Gold - the Ultimate Bubble
What George Soros said, and what the press said he said...
"GEORGE SOROS warns gold is now the 'ultimate bubble'," ran the Daily Telegraph headline.
What Soros actually said was:
"When interest rates are low we have conditions for asset bubbles to develop, and they are developing at the moment. The ultimate asset bubble is gold."
I don't know what was in the great man's head when he said this, but it's just possible he was making rather more accurate use of the English language than The Daily Telegraph - who inserted the 'now' themselves.
"Ultimate" means final. It does not mean "mother-of-all" except near the Thames Estuary, an area made popular with journalists by its proximity to their factories, but not the sort of place an Hungarian hedge fund manager would hang out.
Mr Soros of course would be correct in saying that the final asset bubble in a string of asset bubbles tends to be gold. But since an estuarine interpretation inverts the guru's advice, you will need to decide for yourself which he meant. So here's some data:
- At the culmination of the string of asset bubbles which popped in 1929, physical gold multiplied its investment purchasing power by 17 times in the subsequent five years.
- In the 1970s - after gold's use as a brake on currency production was abandoned - its investment purchasing power multiplied 15 times in nine years.
- From its 'ultimate' low in 2000 gold is up about four times - unremarkable next to the recent performance of other asset classes.
If gold is in a bubble, it's not going to make much of a pop.