The gold bubble in pictures

Investors love to debate whether the current price of gold is indicative of an asset bubble.

We believe the question can be resolved using good old-fashioned common sense. If it looks like a bubble, acts like a bubble, and quacks like a bubble, then it’s probably a bubble.

So does the recent and precipitous fall in its price settle the matter by proving the elusive bubble has burst? We think it may.

What exactly is a bubble?
Before delving into such a contentious subject, it’s important we’re on the same page about what exactly an asset bubble is. Quite simply, it’s a surge in the price of an asset or asset class that is then followed by a rapid price deflation.

The surge and subsequent deflation of U.S technology stocks in the 1990s provides a textbook example of this. The Nasdaq Composite Index began its dramatic assent in 1998 only to fall just as dramatically in 2000. And even after 10 years, a company as veritable as Microsoft has yet to see its share price reclaim its high at the time.

Source: Yahoo! Finance.

Not long after the dot-com bubble burst, moreover, a U.S housing bubble began to form, only to then burst in 2008, creating the increasingly identifiable bubble shape that a graph reveals.

Source: Standard & Poor’s, Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

A bubble’s characteristics
There are two particularly notable characteristics of an asset bubble. The first is that it’s fuelled by the way in which market participants allocate resources.

Investors right now, for example, are fleeing shares in favour of things like U.S. Treasury bonds. This trend has decreased the price of the S&P 500 while increasing the price of Treasuries, symbolised by historically low U.S government-bond yields.

The second is that these allocation decisions don’t reflect the fundamentals of supply and demand. For example, while the world’s consumption of oil has risen steadily from 60 million to 85 million barrels a day over the past 30 years, its price started surging in 2001 only to dramatically deflate seven years later, evidencing a complete detachment from economic reality.

And although the chart doesn’t depict it, the price has since rocketed back up to $116 a barrel in April of this year only to settle back down to $82 per barrel today.


So is gold a bubble?
The question of whether gold is following a similar track is hotly debated. And like many debates, both sides skilfully marshal statistics to support their positions.

Those opposed to the notion that gold prices indicate a bubble rely largely on the “dollar decline theory” This theory holds that the price of gold has steadily tracked the amount of money in circulation over the past decade. Its price has only gone up, in turn, because the value of the U.S. dollar has gone down.

Another popular theory for current gold prices is that the portion of the world’s wealth that is held in gold today is markedly lower than at any time over the past 100 years. As a result, it purportedly follows that there couldn’t be a bubble because investors are allocating away from gold, as opposed to toward it.

On the other side of the argument, commentators refute the dollar-decline theory by noting that it focuses on the wrong measure of money in circulation and that when the right measure is used, it actually supports the notion of a gold bubble. And others demonstrate the increase in the price of gold has markedly outpaced the increase in the price of other commodities, including cotton, pork, milk, and coffee.

If it quacks like a bubble
We respect all of these opinions, but we believe the question can be resolved using good old-fashioned common sense. If it looks like a bubble, acts like a bubble, and quacks like a bubble, then it’s probably a bubble.


Of course, this doesn’t mean you should immediately sell your shares in Newcrest Mining Limited (ASX: NCM), St. Barbara Limited (ASX: SBM) or any other gold miner for that matter.

What it does mean, however, is that you need to start balancing your portfolio with stable, well-diversified companies such as Woolworths (ASX: WOW) and Coca-Cola Amatil Limited (ASX:CCL) in preparation for the fall.

One place to start is a free report by our top equity analysts that profiles two companies they think will be well insulated from any bursting of the gold and commodities bubble. Grab this report – 2 Safe Ways To Play The Commodities Boom – while it’s free and still available.

This article was written by John Maxfield and originally published on Authorised by Bruce Jackson.


The 5 mining stocks we’re recommending in 2019…

For decades, Australian mining companies have minted money for individual investors like you and me. But if you believe the pundits and talking heads on TV, those days are long gone. Finito! Behind us forever…

We say nothing could be further from the truth. To earn the really massive returns, you’ve got to fish where others aren’t fishing—and the mining sector could be primed for a resurgence. That’s why top Motley Fool analysts just revealed their exciting new research on 5 ASX miners they believe could help you profit in 2019 and beyond…


The best way we see to play the global zinc shortage… Our #1 favourite large-cap miner (hint: it’s not BHP)… one early-stage gold miner we think could hit the motherlode… Plus two more surprising companies you probably haven’t heard of yet!

For free access to our brand-new research, simply click here or the link below. But be warned, this research is available free for a limited time only, and we reserve the right to withdraw it at any time.

Click here for your FREE report!