Into The Gold Labyrinth

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The surprise of 2014 is gold! The yellow precious metal had its fourth week of gains in a row. It seems like the gold market has been ‘set free’ in 2014. This would mean the end of the cyclical correction, which indicates that the market is ready for the big and final phase of the secular bull run in gold. All of this fits perfectly with everything we have been saying for years about gold.

For those who didn't notice, please read our free Guide to Gold.

One thing becomes very clear here: gold is moving from the West to the East. Chinese gold import from Hong Kong has been rising dramatically since 2011 and at the same time, the gold price has seen a 30% correction. This brought up a lot of questions from subscribers.

Hong-Kong-China-monthly-net-exports-gold

Source: Toqueville Funds / Bloomberg

"How is it possible that the price goes down when there is huge demand?!” To know the answer you have to look at the futures market. Because that is where the market price for gold is set. Yes, you read it well: paper contracts dictate the price of the physical metal.

Since 2011 there are a lot of ‘sell contracts’ for gold, better known as short positions. This caused huge downward pressure on the gold price. An ideal way for China to buy physical gold cheaply. But the Chinese were not the active shorters. American investment banks did that, with JPMorgan in the lead. JPM, AKA, the ‘banker’ of the US government.

JPMorgan built up an historical short position over the years. But at the same time, the bank was bringing in more and more physical gold to store it in its vault below the famous Chase Manhattan Plaza in New York. Where does this gold come from? Just look at the chart for the registered physical gold at warehouses with the COMEX, the American futures market.

COMEX warehouse gold

Source: 24hGold

The COMEX has been sucked dry in the last year. You will never guess who recently signed a sale agreement for the JPM building in the center of New York, underground gold vaults included… yes, you got it, the Chinese!

Those who want an even better view, should check out the next photo of the new situation in NY.

JPMorgen Chase Manhatten Building now belongs to the Chinese

(H/t Koos Jansen)

Yes, that is correct, the vaults of the Fed are right across from the Chase Manhattan Plaza. Coincidence? We do not think so... But the reserves in the US are naturally insufficient to satisfy the Chinese hunger for gold. The effect of the price correction made sure that the ‘weak hands’ in the gold market let go of their gold. Weak hands is a synonym for (small) investors.

Since the rise of the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD) in 2007, more and more investors committed larger amounts of capital to the gold ETF. At the peak of the market there were 1,300 tonnes of gold in GLD, more than countries like China. That was also not part of the Chinese plan. You probably understand by now where this is going. When the gold price got shaken up, those same investors stepped out of GLD.

Meanwhile, more than 500 tonnes of gold was pulled out of GLD, which implies that the ETF has less than 800 tonnes of gold today.

GLD tonnage gold holdings

Where did all this GLD gold go? From the vaults in London, to the smelters in Switzerland to the depots in… Hong Kong! And now we are full circle again: the enormous transfer of gold from Hong Kong to China. All of this – large scale price manipulation in combination with huge gold transfers – is not a walk in the park. All parties need to cooperate.

So it would be hard to imagine that it did not happen with the approval of the US government and the Fed. And probably forced by China! Let us clarify that. China has stopped buying US debt since 2011. That was also the moment that the Fed needed to jump in to support the market. After QE we quickly saw QE2, QE3…

QE Fed base

Without these actions from the Fed there would not have been a single buyer of US Treasuries, which would probably mean the end of the American empire. China wanted, or rather demanded, its gold from the West! You can say many things about the Chinese but they certainly are not dumb.

The Chinese realized that for years they received a poisoned gift from the Americans. Only through the acquisition of gold, both world powers would be on a ‘level playing field’ again. Of course, we do not know where this level playing field is, but we do assume that China has more or less reached it. How much gold landed in China since 2011, is very hard to determine. In 2013 alone, more than 2,000 tons was transferred from Hong Kong to China. And this is just one of the import routes. China is not just buying gold from its own gold mines, but is also directly or indirectly the largest customer of most gold producers. All melted gold also found its way to China.

In short, China was the gold market in the last two years!

However, we are spotting a few signals indicating that China is releasing its grip on the gold market. Not only has the continuous drain from GLD stopped, but we also read that China has started buying US Treasuries again. Even more, the Chinese portfolio of US government bonds is at record levels! Now you also know why the American central bank suddenly started ‘tapering’, or scaling back the buyback program of US debt.

Does China have enough gold then? It would not surprise us.

A small calculation taught us the following:

  • The US owns more than 8,000 tonnes of gold while the yearly US GDP is just shy of 16 trillion dollars. The yearly GDP of China is a little over 8 trillion dollars, almost half. You would expect then that the level playing field for gold in China hovers around 4,000 tonnes.
  • The official amount of gold in the Chinese central bank is still 1,054 tonnes today, but because of the huge gold transfers these last years, we expect that China is close to its golden level playing field.

We do admit, it is a lot of information to digest, but it is extremely important! You have to understand that the US, with the largest pile of debt in the world, would be helped hugely by a higher gold price. The higher the value of gold, the lower the real value of their debt. We have the feeling that if China loosens its grip on the gold market, the gold price can move up quite fast. There is nothing that America wants more and China is now well-hedged.

Where can the gold price go to then? Another small calculation to help us out...

The historical ratio of the monetary base of the Fed teaches us that a gold price of 5,000 to 7,000 dollars/ounce should be enough for the US to make its debt bearable again. From the current level this means at least a quadrupled gold price. For most people this seems improbably high, but do not forget that since the start of the secular trend in gold, its price already went 5x higher. Also in the 70s, the gold price skyrocketed in its second phase from 100 dollars to 850 dollars per ounce in barely four years!

As for now, we're in the midst of the bottoming proces with gold. Once this proces ends- lets say above 1,300 dollars - the gold price could see a voilent upswing towards 1,550 dollars, where the next battle field arrives for gold. We prefer to play the next U-turn in gold with a selection of quality gold stocks, as the current leverage to the gold price - risk/return - is the best in years, even decades!

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