by Michael J. Kosares
“In the absence of a credible monetary standard, we expect no escape from the treadmill of rising debt, both US and globally, that outpaces economic growth. Income inequality, wage stagnation, overvaluation of financial assets, and speculation instead of productive investment are likely to be prolonged under the current monetary regime. Whether or not policy makers take a proactive approach to address monetary reform, the fact remains that gold is massively underpriced in all paper currencies. It would be preferable if the necessary adjustments could occur without a repeat of a 2008-like financial crisis. We give this possibility a chance, albeit slim. In any event, we expect a significant repricing of gold higher during the current administration, either by design or because of market events. Whenever a repricing happens, we expect broad grassroots support for that outcome.” – John Hathaway, Tocqueville Funds
The past few days illustrate an important event in the gold market that both beginning and accomplished investors should try to understand thoroughly. I say that because by such an understanding you will become a more educated, patient and successful gold owner.
On April 19th, over $3 billion in paper gold was sold in the London over-the-counter market dropping the gold price by $14 per ounce in a matter of minutes. Just as quickly, the cries of foul play rose among gold punditry across the internet. Just before the “hit,” gold was trading in the $1286 range. It plunged to $1272. Since this morning’s AM London Fix, gold has been in recovery mode and it is now trading again in the $1286 range. Except for those who took the drop as a buying opportunity, these events will be seen essentially as a sound and fury signifying nothing. At the same time, quietly the notion of gold’s indestructibility has been reinforced – not so much with respect to its physical qualities, but with the place it occupies in the minds of investors across the globe. The recovery today in a certain sense is a fractal event in both amplitude and duration – a hint of a greater manifestation that might be coming down the road in the not too distant future.
More. . . . .
The gold price is determined in the futures markets, but the effects of that determination are in the physical market, i.e., the price for bullion, coins, jewellery, etc. Those who feel that the gold market price is controlled solely by forces within the paper market do not fully understand the constraints on paper imposed by physical supply and demand.
In a nutshell, if the paper market is successful in suppressing the price for too long and at too low a rate, the physical demand globally will eat up the physical supply and threaten the existence of the primary source of the metal – the mines. That is why top-level analysts like John Hathaway (Tocqueville Funds) often talk about the inevitability of one-off repricing events. As long as gold can be freely owned, the market at some point finds the real price of gold, reconciles the books and exposes the power of price manipulators for what it is – a temporary, staying action rather than a successful long-term program. It is the time period before that happens which presents the best buying opportunities – times like the present. The events of April 19th through today illustrate the point in a microcosm.
As it is, annual mine production has leveled out over the past several years and there has not been a major gold find anywhere in the world for decades. Meanwhile global demand for the physical metal has not only sustained itself in recent years, it has grown rapidly, and clearly at a rate that far exceeds the rate of growth in mine production. Just this past week, we have seen reports of renewed strong demand in China and India – two traditional powerhouses when it comes to physical ownership of the precious metals. Generally speaking, the East buys on price while the West buys on momentum, thus one might conclude that anecdotal evidence shows that the price has been “right” in recent months. This time around, as reported here previously, professional money managers have positioned themselves as buyers in concert with the East, something that happens only on occasion. The two together though are currently an imposing presence in the global gold marketplace.
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The only way the gap between mine production and physical demand can be made-up is from above-ground sources, or by trading paper to the extent that it masks the wide gap between physical demand and physical supply. At some point, the paper price will succumb to reality of shortages as it always does. Those short the metal will need to find it and deliver on the price promises made previously, a process that usually excites the price discovery mechanisms in the paper market. If the pressure exerted by the traders of gold paper were powerful enough to overcome these realities in the physical gold market, the price never would have traversed the enormous gap between $250 per ounce in 2000 and $1850 per ounce in 2011, and roughly $1300 per ounce at present.
So no matter how much we lament the impositions of paper traders, i.e., their corruptions of the market and restraints to the upside, gold’s opponents can only win the occasional battle; they will never win the war. As I have said before, the paper traders must equally curse the ever-present power wielded by physical buyers of the metal, and over the years, the true believers in the precious metals, have only viewed episodes of price suppression as buying opportunities.
Ultimately, the end result might be another unprecedented price explosion, as Mr. Hathaway suggests, when the impotence of the controls becomes apparent on a far larger scale than what occurred in the gold market over the past few days. At a time, as has been the case since 1971, when the production of fiat money rules the roost, gold’s natural inclination will always be to rise in price in terms of that currency. In fact, if that were not the case, it would be unnecessary for anyone to attempt controlling the price. That affinity to rise is only compounded in the end by attempts to restrict the natural price level.
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