What Western Supply and Asian Demand Mean For Gold Prices
The global rally for gold underway since late June will soon translate to juniors, says Brien Lundin, CEO of Jefferson Financial and the publisher/editor of Gold Newsletter. With so many undervalued companies in safe North American jurisdictions, he sees no reason to add sovereign risk to a portfolio. In this interview with The Gold Report, Lundin details which companies he follows and why, highlighting one area where major discoveries are “lined up like pearls on a string.”
The Gold Report: Brien, judging from the tone of the September 2013 issue of Gold Newsletter, you have renewed excitement for precious metals equities. Why?
Brien Lundin: You’re absolutely right, and it’s all based on the metals markets. In a typical year, the precious metals markets bottom out at the end of July to early August, when physical demand from Asia abates, before kicking back up in late August and September.
This year, gold bottomed out in a final downward thrust at the end of June and then started building back up. At the same time, a lot of anecdotal evidence began to reveal an extremely tight supply situation in the global gold market. Taking all of that together, I was fairly confident in calling a bottom for gold.
Then, the equities started to respond. However, the situation in Syria prompted some safe-haven demand in the last few days and the mining equities stepped back; with safe-haven demand, investors want the metal, not the paper. But that was just a brief blip. I see an open road ahead for gold metal and gold equities.
TGR: Gold is moving higher, but without much of an explanation. What is your take on the situation?
BL: The market has had some strong performance, jumping $15, $25, even $35 in a day. I think those spikes are a result of the extremely tight demand situation in the gold market. In the spring, Western speculators and some of the big holders of SPDR Gold Trust (GLD), the gold exchange-traded fund (ETF), abandoned the market in anticipation of the imminent end of quantitative easing (QE). We also had some manipulation, notably on April 12 and April 15, in a blatant attempt to force the market through sell stops, thus benefiting from short positions. As a result of these speculative selloffs, the market was dramatically oversold.
But this rapid price decline sparked tremendous bargain hunting in Asia. Asian demand more than overcame the selling by Western speculators. The supplies of gold in the Comex warehouses dropped to record low levels. We saw gold being transferred from vaults in the West to the East, causing the rare occurrence of a negative Gold Forward Offered (GOFO) rate—the interest rate difference between gold holdings and LIBOR. That has happened only twice in this bull market, at the beginning of the major bull trend around 2000, and in 2008. Both times it marked a major turnaround in the metal.
There is a lot of evidence that this unprecedented supply situation was behind the sharp, brief upward spikes in the gold price. As you add up these sharp spikes, gold was gradually and then more rapidly coming off that bottom in late June.
There are number of players in the East who want gold and are willing to pay higher prices. There also is a shortage of gold in the West. From a fundamental supply-demand standpoint, we still have some room to go in this oversold rebound.
TGR: Could you expand on why you believe China will soon be “driving the bus” for the global gold market?
BL: The Shanghai Gold Exchange (SGE), putatively a futures exchange, is actually a physical delivery mechanism for the Chinese market. Most of the gold traded on the SGE is actually delivered to end-users. As of the end of June, SGE reported nearly 1,100 tons of gold have been traded so far this year. That equates to all of the metal that had been traded on the SGE in 2012, which itself was a record year.
Put another way, at this rate of consumption, demand on the SGE this year will equal the entire newly mined global output projected for 2013. In effect, all of the new gold supply in the world is being consumed by a single exchange in a single nation.
China will soon exceed India as the largest source of gold demand in the world. There are demographic factors behind this: a deep cultural affinity for gold, a growing population and a rapidly growing middle class. The per-capita use for gold in China is still relatively low but has a lot of upside. As incomes grow in China, gold demand will grow on a per-capita basis even as the population grows. The potential for growth in the demand for gold is almost exponential.