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.

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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

Mad rush into gold ahead when fiat currencies tank – Pento

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

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

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

Michael, welcome back and thanks for joining us again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Pento: Thank you, Mike.

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

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

Rickards: Gold only place to go in coming financial panic

In the latest podcast from Mike Gleason* of  Money Metals Exchange Jim Rickards  warns of a huge financial crash ahead and that gold and precious metals will provide the only real way of protecting one’s wealth.

Listen to the Podcast Audio: Click Here or read the transcript below:

Mike Gleason: It is my great privilege now to be joined by James Rickards. Mr. Rickards is Editor of Strategic Intelligence, a monthly newsletter and Director of the James Rickards Project, an inquiry into the complex dynamics of geopolitics and global capital. He’s also the author of several bestselling books including The Death of Money, Currency Wars, The New Case for Gold and The Road to Ruin. In addition to his achievements as a writer and author, Jim is also a portfolio manager, lawyer and renowned economic commentator, having been interviewed by CNBC, the BBC, Bloomberg, Fox News and CNN, just to name a few. And we’re happy to have him back on the Money Metals Podcast.

Jim, thanks for coming on with us again today. We really appreciate your time as always and, how are you?

Jim Rickards: I’m doing great Mike, great to be with you. Thank you.

Mike Gleason: Well Jim, I figure a good place to start here is with one of your most recent books. We want to get your take on the state of the world economy. In your book titled The Road to Ruin: The Global Elites’ Secret Plan for the Next Financial Crisis, you make some very interesting comments. Now while the financial media is talking about booming stock markets and accelerating GDP growth, you aren’t quite as optimistic. We both know that most of the growth we’ve seen in recent years has been built with huge amounts of central bank stimulus and the fundamental problems that drove the last financial crisis have hardly been resolved. In fact, you think the next financial catastrophe isn’t too far away and many among the elite are getting ready for it. If you can, briefly lay out some of what you’ve been seeing.

Jim Rickards: Sure Mike, you touched on two different threads. One is, let’s call it the short to intermediate term, which is how’s the economy doing? What would the forecast be for the year ahead? What do I think about stocks and so forth? That’s one part of the analysis, but the other one is a little bigger and a little deeper, which is what about another major financial crisis, a liquidity crisis, global financial panic and what would the response function be to that.

Let me separate. They’re related because, I mean the point I always make is that there’s a difference between a business cycle recession and a financial panic. They’re two different things. They can go together, but they don’t have to. For example, October 29, 1987, the Stock Market fell 22% in one day. In today’s Dow terms that would be the equivalent of 5,000 Dow points, so we’re at 26,000 or whatever, as we speak, a 22% drop would take it down about 5,000 points. You and I both know that if the Dow Jones fell 500 points that would be all anybody would hear about or talk about. Well, imagine 5,000 points. Well, that actually happened in percentage terms in October 1987. So, that’s a financial panic, but there was no recession. The economy was fine and we pulled out of that in a couple of days. Actually, after the panic, it wasn’t such a bad time to buy and stocks rallied back. Then, for example in 1990, you had a normal business cycle recession. Unemployment went up. There were some defaults and all that, but there was no financial panic.

In 2008, you had both. You had a recession that began in 2007 and lasted until 2009 and you had a financial panic that reached a peak in September-October 2008 with Lehman and AIG, so they’re separate things. They can run together. Let’s separate them and talk about the business cycle. I’m not as optimistic on the economy right now. I know there’s a lot of hoopla. We just had the big Trump Tax Bill and the Stock Market’s reaching all-time highs. I mean, I read the tape. I get all that, but there are a lot headwinds in this economy. There’s good evidence that the Fed is over-tightening.

Remember the Fed is doing two things at once that they’ve never done before. They’re raising rates. I mean, they’ve done that many times, but they’re raising rates, but at the same time, they’re reducing their balance sheet. This is the opposite of QE. I’m sure a lot of listeners are familiar with QE, Quantitative Easing, which is money printing. That’s all it is. And they do it by buying bonds. Then when they pay for the bonds from the dealers, they do it with money that comes out of thin air. That’s how they expand the money supply. Well, they did that starting in 2008 all the way through until 2013, and then they tapered it off and the taper was over by the end of 2014, but they were still buying bonds. So, that was six years of bond buying. They expanded their balance sheet from $800 billion to $4.4 trillion.

Well, now they’re putting that in reverse. They grabbed the gear and they shifted it into reverse and they’re actually not dumping bonds. They’re not going to sell a single bond, but what happens is, when bonds mature, the Treasury just sends you the money, so if you bought a five-year bond five years ago and it matures today, the Treasury just sends you the money. Well, when you send money to the Fed, the money disappears. It’s the opposite of money printing. So, the Feds are actually destroying money, actually reducing the money supply, so they’re raising rates and destroying money at the same time. It’s a double whammy of tightening and I don’t believe the U.S. economy’s nearly as strong as the Fed believes. They rely on what’s called the “Phillips Curve,” which says unemployment’s low, that’s a constraint and wages are going to go up and inflation is right around the corner. And that’s part of the reason they’re tightening, but there are a lot of flaws in that theory.

First of all, the basic Phillips Curve theory is junk. It’s just not true. We saw that in the late ’70s when we had sky high unemployment and sky-high inflation at the same time. We’ve also seen it recently when we’ve had low unemployment and disinflation at the same time. So, you start by saying the Phillips Curve is junk, but even if you thought there was something to it, there’s so many problems with it in terms of labor force participation demographics, debt deleveraging, technology, et cetera, that it just doesn’t apply under the current circumstances.

So, the Feds are tightening for the wrong reason. They are tightening at the wrong time and there’s a lot of evidence that a lot of the growth in the fourth quarter was consumption driven, but that was debt driven. People charged up their credit cards, consumer debt spiked. The savings rate is near a very long-term low. It doesn’t look sustainable, so lots of reasons to think that the Fed’s going to overdo it, get it wrong, tighten, throw the economy either into a recession or very low growth with disinflation, so I’m just not buying the inflation “happy days are here again” story.

There’s also good reason to believe that the Tax Bill will not be as stimulative as people expect. All that’s truly going on is the running up the deficit by another trillion dollars and we’re already way into the danger zone and then that’s actually a drag on growth. So, there’s a good reason to think the economy is going to slow, that by itself would take the wind out of the Stock Market and close it at the potentially very serious Stock Market correction, at least 10%, maybe as much as 20%. We’re talking about going down as I say 5,000 or 6,000 points on the Dow before the end of the year, so that’s one scenario.

The scenario I talk about in my book really involves a financial panic. Now, the thing there is that these are not that rare. I already mentioned the one, really two-day panic in 1987, but in 1994 you had the Mexico Tequila Crisis. In 1997, you had the Asian Peninsula Crisis. In 1998, you had the Russia Long-Term Capital Management Crisis. In 2000, you had the dot.com meltdown. In 2007, the mortgage meltdown. In 2008, the financial panic. These things happen every five, six, seven years, not like clockwork, but that’s a typical tempo for these kinds of meltdowns and it’s been nine years since the last one. So, nobody should be surprised if it happens tomorrow. I’m not predicting it will happen tomorrow. I’m just saying nobody should be surprised if it does, whether it’s tomorrow, or next month or next year, or even a year and a half from now, don’t think for one minute that we’re living in a world free of financial panics.

By the way, these two things could happen together. You could have a slowdown that leads to a financial crisis, a replay of 2008. But here’s the difference and this is really the point of your question, Mike. In 1998, we had a financial panic and Wall Street got together and bailed out the Hedge Fund Long Term Capital Management. In 2008, we had a financial panic and the Central Banks got together and bailed out Wall Street, so each bailout gets bigger than the one before it. In the next panic, whether it’s this year or next year, who’s going to bail out the Central Banks. In other words, each panic’s bigger than the one before. Each response is bigger than the one before going down this chronological sequence.

The next one is going to be the biggest of all. It’s going to be bigger than the Central Banks and you’re only going to have one place to turn. If you had to get global liquidity right now, the Fed’s at that one and half percent in terms of the target Fed funds rate, so they most they could cut is one and a half percent to get back to zero. There’s good evidence that to get the U.S. economy out of a recession, you have to cut interest rates three or four percent. Well, how can you cut them three percent when you’re only at one and a quarter, one and a half percent. Well, the answer is you can’t, so then what’d you do? Well, then you go to QE, but they already did that.

They haven’t unwound the QE. They started to and that’s what I mentioned, but they haven’t unwound it. The balance sheet is still around four trillion dollars, so what’d going to go to eight trillion, twelve trillion? I mean, some people would say, “Yeah, what’s the problem.” Those are the modern, monetary theorists, Stephanie Calvin, Paul McCulley, Warren Mosler. There’re a bunch of them that think that there’s no limit in the amount of money the Fed can print, but there is a limit. It’s not a legal limit. Legally the Fed could do it, but there’s a psychological limit. There’s an invisible competence boundary that you cross when people just say “You know what, I’m out of here. Get me out of dollars. Get me into gold, silver, fine art, land. Whatever. Crypto-currencies, if you like. Whatever it might be but get me into something other than dollars because I’ve lost confidence in the dollar.” And we’ve seen that before also.

So, putting that all together, in the next financial panic and nobody should be surprised if it happens tomorrow, it’s going to be bigger than the Central Banks. They’re going to have to turn to the IMF for liquidity. The IMF has a printing press also, that’s the International Monetary Fund. They can print this world money called the Special Drawing Right of the SDR, so yeah, they can pull trillions of SDRs worth trillions of dollars. One SDR is worth about $1.50. They could pull trillions of SDRs out of thin air and pass them around, but here’s the point and I spoke to Tim Geithner about this, former Secretary of the Treasury. It takes time.

The last time they did this … and by the way, it went completely unnoticed, the panic was in ’08 and in August and September of 2009, the IMF did issue SDRs to help with global liquidity, but that was almost a year after the panic. The point is, the IMF is slow and clunky. It’s not the fire department. I mean, they might be like a construction crew that can come in and put in a new foundation, but they’re not the fire department that can help you when the building’s burning down.

So, what they’re going to have to do is what I call Ice 9. They’re going to have to freeze the system. First, starting with money market funds, then bank accounts, then stock exchanges, they might reprogram the ATMs to let you have $300 a day for gas and groceries. They’ll say, “well, why do you need more than $300 a day to get some food and gas in your car? Why do you need more than that? We can’t let you take all your money out of the bank. We can’t let you take your money out of the money market funds. We can let you sell your stocks.” And I describe all this in the book in detail with a lot of endnotes. You don’t have to read the endnotes unless you want to, but this is all documented. It’s all publicly available. It’s not some science fiction scenario. This plan is actually in place and I describe how.

Just to wrap up, I expect a weaker economy than the mainstream in 2018. Perhaps, a stock market crashing based on that alone. I also expect another financial panic. It’s impossible to say when, but eight years on, nine years on, I would say sooner than later. And this response function is going to be something that people haven’t seen since the 1930s.

Mike Gleason: Now, let’s talk specifically about gold, safe haven assets, including metals are way of vogue these days, at least among the mainstream public. Now, most investors likely will be flatfooted and probably won’t see the next financial crisis coming just like the one in 2008, until it’s too late. Confidence in the U.S. dollar and the financial system is hard to shake without plenty of good evidence that both are in trouble. We’re even seeing some gold bugs beginning to lose faith. They know that there is plenty of risk out there that you just laid out, but they are growing tired of watching just about everything outperform precious metals. What are you saying these days to people who might be thinking about selling gold and say, joining the party in the stock markets?

Jim Rickards: Well, let me spend some time on that, but just to say a kind word about the people you’re describing. Look, gold just finished a four-year plus bear market. It lasted from August 2011 to December 2015. In that bear market, gold went down about 45% peak to trough, and if you use the about $240 price from 1999 and just scale that up to $1,900 and then back down again to $1,050, which is where it was in December 2015, that was a 50% retracement. And by the way, my friend Jim Rogers, one of the greatest commodities traders in history, co-founder of the Quantum Fund with George Soros, a legendary commodities trader, he said to me … and he has a lot of gold. He expects gold to go much higher, as do I, but he said, Jim, “Nothing goes from here to there.” Meaning, he’s reaching way up to the sky up into outer space. He says, “Nothing goes from here to there without a 50% retracement along the way.”

And I think that was very good advice. Well, okay, but we’ve had the 50% retracement. That’s behind us. We’re in a new bull market now. There was a bull market from August 1971 to January 1980 and gold went up over 2,000%. From January 1980 to August 1999, there was a very long, 20-year grind it down bear market, and gold went down about 70%. Then you had a new bull market that lasted from August 1999 to August 2011 and in that 12-year bull market, gold went up over 700%. Then you had another bear market from August 2011 to December 2015 and as I said, gold went down 45%. We’re in a new bull market. It started in December 2015.

Now, here are the facts, gold goes up and down. It’s volatile and we know there’s manipulation. People get discouraged and they buy gold and then some hedge fund or China comes along in the gold futures market and slams the price down. “Oh, gee, why did I buy it?” I get all that. I understand the discouragement. I understand how difficult it is to watch stocks go up and Bitcoin go up and I’m sitting here with gold and it just seems to be going sideways, but it’s not true. In 2016, gold went up over 8%. In 2017, gold went up over 13%. So far in 2018, gold is up 3%. You take the entire period from the bottom of the last bear market to the beginning of the bull market, December 2015 to today, gold is up over 25%. It’s been one of the best performing asset classes of all the major asset classes. It’s not crazy like Bitcoin, but Bitcoin’s collapsing, which I also predicted some time ago.

So, the truth of the matter is 2016-2017 are the first back-to-back years of gold gaining since 2011-2012, although at that point, it was already off the top. It’s more a statistical anomaly that gold went up in the year 2011. Yeah, it did, but it was way down, way off the peak in September of that year. But now we have two back-to-back years of gold going up very significantly. We’re in year three, 2018, is year three of this bull market. It’s off to a very nice start. The fundamentals are good. Their technicals are good. The supply and demand situation is good. We haven’t even gotten into other potential catalysts, including War with North Korea, loss of confidence in the dollar, financial panic. Even a normal business cycle recession or if inflation gets out of control, there’s just a whole list of things that are going to drive gold higher.

And the last point I want to make, Mike, is that gold is doing this performance against headwinds. The Fed has been raising rates. When you raise nominal rates and you tighten real rates, that’s normally a very difficult environment for gold and yet, gold’s going up anyway. Can you imagine what’s going to happen when the Fed has to back off… because right now, as I said, they’re over-tightening. When this economy slows, and that data starts rolling in later in the first quarter and early second quarter of 2018, the Fed’s going to do what they call “pause.” It doesn’t mean they’re going cut rates. That’s somewhere down the road, but they pause, which means that they …

Right now, they’re like clockwork. They’re going to raise every March, June, September, December – 25 basis points each time, boom, boom, boom, boom like clockwork. But, every now and then they don’t. They skip. They pause. Well, if your expectation is they’re going to raise and then they don’t, they pause, that’s a form of ease. It’s ease relative to expectations. That’s what’s going to happen later this year. All of a sudden, this headwind’s going to turn into a tailwind and gold’s going to get an even bigger boost. I see it going to $1,400 over the course of this year, perhaps higher. My long-term forecast for gold, of course, is $10,000 an ounce, but that’s … and I’m not backing away from that. That’s just simple math. That’s the implied noninflationary price of gold if you need to use gold to restore confidence in a monetary system in a financial panic or liquidity crisis where people have lost confidence. That’s not some made up number. That number is actually fairly easy to calculate, but you don’t go there overnight. You got to get to $2,000 and $5,000 before you get to $10,000.

I think right now, we’re in a new bull market. It’s going to run for years. We’ve got that momentum. We’re off the bottom, but people are always most discouraged at the bottom, right? Well, that’s the time you should buy. It’s just human nature. I’m not faulting anyone. I’m not criticizing anyone, it’s just human nature to say, “Oh man, I’m so beaten down. I’m so sick of this. I’m so tired of this.” Well, that’s usually the time to buy and guess what, it is.

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

Gold on a tear as dollar weakens – silver being left behind

Article first published on the Sharps Pixley website, and lightly edited here, looking at the strong performance of gold over the past week, but also the weakening of the U.S. dollar index.

Since Donald Trump assumed the Presidency of the world’s richest and most powerful nation, the US dollar index (relating the dollar to a basket of other currencies) has fallen by around 11% accounting for much of the increase in the gold price in US dollar terms.  By contrast, the gold price in Euros has actually fallen by 1% over the past year, so what may appear to have been an appreciation in the gold price has been more a reflection of the depreciation in the value of the supposedly mighty US dollar.  It’s only that most people around the world look primarily at movements in the gold price in the US dollar – as we do in the title of this article – that the gold price is seen as actually having advanced.

But gold in US dollar terms does provide a useful benchmark as over time the dollar is probably the world’s most stable currency and is, for most nations, their primary reserve currency in their foreign exchange holdings.

This relationship between gold and the US dollar, with the former providing perhaps the most overt indication of how the greenback is doing vis-à-vis other currencies is the reasoning behind what seems to be an ever-increasing view that the powers-that-be collude to suppress the gold price to hide what is an overall indicator in the decline of the dollar’s purchasing power.

Some put this decline at upwards of 80% since President Nixon severed the convertibility of the dollar for gold to protect US gold reserves. In some sectors of the economy this decline is readily apparent.  Grocery shopping, property prices, salary levels etc.  In others less so, notably transportation and electronics, but in general $100 today would only buy you a fraction of what you could have purchased with $100 in 1971.

But it’s not only the purchasing power of the dollar which has been in decline.  The same is true of virtually any nation’s currency.  All currencies nowadays are fiat in that they have no backing, which is why some economists call for a return to a gold standard.  This is probably impractical without a massive gold price increase and, even then, would probably be overrun very quickly by ever increasing consumer demand for goods and services.

There is also talk of China trying to introduce some kind of gold backing for the renminbi (yuan) at some time in the future thereby leapfrogging the dollar as the world’s go-to currency, but this is probably more a theory than a likely eventuality.  It is seen as the reason China is assumed by many to be building its gold reserves at a far higher rate than it has been reporting, but this may also, if true, be just as support for a future petro-yuan – with the yuan exchangeable for gold – as a very competitive Chinese bid to replace the petrodollar!

So perhaps gold investors should treat the latest rise in the gold price purely as a wealth protection exercise.  That is what gold is good at over time.  If the dollar declines further then gold will rise further, as will all the major precious metals – and most other commodities too.  Changes in prices over  the 47 years since President Nixon stopped dollar convertibility are self evident, but in geographic areas like Europe where currency purchasing power has diminished similarly the imposition of a new currency, and/or the implementation of other changes like decimalisation in the UK, have made direct comparisons that much harder for the peerson in the street to relate to.

But regardless, gold has moved up sharply in dollar terms in the past few days despite mixed economic data out of the USA.  Much of this increase so far seems to have passed silver by and the gold:silver ratio has actually risen a little standing at close to 78 at the time of writing, although silver has been making a bit of a late run ahead of the weekend as have platinum and palladium.

We still stand by our forecast that the gold:silver ratio will come down to 70 or lower during the course of the year which would make silver potentially a better investment than gold if it does follow its historic pattern and rise faster than gold when the latter is on the increase.  At the moment we see no reason to change our forecast for gold to hit $1,425 or thereabouts this year and silver $20.50.  As I stated in the article in which I made these predictions- Precious metals price predictions for 2018 – gold, silver, pgms – I look at these forecasts as being conservative and if the dollar continues to fall and precious metals prices to rise sharply. as they have this past week, then I may see the need to adjust the forecasts – at least in US dollar terms.  However, also bear in mind that gold and silver had a strong start in 2017, but then tended to pull back.  2018 could see a repeat of this pattern, although I don’t see palladium making the kind of gains it did last year.

For those interested in my precious metals stock price forecasts for the year ahead do look at a series of articles i have published on Seekingalpha.com.  

The terms and conditions for publication of articles on Seeking Alpha prevent me from posting them here, but follow the links to read them on that site.

Gold, Silver, Platinum, Palladium – Price And Stock Forecasts/Recommendations For 2018

Precious Metals Stock Performance And Recommendations Update

Top Silver Stock Suggestions For The Year Ahead

 

Dollar being allowed to fall; Gold rising

A pre-New Year article published on the Sharps Pixley website – and since posting gold has moved up further and the US dollar fallen some more.  The original article – shown below, also pointed to a disappointing performance by silver at the time, but since it was written silver has also picked up nicely and the Gold:Silver ratio come back to below 77.

Dollar being allowed to fall; Gold up; Silver disappoints so far

Original article published December 29th on Sharps Pixley website

As the final trading session of the year is already under way in Europe and has just begun in North America, precious metals are trending higher, but most of the increase is due to the gradual decline in the dollar index (DXY).  Since end 2016 the DXY has been allowed to drop from 102.65 on December 29th last year to 92.29 as I write on December 29th this year.  That is a fall of around 10%.  Again as I write, the gold price in the US dollar is up around 12% over the full year after its recent rally.  Silver, on the other hand, is only up a little over 4% over the same period – a particularly disappointing experience for the silver investor given that historically silver tends to outperform gold in a rising gold market.

Silver though is, or should be, somewhat anomalous vis-a-vis gold as it is much more of an industrial metal, although its performance as such may not be the real reason it has underperformed its sibling precious metal in 2017.  Silver is a much smaller market than gold and its price can thus be even more subject to futures trading patterns where big money is involved.  Silver followers reckon the price is being manipulated in a major way on the futures markets and point to the huge short positions taken in the metal by the big bullion banks and traders as being key to the price patterns.  These big shorts do not relate easily to some huge accumulations of physical metal by the same big banks that dominate these short positions – a point being made continuously by silver analyst Ted Butler (probably the world’s No. 1 expert on this anomalous situation) who reckons the activity in the silver markets by the big players – notably by JP Morgan – is, in effect, a criminal activity to which the market regulators continue to turn a blind eye.

Of course gold bulls also see the gold market as being manipulated too by many of the same players as in the silver market.  But here the motivation, if the gold price is indeed being held down, may be in support of governments and the dollar given the huge global debt position.  The gold price is considered by many as a bellwether for the state of the economy and a big rise in gold could be seen as a huge fall in confidence in global economic management.  That does not suit the big money and the markets, let alone government policies.  Whether there is collusion between major governments/central banks and the bullion banks to keep the gold price suppressed remains arguable, although there is considerable evidence to suggest that this has indeed been policy in the past and thus probably still is the case today.

The big question today is whether gold will indeed stay back above $1,300 on the year’s final trading day and what will happen when trading resumes in the New Year.  Silver could also possibly break back up through $17 and as I write gold has indeed breached $1,300 and silver looks well placed to break out above $17. These price advances have survived the New York market open and whether they will survive the full trading period at these levels remains to be seen, but the force is certainly with them at the moment.  Gold at $1,300 and silver at $17 would put the gold:silver ratio (GSR) at 76.5 which is certainly not unreasonable given that the GSR has ranged between  around 67.7 and 79.4 over the past year.  Indeed we have gone on record as suggesting the GSR will come down to 70 during the year.  Some feel this is a very conservative prediction.

Platinum is also moving up along with the other precious metals apart from palladium which has come off a few dollars.  We think there’s a good chance that platinum will be back at a higher price than palladium by the end of 2018, although I have received a recent email from former Stillwater CEO, Frank McAllister, who would strongly disagree having published a paper back in 2012 that palladium and platinum should at least be on a par with each other.  He further suggested that the demand for palladium in the autocatalyst sector could well drive its price ahead of platinum.  He has certainly been correct in this viewpoint.

Ted Butler’s latest theory, is also worthy of comment.  He avers that JP Morgan was in effect given a 10-year carte blanche by the U.S. Government and regulators as a reward for its assumption of the huge Bear Stearns short position in silver, at the government’s prompting, when that bank collapsed in the 2008 financial crisis.  That 10 year period will now be up in 2018 and, if Butler is correct in his suggestion, JP Morgan could now be in a position to reap multi-billion dollar rewards from unwinding some of its silver market activities.  Butler though has been permanently bullish on the silver price and some of his theorising, however well supported in fact, may just be wishful thinking.  BUT – he could also be correct and if he is there could be a run up in the silver price that would at least match that of 2011 when the metal peaked at just short of $50.  Silver investors will certainly be nailing their colours to that mast!  And if silver runs in this manner it could drag gold up with it too.  The tail wagging the dog!

There have been many changes in both the gold and silver markets over the past several years and most would seem to be price supportive – not least the continued flow of bullion from generally weaker hands in the West into stronger hands in the East.  Global gold production has probably peaked –it has certainly at least plateaued – and the year-end figures will be viewed with particular interest when they come in.  We would suspect global gold production in 2017 could be down as much as 1% overall.  It is falling in some countries, although still rising in others, but cutbacks in capital programmes and in exploration spending, particularly by some of the majors, suggest that there could be several years of declining global output, although not at a particularly high rate

Eastern demand appears to be holding up fairly well.  While neither of the two leading consumers – China and India – are importing gold at their past record levels, demand appears to have been increasing in 2017 over that of 2016 and we would expect that trend to continue along with the gradual increase in percentages of their populations falling into the middle class (and potentially gold-buying) categories – a growth that is being echoed around the world.

Geopolitics could also be playing a role here, although the gold price has been showing little sign of any sustained upwards movement with some of the worrying events taking place around the world and President Trump’s seemingly increasingly combative rhetoric which could be considered destabilising.  However we have noted that the passing of major holidays often seems to mark an inflection point in market behaviour and perhaps Christmas 2017 is yet another one of these.  So far the portents for gold and the other precious metals look positive.  It remains to be seen how they play out through the year ahead.

For those interested in a follow up as the first day of 2018 trading has got under way in Asia and Europe, Click on:

 Gold and silver continue rising as dollar and bitcoin slip

Check out Seeking Alpha for my 2018 price predictions for gold, silver, platinum, palladium and precious metals stocks

My latest article on Seeking Alpha looks at the performance of my precious metals stock recommendations of a year ago – over half beat the record growth in the S&P 500, but some would have lost you money as well – and my new set of predictions for the year ahead.  Highlights as follows:

  • Precious metals stock picks made a year ago were mixed, but more than half beat the record growth in the S&P 500.
  • Most of the new 2018 precious metals stock picks are the same as those for 2017, but there are some deletions and additions.
  • Price forecasts for gold, silver, platinum and palladium, the dollar index

For the record looking for higher prices in the year ahead for gold, silver and platinum, but perhaps a fall back in palladium in the second half of  the year as we start seeing reverse substitution by platinum catalysts in the petrol (gasoline) section of autocatalyst manufacture due to the platinum price being lower than that of palladium.

Stock selections are virtually all in stocks which won’t collapse should precious metals not perform as expected.

To read the article on Seeking Alpha click on:

Gold, Silver, Platinum, Palladium – Price And Stock Forecasts/Recommendations For 2018

Are we running out of major gold mines?

The World Is Running out of Gold Mines—Here’s How Investors Can Play It

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

the world is running out of gold mines, here's how investors can play it

My good friend Pierre Lassonde, cofounder and chairman of Franco-Nevada, doesn’t know how we’ll replace the massive gold deposits of the past 130 years or so. Speaking with the German financial newspaper Finanz und Wirtschaft this month, Pierre says we’re seeing a significant slowdown in the number of large deposits being discovered. Legendary goldfields such as South Africa’s Witwatersrand Basin, Nevada’s Carlin Trend and Australia’s Super Pit—all nearing the end of their lifecycles—could very well be a thing of the past.

Over the medium and long-term, this could lead to a supply-demand imbalance and ultimately put strong upward pressure on the price of gold.

According to Pierre:

If you look back to the 70s, 80s and 90s, in every one of those decades, the industry found at least one 50+ million ounce gold deposit, at least ten 30+ million ounce deposits and countless 5 to 10 million ounce deposits. But if you look at the last 15 years, we found no 50 million ounce deposit, no 30 million ounce deposit and only very few 15 million ounce deposits. 

So few new large mines are being discovered today, Pierre says, mostly because companies have had to slash exploration budgets in response to lower gold prices. Earlier this year, S&P Global Market Intelligence reported that total exploration budgets for companies involved in mining nonferrous metals fell for the fourth straight year in 2016. Budgets dropped to $6.9 billion, the lowest point in 11 years. Although we’ve seen an increase in spending so far this year, it still dramatically trails the 2012 heyday.

Total nonferrous exploration budgets fell to an 11 year low in 2016
click to enlarge

And because it takes seven years on average for a new mine to begin producing—thanks to feasibility studies, project approvals and other impediments—output could recede even more rapidly in the years to come.

“It doesn’t really matter what the gold price will do in the next few years,” Pierre says. “Production is coming off, and that means the upward pressure on the gold price could be very intense.”

Have We Reached Peak Gold?
Frank Holmes standing next to Pierre Lassonde right at Mines and Money London in December 2015

What Pierre is talking about, of course, is the idea of “peak gold.” I wrote about this last year and suggested another factor that could be curtailing new discoveries—namely, the low-hanging fruit has likely already been picked. Gold is both scarce and finite—one of the main reasons why it’s so highly valued—and explorers are now having to dig deeper and venture farther into more extreme environments to find economically viable deposits.

Other factors contributing to the decline include tougher regulations and higher production costs. And unlike with the oil industry, no “fracking” method has been invented yet to extract gold from hard-to-reach areas, though Barrick—the world’s largest producer by output—has been experimenting with sensors at its Cortez project in Nevada.

Take a look at how drastically annual output has fallen in South Africa, once the world’s top gold-producing country by far. In the 1880s, it was the discovery of gold in South Africa’s prolific Witwatersrand Basin—responsible for more than 40 percent of all gold ever mined in human history, if you can believe it—that helped transform Johannesburg into one of the world’s largest and most populous cities. Today, South Africa’s economy is the most advanced and stable in Sub-Saharan Africa, all thanks to the yellow metal.

In 1970, miners dug up more than 1,000 metric tons—an unfathomably large amount. Since then, production has steadily dropped. No longer in the top spot, South Africa produced only 167.1 tons in 2016, an 83 percent plunge from the 1970 peak. Meanwhile, miners in the notorious Mponeng mine—already the world’s deepest at 2.5 miles—continue to follow veins even deeper into the earth at greater and greater expense.

South Africa's gold output has been in steady decline for more than 45 years
click to enlarge

Australia could soon be seeing a similar downturn over the next four decades. A first-of-its-kind study conducted by MinEx Consulting and released this month, shows that Australia’s gold production is expected to see a significant drop between now and 2057. By then, all but four of the 71 currently operating mines in the country will be exhausted. Most of these will close in the next couple of decades. Any additional production will be dependent on new exploration success, which will become increasingly difficult if companies don’t invest in exploration and if the Australian government doesn’t relax rules in the mining space.

MinEx estimates that “for the Australian gold industry to maintain production at current levels in the longer term, it will either need to double the amount spent on exploration or double its discovery performance.”

To be fair, large discoveries haven’t disappeared entirely. Back in March it was reported that Shandong Gold Group, China’s second-largest producer, uncovered a deposit in eastern China containing between 380 and 550 metric tons of the yellow metal. If true, this would make it the country’s largest ever by amount. The mine has an estimated lifespan of 40 years once operations begin.

In addition, Kitco reports this month that Toronto-based Seabridge Gold recently stumbled upon a significant goldfield in northern British Columbia. The find appeared, coincidentally, after a glacier retreated. It’s estimated to contain a whopping 780 metric tons.

“There’s no question that as glaciers retreat, more ground will become available for exploration and more discoveries could be made in that part of the world,” Seabridge CEO Rudi Fronk told Kitco.

The company already has the permits to begin mining.

Seabridge gold is up 15 percent for the three month period
click to enlarge

Exploration Budgets Jumped
Gold represents over half of global annual commodities exploration budgets

As I said earlier, we just saw an encouraging spike in the amount spent on exploration. According to S&P Global Market Intelligence, exploration budgets increased in the 12-month period as of September for the first time since 2012. Budgets jumped 14 percent year-over-year to $7.95 billion, with gold explorers leading the way. During this period, gold companies spent around $4 billion on exploration, which is roughly half the value of all nonferrous metals mining budgets.

But because exploration is getting more expensive for reasons addressed earlier, senior producers might very well decide instead to acquire smaller firms with proven, profitable projects.

This could create a lot of value for investors, so I would keep my eyes on juniors that look like targets for takeover. Dealmaking in the Australian mining industry, for example, is showing some growth this year compared to last, according to a September report by accounting firm BDO. Last year, Goldcorp finalized its deal to acquire Vancouver-based junior Kaminak Gold, and in May of this year, El Dorado announced it was taking over Integra Gold for C$590 million. I expect to see even more deals in the coming months.

In the meantime, I agree with my friend Pierre’s “absolute rule” that investors should hold between 5 and 10 percent gold in your portfolio. I would also add gold stocks to the mix, especially overlooked and undervalued names, and rebalance once and twice a year.

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?

The Top Six Things You Should Know About Royalty Companies Now

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

franco nevada royalty companies big truck

While in New York last week, I had the privilege of seeing many colleagues face-to-face. It’s always a pleasure for me to be able to talk gold with industry friends and experts. One stop during my trip that I thoroughly enjoyed was to chat with Pimm Fox and Lisa Abramowicz on Bloomberg Radio. Our discussion was dynamic as always and I shared with them my outlook for gold in the second half of the year, along with the opportunities I continue to see with royalty names.

discussing gold with lisa abramowicz and pimm fox at bloomberg radio

I still find it curious that many investors don’t realize what a significant role royalty and streaming companies play in the mining business.

Last year I wrote about some of my favorite royalty names, and how I came to know about this business model in the gold mining industry early in my career. If you haven’t read that blog post, I encourage you to go back and explore the groundbreaking work done by Seymour Schulich and Pierre Lassonde, the two founders of Franco-Nevada.

I think that now is a good time to take another look at royalty companies. Here are the top six things I believe investors should know about this specialized sector.

1. What Is a Royalty Company?

Royalty companies, sometimes called streaming companies, serve a special role in the mining industry. Developing a mine property to start producing gold or other precious metal is an expensive, often time-consuming process. Infrastructure needs to be built out, permits applied for, laborers hired and more.

A royalty company serves as a specialized financier that helps fund exploration and production projects for cash-strapped mining companies. In return, it receives royalties on whatever the project produces, or rights to a “stream,” an agreed-upon amount of gold, silver or other precious metal.

bhow does the royalty and streaming financial work
click to enlarge

2. Many Gold Royalty Companies Have Still Been Outperforming Gold

When looking over the last 12 months, many of the royalty companies have outperformed gold. While this is indeed remarkable, it is important to remember that royalty companies do have a robust business model. Their ability to generate revenue in times when the gold (or other precious metal) price is both rising and falling is what makes them attractive.

royalty companies outperformed gold
click to enlarge

3. Remember Real Interest Rates

There’s no question that the gold price is volatile, and in any given 12-month rolling period, historically it’s not unusual for the price of the yellow metal to fluctuate up or down by 20 percent. It’s important for investors to remember that gold historically shares a strong inverse relationship with real interest rates. You can see in the chart that as rates rise, the price of gold falls, and vice versa.

gold historically shares an inverse relationship with real rates
click to enlarge

This is another reason why I like the royalty model. Since royalty companies set fixed, lower-than-market prices for mining output, they can better manage the volatility that is inherent in the gold market. For example, Wheaton Precious Metals’ 19 agreements in 2016 entitled the company to buy silver at an average price of $4.42 an ounce and gold at $391 an ounce.

4. Speaking of Revenue

Last time I wrote about these companies, I shared with you that the three big royalty names boast impressive sales per employee. This is still true. Take a look at the 12-month revenue per employee of Franco-Nevada, Royal Gold and Wheaton Precious Metals. Wheaton has only around 30 employees, but has one of the highest rates in the world, generating $25.8 million per employee. By comparison, Newmont, which employs around 30,000 people, generated $310,000 per employee during the same period. Barrick also falls short by comparison.

royalty companies have greater revenue per employee model than procedures
click to enlarge

5. Friendly to Shareholders

Paying dividends is important to investors, as it reflects the health of a company in terms of its cash flow and profits. Even more favorable in the eyes of investors is a company that is growing its dividends. Between 2012 and 2017, royalty companies had a combined annual dividend growth rate of 17 percent. Compare that to 11 percent growth for the S&P 500 Index, and as low as negative 23 and negative 32 percent for global and North American precious metal miners.

royalty companies dividend rates have been growing
click to enlarge

In fact, 2017 marks Franco-Nevada’s 10th straight year of dividend increases since the company went public in 2007.

6. Less Reliance on Debt

Royalty companies are better allocators of capital than some of the biggest gold miners. Take a look at Newmont Mining, which has a 43 percent debt-to-equity ratio, and Barrick has a massive 91 percent. By comparison, many of the royalty companies have much lower debt, and Franco-Nevada has zero debt. This history of profitability and fiscal discipline is one of the main reasons I find royalty companies so attractive.

royalty companies have less debt
click to enlarge

 

The Commodity Cycle: What It Means for Precious Metals Prices

By Stefan Gleason*

The cycle for any commodity follows the same basic pattern…

When prices are low, production falls. As new supplies diminish, the market tightens and prices move higher. The higher prices incentivize producers to invest in production capacity and increase output. Eventually, the market becomes oversupplied, prices fall, and the cycle starts all over again.

Of course, this is a simplified model of what drives commodity cycles. Booms and busts can be amplified and extended by speculators, by unexpected shifts in demand, or even by interventions from central banks and governments.

Regardless of the causes, commodity markets will always be cyclical in nature. Commodities as a group can be pressured upward or downward by extrinsic forces such as monetary inflation or credit contraction.

However, any individual commodity – whether oil, corn, copper, gold, silver, platinum, or palladium – may be in its own particular stage within the commodity cycle at any given time.

As a resource investor, it’s important to have some idea of whether you’re investing in a commodity at a time in the cycle when it’s favorable to do so. Some technical analysts ascribe four-year cycles to some markets, longer duration cycles to others, and shorter-term cycles that operate within longer-term cycles. The reality is that cycles can’t be counted on to run their course within any prescribed time frame.

There are historical patterns and tendencies, to be sure. Gold, for example, tends to be less correlated to swings in the economy than oil and industrial commodities. Gold can remain in a major trend for years or even decades.

Gold prices crashed from $850/oz in 1980 to $300/oz in 1982. It wasn’t until 2002 that gold crossed above the $300 level for the final time. The new gold bull market rose out of a 20-year base and reached a cyclical high of $1,900 in 2011. A four-year downturn followed, and since 2016 a new cyclical upturn appears to be taking shape.

Commodities Are Moving into a Diminishing Supply Phase

Chart reading is always a tenuous undertaking, but when combined with supply and demand fundamentals, it can help investors identify favorable times to be a buyer or seller. Right now it appears that gold, silver, oil, and other commodities are transitioning one by one into a period in the commodity cycle of diminishing supply.

Oil Market

In the case of crude oil, which is the most economically important and most widely followed commodity, the major storyline in recent months has been a supply glut.

North American shale production has swelled inventories in the U.S. But oil prices have been quietly advancing.

What does the market know that isn’t showing up in all the seemingly bearish headlines for oil? The longer-term supply outlook actually augers for shortfalls… and much higher prices. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), new oil discoveries in 2016 sunk to their lowest number in decades.

The oil industry slashed spending on developing new supplies in response to low prices. ExxonMobil, for one, cut its capital expenditures by 26% ($10 billion) in 2016.

The IEA warns that in order to offset recent declines and meet rising global demand, the oil industry needs to develop 18 billion new barrels every year between 2017 and 2025. Oil’s recent price range in the mid $40s to mid $50s per barrel doesn’t seem to be incentivizing the necessary new production capacity. Higher prices appear to be in store over the next few years.

Mining Is an Energy-Intensive Business

Higher energy costs would mean higher production costs for the gold and silver mining industry. Mines are already having to process more and more tons of earth to extract ounces of valuable metals.

According to metals analyst Steve St. Angelo, “The global silver mining industry will continue to process more ore to produce the same or less silver in the future. While the cost of energy has declined over the past few years, falling ore grades will continue to put pressure on the silver mining industry going forward.”

Mine Operators

Physical precious metals are, in a very real sense, a form of stored energy. Think of all the energy inputs required to move the earth, to separate relatively tiny quantities of precious metals from tons upon tons of rock and dirt, to refine the raw ore into pure gold, silver, platinum, or palladium, and finally to mint the precious metal into bullion products.

All those energy inputs are represented in the value that markets impute to precious metals. Trends in prices will reflect trends in production costs. And production costs will rise as it becomes harder and more energy intensive to mine metals.

A position in physical gold and silver should be viewed as a core long-term holding. However, there are some times in the commodity cycle that are more favorable than others for buying.

There are times when you may even want to sell a portion of your position. Right now, the cycle appears to be in the early stages of turning bullish for commodity prices – making it a favorable time to be taking out long positions in hard assets.

 Stefan Gleason

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.”

 

Inauguration Day: Gold still consolidating around $1,200

Gold Today –New York closed at $1,201.50 on the 19th January after closing at $1,205.60 on the 18th January. London opened at $1,202.45 today.

 Overall the dollar is weaker against global currencies today. Before London’s opening:

         The $: € was weaker at $1.0679: €1 from $1.0652: €1 yesterday.

         The Dollar index was weaker at 100.97 from 101.20 yesterday. 

         The Yen was stronger at 114.73: $1 from yesterday’s 114.80 against the dollar. 

         The Yuan was almost unchanged at 6.8765: $1, from 6.8767: $1, yesterday. 

         The Pound Sterling was stronger at $1.2355: £1 from yesterday’s $1.2302: £1.

 Yuan Gold Fix
Trade Date Contract Benchmark Price AM 1 gm Benchmark Price PM 1 gm
      2017    1    20

     2017    1    19

      2017    1    18

SHAU

SHAU

SHAU

/

268.36

271.53

/

268.26

271.12

$ equivalent 1oz @  $1: 6.8765

      $1: 6.8767

$1: 6.8425

  /

$1,213.80

$1,234.28

/

$1,213.35

$1,232.41

Please note that the Shanghai Fixes are for 1 gm of gold. From the Middle Eat eastward metric measurements are used against 0.9999 quality gold. [Please note that the 0.5% difference in price can be accounted for by the higher quality of Shanghai’s gold on which their gold price is based over London’s ‘good delivery’ standard of 0.995.]

Shanghai consolidated yesterday pulling back 3 Yuan or just over 1% with the Yuan a tiny bit stronger against the dollar. The fall does not indicate any more than a healthy correction.

Does this express a loss of pricing power? New York is at a $7 discount to Shanghai and London a narrowing of over $14. It would appear so [but only on a daily basis]. But Shanghai could drive prices tomorrow. We have to allow for corrections where demand on a daily basis [because prices have run too high?] pulls back and supply dominates for the short time it happens, before demand comes back at lower levels.

Some may feel that because London is the main physical market in the developed world it supplies China exclusively. Yes, the world’s main bullion banks are based in London, but they operate in both centers. Their hold over supply is far less than most believe. For instance the Rand Refinery in Johannesburg South Africa will sell to any buyer including the Chinese directly. It does not have exclusive agreements with the world’s main banks, as it had in 1974 with the three main Swiss Banks [the ‘pool’]. Shanghai buys from Switzerland and directly from producers/refineries. Hence we do not accept that London is the sole supplier of Shanghai. Add to that the profitability of the arbitrage trade which will smooth out price differentials. But because Shanghai is by far the largest physical gold market in the world, it does have pricing power normally.  We will see that in the next week/month.

LBMA price setting:  The LBMA gold price setting was at $1,199.10 this morning against yesterday’s $1,203.35. 

The gold price in the euro was set lower at €1,127.93 after yesterday’s €1,129.06 as the dollar weakened.

Ahead of the opening of New York the gold price was trading at $1,200.00 and in the euro at €1,128.77.  At the same time, the silver price was trading at $16.90. 

Silver Today –Silver closed at $17.00 at New York’s close yesterday from $17.08 on the 18th January. 

Price Drivers

On Inauguration Day we see President Trump take the reins. In addition, with the Republicans in the majority in both Congress and the Senate, government, at last is in a position to do something, without the opposition blocking it. The expectations are high, likely too high.

The U.S. economy is healthy so we are open to what the Fed also says as to interest rates. We don’t think they will change rates as they will want to see how the new President will move forward on respecting the economy. Only then will they act, or not.

The U.S. based gold ETFs continue to be relatively static after some buying recently. Exchange rates continue to have a major impact on the gold prices with China playing a strange game. All know that the Yuan should fall and the PBoC is targeting certain types of capital outflow, which do not benefit either the Yuan or the Chinese economy [such as wealth exiting China] but are still intervening in the Yuan exchange rate.

With such blocks on capital outflows, Chinese investors are favoring gold, which is a protection against a falling exchange rate of the Yuan. With gold such a strategic asset the government has encouraged Chinese investors to buy gold hence we do not believe that they have placed restraints on imports of gold.

Gold ETFs – Yesterday, in New York, there were no purchases or sales into or from the SPDR gold ETF (GLD) or the Gold Trustb  (IAU), leaving their respective holdings at 807.96 tonnes and 198.75 tonnes. 

Since January 4th 2016, 205.83 tonnes of gold has been added to the SPDR gold ETF and to the Gold Trust. 

 Julian D.W. Phillips: GoldForecaster.com | SilverForecaster.com | StockBridge Management Alliance 

Precious metals outlook 2017

By Clint Siegner*

Precious metals had a wild ride in 2016, launching higher in the first half of the year and then falling much of the way back to earth in the second half. Our outlook for 2017 hinges on some of the drivers that figured prominently in last year’s trading. There are also a couple of new wrinkles.

Europe

We’ll start with some fundamentals that metals investors have become well acquainted with in recent years. The troubles plaguing Europe seem to be forgotten, but they certainly aren’t gone. The question is whether or not officials in Europe will be able to keep the wheels on in 2017.

Several major European banks remain in jeopardy, plagued by bad debts, too much leverage, and mounting legal expenses. Germany’s Deutsche Bank (DB) was often in the headlines last year as its share prices made all-time lows. Deutsche Bank paid out $60 million to settle charges of manipulating the gold market.

Tattered EU Flag

In addition, regulators in the U.S. had proposed a crushing $14 billion fine related to the bank’s marketing of dodgy mortgage backed securities prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

Since then share prices have recovered significantly. The bank agreed last month to a settlement of just over $7 billion, roughly half the amount originally proposed but still a hefty penalty. The bank’s loan book still looks ugly and its exposure to risky derivatives remains a wild card.

The recent failure of Italy’s third largest bank – Monte dei Paschi – may put the spotlight back on the European banking sector. Particularly if other institutions, such as Deutsche Bank, have been aggressively selling credit default swaps they will now have to pay out on.

Investors grappled with the Brexit referendum in 2016. This year they will find out if Britain’s vote to leave the EU will actually get implemented. Negotiations around the departure are expected to commence in May.

Italians are going to select a new government shortly and there are elections coming up in Germany, France, and the Netherlands in the months ahead. Anti-European Union forces are making real headway in the polls.

This year looks pivotal for the EU, the euro as its currency, and its banks. Turmoil there will boost safe haven buying in precious metals and the U.S. dollar. Alternatively, should the establishment and the banks weather the storm, metal prices could suffer, at least in terms of euros. Right now, turmoil in Europe looks like the better bet.

The Fed

Once again markets enter a new year in thrall to Janet Yellen and the rest of the Federal Open Market Committee. Like last year, we just had one rate hike. Officials are telegraphing three to four additional hikes in the coming 12 months.

Last time around the stock market suffered stimulus withdrawals. Fed officials threw in the towel and reversed course almost immediately. We can expect officials are watching equity prices carefully now. If the S&P 500 keeps powering ahead, they’ll have the cover they need to deliver rate increases.

United States Federal Reserve System

If, on the other hand, we find out that markets are still addicted to low rates and officials can’t tolerate the pain of a withdrawal it will be bad news for the dollar and good news for metals.

A Donald Trump Presidency

The election of Donald Trump is what makes this year different. Many people are optimistic about the prospects for a major infrastructure program, tax cuts, and less regulation. Investors are ready to take on risk. Since the election, they have been mostly getting out of safe haven assets such as bonds and gold, while paying top dollar for stocks.

The rub is that Trump has yet to assume office. The expectations are high and, frankly, something has to give. Trump might deliver a big infrastructure program and some tax relief. However, that would spell trouble for the current dollar rally as people anticipate ballooning deficits and borrowing.

Or, Trump may find his proposed measures are easier said than done. Republicans control Congress, but there is no certainty they will accept big spending increases and even higher deficits. If optimism bumps up against a bleaker political reality, it’ll be bad news for investors playing the Trump rally.

Conclusion

2016 closed with investors positioning for smooth sailing and economic growth. They may get it but a number of things will have to go right. If they don’t, jettisoning safe haven assets to buy stocks at record high valuations won’t look like a very good idea.

How did gold and silver really do in 2016 and where are they headed this year?

Musings on what is likely to happen with precious metals in the year ahead and a look at how they actually performed in 2016 – very much a year of two halves.  Precious metals behaved really strongly up to the July 4th Independence Day holiday in the USA – but from there it was virtually all downhill for gold and silver, with big sales out of the Gold ETFs to accompany, or some would say drive, the price downturn.  This article was published on sharpspixley.com and, in the context of the timing of the price downturn should perhaps be read in conjunction with an article I published on seekingalpha.com; GLD Drops 158 Tonnes Since Independence Day and another published on the same site which also included some stock picks: 2017 Predictions – Gold, Silver, PGMs, The Dollar, Markets and Geopolitics…

Gold is, as usual, somewhat unpredictable.  Its performance in 2016 will have been very much dependent on the performance of your local currency vis-à-vis the US dollar.  Even in the latter the actual year-end price is also dependent on location and timing.  For example year-end prices in US dollars in Shanghai, London and New York were sharply different – respectively US$1,185, US$1,159 and US$1,151 based on the SGE final benchmark price for the year, the final LBMA gold price setting in 2016 and the final New York spot price.

We can’t view SGE comparisons for the full year as it only commenced announcing its benchmark prices back in April, but from the final LBMA price for 2015 to that in 2016, gold rose 9.1% over the year.  In terms of New York prices gold rose a slightly smaller 8.5% over the year. On the other hand in Russian rubles the gold price FELL by 10.6% over the year as the ruble appreciated against the dollar after a very sharp fall in 2014/15.  On the other hand, in the Pound Sterling, the UK gold price rose 22.5% over the year!  The Brexit vote effect!

But, as far as the media is concerned it tends to be the US dollar price which is the only one which matters so let’s look at the prospects for the gold price in the year ahead in US dollars – and for the other precious metals as well.

While global geopolitics and economics all have an effect on the dollar price of gold, it will almost certainly be the US itself and the impact on it of the Trump Presidency’s policies which will be the primary gold price drivers.  If President Trump is perhaps as unpredictable as his performance through the runup to the election suggests then we could see some major domestic and foreign policy upsets in relation to what has gone before.  Trump’s stated policies on the US economy have proved popular with Wall Street, but may well not fly – at least not nearly as quickly as the general public might expect, or even at all.  This could all see a reversal in the seemingly inexorable advance of general equities and an about-turn by the Fed in terms of interest rate rises, both of which would likely see a boost in the gold price.  Indeed general equities could crash given that they look to be overbought and in most cases earnings don’t look sufficient to justify the high prices currently prevailing.  At some stage the stock price bubble will surely burst.  Some ‘experts’ are predicting a crash of epic proportions – perhaps 80% -but although this is indeed possible we reckon that if there is a major correction ahead it will be more in the order of 50% as in the 2008/9 crash when the Dow fell around 55% at one time.

Should an equities market crash of this magnitude occur again, similarly to 2008 the gold price could be brought down sharply too as funds and investment houses struggle for liquidity and a fall to $1,000 or thereabouts wouldn’t be out of the question but again, as in 2008/09, gold would likely recover far faster than equities and then go from strength to strength as its safe haven role would become paramount again.  Where gold might end 2017 therefore could be a matter of timing.  If equities don’t crash, but perhaps correct by say 10-15%, then gold could well hit the $1,400 mark during the year.  If there is a major equities crash and it happens early in the year, gold could still hit the $1,400 mark – and steam on upwards in 2018, but if there is an equities market crash, and it peaks in the final quarter of the year then gold could well end the period in a much weaker position – but still steam ahead in 2018.

On Foreign policy there would appear to be, on the face of things, the likelihood of a rapprochement with President Putin’s Russia – if Congress allows this to take place.  The nomination of Rex Tillerson as Trump’s Secretary of State certainly suggests a change of relationships here, although it is yet possible that Tillerson’s nomination may be rejected by the Senate.  Trump may well be trying to take a leaf out of President Ronald Reagan’s book whose positive relationship with Russia’s Mikhail Gorbachev led to the end of the arms race, perestroika and effectively the end of the US/Russian stand-off, which now seems to be being resurrected by the current leaderships of two of the world’s three superpowers.  But while Trump may be heading towards a less hostile relationship with Russia, he also looks as though he may also be stirring up problems ahead with the third major superpower, China.

Domestic and foreign policy uncertainties may form the crux of a gold price resurrection in 2017.  This may already have started in 2016, but big financial sector interventions from around mid-year succeeded in nipping that in the bud – even so gold was up around 8% over the year and silver an even higher 15%.  This was after being up respectively around 25% and 45% immediately after the US independence Day holiday – a turnaround date which saw inflows into the world’s largest gold ETF switch to major outflows (See: GLD Drops 158 Tonnes Since Independence Day).  The referenced article looks at the seemingly pivotal impact of major holidays in the USA seemingly often providing the inflection points for complete changes in investment sentiment with respect to precious metals prices.

Where all the political and economic uncertainties which lie ahead will impact is probably on the strength, or otherwise, of the US dollar.  It is currently riding high, in part due to the US Fed’s 25 basis point interest rate rise and the avowed prospect of two or three more such increases during the year.  But those with even short memories may recollect that the Fed promised the same thing for 2016, but didn’t deliver.  Could it be déjà vu all over again in the immortal words of Yogi Berra!  We doubt the Fed will move until after it sees the initial impact on investment sentiment of the Trump Presidency.  The Fed’s FOMC meetings this year are scheduled for Jan. 31-Feb. 1, March 14-15, May 2-3, June 13-14, July 25-26, Sept. 19-20,. Oct 31-Nov. 1 and Dec. 12-13, thus we doubt any move to raise rates will happen until at least the May meeting, and perhaps not until June unless there’s a huge (and in our view totally unjustified) equities surge immediately following Trump’s accession to the White House.  If Trump’s supposedly business-friendly initiatives run into serious opposition in Congress then the dollar may well suffer.

But, there’s little doubt that dollar strength will be important for the gold price and the prospects of a trade war with China and the unwinding of some other key trade agreements, which Trump appears to wish to implement, could be destabilising for the greenback.  It is also perhaps not in US interests for the dollar to appreciate further – the dollar index (DXY) is currently comfortably above 103 which is a new record having varied between 91 and 103 during 2016, and this may colour the Fed’s thinking on interest rate rises too.  A high dollar makes US exports less competitive (which is why so much US company manufacturing activity has moved offshore), and imports cheaper, which would be a further blow towards trying to balance the nation’s current account.  We suggest that, over the course of the year ahead, the Fed will move surreptitiously to bring the dollar index down to perhaps a level of around 95, which is not conducive to further interest rate rises and which is gold positive.

While gold opened higher in early New Year trade, it rapidly lost ground, falling below the key $1,150 mark in Europe.  It remains to be seen how the US will react once markets open there.  But again, in 2016, it opened the year weaker before surging upwards.  Will this year see a repeat?

If we are correct in our assumptions about gold and we do see something of a repeat of 2016, then silver will do even better.  The gold:silver ratio (GSR) has slipped back to over 72, up from around 66 when silver peaked in mid 2016 (it had started the year near 80 and at one stage had risen to close to 84) but we think that if gold does perform then a GSR of around 65 could be seen again given silver tends to outperform gold in a rising gold scenario – and if gold hits $1,400 then silver could rise to over $21, still a huge way short of the near $50 it hit back in 2011 before a massive price takedown.

So overall a positive view of the gold price in the year ahead and perhaps an even more positive one on silver, BUT if there is a general equities crash as many doom and gloom merchants are predicting (and the uncertainties surrounding the Trump Presidency would perhaps make this even more likely) then booth gold and silver could suffer heavily in the financial fallout.  The comfort here is that would likely not be as intense a fall as the equities market and the recovery would be far quicker.