Monday, January 18, 2010

Marc Faber's View on Gold

Marc Faber's Favorite Currency remains gold, whose supply is extremely limited. In fact, I am wondering if gold, which is now at around $1,100 per ounce, is less expensive than when it sold for less than $300 per ounce. How could this be? I suppose that, in the same way that a company’s stock could be less expensive at $100 than when it was selling for $10, because earnings growth has out paced the appreciation of the shares and therefore its P/E has declined, gold could be cheaper at the current price than when it was at less than $300 because of the explosion of foreign exchange reserves in the world, zero interest rates, the huge debt overhang, and the expectation of further money printing. International reserves have grown from about $1 trillion in 1995 to over $7 trillion.
Gold’s share in world’s reserves
As a result, the share of gold in the world’s official reserves has declined from 32.7 per cent in 1989 to a current record low of 10.3 per cent. As an aside, I am still puzzled by the deflationists, who cannot understand that the explosion in foreign exchange reserves over the last 15 years is a symptom of a massive monetary inflation. Ergo, I could argue that gold is now actually less expensive than when it sold for around $300 per ounce.
I should add that central banks in emerging economies keep only a tiny fraction of their reserves in gold. Eventually, I would expect them to follow the example of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which recently bought 200 tonnes from the IMF for $6.7 billion. The RBI, thus, increased the share of gold from 3.6 per cent of its $286 billion foreign exchange reserves to just over 6 per cent. (Guess who will be out of business first: the IMF or the RBI?)
Now, just consider what the impact would be if China were to increase its gold holdings from presently less than 2 per cent of its $2.2 trillion reserves to 6 per cent or 10 per cent. Each 1 per cent increase in gold weighing would mean gold purchases of more than $20 billion, or nearly 600 tones. Its intrinsic value
I also find it encouraging that an economics professor, Willem Buiter , recently called gold a “barbarous relic” in a Financial Times blog. (Keynes had used the expression to refer to the gold standard). The good professor conceded that “its value may go from $1,100 per fine ounce to $1,500 or $5,000.” However, he stated that he “would not invest more than a sliver” of his wealth “into something without intrinsic value, something whose positive value is based on nothing more than a set of self-confirming beliefs”.
I am not entirely sure what the professor means by “intrinsic value”, but the fact remains that gold has been a currency for 6,000 years, whereas I am not familiar with any paper currency that has survived for more than a few hundred years. Moreover, it would seem that over time the “intrinsic value” (whatever the professor means) of paper currencies declines, whereas the “intrinsic value” of gold appreciates. (Maybe the professor should take the time to explain to us what the intrinsic value might be of a Gutenberg bible, a flawless 50 carat diamond, or a Picasso or Warhol painting)

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