What They Don’t Want You to Know About Prices, Report

By Keith Weiner

Last week, in part I of this essay, we discussed why a central planner cannot know the right interest rate. Central planner’s macroeconomic aggregate measures like GDP are blind to the problem of capital consumption, including especially capital consumption caused by the central plan itself. GDP has an intrinsic bias towards consumption, and makes no distinction between consumption of the yield on capital, and consumption of the capital per se. Between selling the golden egg, and cooking the goose that lays golden eggs.

One could quibble with this and say that, well, really, the central planners should use a different metric. This is not satisfying. It demands the retort, “if there is a better metric than GDP, then why aren’t they using it now?” GDP is, itself, supposed to be that better metric! Nominal GDP targeting is the darling central plan proposal of the Right, supposedly better than consumer price index and unemployment (as Modern Monetary Theory is the darling of the Left).

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A Precious Metals Update

By NFTRH

I reserve most of the work on precious metals for NFTRH weekly reports and in-week updates because it is done on a consistent basis, with the work done previously key to the narrative making sense in real time and going forward. In other words, in order to not be out there stabbing in the dark you need to have an ongoing, adjustable plan that makes sense at all times with the macro markets around it.

So that said, let’s take a snapshot of where things stand currently with the understanding that this work will need future updates, which will probably not be made publicly. It is up to the reader to do the work required to put context to the picture. Meanwhile, this will free up more space in next week’s NFTRH 538 to focus on some quality miner charts, which sometimes take a back seat to the macro/sector stuff.

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Who Knows the Right Interest Rate, Report

By Keith Weiner

On January 6, we wrote the Surest Way to Overthrow Capitalism. We said:

“In a future article, we will expand on why these two statements are true principles: (1) there is no way a central planner could set the right rate, even if he knew and (2) only a free market can know the right rate.”

Today’s article is part one of that promised article.

Let’s consider how to know the right rate, first. It should not be controversial to say that if the government sets a price cap, say on a loaf of bread, that this harms bakers. So the bakers will seek every possible way out of it. First, they may try shrinking the loaf. But, gotcha! The government regulator anticipated that, and there is a heap of rules dictating the minimum size of a loaf, weight, length, width, depth, density, etc. Next, the bakery industry changes the name. They don’t sell loaves of bread any more, they call them bread cakes. And so on.

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Gold Rewards Bulls in January as Fed’s Message Wounds Dollar

By Anthony B. Sanders

Gold Vol Remains Subdued

The Federal Reserve’s “maybe we will, maybe we won’t” regarding further shrinking of its balance sheet coupled with keeping its target rate at 2.50% was celebrated by equity investors … and gold investors (including SPDR Gold Shares).

goldspiders

(Bloomberg) — Gold is poised to close out January with a fourth straight monthly gain after the Federal Reserve signaled it’s done raising interest rates for a while, hurting the dollar, and as investors sought a haven against slowing growth and U.S.-China trade disputes.

Continue reading Gold Rewards Bulls in January as Fed’s Message Wounds Dollar

Modern Monetary Theory: A Cargo Cult, Report

By Keith Weiner

Newly elected Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently said that Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) absolutely needed to be “a larger part of our conversation.” Her comment shines a spotlight on MMT. So what is it? According to Wikipedia, it is:

“a macroeconomic theory that describes the currency as a public monopoly and unemployment as the evidence that a currency monopolist is restricting the supply of the financial assets needed to pay taxes and satisfy savings desires.”

It is uncontroversial to say that the Federal Reserve has a monopoly on the dollar. So let’s look at the second proposition. Unemployment, MMT holds, is evidence that the supply of dollars is restricted.

In other words, more money causes more employment!

This does not sound very different from what the New Keynesians say. Keith analyzed former Fed Chair Janet Yellen’s seminal paper on the economics of labor for Forbes:

“Here is their [Yellen and co-author Ackerloff] tenuous chain of logic:

Continue reading Modern Monetary Theory: A Cargo Cult, Report

Catalyst for Gold Locked and Loaded?

By Trey Reik

Gold Outshines the S&P 500 in 2018

We believe that gold bullion and gold mining equities may be poised for a multi-year uptrend. Gold bullion beat U.S. equities for the month of December, the fourth quarter, and the full calendar year of 2018. Spot gold1 declined 1.58% versus the 4.39% drop in the S&P 500 Total Return Index2 in 2018 (Figure 1). Gold also outperformed most currencies last year, with the exception of the Swiss franc and the Japanese yen.

The bulk of gold’s 2018 outperformance came in the fourth quarter, on the back of the steep fall of the S&P 500 after it hit a high in late September, as shown in Figure 2. Gold rallied 7.54% in the fourth quarter, while the S&P 500 lost 13.52%. The rise in gold mining equities was also impressive in Q4, with Sprott Gold Miners ETF (SGDM)3 gaining 12.63%.

Continue reading Catalyst for Gold Locked and Loaded?

The Dollar Works Just Fine, Report

By Keith Weiner

Last week, we joked that we don’t challenge beliefs. Here’s one that we want to challenge today: the dollar doesn’t work as a currency, because it’s losing value. Even the dollar’s proponents, admit it loses value. The Fed itself states that its mandate is price stability—which it admits means relentless two percent annual debasement (Orwell would be proud). So there is no question that the dollar loses value. The only mainstream debate is whether this is good or bad.

Our focus today is whether this is why the dollar doesn’t work, why it’s failing.

Prices have been rising for 100 years. There is no reason why they couldn’t go on rising for another 100. Or 1000. The inflation argument, as we call it, does not reach anyone other than those who already think the dollar is failing. The rest shrug it off. Most people really care only if their income goes up slower than prices go up.

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Rising Interest and Prices, Report

By Keith Weiner

For years, people blamed the global financial crisis on greed. Doesn’t this make you want to scream out, “what, were people not greedy in 2007 or 1997??” Greed utterly fails to explain the phenomenon. It merely serves to reinforce a previously-held belief. Far be it from us to challenge previously-held beliefs (OK, OK, we may engage in some sacred-ox-goring from time to time), but this is not a scientific approach to explaining observed events. To properly understand a crisis, you have to look for the root cause. And if the crisis did not occur previously, your theory needs to explain why not then, and why only now.

Suppose an old company, XYZ, goes out of business. “Times change,” people say, to explain an economic phenomenon. Or, perhaps slightly less imprecisely, “the market changed.” Sometimes they’ll get even closer to saying something. They say, “Company XYZ did not adapt to changes.”

These statements are copouts.

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No Confirmation of a Gold Bull Market, Yet

By Steve Saville

The ‘true fundamentals’ began shifting in gold’s favour in October of last year and by early-December the fundamental backdrop was gold-bullish for the first time in almost a year. However, there is not yet confirmation of a new gold bull market from the most reliable indicator of gold’s major trend. I’m referring to the fact that the gold/SPX ratio is yet to achieve a weekly close above its 200-week MA. Here’s the relevant chart:

gold_SPX_LT_140119

The significance of the gold/SPX ratio is based on the concept that the measuring stick is critical when determining whether something is in a bull market. If a measuring stick is losing value at a fast pace then almost everything will appear to be in a bull market relative to it. For example, pretty much everything in the world has been rising in value rapidly over the past few years when measured in terms of the Venezuelan bolivar. It should be obvious, though, that not everything can be simultaneously in a bull market. To determine which assets/investments are in a bull market we can’t only go by performance relative to any national currency; we must also look at the performances of assets/investments relative to each other.

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The Japanese Government is Still Pegging the Gold Price

By Steve Saville

About five months ago I posted an article in response to stories that the Chinese government had pegged either the SDR-denominated gold price or the Yuan-denominated gold price. These stories were based on gold’s narrow trading range relative to the currency in question over the preceding two years, as if government manipulation were the only or the most plausible explanation for a narrow trading range in a global market. To illustrate the silliness of these stories I came up with my own story — that it was actually the Japanese government that was pegging the gold price. My story had, and still has, the advantage of being a better fit with the price data.

Just to recap, my story was that the Japanese government took control of the gold market in early-2014 and subsequently kept the Yen-denominated gold price at 137,000 +/- 5%. They lost control in early-2015 and again in early-2018, but in both cases they quickly brought the market back into line.

The following chart shows that they remain in control.

gold_Yenpeg_080119

Continue reading The Japanese Government is Still Pegging the Gold Price

Surest Way to Overthrow Capitalism, Report

By Keith Weiner

One of the most important problems in economics is: How do we know if an enterprise is creating or destroying wealth? The line between the two is objective, black and white. It should be clear that if business managers can’t tell the difference between a wealth-creating or wealth-destroying activity, then our whole society will be miserably poor.

Any manager will tell you that it’s easy. Just look at the profit and loss statement. Profit is so powerful an incentive for managers, that one could never persuade them to operate based on any other indicator. And it would work—if economists had done their jobs properly.

But have they?

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