What happens when you bring together four of the top minds in the precious metals investing space to share insights from the front lines of gold, silver platinum and palladium investing? These excerpts from a Sprott Resources Roundtable featuring Gloom, Boom and Doom Report Publisher Marc Faber, Sprott Asset Management Chief Investment Strategist John Embry, Sprott Global Resource Investments Founder Rick Rule and Sprott Asset Management Founder Eric Sprott prove that great minds think big.
Sprott Resources: Marc Faber, help us understand the Federal Reserve's recent announcement regarding tapering.
Marc Faber: When the Fed began Quantitative Easing 1 (QE1) in 2008, I said it would continue until QE99. So I'm not so surprised by the "no tapering decision." But this money printing has numerous unintended consequences and actually does not help the economy much. Asset purchases benefit maybe 1% of the population, the super-rich. I'm not complaining because I own stock, bonds and real estate, but from a social point of view, it's undesirable because it creates widening wealth inequality and dissatisfaction among the majority of voters. This could lead to more votes for a populist leader who will then tax the wealthy more heavily.
SR: You are based in Asia. China, India and Russia have been very big buyers of gold bullion. What is behind that trend?
MF: In the Far East, we have a tradition of owning physical gold, but what is new is the Chinese government encouraging citizens to own gold. I believe that in the face of political instability and a lack of faith in the U.S. dollar, Asians will continue to accumulate physical gold and silver.
SR: What is the component that you have in your own portfolio of precious metals? And to add onto that, would you comment on the fact that precious metals shares are vastly oversold and they are a complement to physical bullion holdings?
MF: I recommend an asset allocation of about 25% in equities; 25% in fixed income, securities and cash; 25% in real estate; and 25% in precious metals—gold, silver. I think I have around 25% in gold whereby I don't value my gold. I have it and it's my insurance policy. It is important that one day when the so-called shit hits the fan—and I think the Fed is well on its way to creating that situation—you have access to your gold, that it is not taken away.
Read Marc Faber's latest interview with The Gold Report here.
SR: John Embry, you went through the market correction in 1975–1976. Would you share some perspective from that time?
John Embry: That's a very good question because there's a remarkable correlation with what is happening today. For the first three years of the 1970s, the gold price rose almost sixfold, and there was great enthusiasm. Then from 1974 to 1976, it was virtually cut in half. At that point, you could cut the pessimism with a knife it was so thick. Then, gold rose another eightfold from there. The price correction of the last two years has been even more counterintuitive than it was in the 1970s. The sentiment arguably is even more negative, yet the fundamentals are better than they were in the 1970s, so I think we're setting up for a major reversal. The only thing we're debating here today is whether it's going to happen tomorrow, next week or several months from now. It's just a matter of short-term timing because everything is in place.
SR: We have seen an incredible correction. During the upward trend we have seen during the past 10 years, we have had a number of corrections along the way, including some "puke" days. It looked like we had a bottoming at around $1,200 an ounce ($1,200/oz). We've corrected back to $1,300/oz, and now we seem to be heading upward. Can you help us put some perspective on that?
JE: We have had, from top to bottom, over a $700/oz correction in the past two years. That attests to the power of the central banks, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the bullion banks and their ability to control the paper market aggressively. I think that is coming to an end because it has driven the price down to remarkably undervalued levels. Talk of gold going to $1,000/oz and below is ridiculous. It's not going to happen. I think this is a fabulous opportunity because it's hugely undervalued and the fundamentals are compelling. We're just on the verge.
SR: What happened to the gold shares in that period?
JE: Gold shares were similarly under pressure, but their subsequent gains were historic. After gold topped in 1980 and then started to re-rally, the gold shares exploded again. You're talking in many cases, ten- or twentybaggers. So I wouldn't get discouraged here for the simple reason that I think gold and silver shares are now as cheap as they've ever been in history relative to where they are going. So it's a great buying opportunity, but very few people seem to be willing to take advantage of it.
Read John Embry's latest interview with The Gold Report here.
SR: Rick Rule, what is happening in the platinum and palladium sector?
Rick Rule: Platinum and palladium benefit from all of the factors concerning precious metals. They have for many centuries fulfilled the same roles with regard to stores of value and mechanisms for transferring or storing wealth as gold and silver. Where they differ a bit is on the supply side. All of us know that a lot of the gold and silver that has been mined historically has been stored in vaults. So in the near term, supply considerations in gold and silver have to do with sellers' intentions. I, like the prior speakers, believe that the holders' intentions will turn very bullish, and it will be very good for gold and silver prices. But platinum and palladium supplies are different. They don't get stored. They get used.
Currently, worldwide stocks of finished platinum and palladium bullion are less than one year's platinum and palladium fabrication demand. The supply story gets more interesting because as a consequence of not having any stored bullion, the only supply is new mine supply and recycled supply. That new supply is very, very concentrated. South Africa constitutes 75% of world platinum supply and 39% of world palladium supplies. Russia supplies 13% of platinum supplies, 41% of palladium supplies. In many cases, current metal prices do not earn the cost of production. The consequence is that new mine supply, which is the most important source of supply, is declining. This isn't something that's going to occur in the future. It's something that is occurring right now. Further, costs are going up because workers' wages have to go up. Social take in the form of taxes, rents and royalties have to go up, but they can't because the industry doesn't earn its cost of capital. On the demand side, platinum and palladium provide incredible utility to users. We anticipate that the utilization of platinum and palladium will continue to grow even in the face of supply declines. There is only one way that dichotomy can be resolved, and that's in the form of price.
It is also worth knowing that just in the last year and a half, platinum and palladium have begun to enjoy elevated status from an investment point of view. The physical inventory held by exchange-traded products (ETPs) like our own Sprott Physical Platinum and Palladium Trust have increased dramatically. This could exacerbate an already-troubled supply-demand imbalance.
Read Rick Rule's latest interview with The Gold Report here.
SR: Eric Sprott, what is going on in the silver market?
Eric Sprott: Marc indicated that he was a 25% investor in precious metals; I am probably an 80% investor in precious metals. Silver COMEX inventories have held up even though the price has gone down. It's sort of an interesting contrast with gold where there were huge redemptions in the ETFs. Those redemptions, in my mind, were created to solve the physical shortage. We had 700 tons of ETF liquidation. That would represent close to 50% of all mine supply annually, in other words, an increase in supply. But it was needed because we definitely have a shortage.
I continue to believe that silver will be the investment of the decade because 1) of its industrial uses and 2) it will take very little investment demand to really move things along.
We have years where people are buying 50 times more silver than gold, and yet mine production is only 11:1 silver versus gold. By my calculation, we only have 3 oz of silver available for investment purposes for every ounce of gold. Every time I'm talking to metal dealers, my favorite question is: What part of your business is silver, and what part is gold? And almost everyone says, 50/50. I guarantee you, that cannot continue.
What I really want to talk about is what I think is the investment opportunity of my lifetime. I happen to very firmly believe that within the next year, gold will be through $2,000/oz. I've chosen $2,400/oz as a target of where it will be in a year. That has amazing implications for gold equities. Back in 2000, I was beginning to aggressively buy mining stocks. We would buy up to 15% of companies like Eldorado Gold Corp. (ELD:TSX; EGO:NYSE) and Goldcorp Inc. (G:TSX; GG:NYSE), Cambior Inc. and High River Gold Mines Ltd. (HRG:TSX). At the time, I thought if gold could ever get to $400/oz, maybe these companies whose costs then were $300/oz could earn $100/oz and we could make three or four times our money. With most producers averaging around $1,000/oz costs, if the gold price goes to $2,400/oz, you have $1,400/oz of margin. That is 14 times the opportunity in 2000.
That could be huge. Take two examples. I'm not recommending these particular stocks; I just want to use them as examples. If production at Veris Gold Corp. (VG:TSX; YNGFF:OTCBB), for instance, is 150,000 oz and the margin is $1,400/oz, that could be $147M in earnings, put a measly 10 multiple on it, and you have a stock that can go up 2,000%. Veris has a royalty agreement with Newmont Mining Corp. (NEM:NYSE), which will kick in another $30M. And I think production next year will be higher than this. So you can add onto that.
Another example is San Gold Corp. (SGR:TSX.V). It has a market cap of $64M. We recently bought a private placement here, where we paid 2.5% of the five-year high in this producer. That's how desperately underperforming that equity was and a lot of equities are in this market—2.5% of its previous five-year high. Same analysis, with a $64M market cap, production of 85,000 oz, and potential profit of $83M, the stock can go to $830M. You have a 1,200% gain, hopefully in a year. And it's the in-a-year part that to me represents the opportunity of a lifetime.
I totally subscribe to the manipulation of gold and silver and the shortages of gold and silver. I've written many articles asking whether the central banks have any gold left and what is going to happen to gold when they finally give up the ghost, which I believe is coming. That is why I think the opportunity in the equities is spectacular. Of course, also I'm a great believer in owning physical gold and silver with my particular emphasis on silver these days.
Read Eric Sprott's latest interview with The Gold Report here.
View the Sprott Precious Metals Roundtable webcast here.
Swiss-born Marc Faber, who at age 24 earned his Ph.D. in economics magna cum laude from the University of Zurich, has lived in Hong Kong nearly 40 years. He worked in New York, Zurich and Hong Kong for White Weld & Co., an investment bank historically managed by Boston Brahmins until its sale to Merrill Lynch in 1978. From 1978 to 1990, Faber served as managing director of Drexel Burnham Lambert (HK), setting up his own investment advisory and fund management firm, Marc Faber Ltd. in mid-1990. His widely read monthly investment newsletter Gloom Boom & Doom Report highlights unusual investment opportunities. Faber is also the author of several books, including "Tomorrow's Gold: Asia's Age of Discovery" (2002), which spent several weeks on Amazon's bestseller list and is being translated into Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Thai and German. He also contributes regularly to leading financial publications around the world. Much also has been written about Faber. Nury Vittachi, one of Asia's most popular writers and speakers, published "Riding the Millennial Storm: Marc Faber's Path to Profit in the Financial Markets" (1998). The Financial Times of London described him as "something of an icon" and Fortune called him a "congenital contrarian and shrewd Swiss investment advisor."
John Embry is chief investment strategist at Sprott Asset Management and Sprott Gold and Precious Minerals Fund. He also co-chairs the Central GoldTrust Board of Trustees. An industry expert in precious metals, his experience as a portfolio management specialist spans more than 45 years. He joined Sprott in 2003, after 15 years as vice president of equities at RBC Global Investment.
Rick Rule, founder and chairman of Sprott Global Resource Investments Ltd., began his career in the securities business in 1974. He is a leading American retail broker specializing in mining, energy, water utilities, forest products and agriculture. His company has built a national reputation on taking advantage of global opportunities in the oil and gas, mining, alternative energy, agriculture, forestry and water industries.
Eric Sprott has over 40 years of experience in the investment industry. In 1981, he founded Sprott Securities (now called Cormark Securities Inc.), which today is one of Canada's largest independently owned securities firms. After establishing Sprott Asset Management Inc. in December 2001 as a separate entity, Sprott divested his entire ownership of Sprott Securities to its employees. Sprott's predictions on the state of the North American financial markets have been captured throughout the last several years in an investment strategy article that he authors titled "Markets At A Glance." Sprott has been widely recognized for his strategic insights and his accurate market predictions over the years. His newest ventures are Sprott Money Ltd. and Sprott Physical Platinum and Palladium Trust.
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