Those hoping the current turmoil in the technology sector may turn around the fate of gold will be upset by new data. Gold has suffered its worst start to a year in almost a decade despite the fact that the US equity market was in a correction for much of it. Now, economic data shows that demand for the shiny metal is at its lowest since 2009. The big drop in drop demand did not stem from industry, but instead from investment markets, with ETFs buying ~60% less gold in the last year than the year prior.
FINSUM: Gold is in a tough and interesting spot. On the one hand, it is easy to see why rising rates have depressed gold prices. But on the other, it seems gold have should have benefitted from all the geopolitical and market instability of this year.
The idea of bitcoin being a 21st century version of gold, a digital value store for the next generation, has become prevalent. However, Barron’s argues, and we second, the idea that Bitcoin can never be gold. The idea comes from a new paper out of the University of Chicago. The core reason why?: It is simply not as secure. If you pay close attention to the headlines, Bitcoin is being hacked and stolen left and right. Even worse, the more valuable Bitcoin becomes, the more it is stolen. The same cannot be said for gold.
FINSUM: The paper argues that bitcoin will never play more than a “bit role” in the global financial system because of its fundamental vulnerability to theft. It sounds like the cryptocurrency needs a digital Fort Knox.
The oil market is in an odd place right now. Generally described as “tight”—when supply and demand are very close, prices have risen considerably over the last several months. That said, prices have fallen steeply over the last week or so on fears of falling demand and rising supply. That is what makes today’s call on oil so bold. Barron’s, citing a senior research analyst on the oil market, says that prices may rise from their current high $60s range all the way to more than $100 this year. The core of the argument is that supply increases are not enough to offset growing global demand.
FINSUM: We don’t see oil going that high, but it could resume its bullish run. The core idea for us is that the oil market has many ways to increase supply (e.g. using strategic oil reserves, loosening sanctions etc), so we don’t see prices rising that sharply.
The commodities market is taking a wallop across the board today. It seemed to start earlier this week with oil dropping on fears over weakening Chinese GDP. Weaker growth would mean less demand for oil. Now, those fears have spread across most of the commodities market, with metals currently selling off strongly on the same fears. The renewed selling follows losses nearing 20% in industrial metals over the last month.
FINSUM: Remember that commodities markets are often a leading recession indicator, so this data does not bode well. Though in this case, it seems to be GDP data leading commodities, which is a bit back-to-front.
The oil market is continuing to experience some deep tremors after a great year. The oil benchmark dropped another 1% yesterday, bringing prices down to their lowest level in three months. After months of rising on concerns of weak output, the market is plunging on the threat of oversupply, especially from Russia and OPEC countries. Additionally, the IEA put out a report saying it saw global oil demand falling, another factor which weighed on the market. In addition to worries about rising supply and weakening Chinese GDP, Commerzbank commented that “The unexpected increase in U.S. crude oil stocks by 629,000 barrels reported by the API is generating headwind, as is a sharp rise in Russian oil production”.
FINSUM: It is starting to feel like the tide might really be turning on the oil market, which has had a great 18 months.
The oil market has been doing very well for the last year and a half or so, and has performed especially strongly in 2018, outperforming every major asset class. However, US oil prices fell over 4% yesterday on growing fears of a boost in supply, following a 5% drop last Wednesday. Most of the gains in the market over the last 18 months have been because of coordinated supply cuts by world oil powers. However, while there still are some supply constraint issues on the table (e.g. US sanctions on Iran), the increasing worry is that production may rise more than expected, which would bring prices back down. Further, the US is indicating it may start to use some of its strategic oil reserves in order to avoid another sharp move higher in prices.
FINSUM: To be honest, we have been surprised by how well OPEC has been able to hold the output cut alliance together, so we really should not doubt their ability to continue to do so. That said, we do see at least a plateau coming in prices.