GLD, Stagflation, and You

by Sten_Duncan2

Now, there is a reason that commercial advertisements for gold target demographics that we will generously call “unsophisticated”. Gold is perfect for short term thinkers/investors because doesn’t actually grow in the long term the way equities or bonds do. But to understand the powerful short term play I’m talking about, we need to understand the role gold actually plays in the international monetary system.

After WW2, the Allied powers got together and realized that they needed a way to avoid the hyperinflation of 1930’s Germany which had led to the war. In order to ensure currency stability the entire world agreed to peg their currencies to USD. And USD would be backed by gold. If one of the currencies was too much in demand, threatening the carefully managed exchange rates, than the IMF would step in and pump or dump the currency until it returned to the right exchange rate.

That system worked great until around 1971, when Nixon lost tons of the government’s tendies napalming rice paddies. The US government paid for the war with debt, and by 1971, Nixon was afraid of actually getting margin called. So he, with no notice to anyone, announced that the US dollar was no longer backed by gold. Suddenly it was a free for all. The US economy was hit with both high unemployment and high inflation, other currencies floated all over the place. Basically, it was the chaos we have today.

So Duncan, you might ask, does anyone buy gold today? Well, almost every central bank in the world continues to hold gold, and lots of it. The reason they do so is the same reason almost all historic currencies were based on gold: that because gold can’t easily be printed, it can’t be easily be manipulated, and it can’t easily be degraded or destroyed. In fact, it’s perks strongly parallel those of Bitcoin. In the event of a crisis, a country can liquidate its gold reserves for more currency. This is especially helpful when a reserve currency, or the native currency is in trouble. For example, we see Venezuela, whose own currency is totally worthless, USD reserves are useless due to sactions, and therefore it has turned to its gold reserves to pay for imports of food and medicine.

Gold’s reputation as a systemic-risk hedge is so great, that in times of market instability or crisis, it actually assumes a negative beta. That is, it moves opposite equities. However because it is an almost fixed quantity asset, it also changes value against other currencies. So, when we have our friend Jerome running his printer like crazy, increasing the money supply at an unprecedented rate, he should be increasing the price of gold, or rather, making the USD/Gold exchange rate higher. In fact, we see that around late 2018 the trump tax cut began to pump more liquidity into an already hot economy, starting a USD/Gold price increase. Likewise, as the world economies look more and more risky, and the world’s reserve currency’s M2 expands faster than Boogie2988 after a breakup; we should see central banks continue to purchase gold as a hedge against continued economic instability.

The Fed has made it clear, that it will do everything possible to avoid deflation. However, after 10 years of historically low interest rates and at times QE, consumers simply have not seen wages or prices increase significantly. So where has that steadily increasing money supply gone? Well, the answer appears to be that some assets are experiencing inflation: Financial instruments, urban housing, medical care, and college tuition–anything that can be funded through cheap debt–have taken the brunt of inflation. Meanwhile the average American consumer can’t even find 4 hundred dollar bills to rub together in an emergency. So we can be almost certain that the Fed will keep printing, in the misguided belief that its freshly minted money will eventually trickle down to the American consumer, but in the process the Fed will raise the price of stocks, bonds, houses, colleges, medicine, and most importantly gold.

As we have discussed, gold is good for two things: hedging inflation, and reducing systematic risk. And right now, both of those traits are looking very, very valuable.

8/1 180c GLD

 

Disclaimer: This information is only for educational purposes. Do not make any investment decisions based on the information in this article. Do you own due diligence.