Why Invest in Gold?
“…gold and economic freedom are inseparable. In the absence of the gold standard,
there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. Gold stands as
the protector of property rights. If one grasps this, one has no difficulty in
understanding the statists’ antagonism toward the gold standard.”
Alan Greenspan, “Gold and Economic Freedom”,The Objectivist, July 1966.
1. Global Currency Debasement:
The US dollar is only strong versus other fiat currencies and the recent strength is unsustainable. We are in the early stages of a massive global currency debasement which will see tangibles, and most particularly gold, rise significantly in price.
Gold is bought and sold in U.S. dollars, so any decline in the value of the dollar causes the price of gold to rise. The U.S. dollar is the world’s reserve currency – the primary medium for international transactions, the principal store of value for savings, the currency in which the worth of commodities and equities are calculated, and the currency primarily held as reserves by the world’s central banks. However, now that it has been stripped of its gold backing, the dollar is nothing more than a fancy piece of paper.
2. Investment Demand for Gold is Accelerating:
When the crowd recognizes what is unfolding, they will seek an alternative to paper currencies and financial assets and this will create an enormous investment demand for gold. To facilitate this demand, a number of new vehicles like Central Gold Trust and gold Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) have been created.
Gold is also an effective way to diversify your portfolio and protect the wealth created in the stock and financial markets is to invest in assets that are negatively correlated with those markets. Gold is the ideal diversifier for a stock portfolio, simply because it is among the most negatively correlated assets to stocks.
Although the price of gold can be volatile in the short-term, gold has maintained its value over the long-term, serving as a hedge against the erosion of the purchasing power of paper money. Gold is an important part of a diversified investment portfolio because its price increases in response to events that erode the value of traditional paper investments like stocks and bonds.
3. Alarming Financial Deterioration in the US:
In the space of two years, the federal government budget surplus has been transformed into a yawning deficit, which will persist as far as the eye can see. At the same time, the current account deficit has reached levels which have portended currency collapse in virtually every other instance in history.
4. Negative Real Interest Rates in Reserve Currency (US dollar):
To combat the deteriorating financial conditions in the US, interest rates have been dropped to rock bottom levels, real interest rates are now negative and, according to statements from the Fed spokesmen, are expected to remain so for some time. There has been a very strong historical relationship between negative real interest rates and stronger gold prices.
5. Dramatic Increases in Money Supply (Inflation) in the US and Other Nations:
US authorities are terrified about the prospects for deflation given the unprecedented debt burden at all levels of society in the US. Fed Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke is on record as saying the Fed has a printing press and will use it to combat deflation if necessary. Other nations are following in the US’s footsteps and global money supply is accelerating. This is very gold friendly.
Gold is renowned as a hedge against inflation. The most consistent factor determining the price of gold has been inflation – as inflation goes up, the price of gold goes up along with it. Since the end of World War II, the five years in which U.S. inflation was at its highest were 1946, 1974, 1975, 1979, and 1980. During those five years, the average real return on stocks, as measured by the Dow, was -12.33%; the average real return on gold was 130.4%.
Today, a number of factors are conspiring to create the perfect inflationary storm: extremely stimulative monetary policy, a major tax cut, a long term decline in the dollar, a spike in oil prices, a mammoth trade deficit, and America’s status as the world’s biggest debtor nation. Almost across the board, commodity prices are up despite the short-term absence of a weakening dollar which is often viewed as the principal reason for stronger commodity prices.
6. Existence of a Huge and Growing Gap between Mine Supply and Traditional Demand:
Gold mine supply is roughly 2500 tonnes per annum and traditional demand (jewelry, industrial users, etc.) has exceeded this by a considerable margin for a number of years. Some of this gap has been filled by recycled scrap but central bank gold has been the primary source of above-ground supply.
Growing Demand – China, India and Gold
India is the largest gold-consuming nation in the world. China, on the other hand, has the fastest-growing economy in modern history. Both India and China are in the process of liberalizing laws relating to the import and sale of gold in ways that will facilitate gold purchases on a mammoth scale.
7. Mine Supply is Anticipated to Decline in the next Three to Four Years:
Even if traditional demand continues to erode due to ongoing worldwide economic weakness, the supply-demand imbalance is expected to persist due to a decline in mine supply. Mine supply will contract in the next several years, irrespective of gold prices, due to a dearth of exploration in the post Bre-X era, a shift away from high grading which was necessary for survival in the sub-economic gold price environment of the past five years and the natural exhaustion of existing mines.
8. Large Short Positions:
To fill the gap between mine supply and demand, central bank gold has been mobilized primarily through the leasing mechanism, which facilitated producer hedging and financial speculation. Strong evidence suggests that between 10,000 and 16,000 tonnes (30–50% of all central bank gold) is currently in the market. This is owed to the central banks by the bullion banks, which are the counter party in the transactions.
9. Low Interest Rates Discourage Hedging:
Rates are low and falling. With low rates, there isn’t sufficient contango to create higher prices in the out years. Thus there is little incentive to hedge, and gold producers are not only not hedging, they are reducing their existing hedge positions, thus removing gold from the market.
10. Rising Gold Prices and Low Interest Rates Discourage Financial Speculation on the Short Side:
When gold prices were continuously falling and financial speculators could access central bank gold at a minimal leasing rate (0.5–1% per annum), sell it and reinvest the proceeds in a high yielding bond or Treasury bill, the trade was viewed as a lay up. Everyone did it and now there are numerous stale short positions. However, these trades now make no sense with a rising gold price and declining interest rates.
11. The Central Banks are Nearing an Inflection Point when they will be Reluctant to Provide more Gold to the Market:
The central banks have supplied too much already via the leasing mechanism. In addition, Far Eastern central banks who are accumulating enormous quantities of US dollars are rumored to be buyers of gold to diversify away from the US dollar.
12. Gold is Increasing in Popularity:
Gold is seen in a much more positive light in countries beginning to come to the forefront on the world scene. Prominent developing countries such as China, India and Russia have been accumulating gold. In fact, China with its 1.3 billion people recently established a National Gold Exchange and relaxed control over the asset. Demand in China is expected to rise sharply and could reach 500 tonnes in the next few years.
13. Gold as Money is Gaining Credence:
Islamic nations are investigating a currency backed by gold (the Gold Dinar), the new President of Argentina proposed, during his campaign, a gold backed peso as an antidote for the financial catastrophe which his country has experienced and Russia is talking about a fully convertible currency with gold backing.
One major reason investors look to gold as an asset class is because it will always maintain an intrinsic value. Gold will not get lost in an accounting scandal or a market collapse.
14. Rising Geopolitical Tensions:
The deteriorating conditions in the Middle East, the US occupation of Iraq, the nuclear ambitions of North Korea and the growing conflict between the US and China due to China’s refusal to allow its currency to appreciate against the US dollar headline the geopolitical issues, which could explode at anytime. A fearful public has a tendency to gravitate towards gold.
Despite the fact that the United States is the world’s only remaining superpower, there are a myriad of problems festering around the world, any one of which could erupt with little warning. Gold has often been called the “crisis commodity” because it tends to outperform other investments during periods of world tensions. The very same factors that cause other investments to suffer cause the price of gold to rise. A bad economy can sink poorly run banks. Bad banks can sink an entire economy. And, perhaps most importantly to the rest of the world, the integration of the global economy has made it possible for banking and economic failures to destabilize the world economy.
As banking crises occur, the public begins to distrust paper assets and turns to gold for a safe haven.
When all else fails, governments rescue themselves with the printing press, making their currency worth less and gold worth more. Gold has always risen the most when confidence in government is at its lowest.
15. Limited Size of the Total Gold Market Provides Tremendous Leverage:
All the physical gold in existence is worth somewhat more than $1 trillion US dollars while the value of all the publicly traded gold companies in the world is less than $100 billion US dollars. When the fundamentals ultimately encourage a strong flow of capital towards gold and gold equities, the trillions upon trillions worth of paper money could propel both to unfathomably high levels.
Aristotle defined five reasons why gold is money in the fourth century BC (which may only have been the first time it was put down on paper). Those five reasons are as valid today as they were then. A good form of money must be: durable, divisible, consistent, convenient, and have value in and of itself. Doug Casey gave an excellent interview with the International Spectator on why gold is the best store of value.
WAYS TO OWN GOLD
There are many ways to own gold. The best way is to buy a few one-ounce gold coins, preferably American eagles if you’re in the United States, or Canadian maple leaf coins if you’re in Canada. With one-ounce coins, you pay the lowest commission.
The trouble with gold coins is also their advantage: they are in your possession. They can be lost or stolen. They must be mailed back to a coin dealer to sell them for money. There are commissions to pay. But, in a time of national crisis, coins are the best way to hold gold for the small investor.
In a true panic, you will have a problem selling—not because of low demand but the opposite: you won’t be able to get through on the phone. There are probably fewer than 400 full-time retail coin dealers in the country, and most of them are small operations. This number must serve up to a hundred million American families. If one percent of these families ever decide to buy a single one-ounce coin during a panic, the phone lines will jam up.
You can buy gold shares. Buying gold stocks is the standard approach of most investors. The problem is, you’re not buying gold. You’re buying a company that says it has gold in the ground. You are also betting on future mining costs, management skills, and the possibility than the company has already sold its output for a fixed price.
You can buy small gold units (grams) at a company like GoldMoney, which holds the gold in a bonded warehouse outside the United States. GoldMoney uses a warehouse in London. Using digital accounts is convenient. Commissions are low. Transactions are easy. You can take delivery of your gold. You must pay storage fees, which is evidence that your gold is really there. There are no free lunches and no free vaults.
There is a fund, the Central Fund of Canada, that holds mostly gold and some silver bullion. The prices of the two metals move in tandem most of the time. Owning shares of this fund is a surrogate for owning physical gold.
Recently, a new firm has been approved by the Securities & Exchange Commission to trade in units of gold as low as a tenth-ounce: streetTracks Gold Trust (GLD). This firm is part of the World Gold Council. It is receiving considerable publicity. It is likely that Americans who are looking for an easy way to participate in the rising price of gold will use this firm. If the firm becomes profitable, there will be imitators. ISHARES Silver Trust (SLV) quickly proved its potency in helping drive the price of silver to over $15.
Always remember: if there is no proof of physical possession of gold, and if there are no storage charges for gold held in reserve, then you may be trading a futures contract, which is a promise to pay gold on demand. Promises to pay are never as reliable as gold in hand. Third-party verification of gold held against receipts issued for gold becomes important.
I think an electronic approach to holding gold is the wave of the future. There will come a day when banks and other financial services companies will offer these services. But that change will require a few currency crises that will catch the attention of people with money.
You should ask yourself what you are hedging against. Answers include the 15 reasons in the report, plus these more specific ones:
* Dollar inflation/depreciation
* Terrorist attack on the U.S.
* Crisis in the bank payments system (cascading defaults)
* Capital gains taxation rather than ordinary income taxation
* Speculation: Asians may start buying gold
You should also ask yourself this question: “What do I intend to do with my gold?” Answers include these:
* Hold it as a speculation: buy low, sell high
* Hold it as a way to pass down wealth to my heirs
* Hold it as a way to hedge against a monetary disaster
* Hold it as a way to avoid paper trails
WHAT IS THE DOWNSIDE RISK?
The standard ones are these:
* Net central bank sales of gold to public
* Recession reduces price inflation
* Recession reduces demand for commodities
* Asians turn out to love paper money more than gold
* Government outlaws gold for Americans
* Gold-owning Americans actually obey the government
The political pressure is very strong to keep a higher price of gold from identifying reduced confidence in the dollar. We have seen the government take steps to push down gold’s price. But the government also sells gold coins. It maintains the official position that gold is not relevant for monetary affairs. To outlaw gold would be to admit that gold is relevant. This might turn into a gold-buying panic. Because Americans can easily buy and sell gold on the Web, there are ways for people to evade the law.
A worldwide recession is possible if China suffers a major recession. China at some point will have to go through a recession because of today’s inflationary policies. But the question is: When? Gold may fall 30% from $700 an ounce. If you have no gold, it’s not wise to bet the farm on a fall in price. Besides, if gold falls, you’ll probably think, “It’s going to fall even more. I had better wait.”
People postpone doing what they don’t really want to do. They don’t want to take action that implies that the present system is shaky, that the government is following policies that will debase the currency, and that there is no way for the government to preserve the purchasing power of the dollar by anything other than ceasing all monetary expansion, which the Federal Reserve System never does.
I suggest that you re-think all of the reasons you have come up with for not buying gold and gold stocks. See if they still make sense in the light of the facts presented within.
This article is a combination of key points from an article by John Embry titled 15 Reasons to Own Gold and a six-point summary by Blanchard Economic Research Unit titled “Why Own Gold?”, with additional notes by Gary North. and Jason Hamlin.