Dryblower on Trump, gold's super-charger

THERE's a reason why Dryblower believes gold, despite its weekend slip, is heading back to its 2011 record price of US$1895 an ounce and he’s called Donald Trump.
Dryblower on Trump, gold's super-charger Dryblower on Trump, gold's super-charger Dryblower on Trump, gold's super-charger Dryblower on Trump, gold's super-charger Dryblower on Trump, gold's super-charger

The US president probably doesn't think a lot about gold as a commodity in the way the mining industry does, but he certainly understands the role of gold as a currency and the value of a currency in giving exporters a competitive edge.

And as the man who controls more gold than anyone else in the world, just the 8133.5 tonnes of the stuff, and who also controls the world's reserve currency, the US dollar, Trump is in a unique place to influence both, driving one down and the other up.

How that process works is not rocket science, and might even have started with gold's recent return to round $1400/oz a pointer to what might happen next - a big fall in the dollar and supercharged gold.

The best way to cut the value of the US dollar, the currency of choice in the commodities world, is to reduce US interest rates because when they rise, gold falls, and when rates fall, gold rises.

It sounds simple, and it is, but the power of official US interest rates is compelling and while this might be a Dryblower exaggeration it's worth thinking of US 10-year and 30-year Treasury Bonds as having the pulling power of gravity.

Astute speculators, and that includes the central banks of Russia and China, can see what's happening as they build their exposure to gold in the belief that a huge game is unfolding, driven by Trump's belief that other countries have been manipulating their currencies to create a trading advantage over the US.

In Trump's mind both China and Europe are guilty of currency manipulation and since they moved first, he is allowed to respond - a bit like a wild west shoot out (you know the scene: he drew first!).

What Trump wants is for the US central bank, the Federal Reserve, to drive down US interest rates, which are already close to historic lows perhaps even down to the zero rates (and less) on offer in Europe.

When money is cheap, and zero or lower is ridiculously cheap, gold comes into its own because in its bullion form it doesn't pay any interest and given a choice between a piece of paper issued by a government and a bar of gold the temptation to take the gold is strong.

The fact that gold has not moved higher sooner is an interesting question because there is an estimated US$12 trillion of the world's bonds yielding a negative return with the owners of those bonds better off if they were holding gold.

Over the past few weeks the great gold game has been heating up with Trump adding currency demands to his list of trade and tariff complaints.

Late on Friday he ratcheted up his attack on his own central bank, demanding that it cut rates to help the US economy in the same way China and Europe are getting a helping hand from their governments.

Growth, he told reporters while travelling to his golf course at Bedminster in New Jersey, would "be like a rocket ship".

"If we had a Fed that would lower interest rates, we could be like a rocket ship, but we're paying a lot of interest and its unnecessary," he said.

"We don't have a Fed that knows what it's doing, so it's one of those little things."

Love him, or loath him, the point about Trump is that what he wants he invariably gets and what he wants today is a "weaponised" dollar, a currency that would directly attack the currencies (and economies) of rivals.

In the long run, playing with interest rates and currency value is a high-risk strategy, though as Lord Keynes said "in the long run we're all dead" and the fact that Trump won't be around forever means a game with interest rates is worth playing - at least long enough to win a second term at the 2020 US Presidential election.

Driving interest rates lower might be grim news for savers, but it is great news for anyone happy to load up on debt because it's getting cheaper by the day.

As the process develops, and assuming Trump gets the interest rate cut he is demanding, then another layer of investors who have traditionally put their trust in US Treasury Bonds will discover that they're holding paper which yields close to nothing - and could do for a lot longer than most people think possible.

In fact, it's worse than that because an investor holding T-Bonds is actually exposed to the whims and willfulness of a president prepared to debase the US economy to beat other countries in export markets with the ultimate result being a cheapening of the US dollar.

Gold, meanwhile, becomes more attractive by the day and as investors wake to the Trump game of making the US Great Again by making the dollar cheaper they will migrate to gold as the ultimate reserve currency.