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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – THE CORONAVIRUS PRICKS THE CREDIT/DEBT BUBBLE !

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – THE CORONAVIRUS PRICKS THE CREDIT/DEBT BUBBLE

First, from myself and my administrative partner for over thirty years, Michael Heyward,
we are hopeful that you and your loved ones are surviving this ordeal as well as
possible. Michael and I and our respective families are unharmed so far. Michael is
working out of his NYC apartment and I am with my wife and daughter in Southampton,
where my daughter had already been living and working. We can always be reached by email (lfsi@aol.com) or phone. Our office phone will be forwarded to my cell phone. This letter is longer than I usually like to provide, but I’ve got the time to write it, and you probably have the time, for a change, to read it. It helps me organize my thoughts, is probably therapeutic for me, and I like all of you to be as well informed as possible.

Our world, in many ways, has changed for the foreseeable future. Unprecedented
measures are in place from a healthcare standpoint, and financial remedies are being
undertaken that are even more uncertain. All of this has created unprecedented
volatility, with equity markets often moving 5-10% per day. While gold bullion, as
a safe haven was actually up a bit for the month, the gold mining stocks acted
like stocks (as discussed below), and were down with the general equity market.

It is worth noting that most of the largest mining companies are paying dividends.
While the average return is about 1.5% (more than twice that of a 10 year US treasury note), the amounts are increasing and could become much more meaningful as earnings reflectthe higher gold price and lower operating expenses. As an example, in late 1929 the
value of Homestake Mining stock was about $80/sh. During the next six years
Homestake paid out a total of $128/sh. in cash dividends, including $56 per share in
1935 alone. Many of today’s mining companies have demonstrated a willingness to
share profits with investors by way of dividends.

I’ve often said that “hope is not a strategy”, and a dramatic recovery of gold mining
stocks is not just a hope, but continues to be a well considered expectation. The stocks
are a huge bargain under just about any scenario and there is no place I would rather
be for a still large part of my family’s liquid net worth.

WHY THE RELATIVE WEAKNESS IN GOLD MINING SHARES?

Even the modest year to date increase in the price of gold bullion has not reflected the
unprecedented creation of paper currency by the Federal Reserve Bank and the multi-trillion fiscal stimulus from the government. Furthermore, the dramatic relative weakness
of the mining stocks seems to be due to a number of short term factors.

(1) The gold mining stocks are “stocks”, in brokerage accounts, and subject to margin
calls as portfolios depreciate, as opposed to physical gold, which is usually paid for in full and generally stored in presumably safe places. Physical bullion is accumulated worldwide, including by Central Banks, while mining stocks are owned largely by North American investors who are not nearly as committed an “uncorrelated safe haven” or a “money substitute”. In a panic phase, stock investors sell “what they can, rather than what they want to”.

(2) Eight to ten years ago, quite a few mining companies did a poor job allocating
resources and managing balance sheets, particularly with acquisitions. In many cases,
corporate management has changed and/or learned from experience. Operating profits
were also reduced until just recently by the high cost of energy, partially offsetting the
higher gold prices. Balance sheets are now generally strong. Operating results have
been excellent for most established miners in the last year or so, vividly demonstrated in Q4’19, as gold production is sold for prices $200/oz. more than in ’18 and energy costs started to come down.

(3) There have been a number of mines closed temporarily due to the Coronavirus. This
is obviously not a short term positive, but this has not been widespread so far, the
money is still in the ground, so the long term value of the companies are intact.

(4) A great deal of daily trading is still dictated by computers, responding to short term
trading patterns, so price weakness begets more selling, for no particular fundamental
reason.

CURRENT FINANCIAL OVERVIEW

Fundamentally, the Coronavirus has quickly created the financial desperation that has
been inevitable in the wake of forty years of financial folly, especially the last twenty
years, most especially in the last ten. Since ’08, the $3.5 trillion of money creation and
growing operating deficits, accompanied by suppressed interest rates have allowed for
tens of trillions of mis-allocated capital, as investors “reach for yield” in various forms.
The unpredictable surprise is that the financial “chickens would come home to roost” as
a result of an internationally contagious virus.

We pointed out to you just last month that the current trading pattern is likely to be a
repeat of ’08 and early ’09, when gold and the gold miners went down with the general
market. Once the markets stabilized, gold quadrupled over the next two years and
the miners did even better. The difference this time is that gold bullion has held up
relatively well, so the gold miners are even more of a long time bargain. Of course, the
money printing and fiscal stimulus now being provided is an order of magnitude larger,
so both gold bullion and the miners should make proportionately even larger moves than
in ’08 to ‘09.

INFLATION OR DEFLATION – GOLD WINS EITHER WAY

The unimaginable amounts of currency that are being created will have two possible
general consequences. There could be the desired “save” of the economy, and the
potential very inflationary consequences are far down the current list of worries by our
leaders. Workers will go back to their jobs, restaurants will reopen (in many cases),
sports events will take place (with appropriate care) but it is hard to picture “old times”
any time soon. As a middle ground (e.g. the 1970s) we could have “stagflation”, which
especially affects the middle class. The other extreme is a 1930s type deflationary
downturn, as the government stimulus fails to turn the economic tide, and economic
distress for almost everyone.

      INFLATION

The best demonstrations of the inflationary influences on gold bullion and gold
mining stocks comes from the 1970s and the period from 2000 to 2012.
Setting the stage for the discussion of the 1970s: recall that the Bretton Woods
Conference in 1944 established the US Dollar as the world’s “reserve currency”, with
worldwide trading to take place in “King Dollar”. The US had the responsibility of
backing the Dollar with gold, at an exchange rate of $35.00/oz . That conversion
option would presumably control the natural political instinct to produce paper
currency at excessive rates, in essence spending to satisfy electoral constituencies.

The program worked adequately well until the mid-sixties when spending increased under the influence of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and the Vietnam War. Foreigners realized that operating and trade deficits were on the horizon and reduced the US stash of gold between 1969 and 1971 from over 20,000 tons to 8,400 tons, which hasn’t changed since then. President, Richard Nixon, closed the gold window in August, 1971, eliminating the conversion privilege. His speech, which you can find on YouTube, assured us that this move would be for the best, and help the US economy.  The gold price took off immediately, peaking at $850/oz. nine years later. The economy went into “stagflation”. The stock market reflected the economic malaise, climaxing in 1973-1974 with the collapse of the highly valued “nifty fifty” growth stocks (FANG of the 1970s). Inflation went up steadily, peaking at about 12% as theFederal Funds Rate went to 18% late in the decade. Gold stocks, mostly South African mining companies did well, though hardly any are still independently trading and it is difficult to find price histories through the decade. We did find that the Gold Mining Index, composed of ASA (a mining stock mutual fund), miners Campbell Red Lake and Dome Mining, appreciated more than 260% from its 1973 low (40) to its 1974 high (147). So during the most severe portion of the 1973/74 bear market, while
stocks lost half their value – gold mining companies almost quadrupled.

Starting in 2000, after about twenty years of relatively controlled government spending
and three years of budget operating surpluses (can you believe it?) at the of Bill
Clinton’s presidency, government spending took off. This was the result of coping with
Y2K, the aftermath of the 9/11/01 terrorist attack which included two wars, and the
collapse of the stock market dotcom bubble. Alan Greenspan’s Fed papered over the
problems, which helped to produce the ’08-’09 financial crisis. In the course of
preventing an economic collapse ten years ago, we all remember TARP, Cash for
Clunkers, and other government programs which cost something like a trillion dollars. At
the same time, the Fed embarked on an interest rate suppression experiment, taking
their balance sheet from about one trillion to $4.5 trillion to buy fixed income securities,
including those issued by the US Treasury.

The US balance sheet has also become  increasingly burdened with debt as a result of annual operating deficits. The US federal debt more than doubled under GW Bush to about $11T, grew to about $20T under Obama, is now $23T and accelerating in a major way. As a percentage of GDP, it has been just under the peak when we were conducting WW2, and will shortly exceed that. Gold was trading around $300/oz. in 2000, peaked at $1850-1900/oz. in 2011. Gold mining stocks did even better. As a proxy, the Tocqueville Gold Fund went from $10 to $90. All the influences that provided this performance are back in place today. The only difference is that gold mining shares are even less expensive, relative to the price of bullion, than they were in 2000, and the positive factors we have discussed are much larger. There is a lot more paper currency being created, zero percent interest rates
were not even conceivable in 2000, operating deficits are much larger, and a “safe
haven” has hardly ever been more of a need for investors.

           TARGETED “SYMMETRICAL 2%” INFLATION

Overriding all of the inflationary or deflationary possibilities, Central Banks, which were
created to control inflation, are desperately trying to stimulate inflation, lately targeted by
the US Fed at a “symmetrical” 2% rate. This means that a rate of over 2% (no doubt
substantially over) will be tolerated because we have been well under 2% for so long.
Inflation is necessary to encourage consumers to spend today, before prices go up,
and to allow everyone, from individuals to countries, to liquidate their debt for less
valuable currency. Above all, deflation is the ultimate curse, because consumers won’t
spend and the debt at every level becomes more of a burden.

     DEFLATION – A COMPARISON TO THE 1930s

The other possibility is to allow the markets to “clear” in the course of a deflationary
depression. It hurts me emotionally to even use the word, but it has happened before and it will happen again at some point.

The magnitude of the current monetary and fiscal support is unprecedented. According
to historical accounts, the Federal Reserve Bank, while active in the 1920s, essentially
ceased open market operations in 1934, so did not play a meaningful role. However, the
FDR administration, over seven years from 1933 through 1939, provided $41.7 billion,
which translates into about $700 billion in today’s dollars. The increase in the federal
debt during that time was 30%. The cost per capita, in today’s dollars, was about $5,800
per US person. The $41.7 billion represented about 40% of the 1929 GDP.

At the moment, the Federal Reserve Bank has committed to creating $1.5 trillion, to
purchase all manner of securities, backstopping money market funds, various ETFs,
and mortgage securities, among others. Last Friday, the federal government passed a
$2.2 trillion stimulus bill, with a promise to do a lot more, as needed. The combined
“down payment” of $3.7 trillion amounts to over $11,000 per US capita, almost double
the seven year New Deal. Almost everyone expects many trillions of dollars to follow.

The effect on the US balance sheet, already at a level that has impeded growth, is
similarly dramatic. Previous expectations were that the current year’s deficit would be
about $1.2 trillion, and the debt would go up by about $1.5 trillion (including off budget
items, funded by borrowing from the social security trust fund). Those numbers were
expected to go steadily upward in the 2020s, assuming steady GDP growth of 3%,
which was always questionable. It is clear now that the current year’s deficit, ending
9/30/20 will be at least $ 2 trillion and a lot more in 2021 with the absence of capital
gains tax receipts, as well as lower personal and corporate taxes. The current federal
debt is above $23 trillion, already over 100% of GDP, so it is easy to picture federal debt
well over $30 trillion seven years from now, an increase of a lot more than the 30% of
the 1930s. This is important, because a higher debt burden impedes productive
investment and growth, for a family, a business, or a country.

The last comparison is the stimulus and spending relative to the nation’s GDP. The New
Deal spending was about 40% of the nation’s 1929 output. GDP in fiscal 2019 was
$21.4 trillion, so 40% would be $8.6 trillion; a number which we believe will be exceeded
before the dust settles. It is important to note, however, that the federal debt/gdp ratio
was only 16% in 1929 and 33% in 1933 (before the creation of social security and
Medicare and other entitlements), and stayed around 40% through the 1930s. This
compares to over 100% in the US currently (without including unfunded entitlements).
The US in the 1930s was therefore at a much more manageable starting point, more
able to spend 40% of GDP in an attempt to save the economy.

An argument can be made that gold mining firms do even better during a deflationary
depression than during an inflationary depression (or stagflation). Profit margins are at
their best during these conditions because labor is cheaper and operating costs are
lower. In particular, energy costs to drive earth moving equipment amounts to 20% or
more of variable expenses and drilling rigs are more available. One of the reasons gold
mining stocks have underperformed other commodity stocks over the past few years
was because the cost of production was rising so dramatically.

THE HISTORY OF GOVERNMENT STIMULUS PROGRAMS

Relative to the 1930s, it is well documented that the economy stabilized from 1933
through 1936, then endured a serious recession in 1937, blamed on the Fed who is
accused of tightening money markets prematurely. It wasn’t until after World War II,
when the soldiers came home and the US resumed normal activities (making babies,
buying autos and homes, etc.etc.) that the US economy, its GDP and employment
statistics, returned to pre-depression levels. Economists debate whether FDRs New
Deal shortened or lengthened the adjustment after the roaring twenties. We are in the
latter camp, partly due to our observations about more recent governmental
interventions.

Following the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, Japan fell into an economic recession.
Beginning in 2000, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) began an aggressive QE program to curb
deflation and to stimulate the economy. The BOJ moved from buying Japanese
government bonds to buying private debt and stocks.  Between 1995 and 2007, Japanese GDP fell from $5.4 trillion to $4.52 trillion, so the QE program was obviously ineffective. Japanese government debt has continued to accumulate, now amounting to about 250% of GDP, but continues to fail in terms of stimulating inflation and better economic growth.

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) also instituted QE after the 2008 financial crisis. The
SNB has now accumulated assets, including US equities, nearly equal to annual GDP,
the highest in the world, relative to GDP. Even with the QE program, GDP growth has
averaged less than 2% for the last decade. Even with interest rates below zero,
the SNB has been unable to stimulate inflation, averaging under 1% for the last decade.
It is, of course, unclear, what might have been the case without QE, but the results have
not met targets.

The Bank of England (BofE), after creating 375 pounds ($550B) of new money between
2009 and 2012, in August 2016 announced a QE program to counteract “Brexit”. The
plan was to buy 60 billion pounds of government bonds and 10 billion pounds in
corporate debt. The object was to suppress interest rates and stimulate business
investment. From August 2016 through June 2018, the UK reported that capital
formation (a measure of business investment) was growing at an average quarterly rate
of only 0.4%, lower than the average from 2009 through 2018. It is, once again,
impossible to know what would have been the case without QE.

We have all lived through the various QEs that were created to deal with the
2008-2009 financial crisis. The Fed took their balance sheet from about $1T to
$4.5T and almost a trillion dollars was provided by government spending
(TARP, Cash for Clunkers, etc.etc.). Interest rates have been maintained at
rates close enough to zero that all kinds mis-allocation of capital has been the
result. GDP growth averaged a tepid 2.3% from 2009 through 2016. The last
three years, under a business friendly administration, have continued to
provide monetary and fiscal accommodation, but GDP growth has averaged
no more than 2.5%. Once again, while it is impossible to know what would
have been the case without government “help”, the results have been less
than impressive.

CONCLUSION

There is no reason to think that the programs being implemented will be successful in
re-igniting the US, or worldwide, economy by way of even larger credit and debt
creation. By the way, the US did not have a 3% GDP economy prior to the Coronavirus, as is being promulgated by the conservative media and more or less accepted by the liberal commentators. Last year was about 2.5% and Q1’20 was on the way to just over 1% before the Coronavirus reared its head.

Overall, one does not get out of a hole by continuing to dig. Even China has failed
to maintain their previous double digit growth rate by way of the rampant availability of
credit. The Chinese Communists are very smart and plan for the long term, but they
have not repealed nature’s laws of supply and demand.

We cannot predict to what degree the governmental intervention will succeed in
papering over the current healthcare challenge which is already becoming an economic
crisis. As described above, no matter which direction the worldwide economy takes,
gold should emerge as the best currency standing as well as the asset class that will best protect purchasing power. We cannot know the exact timing, or extent to which gold (and the mining stocks) will appreciate from today’s bargain prices. It is true that other asset classes have recently become better bargains as well. However, gold and the gold miners, especially at recent prices, represent the ultimate uncorrelated asset class, safe haven and most secure long term store of value.  Accordingly, they should appreciate very substantially whether Central Bankers succeed, or fail, in their desperate effort to “save” the economy.

None of this is any fun but the above discussion should provide a template in terms of the possibilities. The investment partnership that I manage is 95% invested  in gold mining stocks, and open to new investors 🙂

These difficult days move slowly, but we will all get through this. Stay
healthy and safe, and call or write any time you like!

Roger Lipton

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – NO PLACE TO HIDE – THIS TOO SHALL PASS, BUT WHAT WILL THE FINANCIAL WORLD LOOK LIKE??

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – NO PLACE TO HIDE – THIS TOO SHALL PASS, BUT WHAT WILL THE FINANCIAL WORLD LOOK LIKE ??

You don’t need me to tell you that we are all living through unprecedented times. First and foremost, I hope everything is well with you and your loved ones. For what my opinion is worth, and from what I read, the virus hates “heat”, temperatures above 77F degrees and sun, and I think the weather will warm up in the USA before the most dire of the predictions take hold. That of course varies from country to country but aggressive precautions are now in place all over the world, and I hope (and actually expect) that will be sufficient to stabilize this situation.

In terms of all equity portfolios, this has obviously been an unbelievably volatile month in the financial markets. The last week and a half have been brutal, there has been no place to hide, everything gets hit with margin calls and so forth. Investors, and especially traders, sell “whatever they can”, not “whatever they want to”.

As you know, I’ve been writing, and investing, with the long term debt and credit bubble in mind, expecting a new round of money printing and stimulus when the next recession hits, which will drive gold and especially the gold miners much much higher. I have expected, in the next few years, for gold to be $5000 or higher and the gold miners to go up 10-20x in value. The big question, of course, is timing, but with the trillions of stimulus now being discussed, it seems like the time is just about here. Just as in 2008-2009, once the dust settles, gold and the gold miners should lead the recovery by a lot. Nobody could foresee that it would be a worldwide virus that would start the deflation of the latest and largest debt and credit bubble, but I view the forty years of monetary and fiscal promiscuity by central banks and governments as the cause of the current situation in the capital markets. The coronavirus, expected by nobody, is just the catalyst.

My general conclusion, therefore, is that this too shall pass, in terms of the coronavirus, but the effect on the worldwide economy (and probably the equity markets) will be much more long lasting. Recovery will take place in stock prices, but it could be a long time coming. There has been an enormous amount of psychological damage to investors. The lack of liquidity in everything, and the risk, especially in equities, has now been demonstrated. There are a lot of “kids”, who have only managed money during the last ten years, who never saw a real downtick until ten days ago. Also, stocks may look “cheap”, but in 1974 there were 150 stocks on the NYSE selling for about one times EBITDA, so equities can get a lot cheaper before they recover. Central Banks and Governments, around the world, will “do what it takes” to support the capital markets but it will require many trillions of new dollars. That will provide a much larger debt burden, which will be a larger deterrent on an economic recovery, and therefore limit the recovery in stock values. Japan has been leveraging up their government balance sheet for 30 years and have avoided recession but growth has been slow, and their stock market is still way below the speculative high of 1990. I’ve provided a chart below.

My personal ongoing strategy is to stick with the gold mining stocks, which I feel represent the best long term value among all asset classes. Their performance has been terrible the last ten years, even as gold bullion has gone from $900 to $1600, so they have never been cheaper and the opportunity is that much greater. The gold mining companies now have strong balance sheets, improved management, mining costs are coming down with lower energy prices, and they are already reporting sharply higher earnings.  I expect gold to be north of $5000 per ounce in the next few years, and the gold miners could (and should) go up by 10-20x in value. Everybody knows that gold is a great inflation hedge (it went from $35 to $850 in the inflationary 1970s), but it is also a safe haven in a deflationary world. In the deflationary depression of the 1930s, the publicly held mining stocks went up by something like 10x in value. I could go on, obviously, but I know you’ve been reading about my opinion on this subject for years.

I can’t help but suggest that a modest participation (perhaps 5-10%) in gold mining stocks, as a hedge, and the chance of a very big move on the upside in the next several years. There are lots of ways to do that, and one way is through my investment partnership. My timing has admittedly been less than ideal :), since I transitioned the fund six or seven years ago into this approach, but it looks like a monstrous amount of spending and stimulus (many trillions of dollars) is in our future, so I could finally be vindicated. Funds can come into my Partnership on the first of any month. We are about 90% invested in gold mining companies, with 8-10% in a few non-gold “special situations”. The fee of 1% annually, plus 10% of gains is a lot less than the standard “2 and 20”. I’m the largest investor, always have been, and that’s the end of my “pitch”.

More important are my thoughts, above. I may be the only money manager you will meet that says “money isn’t everything”. Nobody knows what the “end game”, as a result of forty years, especially twenty years, and most especially the last ten years, of financial promiscuity, will look like. The best we can do is to stay flexible and healthy: financially, physically, emotionally, be in a position to respond to events as they unfold.

Roger Lipton
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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY REPORT – HISTORICAL VOLATILITY – CAN THE FED SAVE US ?

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY REPORT – HISTORICAL VOLATILITY – CAN THE FED SAVE US ?

February was a very volatile month, most noticeably the last week of the month, apparently driven by the worldwide concern about the coronavirus. We say “apparently” because we view the coronavirus to be the catalyst for an overdue decline, rather than the real cause. The cause will prove to be the distortions (over the last forty years, even more the last twenty years, and especially the last ten years) of normal monetary supply and demand created by promiscuous central banks around the world.  In any event, the selling was emotional and indiscriminate, especially last week. Gold bullion and the gold miners were both doing nicely, up over 3% and 7% respectively until the panic selling of everything last week. Gold bullion closed the month down a fraction of one percent and the miners closed down more than 10%. This kind of price action in gold and the gold miners is disconcerting for sure but not surprising in a market panic almost unprecedented.

We wrote our normal month end letter to investors in our investment partnership the first day of the new month, and, at 2 pm yesterday, after talking about how bad February had been,  I wrote  “For better or worse, we report as of the month end, which in this case could be the low point. For what it’s worth, as I finish this letter, gold bullion is up 1.3% today and our portfolio is up almost 4%.”   If I were to write the letter right now I would say that gold bullion is up 6% we are up 12% for the first day  and a half of the month.

So much for short term trading commentary. More importantly:

All the fundamental developments in the worldwide economy point to much higher gold prices and much, much higher prices of the gold mining stocks. We look back, below, at the price action of the precious metals sector in the last crisis, that of ’08-’09.

The two charts below, that of “GLD”, the ETF that tracks gold bullion, and “GDX”, the ETF that tracks the gold mining sector. The chart shows the price performance from the middle of 2008, through the bottom of early ’09, and then the recovery through the end of ’11. You can see that GLD and GDX both declined, with the stock market, until the fall of ’08, started recovering before the general market bottomed in March ’09. From the bottom, over the next two years, GLD went from about 70 to 180, up 157%, and GDX went from 18 to 62, up 244%.

It is important to note that the monetary stimulus that supported the worldwide economy ten years ago, and drove the price of gold and the gold miners so much higher, will of necessity be dwarfed by today’s needs.

In the fall of ’08, the five year US treasury note was at about 3% and the two year was around 2%. The Fed drove them down to about 0.7% and close to ZERO, respectively, while printing about $3.5 trillion. The starting point today is about 0.7% for both the five year and two year treasury, interest rates can’t be lowered by much. It therefore falls to the printing press to provide the stimulus and it will likely be a lot more than the last $3.5 trillion. By the way, the Federal Reserve Assets in ’08 were only $1T, ending at $4.5 trillion which were supposed to be reduced in a stronger economy. The economy got just a bit stronger (averaging 2.3% GDP growth) but the Fed balance sheet only was reduced to about $3.7T. It then was expanded again, through bond purchases last fall (which coincided with a strong stock market), then stopped growing in January, which may have foreshadowed the stock market collapse in February.

Today’s starting point for the Fed balance sheet is just over $4T and the ending point could be $10T. It always takes more (financial) heroin to maintain the (monetary) high. The last installment of this unprecedented monetary adventure took gold and the gold miners up well over 100% (the miners more than the bullion). The next trip should be even more dramatic, especially for the gold miners. As we’ve said before, while gold is down about 18% from it’s high of 1900 in 2011, the gold miners are down well over 50%. At the same time, the gold mining companies are far better managed, strategically positioned, and with stronger balance sheets than ten years ago.

The US Fed Reserve’s aggressively lowered the Fed Funds Rate by 50 bp a couple of hours ago. It is an interesting commentary that the stock markets rallied, but have now given up their gains and are down for the day. Our conviction is that the Fed, and the other Central Banks around the world have become impotent. Each round of stimulus the last twenty years has been increasingly less effective in stimulating growth. It is called a “diminishing marginal return on investment”. Monetary stimulus has run its course. It then falls back to the need for more fiscal stimulus, in the form of tax cuts, etc. That will have a limited effect, also, but will explode the deficit.

All of the above is supportive of much higher gold prices, and much much higher prices for the gold mining stocks.

Stay tuned.

Roger Lipton

              

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY REPORT – GOLD BULLION UP 4.5% IN JANUARY – WITH GOOD REASON

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY REPORT – GOLD BULLION UP 4.5% IN JANUARY – WITH GOOD REASON, AND  THE GOLD MINING COMPANIES WILL REPORT SHARPLY IMPROVED RESULTS !

Gold bullion was firm in January, up 4.5%. The gold mining stocks were down modestly. This short term divergence only makes the gold mining stocks even more of a bargain. There are many gold mining companies with strong balance sheets, long term reserves, and improving production. There have been hardly any large discoveries in the last ten years and it takes something like ten years to get a new mine permitted. Sharply higher gold prices will not create a lot of new supply, so much higher prices can be sustained for a long time. The mining companies have reported excellent results from last year’s third quarter, the fourth quarter results will be no different, the bullion and the miners’ price charts still look good. Though gold bullion is approaching the $1600/oz. level, most analysts have built their earnings and cash flow models on lower prices and will be revising projections sharply higher as the new bullion price range becomes more established. As described below, gold related investments are starting to become mainstream, with the emphasis on starting.

A very small percentage, something like 1% of worldwide investable assets are allocated to gold related investments. All the gold related liquid assets (mining stocks, bullion ETFs, etc.) combined amount to something like $400 billion, compared to the trillion dollar valuations of one company like Apple or Microsoft. That 1% compares to over 20% in 1934 and 1982, when investor stress was extreme and gold was considered a safe haven.

In recent years, if a mutual fund manager invested in controversial  gold related securities, his/her job could be at risk, as opposed to buying Apple or Microsoft.

However, it is starting to become acceptable to own gold related securities, as quite a few investment legends endorse the holdings. (I’ll leave it to Google to provide you with their credentials).

Ray Dalio has said: “If you don’t have 10% of your assets in gold….you don’t know history”.

Jeffrey Gundlach has said: “I’m certainly long gold….it’s getting almost exciting. Something big is happening”.

Paul Singer has said: “It makes a great deal of sense to own gold. ….the world’s central bankers are completely focused on debasing their currencies”.

Kenneth Rogoff has said: “….a shift in emerging markets towards accumulating gold would help the international financial system..”

Paul Tudor Jones has said: “My favorite trade in the next 12 to 24 months is gold….it’s possible we go into a recession….rates in the US could go down to the zero bound; gold in that situation is going to scream.”

While his fiscal/monetary credentials are not quite as well known as the above investment professionals, Roger Lipton says: “My favorite investment in the next five years is gold mining stocks. To whatever extent gold “screams”, the miners should move by a multiple of that.”

Roger Lipton

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – A COMPELLING ARGUMENT FOR GOLD ABOVE $10,000

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – A COMPELLING ARGUMENT FOR GOLD ABOVE $10,000

The following is an excerpt from an excellent article published recently by Myrmikan Research. We warn you advance that it is more technical than most investors like to deal with, but nobody ever said it is easy to maintain wealth. The following provides a logical and compelling case why a much higher price for gold, and gold mining stocks, is inevitable. Enjoy !!

The following is republished with the permission of Myrmikan Research LLC

Gold Past $10,000

Gold in 2019 finally burst through the $1,350 ceiling that had been established during the crash of 2013. Gold’s current price of $1,550 may be materially higher than where it has traded over the past six years, and it has returned most gold miners to profitability, but it is nothing compared to where the price of gold is headed. For the benefit of new readers and to jog the memories of long-time followers, let us work through the admittedly circuitous but conceptually simple reasoning behind the reason why the dollar price of gold is heading well above $10,000 per ounce

In 1915, the Federal Reserve’s assets were 77% gold, 7% commercial bills, and 2% government bonds (the remainder a smattering of various “amounts due” from other institutions). By 1923, those figures had shifted to 61% gold, 22% commercial bills, and 3% government bonds. There was no possibility that the Federal Reserve’s liabilities (i.e., the dollar) could decline in value when they were so backed: the Federal Reserve’s assets had almost no credit risk nor interest rate risk. Those who held dollars could at any time demand that the Federal Reserve redeem their dollars into gold, but few would want to given that the dollar was more liquid than gold and so solidly backed.

During the credit collapse of the 1930s, asset prices crashed against real money (gold) as malinvestments liquidated. Roosevelt made holding gold a felony, but there was little need: the dollar, backed by gold and commercial bills, remained relatively constant. Gold, in fact, flooded into the central bank from Europe: by 1940, Federal Reserve assets were comprised of 85% gold, 0% commercial bills, and 9% government bonds.

Contemporaneous economists understood that the dollar had not become “too strong” in the 1930s; it was asset prices that had been too high in the 1920s. But then the age of Keynes arrived, and the Federal Reserve embarked its new mission of funding the government instead of liquefying trade. By 1971, the Federal Reserve had increased its assets and liabilities by five times and lost over half of its gold to European governments (which retained the right to redeem dollars into gold): its balance sheet shifted to 12% gold, 0% commercial bills, and 71% government bonds. The Federal Reserve was no longer a liquidity provider in the mold of the Bank of Amsterdam, but a credit creator for the state.

In 1971, Nixon closed the gold window, and U.S. physical gold reserves have remained nearly constant since. But the Federal Reserve bought enormous amounts of government bonds in the 1970s to keep interest rates low to prop up government spending and financial market excesses. By the end of 1980, the Federal Reserve had increased its liabilities (i.e., the number of raw dollars) by 76% by buying government bonds. The dollar’s value collapsed.’

Under the quantity theory, a 76% increase in the number of dollars should have produce a 44% declined in its value. Or, if we look at M2, which increased by 125%, the dollar should have fallen by 55%. Instead it fell against gold by 96%.

The chart below shows what happened: as the government printed more money, interest rates rose, and the bonds the Federal Reserve holds to back the currency fell in value. It wasn’t that there were too many dollars chasing too few goods—as the monetarists claim—it was that each dollar was stripped of that which gave it value. It would as if the Bank of Amsterdam had suddenly announced that half of its gold reserve had been stolen: the value of its paper currency would immediately fall in half.

The surging price of gold—really the devaluation of the dollar—exactly tracked the increase in nominal interest rates. Note that the first surge in rates occurred when the price of gold was still fixed—instead of the price of gold rising, the U.S. lost 15% of its gold reserves to European governments.

The next chart shows the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet in terms of its gold backing. It shows clearly what happened when the Keynesians took over economic power in the 1940s and stuffed the Federal Reserve full of Treasury bonds. Then, in 1971, the reaction set in: interest rates soared and as did the the price of gold until the Federal Reserve’s existing stock backed Federal Reserve liabilities by over 100%.

Then they did it again from 1981 to today (only this time they called themselves monetarists). The Federal Reserve bought government bonds to fund the growth of the state and keep interest rates low to stimulate industry artificially. Leading up to the 2008 panic, gold increased to a price that caused it to backed Federal Reserve liabilities by nearly 30%. But then the Federal Reserve issued dollars to buy Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities, massively expanding its balance sheet and saving the malinvestments.

By the time QEs were complete, the gold backing of the dollar had fallen to just 6% (as opposed to 12% in 1969). In other words: in 2016, with gold trading at $1,050 per ounce, the price of gold was half what it had been in 1969 in terms of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet. And, as the chart below shows, the composition of that balance sheet in 2016 was much worse than it had been in 1969 (the dip in bond holdings in 2008 was due to temporary swap lines with other central banks and other short-term extraordinary bailout programs).

In the 1970s, the duration of the Treasury bonds on the Federal Reserve’s balance was only a few years—now it is over a decade. Plus, the duration of mortgage-backed securities is inverse to the movement in rates: few borrowers refinance in a rising interest rates environment. Unlike at the Federal Reserve’s founding, when its assets were virtually immune from interest rate risk, its assets now are highly sensitive.

At the moment, when the Federal Reserve prints money to buy bonds, the result is rising prices and falling interest rates, which keeps the government funded and financial markets aloft. The end of the dollar will begin when this dynamic flips, as it did in the 1970s. At some point, the market will demand a premium to protect against the weakening position of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet. The more the monetary authorities print, the higher rates will go, the more money the government will need to print to cover its interest payments and deficit, the lower the dollar will sink, and the higher gold’s nominal price will be.

The question is when will the dynamic flip? The great economist Ludwig von Mises argued that psychological factors are determinative:

“Finally, the public becomes aware of what is happening. People realize that there will be no end to the issue of more and more money substitutes—that prices will consequently rise at an accelerated pace. They comprehend that under such a state of affairs it is detrimental to keep cash. In order to prevent being victimized by the progressing drop in money’s purchasing power, they rush to buy commodities, no matter what their prices may be and whether or not they need them. They prefer everything else to money. They arrange what in 1923 in Germany when the Reich set the classical example for the policy of endless credit expansion, was called die Flucht in die Sachwerte, the flight into real values.”

Mises’s description of what happens after the panic begins is undoubtedly accurate, but there is no need to rely on psychology to determine when panic sets in: the cause is the collapse of cash flows from business projects due to overcapacity, which is what ended the canal boom of the 1830s, the railroad boom of the 1850s and 1870s, the stock market and real estate booms of the 1920s, 1960s, and 2000s.

After the last panic, the Federal Reserve managed to lower structural interest rates by around 4%. Existing projects looked more valuable, and the lower rates stimulated industry to build all the marginal projects that suddenly appeared to be profitable. Instead of a thorough liquidation of the financial and economic systems, the Federal Reserve engineered a new boom.

The next panic will similarly require not just a bailout of the banks but also a structural lowering of rates in order to avoid complete liquidation. This is why Bernanke announced earlier this month from his perch at the Brookings Institute that “new policy tools can provide the equivalent of 3 percentage points of additional policy space.” These new tools include: “the future use of negative short-term rates, both because situations could arise in which negative short-term rates would provide useful policy space.”

Negative interest rates that (adding the commercial banks’ spread) result in near-zero rates for large industry might well serve to keep the economy and government from complete collapse for a time. The consequences, however, would include providing gold with a positive carry as against government bonds and further deterioration of the composition of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet.

At some point, whether it is during the next panic or the following one, the market will discover that much of society’s wealth has become entrapped in non-cashflowing malinvestments. Tax revenues will plummet, and the assets that our central bank holds will be shown to be near worthless. That is when gold will shoot into the multi-thousands of dollars per ounce.

History allows us to make some projections: The average gold backing for Bank of England liabilities from 1720 to 1900 was 33%. Private banks in the U.K. maintained a similar percentage of gold backing during this time. This percentage was set more by the market than by policy-makers: until World War I, anyone could deposit gold and demand paper or vice-versa. The composition and size of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet requires gold to trade above $5,000 to reach one-third backing.

Looking at American history, Federal Reserve notes were freely exchangeable for gold until 1933, and the average gold backing of the Federal Reserve through that time was 54%. To reach that level of backing would currently require a gold price above $8,500.

Recall, however, that the above figures occurred when the non-gold assets on central bank balance sheets were nearly all commercial bills. Given the current composition of the Federal Reserve’s balance sheet, the market will demand more backing than one third or even a half.

The panic in 1980, for example, sent gold to a price that caused Federal Reserve liabilities to be gold backed by an absurd 135%—to achieve the similar figure today would require gold to trade over $20,000 per ounce. That was the peak of a dollar panic, not an equilibrium price, but it shows how crazy the gold market can get.

The nominal figures above assume that the Federal Reserve will keep the size of its balance sheet constant. But, of course, as Bernanke has telegraphed, the central bank will start printing as soon as recession looms. The Federal Reserve has, in fact, already starting printing to support the repo market, the primary funding mechanism for both the state and real estate loans.

Bernanke claimed on 60 Minutes: “We could raise interest rates in 15 minutes if we have to. So, there really is no problem with raising rates, tightening monetary policy, slowing the economy, reducing inflation, at the appropriate time.” This is exactly what Federal Reserve governors thought would happen in 1979 when they boosted rates to 21%. Instead, the dollar went into it final swoon as the Federal Reserve’s bond portfolio collapsed in value.

The money to push gold over $10,000 per ounce has already been printed. And now they are going to print more. The bubble economy is already teetering. No doubt strong fiscal and monetary intervention may extend its life for a time, but then the ultimate price objective for gold will then be markedly higher. The gold miners will do even better.

The above article excerpt is republished with the permission of Myrmikan Capital LLC

Roger Lipton

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – A QUIET NOVEMBER, LOW VOLATILITY OFTEN PRECEDES LARGE MOVES

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – A QUIET NOVEMBER, LOW VOLATILITY OFTEN PRECEDES LARGE MOVES

November was a fairly quiet month in the capital markets, the general equity market up modestly, bonds little changed, gold and gold miners down slightly. Gold bullion was down 3.2%, the gold miners , as measured by the the mining ETFs (GDX and GDXJ) were down about the same. The three mining mutual funds we follow (Tocqueville, Oppenheimer, and Van Eck were down about 4.0% on average. For the year to date, gold bullion is up about 13.7%, and the miners are up better than 60% of that. Our partnership, almost entirely invested in gold minng issues, has performed similarly. Still, we feel this is just the beginning of a resumption in the long term bull market for gold (see the chart below) and the highly leveraged, and still relatively depressed gold miners.

The chart below shows the price of gold versus the S&P average, since 2000, clearly indicating the resumption of a long term uptrend. For those of you that want to look longer term, the S&P average was about 100 in August, 1971, when gold was $35.00/oz. and Richard Nixon eliminated the conversion of dollars into gold, so gold is up 42x since 1971 and the S&P is up 30x. A critic of this analysis might point out that from 1980 to 2000, gold bullion went from $850 to $250, but we believe that $850 was probably too high, and the 20 years that followed were an aberration after inflation was (temporarily) tamed.

If you want to look longer term, before 1971 and going back to 1934, after FDR devalued the dollar by raising the price of gold from $20 to $34, the S&P has gone from about 100 to 3000, up 30x, and gold is up about 44x. The long term return from stock ownership would include dividends, which gold does not provide, so this comparison is not quite fair, but the main point here is that it is not the dollar, or another paper currency that is the real money. Gold has been the only surviving currency over thousands of years. The appropriate view is that in 1913, when the US Fed was established, to control inflation,  a US dollar was worth 1/20 of an ounce of gold, and today a US dollar is worth only 1/1500th of an ounce of gold. The US Dollar has therefore lost over 98% of its value, not exactly a record to be proud of.

THE US ECONOMY – the best house in the worldwide bad neighborhood.

Though the yield curve is no longer inverted, aided by the fact that the FED has pumped almost $300B into short term paper in the last ninety days, there are tangible signs that the US economy is slowing, and is not far from rolling over into recession. After 2.1% real GDP growth in Q3’19, the New York Fed is now predicting Q4 GDP growth at just 0.4%, and the normally bullish Atlanta Fed is now down to 0.3%. Both estimates have been coming down week by week. In the public marketplace, with 65-70% of the US economy dependent on the consumer, reported results are mixed. Walmart and Target are doing relatively well, but Kohl’s (KSS) and Home Depot (HD) reported disappointing results, lowered guidance for the current quarter. It is noteworthy that Kohl’s is a discount retailer and Home Depot is dependent on new housing and renovation, both important portions of the consumer related economy.

CENTRAL BANKS BUY GOLD IN RECORD AMOUNTS

We’ve written many times, relative to Central Banks’ attitude toward Gold, investors should do as they do, not as they say. They don’t like to confirm that gold is the ultimate store of value, as opposed to the fiat/cyber currencies that they produce with the stroke of a computer key, backed only “by the full faith and credit, yada, yada”. However, the chart below shows vividly that they switched from seller to buyer in 2010 and that continues to this day. They bought 374 tons in the first half of ’19, which would annualize to over 750 tons, a record. This represents about 20% of worldwide annual production of 3500 tons. The likelihood, also, is that China’s accumulation is substantially understated.

 

 JAPAN – three “lost decades” later – with Central Bank intervention

Japan’s experience since the peak of their GDP growth and stock market in 1989-1990 provides an insight into the power, or lack thereof, of a central bank to stimulate growth. The easy money strategy in Japan has been especially prevalent since prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office seven years ago. Interest rates in Japan have been below zero since 2015, and the Bank of Japan has printed money to buy bonds and equity ETFs to the point where the BoJ balance sheet is now 104% of 2018 GDP, up from 40% at the end of 2012. This compares to 20% and 39% of GDP in the US and Europe respectively. Japan has demonstrated that, while Central Banks may be able to paper over a pending financial collapse, stimulating economic growth is another story. GDP growth in Japan has averaged all of 0.49% from 1980 until 2019, with an all time high of 3.2% in 1990 and a low of -4.8% in Q1’19. Part and parcel of the Japanese situation is that their government debt is about 250% of GDP, much higher than the US situation, which is just above 100%. An optimist could conclude that the US has a long way to go before our Fed balance sheet or government debt becomes a problem. That might be true, and we might also be looking at GDP growth no higher, and perhaps a lot lower, than 1% for the next 20-30 years.

There are many other fiscal/monetary developments that should be supportive of higher gold prices, including the new surge in government deficits and accumulated debt, also the surge in low rated corporate debt that would be a huge burden in a weaker economy. It’s trite but true: you don’t get out of a hole by continuing to dig, and that, unfortunately, is the primarily strategy of worldwide fiscal/monetary policy makers. We are available, as always, to discuss your questions and concerns.

Roger Lipton

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – U.S. ECONOMY SOFTENS – CENTRAL BANKS BUY GOLD!! – WILL THE UNITED STATES FOLLOW JAPAN?

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE  – U.S. ECONOMY SOFTENS –  CENTRAL BANKS BUY GOLD!! – WILL THE UNITED STATES FOLLOW JAPAN?

THE US ECONOMY –  the best house in the worldwide bad neighborhood.

Though the yield curve is no longer inverted, aided by the fact that the FED has pumped almost $300B into short term paper in the last ninety days, there are tangible signs that the US economy is slowing, and is not far from rolling over into recession. The standard punditry, led by Mad Money’s Jim Cramer, whose fundamental “rigorous” analysis seems to depend mostly on the stock market’s action over the last 24 hours, continues to report that the consumer remains “resilient”. Setting aside our anecdotal observations of restaurant traffic and sales trends, which are largely driven these days by $5.00 price points at lunch and three course meals for $10.00 at dinner, overall reported retail sales were up only 0.26% in October, failing to recoup the 0.32% loss in September. Adjusted for inflation, sales volume dipped 0.1% in October after a 0.4% decline in September, flat in the last three months, slowing steadily through 2019 from 2.2% and 1.0% gains in the respective March and June quarters.

Going forward, the New York Fed is now predicting Q4 GDP growth at just 0.4%, and the normally bullish Atlanta Fed is now down to 0.3%. Both estimates have been coming down week by week. In the public marketplace, just this morning Kohl’s (KSS) and Home Depot (HD) reported disappointing results, lowered guidance for the current quarter, and their stocks are trading down 18% and 5% respectively. It is noteworthy that Kohl’s is a discount retailer and Home Depot is dependent on new housing and renovation, both important portions of the consumer related economy.

CENTRAL BANKS BUY GOLD IN RECORD AMOUNTS

We’ve written many times, relative to Central Banks’ attitude toward Gold, investors should do as they do, not as they say. They don’t like to confirm that gold is the ultimate store of value, as opposed to the fiat/cyber currencies that they produce with the stroke of a computer key, backed only “by the full faith and credit,  yada, yada”. However, the chart below shows vividly that they switched from seller to buyer in 2010 and that continues to this day. They bought 374 tons in the first half of ’19, which would annualize to over 750 tons, a record. This represents about 20% of worldwide annual production of 3500 tons. The likelihood, also, is that China’s accumulation is substantially understated.

JAPAN – three “lost decades” later – with Central Bank intervention

Japan’s experience since the peak of their GDP growth and stock market in 1989-1990 provides an insight into the power, or lack thereof, of a central bank to stimulate growth. The easy money strategy in Japan has been especially prevalent since prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office seven years ago. Interest rates in Japan have been below zero since 2015, and the Bank of Japan has printed money to buy bonds and equity ETFs to the point where the BoJ balance sheet is now 104% of 2018 GDP, up from 40% at the end of 2012. This compares to 20% and 39% of GDP in the US and Europe respectively. Japan has demonstrated that, while Central Banks may be able to paper over a pending financial collapse, stimulating economic growth is another story. GDP growth in Japan has averaged all of 0.49% from 1980 until 2019, with an all time high of 3.2% in 1990 and a low of -4.8% in Q1’19. Part and parcel of the Japanese situation is that their government debt is about 250% of GDP, much higher than the US situation, which is just above 100%. An optimist could conclude that the US has a long way to go before our Fed balance sheet or government debt becomes a problem. That might be true, and we might also be looking at GDP growth no higher, and perhaps a lot lower, than 1% for the next 20-30 years.

Roger Lipton

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – QE4 HAS CLEARLY BEGUN, GOLD SHOULD SHINE BRIGHTLY

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – QE4 HAS CLEARLY BEGUN, GOLD SHOULD SHINE BRIGHTLY

The equity averages were up modestly in October. Interest rates, intra-month, went down, then up, then down again after the Fed predictably lowered rates, ending the month where they began. Gold bullion was up 3.0%, and the gold miners were up closer to 5% For the year to date, gold bullion is up about 17% and the gold mining stocks are up about 30%. Still, this is just a beginning. The miners have just begun to outperform gold bullion on the upside. We expect gold bullion to go up by a multiple of its current price, and the gold miners by a multiple of that multiple. See point (4) below.

The most prominent recent short term developments that come to mind are as follows:

  • Whatever you call it, “QE4” or “whatever”, the latest monetary accommodation by our central bank has clearly begun. The Fed, as expected, lowered the fed funds rate by 25 bp last  Wednesday, and tried to make the case that rates are on hold, “pending the incoming data”. They should talk to the world class economist, David Rosenberg, who provides many indicators that point to consumers (who have been keeping the GDP positive) backing off. For the moment, in spite of the highly touted “greatest economy in US history”, GDP growth, in Q3 was all of 1.9%, and slowing. Furthermore, while the (disingenuous) Fed talked about buying treasuries starting October 15th at a rate of $60B per month, their balance sheet started expanding the week ending September 4th and is already up by $260B by the week ending 10/30. That’s a rate of $130B per month (started in early September, and double the stated $65B objective), and that’s in addition to the tens of billions they are adding to the repo market daily to add to short term marketplace “liquidity”. We don’t pretend to understand the daily repo market, but the need for Fed “intervention” on a daily basis cannot be a sign of financial strength within the capital marketplace.
  • We agree with David Rosenberg, who predicts that short term interest rates will move toward the zero bound as the Fed tries (in vain) to support the economy. There will be many painful unintended consequences from ten years of interest rate suppression. We can’t help to interject here, relative to gold: all the gold ever mined, about 160,000 tons,  is worth less than half of the current worldwide debt selling with a negative yield. The argument, therefore, that gold is “useless” because it earns nothing has become moot. Nothing is a better return than a negative yield.
  • The disillusionment, finally, with the ridiculous valuations of the money losing “unicorns” (i.e. WeWork, Uber, Grubhub, et.al.) indicate that the monetary debasement and credit bubble that has supported the last twenty years of (meager) economic expansion is finally winding down. In response, however, it is clear that the worldwide central banks will double down with their monetary heroin. It took more than $10 trillion of fresh paper to avoid economic disaster in 2008. It will take $20-30 trillion the next time. It always takes a bigger “hit” to stay “high”.
  • The gold miners have just begun to report their  third quarter, which is the first quarter in eight years that gold has been $200/oz. higher, YTY, and the operating leverage is asserting itself. The first group of mining companies that has reported so far has shown dramatically better results and those stocks have jumped 7-10% in days. With bullion down 20% from its high, but the miners down 50-75%, there us obviously the potential for a major upside move in the gold mining stocks.

Roger Lipton

 

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – GOLD MINING STOCKS READY TO POP, OUR GOLD FOCUSED INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP FORMALLY OPENS TO NEW INVESTORS

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SEMI-MONTLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – GOLD MINING STOCKS READY TO POP, OUR GOLD FOCUSED INVESTMENT PARTNERSHIP FORMALLY OPENS TO NEW INVESTORS

Gold bullion is up about 14% for the year. The gold mining stocks, leveraged to the price of gold, are up more, as is our investment partnership, RHL Associates, LP, up about 20% for the year as of this morning. If ever the time was finally right for, what we consider to be, the single most undervalued asset class, it seems to be now. The gold miners will be reporting earnings for Q3 starting in early November, and it will be the first quarter in eight years where the average price of gold will be about 20% higher than a year earlier. Due to the leverage above break-even mining costs, earnings for the gold miners, depending on mining costs, could be from 40%-100% higher than a year ago.

While gold bullion is about 25% below its high, the mining stocks are trading at 50-75% below their highs of 2011-2012, so the upside price action could be dramatic. We believe that the “catch up” will be just a prelude to an even bigger move when the gold price breaks out above its $1900 high. If gold goes to a multiple of its current price over the next five years, the gold mining stocks could, and should, go to a multiple of that multiple.

RHL ASSOCIATES, LP – THE TIMING LOOKS GOOD

For the first time since we transitioned our partnership, formed in 1993, from consumer stocks to gold related investments in 2011, we are formally opening to new investors. The last six years have not been pretty but 2019 is much better and we think it is just the beginning. Roger Lipton has always been, and will continue to be, the largest investor. The minimum investment is $500,000. The compensation arrangement is “1&10”, a 1% annual fee and 10% of profits, much lower than most investment partnerships. Funds can come in on the 1st of any month, starting November 1st, and can be redeemed at the end of any quarter, with 30 days written notice. There is no required minimum holding period. This is, obviously, a very brief description of RHL Associates, LP, should not be considered an “offering”, which can only be done by way of a formal offering circular. Contact us if you have a potential interest.

MONETARY STIMULATION BEGINS ANEW

You don’t get out of a hole by continuing to dig. Central banks around the world kept their economies moving forward (modestly) by the creation of something like fifteen trillion dollars. Turns out that, predictably, the debt burden has limited the GDP growth to under 2.5% in the US and Japan, not much more than that in Europe, and China’s hyper growth of the last thirty years has steadily slowed to just over 6%, and that is doubtful. In the US, after growing the Fed balance sheet from $800 billion to $4.5 trillion, it was reduced only to $3.76 billion before they said “basta”. Ten days ago, Jerome Powell said they would start increasing the balance sheet by $60 billion per month. WHAT HE DIDN’T SAY WAS THAT, BY OCTOBER 2ND THE FED BALANCE SHEET HAD ALREADY INCREASED TO $3.946 TRILLION FROM $3.760 TRILLION FIVE WEEKS EARLIER, AN INCREASE OF $186 BILLION. Seems like a couple of hundred billion these days is hardly worth discussing.

Japan and Europe are doing the same, $16 trillion of sovereign debt with negative interest rates is likely to increase, and there is no graceful way out of the worldwide credit and debt pyramid. Gold related assets are, at the very least, a useful hedge against problems in other asset classes.

IT IS NOT DEFAULT ON THE DEBT, IT IS SYMMETRICAL INFLATION

We try to read between the lines when monetary policy is discussed by our distinguished Fed governors. One of the principles underlying our ownership of gold related assets is that: the debt cannot be repaid. The numbers are too large. There will be a “default” but it will be in the form of inflation. An outright stated default, a blatant unwillingness to pay off interest or principal on the debt is politically unacceptable. We have all heard the commentary that the US will always make the necessary payments because we can just print the (unbacked) dollars. Of course this represents an abuse of our privileged position as the keeper of the world’s primary reserve currency, and for the time being that beat goes on. As a consequence, inflation is the likely solution. The public won’t blame the politicians for the continued “wealth gap”, and will continue to wonder why, though their wages are rising, their purchasing power never seems to keep up. Recall our article of August 14th, when we showed a chart of the wealth gap, starting in the early 1970s after Nixon closed the gold window and inflation took off. A 1971 dollar is worth about $0.15 today.

Almost everyone has forgotten that the Federal Reserve Bank was formed in 1913 to control inflation. In the new paradigm, the Fed has stated that 2% inflation is not only acceptable but is the stated goal, and other central bankers have followed along. Note however, that, EVERY TIME JEROME POWELL MENTIONS THE 2 PERCENT GOAL, HE SAYS “SYMMETRICAL 2 PERCENT”. You heard this here first ! This means that, because inflation has been running by less than 2% for some time, the Fed will not be disturbed if it runs above 2% for an extended period of time. Recall that inflation was 11-12% in 1974, 1975 and 1979 and north of 5% in almost all of the 1970s. Once the inflation genie is out of the bottle, it is folly to think the Fed will be able to control how high it goes, and they don’t really mind because the debt is easier to pay off. At 3-4%, it will be within their “symmetrical two percent” goal, and who knows how high it goes from there.

The price of gold went from $35 to $850 in the 1970s, the last time the world went through this type of situation, and gold is just as cheap today relative to the amount of currency and debt outstanding.

Roger Lipton

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – GOLD, AND THE MINERS CONSOLIDATE, OBVIOUS REASON ??

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SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – GOLD, AND THE MINERS CONSOLIDATE, OBVIOUS REASON??

Gold bullion and the gold miners had a “consolidation” in September, though still up for the quarter and the year. Gold bullion was down 3.4% in September. The average of the two major ETFs, GDX and GDXJ, was down 11.1%.  It should be remembered that gold bullion is still up 14.5% for the year and the gold miners are up over 20%. This is  reasonably impressive performance of this presumably counter cyclical asset class,  considering that the US Dollar is at a high, as is the general equity market.

Virtually all of the decline in September was in the last week, which has been typical every year since 2013, prior to Golden Week in China (where a great deal of gold is bought, both by the government and the public). Golden Week is a 7-8 day semi-annual holiday. We’ve shown charts below of the gold price in the week before and after the start of this holiday, and you can see the decline and recovery which has been typical. For what it’s worth, gold is up 0.5% this morning at 11:00am as this is written, and the gold minering stocks are up over 2%. All the economic trends that we have long discussed are still in place, and accelerating.

There are a number of major current developments, all supportive of gold demand.

  • QE4, a new round of money creation is already taking shape. The Fed has been forced to insert $50-75B of funds daily in the form of “Repos” into the short term fixed income markets. While these funds roll over from day to day, supposedly don’t accumulate, this sort of intervention is a sign of unusual strain within capital markets. Supposedly short term intervention aside, the Fed Balance Sheet has started expanding once again. After bottoming at $3.76 trillion on 8/28, the latest total is $3.858 trillion, up $88 billion in the last two weeks. The Fed has publicized their “data dependence”, but balance sheet expansion so soon has not been implied.
  • The Japanese monetary authorities are newly committed to a new round of monetary stimulus, a continuation of the strategy that hasn’t worked for over twenty years. You don’t get out of a hole by continuing to dig.
  • WeWork’s rapid transition from (private) market darling to a bankruptcy risk is a powerful form of therapy for worldwide money managers. This kind of disillusionment can quickly undermine capital markets, both debt and equity, and is an example of how crises develop “very slowly, then very quickly”.

Roger Lipton

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