Addison Wiggin

We got a small, if bitter, taste of gold’s “Zero Hour” in the second half of April.

Either that, or the world’s largest banks engineered a takedown of gold for the purpose of staving off  Zero Hour… for now.

As you’ll recall from these pages in March, “Zero Hour” is the name we give to the moment when the price of real, physical gold in your hand starts to break away from the quoted price on the commodities exchanges.

That is, the “physical price” becomes much higher than the “paper price” on CNBC’s ticker. The catalyst, we suggested, would be when a major metals exchange defaults on a gold or silver contract — settling in cash, instead of metal.

To be clear, Zero Hour did not take place when gold’s paper price plunged $150 in only two trading days — Friday, April 12, and Monday, April 15.

But what happened after that plunge hints at what the aftermath of Zero Hour would look like. Real metal suddenly became very hard to come by. We chronicled the worldwide scramble, in real-time, in The 5 Min. Forecast

  • The Chinese Gold and Silver Exchange nearly ran out of bullion on Friday, April 19
  • There were reports of a “massive wave of physical gold buying” in Dubai
  • Monthly sales of U.S. Gold Eagles fell just short of a 26-year high during April.

Result: If you wanted real metal, you paid a substantial premium over the paper price. In silver, these premiums were off the charts. On Thursday, April 25, spot silver was $23.94… but a Silver Eagle from a major online dealer would set you back $29.54 — as high as the paper price before the mid-April crash!

Meanwhile, the premium on “junk silver” — U.S. dimes, quarters and halves dated before 1965 — sits at four-year highs, according to coin dealer Richard Nachbar. Usually, these coins trade at a small discount to the paper price of silver. Now? As the chart nearby shows, they fetch a 17% premium over spot… and that’s wholesale!

Wholesale premium/discount to melt on 90% us silver coins

“The April gold crash,” sums up Agora Financial’s own Byron King, “was the beginning of emancipating real gold from paper gold. We’re about to see a ‘real’ price for gold, coming from the bottom up, not the top down. I suspect that we’ll see a solid price rise for gold over time. The market bullies who deal in paper products have just punched themselves in the nose.”

Meanwhile, if you’re still skeptical that “Zero Hour” is a real possibility, there’s new and compelling evidence.

Sprott Asset Management chief Eric Sprott believes Zero Hour is made inevitable by Western central banks “leasing” their gold to commercial banks at less than 1% a year. The commercial banks then sell that gold and plow the proceeds into higher-earning investments.

“Now,” Sprott writes in a new white paper, “our long search for the ‘smoking gun’ to prove our hypothesis appears to have finally materialized.”

The evidence lies in the monthly trade data from the Census Bureau. The December 2012 report revealed net gold exports of $2.5 billion — almost 50 tonnes. This staggering number prompted Sprott and his team to dig through the figures as far back as they exist — all the way to 1991.

The data show that net exports from 1991-2012 totaled 5,504 tonnes.

Here’s the problem: During that same period, U.S. supply mine production and recycling totaled 7,532 tonnes, while demand was 6,517 tonnes. That left only 1,015 tonnes available for export.

Where did the other 4,489 tonnes come from? “The only U.S. seller that would be capable of supplying such an astonishing amount of gold,” says Mr. Sprott, “is the U.S. government, with a reported gold holding of 8,300 tonnes.”

Yikes.

“If the Sprott analysis is accurate,” says our friend and Crash Course author Chris Martenson, “there’s a lot of missing gold in the U.S. equation, and it had to come from official sources, either of U.S. origin or belonging to other countries. Either way, the leased gold represents a tremendous liability of the Fed and the bullion banks to which it was loaned.”

“In this context,” Mr. Martenson continues, “the gold slam begins to smell like an operation designed to shake as much gold as possible out of weak hands so that the bullion banks can begin to recover it to square up their accounts.

“GLD, the gold ETF that so many small investors participate in, is one large, obvious target,” he adds, “as it was sitting on 1,350 tonnes as of January 2013.”

Sure enough, by the end of April, more than 250 tonnes of that total were gone. On the chart nearby, you can see how the drain on GLD’s inventory neatly tracks the paper price of gold.

“Gold and silver,” Mr. Martenson suggests, “are getting closer to the day when you or I will not be able to purchase physical bullion at any price.”

“I don’t even look at gold as gold anymore… they securitized it,” CNBC’s voluble Rick Santelli said on March 27 — weeks before the big beat-down.

“If things [went] badly in the world that I used to observe as the gold bug, the gold would end up in the hands of the gold bugs. If things go badly now, they’re going to end up with checks from ETFs! Sorry, it’s not the same. The reign of [paper] gold is the Ayn Rand end product. To me, that’s over. Game, set, match.”

The endgame is getting closer. “What I believe is going to happen, probably in the not too distant future,” says Eric Sprott’s right-hand man John Embry, “is that the pricing mechanism of the gold and silver markets will swing to the physical market, which cannot be manipulated, because, basically, either you’ve got it or you haven’t.

“Whereas the paper market has been set up specifically so that it can be manipulated. I would not be too concerned about that, even though they’ve got the upper hand to date. I think that their power is going to be sharply eroded in the very near future.”

But that’s when you won’t be able to get any metal at any price. Best act before then: “The current sell-off in gold,” says Eric Sprott, “should be viewed not with extreme trepidation, but as an unbelievable opportunity to buy the metal at an artificially low value.”

Regards,

Addison Wiggin
for The Daily Reckoning

P.S. We’ve been tracking the gold price pretty closely ever since our friend and mentor, Bill Bonner, announced his Trade of the Decade back in 2000 — sell stocks on rallies; buy gold on dips. And while that turned out to be a tremendous trade, it’s only a small part of the much larger story about our favorite yellow metal… Subscribers to The Daily Reckoning email know this better than anyone. If you’re not already a subscriber, we suggest you sign up for free, right here.

You May Also Like:


Your Personal Gold Standard

James Rickards

All paper currency has a shelf life. It could be 5 years or 500 years, but at some point, the value of any paper currency eventually reaches zero. That's why, for centuries, people have turned to one shiny metal to safeguard their personal store of wealth. And, as Jim Rickards explains, you still have that option. Read on...

Addison Wiggin

Addison Wiggin is the executive publisher of Agora Financial, LLC, a fiercely independent economic forecasting and financial research firm. He's the creator and editorial director of Agora Financial's daily 5 Min. Forecast and editorial director of The Daily Reckoning. Wiggin is the founder of Agora Entertainment, executive producer and co-writer of I.O.U.S.A., which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, the 2009 Critics Choice Award for Best Documentary Feature, and was also shortlisted for a 2009 Academy Award. He is the author of the companion book of the film I.O.U.S.A.and his second edition of The Demise of the Dollar, and Why it's Even Better for Your Investments was just fully revised and updated. Wiggin is a three-time New York Times best-selling author whose work has been recognized by The New York Times Magazine, The Economist, Worth, The New York Times, The Washington Post as well as major network news programs. He also co-authored international bestsellers Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt with Bill Bonner.

Recent Articles

Why the Fed Will Launch Another Round of QE

Richard Duncan

Ben Bernanke introduced the world to the concept of "quantitative easing" back in 2002. It was an "unorthodox plan" to save the economy from the horrors of deflation. But the monstrous economy it has actually created is in some ways far worse. And as Richard Duncan explains, it's not going to end any time soon. Read on..


How to Safeguard Your Digital Currency

Dominic Frisby

While the technical details of Bitcoin may intimidate the novice, they shouldn’t keep him from getting in on a digital currency revolution that -- while taking different forms -- isn’t going away. How do you get the simplest, easiest-to-act-on tips about how to invest, safeguard and grow your digital wealth? Dominic Frisby has more…


Solar to Save the World, Ebola to Maim it

Chris Campbell

The duality is stark. In one hand, we have an energy renaissance underway, in the other, a virus is threatening to wreak havoc on the markets and, potentially, your life. Nothing we’re currently doing to fight the Ebola virus will work in 2014, say the researchers. Nothing we’re currently doing will beat it in 2015, either. We need a new game-plan. Read on…


How to Profit From the “Cycle of Hype”

Greg Guenthner

Lose your shirt in 3D printing stocks this year? Don’t kick yourself. You’re not alone. (Okay, kick yourself a little if it’ll make you feel better.) You need to make sure you don’t lose your 3D-printed shirt in the next tech craze. Because there will be a next time. Look, it’s really not your fault if you got taken for a ride on 3D stocks. Greg Guenthner has more...