Many agree that the United States’ massive budget deficits and global monetary inflation support the gold bull market. I don’t see this changing in the near future. Still, sentiment is not enough upon which to rely. I need a yardstick and, for me, that yardstick is U.S. real interest rates. [Let me explain why that is the case.] Words: 1600
So says “Mark Motive” (www.planbeconomics.com) in edited excerpts from an article* which Lorimer Wilson, editor of www.munKNEE.com (Your Key to Making Money!), has edited below for length and clarity – see Editor’s Note at the bottom of the page. This paragraph must be included in any article re-posting to avoid copyright infringement.
Motive goes on to say, in part:
Real interest rates represent the inflation-adjusted interest rate on ‘risk-free’ assets, such as US Treasuries. In other words, if a Treasury bond is held to maturity, the real interest rate shows if the bond investor is losing money due to inflation even if the bond posts a profit.
Calculating Real Interest Rates
There are many variations of this measure, but I use 1-year, constant-maturity US Treasury Bill yields as my starting rate and 1-year U.S. food inflation as the adjustment factor.
Using food as a proxy for inflation is insightful for a few reasons:
- it’s a good that everyone buys, so it has an impact on most everybody,
- agricultural commodity price increases are quickly incorporated into consumer food prices, so it’s quick to mirror real world inflation, and
- the food industry is well-developed, so food prices already incorporate savings gained by large-scale production.
By no means is my methodology the only way to calculate real interest rates. Some investors choose to use longer-dated Treasuries and various other measures of inflation, such as the Consumer Price Index (CPI). However, I don’t use the CPI because I believe it has been heavily manipulated over the years and may not be a fair representation of inflation. For example, the goods and weightings used to calculate CPI have been revised over time based on changing quality and the availability of substitutes. This means that CPI is more of a cost of living measure than a pure price measure. That said, regardless of the methodology used, most calculations of real interest rates will vary only in magnitude, not direction.
Why Use Real Interest Rates?
Let’s look at 2011 to illustrate how negative real interest rates affect investors. A 1-year US Treasury Bill purchased on the first trading day of 2011 would have earned about 0.29% if held until maturity. Meanwhile, during 2011, U.S. food prices rose a whopping 4.4%. Using my methodology, someone who placed his savings in a 1-year US Treasury Bill at the beginning of 2011 would have lost 4.11% in purchasing power over the course of the year, despite investing in “safe” US government bonds. This is very bullish for gold.
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Negative real interest rates are a direct result of the Federal Reserve’s official policy to maintain favorable government borrowing costs, [that is to] print money to buy Treasuries at artificially low yields and create inflation to allow the Treasury to pay back the debt in cheaper dollars. This is default by stealth and a direct transfer of wealth from savers to borrowers. The common term for this phenomenon is ‘financial repression’.[Read “Financial Repression” May Soon Become Our Worst Nightmare! Here’s Why and Financial Repression: How Sneaky Governments Steal Your Money and Stealth Taxation in the Form of Financial Repression is Coming! Here’s Why – and How]
The chart below shows the U.S. real interest rate over the past 60 years. The shaded areas are periods in which gold experienced a bull market. As you can see, these periods occurred when real interest rates were low or negative and highly volatile. By contrast, the gold bear market of the 1980s and 1990s occurred when real interest rates were higher, positive, and relatively steady. (Prior to the late 1960s, the gold price was still heavily influenced by the Bretton Woods system and gold prices were fairly flat.)[This variance in the price of gold vs. the level of real interest rates is referred to as Gibson’s Paradox and more can be learned about this in articles such as Short-term Interest Rates Are Behind the Price Of Gold – Here’s Proof! and What Do Rising Interest Rates Mean for the Price of Gold?]
|Source: Plan B Economics|
While this does not prove the causality of the relationship, it makes sense intuitively. Gold performs well during periods of negative real interest rates because there are fewer alternatives for investors seeking to preserve capital and purchasing power. If a US Treasury bond provides a negative after-inflation yield, can it still be considered a safe haven? Most sophisticated investors would answer “no,” because it’s a money-loser right out of the gate (and has a lot of downside risk if nominal yields rise).
Additionally, real interest rate volatility implies that investors are uncertain about Treasury prices and future inflation. This could be caused by financial conditions that are strained beyond the realm of the normal business cycle, such as an unresolved global banking crisis or unsustainable debt. We’re facing both of these crises today.
The Big Picture
Even during periods of negative real interest rates, there are times when US Treasuries perform well in comparison to hard assets – usually during short-term periods of financial stress when investors are scrambling. However, under normal conditions, a US Treasury bond can be expected to provide a total return that is close to its coupon rate, which today is below the rate of inflation.
Any investor using real interest rates to gauge the gold bull market must look through short-term fluctuations to see the secular trend and today – while the US is overloaded with debt and the Federal Reserve is printing money without hesitation – the secular trend of negative real interest rates remains intact.
What does this mean for the current gold bull market? One day, the gold bull market will end, but given the current outlook for continued negative and volatile real interest rates, the evidence suggests that day is well in the future.
* http://www.europacmetals.com/commentaries/nnpg416/1.aspx (To access please copy the URL and paste it into your browser.)
Editor’s Note: The above article has been has edited ([ ]), abridged (…), and reformatted (including the title, some sub-titles and bold/italics emphases) for the sake of clarity and brevity to ensure a fast and easy read. The article’s views and conclusions are unaltered and no personal comments have been included to maintain the integrity of the original article.
A new financial policy initiative known by the label “Financial Repression” may soon become our worst nightmare. ‘Repression’ rhymes with ‘depression’ which could be what we have to look forward to as rampant price inflation and permanently lower living standards take hold. Get ready to be conscripted into a citizen army assembled for the greater cause of saving the nation from being swamped by a tsunami of debt. Let me explain. Words: 1585
One of the things that’s being lost in the welter of rhetoric around the debt crises of sovereign nations is that these are not normal debtors, and government debt is not the same as personal debt. If you or I are in debt we are obliged to fulfil the terms of our repayment obligations or to go bankrupt or to pretend to die and go off and live on the life insurance. A country in the same situation has a range of other measures available to it…[Let’s explore their options and what their implications would be for the country and its citizens.] Words: 1145
Financial Repression is a form of wealth confiscation and redistribution that is in some ways as effective as taxation – but the government never directly calls it that. It never appears in the budget (directly), and while it is dependent on a comprehensive network of laws and regulations – none of those go through the legislature with a stated intention of creating Financial Repression. So while the economic net effects are similar to a huge and comprehensive set of investor taxes being used to pay down the national debt, the “taxes” are never a campaign issue because voters and investors don’t understand what is happening – they only feel the results. [In this article I lay out for you what is slowly developing and expected to escalate dramatically in the next few years.] Words: 5800
Get ready to be financially conscripted into a citizen army assembled for the greater cause of saving America from being swamped by a tsunami of debt as a new policy initiative known as “financial repression” takes hold. ‘Repression’ rhymes with ‘depression’ and that is what we may have to look forward to as rampant price inflation and permanently lower living standards take hold as a result. Let me explain. Words: 1797
Some gold bugs say that this is only the beginning and gold will soon break $2,000, then $5,000 and then $10,000 per ounce but the question is, “How can anyone reasonably calculate what the price of gold is?” For stocks, we have all sorts of ratios. Sure, those ratios can be off . . . but at least they’re something. With gold, we have nothing…. [or more correctly, had nothing, until the development of my very own model for doing just that. Let me explain.] Words: 945
The return of the Euro debt contagion and drop in the bond markets across the world is pushing interest rates higher and it has investors concerned and rightly so – and nowhere has the concern been more prominent than in gold. [Let me explain.] Words: 759