Gold: Value, Re-Propositioned by Gary Tanashian, Biiwii.com
Last weekend, in a segment titled Gold Obsession & Ephemeral States of Mind NFTRH 330 talked about a growing presence that seems to follow Martin Armstrong’s anti ‘gold promoters’ theme. This theme seems to be – coming as it does in a gold bear market – something of a promotion itself; just as the over-the-top inflationist gold bug stuff was during the bull market.
Please understand, dear followers of Marty, I am not at all calling him a promoter. He is the originator of ideas, thoughts and analysis that while not all my cup of tea, is interesting enough that it is linked at NFTRH.com and Biiwii.com. But behind this mindset that is solidifying in the public consciousness, is a growing cadre of gold bugs – some of whom benefited from the notoriety lavished upon them by the likes of Mr. Gold, Jim Sinclair – that seems to be taking things over the top*, as always seems to happen with humans and in markets. Every mental elastic band seems to stretch too far.
In the above noted NFTRH 330 segment an article I wrote in 2007, A Value Proposition, was referenced. In re-reading it for the first time in years I was impressed with how the ‘value’ case for gold has not changed one bit in the last 7+ years. At least in my interpretation of value, which has kept me personally at an even pulse rate during the bear market and given NFTRH subscribers consistent perspective through a difficult, but ultimately necessary and healthy phase for gold. It felt refreshing to re-read it.
So, if the the article benefited me, its author, all these years later, I thought it might be of benefit for other peoples’ perspective as well in this emotional time of gold obsession.
As a final note, I’ll just say that it sure is interesting that today, in a wicked bear market, gold is nearly $500 an ounce higher than it was when the article was written.
* I have done my share of gold bug critiques, complete with the requisite incoming hate mail. But the point is that the new thing going on now was nowhere to be found when it was unpopular to take shots at the gold bug ‘community’. Indeed, with the help of a subscriber who stated ‘enough already, we get it!’ I came to realize that the horse has been dead for a while.
A Value Proposition (November 3, 2007)
As the rot in Wall Street’s dark alleys works its way from the inside out, from the seediest hedge funds’ leveraged ‘investment’ vehicles to Main Street’s financial institutions (pensions, 401K’s, savings, etc.) gold has taken center stage, closing above $800 for the first time in its still young bull market. Fear and anxiety are increasing as the US Dollar falls further below serious long term support and in this environment, gold is an emotional conduit through which growing fears of fiat monetary instability pass. Picture a burning building with a limited number of exits and a large crowd trying to pile through the door. Let’s call it a… oh I don’t know… let’s call it a casino.
Gold is the object of many strange and varied perceptions, perhaps because it is an ancient asset that has always stirred basic human instincts for wealth, good fortune and even survival. But in light of the perverted and multi-headed monster we call a financial system – with seemingly infinite instruments of ‘profit’ limited only by the imagination of financial engineers – perceptions toward gold have become distorted, helped by an enabling Wall Street and mainstream financial media.
The main point to remember is that gold does nothing; it just sits there and does not care about the crazy gyrations going on all around it. But to understand and accept this, casino patrons must first accept that the metrics they have been schooled in and the rules they have been taught over the fiat decades to play by are not applicable. Filling the void that this lack of understanding creates is a whole host of opinions, many disparaging and/or dismissive. Others simply attempt to fit this “asset class” into conventional metrics. The inspiration for this missive was a recent SeekingAlpha piece by Brad Zigler called All That Glitters May Not Be So Golden. Mr. Zigler did not write a ‘hatchet piece’ on gold but what I find interesting is his and many other financial media correspondents’ analysis of gold as a return (or lack thereof) instrument.
Gold pays no risk premium as it carries no default risk. But in the world of financial media-fed perceptions that is a bad thing. No return you say? No markup? No leverage? Who needs that?! Gold is about value and nothing more in my opinion. That is why I refuse to get excited when its fiat currency denominated price goes up and why I also remain at a normal pulse rate when said ‘price’ declines sharply. I do agree that when trading or investing in the gold miners (as I do) it is important to keep traditional metrics in mind. But the miners are my casino of choice and I most certainly do not see the gold miners as gold, a gold equivalent or anything other than a potentially hugely leveraged play on an enduring asset of value.
Back in the real world, players are just beginning to get the hint that the risk they have taken on in the hunt for return in some very dark corners has come at a price and the price is a massive debit against the entire system of something for leveraged nothing. Yes, gold pays no premium but neither is it subject to this debit because it never went anywhere to begin with. It Is What It Is and as a barometer of global financial sentiment its exchange value is rising versus a whole host of paper promises not to mention many hard assets. So what many investors now need is a sort of 12 step program as they attempt to ‘put down the crack pipe’ and come to an understanding that real value has nothing to do with return (unlike modern portfolio and asset allocation theory) and it certainly has nothing to do with leverage.
Mr. Zigler’s assertions and my responses:
Debate has raged for some time now about the utility of gold in a portfolio. Forget, for a moment, the breathless claims of infomercial touts and Parade magazine advertisers. Think, instead, of asset class selection.
Why should anyone add gold—or, for that matter, any asset—to a portfolio? The answer that comes immediately to many people’s minds is “return.” It’s the promise of outsized, and often outlandish, returns that entices people to call that 800 number in the wee hours of the morning to get their hands on the yellow metal.
There should be no debate. An asset of historic value belongs in a portfolio if debt obligations (bonds) and calls on corporate earnings (stocks) belong there. I agree, the 800 number pitch men are seedy characters capitalizing on fear and insecurity, but why are they part of the conversation? Have you ever seen the movie