The Seven Pillars of Gold

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You need to own gold; and you need to own shares in companies that find and mine it. I lay out seven reasons below, in what I’m calling the “Seven Pillars of Gold.”

Each “pillar” reinforces the argument for holding gold.

There’s some overlap between each of the pillars. In fact, it’s fair to say that many of the reasons to own gold actually segue back and forth, bumping into each other. But it’s possible to lay out seven distinct ideas. Here they are:

Pillar One: Oil prices are rising. Doubtless, you’ve noticed it if you’ve filled the fuel tank in your car with gasoline in the past nine months. From 2015 to late 2017, we enjoyed a three year respite from the olden days of $100 oil; but now, oil has decided to get up off the mat.

From a price in the $40 range a mere six months ago, we’re now into the $70s per barrel and higher prices are forecast. Of course, oil means energy, which means that higher oil costs will translate into higher prices for just about everything, not just at the fuel pump.

More costly energy will be a core component of inflation throughout the economy. That is, it will cost more to drive your car, for farmers to grow food, truckers to transport that food, businesses to buy supplies ranging from paint to roofing shingles.

That, and it will cost more to move all the other goods that support the economy. Indeed, energy-based inflation will eventually work its way all through the economy.

Rising energy costs are a type of inflation that we saw in the mid-2000s, during the previous runup to oil at over $130 per barrel in 2008. Then though, energy costs were squashed by “importing deflation” from low-priced overseas goods. But that trick has played out.

Americans haven’t experienced gut-ripping energy-based inflation in perhaps two generations, since the late 1970s and early 1980s. But when higher oil prices really pull into port, the ripple effect of inflation across every part of the economy will weaken the dollar’s purchasing power. We’ll see it in higher gold prices.

Pillar Two: Interest rates are rising. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), interest on the national debt is among the fastest growing parts of the federal budget. In fact, by 2028 – just 10 years from now – the federal budget will spend more on interest payments (about one trillion dollars per year) than on defense (currently about $800 billion total).

Rising interest rates will crowd out most everything else in the federal budget, from defense to air traffic control to national parks. The budget money just won’t be there, because so much will go to pay interest. The only workarounds for Congress are less spending (ha!) or just open the spigots and roll with higher annual budget deficits.

Any way you cut it, the dollar – and the Federal Reserve’s unique powers of “money creation” – will surely be in play to wallpaper this mess. Again, we’ll see reduced purchasing power and higher gold prices.

Pillar Three: The petro-yuan. China has begun trading for oil in yuan, recently launching its so-called “petro-yuan.” Here’s the facts.

China is working hard to abandon the dollar as an instrument with which to pay for oil. It’ll use its own currency, the yuan, where and when possible. Currently, China’s petro-yuan contracts are what are called “long-dated,” meaning they commence in September 2018. (Four months is “long” if you’re trading.) In this respect, the Chinese are taking things slowly at first; no surprises.

China’s ultimate goal is to convince Saudi Arabia – one of China’s top-three oil suppliers – to take yuan in exchange for oil, and thus to abandon the 45-year link of Saudi oil to the petro-dollar.

If the globally dollarized oil trade takes a hit, it means many more bad things for the purchasing power of those “dead presidents” in your wallet or bank account.

Here’s the good news in all this. If you understand the implications, you are already several months ahead of the broad market on this. You have time to buy in on gold and miners. The entire setup is overall favorable for gold.

Pillar Four: Currency Wars. We’re already in the midst of “Currency Wars,” along the lines of what my colleague Jim Rickards discussed in his 2010 book of that title.

These types of monetary competitions are built around the very real understanding that nuclear armed nations cannot afford to fight old-fashioned, kinetic wars with each other. No battleships and bombers; but large, powerful nations can still play other games; such as cyber war and attacks on the other nation’s currency.

The currency war idea is ripe to hatch in the sense that Russia and China (among others) have accumulated immense amounts of gold over the past decade or so. Russia, in particular, is quite transparent about its national gold reserves, and Russian spokespeople make no secret that the gold is intended as a defense against dollar hegemony.

One of Jim’s theses in Currency Wars is that Russia and China could team up to combine their respective gold resources, and create a rival currency to the dollar. If the world trading system has an alternative to the dollar, it’s hard to imagine that the scenario would favor the U.S. dollar. Usage would likely decline to some level from decades past.

In other words, the dollar has had a runup in its percentage of world trade over the past 45 years. Looking ahead, if the dollar loses even some of its status as the world’s “reserve currency,” we should definitely expect to see its value decline and gold prices to increase.

Pillar Five: Tariffs, sanctions and potential trade wars. With global trade, it’s fair to say that everything is related to everything else. Lay a higher tariff on Chinese steel, and China taxes U.S. soybeans. Ban exports of high tech chips to China, and China might ban exports of rare earth magnetic powders to the U.S.

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