Monday, January 12, 2009

5 New Forces To Drive Gold Higher

5 New Forces To Drive Gold Higher
James West

January 8, 2009

Gold naysayers habitually point to the relatively weak performance of gold relative to the broader market over the last 5 years. Given the market today, that argument is increasingly wrong, and the naysayers are soon to either admit their mistake, or pretend that they were never naysayers at all. That's because during the last 3 months, five major new forces have emerged to compound the previous strong drivers of the gold price up to now.

These new forces are as follows:

1. China has stopped buying U.S. debt.
An interesting piece in the New York Times today signals that China, up until now the biggest buyer of U.S. Treasuries and bonds issued by Fannie and Freddie, is moving towards an end to that policy. China holds over US$1 trillion of such paper, and as interest rates collapse, there is less and less incentive for them to buy American.

China has made several adjustments to programs that used to give banks and other financial institutions within the country incentive to buy U.S. assets, which means essentially that these same customers for assets will now be looking for Chinese products.

The effect this will have on gold is two-fold. In the first place, reduced demand for U.S. debt will hamper Obama's plans to keep printing money, because the one limiting factor that still seems to be respected in terms of how much paper can be printed, is the idea that there must be a counterparty to every issuance of T-Bills to warrant continued printing. Theoretically, less demand for T-Bills will force a rise in interest rates to attract investors. But that does not appear forthcoming, which will make the U.S. dollar weak relative to other currencies - especially gold.

The second effect is that by eliminating incentives for Chinese banks to acquire U.S. denominated assets, investors there will divert more funds to holding gold as a hedge against their current U.S. dollar holdings, which will be diminishing in value.

2. Future discoveries of gold deposits will diminish dramatically.
The biggest source of gold ounce inventory for major gold producers is the discoveries made by the several thousand juniors who scour the earth in search of favorable geology. With the collapse in base metals prices, many of these juniors are under increasing pressure to consolidate and downsize, and many more will disappear altogether.

That means less money going into gold exploration, and that means the number of new discoveries that can be acquired by majors is going to go down sharply in the coming years. In theory, as gold continues to outperform all other asset classes, there will be a rush back into junior gold exploration, but that won't happen until gold is taken much higher and investment demand for it soars.

3. Existing by-product gold production will fall sharply
In copper, zinc and other base metals mines around the world, gold occurs in metallic deposits as a by-product of some other dominant mineral. In the United States, 15 percent of gold production is derived from mining copper, lead and zinc ores.

With the collapse in prices for these metals, the by-product production of gold is most often insufficient to justify the continued operation of the mine profitably, and it is likely that a significant amount of this by-product gold production will cease along with the shutdown of these operations. The result will be less gold production from existing operations, contributing to the now even faster growing gap between supply and demand.

4. Gold is becoming mainstream
One of the biggest contributors to gold's unpopularity as a main street investment is that its has been mercilessly derided and ridiculed by mainstream investment media and institutions. There is very little opportunity for an investment advisor to insinuate himself into a gold purchase transaction, since most anybody who wants to hold them metal can visit their local bullion exchange or mint and buy as much as they'd like. Because the massive investment institutions that dominate the investment advisory business can't make a fee out of advising you to buy gold, they try to convince you to purchase other asset classes which their firm has either originated or is a participant in a syndication of investment banks selling such products.

Thanks to the widespread coverage of the questionable integrity of these complex securities, and since many main street investors have been burned by their investment advisors (they feel), there is increasing main street advice being doled out to buy gold. One need only search Google news on any given day to discover that headlines critical of gold are now replaced with headlines singing its praises.

5. Gold is the best performing asset class of the decade
Now that the global financial meltdown has got up a head of steam, investors are hard pressed to find any investment that has performed well over the last ten years as consistently as gold. The chart below outlines this performance and appears here courtesy of James Turk's

As you can see, any investment still returning an average of 10 - 17 percent is a winner, compared to everything else you can generate a chart for. As this intelligence permeates the none-too-quick popular investment imagination, and, combined with the other 4 factors, gold is going to be where the world's next crop of millionaires is minted.

James West

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