Best of the Week
Most Popular
1. Investing in a Bubble Mania Stock Market Trending Towards Financial Crisis 2.0 CRASH! - 9th Sep 21
2.Tech Stocks Bubble Valuations 2000 vs 2021 - 25th Sep 21
3.Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
4.Stock Market FOMO Hits September Brick Wall - Evergrande China's Lehman's Moment - 22nd Sep 21
5.Crypto Bubble BURSTS! BTC, ETH, XRP CRASH! NiceHash Seizes Funds on Account Halting ALL Withdrawals! - 19th May 21
6.How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
7.AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
8.Why Silver Price Could Crash by 20%! - 5th Oct 21
9.Powell: Inflation Might Not Be Transitory, After All - 3rd Oct 21
10.Global Stock Markets Topped 60 Days Before the US Stocks Peaked - 23rd Sep 21
Last 7 days
Inflation Consequences for the Stock Market, FED Balance Sheet - 24th Oct 21
To Be or Not to Be: How the Evergrande Crisis Can Affect Gold Price - 24th Oct 21
During a Market Mania, "no prudent professional is perceived to add value" - 24th Oct 21
Stock Market S&P500 Rallies Above $4400 – May Attempt To Advance To $4750~$4800 - 24th Oct 21
Inflation and the Crazy Crypto Markets - 23rd Oct 21
Easy PC Upgrades with Motherboard Combos - Overclockers UK Unboxing - MB, Memory and Ryzen 5600x CPU - 23rd Oct 21
Gold Mining Stocks Q3 2021 - 23rd Oct 21
Gold calmly continues cobbling its Handle, Miners lay in wait - 23rd Oct 21
US Economy Has Been in an Economic Depression Since 2008 - 22nd Oct 21
Extreme Ratios Point to Gold and Silver Price Readjustments - 22nd Oct 21
Bitcoin $100K or Ethereum $10K—which happens first? - 22nd Oct 21
This Isn’t Sci-Fi: How AI Is About To Disrupt This $11 Trillion Industry - 22nd Oct 21
Ravencoin RVN About to EXPLODE to NEW HIGHS! Last Chance to Buy Before it goes to the MOON! - 21st Oct 21
Stock Market Animal Spirits Returning - 21st Oct 21
Inflation Advances, and So Does Gold — Except That It Doesn’t - 21st Oct 21
Why A.I. Is About To Trigger The Next Great Medical Breakthrough - 21st Oct 21
Gold Price Slowly Going Nowhere - 20th Oct 21
Shocking Numbers Show Government Crowding Out Real Economy - 20th Oct 21
Crude Oil Is in the Fast Lane, But Where Is It Going? - 20th Oct 21
3 Tech Stocks That Could Change The World - 20th Oct 21
Best AI Tech Stocks ETF and Investment Trusts - 19th Oct 21
Gold Mining Stocks: Will Investors Dump the Laggards? - 19th Oct 21
The Most Exciting Medical Breakthrough Of The Decade? - 19th Oct 21
Prices Rising as New Dangers Point to Hard Assets - 19th Oct 21
It’s not just Copper; GYX indicated cyclical the whole time - 19th Oct 21
Chinese Tech Stocks CCP Paranoia, VIES - Variable Interest Entities - 19th Oct 21
Inflation Peaked Again, Right? - 19th Oct 21
Gold Stocks Bouncing Hard - 19th Oct 21
Stock Market New Intermediate Bottom Forming? - 19th Oct 21
Beware, Gold Bulls — That’s the Beginning of the End - 18th Oct 21
Gold Price Flag Suggests A Big Rally May Start Soon - 18th Oct 21
Inflation Or Deflation – End Result Is Still Depression - 18th Oct 21
A.I. Breakthrough Could Disrupt the $11 Trillion Medical Sector - 18th Oct 21
US Economy and Stock Market Addicted to Deficit Spending - 17th Oct 21
The Gold Price And Inflation - 17th Oct 21
Went Long the Crude Oil? Beware of the Headwinds Ahead… - 17th Oct 21
Watch These Next-gen Cloud Computing Stocks - 17th Oct 21
Overclockers UK Custom Built PC 1 YEAR Use Review Verdict - Does it Still Work? - 16th Oct 21
Altonville Mine Tours Maze at Alton Towers Scarefest 2021 - 16th Oct 21
How to Protect Your Self From a Stock Market CRASH / Bear Market? - 14th Oct 21
The Only way to Crush Inflation (not stocks) - 14th Oct 21
Why "Losses Are the Norm" in the Stock Market - 14th Oct 21
Sub Species Castle Maze at Alton Towers Scarefest 2021 - 14th Oct 21
Which Wallet is Best for Storing NFTs? - 14th Oct 21
Ailing UK Pound Has Global Effects - 14th Oct 21
How to Get 6 Years Life Out of Your Overclocked PC System, Optimum GPU, CPU and MB Performance - 13th Oct 21
The Demand Shock of 2022 - 12th Oct 21
4 Reasons Why NFTs Could Be The Future - 12th Oct 21
Crimex Silver: Murder Most Foul - 12th Oct 21
Bitcoin Rockets In Preparation For Liftoff To $100,000 - 12th Oct 21
INTEL Tech Stock to the MOON! INTC 2000 vs 2021 Market Bubble WARNING - 11th Oct 21
AI Stocks Portfolio Buying and Selling Levels Going Into Market Correction - 11th Oct 21
Stock Market Wall of Worry Meets NFPs - 11th Oct 21
Stock Market Intermediate Correction Continues - 11th Oct 21
China / US Stock Markets Divergence - 10th Oct 21
Can US Save Taiwan From China? Taiwan Strait Naval Battle - PLA vs 7th Fleet War Game Simulation - 10th Oct 21
Gold Price Outlook: The Inflation Chasm Between Europe and the US - 10th Oct 21
US Real Estate ETFs React To Rising Housing Market Mortgage Interest Rates - 10th Oct 21
US China War over Taiwan Simulation 2021, Invasion Forecast - Who Will Win? - 9th Oct 21
When Will the Fed Taper? - 9th Oct 21
Dancing with Ghouls and Ghosts at Alton Towers Scarefest 2021 - 9th Oct 21
Stock Market FOMO Going into Crash Season - 8th Oct 21
Scan Computers - Custom Build PC 6 Months Later, Reliability, Issues, Quality of Tech Support Review - 8th Oct 21
Gold and Silver: Your Financial Main Battle Tanks - 8th Oct 21
How to handle the “Twin Crises” Evergrande and Debt Ceiling Threatening Stocks - 8th Oct 21
Why a Peak in US Home Prices May Be Approaching - 8th Oct 21
Alton Towers Scarefest is BACK! Post Pandemic Frights Begin, What it's Like to Enter Scarefest 2021 - 8th Oct 21
AJ Bell vs II Interactive Investor - Which Platform is Best for Buying US FAANG Stocks UK Investing - 7th Oct 21
Gold: Evergrande Investors' Savior - 7th Oct 21
Here's What Really Sets Interest Rates (Not Central Banks) - 7th Oct 21

Market Oracle FREE Newsletter

How to Protect your Wealth by Investing in AI Tech Stocks

Gold More Productive Than Cash?!

Commodities / Gold and Silver 2016 Apr 27, 2016 - 02:25 PM GMT

By: Axel_Merk

Commodities

Is gold, often scoffed at as being an unproductive asset, more productive than cash? If so, what does it mean for asset allocation?



There are investors that stay away from investing in gold because it is an 'unproductive' asset: the argument points out gold doesn't have an intrinsic return, it doesn't pay a dividend. Some go as far as arguing investing in gold isn't patriotic because it suggests an investor prefers to buy something unproductive rather than investing into a real business. In many ways, it is intriguing that a shiny piece of precious metal raises emotions; today, we explore why that is the case.

Investing is about returns...
Each investor has their own preference in determining asset and sector allocations. Some investors prefer to stay away from the tobacco, defense or fossil fuel industry. During times of war, countries have issued bonds calling upon the patriotism of citizens to support the cause. At its core, however, investing, in our assessment, boils down to returns; more specifically, risk-adjusted returns. The "best" company in the world may not be worth investing in if its price is too high. Similarly, there may be lots of value in a beaten down company leading to statements suggesting profitable investments may be found "when there's blood on the street."

Gold is not only unproductive, but has a storage cost and is expensive to insure. So what could possibly be attractive about gold?

Investors like nothing...
We wonder where all these patriotic investors are hiding. That's because if we look at long-term yields, they are near historic lows throughout the developed world, with many countries showing near zero or even negative yields on governments bonds. Differently said, many investors rather get a negative yield on the safest investments available to local investors (disclaimer: U.S. regulatory point of view, foreign government bonds aren't considered "safe") than invest in so-called productive assets: a corporate bond may qualify as a 'productive asset' if a company uses the proceeds to invest in future ventures; yet, in today's environment, corporations frequently issue bonds to buy back shares. Why do investors prefer "nothing" - as in no or negative returns - over investing in productive assets? And if investors really like negative returns, is gold - that doesn't have an intrinsic return, suddenly attractive?

Productivity is king
On April 7, Fed Chair Yellen joined an "International House" panel with all living former Fed Chairs: Bernanke, Greenspan and Volcker. When Bernanke was asked whether we need more fiscal stimulus as monetary policy may have reached its limits, we interpreted Bernanke's long-winded answer as agreeing to the basic notion that it would be helpful to ramp up fiscal spending. Little coverage was given to Greenspan's response: "No!" Focusing on the U.S., he said unemployment is close to what's historically considered full employment: if fiscal spending were to be ramped up, we might get a short-term bump in growth due to the induced government spending, but we would foremost get wage inflation and increased deficits that will come back to haunt us. Instead, he argued, we need policies that increase productivity: when you are near full employment, the way you grow an economy is to increase the output per worker. He suggested the best way to increase productivity is to encourage investments.

While we acknowledge that not everyone agrees with Greenspan's policies over the years, we believe he is dead right on this one. So why the heck aren't investors investing? Why are they buying bonds yielding just about nothing?

Investment is dead...
There may be many reasons why investors are on strike. Current low inflation, in our view, is a symptom, not a cause of that. At its core, we believe investors don't think they get rewarded for their risky investments. Our analysis shows that investors in recent decades have - on average - focused on ever more short-term projects. That is, projects that require massive investments with an expected return in twenty years rarely happen these days.

In his book "Civilization: The West and the Rest," economic historian Niall Ferguson makes the point that what differentiates the West from 'the Rest' is the rule of law. When there's certainty over the future rules and regulations, i.e. when the rules of the game are clear, investors are more likely to invest. We believe that rule of law has been deteriorating, but not necessarily in the most apparent way:

  • Regulatory risks. We allege regulatory burdens have substantially increased in many industries. This increases the barriers to entry (stifling innovation), as only large players can afford to comply with the rules. If we take the U.S., gridlock in Congress, has caused regulatory agencies to increasingly change the path of regulations without legislative process. The cost of doing business has gone up in many industries, from finance to pharmaceuticals to energy, to name a few.
  • Government debt. We allege investments are at risk when governments have too much debt. That's because the interests of a government in debt is not aligned with the interests of savers. A government in debt may be tempted to induce inflation, increase taxation or outright expropriate wealth. In our assessment, investors need to be convinced government deficits are sustainable for them to have an incentive to invest.

Neither government deficits nor regulations are new phenomena, of course. But we believe it's concerns over trends like these that are key to holding back investments. It's often argued that the U.S. can print its own money and, as a result, will never default. Possibly, but that doesn't mean the U.S. won't induce inflation or find other ways to tax investors. And while there are solutions to any problem, investors must be convinced that those that benefit risk takers will be embraced. Eurogroup chief Dijsselbloem, at the peak of the Eurozone debt crisis phrased it well, arguing that we cannot expect long-term investments if we don't tell people where we want to be in ten years from now. While a crisis is apparent when Greek government bonds rattle global financial markets, the global strike by investors to invest in productive assets may be just as alarming.

Demographics
But aren't demographics at least partially to blame for the low rates? It cannot be entirely a view about fiscal deficits and regulations? Sure enough, we agree that demographics put downward pressure on real rates of return. Yet, we see this as part of the same issue: we could introduce policies that encourage workers to be productive longer rather than retire at age 65. Instead, we have policies in place that have enabled many to go into early retirement by claiming disability benefits. With increased life expectancies throughout the world, we feel retirement at age 65 has become a major fiscal burden.

Is gold now good or bad?
As we have pointed out many times in the past, it's not gold that's good or bad. Gold doesn't change - it's the world around it that does. We believe an investment in gold should be looked at in the context of an overall portfolio construction. There, one should look at the expected risk and expected return of any asset one considers including in a portfolio. Please read our Gold Reports for more in-depth analysis of gold's low correlation to other assets that might make it a valuable diversifier; you may also want to read our recent analysis Gold Now as to why we think gold might be good value for investors. For purposes of this discussion, however, we like to put gold in the context of productive assets. Our interpretation of the bond market suggests investors are shunning productive assets these days. Part of that may be concerns by investors that they will not be rewarded, with part of that due to what may be excessive government debt and regulations; another attribute may well be valuations, as we believe monetary policy has pushed many so-called productive assets into what may be bubble territory. Following this line of reasoning, reasons to hold gold in a portfolio may include:

  • We may be pushing the can down the road. A belief that policies in place have not put us on a sustainable fiscal path. Concerns of ballooning entitlement obligations come to mind. Namely, we are pushing the can down the road. Importantly, we don't see a change in that trend for some time, if at all.
  • Regulatory uncertainty is only increasing. Regulations are strangling businesses, discouraging investments.

In contrast, reasons to reduce gold holdings in a portfolio may include, with respect to the above bullet points:

  • Recent government deficits have been improving; folks have always complained about the long-term outlook, but when push comes to shove, politicians will find solutions.
  • Both small and big business have always complained about regulation, there's little new here.

Phrasing it this way, it's not a surprise that an investment in gold often has a political dimension. We caution, however, that gold is anything but political. As such, it may be hazardous to one's wealth to make investment decisions based one's political conviction. Instead, investors may want to take a step back and acknowledge that investors in the aggregate give a thumbs down to investments as evidenced by the low to negative long-term yields in the U.S. and other countries.

 Gold: cash or credit?
Before we settle the discussion on gold being 'unproductive,' let's clarify that cash isn't productive either: the twenty-dollar bill in your pocket won't earn you any interest either. To make cash productive, you need to put it at risk, if only to deposit it at a bank. With FDIC insurance or similar, such risk might be mitigated for smaller deposits. Gold is no different in that regard: to earn interest on gold, one needs to lend it to someone. Many jewelers are only leasing the gold until they find a buyer for the finished product; to make this happen, someone else is earning interest providing a loan in gold. Many of today's investors don't like to loan their gold, concerned about the counter-party risk it creates. The price such investors pay is that they don't earn interest on their gold, a price those investors think is well worth paying.

Gold more productive than cash?
The reason we started this discussion wondering whether gold may be more productive than cash also relates to the fact that real rates of return on cash, i.e. those net of inflation, may be negative in parts of the world. There are many measures of inflation and some argue that government statistics under-represent actual inflation. As such, each investor might have his or her own assessment where inflation may be. However, when real rates of return on cash are negative, it may be appropriate to say gold is more productive than cash.

In summary, anyone who thinks that we are heading back to what might be considered a 'normal' economy, might be less inclined to hold gold, except if such a person believes that the transition to such a normal economy might be a bumpy ride for investors (due to the low correlation of the price of gold to equities and other assets, it may still be a good diversifier in such a scenario).

However, anyone who thinks history repeats itself in the sense that governments over time spend too much money or over-regulate, might want to have a closer look at gold. There may well be a reason why gold is the constant while governments come and go.

To expand on the discussion, please register for our upcoming Webinar entitled 'What's next for the dollar, currencies & gold' on Tuesday, May 24, to continue the discussion. Also make sure you subscribe to our free Merk Insights, if you haven't already done so, and follow me at twitter.com/AxelMerk. If you believe this analysis might be of value to your friends, please share it with them.

Axel Merk

Manager of the Merk Hard, Asian and Absolute Return Currency Funds, www.merkfunds.com

Rick Reece is a Financial Analyst at Merk Investments and a member of the portfolio management

Axel Merk, President & CIO of Merk Investments, LLC, is an expert on hard money, macro trends and international investing. He is considered an authority on currencies. Axel Merk wrote the book on Sustainable Wealth; order your copy today.

The Merk Absolute Return Currency Fund seeks to generate positive absolute returns by investing in currencies. The Fund is a pure-play on currencies, aiming to profit regardless of the direction of the U.S. dollar or traditional asset classes.

The Merk Asian Currency Fund seeks to profit from a rise in Asian currencies versus the U.S. dollar. The Fund typically invests in a basket of Asian currencies that may include, but are not limited to, the currencies of China, Hong Kong, Japan, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

The Merk Hard Currency Fund seeks to profit from a rise in hard currencies versus the U.S. dollar. Hard currencies are currencies backed by sound monetary policy; sound monetary policy focuses on price stability.

The Funds may be appropriate for you if you are pursuing a long-term goal with a currency component to your portfolio; are willing to tolerate the risks associated with investments in foreign currencies; or are looking for a way to potentially mitigate downside risk in or profit from a secular bear market. For more information on the Funds and to download a prospectus, please visit www.merkfunds.com.

Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks and charges and expenses of the Merk Funds carefully before investing. This and other information is in the prospectus, a copy of which may be obtained by visiting the Funds' website at www.merkfunds.com or calling 866-MERK FUND. Please read the prospectus carefully before you invest.

The Funds primarily invest in foreign currencies and as such, changes in currency exchange rates will affect the value of what the Funds own and the price of the Funds' shares. Investing in foreign instruments bears a greater risk than investing in domestic instruments for reasons such as volatility of currency exchange rates and, in some cases, limited geographic focus, political and economic instability, and relatively illiquid markets. The Funds are subject to interest rate risk which is the risk that debt securities in the Funds' portfolio will decline in value because of increases in market interest rates. The Funds may also invest in derivative securities which can be volatile and involve various types and degrees of risk. As a non-diversified fund, the Merk Hard Currency Fund will be subject to more investment risk and potential for volatility than a diversified fund because its portfolio may, at times, focus on a limited number of issuers. For a more complete discussion of these and other Fund risks please refer to the Funds' prospectuses.

This report was prepared by Merk Investments LLC, and reflects the current opinion of the authors. It is based upon sources and data believed to be accurate and reliable. Opinions and forward-looking statements expressed are subject to change without notice. This information does not constitute investment advice. Foreside Fund Services, LLC, distributor.

Axel Merk Archive

© 2005-2019 http://www.MarketOracle.co.uk - The Market Oracle is a FREE Daily Financial Markets Analysis & Forecasting online publication.


Post Comment

Only logged in users are allowed to post comments. Register/ Log in