Off to the races
Summer is traditionally a slow season for precious metals, but this summer started with a rout. In the last week of June, gold and silver hit 2-year lows of $1,192 and $18.61 respectively.
Fortunately, after staggering along the lows, the precious metals are off to the races once more – with gold rallying more than 18% and silver 31%. This remarkable performance continues even in the face of the Fed's sustained tapering threats.
The exhaustion of short-sellers paired with insatiable global physical demand has positioned gold for an exciting conclusion to a volatile year.
Back to the Futures
In last month's Gold Letter, I explored the likelihood of a dramatic short squeeze in the gold futures market. With record short positions facing a rising gold price, I anticipated that short sellers would have to cover their bets by buying back the contracts they sold short, and in so doing, drive the yellow metal higher.
While a full-scale short squeeze has yet to develop, speculators have abandoned their record short positions in gold. In each of the first three weeks of August, futures speculators increased their net-long positions, and by August 20th, money management accounts had grown their net-long positions to the highest since February. The futures market reversed course so much that by the third week of the month, gross short positions were at their lowest since April.
That's quite a turnaround during a season usually ruled by the bears. Just as I forecast, this about-face in the futures market was likely a big factor in gold's resurgence.
However, even more important than the action in the futures market is the sustained demand for physical gold worldwide.
Staggering Physical Demand
As Western investors flip-flop on whether or not gold remains a good buy, Eastern and emerging market investors have jumped on these low prices as an unprecedented buying opportunity. At this point, the data supporting physical precious metals demand is so great that it's easier to just list a few highlights from the second quarter of 2013:
- 53% more bullion was purchased worldwide this quarter than in 2012 year-over-year (YoY).
- Demand for gold jewelry worldwide grew 37% YoY.
- Global coin and bar demand hit a quarterly record of more than 500 metric tons.
- For the 10th consecutive quarter, global central banks increased their net gold reserves.
These figures should come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the economies of developing nations. The Indian rupee hit a record low in the last week of August, and South American countries are experiencing tragically high inflation. In particular, the foundering Brazilian currency has hit a four-year low on the back of an official inflation rate of 6.15%.
Maybe these facts are part of the reason short positions are unraveling, or perhaps it was the news of record foreign selling of US Treasuries in June, totaling $40.8 billion.
Treasuries aren't the only US asset being dumped – the Indian, Indonesian, and South African central banks have all been selling dollar reserves this summer as well.
The biggest headwinds countering robust physical demand are the ridiculous narrative of economic recovery and the Federal Reserve's threats to begin tapering its quantitative easing program. I'm astounded that after so many years, the financial media continues to swallow this story hook, line, and sinker.
The media conveniently ignores the data that undermines the government's talk of recovery. For instance, orders for durable goods in July plummeted 7.3%, the largest drop since August of 2012. Durable goods are the manufactured products that last for at least three years – like airplanes, cars, and refrigerators – which are considered a good measure of prosperity.
Rather than come to terms with this disturbing trend, the media focuses on supposedly improving employment statistics. These only make sense if you ignore the fact that part-time jobs are increasing while full-time positions are disappearing. Not to mention the under-reported inflation statistics and overinflated headline GDP I debunk in another recent commentary.
Waving around these artificial statistics, the "experts" anticipate that the Fed has every reason to begin tapering this very month. And that fact is supposed to be extremely bearish for gold.
A Win-Win for Gold
What media analysts are missing is that gold stands to benefit no matter what the Fed does.
If quantitative easing continues – which is where I'm placing my bets – then inflation will continue to rise and investors will need hard assets as a safe haven.
Even if the Fed does taper before year-end, the ensuing carnage in the bond market will cripple the housing market and the broader economy, forcing the Fed to reverse course. An about-face on tapering will cause the Fed to lose face with the markets, as the fragility of the phony recover will finally be laid bare.
Western economies balance precariously on global confidence in the dollar. But the dollar is now structured like a Ponzi scheme – investor confidence is being abused to print dollars to paper over economic problems, thus perpetuating investor confidence. Just as with Bernie Madoff, once the new outside money stops coming in – and it is slowing right now – the whole scheme will collapse spectacularly.
Gold has a very strong outlook as it heads toward the last quarter of the year. Physical demand is traditionally very good in the fall season, which will bolster the already astounding demand statistics for 2013.
More importantly, the economic balancing act supported by misplaced trust in the dollar is beginning to lose its footing. Before long, the current bargain prices of physical precious metals will be remembered like a long-lost dream. Those who refuse to join the race will be left in the dust.
Peter Schiff is Chairman of Euro Pacific Precious Metals, a gold and silver dealer selling reputable, well-known bullion coins and bars at competitive prices.
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