In our first installment of this series we explored the concept of stock to flow in the gold markets being the key driver of supply/demand dynamics, and ultimately its price. Today we are going to explore the paper markets and, importantly, to what degree they distort upwardly the “flow” of the physical gold market. We believe the very existence of paper gold creates the illusion of physical gold flow that does not and physically cannot exist. After all, if flow determines price – and if paper flow simulates physical metal movement to a degree much larger than is possible – doesn’t it then suggest that paper flow creates an artificially low price?
Leveraged systems are based on confidence – confidence in efficient exchanges, confidence in reputable counterparties, and confidence in the rule of law. As we have learned (or should have learned) with the failures of Long Term Capital Management, Lehman Brothers, AIG, Fannie & Freddie, and MF Global – the unwind from a highly leveraged system can be sudden and chaotic. These systems function…until they don’t. CDOs were AAA... until they weren’t. Paper Gold is just like allocated, unambiguously owned physical bullion... until it’s not.
In a recent article at the NYT entitled 'Incredible Credibility', Paul Krugman once again takes aim at those who believe it may not be a good idea to let the government's debt rise without limit. In order to understand the backdrop to this, Krugman is a Keynesian who thinks that recessions should be fought by increasing the government deficit spending and printing gobs of money. Moreover, he is a past master at presenting whatever evidence appears to support his case, while ignoring or disparaging evidence that seems to contradict his beliefs. Krugman compounds his error by asserting that there is an 'absence of default risk' in the rest of the developed world (on the basis of low interest rates and completely missing point of a 'default' by devaluation). We are generally of the opinion that it is in any case impossible to decide or prove points of economic theory with the help of economic history – the method Krugman seems to regularly employ, but then again it is a well-known flaw of Keynesian thinking in general that it tends to put the cart before the horse (e.g. the idea that one can consume oneself to economic wealth).
A lesson to be learnt from the individuals who continue to buy European Debt
The mainstream media seem willing to sound the all-clear and bring us back from Defcon-3 on the back of what can generously be described by realists willing to look at the actual data as a 'murky' NFP print. The market's reaction seems modestly QE-off (with rates up decently) but the only modest drop in Gold appears to fit with a lack of conviction in the data (especially given the EUR sell-off on Papademos chatter). It seems, as Bloomberg reports, Kyle Bass is right to take the longer-view when he notes today "I'm against selling any of the gold" in UTIMCO's portfolio, pointing out the mounting risks from government deficits in US and Europe, "as every day goes by, I see deflation in the things you own and inflation in the things you need." Summing up the reality of our global situation, one of Bass's colleagues adds "This is a grand experiment and they typically never end well."