Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gold & Treasury Bubbles

We are in the midst of yet another bubble yet it's very difficult to recognize bubbles until they burst.  No, the bubble isn't Gold, it's U.S. Treasuries.

John Paulson presented a simple, but compelling case for Gold. First, the monetary base has exploded in a way we've never seen before. The monetary base is essentially the Federal Reserve Bank's currency and reserves. The Fed, by buying up securities in this crisis, has pumped a lot of money into the economy.

As Paulson explained, that's because this base money has not yet been lent out and multiplied throughout the economy. Yet the monetary base and money supply are highly correlated, "almost 1-to-1 between the two," Paulson said.

That means that as the monetary base expands, the money supply surely follows, though there is a lag. (Money supply is a broader measure of money than just the monetary base, as it includes personal deposits and more. The monetary base is like a kind of monetary yeast. It makes money supply rise.)

If money supply grows faster than the economy, that will create inflation, says Paulson. As it is impossible for the economy to grow anywhere near that vertical spike in the monetary base, Paulson contends inflation is coming.

The U.S. is not alone in its money-printing exercise. The supply of most currencies is expanding rapidly – even the normally tame Swiss franc. In the race of paper currencies, they are all dogs. Hence Paulson's interest in gold, which no government can make on a whim.

Therefore, in the context of the exploding monetary base, gold seems relatively cheap. In other words, as the money supply rises, so does the price of gold, eventually. As a result, says Paulson, "gold has been a perfect hedge against inflation."

There is some slippage over time. The gold price can change faster or slower than the money supply. But when the market gets worried about inflation, the gold price usually changes much faster – as happened in the 1970s. In 1973 – to pick a typical year – inflation was 9% and gold rose 67%. That was a pattern common in the 1970s.

The potential for inflation this time around is greater than it was in the 1970s, given that the growth in the monetary base is so much greater than it was in the 1970s. Gold could do much better this time around, reaching "$3,000 or $4,000, or $5,000 per ounce" as Paulson said.

Future historians will look back at the present day and see clearly how this unfolded. They will see the litany of news items that pointed to the dollar losing its top perch: China and Brazil are settling up trade in their own currencies. The Russians and others are openly calling for a new monetary standard. Even mainstream outlets are discussing alternatives to a dollar-based standard, a province once solely occupied by cranks and gold bugs. Not a week goes by without these kinds of stories.

The gold supply, too, is limited against the vast pool of dollars. As Paulson points out, global money supply is 72 times the value of gold. I'm betting that gap will narrow. It only has to narrow a smidgen and the gold price flies.

As Grant eloquently put it: "Gold is a speculation. But it is a speculation on a certainty: the debasement of the currency." Gold stocks, too, are a speculation. But they are a speculation on an inevitably higher gold price.

A leveraged play on Gold are the small cap Gold Miners.  Miners benefit from the inflationary pricing trends in the price of Gold while also benefiting from the deflationary trends in the production and mining of Gold.

Currently I'm Long New Gold NGD, Aurizon Mines & Newmont Mining, as well as the GDX.

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