Short and Sweet

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Gold’s Century
While stocks dominated headlines, gold quietly performed

Bar chart showing gold's annual returns since 2000 including year end 2019

Gold has produced positive returns in 16 of the last 19 years. Gold’s average annual return compounded since 2001 is 9.47%. (2001-2019) Gold’s appreciation over the last twelve months (from 3/20/2019) is 14.2% – even with the recent correction taken into account. Gold has been a portfolio stalwart. A $100,000 investment in gold in January 2001 would be worth about $550,000 today. At gold’s peak in 2011, it would have been worth over $700,000.  While stocks dominated headlines, gold quietly performed.

The question becomes whether or not an investment that has performed so well in the past is likely to perform equally well in the future. Though nothing in the world of finance and economics is certain, we rest the bullish case for gold on the understanding that none of the economic and financial system problems that created a positive price environment for gold over the last nearly nineteen years have been removed from consideration. In fact, a case could be made that they have only intensified – and dangerously so.


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Short and Sweet

Part 4 of 5 . . . . .

What makes this gold market rally
different from all others


Bullion banks are covering their shorts on price retreats, not piling-on


Declining global interest rates have put a damper on another traditional source of physical gold supply – bullion bank leasing programs. “We can conclude,” writes gold market analyst, Alasdair Macleod, in an insightful paper published at the GoldMoney website, “that the basis for highly geared interest rate arbitrage by borrowing gold is running into a brick wall. Not only is there no incentive for lessors but also there is also a diminishing appetite for lessees because the opportunities are vanishing. Synthetic gold liabilities are being gradually reduced, not only by ceasing the creation of new obligations, but by buying bullion to cover existing ones. This will have been particularly the case when the USD yield curve began to invert in recent months (itself a backwardation of time preference), and was the surface reason, therefore, that the gold price moved rapidly from under $1200 to over $1500.” This change in direction for bullion banks represents another fundamental difference between this rally in the gold price and rallies of the past.  What’s more, given the entrenched low-rate environment, it looks like it might remain a factor for some time to come.Graphic image of bull and bear, pencil drawing

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Short and Sweet

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Gold in the age of high-speed electronic trading

graphic image of tower transferering high speed data represented by beam of light

“The best thing you can do is know how to have a balanced portfolio.”
Ray Dalio, Bridgewater Associates

In an article headlined Robots conquered stock markets/Now they’re coming for bonds and currencies, Bloomberg finance reporter Lananh Nguyen tells us: “In the most liquid equity markets, more than 90 percent of trades are executed electronically, according to estimates from Greenwich Associates. That compares with 79 percent in global foreign exchange, 44 percent in U.S. Treasuries and 26 percent in U.S. corporate bonds, with the most room for growth in the latter two markets, according to [Kevin] McPartland at Greenwich.” [Link] Just this year, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs requested counterparties forgive rogue, machine-driven trades that caused a $41 billion flash crash in a matter of seconds. Though concentrated in a single stock, such anomalous events serve as a cautionary tale on how a full-out, machine-driven panic might evolve on a larger scale.

Because gold does not rely on the performance of another party, it is detached from the matrix of interlocking counter-party risk and occupies a unique place on the financial balance sheet as an asset of last resort and the final arbiter of value.  That is why nation-states and central banks hold large amounts of it on their own balance sheets and why funds and institutions are more and more moving to it as an offset against other trading strategies. Investors have always viewed gold as a reliable hedge against inflation and deflation. In the years to come, they might very well come to know it as an effective hedge against computer-generated financial mayhem as well.


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Important! – Gold’s Century: While stocks dominated headlines, gold quietly performed

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Short and Sweet

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Why the U.S. needs to encourage Americans to hold gold

graphic image of gold eagle and the stars and stripes

We have always believed that citizen ownership of physical gold is in the national best interest, not just the best interest of its accumulators. In the event of a worldwide economic breakdown or a realignment of the global monetary system, it would be good for the country to have a storehouse of gold held by the populace. China encourages citizen gold ownership for precisely that reason.

“With a growing number of countries encouraging their central banks and citizens to acquire gold,” writes The Federalists Sean Fieler, “it is increasingly reasonable to assume that gold will be part of the world’s monetary future, not just its past. The U.S. Treasury should embrace policies that will attract more of the world’s gold to America and better position our citizens and our nation for whatever the monetary future may hold.”


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Goepfert’s panic button hits all-time high

chart showing SentimenTraders panic button data

Chart courtesy of SentimentTrader-Jason Goepfert

“The last time we looked at such stress was in January 2016 but we’re far beyond that now. The indicator incorporates measures which spike higher when uncertainty about the economy, corporate outlooks and stock prices are high, and reach extreme high levels only during times of outright panic. Anything above 3 on the model could be considered ‘panic.’ As a reflection of just how much anxiety is being priced in, on Thursday [3/12/2020] the Panic Button hit a record high of 7.7. Based on preliminary data, it eclipsed that again on Monday.” – SentimenTrader, 3/17/2020

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Short and Sweet

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Annotated Gold Chart
2008-2009 – The first years of the financial crisis
annotated line chart showing gold in 2008 before and after quantitative easing announced

Chart courtesy of the St. Louis Federal Reserve [FRED]
Source:  ICE Benchmark Administration (IBA)
Annotations by USAGOLD

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America is overdue for another economic disaster

National  Review/George Will

“The durable market rise that began March 6, 2009, is as intoxicating as the Lehman anniversary should be sobering: Nothing lasts. Those who see no Lehman-like episode on the horizon did not see the last one.”

USAGOLD note:  This time around no one can claim that they weren’t warned or that they didn’t see it coming as was universally the case in 2008.  Now  the warnings come almost daily.


Repost from August 19, 2018

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Short and Sweet

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Two legendary central bankers embrace gold

Image of one-time central bank heads Mervyn King and Alan Greenspan
All is not well with the economy. Growth rates continue to remain stubbornly low in the United States and at recessionary levels in much of the rest of the world.

In The End of Alchemy (2017), Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, writes of central banks’ frustration in dealing with the persistently stagnant global economy. “Central banks,” he says, “have thrown everything at their economies, and yet the results have been disappointing, Whatever can be said about the world recovery since the crisis, it has been neither strong, nor sustainable, nor balanced. . . [W]ithout reform of the financial system, another crisis is certain – sooner rather than later.”

“Our problem,” Alan Greenspan once said, “is not recession which is a short-term economic problem. I think you have a very profound long-term problem of economic growth at the time when the Western world, there is a very large migration from being a worker into being a recipient of social benefits as it is called. And this is legally mandated in all of our countries.” The western world, he concludes, is headed to “a state of disaster.”

It is interesting to note that both Greenspan and King, two of the most respected central bankers in modern times, have embraced gold since leaving their respective posts. The former Fed chairman has consistently suggested that gold is “a good place to put money these days given the policies of governments.”

The former governor of the Bank of England says that he is “very struck by the fact that over many, many years, central banks, governments and individuals have always, despite the protestations of economists, held some gold in their portfolio[W]hen unexpected things happen, particularly when governments rise and fall, then gold is a means of payment that everyone is always prepared to accept. And I think that’s why even central banks have always had a role in their portfolios for gold.”

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Short and Sweet

Part 3 of 5 . . . . .

What makes this gold market rally
different from all others


Central banks are buyers of physical gold, not sellers.


In 2011 something unusual happened in the gold market.  Central banks flipped from being net sellers of the precious metal to net buyers reversing a 40-year trend.  Since then, the official sector has added 4,563 metric tonnes to their coffers (through the first half of 2019) – a 15% gain in stockpiles to 34,407 metric tonnes.  The gold that central banks take off the market, though, is only part of the story. The rest has to do with how domestic production in two key producing countries – China and Russia (the world’s number one and three producers) – is treated.  Both countries channel their mined metal into national reserves rather than selling it in the global marketplace. Many analysts see this new and evolving approach to gold reserves as the key difference between the present gold rally and rallies of the past.

Bar chart showing central banks switching from gold sellers to gold buyers begnning in 2011

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Short and Sweet

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Gold Annual Returns
2001-2019

Gold has produced positive returns in 16 of the last 19 years.  Its average annual return compounded since 2001 is 9.38%.  In 2019, it rose 18.3% – its best annual gain since 2010. A $100,000 investment in gold in January 2001 would be worth over $350,000 today. At gold’s peak in 2011, it would have been worth about $475,000. Over the past two decades, gold has been a portfolio stalwart.

Bar chart showing gold's annual returns since 2000 including year end 2019

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Short and Sweet

TECH ANALYST
Gold could go to $1800 to $2200 in the long run

A number of technical analysts have reverted to a more bearish forecast over the past few weeks with the $1250 area once again being touted as the downside support area.  Many of those same technical analysts, though, have a significantly more positive outlook for the longer term. Among that group is Gary Wagner of the Wagner Financial Group who sees $1267 or even $1247 as possibilities in the short run, but also forecasts the possibility of $1800 to $2200 in the longer run.  “Our research,” he explains in an article published recently at the Singapore Bullion Market Association website, “suggests that gold is in the final phase of a major long-term impulse cycle. This model also provides a look back at the final major bullish wave that could be traced back to end of 2015, following a correction to $1,040. This corrective fourth wave developed from the all-time high at $1,900 in 2011. The model suggests that gold could re-test the record highs that, if taken out, could see an extensive surge to between $1800 and $2200 per troy ounce.”

Caveat: At USAGOLD, it bears repeating, we have always advocated the ownership of both gold and silver coins and bullion for long-term asset preservation purposes rather than speculative gain.  Though we pass along various projections, we do so with the caveat that anything can happen.  The analyst who forecasts downside today can quickly change his or her outlook to the upside tomorrow – or vice versa.  The long term charts for gold and silver, though, reveal a consistent upward trend that has served investors well in the period since 1971 when the global monetary system departed the gold standard and entered the fiat money era.

Repost from April 2019
(Update 3/4/2020) – So far so good on Gary Wagner’s forecast.


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Short and Sweet

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photo image of elephant - imposing full frontal
The ‘Don’t call it QE’ Elephant in the Room

Some call it ‘stealth QE.’ Others call it ‘QE Lite.’ The Fed itself will not admit to a new form of quantitative easing, but the numbers speak for themselves. Since September, according to a Bianco Research study, the Fed has injected nearly $324 billion into the monetary system in the form of overnight repo liquidity.  In addition, it is injecting another $60 billion per month in outright purchases of Treasury paper from commercial banks. Those purchases are scheduled to continue at least into the second quarter of 2020.  As for the national debt, it pushed over the $23 trillion mark in November with budget experts warning that we may be entering an extended period of deficits exceeding $1 trillion annually. All of which brings us back to the elephant in the room, the central bank policies required to deal with it and their potential repercussions in financial markets.

Overlay chart showing growth in repo market resulting from Fed cash injections since September 2019
Chart courtesy of Bianco Research

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Short and Sweet

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‘No one questions its value. . .’

Image courtesy of the British Museum Collection/Lydia, croesid, ca 550 BC“No one refuses gold as payment to discharge an obligation. Credit instruments and fiat currency depend on the credit worthiness of a counter-party. Gold, along with silver, is one of the only currencies that has an intrinsic value. It has always been that way. No one questions its value, and it has always been a valuable commodity, first coined in Asia Minor in 600 BC.” – Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve


Image courtesy of the British Museum Collection/Lydia, croesid, ca 550 BC

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Short and Sweet

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Only real intrinsic money survives the test of time

Here is a timeless observation from the now-deceased Richard Russell (Dow Theory Letter):

“Paper money is now being created wholesale throughout the world. Stated simply, all paper currency is now valued against each other. But more important, ultimately ALL paper is ultimately valued against the only true, intrinsic money – gold. In world history, no irredeemable paper currency has ever survived. Since all the world’s currency is now irredeemable (in gold), this means that in the end, the only form of money that will survive is real intrinsic money – gold. It’s not a question of whether gold will survive, it’s a question of when the world’s current paper money will deteriorate and finally die. I can tell you that irredeemable paper will not survive – but obviously I can’t tell you when it will die. The timing is the only uncertainty.”

The chart below from the World Gold Council speaks to Russell’s point. It shows the performance of various currencies – past and present – against gold over the long term.  When the end comes, as the chart illustrates, it can come abruptly and without warning. For those who stick to the proposition that gold is not really an inflation hedge, or that it is not really a safe-haven against currency debasement, the chart offers instruction. For those who already own gold as a safe-haven, it provides justification. For those who do not own gold, it serves as an incentive.  As the old saying goes:  All is well until it isn’t.

Chart showing gold outperforming all major currencies since 1900Chart courtesy of the World Gold Council

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Short and Sweet

Part 2 of 5 . . . . .

What makes this gold market rally
different from all others


Day-to-day price reversals often originate
in Asia and Europe, not just the United States


For decades, the U.S. commodity markets set the tone for gold pricing and the rest of the world was content to follow. Even the old London price fix tended to follow along with trends established in the United States.  That all changed when the Shanghai gold market began offering its own pricing mechanism and the effects of Brexit began to have a profound impact on both sides of the English Channel. Now, price reversals often begin in Asian or European markets overnight and carry over to the open in New York rather than the other way around.  All of this is a reflection of ramped up global investor interest in gold and a leveling of the playing field in terms of who and what influences the price on a daily basis.  As such, it comprises our second important difference between the current gold price rally and rallies in the past.

World Map of gold trading centers - London, New York, Chicago, Tokyo, Shanghai, Dubai, Zurich

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The next great monetary experiment

graphic image of Uncle Sam saying I need vast sums of money

Daily Reckoning’s Brian Maher warns of the potential consequences of modern monetary theory. “This MMT sounds like a recipe for immense inflation, even hyperinflation,” he says. “You are spending all this money directly into the economy. It will drive consumer prices through the attic roof, you say. This is crackpot. A witch’s sabbath of inflation would surely result. Yes, but here the MMT crowd meets you head on… They agree with you. They agree MMT could cause a general inflation, possibly even a hyperinflation.” [Link to full article]

Modern Monetary Theory (MMT), we would add to Maher’s observation, is neither modern nor a theory. John Law, the Scottish financier, tried a version of it almost exactly 300 years ago (1717-18) in France.* He did so with the blessing of the French monarchy and with a rationale very similar to MMT’s proponents today.  MMT entails, simply put, a federal government fiscal policy without spending limits coupled with the power to print whatever money is required to finance any deficits. In the end, Law’s theories (to his surprise if we are to believe the historical account) bankrupted the French people and the government, reduced the economy to ashes, and created such a distaste for paper scrip among the citizenry that it took 80 years for France to reintroduce paper money as a circulating medium.

In The Story of the Greatest Nations (1900), Edward S Ellis and Charles F. Home tell of the public mania that engulfed the French people and led to ultimate financial ruin for thousands:

“The shrewder speculators* became alarmed. They began to sell their shares of stock, and hoard in gold the enormous wealth they had acquired. This resulted in a demand on the government for metal in exchange for its paper, and soon the government had no metal to give. Then the crash came. Those who had the government paper could buy nothing with it. Those who held the Mississippi stock could scarce give it away. It was worthless. The government itself refused to accept its own paper for taxes. A few lucky speculators had made vast fortunes; but thousands of families, especially among the wealthier classes, were ruined.”

That snippet provides a hint as to the steps taken by those who survived Law’s version of modern monetary theory. For those to whom all of this has a distinct ring of familiarity, perhaps a judicious hedge makes some sense. A number of analysts have made the argument that we do not have to wait for the formal launch of modern monetary theory.  It is already here.

* Please see this link for a summary of  Law’s Mississippi Company land scheme.


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Thinking in big numbers

Big numbers do not register with most people. Thinking in millions is difficult. Billions are a major challenge, trillions nearly impossible. The reason for this, says Wall Street Journal columnist Jo Craven McGinty, is that big numbers are usually offered in isolation without the benefit of comparison – numbers without an appropriate anchor, so to speak. People need some sort of measuring stick to give the numbers meaning. She recently offered some interesting tactics for making big numbers meaningful. Here is one of them:

“[T]hink of it [big numbers],” she says, “in terms of time, like Richard Panek, a professor at Goddard College in Vermont and a Guggenheim fellow in science writing. There are 1 million seconds in roughly 11½ days. There are 1 billion seconds in around 31 years. And there are 1 trillion seconds in around 31,000 years. Someone who doesn’t grasp these differences in magnitude is also likely to be clueless when it comes to assessing the impact of chopping $2.7 billion from a $1.068 trillion budget.* It’s less than 1% of the total—the proverbial rounding error.”

*The proposed outlay for discretionay spending submitted by the Trump administration for the 2019 fiscal year budget

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Short and Sweet

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A very old yet very new thought
from Mr. Charles Dickens

Image of 18th century man holding his head in disbelief“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

Things change little.  Things change a great deal.  The opening passage to A Tale of Two Cities – a very old yet very new thought.

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Short and Sweet

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Nine lessons from prosperous investors

We first introduced our readers to these nine lessons all the way back in 1999. They were passed along to us by the legendary commodity market analyst R.E. McMaster, formerly editor of The Reaper newsletter. The original source for the nine lessons was a highly regarded money manager who handled accounts for wealthy Greek and Mexican merchant families.

1. It is easier to make a fortune than keep it.

2. Intelligence is an inadequate substitute for wisdom. Wisdom fears, respects the unknown and fosters humility. Intelligence can lead to self-destructive arrogance and ultimate failure.

3. Risk must have premium, and we must understand it well.

4. There is no order. There is no formula. There is no equation that works all of the time. It works just long enough to fool just a few more of us just a little longer.

5. What we fail to remember is that a paper gain is just that. Paper. Worth nothing. Not until we say sell, and not until we get cash. Anything less is just that.

6. When the Bass Brothers in Texas write a check for real money, their money, to buy 25% of the Freeport McMoran Gold Series II, we take notice. When the Fidelity Magellan Fund buys a fifty-million in Dell computer, we yawn. So, should you. It is other people’s money.

7. Slick advertising budgets, powerful computers and few slabs of marble do not, by themselves, make a great financial institution.

8.  Never invest in anything you do not feel comfortable with or understand well.

9.  When a thousand people say a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.


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