Presenting A Scientific Theory For The Fair Value Of Gold (With 88% Accuracy)

Tyler Durden's picture

The greatest mystery in finance is and always will be what the fair value of gold is. Unlike stocks, where fair valuations are usually based on some multiple of cash income, earnings, or dividends, gold has no inherent dividend, nor a positive carry, and thus value is confined the realm of the intangible. Some pundits have considered the fair value for gold a price which covers the currency in circulation in a given country on a dollar for dollar basis. Others attribute a floating valuation to gold such that is convertible to any asset at a specific ratio, to account for inflation over the ages. Yet others dismiss any valuation attempts outright as hogwash, claiming that gold has any value to it solely due to insane and deluded gold bugs manipulating the gold market ever higher, contrary to the earnest attempts of shorters such as a JP Morgan and Sempra who are merely trying to keep gold priced as fairly (i.e., closely to zero) as possible. Due to the various (and numerous) conflicting opinions, we read the following paper from University of Albany professors Faugère and Van Erlach "The price of gold: a global required yield theory" closely. In it the authors observe that gold is priced to yield a constant after-tax real return related to long-term productivity as defined by real long-term GDP/capita growth.

While we sincerely recommend that anyone who has even a passing interest in gold read the paper in its entirety, we present the key sections.

Assessing the fair value of gold largely remains a mystery in Finance. While in some instances the existing literature has found empirical relationships between gold prices and macroeconomic variables such as inflation and exchange rates, little evidence has been offered for connections between gold and other asset classes. To date, there is no comprehensive theory of gold valuation showing how inflation, exchange rates and other asset classes may together affect gold pricing; or how gold and other asset classes may be affected by common underlying factors.

In this paper, we offer a gold asset pricing theory that treats gold as a store of wealth. We demonstrate a theoretical and empirical link between gold price, inflation, and foreign exchange rates and the general valuation of the stock market. Our approach is based on a generalization of Required Yield Theory (Faugere-Van Erlach [2003]). Required Yield Theory explains the valuation of financial assets via investors’ general requirement to earn a minimum expected after-tax real return equal to long-term GDP/capita growth.

We hold that since gold fulfills the unique function of a global store of value, its yield must vary inversely to the yield required by any financial asset class, thus providing a hedge in the case where such assets are losing value. Our theory explains about 88% of actual $USD gold prices and 92% of actual gold returns on a quarterly basis, including the peak prices of gold, over the 1979-2002 period.

The extant literature has well documented empirical relationships between gold price and global macroeconomic variables such as inflation and currency exchange rates. For example, Sjaastad and Scacciavillani [1996] show that after excluding the sharp rise in gold prices in the early 1980’s, about half of the variance in $USD gold prices during the period 1982-1990 appears to be accounted for by fluctuation in real exchange rates. Ghosh, Levin et al. [2002] find that gold is mostly an inflation hedge in the long run. They further attempt to justify short-term gold price volatility by appealing for example to changes in the real interest rate and $USD vs. rest of the world exchange rates fluctuations.

On the other hand, the empirical record weighs heavily on the side that gold pricing apparently is related neither to GDP growth nor to other asset classes. Lawrence [2003] concludes that there is no statistically significant correlation between real returns on gold and changes in macroeconomic variables such as GDP, inflation and interest rates, and that the return on gold is less correlated with returns on equity and bond indices than are the returns of other commodities. Standing in contrast to the above findings, Coyne [1976] focuses primarily on gold as a hedging instrument and finds that for periods in which the gold market was free to fluctuate, gold tended to move in a direction opposite to the price of other financial assets.

Sherman [1983] makes a noted theoretical attempt at demystifying the pricing of gold. He uses a linear regression model to estimate elasticities of demand for gold. The key explanatory factors are exchange rates and unanticipated inflation proxies. While several useful relationships are studied, these relationships are assumed a-priori and not theoretically derived.

Barsky and Summers [1988] focus on the Gold Standard period and develop a general gold valuation model that views gold as a non-monetary durable good providing a stream of “consumption” services over time, like Jewelry or objects of art. They theoretically show a relationship between the inverse of the log of gold price and the real interest rate, which seems to hold empirically over the period 1974-1984. In their model, gold is a non-depreciable asset earning a yield equal to a government bond yield.

However, by rooting their model in the Gold Standard era, and extending their approach to the current era, they are not addressing the nature of Gold as a store of value, that is, a hedging instrument against inflation and the collapse of the value of other asset classes. In this paper, on the other hand, we undertake the analysis of gold along this exact line.

A brief overview of the proposed Required Yield Theory.

Throughout the history of civilization, gold has been the single most important global store of value. To this day, it fulfills this unique function. For the purpose of extending Required Yield Theory to gold pricing, we postulate the following: 1) The global real price of gold essentially is a real P/E ratio for gold, where “earnings” represent purchasing power or a global price index. 2) The global real price of gold must vary inversely to all other main financial asset classes’ real P/E to preserve the real value of any investor’s capital against adverse movements in the values of financial asset classes.2 3) Law of One Price: exchange rate fluctuations must impact local currency-denominated gold prices to eliminate potential international gold arbitrages. 4) Mining supply must be stable in relation to supply movements in the aboveground stock and the worldwide stock of gold per capita should not increase in the long run.

Condition 1) recognizes that even though gold does not produce actual earnings, its primary purpose is to provide a stream of services by maintaining real purchasing power over time. The same unit of gold can serve to purchase a representative basket of economic goods repeatedly. We define the forward P/E for gold as the price of gold divided by expected next period’s GDP deflator. It is easy to check that the real price of gold is the same as the real forward gold P/E ratio.3 Condition 2) insures that gold behaves as a store of value, that is: capital flows to gold are dictated by changes in the minimum expected return achievable by other asset classes. It is important to emphasize that gold per-se does not require the same yield as other assets, as it stands outside of the conventional realm of investment goals, and acts mostly as a global hedging tool against financial downturns, and inflation.

Hence, our theory postulates that movements in the global real price occur because of the precautionary demand for gold, which largely depends on changes in the inverse real P/E (or required yield) of other assets classes combined. A consequence of this postulate is that a decline in the value of the stock market index does not necessarily entail flight to gold when, for example, expected stock earnings are also falling to maintain a constant real P/E ratio. On the other hand, flight to gold will happen when stock market prices are dropping faster than expected earnings due to acceleration of inflation for example.

In addition, since gold is a global homogenous durable commodity its price must be equalized across countries after currency conversion, which is stated in condition 3). Finally, condition 4) states that the supply of gold must be stable so that investors’ precautionary motive is fulfilled without major price movements driven by supply shocks. Indeed this condition seems to be characteristic of the precious metal mining industry. Later on, we provide a formal argument that shows that this must be the case under our theory.

The authors provide the following useful brief overview of the gold market (obviously the price/oz is as of the paper's writing ca. 2005. The current price is approximately 3x the $380/oz used in this calculation):

The total aboveground value of gold in the world is currently around $1.9 trillion at $380/Troy oz. ($380/Toz. x 32,150.7 Toz./Metric ton x 155,000 Mtons) compared with the approximately $15 trillion value of the US stock market and $22.4 trillion for US non-financial debt outstanding. Gold mining is a $31 billion per year industry with gold prices at $380/Toz. Given that the price volatility of gold is around 10% per year, it is easy to see why production companies heavily engage in hedging their future production. Ibbotson, Siegel and Love [1985] estimated that gold bullion represented 5% of total investable world wealth. Today, total world gold bullion represents 5.1% of the combined US stock and bond capitalization of $37.4 trillion; and a thus a much smaller proportion of total world wealth than the Ibbotson et al. study.

The rate of growth of gold extraction has essentially matched world population growth over the past 30 years. IMF data show that the more developed nations’ population grew a compounded 1.45% from 1972 – 2002, while total world population grew a compounded 1.89%. The global accumulated stock of gold grew from an estimated 98,000 tons in 1974 to 145,000 tons by mid-2001; implying a 1.46% growth rate. Thus, the world stock of gold per-capita has remained relatively stable over this period.


A preliminary empirical investigation of the price of gold reveals a non-trivial connection between real gold prices and the US stock market. Figure 1 below shows that gold’s real price varies inversely to the S&P 500 P/E, and thus with the earnings-to-price ratio. Figure 1 shows the high correlation between indexed USD real gold prices, inverse S&P 500 forward P/E ratio and 10-year T-Bond, over the period 1979-2002.

The theory we develop below predicts and explains this high level of correlation based on viewing gold as a global store of value.

Cutting to the conclusion, it appears that the authors' theory provides a valid basis for extrapolating gold prices, beyond mere voodoo and predicting prices based on cow manure patterns.

We have extended the Required Yield Theory (RYT) developed by Faugere-Van Erlach [2003] to value gold and to determine its return. RYT states that since global assets are priced to yield a global constant real return, and since gold is a global store of value, its price will vary directly with the global required yield and the global inflation rate. In the course of developing this asset valuation model we introduced a new exchange rule parity based on required yields comparisons across countries.

Specific predictions include: 1) the real price of gold varies proportionately to the change in long-term economic productivity as measured by GDP/capita growth. 2) Real gold prices vary proportionately to changes in the foreign exchange rate (direct quotation) when the domestic required yield is constant. 3) When the foreign exchange rate is constant and there are no major geopolitical or natural crises, real domestic gold price increases with domestic inflation. 4) When our new exchange rate parity rule holds, then effectively the real domestic price of gold is mostly determined by the domestic required yield. This entails that foreign exchange effects will impact the domestic real gold price to the extent that equalization of required yields is not taking place worldwide and/or that PPP is violated as well. 5) In the long-term, the gold per-capita supply remains constant. 6) The average long-term absolute price of gold is marked-up cost where the profit margin is given by the global average long-term per-capita rate of GDP growth.

While we suspect that central bank activities, hedging activities, supply/demand fluctuations, global real GDP growth changes or changes in global income and capital gains tax rates, affect gold prices as well, the valuation approach developed here performs very well absent these factors, with over 92% accuracy in predicting US Gold returns over a 23-year period. We leave an investigation of the role of these other factors for future research.

As for the practical implications of these findings:

In the long run, the gold mining industry’s real profit margin is constant and equals the real per capita productivity. The price of gold, on average, must be the average production cost plus a constant mark-up. Furthermore, in order for the real value of gold to be maintained on a per investor basis, the stock of gold has to grow at a rate that can be no greater than population growth in the long-term. If the supply of gold grew at a lesser rate than population growth for reasons other than depletion of the exhaustible ore, gold price would grow faster than inflation and the quantity demanded for gold would drop. Eventually the supply of mined gold will dwindle, which will drive prices up unless world population experiences zero growth in the foreseeable future. In that circumstance, far off in the future, a substitute medium of storing value may be discovered and used.

Another prediction of our theory of gold pricing is that the decrease in proportion of gold total value as compared to world wealth is explained by RYT in the fact that relative to financial assets, the long-term nominal value of gold must increase at the inflation rate, whereas the value of other assets rise with inflation plus real productivity. Thus, the proportion of investable wealth declines at an annual rate equal to real per share earnings growth or GDP/capita growth.

While we are certain that this paper's findings will not even bring the massive divide between gold fans and pessimists even an inch closer, having a solid, reproducible basis in which to reproduce the authors' results could be sufficient for some crazy quant to put together a HFT algo which will trade gold based on the postulates presented herein. And with an 88% prediction rate (absent major outliers events), we are confident that this could be an appropriate problem to reverse engineer (if it hasn't been already).

Full paper by Faugère


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Gold...Bitches's picture

'fair value' is much higher going forward.

pslater's picture

Ignore a 92% correlation at your own peril.......your conclusion of 'fair value' suggests a collapse of other assets - which I agree with!

Anonymous's picture

How about a paper on what a dollar is worth?
What is the difference between a $1 bill and $100 bill? Extra ink?
Does Fed even know how many dollars exist?

Anonymous's picture

It comes down to trust.

If you don't trust Mugabe and his fellow crooks, a trillion Zimbabwe dollars are worth nothing. Even if they can be exchanged for something today, perhaps not tomorrow.

What is a reichsmark or a CSA dollar worth? Once something, now nothing.

Do you trust the US govt? Do you trust Wall St?

Anonymous's picture

As the author states, Gold is a hedge against inflation.
Show me inflation?

We've already had it over the last 25 years. Going forward is nothing but deleveraging, reduced CPI, and deflation.

Anonymous's picture

Price out some services.

Attending college,
Having heart surgery,
Buying a congressman...

Anonymous's picture

Gold is a hedge against devaluation and deflation and other instabilities, not so much inflation. Gold is money, USD is a derivate. Since -71 it is not even connected to its underlying asset. It is amazing.
A collapsing currency is deflationary i nominal terms (Island) and always in real terms (Island, Zimbabwe). You think deflation is always good for the value of the currency? It is not. Can you give one example in history, where debt deflation/bankruptcy increased the value of the currency (to gold)?
Any country with a printing press will print.

Anonymous's picture

Gold = "In God I trust"
FRN = "In Satan I trust"

Jerome Lester Horwitz's picture

Edwin Viera Jr. - What Is A "Dollar"? An Historical Analysis Of The Fundamental Question In Monetary Policy

Well worth the read!

Before you can determine what a dollar is worth you first have to understand what a dollar is.

Anonymous's picture

Good paper. It points out that what we think of a dollar (a single paper dollar bill) is not a dollar. I think Greenspan once said that a dollar is 100 cents.

The correct price of dollar (beyond what somebody is willing to pay) is hard to determine.

What is easy to determine is the general trend in valuation of fiat currencies. To do this choose your relevant time period (1 year, 10 years, 100 years) and consider that currency's ability to purchase a basket of goods and services that matter to you (food, shelter, fuel, medical care, education,...)

Another method of trend valuation is consider if trust in the printing authority (Federal Reserve) is rising or falling and whether there is any reason for that trend to change.

"Toto, we're not in Kansas anymore, and that man behind the curtain seems venal."

Anonymous's picture

How to Value Gold in terms of USD.

Gold = ( # of USD in existence / level of trust in Federal Reserve ) / # ounces of gold mined

to simplify...

( unknown positive integer / 0.0000000...1 ) / 3.X Billion


USD value per ounce of gold = ~infinity / 3.X Billion

pslater's picture

Arguably one of the most valuable (and timely) pieces ever done on ZH.  I'll be working on some spreadsheets real soon......

VegasBD's picture

Well that explains why most of it went right over my head.

Or it could be the bottle of Makers Mark I just found in my cabinet...

percolator's picture

Since I assume you live in Vegas and I do too, we ought to get together as I'm fond of bourbon and hate to see people drinking alone.

gmrpeabody's picture

Maker's Mark......well at least some of us are doing alright.


I drink alone, and when I do, I prefer to be by myself.

DoChenRollingBearing's picture

Hey, pslater, if you do run some spreadsheets (checking correlations between 2005 and now for example), please advise the ZH community, in this thread or the next convenient gold thread.

The paper is way too dense to plough through on a Friday night for me, the math alone will take me sometime to digest.

Still, if the authors are right, this is an important set of knowledge for those of us who like gold.

Gold...Bitches said fair value is about to increase substantially.  I agree.  If fair value goes up like FOFOA thinks, then, well, the authors may have gotten it all wrong.  Or maybe not, I will have to read the paper to better judge their conclusions.

In these crazy times, we may soon get to see!

Anonymous's picture

This paper has been out there for five years.....

Crodus's picture

Well, do you feel as if there is new knowledge in this article? Much of it falls back on common sense once you have the field data to form an opinion with some backing. The market value of gold has "a non-trivial connection between real gold prices and the US stock market," which bases itself on its dependence on an established trading system. Trying to find the lurking variables that it is dependent upon is the trick. Dependence hides when the bubble grows because the system's strength drives away the need to look for connected ties between parallel industries. It changes with the entrance of weakness in a sector of the market and the shifting investment wealth (buying frenzies, HFT, apocalypse-worshippers) overload one sector and bring the dependence/independence of it into focus.

Also, I don't think people appreciate the workings of crisis when they aren't happening. Gold has been rising the last decade but everything else lost its appeal in the later half of this blessed millennium.

As a part of the younger generations, I'll hold a grudge to those in the US who blew the chances of a superpower and mourn the patriots who gave us a missed chance.

Get_to_the_choppa's picture

This is why I love and hate ZH.  Here I was all set to turn off the brain for a bit and go watch some of the Olympics on tee vee, and now I'm going to have to read this paper.  Actually I think it's mostly ice dancing tonight so maybe not so much of a loss...

WaterWings's picture

Love your damn avatar. And not to grafitti your billboard:

Eventually the supply of mined gold will dwindle, which will drive prices up unless world population experiences zero growth in the foreseeable future.

What about reverse-growth from because of massive die-offs from starvation, bio-engineered catastrophes, and straight up hot lead?



WaterWings's picture

In that circumstance, far off in the future, a substitute medium of storing value may be discovered and used.

Well if it ain't a precious metal it'll be the same murderous musical chairs ad nauseum.

Anonymous's picture

Well, there's cryptographic digital tokens currently in development by computer scientists and economists. Here's a link to a discussion in Mises Institute.

The supply of tokens is limited by computing power which in turn is limited by the cost of electricity which in turn is limited by energy production. It's designed so that new tokens require more computing power to create and annual production is actually declining. Given enough time, as the pool gets disproportionally larger and as annual production drops, the supply will be nearly constant. It's hard to know which design of digital currency, all in experimental stage, will ultimately be chosen, if ever, by the Market in the future.

Before precious metal, humanity has used seashells, tea leaves, and feathers as a store of value. Now, some people use wine and cigarettes. I won't be surprise if future economies used abstract mathematics as a store of value and the Market is priced as such. Economists will need to write a paper on the fair value of cryptographic hashes, prime numbers, elliptic curves, etc.

chumbawamba's picture


There can be only One.

I am Chumbawamba.

dumpster's picture

soros buys gold

rogers buys gold

poulson buys gold

india buys gold

china buys gold

sinclair buys gold

hedge funds buying gold

paupers  yep lol

chumbawamba's picture

Chumbawamba buys gold.

Enough said :)

I am Chumbawamba.

Anonymous's picture

Paulson bought 5x the Citigroup, Bank America, WellsFargo that he bought gold.

In fact, thats true across the HF complex... Soros, Tepper, Lambert, Mandel.

So if you like smart HFs... you like Financial stocks.

Anonymous's picture

Who's left to buy at a higher price? Me?

Get_to_the_choppa's picture

Aw shucks fellas. *kicks a rock*


chumbawamba's picture

Ow! FUCK!  Watch where you kick those things!!

percolator's picture

10-4 on that choppa.  If ZH does not stop posting so much quality content I might sue them for ruining my social life.

Jay's picture

I like to price gold against gasoline for a rough idea of whether gold is cheap or dear. In 1960 gasoline was about 30cents a gallon and gold was $35 per ounce, so it took about .0086oz of gold for the gallon of gas. Now it takes about .0027oz for the gallon.

swmnguy's picture

That's a good one.  I read somewhere that an ounce of gold, ever since Roman times, would buy one a good suit, belt and shoes.  Nothing too extravagant, but good enough stuff.  Again, an attempt to quantify the price in terms one can readily grasp.

Anonymous's picture

Since Roman times, the human population has multiplied at a higher rate than the physical volume of gold in circulation


Bam_Man's picture

And technology and global trade have greatly lowered the production cost of suits, belts and shoes.

VegasBD's picture

Think thats in the crash course videos.

But Ive found that to be true about a lot of things.

Gold tends to always buy the same amount of 'stuff' with a natural amount of deflation over time from better manufacturing processes.

Hansel's picture

I expect an ounce to be more valuable than your comparison now, i.e. maybe 1/4 or 1/10 ounce for the same garb.  The reason is there are far more people around now such that the amount of all mined gold yields about 1 oz per person globally, and additionally you would need to considered that large amounts of said gold is held out of circulation by central banks.  I've been thinking of many different metrics for the worth of gold.  Another comparison I've thought about is what price of gold would be required to balance the Federal Reserve's balance sheet after applying an appropriately marked down valuation to the assets on the Fed's balance sheet, including an interest rate for Treasuries I think more appropriate given the deficit problems, so that assets equal liabilities (the Fed's liability side consists of cash).  One can come up with all kinds of different prices.

faustian bargain's picture

A nice suit, not even a bespoke one but only made-to-measure, is going to cost you way more than $1000.

So the whole suit thing runs into the steak-vs-hamburgers deal.

Anonymous's picture

Try buying both in East Asia.

Hansel's picture

Maybe.  But the argument gets into the whole "is gold money" predicament.  At 1 oz/person if gold is the only real money (which I realize it probably isn't), you are saying that the entirety of a persons wealth, on average, will only buy a suit.  I was implying that a fair value of gold is higher than its current price around $1100.

Hansel's picture

Here's more food for thought.  The U.S. has 262 million oz of gold worth $292 billiion at today's market price.  That gold is the country's accumulation of wealth through its entire history.  This years deficit at ~$1.5 trillion is ~5.1 times its entire gold supply.  Last year was about the same.  By printing (debt-backed) money in the fashion we are, we claim to produce 5x the wealth (in gold) accumulated in 222 years, every year.  Which money has more value?

mouser98's picture

i think you could increase the value another magnitude by comparing gold reserves to public debt "reserve", currently at $12.4 billion.  that yields a factor of X42


Anonymous's picture

Give me your house and car and I promise you your wealth won't drop. Thank you in advance.

Hansel's picture

If you give me some gold in return.

Anonymous's picture

Hansel: The U.S. has 262 million oz of gold worth $292 billiion(sp) at today's market price. That gold is the country's accumulation of wealth through its entire history. This years deficit at ~$1.5 trillion is ~5.1 times its entire gold supply.

Me: Give me your house and car and I promise you your wealth won't drop. Thank you in advance.

Hansel: If you give me some gold in return.

You didn't catch my point did you? There's more to wealth than the accumulation of gold. To calculate a deficit to gold ratio and think you've done anything of any real significance is the dumbest fucking idea ever.

Hansel's picture

Clown, do you think of your wealth as 1 house and 1 car, or as a house worth $XXXXX dollars and a car worth $XXXXX dollars?  I'll put words in your mouth and say yes, but those things are only worth what you can sell them for.  Enter money.  If U.S. dollars aren't money and gold is, see my prior posts.  Mental midget.

faustian bargain's picture

I agree that the undistorted value of gold is going to be way more than $1100 (today's equivalent). I think the entirety of a person's wealth is not represented by the amount of money they hold though...unless you expand the word 'money' to mean anything that has a value...which would be impractical.