Is the End of Transitory Inflation the End of Gold Bulls?

Is the End of Transitory Inflation the End of Gold Bulls?

The debate about the nature of inflation is over. Now the question is what the end of transitory inflation implies for gold. I offer two perspectives.

Welcome, my son. Welcome to the inflationary machine. Welcome to the new economic regime of elevated inflation. That’s official because even central bankers have finally admitted what I’ve been saying for a long time: the current high inflation is not merely a transitory one-off price shock. In a testimony before Congress, Jerome Powell agreed that “it’s probably a good time to retire” the word “transitory” in relation to inflation. Bravo, Jay! It took you only several months longer than my freshmen students to figure it out, but better late than never. Actually, even a moderately intelligent chimpanzee would notice that inflation is not merely temporary just by looking at the graph below.

Is the End of Transitory Inflation the End of Gold Bulls? - 1

To be clear, I’m not predicting hyperinflation or even galloping inflation. Nor do I claim that at least some of the current inflationary pressures won’t subside next year. No, some supply-side factors behind recent price surges are likely to abate in 2022. However, other drivers will persist, or even intensify (think about housing inflation or energy crisis).

Let’s be honest: we are facing a global inflation shock right now. In many countries, inflation has reached its highest rate in decades. In the United States, the annual CPI rate is 6.2%, while it reached 5.2% in Germany, 4.9% in the Eurozone, and 3.8% in the United Kingdom. The shameful secret is that central banks and governments played a key role in fueling this inflation. As the famous Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises noticed once,

The most important thing to remember is that inflation is not an act of God; inflation is not a catastrophe of the elements or a disease that comes like the plague. Inflation is a policy — a deliberate policy of people who resort to inflation because they consider it to be a lesser evil than unemployment. But the fact is that, in the not very long run, inflation does not cure unemployment.

Indeed, the Fed and the banking system injected a lot of money into the economy and also created room for the government to boost its spending and send checks to Americans. The resulting consumer spending boom clogged the supply chains and caused a jump in inflation.

Obviously, the policymakers don’t want to admit their guilt and that they have anything to do with inflation. At the beginning, they claim that there is no inflation at all. Next, they say that inflation may exist after all, but is only caused by the “base effect”, so it will be a short-lived phenomenon that results solely from the nature of the yearly comparison. Lastly, they admit that there is something beyond the “base effect” but inflation will be transitory because it’s caused only by a few exceptional components of the overall index, the outliers like used cars this year. Nothing to worry about, then. Higher prices are a result of bottlenecks that will abate very soon on their own. Later, inflation is admitted to be more broad-based and persistent, but it is said to be caused by greedy businesses and speculators who raise prices maliciously. Finally, the policymakers present themselves as the salvation from the inflation problem(that was caused by them in the first place). Such brilliant “solutions” as subsidies to consumers and price controls are introduced and further disrupt the economy.

The Fed has recently admitted that inflation is not merely transitory, so if the abovementioned scheme is adequate, we should expect to look for scapegoats and possibly also interventions in the economy to heroically fight inflation. Gold could benefit from such rhetoric, as it could increase demand for safe-haven assets and inflation hedges.

However, the Fed’s capitulation also implies a hawkish shift. If inflation is more persistent, the US central bank will have to act in a more decisive way, as inflation won’t subside on its own. The faster pace of quantitative easing tapering and the sooner interest rate hikes imply higher bond yields and a stronger greenback, so they are clearly negative for gold prices.

Having said that, the Fed stays and is likely to stay woefully behind the curve. The real federal funds rate (i.e., adjusted by the CPI annual rate) is currently at -6.1%, which is the deepest level in history, as the chart below shows. It is much deeper than it was at the lows of stagflation in the 1970s, which may create certain problems in the future.

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What is important here is that even when the Fed raises the federal funds rate by one percentage point next year, and even when inflation declines by another two percentage points, the real federal funds rate will increase to only -3%, so it will stay deeply in negative territory. Surely, the upward direction should be negative for gold prices, and the bottom in real interest rates would be a strong bearish signal for gold. However, rates remaining well below zero should provide some support or at least a decent floor for gold prices (i.e., higher than the levels touched by gold in the mid-2010s).

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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.