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The Bullion Report

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October 27, 2010 in 'The Bullion Report'

At EaseAt Ease

10-27-10

At Ease


The Federal Reserve will be meeting next week and all eyes will be focused on the potential for another round of monetary easing. Speculation abounds as to the scope and depth of their actions, but most analysts are working on the assumption that at least $500 billion in Treasuries will be picked up over the next five months. Considering the global economic climate and the link between gold and the U.S. dollar, what could this easing mean for precious metals moving forward? 


 
Past performance is not indicative of future results.
***chart courtesy Gecko Software’s Track n’ Trade Pro

Easing is a banking tool that is meant to stimulate economic activity. The Federal Reserve would aim to do this with a round of Treasury purchases. This would keep them on their current course of reducing interest rates and trying to jumpstart the money supply. With these purchases, they get excess reserves to make new money. The effect can be what the name implies – it gives the banks and the economy some breathing room.

The risks to easing run the gamut between the potential for hyperinflation and the chance that the easing will not be long or deep enough to achieve the desired stimulus results. In the present environment, both situations would likely represent a bane to the Federal Reserve and a boon to gold and other precious metals.

Debasing the U.S. dollar by increasing the money supply would likely spur additional interest in gold and other precious metal investment. After all, inflation serves to devalue a regular savings account. The trick to this, and the hope of the Federal Reserve officials who support this course of action, is that the global stage will negate the effect of this round of easing. Basically, if all the other central banks are doing it, there will be no one single losing currency. This kind of “competitive devaluation” might temper the reaction from the market. The caveat is that the increase in money supply on a global level would still be a possible motivator for investors who jump on gold as an inflation hedge.

Even if the inflation-situation does not come into play, or it is successfully combated, there is still an overwhelming amount of debt created by round after round of stimulus aimed at spurring economic activity. This has increased the demand for certain investments – like gold – amid flimsy fundamentals for other financial assets. It will probably mean more business for precious metals as investors seek havens if the stimulus fails and this second round of easing isn’t enough to bolster employment and economic growth.

It will be interesting to see what the Federal Reserve commits to, following next week’s meeting. Guesses seem to be centered on the possible commitment from officials to buy up $100 billion in Treasury debt per month for the next five months. This headline may already be priced into the markets, but recent gains in the dollar set up an interesting situation. The drop in gold prices on the strengthening U.S. currency could have set up perceived value entry points ahead of any additional official announcements. According to a story from Reuters, gold traders in India were already scooping up the metal on lower prices amid their festival and wedding season peaks. (1)

It seems unlikely that the Federal Reserve will fall short of the market expectations. Doing so at this point would bump up the dollar but it would jolt other financial markets in the process. Officials have not been working this hard for this long to rock the boat, despite some member objections to another round of stimulus. To quote Ben Bernanke’s own speech from the beginning of 2009, “The global economy will recover, but the timing and strength of the recovery are highly uncertain.” With this in mind, the effort they could be announcing next week will probably fall in line with their actions thus far. Commit to maintaining a response that adds liquidity and stimulus but keep the door open. This means giving a nudge and a wink but not committing to huge purchases right away. Look for officials to nibble at easing, not gobble.

Summary

There is probably no quick fix to housing and employment issues, but there has been strong effort to repair things since the 2007 start of the crisis. The cumulative efforts of the Federal Reserve could see results at some point, after all, employment is seen as a lagging indicator of the health of an economy. However, until there is a solid compass point that shows tangible recovery and economic strength, fear will still prevail. Fear of economic troubles and fear of future inflation issues as a direct result of continuing stimulus. This means that there is still a proverbial basket of issues from which investors can pull a potential catalyst for higher gold prices.

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As we move towards 8 or 10 billion people on the planet, there's a little less gold per capita. Each one of us will continue to be fighting over an ever smaller percentage of total resources. This is not a happy thought. - Dean Kamen

1 http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/markets/commodities/Gold-traders-snap-up-bargains-as-prices-edge-lower/articleshow/6821101.cms

 


Disclaimer: The prices of precious metals and physical commodities are unpredictable and volatile. There is a substantial degree of a risk of loss in all trading. Past performance is not indicative of future results.