As I write this mid-day on Monday, gold has addded more than five percent to recover from of its intraday lows 10 days ago. It is about $1,100 at the moment.
It looks like the $1,108 level is one that would signal to technical traders to again jump in to buy. If gold can get and hold that level, and there is a good possibility it will occur this week, then it’s highly likely that gold will generally rise in the short term to pass the early December 2009 all-time high of about $1,212. It won’t go in a straight line, but it could rise so quickly that it will amaze people.
Once gold reaches a new record high, the odds are that it would pause for some profit-taking before again rising up to even higher levels.
There continues to be so much demand for physical gold (versus paper gold contracts) relative to the available supply, that many would-be buyers seeking immediate delivery in the London market are having their orders rejected by every trading house on that exchange.
London is the world’s largest gold trading center, so larger buyers frequently try to place their orders there. The London Bullion Market Exchange trades contracts for physical delivery of gold. In theory, the trading houses on the exchange have the physical gold to deliver on maturing contracts. It does not make sense for these firms to reject orders on which they would make a profit. With multiple reports of great difficulty experienced by buyers seeking delivery of London contracts, a great suspicion is raised that the physical gold may not all be there.
I would not be surprised if, within a month, a two-tier market develops between the physical and the paper gold spot prices. If this happens, the price for physical is almost certain to be significantly higher. The lower price for paper gold contracts reflects the risk that the seller of the contracts would default. Obviously, a buyer who takes custody of physical gold has no risk of seller default.
The recent major snowstorms in the eastern part of the United States have disrupted U.S. Mint production and delivery of gold and silver American Eagles. The U.S. Mint headquarters in Washington, D.C., was closed Feb. 8-11. Both the Philadelphia and West Point, N.Y., mints, the manufacturers of most Eagle products, closed on Feb. 10. The receipt of planchets to make the coins, the production of the coins, and the shipment of finished product were all interrupted. This has made existing supply shortages even more of a problem.
Even better than the positive outlook for gold, silver seems hugely undervalued at today’s levels. Silver fell more than 20 percent from its early December peak, with the result that the gold/silver ratio is now above 70. The long-term forecasts I have seen for this ratio range from about 10 to 50, so all of the analysts behind these projections like silver’s prospects better than gold.
My own long-term expectation is for a gold/silver ratio of about 35 to 40. If our analyses are correct, silver’s price should appreciate far more than that of gold.
It should be no surprise that most of the action in physical metals in the past two weeks has been in the silver market. It is almost unanimously one-way traffic, with buyers eager to buy but almost no liquidation by owners. As a result, premiums are rising and delivery times are stretching out into the future, with some products already having expected delivery of more than one month. Supplies are not yet as tight as they were in late 2008, but they are going in that direction.
Physical gold products are relatively available, though U.S. Buffaloes are up in premium and not that easy to find. Once the price of gold starts to rise to new heights, I anticipate that supplies will dry up, just as we are now experiencing with silver. Between now and the end of March, the precious metals markets could get very exciting.
Patrick A. Heller owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” the company’s monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at http://www.libertycoinservice.com. Other commentaries are available at Financial Sense University (www.financialsense.com). His periodic radio interviews on WILS-1320 AM can be heard at http://www.amlansing.com and on the Korelin Economic Report at http://www.kereport.com.