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Precious Metals Quietly Booked Solid Gains in 2019; U.S. Public Sat Out
Money Metals President Stefan Gleason on the Imperative of Owning Gold & Silver
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Welcome to this week’s Market Wrap Podcast, I’m Mike Gleason.
Coming up we’ll hear a fascinating and informative interview Money Metals president Stefan Gleason gave for the Sustainable Money podcast. Stefan shares some of the history behind sound money, when and where the wheels came off our monetary system, some disturbing developments in the war on cash movement and also goes through some dos and don’ts when it comes to purchasing gold and silver. You will not want to miss this revealing interview, coming up after this week’s market update.
On this final Weekly Market Wrap Podcast of 2019, we’ll look back at the year that was in precious metals markets… and look ahead to how things might shape up for 2020.
The year ahead could be a pivotal one for investors. Obviously, the election will dominate the headlines and could move markets dramatically as it draws nearer. A string of billionaires from Ray Dalio to Paul Tudor Jones to Stanley Druckenmiller to Leon Cooperman have warned that if President Donald Trump loses to a far-left Democrat, the stock market could crash.
For now, stocks are floating on optimism and a rising sea of liquidity created by the Federal Reserve. Its balance sheet will continue to expand into next spring and possibly beyond as repo market bailouts and “not QE” Treasury bill buying continues.
Stocks are making new highs once again thanks to a Santa Claus rally, but precious metals are outperforming in a big way. We had suggested last week that gold and silver markets were winding up for a major breakout, and that’s exactly what metals investors got for Christmas. It certainly beats a lump of coal!
Gold prices are up 2.3% since last Friday’s close to trade at $1,514 per ounce. Silver is surging 4.1% on the week to bring spot prices to $18.00.
The platinum group metals are also joining in on the action, with platinum staging a 3.8% weekly advance to trade at $950 and palladium looking higher by 2.7% this week to come in at $1,908 per ounce as of this Friday morning recording.
The precious metals mining stocks are confirming the breakout in gold and silver by racing higher. The HUI gold miners index closed Thursday at a new high for the year on the heels of a 9% price spike this week – and that’s with trading being limited by the Christmas holiday.
The new upside momentum in mining and metals bodes well for January, which is normally a strong month for the sector. We could see some new multi-year highs for gold and silver get registered quickly in the early trading of 2020.
All the metals will finish 2019 with double digit gains. The yellow metal is on track for its best annual performance since 2010.
Gold and silver, however, will likely not be able to finish December at new high points for the year. Gold’s 2019 high occurred in early September just above $1,560 an ounce. Silver’s apex occurred around the same time when it hit $19.75.
The metals are putting in a strong year in spite of the fact that investment demand for bullion frankly remains weak overall. This year’s rally has been driven by other factors including trade wars, central bank buying, and growth in exchange-traded funds. Some wealthy smart money buyers are also accumulating precious metals ahead of the public.
The fact that we have not even reached the public participation phase of this precious metals bull market is actually encouraging from a contrarian perspective. It means a lot more people can be drawn in from the sidelines as prices rise.
While we’d much rather see the public buy at lows, very few ever will. Unfortunately, the mainstream investor typically won’t pay attention to precious metals until after they’ve made a major move up. There is also something to be said for the so-called “fear trade.” The fear mechanism innate to human psychology drives safe-haven demand for hard assets when stocks and other financial assets are melting down.
Neither the stock market nor the bond market nor even the U.S. dollar have induced much fear this year. Perhaps that will change in 2020.
Regardless of that, the supply and demand fundamentals for the metals are looking favorable for continued gains in 2020. Silver in particular will be pressured by rising industrial demand if the global economy expands and especially if favorable trade deals are reached.
On the supply side, the silver market faces potentially another year of declining mine output. The World Silver Survey shows production falling at an annual rate of 2% with no sign of a reversal on the immediate horizon.
Mines have been depleting their silver reserves and haven’t had the incentive to develop new projects given low spot prices.
That path of least resistance in 2020 appears to be for metals prices to continue to move higher. And in the event of a political, geopolitical, or a financial black swan, they could spike much, much higher.
Well now, without further delay, let’s get right to this week’s interview Money Metals president Stefan Gleason did with Alan James on Sustainable Money.
Alan James: Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of Sustainable Community Summit. The title of our program today is Gold and Silver Buying Made Easy. Stefan Gleason is president of Money Metals Exchange. That's a national precious metals investment company and news service with over a million readers, seventy-five thousand paid subscribers and one hundred, twenty million in annual sales.
Previously, Gleason served as vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation in Springfield, Virginia. As the first strategic litigation organization in the individual rights and free enterprise movement, the foundation has led the national legal battle to block to expansion of union special privileges. Gleason has frequently appeared on national television shows and networks such as Fox News channel's O'Reilly Factor and Special Report with Brit Hume. CNBC's Closing Bell, Christian Broadcasting Network, CNN and CSPAN's Washington Journal. Gleason's commentary has appeared in Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, TheStreet.com, Seeking Alpha and National Review among thousands of other national state and local newspapers, wire services and internet sites.
He's a seasoned business leader, investor, political strategist and grassroots activist. That's quite a resume there Mr. Gleason. Stefan Gleason, welcome to the program.
Stefan Gleason: Thank you, thank you, well you know the key theme there is that I love freedom and I'm very concerned about big government and so my entire career has been spent in the work of trying to you know loosen the shackles of big government and also help people take steps to protect themselves from it and that's why what I'm doing today in the last seven years since we founded Money Metals Exchange of helping people diversify their money outside of the financial system and get some real wealth in the form of gold and silver. And that's why that's been such satisfying work because it is a big part of individual liberty and freedom.
Alan James: It would be fair to say I think that we're talking about insurance today aren't we?
Stefan Gleason: Well and that exactly is one of the main characteristics of precious metals. Precious metals are insurance. It's financial insurance and you know everybody should own insurance. They have insurance on their house, they probably have insurance on your car, should have insurance against financial turmoil and inflation and market crashes. And gold and silver are excellent forms of insurance and unfortunately very few people own it still.
Alan James: What are precious metals and why should someone own precious metals? Now we've touched on that but go into some more detail.
Stefan Gleason: Sure. Well of course as I mentioned already insurance is one of the aspects, one of the qualities of precious metals. It's a form of financial insurance but really most fundamentally gold and silver, in particular, are money and they have been chosen as money by the free market for thousands of years. Ever since we've moved beyond sort of a basic barter economy, gold and silver which have certain qualities we can discuss in a moment, have been chosen as a medium of exchange and as money in trade and that's because it's got a number of unique characteristics.
First of all, it's rare. Gold and silver are hard to get. Of course, there's platinum and palladium as well, which are even more rare but gold and silver are very rare metals. They take real work to obtain, to get out of the ground, to mint and refine and there are not many gold and silver discoveries being made of any substance, certainly not the size of years ago. So, gold and silver are rare commodities. And they also have of course beauty. They're desired. They've been viewed as wealth and viewed as money for thousands of years so they have tremendous history going for them. They have quality, unlike say a diamond, where if you cut up a diamond it becomes worth less than if it's in tact in a larger unit. Gold and silver are divisible. You know you can cut it in half, cut in a quarter, it doesn't diminish it's value except by the proportion that you've reduced it.
So, it's divisible. It's fungible. Every ounce of gold is exactly the same and maybe in a different form but it's still the same element. None is really better than any other when it comes to pure gold. Gold is gold, silver is silver. It's also compact, it's portable and all of these things have made it very good money. And it's been a way of storing purchasing power and moving beyond a pure barter type economy where say you know you have eggs and you need butter, you know you need to find the guy who has the butter who wants the eggs and that's not very efficient. So you can move to something like gold and silver as a medium of exchange and it creates a much more efficient economy and allows people to you know specialize and store that purchasing power that they've developed over time.
So for a variety of reasons, gold and silver have been selected as money and insurance, it's a store of value and it's a form of money that cannot be devalued or debased in the same way because of the work and effort that it takes to create it. So that's one of the many you know aspects of gold and silver that have caused it to be for thousands of years used as money.
Alan James: Stefan, I have four highly educated kids and I want to use them as an example here to lead into a question. None of them really knew what fiat currency was when I asked them the other day, I think that's not uncommon by the way, would you explain to us what fiat currency is and the history of fiat currency?
Stefan Gleason: Sure. Well, it goes back hundreds of years but basically fiat essentially means government decree. So fiat currency is currency that derives its value through force, through compulsion, through government decree. So fiat currency is really what we have today. It's not backed by anything other than a promise to pay of the federal government and your ability to persuade someone else to part with things of value in exchange for these Federal Reserve Notes that we call money. It was an evolution. It goes back several hundred years with the silversmiths and the goldsmiths who had secure locations, their shops or whatever to you know they were involved in the trade of jewelry and gold and silver and so people would you know store their metals there and they would be issued receipts, warehouse receipts or storage receipts and they would carry those around and people realized that “well I can exchange this receipt, I can pay somebody. I don't have to carry around the gold and hand it to somebody. I can just give them this receipt and they can go and you know collect the funds because the goldsmith will give them the gold if they show up with the receipt.”
Well, you know this is kind of the beginning of modern central banking. It started with gold backing and the idea that this money that you carry, this currency or paper money that you carry around is redeemable and can be turned in. Well, then a lot of abuses developed. The people that issued these receipts just realized that not everybody shows up on the same day trying to get their gold so maybe we can issue more receipts for this money than or for this gold or silver than there may be gold or silver in the vault. And that's kind of where we got into fractional reserve banking, which is essentially our system today. Except that it's gone further and the entire link with gold and silver has been broken. And that started really, there were episodes of this in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, starting with the continental dollar which was not a backed currency and there was a huge inflation right before, right after the founding of the country, before the Constitution was enacted during the Articles of Confederation.
And then also prior to the freedom from the British crown, so there were many episodes of paper money that did not go well and the founders of country initially set up a system that was supposed to prevent against central bank abuse, of printing of money that was not redeemable and they set up a gold standard and that's how the country operated for most of the first hundred and fifty years of its existence.
Alan James: And then it changed.
Stefan Gleason:Yeah, the Federal Reserve Act. There was an experiment with that right after the Civil War where they went off the gold standard and then they printed a whole bunch of money that was not backed and then they tried to go back and they didn't increase the price of gold so there was a deflation. Everybody stopped spending and going right into gold because gold was underpriced because there was so much extra currency. But it basically went off the rails in 1913 with the Federal Reserve Act, the Federal Reserve system that was created where, essentially, they put the power of currency printing into the hands of private banking interests. The Federal Reserve is basically a privately owned banking cartel that is owned by banks that has the power, has been granted the power by Congress or at least default has taken the power to issue our money and they are called Federal Reserve notes. They are no longer backed by anything since 1933 when FDR confiscated gold during the Great Depression.
He banned the private ownership of gold in the United States, which is an extraordinary thing. Most people don't even realize it that for about forty years, it was illegal to own more than five ounces of gold in the United States unless it was in the form of jewelry or rare coins. And they did that because at the time they still had to have gold in the treasury to issue new fiat money or paper money against it. And so they seized the gold or at least forced people to turn it in and then they devalued the dollar by over fifty percent.
And it was a long path since then. In 1973, Nixon or 1971 I should say, Nixon broke the last link to gold by saying that our dollar was no longer redeemable in gold, even if central banks across the world wanted to come and turn in their dollars and get gold, which is the promise we made after World War II at the Bretton Woods Treaty or Agreement, where the dollar was going to be as good as gold, everybody could use the dollar, use it as a reserve currency. Just show up in New York with your dollars and we will give you our gold. Well a lot of countries started taking us up on that in the 1960's and early 70's when they saw us going through a lot of inflation and big government spending with the great society and so forth and they wanted their gold and gold was flowing out of the treasury and that's when Nixon broke the last link to gold between Federal Reserve note and gold.
And since then we've been on a completely fiat, completely floating non-backed currency system and that's also a point when debt exploded, government debt exploded and went like a hockey stick to astronomical levels. Federal, state and private debt has all gone through the roof since then. And a lot of the reason for that is that we no longer have the discipline that gold and silver bring to a monetary system.
Alan James: And we know from experience that most fiat currencies have failed over the last several hundred years so I'll let our audience add one and one there and come up with their own conclusion.
Alright, in your estimation Stefan, which precious metals are the best to invest in and why invest in them?
Stefan Gleason: Well let's start with the why. You know we talked about the devaluation of the dollar but just to emphasize that, since we went off that gold redeemability in the early 70's, we've had over a ninety percent decline in the purchasing power of the Federal Reserve note. Since the Federal Reserve was created over a hundred years ago, it's more like a ninety-seven percent decline in the value of Federal Reserve note or the dollars as they call it. And that's an astronomical amount of inflation and so that means that if you're saving your money in dollars, particularly at the interest rates you're seeing today, you're losing purchasing power every moment. So one of the big reasons to own precious metals is to hedge against inflation that is built into the system, it's pretty much a planned activity that is being used to sort of cushion the overarching amount of debt that we have.
And that's just a policy, we have a policy of serial inflation in the United States thanks to Federal Reserve system and the Wall Street bankers. On top of that you now have the war on cash, so not only do you have low or zero percent interest rates as the value of holding dollars declines and the dollar itself declines, but now we're seeing a situation where you have banks, especially in Europe and that's being talked seriously about here in the United States, of going to negative interest rates on dollars or on currency. So the idea that you would give the bank money, you would pay the bank interest to borrow your money instead of the other way around.
So you have a war on cash, in conjunction with that, they're talking about even banning cash because if it pays negative two percent to own cash in the bank, a lot of people will take out the cash, stuff it under the mattress and get a higher yield at zero percent. So in conjunction with a policy of negative interest rates, which is being seriously discussed and in fact, is actually occurring in some areas of the world you're actually having a discussion, a serious discussion about banning physical cash. So all of these things combined with financial instability, market crashes, are very good reasons to be owning some real money outside of the banking system in the form of gold and silver.
So, in terms of which ones to invest in, I would suggest and we can get into more detail on this but I would suggest start with silver and then move to gold as you already started to own silver.
Alan James: Radio and television is just bombarded with commercials from various companies selling precious metals and that is a good lead in to this question. What's the biggest mistake that people make when investing in precious metals?
Stefan Gleason: Yeah, well this is really a disturbing aspect and it was one of the reasons I founded the company, actually the main reason, seven years ago. And that is that unfortunately we talked about very few people currently own gold and silver but there is you know increasingly discussion on television, radio, people starting to think about gold and silver, a lot of advertising for gold and silver and it's hard for people to make that first step into owning it because some people think it's maybe unpatriotic not to own dollars. “Aren't you betting against the U.S.? We love our country.”
So people are reluctant and it's a psychological thing. So, fortunately people are seriously taking steps, not enough, but it'll get there but there are people and fortunately they're the most ubiquitous, particularly on television who then take those people who have finally made the decision fortunately to diversify their cash into gold and silver. And then at the last second, they do a bait and switch and they try to get you to buy rare or so called collectible or numismatic or commemorative or proof coins. And these things are not what you should be buying.
Basically that's artwork. That's like buying artwork. There's a very subjective value, above and beyond the actual melt value of the metal and you need to avoid any kind of rare or collectible or numismatic or commemorative or even proof coin unless you can buy it at the actual or very close to the actual melt value of precious metals, of the gold or silver that's contained in it. Everything else is very subjective and we have people who lose thirty or forty percent pretty much the day they buy it because if they try to sell it back the same day they take a huge haircut and unfortunately that's one of the things that's happening but it is the biggest mistake that people are making is that they are being suckered into these schemes to buy so called rare coins.
Alan James: Okay so let me give you an example. Let's say that someone is ready to buy some gold and silver, and I do believe those numbers are increasing and this person knows that they should be avoiding any type of numismatic or proof coins. Now what denominations, sizes, or weights, I want some specifics here, what denominations, sizes, weights of those precious metals are best to own and hold on to?
Stefan Gleason: Well I'd say the first principal that we espouse when it comes to choosing what to buy is we encourage people to buy the things that have the lowest premium above the actual melt value of the metal. You want to buy as many gold or silver ounces as you can for your money. So in keeping with that idea, generally that means that first stay away from the rare and proof coins because those are hugely marked up above the spot price. But the next step would be well about Silver Eagle bullion coins versus silver rounds versus silver bars, things like that.
The things that are the cheapest, vis-a-vis the spot price of the metal, which is totally transparent, around the clock, seven days a week, you know how much an ounce of silver is worth on the global market. You know how much an ounce of gold is worth. The things that are closest to that tend to be the silver rounds and silver bars and the gold bars. Start with smaller increments, particularly if you don't have much to start with, to put into precious metals. Don't buy a 100 ounce bar because that means you have to make one right decision on when to sell it and you can't sell part of it, you couldn't easily barter with it so you probably want to buy smaller increments to begin with and again, I think you should favor silver over gold, at least initially.
Probably one ounce and even smaller such as a fractional, tenth ounce or half ounce silver round. There's also the Pre-1965 dimes, quarters and half dollars which are 90% silver and they're basically priced based on their metal content with a small premium. Those are very popular because they're a small increment. If there's a real crisis and you actually have to use your precious metals as money in transactions, you know you've got some small units that you can use. So I would say start with the small, one ounce and smaller sizes in both gold and silver and probably favor silver rounds and bars and gold bars over the coins. But as long as you stay away from rare coins and commemorative coins, you pretty much can't go wrong because you're not getting ripped off. You're getting an ounce of gold or silver relatively close the actual market price.
Alan James: To put into real life what you're saying, let's just say that our fiat currency failed and you needed to go somewhere to buy some vegetables, you don't want to have to give them an ounce of gold or a one ounce gold coin for some veggies because the values are very disproportionate but if you have some smaller silver rounds, then it's easy to trade, correct?
Stefan Gleason: Yeah, exactly. And there are tenth ounce gold rounds, there's even twentieth of an ounce gold coins out there and then there's half ounce and quarter ounce and tenth ounce silver. So, at the current prices, a tenth ounce of silver is worth a little over two dollars with the premium that comes with that so that's a small amount but it's you could probably, you'd probably need something like that if you're going to buy a head of lettuce or whatever. So, you want to always have at least some of the small stuff. Once you get beyond that, then you can start looking at the bars, more gold perhaps but start with the smaller stuff, start with silver and start with one ounce and fractional sizes.
Alan James: Is there any reason why an investor might consider a foreign origin coin or foreign bullion for that matter versus American bullion or coin?
Stefan Gleason: Especially with regard to the gold, and even the silver coins, a lot of foreign coins actually are a better value than the Gold Eagle or Silver Eagle, you can get gold Krugerrands, which is South African gold coin. You can get Canadian Maple Leafs, both gold or silver in that and you can get Australian Kangaroos and some of these other coins out there that are lower premiums per ounce than say a U.S. Gold Eagle. So, in keeping with the idea that you probably want to get, favor the things that have the lower premiums, buying foreign gold coins are just fine.
Now some people prefer the higher recongnizability of a U.S. minted coin. Technically, although it's kind of academic, it has a face value that's you know that's in dollars. Of course, you would never spend it for that so like the 1-oz Gold Eagle is worth about $1,300, but it's got a $50 face value on it. So, people do like the credibility of the U.S. mint being stamped on it but at the end of the day, gold is gold and silver is silver and as long as you've got something that's authentic then it really doesn't matter.
Alan James: Is there an industry “best place” to acquire it from type of list that a would be investor might consider comparing?
Stefan Gleason: Okay well there are certainly a lot of options out there on the internet. If you search on “buy silver” you'll see us and a few other competitors come up. Pretty much the ones that you find when you search, are the ones that are selling the bullion as opposed to the rare coins. So that's good. At least the rare coin bait and switch people are not dominating when it comes to internet searches. Maybe they haven't figure out that model yet, but the bottom line is you know you want to look for people that have good prices but you don't want that to be the only deciding factor because there are some other factors that you need to look out for and we can get into that.
Alan James: Is there a place that's always at or below the best price of anyone else?
Stefan Gleason: Well there was one. A couple of years ago there was a company called Tulving and Company, which then went out of business because they had made some big mistakes and they were always undercutting people and they were a badly managed business and they went bankrupt and over twenty million dollars’ worth of gold and silver was not delivered to people.
Alan James: And I think that's one of the things people are concerned about so I'm glad we're talking about this.
Stefan Gleason: Well you know here's the thing you need to be doing. First, you need to probably look around and get on a few email lists. Money Metals Exchange has a tremendous amount of content. We spend a lot of effort trying to educate and keep people informed. And I think that distinguishes us from a lot of our competitors because we're also a publisher and we do a lot of education. But, there are other good companies of course out there and I think the thing is that you want to look at what do they say? What are they talking about on their website? Is there pricing transparent? I mentioned the Tulving situation, sure they had great prices but that doesn't do you any good if you don't get delivery.
So the thing that's more important than pricing is finding a dealer who's not going to rip you off and that you're actually going to get what you ordered and you're going to get it quickly. And the way that I recommend people approach that is start small and just observe. Find a dealer, hopefully Money Metals Exchange or somebody like us and make an order and see how good the communication is, see how they meet their commitments or don't. Make sure the pricing is what you agreed to, make sure delivery is quick. In most cases, there's really no justification for delivery delay other than waiting for your check to clear, which you know there has to be a certain amount of clearing time for check. But the bottom line is you want to start small and then see how people do. If you don't already have a relationship, you don't want to go all in at once for a variety of reasons at first.
Not that there are many rip offs out there. I don't want to create that impression. It is quite rare still but it can happen. But that's not the only reason that you want to start small. Another is that you don't want to put all your money into the market at once. Unless you don't own any at all, you don't necessarily need to buy it right now. If you don't own anything at all, you should just buy, buy some but don't put all your money in. Do it over a few months. Do it in increments and one of the benefits of that is that you get dollar cost averaging as you enter the markets, you don't have to pick it exactly right. Another is of course you get the opportunity to see how the dealer performs and hopefully they exceed or at least meet their expectations. And get to know the people, look them up on BBB. See what kind of complaints there are.
There are some review sites out there. There's one called bullion.directory which has reviewed literally like five hundred dealers in the United States and they've looked at their websites, they've talked to their people, there are some reviews from customers on many of the company profiles, including ours. We were honored by them and selected a year ago as Precious Metals Dealer of the Year in the United States. We were proud to win that. There was somebody who won it again last year and now we're in the top five for this year so we're right up there at the top but there's a lot of good dealers out there and you just need to be careful and make sure that people are meeting their commitments and are transparent.
Alan James: Is there anything more important that you can think of than choosing the right product and getting that right product for a low price?
Stefan Gleason: Yeah, well and that's the main thing I emphasized a moment ago was delivery. Getting delivery. It doesn't matter if you saved five cents per ounce on your order if you don't get it.
Mike Gleason: You’ve just heard the first half of Stefan’s informative interview, we hope you enjoyed it. We’ll play the conclusion of his conversation with Alan James during a future podcast.
Well that will do it for this week. Be sure to check back here next Friday for our next Weekly Market Wrap Podcast. Until then, this has been Mike Gleason with Money Metals Exchange. Thanks for listening and have a great weekend everybody.