It's certainly not a news headline yet, but on Nov. 30 in Switzerland there will be an official referendum on a "Gold Initiative," which aims to secure the Swiss National Bank's gold reserves.
Now, in case the Swiss would vote "Yes," the Swiss National Bank (SNB) would be required by law to hold at least 20 percent of its total assets in gold, which would be substantially higher than the current 7.5 percent, or 1,040 metric tons, it holds now in gold, according to the World Gold Council.
Investors would do well to keep in mind that in case there is a "Yes" vote, the Swiss National Bank would have to buy 1,733 metric tons of gold by 2019 at the latest.
I don't think it's an overstatement to say that's not a negligible amount of gold when you take into account the global gold mine production in 2012 stood at 2,700 metric tons, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's Mineral Commodity Summaries 2013.
A "Yes" vote would put a substantial and constant bid in the gold market for years to come. Yes, this could become really interesting at a moment that many professional forecasters now expect the price per ounce of gold to go below the $1,000 mark in 2015.
Of course, no one knows what the final outcome of that referendum will be. A recent poll, for what it's worth taking into account there are still 19 days left, indicate a win for the "Yes" vote.
I would certainly not underestimate the significance and its impact, even beyond the Swiss borders, if the referendum delivers a "Yes" vote, but I'd prefer to remain extremely cautious and certainly wouldn't take firm positions until the vote and the initial markets reactions on the Swiss franc and the gold price are known.
Of course, an investor could do buy or sell orders (in various forms) according to their convictions, but that's not risk-free.
If there is a "No" vote, of course nothing will happen.
In the meantime, the Swiss franc is at a two-year high against the euro and very close to its "peg," or minimum, exchange rate that was implemented in 2001 of 1.20 Swiss franc per euro. At that moment the Swiss National Bank defended its euro peg action by saying, "The value of the Swiss franc was a threat to the economy and it was prepared to buy foreign currency in unlimited quantities." That same day the Swiss franc lost 8.8 percent against the euro and 9.5 percent against the dollar.
All that said, it shouldn't come as a surprise we're seeing the Swiss National Bank doing all that it can to do to convince the Swiss people to vote "No."
It will be interesting to see if "Don't fight the central bank" also works in Switzerland this time around.
I personally prefer a "Yes" vote so that, among other things, when I would have a Swiss franc in my pocket I would be sure it's covered for one-fifth by gold that is stored in Switzerland, which would be unique in the world. I'm still convinced that all these creations of "money from and for nothing" or all the current and coming forms of quantitative easing (QE) will not have a happy ending during the decade to come.
All investors would do well keeping in mind that complacency and denial can't dominate forever investor's behavior. In my opinion, the coming return to reality and economic fundamentals is only a question of time.
All that said, these days there are many investors who also question whether crude oil prices will continue to trend lower.
It's a fact no one can deny that a whole range of supply factors have played their role in the sharp declines we have seen since summer, but, at least in my opinion, one of the main catalysts has been the weakening of the euro against the dollar, especially after the European Central Bank (ECB) introduced a negative deposit facility interest rate on June 11. The days thereafter we saw sustained inflows into the U.S. dollar and on June 13 was precisely the moment that oil prices reversed and started their move down from their high that day of $107.68 per barrel spot price of West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude oil to $77.18 Monday, or a downward move of 28 percent in a little bit less than five months.
Looking back, we can see when "real" money started flowing back into the dollar. First, real money started abandoning the euro because of the ECB's expansion of its ultra-easy monetary policy settings, and second, the end of tapering by the Federal Reserve was finally becoming a sure thing.
Under these circumstances, in my view, it became logical that assets like oil, which had benefitted from outflows out of the dollar, came under pressure themselves.
In fact we saw the complete opposite happening in the second part of 2007 and the first half of 2008, when the price for WTI crude oil doubled from about $70 per barrel in July 2007 to about $140 in July 2008 while the dollar index went in the opposite direction, from 81.35 to 71.68, or nearly 12 percent, during that same time span.
Investors should take notice that we have seen renewed inflows into the dollar, with the pace taking up remarkably since ECB President Mario Draghi's press conference on Thursday.
Finally, I'd like to warn once again that nothing goes up or down in a straight line, and technically, I wouldn't be surprised to see a temporary reverse in the moves of the dollar as well as in gold, oil, etc.
In the stock markets, I would remain extremely vigilant and be prepared to jump ship when a sharp correction unfolds, which doesn't mean it will happen, but if it happens we shouldn't be surprised if the moves occur at blistering speeds.
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