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Everything Gold Is New Again (Newsweek) Shayne McGuire

Everything Gold Is New Again (Newsweek)

Bryan F. Peterson / Corbis

In stormy times, investors look for something solid to hang onto—something like gold. The World Bank president himself, Robert Zoellick, suggested in November that the world’s economies could use the old reliable metal to help stabilize their currencies. For these and many other reasons, professional gold-fund manager Shayne McGuire argues that gold has nowhere to go but up. The following essay is adapted from McGuire’s latest book, Hard Money: Taking Gold to a Higher Investment Level.

Gold used to be regarded as an investment for losers—for the crazies forever expecting the financial apocalypse. To the great economist John Maynard Keynes, it was a “barbarous relic” of a primeval economic past. Many people have abandoned that lousy stereotype, now that the debt-driven bubbles in stocks and real estate have burst. Following the collapse of the world’s largest bank, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the largest insurer, the American Insurance Group, among many other notable institutions now owned and directed by Western governments, people have come to understand the need for time-proven financial insurance that can insulate their wealth from government and financial firms. And there’s only one viable and liquid investment that enables a person to pull his or her wealth out of the financial system: gold.

Buying gold has been the best method for shorting the government. Betting against government—that is, on a sudden, sharp rise in inflation—has strong odds in the midst of surging government deficits. Hyperinflation is fortunately a rare event, and it is unlikely to emerge at present. But consider that all 30 documented cases of hyperinflation—that is, a situation where prices rise by at least 50 percent per month—have been caused by deficits that got out of control. Hyperinflation invariably emerges in a deflationary environment of weak economic activity, such as the one that now threatens the United States, European nations, and Japan. It can erupt when the public grows wary of the money being printed in growing quantities by monetary authorities, which are forced to buy—to “monetize,” in the financial vernacular—a surging supply of government bonds that the markets no longer all want to buy.

Every currency in history has eventually fallen against gold—most dramatically in times like these, times of surging liabilities and an increasing inability to meet them. Gold is the only credible currency whose quantity cannot be expanded at will to meet the spending needs of governments in distress. By its very nature it remains scarce and rises in value as the supply of paper money grows. And I think it’s safe to say that following the most dramatic credit crisis since the Great Depression—one that is continuing to produce ripple effects, like events in Greece that are broadening into Europe itself—we are likely to see historic investment shifts that will provide great opportunities.

One major beneficiary will be gold. I strongly believe that present financial conditions are about to transform the investment strategies of the world’s largest investment funds in a way that will cause gold to surge substantially higher.

To understand why, consider present asset allocation at some of the world’s largest investment funds. Pension funds, like the one I work for, have a significant effect on the world’s markets, since they collectively manage $24 trillion. But gold plays a negligible role in their asset allocations. Teacher Retirement System of Texas, whose GBI Gold Fund I manage, probably holds a larger percentage of assets in gold than any other large ($10 billion and higher) pension fund in the world, but our holdings in the precious metal are modest in comparison with any major type of asset like stocks and bonds. And so it is with other pension funds. Since commodities typically represent around 3 percent of a typical fund’s total assets, and the precious metal makes up less than 5 percent of commodity allocation, that makes gold only 0.15 percent of a fund’s total assets. Add in the value of gold-mining stocks and precious-metals exchange-traded funds (maybe another 0.15 percent of total assets, at most), and a typical pension fund holds less than a third of 1 percent in gold—that is to say, virtually nothing.



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