Reserve ended its quantitative easing program in 2014 and it has been indicating for quite some time that it's aiming to raise, not cut, interest rates. In its statement on Wednesday after its policy meeting, the Fed teed up a likely hike by the end of this year.

Additionally, analysts said that the Bank of Japan's policy meeting outcome, which eliminated its annual target for increasing its monetary base, likely also indicated that central bank was moving away from its quantitative easing program.

But Faber said he was concerned that the easing would continue.

He said that "academics" had written books, which he didn't name, advising abolishing cash in order to allow central banks to shift to a strongly negative interest-rate policy of as much as negative 3 percent, rather than just the current half-percent or so.

"This is a blatant expropriation of honest people's savings. And in that scenario I'd rather have gold than cash," he said.

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—By CNBC.Com's Leslie Shaffer; Follow her on Twitter @LeslieShaffer1