11 December 2008

No fever like Gold fever...

The bottom line is that there is no fever like gold fever. It is akin to St. Vitus' dance that swept through the Christian world just before the year 1000 A.D. affecting all the people who expected the end of the world to happen at the turn of the millennium. It was far worse than the mania that swept through the world affecting all the people who expected the 2K disaster to happen a thousand years later. The coming gold fever must be distinguished from tulipomania in February 1637, when one single tulip fetched the equivalent of 20 times the annual income of a skilled worker. Gold fever is as different from a bubble as real gold is from fools' gold. It is visceral. It has to do with one's instinct for survival. It has no patience with logical arguments. It is highly contagious, ultimately affecting everybody. A bubble that never pops.

You may ridicule the idea that, during a prolonged backwardation, all offers to sell gold will be withdrawn. But a serious analyst must answer the question why hundreds of millions of people having gold coins under the mattress and in the cookie jar refuse to take the bait of 'risk-free' profits offered by backwardation. Such a thing would never ever happen to a non-monetary commodity.

The only successful corners in history were gold corners, a.k.a. hyperinflation. Keynesian and Friedmaite economists in the pay of the government thought that gold futures trading will permanently short-circuit the forces of gold backwardation thus preventing hyper-inflation from ever happening. They were wrong.

In an article The Manipulation of Gold Prices (see References below), Professor Emeritus of Economics and former Dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Indianapolis, James Conrad argues that Bernanke is different. He understands that he needs a much higher gold price in order to increase the efficiency of his airdrops. There is no better way to distribute new money among prospective spenders than putting it into the pockets of the gold bugs. (Conrad admits that he is one.) This will induce a large spending spree, holding deflationary pressures back.

According to Conrad, Bernanke is well aware that the new money he is feverishly airdropping has not stopped and will probably not stop the bloodbath in the stock market. Further devastation of share prices will render pension funds insolvent. To prevent this, the dollar needs a massive devaluation, on the pattern of Roosevelt's tinkering with the value of gold. I quote:

Anyone who reads the written works of our Fed Chairman will know that Bernanke's long term plan involves devaluing the dollar against gold. This is the exact opposite of the position of most prior chairmen. He has overtly stated his intentions toward gold, many times, in various articles, speeches and treatises written before he became Fed Chairman. He often extols the virtues of F. D. Roosevelt's gold revaluation/dollar devaluation back in 1934, and credits it with saving the nation from the Great Depression. According to Bernanke, devaluation of the dollar against gold was so effective in stimulating economic activity that the stock market rose sharply in 1934, immediately thereafter. That is something that the Fed wants to see happen again.

It is only a matter of time before gold is allowed to rise to its natural level. Assuming that about one half of the recent increase in Federal Reserve credit is neutralized, the monetized value of gold should be allowed to rise to between $7,500 and $9,000 per ounce as the world goes back to some type of a gold standard. In the nearer term, gold will rise to about $2,000 per ounce as the Fed abandons its hopeless campaign to support Comex short sellers in favor of saving the other, more productive, functions of various banks and insurers.

Revaluation of gold, and a return to a gold standard, is the only way that hyperinflation can be avoided while large numbers of paper currency units are released into the economy. This is because most of the rise in prices can be filtered into gold. As the asset value of gold rises, it will soak up excess dollars, euros, pounds, etc., while the appearance of an increased number of currency units will stimulate investor psychology; and lending and economic output will increase all over the world. Ben Bernanke and the other members of the FOMC Committee must know this, because it is basic economics.

It is to be regretted that more of Professor Conrad's admirable paper cannot be quoted here because of lack of space. To summarize: Bernanke is prepared to throw the issuers of paper gold at the Comex to the wolves, as they have become useless, even a nuisance, by now. Besides, the wolves must be appeased lest they devour whatever remains of the U.S. banking and insurance system.

My own position is somewhat different from Professor Conrad's. In my view we are facing a world-wide elemental grass-root movement: the flight into physical gold -- witness the backwardation in gold. It is irresistible, and will ultimately overtake all other market forces. It will overwhelm official resistance.

full article

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