Economic worries positive for gold

Here follows a recent article by Frank Holmes looking at what may be some unrealised factors which could see gold move significantly higher this year and in the future

It’s Time for the Fear Trade to Move Gold Prices

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

best of the year top 5 frank talk posts of 2017

The price of gold and gold mining stocks were very competitive in 2017. The yellow metal ended the year up a little more than 13 percent—its best year since 2010—while gold stocks, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index, gained more than 11 percent. All of this occurred even as large-cap stocks regularly closed at all-time highs and cryptocurrencies invited massive speculation.

We can thank the Fear Trade for much of gold’s performance last year. The Fear Trade, of course, is driven by low to negative real interest rates—when inflation erodes away at government bond yields—deficit spending, a weaker U.S. dollar and geopolitical uncertainty.

I believe these forces will only intensify in 2018. With inflation finally showing green shoots and President Donald Trump’s $1.5 trillion tax reform law expected to increase deficit spending, this year could provide the right conditions to spur gold prices higher.

The risks inherent in the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy tightening is a good place to start.

Beware the Rate Hike Cycle?

Since the Fed lifted rates last month, gold has behaved just as it did following the last two December rate hikes—that is, it’s begun to appreciate. On the final trading day of 2017, gold broke above $1,300 an ounce, a psychologically important level, and has since climbed an additional 1 percent. This is the first year since 2013, in fact, that gold has started the year above $1,300.

We’ve seen this movie before. In July 2016, the yellow metal peaked close to $1,370 an ounce, a 29 percent surge since the December 2015 rate hike. (If you remember, this represented gold’s best first half of the year since 1974.) And in September 2017, it topped out around $1,360, up close to 18 percent since the December 2016 rate hike.

Will there be a fed rally in 2018
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So will we see a “Fed rally” in 2018 as well? Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but let’s say gold were to follow a similar trajectory this year as it did in 2016 and 2017. That would put gold somewhere between $1,460 and $1,600 an ounce by summer. These are prices we haven’t seen in four years.

I think it’s also worth pointing out in the chart above that support looks good for gold. For the past couple of years, it’s steadily posted higher lows.

But wait—shouldn’t rate hikes put a damper on gold prices? Gold, as I’ve discussed many times before,has typically thrived in a low-rate environment since it’s a non-yielding asset. What’s really happening here?

I’ll let Jim Rickards, editor of Strategic Intelligence, field this question. In a recent Daily Reckoning article titled “The Next Great Bull Market in Gold Has Begun,” Jim explains that the market is looking beyond the rate hike and “asking what comes next.”

After all, the December rate hikes in 2015, 2016 and 2017 were all advertised well in advance by the Fed and were fully discounted by the market. This means that the rate hike was a nonevent, because gold was already priced for it.

Yet the rate hike itself and the Fed’s commentary suggest both a headwind for economic growth and possible Fed ease in the form of future inaction and forward guidance relative to expectations.

Gold markets, in other words, could be forecasting slower economic growth as a result of higher borrowing costs. You might not agree with Jim here, and I’m not asking you to. After all, the U.S. economy is humming right now. Consumer spending is up, optimism is high and we have a robust labor market with unemployment at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent. Many people expect the Trump tax cuts to prompt multinational corporations to bring home cash that’s been held overseas, lift wages and boost capex spending.

At the same time, we can’t ignore the historical implications of past rate hike cycles. I shared with you last month that in the past 100 years, only three such cycles out of at least 18 didn’t end in a recession.The current cycle could turn out to be just as benign, but that would make it a huge exception, not the norm.

U.S. Yield Curve Flattens to Level Not Seen Since 2007

Then there’s the flattening yield curve. The yield curve is said to “flatten” when the difference between the two-year Treasury yield and 10-year Treasury yield starts to tighten. As of today, that spread drew up to around 0.496 percentage points, its flattest level since October 2007.

This measure is worth watching because it’s often seen as one of the most reliable “canary in the coal mine” predictors of recession. The past seven U.S. recessions were directly preceded by an inverted yield curve—that is, when short-term yields rose above long-term yields.

An inverted 10 year minus 2 year treasury yeild spread has historcially preceeded a recession
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To be clear, we still have a way to go before the yield spread inverts. But if this observation concerns you—if you believe the business cycle is in fact getting a little long in the tooth—it might make sense to ensure you have a 10 percent weighting in gold bullion and high-quality gold mutual funds and ETFs.

Inflation Could Be a Lot Hotter Than We Realize

Another factor that’s driven gold prices in the past is inflation. When the cost of living has eaten away at government bond yields, investors have tended to seek more attractive stores of value, including gold. This is at the heart of gold’s Fear Trade.

The problem is that inflation has been sluggish lately—if we’re using the official consumer price index (CPI). In 2017, the CPI just barely met the Fed’s 2 percent target rate. Many economists had expected prices to start creeping up last year in response to President Trump’s nationalist “America first” agenda, complete with new tariffs, strong crackdown on illegal immigration, cancellation of U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). So far these policies haven’t had much effect on inflation.

But what’s the “real” inflation? Which gauge should we be looking at? Again, the CPI doesn’t show much movement.

The underlying inflation gauge (UIG), however, tells a different story.

The UIG, introduced only last year by the New York Fed, is a much broader measure of inflation than the CPI. It includes not just consumer prices but also producer prices, commodity prices and financial asset prices.

When we use this dataset, we find that—surprise!—inflation is not as subdued as we initially thought. Whereas the November CPI came in at 2.2 percent, the UIG heated up to 3 percent, its highest reading since August 2006.

Would the real inflation metric please stand up
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The implications here are huge. Three percent is higher than the five-year Treasury yield, currently around 2.3 percent, and the 10-year yield, about 2.5 percent. It’s even higher than the 30-year Treasury yield at 2.8 percent!

But there are even more ways to measure inflation, and some show it being higher than the UIG. Economist John Williams runs a website called Shadow Government Statistics, where you can find, among other “alternate” datasets, current inflation rates as is they were calculated the way the U.S. government did pre-1980. Note the huge bifurcation between the official CPI and alternate 1980-based CPI. According to the alternate gauge, consumer prices in November rose close to 10 percent year-over-year, or 7.75 percentage points more than the CPI.

US consumer inflation official vs shadowstats 1980 based alternative
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“In general terms,” Williams writes, “methodological shifts in government reporting have depressed reported inflation, moving the concept of the CPI away from being a measure of the cost of living needed to maintain a constant standard of living.”

So which metric do you believe? The official CPI? The 1980-based CPI? The broader UIG? If it’s one of the last two, you have to ask yourself why you would lock your money up for five years, 10 years or even 30 years in a government bond that fails to keep up with real inflation. The investment case for gold suddenly becomes very attractive.

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Gold price performance – latest views

Here are links to a couple of articles I’ve posted in the past few days on the Sharps Pixley website for which I am a contributing editor;

The first looks at gold’s performance despite some seemingly concerted attempts to knock the price back – a subject I’ve commented on before.  These look to have failed – at least in terms of making a major permanent dent in the metal price, although the mere process of knocking the price back – even if only for a very short time – may indeed make potential gold investors more cautious.  The article is: Even another flash crash can’t keep gold price down.  Click on the title to read it.

The second looks at predictions for gold at $5,000 and then $10,000 from a couple of the more rational gold bullish commentators and why their predictions will almost certainly come about – over time.  It’s just a matter of how long it will take for these levels to be achieved which is in doubt.  I point out in the article that in terms of the yellow metals’ past performance these estimates are not only reasonable, but perhaps conservative.  As I point out in the article, in my lifetime gold has risen from an admittedly controlled $35 an ounce to over $1,900 at one point – a 54x increase – and over 37x to the current price level.  Even a 37x gold price rise from the ca. $1,320 where its stands today would put it at over $48,000 – probably unlikely without some kind of global catastrophe, but at least it puts a rise to a mere $10,000 into context – only around a 7.5x increase from where it is at the moment!”

To read the full article, click on $5,000 gold – then $10,000. Gold bulls sing from same songbook

When Gold Confiscation Is a Personal Choice

By Guy Christopher*

That nagging prospect dampens many buying decisions, unfortunate at a time when gold, and especially silver, are near historically bargain basement prices when measured in fiat currency.

Buy low, sell high only works for those who buy low.

Somewhere in everyone’s buying decision is rebellion against government lunacy. So, what’s the plan if government outlaws that defiance?

Gold Executive Order

In examples spanning eight decades over three continents, ordinary people caught in very different circumstances chose to defy government repression of personal gold ownership.

In the 1930’s, President Franklin Roosevelt and Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler joined global, repressive trends by outlawing private ownership of more than five ounces of gold.

Many skeptical Americans responded by stiffing FDR, shipping outlawed gold overseas for safekeeping, or burying it on family farms. That gold remained hidden for four decades, until Gerald Ford lifted restrictions in 1974.

Europeans targeted by Hitler’s murderous genocide improved their chances of escape using outlawed gold. It paid for bribes and safe passage away from Nazi atrocities and helped refugees build new lives once they stopped running.

In recent years, repressive gold policies in India jolted that continent, where gold lives deep in the DNA, essential to religious ceremonies and social structure.

Tax hikes and import restrictions were meant to protect the paper rupee. Citizens rebelled by dodging taxes, launching legal challenges, and doubling down on gold smuggling, while keeping demand for gold at a steady level. New Delhi was forced to rethink its repression, pushing a unique national discussion about gold to the forefront.

Market Manipulation & Losing Value

Today, a different crime of confiscation, stealing the value locked in gold and silver, is also failing.

Illegal, documented, proven and now admitted bullion bank price manipulation has likely denied gold and silver owners realistic, much higher values.

Each price suppression scheme in past years has failed when governments ran out of physical gold necessary to disguise crooked markets. As the current scheme fails, the pace accelerates, with exposed banks beginning to turn on each other.

Another confiscation is taxation when metals are sold for paper profit. Your practical, legal way to avoid that confiscation is to keep your metal instead of trading it for paper. That works great for those who see metals as money and savings, not investments.

That brings us to the chilling specter of that black-ops squad coming to confiscate your coins and bars.

Even in the 1930’s, jack boots didn’t actually knock on doors to round up the gold. And the government’s call for everyone to turn in their gold didn’t work very well. Would it even be attempted now?

Two internationally respected economists have opposing views on confiscation, but come to the same practical conclusion – always be buying gold.

Marc Faber

Acclaimed Austrian School economist Dr. Marc Faber is known for predicting the 1987 stock market crash and the birth of the current gold bull market.

He’s often argued the U.S. is “corrupt” and would force an expropriation of private gold, paying as little as possible. Faber seeks safety geographically, saying he would never hold gold in the U.S. or even in his Swiss homeland, feeling vaults in Asia are safer.

Jim Rickards

Economist, author and investor Jim Rickards is the guy who used to teach financial warfare to Pentagon generals. He sees any government confiscation attempt as“unenforceable” and “unlikely.”

Rickards believes the day government really wants your gold, it will simply offer a high price to coax it from you, paying with paper money freshly printed that morning. The offer would be high enough to outbid competing market expectations. Otherwise, he says the Fed doesn’t mind the price gradually rising.

Faber and Rickards, both recent Money Metals podcast guests, believe the planet is just one or two missteps away from a disastrous economic meltdown. Both make credible arguments the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks are inhabited by buffoons.

Both men are buying gold and silver and recommending you buy gold and silver too.

Rickards advises ten to twenty percent of invested wealth should be in physical gold. Incidentally, his studied math says gold today should be valued at many thousands per ounce.

Faber says he buys gold every month and doesn’t intend to ever sell, despite his concern for confiscation. Says Faber, “we don’t know how the world will look ten years from now.”

What’s the plan if Faber is right?

You’ll have warnings. News of intentions will leak. Lapdog media, fond of demonizing physical gold, will begin demonizing individual gold owners.

A familiar comparison is firearms ownership. While most Americans know little about gold, they do understand what’s at stake in the up-close-and-personal 2nd Amendment gunfight.

America’s reaction to constant, hard-nosed threats of firearms confiscation has been – buy more firearms! And extra ammo!

Sales zoom every time the subject comes up. Gun makers love to say Obama is the world’s best gun salesman.

A government gold grab would mimic anti-gun rhetoric, tagging gold as a “national economic concern,” just as Richard Nixon blamed “speculators” for his international gold default in 1971.

Gold demand (and prices) would skyrocket at the first sign of trouble.

And what if Rickards is right?

The notion the Fed might engineer a red hot gold price instead of a ham-handed confiscation is suggested by credible studies and by a former Fed Governor. Don’t forget Alan Greenspan saying gold is going “measurably higher.”

Should market prices zoom ahead of banking price suppression in the race to the top, a paralyzed Fed may have no choice, just to establish its own cap on the all-important gold price.

Fears of “forced confiscation” might all but disappear – for awhile. Many gold owners would happily sell for overnight paper profits.

Many others, with no trust whatsoever in government, would keep their gold, choosing to wait and see.