Physical Gold Market Will Trump Paper Gold
John Hathaway of Tocqueville Funds says the physical gold market will defeat the paper gold market leading to a much higher price for the monetary metal in the coming months and years in his Tocqueville Gold Strategy Investor Letter (Fourth Quarter 2016 Investor Letter):
Gold rose 8.5% for the year while gold-mining stocks (XAU â Philadelphia Gold and Silver Index stocks) rose 75%. On an annual basis, results were highly satisfactory. However, there was considerable drama beneath the surface that left precious metals investors in a state of anxiety by year-end. Precious metals and mining shares rose sharply through August, and then spent the rest of the year giving back much of the first-half gains. The second half downtrend accelerated into early December, following the unexpected victory by Trump and a hawkish statement after the December Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting.
The question of the hour is whether the 2016 gains were merely a countertrend rally following a four-and-a-half-year decline from all-time highs in 2011, or the beginning of a new leg in the secular bull market that began in 1999, during which gold rose from less than $300/oz. to $1900 in August 2011. We judge the weight of current sentiment, mainstream media opinion, and technical analysis to be extremely bearish, comparable to year-end 2015 just prior to the dramatic gains that followed. We believe that, based on prevailing negativity, the next big change in the gold price will be substantially higher. If so, the 2016 second-half correction will have established a durable higher low from the advance that began at year-end 2015, and would be the precursor to the continuation of the secular advance that began in 2000.
Fundamentals of physical supply and demand remain positive, and are reinforced by the current extended regime of precious metals prices too low to justify expanded mine supply. Global mine output has plateaued; it now seems likely to decline through 2020 and perhaps into the middle of the next decade. As shown in the chart below, discoveries of new ore bodies are at a 25-year low, while the time required to bring new ore bodies into production continues to lengthen, and now stands at nearly 20 years.
Physical demand continues to show steady secular growth, primarily in Asia. Consumption by Turkey, India, China, and Russia alone have exceeded global mine supply since 2013, which means that inventories of physical metal held in Western vaults are being depleted to meet that demand.
Two recent developments (largely ignored by mainstream media) will, in our opinion, significantly strengthen the demand for and usage of physical metal. First, a new Shariah gold standard was approved in December 2016: