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Posted On Wednesday, Oct 13, 2010
As I walked down Nariman Point one evening, I was quite surprised at the street fair that this financial hub of Mumbai turns into after sunset - horse rides, joy rides, junk food, and yes - bubbles. While a kid pesters his mother for a bottle of bubble water, I can’t help but wonder how different a "Bubble" means to the vendors here, as compared to what it means to the corporate crowd that occupy the surrounding buildings. The vendor who hawks soapy water in plastic bottles sees small transparent spheres that simply go up, up and away; while the analyst whose pulse rates are in tandem with the Index movement, sees the threat of a crisis.
Well, you would agree that the asset most speculated of being in a bubble state is gold, since its decade long bull run remains quite misunderstood.
As the only currency whose supply is highly constrained gold is rightly increasing in nominal value, since it is simply adjusting to the changes in global monetary conditions.
How this happens is; when a central bank increases their money supply, other currencies including gold adjust upwards. Currently, with most currencies, this process of price adjustment is muted because most of the players have been in a race to devaluation. For instance, in 2008, the US monetary base increased by more than 100%, but the Euro-Dollar exchange rate did not double in value during the adjustment process because the European Central Bank was also printing money in tandem.
In such an environment, where economies are set to devalue their currencies by increasingly printing more of it, gold as the only supply constrained currency has to adjust to such monetary expansion almost entirely through price. To add to that the growth in supply of gold has been negligible over the past few years.
Frankly, I do not understand why are people startled to see the price of gold up by 68% during a period when the Fed’s balance sheet grew by 155%?
Chart: Increase in Fed balance sheet and Gold
Chart: Aggregate money supply (US$ billion) in various countries / regions
Source:IMF, Country Data, World Gold Council
This chart should show you the alarming rate at which aggregate money supply has been increasing. Recently these increases have been to a greater extent, causing gold to adjust to this increase by rising in nominal value.
The World Gold Council has a study which suggests that a 1% change in growth of US money supply six months prior, on an average has an impact of 0.9% on the price of gold. It also concludes that a 1% change in money supply in India and Europe six months prior, affects the price of gold by 0.7% and 0.5%, respectively.
Nations have embarked on monetary expansions to stimulate their laden economies. And in tandem, gold too is moving higher in response to increasing supply of other currencies. It’s price is simply adjusting upwards.
In fact, given the current price levels, I would go to the extent of saying that, at the most, there is a possibility of gold being fairly priced. But yet the current price of gold is not yet close to fully discounting the adverse future effects of the current fiscal policies in practice. Gold might most probably continue to look bullish on a medium to long term basis.
Let me share a simple thumb rule to know where gold prices are headed - just keep a watch on how much new money (created out of thin air a.k.a freely printed without any backing) comes into existence.
As seen in the above chart, the gold’s current bull market looks tiny as compared to other bubbles and even to the gold price increases that we saw in the 1980s.
Speculators may be disappointed, because the bull market in gold is still intact. It’s nowhere close to becoming a speculative bubble. Rather, the price increases are fundamentally supported. No! That does not mean that prices will not fall. Corrections and consolidations have been part of the current bull run, and may continue to be so. As investors, these small dips in the steep gold run, should give you opportunities to add more gold to your portfolio.
And so before I return to routine, maybe I will spend some time watching the vendor blow bubbles in the air, no golden ones though, just transparent shimmering spheres of joy.
The views expressed in this article are the personal views of the Fund Manager of Quantum Gold Fund. The views constitute only the opinions and do not constitute any guidelines or recommendation on any course of action to be followed by the reader. This information is meant for general reading purpose only and is not meant to serve as a professional guide/investment advice for the readers. This article has been prepared on the basis of publicly available information, internally developed data and other sources believed to be reliable. Readers are advised to seek independent professional advice and arrive at an informed investment decision before making any investments.
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