Gold Looks Bullish as Dust Settles

The late November rally in gold prices wasn’t quite as spectacular as mid-September’s gain, but it was still impressive. There was good follow-through too, though the momentum softened as bulls knocked on resistance near $850.

The rally was a no-brainer. There is a strong line of support at $700, which was resistance during 2006 and the first half of 2007. Moreover, the market was, and is, oversold.

The catalyst was news that the U.S. government had to bail out Citigroup, the world’s largest bank by revenues. The event has given way to new concerns about the economy, which weighed on stocks and gold this week, or at least provided an excuse to take some profits in the latter.

The big question now is whether it was just a retracement rally that ultimately gives way to new lows or whether we have seen the bottom in gold, with this rally being only the first of many to come.

I don’t think the chart can answer that question alone. Technically, the structure of the market is healthy now, and as far as the fundamentals go, gold should not remain under $1,000 for very long.

Indeed, I sense the market is building up for a very bullish move.

Allow me to touch on some of the bullish factors coming into play.

Deflation Scare Past Its Apex

“Notwithstanding the many developments on the bailout front during the past six weeks, The New York Times, like other media outlets, continues to quote Wall Street insiders who report” [that] “‘You have a market that is frozen.’ What planet do these guys live on? It certainly is not the same one to which the Federal Reserve’s data apply. I’ve been singing this song for many weeks, but I’m going to keep singing it until somebody in the news media wakes up and realizes that these ‘frozen credit market’ tales are pure hooey. Look at the data, for crissake.”

— Robert Higgs, author of Crisis and Leviathan, in a recent essay on the bailout programs

The fundamentals are significantly bullish for gold. I’d like to say they are bearish for the dollar, but in truth, they are increasingly bearish for all paper currencies. Outside of the Bank of Japan, everyone is inflating madly. In the G-7, narrow money (M1) is growing at 7-10% on a year-over-year basis in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Australia — more in developing countries like China. And this rate is picking up now.

October’s data are not in yet for the ECB. Its balance sheet increased by some 400 billion euros during the month, which is the first big change since the second quarter, and will probably reflect in M1. The Bank of Japan started inflating M1 again in September too, after holding it steady for most of the year.

The broader monetary aggregates (i.e., those determined by the banking system at large) are growing briskly everywhere but in the U.S. and Japan, though even the latter are still growing.

Broad money in the U.S. is growing between 5-10%, depending on whether you rely on TMS or MZM or higher, if you like M3 (I don’t).

The U.S. data are good through October. Up till the end of September, as far as we are updated, the year-over-year growth rate in broad money approached 20% in Australia, its highest rate in almost 20 years. In the U.K., the broader monetary aggregates are growing at close to 14% on a year-over-year basis, which is its highest growth in almost a decade.

These growth rates are almost as bad as China’s, which is approaching 20% year over year too, again. Given these numbers, it is no surprise to me whatsoever that the yen is the strongest currency, followed by the U.S. dollar, or that the Aussie and the pound are taking the greatest beatings, along with all the other riskier currencies.

The actions governments are taking now are bearish for stocks and bullish for inflation. But they are not just bullish for inflation — they are remarkably bullish.

I don’t mean to sound happy about it. It’s just an observation that the market has yet to come to terms with. Since September, the Fed has expanded its balance sheet a total of $1.3 trillion. Of that total, it has created about $600 billion in reserves out of thin air.

Most of that is not counted in money supply, because it excludes deposits held by depository institutions. Total money supply is about $6 trillion, if you rely on the Austrian School definition (I do). It has, nevertheless, translated into growth of about $100-200 billion in new money created by the banking system since September already. Deflation is a no-show so far, and I don’t think it will arrive at all. I think history will see this as just another scare.

The Federal Reserve just announced two new programs that commit it to another $800 billion, and that is even before President-elect Obama puts his stimulus package together.

Reuters cited Wachovia’s chief economist:

“Some, however, are worried the mounting costs of the measures, which have the potential to reach several trillion dollars, could eventually fuel a troubling inflation.

“‘It may mean (a) longer-run issue with inflation and inflation concerns,’ said John Silvia, chief economist at Wachovia Securities in Charlotte, N.C. ‘It may be too much of a good thing is a bad thing.’”

Ya think?

Even more inflationary, in my opinion, is the fact that the talking heads think the Fed’s latest facilities are simply not enough. They are complaining the programs do not include direct purchases of credit card debt and mortgages in the secondary market and that the Fed isn’t going to buy mortgages with maturities of more than one year. Not long ago, the Fed never bought anything but Treasury notes.

Ed Bugos

December 17, 2008