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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When the United States owned
most of the gold on Earth

Chart showing the United Sates gold reserves 1870 to present
Chart courtesy of GoldChartsRUs

Few Americans know that just after World War II the United States owned most of the official sector gold bullion on earth – about 22,000 metric tonnes or 80% of the world total.  As part of the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement, though, the United States allowed unrestricted redemptions from its reserves at the benchmark rate of $35 per ounce. In the 1960s, a group of European countries, led by Germany and France, got the idea that U.S. trade and fiscal deficits had undermined the dollar, making gold a bargain at the $35 benchmark price. Steadily over the next decade, they exchanged dollars for gold at the U.S. Treasury’s gold window. By the early 1970s, 14,000 tonnes of gold – or 64% of the stockpile – had departed the U.S. Treasury never to return (See the chart above).

The transfer of gold finally ended in 1971 when President Nixon halted redemptions, devalued the dollar and freed the greenback to float against other currencies. The era of global fiat money with the dollar as its centerpiece had begun. Gold transformed from its official role as backing the dollar to serving as a hedge against its depreciation. Since that role reversal, gold has risen in fits and starts from the $35 official benchmark in 1971 to a peak of over $1900 in 2011.  It is trading now in the $1750 range. For the central banks and private investors who redeemed their dollars for gold at $35 per ounce, the gains have been extraordinary – over 4800% at current prices or 8.25% annually compounded over the 49-year period.  Simultaneously, the 1971 dollar has lost more than 84% of its purchasing power.


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Short and Sweet

The crisis ready investment portfolio

In a recent essay published at Project Syndicate, Harvard economics professor Kenneth Rogoff sets an ominous tone. Humanity, he says “is facing something akin to alien invasion” – an apt analogy, we thought. “With each passing day,” he goes on, “the 2008 global financial crisis increasingly looks like a mere dry run for today’s economic catastrophe. The short-term collapse in global output now underway already seems likely to rival or exceed that of any recession in the last 150 years.”

At the moment, as shown in the chart below, the level of stress in financial markets is at its highest point since the credit crisis of 2008. Keep in mind the current high reading is without the impetus of any financial institution or fund of consequence reporting serious difficulties and/or requesting a bailout. Note with that in mind the acceleration in the index after the Bear Stearns and Lehman failures in 2008.

Line chart showing the St. Louis Federal Reserve's Financial Stress Index with even annotationsClick to enlarge.

Below we have reconstructed the same chart only with the price of gold superimposed. As you can see, gold responds directly to stresses indicated in financial markets and that the effect can persist even after the initial threat dissipates. Gold ownership, in short, is a way to make one’s portfolio crisis ready on a permanent basis – a means to batten down the hatches against recurring financial storms and, for the minority who own it, an effective and ever-ready defense.

Line chart showing the St. Louis Fed Stress Index and the price of gold 1990 to present

“If you look at the history of currency, gold has a unique role and I don’t think it’s accidental,” writes Rogoff in his latest book, The Curse of the Crash which predates the coronavirus crisis. “Some people say that if gold hadn’t been selected as a currency thousands of years ago, it would not have a role today. I don’t agree. Gold has a lot of useful properties and unique features so I don’t think its status is in any way accidental. It’s a monetary asset and I think if you replayed history another way, you would come out with gold again.”

 Please see Mapping the COVID-19 Recession by Kenneth Rogoff, Project Syndicate


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Short and Sweet

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The coronavirus pandemic will forever
alter the world order

photo of Henry Kissinger making a point

In a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said that the pandemic has created “political and economic upheaval that could last for generations” and that this crisis is even more complex than the one that began in 2008.  “When the Covid-19 pandemic is over,” he says, “many countries’ institutions will be perceived as having failed. Whether this judgment is objectively fair is irrelevant. The reality is the world will never be the same after the coronavirus.” If global authorities – governments and, in this case, central banks – will be perceived as having failed, then what will be the knock-on effect in financial markets that have leaned heavily on their largesse since 2008?  The new normal may be in the process of being replaced by a new abnormal that every investment portfolio should take into account.

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Short and Sweet

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Gold, vanadium, europium reveal the existence of a mysterious particle

graphic image of gold nanopartilce wire“To observe the Majorana fermions, the team of physicists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Institute of Technology at Delhi, the University of California at Riverside, and the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, designed and built a material system that consists of nanowires of gold grown atop a superconducting material, vanadium, and dotted with small, ferromagnetic ‘islands’ of europium sulfide, which is a ferromagnetic material that is able to provide the needed internal magnetic fields to create the Majorana fermions.” – Valentina Ruiz Leotaud, Mining.com/

USAGOLD note: This must have been what Ben Bernanke was talking about years ago when he said he didn’t understand gold. [Smile] Gold’s allure, to be sure, is a mystery to some, but for those who understand the ever-present dangers imposed by the money printing press, the only mystery is why so few own it.


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Short and Sweet

Of 17th-century tulips, 21st-century stocks and ageless gold

antique painting of a fool trading his gold for tulip bulbs

During the Dutch Tulipmania, the price of one special, rare type of tulip bulb called Semper Augustus sold for 1000 guilders in 1623, 1200 guilders in 1624, 2000 guilders in 1625, and 5500 guilders in 1637. Shortly thereafter, the bottom fell out of the market and prices plummeted to 1/200 of their peak price – a mere 27 guilders. In the artwork above an individual, portrayed in fool’s garment, is shown trading a hefty pouch of gold for a handful of tulip bulbs. It is no mystery who got the better part of that bargain. History teaches us that no era is immune to financial mania including our own. As a matter of fact, a good many believe that we are fully immersed in a stock market mania right now.

Since the earliest days of the USAGOLD website (the mid-1990s), we have enshrined a quote from Thomas Bailey Aldrich at our home page: “The possession of gold has ruined fewer men than the lack of it.” Aldrich’s axiom has held true down through the ages. It applied in ancient Greece and Rome, in 11th century China, in the time of the Medicis, the Dutch Tulipmania, the South Seas Bubble and French fiat money mania, during the long string of panics in the late nineteenth and early 20th centuries (Aldrich’s time), the spate of post World War I and II hyperinflations (Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, et al)  and it still applies today.


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Short and Sweet

Part 5 of 5 . . . . .

What makes this gold market rally
different from all others


Yields in economically important parts of the world
are negative, not positive


Negative interest rates are a reality in both the European Union and Japan, and Alan Greenspan said recently that it is “only a matter of time” before they spread to the United States. One of the arguments against gold over the years has been that it costs money to own it. Now it costs money to own euros and yen, and before too long it might cost money to own the dollar as well. The advent of negative rates is perhaps one of the more profound differences between this gold rally and rallies of the past. It might also prove to be the most enduring.  “One of the reasons,” Greenspan added in that same CNBC interview, “the gold price is rising as fast as it is – you know, at $1500 a troy ounce . . . What that is telling us is that people are looking for resources they know are going to have a value 20 years from now, or 30 years from now, as they age and they want to make sure they have the resources to keep themselves in place.”

Overlay chart showing gold and negative yield debt rising in tandem

Chart courtesy of the World Gold Council

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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 5/15/2020) – So far so good on Gary Wagner’s forecast.  We decided to leave the post as is so that you could see how much the outlook can change over the course of a single year. One wonders, too, what Wagner would forecast now given recent events and their impact technically on the gold chart.


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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 6/19/2019) is 30.1%. Gold without a great deal of fanfare has been a portfolio stalwart. A $100,000 investment in gold in January 2001 would be worth about $650,000 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

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Reeling world economy slammed
by dangerous disinflationary shock

“The sinking global economy is suffering through a colossal disinflationary shock,” reads a recent Bloomberg report, “that could briefly push it into dangerous deflation territory for the first time in decades.” The gravitational pull of disinflation was a constant in the economy even before the coronavirus.  Now it is fully asserting itself – at least in the short term.  Debt becomes an enormous weight under such conditions with threats to the stability of the financial system multiplying accordingly. The last crisis was essentially a disinflationary breakdown.  Gold rose to the occasion.

overlay chart showing gold as a disinflation hedge from 2008-2014

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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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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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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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Short and Sweet

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– One for the history buffs –
730 years of a strong British pound ends in 1931
with gold standard exit

The St. Louis Federal Reserve recently released this interesting chart on consumer prices from 1209 to present. We added the price of gold to the chart to show the direct relationship between declining purchasing power in the British pound and the sterling price of gold after 1931, the year Britain departed the gold standard. Prior to 1931, there was an occasional minor bump higher in the price of gold, but for the most part, it followed along the same flat line as consumer prices. It was only after Britain separated the pound from gold in 1931 that the price began to move radically higher in terms of the currency. It gained significant momentum after 1971 when the Bretton Woods agreement was abolished. Currencies and gold were then allowed to move freely in international markets. Though interesting from a historical perspective, the real lesson in this chart is that when a nation-state goes from gold-backed to fiat money, gold coins and bullion become a logical and worthwhile alternative for citizen-investors – even after 730 years of relative price stability.

Line chart showing over 800 year inflation history in Britain with sudden spike in 1930s forward after it abandons gold standard

Sources: Bank of England, ICE Benchmark Administration Limited, St. Louis Federal Reserve [FRED]

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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

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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‘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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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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Gold in the year of the pandemic

What it cannot do is cure the virus. What it could do, however, according to a good many analysts, is act as an effective hedge against its economic consequences. From the beginning of the year through Friday’s close, gold is up almost 14% during probably the worst period in economic history since the 1930s Great Depression. In the May issue of our monthly newsletter, we chronicle what top experts have to say about gold in the year of the pandemic – its portfolio role, its qualities as a disaster hedge, and its price potential.

Gold chart for the period January through April 2020 with annothations

Sources:  TradingView.com, NBC News
Click to enlarge


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Investor whose ‘explosive’ strategy just returned 4,144%
says a ‘true crash’ in stocks is still to come

“‘If the pandemic doesn’t pop this bubble then, of course, it will be something else that eventually accomplishes this,’ says [Universa Investments’ Mark Spitznagel in a MarketWatch report], “reiterating his long-held belief that easy-money central banks and the bubble they continue to pump will eventually lead to a major global reversal. How bad could it get when it really goes sideways? ‘I expect a true crash to take back a decade [worth of stock-market gains],’ he told The Wall Street Journal last month.'” Spitznagel is a protege of Nicholas Taleb of The Black Swan fame. Some would consider his prediction going overboard. We should keep in mind, though, that from 1929 to 1933 the stock market lost almost 90% of its value. It did not return to its 1929 highs until 1955 – 26 years later.  In short, what he is suggesting is not without historical precedent.

line chart showing stocks from 1929 to 1955Chart courtesy of MacroTrends.net


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