25 August 2010

Perhaps gold is not a commodity

Excerpts from a Wall Street Journal story:
For a long time, we've all heard that gold is a commodity—no different, really, from silver or wheat or pork bellies. Its price ebbs and flows (supposedly) with inflation, which historically drives commodity prices.

Odd, then, that gold's elevated price hasn't fallen in response to tepid U.S. inflation numbers... The conventional wisdom holds that neither of those scenarios—low inflation or deflation—should be good for gold. And yet it refuses to abandon record highs in the $1,200-an-ounce range. Something seems amiss...

So if inflation doesn't push and pull at gold prices, what might it be? If you believe correlation studies, the answer is the U.S. dollar...

The result: Over the past 30 years, the correlation between the dollar and gold is minus-0.65—a high negative correlation. It means the dollar and gold are effectively on opposite ends of a seesaw. When the dollar is in favor, gold retreats. When it is under pressure, gold prices swell...

Instead, "gold is a currency" whose daily price is a gauge of the market's concern about the "potential diminishment" of the purchasing power of the dollar and other paper currencies...

For investors convinced U.S. lawmakers and central bankers will successfully manage the budgetary woes and the massive unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, then gold is overvalued in the long term. Righting America's national balance sheet would explicitly raise the dollar's value as investors with money abroad move assets into a more-sound American economy. The selling of euro, yen and pounds would push the dollar higher—and gold lower.

If, however, you worry the U.S. balance sheet is irreparably damaged, then gold currently reflects the likelihood that a weak-dollar trend still has years to run as the U.S. struggles with its financial mess. Investors—and consumers—looking to preserve their purchasing power will gravitate toward gold, since its quantity isn't easily manipulated.
More at the link.


  1. Yeaaaaaaah.... There's a much simpler explanation for why gold hasn't dropped.

    All rare metals are still in the middle of an enormous speculative bubble.

    Just wait, it'll pop within the next five years.

  2. I heard some pundit, can't remember which, make an interesting point. All these gold hucksters telling you that gold will increase in value actually believe the opposite, for why else would they trade you their gold (an "appreciating" asset) for your dollars ("a doomed currency")? They are actually trying to unload their gold on suckers ASAP, happily taking dollars for it.

  3. @Pete - However, if you're business is to sell gold, then you sell gold. If you don't sell it, then it isn't your business. Are hamburgers worthless because they are sold?


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