January 29, 2010
Brace yourself for the impending gold shortage. Gold shortage? Yup. With the launch of a flurry of ETF’s devoted to the barbaric relic recently, total ETF holdings have soared well past 60 million ounces worth $65 billion, more than total world production in 2009. The grand Daddy of them all, the SPDR Gold Shares (GLD), now has a staggering $42.7 billion of the yellow metal, making it the second largest ETF by market capitalization, and the fifth largest gold owner in the world.
When gold suffered a hair raising $150, 12% pull back from the all time high in December, I was deluged by traders asking if this was the peak, if it was the final blow off top, and if gold is finished as an asset class. My answers were no, never, and not on your life.
A tidal wave of fiat paper currencies is now flooding the world financial system at an increasingly alarming rate. Obama has not suddenly become a paragon of fiscal restraint. Bernanke has not morphed into a tightwad. When I pull a dollar bill out of my wallet, it’s as limp as ever.
In 2008, South Africa suffered its steepest decline in gold production since 1901, falling 14%, to a mere 232 tons. It now ranks only third in global production of the yellow metal, after China and the US. Severe electricity rationing, a shortage of skilled workers, and more stringent mine safety regulations have been blamed. Choked off credit has frozen the development of new capital intensive deep mines, as it has for everybody else. Rising production costs have driven the global breakeven cost of new gold production up to $500 an ounce.