Could gold and bitcoin be headed for parity?

Here’s a lightly edited version of an article I published on the http://www.sharpspixley.com website.  To read the original article click here.

At current prices with gold closing last week back over $1,200 and the bitcoin BTC token at around $6,600, the idea of gold and bitcoin regaining parity they last saw a year and a half ago might seem a little far fetched. But Bloomberg Intelligence’s Mike McGlone seems to think otherwise. In a report earlier this week, he painted a scenario of the BTC price falling and gold rising which could bring the two back into parity.

McGlone’s hypothesis is that market volatility, particularly in the bitcoin price, is an important indicator which investors need to watch. After all, bitcoin has already fallen from its peak of almost $20,000 achieved only seven months ago, to its current levels – a fall of nearly 70% – and he sees another similar fall, coupled with a possible pick-up in the gold price as being a distinct, but perhaps arguable, possibility.

As readers will be aware, this commentator is no believer in bitcoin. We feel there is no substance behind it. It is only worth what people are prepared to pay for it. It has no real inherent value having been purely a computer creation. I read somewhere that one observer (Richard Bernstein) likened it to a Candy Crush token which struck me as being extremely apposite. As people fall out of love with bitcoin – and it will have lost a lot of adherents with its fall from last December’s peak – the potential for it to fall back towards zero is, to my mind, a strong one. Bitcoin itself (BTC) is currently struggling to stay above the $6,000 mark despite a concerted campaign by pro-bitcoin commentators to drive it back up – many will probably have a vested interest in high crypto-currency prices. If it does come back down to the $5,000s or below this could signify a stronger fall ahead.

We tend to watch some of the other less costly cryptos as a guide and the fall of these from their respective peaks has been immense. Ethereum, probably the second highest market cap cryptocurrency, for example is nowadays comfortably below the $300 mark. It peaked in January at just under $1,400, so it has seen a fall of over 80% in around seven months. Monero, reputedly the crypto of choice for ransomware scammers and the criminal element wishing to keep transactions out of sight of the law and the tax collectors, is also down over 80% from its December 2017 peak and most of the other minor cryptocurrencies are also down by similar percentages or more.

Gold, on the other hand, despite it having been having a particularly torrid time of late is only down by 12% from its peak this year in U.S. dollars and beginning to pick up again as the dollar turns weaker. Unlike the cryptocurrencies, gold has stood the test of time as a store of value and does at least have substance behind it.  The recent price fall has been all about dollar strength after a period of sustained decline, and perhaps we are due a reversal again as the real ramifications of the confrontational U.S. trade tariff impositions begin to sink in in terms of raised prices, and thus inflation, in the U.S. domestic economy.

We see gold’s long term fundamentals as strong. Even if we are not quite yet at peak gold we are there or thereabouts and global new mined production will start to decline – and once the decline starts it will accelerate as there has been a huge drop in gold exploration and new mega-project construction necessary to replace depleting older assets. Meanwhile global incomes in the emerging gold buying nations are rising and the longer term increase in demand likely to be thus generated, coupled with eventually declining output, will put the gold price under some strong positive pressure.

Gold at the moment is being squeezed by the strong dollar brought on by President Trump’s tariff war and the prospect of rising U.S. Fed interest rates. But Trump is beginning to recognise that the strong dollar is putting U.S. exporters at risk while mitigating the pricing effects of the tariffs and is unhappy with this. How long before he initiates steps, perhaps behind the scenes, to start to bring the dollar down with a corresponding uplift in the gold price?

Back to Bloomberg’s McGlone: he comments that “Bitcoin is down to about 5x the price of gold after stretching toward 15x. There’s little to prevent another four-turn reduction to get it back toward 1-to-1, in our view”.

He also feels that the gold market is about to start picking up again. He pointed out that gold’s 90-day volatility is at its lowest level since 1999, at the same time its 60-day volatility is at its lowest level since 1997 and that the last time volatility was this low, the price entered a three-week rally which saw it pick up 34%. A similar increase now would put the price back to close to $1,600 and that it only needs a minor spark to ignite such a change in perception. There are plenty of geopolitical uncertainties out there which could initiate such a spark. Gold investors will hope McGlone is at least halfway correct in his analysis. Bitcoin investors will be less enamoured!

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Pelaez: Time to Position for a Decade-Long Bull Market in Natural Resources

Interview by Mike Gleason of www.moneymetals.com

Coming up we’ll hear a wonderfully fascinating interview with first time guest Samuel Palaez of Galileo Global Equity Advisors. Sam highlights what he views as a tremendous investment opportunity in commodities right now, and also talks about how the markets may be getting it wrong when it comes to the trade wars and the likely impact it will have on the U.S. economy, inflation and the dollar.

Samuel Pelaez

Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome in Samuel Pelaez, CIO and Portfolio Manager at Galileo Global Equity Advisors, a Canadian subsidiary of U.S. Global Investors. Sam manages Galileo’s Growth and Income fund as well as the Technology and Blockchain fund and also follows the natural resource and gold mining space quite closely. And it’s a real pleasure to have him on with us today.

Sam, thanks so much for the time and welcome.

Samuel Pelaez: Thanks, Mike. It’s a great pleasure to join you. I think this is the first time.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, absolutely. Excited to get a chance to talk to you finally. You’ve been talking about commodities being way undervalued. You published a chart back in the spring showing the value of the S&P GSCI Index of commodities companies relative to the broader S&P 500 Index. The ratio is near all-time lows. Since that chart was published in April not a great deal has changed, so talk about where we’re at here in commodities now and give us your thoughts on what the value proposition looks like today because they certainly have been laggards compared to the broader markets.

Samuel Pelaez: Yeah, absolutely. That’s my favorite all-time chart I think. I’m a big proponent of commodities and natural resource investing. Keep in mind, that chart goes over 60 years or so of markets. We’ve had cycles like this three times or this will be the third time. Twice in the past we’ve seen that sort of extreme rating where commodities are so undervalued relative to the broader market as measured by the S&P 500.

What that suggests is that we may be at a juncture here that provides an opportunity to invest in resources that we haven’t had for over 20 years. Last time this happened was coincidental with the NASDAQ 1990-2000 boom. That was the time when the commodities were as undervalued relative to the broader market. And what happened since was obviously the big industrialization of China commodities did very well for a decade up until 2008 and even a little bit further than that.

So, it was at least a decade of commodities out-performance relative to the market. And we’re in a similar predicament right now and that keeps me very excited. Now, if you think about short term especially since the spring, there’s been a lot of talk of the trade wars. Commodities have sunk most of them quite dramatically, especially those that are sort of core to development of China. I would call those short-term deviations in the bigger and broader context. I think this chart is a very powerful indicator for investments over the next decade.

That may not mean that today is the bottom or tomorrow, but as any responsible investor, I would suggest to start reallocating some of your broader market exposure towards commodities just on the back of what this chart is saying. Now, the short-term deviations that we’ve seen can be very material. Copper is over 20% drop from its highs. Same story with zinc. Gold has also under-performed quite dramatically. But in general, I believe we are approaching a situation with that under-performance is unsustainable.

Frank at U.S. Global put out a piece a couple of weeks ago that was actually very insightful. And it said, “Let science drive your investing.” It just shows how gold is two standard deviations below its mean. Copper is 3 1/2 standard deviations below its mean. And in statistical terms, that’s a very sort of powerful indicator for a rebound. Just to say in a little bit more plain language, what that suggests is, there’s a 95% probability that gold rebounds in the next 60 days. And in copper, it’s more like a 99% probability that it rebounds in the next 60 days.

So, maybe we’re just towards the tail end of this short-term trade war inflicted sort of under-performance. And then maybe we can start recapturing the uptrend that we’ve seen over the last year or year and a half that could, I hope, translate into a decade-long bull market for natural resources and commodities.

Mike Gleason: Of course, our focus here is on precious metals, you alluded to gold of course. They often trade like commodities. Particularly silver which has significant uses as an industrial metal. But gold and silver are also monetary metals. They can get more attention from investors looking to hedge against inflation or as a safe haven. Given that, what are your thoughts on where the precious metals might be headed? Do you think they will be pretty well correlated with commodities in the months ahead? Or, are you looking for them to perhaps behave differently, Sam?

Samuel Pelaez: The answer is yes. I expect them to perform very well. Gold is actually one of the more puzzling asset classes so far this year because it’s under-performed. With the whole trade war angle, China and the U.S. at odds. President Donald Trump being at odds with some of Canada, some of the U.S. allies including Canada. That should be a pretty good environment for gold. But what’s happened is the markets have interpreted the trade war as a positive economic impact to the U.S. and we’ve seen the U.S. dollar rise. And that’s generally negative for gold on the other hand.

That’s also been sort of turbocharged for lack of a better word, by the fact that the U.S. continues to raise rates at a much quicker speed than its peers in Europe or in Japan. The 10-year yield in Japan today is as close to zero as it gets. The euro is already at 3%. So that interest rate disparity has also helped the U.S. dollar be pretty strong year to date. I think that’s going to stall and I’ll tell you why.

Number one, inflation. Gasoline prices if you’ve been to the pump recently you’ve seen that from July 4th last year to July 4th this year, gasoline prices have on average risen about 50%. And that’s inflation. That measure is not captured by the inflation metrics that the markets use. But, it’s captured by the inflation that all consumers in the U.S. pay. So, inflation is creeping in so it’s going to be starting to chip away from that 3% 10-year yield that’s larger than that you can get in Japan and other places.

And the second one and perhaps more important is, I think gradually the markets are going to start turning and accepting the fact that the trade war angle could be detrimental to the U.S. We’ve seen General Motors come out with a profit warning. We’ve seen Alcoa come out and issue a profit warning on the back of the trade wars. And this is just the companies that have started reporting so let’s wait another couple of weeks where most of the S&P 500 reports and see how many times the chairman and CEOs of these companies actually comment on the trade war being a potentially negative impact to the U.S. economy and to corporate earnings.

And circling back to gold, that may take some of that very strong support that the U.S. dollar has had year to date, which conversely should be very positive for gold. If you correlate that to what I mentioned earlier about the charts that show gold being two standard deviations below its mean, then we’re in a predicament where over the next two or three months we may see a strong rally in gold prices.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, extremely well put. I agree that maybe the markets don’t quite have it right and there’s maybe a lot of pent-up inflation coming. Obviously, the U.S. economy has not really felt much of these trade wars and that may be coming. That’s very well summarized there.

Now, I’d like to switch gears a little bit and get your take on the overall health of the markets in general. Around here we wonder how “real” markets are these days. For starters, we have central banks here and around the world heavily involved in markets. Interest rates are centrally planned. And these days it is commonplace for central bankers to be buying corporate stocks and even bonds for that matter. Then there’s the mounting evidence of more underhanded activity. Bank traders colluding to rig prices in everything from metals to LIBOR and to cheat their clients. In recent years the advent of high-frequency trading has raised concerns that retail traders may not get a fair shake.

So, we have a pretty dim view when it comes to the honesty and fairness of markets. That said, we rely on exchanges such as the COMEX and want to believe they can still work. Give us your thoughts, Sam, on the integrity of markets since this is the first time we’ve had a chance to get your thoughts on the subject.

Samuel Pelaez: This is a subject that we discuss internally quite a bit. I do believe there is a fair amount of market manipulation. That’s a very strong statement to say, but there’s facts that support that, right? There’s multiple banks have been, for lack of better word just risk locked. LIBOR, the gold market rigging, FX. There’s factual evidence that some of the banks have been actively manipulating markets.

But that’s just one of the angles from it. I think a second angle which is not manipulation but just an effect of passive investing is ETFs continue to raise capital and ETFs, the majority of them, are market cap weighted so they only allocate money to the top of the market. And that creates a sort of self-fulfilling bias for certain stocks that become market darlings and they receive more dollars, so they out-perform so then they receive more dollars. And it becomes like a vicious circle of out-performance.

That’s because there’s a lot of academics who are very interested in the subject and are writing about it. I think the term they coined for this is the passive investment paradox because the more dollars that go passive, the less dollars that go active essentially. And we start getting into this complacent type of markets, which I think we started to see especially in the broader indices in the U.S. like the S&P 500 and the NASDAQ.

Now, that may have started to crack. I think we can talk about it in a second. But before or after I complete the answer to this question, but we think ETFs have become a problem. They’ve hit that sort of like momentum and size where they’ve started to disrupt the natural flows of money in the markets. I agree completely with you about the LIBOR and FX manipulations.

But then lastly, and you did mention COMEX and I’m glad you did, because I don’t know if people are aware and I don’t think they are, when you buy a gold futures contract on the COMEX, it specifically states that you can redeem in kind. Meaning you can actually show up to COMEX and demand to be paid in physical gold. The problem is… and this number fluctuates… but there’s about 400 contracts for every ounce of gold. Meaning if just one out of 400 people show up to reclaim their gold in physical form, the COMEX vaults would be completely empty.

So, there’s this false perception that this paper contract from the COMEX actually represents one ounce of gold. It actually represents one four hundredths of an ounce of gold. And that in a way is a form of manipulation as well because it inflates the number of contacts. It inflates the liquidity of the sector. It inflates the supply of gold that realistically in physical form is not there.

These things worry us. They concern us. But, what we’re really focusing on in our investing is allocating capital to sustainable companies that have higher than average return invested capital. We are supporting businesses. We’re supporting management teams and we believe that the better ones will be able to surface amidst this market manipulation and still be darlings for a lot of investors.

Mike Gleason: Sam, among other responsibilities you manage the Galileo Technology and Blockchain Fund. Cryptocurrency has been a big topic in the precious metals space. Many people who look at gold as sound money have taken interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for some of the same reasons. We at Money Metals Exchange do significant business both selling metals and taking crypto in payment and vice versa, buying metal and making crypto payments. Do you think a cryptocurrency offers genuine potential for widespread adoption as money? What do you make of the comparison between Bitcoin and gold?

Samuel Pelaez: Let me turn the question around. I don’t believe that Bitcoin and gold are the same thing as has been purported by other market participants. I believe gold has a unique status and it’s had it for a long time and it has a lot to do with its physical properties. Gold is the only metal that you can store for decades and then come back to it and it looks exactly the same. It doesn’t rust. It’s essentially oxygen proof, rusting proof, among other things.

You cannot say that about Bitcoin or a paper wallet of Bitcoin or a physical wallet of Bitcoin. So, I’m not subscribing to that thesis that cryptocurrencies are a store of a value akin to what gold is. I do subscribe to the thesis that blockchain technology… and I think tokens are just one representation of blockchain technology… blockchain technology is transformational for multiple industries. The payment processing industry or the barter industry let’s call it, is obviously the most ripe industry for disruption from this kind of technology and that’s what Bitcoin has done and Ethereum in the field of crypto have done, is create a secondary market for transactions outside of the fiat world.

It’s much more efficient than gold at that because you can trade it instantaneously with people anywhere in the world which is something that you can’t really do with gold in its physical form. Now, what do I think about the technology going forward? I think it’s going to disrupt virtually every industry. And people probably heard it before. This is the internet all over again. We’re only starting to learn how deep this is going to get. And also, think about it from a consumer perspective. The internet came about very late. But, for decades now or least two or three decades, when you pay anything at the supermarket and show it to the cash register, that’s an Oracle machine with internet all through the back connected to a number of devices that make all of it possible. If you’re at Walmart, then it automatically connects to the suppliers and updates the inventories and the unit numbers so they can place orders.

The internet has been amongst us for a long time. And I think blockchain technology would be the same. Now, Bitcoin, Ethereum and the other ones we can see as consumers. But the real transformation I think is happening in the business to business world. We’re involved in a number of companies that are doing some incredible amount of work that will facilitate business to business. Not payment transfers but all sorts of technological processes that will completely disrupt the way things are being done right now.

What I’m trying to convey is that sense that this technology is not just limited to payment processing and money transfers. That’s just one of the sectors. There’s dozens and dozens of other sectors where these this technology will transform the way we do our business going forward.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, very interesting technology and that I think is the bigger story here: the blockchain technology much more than say, yeah, just Bitcoin as a cryptocurrency for instance. Well, as you know, we’ve had Frank Holmes on a number of times here on our podcast and he’s talked a lot about the gold royalty ETF, ticker symbol GOAU here in the U.S. and GOGO there in Canada. I know you played a big part in the research behind that. So talk about mining royalty space here, Sam, and why are you guys so excited it. And also, talk about the fund’s performance over the first year or two now.

Samuel Pelaez: Absolutely. We are big proponents of the royalty model. We think it’s a superior business model relative to the miners. They also fit one of the key characteristics in everything you look for which is return on invested capital. The return invested capital in the royalty companies is exceptional. I warn you though if you just calculate the ratio on Bloomberg or any other data source, the return capital may appear lower than it actually is.

And that is because these companies have spent so much money forward in projects that will generate cash flows in the future. But, if you take them on a project-by-project basis, any investment they did and what they’re deriving out of it, the returns are spectacular and they come at a very low risk. So when you sort of risk adjust then they’re even better than they are in absolute form. So, we’re big proponents of the model. We’ve been big supporters of the formation and the ongoing marketing of these companies. Frank was involved in the seeding of what became Wheaton Precious Metals which is the second largest royalty company out there right now.

So, what we decided to create was an ETF that offered investors that alpha generation that the royalty companies have offered us, over the full business cycle. We’ve noticed that many people only invest in gold when they think gold’s going up. We actually believe that everybody should have an allocation to gold throughout the business cycle because it has this diversification properties relative to the other components of your portfolio given to broader the market.

So, what product could we offer our investors in the market that would allow them to invest across the full business cycle and deride all the benefits of gold investing without some of the detriments? And we created this ETF that’s overweight the royalty companies because they offered that intrinsically and then after that it holds a number of gold producers that also have very high returns in invested capital and generally trade at a discount to their peers.

We believe that’s part of the magic sauce. There’s a few other factors that they’re clearly listed on the marketing materials, you could get those at the U.S. Global website or at the Galileo Funds website. And what we’ve been able to achieve and I want to make sure that this doesn’t sound promissory, it’s actually based on the one year of performance, is the data of the ETF to the upside as in how it moves to the upside relative to the gold sector is about one for one.

So when gold starts to go up, owning our product or owning any other product is about the same. It’s when the markets go down that our ETF goes down by a lesser amount than the competing products. And then when you bootstrap that difference over a long time, it creates a very big spread above performance. So far for the one year, our product beat the GDX by about 8%. That’s a pretty… I call it… a pretty impressive alpha generation. The fund also has a lower management fee and it has a lower standard deviation or pretty much every other risk metric is inferior.

So, we’re very confident that it will continue to do that. The back tests suggest that it can do over the full business cycle. And I encourage your listeners to go and have a look because we’re very proud of what we’ve created.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, you should be. It’s done very well and it’s exciting stuff and I love the model as well, you guys have done a great job putting that together and the research behind it. Well, as we begin to close here, Sam, any final comments? What will you be watching most closely in the months ahead? Maybe give us a final synopsis on commodities and metals as we wrap up.

Samuel Pelaez: I’ll give you anecdotal piece of evidence. I had some friends visit from Colombia, where I’m from originally. And the first thing they mentioned was, and they looked at all the cranes and they said, “Wow, there’s so much construction going on.” And I guess because we live in North America and we see it all the time, we don’t really recognize it every day. But, just think about all the wonderful things taking place in terms of… if you travel to New York often you’ve seen the big transformation that’s taking place at the airport at LaGuardia.

I’m sure in all your communities and your cities you’re going to see major projects being built. President Donald Trump has made a big focus of his presidency to roll out a major infrastructure plan. So, we’re going to need these commodities. It’s not like we achieved that peak moment of commodity demand. Commodity demand continues to go up every year. It’s almost like GDP growth. So we will need these commodities. And right now you have the opportunity to buy them at one of the cheapest relative valuations that you’ve had in the last 20 years. And if you’re like me, I wasn’t investing – I wasn’t old enough to be investing in the ’90s – this is the best entry into the resource market that’s ever been presented to me.

And because it only happens every 20 or 30 years, over the course of a professional life. You may only have one or two of this big macro cycles. So, I encourage listeners to follow that chart. We publish it very frequently every six or eight weeks as part of our marketing materials. I invite them to think seriously about reallocating some of the capital from the broader market. The S&P and NASDAQ have been a phenomenal investment over the last nearly decade, since 2009.

So, maybe it’s time to start rolling some of those profits and rolling some of that allocation from some of the sectors that have out-performed into the sectors that have under-performed. And I believe over the next decade you will be handsomely rewarded for that.

Mike Gleason: Very good way to wrap up, very well put. Really enjoyed the conversation today and appreciate you sharing your market insights with our audience. Before we let you go please tell people how they can learn more and how they can reach you and your firm if they’re so inclined.

Samuel Pelaez: Absolutely. The easiest way to reach is through our website GalileoFunds.ca. We’re based in Toronto, Canada. I do travel to the U.S. a lot to speak at conferences, I travel a lot with Frank at U.S. Global. You can find all of our contact information and our fund fact sheets on the website. You can also follow us with social media. We have a LinkedIn page. We have an Instagram account. We’re catching up to the times and finding all the new ways to reach the new demographics and to be out there for people to find us.

Mike Gleason: Well, good stuff. Thanks again, Sam. Keep up the good work. Continued success there and I hope we can speak with you again in the future. Take care.

Samuel Pelaez: Thank you, Mike. Bye, bye.

Mike Gleason: Well, that will do it for this week. Thanks again to Samuel Pelaez, CIO and Portfolio Manager at Galileo Global Equity Advisors. For more information visit www.GalileoFunds.ca.

All fall down? Is the predicted crash starting to hit?

Edited and updated article which first appeared on the Sharps Pixley websire earlier i n the week

As I switched on my computer this morning I was faced with a sea of red ink!  Equity prices were down across the board – in the U.S., Asia and Europe and no doubt elsewhere too. Most major stock indices were down by between 1 and 3% yesterday and in early trade today with the NASDAQ being particularly hard hit.  The markets are currently mostly moving on whether a trade and tariff war between the U.S. and China is imminent or not and prospects and views on this are mixed.  Tech stocks too, which have been responsible for much of the peaking of the markets earlier this year, have also been falling out of favour.

Bitcoin (BTC) was this morning stuttering down below the $8,000 level (it has since fallen to the low 7,000s) – around 60% off its high point achieved only a month and a half ago – and if Ethereum is a pointer, with it down at $450 as I write, the next leg down for BTC could well be to around $6,000.  (When Bitcoin and Ethereum were at their respective peaks early in the year BTC was trading at about 14x the Ethereum price.)

In the precious metals, gold, silver and the pgms were all down as well, although perhaps not by nearly as much in percentage terms as the equity markets.  The dollar Index was one of the few positives showing a tiny gain but it was still stuttering well below the 90 level and thus around 13% lower against other currencies than it was when President Trump came into office some 14 months ago.  Obviously a strong dollar is not part of ‘making America great again’.

So what has changed?  The U.S. Fed seems to be committed to raising interest rates perhaps at a faster rate than had previously been anticipated with higher rate targets for 2019 and 2020.  Wall Street may not be liking this prospect.  But perhaps it is the sudden recent downturn in the FAANG stocks (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, Google), following Facebook’s problems, which is a primary cause of the falls in the Dow, S&P and NASDAQ (in particular). High flyer Tesla is also a significant contributor to the Wall Street sell-off and when Wall Street falls equities worldwide tend to follow its lead.

Is this the start of the equities crash many commentators have been predicting – and if so how will it affect gold and the other precious metals?  It’s probably too early to say, but after almost nine years of virtually uninterrupted rises in the equities indices we suspect something will have to give – indeed it may already have started.  We’ve already seen the bitcoin bubble burst and, as noted above, we feel the cryptos may yet have further to fall until the bottom is reached.  Are equities next?

What will have changed with the latest downturns is investor sentiment.  Equity increases look to no longer be the ‘sure thing’ that they were, buoyed up by the Fed’s Quantitative Easing policy which poured increased liquidity into the markets.  Now the Fed’s policy is in reverse with what many observers now refer to as Quantitative Tightening.  If history is anything to go by, equities markets may well suffer as a consequence of a rising interest rate path, at least initially.

Precious metals have moved up from their lows, but down again from their subsequent interim peaks, with gold reaching around the $1,355 mark which has proved to provide strong resistance on the upside.  It has since fallen back to the low $1,320s and is still looking vulnerable, with silver following a somewhat similar pattern.  The pgms seem to be treading a slightly different path as befits their industrial metal status.  The gold:silver ratio (GSR) remains above 81 which usually suggests silver is a better buy than gold – the late Ian McAvity used to say buy silver if ratio above 80, but buy gold if ratio 40 or below which has proved to be pretty wise advice over the years, although the 40 level hasn’t been seen since 2011 when it touched 33.7.  We’d probably suggest a range of buying silver with a GSR of 80 and above and gold with a GSR of 60 and below as being good advice under more recent price patterns and with more modest expectations!

Where are we now?  If I were an investor in U.S. equities or in bitcoin I’d be nervous and with global markets tending to follow Wall Street that nervousness would tend to extend to any major global markets.  Watch U.S./China trade negotiations and don’t necessarily trust either side to keep to any promises made to the other.  I would prefer gold and silver as safer investments than equities and see bitcoin as pure speculation with the potential to crash much further than it has already.  Precious metals may well see some falls but these are unlikely to be of the kind of magnitude which could befall equities so we’d continue with the theme of using gold, and perhaps silver, as wealth insurance.  They may not see major gains if equities collapse, but they shouldn’t see major falls either and, as in 2009 in the aftermath of the last big financial meltdown, they will probably recover far faster.

Gold hit lowest level ytd – will it recover?

March has been a pretty bleak month for investors in almost all asset classes.  Equity investment, which had been a such a sure thing for the past few years, has been wavering and stocks in general are well off their highs and looking vulnerable to further falls, bitcoin has seen its bubble burst and has halved in value – and we think there could be more pain yet to come for the past year’s speculative investment star, and even precious metals have come down with gold languishing at the time of writing at around $1.312 (spot gold had fallen to around $1,307 an ounce at one stage yesterday morning) and could well breach that on the downside this week although it has made a small recovery since.

The bond market is also weaker on the prospect of continuing Fed interest rate rises.

The only positive spot seems to be the U.S. dollar, but people have short memories.  The dollar index did see a small recovery to sit back above the 90 level  but has been under pressure again and it is still around 12% below the level it was when President Trump took office only 15 months ago.  While there now seems to be a consensus that the dollar could continue to see a short term rise, along with whatever decision the FOMC meeting next week makes on U.S. interest rates, there are still many commentators who feel that a rising dollar is not sustainable long term and that it could quickly start coming down again.  If so that is certainly gold positive – at least in dollar terms

As for gold and the other precious metals we have noted before that they are facing headwinds, but perhaps not insuperable ones.  Global demand – particularly in the Middle East and Asia in general – remains relatively positive and there is the distinct impression that global new mined gold production has at last peaked and may be beginning to turn down, albeit at a pretty marginal rate.

Some commentators sing the praises of silver as perhaps the best speculative bet, with a current gold:silver ratio of over 80.  They feel the ratio is too high and recent pricing history tells us it is likely to come down from this level thus enhancing the percentage growth prospects for silver over gold.

Of the other precious metals, although it has some adherents, platinum tends to follow the ups and downs in the gold price to an extent, while palladium, for the time being at least, looks to be in a better fundamental position due to a perceived production deficit and stronger industrial demand in the autocatalyst sector.

So gold could fall back further – much will depend on whether the FOMC meeting seems to be suggesting a further two, three or even four more rate hikes this year, although given that equity and bond markets are looking vulnerable to more than the generally expected two more rate increases this year, we suspect that discretion may prove to be the better part of valour in this respect.  Certainly if the Fed looks at the historical effects of a rising rate scenario, caution may well reign.  Under such circumstances gold could see something of a recovery back to the $1,350s by the mid-year – but don’t put your shirt on it!

The above article is a lightly edited version of an article posted a day earlier to the Sharps Pixley website

Lawrieongold: Gold/silver articles published on other sites

As readers of lawrieongold will know I also publish articles on other websites.  A couple of recent ones are linked below:

Metals Focus sees strength in Chinese gold demand in 2018

 

SGE gold withdrawals down in Feb but up YTD

Both the above articles were published on www.sharpspixley.com.

However, I also write occasional articles for U.S. site – www.usgoldbureau.com, but this site is blocked for access from outside North America unless one uses a browser, like Tor, which can be set to mimic access from other countries.  So for North American readers, or Tor users, a link to my latest article on this site follows:

Equities and Bitcoin Looking Vulnerable, Put Your Trust in Precious Metals

Bitcoin Could Crash Another 50% or More, But Gold and Gold Stocks to Advance

My latest article on Seeking Alpha – under the Seeking Alpha terms and conditions I cannot publish full article here, but you can click on the link at the end of the Summary to go directly to it:

Summary
  • Rearguard action in Bitcoin may be too little too late – the cryptocurrency  could well see another 50% decline or more!
  • Gold and gold stocks would probably be the best investments in a general economic collapse if it occurs.
  • Governments are unlikely to remain on the sidelines and are likely to regulate bitcoin given its increasing use by criminals and in tax avoidance.

To read full article click on Bitcoin Could Crash Another 50%, or More, But Gold And Gold Stocks to Advance

Gold and silver edge up as bitcoin tanks

My latest article on sharpspixley.com edited and updated slightly looking at the pre-Christmas crash in bitcoin and a slight upturn in precious metals.  To read the original article, and also one on the latest Swiss Gold Export figures by me click on SharpsPixley.com and then on the Market Comment dropdown menu.

Bitcoin has demonstrated over the past couple of days why it’s not exactly an ideal investment for widows and orphans.  Those who climbed onboard bitcoin as it seemingly unstoppably moved to breach the $20,000 level saw it tank by almost 40% in a couple of trading days and seemed possibly heading to a 50% fall.  Whether this is just a correction on its way back up to $20,000 and above, or the beginnings of a bursting bubble, remains to be seen, but it does emphasise the enormous volatility of an ‘asset’ which is being driven up purely on sentiment, and would appear to have little or no material substance.  It has all the similarities to a Ponzi scheme where there have to be new buyers in the market to drive the price to ever new highs.  But when the new buyers desert it the asset plunges as holders try to bailout at whatever price they can.  Of course that applies also to many other asset classes nowadays – even the equities markets which are being driven up to, in our view, unsustainable levels.  Bitcoin is perhaps an extreme example and if the crash is sustained, equities could well follow bitcoin’s example and end their bull market too.

What does seem to be happening at the moment is that a section of the bitcoin community is taking huge profits given the growth of the cryptocurrency this year – or indeed in the last couple of months.  As I began to  write this article, bitcoin itself seemed to have broken through downside resistance at the $12,000 level – still hugely profitable for those who may have bought the cryptocurrency earlier in the year.  There has since been a bit of a bounce back up from around $11,000 to the mid $13,000s, but whether this can be prolonged or is of the ‘dead cat’ variety remains to be seen.  If say, however, the bounce is not prolonged and $10,000 is breached on the downside, the so-far very heavy correction could become a rout! This was on the last trading day before Christmas and recent investors in bitcoin are not seeing much Christmas cheer so far.

Meanwhile gold appears to be edging up in the other direction, and had broken up through $1,270 before the U.S. opening session, although the COMEX futures market could well bring it back a few notches going by recent experience.  At the time of writing though it had moved up a few more dollars, while silver was accompanying it on an upwards path too.  One doubts gold’s rise is on the back of bitcoin’s fall, but if the latter’s downturn proves to be prolonged it could pull some investors back into precious metals.  As noted above, silver was moving up alongside gold but with the gold:silver ratio seemingly stuck firmly between 78 and 79, silver was just about moving in parallel with its yellow sibling.

Regarding bitcoin there do seem to be rumblings on both sides of the Atlantic about possible regulation of cryptocurrencies being imposed.  If this happens, which we feel is inevitable, it will strike at the very heart of bitcoin’s raison d’etre and certainly reduce its desirability as the monetary payment medium of choice for the world’s criminal sector.  Lack of any real controls means it is a money launderers dream and that is something governments around the world are trying hard to clamp down on.

Forthright views on direction of equity markets, gold, silver, bitcoin and the Powell Fed from Michael Pento

An explosive interview with Michael Pento of Pento Portfolio Strategies by Mike Gleason of Money Metals Exchange.

Michael Pento describes for us what may be coming in the bond and fixed income markets and the impact on the stock market (negative) and on gold and silver prices (very positive) in 2018. He also shares some of his very strong feelings about Bitcoin and the crypto-currencies which he describes as a ‘scam’.

Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome in 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 and successful money manager and has been a regular guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business News, and also the Money Metals Podcast, and shares is astute insights on markets and geopolitics from the perspective of an Austrian School economist’s viewpoint.

Michael, welcome back. Thanks for joining us again and how are you?

Michael Pento: I’m doing fine. Thanks for having me back on Mike.

Mike Gleason: Well, Michael, you focus a lot on the bond markets. Let’s talk for a minute here as we begin about the bubble that has been created and maintained there, and then we will get into the potential ramifications for precious metals. I was researching this morning and the yield on the 10-year Treasury note was 2.242% on December 20, 2015, just after the Federal Reserve made the first rate hike in the current cycle of raising the Fed funds rate. Today, the 10-year yield is 2.327%, a tiny increase from two years ago, so the yield has barely budged despite the funds rate ratcheting up a full percentage point higher. Now, the funds rate isn’t directly tied to Treasury yields, but shouldn’t this tightening be translating to higher yields? Why is that not happening?

Michael Pento: What a great question to start off the show. So, I’ll just dovetail on what you just said and say that in the beginning of 2017, the yield on the 10-year note was 2.4%, or just around that level. Now, as you said, it’s 2.32%. So, there’s a very good reason for why this is happening because the long end of the bond market is concerned with inflation and if the Fed is hiking rates from pretty much zero to one and a quarter percent as we sit today, the effective Fed funds rate is just a little bit above 1%, that doesn’t mean that the yield should go higher on the long end of the yield curve. Actually, what that does mean, is that the Fed is vigilant, for now at least, on fighting inflation.

They’re reigning inflation out of the economy. That means the long end is going to come down to meet the short end, and I will tell you on that front that in the beginning of 2014, 260 basis points was the spread on the two and 10-year note. And we’ve had five rate hikes since then and guess what the spread is today as we record this interview, 51 basis points. So, you don’t have to have an advanced degree in calculus to figure out that you have two rate hikes left, two, assuming that the two-year note rises commensurately with the Fed funds rate, two rate hikes left before the yield curve is completely flat.

And the problem is that when I’m reading a lot of material in the past few days that the all-knowing pundits on Wall Street from the big brokerage houses, the big wire houses, are claiming that we’re going to have five rate hikes. Mike, five rate hikes between today, December 6th and the end of 2018, five. Not two, five. That means the Fed funds rate is going to be well above where the 10-year note yield is trading today, so you’re going to have a massively inverted yield curve by the end of 2018. Not only that, you pile onto the fact that central banks are going from a $120 billion worth of counterfeit confetti each month to zero by October. So, if you’re not worried about a recession, if you’re not worried about an inverted yield curve, if you’re not worried about the central banks moving their massive bid from stocks and bonds and if you’re not worried about the stock market imploding in the next few quarters, if not months, you should be.

Mike Gleason: Interest rates are essentially the price of risk and the market seems to be saying there just isn’t much. However, you and I both know there is plenty, as you just discussed there, but this is bubble has persisted for years now. The truth is we don’t have real properly functioning markets and this extraordinary mispricing of risk will go on until, and probably suddenly, it doesn’t. What signals are you watching for in the bond markets, if you would expand on that, that would indicate the game is about up and are you seeing any of those signs?

Michael Pento: Well, you have to watch high yield spreads and the nominal yield. If you see those yields starting to spike, then you should worry. They were spiking a few weeks ago. They’ve since come down a little bit, but keep an eye on that. There were good break-even spreads, inflation break-even spreads. I watch those very insidiously. Of course, like we just talked about, you watch for the yield curve to invert.

When the yield curve flattens out and inverts, it means this – and it doesn’t really matter why it happens – some people will say, well, I hear this Mike, that you shouldn’t worry about the yield curve inverting this time because it’s inverting because. Because, the 10-year (German) bund is yielding .29%. Mario Draghi over in Europe is bending the whole yield curve to the south in Europe and that’s putting pressure on our yields here in the United States.

Well, that’s true to some extent, but let me ask you a question, if the yield on the 10-year bund was .5% not too long ago, why is it .29% now in light of the fact that everybody knows the ECB is going to taper from 60 billion euros of QE today to 30 billion come January, and eventually stop their QE probably in October around the same time the Fed steps up their monthly sales to 50 billion.

The answer is because the economy is slowing. It’s very clear to me, the economy and inflation is slowing. That it’s putting further pressure down on long-term yields. That means the yield curve is going to invert and it’s not different this time. What that means is that if you’re a depositor at the bank and you’re going to be getting say X% on your money, whatever it is, one, two percent on your money, and then the private banks make the same loans are yielding the same as they’re paying in deposits, it no longer benefits the bank to lend out money. So, money supply growth crashes and that means deflation starts to diffuse across the economy and that means asset bubbles crash.

And I just want to make one thing very clear. What happened this week, this week happened, this data point was breached. The total market capital stocks is now a staggering 140% of GDP. Yes. It did reach 140% of GDP. That ratio has only been higher at one time in history and that was during just a few short months around the very peak of the NASDAQ bubble. Outside of that very short duration, that ratio for decades was 50%. So, we don’t just have a regular stock market bubble, we have an epic Stock Market bubble that is couched within the biggest bubble in fixed income that the world has ever seen and it’s not going to end very well.

Mike Gleason: Now, let’s talk about what a bursting of the debt bubble might mean for precious metals. One could argue that if real interest rates move sharply higher, it will weigh on metals, which don’t offer a yield at all. It’s zero or even negative real interest rates that gold bulls want to see. But that certainly hasn’t been the case in recent years. Maybe gold and silver will respond as safe-haven assets in the turmoil in markets created by a collapse in bonds will drive demand for metals. What would you expect the long overdue reckoning in bonds will mean for gold and silver prices, Michael?

Michael Pento: The last time we had an inverted yield curve in a recession was circa 2006-2009. And gold benefit is very greatly leading up to the Great Recession, but if you look on your data points and see what happened in 2008, gold did not do very well at all. And that was partially because real interest rates rising is not good for gold, but it was also the case that there was a huge dollar short occurring at that time.

So, people were borrowing in dollars and investing in the so-called BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India, China. When it became evident that we were having a global recession, the manifestation of the global recession, people had to unwind those carry trades. So, in other words, they sold renminbi and they sold the ruble and they went back into dollars driving the value of the dollar way up. That crushed gold in the short term. But then you remember, from 2009 all the way to really late 2011, early 2012, gold had a huge run and that’s because deficits absolutely soared. We had annual deficits in this country were well over a trillion dollars. We’re going back there again and then the dollar started to again weaken.

This time around there is no massive dollar short. As a matter of fact, it’s quite the opposite. In this next iteration of a recession, there may actually be dollar weakness. Even though you have rising real interest rates, which has always been the death knell for gold, you’re not going to have that rise in the dollar. That will mollify or attenuate the swollen gold prices, if there is any at all, but on the other end of this recession, and once this recession becomes manifested and you see the Fed going from wherever they are at that juncture, maybe 2% back to zero and then QE… and then we have Mr. Marvin Goodfriend on the Board of Governors – he’s been nominated by Donald Trump – he wants negative, nominal interest rates. He wants to ban cash. You’re going to have universal basic income. You’re going to have negative nominal rates. You’re going to have QE. You’re going to have perhaps even helicopter money. You’re going to have some version of that dangerous inflation cocktail and that has to be incredibly bullish for gold.

Mike Gleason: It sounds like a “perfect storm” sort of scenario there for the yellow metal. These days, when you talk about markets, the topic of bitcoin and crypto currencies is almost certain to come up. Bitcoin hit $13,000 earlier today [$16,000 today – Monday – Editor] as we’re talking here on Wednesday afternoon. It’s epic run higher this year cannot be ignored. Have you taken any interest in this space? We’d like to get your thoughts on where this phenomenon is headed.

Michael Pento: Well, you were you asking me about crypto-currencies. I’ve been on record for well over a year saying that it’s a scam. I’ve been wrong for well over a year. I will never own a crypto-currency in my life. I will never own a bitcoin or Etherium or any of these things. When you think about it Mike, what is a crypto-currency. Well, what you really own … You always see these pictures of people holding a coin with a B on it with a dollar sign through it. That’s not a bitcoin. A bitcoin, and I’m far from a computer programmer, so please understand, but from my knowledge of what a bitcoin is, it’s a private key. So, what you actually own is a private key, which is just a series of letters and numbers. I think it’s about 64 of these. It’s a series of letters and numbers, characters, that exist not even in tangible form, they exist in the Internet, so they exist digitally. So, how could a bunch of numbers be considered money?

The definition of money, it has to be portable, tangible and it has to be transferrable, but the most important factors of money, they have to be extremely rare and virtually indestructible. Now, what the heck is extremely rare or indestructible about numbers and letters? They’re very, very common and they have zero utility. Bitcoins and crypto currencies have zero utility. Let me repeat that. Zero utility outside of that ecosystem. So, you have to agree, in order to believe in Bitcoin, that this chain of numbers and letters can be worth $13,000 per unit and that that chain of numbers and letters is money, but outside of that ecosystem, there’s zero utility and you have ask yourself what good is it to be able to move numbers and letters via the Internet. Well, you could move U.S. dollars electronically over the Internet.

What you really should be asking is how can I move gold. Gold, which is all the properties of money, gold has. And most importantly, it’s virtually indestructible and extremely rare. There are over a thousand crypto-currencies, so various versions of those numbers and letters in the private key. There’s an immutable open ledger that is used to transfer bitcoins, but you can use a private blockchain to move gold. There are companies that do that. That’s the value of the blockchain. The blockchain’s value is not to move letters and numbers over the Internet and then somehow think that unit could be anywhere near $13,000. It’s a scam. It’s going to come crashing down and I’ll not be a part of it.

Mike Gleason: Well, I don’t think anyone’s going to wonder where you stand on that, thanks for honest assessment on that. Now, what are your thoughts on Jerome Powell taking over for Janet Yellen as the new Fed Chair. He’s a mainstream dovish-minded economist from all indications, so will it be more of the same, or do you have any insights on what a new Powell Fed will look like?

Michael Pento: Well, everybody says he’s going to be more of the same. He’s another dove like Janet Yellen, but you have to understand – and there’s two things I want to mention about Mr. Jerome Powell. Everybody knows he’s nominated by Donald Trump, but why did Donald Trump make the switch from Janet Yellen to Powell? Well, Mr. Powell is going to assent to two things. Number one, what does Donald Trump love to talk about more than almost anything else? Well, he likes to talk about how great the stock market’s doing, so I can assure you one thing is Jerome Powell will not allow the stock market to go down very much, very quickly. That’s number one.

Number two, Donald Trump is on record now, not Candidate Trump, President Trump is on record saying, he wants a weaker currency and he’s also a lover of debt. So, I expect in the long run, maybe not the short run because you’ve seen this baton has been passed to Mr. Powell, who’s going to carry on with Janet Yellen’s interest rate hikes and the reduction of the balance sheet. But, once the recession hits and the stock market turns south, and I’m talking about the 10% hit that I see happening very, very soon is going to quickly morph into 30%. And once we get 30% plus down in the stock market, you’re going to see Mr. Powell reverse course very quickly, because Mr. Trump can no longer brag about the stock market when it’s down 30%. And you’ll see all those things that I mentioned, some variation of that cocktail and that is negative interest rates, QE, universal basic income and helicopter money.

Mike Gleason: Well Michael, as we approach the end of the year here and start looking forward to 2018, I would like to ask you what you think people might be talking about this time, say a year from now, in the markets? What are a couple of those key events that you see happening in the next 12 months and also, your outlook for gold next year?

Michael Pento: Well, I think you’ll be talking about the epic crash of crypto-currencies a year from now. I think a year from now, you’ll be talking about the inversion of the yield curve. I think you’ll be talking about a crash in inflation and the onslaught of deflation. You’ll be talking about a crash in the major markets and in the capital markets. You’ll be talking about a reversal in the Fed’s monetary policy. You’ll be talking about a falling dollar and you’ll be talking about gold, which will be well over $2,000 an ounce by the end of next year, given the fact that construct I just laid out. If half those things that I just mentioned occur, gold will be well on its way to its all-time record nominal high.

Mike Gleason: It should be a very interesting year. I know we have talked a lot with you and you, of course, write a lot about the oscillations between the inflation cycle and the deflation cycle. And it’s always great to get your commentaries here and read them on a regular basis. We always appreciate your time, Michael. Thanks so much for the times you’ve come on this year and I certainly look forward to doing it again. Now, before we let you, please tell people how they can follow you more regularly, get those great commentaries in their email inbox each week, and also other information that they might need to know if they would like to potentially become a client of your firm there Pento Portfolios Strategies.

Michael Pento: Thank you Mike. The office number here is 732-772-9500. You can email me directly at mpento@pentoport.com. And the website is PentoPort.com.

Mike Gleason: Well, thanks again Michael. Enjoy the Christmas season and I look forward to our next conversation in the New Year. Take care and thanks for all you do.

Michael Pento: God bless you. Merry Christmas Mike.

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

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

Gold royalty companies and bitcoin – a viewpoint

Here at lawrieongold.com we have long advocated the investment positives of precious metals royalty companies – and Franco Nevada and Royal Gold have been the two best performers so far this year out of the precious metals stocks we recommended on Seeking Alpha right at the end of 2016 – See: 2017 Predictions – Gold, Silver, PGMs, The Dollar, Markets, Geopolitics,

However we do have to say that on bitcoin we are not really a believer.  To us there is no underlying value, it is in a bubble, and will likely, at some stage, come crashing down from whence it came – but Frank Holmes. whose thoughts we publish below is very definitely a believer reckoning that it is a currency for our times and is being taken up particularly by millennials.  As I say, we are not so sure but Frank’s views are well worth reading.  After all he runs a successful series of funds, while I do not!  Anyway, do read Frank’s views on the royalty companies and bitcoin below:

My Conviction in Gold Royalty Companies and Bitcoin

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

Bitcoin

Some of you reading this might already be familiar with the “Parable of the Talents,” but it’s worth a brief retelling. The story, which appears in the gospels of Matthew and Mark, involves a master who entrusts three servants with some of his “talents,” or gold coins, while he’s away on business. Two of the servants take a risk by putting the money to work and end up doubling their master’s wealth. The third servant, however, buries his share to “keep it safe” and so doesn’t generate any returns. (Indeed it likely loses value because of inflation.)

When the master returns, he’s so pleased at how the first two servants grew his wealth that he puts them in charge of “many things” and invites them to share in his own success.

The third servant, though, he calls “wicked and lazy” and says he might as well have deposited the money in a bank while he was away—at least then he would have received a little interest. The servant is punished by having his share of the talents given to the two who faithfully grew their master’s money, leaving him with nothing.

The lesson here should be plainly obvious, and we can express it in a number of different ways: There can be no reward without risk. You must spend money to make money. You reap what you sow. This should resonate with investors, entrepreneurs and any true believer in the power of capitalism.

Jesus’ parable applies not just to individuals but to corporations as well. Companies must grow to keep up with the rising cost of labor and materials and to stay competitive. To do that, they must put their money to work just as the two servants do.

And just as the two servants were invited to share in their master’s success, corporate growth has a multiplier effect—for the company’s employees and their families, shareholders, the local economy, strategic partners, companies up and down the supply chain and much more.

A Bonanza for Precious Metal Royalty Companies as Exploration Budgets Have Declined

I think the business model that best illustrates the meaning of the “Parable of the Talents” is the one practiced by gold and precious metal royalty companies. As much as I write and talk about royalty companies, I still encounter investors who aren’t aware of how significant a role they play in the mining space.

As a refresher, these firms help finance explorers and producers’ operations by buying royalties or rights to a stream. Because miners have had to slash exploration budgets since the decline in metal prices, the kind of financing royalty companies provide has only grown in demand—as evidenced by the mostly positive earnings reports last week.

Chief among them is Franco-Nevada, which had a very strong third quarter, reporting earnings of $55.3 million, or $0.30 a share, up 3.4 percent from the same three-month period last year. The Toronto-based company, having also recently diversified into the oil royalties space, closed its purchase of an oil royalty for C$92.5 million, bringing the number of its oil and gas assets up to 82. Including precious metals and other minerals, the total number of assets Franco-Nevada had in its diverse portfolio as of the end of the quarter stood at 341.

Here’s the multiplier effect: Not only do the miners benefit from the deals, allowing them to continue exploration and other operations, but shareholders are also rewarded handsomely. Since the company went public nearly 10 years ago, it’s raised its dividend each year and its share price has outperformed both gold and relevant gold equity benchmarks. After its earnings announcement last Monday, Franco-Nevada stock closed up more than 6 percent on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), its best one-day performance in nearly a year and a half. Shares hit a fresh all-time high last week.

Precious metal royalty names have outperformed gold and gold producers
click to enlarge

Other royalty companies’ reports were just as impressive and show the rewards of putting your “talents” to work. Sandstorm Gold, reporting higher operating cash flow of $11.9 million, has acquired as many as 10 separate royalties since the end of September on properties in Peru, Botswana and South Africa that collectively cover more than 2.4 million acres.

Osisko Gold Royalties bought a $1.1 billion portfolio of 74 precious mineral royalties, including a 9.6 percent diamond stream. The company reported record quarterly gold equivalent ounces (GEOs) of 16,664, up 65 percent from the same quarter last year, and record quarterly revenues from royalties and streams of $26.1 million, up 48 percent.

Royal Gold also had a strong quarter, reporting operating cash flow of $72 million, an increase of 30 percent from last year, and returned as much as $16 million to shareholders in dividends.

Wheaton Precious Metals, the world’s largest precious metal streaming company, showed a sizeable decline in profits in the third quarter, but it continued to generate strong cash flow and looks poised to meet its end-of-year production guidance.

Although some investors might not realize how important these companies are to the industry, many other investors are opting to place their bets on royalty names, seeing them as having ample exposure to precious metals without some of the risks associated with producers. In its review of the third quarter, the World Gold Council (WGC) reported that global gold demand fell to an eight-year low as investment in gold ETFs slowed to 18.9 metric tons, down from 144.3 metric tons in last year’s September quarter. This could be a consequence of the media’s continued negative coverage of gold, despite its competitive performance against the S&P 500 Index. Whatever the cause, in this environment, there was no lack of love for royalty names, as you can see in the chart above.

A Changing Financial Landscape

We were one of Wheaton Precious Metals’ seed investors in 2004, when it was then known as Silver Wheaton. Because Franco-Nevada wouldn’t be spun off from Newmont Mining for another three years, Wheaton had first-mover advantage. It was something new, something different. This, coupled with what I recognized as a superior business model, gave me the conviction to allocate capital into the fledgling company, a move that turned out to be highly profitable.

Today I have the same conviction in blockchain technology and digital currencies. As of the end of October, the initial coin offering (ICO) market had raised $3 billion so far this year. That’s more than seven times the amount generated in crowdfunding in all of the previous years before 2017. And Bloomberg just reported that Google searches for “buy bitcoin” recently surpassed searches for “buy gold.”

Search queries for buy bitcoin surged past buy gold
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With bitcoin’s market cap having grown past that of Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, cryptocurrencies can no longer be written off as a curiosity. Major financial institutions have become bullish, having filed approximately 2,700 patents in blockchain technology.

Abigail Johnson, the youthful chairman of Fidelity, was quoted as saying, “Blockchain technology isn’t just a more efficient way to settle securities, it will fundamentally change market structures, and maybe even the architecture of the internet itself.” Johnson allegedly has a crypto-mining computer rig in her office, and Fidelity accountholders are now able to see their bitcoin holdings on the brokerage firm’s online platform. USAA, the massive financial firm used by millions of U.S. military personnel and their families worldwide, provides a similar service.

Bitcoin

This all comes as Coinbase, a leading digital currency broker, saw a record number of people opening new accounts on its platform recently, doubling the number of accounts from the beginning of the year. In one 24-hour period, 100,000 new accounts were opened.

Millennials Driving Interest in Blockchain Technology and Cryptocurrencies

A lot of this growth in demand is thanks to millennials, the largest U.S. generation. Forget the stereotype of the “entitled” millennial in the workplace and the misconception that they’re all wasting their money on $10 avocado toast. Consulting firm Deloitte estimates that by 2020, millennials will make up 50 percent of the workforce and control between $19 trillion and $24 trillion. Many are savvy investors and were found to be more likely to be aware of their brokerage account fees than older generations, according to Charles Schwab’s Modern Wealth index.

In some ways, millennials are reshaping our living habits. Many of them choose to rent instead of own to stay mobile. They’re more likely to get their news from Twitter than from TV. Online dating apps have helped foster today’s hookup culture, but while young people now might have more sex partners than before, they’re having less sex overall than their parents or grandparents might have had at their age.

It’s little surprise, then, that millennials are among the earliest and most enthusiastic adopters of blockchain technology, bitcoin and digital currencies in general—none of which existed even 10 years ago. A poll conducted by Blockchain Capital found that large percentages of millennials would prefer $1,000 in bitcoin to $1,000 in other assets. More than a quarter said they would prefer bitcoin to stocks, while nearly a third preferred it to bonds.

Percent of millenials who would prefer 1000 in botcoin to 1000 in
click to enlarge

What I find especially encouraging is that only 4 percent of those who took the poll owned or had owned bitcoins. I say encouraging because this suggests there’s quite a lot of upside potential for bitcoin ownership, which in turn could raise prices further. As I shared with you recently, Metcalfe’s law states that the bigger the network of users, the greater that network’s value becomes. Consider Facebook. The social media giant has more than 2 billion active users. That’s 2 billion pairs of eyes Facebook is able to charge top dollar for advertisers to reach, helping it deliver record profits in the third quarter.

We could see the same thing happen across the blockchain and cryptocurrency network as more and more businesses and people embrace this new form of exchange.

Ploughing Capital into Blockchain

It should be clear by now that something is changing in financial markets, and this is what inspired me to make a strategic investment in a company with first-mover advantage in the cryptocurrency space, just as we did with Silver Wheaton years ago. As the “Parable of the Talents” teaches us, no reward can come to you without some risk-taking. Doing nothing is not an option.

That company is HIVE Blockchain Technologies, a blockchain infrastructure company involved in the mining of virgin digital currencies. The first company of its kind to sell shares to the public, HIVE began trading on the TSX Venture Exchange on September 18.

I’m very excited about this new chapter in our company’s history. If you weren’t on today’s earnings call, you can download the slide deck here to learn more about our deal with HIVE and what it means for our investors and shareholders.

Gold/Silver vs. Bitcoin Comparisons: A No-Brainer… or Brainless?

by: David Smith*

For most of the year, as Bitcoin soared, crashed, and soared again, cryptocurrency vs. physical gold-silver talking heads engaged each other in heated rhetoric about which of these venues is here to stay.

Some of the biggest names in finance, government, and the newsletter analyst space have made comments that – to be charitable – appear less-than-fully informed. Comments like “Even though bitcoin could rise to $100,000, it’s still going to zero!” don’t offer much insight. Some other questionable assumptions:

2017 percent price change comparisons: Relating this year’s gold and silver’s price range to that of bitcoin misses an important point. Yes, bitcoin (BTC) has risen by a much greater percent, but it’s also fallen more. I don’t recall gold dropping 40% this year, which bitcoin has… on a couple of occasions.

Bitcoins

Please note: Bitcoin has no tangible, physical form.

 

Trash-talking gold and silver as “antiquated”: Bitcoin is now considered legal tender in Japan, but at this time, its primary function is for use in the purchase and sale of the 900+ “alt coins” currently available.

Most of these exchange entries in the crypto-space are not really “currencies” at all and will never trade as such.

Rather they are “coins” or “tokens” digitally created and circulated to raise seed money, via initial coin offerings (ICOs) in order to solve some business application in a blockchain-connected manner. Many have no trading volume – possibly because the market is skeptical of their business plan – and have become more or less “dead” coins.

At present, a relative few have an actively trading market. Investors have dropped literally millions of dollars into scores, if not hundreds of entrants which have appeared on the scene like dragon’s teeth, in many cases only to see volume dry up soon thereafter.

At present, digital apparitions can be created and marketed by just about anyone. The following example demonstrates how easy it is (for now), and how gullible some people really are.

Can I interest you in a “Useless Ethereum Token”?

Earlier this year, the “Useless Ethereum Token” (UET) was “announced” online. The “Issuer” wrote:

You are literally giving your money to someone on the Internet and getting completely useless tokens in return. There are no ‘whitepapers,’ no ‘products’, and no ‘experts’. It’s just you, me, your hard-earned Ether, and my shopping list.

You would think this blatantly-stated scam would elicit exactly zero response, yet reportedly, the UET ‘Project” was able to raise more than $60,000!

By the same token, it’s a safe bet that many Venezuelans wish they had traded some of their bolivares fuertes (“strong Bolivar”) notes, rendered worthless over the last few years, for a few ounces of silver – or a single ounce of gold – which could now purchase respectively, six months of food, or a house.

Becoming a victim of “default bias”: We all have a tendency to operate through a lens which uses the past as a default setting.

We keep doing what we know, avoid taking new risks, and resist changing the way we think.

Default bias can cause lost opportunities – whether it involves learning about the blockchain or being hesitant to buy precious metals when they’re in boring “wear you out or scare you out” sideways action (another David Morgan homily)… as they’ve been lately.

Dismissing Bitcoin as “just digital”: Kim Iskyan (Stansberry Churchouse Research) addresses the criticisms leveled at bitcoin and the blockchain. Responding to the charge that it’s “purely digital,” he notes that fully 90% of all the money – or as David Morgan refers to it, “paper promises” – that exist around the world today are not physical either!

Doug Casey is always one to see beyond the next investment valley (or country), and he pegs what most people miss when they argue that bitcoin is “bad” for the future of precious metals. As he said,

When people buy these cryptocurrencies, even if they know nothing about hard money, economics, or monetary theory, they inevitably ask themselves, “Hmm, Bitcoin or the dollar?” They’re both currencies. Then they start asking questions about the nature of the dollar…the nature of inflation… and whether the dollar has any real value, what’s going to happen to it, and why.

People start asking themselves these questions – which wouldn’t have occurred to them otherwise… and it’s going to make them very suspicious of the dollar. It’s going to get a lot of people thinking about money and economics in a way they never thought about it before. And this will inevitably lead them to gold…

What I am doing: In addition to staying very active in metals and miners, I have placed “small money” into several coins and tokens having viable business models in hopes of making an asymmetric profit.

Gold Bull Market 1970s vs. 2000 to date

In spite of the current turmoil, I remain steadfast in the belief that the next few years will see gold and silver trading several times higher than their nominal 2011 prices of $1,900 and near $50 respectively. The blockchain is here to stay. As for bitcoin, only time will tell.

We may even see digital coins and tokens backed by precious metal. But these changes in the crypto space will not replace them. Indeed, gold and silver will almost certainly – to the surprise of many bitcoin bulls – markedly increase demand.

I plan to continue holding the majority of my investible funds in gold and silver. How about you?

Gold vs Bitcoin: Are they competitors?

Mike Gleason* of Money Metals Exchange interviews Frnak Holmes of U.S. Global Investors

Mike Gleason: It is my privilege now to welcome in Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer at US Global Investors. Mr. Holmes has received various honors over the years, including being named America’s Best Fund Manager for 2016 by the Mining Journal. He is also the co-author of the book The Goldwatcher: Demystifying Gold Investing and is a regular guest on CNBC, Bloomberg, Fox Business as well as right here on the Money Metals podcast. Frank, welcome back and thanks for joining us again. How are you today?

Frank Holmes: Excellent. Thank you, my friend. Thank you.

Mike Gleason: Well, to start out here, Frank, I know you recently attended and spoke at the Denver Gold Show and I always like to talk to insiders like yourself following those sorts of events because you can always glean some good insights on the mood of the industry and how things are really going in the precious metals community. Now the mining industry has taken a pretty good beating over the last few years and it continues to struggle a bit even as we seem to be in a new bull cycle that began in late 2015. You’ve got your new gold fund now, GOAU, so you’ve got lots on insights into the mining industry and know lots of gold bugs. So, what did you glean from the conference Frank? What was the mood in general? Give us some highlights there if you would.

Frank Holmes: Well I think my presentation was well received when I explained how the quant world and data mining, and these other what they call alternative investment research companies, are providing new insight the way investing is taking place. Understanding the paradigm shift on that data collection and that analysts love their old reports on mid asset value, are irrelevant. They’re not relevant to picking stocks today. And you have to go with the forces of physics either as electromagnetic rebounding to the mean is a cheap stock and math says it will rebound or has strong momentum. And you can take a universe of 88 gold stocks and take it down to 28 and far outperform the GDX or GDXJ.

Using data that was foreign to a lot of these analysts and recognizing … the other thing I think worth commenting on was gold and this whole thing on Bitcoin, is it a competition for bullion? It is not. First of all, without electricity Bitcoin is not worth any money. It needs electricity. Gold is always gold. It conducts electricity and it will always have its materiality for currency in addition to being jewelry. But I think that’s really important is to recognize that it’s so much easier, this idea of crowdfunding, to go and open up an exchange and trade 24/7 all these different currencies all around the world than it is to open a brokerage account. And I think that this excessive regulations is basically seeing people migrate over to angel investing, crowdfunding such as into cryptocurrencies, et cetera. And I think that’s the bigger danger is to overall investing in trading in the capital markets. So they’re the comments that I made and that seem to have come back with many written messages to me regarding the quants and how they’re changing the landscape.

But I think the other part that’s important for your listeners is that there were 1,100 people there. Now they don’t allow investment bankers in. Research analysts, traders, CEOs, gold analysts from the buy and sell side, they’re allowed to participate and there were 1,100. The week before there was a big event for the juniors (junior miners) but this event is the premiere event of the world. And I was impressed with it. The conversations looking for companies that are going to be taken over. What’s the probability. Because the seniors are desperate for future production and where is that growth going to come from because they’re just not finding the gold as fast as they’re mining. So, the Newmonts of the world have to go and strike deals like they did with Continental in Columbia to get a foothold into high grade big geographic footprints. So I thought that was interesting. I think that in the next 12 months there’s going to be lots of M&A work. And the other part was the royalty companies seem to get a new sort of respect for how their positioned in the capital markets in that gold space.

Mike Gleason: Yeah definitely. Sounds like there is a wave of optimism there and some good things ahead. Now I wanted to get back to some of the cryptocurrency conversation here. Your firm, Frank, US Global Investors, recently made an investment in HIVE Blockchain Technologies and you have been appointed chairman of the board there. Given you are heavily involved in the cryptocurrency space now, we’d like to get your take on a topic of growing interest in the metals community. You alluded to this a moment ago but cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin in particular, have been seen by many as another form of honest money. You’ve obviously maybe shot a little bit of a hole in what it is that is needed in order to continue the cryptocurrency world, that being electricity. But since you’re a fan at least in part of both metals and blockchains. What are your thoughts on how metals might fit in with this emerging technology, Frank?

Frank Holmes: Well let’s just focus on this emerging technology. We go back to the internet and it was actually very boring when it first come out because it was very slow and it used to be a joke that it was just porn and dark things. And now it’s fast porn. No, I’m kidding. But the real catalysts for the internet exploding in usage were emails, AOL. And long before Yahoo came out to give you free email. And then people saw the incredible capacity for this channel of distribution of information. Well I think that the Bitcoin and Ethereum are doing that for blockchain technology and that there’s a huge scramble to be able to apply this so that you’ll be able to trade stocks 24/7.

And when I was doing my research and I went to the largest cryptocurrency event, that used to be where the gold show used to be held in New York at the Marriott. I was just shocked to see how many young people were there. Many more than ever when gold was peaking. And two is that they weren’t drinking scotch and whiskey at the bar and beer, they were drinking Pepsi and coffee. That really threw me off to just watch those young people and how they’re looking at it. And then to find out that the keynote speaker was a CEO of Fidelity. Fidelity is a massive multi-trillion dollar asset management company and they have all their employees on Bitcoin. They have a wallet and you can buy goods in the store. And seeing that she’s the keynote and that the New York Stock Exchange when it was launching GOAU they were commenting that they had put money into Coinbase along with USAA in San Antonio.

So, at Coinbase you can open an account so easily and they will now let your 10,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 of coins show up as an asset over all in your portfolio. USAA and all that should do that at Fidelity. So I said well it’s something really that’s not mainstream and then in the summer it came out in the Wall Street Journal that Fidelity is doing it. But really it didn’t seem to captivate a lot of people’s interest. And I think that the big part with the New York Stock Exchange is just their worry of being Uberized the way taxi cabs were with having stock trading 24/7 and a lot cheaper.

So, I think that that’s the big trend and along I was trying to launch a cryptocurrency, ETF, or a product with that and I just kept bringing up cul-de-sacs. Had to back that car out, back that truck out. It didn’t matter if it was the U.S., the SEC, or Canada with the OSC. They’re just so consumed that AML (Anti Money Laundering) supersedes, even though you can track Bitcoin, supersedes anything else. So that’s why you’ve not seen anything come out directly where you can trade Bitcoin into an ETF.

So I’ve been working on this and then all of the sudden I hear from my friend Frank Giustra saying, “Look, we have this deal. Do you know much about this space?” And I said “Oh, yes. I’ve been working on it. And I just keep running into cul-de-sacs.” And he said, “Well, why don’t you explore it” and explored it and I said, “You know what, I’ll be come your third biggest shareholder, and I will go on the board,” because I think that HIVE is so special and unique because it’s the mining business.

And the company behind HIVE is Genesis Mining and Genesis Mining is the largest cryptocurrency miner in the word. They have a million people give them 500 bucks a year and one of the things I learned was that if you want to do mining of cryptocurrency you need to have cheap energy like two cents a kilowatt hour. So you find that a lot of these big dealer centers are in Iceland where it’s cool and you have cheap electricity. Google is there. Facebook is there and so is Genesis. And you need to have computer graphic cards because the processing power to validate a transaction. So, you found that NVIDIA stock has taken off because the cryptocurrency companies like Genesis have been massive buyers of their computer graphics cards.

And so, with that, I said, “You mean, we’re going to be investing in a company that’s mining and validating transactions all over the world, and we create new coins, fresh coins, mint coins, virgin coins” … however you want to characterize them. We are not trafficking on the silk road. We are not buying and selling a coin that could have been painted et cetera. No. We’re the creator because we validate transactions and you get paid every time you validate a blockchain transaction. So, I became extremely excited about this opportunity and so far we’ve made for our shareholders more than 500% on their money.

Mike Gleason: That’s fantastic. Now I’d like to get your take on the U.S. dollar. The dollar had a miserable performance through the first eight months of the year and bottomed in early September at 91.5. The greenback then bounced and has enjoyed a very good rally since then. What is driving this rally in your view and are you expecting the dollar to keep moving higher in the months ahead, Frank?

Frank Holmes: Well, historically it does get a bit of a rally going into the year end. That’s one. Two is the 5-year government bond. The 5-year government bond is positive now, the yield. So, the CPI number is 1.9 and you just take whatever the government is trying to entice you to buy their 5-year government bond, subtract the CPI number… it recalibrates every month and it gives you a good idea for where fund falls are going for real rates return. And whenever the five year government bond and the two year government bond are negative, gold is positive. And so, we went from a 1.4 to 1.5 5-year government bond to a 1.93. Now it’s just slightly positive but that was enough to sort of have the dollar rally and gold come off in the past month.

But I think that unless you really get change, you get fiscal change, trying to get the tax code streamlined and trying to get other parts of the legislation body in its Beltway to streamline regulations. We need to have the TSA preferred, how you can fly much more quickly now, rather than those two hour waits to fly and to go and catch your flight. You know most people in San Antonio were driving to Houston rather than going to wait two hours for an hour flight. And so, you’re seeing now this TSA preferred. That’s just streamlining processes and this has to be done for the movement of money, for opening a trading accounts, for opening up investment accounts, et cetera. If we don’t get those things, we’re going to have to have negative real interest rates to keep the economy going. Or you’re going to have to a very weak dollar to drive exports.

And I think that Trump has been a master disrupter. He’s so disruptive to the Beltway Party, which is the regulatory regime that’s been their professional regulatory. I’ve listened to other people like Bernanke spoke about the difficulty for Jimmy Carter and Trump to take on the Beltway Party. But he’s different and so he’s trying to push for the streamline of regulations. If he can, rates can trade higher and I think that the dollar will just trade with the real interest rates relative to the rest of the world.

But I remain very positive on gold. It’s amazing to see how well gold has done this year. The gold stocks have had a great run until the GDXJ blew up. Basically, they captured 95% of all fund flows. Therefore, they had to be concentrated owning more than 20 companies 20% means they had to do a force takeover. They had to back out of that one and they blew out three billion dollars. They brought in five billion dollars over 12 months and then they did an exit in only a matter of weeks of three billion dollars. And that really damaged the bid side and bruised people. It’s like getting hit by Mike Tyson. You just don’t heal quickly when he hits you and it’s the same thing with the gold stocks. But I think there’s some just fabulous gold stocks out there that are ripe to be taken over, that have very strong positive cash flow. The weaker dollar in the U.S. and the higher gold prices, there’s very strong margins for companies like Klondex.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, certainly can be interesting as we go towards the latter part of the year here to see what might be sustained in this correction in gold or if it can rebound and get back to where it was maybe a month ago or so. We did have a good first half of the year in the metals but the markets obviously have hit some of those headwinds here recently, a rising dollar and so forth that you alluded to. If you would, give us your bull case for metals in near term and then also if you would maybe a bear case as well and then kind of expand more on which side you’re betting on, as we begin to wrap up here.

Frank Holmes: Well, there’s the two drivers for gold: love trade and fear trade. And the fear trade dominates the psychic of Americans and the same thing with Europeans in that’s predominantly negative real interest rates. So whenever the government has to monetize most of their debt, and basically negative real interest rates are losing money and buying their government bonds, gold does well. I don’t think that they can raise rates significantly without a massive streamlining of regulations and the government is doing everything to try to stop Trump from doing that. So, I think we’re going to end up still living with negative interest rates.

Now, the other positive part, for the U.S., is that the dollar is down but the exports are up. So we have our strong industrial base. And it’s showing up in PMI, that’s Purchasing Manufacturer’s Index, which is a forward looking index. It’s not like GDP, which is looking out the rear view mirror. This is like looking with headlights looking down six months. And the one month is above the three month, and that’s really positive for global growth. So I remain positive and constructive towards it. What could derail it? North Korea could derail it. China’s policies could derail it. And I think that if rates were to surge dramatically in the U.S., that could derail it.

But I don’t think that’s going to happen. We’re in a very constructive mode and it’s a great opportunity for stock picking. I just spoke at a conference in Vancouver yesterday, and I commented on … By the way, I commented on HIVE. I was asked and I said, “You know, if you’re a value investor, HIVE is extremely overvalued.” But if you are a first mover advantage in the first public company where funds can go by and get exposure to crypto-mining. It is not. It’s like Tesla, it’s like Amazon. They will always trade at lofty valuations. And so, it’s extremely attractive that way when you look at it as being first mover advantage.

Mike Gleason: Well that’s great stuff as usual. Thanks as always for joining us. It’s a real honor to hear your thoughts and we appreciate your time as always. Now before we let you go, please tell our listeners a little bit more about your firm and your services and then also mention the Frank Talk Blog so people can learn more about that if they’re not already checking it out.

Frank Holmes: Well, we are USfunds.com, makes it so easy, just go to USfunds.com, sign up for investor alert. It’s right in the middle of the page. And we write every week and we do a game film analysis, three strengths or weaknesses for last week and opportunities and threats that can come out next week. Sort of forward looking like game film and looking back.

And the Frank Talk is my global travels and I try to be insightful and learn about how we’ve applied quant math. What’s called quantamentals to stock picking. And especially we launched our GOGO Canadian gold ETF and we’ve launched one here in the U.S., which we’re really proud of because the ten year index based on those smart factors, both performs of GDXJ say 94% of the time are rolling 12 month periods. So we think that GOAU, we’ll write about it, we’ll tell you about the changes. And we also have unique products like JETS which is also an ETF listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Mike Gleason: Yeah, it’s great stuff. Certainly the Go Gold fund is looking very good from what I’ve been reading about. Obviously performing just as you were hoping it would and continued success there. We always appreciate it and good luck with the other endeavors that you have going on and keep up the good work on those market commentaries and we’ll certainly look forward to our next conversation. Take care, Frank.

Frank Holmes: Take care, my friend.

Mike Gleason: Well that will do it for this week. Thanks again to Frank Holmes, CEO of US Global Investors and manager of the recently launched GOAU Gold Fund. For more information, the site is USfunds.com. Be sure to check out the previously mentioned Frank Talk blog while you’re there for some of the best market commentary you will find anywhere on gold and other related topics. Again, you can find all that at USfunds.com, and you can also go to GOAUETF.com for more information on that new gold fund.

And 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 and Bitcoin Surge on North Korea Fears

Article written prior to the sharpish turndown in the gold price after the weekend.

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

bicion

If you’re familiar with ABC’s popular reality show Shark Tank, you should already be familiar with the concept behind the San Antonio Angel Network (SAAN). Select entrepreneurs and innovators pitch their startup ideas to accredited investors, who can choose to make early-stage investments in a potentially successful company.

I attended an SAAN meeting last week at Ferrari of San Antonio, and what struck me the most was how fluid and seamless the whole thing is. Other professionals in attendance, including lawyers and CPAs, had a similar opinion, with some of them saying it was because there wasn’t any bureaucracy or red tape to hamstring the presenters.

This is unlike the world of mutual funds, which I believe has become excessively regulated.

As I’ve said numerous times before, regulation is essential, just as referees are essential to a basketball game. No one disputes that, because otherwise there would be chaos.

Similarly, the new and very unregulated world of cryptocurrencies has grown dramatically, beyond bitcoin and ethereum. Did you know there are over 800 cryptocurrencies? These new initial coin offerings, called ICOs, are like initial public offerings (IPOs) but with little regulation or accountability. As I’ve commented before, if the refs get too powerful or too numerous, and the rules too complex, the game becomes nearly unplayable.

Cryptocurrencies Still Draw Investor Attention Following China Crackdown

Bitcoin, ethereum and other cryptocurrencies have had a meteoric year, with more than $2 billion raised in ICOs so far in 2017, according to Bloomberg. Approximately $155 billion in cryptocurrencies are in circulation around the world right now. Bitcoin by itself is at $78 billion, which is close to the $90 billion invested in all gold ETFs.

Cryptocurrencies have made red hot moves this past year
click to enlarge

Like gold, cryptos are favored by those who have a deep distrust of fiat currency, or paper money. Money, after all, is built on trust, and the blockchain technology that bitcoin is built on top of automates trust through an electronic ledger that cannot be altered. Every transaction is anonymous and peer-to-peer. The system is entirely decentralized and democratic. No monetary authority can see who owns what and where money is flowing.

This, of course, is a huge reason why some world governments want to crack down on the Wild West of virtual currencies, especially with bitcoin surging close to $5,000 this month.

China did just that last week, putting a halt to new ICOs and crypto transactions. In response, ethereum tumbled as much as 15.8 percent last Monday, or $55 a unit. Bitcoin lost $394 a unit.

China’s decision comes a little more than a month after the SEC said cryptocurrencies are securities and therefore should probably be regulated as such. At this point, though, the implications are unclear.

What’s clear to me—after seeing firsthand how easily and quickly transactions are made—is that there’s no going back. It’s possible cryptocurrencies will one day be regulated. But I’m confident bitcoin, ethereum and some other virtual currencies offer enough value to weather such a potential roadblock.

I also believe there has to be a happy medium between the excessively regulated fund industry and the potential chaos of the cryptocurrency. This is what I witnessed at the SAAN event I mentioned, which allowed the professionals in attendance to gain information, ask questions and make informed decisions.

Gold Trading Above $1,350 an Ounce

Speaking on cryptocurrencies last week, Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Emerging Markets Group, said gold could be a beneficiary of China’s decision to clamp down on ICOs. As more governments and central banks turn their attention to virtual currencies, investors could move back into the yellow metal as a store of value.

That’s a possibility, but I think gold’s price action right now is being driven by negative real Treasury yields and fears over a potential conflict with North Korea. Adjusted for inflation, the two-year and five-year Treasuries are both currently yielding negative amounts, and the 10-year continues to fall closer to 0 percent.

Real treasury yeilds fall further
click to enlarge

As I’ve explained numerous times before, gold and real interest rates share an inverse relationship. It makes little sense to invest in an asset that’s guaranteed to cost you money—which is the case with the two-year and five-year government bond right now. Investors seeking a “safe haven” might therefore add to their weighting in gold, especially with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un raising tensions.

The yellow metal closed (last week) above $1,350 an ounce, more than a one-year high – (but has come down quite sharply this week as some of thge geopolitical fears eased – temporarily perhaps? – Editor).   

Gold price up more than 15 percent year to date
click to enlarge

Despite Efforts to Control Spending, National Debt Expected to Continue Growing: CBO

Similarly driving the gold Fear Trade are concerns over the national debt. Last week President Donald Trump sided with Congressional Democrats in raising the federal borrowing limit to allow Hurricane Harvey recovery aid to pass. An initial package of $7.85 billion for Harvey victims was agreed upon, but with total costs expected to be as high as $190 billion—more than the combined costs of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy—and with Hurricane Irma the federal aid amount could eventually run even higher.

Trump partially ran on reigning in government spending, which I and many others would like to see. Even so, this might not be enough to control our runaway debt. According to an August report by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), debt will likely continue to grow as spending for large federal benefit programs—Social Security, Medicare and the like—outpaces revenue. Interest payments on the debt will only continue to accelerate as well.

Below is a chart showing national debt as a percentage of GDP going back to the founding of the U.S. Although we’ve seen periodic spikes in response to national crises, the debt could soar to unprecedented levels within the next 10 years.

Federal debt expected to continue rising
click to enlarge

Financial writer Alex Green, the Oxford Club’s chief strategist, told me during my recent interview with him that he thought out-of-control spending posed a greater threat to our country than even North Korea.

I tend to agree with him, and that’s why I believe that investors should have a 10 percent allocation in gold, with 5 percent in bullion and 5 percent in gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

Even another flash crash can’t keep gold price down for long

This is a lightly edited version of one first posted on the Sharps Pixley news website

2 million ounces of gold were dumped on the gold market in a minute on Friday, just ahead of Janet Yellen’s speech at Jackson Hole – and, after a very brief downwards spike to below $1,280, the gold price rapidly climbed back to unchanged.  This has to be an incredibly bullish signal for gold in that even this amount of presumably paper gold thrown at it (62.2 tonnes) couldn’t keep the gold price down.  Bloomberg described the 2 million ounce trade as ‘mysterious’.  Perhaps at least that is a welcome change from the usual ‘fat finger’ attribution which seems to be applied to these seemingly increasingly frequent mega-sales of paper gold which, despite protestations to the contrary, seem to be designed to keep the gold price suppressed.

Today, the gold price drifted upwards ahead of New York’s opening and then, at around 11.00 am New York time the price spiked upwards sharply, soaring through the $1,300 psychological barrier.  The question is where to next?

The key here may well be what has been happening with physical gold.  On Friday the SPDR Gold Shares ETF (GLD) had almost 6 tonnes of gold bought into it.  GLD has thus seen 18.33 tonnes of physical gold added to it in 2 weeks after what we might describe as ‘mysteriously’ seeing some 80 tonnes withdrawn over the previous two months – during which time the gold price didn’t seem to be spooked by this amount of gold being taken out of the world’s biggest gold ETF.  We had already pointed out the anomaly that America’s second biggest gold ETF – the iShares Gold Trust (IAU) – had not seen corresponding metal liquidations.  The Swiss gold import and export statistics, also reported in these pages, had shown that there appears to be a ready market in Asia for any physical gold released in the west, and this could well be a sign that gold could be moving into a short supply situation in the West.  If America starts buying physical gold again, we could thus see big price rises with buyers bidding up what might be an increasingly rare commodity.

As I write, the gold price rise seems to have stalled at the $1,310 level and there will almost certainly be attempts to drive it down, or at least prevent it rising further.  But it does seem to have some momentum behind it and could well move up to the $1,320s.  But, as we have pointed out before, this time next week is the U.S. Labor Day holiday and this often seems to provide an inflection point in economic trends.  It could presage a sell-off in gold or see the price boosted into the stratosphere, figuratively speaking.  Nothing is simple with gold.  But if gold gets a boost after September 4th we could see equities – and perhaps bitcoin – moving sharply in the other direction.  Both would seem to be in bubble situations and sooner or later all bubbles burst.

We’d rather bet on gold than alternatives.  Even if there is a gold price turndown ahead it is likely to be relatively minor, while the fall, when it comes, as come it must, in equities and bitcoin could be devastating.  Food for thought ahead of the U.S. holiday weekend.

The Blockchain: A Gold and Silver Launchpad?

By David Smith*

Central governments around the globe have waged, against their own citizens, a virtual “War on Cash.” Efforts by Sweden to become “cash-free;” progressive “downsizing” of Eurozone currency units; a currency recall in India that affected 1.3 billion people; solemn talk about eliminating $100 and even $50 bills in the U.S. – all in the supposed fight against “drug dealing and tax evasion.”

US 100 Dollar Bill

Will Ben Be Going Bye Bye?

It’s really about people control.

The War on Cash goes hand in hand with the imposition of onerous taxation levels, negative interest rates, and destruction of what little privacy we have left.

Historically, nations backed their paper currencies with gold and/or silver. Today – without a single one doing so – it might seem, as some naysayers have observed, that gold is at best a “barbarous relic;” at worst, just a “pet rock.” And yet…

The War on Cash has unleashed a hydra. From the invention less than a decade ago of the “cryptocurrency” Bitcoin, to its present-day evolution, a change of monumental significance is underway.

The Foundation Is the Blockchain

Satoshi Nakamoto is credited with the creation of Bitcoin and as part of its implementation, devised the first blockchain database. By definition, a blockchain “allows connected computers to talk to each other, rather than through a central server. Using a ‘consensus mechanism’ the connected computers on the network stay in sync and agree with each other.” Every data entry references an earlier one, agreeing with the entire chain. (Summary from an essay by Peter van Valkenburgh.)

Three years ago, David Morgan aired his views in an essay titled, “My Two Bits about Bitcoin.” The technology was complex, relatively slow, and looked to become unwieldy. This was 15 months before the debut of a process that now holds the potential to turn night into day for just about any kind of online commercial transaction… and could spark a revolution for the use of “digital gold and silver.”

The key (for now) is Ethereum. Ethereum is a computing platform – and a cryptocurrency… that runs smart contracts – applications that run exactly as programmed without the possibility of downtime, censorship, fraud, or third-party interference (ethereum.org).

The Potential and the Promise

Acceptance of gold and silver as a store of value and medium of exchange most likely pre-dates recorded history. Then someone (the Chinese?) got the bright idea to create a paper substitute exchangeable for, but still backed by, precious metal.

American Gold Buffalo

In Venezuela, one ounce of gold
buys a house.

This worked swimmingly until they decided to print unlimited amounts of what David Morgan at The Morgan Report has so famously termed “paper promises.” These promises are never fully honored, causing the eventual decline of a circulated currency’s purchasing power to zero.

The original promise of value is accepted in good faith, but when that promise is broken through devaluation, faith evaporates, along with the value of the once-supported currency. For proof of this today, look no further than Venezuela.

Digital Metal Data Points

A number of firms work to merge cryptocurrencies with physical gold and silver. The weakness of purely digital money is that it is unbacked by anything tangible. It only works for people who have electricity and are connected to the Internet. Physical gold and silver don’t rely upon the grid and can never be “hacked.”

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin cost almost nothing to transfer around the globe and they promise to be easy to transact with (akin to using a credit card). If those digital tokens can be anchored to tangible gold and silver bars, they could be more compelling as a store of value.

As you read the following passage in italics from an interview with Beautyon, editor of bitcoin-think, conducted on lfb.org., try substituting the term “digital metals” wherever you see “bitcoin.” Doing so shows the potential, the promise, and very possibly – eventual reality – for the evolving union of digital metals with physical gold and silver.

Bitcoin will succeed. There is nothing any government can do to stop it… No amount of time can put the Bitcoin genie back in the bottle…. (it) is good money, and all the State can produce is bad money… Bitcoin means the final death of government fiat money. It means the end of Big Government. It means an era of unprecedented prosperity, as savings once again become the source of investment.

Will the Promise Be Honored?

The keys to the argument are that when a person purchases digital metal, it must be stored in a secure location, in physical form of a stated purity, immediately available to its designated owner upon demand. It is not being loaned to others. The price is transparent, accurate, and available globally.

Bitcoin

Even though this is a nice image,
remember that Bitcoin itself is intangible.

The “authorities” have always sought, and will continue to try to control, peoples’ activities. But to the extent that investable physical gold and silver are removed from the control of exchanges and government coffers, and placed under “supervision” of the individual, the ability to manipulate the price and physical supply will deteriorate.

This, I believe, is the potential that digital metal represents. It will operate on a decentralized, secure, transparent platform. The blockchain and the portal through which it flows could be Ethereum or a similar protocol.

And if the “promise” is not honored? Then the concept of digital metal will be dispatched to irrelevance in the dustbin of history, as other experiments which have toyed with its essence have been. But pass or fail, no amount of digital tinkering will be able to stunt demand for gold and silver. Rather, the result will have simply been to introduce millions of new holders to the virtues of physical precious metals ownership.

Unintended Consequences

Global governments, having previously removed metals’ backing from the currencies they print, now attempt to force their citizens into holding only digital paper currency “wealth.” How ironic it will be, if by these very actions, the ultimate effect turns out to be the unleashing of new demand waves for digital metal – redeemable for physical gold and silver.

Last week, Stewart Thomson of Graceland Updates predicted the following:

“Going forwards, India-China operated digital gold wrapped in blockchain technology will be the undisputed currency of the world gold community, a 3-billion-person-strong titanic force…. This is the beginning of the end for world gold price manipulation, and you can take that to the bank.”