Posts filed under “Commodities”
Here we are beginning the final 2 weeks of the year.
The economy continues to limp along, improving, albeit rather slowly. “Recession fatigue” is likely to make this holiday consumption spree appreciably better than the past 2 years.
Markets have looked a bit tired — and yet — every opportunity to see big whackage has been met by liquidity driven buying. The bid beneath equities remains firm. The bias remains firmly to the upside.
With this year all but over, traders are starting to turn their attention to 2011. Corporate profits appear to be strong, but headwinds include unemployment and real estate. I continue to expect further contraction in RE prices, and my participation in the Case Shiller survey reflects that.
Rotation out of bonds is a major source buying buyer, following 18 months of main street preferences for fixed income products. It is ironic that mom and pop were Treasury buyers during what is likely to be the last gasps of a 30 year bull market in bonds.
Talk about late to the party!
History shows us that the public tends to be the last in. From the shoeshine boy in the roaring 1920s, to buyers of the Nifty-Fifty in the Sixties, then dot com stocks in the 1990s, and once again with bonds in the 2000s, main street joins Wall Street when their greed overwhelms their better sense. It is sad but don’t blame me, I am only pointing out this truth.
Don’t be surprised if the public’s rush into commodities marks that as a top, as well — including Gold.
This is a holiday shortened week — markets closed Friday for Christmas — so we could see some interesting action. The week after are little more than rookies manning the terminals, thin trading, and last minute position closings.
Around this time of year, I like to ask traders and investors the following: What is your plan for next year? What have you learned from your mistakes, what did you do right? (The 2009 Investing Mea Culpas were well received; Look for my 2010 mea culpas next month)
Emerging-market equity prices as measured by the MSCI Emerging Markets Free Index are primarily driven by commodity prices and in particular by metal prices as measured by the Economist Metals Price Index. Currently emerging-market equities are approximately 8 – 10% overpriced given the level of metal prices. Sources: I-Net Bridge; Plexus Asset Management. The ratio…Read More
by Prieur du Plessis, writer of the Investment Postcards from Cape Town ~~~ The prices of industrial metals find themselves at crucial levels as indicated by the Economist Metals Price Index in U.S. dollar – the latest number is my estimate. The upward trend since the market bottomed in the first quarter of last year…Read More
“It’s an open secret among my brethren that if you get Levine, he’s not going to rule for the investor.” -Steven Berk, an investor protection attorney in Washington > Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times takes Judge Painter‘s CFTC accusation against his fellow judge Bruce Levine to a new level: “It would be hard…Read More
My friend and hedge fund manager pal Paul Brodsky is quoted in the WSJ discussing Gold as a Currency. “Over the past 30 years, the correlation between the dollar and gold is minus-0.65—a high negative correlation. It means the dollar and gold are effectively on opposite ends of a seesaw. When the dollar is in…Read More
I try to find people to read who a) I disagree with 2) respect their methodology. It refines my arguments, and clarifies my thinking. Doug Kass is one such thinker. So too are Jeff Saut of Raymond James, and Peter Boockvar of Miller Tabak (Peter publishes the very fine Macro Notes blog here on TBP)….Read More
I love the mere concept of this chart from Jim Bianco — the CRB Index going all the back to the year 1,450: > courtesy of Bianco Research > About now, you may be saying to yourself, “How on earth could anyone find this ancient data — and can it possibly be accurate?” The answers…Read More
Interesting parallels between the cost of shipping dry goods, and the prices of those goods themselves. The caveat is the past 2 years have been somewhat aberrational, and we would need to see much longer history: Baltic Dry Freight Index vs. CRB Index (weekly basis) Hat tip Bill King
Paul Brodsky & Lee Quaintance run QB Partners, a private macro-oriented investment fund based in New York.
Investing in gold is tough because it challenges the investor to come to terms with the faults of his or her government, and then to act upon them. It requires the admission that there is risk in holding cash. This is counter-intuitive to this generation’s vintage of financial asset investor accustomed to thirty years of a credit build-up alongside declining interest rates.
There is certainly much more chatter in the press than in years past surrounding gold, and there certainly is more US retail investment (through ETFs) than there has been. That has been reflected to some degree in its rising price, no doubt. An ounce of gold has risen from about $250 in 1999 to current levels, having moved higher in each year and making it one of the best performing assets over the last ten years. So then, is a person that pays $1,100 an ounce today top-ticking the market by entering a crowded trade that has little upside and great downside?
We don’t think so.
Do your own research. Call your investment advisers and ask them what percentage, if any, they recommend investors allocate towards precious metals. Ring up prominent friends with substantial portfolios and ask them how much gold they have as a percentage of their portfolios. What about your fund managers overseeing, say $50 billion? Are they actually long $2.5 billion to $5 billion in precious metal plays? Our guess is that the figures in both cases will be very small, say 5% to 10% (if any at all).
Let’s extend this thinking. If people you know have only dipped their toes in the water and are doing more watching than investing in gold, then the past ten years of price appreciation must have come from elsewhere. Did it come from institutional investors? No, not in any great way. Most mutual and pension funds that report their holdings don’t own any gold – zip – other than very minor positions in precious metal mining stocks (and these stocks usually comprise less than 1% of their holdings). Hedge funds? Yes, it seems hedge funds have been buying gold but of those that have, most have less than 10% of their holdings in precious metals.
What about foreign central banks, Middle-East sheiks, Russians, ultra-wealthy families around the world? Yes, we would argue they “get the joke” and have been diversifying their wealth out of their home currencies and fiat currency-denominated assets into this scarcer currency.
Currently there is about $55 billion in global gold and silver ETFs – that’s it. (Does that qualify to be in the top ten of the any single issue in the DJIA?) It is estimated that all the gold mined in the last 5000 years is about 130,000 metric tons (each tonne converts into about 35,274 ounces). It’s a cube that would be roughly the size of a tennis court.
So let’s say there are 4.6 billion ounces of gold above ground, which means that at about $1,100/oz, the total global market value of all mined gold is currently worth a little over $2 trillion. By comparison, US Treasury debt was approaching $13 trillion, last we looked and we believe total US equity market capitalization is about $11 trillion. And then there are other bond markets (at least $8 trillion) money market funds, etc. There is also real estate.
In the US alone there is estimated to be about $65 trillion in present value private sector credit outstanding and trillions more in unfunded government obligations. And then there are the financial assets (stocks and bonds), real estate and public sector obligations for the rest of the world.
Global central banks are trying to keep it all afloat by printing even more money (by making more debt). The response by central banks to declining velocity has been and will continue to be the same as their responses to credit deflation – they will continue to print money. They may give it to their fractionally reserved banks that may then use the money multiplier to distribute more credit and in turn raise systemic velocity, or they may give it directly to debtors in the hope they will spend like drunken sailors again.
There is enormous embedded inflation already and more to come. The high-powered money has already been created; it is leveragable and it is there to increase velocity. Higher prices must follow.
Will the Fed and other central banks withdraw liquidity? No, never. They never have and they never will regardless of how many tools they proclaim are in their toolbox to do so. If money velocity picks up leading to rising consumer prices, it will also lead to rising market-priced interest rates. They may decide to cut back their monetization, but they will not drain money.
We can look at price inflation contemporaneously or we can throw the ball ahead of the receiver. The result will be the same. The defense is blitzing; Jerry Rice is standing all alone in the end zone; Joe Montana is going to get sacked….but the ball is already in the air.
At current valuations the gold market is a tiny speck in relation to where perceived global wealth is being housed. The fundamental issue is one of ratios and relative future value. Our bet is that the gold-to-everything-else spread will narrow substantially. We are indifferent to whether gold rises to $10,000/oz. while the DJIA stays at 10,000 or gold stays at $1,100 while stocks and bonds crater. (In fact, we would love it if gold stayed at current levels while financial assets fell because then we would greatly increase our purchasing power vis-à-vis the rest of humanity and wouldn’t owe any capital gains tax!)
Further, we think that fundamentally gold is worth many multiples of its current price. Remember, it rose from $35/oz to $880/oz in a matter of nine years from 1971 to 1980, and the piece de resistance came in the last few months when everyone had to own it and its price went parabolic (it became a bubble).
There is chatter and there are fundamentals. (Consider that 250,000 people watch CNBC on a good day and 10 million people regularly watch Good Morning America. And remember CNBC and most business media focus on financial assets, not commercial business.) We think the gold chatter is a bunch of financial asset predators talking up their businesses. Needless to say, we don’t think gold is a crowded trade.