Retail Capitulation – Precious Metals Supply and Demand

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by Pater Tenebrarum, Acting Man:

Small Crowds, Shrinking Premiums

The prices of gold and silver rose five bucks and 37 cents respectively last week. Is this the blast off to da moon for the silver rocket of halcyon days, in other words 2010-2011?

Various gold bars. Coin and bar premiums have been shrinking steadily (as have coin sales of the US Mint by the way), a sign that retail investors have lost interest in gold. There are even more signs of this actually, and this loss of interest stands in stark contrast to the firm gold price. Of course, retail investors have generally very little influence on the gold price anyway – they only serve as a contrary indicator. [PT]

We will look at the basis signals in a bit. But for now, we want to comment on the absolutely moribund state of the retail market. Coin and bar premiums are near or at long-term lows. That means buyers are not necessarily buying new product from the mints, but rather there is plenty of “used” product floating around the market from other retail customers who are selling.

Every dealer we talk to acknowledges volume is down too. So not only is there less revenue, but the margin on that revenue is smaller. I am here in San Antonio for the International Precious Metals Institute conference, and though it is my first time attendees keep saying it is a smaller crowd.

This is not an environment for a Lift Off Event. It is not bullish, except in the way that before the bull market often must come capitulation. This smells like retail capitulation.

Here are two charts shown in a recent Tom McClellan market report. They also illustrate “retail capitulation”, or rather “disinterest”, which from a contrarian perspective is even better in our experience. The chart to the left shows that Google searches on “buy gold” have recently declined to an 11-year low; the chart to the right shows the 2-week percentage change in gold held in the open-ended bullion ETFs GLD and IAU. Whether these ETFs create new share baskets and buy gold, or dissolve existing share baskets and sell gold depends on whether or they trade at a premium or a discount to NAV. Authorized participants then engage in arbitrage deals. When the ETFs accumulate gold it is a sign of strong buying interest pushing them to premiums to NAV in intraday trading – which then is arbitraged away by the creation of new share baskets. What makes this chart especially interesting in our opinion is the strong and recently growing divergence between the gold price in the action in the ETFs, with the former holding up quite well in the face of retail disinterest. This too is a bullish contrarian signal. [PT]

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