Tag Archives: GLD

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – STRONG DOLLAR HURTS GOLD? – NOT REALLY!

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – STRONG DOLLAR HURTS GOLD? – NOT REALLY!

It is an accepted axiom, when viewing the performance and the prospect for the price of gold (in US Dollars) that a strong dollar does not allow gold to appreciate in price. Don’t believe everything you read. The following charts show the performance of gold (GLD) vs. the dollar index (DXY) over various time frames, from the last twelve months to the last ten years. The last twelve months have been particularly dramatic, and unexpected by many, as gold has moved steadily upward in spite of the DXY selling near its high. More importantly, you will see that in every case, over one year, three years, five years and ten years, the price of gold went up in terms of dollars, in spite of strength in the US Dollar vs. a basket of other currencies (DXY). Over the ten-year period, GLD was up about 30% while the DXY was up a little less than that.

ONE YEAR TO SEPT 2019

                                                             THREE YEARS TO SEPT 2019

                                                             FIVE YEARS TO 2019

                                                             10 YEARS TO 2019

In the interest of providing a complete picture: Past performance always depends on which time period you look at and different time periods can tell a different story. The ten-year period prior to the last decade, from 2000 to 2009, is illustrative. The GLD skyrocketed, up over 100% while the DXY was very weak. Gold, to be sure, did a lot better with a weak dollar, as shown below, but was still up consistently with a strong dollar, as shown above.

                                                             10 YEARS, 1999 TO 2009

Our conclusion: All other factors being equal, we would rather see a weak dollar if we are hoping for a higher gold price. However, it should be clear from the charts above that strength in the US Dollar has often been compatible with a rising dollar gold price. It is also worth noting that a relatively strong dollar provides a proportionately higher gold price in in terms of alternate currencies. To varying degrees, depending on timing and relative currency strength, gold has invariably protected purchasing power over the long term.

Roger Lipton

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – GOLD, AND THE MINERS, CONTINUE TO SHINE – WE TELL YOU WHY, REALLY!!

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – GOLD, AND THE MINERS, CONTINUE TO SHINE – WE TELL YOU WHY, REALLY!!

The capital markets were skittish in August, increasingly worried about an economy that is slowing under the influence, among other things, of trade tensions. Much of the news continues to be supportive of higher prices for gold related securities. and our portfolio benefitted accordingly. Gold bullion was up 7.9% in August and is up 18.6% for the year to date. The mining stocks were up slightly more than bullion in August, and are up approximately double the gain in bullion for the year.  While we are gratified with the gold miners’ relative performance to date, they are still down far more than bullion from the 2011 high. Gold bullion is down about 20% from the 2011 high of $1900/oz, while the two largest gold miner ETFs, GDX and GDXJ, are down 54% and 75% respectively. Putting it another way: If bullion goes up 25% from here, back to its high, GDX and GDXJ could go up 100% and 300% respectively and our broad portfolio of miners should mirror that order of magnitude. Since we anticipate that bullion has the potential to sell at a multiple of the $1900 previous high, the 100% and/or 300% move as described above could be just the beginning.

There has been an increasing amount of media attention relative to the appeal of gold related securities, not all of it especially well informed. We want our readers to be as well informed as possible, so we we reprint below our article from 8/14, “THE CASE FOR GOLD”. Most of it is not new to our readers over the last several years, but we have tried to pull it all together. It’s been said that: “In every crisis, you can either be a fool before or after”. If a crisis is indeed ahead of us, we clearly fall into the former camp with our writings over the last several years, but we like to think that our conviction is at least well founded.

THE CASE FOR GOLD – FROM THE “TOP DOWN” TO THE “BOTTOMS UP” – HOW HIGH, AND WHEN?

Our conviction regarding gold, and gold related investments revolves around our conviction that gold is the real money, has been for thousands of years, and the reasons have not changed. Gold is limited in supply, durable, and accepted worldwide as a unit of exchange and a store of value. It is true that gold is useless in terms of being consumed or generating a return such as a dividend. However, it is the indestructibility and scarcity that have made it most useful in terms of backing paper currencies that could otherwise be diluted into oblivion by the politicians of the day. This has in fact been the consistent case throughout history and it is hard to conclude that today’s politicians, worldwide, will prove to be any more disciplined than those of the past.

A second part of our premise is that without a sound currency, there cannot be a sound economy. Unless the public has confidence in the buying power of the earnings that are received as a result of their effort, they will exert less effort in that pursuit. This has been reflected through the ages, before and including ancient Rome to the 21st century.

A corollary of the paper currency dilution is the inevitable higher price of goods and services. You don’t need a PHD in economics to understand that an increasing amount of currency chasing a fixed amount of product will result in higher prices. It so happens that this result is far more acceptable from a political point of view than the fiscal and monetary discipline necessary to avoid deficit spending. This predictable outcome produces a cruel tax on the working middle class (wealth gap?) that doesn’t understand why they are taking home a bigger paycheck but it just doesn’t seem to go as far as expected.

Another way to look at gold ownership as a long-term hedge against inflation: If we view gold as a currency/commodity, which competes with other similar “asset classes”. This includes the latest asset class which consists of over 2,000 cryptocurrencies led by the headline grabbing bitcoin. The amount of gold that is produced every year amounts to about $160 billion each year, and increases by about 2% annually (which happens to be approximately the rate of long-term real growth in the worldwide economy). Compare this production of gold, requiring substantial capital investment and risk, with the creation of trillions of dollars annually of unbacked (fiat) paper currencies that are produced with the click of a computer mouse. Which asset class do you think will hold its “value” better over the long term?

THE WEALTH GAP

The “wealth gap” that is decried by politicians around the world began to rear its head in the 1970s. We believe it is no accident that August of 1971, when Richard Nixon closed the gold window, ushered in this unfortunate phenomenon. The chart below shows this clearly.

THE CURRENCY AND THE DEBT

The following charts show how public and private debt has expanded since 1971 and how the US currency in circulation has expanded exponentially. It is interesting to observe how the US public and private total debt exploded in 1930 as the GDP sank 30%, fell back through the depression, stabilized through WWII and the post war industrial expansion, before taking off in the 1970s. As above, we believe it is no accident that a 1971 dollar has retained only about 15% of its purchasing power by 2019.

Some might argue that inflation has been subdued in recent years, running under the Fed target of 2%, even though deficits are rising. In fact, many PHDs are scratching their collective heads, wondering why this is so. However, while apparel and some consumer electronic products have not risen in price, the cost of large ticket items such as education, healthcare and rent have risen sharply during this period of monetary accommodation. The paper currency creation, worldwide, with the stated intention of a “wealth effect”, has inflated stock and bond prices. That wealth has predictably largely bypassed the middle class consumer, but allowed a Van Gogh painting to sell for $250 million and co-ops in New York City and London to trade for $100M or more. The suppression of interest rates has also affected the purchasing power of the upper class and fixed income dependent savers in that you need much more savings to maintain a previously enjoyed living standard.

CENTRAL BANKERS

Central bankers have no use for gold because gold, as a governing mechanism for the issuance of the paper currency, puts the central banker out of business. However, they know where the bodies are buried so let’s follow what they do, not what they say. The following charts show the consistent accumulation over the last ten years by the central banks, notably by Russia and China, two or our greatest adversaries. It is worth noting that reported Chinese gold holdings are assumed by many to be very much understated.

 GOLD HOLDINGS vs. MONETARY BASE

The following chart shows the value of the gold held by the United States, since 1918 (shortly after the Fed was established in 1913), relative to the adjusted monetary base. You can see that from 1913 until just before the end of WWII, the value of the gold was about 35% of the monetary base. After the Bretton Woods agreement in 1944 whereby the US Dollar was established as the reserve currency, the percentage drifted down. The monetary base was growing steadily, and the US gold backing was declining, but the world was relatively unconcerned during a postwar recovery period. In the late 1960s, however, as US spending for the Vietnam War and President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society accelerated, US trade and operating deficits became widely anticipated. Over 50% of the US gold was exchanged for dollars within eighteen months prior to August, 1971, when Richard Nixon “closed the gold window”. At that point, our gold amounted to only 6-7 % of the US monetary base. This level is important because we are back to that same level today.

We are not suggesting that the US, or anyone else, will make their paper currency convertible into gold any time soon. It wouldn’t work for long, in any event, because deficits in all major trading countries are larger than ever, and paper currencies would once again be tendered for gold. No country could back their currency with gold, unless they were “balancing their books” or, at the least, that prospect was in sight. We do, however, feel that the value of the gold “in circulation” should have a relationship to the value of alternative currencies. You might be surprised to learn that the country most able to make their currency convertible into gold would be Russia, perhaps our most prominent political adversary and a consistently large buyer of gold.

WHAT PRICE GOLD??

We refer to a couple of charts to approximate a reasonable level for the price of gold, relative to (1) a percentage of foreign exchange reserves and (2) as a percentage of paper currency in circulation. The chart just above this section shows that the value of the gold relative to the paper currency in circulation has a history, during steady non-inflationary growth, of being in the range of 25-35 %. The chart below shows the value of central bank gold holdings as a % of total foreign exchange reserves.

The chart above indicates that 7% could be 35%, or five times the current price. The chart below indicates that 7% could be 45% or 6.4x the current price. These ballpark calculations indicate what we consider to be a rational value of 5-6x the current $1500/oz, or $7,500-9,000/oz. This ballpark price range objective is at the current time. Since the upward adjustment in the gold price will likely be over a number of years, the appropriate price would be even higher by then.

THE TIMING

The following two charts provide insight into the possibility of an imminent major upward move. The first chart shows the high correlation of the gold price to the amount of worldwide sovereign negative yielding debt, now amounting to a cool $15 trillion. People, that’s a big number and even in Germany, the strongest European country, the entire yield curve is now negative. We believe that the amount of negative yielding debt will continue its upward march, and could even include some of the US debt. The continued upward trend of this indicator could be influential in breaking the gold price out above the previous all-time high of $1911. That, in turn, could ignite the price toward the price objectives noted above.

The second chart shows a nineteen-year price chart of gold. It shows the end of an 11-12-year bull market, ending in 2012, then a 6-7 year “consolidation”. The price has now clearly broken above $1400, the previous high. Chart technicians would say that the longer the base, the bigger the move. It is conceivable that a new bull market has begun that could last for quite a few years. This would tie in to our logic that the price of gold could be 5-6 times higher over a number of years.

CONCLUSION:

You get the picture!!

Roger Lipton

P.S. We produced two YouTube videos back in 2012 relative to this subject matter, each of which remains completely relevant. They are each only three minutes long. We have provided those links below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ebZO5iMNeg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ah7Y2rHuhCs

 

 

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – FED ACTS, CAPITAL MARKETS REACT, GOLD MINERS SHINE

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – THE FED ACTS, CAPITAL MARKETS REACT, GOLD MINERS SHINE

The general equity market was up just a little in July as the investing world waited to see how aggressive the Fed would be in terms of lowering rates. When the cut in rates yesterday afternoon was only 25 basis points, all capital markets sold off, with his remarks interpreted as if this cut would be “one and done”. This will not be the actuality, in our opinion, as extended monetary ease will be necessary to support the weakening worldwide economy. It is encouraging to us that, with gold bullion virtually flat for the month of July, based upon the prices of GDX and GDXJ, the two largest gold mining ETFs, and TGLDX, OPGSX, AND INIVX, the three precious metal mutual funds that we track,  the gold mining stocks were up about 5% for the month. This price performance is starting to reflect the inherent operating leverage within the miners vs. the price of gold bullion. For the year to date,  the gold mining stocks are up about 24.1%, nicely outperforming gold bullion which is up 9.9%.

The price action of gold bullion and the gold mining stocks is beginning to attract attention, but ownership is still almost non-existent among North American investors. Many of the reasons provided by observers have some validity, but are nothing new to all of us. The monetary stimulus, the deficit, the debts, the geo-political risks, the political dysfunction, the increasing social unrest and the wealth gap are all continuing worldwide trends that have long been in place but are suddenly become newsworthy. It’s been said, in response to how a crisis develops: “very slowly and then very suddenly”. The following are a few of the most important reasons that precious metal holdings are all of a sudden performing well.

FUNDAMENTALLY: David Rosenberg, one of the most highly regarded investment strategists, and not a perennial “gold bug” by any means, just a couple of weeks ago, wrote “WHY GOLD HAS ALLURE”.

(1) The Fed is set to cut rates (as discussed above), which will send the fed funds rate into negative territory in real terms.

(2) Geopolitical risks, including Iran’s behavior, are increasingly bothersome.

3) Trade talks with China do not seem to be making progress, and Beijing has “tools” to hit back, including the ability to weaken their currency and/or continue reducing their US Treasury holdings.

(4) The economic war between the US and France is heating up, as Emmanuel Macron imposes a tax on American large cap tech companies. At the same time, trade tensions increase between the US and Japan, as well as South Korea.

(5) The Chinese economy, as well as the entire Asian economy, is clearly in retreat, adding to the prospect of worldwide monetary ease.

TECHNICALLY: In terms of supply of demand for physical gold, and the price charts:

(1) Central Banks around the world have continued their massive accumulation, a total of 374 tons in the first half of calendar ’19. While the first half total was down around 5% from ’18, the annualized rate of 750 tons is far more than in prior years. Russian and Chinese Central Banks continue their steady accumulation.  India, between their central bank and their population, perennially the second largest accumulator of physical gold, imported 78 tons in May alone, running 49% ahead of a year earlier. Poland has now joined the other major buyers, buying a huge (for them) 100 tons in the second quarter alone. Sine the total annual worldwide production is about 3400 tons, these purchases are very meaningful.

(2) The price charts, for gold as well as gold mining shares, indicate much higher prices. Gold bullion has broken out to a five year high, though still 25% below the 2011 high. The gold mining shares are at three year highs but are still as much as 75% below their 2012 high.

The gold mining stocks are still substantially undervalued by many historical measures. Gold bullion, is down about 25% from its all time high of about 1900 in 2011, but GDX (the ETF with the larger miners) is down over 50% from its high and GDXJ (with the small to midsize miners) is down 75%. Our expectation is that gold bullion, will sell for a multiple of its current price and the mining stocks at a multiple of that. The timing, as always, is the big question, but the pieces seem to be falling into place, as outlined above.

In summary, there are never any certainties, especially in the short run, but it seems like both fundamental and technical considerations are in gear, and indicating much higher prices for precious metal securities.

Roger Lipton

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – PRECIOUS METALS ACT WELL, AS FUNDAMENTAL AND TECHNICAL FACTORS BOTH SUPPORT MUCH HIGHER PRICES

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – PRECIOUS METALS ACT WELL, AS FUNDAMENTAL AND TECHNICAL FACTORS BOTH SUPPORT MUCH HIGHER PRICES !!

FUNDAMENTALLY:

David Rosenberg, one of the most highly regarded investment strategists, and not a perennial “gold bug” by any means, just this morning wrote “WHY GOLD HAS ALLURE”.

(1) The Fed is set to cut rates, which will send the fed funds rate into negative territory in real terms.

(2) Geopolitical risks, including Iran’s behavior, are increasingly bothersome.

(3) Trade talks with China do not seem to be making progress, and Beijing has “tools” to hit back, including the ability to weaken their currency and/or continue reducing their US Treasury holdings.

(4) The economic war between the US and France is heating up, as Emmanuel Macron imposes a tax on American large cap tech companies. At the same time, trade tensions increase between the US and Japan, as well as South Korea.

(5) The Chinese economy, as well as the entire Asian economy, as clearly in retreat, adding to the prospect of worldwide monetary ease.

TECHNICALLY

In terms of supply of demand for physical gold:

(1) Russian and Chinese Central Banks continue their steady accumulation.

(2) India,  between their central bank and their population,  perennially the second largest accumulator of physical gold,  imported 78 tons in May alone, running 49% ahead of a year earlier.

(3) The price charts, for gold as well as gold mining shares, indicate much higher prices. Gold bullion has broken out to a five year high, though still 25% below the 2011 high. The gold mining shares are at three year highs, still 60% below the 2012 high.

SUMMARY

There are never any certainties, especially in the short run, but it seems like both fundamental and technical considerations are in gear, and indicating much higher prices.

Roger Lipton

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – GOLD TAKES OFF, FOR GOOD REASON !!

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – GOLD TAKES OFF, FOR GOOD REASON !!

The general equity markets were down materially in May, the worst month in about eight years. The bond market firmed up, as it becomes clearer that the economy is slowing and Quantitative Tightening (QT) is ending. Gold bullion was higher by 1.5%. The average of the gold mining ETFs (GDX and GDXJ) were up 2.0%. The three precious metal mutual funds that we monitor (TGLDX, OPGSX, and INIVX) did a little better on average, up 3.7%. Considering how strong the US Dollar has been, and the strength in the stock market until just recently, gold bullion and the gold mining stocks have held up pretty well for the month and the year. Once again, the prospect for a major move in gold bullion and an even larger move in the gold mining stocks has only improved with time. The longer the fundamental fiscal/monetary trends that we have discussed continue, the larger the upswing  will be. Gold bullion broke above $1300 per oz. just last Friday and is up over 1% today. The gold miners are also trading higher. The “consolidation” in the price of gold, and the gold miners, has been longer than we anticipated, but the last few days could be the resumption of the long term bull market in precious metal related assets. It’s been said that “in any crisis, you have a choice or either looking like a fool before, or after, the event.  Based our long stated conviction that gold related securities represent the most underpriced  asset class, we are in the former group at the moment. We believe that there will be a great number of observers who, upon reflection, say: “How could I have not seen this coming?”

The fundamental developments over the last month that come to mind are the following:

  • The economy is weakening and tighter money is behind us. A renewed era of easier money and lower interest rates should be a tailwind for precious metal prices.
  • Gold bullion continues to be aggressively accumulated by Central Banks, China (way understated) and Russia most notably. Russia has bought over 200 tons annually for four years in a row, at the same time almost eliminating their holdings of US Treasuries.
  • The US deficit for the year ending 9/30/19 will be comfortably over $1 trillion. Be aware that the cumulative deficit is frozen” at just over $22 trillion because the US has reached its debt “ceiling”. The cumulative number will stair step to close to $23 trillion when Congress acts in the next few months. Furthermore, it is virtually guaranteed that the US is within a year of $24 trillion, and not far from $25 trillion by January 2021 when a new (or old) administration could consider adjustments. Of course, neither Donald Trump nor any of the Democratic candidates seem likely to reduce entitlements, which is the only remedy. Compounding the problem, the fiscal/monetary trends so evident in the US are also in place in Europe, China and Japan, the next three most important economies.

There are only two ways out of the worldwide debt burden. One option is outright default. The alternative is “unstated” default by paying off the debt with paper currencies depreciated by major inflation, and that is the new stated mandate of central banks worldwide. The gold price and the gold mining stocks will be major beneficiaries.

Roger Lipton

 

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – IT’S GETTING INTENSE!

The general equity market had its worst December on record, with the averages down 10% and more. Gold related securities, however, began to prove their worth as an undervalued “safe haven” and an “uncorrelated” asset class. Gold bullion was up 4.9% and the gold mining stocks were up more than double that. One month of outperformance is not enough to establish a new trend, and the gold miners were still down for the entire year, but December does demonstrate how quickly trends can change. For lots of reasons which we outline below, we believe December may have been just the beginning of the resumption in the long-term bull market for gold related securities. The charts below provide a vivid picture of the most important long-term trends, and the prospects for substantial gains in our portfolio of gold mining stocks.                                                                               

While short term fluctuations and volatility can often dominate our thinking, we think the following charts provide valuable long-term context. There is no question that gold related securities are influenced by trends in the general capital markets, viewed as a “safe haven” from a decline in other assets, and heavily influenced by the direction of the US Dollar. The recent strength in the US Dollar, and the continuous rise in the general market have clearly undermined the performance of gold related assets. We believe the charts below show that the S&P average is likely closer to a long term high than a low, that the US Dollar is closer to a high than a low, gold bullion has been “consolidating” for 4-5 years, while gold related securities (represented here by the GDX ETF), are clearly near a long-term low, and may be emerging from its base.

First, the chart below shows the performance of the S&P 500 index, virtually straight up from the bottom in 2009, an unprecedented continuous rise. Most important, of course, is the decline which began in December, the sharpest correction in the last decade, and that has continued the first day of 2019. Should this decline continue, and there are lots of reasons why it should, gold related securities may be one of the very few safe havens.

The next chart is the performance of the DXY, the ETF representing the performance of the US Dollar, since 2005, versus other major trading currencies. You can see that the US Dollar has been trading very near its high and that has no doubt undermined the price of gold bullion in US Dollars. There is a lot of discussion as to whether our Fed, led by Jerome Powell, will be able to raise interest rates further at the same time the Fed balance sheet is reduced, both of which has contributed to the strong US Dollar. Should he decide to back off these programs, which we believe will be the case, that should contribute to a weaker US Dollar, and the chart shows the downside risk over time. A materially weaker US Dollar would be a strong tailwind to the price of gold related securities.

The next chart shows the price of gold bullion, represented by the GLD ETF, since its decline in 2012. You can see that the decline was 39% from the high to low. Since 2013, GLD has been in a trading range of about 20% from a little over 130 to a low of 105.  Right now GLD is trading about 8% below its “breakout” point of just over 130.

The following chart shows the performance of gold mining stocks, represented by the GDX ETF. You can see how substantially GDX has underperformed gold bullion, down 75% from the high of 2012 to the low in late 2015. The “trading range” since 2013 has been a very wide 56%, and you can see that GDX is still a lot closer to its low within the trading range than GLD. The “catchup” in GDX to get back to the high of the trading range in 2016, when GLD was a little over 130, would imply a 48% move, versus only 8% in GLD. We believe that December may have demonstrated the beginning of a positive move in GLD, and the beginning of the inherent upside leverage in GDX. We believe that the gold miners, which declined twice as much as GLD on the downside, could demonstrate even more leverage on the upside from this historically low base. Their December performance begins to demonstrate that potential.

Lastly, we provide a chart of Homestake Mining versus the Dow Jones Average during the depression of the 1930s, so even the prohibition of private gold ownership in 1934 was not sufficient to end that bull market in gold mining companies, even as the official gold price remained at $34./oz.

In terms of current news that supports our long term conviction, both bond and stock markets have had to digest lots of news in recent weeks, and it hasn’t always been pretty. Capital markets don’t like uncertainty, which exist relative to trade tariffs, the clearly slowing economies worldwide (US, Europe, Japan, China), the uncertainty regarding our Fed’s plan relative to interest rates, the exploding US deficits, Mario Draghi’s announcement of an end to QE in Europe, the ongoing political turmoil in and out of the White House, the collapse of Bitcoin and the crypto-currency market. The result has been more volatility, especially in the stock market, than we have seen in years. Intra-day moves of 3-4% have become common place, which in and of itself creates a level of discomfort among investors.

There are major macro developments, within the broad brush concerns above:

  • The new US fiscal year started in October, and the stated (now called “on-budget” by some) deficit was $100.5B in October, versus $63.2B last year. November came in at $205B vs. $139B last year. For two months, the deficit is $305B. vs. $202B, up 51%. The actual debt is up $334B, reflecting “off-budget” items, the largest of which is Social Security obligations. We continue to suggest that the “on-budget” deficit will be closer to $1.5 trillion in the current fiscal year, and the total debt will be well over $1.5 trillion, due to government spending (up 18% so far YTY),  higher interest costs, higher defense spending, higher VA support, health care support, THE WALL, etc. There seems to be rare bipartisan agreement right now regarding an unwillingness to talk about the explosion of the deficit and the debt. It is just too disturbing. All the deficit hawks have put their heads in the ground. THERE IS NO POLITICAL WILL in this area.
  • There is an ongoing move away from the US Dollar, the world’s dominant reserve currency since 1944. China, Russia, and mid-east countries are increasingly using the Yuan and gold for oil trades. There is also a consistent reduction within foreign exchange reserves, of US denominated securities. This has been accompanied by accumulation of physical gold, which can’t be diluted by a computer key-tap.
  • There are many indications that China is accumulating far more gold than they have announced. Recall that three years ago China announced that their Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) had increased ownership to 1600 tons from 1000 tons over the previous five years. Considering that China is the largest miner of gold on the planet, 400 tons per year, and nothing leaves the country, an increase of 600 tons over five years is obviously an understatement. It may be Chinese government agencies other than the PBOC that is holding it, but they are government “affiliates”. Various sources have reported that thousands of incremental tons have moved into the hands of various government agencies in recent years, and we would not be shocked if China announces at some point soon that they own 10,000 tons or more.  This would be substantially more than the 8,400 tons owned by the US, currently assumed to be the largest holder.  This would allow the Chinese to create a trading currency backed in some way by their gold ownership, joining, or even replacing the US Dollar as the primary trading currency worldwide. Surprisingly, based on reported gold holdings, Russia (which continues its aggressive gold purchase program) is in the best position to make their currency convertible into gold. Both China and Russia could have multiple political reasons to link the Ruble or Yuan to gold, provide more credibility to their currency than the US can provide.
  • Jay Powell’s newfound uncertainty over the pace of further rate increase provides the possibility that Quantitative Tightening is slowing down, if not stopping altogether should our economy weaken further. It is now clear that fourth quarter GDP will be more like 2% or so than the 4.5% in Q3. Especially in light of slowing economies elsewhere in the world, which will slow further if interest rates are moved higher, Powell may find that the next important course of action is “QE4” or whatever they choose to call the new monetary accommodation.
  • Since September, foreign purchases of US Treasury securities can no longer be made, financed by low interest (or negative interest) borrowing abroad, with currency hedging providing an overall positive carry. Borrowing costs abroad have gone up modestly, hedging costs as well, so the guaranteed positive return has gone away, removing some material portion of the $5-6 trillion of annual demand for US Treasury securities. Since $5-6T of US Treasury Securities have to be “rolled” over the next twelve months, the $1.5T of incremental government debt has to be financed, and the absence of perhaps $2-3T that was previously invested (and hedged) by foreigners, provide a total of something like an incremental TEN TRILLION of US securities that has to be bought in the next twelve months. People… ($10,000,000,000,000) this is a lot of money and could be a strain on the financial system, to put it really mildly.
  • The market for “leveraged loans” and high yield loans has shown serious signs of strain in just the last sixty days. Wells Fargo and Barclays Bank failed to sell $415 million of debt on Ulterra Drilling Technologies, a manufacturer of drilling bits. Blackstone received their funds to help in their buyout of Ulterra, but WF and BB are hoping to market the debt in a better environment in ’19. There were a number of other deals actually pulled from the market in Europe over the last several weeks. The Financial Times said today that the “’junk bond’ market, whether in loans or bonds – has frozen up, and the US credit markets have ground to a halt….not a single company has borrowed money through the $1.2T US high-yield corporate bond market through mid-December…..we haven’t seen the results at yearend, but if the freeze remained in place, it would be first month since November 2008 that not a single high-yield bond priced in the market..”

Our conclusion from all of the above is that our economy and, indeed, the worldwide economy will have very modest growth, at best. The debt load is too heavy, and the unintended consequences of ten years of monetary promiscuity have yet to play out. Equity investors right now assume that Jay Powell will more or less stick to his plan of generally higher interest rates, even if at a much slower pace. If he “cries wolf”, however, the equity markets would rally, but we don’t think for long. The last recession of ’08-’09 required “monetary heroin” to the tune of $4T in the US alone, but each hit has to be bigger to keep the addict functioning. Once capital markets realize that, a more major downdraft is likely. 

In the long run: we believe there will be a new monetary paradigm, and gold related securities will be an important part of a more disciplined fiscal/monetary approach. The ownership of gold has protected one’s purchasing power for the last five thousand years, the last two hundred years, the last 105 years (since the Fed allowed the US Dollar to be diluted by 98%), the last 47 years (since 1971, when the gold window was closed), the last 18 years (since 2000, when deficit spending accelerated once again).

It is of course true that since 2012 gold and gold related securities have been poor investments, but, in the sweep of history, that is a mere blip. With a new level of financial uncertainty compounded by geopolitical concerns and fiat currency dilution rampant around the world, it is only a matter of time before gold establishes itself again as “the real money”. Gold is not the only hedge against inflation, but, among the possibilities, it is currently the most undervalued.  As James Grant, the preeminent monetary historian has said: “A gold backed monetary system is not perfect, but it is the least imperfect system”. We don’t expect a new gold backed monetary system to be in place any time soon, but any small progress in that direction will allow for substantial appreciation in gold related assets.

Best wishes for a healthy, happy, and prosperous New Year!

Roger Lipton

 

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – MAJOR RISKS SURFACE

SEMI-MONTHLY FISCAL/MONETARY UPDATE – RISK & REWARD IN NEWLY VOLATILE MARKETS

Both bond and stock markets have had to digest lots of news in recent weeks, and it hasn’t always been pretty. Capital markets don’t like uncertainty, which exist relative to trade tariffs, the clearly slowing economies worldwide (US, Europe, Japan, China), the uncertainty regarding our Fed’s plan relative to interest rates, the exploding US deficits, Mario Draghi’s announcement of an end to QE in Europe, the ongoing political turmoil in and out of the White House, the collapse of Bitcoin and the crypto-currency market. The result has been more volatility, especially in the stock market, than we have seen in years. Intra day moves of 3-4% have become common place, which in and of itself creates a level of discomfort among investors.

There are major macro developments, within the broad brush concerns mentioned above:

  • The new US fiscal year started in October, and the stated (now called “on-budget” by some) deficit was $100.5B in October, versus $63.2B last year. November came in at $205B vs. $139B last year. For two months, the deficit is $305B. vs. $202B, up 51%. The actual debt is up $334B, reflecting “off-budget” items, the largest of which is Social Security obligations. We continue to suggest that the “on-budget” deficit will be closer to $1.5 trillion in the current fiscal year, and the total debt will be well over $1.5 trillion, due to government spending (up 18% so far YTY), higher interest costs, higher defense spending, higher VA support, health care support, THE WALL, etc. There seems to be rare bipartisan agreement right now regarding an unwillingness to talk about the explosion of the deficit and the debt. It is just too disturbing. All the deficit hawks have put their heads in the ground. THERE IS NO POLITICAL WILL in this area.
  • There is an ongoing move away from the US Dollar, the world’s reserve currency since 1944. China, Russia, and mideast countries are increasingly using the Yuan and gold for oil trades. There is also a consistent reduction within foreign exchange reserves, of US denominated securities. This has been accompanied by accumulation of physical gold, which can’t be diluted by a computer keytap.
  • There are many indications that China is accumulating far more gold than they have announced. Recall that three years ago China announced that their Peoples Bank of China (PBOC) had increased ownership to 1600 tons from 1000 tons over the previous five years. Considering that China is the largest miner of gold on the planet, 400 tons per year, and nothing leaves the country, an increase of 600 tons over five years is obviously an understatement. It may be Chinese government agencies other than the PBOC that is holding it, but they are government “affiliates”. Various sources have reported that thousands of incremental tons have moved into the hands of various government agencies in recent years, and we would not be shocked if China announces at some point soon that they own 10,000 tons or more. This would be substantially more than the 8,400 tons owned by the US, currently assumed to be the largest holder.  This would allow the Chinese to create a trading currency backed in some way by their gold ownership, joining, or even replacing the US Dollar as the primary trading currency worldwide. Surprisingly, based on reported gold holdings, Russia is in the best position to make their currency convertible into gold. Both China and Russia could have multiple political reasons to link the Ruble or Yuan to gold, provide more credibility to their currency than the US can provide.
  • Jay Powell’s newfound uncertainty over the pace of further rate increase provides the possibility that Quantitative Tightening is slowing down, if not stopping altogether should our economy weaken further. It is now clear that fourth quarter GDP will be more like 2% or so than the 4.5% in Q3. Especially in light of slowing economies elsewhere in the world, which will slow further if interest rates are moved higher, Powell may find that the next important course of action is “QE4” or whatever they choose to call the new monetary accommodation.
  • Since September, foreign purchases of US Treasury securities can no longer be made, financed by low interest (or negative interest) borrowing abroad, with currency hedging providing an overall positive carry. Borrowing costs abroad have gone up modestly, hedging costs as well, so the guaranteed positive return has gone away, removing some material portion of the $5-6 trillion of annual demand for US Treasury securities. Since $5-6T of US Treasury Securities have to be “rolled” over the next twelve months, the $1.5T of incremental government debt has to be financed, and the absence of perhaps $2-3T that was previously invested (and hedged) by foreigners, provide a total of something like an incremental TEN TRILLION of US securities that has to be bought in the next twelve months. People… ($10,000,000,000,000) this is a lot of money and could be a strain on the financial system.
  • The market for “leveraged loans” and high yield loans has shown serious signs of strain in just the last sixty days. Wells Fargo and Barclays Bank failed to sell $415 million of debt on Ulterra Drilling Technologies, a manufacturer of drilling bits. Blackstone received their funds to help in their buyout of Ulterra, but WF and BB are hoping to market the debt in a better environment in ’19. There were a number of other deals actually pulled from the market in Europe over the last several weeks. The Financial Times said today that the “’junk bond’ market, whether in loans or bonds – has frozen up, and the US credit markets have ground to a halt….not a single company has borrowed money through the $1.2T US high-yield corporate bond market this month….if the freeze continues until yearend, it would be first month since November 2008 that not a single high-yield bond priced in the market..”

Our conclusion from all of the above is that our economy and, indeed, the worldwide economy will have very modest growth, at best. The debt load is too heavy, and the unintended consequences of ten years of monetary promiscuity have yet to play out. Equity investors right now assume that Jay Powell will more or less stick to his plan of higher interest rates, even if at a slower pace. If he “cries wolf”, however, the equity markets would rally, but we don’t think for long. The last recession of ’08-’09 required “monetary heroin” to the tune of $4T in the US alone, but each hit has to be bigger to keep the addict functioning. Once capital markets realize that, a more major downdraft is likely.

In the long run: we believe there will be a new monetary paradigm, and gold related securities will be an important part of a more disciplined fiscal/monetary approach. The ownership of gold has protected one’s purchasing power for the last five thousand years, the last two hundred years, the last 105 years (since the Fed allowed the US Dollar to be diluted by 98%), the last 47 years (since 1971, when the gold window was closed), the last 18 years (since 2000, when deficit spending again took off).

It is of course true that since 2012 gold and gold related securities have been poor investments, but, in the sweep of history, that is a mere blip. With a new level of financial uncertainty compounded by geopolitical concerns and fiat currency dilution rampant around the world, it is only a matter of time before gold establishes itself again as “the real money”. Gold is not the only hedge against inflation, but, among the possibilities, it is the most undervalued right now. As James Grant, the preeminent monetary historian has said: “A gold backed monetary system is not perfect, but it is the least imperfect system”. We don’t expect a new gold backed monetary system to be in place any time soon, but any small progress in that direction will allow for substantial appreciation in gold related assets.

Roger Lipton