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Currency Cold War
It isn't much of a secret that gold mining shares have suffered greatly in the past 18 months. In fact, since the summer of 2011 the Market Vectors Gold Miners ETF (GDX) has plummeted nearly 40%. That has caused many precious metal investors to give up hope on mining shares altogether; and to also now anticipate a tremendous plunge in gold prices.
Nevertheless, I believe gold and gold mining shares offer investors a great value at this juncture and let me explain why.
Interest rates in nominal terms are at record lows and have been promised by the Fed to remain near zero for an indeterminate duration. To highlight this point, Fed Vice Chairman Janet Yellen said in a speech to the AFL-CIO this week that the central bank may hold the benchmark lending rate near zero even if unemployment and inflation hit its near-term policy targets. Yellen said the Fed's objectives of a 6.5% on the unemployment rate and 2.5% inflation rate are merely, "...thresholds for possible action, not triggers that will necessarily prompt an immediate increase" in the FOMC's target rate. "When one of these thresholds is crossed, action is possible but not assured." Her statements underscore the fact that the $85 billion per month worth of Fed debt monetization and ZIRP will not end anytime soon.
Since the Fed is NOT anywhere close to raising interest rates or reducing its bond purchases, this should also allay fears that the U.S. dollar is about to enter into a secular bull market. The greenback is just about unchanged on the DXY over the past 12 months and has been mostly range-bound between 79 and 81 during that timeframe. There isn't any evidence that the USD is ready to soar in value against our six largest trading partners. Without a new bull market in the U.S. dollar, the price of gold cannot enter into a secular bear market.
Regarding the notion that the dollar is about to re-emerge as the world's most desirable currency holding, the G20 nations meeting in Moscow this week released a statement proclaiming they are not currently engaged in a currency war. In saying they embrace "market-determined" exchange rates, these most wealthy nations sought to calm fears that Europe, Japan and the United States were outwardly competing to win the crown of the world's weakest currency.
However, in truth the U.S. and Japan are already in the middle of a currency cold war...at the very least. The BOJ has committed to a 2% inflation rate, which is the same target inflation rate the Fed has adopted. To that end, both the Fed and BOJ are purchasing massive quantities of bank debt. Asian Development Bank President Haruhiko Kuroda (the most likely candidate to take over the Japanese central bank next month) said this week, "A two percent inflation target has become a global standard, and it is a landmark decision on the BOJ's part to adopt the same target." The only way a nation can achieve a sustained rate of inflation is to commit to a perpetual increase in the rate of currency creation. This action will send real interest rates further into negative territory. Since both the BOJ and Fed are in a tacit currency war, the only guaranteed winner will be precious metals.
Another factor boosting gold prices is the fact that debt accumulation in the U.S. continues unabated. Not only is the debt to GDP ratio already above 105%, but future deficits are projected to accrue at rates that are 4 times larger than before the Great Recession of 2007. Even if D.C. adopts the sequestration come March 1st, the 2013 budget deficit will still be $845 billion! However, in the unlikely event that sequestration is actually adopted, there is tremendous pressure for Washington to increase its deficits even more. The afore mentioned most likely replacement for Ben Bernanke, Janet Yellen, said in the same speech to the AFL-CIO, "I expect that discretionary fiscal policy will continue to be a headwind for the recovery for some time, instead of the tailwind it has been in the past," she continued. "... Fiscal austerity does raise unemployment, weaken the economy and ... in addition undermines the goals for which it is designed to achieve." Former President Bill Clinton is also exhorting larger government spending saying last week that, "Everybody that's tried austerity in a time of no growth has wound up cutting revenues even more than they cut spending because you just get into the downward spiral and drag the country back into recession."
With such huge pressure to increase government spending there is a real prospect of the U.S. producing deficits that continue to increase at far greater rates than GDP growth. This further strengthens the notion that the central bank will continue to monetize government debt in order to prevent interest rates from spiking and rendering the country insolvent.
In addition, because of the cheap cost of money and huge buildup of the monetary base in the U.S., the money supply growth rate as measured by M2 is up 8% YOY. And the Japanese money supply should also be booming soon, as their monetary base was up 10.9% YOY in January.
Finally, central banks have become net buyers of gold instead of net sellers. According to Bloomberg, before the credit crisis began central banks were net sellers of 400 to 500 tons a year. Now, led by Russia and China, they're net buyers by about 450 tons. That isn't news. However, the news is what Russia is now saying about fiat currencies. Vladimir Putin's regime is actively downplaying the dollar's role as the de facto world's reserve currency by saying last week, "The more gold a country has, the more sovereignty it will have if there's a cataclysm with the dollar, the euro, the pound or any other reserve currency," said Evgeny Fedorov, a lawmaker for Putin's United Russia party in the lower house of parliament. Putin's Russia has added 570 metric tons of gold in the last decade.
All of the chatter about gold entering a bear market is patently false. Instead, every bullish fundamental behind a strong bullion market is currently in place--and if anything those factors are becoming even more pronounced each day. Currency cold wars, massive debt accumulation, negative real interest rate levels, rising inflation targets, central bank bullion purchases, rising money supply growth rates and the tenuous condition of the dollar as the world's reserve currency; all lead to the conclusion that gold is nearing the end of a long consolidation inside a secular bull market, and readying for the next major move to new all-time highs.