Posts Tagged ‘Digit Increases’
Sunday, June 10th, 2012
Submitted by James Miller of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada
Mark Carney Kicks The Can
Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney takes a lot of cues from his U.S. equivalent and fellow central banker Ben Bernanke. Both took interest rates to anorexic levels in light of the financial crisis in 2008. Both used their positions of power as stewards of the people’s money to bail out the big banks. Both take credit for the gains of their respective stock markets and for guiding their economies through the global recession. Both are forever on a quest to rid of the world of the boogeyman of deflation.
And both are sewing the seeds of their own destruction by keeping interest rates artificially low and ultimately driving unsustainable investment that must eventually be liquidated. All around the world, the boom bust cycle continues to occur due to central banks attempting to induce economic growth with money printing. China’s economy is continuing to come apart as manufacturing output and real estate prices plummet. These sectors were bid up by double digit increases per annum in the country’s money supply over the past decade. Since inflationary growth, by definition, can’t go on forever, as its continuance results in what Ludwig von Mises called the “crack-up boom” and destruction of the currency, the chickens of the People’s Bank of China’s reckless monetary policy are finally coming home to roost. The PBOC has responded to the downturn by recently cutting interest rates for the first time since 2008 in what will likely be a vain effort to reinflate the bubble.
Over in Europe, the year over year change in the broad money supply has dropped dramatically since 2010. This provided the spark for the sovereign debt crisis which shows no sign of slowing down unless Angela Merkel and Germany concede to further inflationary measures by the European Central Bank. Just like her support for the big banks and the austerity measures that ensure idiotic bankers don’t take too much of a loss on their holdings of euro government bonds, Merkel will likely give in to money printing in the end as she has already endorsed the push for a political union.
And now in Canada, Mark Carney announced a few days ago the Bank of Canada will keep its benchmark interest rate steady at 1%. This announcement comes despite his previous warnings over the enormous increase in Canadian private debt. But of course the run up in debt couldn’t have occurred if interest rates were determined by market factors only. Had supply and demand been allowed to function freely, interest rates would have risen as a check on the swell in debt accumulation. Carney won’t admit this though. Like all central bankers, he has made a habit of boasting the positive effects of his low interest rates policies while avoiding blame for the negative consequences.
He is a bartender who gleefully takes the drunk’s cash while replying with “who, me?” when said drunk drinks himself to death.
What makes the promise of continually low interest rates especially worrisome is not only does it tell the market to keep accumulating debt, but it is also an attempt to keep what some are calling a nation-wide housing bubble from deflating. Over the past decade, Canadian home prices have shot up at a far steeper pace compared to the decades that preceded it. In recent years, the acceleration in home prices has been fueled by the Bank of Canada’s historically low overnight lending rate which went from 3% before the financial crisis to .25% in 2009 and now rests steadily at 1%. The BoC has already acknowledged that its interest rate policies directly affect mortgage rates. Many Canadian media publications and investment newsletters are pointing out this trend and warning of a potential collapse. The BBC even did a report on it. There is nothing potential about a sharp downturn in home prices however; it will happen. It’s only a question of when.
With China and Europe leading the pack, the world economy is beginning to take a turn for the worse. The orgy of money printing which took place over the past few years has slowed down significantly; even in the U.S. Central bankers are standing at a precipice in which they must decide if they will forge ahead and prime the monetary pump to paper over the various malinvestments caused by their previous interventions or actually allow for a contraction and the market to adjust to a new path of sustainable growth. If history is any indication, the latter is not a considerable option as it would be devastating to the banking sector which is reliant on piggybacking credit expansion off of an uninterrupted flow of newly printed monies.
Carney’s decision to keep interest rates suppressed is yet another instance of a central banker unable to face reality. The malinvestments will continue to accumulate and will have to be liquidated at another date. What Carney has done to mitigate the looming debt and housing bubble is effectively kick the can down the road. He has revealed through his actions the undeniable truth which holds for all central bankers: that they have no other card to play but the printing press. As legendary investor Marc Faber has noted,
“I do not believe that the central banks around the world will ever, and I repeat ever, reduce their balance sheets. They’ve gone the path of money printing… And once you choose that path, you’re in it and you have to print more money.”
The Austrian theory of the trade cycle developed by Mises a century ago tells us that credit expansion is bound to end in depression. To quote Herbert Stein’s Law, the business cycle theory essentially boils down to “if something cannot go on forever, it will stop.” The debt fueled boom in Canada is a house of cards. No matter how much money printing or interest rate manipulation Carney attempts, the collapse in inevitable. His record, along with Ben Bernanke’s, will eventually be one of dismal failure.
Tags: Angela Merkel, Bank Of Canada, Bank Of Canada Governor, Bank Of China, Ben Bernanke, Bust Cycle, Central Banks, China, Crack Up, Debt Crisis, Digit Increases, Global Recession, Ludwig Von Mises, Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Mark Carney, Money Printing, Money Supply, Pboc, Sovereign Debt, Vain Effort, Von Mises Institute
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Saturday, November 19th, 2011
The Gold Triple Play – Volatility, Currencies and Europe
By Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer
U.S. Global Investors
Resurgent investment lifted global gold demand 6 percent from the previous year to just over 1,000 tons during the third quarter of 2011, according to the latest Gold Demand Trends Report from the World Gold Council (WGC).* The potent cocktail of inflationary pressures in the emerging world and the European sovereign debt fiasco left investors searching for a safe haven—they looked for it in gold.
In an uncertain era where many asset values are declining, gold has thrived. Gold prices averaged $1,700 an ounce during the third quarter of 2011, 39 percent higher than the same time last year and 13 percent above the previous quarter, according to the WGC.
In total, investment demand increased 33 percent on a year-over-year basis to reach the third-highest quarter of investment demand on record, says the WGC. The increase was broad in scope. Investment in gold bars and coins jumped 29 percent year-over-year while holdings in gold ETFs reached an all-time high.
All global markets other than India, Japan and the U.S. experienced gains in investment demand; many of them (except Thailand and Saudi Arabia) saw double-digit increases.
While investment demand thrived during the third quarter, jewelry demand fell victim to the quarter’s economic fragility and price volatility—falling 10 percent on a year-over-year basis. Only four markets—China, Hong Kong, Japan and Russia—saw jewelry demand increase.
The WGC says a shift toward high-growth economies is “undeniably conspicuous in the gold market.” Nowhere in the world is this more evident than in China, where consumer thirst for gold appears unquenchable. China’s total demand, around 612 tons year-to-date, has already eclipsed that of 2010. In addition to domestically consuming every speck of gold mined in China, it’s estimated that the country’s gold imports could reach 400 tons in 2011. That’s roughly equal to the combined tonnage of gold demand for the Middle East, Turkey and Indonesia in 2010—and that’s just imports.
Consumer demand for gold in China increased 13 percent (year-over-year) during the third quarter as the country continues to close the gap on India. Chinese jewelry demand, also up 13 percent, eclipsed India for only the fourth time since January 2003. Combined, the two Asian giants account for over 50 percent of global jewelry demand.
The WGC says, “China’s increase in demand is being fueled by rising income levels, a by-product of China’s rapid economic growth.” This growth has given birth to more than 100 million gold bugs in China’s rural areas. China’s smaller third- and fourth-tier cities were responsible for the bulk of the increase in jewelry demand, the WGC says. In addition, the Gold Accumulation Plan (GAP), a joint effort from the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and the WGC which allows investors to purchase gold in small increments, reached 2 million accounts in September. The WGC says GAP sales have already exceeded 19 tons so far this year.
Things weren’t quite as rosy for demand in the world’s second-largest jewelry market. Indian jewelry demand took a 26 percent hit as volatility in the rupee shook investor confidence. The rupee decreased 9 percent against the U.S. dollar during the third quarter, more than double the currency’s average quarterly move over the past five years.
Historically, Indian jewelry demand bottoms in July-August, before picking up heading into the Shradh period of the Hindu calendar. That didn’t happen this year because Indian consumers were discouraged by high and volatile prices. The WGC says:
“Consumer confidence in India has been knocked by the persistence of high domestic inflation rates. Inflation of almost 10 percent, as measured by the Wholesale Price Index (WPI), adversely affected jewelry demand, through its impact on both disposable income levels and general consumer sentiment.”
Currency Effect on Gold Prices
The weaknesses of the rupee against the U.S. dollar also negatively affected India’s demand. This chart illustrates the dramatic effect currency fluctuations can have on gold prices.
The gold price in Indian rupees has appreciated over 31 percent since June 30, more than three times the price appreciation denominated in Japanese yen. This means that a consumer looking to buy gold in Japan would have three times the purchasing power to buy gold at their local dealer than an Indian counterpart.
The gold price in yen terms has lagged due to the currency’s strong appreciation against other global currencies. It’s a similar story for the U.S. dollar and Chinese yuan (pegged to the U.S. dollar), which investors have favored since fleeing the euro.
Chaos in the currency markets amplified gold’s volatility to roughly twice historical levels during the third quarter, the WGC says. Our research also shows that gold’s recent roller-coaster ride is an anomaly. We sorted through 10 years of data to capture all of the 10 percent (plus or minus) moves selected assets have had over a one-month period. The results show gold experiences plus/minus 10 percent moves 7 percent of the time; about the same as the S&P 500 Index. In comparison, crude oil sees moves of this magnitude 30 percent of the time.
Gold equities have been more volatile than gold bullion. The NYSE Arca Gold Bugs Index (HUI) experienced these swings 33 percent of the time. In a market with gold prices trending upward, this beta provides a potential boost for miners. However, this can also have a negative effect during volatile markets as investors overreact to downside swings.
“Gold demand faces headwinds in the near term because of the strength of the U.S. dollar,” Marcus Grubb, Managing Director of Investment for the WGC said on a conference call Thursday. “I still think the macro situation is very favorable to gold because we still don’t have a lender of last resort in the eurozone.”
Speaking of the eurozone, Nigel Farage—leader of the United Kingdom’s Independence Party—spoke some much-needed harsh words to the European Council this week. Farage is one of the U.K.’s most powerful conservative officials and is an unabashed Eurosceptic, meaning he does not ideologically believe in the idea of the European Union. I originally saw the video posted on Zero Hedge* but it has since gone viral.
Farage lambasted the group saying, “The Euro is a failure and who is actually responsible, who is in charge out of you lot? Well of course the answer is none of you because none of you have been elected. None of you actually have any democratic legitimacy for the roles that you currently hold with this crisis.” “You should all be held accountable for what you’ve done,” Farage continued later. “You should all be fired.”
I think Farage echoes the sentiments of many, who are exhausted, enraged and exasperated by the technocrat circus in Europe. Europe’s carousel of fiscal calamity will certainly keep spinning in the near term and will likely continue to be covered heavily by the media. This will continue to drive the Fear Trade, while China and the Far East power the Love Trade by feasting on gold.
Now that’s something all gold investors can be thankful for. I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving! If you happen to be in the San Francisco area November 27-28, come visit me at the Hard Assets Investment Conference* where I’ll be speaking about market supercycles.
Tags: Asset Values, Chief Investment Officer, China Hong Kong, Digit Increases, Frank Holmes, Global Gold, Gold Bars, Gold Demand Trends, Gold Etfs, Gold Market, Gold Prices, Inflationary Pressures, Investment Demand, Potent Cocktail, Price Volatility, Sovereign Debt, Trends Report, U S Global Investors, Unquenchable, World Gold Council
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Sunday, July 17th, 2011
Commodities 2011 Halftime Report
By Frank Holmes, CEO and Chief Investment Officer
U.S. Global Investors
Commodities don’t all perform in the same way. In any given year, a particular commodity will go gangbusters and outperform the group. However, that commodity will typically come back to Earth and underperform the following year or the year after that. This is why active management is important when investing in commodities. Active managers can benefit from rotating from winners to laggards or by investing in the companies which produce, farm or mine commodities most effectively.
After two straight years of tremendous gains for many commodities, the first six months of 2011 haven’t been as kind. As of the end of June, only two commodities (silver and coal) saw double-digit increases, and only six of the 14 commodities we track—less than half—were in positive territory.
Silver was the leader, rising more than 12 percent, followed closely by coal (up 11.95 percent). Other commodities increasing in value included gold (5.6 percent), crude oil (3.83 percent), lead (2.16 percent) and aluminum (1.73 percent).
Returns are based on historical spot prices or futures prices. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Silver prices got ahead of themselves earlier this year, climbing 58 percent to nearly $50 an ounce. This registered a four standard deviation move, representing extreme territory on our models. Thinking silver, which has historically been a narrowly-traded market, had become a potential haven for speculators, officials stepped in and raised margin requirements on the Comex. This quickly deflated the bubble and prices naturally reverted back toward the mean but remain well above where they began the year.
Strong demand from reconstruction projects in Japan along with reduced supply because of flooding in Australia, Indonesia, South Africa and Colombia led coal to be the second-best performer.
No country was more affected by the lower supply than China as coal powers the Chinese economy. The country is the world’s largest consumer, gobbling half of the world’s coal. Coal accounted for 71 percent of China’s energy in 2008—more than three times the United States’ share. The Electricity Council estimates that China’s coal demand will reach 1.92 billion tons in 2011, up nearly 10 percent from 2010. Chinese electricity use was up 13.4 percent on a year-over-year basis in May and is now expected to rise 12 percent this year. (Read: Coal Use in China Shines Light on Growth)
Gold prices passed $1,500 for the first time ever in mid-April of this year and ended the quarter just slightly below that mark as a mixture of the Fear Trade and Love Trade proved to be an enticing concoction for investors here and abroad. The World Gold Council reported that demand for gold as an investment was up 26 percent on a year-over-year basis during the first quarter. In China, demand for gold was so strong it outpaced the combined gold demand of the U.S., France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, the U.K. and other European countries. (Read: Asian Tiger Sinks Teeth Into Gold)
Although gold prices held steady during the first half of the year, the share prices of gold companies have lagged. Ralph Aldis and I discussed this hot topic in depth a few weeks ago. (Read: Will Gold Equity Investors Strike Gold?) Many gold companies’ corporate cash flows and earnings per share have been rising, and more companies are paying dividends. Gold stocks also appear cheap compared to the price of gold. We believe investors will be drawn to these qualities, lifting gold stocks along with the strong bullion price.
After two straight years of solid gains, oil prices finally surpassed the $100 per barrel mark once again early in 2011. This time, it was a dose of geopolitical risk and a natural disaster that sent oil prices shooting upward. Oil prices have since bounced around the $90-$100 range for West Texas Intermediate (WTI). That range has held up despite U.S. consumers cringing at gasoline prices, the International Energy Agency (IEA) releasing an additional 60 million barrels of oil to the market and China’s ardent attempts to cool its economic growth. (Read: Playing Cat and Mouse with Global Oil)
Despite tightening measures, China’s per capita oil consumption has retained its upward trajectory and is headed toward levels similar to Taiwan and South Korea. There’s still quite a gap to close before that happens, but China’s oil consumption per capita has increased over 350 percent since the early 1980s to an estimated 2.7 billion barrels per year in 2011. Nearly 100 percent of that has taken place in the past decade. In addition, oil consumption per capita has risen sharply in recent decades in other Asian countries such as Malaysia (nearly quadrupled) and Thailand (doubled).
Looking Forward to the Second Half of 2011
We think commodity price movements will fare better during the second half of the year. Goldman Sachs wrote in a report last week that it expects global economic growth to be “generally supportive of rising commodity demand” and “this demand growth will be sufficient to tighten key commodity markets over the next six to 12 months.” We believe gold, oil and copper are some of the commodities which could see the biggest gains. For the sake of brevity, we’ll highlight gold here today.
As BCA Research puts it, “[gold] prices have benefited from a ‘perfect storm’ in recent months: falling real interest rates, a weak dollar, fears of a U.S. recession and/or debt default, and European stress.” Those factors, which I affectionately refer to as the Fear Trade, are what sent gold prices flirting with the $1,600 an ounce level this week. There was also the release of Federal Reserve meeting minutes that showed QE3 is possible, though not yet probable given Chairman Bernanke’s testimony this week. By the way, if you haven’t already seen Bernanke’s exchange with Congressman Ron Paul on gold, go to YouTube and check it out for a good chuckle. Washington’s reluctance to present a solution to the debt ceiling issue also contributed heavily to gold’s performance.
Paul was bringing attention to the threat of currency debasement, a major reason investors all over the world are turning to gold. According to U.K. research firm Capital Daily, the U.S. monetary base has increased more than 200 percent since September 2008. Meanwhile, gold prices have risen only about 70 percent over the same time period. Capital Daily says “if the two had been directly related, gold should already have risen to around $2,800 [an ounce].” That’s obviously a lofty expectation but illustrates that gold prices haven’t appreciated nearly as much as currencies, such as the U.S. dollar, have been debased.
In fact, don’t believe what you read about record high gold prices. Yes, gold hit a high in nominal terms, but the price is more than 30 percent below the 1980 peak of $2,400 an ounce if you adjust for inflation.
This was a banner week for the Fear Trade but don’t count out the Love Trade. Gold is about to get even more attractive because we are heading into the fall and winter gift-giving season. This is the time of year when gold jewelers typically do their biggest business. The kickoff is the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts next month and ends with generous gift-giving in early September.
The key to this seasonal strength over the past few years has been demand from China and India. You can see from the chart that the rise in gold prices has been closely tied to the rise in gold demand from China and India. Back when the average per capita income in China and India was well below $1,000 a year, gold prices hovered just above $200 an ounce. As average incomes have approached $3,000 a year over the past decade, gold prices have followed. With the long-term outlook for wages in both these economies rather rosy, gold demand should continue to feel the trickle-down effect.
Those investors looking for more of a technical indicator can take a look at the ratio of gold and oil. Capital Daily says that the ratio of the price for one ounce of gold to one barrel of oil (Brent crude) is currently 13.5. Since 1970, the average has been around 16. Gold prices would need to rise to $1,870 an ounce in order to reach historical ratio levels with $117 per barrel Brent crude oil, according to Capital Daily.
Based on seasonal demand strength and sovereign debt fears of the U.S. and several European countries, we think gold prices could be headed higher.
Tags: Active Management, Chief Investment Officer, Coal, Comex, Commodities, Crude Oil, Digit Increases, Extreme Territory, Flooding In Australia, Frank Holmes, Futures Prices, Gangbusters, Halftime Report, India, Investing In Commodities, Laggards, Margin Requirements, Reconstruction Projects, Silver Prices, Speculators, Standard Deviation, U S Global Investors
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