- Gold's obituary has not been written.
- The US monetary and fiscal policies will not change until there is a currency crisis.
- Gold is still the best hedge against inflation.
It is rare that investors are given a road map. It is rarer still that the vast majority of those who get it are unable to understand the clear signs and directions it contains. When this happens the few who can actually read the map find themselves in an enviable position. Such is currently the case with gold and gold-related investments.
The common wisdom on Wall Street is that gold has seen the moment of its greatness flicker. This confidence has been fueled by three beliefs: A) the Fed is exiting QE by trimming its monthly purchases of Treasury and Mortgage Backed Securities (commonly called the "taper"), B) the growing strength of the U.S. economy is creating investment opportunities that will cause people to dump defensive assets like gold, and C) the renewed confidence in the U.S. economy will shore up the dollar and severely diminish gold's allure as a safe haven.
Recent developments suggest the opposite, that: A) the Fed has no exit strategy and will likely to expand its QE before it ends it, B) the US economy is stuck in below-trend growth and possibly headed for another recession C) America's refusal to deal with its fiscal problems will undermine international faith in the dollar.
The reality is that Washington has now committed itself to a policy of permanent debt increase and QE infinity that can only possibly end in one way: a currency crisis. While the dollar's status as reserve currency, and America's position as both the world's largest economy and its largest debtor, will create a difficult and unpredictable path towards that destination, the ultimate arrival can't be doubted. The fact that few investors are drawing these conclusions has allowed gold, and precious metal mining stocks, to remain close to multi year lows, even while these recent developments should be signaling otherwise. This creates an opportunity.
Gold moved from $300 to $1,800 not because investors believed the government would hold the line on debt, but because they believed that the U.S. fiscal position would get progressively worse.
Investors should be concluding that America will never deal with its fiscal problems on its own terms. In fact, since we have now redefined the problem as the debt ceiling, rather than the debt itself, all efforts to solve the real problem may be cast aside. It now falls on our nation's creditors to provide the badly needed financial discipline that our own elected leaders lack the courage to face. That discipline will take the form of a dollar crisis, which will morph into a sovereign debt crisis. This would send U.S. consumer prices soaring, push the economy deeper into recession, and exert massive upward pressure on U.S. interest rates. At that point the Fed will have a very difficult decision to make: vastly expand QE to buy up all the bonds that the world is trying to unload (which could crash the dollar), or to allow bonds to fall and interest rates to soar (thereby crashing the economy instead).
The hard choices that our leaders avoid will have to be made someday under far more burdensome circumstances. It will have to choose which promises to keep and which to break. Much of the government will be shut down, this time for real. If the Fed does the wrong thing and expands QE to keep rates low, the ensuing dollar collapse will be even more damaging to our economy and our creditors. Sure, none of the promises will be technically broken, but they will be rendered meaningless, as the bills will be paid with nearly worthless money.
In fact, the Chinese may finally be getting the message. Last year, as the debt ceiling farce gathered steam in Washington, China's state-run news agency issued perhaps its most dire warning to date on the subject: "it is perhaps a good time for the befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world." Sometimes maps can be very easy to read. If the dollar is doomed, gold should rise.