Some Thoughts on the Value of Gold

Reversion to the Mean

In an April 16, 2013 Wall Street Journal video interview, Mark Hulbert mentions that a recent academic study places gold’s fundamental value at approximately $800.00 per ounce.(1)

I did some key-words-searches to verify such a study exists, and I found the study to which Mr. Hulbert is referring. The study was conducted by a former commodities trader for Trust Company of the West, Claude Erb and a Finance Professor at Duke University, Campbell Harvey.(2) The study is based upon a time series of rates of inflation as compared to the fluctuations in value of the hedge against inflation (gold). The study puts the mean value of gold, over a long historical time series, at approximately $800.00 per ounce.

It’s also interesting to note, recent industry estimates for the average costs-of-production for one ounce of gold are approximately $600.00.(3) Which raises the question, what premium should a gold buyer pay, to buy the next ounce produced, of a commodity which costs $600.00 per ounce to produce? Or, expressed another way, what is the fair-market (competitive) profit one should expect for producing an ounce of gold?

Footnotes:
And, MarketWatch pub. The Wall Street Journal 4/16/2013, at: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/golds-fair-value-is-800-an-ounce-2013-04-16
2. The Golden Dilemma By Claude Erb and Campbell Harvey Social Sciences Research Network (SSRN) first posted 6/6/12 at: http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2078535
3. The Production Cost of Gold May Surprise You pub. SeekingAlpha.com 4/23/2013, at: http://seekingalpha.com/article/1361321-the-production-cost-of-gold-may-surprise-you

Is The Housing Market on a Sugar High?

In an April 8, 2013 MSN video interview with former Fannie Mae Chief Credit Officer, Ed Pinto, Mr. Pinto explains the fundamentals of the housing market and how the "wealth effect" fueled by artificially low interest rates and abundant borrowed money, rather than increasing incomes, is effecting housing prices (and other asset prices).

To see the Wall Street Journal article, Is The Fed Blowing a New Housing Bubble - click:

It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature . . . or, Free Markets.

As interest rates sink, insurers feel pressure By Ben Berkowitz Reuters | NEW YORK | Wed Jun 6, 2012 12:16 pm EDT http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/06/us-insurance-rates-idUSBRE8550XD20120606

MetLife CEO Says Bernanke’s Easy Money a Tax on Savers  By Zachary Tracer & Jeff Kearns - Mar 22, 2013 9:28 AM PT

Allstate Said to Seek Buyers for Lincoln Benefit Business By Matthew Monks & Noah Buhayar - Apr 19, 2013 9:00 PM PT

Lower Rates Push Yield Seekers to Higher Risk By A. Gary Shilling – Bloomberg News - Jan 29, 2013, at: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-29/lower-rates-push-yield-seekers-to-higher-risk.html

Did Timothy Geithner Fire Economist Robert Shiller?

 
A couple of years ago I was reading Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner’s Wikipedia Bio.(1) I was surprised to read that Mr. Geithner served as a Treasury Department Attaché in the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, Japan during the early years of what has become known as “Japan’s Lost Decade” (A “Lost Decade” which is now approaching its second decade anniversary).(2)

It’s widely recognized that Japan’s “Lost Decade” was a consequence of the deflation of an asset bubble.* Since reading how Geithner was in a unique position to witness the formation and the consequences of a severe asset bubble, and because I believe he has no doubt followed the efforts of the Japanese Government to stimulate its way out of its economic doldrums, I’ve found Mr. Geithner’s policy positions a little strange.

For me, the strangeness of Treasury Secretary Geithner’s policies took on an even more strange dimension this morning.

This morning I was watching a video of a May 11, 2009 New Yorker Summit presentation of a conversation between Nassim Taleb, Robert Shiller(3) and Nick Paumgarten. At about 4.5 minutes into the video Robert Shiller describes how, after being on the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s “Academic Advisory Panel” for 14 years, Timothy Geithner ‘fired’ him (presumably for Shillers presentation to the panel on asset bubbles). Shiller’s ‘firing’ took place shortly after the first meeting of the "Academic Advisory Panel" after Geithner’s appointment as President of the New York Fed.

 * As much as most economists agree on anything, most economist’s attribute Japan’s “Lost Decade” to the [changed] wealth effect and loss of confidence which followed the late 80’s early ‘90’s bursting of the Japanese commercial real estate bubble, which had inflated excessively during the early-to-mid 1980’s.

I copied the portion of the longer video in which Professor Shiller describes what he interpreted as being fired by Timothy Geithner. If you are interested, you can see the video clip here:

The complete video of the May 11, 2009 New Yorker Summit discussion between Nassim Taleb, Robert Shiller and Nick Paumgarten can be found here:

Footnotes:
(1) Timothy Geithner - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, at: http://www.bing.com/search?setmkt=en-US&q=Timothy+Geithner+Wikipedia
(2) Japan’s “Lost Decade” at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Decade_(Japan)
and Japan announces “new dimension” in quantitative easing wsws.org Saturday 6th April, 2013, at:
(3) Robert Shiller is an economics professor at Yale University. He is the author of a book Irrational Exuberance (published in 2000) which describes the role of excessive confidence in the development of economic bubbles. Professor Shiller expressed concern about the stock market bubble before that bubble burst bubble, and he was one of the earliest, if not the earliest, to warn us of the real estate bubble. He is co-developer of the S&P Case-Shiller Real Estate Price Indeces. [see, http://www.irrationalexuberance.com/definition.htm ]

Housing Bubble 2.0

Posted March 31, 2013

Are you interested in the single family home market?

If so, you might want to watch this interesting February 7, 2013 CNBC “Closing Bell” video in which David Stockman and CNBC’s Diana Olick(1) discuss the factors they say are driving a new bubble in single family home demand and creating a new home pricing bubble.

They also discuss the factors that might cause that bubble to, in Stockman’s words, “splat” and deflate at some point in the near future (1 to 2 years).

Other Resources:
(1) See, “Housing Market Already Shows Signs of a New Bubble” By Diana Olick - CNBC Realty Check - Tuesday February 5, 2013, at:

(2) If the implications of an institutional home buying bubble interest you, you might also want to look at an article that was published on Posterous on September 4, 2012 titled, “The Institutional Home Buying Bubble” at: http://billsplace.posthaven.com/the-institutional-home-buying-bubble

The Bernanke Market

Today, a friend sent me a link to an interesting article (see link below).
In his email my friend suggested that after reading the linked article, I read the first “Reader Comment”. The one from VonMises Jr.

The VonMises Jr. comment mentions Mr. Richard Fisher. Richard Fisher is the President of the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank, and he also sits on the Open Market Committe of The U.S. Federal Reserve Bank.

I’ve been following Mr. Fisher’s speeches for about four years now. Recently he has become very critical of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Monetary Policy. He has likened the U.S. Federal Reserve’s monetary policy to "Monetary Ritalin" and he has mentioned the difficulties of a monetary policy that lacks a clear exit strategy by referring to the Fed’s Quantitative Easing III (QE III) as the The Fed’s “Hotel California Monetary Policy”. This reference evokes the last lines of The Eagles song, “Hotel California”, which were:




On A Clear Day . . .

 Many politicians, some federal regulators, and many vocal media commentators claim that the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) and its regulatory evolution had nothing to do with the creation of the U.S. housing and mortgage bubble. It seems that, at some point in the near future, an objective review of the facts may require a revision of the claim that the CRA was not a significant factor in the creation of the U.S. housing and mortgage bubble.1

 

The Community Reinvestment Act: Its Evolution and New Challenges*


A speech by Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, Ben S. Bernanke 

At the Community Affairs Research Conference, Washington, D.C.

March 30, 2007


From the third paragraph below the heading: The Evolution of The CRA

Even as these developments were occurring, extensive change was taking place in the financial services sector. During the 1980s and 1990s, technological progress significantly improved data collection and information processing, which led to the development and widespread use of credit-scoring models and the availability of generic credit history scores. Deregulation also contributed to the changes in the marketplace. Notably, the lifting of prohibitions against interstate banking was followed by an increased pace of industry consolidation. Also, the preemption of usury laws on home loans created more scope for risk-based pricing of mortgages. Securitization of affordable housing loans expanded, as did the secondary market for those loans, in part reflecting a 1992 law that required the government-sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, to devote a percentage of their activities to meeting affordable housing goals (HUD, 2006). A generally strong economy and lower interest rates also helped improved access to credit by lower-income households.

Footnote:
1. To see reasoning which strongly opposes the view that the CRA was not an influence in the creation of the bubble,see: The Financial Crisis on Trial By Peter J. Wallison - WSJ OPINION pub. December 21, 2011 at: http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB10001424052970204791104577108183677635076-lMyQjAxMTAyMDAwNDEwNDQyWj.html?mod=wsj_share_email