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Uncoupling of the gold price
June 16, 2005

I was in Vancouver over the weekend attending an investment conference. Several speakers seemed to be very excited that gold was finally moving up coincident with a strengthening dollar.

As a consequence of having floating exchange rates the gold price should always reflect changes in the exchange rate of the currency it is measured in. But to get a sense of a currency’s movements it is dangerous to look at just one exchange rate, such as the dollar-euro rate for example. Ideally, all exchange rates should be used, and in practice we should use several exchange rates to define a currency’s movements. It may seem that gold has momentarily decoupled from the dollar-euro exchange rate but the move in gold over the past few weeks should not be taken out of context.

Let us look at the dollar, the euro and the gold price in both currencies for a bit. I am going to post all three charts one after the other, so we can easily compare them with each other, and then analyze them.

In the first chart we see that the euro fell quite dramatically from January 1999 until around the first quarter of 2002. The second chart confirms that the gold price in euros increased by the amount expected (1) if the gold price in other currencies was relatively stable and, therefore, that the increase in the euro-gold price was purely due to the devaluation of the euro. Looking at the third chart we can see that the gold price in US dollars, as an example, was in fact relatively stable from January 1999 to the first quarter of 2002. There is no doubt that the increase in the euro-gold price during that time was merely a reflection of weakness in the euro.

Now, if we look at the first chart again we can see that the euro performed very well against the dollar from early 2002 until the first quarter of this year. We also see from the second chart that the gold price in euros was relatively stable during that time. The third chart confirms that the gold price in US dollars increased in direct proportion (2) to the fall of the dollar, as measured by euros.

So what did we learn? The gold price from 1999 to 2002 was stable in dollars, reflecting stability in the dollar itself, and increased in euros as a result of weakness in the euro. From 2002 to earlier this year the gold price was stable in euros, reflecting stability in the euro, and increased in dollars as a result of weakness in the dollar.

Since April of this year, however, the euro has come under pressure as first France and then the Netherlands voted against ratifying the proposed European Constitution. Selling pressure on the euro caused that currency to decline almost 8% against the dollar and, as expected, the gold price in euros increased by almost exactly (3) the correct amount: 8%.

So, yes, the gold price has made a new high against the euro but that is a direct result of weakness in the euro, just as happened from 1999 to 2002. It does not imply anything more than that.

If you look very, very carefully at the third chart you will notice that there was a small increase in the US dollar-gold price during the past two weeks (the up-tick on the far right-hand side of the chart). That is what got some people excited. The fact that gold increased against both the euro and the US dollar is taken as a sign that a new bull market in gold has finally commenced, and that the gold price will now rise against all currencies. I doubt it. Yes, the gold price may one day decouple from exchange rates and rise in all currencies. We would call that a bubble, but one is not evident yet.

Given how many people asked me to address the increase in the gold price in both euros and dollars, and in light of all the chatter about a bull market in gold where the metal’s price rises in all currencies, it is worthwhile to point out that the price of gold is by definition dependent on currency exchange rates. It is a consequence of floating exchange rates, no more, no less. It is why gold is an excellent way to protect your capital from a devaluation of your local currency. It worked during every currency crisis in the 1990s, it worked for Europeans from 1999 to 2002 and it has worked for US residents for the past five years.

The increase in the US dollar-gold price of the past two weeks is insignificant. I would not pin my hopes on a measly two percent increase in the US dollar gold price. The gold price is unlikely to uncouple from exchange rates any time soon.

The US dollar will continue to benefit from the uncertainty surrounding the European Union and the euro. If the euro remains under pressure the gold price in euros will continue to rise but that does not mean the gold price in dollars, or any other currency for that matter, will also rise. Until we see the dollar start to lose ground against the Asian currencies, especially the yen and the renminbi, the gold price in US dollars is likely to remain flat or even decline. But once the dollar starts to lose ground against the yen and the renminbi we should see the gold price increase significantly in US dollars, to over $700 an ounce by my calculations.

Paul van Eeden

Footnote (1)
The euro fell from $1.17 in January 1999 to $0.87 in February 2002. That is a 26% decline. One would therefore expect the gold price (or anything else with a stable price that is bought with euros on international markets) to increase by 35%: 100 – 26 = 74 and (100 – 74)*100/74 = 35%. The gold price in euros actually increased by 38% from January 1999 to February 2002. The difference between an expected 35% increase and an actual 38% increase is statistically insignificant. The conclusion is therefore that the rise in the euro-gold price from 1999 to 2002 was due to the decline in the euro exchange rate.

Footnote (2)
Looking at the first chart, it appears that the euro strengthened from $0.87 in January 2002 to $1.35 in March 2005. In reality, though, the dollar weakened while the euro remained stable. This is seen in chart 2 by the fact that the gold price was stable in euros during that time. The inverse of 0.87 is 1.15 and the inverse of 1.35 is 0.74. Therefore the dollar fell from 1.15 against the euro to 0.74 against the euro, a 36% decline. Accordingly, the gold price in US dollars should have increased by 56% from February 2002 to March 2005 if the increase was purely due to the fall of the dollar on foreign exchange markets: 100 – 36 = 64 and (100 – 64)*100/64 = 56%. In January 2002 the gold price was $280 an ounce and in March it was $440, a 57% increase. Again, the difference between 56% and 57% is insignificant. The increase in the gold price in US dollars from 2002 to 2005 was due to nothing other than the weakness in the US dollar.

Footnote (3)
100 – 8 = 92 and (100 – 92)*100/92 = 9%. We could have expected the gold price to increase slightly more than it did: 9% instead of 8%. However, once again, the difference between the calculated increase in the gold price and the observed increase in the gold price is statistically insignificant.

 


Paul van Eeden works primarily to find investments for his own portfolio and shares his investment ideas with subscribers to his weekly investment publication. For more information please visit his website (www.paulvaneeden.com) or contact his publisher at (800) 528-0559 or (602) 252-4477.

Disclaimer

This letter/article is not intended to meet your specific individual investment needs and it is not tailored to your personal financial situation. Nothing contained herein constitutes, is intended, or deemed to be -- either implied or otherwise -- investment advice. This letter/article reflects the personal views and opinions of Paul van Eeden and that is all it purports to be. While the information herein is believed to be accurate and reliable it is not guaranteed or implied to be so. The information herein may not be complete or correct; it is provided in good faith but without any legal responsibility or obligation to provide future updates. Neither Paul van Eeden, nor anyone else, accepts any responsibility, or assumes any liability, whatsoever, for any direct, indirect or consequential loss arising from the use of the information in this letter/article. The information contained herein is subject to change without notice, may become outdated and will not be updated. Paul van Eeden, entities that he controls, family, friends, employees, associates, and others may have positions in securities mentioned, or discussed, in this letter/article. While every attempt is made to avoid conflicts of interest, such conflicts do arise from time to time. Whenever a conflict of interest arises, every attempt is made to resolve such conflict in the best possible interest of all parties, but you should not assume that your interest would be placed ahead of anyone else’s interest in the event of a conflict of interest. No part of this letter/article may be reproduced, copied, emailed, faxed, or distributed (in any form) without the express written permission of Paul van Eeden. Everything contained herein is subject to international copyright protection.


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