Gold Bug Bashing, 1976 Edition

The Golden Cycle

The New York Times had the definitive take on the vicious sell off in gold. To summarize one of their articles:

Two years ago gold bugs ran wild as the price of gold rose nearly six times. But since cresting two years ago it has steadily declined, almost by half, putting the gold bugs in flight. The most recent advisory from a leading Wall Street firm suggests that the price will continue to drift downward, and may ultimately settle 40% below current levels.

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The rout says a lot about consumer confidence in the worldwide recovery. The sharply reduced rates of inflation combined with resurgence of other, more economically productive investments, such as stocks, real estate, and bank savings have combined to eliminate gold‘s allure.

Although the American economy has reduced its rapid rate of recovery, it is still on a firm expansionary course. The fear that dominated two years ago has largely vanished, replaced by a recovery that has turned the gold speculators’ dreams into a nightmare.

This analysis provides a good representation of the current conventional wisdom. The only twist here is that the article from which this summary is derived appeared in the August 29, 1976 edition of The New York Times. At that time gold was preparing to embark on an historic rally that would push it up more than 700% a little over three years later. Is it possible that the history is about to repeat itself?

At the time The Times article was written gold had fallen to $103 per ounce, a decline of nearly 50% from the roughly $200 it had sold for in the closing days of 1974. The $200 price had capped a furious three-year rally that began in August of 1971 when President Nixon “temporarily” closed the gold window and allowed gold to float freely. Prior to that decision gold had been fixed at $35 per ounce for nearly two generations. That initial three year 450% rally had validated the forecasts of the “gold bugs” who had predicted a rapid rise in gold prices should the dollar’s link to gold be severed. The accuracy of these formerly marginalized analysts proved to be a bitter pill for the mainstream voices in Washington and Wall Street who, for reasons of power, politics and profit, were anxious to confine the “barbarous relic” to the dustbin of history. Incredulous as it may seem now, with gold still priced at $35 per ounce, official forecasts of both the Secretary of the Treasury and the Chairman of the Federal Reserve were that demonetizing gold would undermine its value, and that its price would actually fall as a result.

Of course government experts could not have been more wrong. Once uncoupled from the dollar, gold‘s initial ascent in the early 1970′s was fueled by the highest inflation in generations and the deteriorating health of the U.S. economy that had been ravaged by the “guns and butter” policies of the 1960′s. But the American economy stabilized during the mid-years of the 1970′s and both inflation and unemployment fell. When gold reversed course in 1975 the voices of traditional power elite could not contain their glee. When the gold price approached $100 per ounce, a nearly 50% decline, the obituaries came fast and furious. Everyone assumed that the gold mania would never return.

Although the writer of The Times piece did not yet know it, the bottom for gold had been established four days before his article was published. Few realized at the time that the real economic pain of the 1970′s had (to paraphrase The Carpenters 1970′s hit) “Only Just Begun”. When inflation and recession came back with a vengeance in the late 1970′s, gold took off (to quote another 1970′s gem), like a skyrocket in flight. By January 1980, gold topped out at $850 an ounce. The second leg of the rally proved to be bigger than the first.

The parallel between the 1970s and the current period are even more striking when you look closely at the numbers. For example, from 1971 to 1974 gold prices rose by 458% from $35 to $195.25, which was then followed by a two-year correction of nearly 50%. This reduced total gains to just under 200%. The current bull market that began back in 2000 took a bit longer to evolve, but the percentage gains are very similar. (We should allow for a more compressed time frame in the 1970s because of the sudden untethering of gold after decades of restraint.) From its 1999 low to its 2011 peak, gold rose by about 650% from $253 to $1895 per ounce, followed by a two year correction of approximately 37%, down to around $1190 per ounce. The pullback has reduced the total rally to about 370%. The mainstream is saying now, as they did then, that the pullback has invalidated fears that rising U. S. budget deficits, overly accommodative monetary policy, and a weakening economy will combine to bring down the dollar and ignite inflation. But 1976 was not the end of the game. In all likelihood, 2013 will not be either.

The biggest difference between then and now is that until 1975 ordinary Americans were barred by law from buying and owning gold. About the only route available to participate in the earlier stage of the precious metal rally was by hording silver dimes, quarters and half dollars minted prior to 1965. My father indulged in this process himself by sifting through his change, the cash registers of any merchant who would allow him (exchanging new non-silver coins and bills for silver), and by sifting out silver coins from rolls he bought from banks. It was a time-consuming process, and most of his friends and family members thought he was crazy. After all, he had $10,000 worth of pocket change earning no interest.But the $10,000 face value worth of those coins he collected had a melt value of over $350,000 when silver hit its peak.

By the mid 1970′s none of the problems that initially led to the recession in the early years of the decade had been solved. Contrary to the claims of the “experts” things got much worse in the years ahead. It took the much deeper recession of the late 1970′s and early 1980′s, which at the time was the worst economic down-turn since the great Depression, to finally purge the economy of all the excesses. The lower marginal tax rates and cuts in regulation implemented by President Reagan and tight money under Volcker helped get the economy back on track and create investment opportunities that drew money away from gold. As a result gold fell hard during the early 1980′s. But even after the declines, gold maintained levels for the next 20 years that were three to four times as high as the 1976 lows.

Although the economy improved in the 1980′s, the cure was not complete. Government spending, budget and trade deficits continued to take a heavy toll. The U.S. was transformed from the world’s largest creditor to its largest debtor. When the time came to face the music in 2001, the Fed kept the party going by opening the monetary spigots. Then when decades of monetary excess finally came to a head in 2008, the Fed open up its monetary spigots even wider, flooding the economy with even more cheap money.

Unfortunately just like 1976, a true economic recovery is not just around the corner. More likely we are in the eye of an economic storm that will blow much harder than the stagflation winds of the Jimmy Carter years. And once again the establishment is using the decline it the price of gold to validate its misguided policies and discredit its critics. But none of the problems that led me and other modern day gold bugs to buy gold ten years ago have been solved. In fact, monetary and fiscal policies have actually made them much worse. The sad truth is that as bad as things were back in 1976, they are much worse now. Whether as a nation we will be able to rise to the occasion, and actually finish the job that Ronald Reagan and Paul Volcker started remains to be seen. But I am confident that the price of gold will rise much higher, and that its final ascent will be that much more spectacular the longer we continue on our current policy path. Don’t believe the mainstream. Just as before, they will likely be wrong again.

Source: http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-07-01/gold-bug-bashing-1976-edition

Five Absolutely Spectacular Gold Charts

With incredible turbulence in the gold and silver markets, today John Hathaway sent King World News an incredible snapshot of the big picture for the gold and silver markets, along with 5 absolutely spectacular charts.  KWN was given exclusive distribution rights to this outstanding piece by superstar John Hathaway of Tocqueville Asset Management L.P..  John is without question one of the most respected institutional minds in the world today regarding gold, and his fund was awarded a coveted 5-star rating.

In our opinion, the severe pressure on gold prices since April 16, 2013 has been caused by a coordinated bear raid orchestrated by large bank trading desks and hedge funds.  The method used was naked shorting of gold contracts on the futures exchange (Comex), which means that physical gold was never sold, only paper.  Gold was rarely, if ever, delivered to a buyer.  Trades were settled in cash.

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The notional amounts of the transactions on many days exceeded annual mine production, absurd on the face of it.  The motive was most likely to break the gold price for profit.  The result is that short positions of these traders are higher than at the bottom in 2008 (chart below), after which gold rallied 167% and mining shares 256% (basis XAU).

Traders exploited and exaggerated the technical vulnerability of gold in our opinion simply because it was possible to do so.  Because the gold futures market offers deeper capacity than almost any other physical commodity market, it was a perfect target for bonus seeking traders who have also profited (some of which are now being prosecuted or investigated) in the manipulation of Libor and Foreign Exchange rates.

The price decline in paper gold has been met with a surge in physical demand worldwide.  The most dramatic image is the disparity between paper and physical gold, which is depicted in the chart below showing the premiums over paper gold prices paid in China for physical.

While China is by far the larger market, U.S. coin sales are exceptionally strong as well, surpassing volume at the 2011 price peak by 23%.  The conclusion we draw is that the paper market has severely mispriced gold on the downside. The physical market indicates a shortage of gold at the same time the paper market is extremely short.

In April 2013, Dutch banking giant ABN Amro notified clients that they would no longer be providing physical delivery of precious metals including gold.  Claims would be settled in cash with account balances adjusted by the prevailing bid prices “offered by merchants.”????  The bank explained that new custodial relationships would no longer allow physical “extradition.”????

In January 2013, the WSJ reported that Germany, which stores 1500 of its 2600 ton gold reserve within the vault of the NY Federal Reserve bank, was taking steps to return 300 tons to Germany.  One would think this would be a simple matter, with 1000’s of tons trading daily on the COMEX and LBMA.  Not so fast, Germany.  The requested delivery of German gold will not be completed until 2020 even though 300 tons could easily be shipped overnight on a few jumbo jets. ????

Could it be that the NY Fed, in the heart of the NY financial district, had allowed many of the 6700 tons of gold held there for the account of foreign central banks, to be re-hypothecated to investment banks for the lucrative gold swaps, leasing, and derivative business?  As commercial (i.e., bullion dealers such as JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs) CFTC positions have swung sharply away from the short side (refer to chart on p.1), Comex warehouse stocks have dwindled precipitously, dropping 32% or nearly 100 metric tonnes since the beginning of 2013.

Since the beginning of 2013, physical gold held by ETF’s such as GLD has dropped by 586 tonnes.  Where does the liquidated gold go?  The final destination is impossible to know, but the first stop is into the accounts of “authorized participants”, aka, bullion dealers such as JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs.  There are quite a few dots to connect here, but in our opinion, (and it is admittedly our speculation) an historic short squeeze is looming, and the insiders (bullion dealers) see it coming.  By using the paper market to crush the price of gold, they have attempted to shake loose physical gold to reduce their short exposure in order to minimize the damage from what lies ahead.

 

Because the Fed has already cornered the market on longer term Treasuries (they own more than 40% of all maturities greater than five years, and have purchased 41% of new Treasury issuance since 2009), any valid attempt to exit will, in our opinion, drive interest rates to levels far higher than compatible with sustainable economic growth.  The same can be said for a reduced pace of asset purchases or tapering.

The Fed’s dilemma is that its actions have caused interest rates across the yield curve to be well below likely free market rates.  The thought that the gap between artificial and market rates can be closed gradually seems delusional.  The mere whisper of tapering has already lead to substantial markdowns of fixed income valuations.  The specter of tapering or exit will not go away.  The prospect of a controlled exit is likely to be extremely challenging.  If the markets force the Fed’s hand ahead of its schedule, as we expect, the second order effects on financial asset values could be as unprecedented as the Fed’s past five years of intervention.

Why gold now more than ever?

We believe the two year correction has created an unusually compelling entry point.  The market is positioned in a very similar manner to the 2008 bottom which was followed by substantial returns for the next three years.  Valuations of mining equities are at historic lows, which to us means that one is paying nothing for the potential upside in the gold price.

Rock bottom sentiment suggests extremely negative scenarios have already been priced into the metal and the equities.  In our experience, investing against the crowd has generally been rewarding across all asset categories.

We also believe that the macro economic rationale for gold has never been stronger.  Should the economy strengthen, inflation risks are high because of the political and practical challenge of shrinking the Fed balance sheet.  Should the economy continue to sputter or turn down, the possibility of a financial market downgrade of sovereign credit would result in politically intolerable high interest rates.

Finally, severe pullbacks have typically set the stage for significant advances to new all-time highs.

 

New gold rush

A woman selects necklaces at a gold shop in Chinatown yesterday. People flocked to buy gold after the price dropped to below Bt18,000 per baht weight (about 15 grams)

Savers nationwide are flocking to gold shops, enticed by the falling price of the precious metal, which yesterday tumbled to a 34-month low amid fears of an end to the US quantitative easing policy.

Gold bar fell below Bt18,000 per baht weight for the first time since April 2010.

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Wisawa Wisawachaiwat, the owner of Jongluck Gold Shop in Phitsanulok, said the recent plunge had sparked new interest among small savers. “The prices have fallen to the lowest in years and they are expecting huge profits once the prices climb up again,” he said. Some clients took home gold bars worth 50-100 in baht weight.

The precious metal yesterday extended the decline to a 34-month low amid speculation that the US Federal Reserve will reduce stimulus with economic data beating estimates. Held as a safe bet against inflation, gold lost value as unprecedented money printing by central banks around the world failed to spur inflation.

A lack of accelerating inflation and concerns about the strength of the global economy is also hurting silver, platinum and palladium, which are used more in industry.

Bullion has slid 28 per cent this year, set for the biggest annual drop since 1981, after rallying for the past 12 years. About US$62.4 billion was wiped off the value of precious metals exchange-traded product holdings this year as some investors lost faith in them as a store of value.

While gold bullion slid to $1,180.50 an ounce early yesterday in Singapore, the lowest since August 2010, gold prices in Thailand followed the move. Local gold prices were adjusted 15 times yesterday in line with global volatility. At 5pm, gold bar was sold at Bt17,850 while ornaments were at Bt18,250 per baht weight.

Local gold price averaged Bt17,493.18 in April, 2010, when global prices averaged $1,145.72 per ounce and when the baht was at 32.29 to the US dollar.

Jitti Tangsitpakdi, president of Gold Traders’ Association of Thailand, believed that gold prices could decline further but would not fall below $1,100 per ounce. Cheap prices should spur new demand and the local prices could be cheaper if the baht does not weaken further against the US dollar.

Christin Tuxen, a senior analyst at Danske Bank in Copenhagen, who sees gold at $1,000 in three months, said: “The current environment is a fundamentally poisonous one for the yellow metal. Rising yields are upping the opportunity cost of holding gold, the initiation of a fundamental dollar up-trend weighs, inflation expectations are in decline as the commodities super-cycle wears off, and many tail risks have been sidelined.”

Investors sold 583.2 tonnes of gold this year.

“There’re still people who are interested in gold but because prices have fallen so much and so rapidly, they’ll wait for some stabilisation,” said Alexandra Knight, an economist at National Australia Bank. “There’s definitely been a loss of confidence in gold and that’s seen in the ETF liquidations.”

Source: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/business/New-gold-rush-30209352.html