There wasn’t much of a market reaction to this Nonfarm Payroll report; the dollar index was only up .2% on the day. It closed up flat on the week. The Canadian dollar closed at a 10-month high against the dollar. Also bond prices continue to fall; this is a bad week if you own bonds, worldwide. Yields are rising across the board. The trend looks like we are about to break down in the bond market and break out in yield.
I think it is the weakness in bonds and the backup in yields that is one reason the gold market has been acting as weak as it has. There is still a false perception that rising interest rates are bad for gold. That, coupled with the fact that the dollar has been falling recently and gold has not been rising (meaning gold prices are falling in terms of other currencies) is causing a breakdown in the charts, resulting in selling. Even North Korea’s recent successful ICBM testing did not cause gold to catch a bid.
Early last night, around the opening of the Japanese stock market, there was a bit of a flash crash in silver. Silver prices dropped abruptly by about fifty cents an ounce within a second. The market quickly recovered but then re-tested those lows. Silver was down over .40 today in the U.S. market. It didn’t open down that soft, but it traded lower all day. The price of silver hit a new 52-week low.
Gold Stocks Signalling a Reversal
I have been talking about the relative strength of the gold miners in the face of this correction and once again, the GDX, which is an index of gold stocks, was only down 1.3% on the day, which is not a big drop, considering the price of gold was down by 1% on the day and the price of silver was down close to 3% on the day. I think this is a good sign for a reversal.
A Weaker Japanese Yen
Another reason for the recent weakness in gold and silver prices has to do with the weakness in the Japanese yen. While the U.S dollar has been losing ground against other currencies, it has actually been gaining ground against the yen. I am not sure why, or for how long this relationship is going to hold, but there has been a very close correlation between the price of gold and silver and the exchange rate between the U.S dollar and the Japanese yen.
Printing Yen to Prevent Interest Rates From Rising
The yen was weak overnight particularly because of the global rise in yields above a level where the JGB has drawn a line in the sand. It is basically committed to printing an infinite amount of Japanese yen to keep buying those JGB’s to prevent interest rates from rising. Why is the Bank of Japan determined to keep interest rates from rising? Because of the enormity of the Japanese government debt. If interest rates go up, there is not way to service that debt. The choice is default or runaway inflation, and they are choosing the latter. So, last night during all this selling in global bonds, including the JGB, there was massive intervention to support the bond market. That meant the printing of a lot of Yen. It is possible that this is the catalyst that drove down the price of silver and gold.
Risk-On/Risk Off Trade
One reason for the correlation between the yen and gold has to do with the risk-on/risk-off trade, where both the Japanese yen and gold are seen as the safe-haven assets. Therefore, when investors want to take risk off, they buy gold and they buy the yen and that may be one of the reasons that the two have been moving together. Once they start to move together and form a relationship, traders start to key off of it. So if they see weakness in the yen, they sell gold, and if they see strength in the yen they buy gold.
Rising Interest Rates are Positive for Gold
One of the reasons interest rates are rising in the world is because inflation is picking up. Higher inflation is positive for gold, it is the most bullish factor for gold. When inflation rates are rising, money is buying less, and that’s when you want to own gold. Gold is where you want to be when fiat currencies are losing value, and that’s exactly what is happening when you have inflation.
Bonds Losing Value
The same thing with the bond market; higher inflation drives down the value of bonds. Bonds have a fixed coupon for the life of the bond. As inflation increases, it erodes the value of that coupon. It also erodes the value of the principal, which is repaid over a longer term. When bonds are losing value, that is bullish for gold, as gold is an alternative investment to bonds.