A gold tsunami is at our doorstep. It’s not about a bubble, trade or even a wall of fear. It might be partly some of each of those things, but that’s because it’s much, much bigger than each of those things. And I’m no gold bug – nor do I keep a cabin hideaway full of beef jerky waiting ready for the apocalypse. In fact, I just traded out of my last gold holdings because the volatility doesn’t suit me as an investor.
The gold story is about sheer numbers — mathematical balances between holders of gold. Unlike fiat currencies, there is an inherent limitation to the speculation that can occur on gold. Even the SPDR’s StreetTracks GoldShares ETF (GLD) is pegged to the physical amount of gold in existence (one unit = one-tenth of an ounce).
When Nixon removed the gold standard back in 1971, it was like taking the belt off a fat man at a pie-eating contest – the monetary waistline became elastic and had much more room to expand. More dollars could be printed and more wealth consumed with less immediate consequences since the new purely paper dollars no longer represented “promises to pay” anything at all. And since then, there has been no inherent limit at all to the number of paper dollars that could be issued as U.S. currency.
In place of gold, the US dollar effectively became the surrogate “backing” for all other currencies worldwide – which means that no currency anywhere now has any real peg to it – the waistline is as elastic as it needs to be, and it looks like the fat man’s not going to stop eating until he throws up or someone stops feeding him.
Massive Waves of Upward Pressure on Gold
The USD/Gold Price Relationship
We all know there’s a fair bit of “fear-flocking” to gold due to the massive money supply expansion and ghastly economic fundamentals of United States Inc. But this is just a little tributary contributing to the greater flood. Since gold is priced in US dollars, every downward movement in USD is ipso facto an upward movement in the gold price for no other reason at all. This may seem obvious but it is often overlooked. On top of any other reasons gold might be rising on its own terms, any direct or indirect downward pressure on the dollar is also going to send gold higher.
Central Banks Are Net Buyers
Central banks sold a lot of gold back in the 80’s, but recently have become net buyers of gold. This was seen most dramatically this year when just this month India purchased 200 tonnes of gold from the IMF and it shot the price per ounce up $25 in one day and surprised the financial world in doing so, leading to speculation about subsequent purchases from other central banks. Some analysts are speculating that the trend is most prevalent amongst the emerging markets and the East in particular as suspicion about the fiat currencies of the West grows worldwide. It’s not just China hoarding gold – Sri Lanka is apparently poised to make a big purchase, too. Charles Oliver of Sprott Asset Management notes that Russia is also planning to diversify out of the USD and into more Canadian dollars.
Supracurrency Coin Proposed As New World Reserve Currency (July 12, 2009)
World Bank: Don’t Take USD Reserve Status for Granted (Sept. 27, 2009)
Sucre, New Latin American Currency To Replace USD for Trade (Oct. 19, 2009)
The Social Security and Medicare Tsunami
As if the trillion-dollar stimulus packages (including cash for clunkers and the home-buyer credits programs) released in 2008-2009 weren’t bad enough, don’t forget what an awful financial position the United States was already in before the Lehman crash. Mountains of debt sat quietly like dust swept under carpets while the rest of the house appeared neat and tidy. Analysts were already warning, back in 2001, of sour times to come ahead with the huge social security and demographic problems that will start hitting come 2012-2017. Simply put, analysts outside the U.S. don’t expect the U.S. will be able to handle any of it. There will be more massive taxes or the boat will start leaking, or both.
Other factors could be alluded to here as well – such as the next wave of foreclosures due to options-ARMs (adjustable rate mortgages) that will hit full-force in 2011 throughout the United States – and it’s a problem just as widespread as the sub-prime problem was, yet it seems to be getting barely any attention within the United States at the moment.
Don’t Pooh-Pooh the Gold Price
For these reasons and others, gold at $2000/ounce isn’t that unlikely. Charles Oliver from Sprott Asset Management actually calls for this level to be breached within the next two years. Although that is a wide window, other analysts offer more precise but equally progressive targets, such as $1400 over the next two months by Larry Berman.
Recall that adjusted for inflation, gold’s all-time high was about $2300 back in 1980. There is clearly at least that much theoretical room for gold to climb.
I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t buy gold. But do know that it is worth paying attention to developments in gold and the story they tell about other economic trends worldwide that will affect you more or less directly. You may not think the gold price has any consequence for you, but when you understand that it is really an indicator of other factors, you can start reading between the lines to see what’s going on.
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Is $1000/oz. A Good Time To Buy? (includes list of the common gold ETFs)
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