For investors, all the uncertainty this situation brings to the fiscal cliff and its impending tax increases and spending cuts are likely to fuel plenty of volatility for the next several months.
Yesterday’s almost 300 point drop on the Dow and a 7% pop in the VIX are good examples of this.
We can also expect Ben Bernanke to be in place until at least early 2014. The only change I expect from the Fed now is more frequent and still larger easing campaigns, as well as potentially extending low rates, again, beyond mid-2015. Even if Bernanke is replaced, I expect only more of the same seriously misguided policies.
In fact, just yesterday San Francisco Fed President John Williams hinted that the most recent QE3 bond buying program could well exceed $600 billion.
So what does all of this mean to investors in hard assets–particularly those with holdings in gold and silver?
Since Obama was elected in 2008, gold is up 116% and silver us up a whopping 198%.
Honestly, I expect a similar performance could well be enjoyed over the next four years. Constant easy money, extreme low interest rates, mounting uncertainty, and growing investment demand are likely to be the drivers.
If this plays out, by the time the next election rolls around in 2016, we could be looking at $3,700 gold and silver may be trading at $95. Frankly, I could see both of these levels easily surpassed.
As for energy, keep in mind that Obama has stated that he’s strongly behind the “green” kind. That puts him in a quandary over natural gas.
Certainly, it burns more cleanly than either oil or coal. But much of the new supply comes from shale. That means a lot of fracking is required to get at it. The problem is there is a fair amount of environmental opposition to fracking, since those groups believe it can pollute aquifers, and cause minor seismic events.
The Obama administration’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is attempting to impose daunting new regulations on both federal and tribal lands, adding on layers of reporting and compliance costs.
As for coal, Obama’s made no bones about how much he’s against it, even if he does talk up clean coal technologies from time to time. Despite coal stocks being down about 50% since mid-year, they lost another 5% yesterday. There’s a good chance much of the bad news has already been factored in, so coal stocks could actually turn out to be an interesting contrarian play going forward.
Uranium and nuclear power have taken it on the chin since Japan’s Fukushima disaster.
But Obama has been a big supporter since he campaigned in 2008, promising nuclear power would stay as part of the “energy mix”. Billions in loans guarantees have been promised to large nuclear power utilities.
Like coal, nuclear stocks are down, in this case about 35% in the past two years.
But a large supply of uranium from the Russian Megatons to Megawatts program will expire next year. Large and developing Asian nations continue to build reactors for cost-effective energy. As well, the power hungry economies of Germany and Japan, both of whom claim they will lessen their dependence on nuclear power, are likely to backtrack in the future as energy costs from other sources skyrocket. Nuclear power and uranium are also looking like potentially good long term contrarian trades at this point.
No matter how you slice it, the next four years will be rocky. Volatility will increase and uncertainty will spread.
In the face of that, precious metals are a long standing safe haven, something that’s unlikely to change.
But the world won’t stop turning, so energy will continue playing a central role in the economy. Natural gas is one to watch, with coal and uranium looking like attractive options to bet against the crowd.
Just make sure hard assets are part of your portfolio mix.
Related: SPDR Gold Trust (NYSEARCA:GLD), iShares Silver Trust (NYSEARCA:SLV), iShares Gold Trust (NYSEARCA:IAU), Sprott Physical Gold Trust (NYSEARCA:PHYS).
Peter Krauth is a highly regarded market analyst and expert in metals and mining stocks, with a special expertise in energy and resource-related investments. Using the contacts and connections amassed during years of covering commodities investments, Krauth scours the globe to research all commodity sectors, including precious metals, base metals, fossil fuels, alternative energies and agriculture. A one-time portfolio advisor having earned an MBA in finance from McGill University, Krauth is headquartered in resource-rich Canada, where he now focuses exclusively on his research.