The sharp losses in the gold mining sector Friday and last week could presage further weakness today but the higher weekly closes for gold and silver were constructive from a technical perspective.
After initial gains in Asia, gold fell early in Asian trading prior to recovering and then weakening again bang on 0800 GMT as Europe opened (see chart below).
Gold is higher in euro and Swiss franc terms but slightly lower in dollars and pounds.
On occasion of the publication of his new gold report (read here), Ronald Stoeferle talked with financial journalist Lars Schall about fundamental gold topics such as: "financial repression"; market interventions; the oil-gold ratio; the renaissance of gold in finance; "Exeter’s Pyramid"; and what the true "value" of gold could actually look like. Via Matterhorn Asset Management.
In historic times, it is worthwhile having an historic perspective.
Gold Has Fallen Due To:
- Gold’s recent weakness is in large part due to a period of recent dollar strength. While gold in dollar terms has fallen by 25% ($1,920 to $1,540), gold in euro terms is only down by 14% (from €1,374/oz to €1,210/oz).
- Oil weakness – since the end of February, oil has fallen from $111 a barrel to below $95 a barrel (NYMEX) today. Gold and oil are often correlated and many buy gold to hedge inflation that comes from higher oil prices.
- Gold’s weakness may also have been due to wholesale liquidation in all risk markets due another bout of "risk off" which has seen global equities and commodities all come under pressure.
- Physical demand from retail investors in the western world has slowed down as did demand from India in recent weeks due to the increase in taxes on bullion (since removed).
- Much of the selling has been technical in nature – whereby more speculative elements on the COMEX who trade gold on a proprietary basis have been selling gold due to the recent price weakness and the short term trend clearly being down. This has led to speculative longs now having their smallest positions since December 2008.
India is known for its historically high per capita demand for gold, particularly before festivals and the wedding season, which peaks in the months of October to December. With more than ¼ of the entire global world market for the metal, the country has long been leading world demand, though fellow BRIC member China is catching up. But recent developments in India have gold bugs stirring – protests, boycotts, and a proposal for a tax on the sale on gold jewelry has severely dampened demand ahead of one of the most lucrative festivals in the country. And with global gold prices down more than 10% since their February high of $1,787.75, there seems to be good reason to worry. While acceleration in gold prices and Indian GDP seem to link up as do Indian demand and global GDP growth, increases in demand have little correlation to gold price growth. Similarly, rampant inflation has almost no role in stifling demand for the metal. If these correlations - and the seasonal performance patterns - hold true in 2012, gold investors might be able to sleep a little easier. While none of this guarantees that gold will experience some kind of meteoric rise to $2k, especially given all the other factors that contribute to prices, Nic Colas, of ConvergEx, thinks it’s safe to say that the supposed softening demand in India shouldn’t be too concerning. The US has bought 42% less gold than it did in 2006. So when it comes to declining gold prices, don’t jump to blame India. After all, it isn’t even wedding season yet...
It is not a question of whether a country preserves the value of its currency. It is whether the currency has helped to promote the business within that country. Business is the objective not the preservation of value. A currency that is sufficiently elastic for business may not hold its value relative to gold. That does not make it a bad currency. Indeed, I see one of the big problems with EMU as being that countries are undergoing all sorts of pain to preserve a currency while that currency is doing nothing for them but causing them pain. EMU has it backwards. Setting an economy up on gold might preserve the currency values but might do it at a cost of growth and higher unemployment. How is that good?
Gold hit a 4 month low today despite deepening worries that the political upheaval in Greece may sink the country into chaos and endanger the euro zone's efforts to end the debt crisis – possibly leading to contagion and or a monetary crisis. Some decent demand from South East Asia has been reported at the $1,600/oz level and there are also reports from Reuters of a “semi-official buyer of gold” emerging “on dip below $1,600/oz”. Gold’s weakness yesterday may have been again due to dollar strength and oil weakness - oil is now below $97 a barrel (NYMEX). It may also have been due to wholesale liquidation which created a new bout of "risk off" which has seen global equities and commodities all come under pressure. However, gold’s weakness yesterday was also contributed to by more unusual trading activity. As trading in New York got underway, there was an unusually large bout of selling with some 6,000 gold futures contracts sold in minutes and this led to gold's initial $10 fall to the $1,615/oz level. Momentum driven algorithm trading may have then led to follow through selling and the initial sell off may have emboldened tech traders to sell more leading to the falls below $1,600/oz.
While Turkey has assured the U.S. government it will cut purchases of oil from Iran by 20% this year, its total trade with the Islamic Republic increased 47% to $4.8 billion in the first quarter from a year earlier. Sanctions aimed at isolating Iran because of its nuclear program, combined with revolutions in the Middle East, have spurred a tripling in the region’s purchases of Turkish precious metals and jewels to $942 million in the first three months, from $282 million in the same period last year. This 30% increase in demand is contributing to gold remaining above $1,600/oz in what has all the hallmarks of another period of consolidation prior to higher prices. “Turkey is exporting massive quantities of gold to Iran and Arab Spring countries as citizens in those countries switch to portable wealth,” Mert Yildiz, chief economist for Turkey at Renaissance Capital, told Bloomberg on April 30. The increase in trade with Iran comes as sanctions make it harder for trading partners such as Turkey, India and China to pay in dollars and euros. Iran said in February it would accept payment in any local currency or gold. Reuters report today that Iran is accepting payments in yuan for some of the crude oil it supplies to China, the Iranian ambassador to the United Arab Emirates said on Tuesday. "Yes, that is correct," Mohammed Reza Fayyaz told Reuters when asked to comment on an earlier report in The Financial Times.
Nut cases. That’s what they are. And if you take an interest in them, you are a nut case, too. That’s the consensus among credentialed economists who describe advocates of a return to the monetary regime known as the gold standard. In fact, the economic pack will marginalize you as a weirdo faster than you can say "Jacques Rueff," if you even raise the topic of monetary policy in relation to gold. If we are going to speak of consensus, let’s not forget one that is truly universal: Our economic system stands a good chance of breakdown in coming years. The only way to limit damage from such a breakdown is to ready ourselves to choose other models by learning about them now. Not to do so would be nuts.
5 days ago saw the 150th year anniversary of an event so historic that a very select few even noticed: the birth of US fiat. Bloomberg was one of the few who commemorated the birth of modern US currency: "On April 2, 1862, the first greenback left the U.S. Treasury, marking the start of a new era in the American monetary system.... The greenbacks were originally intended to be a temporary emergency-financing measure. Almost bankrupt, the Treasury needed money to pay suppliers and troops. The plan was to print a limited supply of United States notes to meet the crisis and then have people convert the currency into Treasury bonds. But United States notes grew in popularity and continued to circulate." The rest, as they say is history. In the intervening 150 years, the greenback saw major transformations: from being issued by the Treasury and backed by gold, it is now printed, mostly in electronic form, by an entity that in its own words, is "set up similarly to private corporations, but operated in the public interest." Of course, when said public interest is not the primary driver of operation, the entity, also known as the Federal Reserve is accountable to precisely nobody. Oh, and the fiat money, which is now just a balance sheet liability of a private corporation, and thus just a plug to the Fed's deficit monetization efforts, is no longer backed by anything besides the "full faith and credit" of a country that is forced to fund more than half of its spending through debt issuance than tax revenues.
On Thursday morning, President Hu Jintao of China, President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia , President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India shook hands at the start of the one day meeting in New Delhi. Top of the agenda was the creation of the grouping's first institution, a so-called "BRICS Bank" that would fund development projects and infrastructure in developing nations. Less noticed and commented upon is the aspirations of the BRIC nations to become less dependent on the global reserve currency, the dollar and to position their own currencies as internationally traded currencies. The leaders of BRIC nations and other emerging market nations have adopted the idea of conducting trade between the five nations in their own currencies. Two agreements, signed among the development banks of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, say that local currency loans will be made available for trade between these countries. The five fast growing nations participating in local currency trade will allow participants to diversify their foreign exchange reserves, hedging against the growing risk of a euro or dollar crisis. The BRICS want to have easy convertibility of currency to make it easier to use the real, ruble, rupee, renminbi and rand amongst themselves without having to always use the US dollar. Higher intra-Brics trade, conducted in their own currencies would shield their economies from economic dislocations in the west. Left unsaid so far is the possibility that one of the BRICs or the BRICs in unison might peg the value of their respective currencies to the ultimate store of value and money - gold.
Sean Corrigan presents an interesting chart for everyone who still believes that, contrary to millennia of evidence otherwise, money is not fungible. Such as the Lerry Meyers of the world, who in a CNBC interview earlier said the following: "I’m sorry, I’m sorry, you think he doesn't have the right model of inflation, he would allow hyperinflation. Not a prayer. Not a prayer. If you wanted to forecast inflation three or four years out and you don't have it close to 2%, I don't know why. Balance sheet, no impact. Level of reserves, no impact, so you have a different model of inflation, hey, you like the hawk on the committee, you got good company." (coupled with a stunning pronouncement by Steve Liesman: "I think the Fed is going to be dead wrong on inflation. I think inflation is going up." - yes, quite curious for a man who for the longest time has been arguing just the opposite: 5 minutes into the clip). Because despite what monetary theorists say, monetary practitioners know that money always finds a way to go from point A (even, or especially if, said point is defined as "excess reserves" which in a stationary phase generate a ridiculously low cash yield) to point B, where point B are risk assets that generate the highest returns. Such as high beta stocks (and of course crude and other hard commodities). And the following chart of Inside vs Outside Money from Sean Corrigan shows precisely how this is accomplished.
I feel almost inclined to apologize for the number of times I trot out the gold bugs index analog, but - - well - - I think it's important. Week after week, this analog has held together and strengthened itself. Here's a grid chart comparing the 2005-2008 period (top) to the recent market history (bottom):