Short and Sweet

Is the dollar the Humpty Dumpty of the global monetary system?

Graphic image of Humpty Dumpty perched happily on a wall, antique

The dollar at the moment is something of a Humpty Dumpty in the global monetary system – sitting on his wall oblivious and seemingly immune to all that goes on around him.  Whether or not there will someday be a Great Fall remains to be seen, but increasingly forces are lining up against it. Over the past few years, we have seen protracted movement among various central banks out of the dollar and into gold and other currencies. Though the dollar remains something of a Humpty Dumpty oblivious to all that goes on around him, a good many analysts believe it is poised for a major decline.

It is with that in mind that we took an interest in a Bloomberg report posted recently that “[g]old stored at the Bank of England has been selling for unusually high premiums recently, signaling that central banks may be back in the market buying.” The report goes on to say that the reason for the burgeoning gold demand from central banks is “to diversify their portfolios away from the U.S. dollar to safeguard their finances amid concerns over the Fed’s ultra-loose monetary policy, massive U.S. government spending and inflationary pressures.”

We see that as a rational response to current economic circumstances and a way of taking advantage of the dollar’s current strength to load up on gold. For example, Brazil, the world’s ninth-largest economy, recently reported a hefty 42-tonne purchase of gold to shore up its central bank reserves. Poland has announced its intent to add another 100-tonnes to its coffers in the months ahead. And those are only two in an expanding list of central banks in the market to buy gold. We hasten to add that it is not just the United States that is in the business of debasing its currency, but most, if not all, of the states issuing internationally traded currencies.

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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 (wherein many include bitcoin) 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

Gold in the age of inflation
The star investment of the fifty-year era and the most reliable store of value

There has been considerable, and some would say tedious, discussion on the subject of inflation over the past several weeks. The Fed wants it. The markets await it. Investors and consumers worry about it. If it does come, the Fed thinks it will be transitory. Others believe it will persist. That said, the current discussion ignores an established historical reality: We already live and have lived with it for a very long time. The Age of Inflation began in August of 1971 when the United States disengaged the dollar from gold and ushered in the fiat money era. Thereafter, the inflationary process has progressively eaten away at our wealth and the purchasing power of our money. Now, some of the best minds in the investment business tell us that it is about to accelerate and that if we ignore it, we do so at our own peril.

To mark the occasion of the fiat money system’s golden anniversary, we offer two instructive charts. One is something of a myth-buster in that gold has decisively outperformed stocks during the fiat money era. Many will be surprised to learn that gold is up 4,500% since 1971, while stocks have played second fiddle at 3,375%. The other reveals at a glance the pernicious, ongoing debasement of the dollar and gold’s role as a hedge against it. The dollar lost 85% of its purchasing power since 1971, while gold, as just mentioned, gained nearly 4500%. If that does not serve as vindication of gold’s portfolio role in the era of fiat money, I don’t know what will. At the same time, consensus has it that cyclically, stocks are closer to a top than a bottom, and gold is closer to a bottom than a top.

Gold and stocks price performance
(In percent, 1971-2021)

area charat showing gold and stocks 1971 to June1 2021 in percent

Chart courtesy of TradingView.com • • • Click to enlarge

Gold and the purchasing power of the dollar
(1971 to present)

overlay area chart showing the value of the dollar and gold since 1971

Sources: St. Louis Federal Reserve [FRED], Bureau of Labor Statistics, ICE Benchmark Administration • • • Click to enlarge

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Short and Sweet

Howe says this Fourth Turning will go to 2030

graphic image of walk in a deep, fearful wood

“To be clear, the road ahead for America will be rough,” writes Neil Howe, author of the modern classic, The Fourth Turning (1997), in a recent analysis posted at Hedgeye. “But I take comfort in the idea that history cycles back and that the past offers us a guide to what we can expect in the future. Like Nature’s four seasons, the cycles of history follow a natural rhythm or pattern. Make no mistake. Winter is coming. How mild or harsh it will be is anyone’s guess, but the basic progression is as natural as counting down the days, weeks, and months until Spring.”

For those who, like me, buy into Howe’s notion of a Fourth Turning, the problem is to get to the other side of the woods with our assets reasonably intact. “Currently, this period began in 2008,” he points out, “with the Global Financial Crisis and the deepening of the War on Terror, and will extend to around 2030. If the past is any prelude to what is to come, as we contend, consider the prior Fourth Turning which was kicked off by the stock market crash of 1929 and climaxed with World War II.” Eventually, he says, we will find our way to a first turning – a time of renewal – but we will be sorely tested before we get there. The precious metals have offered solid protection through the first half of the Fourth Turning. Gold is up 145% since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008 – the event most analysts associate with the start of the crisis. Silver is up 165%. In both instances, the greatest price acceleration occurred in the early years of the crisis.

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Short and Sweet

Inflation a process not an event
But history shows runaway inflation can come suddenly and without warning

graphic image showing decline of the denarius over 200 y ears

Image courtesy of Visual Capitalist • • • Click to enlarge

We sometimes forget that inflation is a process rather than an event. One of the better-known examples of that axiom is the nearly two centuries-long debasement of Rome’s silver denarius. The Roman citizen who had the wisdom to hedge that process by going to gold at nearly any point along the way ended up preserving some portion, if not all, of his or her wealth. Those who did not suffered its debilitating effects. In the inflationary process, the line between cause and effect is not always a straight one, and its timing difficult to discern. History teaches us, though, that when runaway inflation does arrive, it comes suddenly, without notice, and with a vengeance. That is why it pays to view gold as a permanent and constantly maintained aspect of the investment portfolio. “A change of fortune,” Ben Franklin tells us, “hurts a wise Man no more than a change of the Moon.”
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(Related please see:  News & Views Special Report / March 2020 / Hedging the decline and fall of a currency – The baseline case for gold hasn’t changed much in 1700 years)

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Short and Sweet

Of wheelbarrows and runaway inflation

graphic image of a gold money machine

As Crescat Capital’s Kevin Smith and Tavi Costa point out in a recent client alert, the U.S. government issued $4.4 trillion of debt in 2020, and $2.4 trillion, or 54%, was purchased by the Federal Reserve. They believe that $300 billion per month in quantitative easing will be needed to cover the upcoming tab as opposed to the current $120 billion per month. “Global central bank money printing is one of the primary drivers of the gold price,” they say. “Our current valuation target for gold based on the level of central bank assets and the inelastic supply of above-ground gold is $3,200/oz. Note, this is a rising target.”

“Really smart investors,” says Morning Porridge’s Bill Blain, the London-based commentator, “are increasingly hedging their wealth created from financial assets (stocks and shares) by putting much of their allocations into Alternatives: outright real assets or cash flow driven assets, assets that are likely to retain value while still paying attractive returns. (The cost is lower liquidity). The idea is that if crisis ever comes, then owning the wheelbarrow might be better than owning the mountains of worthless cash it’s carrying (to cite the classic example of inflationary danger from Weimar Germany…)” If runaway inflation truly does materialize, a wheelbarrow full of gold and silver might be an even better option ……


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Short and Sweet

1970s redux?
“Policymakers did not see it coming.’

overlay chart showing real return on the 10-year treasury and gold 2004 to present

Sources: St. Louis Federal Reserve, Federal Reserve Board of Governors, ICE Benchmark Administration

In the days ahead, the markets will be looking to the Fed to reassert itself as the bond buyer of last resort and keep a lid on the real rate of return, as shown in the chart above. If it fails in that respect, we might end up with a full extension of late February’s bond market panic. No one is more aware of what that could mean for the economy and financial markets than the Federal Reserve’s board of governors. As for gold, the chart clearly demonstrates that it has a propensity to rise when the real rate of return is in decline and decline when real rates are on the rise. Should inflation suddenly surge, or the Fed indeed become a more aggressive buyer of Treasuries (more QE), the current uptrend in the real rate could turn abruptly. As it is, the much-ballyhooed upward turn in real rates looks like a minor blip in a major overall downtrend.

At the moment, it does not appear that Fed liquidity operations are keeping up with an onslaught of bond selling that is pushing yields aggressively higher. That could change overnight. We should keep in mind that the Fed moved quickly and convincingly in money markets last March at the first signs of bond market weakness. Meanwhile, the central bank’s bond portfolio continues to expand at a record pace, and we haven’t even gotten around to fully distributing the $1.9 trillion stimulus package and the $2.4 trillion infrastructure project.

In the final analysis, it rising inflation that will be the most culpable in accelerating the negative real rate of return and sustaining physical demand in the gold and silver markets. “If you look at the inflation of the 1960s and 70s,” says Paul Singer in a recent interview with Grant Williams and Bill Fleckenstein, “inflation came in the mid to late 1960s, from basically very low levels, they didn’t see it coming. They, meaning the policymakers, the central bankers, and when it came, they thought it was temporary and one-off, and one thing leads to another. So we know about the oil embargo of 1973, which took oil prices up three or four times. So wages, prices, guns and butter, the Great Society, the Vietnam War, and increases in the money supply, all combined. But once inflation lifted off, it just kept on going.”


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Short and Sweet

The next great monetary experiment

Uncle Sam poster with quote bubble 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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Short and Sweet

Two legendary central bankers embrace gold

Image of one-time central bank heads Mervyn King and Alan Greenspan

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

Economic insecurity is becoming the new hallmark of old age

In the United States,” writes Katherine S. Newman and Rebecca Hayes Jacobs for The Nation, “economic security in old age was seen, for a long time, as both a social issue and a national obligation. From the birth of Social Security to the end of the 20th century, the common assumption has been that we have a shared responsibility to secure a decent retirement for our citizens. Yet that notion is weakening rapidly. Instead, we have started to hear echoes of the mantra of self-reliance that characterized welfare ‘reform’ in the 1990s: You alone are in charge of your retirement; if you wind up in poverty in your old age, you have only your own inability to plan, save, and invest to blame.”

line chart showing the stock market's performance 1925-1955

Chart courtesy of MacroTrends.net • • • Click to enlarge

Some compare today’s stock market psychology to the period just before 2008. Others compare it to the 1920s when everything was hunky-dory until suddenly it wasn’t – perhaps a more apt comparison. Too many are “all-in” with respect to stocks in their Individual Retirement Accounts hoping to accumulate as much capital as possible without regard to the potential downside. As the chart above amply illustrates, the stock market did not recover from the losses accumulated between 1929 and 1933 until the mid-1950s, almost 25-years later – a fragment of stock market history lost to time.

Some will rely on the fact that stocks recovered nicely once the Fed launched the 2009 bailout. We should keep in mind though that many prominent Wall Street analysts have warned that the Fed no longer has the firepower it did then. The financial markets and economy are much more vulnerable as a result – all of which brings us back to the notions of self-reliance and taking personal responsibility for our retirement plans. If you find yourself among the group that thinks hedging a stock market downturn to be in your best interest, we can help you effectively structure a gold and silver diversification as part of your retirement plan to hedge that possibility.


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Short and Sweet

For gold . . .’It is not a question of if, but when’

The lesson is one as old as the gold market itself: The best time to buy is when the market is quiet – a strategy that requires both discipline and conviction. As an old friend and client used to say (he passed away years ago): “It is not a question of if, but when.” He accumulated a large hoard of the metal in the 1990s and early 2000s between $300 and $600 per ounce and lived to see his prediction come true. His estate though was the ultimate beneficiary of his wisdom. He was not one to sell gold once he had acquired it. We chatted regularly on the phone back then and I told him that I had used the story just told in one of my newsletters.  He was in his late 80s at the time. “Tell them,” he said resolutely, “that I bought my first ounce of gold at $35.”

photo of pile of $20 St. Gaudens gold pieces

The possession of gold has ruined fewer men than the lack of it.”
– Thomas Bailey Aldrich –


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Short and Sweet

The Exter Inverted Pyramid of Global Liquidity

Exter's inverted debt pyramid with derivatives at top and gold on the bottom

“[Exter’s Inverted] Pyramid stands upon its apex of gold, which has no counter-party risk nor credit risk and is very liquid.  As you work higher into the pyramid, the assets get progressively less creditworthy and less liquid. . .[In a financial crisis] this bloated structure pancakes back down upon itself in a flight to safety.  The riskier, upper parts of the inverted pyramid become less liquid (harder to sell), and – if they can be sold at all – change hands at markedly lower prices as the once continuous flow of credit that had levitated those prices dries up.” – Lewis Johnson, Capital Wealth Advisor’s Lewis Johnson


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Short and Sweet

How to spot a bubble
‘Amount of leverage in U.S. equity markets now easily the highest in history.’

Ramirez cartoon of Wall Street blowing speculative trading bubble
Cartoon courtesy of MichaelPRamirez.com

“If you want my opinion,” writes Hussman Fund’s John P. Hussman in a recent analysis, “I suspect that a near-vertical market plunge on the order of 25-35% is coming, probably quite shortly, most likely out of the blue, as in 1987, driven by nothing more than the sudden concerted effort of overextended investors to sell, and the need for a large price adjustment in order to induce scarce buyers to take the other side. As usual, no forecasts are necessary. … This dysfunctional behavior isn’t about any particular video game retailer. I suspect it’s actually about some sort of fragility or segmentation in order-flow mechanisms, possibly coupled with poorly managed derivatives exposure. As I used to teach my students, show me a financial debacle, and I’ll show you someone who had a leveraged, mismatched position that they were suddenly forced to close into an illiquid market. Though my concerns run far beyond the amount of leverage in the system, it isn’t helpful that the amount of leverage in the U.S. equity markets is now easily the highest in history.”

These days spotting the bubble is about as difficult as finding it in the Ramirez cartoon above. Hussman attacks Wall Street’s new rationalization of buying into the bubble, i.e., extreme valuations are justified by low interest rates. Those who are all-in for fear of missing out – blindly walking on air – are obviously the most vulnerable. When investing becomes a matter of faith, that faith will be tested. A solid diversification, we will add, would blunt the downside. Though investor margin debt is small compared to the leverage funds and institutions deploy in the market, it does serve as a bellwether for analysts looking for what might trigger a market crash. SentimenTrader’s Jason Goepfert recently posted a warning to his readers that at $831 billion, we are fast approaching a “year-over-year growth rate in [margin] debt – on both an absolute scale and relative to the change in stock prices – will compare with some of the most egregious extremes in 90 years.”


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Short and Sweet

China’s monetary tradition and the origins of money

Artist rendering ancient Chinese spade money 1558-1050 BC

“The first step in theorizing correctly about money,” writes Mises Institute‘s Joseph T. Salerno, “is to understand that the value of money, like that of commodities, is never fixed and unchanging. Chinese philosophers who published the earlier Mohist Canons (468 B.C.~376 B.C.) grasped this crucial point. They recognized that metallic money, such as the ‘knife coins’ (pictured above) then in wide circulation, was valued and exchanged by weight and argued that the real value of money, despite its fixed face value, was not stable but fluctuated inversely with the prices of commodities. When commodity prices were high, money was ‘light’ or its purchasing power low; when prices were low, money was ‘heavy’ or its purchasing power high. Thus, if monetary conditions were such that the nominal prices of commodities were abnormally high, the real prices of commodities were not high, but rather money was ‘light’ or depreciated.”

According to Salerno, much of what we understand about sound money was first explored in ancient China, where metallic coinage was first introduced in the 12th century BC or earlier. Salerno’s article serves as an interesting introduction to Chinese monetary theory and philosophy. We recall that China was also the first country to experiment with paper money as an alternative to coins made from precious metals.  As might be expected, those experiments led to several instances of runaway inflation.

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“Does the deployment of helicopter money not entail some meaningful risk of the loss of confidence in a currency that is, after all, undefined, uncollateralized and infinitely replicable at exactly zero cost? Might trust be shattered by the visible act of infusing the government with invisible monetary pixels and by the subsequent exchange of those images for real goods and services? . . .  To us, it is the great question. Pondering it, as we say, we are bearish on the money of overextended governments. We are bullish on the alternatives enumerated in the Periodic table. It would be nice to know when the rest of the world will come around to the gold-friendly view that central bankers have lost their marbles. We have no such timetable. The road to confetti is long and winding.” – James Grant, Grant’s Interest Rate Observer


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Short and Sweet

What does bitcoin have in common with the ancient stone money of Yap?

“That does not render bitcoin invalid or the blockchain useless,” writes Gillian Tett in a recent Financial Times editorial. “After all, the mainstream currencies on which our lives depend rely on sometimes tenuous social norms as well. One way to frame the contest between bitcoin and fiat currency is thus as a battle of norms — and of distributed versus hierarchical trust.” Tett, perhaps inadvertently, makes a point a good many gold enthusiasts will embrace. Bitcoin is more readily comparable to fiat currencies than gold – as its value rests completely in the faith that it will not be printed without restriction.

Therein lies bitcoin’s ultimate weakness as a store of value. Who’s to say that any number of copycat cryptocurrencies won’t invade the space and undermine bitcoin’s value? (In fact, a good many already have with varying degrees of success.) Who’s to say that some enterprising software geek doesn’t find a way into the blockchain and begins producing bitcoin willy-nilly? (Which is what happened, by the way, to yap stone money. [More]) Tett ends her essay with some advice for Elon Musk – a new and ardent supporter of bitcoin: “Perhaps Musk’s next trip should be to Micronesia, where those now-useless stone circles still litter the landscape as a sign of what happens when norms and patterns of trust change.” To get to the heart of what Tett – an anthropologist as well as a first-rate journalist – means by that statement, you will need to read her essay in its entirety at the link above. In Musk’s defense, he also expressed an interest in Tesla building its gold reserves.


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Short and Sweet

Past gold bull markets have begun
with a surge in the money supply

If the Fed is looking for inflation, it will find it in the money supply – something that did not happen with authority in the aftermath of the 2008 credit crisis. From June 2019, the money supply has grown by $4.5 trillion – an eight times factor year over year. Recently, the rapid growth resumed its uptrend after about six months of moving sideways. During the financial crisis that began in 2008, the Fed sterilized its money creation by routing liquidity back to its coffers in the form of commercial bank excess reserves – a strategy that kept the inflation rate from running out of control. As you can see, the money supply growth this time around goes beyond anything that occurred during the prior crisis. Whether or not it will translate to price inflation down the road remains to be seen – though we have begun to see some signs of inflation taking root, most notably in the surge in commodity prices.

“Every gold bull market over the last 50 years has begun with a catalyst that propelled significant growth in the money supply,” writes Manning & Napier, the money management firm, in a report posted at Seeking Alpha titled The Value of Gold in a Portfolio. “Each of those prior bull markets was proceeded by substantial US dollar money supply growth, making monetary expansion a key indicator. It is important to note that this alone does not guarantee a gold bull market, as there are many other variables at play. … We see the status of each of these economic factors, money supply growth, inflation, and real interest rates, as supportive of higher gold prices ahead. Policymakers have been remarkably forceful in responding to Covid-19, resulting in substantial recent money supply growth in the US, and they appear willing to continue to throw money at the crisis in the year ahead.”

overlay line chart showing money supplu and gold

Sources: St. Louis Federal Reserve, ICE Benchmark Administration • • • Click to enlarge


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Short and Sweet
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

When paper money dies, precious metals prevail.
The lessons learned from the nightmare German hyperinflation of 1923

“They’ll print money until they run out of trees.”
Jim Rogers, investor and financial commentator

photograph of German currency converted to notepad during the Weimar Republic hyperinflation

Not many investors are seriously concerned about hyperinflation in the United States at this juncture. At USAGOLD, we, too, see it as an outlier – something that could happen but not a probability. But that’s the thing about hyperinflations. Rarely does the handwriting appear unmistakably on the wall. Not many were worried about hyperinflation in Germany in 1923 when it struck out of the clear blue. When disaster did strike, however, it came with a vengeance. Prices shot up in 1921. Then just as quickly – within the space of a year – they ran out of control. By 1923, an individual’s life savings could not purchase a cup of coffee. We ran into the following charts researching another matter at the GoldChartsRUs website. The one unsettling aspect they all have in common is their verticality – an indication of how quickly and conclusively the inflationary catastrophe swept through the German economy.

The first and second charts reflect the severe debasement of the German mark at the time. The third and fourth show how gold and silver performed as a hedge. In effect, what could have been purchased with an ounce of gold or silver before the debacle, could have been purchased at any time as it worsened and finally when it ended a few years later. Few, as stated above, predict an inflationary disaster on the level of the Weimar Republic. Still, it is good to know that by preparing for the lesser version of inflation, one prepares for the nastier versions as well.

line chart gold mark value Weimar 1920s

line chart showing Weimar wholelsale prices 1920s

price of gold Weimar Republic 1920s
line chart showing price of silver in marks 1920s Weimar Germany

Charts courtesy of GoldChartsRUs • • • Click to enlarge


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Image (top): Paper German marks converted to notepad, 1920s Weimar Republic. Attribution/ Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-00193 / CC-BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en>, via Wikimedia Commons


 

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Short and Sweet

Worry about the return ‘of’ your money,
not just the return ‘on’ it

photograph of a bag of gold coins
There is an old saying among veteran investors to worry not just about the return on your money, but the return of your money. In the wealth game, emphasize defense when you need to, offense when it makes sense. At all times, remain diversified. And by that, we mean real diversification in the form of physical gold and silver coins and/or bullion outside the current fiat money system – not just an assortment of stocks and bonds denominated in the domestic currency. Keep in mind – if the currency erodes in value, the underlying value of those assets erodes along with it. A proper, genuine diversification addresses that problem now and in the future.


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Short and Sweet
‘Wannabes’ and ‘Gonnabes’  not the real thing

photograph of gold bullion coins and historic gold coins USAGOLD

‘Put differently, as long as humans remain tangible, it is likely that they maintain a desire to hold real and tangible assets. Very few companies on the US stock exchange, for example, are older than 50 years. By comparison, gold has existed for thousands of years and any gold coin or gold bar will most likely outlive any company and their stocks and bonds. Put together, it is unlikely that a company that sells claims on gold, such as a gold ETF, will beat physical gold’s longevity.” – Dick Baur, Professor of Finance, University of Western Australia (Why ‘digital gold’ won’t ever kill off the real thing)

Wannabe and gonnabe paper gold and silver will never pass for history’s time-honored store of value – nor will it be mistaken for actual gold coins or bars stored nearby should the cold wind blow. By the way, adding the word, blockchain, to a paper gold product might enhance its marketing appeal, but it changes nothing in terms of its usefulness to the investor.  The instrument is still paper gold and little more than a price bet.

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