June 19, 2024

The Bull Market In Gold Is Dead

Gold coinsApril was a brutal month for precious metal investors.  Gold ended the month down almost 8% and silver prices tumbled almost 13%.   The sell off continued in May with gold down another $60 per ounce to $1,412 and silver down $1.55 to $22.87 per ounce at mid month.

With investors already nervous, two mainstream news organizations today did the equivalent of yelling fire in a theater crowded with gold and silver investors.

Both Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal published extremely bearish articles on gold which essentially proclaimed the death of the gold bull market.

“Gold is going to get crushed”

Gold will trade at $1,100 an ounce in a year and below $1,000 in five years, according to Ric Deverell, head of commodities research at the bank. Lower prices are unlikely to lure more central-bank buying, said Deverell, who worked at the Reserve Bank of Australia for 10 years before joining Credit Suisse in 2010.

“Gold is going to get crushed,” Deverell told reporters in London today. “The need to buy gold for wealth preservation fell down and the probability of inflation on a one- to three-year horizon is significantly diminished.”

Investors are losing faith in the world’s traditional store of value even as central banks continue to print money on an unprecedented scale. Bullion slumped into the bear market last month after a 12-year bull market that saw prices rise as much as sevenfold. Gold is a “wounded bull,” Credit Suisse said in a Jan. 3 report.

“When gold is going up, it looks like a great idea to buy more gold,” Deverell said. “And when it’s going down, do you really think risk-averse central bankers are going to try and catch the knife? No.”

A surge in demand for bars, coins and jewelry following gold’s drop to a two-year low in April is temporary, Deverell said. The U.S. Mint said April 23 it ran out of its smallest gold coins and Australia’s Perth Mint said volumes jumped to a five-year high. India’s bullion imports may surge 47 percent to 225 tons in the second quarter to meet consumer buying, according to the All India Gems & Jewelery Trade Federation.

“This is bargain-buying,” Deverell said. “It’s like when you have cash for clunkers in autos, you bring forward activity, but it’s not a massive addition to buying.’

Courtesy: kitco.com

Courtesy: kitco.com

“The bears are mauling gold”

The metal fell for a sixth consecutive trading session on Thursday, as investors continue to flee toward assets that promise higher returns.

The characteristics beloved of “gold bugs,” the sizable army of large and small investors who swear by the metal, are precisely what bears are feasting on. Unlike most other assets, gold doesn’t offer a steady return, or yield, and it is often seen as protection against inflation or currency devaluations.

At present, however, global economic growth is sluggish, interest rates in many developed countries are at or near record lows, and investors of all stripes are scrambling to find higher-yielding assets.

“There’s basically no inflation, equities are taking off, and we’ve got a strong dollar,” said Fain Shaffer, president of Infinity Trading Corp. in Medford, Ore. “All of those are just eroding away the investment value of precious metals.” Mr. Shaffer this week recommended his clients bet on lower gold prices.

On Thursday, bears seized on a World Gold Council report showing that total demand for gold fell 13% in the first quarter, to a three-year low of 963 tons in the period.

Other investors are taking the opposite view. John Workman, chief investment strategist with Convergent Wealth Advisors, said the firm late last year recommended that clients trim their gold holdings by about 25%. He cited gold prices that have stagnated despite more stimulus from the Federal Reserve in the form of asset purchases, the same money printing that galvanized gold bugs after the financial crisis. Falling prices were a signal that many investors just weren’t concerned anymore that the stimulus measures would stoke inflation and weaken the dollar.

To sum things up –

  • it no longer matters that central banks everywhere are printing money on an unimaginable scale,
  • the world economy is doing fine and will continue to improve,
  • gold, used as a currency and safe haven for 5,000 years, is inferior to fiat paper currency,
  • returns are better in stocks and bonds,
  • monetary stimulus via central bank asset purchases will propel the world into sustained economic growth,
  • there is no inflation and
  • investors want assets with yields.

Price fluctuations may not make much sense in the short term, but long term precious metal investors know where things are headed – see Why I Will Always Own Gold.

Why I Will Always Own Gold and Silver

What I Know for Certain –  By:  GE Christenson

gold-dollar

      • Death and taxes!
      • Fear and greed are powerful motivators.
      • Individuals, businesses, and governments do what they think is beneficial for them.
      • Businesses and governments protect their products and territory and resist competition and enemies.
      • Concentrated wealth creates power and corruption. The greater the concentration of wealth, the larger and more pervasive the power and corruption.
      • Gold and silver have been money for over 3,000 years.
      • Unbacked paper money systems have always failed.

What I Think is True

      • The basic product of a central bank is the unbacked paper currency it prints in ever-increasing quantities.
      • Central banks will fight all competitors to their currencies. The oldest competitor to unbacked paper currencies is gold, ancient money.
      • Politicians want to spend money and increase their power.
      • Bankers want to create money, lend it to governments, and thereby secure a permanent and increasing revenue stream.

What I Think the Consequences Are

      • Bankers use their wealth to “influence” politicians. Politicians respond with favorable legislation. It has worked for centuries.
      • Central banks want an expanding money supply and ever-increasing debt. The consequence is that consumer prices inevitably increase.
      • A currency collapse is like a bank run – everyone scrambles to remove his/her wealth from the currency (or the bank) due to a loss of confidence. In fractional reserve banking systems, bank runs are inevitable. Even though they may last for many decades, unbacked paper currencies inevitably devalue and eventually collapse.
      • Bank runs and currency collapses are feared by bankers and politicians; they do what they can to support confidence in their products and to squash their competitors.

In the United States

      • Debt and government spending seem likely to increase until a crash-reset occurs.
      • The crash-reset will involve a dollar collapse.
      • Gold and silver will eventually reach much higher prices due to the loss of value and confidence in the dollar, the banking system, and the sustainability of the current financial system.
      • “Paper gold” will be seen for what it is – a promise that might not be paid.
      • Physical gold will be seen for what it is – real wealth.
      • The USA and Europe are sending their real wealth – gold – to China, India, Russia, and the Middle East. China, India, and Russia are buying aggressively and know that exchanging paper dollars and euros for gold will strengthen their economies and governments tomorrow.
      • It is openly speculated that much of the sovereign government and central bank gold supposedly owned by the USA and Europe is either gone, leased, or otherwise committed.

Read: The Crash Before the Climb

Accept what you cannot change and act based on facts, not our current financial and economic fictions. Protect your financial well-being with physical gold and silver safely stored in a secure location.

GE Christenson
aka Deviant Investor

The Financial System Has Reached The Implosion Point

coinA profound thanks to all the short term fickle speculators in gold and silver who have shifted their portfolio allocations to stocks, bank accounts and certificates of confiscation government bonds .  The shift to paper assets has provided what will in hindsight be the best buying opportunity for gold and silver since the crash of 2008.

BY:  GE Christenson

March and April 2013 may go down in history as the tipping point for the western financial system.

We have already seen:

  • Lehman Brothers and many other financial firms collapse.
  • $700 Billion in TARP funds arranged by banking insiders for banking insiders at the expense of US taxpayers.
  • Over $16 Trillion in bailouts, guarantees, swaps, and loans created by the Fed and given to various banks, nations, and other insiders.
  • MFGlobal took “segregated” customer funds, the exchange provided no compensation to customers, and yet no criminal indictments have been issued.
  • Global derivatives total $700 Trillion to well over $1,000 Trillion, depending on who is counting. Some are “toxic waste.”
  • Many European bailouts and “fixes.”
  • Spain, Italy, Slovenia, and perhaps France in trouble.
  • US official debt approaching $17 Trillion with unfunded liabilities many times larger.
  • The Federal Reserve creating $85 Billion per month (over $115,000,000 per hour) to support banks and the US government.

So what other disasters could occur? In a word, Cyprus!

  • Not because the EU and Cyprus took Russian money.
  • Not because several banks will close.
  • Not because some deposits will be confiscated and/or frozen.

In my opinion, the sign that a tipping point has occurred in the financial system is the real story:

  • The veil of banker honesty has been lifted. The EU/IMF/ECB will do whatever is necessary to support the banks, even if it means they will confiscate (tax, steal, bail-in) customer deposits.
  • Customer deposits are NOT assets held in the bank for safe-keeping, but are liabilities of the bank and are not guaranteed to be made whole.
  • Billions of dollars were removed prior to the Cyprus freeze, so insiders clearly knew in advance of the ordinary depositors (see below). There is no “level playing field” when billions of dollars/euros are in play.
  • According to Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Dutch finance minister and Euro Group President, this is “the template for any future bank bailouts.” In other words, your deposits are considerably less safe than you thought. Your bank could fail, and your deposits might be used to compensate for derivative losses or other losses that the bank incurred.
  • The FDIC in the US, as well as England, Canada, and New Zealand, has announced similar policies, agreements, and plans to confiscate deposits in the case of an emergency. Is this a sign that an emergency is not only possible but probable and imminent?
  • Confidence in the banking and financial system has been seriously damaged, perhaps irreversibly.

Following are a few quotes from respected commentators:

Jim Sinclair: If the fools that have attacked Cyprus persist then it is the start of an avalanche that will destroy confidence in fiat currency, the fractional reserve system and central banks. What are the central bankers terrified of? My answer is the mountain of old OTC derivative coming home to roost.” Link.

Tyler Durden: “With every passing day, it becomes clearer and clearer the Cyprus deposit confiscation “news” was the most unsurprising outcome for the nation’s financial system and was known by virtually everyone on the ground days and weeks in advance: first it was disclosed that Russians had been pulling their money, then it was suggested the president himself had made sure some €21 million of his family’s money was parked safely in London, then we showed a massive surge in Cyprus deposit outflows in February, and now the latest news is that a list of 132 companies and individuals has emerged who withdrew their €-denominated deposits in the two weeks from March 1 to March 15, among which the previously noted company Loutsios & Sons which is alleged to have ties with the current Cypriot president Anastasiadis.” Link.

Peter Cooper: “Depositors in the beleaguered Bank of Cyprus are now facing losses of 60 per cent on deposits over 100,000 euros as the Cyprus Government seems to have woken up to the fact that this is its last chance to steal money off these mainly foreign depositors. It’s an absolute travesty and a red letter day for European Union banks…

“Money in EU bank accounts is clearly now up for grabs by any government that recapitalizes its banking sector. Moreover, the Cyprus precedent is going to cause a run on the weaker banks that will make this sort of recapitalization inevitable. Standby for a systemic banking crisis in the EU…

“What the EU has done in Cyprus is the modern equivalent of the failure of the Credit Anstaldt in 1931 that brought on the Great Depression with thousands of banking failures around the world.” Link.

Jim Sinclair: “I believe Cyprus is the defining moment whereby the physical market for gold overtakes the paper market for gold as the arbiter of price. When that occurred in 1979 the price of gold began its move to seek its maximum valuation.” Link.

Julian DW Phillips: “When it was announced [in Cyprus] that both large and small depositors were to have a percentage of their deposits seized, it was not the amount that horrified the world but the discovery that you do not own your own bank deposits… Most investors worldwide are of the belief that when you deposit your money in a bank, it simply has safe-keeping of that money. The realization that you have lent the bank your money and are an “Unsecured Creditor” of the bank is an unpleasant revelation.” Link.

Michael Snyder: “What you are about to see absolutely amazed me when I first saw it. The Canadian government is actually proposing that what just happened in Cyprus should be used as a blueprint for future bank failures up in Canada.

The following comes from pages 144 and 145 of “Economic Action Plan 2013″ which you can find right here. Apparently the goal is to find a way to rescue “systemically important banks” without the use of taxpayer funds…”

“In addition, branches of the two largest banks in Cyprus were kept open in Moscow and London even after all of the banks in Cyprus itself were shut down. So wealthy Russians and wealthy Brits have been able to take all of their money out of those banks while the people of Cyprus have been unable to…”

“The global elite are fundamentally changing the game. From now on, no bank account on earth will ever be able to be considered “100% safe” again. This is going to create an atmosphere of fear and panic, and no financial system can operate normally when you destroy the confidence that people have in it.

Confidence is a funny thing – it can take decades to build, but it can be destroyed in a single moment.” Link.

Ellen Brown: “Confiscating the customer deposits in Cyprus banks, it seems, was not a one-off, desperate idea of a few Eurozone “troika” officials scrambling to salvage their balance sheets. A joint paper by the US Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Bank of England dated December 10, 2012, shows that these plans have been long in the making; that they originated with the G20 Financial Stability Board in Basel, Switzerland (discussed earlier here); and that the result will be to deliver clear title to the banks of depositor funds.” Link.

Richard Russell: “I’ve been asked to name one future situation of which I’m most certain. My answer is this – I believe the surest situation (change) in America’s future is a decline, even a drastic decline, in our standard of living. We’ve spent it; we’ve spent what we didn’t have. And somewhere ahead, probably much sooner than we think, will come payback time. And it won’t be pretty.” Link.

Summary

GE Christenson
aka Deviant Investor

Top Financial Advisors Negative On Gold As Perfect Contrarian Storm Brews

The outlook for gold has turned profoundly negative.  With prices down over 4% since the start of the year, gold is off to the worst start since 2001.  Billionaire investors George Soros and Louis Moore Bacon have dramatically slashed their gold holdings and Bloomberg reports that money managers have liquidated gold and precious metal holdings for six straight weeks, the longest stretch of outflows since the first quarter of 2011.

Further confirmation of the bearish outlook on gold investment was provided by Barron’s latest survey of America’s top financial advisors who manage money for the ultra wealthy.  According to Barron’s, the “one clear theme” of the advisors for 2013 is an increased commitment to stocks,  logically implying that most advisors see a better economy and rising corporate profits.  With bond yields reaching all time lows, stock dividends are also able to provide income starved investors with yields unattainable from government debt securities or gold.

Barron’s surveyed the best financial advisors in fifty states and the District of Columbia and listed their latest recommendations.  Out of the 51 financial advisors interviewed, only two gave a lukewarm recommendation for gold as a hedge.

With the investor outlook for gold about as negative as it can get, a contrarian opportunity is developing.  A negative consensus by itself is not sufficient to justify an overallocation to gold nor can it provide the timing for a reversal.  Negative sentiment and corresponding price declines provide the opportunity to assess the validity of the consensus and weigh the opportunity for out-sized gains when the consensus swings in the opposite direction.

The probability for a sentiment reversal on gold is not unreasonable.

Severely dysfunctional governments worldwide have abdicated responsibility for implementing policies that would lead to sound fundamental economic growth and fiscal restraint.  In their stead, responsibility for running world economies has been delegated to central banks which have virtually zero constraints on providing easy money as the solution for over indebtedness and slow growth.

The consensus belief is that the benefit of unlimited cheap money, which is clearly stimulating current asset inflation, will eventually benefit the real economy.  This beautiful theory of wealth creation by central banks becomes even more appealing as central bankers assure us that easy money policies will not cause high inflation since monetary policies could quickly be adjusted if inflation rises too high.  After putting the world on a path to permanent prosperity and ending poverty through unlimited money printing, perhaps the world’s central banks will also come up with a cure for cancer – we shall see.  In the meantime, the contrarian case for investing in gold grows with each passing day.

Nine Reasons Why You Must Own Gold

By: Deviant Investor

american-gold-eagle-coins

    • Gold has been real money (medium of exchange and a store of value) for over 3,000 years. It is still real money.
    • Gold has no counter-party risk. It is not someone else’s liability. It has intrinsic value that is recognized around the world.
    • ALL paper money systems have eventually failed. The intrinsic value of paper money is effectively zero; and all paper money has, throughout history, eventually devalued to zero.
    • Paper money is a liability of a central bank or a government that may be insolvent. The money issued by a central bank or government has value based NOT on its intrinsic value, but only upon people’s faith, trust, and confidence in that money. Occasionally that faith and confidence is misplaced. For example:

zimbabwe

    • The price of gold in US dollars since the year 2001 has been strongly correlated with the ever-increasing official national debt of the United States. Read $4,000 Gold! Yes, But When? Does anyone believe that the national debt will decrease or even remain constant over the next several years? NO! The national debt will increase even more rapidly over the next four years and so will the price of gold. Skeptical? Then look at the chart of national debt and the nearly parallel price of gold. Still skeptical? Do you remember gasoline selling for less than $.20 per gallon and gold selling for about $40? They have increased in price because there are currently many more dollars in circulation than in the 1960s – hence, it takes more dollars to buy an ounce of gold, a gallon of gasoline, a loaf of bread, a cup of coffee, or a fighter jet.

Click on image to enlarge.
  • Because governments and central banks issue paper money backed by nothing but faith and credit, they are in competition with gold which is real money. Should we be surprised when they discount the importance of gold and discourage ownership? Should we be surprised when the “Oracle of Omaha” denigrates gold ownership? (Berkshire Hathaway holds huge positions in banking stocks and Goldman Sachs stock.) Should we be surprised when news stories are heavily slanted against gold ownership?
  • Groucho Marx once said, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?” Who are you going to believe – the history of gold as valuable money while paper money failed, or the pronouncements of politicians, central banks, and the owners of bank stocks?
  • Who and what do you believe? It will be important to your financial well-being if (when) paper money accelerates its journey toward an intrinsic value of zero.
  • Are you going to believe history and current facts or less reliable information from politicians, central banks, and the owners of bank stocks?

GE Christenson
aka Deviant Investor

GATA Finally Gets The Recognition It Deserves

Every gold and silver investor owes a debt of gratitude to the Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (GATA).  Long fluffed off by the mainstream media, GATA has been a voice in the wilderness in exposing the manipulative schemes of governments and central banks to suppress gold prices.

With printing presses running wild world wide, the issue of gold price suppression will become ever more critical as the public eventually realizes that the only viable alternative to paper money backed by nothing is a gold backed currency system.

The tireless efforts of GATA, spearheaded by Secretary/Treasurer Chris Powell,  in documenting surreptitious gold price suppression schemes by central banks has finally been recognized by a major mainstream financial publication.

The Financial Times, in an article regarding the repatriation of gold from the Fed by the Bundesbank, talks about the lack of transparency by central banks in the gold market.  (Read the full article here.)

The gold market barely shrugged when the Bundesbank announced it would move 674 tonnes of the stuff from Paris and New York to Frankfurt.

But the move is important: not for what it says about Germany’s faith in French or American vaults; nor for the cost of shifting 674 tonnes of gold; but because it is a major victory for transparency in the gold market.

Central banks are notoriously secretive about their gold-trading activities.

Most report, on a monthly basis, their gold reserves to the International Monetary Fund. But these data fall a long way short of full transparency. They tell us nothing about derivative positions in the gold market — for example, gold loans, agreements for future sales, or options transactions.

The historical lack of transparency among central banks is somewhat understandable.

With 29,500 tonnes between them (a decade of global mine supply) they have the ability to disrupt the market significantly if their trades are too public. See, for example, the reaction to the UK’s announcement that it would sell a large part of its reserves in 1999.

Maybe at some point, the rest of the mainstream media will finally decide to take a critical look at the dealings of central banks in the gold market.

Gold and Silver Will Protect You From The Looming Financial Hurricane

By: GE Christenson

What Storm?

  • A hurricane of digital money created by central banks to purchase government debt and other dodgy assets from banks.
  • A tidal wave of deficit spending by governments around the world. It continues, regardless of whether you call it business as usual, stimulus, payoffs, or bailouts.
  • A perfect storm of derivatives – the weapons of mass financial destruction that continue to plague our financial system – but make $Billions (Maybe $Trillions) in profits for the huge banks.
  • A tornado of bailouts, giveaways, loans, and currency swaps from the Federal Reserve to backstop banks, politically connected individuals and corporations, European governments and others.
  • An approaching thunderstorm of new and higher taxes – perhaps a carbon tax, a VAT, and a wealth tax. We hope most of these will be downgraded to a hot air disturbance.
  • A tsunami of Japanese Yen based on the election of Prime Minister Abe and his avowed intention to weaken the Yen.

Why Do We Need Shelter?

  • Derivatives involve huge counter-party risk. The international financial system seems increasingly shaky. Those derivatives might be triggered by a Greek government default, another Lehman-like implosion, or a “black-swan” event that causes derivative contracts be paid. Will the counter-parties be able and willing to pay as required? Was sufficient margin set aside to protect all those derivative contracts? Doubtful!
  • It seems that the $700 Trillion in derivatives is largely based on $70 Trillion of sovereign debt, much of which is of marginal quality. When the collateral is worth less than face value, the derivative is worth considerably less than face value, or perhaps nothing.
  • Medicare and Social Security costs to the US government are huge and increasing. More deficits and accelerating national debt will be the result.
  • Will the dollar weaken against other currencies? Will the bond bubble finally burst?
  • Consumer price inflation is here and increasing.

Where Is The Shelter?

The problems are unbacked paper assets, excess debt, too much government spending, massive government deficits, derivatives that could implode, and lack of political will to correct the problems. We need a shelter that will minimize these risks.

One shelter is to divest out of paper assets and into gold and silver bullion and coins, land, farms, hobby farms, diamonds, and other physical assets. If you must stay in paper, consider using ETFs for crude, grains, sugar, gold, silver and other commodities. Read Ten Steps to Safety.

Conclusions

The investment world is increasingly dangerous. Few understood in late 1999 that an epic crash in the NASDAQ was about to occur. Housing crashed despite a wide-spread belief that real estate always goes up. There are several candidates for another crash – sovereign debt, derivatives, and the dollar.

We can depend less upon the safety of paper assets. We can depend less upon 1′s and 0′s on a financial server that claim we have assets in a brokerage account. When your government is seeking revenue, your assets are less safe. As Doug Casey says, your government currently sees you as a milk cow but may eventually view you as a beef cow.

Give your savings and retirement a chance to preserve their purchasing power. Minimize currency risk, find an alternative to a CD that pays 1% per year or a 30 year bond that pays about 3% per year for 30 years and is guaranteed to be repaid with increasingly depreciated dollars. Gold from 1/1/2000 to 1/1/2013 (13 years – from $282 to $1,655) has increased at a compounded rate of 14% per year. You have choices!

Doug Casey believes we are currently exiting the eye of the financial hurricane that started with the financial crisis of 2008 and that the next phase of the financial storm is imminent. Assets could be “blown away,” and supposedly safe structures might collapse in the financial winds of change.

If the financial hurricane is downgraded to a minor storm, you will still be sheltered in gold, silver, and other physical assets and have lost nothing. However, if the hurricane destroys many paper assets, then gold and silver will shelter you until the storm wreckage is cleared and financial life begins anew.

GE Christenson
aka Deviant Investor

Gold Is The Only Asset With No Counterparty Risk

By: Axel Merk

While the introduction of a trillion-dollar coin has been shrugged off as nonsense, there are plenty of nonsensical concepts employed in our monetary system. Here we’ll shed light on a few of them.

Governments – or their central banks – can print a $100 bill. The value of such a piece of paper is worth exactly as much as the supply and demand of a currency dictates. Dollar bills are legal tender for payment of debt, but if someone does not like that the $100 bill is not backed by anything, then anyone is free to decline a $100 bill in exchange for services, and barter instead.

The problem arises when the government decrees that something is worth a certain amount, unless it becomes the basis of the government’s entire framework of reference, as in a gold standard. In my humble opinion, no one, let alone a government can precisely value anything. The value of goods, services, even debt, is in the eye of the beholder, and varies based on supply and demand:

  • Consumers buy goods or services because they believe they are “good value;” in other words, they only exchange money for goods in a deal where they see themselves benefiting. Consumers should not blame companies for “over-priced” goods or services; they should blame themselves for paying such prices.
  • The perception of what is good value varies from person to person. What may be a must-have $80 a month cable TV subscription, may be a waste to others. It also varies over time, as some may deem a vacation well worth the money during good times, but rather stay at homes when times are tough.
  • When monopolies or governments impose prices, distortions, such as supply disruptions can occur. Or conversely, when the government keeps the price of fuel artificially low, it can significantly erode the government’s ability to provide other services, possibly even bankrupt it.

The market currently prices platinum at over $1,600 a troy ounce. If the Treasury were to decree that a specially minted coin is worth $1,000,000,000,000 instead, no rational person would want to buy it. The argument is that the Federal Reserve could be coerced into accepting it at face value, crediting the Treasury’s account at the Fed with $1 trillion for it to spend. In our view, such a move, if it were upheld in the courts, would:

  • Highlight the not so well known fact that the Federal Reserve (Fed) does not mark its holdings to market. The lack of mark-to-market accounting leading up to the financial crisis is a key reason why the financial system was brought to its knees in 2008. A major loss at the Federal Reserve, such as writing down a $1 trillion coin to $1,600 may not be too worrisome for those that know that even a negative net worth won’t render a central bank inoperative. However, losses at the Fed would deprive the Treasury of what has become an annual transfer of almost $90 billion in “profits” (see MerkInsight Hidden Treasury Risks?).
  • Dilute the value of the dollar. If the Treasury whips up an additional trillion to spend through trickery, odds are that a trillion would no longer be worth what it used to be.

But wait, $1 trillion is already not worth what it used to be, and a $1 trillion coin has not even been minted. And I’m not talking about our grandparents: who had ever heard of trillion dollar deficits before the financial crisis? The Federal Reserve holds just under $3 trillion in assets, up by over $2 trillion since early 2008. When the Federal Reserve engages in “quantitative easing”, QE, QE1, QE2, QE3, QEn or however one wants to call it, the Fed buys securities (mortgage-backed securities, government bonds) from large banks, then credits such banks’ accounts at the Fed. Such credit is done through the use of a keyboard, creating money literally out of thin air. Even Fed Chair Bernanke refers to this process as printing money, even if banks have not deployed most of the money they have received to extend loans. However, the more money the Fed prints, the more debt securities it buys, the greater its income; it’s that argument that has allowed Bernanke to claim that his operations have been “profitable,” neglecting to state that such money printing may pose significant risks to the purchasing power of the dollar.

Note that we don’t need the Fed. Amongst others:

  • If the Treasury wants to issue debt, it can do so without the Fed.
  • If the Treasury wants to manage the maturity of the outstanding government debt portfolio, it can do so without the Fed’s
  • Operation Twist.

Congress and the Administration love the Fed because it is an off-balance sheet entity for the government with special features; the Fed has ‘unlimited resources’ (it can print its own money); and the Fed can have a negative net worth without defaulting.

The way a trillion dollar coin could work is if not just one, but all platinum coins of the same fine ounce content (say one troy ounce) were decreed to be worth $1 trillion. It would be the re-introduction of a gold, well, platinum standard, as it would link the value of a precious metal to the value of the currency. The government would quite likely want to punish any speculators that are front-running the idea of valuing platinum at $1 trillion, possibly even outlawing private ownership. But it would put the value into context and anyone could buy a substitute. Pricing of all goods and services would adjust to reflect the new value of $1 trillion for a troy ounce of platinum. In plain English, such a move would substantially move up the price level.

We deem the re-introduction of a precious metals standard to be rather unlikely, precisely because it takes away the power of Congress to spend: it could only spend money if it got hold of more platinum. Unless, of course, Congress realizes that it may get away with not backing all of the currency with platinum or resets the price of a platinum coin yet again. Soon enough, the “platinum window” would be closed again, just as Richard Nixon closed the gold window in 1971. Let’s call it a coincidence Nixon would have turned 100 years old this year, just as the Federal Reserve is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

While most agree that a $1 trillion platinum coin is a silly idea, few think that a $100 bill is also absurd. There are indeed key differences:

  • $100 bills are all one and the same. Well, almost. In some developing countries, newer bills are worth more than older ones (because of counterfeit bills in circulation).
  • A platinum coin has intrinsic value: its fine ounce content of platinum. In contrast, the $100 bill is worth the paper it is printed on.

To be precise, a $100 bill is a Federal Reserve Note:

  • The holder of a $100 bill may deposit such bill into his or her account.
  • The bank can deposit the $100 bill at the Fed. In turn, the Fed will credit the bank with $100 in checking account.
  • The bank can withdraw the deposit of $100 from the Fed.
  • The bank account holder can withdraw $100 from the bank yet again.

Importantly, the $100 is always an obligation: an obligation of the bank, the government (through FDIC insurance in case of default of the bank) and the Fed (currency in circulation appears on the liability side of the Fed’s balance sheet). Most currency is not issued in paper, but in electronic form. Banks receiving a $100 electronic credit can, through the rules of fractional reserve banking, lend out a multiple of such deposits. Because of this, currency always carries counter-party risk. By regulation, if the counter-party is the Federal Reserve or the Treasury, it is considered to be risk-free. But it’s still a debt security. Moreover, the rating agency Standard & Poor’s does not consider US debt risk-free, having downgraded it because of the dysfunctional political process in addressing the long-term sustainability of U.S. deficits.

In contrast, a coin in itself does not have counter-party risk. It’s a coin with intrinsic value. If a government decreed a value onto that coin, there’s a risk that such decree may change or be undermined.

Precious metals coins may be considered barbarous relics, but at least they do not carry counterparty risk. Indeed, we like the fact that gold in particular has comparatively little industrial application, making it a pure play on monetary policy.

So what is an investor to do? In our opinion, investors must gauge for themselves what something is worth, rather than rely on a government. That applies to the dollar as much as it does to a platinum coin or any security. Notably, forget about the notion that something is risk-free. Those trusting their governments to preserve the purchasing power of their savings will be the losers. Those throwing out the risk free component in their asset allocation models may well come out with fewer bruises.

And while the gold standard has some admirable features, democracies tend to favor spending over balancing books. Over the past 100 years, we have moved further and further away from the gold standard. While a collapse of the fiat monetary system might temporarily get us back on a gold standard, don’t trust a government to take care of you. In practice, this means that investors need to create their personal frame of reference as to how to deploy investments; rational investors are unlikely to mint a personal $1 trillion coin, realizing that no one would pay $1 trillion for it. It also means there is no single safe haven during times of crisis. The fact that precious metals have no counter-party risk is an attractive feature, but don’t kid yourself: if your daily expenses are in U.S. dollar, the value of your purchasing power will fluctuate. Investors must be able to sleep at night with their investments; if not, consider reducing your exposure.

Is volatility with regard to the U.S. dollar an argument against owning precious metals? No, but one needs to be keenly aware of the risks of any investment, including perceived safe havens. To manage the risk to the U.S. Dollar, investors may also want to consider actively managing dollar risk. Please join our Webinar this Tuesday, January 15, 2013, that focuses on our outlook for the dollar, gold and currencies for 2013. Please also sign up for our newsletter to be informed as we discuss global dynamics and their impact on gold and currencies.

Axel Merk

Axel Merk is President and Chief Investment Officer, Merk Investments.

Merk Investments, Manager of the Merk Funds.

Gold Will Benefit From The Coming Currency Turmoil

By:  Axel Merk, Merk Investments

Sidetracked by the discussion over the “fiscal cliff” and possibly a New Year’s hangover, it’s time to face 2013 in earnest. Is the yen doomed? Will the euro shine? What about Asian and emerging market currencies? Will gold continue its ascent? And the greenback, will it be in the red?

Before we look too far forward, let’s get some context:

  • “Central banks hope for the best, but plan for the worst” was our theme a year ago. With everyone afraid of the fallout from the Eurozone, printing presses in major markets were working overtime. We argued this would benefit currencies of smaller countries – be that the so-called commodity currencies or select Asian currencies – that feel less of a need to “take out insurance.”
  • While we were positive on the euro when it approached 1.18 versus the U.S. dollar in 2010, arguing the challenges are serious, but ought to be primarily expressed in the spreads of the Eurozone bond market. Then in the fall of 2011, we grew increasingly cautious because of the lack of process: just as it is difficult to value a company if one doesn’t know what management is up to, it’s difficult to value a currency if policy makers have no plan. In the spring of 2012, when we were most negative about the euro, we lamented the lack of process in a Financial Times column. European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi appeared to agree with our concerns, imploring policy makers to define processes, set deadlines, hold people accountable. After his “do whatever it takes” speech in July 2012, he took it upon himself to impose a process on European policy makers in early August 1. We published a piece “Draghi’s genius” where we called for a bottom in the euro. We were inundated with negative feedback in the immediate aftermath of our analysis from professional and retail investors alike, confirming that were not following the herd, nor buying something that’s too expensive.
  • While we liked commodity currencies in the first half of the year because of printing presses in larger economies working overtime, we grew a little cautious as the year moved on, partly because of valuations. Each commodity currency has its own set of dynamics, as well as their own Achilles heel: in the case of the Australian dollar, we had some concerns about its two tier domestic economy (not all of Australia was benefiting from the commodity boom), but also about the perceived slowdown in China.
  • We studied the Chinese leadership transition with great interest; while 2012 may have been a year in transition, more on the dynamics as we see them play out below.
  • Back in the U.S., we squandered another year to get the house in order. The fiscal cliff was a distraction; we need entitlement reform to make deficits sustainable. Europeans have no patent on kicking the can down the road. But unlike Europe, the U.S. has a current account deficit, making it more vulnerable should investors demand more compensation to finance U.S. deficits (that is, higher interest rates).
  • Japan: the more dysfunctional the Japanese government has been, the less it could spend, the less pressure it could exert on the Bank of Japan. Add to that a current account surplus, and all this “bad news” was good news for the yen. Countries with a current account surplus don’t need inflows from abroad to finance government deficits; as a result, the absence of economic growth that keeps foreign investors away is of no detriment to the currency. Conversely, countries with current account deficits tend to pursue policies fostering economic growth to attract capital from abroad. However, in late 2012, we published a piece “Is the Yen Doomed?” What happened? Japan was about to have a strong government. More in the outlook below.

We believe the currency markets are well suited for decision-making based on macro-analysis. Just as throughout 2012 the themes were evolving, please keep in mind that our 2013 outlook may be outdated the moment it is published, as we update our views based on new information or a new analysis of old information. Still, those who have followed us over the years are well aware that we like to shift our views within a framework. Please consider our 2013 outlook in this context:

  • We believe the yen is indeed doomed. We remove the question mark. Prime Minister Abe’s new government sets the stage, but key to watch are:
    • Abe’s government will appoint the three top positions at the Bank of Japan, as the governor and both deputy governors retire. Recent appointees have already been more dovish. Japanese culture is said to prefer talk over action, but the time for dovish talk may finally be over (despite their dovish reputation, the Bank of Japan barely expanded its balance sheet since 2008; in many ways, of the major central banks, only the Reserve Bank of Australia has been more hawkish).
    • Japan’s current account is sliding towards a deficit. That means, deficits will start to matter, eventually pushing up the cost of borrowing, making a 200%+ debt-to-GDP ratio unsustainable.
    • Abe’s government is as determined as it is blind. Abe believes a major spending program is just what Japan needs. As far as the yen is concerned, Abe may be getting far more than he is bargaining for.
    • But isn’t everyone negative on the yen already? Historically, it’s been most painful to short the yen; as such, many have not walked their talk. We expect some fierce rallies in the yen throughout the year. Having said that, the yen looks a lot like Nasdaq in 2000 to us. Not as far as technicals are concerned, but as far as the potential to fall without much reprieve.
  • The euro may be the rock star of 2013. Boring is beautiful. Sure, there are plenty of problems, but the euro is morphing into yet another currency, but is still priced as if it had a contagious disease. While the Fed, the Bank of England, the Bank of Japan are all likely to engage in further balance sheet expansion (we refer to it as “printing money” as assets are purchased by central banks, paid for by entries on computer keyboards, creating money out of thin air), there’s a chance the ECB balance sheet may actually shrink. That’s because some banks have indicated they will pay back early part of the €1 trillion in 3-year loans taken from the ECB. Some suggest the ECB might print a boatload of money should the “Outright Monetary Transaction” (OMT) program be activated to buy the debt of peripheral Eurozone countries. Keep in mind that the OMT program would be sterilized, likely by offering interest on deposits at the ECB. As such, the OMT would lower spreads in the Eurozone and, through that, act as a massive stimulus. In our assessment, however, such a stimulus is far less inflationary than central bank action in other regions. It’s no longer a taboo to be positive on the euro, but most we talk to are at best “closet bulls.”
  • The British pound sterling. The Brits are getting a new governor at the Bank of England (BoE) in the summer, the current head of the Bank of Canada (BoC), Carney. One of the first speeches Carney gave after his appointment was made public was about nominal GDP targeting. Carney will have a chance to replace many of the current BoE board members. That’s the good news, as the old men’s club is in need of a makeover. The not-so-good news is for the sterling. British 10 year borrowing costs have just crossed above those of France. We’ll monitor this closely.
  • As the head of the BoC, Carney was particularly apt at talking down the Loonie, the Canadian dollar, whenever it appeared to strengthen. If Macklem, his current deputy, is appointed, we may get a real hawk at the helm of the BoC. We are positive on the Loonie heading into 2013, but will monitor developments closely, as there are economic cross-currents that, for now, Canada appears to be handling very well.
  • Staying with commodity currencies, we are cautiously optimistic on the Australian dollar (China better than expected; monetary policy more hawkish than priced in) and New Zealand dollar (more hawkish monetary policy on better than expected growth). We continue to stay away from the Brazilean real and leave it for masochistic speculators looking for excitement.
  • We are positive on Norway’s currency (joining the above mentioned rock star, with greater volatility), yet cautious on Sweden’s (priced to perfection is not ideal when things are not perfect, even in Sweden).
  • China: the new leadership has indicated that liquidity for the Chinese yuan may be their top currency priority. That’s great news, as we believe it implies policies that attract investment, not just from the outside, but also with regard to a development of a more vibrant domestic fixed income market. We are more positive on China than many; more on that, in an upcoming newsletter (click to sign up to receive Merk Insights)
  • Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan: all positive, benefiting from both internal forces, but also beneficiaries of actions in other large economies. If we have to pick a favorite today, it would be Korea, but keep in mind that the Korean won is the most volatile of these currencies.
  • Singapore: we continue to like the Singapore dollar. A year ago, we started using it as a substitute for the euro (rather than using the U.S. dollar as the safe haven currency). The currency may well lag the euro’s rise, but the lower risk profile of the currency makes it a potentially valuable component in a diversified basket of currencies.
  • Gold. We expect the volatility in gold to be elevated in 2013, but consider it good news, as it keeps the momentum players at bay. We own gold not for the crisis of 2008, not for the potential contagion from Europe, but because there is too much debt in the world. We think inflation is likely a key component of how developed countries will try to deal with their massive debt burdens, even as cultural differences will make dynamics play out rather differently in different countries. Please see merkinvestments.com/gold for more in-depth discussion on our outlook on gold.

And what about the U.S. dollar? While much of the discussion above is relative to the U.S dollar, the greenback itself warrants its own analysis:

  • Investors in the U.S. should fear growth. The spring of 2012 saw the bond market sell off rather sharply as a couple of economic indicators in a row came out positively. Bernanke wants to keep the cost of borrowing low, but can only control the yield curve so much. That’s why, in our assessment, he is emphasizing employment rather than inflation, in an effort to prevent a major sell-off in the bond market before the recovery is firmly established. Growth is dollar negative because the bond market would turn into a bear market: foreigners’ love for U.S. Treasuries might wane, just as it historically often does during early and mid-phases of an economic upturn as the bond market is in a bear market.
  • Good luck to Bernanke to raising rates in 15 minutes, as he promised he could do in a 60 Minutes interview. Sure he can, but because there’s so much leverage in the economy, any tightening would have an amplified effect. At best, we might get a rather volatile monetary policy. But we are promised by the Fed that this is not a concern for 2013.
  • Both of these, however, suggest volatility will rise in the bond market. Remember what got the housing bubble to burst? An uptick in volatility. That’s because leveraged players, momentum players run for the hills when volatility picks up. And a lot of money has chased Treasuries, praised as the best investment for over two decades. We don’t need foreigners to sell their U.S. bonds for there to be a rude awakening in the bond market; we merely need a return to historic levels of volatility. Why is this relevant to a dollar discussion? Because a bond market selloff makes it more expensive for the U.S. to finance its deficits. Please see our recent analysis of the risks posed to the dollar by a bond market selloff for a more in-depth discussion on this topic.

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

THE ONGOING COLLAPSE IN THE PURCHASING POWER OF THE DOLLAR IS IRREVERSIBLE – TEN STEPS TO PROTECT YOURSELF

By GE Christenson

  • Our financial system, as it currently operates, is unsustainable. Unproductive debt cannot exponentially increase forever. I assume this is obvious to almost everyone. Jim Sinclair says, “The financial system is simply FUBAR. It is that simple. The reason to own all things gold is that simple.” FUBAR has several meanings, but my interpretation of FUBAR is: “Fiscally Unbalanced Beyond Any Reconciliation.”
  • The U.S. government deficits are, on average, larger every year. This means that the total (official) national debt is not only increasing each year but also that the rate of increase is accelerating. Since 10/1/2000 the national debt has increased about 9.1% per year, but since 10/1/2007 it has increased 12.2% per year. Worse, this is only the official debt and does not even consider the net present value of unfunded Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and government employee pensions and liabilities. Depending on who is calculating the liabilities, the total unfunded liability is approximately $100 Trillion to $230 Trillion and the annual increase is perhaps $7 – $11 Trillion. (The entire U.S. GDP is about $15 Trillion per year – for comparison.) This will not end well.
  • In essence, the above two facts are incompatible – hence an economic train wreck is in process. What could happen? Follow the logic here.
  • When there is too much of something, it loses value. If we have too many eggs, the price drops. If too many autos are for sale, there will be lower prices for autos. Central banks around the world are currently producing amazing quantities of dollars, euros, yen, and most other unbacked paper currencies. Hence, their value will decrease against the commodities we need for survival – food, energy, and so forth.
  • There is too much debt in our financial system, whether measured in nominal value or as a percentage of GDP. Hence the value of that debt will decline. Some debts will default, bonds will decline in value as interest rates inevitably rise, and other debt will drop in value and purchasing power.
  • Politicians have made excessive guarantees for future benefits to Social Security recipients, Medicare recipients, government pensions, and others. Those guarantees cannot all be delivered as promised, hence they will decline in value and purchasing power, or the promises will not be fulfilled.

Why are the following ten steps necessary?

  1. The best time to start preparing was about a decade ago. The second best time is today. Make a plan and act. Start by reducing living expenses and eliminating credit card debt.
  2. Expect sweeping changes! I hope the inevitable currency collapse is slow and gentle, not rapid and destructive, but history suggests rapid and painful are more likely.
  3. Phase out of paper assets and into something real. Gold, silver, diamonds, farm land, rental property, and buildings come to mind.
  4. Perspective – Perspective – Perspective! It is better to be early than late. It is better to trust yourself than to depend upon a government agency for your food and shelter. To whatever extent you can, take charge of your own financial affairs, savings, and retirement.
  5. Plan on huge inflation in consumer prices for food, energy, transportation, medical costs, and more.
  6. The middle class will be hurt the most. Those who plan and prepare will, as always, survive and prosper. Make a plan!
  7. Government control over the economy will increase. Surveillance on individuals will increase; there will be much less personal and financial privacy. Act accordingly!
  8. Social change will follow a currency collapse. It might be violent. The government is preparing in many ways for social violence. Are you?
  9. Currency induced cost-push inflation appears inevitable. When? As a guess, well before 2016. Gasoline costing $8.99 or more per gallon is a distinct possibility. Don’t discount this just because it sounds extreme. It might be a low estimate.
  10. Economic manipulations, mal-investments, and unsustainable policies will self-correct. Plan on corrections and adjustments that will bring painful consequences. The bigger the bubble, the more catastrophic the collapse and the larger the collateral damage. The sovereign debt and paper money bubbles appear VERY large and ready to pop.

Summary

Unproductive government debt cannot increase forever, but our financial system currently depends upon ever increasing expenditures and debt. There are far too many dollars in circulation, more debt than can be repaid, and massive unfunded liabilities have been created by the promises made by politicians. The purchasing power of the dollar must decline, many debts will not be repaid, and many promises for future benefits will be reduced in value or will simply disappear. Hence, the FUTURE income stream from debt-based assets is increasingly risky. A few to consider are:

  • Social Security benefits. The government must borrow or print to pay current benefits. The value (purchasing power) of future benefits will almost certainly decline.
  • Municipal and state bonds and pension promises are increasingly risky. Will more cities and states default on their bonds? Why are their pension plans, on average, increasingly underfunded? Will your pension plan remain safe? Consider moving your IRA into physical gold and silver safely stored outside the banking system.
  • US government 30 year bonds and 10 year notes will decline in price as interest rates rise, and will also decline in purchasing power as the dollar devalues. Why would you lend money (long-term) to an insolvent government at less than 3% interest per year when that government has assured you it will debase the currency and reduce the value of the debt you bought? Is this a financial train wreck in process?
  • Mutual funds and money markets based on bonds and other debt are at risk. If the underlying debt defaults, the value of the mutual funds and money markets will decline. Counter-party risk is real.

Why is debt based future income increasingly risky? The payoff will be delayed, defaulted or executed in mini-dollars after inflation and counter-party defaults have ravaged the purchasing power of those paper debts. We have Been Warned!

Would you prefer hard assets with no counter-party risk? Reread the Ten Steps To Safety, and then take charge of your financial life to whatever extent you can.

GE Christenson
aka Deviant Investor