Most gold market analysts don’t understand the most basic law of economics

November 14, 2014

I start reading a lot more articles about gold than I finish reading. This is because as soon as I read something in an article that reveals a very basic misunderstanding about the gold market, I stop reading. Sometimes I don’t even get past the first paragraph. Life is too short and there is so much to read that I refuse to waste time reading the words of someone who has just demonstrated cluelessness on the topic at hand. Here are some of the ‘red flag’ statements and arguments in a gold-related article that would stop me in my tracks.

1) Treating annual gold mine production as if it were a large part of the supply side of the equation.

In other metals markets it can make sense to treat new mine supply as if it were a proxy for total supply, but in the gold market the mining industry’s annual production is roughly equivalent to only 1.5% of total supply (see my earlier post on this topic). Therefore, as soon as an article starts comparing the amount of gold bought by a country or market segment with the mining industry’s annual production, as if the mining industry’s production was the main way in which gold demand could be satisfied, I stop reading.

2) Misunderstanding the relationship between supply, demand and price.

Many gold-market analyses are unwittingly based on the premise that the law of supply and demand doesn’t apply to gold. What I mean is that a lot of what passes for analysis in the gold market contains comments to the effect that the demand for physical gold rose relative to supply during a period even though the price fell during that period. I stop reading as soon as I see a comment along these lines. The author of the article may as well have held up a big sign that says: “You’re wasting your time reading this because I’m completely clueless”.

The falling price in parallel with rising demand scenario favoured by too many gold-market commentators is absolutely, unequivocally, impossible. If demand is attempting to rise relative to supply, then the price MUST rise. Note that I say “attempting” to rise, because, in a market that is able to clear (such as the gold market), supply and demand will always be the same, with the price changing to whatever it needs to be to maintain the balance. Furthermore, the change in price is the only way to tell whether demand is attempting to rise relative to supply or whether supply is attempting to rise relative to demand. If the price falls over a period then it is an irrefutable fact that demand attempted to fall relative to supply during that period.

On a related matter, many people fall into the trap of confusing trading volume with demand. However, trading volume generally doesn’t imply anything about demand or price.

A change in volume is never an explanation for a price change and is never an indication of whether demand is attempting to rise or fall relative to supply. The reason is that every transaction involves an increase in demand on the part of the buyer and an exactly offsetting decrease in demand on the part of the seller.

3) The selling of “paper gold” explains how the price of physical gold can fall in parallel with surging demand for physical gold.

No, it doesn’t; an increase in the demand for physical gold cannot be satisfied by an increase in the supply of “paper gold”. Regardless of what is happening in the so-called “paper” markets (e.g., the futures market), if the demand for physical gold attempts to rise relative to the supply of physical gold then the price of physical gold will rise to maintain the balance.

Now, you could reasonably argue that the goings-on in the “paper” markets affect the physical market in such a way that the holders of physical gold offer their gold for sale at lower prices than would otherwise have been the case, but this is very different from arguing that the price fell while demand increased relative to supply. For anyone who cares about logic and who understands the most basic law of economics, the latter argument is nonsense.

4) Adding up the flows of gold between different geographic regions or between different parts of the market as if the resultant information could explain past price movements and predict future price movements.

This is a corollary to item 2). It involves making the mistake of treating trading volume as a fundamental driver of price. In popular gold market analyses, this mistake most often manifests itself as treating the flow of gold into China as if it were a hugely bullish fundamental.

Think of the gold world as containing only two traders called China and World-Excluding-China (WEC). If WEC becomes a net seller of gold, then China must become a net buyer of gold to the same extent. The question is: How far will the price have to fall before China is prepared to buy all the gold that WEC wants to sell or WEC’s desire to sell is sufficiently reduced to restore balance? By the same token, if WEC becomes a net buyer of gold, then China must become a net seller of gold to the same extent. The question then becomes: How far will the price have to rise before China is prepared to sell all the gold that WEC wants to buy or WEC’s desire to buy is sufficiently reduced to restore balance?

The answers to such questions are never known ahead of time. In any case, the point is that flows of gold from one part of the world to another convey little or no information about price, so why do so many gold-market analysts fixate on them?

5) Presenting intra-day price charts showing sharp ‘inexplicable’ declines to make the case that the gold price is being manipulated downward.

This counts as misinformation by omission, as even during a downward trend there will be roughly as many sudden and ‘inexplicable’ intra-day price rises as there are price declines. This has been demonstrated by “Kid Dynamite” HERE and in the related articles at the bottom of the linked post. (Note: In case it isn’t obvious, Kid Dynamite is not attempting to show that the gold price is being manipulated upward. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, he is attempting to show that similar ‘evidence’ used to support the downward manipulation case can be used to support an upward manipulation case.)

You should ask yourself why some bloggers and newsletter writers only show you the intra-day downward spikes. Are they unaware of the upward spikes, or are they trying to mislead you?

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A hated sector with asymmetric return potential

November 11, 2014

I was just sent THIS LINK (thanks Richard) to a very interesting article. Actually, the entire web site (Capitalist Exploits) looks like it would be worth exploring, but at this stage I’ve only read the one article.

The article shows the average annual 3-year returns from a bombed-out sector, industry and country. For example, it points out that stock-market sectors that have fallen by 80% from their highs have, on average, achieved a nominal return of 172% per year over the ensuing 3 years.

With GDXJ having suffered a peak-to-trough shellacking of 87%, this has relevance to the gold-mining sector.

The gold sector’s 2-3 year risk/reward is phenomenally attractive, regardless of whether or not gold’s long-term bull market is intact. However, it would be unwise to attempt to take advantage of this exceptional intermediate-to-long-term profit potential via leveraged ETFs. I explained why in a previous post.


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First-hand impressions of the “Umbrella Movement”

November 10, 2014

I went to Hong Kong last weekend to get a first-hand look at the protests that are now commonly referred to as the “Umbrella Movement”. I went there believing that the protest movement had very little chance of achieving its main objective, which is to gain a ‘free and fair’ election process for Hong Kong, and came away with the same opinion.

The current protests are taking place in three parts of HK — in the streets around the central government offices in Admiralty (near Central on Hong Kong Island), along part of Nathan Road in Mong Kok (a major shopping area on the Kowloon side of HK), and Causeway Bay (a popular shopping/tourist area on Hong Kong Island). Protestors have blocked off some main streets using makeshift barricades and set up camp.

This must be one of the most peaceful mass protests ever. There are thousands of tents on the streets in the protest areas, but apart from numerous signs demanding “civil nomination” for political office and a few people giving speeches to small crowds at night-time, it doesn’t even seem like a protest. Rather, it seems as if a tent-dwelling community decided to make a home in the middle of a bustling metropolis. There are first-aid tents, covered study areas with many desks so that the students participating in the protest can keep up with their schoolwork, food and drink distribution points, and basic toilet/shower facilities. Also, the occupied areas are kept clean and tidy (there is no rubbish lying around). There was a police presence at Mong Kok (a few dozen uniformed police men and women were standing around the outside of the protest area looking bored), but not at Admiralty.

Here are some of the photos I took.

These photos show the tent cities:


These photos show what is now known as “Lennon Wall”. The wall is part of an elevated road in Admiralty and is coated with countless thousands of messages of support.


Finally, these photos show a first-aid tent, two covered study areas, and examples of the protestors’ artwork:



Overall, it appears to be business as usual in HK. Most people are going about their daily lives as if nothing out of the ordinary is going on, and Hong Kong has adjusted to having no vehicular access to the parts of the city occupied by the protestors. However, the situation could turn ugly, as it did for a few days in September, if the government makes another attempt to forcibly remove the protestors.

Although I couldn’t gauge the general level of support for the protest movement within the HK population, I suspect that most HK residents do not want to ‘rock the boat’ for the sake of greater political freedom. Furthermore, there is clearly some animosity towards the protestors on the part of HK people whose businesses have been disrupted by having some main streets blocked off. In one case, this animosity took the form of a high-volume tirade from a taxi driver when he was asked by my wife for his opinion about the protests.

Hong Kong’s rapidly-rising cost of living is one of the root causes of the discontent that led to the mass protests, but this problem would almost certainly not be addressed by ‘the people’ gaining more influence over who occupies the top political offices. The reason is that hardly anyone involved in the protest movement understands that the high cost of living is due to HK being crushed between the inflationary policies of the US and China.

Thanks to the HK dollar’s peg to the US dollar, HK’s monetary authority essentially follows the US Federal Reserve. This means that despite the steep upward trend in HK prices, interest rates are still being held near zero and the money supply is still being inflated at a brisk pace (it is up by 15% over the past 12 months). At the same time, as a result of the appreciation of the Yuan relative to the US$ and the large price rises in China’s major cities courtesy of rampant monetary inflation in that country, prices in HK still appear reasonable to the mainland Chinese who continue to flood into HK to spend money.

Hong Kong’s “inflation” problem looks destined to get worse over the coming 12 months, which could lead to more widespread support for the “Umbrella Movement”. But in the absence of a general understanding of the nature of the problem, taking a step in the direction of democracy is not going to help.

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Anticipating the end of the gold-stock crash

November 4, 2014

The gold mining sector entered crash mode last Wednesday (29th October). These types of events typically last 5-6 trading days, although they are sometimes a little shorter and sometimes a little longer. Based on the typical length of a multi-day crash the most likely time for a low is therefore this Tuesday (day 5) or Wednesday (day 6).

It is not uncommon for a multi-day crash to be interrupted by one ‘up day’. For example, a 6-day crash could entail three down days followed by an up day and then two more down days to complete the decline. Monday’s bounce in the gold-mining indices and ETFs is therefore not evidence that the crash is over. However, another advance of at least a few percent on Tuesday 4th November would be evidence that the crash is over.


Incredibly, both the Central Fund of Canada (CEF) and the Central Gold Trust (GTU) are now trading at discounts to their net asset values of almost 10%. This means that purchasing CEF near its current price is roughly equivalent to paying $1050/oz for gold and $14.50/oz for silver. The unusually large discounts at which these bullion funds are now trading is an indication that gold and silver are almost as out-of-favour as they ever get.


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