‘Real’ Performance Comparison

By Steve Saville

Inserted below is a chart that compares the long-term inflation-adjusted (IA) performances of several markets. This chart makes some interesting points, such as:

1) Market volatility increased dramatically in the early-1970s when the current monetary system was introduced. This shows that the generally higher levels of monetary inflation and the larger variations in the rate of monetary inflation that occurred after the official link to gold was abandoned didn’t only affect nominal prices. Real prices were affected in a big way and boom-bust oscillations were hugely amplified. As an aside, economists of the Keynesian School are oblivious to the swings in relative ‘real’ prices caused by monetary inflation and the depressing effects that these policy-induced price swings have on economic progress.

2) Commodities in general (the green line on the chart) experienced much smaller performance oscillations than the two ‘monetary’ commodities (gold and silver). This is consistent with my view that there aren’t really any long-term broad-based commodity bull markets, just gold bull markets driven by monetary distortions in which most commodities end up participating. The “commodity super-cycle” has always been a fictional story.

3) Apart from the Commodity Index (GNX), the markets and indices included in the chart have taken turns in leading the real performance comparison. The chart shows that gold and the Dow Industrials Index are the current leaders with nearly-identical percentage gains since the chart’s January-1959 starting point. Note, however, that if dividends were included, that is, if total returns were considered, the Dow would currently have a significant lead.


Chart Notes:

a) I use a method of adjusting for the effects of US$ inflation that was first described in a 2010 article. This method isn’t reliable over periods of two years or less, but it should come close to reflecting reality over the long term.

b) To make it easier to compare relative performance, the January-1959 starting value of each of the markets included in the above chart was set to 100. In other words, the chart shows performance assuming that each market started at 100.

c) The monthly performance of the scaled IA silver price peaked at more than 2600 in early-1980, but for the sake of clarity the chart’s maximum Y-axis value was set to 1500. In other words, the chart doesn’t show the full extent of the early-1980 upward spike in the IA silver price.

d) The commodity index (the green line on the chart) uses CRB Index data up to 1992 and Goldman Sachs Spot Commodity Index (GNX) data thereafter.

What’s next for the Dollar, Gold & Stocks?

By Axel Merk

Two rate hikes since last year have weakened the dollar. Why is that, and what’s ahead for the dollar, currencies & gold? And while we are at it, we’ll chime in on what may be in store for the stock market…

The chart above shows the S&P 500, the price of gold and the U.S. dollar index since the beginning of 2016. The year 2016 started with a rout in the equity markets which was soon forgotten, allowing the multi-year bull market to continue. After last November’s election we have had the onset of what some refer to as the Trump rally. Volatility in the stock market has come down to what may be historic lows. Of late, many trading days appear to start on a down note, although late day rallies (possibly due to retail money flowing into index funds) are quite common.

Where do stocks go from here? Of late, we have heard outspoken money manager Jeff Gundlach suggests that bear markets only happen if the economy turns down; and that his indicators suggest that there’s no recession in sight. We agree that bear markets are more commonly associated with recessions, but with due respect to Mr. Gundlach, the October 1987 crash is a notable exception. The 1987 crash was an environment that suffered mostly from valuations that had gotten too high; an environment where nothing could possibly go wrong: the concept of “portfolio insurance” was en vogue at the time. Without going into detail of how portfolio insurance worked, let it be said that it relied on market liquidity. The market took a serious nosedive when the linkage between the S&P futures markets and their underlying stocks broke down.

I mention these as I see many parallels to 1987, including what I would call an outsized reliance on market liquidity ensuring that this bull market continues its rise without being disrupted by a flash crash or some a type of crash awaiting to get a label. Mind you, it’s extraordinarily difficult to get the timing right on a crash; that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t prepare for the risk.

If I don’t like stocks, what about bonds. While short-term rates have been moving higher, longer-term rates have been trading in a narrow trading range for quite some time, frustrating both bulls and bears. Bonds are often said to perform well when stock prices plunge, but don’t count on it: first, even the historic correlation is not stable. But more importantly, when we talk with investors, many of them have been reaching for yield. We see sophisticated investors, including institutional investors, provide direct lending services to a variety of groups. What they all have in common is that yields are higher than what you would get in a traditional bond investment. While the pitches for those investments are compelling, it doesn’t change the fact that high yield investments, in our analysis, tend to be more correlated with risk assets, i.e. with equities, especially in an equity bear market. Differently said: don’t call yourself diversified if your portfolio consists of stocks and high yielding junk bonds. I gather that readers investing in such bonds think it doesn’t affect them; let me try to caution them that some master-limited partnership investments in the oil sector didn’t work out so well, either.

I have argued for some time that the main competitor to the price of gold is cash that pays a high real rate of return. That is, if investors get compensated for holding cash, they may not have the need for a brick that has no income and costs a bit to hold.

Continue reading What’s next for the Dollar, Gold & Stocks?

Fed Rate Hikes, Fiscal vs. Monetary Policy and Why Again the Case for Gold?


I’ve been thinking about the current Fed Funds rate hike cycle, which is logically gaining forward momentum now that the Fed can stand down from its 8-year, ultra-lenient monetary policy cycle.  That is because the Obama administration’s goals required a compliant Federal Reserve to continually re-liquefy the economy as its fiscal policies drained it.

With the coming of Trump mania and its very different fiscal policy goals, we will witness the end of much of what I considered to be the “evil genius” employed by the Federal Reserve, mostly under Ben Bernanke.  When he oversaw the brilliant and completely maniacal painting of the macro known as Operation Twist in 2011, I knew we were not in Kansas anymore.  We’d gone off the charts and off the balance sheet into a Wonderland of financial and monetary possibilities.

What else would you call a plan to sell the government’s short-term debt and buy its long-term debt in the stated effort to “sanitize” (the Fed’s word, not mine) inflationary signals on the macro?  It was evil, it was genius, and it worked.  So too did various other financial manipulations that took place before and after Op/Twist.  And here we are.

The Republican view is one where businesses and consumers are stimulated, not money supplies.  I think it is a better economically, but not by much in this case.  That is because the Trumpian ‘reflation’ would simply be another form of man-made stimulation attempting to deny market and economic excesses from being cleared.  A normal economy goes through normal cycles.  We have not had a normal economy or a normal cycle since at least pre-2000.

Since Alan Greenspan panicked and blew the credit bubble of last decade, we have been on a continuum further into uncharted waters.  Trump’s policies are not going to stop it, either.  Besides, he inherits this (chart source: SlopeCharts).

s&p 500 and monetary base

What we see above is a dangerous correlation between Monetary Base, which is the product of monetary policy, and the S&P 500.  We see that the S&P 500, which followed the Base in lockstep for much of the bull market, is playing a little catch up to the Base, which itself is only bouncing within a topping structure.  That is a dangerous looking chart if the assumption that monetary policy will be withdrawn as fiscal policy is anticipated/enacted is a good one.

Continue reading Fed Rate Hikes, Fiscal vs. Monetary Policy and Why Again the Case for Gold?

The “Petrodollar” is Irrelevant

By Steve Saville

Even if the “petrodollar” agreement happened and remains in effect to this day it would not be of great importance

A recent article posted at Casey Research trumpets the view that the petrodollar system is on its last legs and that when it dies — quite possibly in 2017 — it will be a massively disruptive event for the US economy and the financial world, leading to an explosion in the gold price. The reality is that the so-called “petrodollar” is probably not about to expire, but even if it were the economic consequences for the US and the world would not be dramatic.

According to the “petrodollar system” theory, an agreement was reached in 1974 between the governments of the US and Saudi Arabia for the Saudis to do all of their oil transactions in US dollars and influence other OPEC members to do the same. In return, the US government vowed to support and protect the Saudi regime. Also according to this theory, the US economy benefits because the pricing of oil in US dollars creates additional global demand for US dollars and US assets.

The agreement might have happened, but there is no good reason that it would still be in effect. Considering the popularity of the US dollar in global trade and the size of the US economy, an agreement between the Saudi and US governments would no longer be required to entice the Saudis to price their oil exports in dollars. It would be inconvenient for them to do otherwise.

In any case, even if the “petrodollar” agreement happened and remains in effect to this day it would not be of great importance. The reason is that the international trading of oil accounts for only a minuscule fraction of international money flows.

To further explain, global oil production is about 96M barrels per day (b/d), but only part of this gets traded internationally. For example, US oil consumption is about 19M b/d, but the US now produces about 10M b/d so the US is a net importer of only about 9M b/d. The amount of oil that gets traded between countries and could therefore add to the international demand for US dollars is estimated to be around 50M b/d.

Assuming that all of the aforementioned 50M b/d of oil gets traded in US dollars, at an oil price of $50/barrel the quantity of dollars employed per year in the international trading of oil amounts to about 900 billion. In other words, the maximum positive effect on global US$ usage of the “petrodollar” system is about $900 billion per year.

Next, note that according to the most recent survey conducted by the Bank for International Settlements, as of April 2016 the average daily turnover in global foreign exchange markets was about $5.1 trillion. With the US$ estimated to be on one side of 88% of all FX trades, this means that an average of 4.5 trillion US dollars change hands every day on global FX markets.

Therefore, the quantity of US dollars traded per DAY on the FX markets, primarily for investing and speculating purposes, is roughly 5-times the amount of US dollars used per YEAR in the international oil trade. That’s why the so-called “petrodollar” is not important.

In conclusion, here’s a suggestion: Instead of focusing on outlandish reasons for buying gold, focus on the less exciting but vastly more plausible reasons that gold’s popularity could rise.

Why Did Silver Fall?

By Keith Weiner of Monetary Metals

The question on the lips of everyone who plans to exchange his metal for dollars—widely thought to be money—is why did silver go down? The price of silver in dollar terms dropped from about 18 bucks to about 17, or about 5 percent.

The facile answer is manipulation. With no need of evidence—indeed with no evidence—one can assert this and not be questioned in the gold and silver communities. We have recently come across a term normally used to describe Leftists and Social Justice Warriors, virtue signaling. One piously declares that one supports the cause, one speaks truth to power, one sticks it to The Man, well you get the idea. The concept of virtue signaling seems equally appropriate to those who sing the chorus on every price drop, “manipulation.”

Besides, we have peeps in high places in London and New York and Beijing, and they tell us silver is manipulated…

Actually, we rather prefer to look at data than listen to whispers. What would the data show if demand for physical silver metal was robust and rising while someone sold so many futures contracts that the price of the metal was forced down just about a dollar?

The basis and cobasis are spreads between physical silver metal and futures. The scenario we just described would collapse the basis and skyrocket the cobasis.

Is that what happened this week?

Before we get that, we want to note that crude oil fell from $53.33 last week to $48.49, or -9%. Copper fell from $2.70 to $2.60, or -3.7%. Wheat fell from $4.53 to $4.40, or -2.9%. People miscall this deflation.

We don’t know whether this will affect the Fed’s seeming commitment to damn the economy, full rate hikes ahead. However, we do know that sentiment bleeds from one speculative asset to another (and in a near-zero interest rate environment, all assets are used by speculators). “If energy, industrial metal, and food are going down, then surely silver should go down too,” seems to be the logic.

At least this week.

We are much more interested in the supply and demand fundamentals. We acknowledge that speculators can temporarily move prices—sometimes a lot—but we firmly insist that eventually the market price reverts to the level called for by supply and demand.

So what happened to those fundamentals? Below, we will show the only true picture of the gold and silver supply and demand. But first, the price and ratio charts.

The Prices of Gold and Silver
gold and silver prices

Next, this is a graph of the gold price measured in silver, otherwise known as the gold to silver ratio. It moved up sharply this week.  If we were chartists, we might note that the ratio seems to be making a series of higher lows since mid-July.

The Ratio of the Gold Price to the Silver Price
gold-silver ratio

For each metal, we will look at a graph of the basis and cobasis overlaid with the price of the dollar in terms of the respective metal. It will make it easier to provide brief commentary. The dollar will be represented in green, the basis in blue and cobasis in red.

Here is the gold graph.

Continue reading Why Did Silver Fall?

What is the Root Cause of a Gold Bull Market?

By Steve Saville

Gold is almost as liquid and as transportable as money, but its supply is essentially fixed

If the future were 100% certain then there would be no reason to have any monetary savings. You could be fully invested all of the time and only raise cash immediately prior to cash being needed. By the same token, if the future were very uncertain then you would probably want to have a lot more cash than usual in reserve. This has critical implications for the gold market.

The answer to the question “What is the root cause of a gold bull market?” is related to the propensity to save. When there is an increase in uncertainty and/or the perceived level of economic/financial-market risk, people naturally want to save more and spend less. This is especially the case after an economy-wide inflation-fueled boom turns to bust, because in this situation debt levels will be high, many investments that were expected to generate large returns will be shown to have been ill-conceived, and it will be clear that much of what was generally believed about the economy was completely wrong.

The public’s first choice in such circumstances would be to hold more money, but central banks and governments typically respond to the factors that prompt people to save more by taking actions that reduce the value of money. Policy-makers do this because they are operating from the Keynesian playbook in which almost everything is backward. In the real world an increase in saving comes at the beginning of the economic growth path and an increase in consumption-spending comes at the end, but in the Keynesian world the economic growth path begins with an increase in consumption-spending. Moreover, in the back-to-front world imagined by Keynesian economists an increase in saving is considered bad because it results in less immediate consumption.

So, stuff happens that makes the public want to save more, but the central-planners then say: “If you save more in terms of money we will punish you!” They don’t actually say “we will punish you”, but they take actions that guarantee a real loss on cash savings. Also, in times of stress the most popular repositories of money (commercial banks) will often look unsafe.

Now, neither the actions taken by the central bank to reduce the appeal of saving in terms of the official money nor the appearance of increasing ‘shakiness’ in the normal repositories of money will do anything to reduce the underlying desire for more monetary savings. In fact, the panicked actions of the central bank can add to the uncertainty, thus leading to an even greater propensity to hold cash in reserve.

That’s where gold comes in. People want to save more money, but they can’t save in terms of the official money unless they are prepared to lock-in a negative real return on their savings and/or accept a greater risk of loss due to bank failure. They therefore opt for the next best thing: gold. Gold is almost as liquid and as transportable as money, but its supply is essentially fixed. Gold also has a very long history as a store of value and as money, so even though it is presently not money it is a good alternative to cash.

Long-term gold bull markets can therefore be viewed as periods when the public has an increasing propensity to save and when the actions of the authorities and/or the weakened financial positions of the commercial banks make it riskier to save in terms of the official money.

Worried You Might Buy Bitcoin or Gold

By Keith Weiner of Monetary Metals

The price of gold has been rising, but perhaps not enough to suit the hot money. Meanwhile, the price of bitcoin has shot up even faster. From $412, one year ago, to $1290 on Friday, it has gained over 200% (and, unlike gold, we can say that bitcoin went up—it’s a speculative asset that goes up and down with no particular limit). Compared to the price action in bitcoin, gold seems boring. While this is a virtue for gold to be used as money (and a vice for bitcoin), it does tend to attract those who just want to get into the hottest casino du jure.

Perhaps predictably, we saw an ad from a gold bullion dealer. This well-known dealer is comparing gold to bitcoin, and urging customers to stick with gold because of gold’s potential for price appreciation. We would not recommend this argument. Whatever the merits of gold may be, going up faster than bitcoin is not among them.

We spotted an ad today from a mainstream financial adviser. The ad urged clients not to buy gold. This firm should have little need to worry. Stocks have been in a long, long, endless, forever, never-to-end bull market. Gold is not doing anything exciting now. $1234? “WhatEVAH (roll eyes)!” Stocks, well, the prices just keep on going up. Like we said, nothing whatsoever to worry about. Other than declining dividend yields. There’s more than enough irony to go around.

Speaking of dividend yield, that leads us to an idea. Readers know that we like to compare the yield of one investment to another. This is why we quote the basis as an annualized percentage. You can compare basis to LIBOR easily. And also stocks. Or anything else.

For example, the basis for December—a maturity of well under a year—is 1.2%. The dividend yield of the S&P stocks is just 1.9%. For that extra 70bps, you are taking a number of known risks, and some unknown risks too.

It is worth noting that the yield on the 10-year Treasury is up to 2.5%. Yes, that’s right, you are paid less for the risk of investing in big corporations than you are for holding the risk free asset. Of course, the Treasury bond is not really risk free. But in any case, if the Treasury defaults then it’s safe to assume most corporations will be destroyed, if not our whole civilization.

Continue reading Worried You Might Buy Bitcoin or Gold

Curious Gold-Silver Ratio That Did Not Fall

By Keith Weiner of Monetary Metals

This holiday-shortened week (Monday was President’s Day in the US), the price of the dollar fell. In gold, it fell almost half a milligram to 24.75mg, and prices in silver it dropped 30mg, to 1.7 grams of the white monetary metal. Flipped upside down, gold went up 23 notes from the Federal Reserve, and silver appears to go up by 41 cents.

Below, we will show the only true picture of the gold and silver supply and demand fundamentals. But first, the price and ratio charts.

The Prices of Gold and Silver
gold and silver prices

Next, this is a graph of the gold price measured in silver, otherwise known as the gold to silver ratio. It moved sideways again this week, which would normally be odd for a time when the prices of the metals are rising.

The Ratio of the Gold Price to the Silver Price
gold-silver ratio

For each metal, we will look at a graph of the basis and cobasis overlaid with the price of the dollar in terms of the respective metal. It will make it easier to provide brief commentary. The dollar will be represented in green, the basis in blue and cobasis in red.

Here is the gold graph.

The Gold Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price
gold and the us dollar

For a very long time, we would post graphs that looked almost the same. Oh, the specifics of month, price, and basis would be different. But they had a certain sameness. The price of the dollar (i.e. inverse of the price of gold, in dollar terms) would move along with the cobasis (i.e. scarcity of gold). So as the dollar would rise (i.e. the price of gold would fall), the scarcity would rise. And vice versa. This means changes in price were due to changes in behavior by speculators.

And now we have a clear picture of … the opposite. The dollar has been falling since mid-December. And for that same time, the cobasis (scarcity of gold) has been rising.

Yes, gold has been getting scarcer as it becomes pricier.

How could this be possible? Doesn’t the law of supply and demand work for gold? You know, the standard “X” graph from Econ. 101?

Gold has several unique properties. One is that it is not purchased for consumption, but for monetary reserves or jewelry (which in most of the world is monetary reserves). Contrast that to copper which is purchased by plumbing manufacturers to make pipe. It’s a competitive market, and if the price of copper plumbing goes up too much then home builders will switch to plastic. Demand drops as price rises. Also, the marginal copper mine will increase production. Supply rises as price rises. It is self-correcting.

Gold, not being bought to consume, does not have a limit to demand as price rises. If anything a rising price (i.e. a falling currency) signals to people that holding gold is a good thing. They were wise to get out of their falling paper currency, and should consider buying more gold.

Also, virtually all of the gold ever mined in human history is still in human hands. All of this gold is potential supply, at the right price and under the right conditions. Even if gold mining worked like copper mining, and miners could just produce more, changes in mine production at the margin are not material to the overall gold supply. By official estimates, the total inventory of gold would take over 70 years to be produced at current mine production rates (and we believe this is a low estimate).

Readers may object that this question is a bit unfair, as any commodity can experience rising tightness and that will accompany its rising price for a while until the market can correct itself. That is true, but what we are looking at in gold is not that at all. When the market corrects itself—which we think is very likely, we do not see Armageddon just yet—it will not be because gold miners have cranked up their outputs, nor because gold users have substituted another metal. There is no substitute for monetary reservation, particularly as paper currencies are in the terminal stages of failure.

Our calculated fundamental price is now up to almost $1,400.

Now let’s look at silver.

The Silver Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price
silver and the us dollar

The trend of falling dollar (i.e. rising price of silver) and rising cobasis (scarcity) is here in silver, too, but it’s weaker.

Silver does not quite have the same stocks to flows ratio as gold, but it has far and away a higher ratio than copper or any ordinary commodity. That is why silver is the other monetary metal.

The fundamental price of silver is now up to about $18.70. While this is over the market price of the metal, it’s not nearly so much above as gold.

This is why we calculate a fundamental on the gold-silver ratio over 74.

Don’t Short This Dog

By Keith Weiner of Monetary Metals

This week, the prices of the metals mostly moved sideways. There was a rise on Thursday but it corrected back to basically unchanged on Friday.

This will again be a brief Report, as yesterday was a holiday in the US.

Below, we will show the only true picture of the gold and silver supply and demand fundamentals. But first, the price and ratio charts.

The Prices of Gold and Silver
gold and silver prices

Next, this is a graph of the gold price measured in silver, otherwise known as the gold to silver ratio. It moved sideways this week.

The Ratio of the Gold Price to the Silver Price
gold-silver ratio

For each metal, we will look at a graph of the basis and cobasis overlaid with the price of the dollar in terms of the respective metal. It will make it easier to provide brief commentary. The dollar will be represented in green, the basis in blue and cobasis in red.

Here is the gold graph.

The Gold Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price
gold and the us dollar

The price was unchanged, but the basis is up slightly and cobasis is down (i.e. gold became slightly more abundant). This is not the news dollar shorters (i.e. those betting on the gold price) want to see.

Our calculated fundamental price is all but unchanged around $1,360.

Now let’s look at silver.

The Silver Basis and Cobasis and the Dollar Price
silver and the us dollar

In silver, the basis is basically unchanged but the cobasis went up a bit. The silver market got just a bit tighter, and our calculated fundamental price is up more than 30 cents to about a quarter above the market price. Not exactly “bet the farm with leverage territory”, but definitely not “short this dog” either.

Watch this space. We have some exciting data science to reveal soon.

Stocks and Gold; the Next Opportunity


Unless you visit the Notes From the Rabbit Hole website regularly, you might think the title of this article implies it is written by a market analyst pretending to know what will happen; like a top in the stock market or a resumed bull cycle in gold.  You might also think it is written by one of the writers who’ve either a) been fighting the stock bull since the bearish market terminated a year ago or b) been a perma gold bug bull.

So once again, we have our disclaimers because in a milieu of quickly forgotten soundbites, integrity is important.  So I point you to a couple of posts (among many others) that indicated, when the time was right for people to get bullish the stock market in favor of gold.

AMAT Chirps, B2B Ramps, Yellen Hawks and Gold’s Fundamentals Erode (May 30, 2016)

Detailed Multi-Market Update (an NFTRH premium update, now public, from July 22, 2016)

From the July 22 NFTRH update, in the event you don’t wish to follow the link to read the whole thing…

Yesterday in a public post a target was established for the S&P 500.  I’d love to see a drop toward 2100 to clear over bullishness but regardless, SPX targets 2410 as long as it’s at or above the noted support zone.

Here is the price panel of the chart from that update…


Indeed, SPX went on to make a hard test of 2100 on election jitters, as you can see by today’s version of the very same chart.  That folks, was the last opportunity for those who had remained bearish after Brexit, to stop being so.

Continue reading Stocks and Gold; the Next Opportunity