Gold Goes Mainstream

Gross: Stock and bond managers today must be alchemists: turn lead into gold. NOT likely. Too much lead (bubbled assets).
–Tweet from Bill Gross, Founder of PIMCO, which manages $1.8 trillion

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“Do you own gold?” “Oh yeah. I do…There’s no sensible reason not to have some.”
–Ray Dalio to the Council on Foreign Relations

This is being written to put the precious metals market in a larger context for those people who still see the world proceeding much as it has proceeded in the past, a world without the large financial and supply chain disruptions that we foresee.

Strong multi-year upmoves in the price of any asset, aka a secular bull market in that asset, go through three stages:

  1. The speculative, early-proponent phase during which the mainstream investment community ignores or derides the potential of that asset.
  2. The mainstream phase, where the mainstream decides that exposure to that asset is a good idea for just about everyone.
  3. The mania phase, where just about everyone feels that they must own that asset and will tell you so when you meet them by chance in the supermarket.

Phase 1 for gold has been marked by derision from the mainstream investment community. Quoting Keynes, they call gold the “barbarous relic.” Otherwise-intelligent economic commentators such as Nouriel Roubini have been calling for a price top in gold for several years. Some who are old enough to have experienced the gold bull market of the 1970s have been saying, “We heard all this before in the 1970s, anyone who buys gold now will regret it later.” All of these people have been wrong all along as gold and silver have powered higher in price.

During most of Phase 1, the major central banks of the world have been sellers of gold, preferring to buy government bonds of various countries (such as Greece and Spain!) to “get a return” on their money. Gold has been a far better investment for the last 12 years. Over the last three years, central banks have become net buyers of gold, to the tune of hundreds of tons per year. Most but not all of this buying has come from Asia as the western central banks have been preoccupied with printing money in a mad scramble to keep their markets afloat.

Gold has been in Phase 1 since 2001. Most in the financial community regard it as an annoyance when their clients ask about it. The price increased from $256 in 2001 to $1,911 in August, 2011.

A couple of weeks ago, Ray Dalio gave a presentation to the CFR. He was asked if he owned gold, and he said, “Oh yeah. I do.” This marked the start of Phase 2, the mainstream phase.

Who is Ray Dalio? Most people in the investment community respect him as the best active hedge fund manager on the planet. We mentioned his firm, Bridgewater Associates, in a previous post. They manage about $140 billion. Ray is highly respected in both financial and political circles.

And the CFR is the Council on Foreign Relations. If you had to pick one organization that has the most influence on the mainstream political thought in the US, it would have to be the CFR. It was founded by the Rockefellers. You have to apply for membership. There are currently 4,700 members, including Bill Clinton, Robert Zoellick, Janet Yellen, Paul Wolfowitz, Lloyd Blankfein, Jamie Dimon…in other words, the CFR is the public face of The Powers That Be/Were.

Now that all of these mainstream movers and shakers have heard from what some consider the smartest money man on the planet that owning gold is a good idea, well, if we haven’t yet convinced you to get rid of a mainstream financial advisor such as a broker, said broker is likely to be calling you in the not-too-distant future with their “innovative” idea that you should get some gold. Of course, being mainstream, they will likely advise you to own it in paper rather than physical form, which will be a big mistake, but that will be their advice. And they will advise that you put a maximum of 5% of your assets into gold or gold mining stocks. In normal times, this would characterize the mainstream phase for gold, during which its price would rise steadily for years.

More evidence that we’ve entered the mainstream phase comes from Bill Gross, known to many as the “Bond King.” Gross founded PIMCO, which manages over $1.8 trillion. Yes, that’s trillion with a T. Almost all of the money is in conservative bond funds. But here’s a tweet this week from Gross:

Gross: Stock and bond managers today must be alchemists: turn lead into gold. NOT likely. Too much lead (bubbled assets).

Note that Gross, the Bond King, is saying that stocks and bonds are bubble markets. That money managers should turn that lead into gold. Though he also says that’s not likely.
Those who hate gold claim gold is in a bubble. Great examples of bubble markets are internet stocks in 1998 through early 2000; or real estate running up to 2006; or government bonds now. Gold, on the other hand, has had a nice steady rise for years, nothing meteoric or bubble-like at all. And here is someone, Bill Gross, who may know more about bonds than anyone on the planet, saying that bonds and stocks are the bubble, not gold.

Gold can’t possibly enter a bubble until it enters Phase 3, the mania phase. During this phase, you will be regaled on a regular basis from media sources and individuals with stories of people who got rich from gold and silver. Like the stock day traders of the year 2000, or the real estate flippers of 2006, there will be lots people trading gold on a daily basis, probably at gold trading shops like the day trading shops that were operating in 1999. People will be quitting their jobs to trade precious metals to “make their fortune.” 90% of people who talk about gold will assure you that it is the surest thing on earth to guaranteed riches. CEOs of gold mining companies will be like rock stars, getting interviewed by Charlie Rose. That’s what a bubble looks like. How many people do you know who own gold and silver?

Now, with the acceleration that is all around us, it is unlikely that we will proceed through these three phases of a secular bull market as we would in normal times. It is far more likely that gold will have a meteoric rise quite soon. But if you think that the world will proceed in a conventional manner in the years to come, we have outlined the path of the precious metals for you.

2 thoughts on “Gold Goes Mainstream

    • Thanks, Richard. While this is an interesting question, three points:

      1. Here is a description by a guy who will be familiar to anyone who has ever watched CNBC or the old FNN, Art Cashin, the guy who has managed NYSE floor operations for his brokerage form for decades, of what happened during the famous Weimar hyperinflation:

      Originally, on this day in 1922, the German Central Bank and the German Treasury took an inevitable step in a process which had begun with their previous effort to “jump start” a stagnant economy. Many months earlier they had decided that what was needed was easier money. Their initial efforts brought little response. So, using the governmental “more is better” theory they simply created more and more money. But economic stagnation continued and so did the money growth. They kept making money more available. No reaction. Then, suddenly prices began to explode unbelievably (but, perversely, not business activity)…

      When things began to disintegrate, no one dared to take away the punchbowl. They feared shutting off the monetary heroin would lead to riots, civil war, and, worst of all communism. So, realizing that what they were doing was destructive, they kept doing it out of fear that stopping would be even more destructive.

      This should ring bells about our current situation where central banks (US, UK, Japan, the EU, etc.) keep printing money because the economy keeps not responding. And it’s obvious to all now that if they stopped the printing, the economy would tank deeply. So they are in that position where “no one dared to take away the punchbowl.” That is what is dangerous to people’s earnings and wealth, not what will happen to the price of gold years from now after there is a gold mania.

      2. If you want to know when to sell gold, there is no better guide than Jim Sinclair and his free website. First, Jim is famous for having bought and held large amounts gold during the runup in gold prices from $35 to $850 in the 1970’s and for selling it all on the day of the top in 1980. The very day of the price top! He used a simple calculation then to decide when to sell. He is using that same calculation again. Last I heard, and this was probably at least a year ago, his calculation said to sell when gold reached $12,500 per ounce. But a lot more money has been printed and borrowed since then, so the current target is probably quite a bit higher. Second, and this is verifiable because all of Jim’s writings for the last 12 years are available on CD, in 2001, Jim issued a price target for gold which I think was $1,620 per ounce by January, 2011. So he was giving a ten-year-out price target that said gold would be six times higher in price in ten years. He was off by several months, we didn’t get to $1,620 until August, 2011. I don’t of anyone else on the planet who can lay claim to anything approaching that forecasting feat. Jim is quite rich from his trading and publishes his latest thoughts on gold almost daily here. If you want to follow a great price guide over the long term, I doubt there is anyone better than Jim.

      3. Fiat money is being doubted now by many. And fiat money relies on confidence for its value. We will soon move beyond fiat money and return to a world where money has a basis in what is real. At the beginning, that will mean gold, silver, barter items, and local barter currencies backed by the work and goods of local people. So what will happen to gold after Phase 3 is that it will be money again. We can all be well-served by calculating the prices of things in gold and silver rather than paper currencies. Those who learn that now will be a very large step ahead of the crowd.

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