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Is the Bull Market in Gold Over?
Posted by: [email protected] (IP Logged)
Date: December 12, 2012 05:08PM

Most mainstream pundits seem to think the economy is recovering.

The worriers can stop worrying, they say. The U.S. has plenty of cheap oil. Unemployment levels are falling. The housing market is recovering.

This is not time to buy gold, they say. The world is not going to end. You won't need it.

All year long, we've heard analysts tell us that the bull market in gold was over. Most recently, Goldman Sachs' top commodity man announced that gold will go down next year, as real interest rates once again turn positive.

Gold was a nice thing to hold when the world was in a financial crisis, goes the argument. But now, the trouble is behind us.

Markets have stabilized. Europe has figured out how to manage its sovereign debt issues. China is not going to blow up anytime soon. And the U.S. is on the road to a sustained recovery, thanks in large measure to huge new oil and gas output.

Who needs insurance in a world where nothing goes seriously wrong?

And yet, gold holds above $1,700 an ounce. It's up about $150 an ounce from the beginning of the year. Let's see... That's nearly a 10% increase. Not too shabby for an insurance policy.

Central Banks Are Still Buyers

And now comes word in the Financial Times that Americans are buying so many gold coins the U.S. Mint can barely keep up.

Silly fellows. Don't they know there's nothing to worry about?

And what's this? Apparently, foreign central banks are being silly too. Here's another FT report:

In 2009 [...] China announced that it had been buying gold and India purchased 200 tons from the International Monetary Fund.

Since then, Thailand, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have all bought significant quantities for the first time in years, making Asian central banks the driver of official sector purchasing.

Now the gold bug appears to be catching in Latin America.

Why are these central banks buying gold? Don't they know that gold holdings don't earn them any money? Don't they know they'd be better off with U.S. Treasurys? Don't they know the dollar is as good as gold?

Apparently not.

"Pulling a Gono"

And we're not so sure either...

If the U.S. really were in a recovery we'd soon see interest rates rise... and consumer prices go up too. You would expect gold to go up along with everything else.

Then things would get interesting. The Fed would have to choose: either back off from its EZ money policies or risk runaway inflation.

If the Fed were to "pull a Volcker," it would be time to sell gold. But 2013 is not 1979. And Ben Bernanke is no Paul Volcker.

More than likely, Bernanke will "pull a Gono."

Gideon Gono is the governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, and was responsible for the hyperinflation there between about 2005 and 2008, when the value of the zim dollar didn't just go down -- it disappeared completely. (Toward the end of 2008, the rate of inflation reached 89,700,000,000,000,000,000,000%!)

Zombie Watch

And now, a new feature... something I call "Zombie Watch."

First, from Bloomberg:

$822,000 Worker Shows California Leads U.S. Pay Giveaway

Among the largest states, almost every category of worker has participated in the pay bonanza. Britt Harris, chief investment officer at the Teacher Retirement System of Texas, last year collected $1 million -- including his $480,000 salary and two years of bonuses -- more than four times what Republican Governor Rick Perry received.

Pension managers in Ohio and Virginia made up to $678,000 and $660,000, respectively, according to the data, which Bloomberg obtained using public-record requests. In an interview, Harris said public pension pay must be competitive with the private sector to attract top investment talent.

Psychiatrists were among the highest-paid employees in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and New Jersey, with total compensation $270,000 to $327,000 for top earners. State police officers in Pennsylvania collected checks as big as $190,000 for unused vacation and personal leave as they retired young enough to start second careers, while Virginia paid active officers as much as $109,000 in overtime alone, the data show.

The numbers are even larger in California, where a state psychiatrist was paid $822,000, a highway patrol officer collected $484,000 in pay and pension benefits and 17 employees got checks of more than $200,000 for unused vacation and leave. The best-paid staff in other states earned far less for the same work, according to the data.

And from The Center for Public Integrity:

Officials in central Indianapolis thought deeply a few years back about what equipment they needed to defend against a local attack involving weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical arms or a nuclear bomb, and their answer was (ba dum, ba dum) a hovercraft!

Luckily, the city didn't even have to foot the $69,000 bill. The funds instead came from a Federal Emergency Management Agency program known as the Urban Area Security Initiative, which has so far spent more than $7 billion trying to make about five dozen of America's cities safe from the threat of terrorism.

When officials in Louisiana calculated how they could best deal with the terrorism threat in their own backyard, their answer in part was -- yes, really -- a teleprompter and a lapel microphone, again purchased with funds from the FEMA initiative. Similarly, Oxnard-Thousand Oaks officials in California deliberated and decided to buy new fins and snorkels for their dive team.

But the City of Clovis in that state was even more creative: They used a $250,000 FEMA grant to buy an armored vehicle known as the BearCat, which wound up being used to patrol at an Easter egg hunt and other public events.

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