Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jim Rickards - The Coming Super Spike in Gold

I consider gold a form of money. That means I investigate price movements in gold the same way I investigate moves in any other global currency — and find the best way for you to play it.

Right now, if you understand physical gold flows, you could stand to make a fortune in the months and years ahead.

Last June, I visited Zurich and was able to meet with some of the most knowledgeable experts and insiders in the physical gold industry. In March, I visited Lugano where I met with the top executive of the world’s largest gold refinery. As a result of these visits to Switzerland, and other points of contact, I have been able to gather extensive information on the major buyers and sellers of gold bullion in the world and the exact flows of physical gold.

This information about gold flows is critical to understanding what will happen next to the price of gold. The reason is that the price of gold is largely determined in “paper gold” markets, such as Comex gold futures and gold ETFs. These paper gold contracts represent 100 times (or more) the amount of physical gold available to settle those contracts.

As long as paper gold contracts are rolled over or settled for paper money, then the system works fine. But, as soon as paper gold contract holders demand physical gold in settlement, they will be shocked to discover there’s not nearly enough physical gold to go around.

At that point, there will be panicked buying of gold. The price of gold will skyrocket by thousands of dollars per ounce. Gold mining stocks will increase in value by ten times or more. Paper gold sellers will move to shut down the futures exchange and terminate paper gold contacts because they cannot possibly honor their promises to deliver gold.

The key to seeing this gold-buying panic in advance is to follow the flows of physical gold. Once the price of physical gold starts to move up on basic supply and demand fundamentals, the stage is set for corresponding increases in paper gold prices. As more and more paper gold holders turn from the paper market to obtain physical gold, which is already in short supply in the physical market, we’ll see the beginning of a price super-spike.

As long as supply and demand for physical gold are in rough equilibrium, there is no catalyst for a sudden spike in gold prices, apart from the usual geopolitical flight to quality demand. But, as soon as demand begins to overwhelm supply, then it’s “game on” for significantly higher physical gold prices followed by the toppling of the inverted pyramid of paper gold contracts.

What information do we have about the flows of physical gold that will help us to understand the supply/demand situation? That’s a mixed bag. Some physical gold players are completely opaque and do not report their purchases or holdings transparently. The Chinese and Saudi Arabians are the least transparent when it comes to reporting their gold market activities.

On the other hand, the Swiss are highly transparent. The Swiss report gold imports and exports by source and destination on a monthly basis.

The Swiss information gives us a window on the world. That’s because Swiss imports and exports are mostly about the Swiss refining business, which is the largest in the world. There are no major gold mines in Switzerland and Swiss citizens are not known as major buyers of gold (unlike, say, Chinese or Indian citizens). The Swiss watch industry does use a lot of gold, but imports are balanced out by exports; Switzerland itself is not a major destination for Swiss watches.

In effect, Switzerland is a conduit for much of the gold in the world. Gold arrives in Switzerland as 400-ounce good delivery bars (the kind I’m holding in the photo above), dorĂ© bars (those are 80% pure ingots from gold miners), and “scrap” (that’s the term for jewelry and other recycled gold objects).

This gold is then melted down and refined mostly into 99.99% pure 1-kilo gold bars, worth about $45,000 each at current market prices. These 1-kilo “four nines” quality bars are the new global standard and are the ones most favored by the Chinese.

By examining Swiss imports and exports, we can see where the supply and demand for physical gold is coming from and how close to balance (or imbalance) that supply and demand is. This information can help us to forecast the coming super-spike in gold prices.