Demand for physical gold is collapsing

Demand for physical gold is collapsing by Simon Black

I serve on the Board of Directors of a large Singapore-based company that’s in the gold and silver business.

And, last night during our quarterly conference call, the management team gave me a lot of intriguing information.

Sales of physical gold and silver are collapsing across the entire industry.

At the US Mint, for example, sales of US Eagle gold coins fell by 67% between February 2016 versus February 2017.

And sales of US Eagle silver coins are down 75% over the same period.

The World Gold Council’s data also shows a substantial decline in physical precious metal demand in 2016, particularly with bars, coins, and jewelry.

Suppliers and refiners in the precious metals business are echoing these numbers, lamenting that sales are extremely slow and margins are falling.

For our Singapore company, this decline is irrelevant.

They have their own proprietary, state-of-the-art storage facility and a number of cutting-edge service like bullion-backed peer-to-peer loans, so business is great.

But I would expect that a number of other bullion dealers will probably go bust if this downturn lasts much longer.

The one conundrum is that this trend does NOT correlate with the price of gold.

In US dollar terms, the gold price is up 16% since the beginning of 2016.

So it would be reasonable to conclude that sales of physical bars and coins are up as well.

But they’re not.

The reason is because there’s a HUGE difference between physical gold and “paper” gold.

When people talk about the gold price, they’re really quoting the price of gold contracts at exchanges around the world in London, Shanghai, Chicago, etc.

Traders aren’t actually buying and selling physical gold.

These gold contracts are merely paper financial instruments, like stocks and bonds, that traders use for speculation.

When some conflict breaks out in Africa, the knee-jerk reaction is for traders to buy gold contracts.

And when central bankers announce that the economy is totally awesome, traders dutifully dump their gold contracts.

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