Sprott Asset Management
After a long and agonizing winter which was attributed to the so-called “Polar Vortex”, we thought it would be appropriate to highlight for precious metal investors the implications of what we call the “Chinese Gold Vortex”. Over the past year, we have been very vocal about what we consider an aberration: the complete disconnect between gold supply and demand fundamentals and the actual price of the metal.
Gold declined from $1,900 in September 2011 to $1,188 on December, 19, 2013. Silver declined from $48.50 to $18.50 over approximately the same time frame. Precious metal equities declined by approximately 70% over this period. This move down played out exactly as was scripted. However, let us review the causes of this decline. We start out with the most important words ever written by a regulator: BaFin, the German equivalent of the SEC, said that precious metals prices were manipulated worse than LIBOR. What are we to read into this, particularly the word “worse”? Obviously, worse than LIBOR could not mean that more money was fraudulently earned since the LIBOR markets are many orders of magnitude larger than the precious metals markets. Then it must mean that the egregiousness of the pricing dysfunction was materially larger in precious metals.
The Inteligencia Financiera Global blog (Global Financial Intelligence Blog) is honored to present another exclusive interview now with GATA’s Bill Murphy.
A common argument that has been made to explain the precipitous decline of the price of precious metals in 2013 (in spite of the significat demand for the physical bullion) is of investors’ disenchantment with gold and silver, which had been piling up in exchange traded products as a way for investors to gain exposure to the metals. However if redemptions are a symptom of investors' disenchantment with precious metals as an investment, shouldn't silver have suffered the same dramatic redemptions fate as gold? Indeed it should have, but we think the reason silver ETFs were not raided like gold was that Central Banks do not have a silver supply problem, they have a gold problem...
I like Professor Shiller and respect his work. Really, I do, but... Massive bubbles, the sort of the proportion of the 2008 crisis, are nigh impossible to miss if you can add single digits successfully and are able to keep your eyes open for a few minutes at a time. Yes, I truly do feel its that simple. I saw the property bubble over a year in advance, cashed out and came back in shorting - all for a very profitable round trip. Was I a genius soothsayer? Well, maybe in my own mind, but the reality of the situation is I was simply paying attention. Let's recap:
Recent dramatic declines in gold prices and strong redemptions from physical ETFs (such as the GLD) have been interpreted by the financial press as indicating the end of the gold bull market. Conversely, our analysis of the supply and demand dynamics underlying the gold market does not support this interpretation. As we have shown in previous articles, the past decade has seen a large discrepancy between the available gold supply and sales. Many recent events suggest that the Central Banks are getting close to the end of their supplies and that the physical market for gold is becoming increasingly tight. The recent sell-off was all orchestrated to increase supply and tame demand. We believe that central planners are now running out of options to suppress the gold price. After taking a pause, the secular gold bull market is set to continue.
Recent outflows from physical gold exchange traded products have been interpreted by the financial press as a sign of weakness in the demand for gold as an investment vehicle. However, a closer look at the evidence suggests otherwise - the evidence presented here suggests that, contrary to what has been stated in the financial press, the flows out of the SPDR Gold Trust may have been generated by the bullion banks to take advantage of an arbitrage opportunity in the physical market. This arbitrage opportunity occurred because of the intense demand for gold stemming from Asia and the inability of traditional suppliers to provide this gold (hence the large Shanghai premium). We believe that this activity further supports our hypothesis that there is a lack of availability of physical gold and an obvious dislocation between the physical and paper gold markets.
Manufacturing data in the last several months has suggested that economic growth around the world is slowing. However, China’s export growth surprised the market this week and unexpectedly accelerated in April, even as shipments to the U.S. and Europe fell. This has created a conundrum for analysts and market watchers. How can China be growing while the countries that purchase its exports are slowing? As we noted earlier, the numbers don’t add up. Many analysts have attributed China’s increasing imports as signs of a healthy manufacturing sector, or increasing investments in infrastructure and property. Our simple analysis shows that more than one third of the increase in imports is due to China’s increasing gold consumption. This new gold buying could have a significant impact on Chinese import statistics and force analysts to reconsider the strength of the Chinese domestic economy.
With the financial experts claiming, some gleefully, that gold has "lost its safe haven status" in the aftermath of its biggest tumble in 30 years, many commentators thought (hoped?) that the dramatic price drop would steer people away from gold ownership. To my eyes, the past week has all the earmarks of a high-gloss propaganda campaign complete with well-placed anti-gold stories in the media and the careful use of language aimed at sowing doubt about gold's ability to be a store of wealth. But for those who consider gold a store of value, the recent gold slam is a gift: an invitation to purchase more sound money with fewer units of paper currency. In other words, a sweet deal. Gold and silver on sale and the world is taking advantage.
Société Générale (“SocGen”) recently published a special report entitled “The end of the gold era” that garnered far more attention than we think it deserved. The majority of the report focused on SocGen’s “crash scenario” for gold wherein they suggest that gold could fall well below their 2013 target of US$1,375/oz. It also included a classic criticism that we’ve heard so many times before: that the gold price is in “bubble territory”. We have problems with both suggestions.
We are currently in an environment where policy makers are intent on devaluing their currencies in an effort to create growth. Real rates continue to stay negative in most of the developed world. Every marginal dollar of debt that is created is producing lower and lower amounts of growth. In a world overwhelmed by mountains of debt and economic growth which is sub-par at best, precious metals and real assets can act as insurance against the stupidity of policy makers. The evidence pointing towards the suppression of the gold price is becoming increasingly apparent. Don’t be the last person to figure this out! The current sell-off in gold should be viewed not with extreme trepidation but as an unbelievable opportunity to buy the metal at an artificially low value.
Eric Sprott's findings support the growing meme that there is a massive bullion transfer from West to East. This should particularly concern those in the U.S., EU and Canada as his suspicion is that, increasingly, it's monetary gold that is being sold. "We are well into the financial crisis. Everyone’s trying to keep it together, even though it would appear from the reading of the economy things are not going well at all here. And everyone's ignoring things. But I think, in their hearts, the Central Bankers must know what they’re doing is totally irresponsible. And the tell of that irresponsibility – which is the debasing of the currencies – is the fact that real things will go up in value. This should be reflected in the price of gold and silver." For precious metals holders licking their wounds from the carnage of the past several months , this note offers both new insights and sound reminders of the long-term reasons for owning gold and silver.
Our analysis of the physical gold market shows that central banks have most likely been a massive unreported supplier of physical gold, and strongly implies that their gold reserves are negligible today. If Frank Veneroso’s conclusions were even close to accurate back in 1998 (and we believe they were), when coupled with the 2,300 tonne net change in annual demand we can easily identify above, it can only lead to the conclusion that a large portion of the Western central banks’ stated 23,000 tonnes of gold reserves are merely a paper entry on their balance sheets – completely un-backed by anything tangible other than an IOU from whatever counterparty leased it from them in years past. At this stage of the game, we don’t believe these central banks will be able to get their gold back without extreme difficulty, especially if it turns out the gold has left their countries entirely. We can also only wonder how much gold within the central bank system has been ‘rehypothecated’ in the process, since the central banks in question seem so reluctant to divulge any meaningful details on their reserves in a way that would shed light on the various “swaps” and “loans” they imply to be participating in. We might also suggest that if a proper audit of Western central bank gold reserves was ever launched, as per Ron Paul’s recent proposal to audit the US Federal Reserve, the proverbial cat would be let out of the bag – with explosive implications for the gold price.... We realize that some readers may scoff at any analysis of the gold market that hints at “conspiracy”. We’re not talking about conspiracy here however, we’re talking about stupidity. After all, Western central banks are probably under the impression that the gold they’ve swapped and/or lent out is still legally theirs, which technically it may be. But if what we are proposing turns out to be true, and those reserves are not physically theirs; not physically in their possession… then all bets are off regarding the future of our monetary system.
If you wanted to sum up the just-concluded Casey Research/Sprott Inc. Summit titled Navigating the Politicized Economy, you could say "The situation is hopeless but not serious." More than 20 speakers – many of them world-renowned financial experts and best-selling authors – gathered in Carlsbad, CA, from September 7 to 9 to ascertain exactly how hopeless, and what investors can do to protect themselves.