Gold and Silver boring for now – lacking fear and greed

By Clint Siegner*

Fear and greed drive the precious metals markets, but there hasn’t been much of either pushing gold and silver prices lately. Investors have grown tired of worrying about geopolitical events, ever increasing federal debt ceilings and ever inflating equity bubbles.

Meanwhile, greedy trend traders continue piling in to hot markets.

With the exception of palladium, metals prices have been stagnant for most of the year. For the time being, gold and silver are looking pretty boring relative to the hefty gains in stock prices and the explosive rise in Bitcoin.

Goldbugs are still waiting for a catalyst to shift investor attention back to the metals markets. Let’s take a look at some of the possible near-term drivers for gold and silver…

The equity markets remain overdue for a significant correction, and that would definitely stir some safe-haven demand. Yes, we have been expecting a correction in stocks for some time and prices are still moving higher.

There is, of course, no telling when the next bear market in stocks will arrive. But price-to-earnings valuations have only moved higher into nosebleed territory and shares are truly priced for perfection. A good-sized hiccup could have investors heading for the exit.

Bitcoin prices may also correct, diverting some of that capital instead into gold and silver. Cryptocurrencies are an entirely different kettle of fish when it comes to valuation. If Bitcoin can deliver on its promise to revolutionize payments and finance, today’s prices will ultimately look cheap.

Bitcoin Caution

However, no one should expect Bitcoin to continue moving higher in a straight line, with price corrections measured only in days or hours. There are a couple of developments right now with the potential to derail the extraordinary bull run in Bitcoin – at least temporarily.

A number of major cryptocurrency exchanges have grown reliant on a token called “Tether.” The Tether token is supposed to be backed 1 to 1 with U.S. dollars held by the company behind the Tether. Traders swap Bitcoin and other coins into Tether, assuming it is akin to cash. However, there are serious questions about whether or not the backing exists.

If confidence is lost in the nearly $1 billion of Tether tokens floating around exchanges, much of which has been used to make leveraged purchases of Bitcoin, it could be a disaster rivaling the collapse of Mt. Gox.

Bitcoin is also getting a boost in anticipation of institutional money pouring into the markets. The CME Group (COMEX) will launch Bitcoin futures trading later this month and lots of people expect the influx of capital to be very good news for the price. Our perspective is a bit different given that the nearly unlimited supply of paper futures contracts has undermined precious metals prices.

We think Bitcoiners should be wary of the participation of establishment institutions, such as JPMorgan Chase, which are likely to heavily short Bitcoin. These banks have a record of defeating limited supply by selling paper contracts in unlimited quantity and profiting as prices fall. People should also understand that many of the institutions who will be playing in Bitcoin futures are not fans of Bitcoin.

There are also a couple other developments of particular interest for metals investors in the coming weeks. Tensions with North Korea and Iran are still escalating. And Michael Flynn, President Donald Trump’s former National Security Advisor, has taken a plea deal. The President’s many enemies in Washington DC are hoping Flynn will testify to some impeachable offense.

Should these players finally hang something serious on the President, we can definitely expect some turmoil in conventional markets.

It is quiet in the metals markets now, but there are plenty of ways for this quiet to be broken at any time.

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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.