Friday, September 18, 2009

China and the future of Gold

Note: I am not an investment advisor and nothing I state should be taken as investment advice. Please consult your own private professional financial advisor for help in making investment decisions.

The whole world is talking about gold breaking $1,000 in price.

Many people are asking: is this price sustainable? Where will gold go from here?

I can't really answer these questions myself as I'm not an expert on gold or on precious metals in general. I will note that gold is not really an asset in the normal sense, it is quite simply a form of money. So the question of whether or not gold will go higher can also be framed as "Will the U.S. Dollar (or whatever the currency may be where you live) go lower/weaken?" If so, then the answer is likely yes, the price of gold will go higher vis-a-vis that currency.

We all know the U.S. Dollar (USD) is in the dumps. The Federal Reserve's "quantitative easing" policy and climbing federal deficits are working a one-two combo on the USD. This makes me think that the gold rally isn't unwarranted and that a "gold bubble" probably isn't in effect right now, contrary to what some pundits have postulated.

A lot of news about gold has been coming out of Asia as of late.

To begin with, an Internet publication related to the mining industry and precious metals (Mineweb) is reporting that China's state-run Central Television network has aired a news program extolling the benefits of investing in precious metals and seemingly advocating that the Chinese public engage in precious metals investing by promoting the Chinese mint's bullion products. [1] A recent Wall Street Journal article seems to confirm this news report. [2] Several websites are repeating rumors first published by an employee of SinoLatin Capital, a merchant bank which specializes in transactions between Chinese and Latin American firms, that China may attempt to ban the export of gold. [3] These are just rumors and the author mentions that his firm has several Chinese mining companies as clients, so make of that what you will. All of this comes on top of the admission earlier this year that the Chinese Central Bank has been purchasing gold in order to build up its reserves.

If you want to get an idea of what the "gold mania" in China is like at the layman's level, I suggest you read this article. [4] Apparently you can buy gold at most retail bank branches in China and the Chinese mint is opening shops from which to sell bullion in many cities.

Elsewhere in Asia, it was announced today that Pakistan is abolishing import duties on gold in order to encourage legal imports of gold and discourage black market imports. [5]

Now for the "but." In the past I've mentioned the possibility of a debt-fueled deflationary depression in the U.S. (see Debt Deflation and False Dawns) I thus have to bring to your attention this article which states that in a deflationary decline gold would not be a good hedge. [6] The article's authors make a convincing argument, especially if you're a fan of the gold standard and a critic of fiat currencies.

Regardless of what happens in the future, my judgment right now is as follows. We have to remember that the price of gold is notoriously volatile. The fact that gold is so strong right now and so many people are talking about investing in it reveals how little confidence there is in the current financial order and how much unease and uncertainty continues to exist out there. That's the only conclusion I can positively take away from this situation at the moment.


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