In Gold we Trust

Rising demand for gold and silver reflect the failure of central banks to maintain price stability and efficient functioning of credit markets. Private investor mistrust of fiat currencies was historically an emerging market problem, with countries like India and China holding large private savings in the form of precious metals or real estate.  But now growing US fiscal problems have caused mistrust to spread to the global reserve currency as central banks reduce exposure to the Dollar and increase purchases of gold bullion.

Stocks & Treasuries

The S&P 500 respected support at 5250, the short harami candle indicating uncertainty. Breakout above Thursday’s high would confirm our target of 5500.

S&P 500

Ten-year Treasury yields are testing resistance at 4.5% but the short candle and weak close look tentative and respect is likely.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Gold & Silver

Gold is likely to test support at $2,300 per ounce. Respect is likely and would confirm that the up-trend is intact.

Spot Gold

Silver is similarly poised to test support between $29 and $30 per ounce. Respect of support is again likely to confirm the up-trend.

Spot Silver

Gold Demand from the East

Ronnie Stoeferle — managing director of Liechtenstein-based asset manager Incrementum AG and author of the annual In Gold We Trust report — says that 70% of gold demand is now from the East. Mainly China and India but supported by buying in Vietnam, Thailand and lately Japan.

De-Dollarization

Jeff Currie — chief energy strategist at the Carlyle Group and former Global Head of Commodities Research at Goldman Sachs — says that central banks are now recycling commodity surpluses into Gold, not Dollars. When prices are high, crude oil producers generate trade surpluses which they historically have invested in Dollar-based assets — mainly US Treasuries — but are now investing in gold.

The Saudis and Russia are increasingly selling crude oil and gas in Yuan and Rupees which they then use to import goods from China and India. Any remaining surplus is then used to purchase gold as they do not want to hold the currencies in their official reserves. Physical gold is flowing from West to East, to meet increased demand, and driving up prices.

The change has caused a dramatic divergence between gold (brown below) and real long-term interest rates, represented by the TIPS yield (blue) below.

Gold & TIPS Yield

Source: Gainesville Coins

The scale of increased demand and its impact on gold prices is not hard to imagine when one considers that global crude oil production is more than 13 times the Dollar value of total gold output.

USD Value of Gold & Crude Oil Production

Source: FFTT

Central Bank Purchases

China and India are ranked among the top 10 countries in terms of official gold holdings.

Official Gold Reserves by Country - Top 10 Holdings

Source: Gold.org

But many purchases are not made through official channels and go unreported. Jan Nieuwenhuijs estimates that the PBOC actually held close to 5,550 metric tons1 at the end of Q1 2024.

Quarterly Central Bank Gold Buying

Source: Gainesville Coins

Private Purchases

Private gold holdings in China and India dwarf official reserves.

China’s private sector holds approximately 25,700 metric tons2 at the end of Q1 2024, according to Nieuwenhuijs.

India’s gold market is similar in size, with private investors holding between 24,000 and 27,000 metric tons of gold jewellery and bullion according to Blue Hill Research.

Conclusion

Gold demand is driven by a lack of faith in fiat currencies — whether it be US Dollars, Chinese Yuan or Indian Rupees — to maintain their value. Private investors are buying gold as a store of value while central banks are recycling trade surpluses into gold, rather than holding fiat currencies.

Silver and Copper are becoming the “poor man’s gold”, with price-sensitive buyers switching from gold into silver and copper as they grow relatively cheaper.

Countries with high private gold investment are likely to experience low rates of growth. Keyne’s Paradox of Thrift illustrates how savings parked in assets like gold and silver crowd out investment in productive assets, leading to lower growth in output.

Savings invested in debt and equity markets, by comparison, are largely channeled into investment in productive assets3 that contribute to GDP growth.

Efficient credit markets are the lifeblood of the economy, ensuring the transfer of savings into productive investment. Demand for speculative assets — such as precious metals and much real estate — reflect the failure of central banks to maintain price stability. Inflation increases investment risk in debt markets, leading to higher interest rates and increased demand for speculative assets, lowering economic growth. Inflation also accentuates the boom-bust cycle as central banks flip-flop between restrictive and stimulative monetary policy in an attempt to undo the consequences of their failed monetary policies.

The world is edging back towards a “gold standard” of sorts, where trade surpluses are converted to gold — or some other commodity like silver, copper or crude oil — rather than held as currency reserves. While not a perfect system, this would impose greater fiscal discipline on sovereigns, including the US, and contribute to increased price stability. It would also reduce the role of the US Dollar as global reserve currency and help to stem the damage done to the US economy over the past forty years by this “exorbitant privilege”.

Notes

  1. Estimated total PBOC gold holdings are 5,358 metric tons at the end of 2023 plus 189 tons in Q1 of 2024.
  2. Estimated total private gold holdings in China are 23,745 metric tons at the end of 2022 plus 1,411 tons in 2023 and 543 tons in Q1 of 2024.
  3. Debt that finances investment in speculative assets — producing low returns, like many real estate investments — does not contribute much to economic growth.

Acknowledgements

S&P 500 storm in a teacup

Markets were spooked by “hawkish” comments in the latest FOMC minutes, where some participants indicated a willingness to tighten policy should such action become appropriate:

Participants discussed maintaining the current restrictive policy stance for longer should inflation not show signs of moving sustainably toward 2 percent or reducing policy restraint in the event of an unexpected weakening in labor market conditions. Various participants mentioned a willingness to tighten policy further should risks to inflation materialize in a way that such an action became appropriate. ~ Minutes of the Federal Open Market Committee: April 30–May 1, 2024

This is nothing new: all FOMC members should be prepared to hike rates if inflation spikes to the point where tighter policy is appropriate. What seems to have spooked markets is the fact that it was considered appropriate to discuss this out in the open.

10-year Treasury yields rallied to test 4.5%, ending the series of declining Trend Index peaks. Breakout above 4.5% would signal another test of 4.7% but breach of support remains likely and would signal a decline to test support between 4.0% and 4.1%.

10-year Treasury Yield

The large engulfing candle on the S&P 500 is a bearish sign. Expect a test of support at 5200 but respect is likely and would confirm our target of 5500.

S&P 500

The S&P 500 Equal-Weighted Index ($IQX) retreated sharply and is likely to test support at 6600.

S&P 500 Equal-Weighted Index ($IQX)

Financial Markets

Commercial bank reserves at the Fed climbed to $3.39 trillion on May 22, continuing the recovery of financial market liquidity after the sharp fall during April tax payment season.

Commercial Bank Reserves at the Fed

The inverted Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index (black below) continues to climb, indicating easier monetary policy. The S&P 500 (blue) is expected to follow the FCI upwards.

S&P 500 Index & Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index (inverted scale)

Wicksell Analysis

The chart below is based on the theory of interest and money published by Swedish economist Knut Wicksell in 1898. Monetary policy is restrictive when long-term interest rates are higher than nominal GDP growth (the marginal return on new investment) and stimulatory when LT rates are below nominal GDP growth.

We plot nominal GDP (silver) against 10-year Treasury yields (purple) below. Stimulatory monetary policy is evident in the 1960s and ’70s — with GDP growth (silver) above long-term rates (purple) — boosting growth and inflation. This followed by restrictive policies in the 1980s and ’90s before long-term rates were again suppressed to stimulate the economy in the last two decades.

10-year Treasury Yield & Nominal GDP Growth

Nominal GDP grew at an annualized rate of 5.5% in Q1 of 2024, while the 10-year yield is below 4.5%, indicating that monetary policy remains stimulatory. Further growth and inflation are likely.

Crude Oil

The counter-argument to the monetarist view is that crude oil prices are falling and likely to ease inflationary pressures in the economy.

Nymex light crude broke support at $78 per barrel, indicating a decline to test long-term support (red) at $68.

Nymex WTI Light Crude

Energy prices were the primary cause of the spike in CPI in 2021 and its subsequent fall in 2022-23.

Conclusion

Crude prices are likely to fall, easing inflationary pressures and leading to lower long-term interest rates.

We expect the Fed and US Treasury to maintain easy monetary conditions until after the November elections.

The current bull market in stocks is likely to continue until end of the year.

Ceteris paribus

The Latin phrase ceteris paribus means “all else being equal.”

If Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping attempt to influence US elections by disrupting the global economy — through cyberattacks, damage to undersea communication cables, infrastructure, or transport bottlenecks — then all bets are off and we could be in for a wild ride.

Acknowledgements



Silver stars as stocks retrace

Markets are retracing to test new support levels after a strong surge during the week on weaker than expected inflation data. Silver and Gold are the exception, making new highs, with demand fueled by lower long-term Treasury yields, a weaker Dollar, and strong buying from China.

Stocks

The S&P 500 is retracing to test support at 5200/5250. Higher Trend Index troughs indicate buying pressure. Respect of support is likely and would confirm our target of 5500.

S&P 500

In Australia, the ASX 200 retreated from resistance at 7900. Follow-through below 7700 would warn of another test of support at 7500/7550. Rising Trend Index troughs, however, warn that respect is more likely — that would mean another test of the all-time high.

ASX 200

Financial Markets

Ten-year Treasury yields retraced to test new resistance between 4.4% and 4.5%. Respect is likely and would signal a decline to test support between 4.1% and 4.2%.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Financial market liquidity is improving, with commercial bank reserves at the Fed recovering after a sharp fall during April tax payment season.

Commercial Bank Reserves at Fed

The Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index is again falling, signaling easier monetary conditions.

Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index

Bitcoin (BTC) recovered above the former $64K support level, confirming easier financial conditions. Retracement that respects the new support level would strengthen the signal.

Bitcoin (BTC)

Economic Activity

Real retail sales are edging lower but remain in line with their pre-pandemic trend (dotted line) — supported by full employment, lower inflation and government spending to secure critical supply chains.

Advance Real Retail Sales

Light vehicle sales remain below 2019 levels but sales above 15 million continue to reflect robust consumer sentiment.

Light Vehicle Sales

Heavy truck sales rebounded to 40.2K units, indicating reasonable business activity. Continuation of the recent down-trend, however, with a fall below 37.5K, would signal that the economy is slowing. Breach of 35K would warn that a recession is imminent.

Heavy Truck Sales

Precious Metals & the Dollar

The Dollar index is retracing to test new resistance at 105. Lower Trend Index peaks warn of selling pressure and respect of resistance is likely, offering a short-term target of 103.

Dollar Index

Silver is the star performer of the week, climbing steeply to close at $31.43 per ounce, following a brief pause on Thursday. Rising Trend Index troughs indicate strong buying pressure and our target of $32 is likely to be broken.

Spot Silver

Gold also displays buying pressure, although the Trend Index rise is not as steep as Silver. Expect retracement to test the new support level at $2400 per ounce, but respect is likely and would confirm our target of $2500.

Spot Gold

The chart below from Jan Nieuwenhuijs shows Gold as a percentage of global central bank reserves, from 1880 to today. There is plenty of potential for holdings to increase as central banks attempt to diversify away from a Dollar-based global reserve currency.

Gold as a percentage of International Reserves

China: Gold Demand

China sold a record amount of Treasury and US agency bonds in the first quarter as it diversifies away from US financial assets. Bloomberg:

Beijing offloaded a total of $53.3 billion of Treasuries and agency bonds combined in the first quarter, according to calculations based on the latest data from the US Department of the Treasury. Belgium, often seen as a custodian of China’s holdings, disposed of $22 billion of Treasuries during the period.

China: Reserves

At the same time, China is rapidly increasing its official Gold holdings.

China: Gold Holdings

China’s domestic Gold price consistently shows a strong premium over the international price, currently RMB 567 per gram (Au99.99) versus 558.8 for the iAu99.99 international contract on the Shanghai Gold Exchange. The cause of strong domestic Gold demand is not hard to find.

China: Home Prices

Chinese investors have in the past favored residential real estate as a store of wealth but growth in real estate prices ended in 2021. Investors are now switching their focus to Gold.

Crude Oil

Nymex light crude respected support at $79 per barrel. Penetration of the secondary (orange) trendline would suggest that a base is forming. Lower crude oil and gasoline prices are likely to ease inflationary pressure.

Nymex Light Crude

Conclusion

Silver is the star performer of the week, rising steeply to close at $31.43 per ounce. Gold also broke resistance — breakout above $2400 per ounce offering a target of $2500.

Stocks are bullish after weaker than expected CPI growth for April. The S&P 500 is likely to respect support at 5200/5250, confirming our target of 5500.

Ten-year Treasury yields are also softening on weaker inflation data. Respect of resistance at 4.4% to 4.5% would offer a target between 4.1% and 4.2%. Lower yields are likely to weaken the Dollar, further boosting Gold and Silver prices.

China continues to switch its official reserves from US Treasuries to Gold. Coupled with strong domestic demand from Chinese investors — disillusioned with real estate and the weakening Yuan — combined official and private investor demand from China is expected to maintain upward pressure on bullion prices.

Acknowledgements

Progress…. with Chinese characteristics | Jim Grant

….Yet as the world’s second-largest economy continues to slog through the aftermath of its debt-driven economic miracle-cum-titanic housing bubble, policymakers put their best foot forward – with Chinese characteristics. Thus, aggregate financing fell by nearly RMB 200 billion in April from the prior month, data released over the weekend show, marking the first outright contraction in that metric of broad credit availability in nearly two decades.

True to form, the government looks to sweep those inconvenient figures under the rug, as Bloomberg relays that seven separate research notes from local brokerages commenting on that data release were scrubbed from the WeChat social media platform as of this morning.

Then, too, regulators have switched off live trading data showing foreign investment flows on the mainland Shanghai and Shenzhen exchanges via the Stock Connect trading link. That move, which was telegraphed in an April announcement, follows word that foreign direct investment registered at just $10.3 billion during the first quarter, down 56% from the first three months of 2023.

~ Jim Grant, Grant’s Almost Daily

Gold & Oil – a new paradigm

The expanding BRICS bloc is moving away from the PetroDollar, looking to settle oil imports in their domestic currencies. But that is unlikely to be achieved without the use of an alternative reserve asset that can be used to settle trade imbalances. The only likely candidate is Gold.

But first let’s start with a review of financial markets.

Financial Markets

The Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index fell to -0.53, signaling further monetary easing.

Chicago Fed Financial Conditions Index

Bitcoin found support above $60K and recovery above $68K would signal a re-test of resistance at $72K, indicating ample liquidity in financial markets.

Bitcoin

10-Year Treasury yields respected resistance at 4.35%. Breach of support at 4.20% would signal another test of 4.05%.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Janet Yellen at Treasury is doing her best to keep a lid on long-term Treasury yields in order to ensure a smooth run-up to the November elections. This includes limiting the supply of long-term Treasuries by issuing short-term T-Bills in their place.

Keeping long-term yields low helps to support stock prices. High stock prices in turn boost tax revenues which reduce the deficit and new issuance of USTs.

The S&P 500 weekly chart shows how the index has been rising since late-2023. Shallow corrections, of less than 3%, indicate exceptional buying pressure. That and a strong rise in the Trend Index (above zero) suggest that stocks are getting overheated.

S&P 500

The magnificent 7 technology stocks have been leading the advance but now two — Apple (AAPL) and Tesla (TSLA) — are falling behind. A stumble in more key stocks would be cause for concern.

Top 7 Technology Stocks

The Dollar

The Dollar Index, shown on the weekly chart below, is headed for a test of resistance at 105. Breakout would signal an advance to 107. The sharp rise on Friday is attributed to a surprise rate cut by the Swiss central bank.

Dollar Index - Weekly

The PBOC also relaxed its managed float, allowing the exchange rate to rise above 7.2 Yuan to the Dollar.

USDCNY

It is unusual to see the Dollar strengthening while long-term Treasury yields are falling. We need to monitor this closely.

Crude Oil

Brent crude is retracing to test support at $84 per barrel. But respect is likely and would confirm our target of $94 per barrel. If that occurs, we expect upward pressure on inflation in the months ahead.

Brent Crude

Gold

Spot Gold in London is retracing to again test support at $2150 per ounce. Respect would signal another advance and follow-through above $2200 would confirm our target of $2400.

Spot Gold

A New Paradigm

The global crude oil market dwarfs other commodities, with production of more than 100 million barrels per day (EIA). Gold production is only 5000 metric tonnes per year — a fraction of the crude market — but the two have close historic links.

High crude prices often coincided with high gold prices. It was believed that oil producers increased purchases of gold when they made excess profits but in the last decade, there has been greater divergence between Gold and Crude.

10-Year Treasury Yield minus CPI & Gold 12-Month Percentage Gain

Another historic factor was the relationship between gold and real interest rates. The chart below shows how gold made large 12-month gains (orange) whenever the real 10-year Treasury yield (adjusted for CPI) fell below zero.

Negative real yields were the perfect signal to go long Gold, in expectation of rising inflation, funded by negative real interest rates. But that relationship too broke down, with negative real yields of -5.0% accompanied by falling Gold prices after August 2020.

10-Year Treasury Yield minus CPI & Gold 12-Month Percentage Gain

Gold bulls have long accused the Fed/Treasury of manipulating the gold price. In the 1960s, it was done openly by the London Gold Pool, a consortium of 8 major central banks, led by the Fed, who collaborated to maintain a fixed gold price of $35 per ounce. The Gold Pool collapsed in 1968, allowing gold to appreciate above the fixed exchange rate. This led to Richard Nixon to end US Dollar convertibility to gold in 1971.

It makes sense for central banks to suppress the price of Gold — this would increase demand for US Treasuries and other sovereign debt as reserve assets.

We have also observed unusual activity on Comex futures, with heavy selling into rallies. Any rational seller would sell in smaller quantities and avoid off-peak times — when bids are thin — in order not to interrupt the trend and maximize prices achieved. Large sellers generally take pains to avoid alerting the market as to their intentions. The opposite of some of the “shock and awe” selling in futures markets that we suspect is intended to destroy momentum built up in preceding days.

Gold Futures - Dump

Typical Gold Dump in Futures Market, February 2nd 12:36 PM to 12:45 PM

These are merely suspicions. We have no definitive proof. But those suspicions are now being put to the test.

BRICS+

China and Russia have been uncomfortable with US dominance of the global financial system and have long been making efforts to establish an independent reserve currency as an alternative to the Dollar. Their efforts failed to gain much traction until Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. US and European sanctions — blocking Russian assets held by European banks and removing Russian banks from the SWIFT payments system — alerted non-aligned countries to their vulnerability should they ever offend the US or its European allies.

The response has been an expansion of the BRICS bloc, with Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, Egypt and Ethiopia invited to join in August 2023. Argentina has since declined the invitation — after the election of Javier Millei — and the Saudis are “still considering”. The shift is motivated by a desire to reduce dependence on the US Dollar for trade — and US Treasuries as a reserve asset.

Central bank (CB) gold purchases are growing.

Central Bank Gold Purchases

Jan Nieuwenhuijs recently suggested that CB purchases may be far higher than official declarations (red below). He estimates that 80% of unreported purchases are made indirectly on behalf of CBs.

Central Bank Gold Purchases including estimates of Undisclosed Purchases

PBOC purchases account for a large percentage of unofficial buying.

PBOC Gold Purchases & Holdings

Crude Oil Payments

Major oil importers like India and China have signed agreements to pay for oil in their own currencies but that is likely to leave exporters like Russia and the Saudis holding excess Rupees and Yuan that they do not need and are unlikely to want to hold as reserves.

Non-USD trade in oil would only be viable if net trade imbalances are settled by transfer of gold between trading partners, with surplus countries like the Saudis purchasing gold from the Chinese with Yuan that are surplus to their needs. Demand for gold is expected to rise exponentially as the BRICS bloc expands and oil trades are increasingly settled in domestic currencies. Major oil importers like India and China are likely to require larger gold holdings in order to settle trade imbalances with oil exporters like the Saudis and Russians. Oil exporters are expected to recycle gold to fund purchases of goods and services from non-BRICS trading partners but the total “float” of gold in the system is likely to increase.

We continue to see a growing pile of evidence that gold is re-becoming an oil currency, which by virtue of the oil market alone being some 12-15x the size of the global physical gold market annually, suggests a continued relentless bid for gold in coming quarters and years that will puzzle many on Wall Street. ~ Luke Gromen

Physical Gold Flows

Physical gold is flowing out of London and Zurich as Asian buyers bid up prices.

A recent Doomberg interview pointed out that Gold quoted on the Shanghai Gold Exchange is at a premium of between $20 and $40 per ounce above the London Gold price. Friday’s PM Benchmark of CNY 511.40 per gram converts to $2200 per troy ounce, compared to the London spot price of $2165 per ounce — a premium of $35.

Arbitrage will ensure a steady flow of physical gold out of London and Zurich for as long as that premium is maintained.

Shanghai Gold Exchange: Yuan/Gram of Gold

Gold in CNY/gram as quoted on Shanghai Gold Exchange
(red = AM, blue = PM benchmark price).

Conclusion

Stocks continue their bull run, supported by strong liquidity in financial markets and weakening long-term Treasury yields.

The Dollar has diverged, however, rising sharply against the Euro and China’s Yuan. Dollar Index breakout above 105 would warn of an up-trend with an immediate target of 107.

Gold is retracing to test support at $2150 per ounce. Respect would signal another advance. But we need to be careful of the rising Dollar. Breakout above 105 would be likely to weaken demand for Gold.

Brent crude is testing support at $84 per barrel. Respect is likely and would confirm our target of $94. High crude oil prices would be expected to increase inflationary pressures in the months ahead and force the Fed to delay rate cuts. The resultant rise in long-term Treasury yields would be bearish for stocks.

We expect a new paradigm to emerge, where the Gold price is no longer determined by Western buyers seeking an inflation hedge to protect against erosion of currency purchasing power and as a safe haven when risk is high. Marginal buyers are likely to be BRICS+ (the expanded BRICS bloc) central banks, seeking to use gold to settle trade imbalances from oil and gas imports paid for in non-USD currencies. The supply of Gold is inelastic, so the price is expected to rise steeply until a new equilibrium is reached.

Acknowledgements

Why China’s efforts to resolve hidden government debt could fall short | Caixin Global

Local governments make extensive use of local government finance vehicles (LGFVs) to conceal debt and present a healthy balance sheet. The hidden debt presents a major risk for central government as the economy threatens a debt-deflation spiral.

From Caixin Global, March 14 2024:

China’s central government has rolled out a new round of measures since the second half of last year to help local governments swap or restructure their off-the-books borrowing in a bid to control debt risk.

However, the sheer scale of the country’s local government hidden debt — up to more than 70 trillion yuan ($9.8 trillion) according to some estimates, more than twice Germany’s GDP — means that the measures at best are far inadequate and will provide only temporary relief to what experts say is a looming liquidity crisis for regional authorities….

Gold soars as UST yields fall

The S&P 500 has retraced to test short-term support at 5050, accompanied by a retreat in the Equal-Weighted Index and Russell 2000 Small Caps. The outlook remains bullish, however, with Trend Index troughs high above zero signaling extraordinary buying pressure.

S&P 500

Bond market anticipation of June rate cuts is growing. 10-Year Treasury yields broke support at 4.20%, signaling a decline to test support at 3.80%.

10-Year Treasury Yield

Gold is at a new high of $2129 per ounce. We expect retracement to test support at $2080 but respect would offer a ST target of $2180 per ounce.

Spot Gold

Gold versus TIPS

Economic Activity

ISM Services PMI recorded its 14th month of expansion in February, retreating to 52.6% from 53.4% in January. The decline suggests continued but slower growth.

ISM Services PMI

Crude & Commodities

Nymex WTI light crude continues to respect resistance at $80 per barrel. Breach of $78 would suggest a correction to the ascending trendline at $75.

Nymex Light Crude

Copper continues to test resistance at $8500 per metric ton, indicating some resilience in the Chinese economy — by far the biggest buyer of industrial metals.

Copper

In China, Caixin Services PMI eased to 52.5 in February, from 52.7 in January — maintaining the expansion since January last year.

Caixin Services PMI

Earlier, Caixin Manufacturing PMI edged up to 50.9, compared to 50.8 in January. But whipsawing around 50 indicates poor and erratic growth which is affecting metals prices.

Caixin Manufacturing PMI

Iron ore continues to test support at $114 per metric ton. Breach would warn of another test of $100. The Chinese government is likely to do enough to keep the economy from collapse but does not have the means to stimulate on a large scale.

Iron Ore

Conclusion

The 10-year treasury yield is expected to test support at 3.80%, offering further upside for Gold.

Our short-term target is $2180 per ounce and our long-term target is $2450.

Acknowledgements

Eleven reasons for optimism in the next decade

This might seem more like a wish list than a forecast — there are always risks that can derail predictions — but we believe these are high probability events over the long-term.

Our timeline is flexible, some events may take longer than a decade while others could occur a lot sooner.

Also, some of the reasons for optimism present both a problem and an opportunity. It depends on which side of the trade you are on.

#1 US Politics

The political divide in the United States is expected to heal after neither President Biden nor his predecessor, and current GOP front-runner Donald Trump, make the ballot in 2024. The first due to concerns over his age and the latter due to legal woes and inability to garner support from the center. A younger, more moderate candidate from the right (Nikki Haley) or left (Gavin Newsom?) is likely to be elected in 2024 and lead the reconciliation process, allowing Congress to focus on long-term challenges rather than political grandstanding.

Nikki Haley
Gavin Newsom

Nikki Haley & Gavin Newsom – Wikipedia

#2 The Rise of Europe

Kaja Kallas

Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas – Wikipedia

Europe is expected to rediscover its backbone, led by the example of Eastern European leaders who have long understood the existential threat posed by Russian encroachment. Increased funding and supply of arms to Ukraine will sustain their beleaguered ally. NATO will re-arm, securing its Eastern border but is unlikely to be drawn into a war with Russia.

#3 Decline of the Autocrats

We are past peak-autocrat — when Vladimir Putin announced Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 23, 2022.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin announces invasion of Ukraine – CNN

Russia

The Russian economy is likely to be drained by the on-going war in Ukraine, with drone attacks on energy infrastructure bleeding Russia’s economy. Demands on the civilian population are expected to rise as oil and gas revenues dwindle.

Fire at an oil storage depot in Klintsy, southern Russia

Fire at an oil storage depot in Klintsy, southern Russia after it was hit by a Ukrainian drone – BBC

China

The CCP’s tenuous hold on power faces three critical challenges. First, an ageing population fueled by the CPP’s disastrous one-child policy (1979-2015) and declining birth rates after the 2020 COVID pandemic — a reaction to totalitarian shutdowns for political ends.

China's birth rate

Second, is the middle-income trap. Failure to overcome the political challenges of redistributing income away from local governments, state-owned enterprises and existing elites will prevent the rise of a consumer economy driven by strong levels of consumption and lower savings by the broad population.

Third, the inevitable demise of autocratic regimes because of their rigidity and inability to adapt to a changing world. Autocratic leaders grow increasingly isolated in an information silo, where subordinates are afraid to convey bad news and instead tell leaders what they want to hear. Poor feedback and doubling down on past failures destroy morale and trust in leadership, leading to a dysfunctional economy.

Iran

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei

Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei – Wikipedia

Demographics are likely to triumph in Iran, with the ageing religious conservatives losing power as their numbers dwindle. The rise of a more moderate, Westernized younger generation is expected to lead to the decline of Iranian-backed extremism and greater stability in the Middle East.

#4 High Inflation

The US federal government is likely to avoid default on its $34 trillion debt, using high inflation to shrink the debt in real terms and boost GDP at the same time.

US Debt to GDP

#5 Negative real interest rates

High inflation and rising nominal Treasury yields would threaten the ability of Treasury to service interest costs on outstanding debt without deficits spiraling out of control. The Fed will be forced to suppress interest rates to save the Treasury market, further fueling high inflation. Negative real interest rates will drive up prices of real assets.

#6 US Dollar

The US Dollar will decline as the US on-shores critical industries and the current account deficit shrinks. Manufacturing jobs are expected to rise as a result — through import substitution and increased exports.

US Current Account

#7 US Treasury Market

USTs are expected to decline as the global reserve asset, motivated by long-term negative real interest rates and shrinking current account deficits.

Foreign Holdings of US Treasuries

Central bank holdings of Gold and commodities are likely to increase as distrust of fiat currencies grows, with no obvious successor to US hegemony.

#7 Nuclear Power

Investment in nuclear power is expected to skyrocket as it is recognized as the only viable long-term alternative to base-load power generated by fossil fuels. Reactors will be primarily fueled by coated uranium fuels (TRISO) that remove the risk of a critical meltdown.

TRISO fuel particles

TRISO particles consist of a uranium, carbon and oxygen fuel kernel encapsulated by three layers of carbon- and ceramic-based materials that prevent the release of radioactive fission products – Energy.gov

Thorium salts are an alternative but the technology lags a long way behind uranium reactors. Nuclear fusion is a wild card, with accelerated development likely as AI is used to solve some of the remaining technological challenges.

#8 Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Scientific advances achieved with the use of AI are expected to be at the forefront in engineering and medicine, while broad productivity gains are likely as implementation of AI applications grows.

#9 Semiconductors

Demand for semiconductors and micro-processor is likely to grow as intelligent devices become the norm across everything from electric vehicles to houses, appliances and devices.

McKinsey projections of Semiconductor Demand

#10 Industrial Commodities

Demand for industrial commodities — lithium, copper, cobalt, graphite, battery-grade nickel, and rare earth elements like neodymium (used in high-power magnets) — are expected to skyrocket as the critical materials content of EVs and other sophisticated devices grows.

Expected supply shortfall by 2030:

Critical Materials - Expected Supply Shortage to achieve Net Zero by 2030

Prices will boom as demand grows, increases in supply necessitate higher marginal costs, and inflation soars.

#11 Stock Market Boom

Stocks are expected to boom, fueled by negative real interest rates, high inflation and productivity gains from AI and nuclear.



Conclusion

There is no cause for complacency — many challenges and pitfalls face developed economies. But we so often focus on the threats that it is easy to lose sight of the fact that the glass is more than half full.

Our long-term strategy is overweight on real assets — stocks, Gold, commodities and industrial real estate — and underweight long duration financial assets like USTs.

Acknowledgements