August 13, 2022

The Top 10 Biggest Gold Producing Countries in the World

pygmy-possum-coinThe Perth Mint presents a neat infographic on the world’s top 10 gold producing countries.

China, which loves gold more than anything, came in as the number one producer with annual output of 370 metric tons.  According to the latest official numbers from the IMF, China holds the world’s fifth largest reserves of gold with holdings of 33.9 million ounces.  Unofficially, many analysts say that actual gold reserves held by China are far larger than the “officially” reported numbers.

The second largest gold producer in the world is Australia (home of the Perth Mint) which produced 250 metric tons of gold in 2012.

The United States came in at third place with annual production of 230 metric tons.  As a dubious consolation for those who hate to see the U.S. come in third, keep in mind that the United States still reigns supreme in the number one spot for production of paper currency.

The Perth Mint, which has been producing gold coins since 1899 has produced (in my opinion) some of the world’s most artistic gold and silver coins.

Ron Paul Talks About Economic Collapse and Lack of Federal Reserve Transparency

dickensIn an interview with CNBC, former GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul endorsed the efforts of his son, Senator Rand Paul, to hold up the nomination of Janet Yellen as Federal Reserve Chairman until laws are passed requiring more transparency from the Fed.

Senator Rand Paul has introduced legislation for an “Audit the Fed” bill which would require the Federal Reserve to disclose the details involving trillions of dollars the Fed has provided to both domestic and international financial institutions.

According to Ron Paul, “We don’t know the details of the trillions of dollars that were used to bail out banks and central banks around the world and corporations during the crisis.  The numbers that they give you I don’t think are all that revealing.”

Ron Paul has been one of the few voices in the American government pushing for financial responsibility by both the Federal government and the Federal Reserve.

After the most recent capitulation by Republicans to reduce the exponential increase in Federal government debt and spending, Ron Paul lamented the hypocrisy of the deal to end the government shutdown.

The latest spending-and-debt deal was negotiated by Congressional leaders behind closed doors, and was rushed through Congress before most members had time to read it. Now that the bill is passed, we can see that it is a victory for the political class and special interests, but a defeat for the American people.

The debt ceiling deal increases spending above the levels set by the “sequester.” The sequester cuts were minuscule, and in many cases used the old DC trick of calling reductions in planned spending increases a cut. But even minuscule and phony cuts are unacceptable to the bipartisan welfare-warfare spending collation. The bill also does nothing to protect the American people from the Obamacare disaster.

US debt to gdp

Members of Congress and the public were told the debt ceiling increase was necessary to prevent a government default and an economic crisis. This manufactured fear supposedly justified voting on legislation without allowing members time to even read it, much less to remove the special deals or even debate the wisdom of intervening in overseas military conflicts because of a YouTube video.

Congress surrendered more power to the president in this bill. Instead of setting a new debt ceiling, it simply “suspended” the debt ceiling until February. This gives the administration a blank check to run up as much debt as it pleases from now until February 7th. Congress can “disapprove” the debt ceiling suspension, but only if it passes a resolution of disapproval by a two-thirds majority. How long before Congress totally abdicates its constitutional authority over spending by allowing the Treasury permanent and unlimited authority to borrow money without seeking Congressional approval?

private debt gdp

Hopefully, those of us who understand sound economics can convince enough of our fellow citizens to pressure Congress to make serious spending cuts before Congress’s reckless actions cause a total economic collapse.

debt monster

Sound advice Mr. Paul, but the odds of preventing an economic collapse decline with each additional dollar borrowed by the government and each additional dollar printed by the Federal Reserve.  Debt at all levels is out of control and has overcome the ability of the nation to service the debt. Ironically, the only way to prevent a collapse today is through the Ponzi scheme method of further printing and borrowing which puts off the day of reckoning.

Realistically, Ron Paul has been ignored by the public and his fellow legislators for decades.  The odds of controlling the growth of debt by the U.S. and other major industrialized countries is almost zero since legislators are elected based on promises to extend the social welfare state and serve special interests.

The odds of central banks reducing quantitative easing is even more remote since an absence of money printing would hasten the economic collapse Mr. Paul warns about.  The future collapse predicted by Mr. Paul seems inevitable at some point and the only concern of an investor should be finding a safe haven for wealth preservation.

Gold’s Bad Luck With the Number 13

red deerGold has been on a rampage since the early 2000’s with yearly gains for 12 years in a row. Nothing lasts forever and the number 13 is starting to look very unlucky for gold. Barring a major upset in the world financial system, it looks increasing likely that gold will decline in the 13th year of its long rally in the year 2013.

Bloomberg’s Julie Hyman and Michael Purves, chief global strategist at Weeden & Co. take an interesting look at the factors impacting gold prices on Bloomberg Television.

Mr. Purves notes that the “flash crash” of gold in April correlated to a stronger dollar in the first half.  The strong dollar in the first half of the year has reversed and we have seen a weaker dollar so far in the second half of the year with a rebound and stabilization in gold prices.

Further evidence of healthy consolidation in gold prices can be seen by gold’s refusal to break to new lows as was widely predicted by consensus analysts.  Mr. Purves expects that the current consolidation in gold prices is building a base for a future advance.  As to the impact of a more restrained Federal Reserve monetary policy, Mr. Purves expects any tapering to be “measured and conditional.”

A strategy recommended by Mr. Purves to take advantage of expected continued volatility in gold prices is the option strategy of selling a November 127 put on the GLD and buying the 133 call.

The consensus opinion for gold remains one of bearishness or guarded optimism – and everyone knows that when the crowd is leaning in one direction, don’t be surprised if the consensus turns out to be wrong.

Courtesy: kitco.com

Courtesy: kitco.com

Marc Faber’s Surprising Gold Forecast

remembranceIn an interview with Barron’s, Marc Faber, editor of The Gloom, Boom & Doom report gives his take on where the gold market is headed and why certain investments related to gold might be very risky.

Marc Faber, never at a loss for a good soundbite, says gold is “in a correction mode” but seemed at a loss to explain why gold has dropped by over $400 per ounce over the past two years.

Faber talks about the paradox of weak physical gold prices even as demand for physical gold remains robust.  Although gold has declined in price and commentary on the gold market is extremely bearish, Faber notes that countries such as China is buying 2,600 tons of gold per year “which exceeds annual production.”  The gold market is currently in a “bottoming out process” and gold will see higher prices in the future according to Faber.

Courtesy: kitco.com

Courtesy: kitco.com

Many of the senior gold mining stocks represent good values but in a surprising comment Faber warns investors that many exploration companies “won’t make it so buy companies with cash reserves.”  Current gold prices mean that “few projects will get done.”  Faber’s bearish commentary on the smaller exploration companies seems to imply that he does not foresee a rapid short term recovery in the price of gold.

With central banks printing money at a rate that would have been unimaginable five years ago and huge demand for physical gold in Asia, the price of gold may recover to new highs faster than Faber expects.

Selling Climax in Gold and Silver Stocks Is a Classic Buy Signal

chartThe bear case for gold and silver stocks is well known and investors have reacted by dumping mining stocks indiscriminately.  The staggering decline in gold and silver stocks over the past two years now exceeds the decline that occurred during the crash of 2008 when the financial system was at the brink of collapse.

The Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index (XAU) is an index comprised of sixteen major precious metal mining companies. During the crash of 2008 the XAU declined by 58.5%.  From the peak of 226.58 in December 2010 to the low of 90.15 in June 2013, the XAU has collapsed by 60.2%.

Courtesy Yahoo Finance

Courtesy Yahoo Finance

Has the sell off of the past two years been so extreme as to constitute a selling climax which usually signals a major reversal from the lows?  According to John J. Murphy, an acknowledged technical analyst, a selling climax is “usually a dramatic turnaround at the bottom of a down move where all the discouraged longs have finally been forced out of the market on heavy volume.  The subsequent absence of selling pressure creates a vacuum over the market, which prices quickly rally to fill.”

It is too early to tell if prices have reached a capitulation bottom but investors who haven’t sold out positions in the precious metal miners after a 60% decline are probably thinking more about buying than selling.  Another factor that impedes future selling is the fact that investors are now getting paid to wait for a turnaround in the mining industry.

Historically, precious metal miners have never paid out large dividends but this metric has changed.  The stock price declines in  senior gold and silver producers have been so severe that the dividend yields on some gold mutual funds now approaches 4%.

The $2.4  billion Vanguard Precious Metals and Mining fund (VGPMX) currently yields 3.76% and holds a well diversified portfolio of seasoned mining companies.  The Vanguard fund holds investments in both domestic and foreign companies involved in activities related to gold, silver, platinum, diamonds, and rare minerals.

The chart on VGPMX looks like a reason for precious metal investors to commit suicide but if a selling climax has occurred, the losses of the past two years may be quickly recouped.  In addition, the chart of the Vanguard fund has made a triple bottom over the past six months.

VGPMX

Courtesy: Yahoo Finance

Another classic sign of a bottom in precious metal stocks was discussed by Mebane Faber who has drawn an analogy to the bottom of stock prices in early 2009 to the current chart of the Market Vectors Gold Miners (GDX).  In 2009 the S&P 500 kept hitting new lows even as the RSI and the MACD were making higher lows which is a classic bull signal.  A similar situation exists today with the GDX.

Courtesy: mebanefaber.com

Courtesy: mebanefaber.com

 

 

Global Debt Bubble Will Push Gold and Silver Prices Higher

money printingBy: GE Christenson

To paraphrase William Shakespeare, “the debt ceiling drama is a tale told by idiots, full of sound and political fury, signifying nothing.” We now have a reprieve for three months – the 11th hour deal, complete with payoffs and the usual corruption, will keep the world safe for more ineptitude, deficit spending, administrative hypocrisy and the guarantee of a sequel. All is well! Celebration! Champagne! Cut to a prime-time commercial promoting big government and Obamacare…

And back in the real world where people work and support their families, life goes on, few noticed the lack of government “services,” and in three months we will be blessed with another episode of our “Congressional Reality Show.”

Gold, Silver, and National Debt

Examine the following graph. It is a graph of smoothed* annual gold and silver prices and the official U.S. national debt since 1971 when the dollar lost all gold backing and was “temporarily” allowed to float against all other unbacked debt based currencies. All values start at 1.0 in 1971.

The legend does not show which line represents gold, silver, or the national debt. Why? Because it hardly matters! Government spends too much money to perform a few essential services and to buy votes, wars, and welfare, and thereby increases its debt almost every year, while gold and silver prices, on average, match the increases in accumulated national debt.

Our 435 representatives, 100 senators, and the administration listened to their corporate backers and chose to increase the debt ceiling, continue spending as usual, not “rock the boat,” and carry on with the serious business of politics and payoffs for another three months. It is safe to say that, on average, gold and silver will continue rising, along with the national debt, as they all have for the past 42 years. Further, like the national debt, both gold and silver (and probably most consumer prices) will increase substantially from here, until some traumatic “reset” occurs. What sort of reset?

  • A “black swan” event that is unpredictable, by definition.
  • Middle East war escalation.
  • Derivative melt-down.
  • A dollar collapse when foreigners say “enough” to the dollar debasement policies pursued by the Fed and the US government.
  • A collapse of the Euro or Yen for any number of reasons.
  • A banker admits that most of the official gold supposedly held in New York, London, and Fort Knox is gone and has been sold to China, India, and Russia.
  • You name the false flag operation.

My guess: Gold and silver prices will rise gradually for a while, and then quite rapidly after one of the above “financial icebergs” smashes into our “Titanic” world monetary system. Further, we will have difficulty locating physical gold available for sale after such an event occurs, even at much higher prices. Now would be a good time to purchase physical gold and silver for storage in a secure storage facility. Paper gold will not be safe…

Congress has acted. The President has spoken. The Federal Reserve will continue “printing” dollars to increase banker profitability, fund the government, and fight the forces of deflation. This is business as usual – as it has been for the past 42 years.

Here is the second version of the graph with gold, silver, and national debt labeled. Note how relatively undervalued silver is at the present time! Dashed lines indicate guesses for the future normalized values for gold, silver, and the national debt.

The debt ceiling drama and “Congressional Reality Show” will return to prime time in January and February, right after “Dancing with the Senators” and just before “House Wives of Salt Lake City.” Expect sound and fury signifying nothing.

Further commentary on the case for gold and silver:

The Reality of Gold and the Nightmare of Paper Silver: The Noise is Deafening
GE Christenson
aka Deviant Investor

* Gold and silver prices were smoothed by taking monthly closing prices and a 24 month simple moving average. Annual prices graphed are the average of the 12 average monthly prices per year.

The Term “Easy Janet” Is About to Become Part of the American Lexicon

By: Axel Merk

courtesy: www.michaelianblack.net

courtesy: www.michaelianblack.netBy: Axel Merk

While Democrats and Republicans fight with water pistols, the President may be readying a bazooka by nominating Janet Yellen to succeed Ben Bernanke as Fed Chair. You may want to hold on to your wallet; let me explain.

Our reference to water pistols refers to our assessment that bickering over discretionary spending is distracting from the real issue, entitlement reform. For details as to what we believe will happen if we don’t get entitlement reform done, please read our recent Merk Insight “The Most Predictable Economic Crisis”.

Bernanke Fed

Central banks in developed countries are generally considered independent, even if their members are appointed by politicians. In the U.S., however, there’s an added element: aside from a mandate for price stability, the Federal Reserve is tasked with promoting maximum sustainable employment. This simple concept might have been put in place with the best of intentions – who wouldn’t want to have maximum employment? Central banks that have a single focus on price stability, such as the European Central Bank, point out that the best way to foster sustainable growth is by keeping inflation low. The U.S., even with an employment mandate, had pursued the same practice.

That is, until Ben Bernanke appeared to run out of options to lower borrowing costs. Bernanke’s frame of reference had been the Great Depression; he had frequently cautioned that the biggest mistake during the Great Depression was to raise interest rates too early. After a credit bust, as central banks push against deflationary market forces, premature tightening might undo the progress to reflate the economy. In today’s world, it’s not just short term, but also longer-term interest rates that Bernanke has been concerned about – partially because Bernanke has always considered it important to keep mortgage rates low. To achieve his goal, the Bernanke Fed:

  • Talked down interest rates;
  • Lowered interest rates;
  • Purchased Treasury and Mortgage-Backed Securities
  • Engaged in Operation Twist
  • Introduced an employment target

Introducing an employment target was nothing but an extension of existing policies, as it signals the Fed might keep rates low independent of where inflation might be.

Yellen Fed

With Janet Yellen coming in, the concept of promoting employment is raised to a new level. Long gone is the Great Depression, but what remains may be a conviction that monetary policy should make up for the shortfalls of fiscal policy. That’s problematic for a couple of reasons:

  • When the Fed meddles with fiscal policy, Congress will want to meddle with monetary policy. For example, when the Fed buys mortgage-backed securities it allocates money to a specific sector of the economy (favoring the housing market); that’s not what the Fed ought to do – it’s the role of Congress to channel money through tax and regulatory policy. One can disagree whether even Congress should be picking winners and losers in an economy, but that’s a political determination to be made by elected officials.
  • When the Fed keeps rates low to promote employment, there’s a fair risk that important cues are removed from the market that would encourage Congress to show fiscal restraint. Congress has always loved to have a printing press in the back yard, but an employment target suggests that this printing press is going to be moved into the kitchen. The Eurozone may be proof that policy makers only make the tough decisions when forced to do so by the bond market; if, however, the Fed works hard to prevent this “dialogue” between the bond market and politicians, the most effective incentive to show fiscal restraint might be gone.
  • Inflation is a clear risk when the Fed emphasizes employment. In our assessment, inflation may well be the goal rather than the risk in the eyes of some policy makers, as inflation lowers the value of outstanding government debt.

Hold on to your wallet

In a democracy, it’s all too tempting to introduce ever more entitlements. As obligations mount, however, servicing these obligations might become ever more challenging. It’s nothing new that governments tax their citizens. But when deficits are no longer sustainable, governments may be tempted to engage in trickery. Structural reform, that is taking away entitlements, to lower expenditures would be the most prudent path to regain fiscal sustainability. Raising taxes is all too often the preferred alternative; while politically difficult, raising taxes is a strategy that’s all too often politically viable. Yet the path of least resistance may well be to inflate the debt away. Central banks ought to be independent to take this option away from policy makers. We have seen in the Eurozone that it can be most painful when the printing press is not at the disposal of politicians.

In our assessment, a central bank pursing an employment target is a central bank that has given up its independence. It’s only ironic that outgoing Fed Chair Bernanke recently praised Mexico’s central bank for gaining “independence.”

Whatever happened to the government being the representative of the people? Interests of the government and its citizens are no longer aligned when a government has too much debt. The government’s incentive will be to debase the value of the debt. The U.S. may have an easier time debasing the value of its debt than some other countries, as much U.S. debt is held by foreigners who can’t vote in the U.S. Differently said, promoting a weaker dollar is another potential avenue for U.S. policy makers to kick the can down the road. But fear not, whatever policy is coming to a neighborhood near you shall be done in the name of fostering maximum employment.

Axel Merk
Axel Merk is President and Chief Investment Officer, Merk Investments, Manager of the Merk Funds.

More on this topic:

After getting rid of their crazed central bankers, Zimbabwe Achieves Economic Growth by Destroying Ability of Government to Print Money.

obama_zimbabwe

So the good news is that once the economic collapse kicks in and the dollar becomes worthless preventing Hillary Chelsea Clinton Obama III, our 79th President from just printing more money, we too can have an actual economic recovery. Just like Zimbabwe.

“Having a multi-currency economy with no Zimbabwe dollars is primarily good news for Zimbabwe because government can’t print its way out of a deficit,” said John Robertson, an independent economist, in an interview from Harare. “They can’t just print more if they need it, as was happening in 2008.”

So there’s hope for America yet. Our current dictator could learn some lessons from the plight of Zimbabwe, but I suppose destroying the economy is a better means of wealth redistribution, than actually repairing the economy. Until then we’ll go on printing imaginary money.

US Mint Gold and Silver Bullion Coin Sales Decline in September

silver, goldDemand for American Eagle gold and silver bullion coins remained sluggish in September according to the latest figures from the U.S. Mint.

Sales of the American Eagle gold bullion coin totaled 13,000 ounces in September, off a considerable 77% from the previous year but up 13% from last month.  Sales of the gold bullion coin in August were only 11,500 ounces, the lowest monthly sales of the year.

The slowdown in gold coin sales marks a turnaround from the beginning of the year when demand for physical gold seemed insatiable.  April sales of the American Eagle gold coins came in at 209,500 ounces which was the largest sales month since December 2009 when 231,500 ounces were sold.

Despite the frenzy of money printing by banks around the world, gold bullion coin sales have declined every year since 2009 as the financial system stabilized.  Gold sales soared during the financial panic in 2009 to an all time high as nervous buyers sought safe haven in gold.

Yearly sales of the gold bullion coins are shown below.  The 2013 total is through September 3o.

Sales of the American Eagle silver bullion coins declined for the second month in a row.  During September the U.S. Mint sold 3,013,000 silver coins, down 7.4% from last year and down 16.9% from August.

Despite the soft sales in September, demand for the silver bullion coins has been robust this year.  If sales continue at the 3 million coins per month rate through year end, 2013 will turn out to be a record sales year with annual estimated silver bullion coin sales of 45 million.

Sales of the American Eagle silver bullion coins by year are shown below.  The 2013 sales total is through September 30.

 

Can I Buy Gold In My IRA Account?

tenth oz gold-eaglesThe “I won’t buy an umbrella until it rains” crowd has been dumping gold while the case for ownership of  safe haven gold has never been stronger.

As the credit bubble continues to grow at an alarming pace it’s not a question of if but rather when the next financial crisis engulfs the entire world.  Gold has been used forever as the only form of sound money since it has no credit risk or counter party.

Here’s a neat info-graphic from American Bullion that nicely sums up the compelling case for allocating part of a portfolio to gold.

Gold IRA Infographic

Next Economic Crisis Looms as Debts and Deficits Explode

money printingForget about a government shutdown. The quibbling over concessions to keep the government funded distracts from what might be the most predictable economic crisis. We have problems that may affect everything from the value of the U.S. dollar to investors’ savings, but also to national security.

In a presentation earlier this year, Erskine Bowles (of the Simpson-Bowles commission) explains why he travels around the country to drum up support for fiscal reform:

  • We are doing this (traveling around the country to drum up support for fiscal reform) not for our grandkids, not even for our kids, but for us.
  • If we don’t get elected officials to pull together, we face the most predictable economic crisis in history. The most predictable, but avoidable crisis.

Mr. Bowles is 68 years old; when someone his age says we need to get fiscal reform done for his generation, we should take note. The good news is that we see awareness increase. The bad news is that policy makers have an amazing ability to kick the can down the road. Former Bundesbank President Axel Weber has said policy makers choose the cost of acting versus the cost of not acting. We fully agree and would like to add that the bond market may be the one force powerful enough to get policy makers to make the tough but necessary choices. Unlike the Eurozone, however, we have a current account deficitin the U.S. which means that should the bond market apply pressure on policy makers, the U.S. dollar might come under far more pressure than the Euro has ever been.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. To see why we have a problem, let’s look at the projections of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO); we are using their “Extended Alternative Fiscal Scenario.” The extended alternative fiscal scenario incorporates the assumptions that certain policies that have been in place for a number of years will be continued and that some provisions of law that might be difficult to sustain for a long period will be modified. From 1973-2012, government spending averaged 20.4% of GDP; in contrast government revenue averaged 17.4% of GDP. That equates to an average yearly deficit of 3%. As long as an economy grows sufficiently, it may be able to carry a sustained 3% annual deficit. A future Merk Insight might question this logic, but today’s analysis focuses on a much bigger problem.

Democrats and Republicans argue about the size of the government. Democrats tend to favor a larger government to provide healthcare or other services deemed valuable by their constituents; Republicans, in contrast, brand themselves as favoring small government. But as much as anyone may have a preference for one model or another, either approach must be financed. Financing any level of government spending can occur either through increasing revenue (taxes) or borrowing. Trouble is that there aren’t enough rich folks out there to tax to mend the system. Consider the following projection by the CBO:

  • In 10 years, our annual budget deficit is projected to be 4.5% of GDP.
  • In 25 years, our annual budget deficit is projected to be 13.6% of GDP.
  • In 35 years, our annual budget deficit is projected to be 18.7% of GDP.


You might shrug off these numbers as unrealistic given that it’s impossible to forecast 35 years out. However, keep in mind that the biggest driver of expenses in the coming 35 years are known as “entitlements,” taking Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid together, these expenses are expected to rise from 9.3% to 15.7% of GDP; that’s an increase of 6.4% of GDP. If one accepts a substantially larger tax burden, possibly by introducing a national sales tax or carbon tax, one could conceivably finance this increase, although getting the political majority for such taxes might be elusive.

But the biggest elephant in the room is interest expense. As we keep piling on deficits at some point the cost of borrowing might increase to rates that are more in line with historic averages, and we have a problem:

 

According to the CBO, in 2048, we will be spending almost 12% of GDP on interest expense, compared to just over 1% now. Differently said, as a share of GDP, we will be paying more in 2048 for entitlements and interest expense than we currently pay for all government services combined. Said still another way, even with substantially higher taxes, there may not be any money to pay for the military, education, or infrastructure. In fact, Republicans and Democrats can stop arguing about discretionary spending, as there might not be any to fight over! Mr. Bowles argues, and we agree, that our deficits might be the biggest threat to our national security.

Now there’s a thing or two we can learn from Europe. Most notably that policy makers can be incredibly creative when it comes to kicking the can down the road. Culturally, there are differences, too. In Germany, austerity sells. In the U.S., we may be much more tempted to count on the Federal Reserve to help us finance our deficits.

In this context, we think the biggest threat we are facing might be economic growth. That’s because economic growth may send the bond market down, increasing the cost of borrowing. The U.S. currently pays just under 2% on its marketable debt; in 2001, it was over 6%. We are not suggesting that the average cost of borrowing will shoot up overnight. But let’s look at just the next 10 years. The below chart shows a CBO projection next to a projection that suggests we revert to a slightly higher rate, namely the rate that was the average for the past 40 years. Unrealistic? You judge. But it suggests that we might be paying $1.2 trillion in interest expense in 2023:

 

As indicated, with the exception of our suggestion that interest rates might move back up to their historic average, the estimates are CBO projections. If there were another military conflict, for example, expenses could easily be higher.

So what does it mean for investors? The most obvious choice might be to consider shorting bonds. But while we agree that bonds may be one of the worst investments over the coming decades, be warned that it can be very expensive to short bonds. Markets tend to exert maximum pain on investors; as such, it’s conceivable that bonds hold on much longer than one might think, possibly even rise. During this “wait and see” period, investors shorting bonds have to pay the interest on them.

A more effective way to prepare for what lies ahead might be to focus on the greenback. As indicated earlier, the U.S. has a current account deficit. That means foreigners have to buy U.S. dollar denominated assets to keep the dollar from falling to cover the deficits. Higher interest rates might attract investors, but if one believes the Federal Reserve might keep rates artificially low, it also means that Treasury securities would be intentionally overpriced. Less abstractly speaking, if you think the Bank of Japan in Japan or the Fed in the U.S. might try to keep a lid on yields, the currency may well be the valve. In fact, we would go as far as to argue that we cannot afford high positive real interest rates. As a result, the Fed might need to err on the side of inflation rather than cripple the economy. Sure, a hawkish Fed might be able to hike rates in the short-term, but let the economy kick into higher gear. If we look at what happened, for example, in Spain, perception maters more than reality: Spain had very prudent debt management, with an average duration of about 7 years; yet the market started to lose confidence, causing concern in the market that Spain might lose access to the market. Similarly, in the U.S., the numbers above matter little should investors lose confidence. By all means, U.S. markets are deeper and more liquid than Spanish markets. But to us, it also suggests that policy makers will be more tempted to kick the can down the road, only exacerbating the day of reckoning.

All the more so, shorting bonds may only be for the brave. Diversifying out of the greenback, however, be that through gold or a basket of currencies, is also risky, but allows investors to potentially take advantage of other opportunities along the way. A more active investor may want to contemplate whether there’s money to be made from the “currency wars” that might rage as different regions of the world address their challenges in different ways. None of these are easy choices, but doing nothing may also be a risky proposition, as the purchasing power of the dollar may increasingly be at risk.

Please register to join us for an upcoming Webinar as we dive into these dynamics in more detail. Also make sure you subscribe to our newsletter so you know when the next Merk Insight becomes available.

Axel Merk

Axel Merk is President and Chief Investment Officer, Merk Investments, Manager of the Merk Funds.