Gold, silver’s purchasing power preservations skills come to the fore

Institutional investors tend to prefer investments that are thought to contain the potential for growth, growth = sprouts. An investment has to produce a growing revenue stream – if it doesn’t grow it doesn’t compound.

Silver and gold are rejected as investments because they don’t produce sprouts, meaning the steady income and systematic growth so sought after by institutional investors just isn’t there.

John Exter was an American economist and a member of the Board of Governors of the United States Federal Reserve System. Exter is known for creating Exter’s Pyramid – useful for visualizing the organization of asset classes in terms of risk and size.

When the credit system is expanding most money flows to the top of the pyramid – the increasingly speculative and illiquid investments. When the credit system comes under pressure and debt cannot be repaid, the items at the top of the pyramid get sold and money flows towards the bottom.

“In order to make use of it though, we must first make the distinction between real wealth and claims on wealth. Real wealth is represented by actual items that people want or need. This can be food, land, natural resources, buildings, factories etc. Financial assets, shown as layers in the pyramid, represent claims on real wealth. In a fully developed financial system, in good perceived standing, there is a high ratio of claims on wealth to actual underlying real wealth. In this environment the average buying power of the financial assets is lower. This can best be observed by looking at the purchasing power at the bottom of the pyramid. Gold is at a minimum here. It is competing with all of the other claims on wealth for a relatively constant amount of underlying real assets.

According to Exter’s theory of money, when economies get into trouble through the accumulation of too much debt, the levels of the pyramid disappear in order from highest to lowest. As the pyramid contracts downward, the remaining layers represent a proportionally higher claim on the real underlying wealth. In other words their value increases. Using gold as our reference point, it’s relative purchasing power increases as the pyramid contracts. Gold finds itself in a secular bull market.

In the extreme hypothetical case where all other asset classes are destroyed, including the currency itself, only gold remains. In this case the holders of gold compete with no other financial assets for claims on the underlying wealth. This scenario represents the ultimate clearing of the economy. All currency denominated debts have been wiped clean.

If a market economy remains in place then the pyramid begins to expand and grow again. The wealth claims represented in gold will be deployed as investments and a new currency will emerge that garners the faith of those who use it. As this new economy grows and expands, the previous instruments of credit and financing will appear again. Layer upon layer are added back to the pyramid. From the perspective of gold, its relative purchasing power decreases as it competes with these new financial assets for claims on the underlying real wealth. Gold is in a secular bear market as the newest levels of the pyramid are in their growth phase. This model provides a useful intuitive understanding of the alternating secular bull and bear markets of commodities vs. equities.Trace Mayer, The Paper Empire


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