Gold prices have fallen from $1,000 to under $800 per ounce just in the last month. As prices fell below $800, demand for physical gold rose to the point that many dealers – including the US Mint! – ran out of supply.
Bill Fleckenstein offers a great explanation for the strange recent action. Notable excerpt:
There are huge amounts of money being managed according to mechanical or mathematical trend-following systems. When those systems kick in, gold and silver can drop in price even on days when inflation is reported to be high, as happened Aug. 14. That’s because when a major liquidation is under way, the economic fundamentals have no bearing on market action. The quantitative systems take control.
Except for the dollar’s huge rally, virtually nothing has changed in the case for owning gold, though the price recently tanked by more than 20%. However, in the short run, fundamentals do not make any difference when powerful tailwinds or headwinds push prices around.
In the stock market, price action often reflects underlying events in businesses, industries and the economy. With commodities, price is just a reflection of the market’s attempt to help balance supply and demand, as the cost of production and other variables have only long-term relevance.
A closer look at the gold market reveals shortages driven by price declines and a subsequent explosion in retail demand, and many dealers have run out of assorted forms of gold coins, bars, etc. If you click here, for example, you can see that Tulving is out of gobs of products. Kitco.com has been warning about delivery delays.
These shortages likely have something to do with the fact that last week the U.S. Mint suspended sales of gold coins — a reflection of the surging demand. The fall in price also triggered an outpouring of buying in India and the Middle East. In addition, the exchange-traded funds, or ETFs, that hold gold and silver showed an amazing resilience in the face of plunging prices.
Thus we witnessed an unusual dichotomy: Physical buying (and here I’m kind of including the ETFs, though they aren’t purely physical) was ratcheting up even as the selling of futures contracts was driving the market lower. When the price was rallying, the futures market had a big hand in that, so we can’t ignore it when it seems to be at the epicenter of lower prices.
In any case, if we saw (as it appeared) heavy selling or short-selling in the futures market while demand for gold in the physical world was rising, that historically would be a very bullish development.