Gold gains from economic storms, ‘fake rates’ and Jackson Hole

Are You Prepared for These Potentially Disruptive Economic Storms?

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

Hurricane Harvey

Here in San Antonio, grocery stores were packed with families stocking up on water and canned food in preparation for Hurricane Harvey, which has devastated Houston and coastal Texas towns. I hope everyone who lives in its path took the necessary precautions to stay safe and dry—this storm was definitely one to tell your grandkids about one day.

Similarly, I hope investors took steps to prepare for some potentially disruptive economic storms, including this past weekend’s central bank symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and the possibility of a contentious battle in Congress next month over the budget and debt ceiling.

As you’re probably aware, central bankers from all over the globe visited Jackson Hole this past weekend to discuss monetary policy, specifically the Federal Reserve’s unwinding of its $4.5 trillion balance sheet and the European Central Bank’s (ECB) ongoing quantitative easing (QE) program. Janet Yellen gave what might be her last speech as head of the Federal Reserve.

As I told Daniela Cambone on last week’s Gold Game Film, there are some gold conspiracy theorists out there who believe the yellow metal gets knocked down every year before the annual summit so the government can look good. I wouldn’t exactly put money on that trade, but you can see there’s some evidence to support the claim. In most years going back to 2010, the metal did fall in the days leading up to the summit. Gold prices fell most sharply around this time in 2011 before rocketing back up to its all-time high of more than $1,900 an ounce.

Gold prices generally fell days before the annual economic symposium
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Many of the economic and political conditions that helped gold reach that level in 2011 are in effect today. That year, a similar Congressional skirmish over the debt ceiling led to Standard & Poor’s decision to lower the U.S. credit rating, from AAA to AA+, which in turn battered the dollar. The dollar’s recent weakness is similarly supporting gold prices.

In August 2011, the real, inflation-adjusted 10-year Treasury was yielding negative 0.59 percent on average, pushing investors out of government bonds and into gold. Because of low inflation, we might not be seeing negative 10-year yields right now, but the five-year is borderline while the two-year is definitely underwater. Bank of America Merrill Lynch sees gold surging to $1,400 an ounce by early next year on lower long-term U.S. interest rates.

Are Government Inflation Numbers More “Fake News”?

If we use another inflation measure, though, yields of all durations look very negative. For years, ShadowStats has published alternate consumer price index (CPI) figures using the methodology that was used in 1980. According to economist John Williams, an expert in government economic reporting, “methodological shifts in government reporting have depressed reported inflation” over the years. The implication is that inflation might actually be running much higher than we realize, as you can see in the chart below.

Official US consumer inflation vs shadowstats alternate
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If you believe the alternate CPI numbers, it makes good sense to have exposure to gold.

Recently I shared with you that Ray Dalio—manager of Bridgewater, the world’s largest hedge fund with $150 billion in assets—was one among several big-name investors who have added to their gold weighting in recent days on heightened political risk. That includes Congress’ possible failure to raise the debt ceiling and, consequently, a government shutdown. Dalio recommends as much as a 10 percent weighting in the yellow metal, which is in line with my own recommendation of 10 percent, with 5 percent in physical gold and 5 percent in gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

I urge you to watch this animated video about opportunities in quality gold mining stocks!

Falling Dollar Good for U.S. Trade

Returning to the dollar for a moment, respected CLSA equity strategist Christopher Wood writes in this week’s edition of GREED & fear that it’s “hard to believe that the political news flow in Washington has not been a factor in U.S. dollar weakness this year.”

The U.S. media certainly wants you to believe that Trump is bad for the dollar. Take a look at this chart, showing the dollar’s steady decline alongside President Donald Trump’s deteriorating favorability rating, according to a RealClearPolitics poll.

US dollar tracks trumps favorability down
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However, a weak dollar is good for America’s economy. I’ve commented before that Trump likes a falling dollar, because it is good for the country’s export trade of quality industrial products. It’s also good for commodities, which we see in a rising gold price and usually energy prices.

Ready for a Big Fight?

You might have watched the Mayweather vs. McGregor fight, but have you been watching the fight between Trump and the Fed?

At the symposium in Jackson Hole, Fed Chair Janet Yellen squared up directly against Trump when she defended the strict regulations that were put in place after the financial crisis. Echoing these comments was Dallas Fed chief Robert Kaplan. This is the opposite of what Trump has been calling for, which is the streamlining of regulations that threaten to strangle the formation of capital.

Hurricane Harvey

It’s important to recognize that the market is all about supply and demand. The number of public companies in the U.S. has been shrinking, with about half of the number of listed companies from 1996 to 2016. Readers have seen me comment on this previously, and I believe that the key reason for this shrinkage is the surge in federal regulations. The increasingly curious thing is that we are seeing the evolution of more indices than stocks, as the formation of capital must morph.

As I told CNBC Asia’s Martin Soong this week, there is a huge amount of money supply out there, and investors are looking for somewhere to invest. The smaller pool of stocks combined with the greater supply of money means that the market has seen all-time highs. In addition, major averages were regularly hitting all-time highs not necessarily on hopes that tax reform would get passed, but on strong corporate earnings, promising global economic growth and the weaker U.S. dollar.

Meanwhile, small-cap stocks are effectively flat for 2017 and heading for their worst year since 1998 relative to the market, according to Bloomberg. Hedge funds’ net short positions on the Russell 2000 Index have reached levels unseen since 2009. Remember, these are the firms that were expected to be among the biggest beneficiaries of Trump’s “America first” policies.

However, the weakness in U.S. manufacturing has a great impact on the growth of these stocks, as indicated by the falling purchasing managers’ index (PMI). The slowdown in manufacturing is offset by strength in services, shown by the Flash composite PMI score of 56.0 which came out this week. Though there is a spread between large-cap and small-cap stocks, historically this strong score is an indicator of growth to come.

Spread between large cap and small cap stocks continues to widen
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Some big-name investors and hedge fund managers are turning cautious on domestic equities in general. On Monday, Ray Dalio announced on LinkedIn that he was reducing his risk in U.S. markets because he’s “concerned about growing internal and external conflict leading to impaired government efficiency (e.g. inabilities to pass legislation and set policies).” Pershing Square’s Bill Ackman and Pimco’s Dan Ivascyn have also recently bought protection against market unrest, according to the Financial Times. Chris Wood is overweight Asia and emerging markets.

Stay Hopeful

It’s important to keep in mind that there will always be disruptions in the market, and adjustments to your portfolio will sometimes need to be made. For those of you who read my interview with the Oxford Club’s Alex Green, you might recall his “Gone Fishin’” portfolio, which I think is an excellent model to use—and it’s beaten the market for 16 years straight. Green’s portfolio calls for not just domestic equities, Treasuries and bonds but also 30 percent in foreign stocks and as much as 10 percent in real estate and gold.

Stay safe out there!

Gold destined to be money

Gold Was Chemically Destined to Be Money All Along

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

By

I think most of you reading this right now are aware that gold is unlike any other metal, certainly any other element. It doesn’t play by the same rules as iron or tin or aluminum, and its value has nothing to do with its utility—or lack thereof. People valued the yellow metal for its beauty and malleability eons before they knew of its usefulness in conducting electricity or its chemical inertness.

That gold is so chemically “boring,” though, is one of the main reasons why it’s so highly valued, even today.

This is the conclusion of Andrea Sella, distinguished professor of chemistry at University College London. In 2013, Sella spoke with Justin Rowlatt of the BBC World Service, walking him through all 118 elements of the periodic table.

Gold, according to Sella, is the best possible candidate for a currency of any value.

As he points out, we can automatically eliminate whole swaths of the periodic table for various reasons. We can cross out gases, halogens and liquids such as helium, fluorine and mercury. No one wants to carry around vials of a colorless gas or, in the case of mercury and bromine, a poisonous substance.

We can then rule out alkaline earth metals such as magnesium and barium for being too reactive and explosive. Carcinogenic, radioactive elements such as uranium and plutonium are too impractical, as are synthetic elements that exist only momentarily in lab experiments—seaborgium and einsteinium, for example.

That leaves us with the 49 transition and post-transition metals: titanium, nickel, tin, lead, aluminum and more.

But many of these pose problems that should immediately exclude them from consideration as a currency. Most are too hard to smelt (titanium), too flimsy for coinage (aluminum), too corrosive (copper) and/or too plentiful (iron).

We are now left with just eight candidates, the noble metals: platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, osmium, ruthenium, silver and gold. These are all attractive as currencies, but except for silver and gold, they’re simply too rare.

So: silver and gold.

What gives gold the edge over silver, however, is—once again—its chemical inertness. Unlike its white cousin, gold doesn’t tarnish. It’s nonreactive to air and water. Add to this its softness, and it easily emerges as the perfect currency. Ancient peoples recognized this, and I don’t think anyone now would have any problem coming to the same conclusion either.

gold coins

“I view gold as the primary global currency.”

Those are the words of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, speaking to the World Gold Council for the 2017 winter edition of its Gold Investor publication.

“It is the only currency, along with silver, that does not require a counterparty signature. Gold, however, has always been far more valuable per ounce than silver. No one refuses gold as payment to discharge an obligation. Credit instruments and fiat currency depend on the credit worthiness of a counterparty. Gold, along with silver, is one of the only currencies that has an intrinsic value. It has always been that way. No one questions its value, and it has always been a valuable commodity, first coined in Asia Minor in 600 BC.”

Right now, for the first time in human history, world currencies are free-floating, meaning they’re not backed by anything tangible.

It’s largely because of this that world debt has been allowed to soar to astronomical highs in recent years, threatening the stability of the global economy. As we’ve seen in Zimbabwe, Venezuela and elsewhere, a nation’s currency can rapidly lose its value and become worthless. Families and individuals who didn’t have a portion of their wealth stored in a real asset such as gold lost everything.

This is why I always recommend a 10 percent weighting in gold, with 5 percent in physical gold (coins, bars and jewelry) and the other 5 percent in high-quality gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

Hot bull market in metals developing?

Is this the start of a hot new metals bull market?

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

Aluminum metals

Major U.S. indices slid for a second straight week as President Donald Trump and North Korea both escalated their saber-rattling, with Kim Jong-un explicitly targeting Guam, home to a number of American military bases, and Trump tweeting Friday that “Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded.” The S&P 500 Index fell 1.5 percent on Thursday, its largest one-day decline since May. Military stocks, however, were up, led by Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

As expected, the Fear Trade boosted gold on safe haven demand. The yellow metal finished the week just under $1,300, a level we haven’t seen since November 2016. Last week, Ray Dalio, founder of Bridgewater Associates, the largest hedge fund in the world, said it was time for investors to put between 5 and 10 percent of their portfolio in gold as a precaution against global and domestic geopolitical risks. The threat of nuclear war is at the top of everyone’s mind, but Dalio reminds us that our indecisive Congress could very well fail to agree on raising the debt ceiling next month, meaning a “good” government shutdown, as Trump once put it, would follow.

Dalio’s not the only one recommending gold right now. Speaking to CNBC last week, commodities expert Dennis Gartman, editor and publisher of the widely-read Gartman Letter, said that he believed “gold is about to break out on the upside strongly” in response to geopolitical risks and inflationary pressures. Gartman thinks investors should have between 10 and 15 percent of their portfolio in gold.

Government shutdowns haven’t always been harmful to the stock market—during the last one, in October 2013, stocks actually gained about 3 percent—but I agree that it might be prudent right now for investors to de-risk and ensure their portfolios include safe haven assets such as gold and municipal bonds. Dalio and Gartman’s allocation percentages mirror my own. For years, I’ve recommended a 10 percent weighting in gold, with 5 percent in bullion and 5 percent in high-quality gold stocks, mutual funds and ETFs.

Analysts Bullish on Metals and Commodities

Weaker US Dollar helped commodities beat the market in july

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Like stocks, the U.S. dollar continued its slide last week. This has lent support not just to gold but also commodities, specifically industrial metals. The Bloomberg Commodity Index actually beat the market in July, the first time it’s done so this year.

If we look at the index’s constituents, we find that six metals—aluminum, copper, zinc, gold, silver and nickel—have been the top drivers of performance this year, thanks to a weaker dollar, China’s commitment to rein in oversupply and heightened demand. According to Bloomberg, an index of these six raw metals has jumped to its highest in more than two years.

Some market observers believe this is only the beginning. Guy Wolf, an analyst with Marex Spectron Group, told Bloomberg that he doesn’t “see anything” to make him doubt the firm’s belief that metals “are now in a bull market.”

“As people start to realize that the reasons for prices going up are robust and sustainable, that’s going to bring more money into the market,” Wolf added.

This bullish sentiment is shared by Mike McGlone, senior commodities analyst with Bloomberg Intelligence, who writes that commodities’ strong performance in July  “could be the beginning of a trend.”

“Supported by demand exceeding supply, on the back of multiple years of declining prices, a peaking dollar should mark an inflection point for sustained commodity recovery,” McGlone says.

I can’t say whether we might eventually see the highs of the commodities supercycle in the 2000s, but this news is certainly constructive.

Aluminum Liftoff

The top performer right now is aluminum, up more than 20 percent year-to-date. Last week it breached $2,000 a tonne for the first time since December 2014 and is currently trading strongly above its 50-day and 200-day moving averages.

US ISM non-manufacturing PMI sinks to 11 month low in july
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Demand for aluminum is growing in the automotive and packaging industries, its two key markets. With consumers and governments demanding better fuel efficiency, automakers are increasingly turning to aluminum, which is around 40 percent lighter than steel. According to Ducker Worldwide, a market research firm, the amount of aluminum used to build each new vehicle will double between the early 2010s and 2025, eventually reaching 500 pounds. That’s up from only 100 pounds per vehicle, which was the case in the 1970s. Airline manufacturers such as Boeing and Airbus are also expected to increase demand for the lightweight metal.

Supply-side conditions are also improving. Prices have struggled in recent years as China—which accounts for roughly 40 percent of world output—flooded the market with cheap, and often illegal, metal. Recently, however, the Asian giant has called for dramatic capacity cuts in a number of provinces. By the end of 2017, an estimated 4 million metric tons of capacity will have closed, or one-tenth of the country’s total annual output, according to MetalMiner.

Also supporting prices is the Commerce Department’s decision last week to slap duties on aluminum coming into the U.S. from a number of Chinese producers that were found to be heavily subsidized by the Chinese government.

The Virginia-based Aluminum Association applauded the decision, saying that its members “are very pleased with the Commerce Department’s finding and we greatly appreciate Secretary [Wilbur] Ross’s leadership in enforcing U.S. trade laws to combat unfair practices.”

The aluminum industry, the trade group says, supports more than 20,000 American jobs, both directly and indirectly, and accounts for $6.8 billion in economic activity.

Miners Getting Back to Work

There’s perhaps no greater signal of a shift in sentiment than an increase in mining activity as producers take advantage of higher prices. Bloomberg reported last week that the number of new holes drilled around the globe has accelerated for five straight quarters as of June. What’s more, drilling activity so far this quarter, as of August 7, suggests that number could extend to six quarters.

US ISM non-manufacturing PMI sinks to 11 month low in july
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I believe activity will only continue to expand as China pursues further large infrastructure projects, which will require even more raw materials such as aluminum, copper, zinc and other base metals. And I still have confidence that Trump and Congress can deliver on a grand infrastructure deal—the president has been turning up the heat on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, writing on Twitter that the Kentucky senator needs to “get back to work” and put “a great Infrastructure Bill on my desk for signing.”

With government spending on infrastructure falling to a record low of 1.4 percent of GDP in the second quarter, such a bill would help modernize our nation’s roads, bridges, waterways and more. It would also serve as a huge bipartisan win for Trump, which he sorely needs to build up his political capital.

But beyond that, a $1 trillion infrastructure deal would greatly boost demand for metals and other raw materials, perhaps ushering in a new commodities supercycle.

Greenspan, Inflation and China boost gold

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

With U.S. inflation rising, a March rate hike now looks all but imminent. Many economists—including the Goldman Sachs economists I had the pleasure to hear speak this week—expect to see at least three such hikes this year alone.

US Inflation Zooms up 5 Year High
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Gold responded accordingly, closing above $1,240 for the first time since soon after the November election. Below you can see the gold price charted against the inflation-adjusted 10-year Treasury yield, which is now in subzero territory.

US Inflation Zooms up 5 Year High
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The question I have is: Why would an investor deliberately choose to lose money? But that’s precisely what’s happening now with inflation where it is.

2-Year 3-Year 10-Year
Treasury Yield 1.22% 1.95% 2.45%
Consumer Price Index 2.50% 2.50% 2.50%
Real Yield -1.28% -0.55% -0.05%
As of February 16
Source: Federal Reserve, U.S. Global Investors

These were among some of the topics addressed by former Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, who spoke with the World Gold Council (WGC) for the winter edition of its “Gold Investor.”

Gold primary global currency

“Significant increases in inflation will ultimately increase the price of gold,” Greenspan said. “Investment in gold now is insurance. It’s not for short-term gain, but for long-term protection.”

He also reiterated his view, which I share, that gold is much more than just a metal but a currency:

I view gold as the primary global currency. It is the only currency, along with silver, that does not require a counterparty signature. Gold, however, has always been far more valuable per ounce than silver. No one refuses gold as payment to discharge an obligation. Credit instruments and fiat currency depend on the credit worthiness of a counterparty. Gold, along with silver, is one of the only currencies that has an intrinsic value. It has always been that way. No one questions its value, and it has always been a valuable commodity, first coined in Asia Minor in 600 BC.

Although major stock indices continue to hit fresh all-time highs on hopes of tax reform and fiscal stimulus, it’s important to temper the exuberance with a little prudence. The bull market, currently in its eighth year, is facing some significant geopolitical and macroeconomic uncertainty, and we could be getting late in the economic cycle. This makes gold’s investment case even more attractive. For the 10-year period, the yellow metal has shown an inverse correlation to risk assets such as stocks and high-yield bonds. It might be time to ensure that your portfolio has the recommended 10 percent in gold—that includes 5 percent in gold coins and jewelry, the other 5 percent in quality gold equities and mutual funds.

China and India to Lead World Economy by 2050

The long-term investment case for gold looks just as compelling following bullish reports last week from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Morgan Stanley. China and India are the world’s top two consumers of gold, and both countries are expected to make huge economic gains in the next few decades. This is likely to boost gold demand even more, which has a high correlation with discretionary income growth.

China alone consumed approximately 2,000 metric tons in 2016, or roughly 60 percent of all the new gold that was mined during the year, according to veteran mining commentator Lawrie Williams, who based his estimates partially on calculations made by BullionStar’s Koos Jansen. The 2,000 metric tons is a much higher figure than what analysts and the media have been telling us, but I’ve always suspected China’s annual consumption to run higher than “official” numbers.

According to PwC’s models, China and India should become the world’s number one and number two largest economies by 2050 based on purchasing power parity (PPP). China, of course, is already the largest economy by that measure, but PwC sees the Asian giant surpassing the U.S. economy on an absolute basis by as early as 2030.

Top 10 Economies Dominated Emerging Markets 2050
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As for India, it “currently comprises 7 percent of world GDP at PPP, which we project to rise steadily to over 15 percent by 2050,” PwC writes. “This is a remarkable increase of 8 percentage points, gaining the most ground of any of the countries we modeled.”

I think it’s also worth highlighting Indonesia, which is expected to replace Japan as the fourth-largest economy by midcentury. E7 economies, in fact, could end up dominating the top 10, with Mexico moving up to number seven and France dropping off. You can see the full list on PwC’s site.

China Set to Become High Income by 2027

Then there’s Morgan Stanley’s 118-page report, “Why we are bullish on China.” The investment bank sees a number of dramatic changes over the coming years, the most significant being China’s transition from a middle-income nation to a prosperous, high-income nation sometime between 2024 and 2027. (The high-income threshold is a gross national income (GNI) of around $12,500 per capita.) This would make China one of only three countries with populations over 20 million that have managed to accomplish this feat in the past 30 years, the other two being South Korea and Poland.

Top 10 Economies Dominated Emerging Markets 2050
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This trajectory is supported by a number of expectations, including, most importantly, Morgan Stanley’s confidence that China will manage to avoid a debt-related financial crisis, as some investors might now believe is forthcoming. The bank’s view is that the Chinese government will successfully provide “adequate policy buffers and deft management of the policy cycle” to ensure the growth of per capita incomes.

Other key transitions will additionally need to take place for the country to reach high-income status by 2027, including transitioning from a high investment economic model to high consumption and implementing meaningful state-owned enterprise reform. Although China is currently transitioning from a manufacturing economy to one that’s focused on consumption and services, the country will also need to emphasize high value-added manufacturing.

chineseshoppers

 In addition, since President Donald Trump has officially withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), China could very well use this as an opportunity to take the lead in global trade, Morgan Stanley writes. This view aligns with comments I’ve previously made. China is already reportedly weighing its options with two alternative free-trade agreements (FTAs), one that includes the U.S. (the Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific) and one that does not (the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership). It’s probably safe to say, however, that given Trump’s opposition to FTAs, trade negotiations involving the U.S. are unlikely to happen anytime soon.

Investors Underweight China

Taken together, this is all good news for gold. Again, when incomes rise in China and India, gold demand has historically benefited.

But it also makes China a compelling place to invest in. And yet investors have tended to be shy, underweighting the country for at least a decade in relation to the broader emerging markets universe.

Time Reverse Course China Stocks 2050
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This, despite the fact that China has largely outperformed emerging markets for the last 15 years. According to Morgan Stanley, the MSCI China Index has delivered a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13 percent for the 15-year period, versus the MSCI Emerging Markets Index’s CAGR of 10 percent over the same period.

Gold Oversold: Due A Price Reversal

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

http://www.mjewelry.com/portals/1/images/services_sell_gold.jpg

In more ways than one, 2016 was a roller coaster year.  One need only look at gold’s performance to confirm this. After rallying more than 30 percent in the first half, the precious metal stalled in the days before the U.S. election, then retreated on a weekly basis, under pressure from a strengthening dollar and tightening monetary policy.

As you can see in the oscillator below, gold is now down more than two standard deviations from its mean, or average, dollar amount. The reason I show you this is because, in the past, this was a good time to begin accumulating, as mean reversion soon followed.

Gold vs. 2-Year Treasury Yield Percent Change Oscillator
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The 2-year Treasury yield, meanwhile, is looking overbought and set to correct, based on our model. I’ve explained several times before how gold has tended to share an inverse relationship with Treasury yields. The math suggests a nearly 90 percent probability that mean reversion will occur over the next three months, with yields falling and the gold price rising back to its mean.

Even though gold stocks have given up a large portion of their gains since the summer, they were still up close to 40 percent for the 12-month period, as measured by the NYSE Arca Gold Miners Index. Over the same period, blue-chip stocks were up 12 percent, with the Trump rally driving most of it. Therefore, a portfolio composed not just of S&P 500 equities but also gold stocks and bullion would likely have performed better than one composed only of equities.

Gold Miners Had a Phenomenal Year
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I always recommend a 10 percent weighting in gold, with 5 percent in gold stocks, the other 5 percent in gold bars, coins and jewelry.

Looking Ahead in the Near Term

U.S. debt dynamics are expected to turn positive for gold in 2017. That’s according to ICBC Standard Bank, which makes the case that the costs of higher yields are being overlooked. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) calculates that net interest payments on the nearly $14 trillion of U.S. debt will amount to about $250 billion in 2016—or 1.4 percent of U.S. gross domestic product.

“If we apply an 80 basis point increase to the CBO’s net interest forecasts and keep the other variables unchanged, then by 2026 the Treasury would be paying an additional $185 billion in interest annually, and interest will have increased to 3.3 percent of GDP,” the bank writes, with emphasis my own.

Effect of 80 Basis Points Increase on U.S. Treasury's Interest Costs
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In the note, Tom Kendall, head of precious metals, stresses that the financing costs for the U.S. have already jumped. But under President-elect Donald Trump’s policies—which may or may not have a positive impact on U.S. growth—the effects will likely lag. Any disappointments on the growth front, then, combined with higher interest costs and contentious negotiations on raising the debt ceiling in the first quarter, could well result in a more bullish scenario for gold.

Looking Ahead in the Long Term

Gold’s rarity is one of the key reasons why it’s so highly valued across the globe and for most of recorded human history. Back in August, I shared with you that the precious metal makes up only 0.003 parts per million of the earth’s crust.

“Peak gold” has been a topic for years now, with major discoveries on the decline. According to a recent Bloomberg article, the number of new gold deposits discovered in 2015 was down a whopping 85 percent since 2006.

This means annual production is expected to peak in 2019, followed by a steady decline until at least 2025.

Global Gold Output Expected to Top Out in 2019 Before Declining

Gold rally IS sustainable – The Holmes Gold SWOT

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

Strengths

  • The best performing precious metal for the week was gold, holding in with a 1 basis point drop.  According to the World Gold Council, global gold demand in the second quarter increased 15 percent due to a 141 percent rise in investment demand. The Royal Mint also commented on a “surge” in demand, specifically when the Bank of England cut rates – during that week the Mint saw a 25-percent increase in transactions on its bullion website, reports BBC. The Mint’s “signature gold” has also allowed buyers to purchase fractions of gold bars, causing sales to jump 140 percent.
  • Japan is the “star performer” among smaller gold consumers, reports Bloomberg, with four straight quarters of positive net investment into bars and coins. Demand expanded to 5.8 metric tonnes in the second quarter. The World Gold Council cites distrust of Abenomics, negative interest rates and a rising yen for the investment boost. In China, vehicle sales in July gained the most in 17 months, sending palladium to touch a one-year high. Speculation is that supply won’t be enough to meet demand, reports Bloomberg, as the metal is used in the making of car parts.
  • Gold prices jumped this week as investors reevaluated the likelihood that the Fed will raise rates this year, reports Investing.com. The Labor Department said nonfarm business sector labor productivity fell 0.5 percent in the second quarter (extending the longest decline since 1979). According to BMO Private Bank, economists surveyed expected a 0.4 percent gain for the three months ended June.

Weaknesses

  • The worst performing precious metal for the week was platinum losing 2.03 percent, on what may have been profit taking following the very strong rally in the platinum group metal prices over the last two weeks.
  • According to BCA Research, the U.S. labor market strength is a “conundrum.” Last week’s jobs report came in strong and although U.S. real GDP is up only 1.2 percent year-over-year, employment has grown by a stronger 1.9 percent year-over-year, the group points out. It is uncommon for GDP growth to be weaker than employment growth, and such a gap is “unsustainable as businesses will experience continued erosion in profit margins.”
  • Following the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union, gold prices soared to the highest level since 2014. The higher price is one reason that China, the world’s biggest producer and consumer of gold, cut purchases in July, reports Bloomberg. The People’s Bank of China increased its gold holdings by the smallest amount since it began disclosing purchases about a year ago.

Opportunities

  • David Haughton of CIBC says the gold rally we’ve experienced so far this year is sustainable. He points to three key factors: 1) Comparing this rally to five others over the past 40 years shows gold equities are still 40-50 percent off the previous high, while historical cycles reached around 20 percent of old highs in the same time frame. 2) Most companies are now demonstrating fiscal discipline that could support outperformance ahead. 3) Investors are mostly underweight gold equities and macro factors appear supportive.

aaswot

 

  • In its Gold Sector Review report, Credit Suisse points to several demand trend updates for the second quarter of 2016. The group explains that mine supply was flat year-over-year, as production from new streams was offset by declines in existing assets. They forecast mine supply to fall 7 percent by 2018 versus the 2015 level driven primarily by declining grades and a lack of new projects coming on-stream due to industry capex cuts since 2013.
  • In the Financial Times this week, investment expert and precious metals analyst Diego Parrilla writes that the gains seen this year in gold are just the beginning of a new gold bull market. “My view that there is a perfect storm for gold is based on three closely interrelated dynamics, whereby central banks and global markets are both testing the limits of monetary policy and credit markets as well as the boundaries of fiat currencies.”

Threats

  • Andrew Garthwaite of Credit Suisse published his opinion on gold and gold mining stocks Friday, pointing to three tactical concerns he has with the metal: 1) Gold moves inversely with real bond yields, and he thinks real rates will rise. 2) Gold moves inversely with banks, and he thinks financials will outperform if bond yields rise. 3) Gold is overvalued base on his model.
  • With the probability of three rate hikes from the Fed through to the end of 2017, Pictet Wealth Management believes that gold may have met its match after a stellar start to the year, reports Bloomberg. “With the dollar in a long-term uptrend, bullion isn’t likely to break the $1,430 an ounce level,” said Luc Luyet, a currencies strategist at Pictet.
  • With a rally in gold prices so far this year, purchases in India (the world’s second-biggest consumer) will be reduced, reports Bloomberg, trimming import prospects amid high inventories. Historically, the second half of the year is normally better for gold demand from Indian brides, but so far this year a “rally of 25 percent in the first six months has hit the buffers,” continues Bloomberg, with higher costs deterring jewelry buyers.

10 key statistics for China’s New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! 2016: Year of the Fire Monkey

For decades now, China has been the leading driver of global growth, consuming unfathomable amounts of raw materials and commodities.

Today, the Asian giant is undergoing dramatic changes, as its government deepens reforms and opens the country’s economy up to foreign investment. The size of its middle class is rapidly expanding in size, giving a huge boost to domestic consumption. And with the creation of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the renminbi’s inclusion in the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) reserve currency, China’s role in global financial markets is growing in importance.

No one can deny that challenges lie ahead, but opportunities are still abundant.

With this in mind, I’ve put together 10 figures to know as China enters a new year.

9th

As the ninth animal in China’s 12-zodiac cycle, the monkey is considered confident, curious and a great problem-solver. But 2016 is also the year of the Fire Monkey, which adds a layer of strength and resilience.

2.9 Billion

It’s been called the world’s largest annual human migration. “Chunyun,” or the Spring Festival, refers to the period around the Chinese New Year when people travel by plane, train and automobile to visit friends and family. Between January 21 and March 3, nearly 3 billion trips will be made, exceeding the number of Chinese citizens. Close to 55 million of these trips are expected to be made by air.

Chinese Tourists will take 2.9 billion domestic trips during this year's spring festival - U.S. Global Investors

For the third straight year in 2015, China topped the list of international outbound travelers, with 120 million people heading abroad. Collectively, they spent $194 billion across the world.

6 Million

Not all destinations are within China’s borders, however. According to CTrip, a Chinese online travel service, Spring Festival tourists have booked a record 6 million outbound trips. As many as 100 different countries will be visited, with the farthest region being Antarctica.

180 Tonnes

A shaky stock market, depreciating renminbi and low global prices have spurred many Chinese consumers to turn to gold. Imports of the yellow metal are way up. Last month I wrote that 2015 was a blowout year, with China consuming more than 90 percent of the total annual global output of gold. In December, the country imported 180 tonnes from Switzerland alone, representing an 86 percent increase over December 2014. This news supports the trend we’ve been seeing of gold moving West to East.

The Great Tectonic Shift of Physical Gold From West to East

The precious metal is currently trading at a three-month high.

49.4

For the month of January, the Chinese government purchasing managers’ index (PMI) eased down from 49.7 in December to 49.4 in January, indicating further contraction in the country’s manufacturing sector. The reading remains below its three-month moving average. More easing from China’s central bank, not to mention liberalization of capital controls, could be forthcoming this year to stimulate growth and prop up commodities demand.

Chinese Manufacturing Sector Continues to Shrink
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$6.5 Trillion

Although manufacturing has cooled, domestic consumption in China is following a staggering upward trajectory. In 2015, total retail sales touched a record, surpassing 30 trillion renminbi, or about $4.2 trillion. By 2020, sales are expected to climb to $6.5 trillion, representing 50 percent growth in as little as five years. This growth will “roughly equal a market 1.3 times the size of Germany or the United Kingdom,” according to the World Economic Forum.

By 2020, Chinese Private Consumption Will have Grown $2.3 Trillion
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109 Million

One of the main reasons for this surge in consumption is the staggering expansion of the country’s middle class. In October, Credit Suisse reported that, for the first time, the size of China’s middle class had exceeded that of America’s middle class, 109 million to 92 million. As incomes rise, so too does demand for durable and luxury goods, vehicles, air travel, energy and more.

109 Million for the first time, the size of China's middle class has overtake the U.S., 109 million compared to 92 million.

But middle-income families aren’t the only ones growing in number. The World Economic Forum estimates that by 2020, upper-middle-income and affluent households will account for 30 percent of China’s urban households, up from only 7 percent in 2010.

$1.6 Trillion

China's e-commerce consumption Set to Grow Over 160% Between 2015 and 2020

Consumption has also benefited from the emergence of e-commerce. Not only are younger Chinese citizens spending more than ever before, they’re doing it more frequently, as e-commerce allows for convenient around-the-clock spending. Such sales could grow from $0.6 trillion today to a massive $1.6 trillion by 2020.

Mobile payments will continue to play a larger role as well. Purchases made on a smartphone or tablet are expected to make up three quarters of all e-commerce sales by 2020.

24.6 Million

With a population of more than 1.3 billion, China is the world’s largest automobile market. The country certainly retained the title last year, selling 24.6 million vehicles, an increase of 4.7 percent over 2014. The U.S., by comparison, sold 17.2 million. According to China’s Ministry of Public Security, the Asian country added a staggering 33.74 million new drivers last year, which is good news for auto sales going forward.

6.5 Percent to 7 Percent

Many China bears point out that GDP growth in the Asian country has hit a snag. There’s no denying that its economy is in transition, evidenced by the government’s 2016 growth range of between 6.5 and 7 percent, a demotion from 2015’s target of 7 percent. But it’s important to acknowledge that China is still growing at an enviable rate.

Here’s one way to look at it, courtesy of Jim O’Neil, the commercial secretary to the British Treasury and the man who coined the acronym BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China). O’Neil calculates that even if China grows “only” 6.5 percent this year, the value is still equivalent to India growing 35 percent or the United Kingdom growing 22 percent.

For this reason and more, China remains a long-term growth story, and “there are many reasons to expect that in 10 or 15 years, China will be a greater, not a lesser, power than it is today,” says Stratfor Global Intelligence.

To all of my friends and readers both here and abroad, I wish you copious amounts of happiness, health and prosperity this Chinese New Year!

 

Gold price could end 2015 up on the year

Will Gold Finish 2015 with a Gain?

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

Gold-Ready-For-His-Closeup

After its stellar performance last week, gold might do something it hasn’t done since 2012—that is, end the year in positive territory. You can see past returns for yourself in our perennially popular Periodic Table of Commodities Return.

Responding to a weaker U.S. dollar, continued contraction in global growth and wide speculation that interest rates will stay near-zero for the remainder of the year, the yellow metal broke above its 200-day moving average and is close to erasing its 2015 losses.

gold-breaks-above-its-200-day-moving-average
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This could be the price reversal many gold bulls have been expecting.

Back in August I shared with you that legendary hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller, who’s made some mythic calls over his long career, invested $323 million of his own money in gold, now the largest position in his family funds. Although such a large weighting isn’t appropriate for all investors—I’ve always recommended 10 percent in gold: 5 percent in gold stocks, 5 percent in bullion—it looks as if Druckenmiller made another good call.

The big news last week was that Walmart took a massive hit after the retail giant said it expected a profit slump in 2016. Walmart investors lost a whopping $24 billion—$21 billion on Wednesday alone. While this news dominated the headlines, it’s important to recognize that the total amount of net assets in the SPDR Gold Trust, the world’s largest gold-backed ETF, is just slightly more than Walmart’s one-week loss.

in-one-week-walmart-shares-lose-nearly-as-much-as-GLD-total-net-assets

“Death” of the Dollar?

It’s no mere coincidence that gold’s breakout coincides with the weakening of the U.S. dollar last week. The greenback signaled what’s known as a “death cross,” just in time for Halloween. Widely recognized as the start of a bearish trend, a death cross occurs when the 50-day moving average crosses below the 200-day.

This hasn’t happened since September 2013.

US-dollar-experiences-a-death-cross
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As ominous as this sounds, it’s good news for gold and other metals and commodities, not to mention emerging markets and American exports. For the past year, the strong dollar has crushed these assets, something I write and speak about frequently. If the death cross does indeed indicate the start of a downward trend, gold might have the breathing room it needs to reach the important $1,200 resistance level.

Our China Region Fund (USCOX) and Emerging Europe Fund (EUROX) have responded well to the dollar’s drop, both of them crossing above their 50-day moving averages.

China-Region-Fund-USCOX-Crossed-above-50-Day-Moving-Average
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Emerging-Europe-Fund-EUROX-Crossed-above-50-Day-Moving-Average
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When we factor in the Love Trade, gold has even further upside potential. In India, the world’s largest consumer of the precious metal, the annual wedding and fall festival season has officially begun, which has historically triggered a spike in demand. This period is followed by Christmas and the Chinese New Year in February, when gold prices have surged, based on the shorter-term, five-year pattern.

Gold-seasonality
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Russian Air Strikes Ignite the Fear Trade

Gold has also likely benefited in the short term by the Fear Trade, specifically global geopolitical events such as Russia’s involvement in Syria. We should never welcome war, but the truth is that political turmoil very often has had a positive effect on commodity prices and currencies. Both the Russian ruble and Brent oil are currently above their 50-day moving averages.

the-russian-ruble-and-brent-oil-are-above-their-50-day-moving-averages
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In a recent piece titled “The New Cold War Battlefield… and How It Will Affect Oil Prices,” Dr. Kent Moors, global energy strategist for “Oil & Energy Investor,” writes that what happens in the Middle East has “always had a rather direct impact on energy prices and the prospects for investing in the sector.”

Syrian-president-Basher-al-Assad-shaking-hands-with-Russian-president-Vladimir-Putin

The difference today, Moors says, is that Syria “is a rising power vacuum right smack in the middle of the largest concentration of global crude production.”

This is a theme that’s explored in even further detail in my friend Marin Katusa’s bestselling book, “The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade Slipped from America’s Gasp.”

Speaking of Marin, his Katusa Research and Cambridge House International will be co-producing the Silver Summit and Resource Expo in San Francisco November 23 and 24. I’ll be giving the opening keynote address. If you’d like to attend the conference as my guest, send me an email for a complimentary registration.

Real Interest Rates, Real Impact on Gold

The Fear Trade also includes monetary and fiscal policies such as money supply and real interest rates. As opposed to geopolitical events, which might have an immediate effect on gold, these drivers can have a long-term influence.

As a reminder, real interest rates are what you get when you deduct the rate of inflation from the 10-year Treasury yield. For example, if Treasury yields were at 2 percent and inflation was also at 2 percent, you wouldn’t really be earning anything. But if inflation was at 3 percent, you’d be experiencing a negative real rate.

When gold hit its all-time high of $1,900 per ounce in August 2011, real interest rates were sitting at -3 percent. In other words, if you bought the 10-year, you essentially lost 3 percent a year on your “safe” Treasury investment. Since gold doesn’t cost anything to hold, it became more attractive and the metal’s price soared.

Today, the U.S. has virtually no inflation, so real interest rates are at 2 percent, a swing of 500 basis points since August 2011. This has lately had a negative effect on gold, which means it’s even more remarkable that the precious metal has broken above its 200-day moving average.

Our office was visited last week by Barry Bannister, CFA, the chief equity strategist for investment firm Stifel, who gave us buckets of useful macroeconomic research, much of which validated what we’ve been saying for a long time regarding the relationship between the price of gold and real interest rates.

Barry made the case that real interest rates are even higher than we realize. He argued that the reason the Federal Reserve hasn’t allowed rates to lift off yet is because—you might want to sit down for this—it already has, in an “invisible” interest rate hike of 4 percent. Quantitative easing (QE), Barry said, was “negative” interest rates, and that “economic recovery and time ‘raised’ rates to 0 percent, a de factorate hike.”

Gold’s rally last week occurred in spite of this “invisible” rate hike.

Active Management on Top

Even with gold prices off around 38 percent since the August 2011 high, our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) has done well, outperforming the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) and PowerShares Global Gold & Precious Metals ETF (PSAU).

active-management-on-top-USERX-vs-gold-ETF-peers
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Speaking to Investor’s Business Daily, portfolio manager Ralph Aldis pointed out that one of the reasons why our fund has outperformed is because we’re able to apply our tacit knowledge of company executives and management teams, as well as anticipate and act on political risks in countries we invest in. This is a skill (and benefit) that only active management can provide.

Both the GDX and the PSAU are strictly market capitalization-weighted, so they might miss out on unexpected “success stories.”

“They end up owning the biggest companies, which because of their size have difficulty growing,” Ralph told IBD.

Klondex Mines is one such success story. It’s the fund’s top weighting, at 17 percent—and yet because of its market-cap, it isn’t included at all in the two ETFs.

As Ralph told The Gold Report last week, “I want to own companies where management can increase the value proposition,” regardless of gold prices.

Gold Holds Its Own While Media Darlings crash

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

There’s no other way to put it: Commodities took it on the chin last month.

July was the seventh worst performing month for the S&P Goldman Sachs Commodities Index, going back to January 1970. Crude oil saw its steepest monthly loss since October 2008. Both copper and aluminum touched their lowest levels in six years. And on July 19, possibly as a result of deliberate price manipulation, gold experienced a mini flash crash, sending it down to five-year lows.

Have Commoditeis Hit a Bottom?
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Regardless, several commodities are beating the exchange-traded funds that track them for the one-year period, according to the Wall Street Journal. Our Gold and Precious Metals Fund (USERX) is over 1,900 basis points ahead of the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) year-to-date.

But that hasn’t stopped many gold bears from using this as an opportunity to disparage the yellow metal. A recent Bloomberg article points out that the gold rout has cost China and Russia $5.4 billion, an amount that would sound colossal were it not for the fact that U.S. media companies such as Disney and Viacom collectively lost over $60 billion for shareholders in as little as two days last week.

Below are the weekly losses for just a handful of those companies. Compared to many other asset classes, gold has held up well, even after factoring in its price decline.

Media Stocks Collapse, Gold Holds Its Own
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And isn’t it funny that the Federal Reserve doesn’t keep other countries’ currencies, but it continues to hold gold—and in larger amounts than any other central bank? China and Russia have two of the biggest gold reserves in the world—and have added to them recently—but they don’t come close to the Fed’s holdings, even when combined. What’s more, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency just classified gold as money by placing gold futures in the foreign exchange derivatives classification.

Countries with largest gold holdings

Indeed, central banks all over the world continue to add to their gold reserves. If the metal were as valueless as a pet rock, as one Wall Street Journal op-ed recently claimed, why would they bother to do this? A few weeks ago, China disclosed the amount of gold its central bank holds for the first time in six years. Global markets reacted negatively that the country increased its reserves “only” 57 percent. But the World Gold Council (WGC) saw this as positive news:

We believe the People’s Bank of China’s confirmation of its revised gold holdings is supportive for the gold market. It reiterates how China, along with other central banks, views gold as a key resource asset as it continues to seek diversification away from the U.S. dollar.

As I’ve said before, China is the 800-pound commodities gorilla. This has largely been the case since 2000.

Half a Trillion Dollars a Year in Commodities

Between 2002 and 2012, China was growing fast at an average annual pace of around 10 percent. The country was responsible for nearly all of the net increase in global metals consumption between 2000 and 2014, according to the World Bank. Over the same time period, its share of metals consumption tripled, eventually reaching an astounding 47 percent.

China's Share of Metal Consumption Reached 47 Percent in 2014
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The year 2014 was a standout for Chinese commodity imports. Compelled by low prices, the country, which accounted for 12 percent of worldwide imports, brought in record volumes of crude oil, iron ore, copper and other raw materials.

Because China is a trading partner with practically every other country, and because it imports over $500 billion a year in commodities, its importance in global trade cannot be stressed enough. BBVA Research writes that “any reduction in its level of [purchasing] activity places significant downward pressure on the prices of [commodities], such as oil or copper.”

And yet we’re seeing that reduction now. For the past five months, China’s purchasing managers’ index (PMI) has remained below the neutral 50 mark, indicating that its manufacturing sector has been in contraction mode for the better part of this year so far.

China's Manufacturing PMI Falls to a Two-Year Low in July
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It’s important to keep in mind that China is still the number one importer of many key materials, including coal, iron ore and crude oil. The country’s import growth of these commodities continues to rise, but at a slower pace than in years past.

This isn’t necessarily the case with gold, however.

Demand Still Higher Than the Five-Year Average

According to the WGC, the decline in Chinese gold demand has been overstated.

Although China’s jewelry demand in the first quarter of 2015 was down from the record level the previous year, it was 27 percent higher than its five-year average. And consumer demand—jewelry plus bar and coins—in the first quarter was the fourth best on record, surpassed only by the surge in demand triggered by the price fall in 2013.

The WGC also points out that gold has a low correlation with and different demand drivers than commodities. Whereas commodities, as expressed by the Bloomberg Commodities Index, have returned to 2001 levels, gold is still up significantly for the period shown in the chart below.

Gold has Outperformed the Commodities Complex
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As many of you know, I call gold’s drivers the Fear Trade and the Love Trade. I recently had the pleasure to describe these drivers to Mike Gleason of Money Metals Exchange.

The Fear Trade, dominant in the psyche of North America, involves money supply growth and real interest rates. Whenever the U.S. has negative real interest rates, gold starts to rise in dollar terms, and whenever we have positive real rates of return, it starts to decline. If you go back to 2011, we had negative real interest rates off 3 percent on a 10-year government bond, and the average gold price that year was around $1,500 per ounce. But now that rates are positive 2 percent, the metal’s been depressed.

The Love Trade includes the purchase of the precious metal due to cultural affinity and rising GDP per capita in Asia and the Middle East. This includes gift giving of bullion and gold jewelry in anticipation of upcoming festivals such as Diwali, Christmas and the Chinese New Year. Historically, the Love Trade has begun to pick up around this time of the year.

Gold is a long-term investment with long-standing tradition. This remains true even now that prices have declined. As always, I recommend a 10 percent weighting: 5 percent in gold stocks, 5 percent in bullion or jewelry, then rebalance every year.