By Keith Weiner
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away we wrote a series of articles arguing that bitcoin is not money and is not sound. Bitcoin was skyrocketing at the time, as we wrote most of them between July 30 and Oct 1 last year.
Back in those halcyon days, volatility was deemed to be a feature. That is, volatility in the upward direction was loved by everyone who said that bitcoin is money, in their desire to make money. In the first instance of the word, the term money refers to bitcoin. In the second, it refers to the dollar. The same problem we see with gold:
- bitcoin is money
- bitcoin is going up
- buy bitcoin now
- sell bitcoin later at a higher price
- to make money
From what we remember from a logic class in the philosophy department back in university (in the halcyon days long before the halcyon days of bitcoin skyrocketing), there may be a fallacy or two in here that have Latin names.
Anyways, in our bitcoin articles, we were careful not to get into the game of setting price targets. We didn’t know (and no one else did either, as it turned out) where the price would go. Other than, we did say that bitcoin has no firm bid and its price will drop when the speculators turn. Bitcoin had just hit $3000 when our series began. We were careful to say that the price could go a lot higher, and we made no prediction as to how high or when it would turn.
Continue reading The Ultimate Stablecoin, Report
By Keith Weiner
So this happened: Republic Metals, a gold refiner, filed bankruptcy on November 2. The company had found a discrepancy in its inventory of around $90 million, while preparing its financial statements.
We are not going to point the Finger of Blame at Republic or its management, as we do not know if this was honest error or theft. If it was theft, then we would not expect it to be a simple matter of employees or management walking out the door with the gold. $90 million is about 2.6 tons. Unless it happened very slowly, over many years, that seems like a lot of gold to disappear. And if it occurred over years, why didn’t regular audits and other internal controls catch the discrepancy until now?
We want to make a different point altogether. We define inflation as the counterfeiting of credit. Legitimate credit has four criteria. Most of the focus is on the latter two: the borrower has both the means and intent to repay. Did Republic have the means to repay? They had a good business for 38 years, so we will assume yes. Did they have the intent? Well, unless this was a simple theft and theft by the owners, then we have to answer yes again (with one quibble which we will get to, in a moment).
The other two criteria are often overlooked. Does the lender know he is extending credit, and does the lender agree to do so?
Continue reading The Failure of a Gold Refinery, Report
By Steve Saville
Here are two long-term charts illustrating the annual rate at which gold is extracted from the ground. The second of these charts shows why mine production can be ignored when trying to understand what happened to the gold price over the preceding few years or figure out what’s likely to happen to the gold price over the next few years.
The first chart shows the amount of gold produced by the global mining industry during each year from 1900 through to 2017 (data sourced from the US Geological Survey). The second chart shows the percentage increase in the world’s above-ground gold supply during each year (1900-2017) resulting from that year’s new mine production. In effect, the second chart shows the gold inflation rate.
Continue reading Gold Inflation
By Keith Weiner
Terry Goodkind wrote an epic fantasy series. The first book in the series is entitled Wizard’s First Rule. We recommend the book highly, if you’re into that sort of thing. However, for purposes of this essay, the important part is the rule itself:
“Wizard’s First Rule: people are stupid.”
“People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe a lie because they want to believe it’s true, or because they are afraid it might be true. People’s heads are full of knowledge, facts, and beliefs, and most of it is false, yet they think it all true. People are stupid; they can only rarely tell the difference between a lie and the truth, and yet they are confident they can, and so are all the easier to fool.”
Does this not aptly describe the belief that the dollar will lose its reserve status, will collapse relative to other paper currencies, and is facing imminent hyperinflation with a skyrocketing gold price?
Continue reading Wizard’s First Rule
By Bob Hoye
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By Keith Weiner
There is a popular notion, at least among American libertarians and gold bugs. The idea is that people will one day “get woke”, and suddenly realize that the dollar is bad / unbacked / fiat / unsound / Ponzi / other countries don’t like it / <insert favorite bugaboo here>. When they do, they will repudiate it. That is, sell all their dollars to buy consumer goods (i.e. hyperinflation), gold, and/or whatever other currency.
Redemptions Balanced With Deposits
No national currency is gold-backed today. In a gold backed currency, each currency unit begins life with someone who chooses to deposit his gold coin in exchange for the paper currency. And it ends life with someone redeeming the paper to get back the gold coin. A good analogy is bone in the human body. One process is constantly removing bone material. And another process is growing more. What seems to be a static bone, with fixed length and mass, is constantly being torn down and rebuilt. The seemingly stable bone is actually in equilibrium between two opposing forces.
So it is with the gold standard. Some people are redeeming paper to get the gold coin. Others are depositing gold coins to get paper. The seemingly stable gold standard is actually in equilibrium between two opposing processes.
Continue reading What Can Kill a Useless Currency
By Trey Reik
[biiwii comment: very pleased to welcome Trey, a senior portfolio manager at Sprott, to our group of quality authors]
Over our two decades following global monetary affairs, we have often marveled at default confidence awarded the Federal Reserve. Don’t misinterpret us — the Fed’s power borders on surreal. Seven governors and twelve regional bank presidents set the price of money not only for the world’s largest economy, but through auspices of the dollar standard system, for the entire globe. No matter how practical “don’t fight the Fed” logic has proven over time, it does not diminish the folly that 19 capable and well-supported individuals might possibly price the world’s reserve currency more efficiently than free markets.
Record valuations for U.S. financial assets have inured investors to the daunting risks of unwinding eight years of QE and ZIRP. Because such radical monetary policy has never before been deployed, our 19 monetary mandarins, by definition, command no special insight into broad implications of Fed policy normalization. Into this unprecedented monetary vortex steps new Fed Chairman Jerome Powell, a seemingly low-key and forthright communicator bent on rational steps to normalize Fed policy. In this report, we share our perspective that the Fed’s dual policy agenda of simultaneous rate hikes and balance sheet reduction, rather than constituting some sort of scientifically-formulated policy elixir, amounts to little more than glorified brinkmanship — the Fed’s signature policy tool. Events of the past few weeks only serve to support our contention that Fed tightening is pinching global liquidity to a degree which threatens reigning valuations of traditional financial assets.
Continue reading Brinkmanship
By Keith Weiner
Let’s continue to look at the fiasco in the franc. We say “fiasco”, because anyone in Switzerland who is trying to save for retirement has been put on a treadmill, which is now running backwards at –¾ mph (yes, miles per hour in keeping with our treadmill analogy). Instead of being propelled forward towards their retirement goals by earning interest that compounds, they are losing principal. They will never reach their retirement goals. If you disagree, we encourage you to model it.
We say “fiasco” because living in retirement in Switzerland is like trying to live on a farm which does not grow crops. The farmer has to sell off pieces of the farm to buy groceries. As the Swiss retiree has to sell off pieces of his accumulated savings. Except the bank is also consuming his savings at -0.75%. It’s like a negative race.
Quantity Theory of Money
This disaster provides an interesting test of the quantity theory of money. Since mid-2013, the quantity of Swiss francs (as measured by M0) was around 380 billion. It went sideways until the end of December 2014. In January 2015, it was up to 450 billion. That move in itself, in 2-3 months, was 18%. But it first went off to the races, after that, hitting 561 billion by May 2017. In just over two years, it rose another 25%. Prices in Switzerland did not rise commensurately with these increases in the quantity of francs.
But we are interested in matters monetary. We want to see how the franc fared against the dollar, from which it ultimately derives (the US M0 admittedly rose faster during this period—44%). Here’s a graph of the price of the franc against Swiss M0.
Continue reading Useless But Not Worthless
By Steve Saville
There is an age-old relationship between prices and interest rates that Keynesian economists have called a paradox (“Gibson’s Paradox”). The relationship was clearer during the Gold Standard era, but as I explained in a previous post it is still apparent if prices are measured in gold.
To understand “Gibson’s Paradox” and why it actually isn’t a paradox, refer to the earlier post linked above. Suffice to say that when money is sound or at least a lot sounder than it is today, interest rates don’t drive prices and prices don’t drive interest rates; instead, on an economy-wide basis both prices (in general) and risk-free interest rates are driven by changes in societal time preference. Moreover, as mentioned above and explained in my earlier post, even with today’s massive, continuous manipulation of interest rates by central banks the relationship is still evident, but only when interest rates are compared to a wholesale price index denominated in gold.
Continue reading Revisiting the Age-Old Relationship Between Interest Rates and Prices
By Notes From the Rabbit Hole
We began the Amigos theme last year in order to be guided by the goofy riders during the ending stages of a cyclical, risk-on phase that was not going to end until the proper macro signals come about, no matter how many times the bears declared victory along the way. The fact that grown adults see conspiracies around every corner (okay, I see them around every third corner myself, but work with me here) makes such macro signaling very necessary in order to keep bias at bay.
Continue reading SPX/Gold, 30yr Yields & Yield Curve – Amigos 1, 2 & 3 Updated
By Keith Weiner
“You can’t eat gold.” The enemies of gold often unleash this little zinger, as if it dismisses the idea of owning gold and indeed the whole gold standard. It is a fact, you cannot eat gold. However, it dismisses nothing.
This gives us an idea. Let’s tie three facts together. One, you can’t eat gold. Two, gold is in backwardation in Switzerland. And three, speculation is a bet on the price action.
The fact that gold is inedible is supposed (by the enemies of liberty) to be proof positive that a gold standard wouldn’t work. Of course, there’s always the retort: You can’t eat dollars!
That may be emotionally satisfying, but there is a deeper issuer that the anti-gold crowd is missing. Yes, money makes terrible food but, also, food makes terrible money. A car makes a lousy airplane. And a shoe makes an awful TV. Cow poop is putrid as food for people, but it works well as fertilizer for plants. Each thing fits a particular purpose.
Why does food make terrible money? One reason is that it’s perishable. No one—other than a refrigerated warehouse—can make a bid on food beyond his own short-term needs. Without this robust bid, food has limited marketability. That is, it has a wide spread between its bid and offer prices.
Continue reading You Can’t Eat Gold
By Anthony B. Sanders
But Will It Continue After Last Week’s Bloodbath In Equities?
Too bad Black Sabbath didn’t sing Gold Man.
Hedge funds and other large speculators increased their net-short position in gold futures and options in the week ended Oct. 9 to the most in data going back to 2006, surpassing a record reached last month, according to a government report released Friday. The wagers came days before turmoil in equity markets sent investors flocking back to the metal, pushing prices to the biggest gain since 2016 on Thursday after six straight monthly losses.
Let’s see if gold shorts continue with the reversal of fortune in the S&P 500 index and gold.
Continue reading Gold Man! Net-shorts In Gold Futures/Options Largest Since 2006