Precious Metals Contrarians See Opportunity in Negative Sentiment

by: Stefan Gleason*

Gold and silver markets entered this summer with sentiment toward the metals in something of a deep freeze.

For several months, precious metals prices have gone essentially nowhere. No sustained rallies to attract momentum traders; no washout plunges to attract bargain hunters. The long, protracted stalemate between bulls and bears has frustrated metals investors and, frankly, bored the public.

Sell, Sell, Buy

As a consequence, bullion buying volumes dipped.

The U.S. Mint’s sales of gold and silver Eagles in the first half of the year lagged far behind the pace of 2017, when it sold 302,500 ounces of gold and 18 million ounces of silver.

As of this writing, the U.S. Mint sold just 6.5 million 1-ounce silver coins and 110,000 ounces of gold – a collapse in sales from levels seen in recent years.

Another measure of the public’s disinterest in owning precious metals is declining internet search volumes.

Google Trends data for May show the fewest searches for the phrase “buy gold” since July 2007. Back then, gold traded at around $670/oz – a pretty good price at which to buy amidst public apathy.

Some beleaguered gold bugs are taking the lackluster market conditions as a sell signal. Bullion selling by the public has increased since the start of the year. Money Metals Exchange saw a marked increase in customers wishing to sell, particularly since we offer the best “bid”prices in America.

The silver lining in a depressed bullion market is that buyers can obtain most popular products at low premiums. In some cases, premiums over spot prices have dropped to historically low levels.

We are happy to facilitate either sell or buy orders, but our experience is that when lots of people want to sell, it’s an opportune time to buy – at least for those with a long-term perspective.

The futures market bears this out time and time again. When speculators are lopsidedly positioned on the short side, that usually serves as a contrarian indicator that the market is close to bottoming. By May, speculators had piled in on the short side in the silver futures market in a bigger way than they had in several years.

Investors in the Far East aren’t worried about the ups and downs on the charts. They are concerned with acquiring more ounces.

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Sentiment turned extremely negative in both the paper and physical markets even as gold and silver prices maintained their trading ranges. Although both gold and silver came close to suffering major technical breakdowns this spring, no longterm damage was done.

Given the negative sentiment and the strength of the U.S. dollar in the spring, the downside in metals markets could have been far worse. The fact that it was minimal suggests underlying technical strength.

It appears that growing demand among the world’s central banks is helping to put a floor underneath prices. In recent years, Russia and China have been steadily accumulating gold. Over the past decade, Russia has more than tripled its gold reserves from 600 tons to nearly 2,000 tons.

China’s gold reserves have also grown dramatically. It’s difficult to get exact numbers, as the Chinese government has acquired much of its gold in secret. But it could be as high as 4,000 tons.

Smaller players on the global stage are accumulating physical gold as a way of countering U.S. sanctions and U.S. dollar dominance in global trade. In the first quarter, Iran’s gold bullion purchases surged.

Iran’s Islamic neighbor Turkey, surprisingly, was the second largest state buyer of gold for the first quarter.

Clearly, many countries that count the United States as an adversary are turning to gold as a means of gaining greater independence and leverage in international trade. The ultimate goal of the emerging Russia-China-Middle East economic alliance may be to dethrone King Dollar.

It won’t happen overnight. But gold is gradually rising as a credible counterweight to the U.S. dollar and other fiat currencies.

Far East countries like China are known for their long-term time horizons. They aren’t worried about the ups and downs on the charts. They are concerned with acquiring more ounces. They are happy to buy on price dips when they come. Disciplined long-term investors should be as well.

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FRANK HOLMES: GO GOLD! Inflationary Tariffs Could Supercharge the Yellow Metal

By Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer, U.S. Global Investors

Global sales of semiconductors crossed above 400 billion for fisrt time in 2017

Ready for inflation?

Just days after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reassured markets that a trade war between the U.S. and China was “on hold,” the Trump administration announced that it would be moving forward with plans to impose 25 percent tariffs on as much as $50 billion worth of Chinese exports to the U.S. Beijing has already suggested that it will retaliate in kind.

The White House also reinstated tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU) after allowing earlier exemptions to expire. Again, there’s a big chance the U.S. will see some sort of tit-for-tat response.

Steel prices are already up 45 percent from a year ago. The annual change in the price of a new vehicle in the U.S. has been dropping steadily since last summer, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data, but with the cost of materials set to rise dramatically, we could see a price reversal sooner rather than later.

US midwest hot rolled steel price up 45 percent from last year
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Next up, the U.S. government could slap steep tariffs on imported automobiles—and possibly even ban German luxury vehicles outright, according to a report by German business news magazine WirtschaftsWoche.

These decisions, if fully implemented, will have a multitude of implications on the U.S. and world economies. What I can say with full confidence, though, is that prices will rise—for producers and consumers alike—which is good for gold but a headwind for continued economic growth.

You Can’t Suck and Blow at the Same Time
US midwest hot rolled steel price up 45 percent from last year

Let me explain. I’ve often said that middle class taxpayers elected Trump president by and large to take on entrenched bureaucrats, cut the red tape and streamline regulations. People are fed up. A study last year by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that government workers not only earn more on average than private-sector workers with similar educational backgrounds, they’re also guaranteed health, retirement and other benefits. Trump responded to these concerns by signing an executive order that eased the firing of federal workers.

He’s kept his word in other ways. Since being in office, he’s already eliminated five federal rules on average for every new rule created, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). He’s weakened Obamacare and Dodd-Frank, not to mention slashed corporate taxes.

In 2017, the number of pages in the Federal Register, the official list of administrative regulations, dropped to 61,950 from 97,069 the previous year. This is especially good news for productivity. Research firm Cornerstone Macro found that Americans were more productive when there were fewer rules, less productive when there were more rules.

productivity decreased as the number of federal rules and regulations grew
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These are all positive developments that should help boost the economy. The problem is that they could be undermined by tariffs, which are essentially regulations. We believe government policy is a precursor to change, and history suggests that rising tariffs and regulations hurt the economy.

Consider automobiles. U.S. automakers are the second largest consumer of steel following construction. In March, the Wall Street Journal estimated that the tariffs could add at least $300 to each new vehicle sold in the U.S. And speaking to Bloomberg last week, a spokeswoman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said the tariffs on steel and aluminum imports will make cars more expensive. “These tariffs will result in an increase in the price of domestically produced steel—threatening the industry’s global competitiveness and raising vehicle costs for our customers,” Gloria Bergquist said.

Do tariffs on imported vehicles threaten united states auto sales
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Higher Inflation Has Historically Meant Higher Gold Prices

The good news in all this is that higher inflation has historically been supportive of the price of gold. In the years when inflation was 3 percent or higher, annual gold returns were 15 percent on average,according to the World Gold Council (WGC).

gold has historically rallied in periods of high inflation
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When gold hit its all-time high of $1,900 an ounce in August 2011, consumer prices were up nearly 4 percent from the same time the previous year. The two-year Treasury yield, meanwhile, averaged only 0.21 percent, meaning the T-note was delivering a negative real yield and investors were paying the U.S. government to hang on to their money. This created a favorable climate for gold, as investors sought a safe haven asset that would at least beat inflation.

CIBC: Major Gold Firms to Generate Strong Free Cash Flow and ROIC
gold has historically rallied in periods of high inflation

Finally, I want to draw attention to an exciting research report released last week by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). I’m a huge admirer of the work CIBC does, especially that of Cosmos Chiu, director of precious metals equity research. Chiu and his team write that the “future looks brighter” for gold equities on improved free cash flow and return on invested capital (ROIC). Both factors are among our favorites. I recently shared with you a chart that shows that, over the past 30 years, ROIC outperformed other factors by as much as one and half times.

With gold trading near $1,300 an ounce, producers are currently posting positive margins, according to CIBC. As a result, every stock in the bank’s large-cap universe, with the exception of Kinross, is expected to generate positive free cash flow through 2019.

Go Gold! Royalty/Streaming Companies Deliver the Profits

The bank has even better news for royalty and streaming companies, particularly Franco-Nevada, Royal Gold and Wheaton Precious Metals. For one, the three big royalty names delivered combined shareholder returns of 6.2 percent between 2013 and 2017, outperforming both senior producers and physical gold.

Three largest royalty and streaming companies forecast to deliver strong return on invested capital
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Now, CIBC forecasts the royalty group will generate strong ROICs, “steadily inching higher over the next decade… to average between the 5 percent and 8 percent mark from 2018 – 2023.” ROIC measures how well a company can turn its invested capital into profits.

Loyal readers already know we’ve long been fans of Franco-Nevada, Wheaton Precious Metals and other royalty/streaming names. To find out why we believe they’re the “smart money” of the gold mining space, I invite you to watch this brief five-minute video.

AXEL MERK – Inflation & Precious Metals to Rise, Fed to Act Late

Mike Gleason* of Money Metals Exchange interviews Axel Merk of Merk Investments.

Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome back Axel Merk, President and Chief Investment Officer of Merk Investments and author of the book Sustainable Wealth. Axel is a highly sought after guest at financial conferences and on news outlets throughout the world and it’s great to have him back on with us.

Axel, it’s a pleasure to have you join us again today and thanks very much for coming on.

Axel Merk: Great to be with you. What a week.

Mike Gleason: Exactly. Well, Axel when we spoke to you in February the equity markets were in the midst of a sell off and some significant volatility, which had been extraordinarily low, came roaring back to life. Since then, the stocks have recovered some. The S&P regained about half of what it lost by the end of February and has been trading in a range since then.

Our thoughts are that precious metals are trading inversely correlated to equities markets, at least for now. Unless we get a pullback in stocks or more appetite for safe-haven assets it will be hard for metals to get much going to the upside. But what are your thoughts on the relationship between gold prices and stock markets, Axel? And what factors do you expect to be driving stocks between now and say the end of the year?

Axel Merk: Sure, and for context I think we should just mention we are talking before the Non-Farm Payroll Reports (are out), so who knows what’s happened to markets since we have talked? One of the things I don’t recall if I mentioned in February is, ever since last December, and I still believe in that, the markets have been a bit like a washing machine. That correlations have been breaking down. And, if you go back to, kind of, all the way to the financial crisis, that’s the 2008 one, not the one from a week ago, that means that whenever there was a crisis the Fed bought treasuries. And so whenever “risk” falls off, when equities are plunging, bonds were rising. And that kind of ingrained this perception about certain types of correlations and so, similarly, the price of gold was actually reasonably highly correlated to that of treasuries. And so we got this thing that gold and the stocks are sometimes moving in tandem, sometimes they move in opposite directions.

Since January 1970, if you look at monthly correlations, the correlations between stocks and bonds is 0.00. So, there is no correlation. Yet, we get caught up in this thing that, for months at a time, sometimes there’s a correlation that is significant. I think the most noteworthy thing of late is that yields have been, until a good week ago, have been matching higher and the price of gold was falling up. And then, conversely, when bond yields were falling, gold didn’t rise.

And so, gold has kind of marched on its own in some ways and I happen to believe that a lot of the buyers of gold these days are doing it because they are concerned about the equity markets because of volatility spiking. And the reason why volatility and the price of gold are related is because gold doesn’t have cashflow. And that means the future cashflows don’t get discounted more, whereas, if you have a quote unquote risk asset, like equities, and volatility increases, those future cashflows get discounted more and the prices of equities, all else equal, tends to fall. So, that’s why in “normal” circumstances the price of gold should rise when equities tumble. Obviously, that doesn’t always happen.

Mike Gleason: You pay more attention than most people to events in Europe and the European markets. Lately, troubles in the PIGS nations have crept back into the news. Populace in Italy and Spain are making hay by opposing EU imposed austerity and it’s a reminder that deep fundamental issues remain and the union may not survive. Let’s start by getting your take, if we can, on the overall status of the EU. Will there be any high-profile exits, perhaps by Italy or Spain? Is Great Britain going to complete its exit? Or are you expecting the EU to weather the storm here, Axel?

Axel Merk: The UK is almost certainly going to exit and nobody else, probably, any time soon. Now, I say that, I might have egg on my face in a few years down the road on that. But let me, maybe before we get too far carried away, make a general statement because I think we’ve seen this movie before. What we’ve had is a classic case, classic as in classic for financial crisis type of case, where investors were piling in into an asset that they perceive to be risk free, only to wake up that it is risky after all. And what I’m referring to, of course, is Italian bonds, right?

Who wouldn’t want to grab for some yield? And if you don’t grab for some yield, especially if we’ve had someone like the head of the ECB doing quote unquote whatever it takes, all but guaranteeing the debt. So, why would you get a negative yield, or very low yield on German bonds when you can get Italian treasuries for a much juicier return? So, we’ve had yield chasers in there.

Now, the noteworthy thing is, and, again, this is the same picture we’ve had throughout the financial crisis, the folks holding these are not risk-friendly investors. Those are folks who thought that stuff was risk-free. So, sure enough, there is some event happening and people is “Oh, my God! Italian bonds are risky! How could I have possibly known?” So, they run for the exit.

Now, that doesn’t mean there’s nobody there to buy them. Whenever somebody sells something, somebody has to buy it. The folks buying are risk-friendly investors. And so, for example, on Wednesday, there was a treasury option and it was very well received and obviously they’re not the same guys that sold the day before, but now you have risk-friendly investors come in. And you needed to have that kind of a shake-out and have other investors go in.

Now, none of that means whether Italy is going to survive or not, but the relevant part here is that the system cracks when you build up this pressure cooker, when you have an unsustainable situation, and to me, it is unsustainable that folks, like Italians, pay a very, very small premium over – kind of a borrowing cost – than in Germany, for example.

And when this pressure builds up, well, at some point, some steam has to be let gone and, depending on how much pressure has built up, the fallout can be greater. And so, for now, people woke up and now they can deal with this crisis as a risk event, whereas, before, it was something that was kind of a black swan event, and it blew up in some people’s faces.

Mike Gleason: Let’s talk a little bit more about the implications for gold and silver markets. In recent weeks, the euro has weakened and that has been a big driver in the rally of the dollar indexes. This prompted some selling in gold and silver. On the one hand, we could see a continued euro weakness and dollar strength weighing on gold and silver prices; on the other hand, metals could get a bid if concerns over serious trouble in the EU drives some safe-haven demand. What is your best guess about which dynamic might win out there?

Axel Merk: Curiously, during much of the Eurozone debt crisis, I’m referring to several years ago, the price of the euro and gold were quite highly correlated, but anybody liking gold wouldn’t touch the euro with a broomstick. So, I’m just pointing out, as you pointed out, it’s because if the dollar strengthens that, of course, this yellow metal doesn’t change. And so, as the price of the dollar appreciates, the price of gold might go down. Now, that said, again, as volatility flares up, I do think gold is worthy of the consideration as a diversifier.

Also, the reason why I went into detail here about the yield chasers, the market didn’t trade as if the Eurozone were to break apart. By all means, bank stocks sold off, by all means, volatility surged, all kinds of things happened. But this was, here, momentum traders, yield chasers, being wrong-footed. And we had a violent unwinding of that. And that is one of the reasons why the price of gold didn’t surge in this context, because this was not a trade that said “Oh, my God, the Eurozone is going to fall apart”. Now, if that were to happen, then we going to see a very, very different picture.

We also had, for example, bonds rally, right? But there was a very, very substantial short-position bond and so a lot of these guys took profits or said “Oh, I didn’t expect it that a trade could go against me” and then when something is too good to be true, if too many people are piling the same trades, things go bad.

Now, as far as the context of how this is going to evolve, we have no idea even by the time your broadcast is, what’s going to happen next. Are they going to form a new government, are they going to have called new elections, who knows? Anything is going to happen. We have a populace resentment for all the right reasons and the European Union is incapable of communicating with the people and saying “Hey, we’re the good guys. We actually mean well for you.” People are fed up.

Now, that said, the majority of Italians do appreciate the euro and so that means they want to find a way. Also, we tend to forget that it is extremely expensive to leave the EU. It’s one thing for the Brits to leave the European Union; they don’t share the same currency. If you shared a currency, your banking system is going to be sucked empty. Your economy is going to implode if you leave. And that is something that is not really a very attractive proposition. And so, when push comes to shove, most of these countries decide, “Hey, we might want to stay.”

Now at the other end of the spectrum, though, if you have a populist rising, usually the more extreme opinions prevail. And so they are not ruling out that some bad things can happen. When I buy something in Europe, I buy the German stuff, the Northern European stuff. And ultimately, if it were to break apart while I still have that Northern European stuff, right? And that doesn’t mean buying Italian securities is necessarily a bad thing, but you better be aware of the risks that come with it and tying it back to the price of gold, the question is “Is there contagion? Is the Federal Reserve going to change course?” and so forth. In the short term, I don’t think the Fed it rattled by this. Access to credit continues to be easy. I think the Fed is going to continue to march higher.

Now, all that said, I do also think inflationary pressures in the euro’s going to move higher because I don’t think the U.S. economy is about to implode. And so, because of that, I do think people are going to continue to look at gold as a diversifier and at some point that cycle’s going to turn. I don’t know whether it’s in six months or in a year or down the road. We’re looking at these indicators, I don’t think we’re at the top of the cycle at this stage. I think it’s going to continue for another six months, maybe twelve months, and maybe even eighteen months. I can only give us like a six to ten months outlook on this.

But, for the time being, inflationary pressures are rising and the Fed is going to slowly but surely march higher.

Mike Gleason: George Soros made news this week, and I’m talking about much more than what Roseanne Barr said about him during her Ambien-induced Twitter rampage. Soros warned that Europe and even the world financial markets face an “Existential threat saying everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

He’s apparently quite upset at the unraveling of the Iran nuclear deal, anti-EU populism, and new calls for fiscal austerity. At the same time, he launched a campaign this week to try to reverse the Brexit decision. Is this just sour grapes by Soros or do you think the world financial markets are truly on the precipice?

Axel Merk: To understand Soros, I think the only thing one has to understand that he is Hungarian at heart. He grew up in Hungary and he loves Hungary. He would love everybody in the world, especially the European Union, to write blank checks to the Hungarians so that that country’s standard of living moves higher. And so they want the Germans to write checks, they want the French to write checks, they want everybody to write checks so that the Europeans are happy. It has nothing to do with the Eurozone being sustainable or not. I have no idea why people are listening to Mr. Soros. Sure, he had a great trade on the Bank of England, but for him, it is all about trying to support Eastern Europe. That’s very well intended. Godspeed for him, let him help these folks and he has some initiatives and foundations that does it. Great for him. But, to conclude from any word he says, whether the Eurozone is stable or not, I wouldn’t listen for two seconds to his opinion.

Now, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any issues in the Eurozone, by all means. But, a lot of people are biased when they hold a trading position, well, George Soros’s trading position is that he wants Eastern Europe to thrive. And if the West can write a check to do that, then he likes that. Anything, any tough austerity measures, anything that against that, Mr. Soros says “Don’t do it”.

And so, it’s very different answer, probably than you might have expected, or you get from other folks, but, if you look at George Soros as a person who has an agenda to help Eastern Europe, then you understand everything and anything that he says.

Mike Gleason: Getting back to the Fed here, briefly. They have been tightening, which is contributing to some of the dollar’s strength, but they almost certainly don’t want a collapse in the euro, and there is, we think, a limit to how much of a rally they’re going to put up with in the dollar. What are your thoughts there? Expand on that a bit. It seems like the markets have priced in a couple more rate hikes this year. Sounds like you think we’ll probably get those?

Axel Merk: Well, let’s think about it. We got a new Fed chair, right? Jay Powell. And he’s a lawyer. He does not have a magic framework. Bernanke had this Great Depression framework, Yellen was a labor economist, well Powell is a lawyer. And he’s a smart lawyer. And he has good intentions. So, what do lawyers do? Well, they call a committee to decide on things. So, one thing you can be sure of with Powell, in my view, is that he’s not going to be very fast. He’s going to call the best and the brightest, to give him their opinion, and then he’s going to make a judgment based on that. And that might be a very boring answer, but, that’s what it is. And the one thing that a Powell Fed will look at is A, is the economy going to continue to move ahead, is the “slack” exhausted, and are financial conditions all right?

One of the things Yellen always said is that “Hey, our quantitative tightening is like watching paint dry on a wall and it’s really nothing.” Well, that’s a bunch of BS because the whole point of raising rates is to tighten financial conditions. But, at the same time, it hasn’t happened. The financial conditions have been easing. In early 2016, the Fed panicked because the fracking market didn’t do well. This time around, stock marks has had a hiccup or so, but access to credit hasn’t been any tighter. So, as long as access to credit is not tightening, the Fed is going to continue to march.

And what we have is, the typical thing at this time of the cycle is that banks are actually easing lending standards. Because the economy is doing all right, they want to write more credit. And that’s why the Fed is going to continue to tighten. Now, as that happens, of course, at some point they’ll overdo it and push the economy into a recession and maybe they’re geniuses and do a soft landing, but that’s usually more luck than anything else.

And so, at the same time, they’re not in a rush. Last year was the first year in many, many years where the Fed tightened more than was priced in the beginning of the year. This year, I would think the same thing can happen again and what has happened over the last week to ten days is that rate hikes expectations has come down quite significantly, obviously, partially because of what happened in Italy.

Now, that said, 85% of the U.S. economy is domestic, 15% is international. And so, unless Europe blows up the next day, I don’t think the Fed, in the near term, can change course. Also, keep in mind, by the way, just a word back on Italy. Italy has had about one government a year. And so even if they have a new election, even if they elect a more populist government, odds are that their new government is not going to survive very long. There’s a European parliament election next year and the two populist parties, if the two are going to buddy up, and that’s still an if, they might get into an argument because, ideologically, they’re not exactly aligned.

And so, a lot of things can happen, and the Fed is not going to pay attention to that because they going to say “Hey, if something does blow up in our face, we can still reverse course”. And so, it’s very different from the Yellen Fed in early 2016, when it was spooked about equity markets going down. And the reason they were spooked about it is because access to credit in the fracking industry was at risk of spilling over to the rest of the economy. At this stage, we see no signs that access to credit is tighter, so they’ll continue to march ahead.

Now, what does it mean for metals? It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, because the pace at which they’re moving is very slow and, by the way, we are already at extremely low unemployment. The labor participation rate is slowly inching higher. I happen to think that in about six months we’ll have exhausted that so-called slack, which means inflationary pressures are going to accelerate. And that’s exactly when the Fed is going to be at a point where it’s going to slow down the economy. And so, we going to have this inflationary push at the end of this economic cycle where the Fed is, in my view, not going to be fast enough to do something about it. And then, because of the higher rates causing more volatility in the markets, in my view, all of that are reasons why precious metals historically, do reasonably well at the end of an economic cycle, which we’re going to see presumably a year from now, or whenever it’s going to be.

Mike Gleason: Yeah. Very well put. There’s a lot of things circling about, and I think you summarized that all very well. As we begin to close here, any other news stories that you’re going to be watching closely as we progress throughout the year, Axel?

Axel Merk: Well, we’ve got a European Central Bank meeting in June 14th. So, in the short term, that’s probably the most interesting event. Whether anything is going to happen, the one thing that Mr. Draghi is not going to do is he’s not going to take options off the table, which means he’s not going to announce the end of QE. There might have been an early chance for him to do it, but, with what’s happening in Italy, he’s not going to do it.

The one thing to keep an eye on there is, what I think may happen in the Eurozone is that they have indicated they’ll stop QE before they’ll start tightening. I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ll get more flexible in that. Meaning that they’ll start hiking rates. At the same time, at some point, if the crisis were to escalate, Mr. “Whatever-It-Takes” Draghi is going to say “Hey, but, we’re not going to allow Italian bonds to trade at too much of a premium” and so to interfere in the markets that way. But they have to, in my view at least, get off that negative interest rates because it’s creating havoc in the rest of the Eurozone that’s actually doing quite well. So, he might, again, pull up some ace up his sleeve where he’s going to say “Yep, rates are going to move higher, but only for Germany and the Northern European countries, whereas, for Italy and others, we’ll guarantee that rates are not going to move higher”.

And before you dream too far ahead, just keep in mind, Draghi’s job is coming to an end at the end of next year, so, as we go towards the end of this year, people are going to speculate who’s going to succeed him. But that’s a story for another day.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, we seem to be focusing a lot of our interest on Europe, once again here. It seems like we’ve been down this road before.

Well, good stuff as always, Axel. It’s great to get your perspective on these matters and we look forward to catching up with you again later this year. Now, before we let you go, please tell listeners a little bit more your firm and your services and then also how they can follow you more.

Axel Merk: Sure. The firm is, my name, Merk Investments. Look us up. Sign up for our newsletter on our website. Follow me on Twitter, that’s really the best way to be in tune of what is happening there. We have several funds, including a gold fund. And we provide some services to institutions and other folks. But come to MerkInvestments.com and browse around.

Mike Gleason: Excellent stuff. Thanks again, Axel. Appreciate your time and hope you enjoy your summer and thanks for joining us again. Take care.

Axel Merk: Yep. My pleasure. Take care.

Mike Gleason: Well, that’ll do it for this week. Thanks, again, to Axel Merk, President and Chief Investment Officer of Merk Investments, Manager of the Merk Funds. For more information, be sure to check out MerkInvestments.com and follow him on Twitter. His handle is @AxelMerk.

Check back here next Friday for our next weekly Weekly Market Wrap Podcast. Until then, this has been Mike Gleason with Money Metals Exchange, thanks for listening and have a great weekend everybody.

*About the Author:

Mike Gleason is a Director with Money Metals Exchange, a national precious metals dealer with over 50,000 customers. Gleason is a hard money advocate and a strong proponent of personal liberty, limited government and the Austrian School of Economics. A graduate of the University of Florida, Gleason has extensive experience in management, sales and logistics as well as precious metals investing. He also puts his longtime broadcasting background to good use, hosting a weekly precious metals podcast since 2011, a program listened to by tens of thousands each week.

Ted Butler Discusses the Great Silver Fraud

Ted Butler is nothing but obsessive on what he sees as a huge criminal fraud in the multi-year manipulation of the silver price by big money players with the apparent complicity of the regulators.  But his obsession is almost certainly rooted in truth.  No-one studies this market quite to the extent Ted Butler does.

In his latest posting on silverseek.com he likens Comex activity on silver to the recently uncovered Theranos medical diagnostic fraud in an article entitled Great Frauds Require Darkness – the main difference being that the Theranos fraud only had a life of nearly 15 years before the company behind it came crashing down, while what Ted sees as the Comex silver fraud has been in place now for more than twice as long and is still ongoing, with far more powerful vested interests supporting it.  As ted puts it “all the leading legitimate participants and regulators have aligned themselves to prolong the fraud.

You can read his full article by clicking on the following link:  Great Frauds Require Darkness

Gold Demand Looks Promising in India and China

By Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer, U.S. Global Investors

Gold was up half a percent year-to-date through last Friday. This doesn’t sound very exciting, but over the same period, the S&P 500 Index was in the red—the first time in nearly a decade that stocks have been negative for the year through the beginning of May. The yellow metal is doing the one thing for which many investors have it in their portfolio—namely, it’s trading inversely to the market. This highlights its longstanding role as an attractive diversifier and store of value.

Gold bullion has outperformed the market so far in 2018
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Gold has been under pressure from a strengthening U.S. dollar, and May has historically delivered lower prices. As I’ve pointed out before, this makes it an ideal entry point in anticipation of a late summer rally before Diwali and the Indian wedding season, during which gifts of gold jewelry are considered auspicious. Demand in China for the remainder of the year also looks promising.

India Gold Demand Weakened, but a Healthy Monsoon Could Help Reverse That

India’s demand for gold jewelry in the first quarter was down 12 percent from the same period last year, according to the latest report from the World Gold Council (WGC). Consumption fell to 87.7 metric tons, compared to 99.2 tons in the first three months of 2017. Contributing to this weakness was the fact that there were fewer auspicious days in the first quarter than in the same period of the past three years, according to the WGC.

However, this followed a monumental fourth quarter 2017, when gold demand in the world’s second-largest consumer was 189.6 metric tons—an all-time record—so a decline was expected.

Looking ahead, it’s estimated that India will have a “normal” monsoon season this summer. This is good news for gold’s Love Trade. A third of India’s gold demand comes from rural farmers, whose crop revenues depend on the rains from a healthy monsoon. When the subcontinent experiences a drought, as it did in 2014 and 2015, gold consumption suffers.

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) reports that its forecasts suggest “maximum probability for normal monsoon rainfall” and “low probability for deficient rainfall during the season.”

Chinese Bullion Demand Off to a Good Start in 2018

In China, the world’s largest importer of gold, jewelry demand rose 7 percent in the first quarter to 187.7 metric tons, a three-year high. According to the WGC, Chinese retailers are working on improving the customer experience, providing consumers with “a more holistic retail solution.” The industry is expecting a strong 2018 after a relatively subdued 2017.

Except for a weak February, demand so far this year has been particularly strong, with monthly withdrawals from the Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE) above the two-year average of 170 metric tons. April represented the third straight month of rising demand. Withdrawals were 28 percent higher than in the same month in 2017, according to veteran precious metals commentator Lawrie Williams.

China gol ddemand rose for the third straight month in April
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Williams writes that fears of a potential trade war with the U.S. could be driving Chinese investors into safe haven assets, including gold bars and coins. Indeed, the WGC reports that bullion demand in the first quarter finished at 78 metric tons, above the three- and five-year averages. (See: Chinese gold demand looks to have risen sharply in April)

I believe this all bodes well for the Love Trade going forward, meaning it might be an opportune time for investors to consider increasing their exposure to gold and gold mining stocks. As always, I recommend a 10 percent weighting, with 5 percent in bars, coins and jewelry, and 5 percent in high-quality gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

4 Big Reasons Why You Might Want to Consider Gold Stocks Right Now

The price of gold has been feeling the pressure lately from a stronger U.S. dollar, which is at a four-month high, and rising Treasury yields. Nevertheless, the yellow metal eked out a positive March quarter, returning close to 1.3 percent, while the S&P 500 Index posted its first negative quarter since 2015. This tells me the investment case in gold and gold mining stocks remains as strong as ever.

Below are four more reasons why I think you should consider adding gold stocks to your portfolio right now.

1. Gold mining stocks look inexpensive.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett once said: “Whether we’re talking about socks or stocks, I like buying quality merchandise when it is marked down.”

Compared to the broader equities market, gold mining stocks, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, look incredibly “marked down” right now. They’re far below the average gold miners-to-S&P 500 ratio of 0.7 for the nine-year period, and nearly as undervalued as they’ve ever been.

Gold mining stocks are incredibly undervalued relative to broader equities
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I believe that for investors with a long-term horizon, this makes gold miners look especially attractive as we await valuations to revert their mean, or average. Hopefully this can be achieved without a significant decline in the S&P.

2. Rising inflation has historically lifted gold prices.

Inflation can be understood as the destruction of wealth. Every time consumer prices head higher, a dollar loses some of its value, whether in your pocket or your savings account. Inflation can also weigh on stock prices, as some investors anticipate it cutting into corporate earnings. They might therefore decide to move their money into other assets.

That includes gold, which has enjoyed a long history of being an attractive store of value during times of higher inflation.

After being mostly stagnant for several years, inflation looks as if it’s ready to stage a strong comeback, thanks to rising oil prices and new trade tariffs imposed by the Trump administration, among other factors.

But which measure of inflation is most accurate? The Federal Reserve prefers the consumer price index (CPI), but there are others, including the New York Fed’s Underlying Inflation Gauge (UIG) and ShadowStat’s Alternative CPI.

no matter which gauge you use, inflation is on the rise
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From the chart above, we can surmise that inflation could be highly understated right now. According to the official CPI, prices rose 2.4 percent year-over-year in March. But if we use the Fed’s methodology from 1980, as ShadowStats does, it’s possible prices advanced more than 10 percent from a year ago.

Regardless of which measure you trust the most, it’s clear that inflation has been heating up at a faster pace—meaning it might be time for investors to consider adding to their gold exposure.

3. Gold supply is shrinking while demand continues to grow.

Like most hard assets, prices of gold and other precious metals respond to supply and demand. If supply goes up but there’s little demand, prices tend to struggle to gain momentum. But if the reverse happens—if supply can’t meet demand—prices have a better chance of increasing.

It’s possible we could see the latter scenario in the coming months.

That’s because many explorers and producers went into cost-cutting mode after the price of gold broke down from its record high of around $1,900 an ounce in August 2011. Exploration budgets were slashed, and partially as a result, there have been fewer and fewer large-deposit discoveries.

What this all means is that if gold demand were to spike unusually high, there’s a strong probability that not enough gold would be available. We would expect the metal to be traded at a premium.

gold supply crunch ahead?
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In the chart above, you can see how a smaller number of projects have been added to the pipeline in some recent years, thanks to a decrease in exploration budgets. Meanwhile, demand has continued to grow as incomes rise in emerging markets that have a strong appetite for the yellow metal—India, China and Turkey chief among them.

4. Gold prices have historically tracked government debt—which appears to be increasing dramatically.

I think what’s also driving gold demand right now are concerns over the U.S. budget deficit and ballooning government debt. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently said it estimated the deficit to surge over $1 trillion in 2018 and average $1.2 trillion each subsequent year between 2019 and 2028, for a total of $12.4 trillion.

Believe it or not, servicing the interest on this debt alone is expected to exceed what the government spends on its military by 2023.

Now, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), in its April “Fiscal Monitor,” says U.S. government debt will continue to expand as a percent of gross domestic product (GDP), even surpassing levels we last saw during World War II.

gold supply crunch ahead?
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This is a cause for concern, the IMF writes, because “large debt and deficits hinder governments’ ability to implement a strong fiscal policy response to support the economy in the event of a downturn.”

You can probably tell where I’m headed with all of this. Savvy investors and savers might very well see this as a sign to allocate a part of their portfolios in assets that have historically held their value well in times of economic contraction.

Gold is one such asset that’s been trusted as a store of value in such times. As I’ve shown elsewhere, gold has tracked U.S. government debt up since 1971, when President Richard Nixon ended the gold standard.

 

MARC FABER: Holding Nation’s Gold Reserves in the USA Always a Risk

The latest podcast guest for Mike Gleason* at Money Metals Exchange is Dr. Marc Faber whose financial predictions are always of strong interest to the investment community everywhere.

Mike Gleason: Coming up we’ll hear from the one and only Marc Faber of The Gloom, Boom and Doom Report. Dr Faber has some alarming things to say about how America’s foreign policies may have disastrous implications for the U.S. and global economies, and for the dollar. He also weighs in on which asset class, crypto-currencies or precious metals, will ultimately will be the major benefactor of all of the pending geopolitical unrest. Don’t miss a tremendous interview with Dr Doom, Marc Faber, coming up after this week’s market update.

Precious metals markets suffered a big setback this week as the U.S. dollar gained strength. The dollar rose to a three-month high on interest rates and upbeat economic data, including strong durable goods numbers. The dollar’s rise against the euro was also boosted by the European Central Bank’s decision Thursday to maintain its ultra-loose monetary policy.

Precious metals traders responded by hitting the sell button. Gold prices are down 1.0% on the week to bring spot prices to $1,323 an ounce as of this Friday recording. Silver currently checks in at $16.52 after falling 3.6%. Platinum is down 1.5% this week to $917, and palladium is off 4.2% to come in at $988 per ounce.

Metals markets could continue to face selling pressure if the U.S. dollar continues to rally. Dollar bulls note interest rates continue to look relatively attractive in the United States, with the European Central Bank showing no signs of trying to catch up with the Fed in raising its benchmark rate. Some currency analysts describe the dollar as the best looking house in a bad neighborhood.

Dollar bears counter that the Federal Reserve’s nominal interest rate hikes are lagging behind rising inflationary pressures. Moreover, rising deficit spending makes the U.S. fiscal house one of the worst looking in any neighborhood. The current debt to GDP ratio of close to 100% puts the United States in a danger zone.

Other countries that have seen their government’s debt balance exceed the output of their economy went on to experience political upheavals, defaults, and hyperinflations. The most notable example currently playing out is Venezuela.

The bolivar has lost more than 99% of its value since the socialist economy collapsed, sending prices up thousands of percent. The Venezuelan stock market is up some 1,600% so far this year alone. Of course, that doesn’t mean you can expect to get rich quick buying Venezuelan stocks. They are moving largely just as a side effect of inflation.

That’s easy to see in an extreme case like Venezuela. It’s less obvious when inflation is rising at a relatively low annual rate, as it has been in the United States in recent years. But over time the stock market has gotten and continues to get artificially inflated while politicians and mainstream media outlets cheer on what they want us all to believe is a true bull market.

But those who believe the Dow would be sitting at over 24,000 without the inflationary stimulus of the Fed is simply fooling themselves. A rising stock market can actually be a symptom of a systemic problem leading to a currency crisis. Investors don’t see it that way right now, which is why they aren’t running to gold in a big way. But it won’t take much for the powers that be to lose control and for investor perceptions to shift.

It’s a question of when, not if. When will the unsustainable growth in government debt reach a tipping point that sends a shock into the financial system?

The most recent omnibus budget deal virtually guarantees trillion dollar deficits going forward. President Donald Trump reluctantly signed it into law and in so doing may have sealed the dollar’s long-term fate. The Trump administration is trying to pare the spending back by a few billion dollars… certainly not enough to change the country’s fiscal trajectory… but even that likely won’t happen. GOP leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnel promised Congressional Democrats they’d get all the spending they want. And that promise apparently supersedes the promise Republicans made to voters about getting spending under control.

It’s difficult to believe they will have a better opportunity to do so after this fall’s elections, when Democrats are likely to pick up seats – and quite possibly the majority in Congress. Investors would be wise to prepare for the end of the Trump rally and the ultimate inflationary consequences of bipartisan debt spending.

Well now, for a closer look at America’s politics internationally and what it all might mean for gold and silver, let’s get right to this week’s exclusive interview.

Marc Faber

Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to be joined by a man who needs little introduction, Marc Faber, editor of The Gloom, Boom and Doom Report. Dr. Faber has been a long-time guest on financial shows throughout the world, and is a well-known Austrian economist and investment advisor, and it’s a tremendous honor to have him on with us today.

Dr. Faber, thanks so much for joining us again, and how are you?

Marc Faber: Well, it’s my pleasure to be on your show. Thank you.

Mike Gleason: Let’s start out here with the equities Marc. Now the U.S. stock markets peaked in late January and made their lows for the year in early February. Stocks have been trading in a range since, but are currently pushing back towards those lows as volatility has certainly picked up. If you had to guess about which way the markets are likely to break from here, what would it be, and do you think we’ve seen the top for 2018 or can speculators keep pushing the markets higher for a bit longer?

Marc Faber: That’s a good question and I think everybody’s interested in the answers and everybody has a different view, but I have maintained that the January 26th high for the S&P up 2,872 was like a mirror image of the low on March 6th, 2009 when the S&P was at 666. At that time, everybody was bearish and leading strategy and I don’t want to name who, but they were predicting for the S&P to fall to 400. And what happened is that, because sentiment was so negative, and the market was so oversold, the market turned around and actually on very poor earnings, started to go up. And now, we have, in January, a high, when everybody felt that the market would go higher and what then happened is that on good earnings, stocks didn’t move up, but started to go down.

So, I think we are in a situation where it is likely, it’s not yet a hundred percent sure, in order to get a clearer picture, if a major bear market has started, we would have to make a low below the February low, but that hasn’t happened yet. But looking at the market and the market action and the momentum and the number of stock that are actually making new lows, I’d say there is a fair probability that the market will disappoint very badly.

Mike Gleason: Dr. Faber, it seems to us that the fate of precious metals markets is tied pretty closely to stock prices, at least in the near term. We lack either fear or greed to drive any trend change. Here in the U.S. there’s very little demand for safe-haven assets. If you look at sentiment in the metals markets you’ll find that the greed factor is also missing. Now that could all change if gold and silver can catch investors’ attention by significantly outperforming stocks for a while longer or if we get the long overdue correction stocks.

Now Marc, you wrote recently about two items you feel would signal a major top in the equity markets. The first had to do with the public going all-in, coupled with an excessive amount of speculation. The second would be the revelation of a major fraud. Those items will be familiar to anyone who had taken a good look at the 2008 financial crisis. Are you expecting history to repeat itself here?

Marc Faber: Well, I think there is a lot of disinformation, and usually when stocks go down, some fraud comes to the surface. And I expect it to happen, and I mean in a major way. Whether the fraud is related to some corporation, which I think is quite likely, or whether it’s related to the fraud that is going on in the pension fund system, where pension funds are grossly underfunded, and, in the future, will either have to increase contributions or reduce distributions. I think these are items that could happen. Secondly, the public may start to lose faith in the system because of the political situation. I think the political situation in the U.S. is very bad, and If you read about what has been happening at the FBI, the CIA in Washington, you have to scratch your head whether that is all possible in a system that is supposedly functioning.

It’s like Watergate, but actually magnified. So, I think there is a possibility that investing public loses interest in financial assets. You talked about precious metals. I think there has been, just recently, a huge short position in the dollar. In other words, speculators, 15 months ago, they were heavily long in the dollar, and now they are very heavily short dollar. I think the dollar may rebound and as a result, precious metals may not move up right away. I think, eventually, they’ll move up, but for the next, say, one or two months, I don’t see how precious metals would rally significantly.

Mike Gleason: Getting back to politics here for just a moment, it does appear that we may be on the verge of a global trade war. What are your thoughts on the tariffs being imposed by the Trump administration on China, and how do you envision that playing out?

Marc Faber: My view is that, actually, the Trump administration, for which, I would have voted for Mr. Trump, but he proves every day that he’s a completely clueless individual. He says one thing and then does something totally different. He changes his view all the time. And I think, quite frankly, there is a trade war which maybe won’t happen, but if there is one, the U.S. will be the big loser, because consumer prices in the U.S. will go up and that is not desirable at the present time, as the Fed is already tightening and interest rates have been rising, so what it will mean is, if there is a trade war, initially the dollar will actually rally. But this is precisely what the U.S. shouldn’t have, a very strong dollar.

Mike Gleason: Turkey is the latest nation to announce that they will repatriate their gold, joining a number of other countries who have declared they will do the same. What does this say about the confidence in the system, and then what do you think these countries are positioning themselves for? Basically, why are they doing this?

Marc Faber: Well, I think the question should be: why did they actually hold gold in the U.S.? I personally think that, to hold your assets that are like a safe-haven, in another country is a risk by itself… so I understand all these countries. And secondly, I think for the first time in Bretton Woods, we have less confidence or less faith in the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency. I think the U.S. policymakers, especially the Neo-cons, had the talent to antagonize Mr. Putin and also Mr. Xi in China.

By doing that, they have actually managed to get them closer into an economic and political alliance. And the goal of these two countries, Russian and China, is probably to gradually move away from a dollar system. I’ll tell you, I personally, I’m not a U.S. citizen, I’m just an international observer of economic, financial, and political trends. I cannot imagine a foreign policy that would be worse for the U.S. itself than what the Neo-cons have engineered. I just can’t imagine.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, that’s a very fair point, there. Speaking of oil and the petrol dollar, oil prices have been moving up steadily for a while now. Do you envision a broader commodity rally taking place here, and then maybe could that benefit precious metals in the long run?

Marc Faber: Well, a lot of industrial commodities have been rallying because of commodities-related circumstances, like aluminum rallies because of the trade embargo against Russia, and so forth. But if I look at industrial commodities, I rather have the feeling that they will come down. Why? I think the increase in interest rates in the U.S. on the 10-year treasury note from 1.38 percent in the summer of 2016 to the current level of over three percent, in other words, we more than doubled in the yield in the bond market. And for the two-year treasury, we have been going up between 10 and 20 times depending how you measure it.

I think these interest rate increases will slow down the U.S. economy, and probably bring about a recession.

Mike Gleason: We talk a lot about the appetite for gold in other parts of the world. Do you ever see the tide changing when it comes to the importance of gold ownership? We know Asians are buying it relentlessly and so are many folks in Europe. On the whole that mindset definitely hasn’t made it here to the U.S. yet, but do you sense that may be coming, and if and when it does, do you foresee any problems with being able to get the physical metal once the masses do finally decide to pour into it as the ultimate safe-haven?

Marc Faber: That’s a good question. We had a total neglect of gold and other commodities in 1999, and then gold rose from $255 to a peak in September 2011 of $1,921. At that time, there was a lot of speculation in gold and in other precious metals and other commodities. And since then we’ve been at a bear market until December, 2016, when gold approached $1,000.

Since then, as you know, we’ve been up something like 30 percent, and it is true, there is some speculative interest in gold, but nothing compared to crypto-currency. People that look for an alternative to paper assets like bonds and equities, they’re all gambling on cryptos. I don’t think that cryptos are safe. Now they may move up and they may move down but I, as an investor for the ultimate crisis, I prefer to be in physical precious metals, gold, silver, platinum.

I think, eventually, these precious metals will come back into the investment portfolios of major institutions and individuals. The major institutions of the world, they hold practically no gold. They have more money in Apple, they have more money in Amazon, than, say, in gold. And I think that will change over time, but I don’t know whether it will be tomorrow or in three years’ time, but my view would be that if you really look at the financial situation, the unfunded liabilities, the government deficit, the inflated asset prices, the conclusion is central banks will have to continue to print money, otherwise the system collapses. That, in my opinion, will boost precious metals prices.

Mike Gleason: As we begin to close, here, Dr. Faber, one of the things we value most about your perspective is that you don’t live in the U.S. More than most people, you’re tuned into what’s happening elsewhere, particularly in Asia and Europe. As for Americans, they can’t seem to get their eyes off the political theater in Washington, and to be fair, there’s never been a show quite like the one we have today, but is there anything of note that Americans are overlooking, and what stories are you going to be watching most closely as we move throughout the year?

Marc Faber: Well, I don’t want to criticize the U.S., because in other countries it is not much better. But the one thing I want to say is the following: Americans have been growing up and they’ve been brainwashed that America is a superpower and they have been educated in the belief of the American exceptionalism. And I just want to say that lots of countries in this world have a different perspective of the world. In particular, if you look at China, it has four times the population of America. Its industrial production is larger than in the U.S., their land mass is larger than the U.S., and they’re growing at a much faster pace. They have, in my opinion, no territorial ambitions, but they don’t want to be controlled by the U.S. that has, in Asia, countless military and naval bases.

They (China) look at the world from their perspective, and the U.S. would do well to consider other leaders’ perspectives, including Xi Jinping and Mr. Kim Jong-un, and Mr. Putin, of course. But if you only look at the world from your perspective, undoubtedly some trouble will arise. And what most Americans don’t see, they have kind of a tunnel vision where the tunnel starts in America and looks at the whole world, whereas other countries, they have another view of the world than the U.S.

And I think it’s very important, both economically and politically to consider the point of view of other countries that, by the way, have become very powerful.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, very well put. We’ll leave it there, and Dr. Faber, thanks so much for your time and for staying up late with us today in your home in Thailand. It was a joy to speak to you again. Before we let you go, please tell people how they can subscribe to The Gloom, Boom and Doom Report so they can follow your great commentaries on a regular basis.

Marc Faber: Thank you very much. I have a website called www.GloomBoomDoom.com. There, they can choose either a printed version of The Gloom, Boom and Doom Report or the website report, or both.

Mike Gleason: Excellent stuff. Once again, it’s been a real privilege to speak to you, Dr. Faber, and I hope we can do it again in not too distant future. Thank so much for joining us.

Marc Faber: It was a pleasure talking to you and to your listeners. Thank you.

Mike Gleason: Well, that will do it for this week. Thanks again to Dr. Marc Faber, editor and publisher of The Gloom, Boom and Doom Report, again the website is GloomBoomDoom.com be sure to check that out.

And don’t forget to check back here next Friday for our next Weekly Market Wrap Podcast, until then this has been Mike Gleason with Money Metals Exchange, thanks for listening and have a great weekend everybody.

*

Gold Supply Concerns Highlight its Rarity

Article by Frank Holmes – CEO and Chief Investment Officer U.S. Global Investors – abstracted from a longer article suggesting that commodities in general are flashing a once-in-a-lifetime buy signal .  To read full article click here.

Gold ended last week down slightly, the first time in three weeks it’s done so. It looks as if gold investors took some profits late in the week after the yellow metal came close to breaching $1,360 on Wednesday.

I still believe gold could hit $1,500 an ounce this year on rising consumer and producer prices, which I think are understated. This is more than apparent when you compare the official U.S. consumer price index (CPI) and alternative measures such as the New York Fed’s Underlying Inflation Gauge (UIG).And as Dr. Ed Yardeni points out in a recent blog post, the word “inflation” appeared as many as 106 times during the latest Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting, a sign that Fed members could be getting more and more concerned about mounting inflationary pressures.

Recent reports also suggest gold production is slowing, which could help support prices long-term. Exploration budgets have been declining pretty steadily since 2012 after the price of gold peaked, and fewer and fewer large-deposit mines are being discovered.

Last week the China Gold Association announced that the country, the largest producer of gold, produced 98 million metric tons in the March quarter, down some 3 percent from the same period last year. This comes after total Chinese output in 2017 fell 6 percent year-over-year to 426 million tons. Granted, miners have been pressured by Beijing to curtail production as part of the government’s enforcement of tougher environmental protection policies, but the decline in output is part of a downward trend we’re seeing across the board, especially among major producers.

Take a look at the declining quarterly output of Barrick Gold, the world’s largest gold miner. According to its preliminary results for the first quarter, Barrick produced a total of 1.05 million ounces from its 10 projects. That’s only a 2 percent decrease from the same quarter last year, but a far cry from where it was seven years ago.

Barrick gold reported lowest quarterly output in 16 years
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Since the news hit April 11, shares of Barrick are up about 3 percent, even after a Friday selloff.

While some investors might view the lower output as disappointing, others no doubt see it as a reminder that gold is a finite resource, one of the many reasons why it’s remained so highly valued for centuries. As I’ve written before, the low-hanging fruit has likely already been picked, making the task of mining the yellow metal more difficult as well as expensive. Supply isn’t growing nearly as fast as it once did.

And yet demand continues to climb. Not only do the peoples of India, China, Turkey and other countries have a strong cultural affinity to gold—an obsession that will only intensify as incomes rise—but the metal still plays a vital role as a portfolio diversifier in times of economic and political uncertainty.

China Takes the Long View on Gold-Silver… and So Should You

Article by: David Smith*  First published on the Moneymetals.com website

A cursory look at Chinese history can convince you that China should not be underestimated when it sets its sights on a particular goal.

Even before Mao Zedong took over the reins in 1949, and the first Five Year Plan began in 1953, centuries of history demonstrated that long-term planning, while not always meeting expectations, is a core behavioral trait of the Chinese psyche.

And more often than not, it has enabled them to hit the mark.

Expect eventual success for the One Belt, One Road Initiative – the world’s largest construction project, estimated to cost $80 trillion dollars – linking the Asian mainland, (including Central Asia) with Europe via high speed rail, communications links and vibrant financial trading platforms.

And expect this project to be a major factor in bringing about what Doug Casey and others believe could become the greatest commodities bull-run that most of us now living are going to see.

The petro-yuan. A game-changer?

And oh, by the way, China recently officially launched a petro-yuan contract at the Shanghai International Energy Exchange. It marks the first time overseas investors have been able to access a Chinese commodity market – an oil futures contract – that can be settled, not only with U.S. dollars, but also Chinese Yuan, eventually a basket of currencies… and gold.

Asian Analyst, Pepe Escobar sees clearly where this is heading, saying:

As the yuan progressively reaches full consolidation in trade settlement, the petro-yuan threat to the US dollar, inscribed in a complex, long-term process, will disseminate the Holy Grail: crude oil futures contracts priced in yuan fully convertible into gold…

That means China’s vast array of trade partners will be able to convert yuan into gold without having to keep funds in Chinese assets or turn them into US dollars… Still, the whole petrodollar edifice lies on OPEC – and the House of Saud– pricing oil in US dollars; as everyone needs greenbacks to buy oil, everyone needs to buy (spiraling) US debt. Beijing is set to break the system – as long as it takes.

8 Gram Gold Panda

Meanwhile gold will continue rising to a level where at some point, Beijing decides to set a conversion rate. When this “golden moment” arrives, the effects on global oil trade – and U.S. continued supremacy in this arena – will be profound. Mining Analyst, Byron King doesn’t mince any words about it. Says he,

China’s vast array of trade partners will be able to convert yuan into gold without having to keep funds in Chinese assets or turn them into U.S. dollars. It’s a straight-up way to bypass the buck. And what if Saudi Arabia – among China’s largest oil suppliers – agrees to accept yuan instead of dollars? It’ll be a bomb-down-the-funnel for U.S. dollar hegemony in the world.

Gold-for-Oil is just one element which will take precious metals to new all-time highs.

For the last several years, we’ve discussed many of these factors, about which readers can fully test their understanding by perusing scores of reports and essays archived here at https://www.moneymetals.com/news You can also find a steady stream of informative, relevant, actionable information on “The Silver Guru” David Morgan’s Blog.

Once this trend fully gets under way – sooner than most expect – the price you’re looking at for physical gold (and silver with its 90% directional gold- correlation price movement) will quickly recede in the rear-view mirror.

Here are just a few recent commentaries that should give you a sense of the structural changes in these markets, making them increasingly subject to explosive moves on the upside – without sending you an invitation to board the train beforehand.

The bottom line is gold is nearing a major bull breakout above $1365. That will turn psychology bullish and bring traders back in droves. Gold is rallying ever closer to new bull-market highs as evidenced by its massive multi-year ascending-triangle chart pattern now nearing a bullish climax. Today gold is only a couple percent below that decisive breakout, which will finally blast it back onto the radars of investors. – Adam Hamilton, Zeal Speculation and Investment

“We see a massive base building in gold. Massive. It’s a four-year, five-year base in gold. If we break above this resistance line, one can expect gold to go up by, like, a $1,000. . .” Doubleline CEO, Jeff Gundlach, the “Bond King”

“With the growth of high-end consumption and the development in second and third-tier cities, the Chinese market will show its substantial demand, mostly unexplored, for physical gold, as more and more people start to realize gold’s stored and retaining values in the long term.” – Song Xin, China Gold Association, April 18, 2018.

So how should you consider handling this situation?

Yes, we’ve been waiting “quite awhile” for this trend to get underway, creating fireworks for metals’ holders. And yes, a few people have become impatient, and actually sold back their metal – which may have taken years to accumulate. But just remember, it’s less a question of if, rather than when this all comes together.

Successful metals’ owners who have prospered since the beginning of the bull run in 2000, got there – and stayed onboard – by following a few sensible rules.

Silk Road Countries have bought 30,000 Tonnes of Gold Since 2000

Does this look like an established trend? (Courtesy goldchartsrus.com)

They listen to the “experts” and pay attention to big changes, like the Chinese yuan-for-oil event we’re discussing here.

In addition, they look at what the charts tell them – that Asia continues to suck up gold and silver from the West like a proverbial vacuum cleaner. The Silk Road Gold Total Reserves Plus Demand chart nearby confirms this in spades. They touch base with risk tolerance, taking stock of their financial capability to participate. And acquire metal on a regular basis (without going ‘all in’ at any particular price point), regardless of that the price is doing that month.

They understand that profoundly positive things come to those who are patient, have a plan… and who then act on it. So, ask yourself today, “Am I willing – like the Chinese – to persevere for ‘as long as it takes'”?

Silver May Be Getting Ready to Shine Again

by: Clint Siegner – Money Metals News Service

The setup for higher silver prices is so good it’s scary. The relative positioning of speculators versus the bullion banks in the futures markets is extraordinarily lopsided.

A bet on silver moving higher from here looks a lot like a no-brainer. So much so that David Morgan, publisher of The Morgan Report and silver guru is advising just a bit of caution, as he told listeners in an exclusive interview on this past Friday’s Money Metals Weekly Market Wrap Podcast.

The bullion banks (Commercials) are almost certainly now betting for higher silver prices and have relinquished their concentrated short position.

Meanwhile, the large speculators are positioned increasingly short. The good news for silver bulls is the bullion banks dominate the futures markets, by hook or by crook, and they generally win versus the speculators.

In the chart below from Zachary Storella (Investing.com), the red line represents the “Commercials” which are the bullion banks and miners. It shows their collective position virtually even, or neutral. It is the first time this has happened since the Commodity Futures Trading Commission began publishing the more detailed Commitments of Traders report in 2009.

Silver: COT Futures Large Trader Positions Chart

One could argue that if the commercials are neutral, that isn’t exactly the same as the bullion banks being positioned long.

Remember though, the commercial category includes both the producers and the bullion banks. Miners are generally going to be short by default. It is typical for them to hedge their production by selling futures and delivering the physical metal later. This hedging allows them to raise funds for current operations and protect themselves from a drop in metals prices down the road.

If the miners are short, the bullion banks have to be betting long.

Meanwhile, the speculators are taking the other side of that bet. If history is going to repeat and the banks are going to once again take the specs back to the woodshed for a whipping, it is full steam ahead for silver prices, right? Not quite so fast says David Morgan.

The problem is in the lower of the two charts shown above. Open interest in silver — the number of open futures contracts — is near record highs.

In the past, when the commercial short position approached a bottom, open interest also tended to be near a low point

We are in uncharted territory with both an extreme in Commercial/Spec positioning and an extreme in open interest. That makes predictions about the direction of the price more uncertain.

The COT report isn’t detailed enough to remove all guesswork about how the banks are positioned, so there could be something important that silver bugs are missing.

But if the prop traders at JPMorgan Chase and the other banks who dominate metals trading are positioned heavily long, the huge open interest could fuel a dramatic move in price. If prices start moving higher, there are a lot of specs to be caught in a short squeeze.

Another bit of data supports the notion that silver investors are witnessing history in the markets with the bullion banks FINALLY long silver.

Craig Hemke, of TF Metals Report, noted on Friday that JPMorgan Chase added another 605,000 ounces of physical silver to their COMEX vault. That bank has been notorious for its short position, but it has been steadily building a physical position in recent months. Today it holds a whopping 53.7% of the COMEX bar inventory.

All of this extraordinary positioning in the futures markets could be foretelling something extraordinary is about to happen to the silver price.

Clint Siegner

Is $1,500 gold on the cards this year?

Could the Stars Be Aligned for $1,500 Gold?

By Frank Holmes – CEO and Chief Investment Officer U.S. Global Investors

How the stars could be aligned for 1500 gold

In a January post, I showed how the price of gold rallied in the months following the 2015 and 2016 December interest rate hikes—as much as 29 percent in the former cycle, 17.8 percent in the latter. Gold ended 2017 up double digits, despite pressure from skyrocketing stocks and massive cryptocurrency speculation.

Will there be a fed rally in 2018
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I forecast then that we could see another “Fed rally” this year following the rate hike in December 2017. Hypothetically, if gold took a similar trajectory as the past two cycles, its price could climb as high as $1,500 this year.

As I told Kitco News’ Daniela Cambone last week, I stand by the $1,500 forecast. Before last week, investors might have been slightly disappointed by gold’s mostly sideways performance so far this year. But now, in response to a number of factors, it’s up close to 3 percent in 2018, compared to the S&P 500 Index, down 2.4 percent.

Living with Volatility

While I’m on the topic of equities, the S&P 500 dividend yield, for the first time in nearly a decade, is now below the yield on the two-year Treasury. Historically, the economy has slowed around six months after dividends stopped paying as much as short-dated government paper. This could spur some stock investors to trim their exposure and rotate into other asset classes, including not just bonds but also precious metals, which I believe might help gold revisit resistance from its 2016 high of $1,374 an ounce.

Two year treasury yeild is now higher than sp 500 dividened yield

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Volatility has also crept back into markets. It began with the positive wage growth report in February, implying the possibility of faster inflation. More recently, the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX), or “fear gauge,” has surged on the departures of Gary Cohn as chief economic advisor and Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, as well as the application of tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. Last week, President Donald Trump ordered tariffs on at least $50 billion of Chinese goods, stoking new fears of a U.S.-China trade war. In response, the Asian giant proposed fresh duties on as much as $3 billion of U.S. products, including wine, fruits, nuts, ethanol and steel pipes.

Volatility has returned to markets after a calm 2017
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As I see it, there could be other contributing factors pushing up the price of gold. A good place to start is with Trump’s recent appointment of former CNBC star Larry Kudlow as White House chief economic advisor.

Kudlow’s Kerfuffle Over Gold

Between 2001 and 2007, I appeared on Kudlow’s various CNBC shows a number of times, and though he always struck me as highly intelligent, informed and accomplished—he served as Bear Stearns’ chief economist and even advised President Ronald Reagan—it was clear he had a strong bias against gold. This was the case even as the price of the yellow metal was on a tear, rising from $270 in 2001 to more than $830 an ounce by the end of 2007.

Gold price continued to rise last decade even as bearishness in media persisted
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Kudlow showed his true colors toward gold as recently as this month, telling viewers: I would buy King Dollar and I would sell gold. As you can see below, this has’t been a prudent trade for more than a year now.

Gold price vs US dollar
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Earlier this month, Kudlow wrote that falling gold is good, as it “bodes well for the future economy.” He said he agreed with a friend, who called the metal an “end-of-the-world insurance contract.”

While there are those who would agree with him, it’s important to remember that gold is used for much more than as a portfolio diversifier, and its price is driven by a number of factors. These include Fear Trade factors, from inflation to negative real interest rates, and Love Trade factors such as gift-giving during cultural and religious festivals. The precious metal has important industrial applications as well.

And since I first went on Kudlow’s program, gold has outperformed the S&P 500’s price action nearly two-to-one, as I showed you back in December. Even with dividends reinvested, the market is still trailing the yellow metal.

Gold price has crushed the market more than 2 to 1 so far this century
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So it’s fine if gold isn’t your favorite asset, but to dismiss it wholesale as Kudlow has again and again is, with all due respect, irrational.

It’s Not About Steel, It’s About Stealing

Kudlow isn’t just anti-gold, however. He’s also anti-China, and even though he’s traditionally opposed tariffs in general, he supports Trump’s efforts to levy taxes on Chinese imports. Specifically, the duties are designed to offset the cost of intellectual property allegedly stolen by the Chinese over the past several years.

China’s J-31 fighter jet, for example, is believed to be a knockoff of Lockheed Martin’s F-35, the most expensive piece of U.S. military equipment. It’s for this reason that Lockheed’s CEO, Marillyn Hewson, was present when Trump signed the authorization to impose new tariffs.

The Chinese J31 fighter jet is thjought to be a knockoff of Lockheed Martins F35

Our intellectual property is hugely important to the U.S. economy. As important as steel and aluminum are, they account for only 2 percent of world trade, and in the U.S., it’s even less than a percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Technology exports, on the other hand, represent about 17 percent of U.S. GDP.

That said, the implications of a trade war with the world’s second-largest economy certainly have many investors concerned—all the more reason to consider adding to your gold allocation at this time. As always, I recommend a 10 percent weighting, with 5 percent in gold bullion, 5 percent in high-quality gold mining stocks and ETFs.

Is Trump Betting on the Wrong Guy?

On a final note, we were pleased to have an old friend visit our office last week. Michael Ding, a veteran of the U.S. Global investments team, joined us to share some laughs and his thoughts on what’s happening in Asian markets right now.

Specifically, Michael said that Ray Dalio, founder of mammoth investment firm Bridgewater Associates, which manages around $160 billion, has become something of an economic guru for members of the Chinese ruling party’s highest-ranking members, including Premier Li Keqiang. Dalio—whose most recent book, Principles, nowtops China’s bestseller list—is reportedly advising the country’s top bankers and economists on how to deleverage safely without triggering a so-called “hard landing.”

A trade war between the U.S. and China, Ray Dalio said recently, would be a “tragedy.”

So to put it in perspective: Whereas Trump has just now brought on Kudlow, the Chinese are leaning on a fellow American, Dalio, one of the smartest, most gifted money managers in the world—not just of our time but of all time.

Did Trump make the right call? Which player would you want on your team: Kudlow or Dalio? For my money, I would pick Dalio.

Kudlow on gold – Admin stooge or …?

A view on Larry Kudlow, President Trump’s new Chief Economic Advisor, who apparently advocated buying the dollar and selling gold in one of his first pronouncements after accepting the new position.  This statement had an immediate negative effect on the gold price.  But, does he really believe what he said or is he just toeing the party line?

By Clint Siegner*

Gary Cohn resigned as President Donald Trump’s Chief Economic Advisor on March 6th. He and Trump didn’t see eye to eye on the recently imposed tariffs and the President selected CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow to replace him Wednesday. Perhaps it was Kudlow’s experience on television that got him the job.

Larry Kudlow

It doesn’t look like he was chosen for his intellectual honesty. Kudlow was quite vocal with his own opposition to tariffs.

He has suddenly done an about face and now says he can “live” with targeted tariffs. However, it gets worse than simply flip-flopping on trade.

In one of his very first interviews after accepting the post, Kudlow offered this bit of advice to investors: “I would buy King Dollar and I would sell gold.”

The dollar went on a dramatic losing streak during Trump’s first year in office – one of its worst annual performances in decades. Of course, that is just a single year.

The fiat dollar has been in almost continual decline versus real assets since the Federal Reserve’s establishment 105 years ago. It has lost 98.5% of its purchasing power relative to gold since then.

Kudlow must have seen the forecasts which show federal deficits spiking higher as the combination of tax cuts and higher spending wreak havoc on the budget. The tariffs should further weigh on the U.S. dollar as higher steel and aluminum prices drive inflation.

The prospects for the U.S. dollar are downright awful and Kudlow isn’t advocating for reforms which might improve that outlook. Instead, he is vocally advocating for the Federal Reserve to slow down on interest rate hikes.

It’s hard to believe anyone today could be particularly bullish on the greenback. Now that Kudlow is getting a federal paycheck, he is simply toeing the company line like he did for years at CNBC.

Kudlow has made a name for himself by constantly hyping the economy and stock market, cheering for “king dollar,” and criticizing gold – much to the detriment of viewers who followed his advice ahead of the 2008 financial crisis.

We’ll be paying particularly close attention to Kudlow’s moves now that he’s in the Trump administration. Early indications are not positive.

Gold’s many uses – investment, industrial and decorative

Frank Holmes of U.S. Global Investors summarises gold’s many uses in a blog article first published on his company’s website.  It contains links to other data on the website

The Many Uses of Gold

By Frank Holmes – CEO and Chief Investment Officer, US Global Investors

The many uses of gold

As our loyal readers know, at U.S. Global Investors we carefully monitor the price of gold. We pay close attention to the macro drivers moving the yellow metal, like government policy and cultural affinity spurring demand globally. We also monitor the micro drivers, like company management and quant factors that make one gold stock superior to the next.

Gold’s qualities make it one of the most coveted metals in the world and a popular gift in the form of jewelry – this is what I call the Love Trade. From the beginning of the Indian wedding season in September until Chinese New Year in February, the price of gold tends to rise due to higher demand from the two biggest consumers of gold, China and India.

The Love trade China and India gift gold for weddings and other celebrations

On the other hand is the Fear Trade, driven by negative real interest rates and the fear of poor government or central bank policies that could result in currency devaluation or inflation. This fear triggers people to buy gold as a hedge against possible negative returns in other asset classes, which in turn, pushes the gold price higher.

For more on gold’s seasonal trading patterns, download the free whitepaper Gold’s Love Trade.

Gold in a Portfolio

We believe gold is an essential part of a portfolio due to its history as a protector against inflation. I’ve always recommended a 10 percent weighting in the metal, 5 percent in gold bullion or jewelry, and 5 percent in gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

In fact, current economic conditions make an even greater case for gold. The stock market is still on a historic bull run, and the tax reform bill is helping ratchet up share prices. It’s important to remember that the precious metal has historically shared a low-to-negative correlation with equities. For the past 30 years, the average correlation between the LBMA gold price and the S&P 500 Index has been negative 0.06.

Gold has also performed competitively against many asset classes over the past few decades, as seen in the chart below. This makes the metal, we believe, an appealing diversifier in the event of a correction in the capital markets or an end to the bull market.

Gold has performed very competitively against a number of asset classes over the years
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Our investment team brings knowledge and experience in a variety of fields, with one of the most notable being gold. As such, we have written numerous pieces about the precious metal. One of our most popular is the Many Uses of Gold slideshow that outlines eight different uses of gold, other than in your portfolio. From dentistry to electronics and space travel to currency, gold remains widely used in everyday life.

We believe it’s important to truly understand the asset class you are investing in, and we hope this slideshow does just that. Explore gold’s many uses here!

Explore the many uses of gold slideshow

 

Mad rush into gold ahead when fiat currencies tank – Pento

Mike Gleason* of Money Metals Exchange interviews Michael Pento who is predicting an eventual crash in fiat currencies and a parallel take-off in precious metals.  As Mike says in his introduction, Coming up we’ll hear a tremendous interview with Michael Pento of Pento Portfolio Strategies. Michael shares his very troubling outlook for the 10-year Treasury note, the tipping point that will cause the destruction of confidence in the dollar and what this all means for gold prices.

Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome back Michael Pento, president and founder of Pento Portfolio Strategies, and author of the book The Coming Bond Market Collapse: How to Survive the Demise of the U.S. Debt Market.

Michael is a well-known money manager and a fantastic market commentator, and over the past few years has been a wonderful guest and one of our favorite interviews here on the Money Metals Podcast and we always enjoy getting his Austrian economist viewpoint.

Michael, welcome back and thanks for joining us again.

Michael Pento: What a great introduction. Thanks for having me back on, Mike.

Mike Gleason: Well, we often talk about bond yields with you, Michael, and I think that’s a good place to start today. You recently published an article where you made the case that 4% would be the floor when it comes to the 10-year note – not the ceiling, the floor, and you made some observations that now seem striking. The yield on that note averaged 4.6% in 2007, just the year before the 2008 financial crisis.

Today practically nobody remembers yields ever being that high… 10 years is a long time we suppose. Heck, it seems like investors have already forgotten the early February selloff in the equities market, so I guess we can’t be surprised that they can’t remember the situation a decade ago.

In any event, markets are not prepared, or priced for 4% yields on the 10-year. Talk a bit about why 4% is likely to be a minimum and why yields should probably be much higher than that.

Michael Pento: Let’s start with the fact that normally speaking throughout history, the 10-year note seems to run with nominal GDP growth, which is basically your real growth plus inflation. So, if we’re running around 2% inflation and we have growth at 2.5% around that, you would assume that the 10-year note should be historically speaking around 4.5% right now. But I can make a very cogent argument, Mike, that rates should be much, much higher because if you look back … as you mentioned the 2007 when that average interest rate was, again, 4.6% and nominal GDP was sort of around that same ballpark, the annual deficit was 1.1% of GDP.

But going into fiscal 2019… sounds far away, not maybe that far away, but it sounds further away than really what it is. It begins in October of this year. Our annual amount of red ink will be $1.2 trillion. That is the Treasury’s annual deficit, but you have to add to that to the fact that the central bank of the United States will be selling… and I say selling, because what they don’t buy the Treasury must issue to the public, $600 billion less of Treasury Bonds. So, that’s $1.8 trillion deficit. That has never before happened in the history of mankind, a $1.8 trillion deficit, which happens to be 8.6% of our phony GDP if we don’t go into a recession.

If we go into a recession anytime in the near future, and I don’t think the business cycle has been outlawed, then we’re talking about $3 trillion annual deficits. Let’s just take the 1.8 which is 8.6% of GDP. Why would the 10-year note not go to at least 4.5% where nominal GDP is? It would probably go much higher, especially even the fact that back in 2007 we had $5.1 trillion dollars of publicly traded debt, but not we have $15 trillion dollars of publicly traded debt. So over above the fact that the Fed’s balance sheet went from $700 billion to $4.5 trillion; it’s $4.4 trillion right now.

But you still have $4.5 trillion that they hold, but guess what? There’s an extra … what’s that, $11 trillion of publicly traded debt that has to be absorbed by private bond holders? So deficits are exploding. The amount of publicly traded debt has exploded. And there isn’t any reason, and there isn’t any rationale. Central banks are getting out of the bond buying business so there isn’t any cohesion, rationale, for rates not to not only normalize but be much higher than they were normally.

Let’s just say they normalize… 4.6%, 4.5%, maybe higher than that. By the way, let me just add this quickly Mike, the average interest rate going on a 10-year note going back since 1969 is over 7%. So, the interest rate on the 10-year right now is 2.88%. It is going to not only go up much higher, but it’s going to rise dramatically, probably towards the end of this year as the ECB, European Central Bank gets out of their QE. They’ll be ending QE by the end of this year.

So then you’ll have only the Bank of Japan in the bond buying business. So, yields are going up … and I’ll let you in after this one more comment … if the yield on a 10-year note goes from 2.8 … and don’t forget … it was 1.4. Now it’s 2.88 or 2.9, it’s going to go to 4.5 very quickly in my opinion. Probably by the end of this year, unless we have a recession and a stock market collapse.

Where do you think junk bonds will be? The average yield on junk bonds is 5%… a little bit over 5%. So, junk bond yields are going to spike. That means that prices are going to plummet. And my god, you’re talking about a complete blow-up of the income market across the spectrum, especially in the riskiest part of it. Just like subprime mortgages. So buckle your seat belts, the low-volatility regime is dead and gone.

Mike Gleason: The housing market is a very big part of the economy and that’s tied to the 10-year and it’s likely to get crushed. And honestly that’s just the most direct example, but honestly there is so much in our financial world, as you just alluded to, that’s dictated by that treasury note. So, if people are ever wondering why you talk so much about these bond rates it’s because it’s so vitally important, isn’t it Michael?

Michael Pento: Absolutely. You have not only junk bonds, you’ve got collateralized bonds, you’ve got collateralized loan obligations, leverage loans, private equity deals … you have the risk-free rate of return, sovereign debt, taken to 1.4% and that was in the summer of 2016. So, let’s just say, that if I’m correct, it goes to 4.4%. So, the 10-year note goes from 1.4 to 4.4 just at 300 basis point increase in yields leads to a 24% plunge in your principle.

So, if you lose a quarter of your net worth that you have in bonds in the risk-free treasury, imagine what your loss will be in leverage loans, COOs, junk bonds, muni bonds, equities, real estate, REITS, I mean you could go on and on. Everything is based off of that risk-free rate of return, which by the way, if hedge fund’s rate was 0% for almost 9 years, and a German bund into 0.7%, it was negative for many years, people in corporations in Europe were floating debt with a negative yield, so you had the biggest bond bubble in history that’s slamming into the hugest gargantuan increase in debt in history. And when those things meet, it’s an awful deadly cocktail.

So, like I said, buckle your seat belts because this is going to be one hell of a year coming up. It already has been and it’s only going to intensify.

Mike Gleason: Now with that said, there are some that argue that the Fed will not let yields move that high, they simply cannot. Officials there know well what will happen to growth and to the federal budget if rates should rise so do you think the Fed will intervene and can they continue to keep rates capped indefinitely?

Michael Pento: Well if you listen to the new Fed chair Jerome Powell, testifying yesterday saying he’s so ebullient and upbeat about the stock market and the economy. I don’t know what he’s looking at, I mean we had two quarters in a row at 3%, now the 4th quarter came in at 2.5%.

If you listen to the Atlanta Fed, they started Q1 at 4.5% now it’s down to 2.6%. So I don’t know where the excitement is about GDP. I don’t know where it’s coming from. You mentioned housing, if you look at pending home sales it’s 4.7% down. It was announced this morning. All the other data on all prices is heading south, including existing home sales and new home sales. And that’s only when we had a slight uptick in interest rates.

People talk about how beneficial the tax cuts are, but they forgot about the other side of the equation which is rising rates. Rising debt service costs are erasing any and all benefits that’s coming from the tax plan. So, what we’re seeing now in the economy is a sugar high, an adrenalin shot. But going towards the end of this year I fully expect the economy to fall out of bed.

And Jerome Powell who is still upbeat on the stock market and the economy, he’s going to have to change his tune. But what happens when you change your tune, is the Fed is going to have to admit, Mike, that they had the mistake. In other words, their 9 year experiment in Quantitative Easings, and huge increase in the size of the balance sheet, failed to rescue the economy. And instead of being able to ever normalize interest rates … this is why this watershed epiphany is going to be so hard for the Fed to admit … they’re going to have to admit that all of their manipulations failed to provide viable and sustainable economic growth.

And then they’re going to have to change course, because as you said, if interest rates rise and rise they must, and we’re paying all this extra interest on this debt. And they’ll say well, we have to cap interest rates from rising, this is a watershed epiphany that they’re very much loathe to admit. Because if you change your tune at 5.25% on a Fed funds rate as they did in 2008, that’s one thing. But if you change your tune when interest rates on the Fed funds rate … the effect on Fed funds rate is 1.4% as it is today … that’s a totally different story. You’re not only going to have to take back your 150 basis points of rate hikes, but then you have to go right back into QE, you have to admit that you can never drain your balance sheet, you have to admit that interest rates can never normalize.

Do you know what that would do to the currency? Do you know what that would do to the price of precious metals? Do you know what that would do to the fate of the stock market and the state of the treasury? So, all these things are going to be loath to admit but they will have to come back into QE as the stock market and the economy plunges. And then it’s game over. I think the faith in fiat currencies goes away and it’s going to end very quickly, and it’s probably going to start by the end of this year.

Mike Gleason: Yeah it’s certainly a hyper-inflationary type of scenario could play out there if all that comes to pass for sure. I was recently watching an interview you did with legendary investor Jim Rodgers, which was really great and very fascinating by the way, and you guys were talking about ETFs and the dangers that those funds may pose the next time equity investors rush for the exits.

You made some really great points. Now back in 2008 the markets were crushed by derivatives – securities so complex that lots of people who were on them didn’t understand what was in them or how they might perform. These days the markets may be at risk from exchange traded funds which are designed to make investing simple.

Please explain why you were so concerned about ETFs and their increasing dominance in the markets, and how a sell-off could be made much worse by the fact that so many people are invested in these things.

Michael Pento: Well you look at what happened with inverse volatility trade. I’m sure you guys are aware of what happened there. So, people were lulled to sleep in the stock market, believing that the only direction that stocks can go is up. Because there was no other alternative. You take yields to 0%, leave them there for 9 years, and of course people are going to go out, way out, along the risk curve.

So, people were actually saying to themselves after a while, hey, why don’t I just short volatility? Well the problem is, when everybody shorts volatility, is that when volatility spikes by 100%, inverse vol goes to zero. And that wiped out billions of dollars of net worth, pretty much in hours. And it’s not exactly the same thing, but that same concept is now in play with the ETF’s spectrum. So, 9 years, 0% interest rates, everybody went into passive ETF funds, by the way Mike, a lot of these funds own very much the same securities. So, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, Google, Apple, these are all contained in various weightings in all of these passive ETFs. Or much of them.

So what happens is you have passive ETFs ownership, which has gone off the charts, as well as a huge surge, a gargantuan increase, in passive ETFs that are leveraged to the bond market. So you have ETFs that own bonds, that are long bonds, ETFs that are long, high-yield junk, ETFs that are long the same securities. And when everybody hits the exit door at once, as they did with these inverse volatility trades, they will blow up.

So you try to redeem the ETFs. The ETFs in turn have to redeem the underlying securities, which in turn causes the ETF’s value to fall, so it’s a vicious cycle, a downward spiral. And that’s what I’m afraid is going to happen. Because you have globe investors to sleep by 9 years of inculcation that yields can only go down and prices on bonds and equities can only go up. And when that changes, and it could change violently as yields start to rise, then you’re going to have this implosion in pretty much everything … you had bubble in everything, you’re going to have an implosion in everything.

That’s the real danger. I’m not a Cassandra. I was way out in front of the spectrum of all these perma-bulls in 2007 and in the year 2000, I warned about the housing market in 2005 and 2006. So, I have a history of identifying these problems. I have said for the last few years that you cannot construct a healthy, viable economy by taking interest rates to 0 and leaving them there for years.

And also increasing a massive amount of debt… $230 trillion dollars, 330% of GDP. That is the total amount of debt in the globe today. Up $70 trillion dollars since the great recession. While you’ve taken interest rates and deformed the whole risk spectrum, while you’ve increased debt, you’ve also blown up the biggest asset bubble in equities ever. So, we’re now at 150%, 1.5 times. The market cap of equities are now 1.5 times the underlying economy.

That has never before happened in history. It was only reached about that same level in March of 2000. This is a dangerous bubble and it’s going to burst, and you and your investors need to be aware of how dangerous it is. And you should also understand if you’re going to invest, you should have somebody that understands this dynamic now and can at least try to profit from the 3rd, 50%+ plunge in prices since the year 2000.

Mike Gleason: Yeah a very troubling set up for sure. Well as we begin to close here Michael, I wanted to talk to you about gold and silver. They’re often viewed as safe havens, and in the aforementioned scenario you got to think metals would get a boost. But if we go back to the last financial crisis, they did get taken down, gold and silver, they did get taken down with equities although they bounced back much sooner.

However, leading up to the fall of ‘08, we had a pretty hot commodities market that drove metals up in the preceding few years, but this time metals have been languishing a bit and seem cheap compared to everything else. So, what do you see happening in the metals markets this time around during a big stock market crash, if and when we do get one?

Michael Pento: So, you know Mike that I love gold, I think it’s going to be supplanting fiat currencies after the debacle ensues. But I’m underweight gold in the portfolio now. You once talked about 2008, what happened in 2008 don’t forget. If you remember back then we had the BRICs trade going. So people were short dollars and long Brazil, Russia, India, China currencies. So, when people became aware that the stock market globally … and economies globally and real estate market globally … was going to tank, they had to close out that carry trade, which involved buying dollars.

That trade is not prevalent today, so I don’t think gold is going to get hurt the next time this happens. But I’m underweight gold now, precisely, because while the dollar does stand to weaken because of these massive trade deficits … we have huge trade deficits, in fact the last one came out at minus $74 billion dollars for one month of goods and services in the deficit … we also have, and I mentioned it, the massive debt. That’s very negative for the dollar and positive for gold. What we have on the negative side for gold is rising nominal and real interest rates. So that is never good for gold. So, there’s a battle on right now, it’s like this $1,300 to $1,350 kind of battle. You see gold tries to get higher and then you realize well, rising rates are not very good for gold, and then it starts to fall and you realize that hey, a falling dollar is really good for gold, so it’s kind of caught in this trading range of ignominy.

But that all ends when that epiphany, that watershed moment comes from the Federal Reserve that yes, we have to stop draining our balance sheet, and we must reduce the federal funds rate. And then I think, as I said, fiat currencies get flushed down the toilet and there’s going to be a mad rush into gold like you’ve never seen before. Because what’s going to happen is you’re going to have bond prices and equities tanking simultaneously. And people will be fleeing to gold, flocking to gold, in the realization that normalization in the interest rate spectrum, normalization in the economy, is not going to be able to be achieved any time in the near future.

Mike Gleason: It’ll certainly be interesting to see if you could get your hands on it in that sort of a mad rush of retail investors trying to get gold. Right now, we’ve got a lot of access to inventory and it’s on sale still so people should heed that warning.

Well we appreciate it as always Michael, it’s great having you on once again and we always love getting your insights. Now before we let you go, as we always do, please tell people about how they can both read and hear more of your wonderful market commentaries and also learn about your firm and how they could potentially become a client if they want to do that.

Michael Pento: Well thank you. It’s Pento Portfolio Strategies, PentoPort.com. My email address is mpento@pentoport.com. The office number here is 732-772-9500 give us a call, we won’t bite. And please subscribe to my podcast, its only $49.99 a year and it gives you my ideas on a weekly basis, kind of analysis of economics and markets that you won’t find anywhere else.

Mike Gleason: Yeah it’s truly great stuff. Michael is somebody that I’ve been following for a long time, we always love having his comments here on the podcast, and we certainly appreciate it and look forward to catching up with you again before long. Thanks very much for all you do Michael.

Michael Pento: Thank you, Mike.

Mike Gleason: Well that will wrap it up for this week, thanks again to Michael Pento of Pento Portfolio Strategies. For more information visit PentoPort.com. You can sign up for his email list, listen to his mid-week podcast and get his fantastic marking commentaries on a regular basis. Again, just go to PentoPort.com.

And don’t forget to tune in here next Friday for next Weekly Market Wrap Podcast, until then this has been Mike Gleason with Money Metals Exchange, thanks for listening and have a great weekend everybody.

Inflation Worries? Gold May Be the Solution

By Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer U.S. Global Investors

In its outlook for 2018, Thomson Reuters GFMS analysts see gold prices rising to $1,500 an ounce sometime this year on inflation fears. This would put gold at a level unseen since April 2013.

According to Thomson Reuters, the price appreciation could be driven by “concerns that the United States may pull out of NAFTA,” or the North American Free Trade Agreement. NAFTA, of course, is the trade pact the U.S. shares with Canada and Mexico, its number two and three largest trading partners.

The Trump administration has already imposed tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber, and more recently it set steep tariffs on imported washing machines and solar panels—all of which is inflationary. The same thing goes for the recently-passed tax overhaul, which has prompted some companies such as Walmart and Starbucks to raise their minimum wage.

But if the administration were to withdraw the U.S. from NAFTA, as President Donald Trump has hinted at numerous times, prices on consumer goods and services could become destabilized and begin to surge.

In anticipation of this, investors might want to consider adding to their gold exposure, which has a history of performing well in times of rising inflation.

Gold Has Helped Preserve and Grow Capital in Times of Rising Inflation

The chart below, courtesy of the World Gold Council (WGC), shows that annual gold returns were around 15 percent on average in years when inflation was 3 percent or higher year-over-year, between 1970 and 2017. In real, or inflation-adjusted, terms, returns were closer to 8 percent. This is still higher, though, than average returns in years when inflation was lower.

According to the WGC, “gold returns have outpaced the U.S. consumer price index (CPI) over the long run, due to its many sources of demand. Gold has not just preserved capital, it has helped it grow.”

Having a 5 to 10 percent weighting in gold and gold stocks, then, could help investors minimize their losses in other asset classes.

Dollar Weakness Also Driving Gold Prices

Tariffs and higher wages aren’t the only Fear Trade factors moving gold prices right now. A weaker U.S. dollar, relative to other global currencies, deserves a lot of the credit as well.

For the past several weeks, the greenback has plunged in value, dipping more than 1 percent last Wednesday alone—its biggest one-day pullback in 10 months. This came following Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s comment at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that a weaker dollar “is good for us as it’s related to trade and opportunities.” The greenback similarly tanked back in April 2017 when President Trump said the dollar is “getting too strong.” Soon after, it fell below its 200-day moving average.

Last Thursday, however, Trump walked back Mnuchin’s (and his own) comment, telling CNBC that the dollar “is going to get stronger and stronger, and ultimately I want to see a strong dollar.”

In any case, the year-long decline has been a short-term tailwind for gold, which is priced in U.S. dollars and, therefore, becomes less expensive for foreign buyers when it sinks. We believe the greenback peaked last January and that we could see further depreciation.

How to Play the Rally

One of the best ways to gain exposure to the gold space, we believe, is with the U.S. Global GO GOLD and Precious Metal Miners ETF (GOAU). The fund provides access to companies engaged in the production of precious metals not only through active means—mining, for instance—but passive means as well. That includes gold and precious metal royalty companies, which provide upfront cash to producers to develop a project. In return, they receive royalties or rights to a “stream,” an agreed-upon amount of gold, silver or other precious metal at a lower-than-market price.

We believe this is a superior business model, which is why 30 percent of GOAU is weighted in gold royalty names. These companies have exposure to precious metals but have managed to remain profitable even when prices are down. Because they’re not directly responsible for building and maintaining mines and other costly infrastructure, huge operating expenses can be avoided. They also hold highly diversified portfolios of mines and other assets, which helps mitigate concentration risk in the event that one of the properties stops producing. As a result, royalty companies have enjoyed a much lower breakeven cost than traditional miners.

Compared to many other companies in the mining space, royalty companies have tended to be better allocators of capital, taking on very little debt and deploying cash reserves only at the most opportune times.

Another Positive Year Ahead for Gold, Says the World Gold Council

by Frank Holmes – CEO and Chief Investment Officer U.S. Global Investors

Another Positive Year Ahead for Gold, Says the World Gold Council

In a year when the S&P 500 hit all-time highs, gold also held strong, finishing 2017 up 13.5 percent, according to the World Gold Council. Gold’s annual gain was the largest since 2010, outperforming all major asset classes other than stocks. Contributing to this gain was a weaker U.S. dollar, stock indices hitting new highs and geopolitical instability, all of which fueled uncertainty. Investors continued to add gold to their portfolios to manage risk exposure, with gold-backed ETFs seeing $8.2 billion of inflows last year.

gold outperformed major asset classes in 2017
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The World Gold Council (WGC) recently released its annual outlook on the yellow metal identifying four key market trends it believes will support positive gold performance in 2018, and we agree. Below I summarize the report for you and add some of my own thoughts on gold’s trajectory.

Key Trends Influencing Gold in 2018

1. A year of synchronized global economic growth
Economies are on the rise with global growth increasing in 2017 and on track to continue the trend this year. China and India, two of the world’s largest consumers of gold, will see their economies and incomes grow due to the implementation of new economic policies. WGC research shows that as incomes rise, the demand for gold jewelry and gold-containing technology tends to rise as well. Investment and consumer demand for the yellow metal results in a lower correlation to other mainstream financial assets, such as stocks, making it an effective portfolio diversifier.

there's a positive relationship between gold demand and wealth
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2. Shrinking balance sheets and rising interest rates
Expectations are for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates three times this year and shrink its balance sheet by allowing $50 billion in Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities to mature each month. Over the past decade, central banks pumped trillions into the global economy and cut interest rates, allowing asset values to break records and market volatility to reach record lows.

With these banks reining in expansionary policies in 2018 and hiking rates as global debt increases, market volatility may go up again, making gold a more attractive asset. According to WGC research, when real rates are between zero and 4 percent, gold’s returns are positive and its volatility and correlation with other mainstream financial assets are below long-run averages.

3. Frothy asset prices
As the WGC points out, not only did asset prices hit multi-year highs around the world in 2017, but the S&P is still sitting at an all-time high. This rosy environment saw investors seeking out additional risks, hoping for additional returns. A continued search for yield has “fueled rampant asset price growth elsewhere,” the report explains. This includes exposure to lower quality companies in the credit markets as well as investments in China.

Although the bull market could very well continue throughout 2018, some analysts and investors alike are understandably cautious about just how much risk exposure to continue taking on. That’s where gold comes in. As you can see in the chart below, the price of the yellow metal tends to increase during periods of systemic risk. Should global financial markets correct, investors could benefit from having an exposure to gold in their portfolio. Historically, gold has reduced losses during periods of distress or instability in the markets.

the gold price tends to increase in periods of systematic risk
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4. Greater market transparency, efficiency, and access 
Financial markets have become more transparent and efficient over the past decade, with new products broadening access for all kinds of investors. Last year the London Bullion Market Association launched a trade-data reporting initiative and the London Metal Exchange launched a suite of exchange-traded contracts intending to improve price transparency, according to the WGC.

In fact, momentum is building in India to develop a national spot exchange to make the market less complicated and fragmented. In addition, more progress in gold investing might be seen in Russia this year with the current 18 percent VAT on gold bars possibly being lifted. More easily accessible gold-backed investment vehicles should lead to more gold investors and transactions worldwide.

Now Could Be a Good Time to Add Gold to Your Portfolio

World Gold Council’s Chief Market Strategist, John Reade, said in his 2018 outlook for gold that, “Over the long run, income growth has been the most important driver of gold demand. And we believe the outlook here is encouraging.”

We couldn’t agree more. Gold has historically helped to improve portfolio risk-adjusted returns. It is a mainstream asset as liquid as other financial securities and its correlation to major asset classes has been low in both expansionary and recessionary periods, as the WGC points out.

I’ve always advocated a 10 percent weighting in gold in a portfolio – with 5 percent in bullion or jewelry and 5 percent in gold stocks or well managed gold mutual funds and ETFs. If you’re interested to learn more about gold, I encourage you to sign up for my blog, Frank Talk. Happy Investing!