Publications

- December 1, 2022: Vol. 9, Number 11

In whom do we trust? Diversifying with gold, bitcoin and other decentralized assets

by Frank Holmes

As I see it, decentralized assets have never looked more attractive than they do now. That includes gold, silver and bitcoin, and you could also make the case for collectibles such as art.

By “decentralized,” I mean that these assets are not issued by a central authority. They are no one’s liability. No central banker makes the decision to mint more gold or silver. No finance minister decrees that bitcoin production be slowed or accelerated.

Investors have been diversifying with gold and silver for decades to limit their exposure to poorly executed monetary and fiscal policies. Investors bought more American Eagle and American Buffalo gold coins between January and September of this year than in any such period going back to 1999.

I believe this is largely a reflection of Americans’ souring opinion of the state of the economy and the imbalance they see in monetary and fiscal policies. For the same reasons, more investors are also diversifying with bitcoin, an asset whose payment system is based on “cryptographic proof instead of trust.” That’s from Satoshi Nakamoto’s bitcoin white paper, released 14 years ago.

Satoshi’s point about trust is key to the idea of decentralization. As users of government-issued fiat currency, we have little choice but to trust policymakers’ economic and financial decisions, which may significantly affect the value of our money.

Take a look at where monetary and fiscal mismanagement has gotten us. Total U.S. debt now stands at an unfathomable $31 trillion, or around a quarter of a million dollars per U.S. taxpayer. Debt accounts for over 121 percent of the entire U.S. economy. That means that for every dollar the United States has, it owes almost a buck and a quarter.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has been lifting interest rates at a pace we haven’t seen in 40 years, which makes servicing debt much more expensive. The amount of money the U.S. government pays on interest alone now exceeds its defense spending.

In the third quarter of 2022, the government paid more than $736 billion just on interest. That’s more than its 2020 national defense budget of $714 billion.

Gold’s critics and haters will point out that the price of the precious metal has been down for seven straight months, a new all-time record, as of October. They are correct. Due to rising interest rates and a historically strong U.S. dollar, gold has experienced a monthly losing streak unmatched since — are you ready for this? — 1869. This sounds awful, but let’s put it in context. Through the end of October, gold has fallen 11 percent in 2022. The S&P 500, by comparison, has lost 18 percent.

What about other asset classes? Well, tech stocks (Nasdaq 100) have lost even more at around 30 percent. Emerging markets have done just as badly in 2022.

Treasury bonds are down 14 percent, corporate bonds are down 20 percent. Bitcoin is off 55 percent for the year.

So, yes, the price of gold has declined for a record seven months, but it’s still beating close to everything else. That has to count for something.

For these reasons, I believe gold is priced very attractively, trading at less than $1,700 an ounce. The Fed will need to pivot at some point, and when it does, I think gold (and bitcoin) could rally.

 

Frank Holmes is CEO and CIO of U.S. Global Investors.

 

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