October 2, 2022

Gold Plunges After Swiss Voters Reject Central Bank Gold Buying

SNBGold can’t catch a break lately as Swiss Voters Reject Measure Forcing SNB to Acquire More Gold.

Swiss voters rejected a measure in a referendum requiring their central bank to hold a portion of its assets in gold, a measure its President Thomas Jordan termed an “invitation to speculators” that could have hurt the economy. Bullion tumbled to a three-week low.

The “Save Our Swiss Gold” proposal stipulating the Swiss National Bank hold at least 20 percent of its 520-billion-franc ($540 billion) balance sheet in gold and never sell any bullion was voted down by 77 percent to 23 percent, the government said yesterday. Polls had forecast the initiative’s rejection. Two other initiatives on tax privileges for foreign millionaires and immigration limits also were rejected.

SNB policy makers estimated they would have needed to buy 70 billion francs worth of gold if the referendum had passed. Some economists estimated the SNB wouldn’t have had to sell euros to meet the requirement, given its dollar holdings. At the end of the third quarter, it held 45 percent of its 460 billion francs of foreign currencies in euros and 29 percent in dollars.

Even though the Swiss gold referendum was expected to be defeated gold prices plunged by over $38 per ounce in late Sunday trading and silver was pulverized with prices down almost 8%.

As stocks and bonds continue to soar on liquidity provided by central bank quantitative easing investors have been dumping gold by the tons from their portfolios.  The Swiss Gold Rejection simply gave investors another reason to stay away from gold which has been in a vicious bear market.

Gold has lost 19 percent since peaking in March and investor holdings of exchange-traded products are near a five-year low. While prices probably won’t be affected too much by the “no” vote of the initiative called “Save Our Swiss Gold,” approval would have improved sentiment and increased prices by as much as $50 an ounce, HSBC Holdings Plc estimated in November.

“Gold had received some support in the last couple of weeks” before the vote, Georgette Boele, an analyst at ABN Amro Bank NV in Amsterdam, said by phone. “We’ll get more pressure on gold. The overall outlook is not looking great.”

2014-proof-gold-eagle

Even the surprise news that India had ended curbs on gold imports did nothing to support prices.  In a bear market all news is bad and gold can’t seem to find a support level.  The irony of it all is that the massive euro holdings of the Swiss National Bank were purchased with Swiss francs manufactured out of thin air by the SNB to prevent its currency from appreciating against the euro.  Governments world wide have turned an experiment with quantitative easing into  national policy and are churning out trillions of dollars of printed fiat currencies.  Last I heard the value of anything depreciates as the quantity increases.  Although it’s a tough market right now, long term I’m betting that it’s a smart move to have some gold on hand.

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.

A Perspective On The Plunge In Gold and Silver

Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke set the world on fire this week as his latest scheme to “twist” long term interest rates lower pleased no one and triggered a 737 point drop in the Dow.  In addition, the Fed panicked investors by admitting that there were “significant downside risks to the economic outlook”.

Virtually every asset class except U.S. treasuries went into full scale meltdowns.  The U.S. stock market registered its worst weekly drop since the dark days of October 2008 when the  U.S. banking system was collapsing.

The rush to liquidity and forced margin selling sent precious metal prices into a tailspin. London silver plunged by $7.07 or 18%, to $32.90, the biggest decline since 1987.  Gold, as measured by the closing London PM Fix Price, dropped $105 on the week to $1,689, the largest weekly decline since 1983.  Spot prices for both gold and silver continued lower in New York afternoon trading with gold settling at $1658.20 and silver at $31.03.

Platinum dropped by $147 on the week to $1,651 and palladium dropped by $73 to $659 for losses of 8.18% and 9.97%, respectively.  Silver, with 60% of its demand relating to industrial use,  took the largest plunge in the precious metals group as economic indicators pointed to a rapidly slowing economy worldwide.

Precious Metals Prices Sept 23
9/23PM Fix Weekly Change
Gold $1,689.00 -105.00 -5.85%
Silver $32.90 -7.07 -17.69%
Platinum $1,651.00 -147.00 -8.18%
Palladium $659.00 -73.00 -9.97%

Although the sharp declines in gold and silver are unsettling, the fundamental reasons for owning gold and silver remain intact.  The rapid price increases in gold and silver since July attracted large investment flows from hedge funds and other short term speculators, who rapidly liquidate large positions based on short term technical sell signals.

Despite this week’s panic selling, long term gold investors have seen their investment rise from $1,405.50 at the beginning of the year, for a gain of $283.50 (20.2%).  Silver, despite this week’s painful sell off, is still higher by $2.23 or 7.3% from the beginning of the year, as measured by the closing London PM Fix Price.

For additional perspective on the relative performance of the gold and silver markets, here’s the record for various stock indices and the 10 year bond since the beginning of 2011.  (Note that the 10 year bond shows yield, not price.)

Asset Performance - courtesy schwab.com

Meanwhile, as the global financial system rapidly moves towards the precipice, faith in the ability of governments to contain the crisis is quickly eroding.  2011 is not a replay of the 2008 financial meltdown – it’s much more dangerous.  The sovereign governments that “saved the system” in 2008 incurred massive amounts of debt which have brought them to the brink of insolvency.  The bankruptcy of one country could ignite a financial firestorm that world governments cannot contain.

The inability of European leaders to effectively act in concert to resolve the Euro debt crisis has drawn the United States into the center of the crisis.  According to The New York Times, the U.S. is pushing Europe to mount a massive bailout to avoid financial Armageddon.

The Obama administration, increasingly alarmed by the spillover effects of Europe’s financial crisis, has begun an intensive lobbying campaign to persuade Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany and other leaders to ramp up efforts to stem any contagion from the debt crisis in Greece.

In phone calls and meetings over the last week, President Obama urged Mrs. Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy of France to take coordinated measures — including spending billions in additional funds to bail out Greece and bolster European financial institutions — to prevent Greece’s debt woes from spreading to its neighbors.

“The biggest single risk to the United States today is that the European situation will spiral out of control,” said Edwin M. Truman, a former Treasury official who is now at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. “Europe is not going to save the U.S. economy, but it could be the straw that breaks it.”

Kenneth Rogoff, a Harvard economist who has written about the history of financial crises, puts Europe’s effect on the United States in blunt political terms. “The downside scenario is awful,” he said…

American officials have also emphasized the Fed’s outsize role in responding to the financial crisis here and urged Europe to view the Fed as a model. It made trillions of dollars in loans so that investors remained able to buy and sell a wide range of financial products.

Given the risks to the United States economy from a banking collapse and sovereign defaults in Europe, anyone who thinks that the United States will not be getting deeply involved in the financial bailout of Europe is delusional.  The “rescue” of Europe will ultimately involve the same techniques (zero interest rates and money printing) used by Bernanke in the United States.  The resulting negative interest rates and worldwide debasement of paper currencies will ultimately send gold soaring to new highs.