Silver Stock Report
by Jason Hommel, Jan 2, 2003
What I learned at the San Francisco Gold Mining and Precious Metals Conference on Dec. 1-2, 2002:
I have been diligently studying the precious metals markets through the internet and books for five years now. I’ve written a few articles, trying my best to explain my understanding of the fundamentals of the gold market.
But Dec. 1-2, 2002, was the first time I attended a precious metals convention. It was a unique and incredible learning opportunity. Reading the works of others is just not the same as being able to question the authors in person. I already knew of several areas where my views differ from many gold experts, which is why I have already written on those subjects. The question I had was why virtually nobody is saying the things I wrote about two years ago with my first article for GOLD-EAGLE.com. I found my answer, and it’s worth knowing, because it helps to understand both where we are headed, why so few will speak of it, and why my analysis is sound.
But first, I need to lay the foundation for why I say a rational dollar price for an ounce of gold is $32,567/oz.
I think it’s very important for precious metals investors to know where we are headed so they don’t exit the gold market too soon. I fear the most for those who consider themselves “long and strong” gold investors who think we are headed for only $600 to $1000/oz.
Today, the bottom of the gold market has clearly passed, and now it’s time to determine what the top will be. As I see it, an investor needs to call both the bottom and the top. You have to accurately call both in order to make the best trade to buy low and sell high. For example, let’s assume for a moment that gold will go to a price in excess of $30,000/oz. What would happen if you invested in gold at $300/oz. and sold gold for cash at $3000? You’d first make 10 times the original investment, but then get hit as your cash lost 90% of it’s value as gold went up the next ten fold increase, and you’d just break even. Or, if the dollar continued crashing to zero, you’d lose everything.
That’s my fear: that people don’t know what’s possible in gold, that they don’t know the huge number of dollars that are out there and their current purchasing power relative to the gold market. (Of course, many gold bugs know that paper is worthless and never need to be told that.) Consider the potential of U.S. dollar purchasing power. There are 8.5 Trillion dollars (or near equivalent) in U.S. Banks.
To put that huge number into perspective, let’s look at India. According to the World Gold Council at www.gold.org, India buys about 855 tonnes of gold annually. India is the largest buyer of gold per year in a market that consumes about 4000 tonnes annually. But 1% of the $8.5 Trillion U.S. dollars is $85 Billion, which, at $350/oz., can buy 243 million ounces, or 7550 tonnes, which is almost 9 times as much as India! One percent of U.S. dollars can buy nine times as much gold as India buys in a year. Stop for a moment and think about that. One percent of U.S. dollars would completely overwhelm the gold market.
Currently, the U.S. buys only about 400 tonnes a year, according to gold.org. At $350/oz, 400 tonnes could be purchased for a mere $4.5 Billion. To understand how small $4.5 Billion is in relative terms, it’s 1/1,888th of 8.5 Trillion. That means that only one dollar, out of 1,888 dollars, is interested in buying gold each year! Consider this: if 1/1000th of U.S. dollars bought gold in a year, then U.S. demand would just about double to be about equal to India’s annual gold demand.
There are many corporations and investment funds that have far more than $4.5 Billion to invest. Imagine if only one such giant investment fund that manages in excess of $100 Billion decided to allocate 10% of their holdings to gold, say about $10 Billion worth. One such purchase alone would be more than double current annual U.S. gold demand, and would probably drive the gold price wildly high. But, how high?
To predict a dollar price of gold is to assign rational values to both dollars and to gold. Since the dollar is based on fraud and has no gold backing, then rationally, it has no value. The only way to assign a rational value to the dollar is to assume it could be 100% backed by gold. If the dollar were backed up by less than 100%, say only 5% backed by gold, then the dollar would be valued 20 times more than it should be, and a rational price prediction would require saying that the dollar price for gold should increase 20 fold, or increase 20 times, or increase by a factor of 20, meaning that you’d take the current dollar price for gold, multiply by 20, and then you’d have your rational value figure for gold. But there is not 5% gold backing, there is theoretically only about 1% gold backing, which is why the gold price needs to go up by about 100 times.
Until and unless the dollar is backed 100% by gold, then the dollar is fraud. You cannot predict a rational price for a fraudulent piece of paper, other than zero! Fraudulent dollars may have temporary value to buy things in the real world, but that value is simply not rational, and is the by-product of deception, habit, and the collective insanity of society. It is the job of a rational investor to recognize and avoid buying insanely high values, and to buy undervalued assets. Essentially, the dollar is a bubble based on irrational values, and thus, it will and must collapse. The dollar has the potential to collapse completely, since it has no rational value at all.
Theoretically, however, the dollar could stop collapsing at the point where there were equal amounts of dollars and gold, and then a collapse could be halted if all the gold available were to be pledged to be converted equally into all the available dollars.
Therefore, a rational dollar price prediction for gold can be obtained by dividing available dollars by available gold. The best official figures for these are M3 and the U.S. gold hoard. For those of you who don’t know, M3 is the best measure of the dollar money supply that the U.S. Federal Reserve uses.
M3 http://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/h6/Current/ $8.5 Trillion or (8,500,000 million) U.S. Gold www.fms.treas.gov/gold/index.html 261 million oz.
Admittedly, the official numbers are not very reliable. There are more dollars available than is listed as M3 because there are foreign bank accounts and many counterfeit dollars that are used as money in the world.
And the U.S. gold has not been audited since the 1960’s, and many suspect it is totally gone, and not available at all. Nevertheless, the official numbers are the best figures available that we have to work with. If the figures are wrong, M3 is surely higher, and U.S. gold is surely lower. If either is the case, it would only mean that the rational dollar price for gold should be much higher than $32,000/oz.
At my web site silverstockreport.com, I present a simple calculation: M3 / U.S. gold. Since gold is money, each dollar in existence could potentially buy gold. Current figures as of Nov. 2002 are: 8.5 Trillion dollars / 261 million oz. of gold. This ratio tells us the level to which the dollar needs to devalue if it were to be backed 100% by the U.S. “official” gold again. This number gives me an idea of a potential top of the gold market. This number, at the moment, is $32,567/oz–a number that I do not see discussed by anybody. Why not?
Two years ago, in my first article for GOLD-EAGLE.com, this figure was only $25,000/oz. The difference between $25,000 and $32,567 represents inflation of M3 from 6.6 Trillion in the year 2000, to 8.5 Trillion in late 2002.
The question burning in my mind at the gold mining conference was “Why does nobody mention M3 as a force that can drive the dollar price of gold to about $30,000/oz.?”
This was an extremely important question to me because I believe the excess creation of dollars is the biggest reason why gold will go up in value as measured by dollars. I believe it is this inflation that has already happened (the excess creation of electronic money deposits and paper dollars) that will be the largest driving force behind the rise to come in the gold price. I believe this is bigger than secretive central bank selling, bigger than an impending gold default in futures contracts, bigger than the supply/demand imbalance, bigger than China or Japan or India, or any other factor.
The other reason these numbers are important is that M3 and the U.S. gold are not secret figures, they are public numbers. It takes no conspiracy theory detective work to deduce that they have printed up and put into circulation in the banking system far, far more dollars than is rational.
It is important to note that the chart of the dollar price for gold tells us nothing about how many extra dollars have been created and have yet to express themselves as price inflation, or as a higher price for gold. In other words, the technical chart analysis that we often read from other analysts can say absolutely nothing about how high the gold price will rise in dollars. All they can allude to is potential price movements that would be “off the charts”, but that is too vague and is not very useful.
It is important for my readers to realize that I am not saying that gold will have the value that $32,000 has today. Most likely, the dollar will devalue, and gold will rise in value. If the dollar declines in value by a factor of 10, and gold rises in value by a factor of 10, then that (or some variation thereof) could account for the relative change in value between them which would result in the increase in the dollar gold price by a factor of 100. Perhaps the dollar will devalue by a factor of 5, and gold will increase by a factor of 20. Or the dollar will devalue by a factor of 20, and gold will increase in value by a factor of 5. I am not sure which way things will be valued once the irrational dollar excesses are destroyed. But that is a topic for another time.
However, it is possible that the value of gold and it’s purchasing power does increase 100 fold for certain items. For example, if housing prices are inflated by a factor of ten today due to the easy availability of government granted fiat money loans, and gold is undervalued by a factor of ten, then housing prices, denominated in gold, might swing by a combined factor of 100 when rational values return.
As a real-world example of this, a bag of $1000 face value junk silver coins, in 1980, when silver was at $50/oz., was worth about $35,000, which could buy a house. Today, a house costs about $350,000 and a bag of $1000 face value silver might cost about $3500, or 1/100th the price of the house. I fully expect that a bag of silver will be able to buy a house once again–but this time it will be a much nicer home, simply because there is less silver in the world today than there was in 1980, and therefore it will have more value. The point of this factual historical example is to show that silver has decreased in value by a factor of 100. And if commodities and asset classes move in cycles, then it is not out of the realm of possibility to suggest that gold, or silver, or both, will move up in value by a factor of 100. And thus, there are now two entirely different and solid reasons behind my analysis showing that gold will increase in value by a factor of 100.
Back to the occasion for this article. I had the wonderful opportunity to personally question several people at the mining conference last month who are in the newsletter writing business who have each been commenting on the gold market for well over 20 years. These guys know their stuff. They are well respected in the mining industry, and they make money by selling their advice and knowledge. So, they must be doing something right. They each had booths at the conference, and each spoke several times over the course of the weekend in the large conference hall. I’m a smart man and I did very well in school, but I was very impressed with the verbal ability that these men all had, and how they were able to easily recall in conversation many facts and figures relative to the gold market and the market in general. These men were all absolutely brilliant thinkers and analysts–even if they occasionally did buy into and repeat one or more of the many gold myths that I have identified and debunked in my last essay for gold-eagle.
John Doody and James Dines each mentioned at the conference that gold could reach $3000/oz. Richard Russell (who was not at the conference) also recently wrote of gold hitting $3000/oz. Those predictions alone are very bullish factors for gold, because two years ago, most analysts had a hard time saying $300 was a possibility, and GATA was brave, and virtually alone, in advocating $600/oz. as a possible gold price.
But is $3,000/oz. a rational price for gold, simply because several experts now say so, or is my number more accurate?
I was thinking about indicating by name what each newsletter writer said to me personally, but I decided not to report names, for two reasons. First, given the nature of what some said, I think they would rather remain private. Second, I’m reporting conversations from memory that took place over a week ago, and I might misquote someone slightly, so I will speak about what I learned from the conversations in general, without quoting individuals by name.
When I approached the first expert, I asked, “If you divide M3, which is over 8 Trillion dollars, by the U.S. gold supply, you get over $30,000/oz. gold. (Little did I realize that the number has actually increased to over $32,000 in recent months.) Why is it that nobody seems to mention that number?”
He began, “You don’t need to tell me what M3 means…” He continued by saying it will be foreigners who dump dollars for gold who will push up the gold price, and so therefore, M3 is not a factor compared to the dollars and bonds held by foreigners.
So, again, I asked bluntly, “You mean you don’t think Americans will sell dollars for gold as I have?” This question seemed to fluster him a bit, but this time he replied about how he knows a dollar is fraud and that it takes only pennies to print them, but that it’s a confidence game. He said as long as people have confidence in dollars, the paper dollar will continue to have value. And the conversation ended.
I don’t think his answer really answers my question, because I know that the confidence game is continuing rather well right now. My question concerns what happens when the confidence game ends!
I asked a few further questions, such as “Given that 1% of that $8.5 Trillion still represents a huge amount of buying pressure related to the gold market ($85 Billion dollars, which is about the current valuation of the U.S. official gold reserves), what do you think would happen to the price of gold if 1% of that $8.5 Trillion started buying gold?” He replied by saying that he didn’t think 1% would buy gold any time soon.
Again, that did not really answer my question. I did not ask about the likelihood or timing of when 1% of $8.5 Trillion will buy gold. Instead, I take it as a given fact that will occur at some point rather soon, whether it happens in a year or two years, I don’t care, and it makes no difference to me. Therefore, I did not ask when that will happen. I essentially asked what would happen to the gold price when roughly $85 Billion dollars tries to buy gold? At a gold price of $340/oz., that would be the equivalent of placing an order for 250 million ounces, or 7775 tonnes in a gold market that has annual supply from the mines of 2500 tonnes! Obviously, if a mere 1% of dollars chased physical gold, it would completely overwhelm the gold market and push the dollar price sky high, which is my entire point! I know that current market psychology is against gold in America, and that Americans are mostly ignorant about gold and how many dollars have been created and are now in the banking system. My question represents a hypothetical “what if” scenario, considering what might happen when 1% of that ignorance starts to end!
I went up to the next expert and I said that the various newsletter writers at the conference have begun to predict a $3000 gold price, but I asked why not $30,000? He seemed amused by my suggestion of such a large number. He said plainly, “Let’s worry about getting to $3000 first.” And he also said, “Besides, by that time, I’ll be retired on the beach.” I suppose that was a fair enough answer.
I asked a third expert the same question. He said essentially the same thing, but in a different way, and he gave more reasons. First, he also indicated he would retire in comfort by the time gold hit $3000. But he also said that by that time, he would probably no longer be a public figure in the gold market trying to make a living, but rather, he would retire in privacy. This is why I decided to not mention any names, because of the private nature of the conversation.
But he gave another very interesting reason. Essentially, he said, “What benefit would there be to calling such a top so long in advance? Who would want to be remembered as the person who made such a call by the time it turns out to be right? The world tends to shoot the messenger.” Again, I think that is a fair enough answer.
Note, in none of the cases did the experts say that $32,000 was not a rational number, nor did they refute it as a possibility.
At the conference in a lecture, an important point was raised: The market commentators and newsletter editors are not necessarily in the business of “being right”. You can be right, but the market might have a different answer. These guys are in the business of selling newsletters, not “being right”. People who buy newsletters simply will not subscribe to a service that makes what might appear to be outlandish predictions. People who buy newsletters that are bullish on gold are also the type who have witnessed the 20 year bear market in gold. The average age of the person at the conference seemed to be about 50 or older. The conference attendees, and likely newsletter subscriber base, are not dummies. They all have heard and know that the dollar can potentially become worthless, and the dollar value of gold can go sky high, since that’s the essential factor that sets gold apart. They would much rather know the answer to the much bigger question, which is the agonizing, “When?!”
Now, related to this question of “when”, a number of experts predicted that if gold went through $327 or $330, or $340-$350, then gold would “break out”, and really take off. I spoke with one man who was making this kind of prediction, and I asked another very important question. I said, “In 1971, before the default, gold went from $35 to $43, and then it was pushed down again to $35 and then the default happened. Might the same thing happen today, where gold is pushed down to $300, and then the default will happen and you might not be able to get gold at any price because the market would be virtually closed due to limit up days until a much higher price is reached?” First, he objected to my phrasing, “gold was pushed down”. He said that was a judgment call on why the price moved, so he said let’s just say the price “went down”. Ok, fine. But basically, he agreed that a default could happen at any price at any time, and the market could virtually close down at any price, just like last time. But he didn’t believe that was likely to happen.
Now, back in 1980, I believe people were predicting that the price of gold would rise to $5000/oz. I believe the reason for that prediction was because M3 was about 1.8 Trillion, not the 8.5 Trillion we have today. The M3 to U.S. gold ratio in 1980, at 1.8 Trillion dollars, gives $6896/oz., which is close to the $5000/oz. prediction of the times.
So, my perspective then, is not that the gold price has been manipulated since about the middle of the 1990’s, as GATA has been arguing. This is why GATA predicts a gold price rise to about $600-$1000/oz, and why I’m predicting a gold price rise to about $32,000/oz.
My perspective is that the gold price has been manipulated and held back since 1980, when the government used every deceiving trick available to stop the rapid rise in the gold price. They lured people back into bonds by paying around 20% if I’m not mistaken. This was a high rate, sure, but I do not believe it should have been enough to get people out of gold because gold rose 34% per year from 1970 to 1980.
The other trick used to halt the rise in the gold price was introducing futures and options. They introduced futures trading on Dec. 31, 1974, the very day before they legalized physical gold ownership in the U.S. on Jan 1, 1975. Futures contracts and options lured people into believing that you could invest in these “paper bets” to take advantage of the rising gold price, instead of investing in actual physical metal. I believe buying futures contracts is about as foolish as buying a “gold backed dollar,” the kind that Nixon defaulted on in 1971. In essence, futures contracts siphon away investment demand and keep potentially large buyers away from buying actual metal. Even those who don’t buy futures will falsely reason to themselves, “When the time is right, I’ll invest in gold futures contracts, or options on those futures, if I see gold going up and if I think that trend will continue.” These people are deceived because paper contracts are prone to default, and physical gold in one’s possession can not default. Therefore, a paper promise can never be a substitute for gold.
I believe futures contracts will soon default. My perspective on futures contracts, therefore, is that when the open interest increases, it is not a bullish sign for the gold market. Every time the open interest increases, that represents more deceived investors who want to go long on gold, but think they can do it by not owning actual gold.
My point is that the 20-year bear market in gold discredited the idea that a rational gold price could be calculated by looking at M3 size and growth. For 20 years, this statistical calculation became meaningless to everyone, as mass deception set in on an entire generation of investors. This is probably the main reason why so few speak of this today, but instead speak vaguely and generally about how inflation will cause the gold price to rise.
It is not future inflation that will be the cause of the rise of the gold price. It is the inflation of the past that will drive the price.
But just because M3 hasn’t been useful in the past as an accurate predictor, does not mean that it won’t be useful in the future to predict where we are headed. If it’s not a useful predictor, I invite people to email me and correct me where they think I’m wrong on any of this.
So, why am I writing about $32,000/oz. gold if the idea is mostly discredited and scoffed at? Probably because I’m young (age 32), brave, and I’m not in the business of selling a newsletter. I still “just want to be right” and give people useful information. As I understand it, the higher gold can potentially go, the longer you can afford to wait after buying gold! More importantly, I take it as a given that a default in the gold futures contracts can occur at any moment, and the gold market could literally shut down for days or weeks at a time during which time there are limit up days and you can’t trade or get into the metals market at any price. Therefore, from my perspective, I believe it is best to invest in the precious metals market with nearly 100% of my portfolio, and I don’t believe it would be wise to wait for a break out to invest in the metals market, and I don’t plan to do any trading in and out of the precious metals market by selling any rallies or buying any dips. The stakes and destination are simply too great an opportunity to pass up. Although I don’t plan to trade out of the metals market anytime soon, I will re-allocate my portfolio within the sector, by selling stocks of mining and exploring companies if I find another mining company that looks like a better opportunity. I also plan to buy more physical metal as the price rises.
Furthermore, I write about $32,000/oz. gold because I have no basis and no rational reason to predict a $1000-3000/oz. price, or any number lower than $32,000/oz. The only rational dollar price for gold is the one that takes into account the essential difference between dollars and gold, and that is that the dollar is fraud. This is my bias. I can’t help it. The dollar fraud would only end when there is an equal amount of dollars and gold. Therefore, it is only pure logic that dictates the $32,000/oz. price, and not hype, not wishful thinking, not pie-in-the-sky dreaming, not irrational hopes, not emotive speculations, and I’m certainly not pandering to sensationalism. It’s pure logic based on the best available data, and nothing else.
Also, I believe there is no better reason to be in gold than the rational and logical realization that the dollar can, and will, and must, eventually devalue all the way to $32,000/oz. gold or even further. Normally, it takes about a 45 year time period for one dollar invested to grow to a hundred dollars. Investment advisors often say that if you invest $10,000 when you are a teenager, and it compounds at 10-12%, then by the time you retire, you will have $1,000,000, or a hundred times as much. Investing in gold, now, quite literally, is the investment of a lifetime! And since there is no better reason to own gold, then it makes no sense to me to ignore presenting the best one.
Several well-meaning people have suggested that I should not write about a number such as $32,000/oz. for gold in my articles because people can’t conceive of it, and it may turn people off. Further they say it might harm my credibility, and even prevent people from investing in gold because I (and gold bugs in general) would be seen as portraying something insane or improbable. Well, the truth is more important to me than what other people think. I am trying my best to make the truth palatable for people, and I do not think telling the truth hurts my credibility at all.
I will not do or say what is wrong to make other people happy. I consider a $3000/oz. prediction for gold to be wrong, a lie, misleading, untruthful, less than the whole truth, not telling the full story, and deceptive. If I predicted a $3000/oz. price, I would feel that my prediction would be a support or endorsement as if that represented a rational price. I cannot endorse that as a rational price. If I said that $3000/oz. was a rational price that gold should move to, then I feel I would be helping to perpetuate the dollar fraud scheme. I would feel that I would be suggesting that a 10% gold backing for the dollar would be ok. Let me state quite frankly, I do not think a 90% fraud is ok. It would still be fraud and theft, and I cannot support that in any way, shape or form. Again, this is my bias.
I do not even think a dollar that is 100% backed up by gold is ok. I think that a paper claim on an asset held by another is one short step away from allowing fraud to take place, and is almost an invitation to allowing that fraud to take place. If you wouldn’t leave your car unlocked in an unsavory neighborhood, you likewise shouldn’t trust a banker with your gold and agree to hold a 100% gold backed dollar based on his word alone. Holding a dollar backed up 100% by gold is literally a refusal to take responsibility to protect the wealth you own. Holding a dollar backed 100% by gold is wrong on so many levels. The person holding the dollar has confidence that he has an asset, but he does not have an asset. The person holding a dollar backed 100% by gold is holding a liability! The person holding a dollar backed 100% by gold is actually a lender of wealth, not a possessor of wealth.
Therefore, the battle between currencies and gold is not a battle between “competitive asset classes”. Fiat currencies such as the dollar, the yen, and the euro, are not even assets, they are liabilities! And the dollar is a liability that has already been defaulted on, twice! When I think in those terms, it’s hard for me to imagine why defaulted promissory notes still have value, but that’s the insane bias of this stupid, stupid society I live in.
Therefore, even if gold were being traded at $32,000/oz., I still would not trade my gold for dollars unless I needed to do so in order to eat food for the day.
So, given the fact that a dollar backed 100% by gold rattles my conscience, then I cannot support something that is so much worse, such as a dollar backed 10% by gold. Thus, I cannot endorse (by predicting) a price of around $3000/oz. gold. I simply cannot.
To declare the dollar is fraud is to declare that the only rational dollar price for gold is M3 divided by U.S. gold holdings. Currently, given the official numbers, the figure works out to about $32,000/oz. There is no other rational price that can be calculated by looking at official figures. Holding dollars when gold is trading less than $32,000/oz., therefore, is irrational, and is literally investing in fraud. It is irrational to knowingly invest in a fraud such as the dollar or any fiat currency.
Most of the other explanations of what is going on in the gold market are merely side explanations and comments and speculations on how and why the dollar fraud has managed to continue for as long as it has. Those other topics, such as bonds and their interest rates, gold futures contracts, central bank leasing, and the like are certainly interesting, but they all ignore the big question which always must remain, “How many excess dollars have actually been printed and/or put into circulation that will eventually show up and be reflected by a higher dollar gold price?”
Therefore my dear readers, when people ask you, “Why is gold going up in price?”, or, “Why will gold go up in price?” I believe you should say: “Because the U.S. has created over 32,000 dollars for every ounce of gold they claim to have.”
Now, although this article is mostly focused on a particular question I had about how the gold market is discussed (and/or not discussed) by the experts, I’m far more bullish on silver than gold. Silver has everything going for it that gold does, and much more. The 8.5 Trillion in dollars held by people could just as easily begin to chase after silver as gold. In fact, about 70-80% of the people at the conference raised their hands when David Morgan asked, “Who here owns actual physical silver?” It was truly a unique and wise crowd.
Silver is so out of favor, so scarce, and in such demand by industry, and so undervalued compared to historic norms, that when the silver market seizes up, some experts have theorized that the gold/silver ratio could swing well past the historic ratio of 1:16 and even hit 1:1 for a brief time. Currently, at $350 oz. Gold, and $4.70 oz. Silver, the ratio is 1:74.
So far, we have looked at what might happen if dollars are invested in gold. Well, how many dollars could potentially buy silver? The obvious answer is an infinite amount of dollars could attempt to buy silver and drive the price incalculably high. But using available known silver supplies in the world, at available prices, we can get a dollar figure. Ted Butler has written extensively that there are only 150 million ounces of silver in known verifiable places in the world, and that is shrinking due to the ongoing supply/demand deficit in the silver market. At $4.70/oz., that silver is valued at only 705 million dollars.
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