The price of gold is going down. That is what the charts, newspapers and pundits are all saying. What I think they are deliberately not saying is that the value and desirability, as opposed to the price of gold, is going up and will go up further.
Make no sense? Well I think it does if you remember there are two types of ‘gold’ for sale. One is metal, the other is paper. It is paper gold that is being dumped not the metal. The metal is being bought at a fair old rate. But because there is so much paper gold around and the major sellers and market makers in paper gold prefer metal and paper to be confused, even thought to be identical (their trade depends on this confusion), no one seems to be pointing out the very different dynamic happening in paper and metal gold.
Paper gold is being sold. And those selling it are the likes of Soros Fund Management LLC and BlackRock Inc. As Bloomberg reports today,
Filings showed Soros Fund Management LLC and BlackRock Inc. (BLK) were among funds that cut stakes in the SPDR Gold Trust, the biggest gold ETP, in the first quarter.
Does that say Soros and BlackRock no longer want gold? No it does not. It says they don’t want paper gold. They don’t want paper claims of gold. For those that don’t know ETPs (Exchange Traded Products) are very similar to ETF’s (Exchange Traded Funds) and both a paper claims on something rather than the thing itself.
If you buy a gold tracking ETP you are NOT buying gold.If you by an ETF based on bank shares, for example, you do not own any bank shares. In both cases you own a piece of paper which says it will match the price of the gold or bank shares. It is these paper claims that big players seem to be selling as fast as they can without it looking like they are going for the exit. In fact, I think that is exactly what they are doing.
The fact is there is a vast pyramid of paper claims on gold which dwarfs the amount of actual gold avaialable. Since the trade in gold ETFs took off we have been living in a fiat gold world. There are as many claims on gold as there are bits of paper on which to print them. And this fact confuses a great deal of the punditry about gold as a safe haven.
In the Bloomberg piece we find Mr James Moore, an analyst at FastMarkets Ltd. in London saying,
The reasons for holding safe-haven assets have abated…Investors are looking again at stronger growth assets.”
I think he is wrong. 180 degrees wrong. I think the reason Soros and BlackRock are selling paper gold is because they know paper claims are not safe. Bits of paper with the word gold printed on them are not gold themselves and their claims in the metal are not safe. I suspect we will find they have sold paper and bought metal.
I think Soros and BlackRock have sold paper gold because, contrary to Moore, the reasons for holding safe haven assets have not abated but are getting stronger. I am not saying ‘buy gold’. I do not offer investing advice. I am not saying gold will save you. I am also not saying that people are not looking for higher yielding investments. Because they are. They are caught in a nasty trap of really needing yield in a world they can also see is getting more volatile and less safe. What is a thrusting city boy to do? Answer, invest other people’s money in risk and keep quiet about what you are investing in yourself.
Of course you cannot get around the fact that the price of gold is going down. Which would seem to make my argument ridiculous. But it doesn’t. The confusion is that the price and value of Gold backed ETF’s not only ‘tracks’ the value of gold but impinges heavily on it. ETF’s are sold as a way of ‘tracking’ the value of a kind of share or commodity of ‘getting exposure to it’. But the whole family of Exchange Traded products has become so large, in some cases much larger than the size of the underlying market they are just supposed to be passively tracking, that they are not longer just tracking they are having a decisive influence upon it it.
Thus as people sell gold ETF paper, that is causing the price of not only paper gold but metal gold to decline as well. And what I think this is doing is creating a buyers paradise – if you have the pockets to take the risk. With one hand you sell paper claims on gold, let people confuse paper and metal and talk about how the price and desire for ‘gold’ is declining, and then with the other hand buy the metal. End result the amount of paper gold declines but along side that decline some people sell real gold which you buy. You end up, if the game holds together, being able to buy real metal as the price declines, knowing that the price of paper and metal will diverge, at some point, rather drastically.
While Soros and BalckRock have been selling paper gold China, Russia, India and Iran have all been buying it. Last year alone (2012) China bought more than 500 tons of gold which is more than the ECB owns.
I continue to believe as I have for several years now that China and Russia along with India, Japan, Venezuela and Iran are looking seriously at sharing a new reserve currency and have planned to be able to advertise it as being significantly backed by gold. In that article I linked to a series of articles I have written looking at various aspects of the idea. I think the idea looks more and more likely.
For those who wish I have written about ETFs as being the Next accident waiting to happen and a part two in which I looked at the inherent insatbilities of the ETF markets just waiting to blossom, espcially as they grow larger than the market they are ‘tracking’.