Gold Wars: Revenge of Supply and Inflation

Gold Wars: Revenge of Supply and Inflation

 

Inflation! The Republic is crumbling under attacks by the ruthless Supply Lord, Count Shortage. Dearness is everywhere. Will gold save the galaxy?

If George Lucas were to make a movie about 2021 instead of Jedi knights, he would probably call it Revenge of the Supply. After all, last year will be remembered as the period of semiconductor shortages, production bottlenecks, disrupted value chains, delayed deliveries, surging job vacancies, rising inflation, and skyrocketing energy prices. It could be a shocking discovery for Keynesian economists, who focus on aggregate demand and believe that there is always slack in the economy, but it turned out that supply matters too!

As a reminder, state governments couldn’t deal with the pandemic more smartly and introduced lockdowns. Then, it turned out – what a surprise! – that the shutdown of the economy, well, shut down the economy, so the Fed and the banking system boosted the money supply, while Congress passed a mammoth fiscal stimulus, including sending checks to just about every American.

In other words, 2021 showed us that one cannot close and reopen the economy without any negative consequences, as the economy doesn’t simply return to the status quo. After the reopening of the economy, people started to spend all the money that was “printed” and given to them. Hence, demand increased sharply, and supply couldn’t keep up with the boosted spending.

It turned out that economic problems are not always related to the demand side that has to be “stimulated”. We’ve also learned that there are supply constraints and that production and delivery don’t always go smoothly. The contemporary economy is truly global, complex, and interconnected – and the proper working of this mechanism depends on the adequate functioning of its zillion elements. Thus, shit happens from time to time. This is why it’s smart to have some gold as a portfolio insurance against tail risks.

Evergiven, the ship that blocked the Suez Canal, disrupting international trade, was the perfect illustration. However, the importance of supply factors goes beyond logistics and is related to regulations, taxes, incentives, etc. Instead of calls for injecting liquidity during each crisis, efficiency, reducing the disincentives to work and invest, and unlocking the supply shackles imposed by the government should become the top economic priority.

Another negative surprise for mainstream economists in 2021 was the revenge of inflation. For years, central bankers and analysts have dismissed the threat of inflation, considering it a phenomenon of the past. In the 1970s, the Fed was still learning how to conduct monetary policy. It made a few mistakes, but is much smarter today, so stagflation won’t repeat. Additionally, we live in a globalized economy with strong product competition and weak labor unions, so inflation won’t get out of control.

Indeed, inflation was stubbornly low for years, despite all the easy monetary policy, and didn’t want to reach the Fed’s target of 2%, so the US central bank changed its regime to be more flexible and tolerant of inflation. It was in 2020, just one year before the outbreak of inflation. The Fed completely didn’t expect that – which shows the intellectual poverty of this institution – and called it “transitory”.

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Initially, inflation was supposed to be short-lived because of the “base effects”, then because of the “supply bottlenecks”. Only in November, the Fed admitted that inflation was more broad-based and would be more persistent than it previously thought. Well, better late than never!

What does the revenge of supply and inflation imply for the gold market? One could expect that gold would perform better last year amid all the supply problems and a surge in inflation. We’ve learned that gold doesn’t always shine during inflationary times. The reason was that supply shortages didn’t translate into a full-blown economic crisis. On the contrary, they were caused by a strong rebound in demand; and they contributed mainly to higher inflation, which strengthened the Fed’s hawkish rhetoric and expectations of higher interest rates, creating downward pressure on gold prices.

On the other hand, we could say as well that gold prices were supported by elevated inflation and didn’t drop more thanks to all the supply disruptions and inflationary threats. After all, during the economic expansion of 2011-2015 that followed the Great Recession, gold plunged about 45%, while between the 2020 peak and the end of 2021, the yellow metal lost only about 13%, as the chart below shows.

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Hence, the worst might be yet to come. I don’t expect a similarly deep decline as in the past, especially given that the Fed’s tightening cycle seems to be mostly priced in, but the real interest rates could normalize somewhat. Thus, I have bad news for the gold bulls. The supply crunch is expected to moderate in the second half of 2022, which would also ease inflationary pressure. To be clear, inflation won’t disappear, but it may reach a peak this year. The combination of improvement on the supply side of the economy, with inflation reaching its peak, and with a more hawkish Fed doesn’t bode well for gold.

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Arkadiusz Sieron, PhD
Sunshine Profits: Effective Investment through Diligence & Care.

Arkadiusz Sieron

Arkadiusz Sieron

Hi, my name is Arkadiusz Sieroń. Call me a liar, but I am writing about the precious metals thanks to Arthur Laffer, Alan Greenspan, John Keynes and Fredrich Hayek. Really! Would you like to know how these economists, some of whom have been dead for a long time, triggered my adventure with gold? When I was in high school, I took part in the Entrepreneurship Olympic, one of the biggest thematic competitions for pupils from secondary schools. During my preparations, I studied an academic textbook, in which I came across a Laffer curve. Eureka! If the tax revenues are the same at low and high tax rates, the government should lower them! I did not win the competition, but I achieved much more. I decided to become an economist! And I loved the idea of small government and economic freedom since that very moment. After graduating from high school, I moved to the capital. I was very excited, as I started to study economics at the best economics university in the country. However, the professors disappointed me very quickly. Why? They all were statists, supporting extensive government intervention and fiat currencies. Gold? It is a barbarous relic! Have you not read Lord Keynes? I was very depressed. I even considered giving up my studies in economics and enrolling in the Philosophy Faculty! You can see now that I was really desperate. When I was contemplating nothingness and vanity of vanities, a few of my classmates lent me a handful of fascinating books, such as Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. I also discovered the publications of the Austrian economists who supported the idea of the gold standard. It sounded crazy in the 21th century, but it was inspiring. I rediscovered the sense of studying economics. I continued my studies and one day I read these words: “Gold and economic freedom are inseparable”. Try guess who wrote them. Don’t give up, try once again. Don’t know? Alan Greenspan. Shocking, right? This is a quote from his “Gold and Economic Freedom”, an article published in 1966. Several years before he became the Fed Chair, and several more before the real estate bubble, that he helped to pump, up burst. Quite ironic, don’t you think? Both his essay and the Great Recession (and the accompanying bull market) motivated me to study investment portfolio management and the precious metals. I became a certified Investment Adviser very soon and I started to work for the biggest pension fund in the country. My corporate career seemed to be very promising. However, I quickly discovered that the company invested most of the participants’ funds into Treasuries or shares of the big state companies. And they didn’t even want to hear about investing in precious metals. I quit. I found a shelter at the university, as a Ph.D. candidate and – after a defense of my thesis about certain negative consequences of inflation (i.e. the Cantillon effect) – as an Assistant Professor. I was finally free to study economics, freedom, and gold. The more I read about gold, the more I was terrified. Most of the so-called experts who write about the precious metals, don’t have any idea about the subject they discuss. They treat gold as a mere commodity. Or they claim that gold is either worthless as it does not bring any yield or that its price should always rise. I was really let down by the state of understanding of the gold market among the analysts and investors. But I could not do too much. Until the sun shined down on me. I got a job offer at Sunshine Profits. I didn’t hesitate a second and accepted it, although many professors discouraged me: “You are a scholar, focus on science and do not write silly newsletters about bullion" -they advised me. But I did not listen to them, as they clearly didn’t understand the nature of gold. It is not a barbarous relic, it is the longest used money in history, and a clinking witness of human civilization. Gold is the asset, which used to serve as the safe- haven and portfolio diversifier for investors from the entire world for years. I wanted to study its properties and to share with my knowledge with people who do not have time for that. I wanted to help investors to better understand fundamentals of the gold market and improve their investment decisions. I’m happy that I can do that at Sunshine Profits. I’m really proud to be a member of our team and provide investors with high quality investment analyses about the gold market.