Stock Selloff Boosting Gold

The recent stock-market selloff is persisting, fueling mounting worries among investors. The intensifying volatility and lack of a quick rebound higher is strangling euphoric sentiment, spawning self-reinforcing selling pressure. Scoffed at a few months ago, the notions that a young bear market is underway and a recession looms are gaining traction. The great beneficiary of this ominous stock-market downturn will be gold.

Gold has always been an essential asset class for prudently diversifying investment portfolios. Uniquely it tends to rally when stock markets weaken, offsetting some of the losses in typical stock-heavy portfolios. Gold acts like portfolio insurance, usually soaring when stock markets plunge on unforeseen news. All throughout history, wise investors have recommended everyone have 5% to 10% of their portfolios in gold.

But like insurance in general, the important role gold plays in portfolios is gradually forgotten when it isn’t needed. Just a few months ago, the US stock markets seemed invincible. The flagship S&P 500 broad-market stock index (SPX) had powered 333.2% higher over 9.5 years by late September. That made for the 2nd-largest and 1st-longest stock bull in US history!  Investors were convinced that would last indefinitely.

The SPX had surged 9.6% year-to-date by that latest peak, while gold had slumped 7.3%. Thus investors felt no need to allocate virtually any capital to gold, they were and are radically underinvested in it. This is especially true of American stock investors, who were wildly optimistic after long years of big stock-market gains. Their effective portfolio exposure to gold was vanishingly small back in late September.

The 500 elite stocks of the SPX had an extreme collective market capitalization way up at $26,141.4b as that topping month waned. It is interesting contrasting that with the physical gold bullion holdings of the world’s dominant gold exchange-traded fund, the American GLD SPDR Gold Shares. GLD has long been the go-to destination for American stock investors looking to allocate capital for gold exposure in their portfolios.

At the end of September, as stock euphoria peaked, GLD’s total holdings were merely worth $28.4b. That implies American stock investors were running trivial gold allocations around 0.11%! That’s on the order of only 1/50th the minimum 5% that’s been universally advised for centuries if not millennia. So it’s not much of a stretch to argue American stock investors had zero gold exposure, they were effectively all-out.

The sharp stock-market selloff in the few months since those halcyon all-time record highs has surprised most, but it shouldn’t have. As Q4’18 dawned, something ominous happened that was unprecedented in stock-market history. The US Federal Reserve upped its quantitative-tightening campaign necessary to start unwinding its $3625b of quantitative-easing money creation over 6.7 years to its terminal velocity.

October 2018 would be the first month ever to see the Fed’s monetary destruction ramp to a staggering $50b-per-month pace. And even to unwind just half of the Fed’s radical QE, QT would have to keep on destroying $50b per month of QE-conjured money for 30 months! At the end of September when the SPX was just 0.6% off its all-time record high, I explained all this in-depth warning it was this bull’s death knell.

And indeed within a week of Fed QT going full-throttle, the SPX started to slide. There was no way QE-levitated stock markets could ignore QT obliterating that QE money. Every daily selloff since had its own unique story and specific drivers, which I discussed and analyzed in our subscription newsletters. These all added up to enough selling to spawn an ongoing stock-market correction, an SPX selloff exceeding 10%.

Blame it on Fed QT, stock-market bubble valuations, mounting US-China trade-war threats, Republicans losing the House, or whatever you want, but by Black Friday the SPX had fallen 10.2% over 2.1 months since that euphoric record peak. The stock markets staged some sharp rallies within that span, but they quickly fizzled proving to be dead-cat bounces. This recent action is ominously looking very bear-market like.

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