Friday, March 25, 2011

Eye-Opening Video on How China and Russia are Plotting to Dump the Dollar

In January, Jeff Clark of Casey Research’s BIG GOLD advisory set out to get opinions from some of the smartest, most accomplished investors in the gold industry – where is the gold price going to go, how volatile will the markets be, what’s the outlook for precious metals stocks? Read on for some of the most insightful answers you’ll see anywhere…

(And if you want to jump to the eye-opening video on China and Russia plots to dump the dollar in the near term, click here).

Rick Rule is the founder of Global Resource Investments (, now part of Sprott, one of the most acclaimed and sought-after brokers in the natural resource industry. Rick has spent 30 years in the sector and is a regular speaker at investment conferences in the U.S. and Canada. He and his staff have an extraordinary record of success in resource stock investing.

James Turk is the founder and chairman of He’s authored two books on economic topics, published numerous articles on money and banking, and is co-author of The Collapse of the Dollar. He’s a widely recognized expert on precious metals.

John Hathaway is portfolio manager of the Tocqueville Gold Fund, the third best-performing gold mutual fund in 2010. He is a Harvard grad with 41 years of investment management experience.

Charles Oliver is senior portfolio manager of the Sprott Gold and Precious Minerals Fund (and several others). Charles led the team at AGF Management that was awarded the Canadian Investment Awards’ “Best Precious Metals Fund” in 2004, 2006, and 2007.

Adrian Ash runs the research desk at BullionVault, one of the world's largest online gold ownership services. A frequent guest on BBC News in London, his views on the gold market are regularly featured in the Financial Times, The Economist, and many others.

Ian McAvity has been writing the Deliberations on World Markets newsletter since 1972. He was a founder of the Central Fund of Canada (CEF), Central Gold Trust (GTU), and Silver Bullion Trust (SBT.U).

Ross Norman is co-founder of, an online provider of precious metals news, analysis, and prices. Ross has won several awards from the London Bullion Market Association for his price forecasting, winning in 2002 and 2006.He now runs Sharps Pixley (, which sells bullion in the UK and continental Europe.

BIG GOLD: Gold was up 30% in 2010; to what do you attribute its rise?

Rick Rule: Gold is unique, in that both primary investment psychology motivators – greed and fear – drive the price. Gold markets ricochet between greed and fear buying, and we are starting to see that in the markets now. The fiat currency weakness, both the dollar and the euro, are the motivators for the fear buyer, and the momentum caused by fear buyers is the motivation for the greed buyer.

James Turk: Two things. First, policies like zero interest rates and quantitative easing are eroding the purchasing power of all the world's currencies, so it is no surprise that commodity prices – which are always sensitive to currency problems – are soaring.

Second, as people increasingly recognize the difference between owning paper gold and physical gold, the demand for physical continues to climb. Given that it is a tangible asset, physical gold does not have counterparty risk and therefore protects wealth when stored properly. It is the ultimate safe haven.

John Hathaway: Growing distrust of fiat currencies.

Charles Oliver: In reality, the true value of gold does not change. What has changed is the decrease in value of the fiat currencies used to measure the gold price. In 2009 and 2010, the U.S. debased its currency via direct money printing and a massive quantitative easing program where the government purchased $1.5 trillion of mostly its own bonds.

The U.S. government will buy another $600 billion of its bonds in 2011 concurrent with running the largest deficit in its history. With this in mind, it is no surprise that the gold price rallied.

Adrian Ash: Last year's eurozone debt crises gave only a foretaste of the sharp spikes in physical demand we could see as the single-currency experiment unravels, while the Fed's fresh dose of debt-monetization (aka QE) lit a fire under institutional gold buying. China's surging demand continued to make gold a strong emerging-Asia play, too.

The underlying cause, however – boring but true – was negative real interest rates. Cash in the bank now means certain losses, failing to keep pace with inflation as badly as in the late 1970s. So once again, cautious savers are choosing hard assets instead of government-controlled currency, and gold is the stand-out alternative because it's tightly supplied, indestructible, debt-free, and truly stateless.

Ian McAvity: I believe gold's rise should be recognized as a devaluation of the three major currencies in gold terms – the U.S. dollar, euro, and yen. That focused global attention on gold as the oldest and most credible currency in its traditional role of a store of value. This trend is now a decade old and may be entering the phase for acceleration, now that the major currencies and sovereign debt issues are both coming under the microscope.

Ross Norman: Really, it was more of the same from the previous 10 years – but particularly so the economic-related issues from the last two. The gold price fundamentally reflects the debasement of currencies – gold is not expensive, but the currencies you buy it with are worth less simply because we are printing so many of them.

If you genuinely believe that global growth is established, that debt repudiation will be carried through (the public will willingly take their fiscal medicine), and that economic stability will be restored without a hiccup, then don't buy gold. The trouble is, few believe that story, and hence the 30% gain in gold.

BG: What forces will move gold this year? And what's your price projection for 2011?

Rick Rule: I suspect that this year will give us extraordinary volatility across all markets, including bullion. I think the eventual direction is higher, because of the well-catalogued failures of collectivism. But I suspect we will have some event-driven spike in metals prices, although I couldn't forecast which of many possible events will occur.

I have no earthly idea where gold will close, but to be a good sport and play the game, I'll say $1,750.

James Turk: The same forces will move gold higher this year, which I expect will reach $2,000, probably in the first half.

John Hathaway: A reversal of spreading distrust of government policies, central bankers, and paper currencies can only be accomplished by high real interest rates. The secular direction of the gold price will remain higher, and conversely, the valuation of paper currencies will trend lower, without a restoration of respectable real interest rates, which in my opinion, would be in the neighborhood of 4% on a sustained basis. In the absence of such a change, there is no telling where the price of gold, in U.S. dollar terms, could go.

In my opinion, gold is no different than any other market in that it assesses current fundamentals and discounts the future. Just exactly what it is reflecting at any given moment is the real challenge. In my opinion, the gold market has only partially reflected the monetary debasement that has taken place since the credit implosion of 2008, and it has not yet begun to assess the damage yet to come.

Without knowing what further convoluted and extreme measures yet to be implemented by this administration and the Fed, it is impossible to place a number on the future price.

Charles Oliver: Global currency debasement will continue in 2011. The European sovereign debt crisis continues to unravel in slow motion, and it looks highly likely that the Europeans will magically create lots of money to backstop the debt of the next European government that finds itself on the verge of bankruptcy. I expect this backdrop will help propel gold to around $1,700 by yearend.

This level is supported by an upward trend channel that commenced in 2008 with a 2011 yearend range of $1,550 to $1,750. I also believe gold could break through the upper boundary of these trend-lines should some unexpected event occur.

Adrian Ash: Headline debt crises aside – Portugal, Spain, California, take your pick – 2011 will see negative real interest rates force ever more cash savers to choose gold (and also silver) instead. Simply extrapolating the current bull run's annual gains would see 2011 end with gold some 20% higher at $1,695 per ounce, averaging $1,450 across the year. Even on the official CPI measure, U.S. savers have now been underwater for 24 of the last 36 months after inflation.

But no one at the Fed, not even sole dissenter Thomas Hoenig (no longer a voting member in 2011), wants to see positive real returns paid to cash. The ECB, Bank of Japan, and Bank of England all look stuck near zero interest rates, too. And while Beijing might hike Chinese lending rates, it fears sucking in yield-hungry money from the West. With China's deposit rates left untouched at barely half the pace of inflation, the early gold-demand spike around Chinese New Year (Feb. 3rd) could prove dramatic.

Ian McAvity: I don't do specific forecasts in my work, but I think there's a prospect of gold pushing into the $2,000-$2,400 range this year, or perhaps 2012. This presumes an element of monetary panic relating to the U.S. dollar or euro during the year. A gold price of $2,400 would be the CPI-adjusted equivalent of 1980's $850 in current dollars, so this is not an unrealistic number.

Ross Norman: After 10 successive years of price strength during which gold rose fivefold, it is tempting to ask if prices are now peaking; we think not, and fresh all-time highs of $1,850 are in prospect. The list of forces on the buy side remains as long as your arm. But on the sell side there are potentially miners reentering hedging/forward-selling programs, central bank disposals, and possibly some contrarians – these are unlikely to be significant and, in short, with few sellers the scales should continue to weigh very significantly in favor of the bulls.

With gold’s entrenched trend line to draw on, the adage "The trend is your friend" seems likely to hold true. A twenty-something percent increase looks likely for the year, and the gold chart should maintain a steady 45-degree climb after a period of consolidation during Q1.

Our outlook for gold in 2011: Average $1,513; high $1,850; low $1,350.

BG: How volatile do you expect gold to be? What's your low price that would present a good buying opportunity?

Rick Rule: Volatile on steroids! If we have a replay of the liquidity crisis of 2007-2008, gold could crack $1,000 on the downside. I don't time these things; I build cash when values in other sectors are not available, and bullion for me is a form of cash.

James Turk: I do not expect gold to be volatile. It looks to me that the gold price is ready to accelerate to the upside, and I do not expect there to be any significant price corrections because the demand for physical metal is just too strong. There is always a lot of money on the sidelines ready to buy any dip.

Any price below $1,500 represents a good buying opportunity because I do not expect gold to remain below that price much longer.

John Hathaway: If the Fed announces an end to quantitative easing, gold could drop $200. In the greater scheme of things, such an announcement would change nothing.

Charles Oliver: I expect volatile currencies and governments for the next several years. Which means that gold and other hard assets priced in U.S. dollars will remain volatile. The current bottom of my gold trend channel is $1,300, so if it dropped that low, I think it would make a great buying opportunity. If gold broke below $1,300 (which I do not expect), then you might see it test the $1,000 level. That level was resistance for several years, but now it is a major support level, one I believe may never be breached again.

Adrian Ash: Gold volatility actually fell in 2010, hitting 5-year lows even as the dollar price took out new record highs above $1,400. So while gold keeps making headlines, it's more overreported than overinvested, and that's likely to keep any dips shallow, especially as larger investment institutions in the West look to steadily build their positions. Demand from Indian households – the world's No.1 physical buyers – is again adjusting to new rupee highs, too.

That said, keep an eye on the start of new quarters (April, July, Oct.) as investment funds will hold on to winning positions to impress their clients, only to take profits the very next day (witness July 1, 2010 and New Year 2011 already).

If you're trying to pick the bottom of a pullback, it's worth noting that gold hasn't fallen vs. the dollar for more than two months running since 2001.

Ian McAvity: Volatility will be much greater. India paid $1,045 for 200 tonnes of gold from the IMF – that's a critical level and would be a great crash-scenario buy point, but I doubt we'll see it. The last important breakout occurred at $1,260 and should be support and an attractive buy level; below that, $1,160 to $1,200, if it's part of a general market wipeout. I'd bet that gold comes screaming back from such a decline if Bernanke and the ECB proceed with QE3 or QE4 to fight it.

Ross Norman: Fear and uncertainty are running high, and that should almost certainly translate into greater price volatility. I think we are close to the low for the year (we see that at $1,350), and it is quite healthy to see some of the excessive speculative froth being blown off the market just now. It makes a more compelling case a month or so from now.

BG: Gold stocks as a group did not outperform gold in 2010 – will that change in 2011? And if the broader markets sell off, will gold stocks fall along with them or trade on their own?

Rick Rule: Interesting point; the stocks did not outperform bullion, even as the companies actually began to feel the positive impacts of higher gold prices and massive capital programs.

I do think select stocks will broadly outpace the bullion markets in 2011. The senior producers are doing something they have not done for decades – earning good money! Their reinvestment options are constrained because most of them have already launched and funded major capital programs for whatever internal growth is available to them. Surplus capital can go to increasing dividends, buying back stock, and to acquisitions. Juniors who make attractive discoveries that can reduce depletion charges and lower a major's overall cash costs will be bought at startling prices.

If broader markets decline as a consequence of an event, particularly a liquidity-driven event, the gold stocks will decline with them. If a broader market decline occurs as a consequence of debt and equity overvaluation and earnings disappointments, the markets will decouple as they did in the late 1970s.

James Turk: The mining stocks will continue to outperform in 2011, but by a much larger margin than last year, and are still relatively cheap compared to bullion. Remember, the mining stocks were in a bear market from the collapse of Bre-X in 1997 to the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. After Lehman, even the best quality mining stocks were unbelievably cheap. It was a capitulation low, where emotion prevailed over logic, which is how all bear markets end. This new bull market will drive the mining shares to what will probably be unbelievable heights when we look back a few years from now.

John Hathaway: Gold stocks are generally cheap relative to bullion. The XAU [Philadelphia Gold/Silver Index] trades at roughly 15% of the bullion price vs. a historical norm of more than 20%. Gold stocks could do fine even if gold is flat, something I don't expect. If we have another 2008 style sell-off, gold stocks will be hurt again in the short term, but the stage would be set for much higher highs for the metal and the stocks.

Charles Oliver: In 2010, the large-cap stocks that dominate the weighting in most gold indexes underperformed the gold price. However, the mid-cap stocks had a great performance in the first part of 2010. In the latter part of the year, the small-caps roared to life and outperformed most other groups.

I expect that 2011 will initially be similar to the end of 2010; however, in the second part of the year, I am concerned that the general stock market may be due for a correction that could impact all stocks and sectors. If there is a modest, orderly pullback, gold stocks could rally (much like they did in 2002), though you may see an increased focus on the bigger, more liquid names first. With this in mind, and the relatively cheap large-cap stocks, I have been increasing my weighting of larger-cap names.

Adrian Ash: So long as deflation (i.e., default) threatens credit markets, unencumbered gold is going to appeal more than geared production, especially to those cautious savers now being forced out of cash by negative real rates. Yes, you've got to expect the kind of gold mania that Doug Casey has long forecast to light a fire under the broader gold mining sector. But another broad sell-off in world equities in 2011 would only compound the last decade's disillusion with risk investments.

Ian McAvity: The major gold stocks have not performed well against gold since 2003. They will get decent spurts, but long-term reserve replacement and premium-priced M&A [Merger and Acquisition] takeovers dilute their shareholders. The lows for gold stocks may be governed by the magnitude of any crash-like decline in the stock market. If the S&P or Dow falls 20% or more within a 3-month or less window, the margin clerks will sell every bid on anything. I prefer the metal to the major miners.

Ross Norman: I would not anticipate a broader equities sell-off. It does seem that most asset classes are performing strongly, and that may be a secondary consequence of QE. Broadly, I take a similar, and positive, view of mining equities as I do for gold. Should there be an equities correction, then in all likelihood mining shares will also retrace to some extent in the same way that a rising tide lifts all boats.

BG: Silver was up 81.9% in 2010, but is still below its 1980 nominal high. What's your outlook for silver in 2011?

Rick Rule: The near-term outlook for silver is very bullish, as a consequence of physical supply shortages. Longer term could be problematic as a consequence of Indian dishoarding, an event last seen in earnest in 1997.

James Turk: I expect silver to reach $50 in Q1 2011. It may then take a breather, but eventually – and probably later in 2011 – silver will climb above $50.

John Hathaway: More volatility than gold.

Charles Oliver: In the earth's crust, the ratio of silver to gold is 17:1. For most of the last 650 years (except the last 100) the monetary exchange rate was also around 17:1. In fact, when the United States was on a bi-metallic reserve standard, the U.S. government mandated "The Coinage Act of 1834," putting the gold/silver ratio at 16:1. In 2010, the ratio moved from around 60 to below 50. I expect this trend to continue in 2011 and think the metal could trade up to and beyond $50 in the not-too-distant future.

Adrian Ash: Silver's primary use is industrial, rather than as a store of wealth like gold. So it should be more vulnerable to the economic cycle (see the post-Lehman price collapse), and you could argue it's simply tracking the huge rally in base metal and energy prices. But looking at that 1980 high – forced by the Hunt brothers' speculative corner, rather than a jump in use – I think something else is going on, and silver is being remonetized by private wealth in the same way gold has been remonetized since hitting "trinket" prices in the late 1990s.

A much smaller and tighter market than gold, silver is both more attractive and responsive to sudden inflows of cash. As with gold, silver's volatility fell in 2010, but it was more than twice the average level (daily basis) of the last four decades. Price-wise, another year like 2010 would see the $50 peak taken out. The biggest surprise is that the mainstream press hasn't stoked the idea of a "silver bubble" like it has done for gold since 2009.

Ian McAvity: If gold runs above $2,000, I expect the silver/gold ratio to reach the 36:1 level, which would mean a price somewhere between $55 and $66. I view that ratio as a material driver of the silver price, trading off its long monetary metal history, apart from its attractive supply/demand profile. The 1980 spike to $50 was a very brief spike that isn't really a meaningful measuring point, in my view. The monthly average London Fix for January 1980 was $39.27, and gold's monthly average peak was $675.31; those are more realistic prior peak levels to measure against.

Ross Norman: After the 2010 rally, it might seem churlish to expect much more in 2011 for silver. Early 2011 profit taking has seen silver decline more than most assets, underlining the strong speculative element in the recent price run, and this also confers some weakness to its case. However, the investment community has taken silver to heart, and contrary to its modestly attractive fundamentals, the market prices are likely to overperform again. Unlike in 2010, we expect silver's price action to conform more closely to that of gold – firmer, but a little more rational.

Our outlook in 2011 for silver: Average $37; high $44; low $27.

BG: What's your best advice for precious metal investors in 2011?

Rick Rule: Be prepared for the most volatile market of your life, and use that volatility to your best advantage.

James Turk: It is the same advice I have been giving for more than a decade; continue accumulating the precious metals, and if you are inclined to take the investment risk, the mining stocks as well. We need to recognize one salient fact: national currencies are being destroyed and their purchasing power eroded by misdirected government policy. Consequently, gold and silver are safe havens and the best way to protect your wealth.

John Hathaway: Have at least 10% of your liquid assets in precious metals and related mining stocks. Keep your bullion outside the U.S. A good way to do so is through Gold Bullion International, which can be accessed through their website. Unless you want to spend a lot of time researching the gold mining industry, consider investing in a well-managed precious metals mutual fund. There are a number, but I am partial to the Tocqueville Gold Fund, one of the top performers last year.

Charles Oliver: All the fundamentals – excessive government debt, high budget deficits, runaway healthcare costs, growing Social Security payments, demographic trends – lead to one conclusion: Governments are bankrupt and are going to debase their currencies via money printing, quantitative easing, off-balance-sheet transactions, and whatever other tricks they can pull off. The bull market in gold is alive and well and has a heck of a lot further to go. Buy it.

Adrian Ash: Next to overtrading, the biggest profit killer in gold this last decade has been to trust clever hedge funds trying to beat the metal. Sure, the best mining stock funds have delivered fantastic returns, but they struggled to outperform gold in 2010, and there's no certainty that will continue. But if you're right to buy gold for defense, then it’s best to simply buy and hold until the prime drivers – abysmal monetary and fiscal policy across the West – are reversed. Oh, and of course, be sure to visit BullionVault for a free gram of gold, too!

Ian McAvity: For individual investors, don't go crazy with leverage or portfolio concentration. No matter how much of a gold bug you are, keep in mind we're in a period where the mistakes (QE2 is one of them) will compound the second half of the ongoing financial disaster that started in 2007.

Ross Norman: For followers of cycles, 2011 looks like the year that the Kondratieff Winter begins to bite – a period normally associated with debt repudiation, trade wars, and firm commodity prices. A winter that puts Europe into hibernation, and the smart money acquires a protective coat. This is to say, buy gold, including the leveraged 2:1 ETFs.

[These world-class experts are right to bank on gold and silver – because the U.S. dollar keeps losing more and more of its value. Watch this eye-opening video on how China and Russia are plotting to dump the dollar in the near term… why you should be worried… and what to do about it.]

Ed. note: I am a Big Gold subscriber and affiliate.

Eric Sprott: There's No More Silver, $200/Oz Here We Come

Speaking at the Casey Research Gold and Resource Summit, Eric Sprott told investors that there is no more silver left to go around, “There’s $22 billion of silver available in the world, of which the ETFs already own half, and between you guys and us we probably own the other half… Which means there’s nothing left.” We’ve got the highlights of his speech in the video below. Listen as the CEO of Sprott Asset Management discusses the availability of precious metals, the price of gold, the GDP, national debt, and more.

Ed Steer, editor of the free Gold & Silver Daily newsletter and longtime GATA member, believes that silver will go to the moon, and soon. Read his explanation why that's the case and how you can profit from this enourmous upswing by reading his report, The Case for $60 Silver.

Are the Canadian Oil Sands a Good Investment Right Now?

With oil humming north of $100 once again, and crude reserves being depleted faster than ever in the Middle East, should investors once again turn their eyes towards the massive reserves sitting in the Canadian Oil Sands?  Energy guru Marin Katusa explores...

Oil Sands: Fueling the Future

By Marin Katusa, Casey Energy Opportunities

For many years, trying to tap an oil sands deposit accomplished about as much as sipping molasses through a straw, but that is changing. So do oil sands companies make a good investment now?

Humans and bacteria share a surprising number of features, not least in what they consider good food. In general, the smaller and simpler the molecule, the easier it is to digest. So, about 50 million years ago, when and where bacteria had a chance to chow down on some of the rich hydrocarbons we call oil, one might expect them to start on the smaller, tidier mouthfuls, and indeed they did.

What’s left today of these bacterial banquets are deposits of oil molecules so big and cumbersome that they flow like molasses in winter, if at all. At the extreme end is bitumen, which looks rather like sticky asphalt:

The oil sands that contain this heavy oil and bitumen have long posed an intriguing “what-if” for the industry. heir potential is staggering. One of the world’s largest deposits, in the Canadian province of Alberta, spreads over the size of Wisconsin and may hold two trillion barrels of oil – eight times the reserves of Saudi Arabia.

For just about as long, however, oil sands have been minor players at best in the world’s energy picture. The very qualities that native peoples have exploited to seal their boats make these heavy oils and bitumen tough to suck out of the ground and shove down a pipeline. And that’s before they even get to a refinery.

Two developments in recent years have brought oil sands in from the cold: rising oil prices and new technology to pry bitumen out of deposits and make it run, not walk, to the nearest processing facility.

So let’s take a look at how oil sands came about and what we can do with them.

The Tale of Two Oil Deposits

We’re back to millions of years ago, this time to the hundreds of millions, when algae and the simple organisms that fed on them died, drifted down to the seafloor, and were gradually buried under sediments and subsequent generations of ancient life.

As the ages passed, the pressure of layers above and heat from inside the earth broke down and reassembled these simple plants and animals into chains of carbon atoms bristling with hydrogen. Under pressure, these hydrocarbons squeezed through grainy, porous sedimentary rock until blocked by nonporous rock, known as capstone. There accumulated the first of our tale, a deposit of what we now call conventional oil.

The other deposit was in for a second ride. Geological forces lifted these oil-bearing rocks up toward the surface of the earth, within reach of water and bacteria. You know what happened next.

Because of this additional history, oil sands differ in structure as well as content from conventional oil deposits. The bitumen coats the grains of sand like a film and is in turn surrounded by water. Scraping the bitumen off the grains is the first step in extraction.

The uplifting also means that oil sands deposits are relatively shallow: some can even be surface-mined like coal.

This geological process happened in places like Venezuela and the United States, and particularly in Canada. In the province of Alberta are three major oil sands areas: the Athabasca (the largest), Peace River, and Cold Lake. Current estimates put the combined bitumen in these deposits at 1.7 trillion barrels, and some geologists believe more field work will jack that number up a fair bit further.

The catch is that, at present, only 10% or 170 billion barrels of that bitumen is considered economically recoverable, that is, worth a producer’s considerable effort to bring it to market. Even so, 170 billion barrels places Alberta second only to Saudi Arabia in terms of proven oil reserves, and ever-developing technology is likely to bring more in reach.

We’re going to focus on Alberta because it’s home to the largest and most developed oil sands deposits in the world.

To Market, to Market: Step 1

Surface mining operations dig up and crush the oil-soaked rock, then mix it with water heated to 50-80°C. In such conditions, the bitumen floats off. All told, bitumen recovery from strip mines approaches 90%, and the mining and processing costs come in at about US$8.00 per barrel.

However, only about 20% of Alberta’s bitumen is shallow enough for surface mining. The remaining 80% requires drilling and in-situ methods that extract the oil from the rocks in place. There are several methods to do this, and more in development. What they generally have in common is pumping down steam to heat the trapped oil, making it less viscous. Then a producer can actually pump the bitumen to the surface.

Many oil sands companies use this in-situ method, called steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD).

Another factor in-situ methods have in common is the large amounts of energy required to generate the steam. At present that energy usually comes from natural gas, which comprises 65-80% of total operating costs.

According to government statistics, Alberta is host to 91 producing oil sands projects as of 2009. Of these, only four are mining projects, while the remaining 87 use various in-situ recovery methods. In 2009 those projects produced an average of 1.49 million barrels of bitumen per day (bbpd), which represents more than 40% of Canada’s total oil production. That 1.49-million figure is projected to reach 3 million bbpd by 2018.

To Market, to Market: Step 2

However it’s recovered, this stiff black glop needs further work in order to sell it. An oil sands producer has two choices: to upgrade it and make synthetic oil, or to dilute it with lighter hydrocarbons so it can run down a pipeline to a refinery.

Upgrading usually requires two steps. First the bulky hydrocarbon chains are broken into smaller ones in a process called hydrocracking; upgraders may also remove carbon to produce the smaller chains along with coke. The second step adds hydrogen to “fill out” the new carbon chains and to remove impurities like sulfur. Currently five upgraders in Alberta churn out a bit over 1 million barrels of synthetic crude oil each day, and there are plans for more.

Bitumen that’s not upgraded is blended with diluents that make it runny enough to pipe to refineries throughout North America. The diluents are usually a mixture of light hydrocarbons, such as light crude oil and naphtha. Companies can recycle diluents that stay within Alberta, a significant consideration in project planning.

The investment to get the industry to this stage has been massive. Between 1999 and 2009, an estimated $91 billion was pumped into developing Alberta’s oil sands. In 2009 industry invested another $10 billion, and almost $170 billion worth of oil sands projects are currently underway or proposed in the province.

Environmental Issues

Environmental groups have labeled bitumen “dirty oil” and are calling for an end to oil sands operations. They have three main complaints: that ugly mines and tailings ponds destroy habitat, that projects gulp energy and emit significant emissions for every barrel of oil, and that the whole process uses a significant amount of water.

The groups are certainly right on some fronts. In-situ operations cause minimal disturbance, but surface mining – even though it represents only 20% of oil sands operations – does make an unsightly mess of boreal forests and marshlands. And in-situ projects have their own issues. The roughly 30 cubic meters of natural gas and three barrels of water consumed to produce one barrel of bitumen are indeed high.

Well, oil sands aren’t going away. Their potential is too vast, global demands for energy too high, and for governments like Alberta, they contribute too much to the coffers.

But more encouraging yet, industry is developing less intensive techniques. Quick-drying tailings ponds can be returned to nature faster, for example. And companies have a double incentive to develop in-situ methods that require less energy and water: they would lower operating costs as well as mitigate complaints.

[One of the current picks of the Casey Energy team is a company that’s proving up an extraction method that’s both more efficient and easier on the environment… a future winner if we’ve ever seen one. Sign up now to receive Casey’s Energy Opportunities for only $39 per year – and find out all about this low-risk value play in oil sands.]

Ed. note: I am a subscriber and affiliate of Casey Energy Opportunities.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jim Rogers on Whether a US Dollar Collapse is Imminent, and His Top Buy Right Now

by Jeff Clark, BIG GOLD

What will happen to the U.S. economy and the dollar in the near term? Will inflation increase dramatically? What is the outlook for gold, and where should you put your money? BIG GOLD asked a world-class panel of economists, authors, and investment advisors what they expect for the future. Caution: strong opinions ahead...

Jim Rogers is a self-made billionaire, author of the best-sellers Adventure Capitalist and Investment Biker, and a sought-after financial commentator. He was a co-founder of the Quantum Fund, a successful hedge fund, and creator of the Rogers International Commodities Index (RICI).

Bill Bonner is the president and founder of Agora, Inc., a worldwide publisher of financial advice and opinions. He is also the author of the Internet-based Daily Reckoning and a regular columnist in MoneyWeek magazine.

Peter Schiff is CEO of Euro Pacific Precious Metals ( and host of the daily radio show The Peter Schiff Show ( He is the author of the economic parable How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes and the recent financial bestseller The Little Book of Bull Moves: Updated and Expanded. He’s a frequent guest on CNBC, Fox Business, and is quoted often in print media.

Jeffrey Christian is managing director of CPM Group ( and a prominent analyst on precious metals and commodities markets. CPM Group produces comprehensive yearbooks on gold, silver, and platinum group metals, and provides a wide range of consulting services. Jeffrey published Commodities Rising, an investors’ guide to commodities, in 2006.

Walter J. "John" Williams, private consulting economist and “economic whistleblower,” has been working with Fortune 500 companies for 30 years. His newsletter Shadow Government Statistics ( provides in-depth analysis of the government’s “creative” economic reporting practices.

Steve Henningsen is chief investment strategist and partner at The Wealth Conservancy in Boulder, CO, assisting clients interested in wealth preservation. Current assets under management exceed $200 million.

Frank Trotter is an executive vice president of EverBank and a founding partner of, a national branchless bank that was acquired by the current EverBank in 2002. He received an M.B.A. from Washington University and has over 30 years experience in the banking industry.

Dr. Krassimir Petrov is an Austrian economist and holds a Ph.D. in economics from Ohio State University. He was assistant professor in economics at the American University in Bulgaria, then an associate professor in finance at Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is currently an associate professor at Ahlia University in Manama, Bahrain. He’s been a contributing editor for Agora Financial and Casey Research.

Bob Hoye is chief financial strategist of Institutional Advisors and writes Pivotal Events, a weekly market overview. His articles have been published by Barron’s, Financial Post, Financial Times, and National Post.

BIG GOLD: A lot of economists, including the government, believe the worst is behind us economically. Do you agree? If not, what should we be on the lookout for in 2011?

Jim Rogers: It is better for those getting all the government largesse, but the overall situation is worse. More currency turmoil. State and local problems, plus pension problems.

Bill Bonner: None of the problems that caused the crises in Europe and America have been resolved. They have been delayed and expanded by more debt and more money printing and will lead to more and worse crises. Deleveraging takes time. 2011 will, most likely, be a transition year... not unlike 2010. But the risk is that one of these latent crises will become an active crisis.

Peter Schiff: To me, it's like watching someone walk into the same sliding glass door again and again. Wall Street must know by now that large infusions of liquidity from the Fed spur present consumption at the expense of investment for the future. We are an indebted family going out for an expensive meal to celebrate getting approved for a new credit card. It might feel good (at the time), but we're still simply delaying the inevitable.

Jeffrey Christian: We believe the worst is behind us economically, in the short term. The recession ended in late 2009, and 2010 saw U.S. economic growth in line with what CPM had expected, but higher than the more pessimistic consensus had been. In 2011 we expect continued expansion. We think some economists and observers are too enthusiastic about economic prospects right now.

For the U.S. in 2011, we are looking for real GDP of 2.5% - 2.8%, inflation to remain low, and for the economy to avoid deflation. Interest rates are expected to start rising, perhaps significantly in the second half of 2011. The dollar is expected to be volatile, rising somewhat against the euro but continuing to weaken against the Canadian and Australian dollars, the rupee, yuan, rand, and other currencies.

European sovereign debt issues will continue to plague financial markets, but market reactions will be less severe than they were regarding Greece in April 2010.

John Williams: An intensifying economic downturn – what formally will be viewed as the second dip of a double-dip depression – already has started to unfold. The problem with the economy remains structural, where household income is not growing fast enough to beat inflation, and where debt expansion – encouraged for many years by the Fed as a way to get around the economic growth problems inherent from a lack of income growth – generally is not available, as a result of the systemic solvency crisis. Accordingly, individual consumers, who account for more than 70% GDP, do not have the ability, and increasingly lack the willingness, to fuel the needed growth in consumption on which the U.S. economy is so dependent.

Steve Henningsen: The governments worldwide (I don’t pay much attention to economists) want us to believe that the worst is behind us because the financial system is built upon the foundation of trust and confidence. Both of these were battered badly when it was shown that much of the world’s prosperity over the past few decades was simply a mirage that, once dispersed, left behind only debt with no means of future production. Now they want us to believe that they fixed the problem via more debt.

What I will be watching for this year is sovereign and U.S. municipal debt corpses floating to the surface sometime in the months ahead.

Frank Trotter: Right now I have a somewhat dark but not dismal outlook. I think that over 2011, we will continue to experience a Jimmy Carter-style malaise that combines continuing high unemployment, tentative business investment, rising prices, low housing numbers when looked at on an absolute basis, and creeping interest rates.

As a very large mortgage servicer, we are not seeing significant improvements in payment patterns that would indicate the worst is fully behind us, and with mortgage rates moving upward, we see less ability for current mortgage holders to refinance and reduce payments.

Krassimir Petrov: No, the worst is yet to come. No structural changes have been made, no problems have been fixed. Printing money, a.k.a. Quantitative Easing, is a quick fix that has postponed the problem, yet also made it a lot worse. I would say that we are still in the early stages of the crisis and have another 4-8 years to go.

Bob Hoye: The worst of the post-bubble economic adversity is not behind us.

BG: Price inflation is creeping up, but the enormous amount of money printing hasn't really hit the system yet. Does that happen in 2011, further down the road, or not at all?

Jim Rogers: It is happening. The U.S. and CNBC lie about it. Most other countries do not lie and acknowledge it is worsening.

Bill Bonner: Most likely, substantial consumer price inflation will not show up in 2011. The explosion of money printing is being contained by the bomb squad of deleveraging. That will probably continue in 2011. But not forever.

Peter Schiff: 2010 was the year that China began cutting back its Treasury purchases in favor of gold, hard assets, and emerging market currencies. The Fed has stepped in as a major purchaser of Treasuries. This represents a new phase on the path to dollar collapse, and it will manifest in 2011 in the form of more "unexplainable" inflation – as we are now seeing in the prices of everything from corn to gasoline.

Jeffrey Christian: We are now beginning to see some increases in monetary aggregates, suggesting that some of the monetary accommodations are beginning to filter into the economy. We expect this trend to accelerate over the course of 2011. This will bring some increase in inflation, but we expect the major manifestation will be through higher U.S. Treasury interest rates as the Fed and Treasury seek to sell bonds to sterilize the inflationary implications of the monetary easing and to finance ongoing massive federal deficits.

John Williams: The problems of the money creation will become increasingly obvious in exchange-rate weakness of the U.S. dollar. Related upside pricing pressure already is being seen on dollar-denominated commodities such as oil. There is high risk of consumer prices rising rapidly before year-end 2011, setting the stage for a hyperinflation. The outside date for the onset of a U.S. hyperinflation is 2014.

Steve Henningsen: My guess is further down the road, as the deleveraging cycle continues with deflationary-housing winds in our face and the banks still hoarding money like my 9-year-old daughter stockpiles American Girl doll paraphernalia. I still expect inflation to continue in areas such as energy, bread, circuses, and whatever else provides sustenance to the Romans – I mean people.

Frank Trotter: Most research has shown that over time the increase in money supply is not a short-term economic stimulus, but rather has a moderate effect in the 18- to 36-month range. In addition, this theory contends that a growth in the monetary base – which is what has happened so far – only increases economic activity when accompanied by a decent multiplier; this is not occurring. The real risk is that with rising rates and continued soft economy, the Fed will feel obliged to continue to QE3, QE4, and so on, all of which may have a significant inflationary impact.

I am more concerned about general price inflation here in the U.S. and the potential it has to reduce global growth.

Krassimir Petrov: This is a tough one. I would have thought that price inflation would have been raging by now, but this is obviously not the case. I have the feeling that 2011 will be a repeat of early 2008, with commodity prices (CRB) making new all-time highs. A falling dollar will trigger a rush into commodities as a hedge against inflation. I am really tempted to make a totally outrageous forecast that oil could make a run for $200 as QE3 unleashes another dollar scare, or maybe even a dollar crisis.

Bob Hoye: Massive "printing" has been widely publicized and is "in the market."

BG: The U.S. dollar ended 2010 about where it started; does it resume its downtrend in 2011, or are fears about its demise overblown?

Jim Rogers: No, but further down the road.

Bill Bonner: No opinion. But there is more risk in the dollar than potential reward.

Peter Schiff: It's hard to pinpoint exactly when the dollar will collapse, but it will take a miracle to avoid that outcome in the near term. It really depends on when the creditors of the United States realize that they are not going to get their principal returned to them in real terms, but rather in grossly devalued dollars. We have already seen the average duration of U.S. Treasury debt drop below that of Greece. No one wants to buy a 30-year bond with negative real interest rates as far as the eye can see.

Jeffrey Christian: We expect the dollar to be volatile against most currencies in 2011, but that its demise has been prematurely predicted. The dollar may move sideways to slightly higher against the euro, yen, and pound, while continuing to deteriorate against the Canadian and Australian dollars, the rupee, yuan, rand, and other emerging economy currencies.

John Williams: There remains high risk of a dollar selling panic unfolding in the year ahead, as the U.S. economy tanks anew, as the Fed continuously expands its easing, and as dollar holders dump the U.S. currency and dollar-denominated paper assets. Such would be a precursor to the inflation problem.

Steve Henningsen: Similar to my thoughts last year, I still believe the dollar is headed down long-term, but it could bounce around over the next year. If sovereign debts become a problem again, like I think they will later this year, then everyone will go running back to “Mother Dollar” once again for one last hug before she lies back down on her sickbed.

Frank Trotter: As the economy waffles and the global investing community's attention is drawn from one crisis to the next, I expect the U.S. dollar to bounce up and down in the current range. After that, however, my analysis suggests that measured by the key factors of fiscal and monetary policy, combined with a significant trade deficit, the U.S. does not look as good as our major trading partners, and I thus expect the dollar to decline, perhaps significantly, in the intermediate term. Big geopolitical events may accelerate this or create a flight to U.S. dollar quality, so hold on to your hats.

Krassimir Petrov: I think the dollar resumes lower. I expect QE3 and QE4 – a dollar-printing fest that will eventually sink the dollar. Sure, all fiat currencies are in deep trouble and prone to overprinting, but the reserve status of the dollar actually makes it more vulnerable now. Whether the dollar sinks against other currencies is a fool's game not worth playing. It is like being in the hospital, where all patients are suffering from cancer, and trying to guess who will feel best at the end of next year, or trying to guess who will succumb first. That's why it is so much safer to play the dollar against gold.

Bob Hoye: Fears of the dollar's demise have been widely discussed and are "in the market." The dollar, itself, will not be repudiated – just the mavens that have been "managing" it.

BG: Gold has risen 10 years in a row, so some are calling it a bubble, yet it's roughly $1,000 below its inflation-adjusted high. What's your outlook for the metal in 2011?

Jim Rogers: It is hardly a “bubble” when very few own it still. Who knows? Overdue for a correction, but who knows?

Bill Bonner: The smart money is in gold. It will stay in gold until the bull market that began 10 years ago finally reaches its peak. It is extremely unlikely that the top will come in 2011; it's probably years in the future. In the meantime, gold is bound to have a losing year or two. Don't worry about it. Buy gold. Be happy.

Peter Schiff: The funny thing about a bubble is that when it's real, no one can see it. The same commentators who were blind to the tech bubble, the housing bubble, and now the Treasury bubble are quick to call gold a bubble. The truth is that many of them have a personal aversion to gold because they directly benefit from our fiat money system. Goldman Sachs was paid 100 cents on the dollar in the AIG bailout, which never would have happened in a gold-based system. It's a lot easier to print a billion paper dollars than dig up a million ounces of gold.

Gold will continue to climb in 2011 as the currency war continues and investors continue to seek stability. Unless there is a major sea change in the way the U.S. does business, I think the gold trade is a safe one.

Jeffrey Christian: A price of $1,550 is possible, although given the enormous investor buying pressure, prices could spike to almost anywhere. After that, we expect prices to fall back, initially to around $1,340 or $1,380. We expect gold prices to stay above $1,280 or so for most of 2011, and to average around $1,369 for the full year.

John Williams: As the U.S. dollar increasingly is debased, and where gold tends to preserve the purchasing power of the dollars invested in it, the upside to gold in the year ahead is open-ended, restricted only by any limits to the massive downside potential for the U.S. dollar. Any intermittent gold price volatility, extreme or otherwise, will be short-lived. There is no bubble – only increasing weakness in the U.S. dollar – with the gold price fundamentally headed much higher in the years ahead.

Steve Henningsen: I believe gold will once again prove the bubble-boys wrong and end the year positive (I have no idea by how much and don’t really care). However, I think this year will be more volatile and that Gold Bugs better remain seated on the precious metals express or they might get squished.

Frank Trotter: I still think that with price inflation on the rise and big political events occurring, there may be room to continue to rise. If stock markets take off, then there will be a reduction in appreciation or even a significant decline, but based on the factors I mentioned above, I don't see that as highly likely.

Krassimir Petrov: Gold still has outstanding fundamentals. I believe that over the course of 2010, the fundamentals have strengthened significantly: (1) "No Exit [Strategy] for Ben" as he unleashed QE2, and will likely unleash QE3, QE4, etc., (2) no more central bank selling of gold, (3) more central banks become buyers of gold, and (4) trial balloons for a global gold-backed currency.

I have no idea how people could even claim that gold is in a bubble – barely 1 out of 100 people have any idea about investing in gold. During the real estate bubble, every second person was involved in it. Maria "Money Honey" Bartiromo has yet to report from the COMEX gold pits; gold fund managers and analysts have yet to obtain rock-star status; and glamorous models are not yet dating the gold guys. Who is the Henry Blodget [co-host of Tech Ticker] of the gold sector, do we have one yet?

Yes, gold will eventually become a bubble, but that feels 5-8 years away.

Bob Hoye: In 2011, gold's real price will resume its uptrend.

BG: What's your best investment advice for 2011?

Jim Rogers: Buy the rmb [renminbi, the Chinese currency].

Bill Bonner: We are in a period much like the period following WWI, in which the great debts and losses of the war had to be reckoned with. It is an era of great risk. The U.S. faces many of the same challenges faced by Germany and England after WWI. Like England, it has huge debts. It is a waning imperial power. And it has the world's reserve currency. And like Germany, it is attempting to fix its problems by printing more money. This is not a good time to be long either U.S. stocks or U.S. bonds.

Peter Schiff: Don't be suckered into the idea that recovery is just around the corner. The current climate is like living in a hurricane or earthquake zone; it's important to stay vigilant because you never know when disaster will strike. Physical gold is the financial equivalent of a flashlight, first-aid kit, and store of canned goods. It's a basic way to protect yourself from any eventuality. From there, if you're looking for returns, there are plenty of foreign markets with strong fundamentals, as well as commodities that feed those markets.

Investing in the U.S. is now driven largely by force of habit. It's a habit you should resolve to break.

Jeffrey Christian: Do not invest based on what you believe, but on what you know. Gold is a market, like other markets. It rises and falls. You probably want to stay long gold on a long-term basis, but may want to cull the weaker gold assets from your portfolio in the first quarter, and put some hedges in place to protect a long-term core long gold position against the potential of significant price weakness over the next two years or so. Such a period of weakness would be an excellent time to add to one’s gold assets.

John Williams: As an economist, I look for the U.S. dollar ultimately to lose virtually all of its current purchasing power. Accordingly, for those living in a U.S. dollar-denominated world, it would make sense to move to preserve wealth and assets over the long-term. Physical gold is a primary hedge (as is silver). Holding some stronger currencies outside the U.S. dollar, as well as having some assets outside the United States, also may make sense.

Steve Henningsen: Dramamine (for volatile markets), a stash of cash (for potential investment opportunities), and move some of your assets offshore if you haven’t already.

Frank Trotter: My advice is first to look at the other side of your balance sheet – the liability and risk equation – before seeking out absolute gains. What are your goals, what resources do you already have to meet those goals, and what events (health, income stream, upheavals) might impact these risks? Place some assets to hedge these risks directly, then look to diversify globally into markets with higher growth potential than we see here at home, and that may balance your global purchasing power risk. Almost like a religion, we have had the phrase "Stocks are the only legitimate hedge against inflation" beaten into our heads. I say, look at assets that define inflation like commodities and currencies and evaluate where these fit into your risk portfolio.

Krassimir Petrov: Last year I recommended silver, and I would stick to silver again, despite the phenomenal run in 2010. Then it gets tricky. I usually don't recommend diversification, but now I would again recommend a broad portfolio of commodities. Investing in 2011 should be easy: stay out of real estate, out of bonds, out of fiat currencies, and out of stocks; stay fully invested in commodities, overweight gold and silver.

What to watch in 2011: stay focused on the sovereign debt crisis and bond yields. Spiking yields will trigger the next stage of the crisis.

Bob Hoye: Once past the early part of 2011, the best returns are likely to be obtained from the junior gold exploration sector.

[These world-class experts are right to bank on gold and silver – because the U.S. dollar keeps losing more and more of its value. Watch this eye-opening video on how China and Russia are plotting to dump the dollar… why you should be worried… and what to do about it.]

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Best Ways to Properly and Safely Store Your Physical Gold

The problem with physical gold is that, well, you've got to figure out physical storage!  Holding physical - while a great safety hedge because it cannot be electronically confiscated, stolen, or deleted - is also a bit of a nuisance.

Here, gold guru Jeff Clark explores the best ways to safely and securely store your physical gold...

How Safe Is Your Physical Gold?

By Jeff Clark, BIG GOLD

One of my best friends recently discovered, to his shock and dismay, that five one-ounce gold coins had been stolen from his home. I feel especially bad because I had encouraged him to buy some physical metal, giving him some tips and pointing him to the better dealers.

What’s especially disconcerting about the theft is that my friend had the coins stored in a safe, hidden from view, securely locked, with the key hidden. He thought his gold was safe, a reasonable assumption given the precautions he’d taken.

But all those measures weren’t enough. Based on what he knows, he strongly suspects it was a relative, partly because of this person’s background and partly because they were one of few familiar enough with the house to know where the key might be. The police unfortunately don’t have enough evidence to make an arrest – fingerprints, for one, couldn’t be successfully lifted from the safe.

My friend was in shock for several days. While it didn’t represent all the gold he owned, it’s not insignificant; with gold at $1,400/ounce, that’s seven grand the thief made off with. He’s further consternated by how it went down; the robber only took part of his stash, evidently to make it look like his gold hadn’t been disturbed. The key had also been put back in its place, and for this reason he can’t pinpoint a specific time period the coins were stolen.

The cost to him has been more than monetary; he loved his bullion coins and had collected at least one from almost every country that produces them. He told me he occasionally took them out of the safe because they were, in his words, “beautiful… and I just loved the weight of them in my hand.” His stash was starting to build up to a point where he had enough “savings” for almost any emergency. The pain deepened further when he learned that thanks to current IRS rules, he can’t even write off the loss. (He’s forgoing a homeowner’s claim, given the industry’s reputation for dropping customers for making “small” claims.)

Needless to say, my friend is no longer storing his gold (and silver) in that safe. He’s the kind that would normally shy away from using a bank safe deposit box, but not anymore. Even with that, though, he knew this method wasn’t perfect and so explored all his options. He’s decided to follow the suggestion I outline at the end.

After the dust settled, he told me that yes, he felt violated; yes, he’s still angry; and yes, it’s made him suspicious of others around him, a feeling he hates. “But what I suddenly realized,” he said, “was how valuable gold is becoming again. It’s not a ‘barbarous relic’ anymore… it’s not a pretty coin or a hunk of metal or a commodity or even an investment. It really is money, and it’s scary to think how dicey things might get when everyone sees gold as money again.”

My friend is not poor; there were other valuables the thief could’ve snatched. He took the gold.

So what about you? How safe is your safe? Are your clever hiding spots clever enough?

Here’s a quick checklist of the three most common places to store your gold. My friend overlooked one of the basic rules of home storage, so I hope you’ll review where and how you store your precious metals so that you can avoid the same pain and loss he experienced…

Safe deposit box

The easiest and simplest way to store gold is in a safe deposit box at your local bank. If you go this route, use a local bank. You want to be able to get to your gold in an emergency, which is one of the reasons you own it in the first place. So don’t keep it in a different state or a distant city. Keep it close.

However, as my friend acknowledges, a safe deposit box isn’t perfect. First, your access is restricted; you can only get to the gold during regular banking hours. Second, safe deposit boxes are not insured against robbery. And last, a bank box compromises your privacy. It provides a generous clue for the government, in case it ever decides to repeat FDR’s 1933 confiscation of gold.

A related option would be to use a depository or private vault. They’re outside of the financial system, though they tend to be on the expensive side. And they’re not plentiful, so you may not live near one.

Bury it

This is where the term “midnight gardening” comes from; people bury their gold at night so others won’t notice the digging. The alternative is to find a separate reason for the excavation, such as fixing a pipe or removing a stump, and work in the daylight.

Either way, before those of you who are used to clean fingernails pass on this method, consider its advantages: it won’t be damaged in a fire, and a burglar would need to know where to dig. A lot can happen in the world that won’t disturb buried gold.

A few practicalities, if you decide to go the shovel route. First, use the right container, something airtight and waterproof. This is especially important if you are storing numismatics or are burying silver in any form. We’ve been told those water bottles that hikers use work pretty well, but choose one heavy enough to stand up to years of erosion and persistent insects. Another choice is a small section of PVC pipe from your local hardware store; cap the ends and then bury it in a shallow puddle of cement.

Don’t use a coffee can, since the color on the metal can bleed. To protect from scratching, put each coin in a plastic baggie or something similar.

Where do you bury it? Your location should be neither too easy nor too difficult to find. Not too easy, so that the gold won’t be found by a thief. But not so difficult that years later, you or your heirs have trouble locating it. Complicated instructions (including treasure maps) can get muddled with time and create the risk your gold will never be dug up.

Find a place, on property you own, that you’ll always remember but that isn’t obvious if someone learns you’ve buried something valuable.

Keep in mind that most modern metal detectors can operate to a depth of about 4 feet for objects as large as a stash of coins or bars. There’s also ground-penetrating radar, used primarily by forensic investigators, that can detect where digging has occurred, as well as satellites that can pinpoint where ground has been disturbed.

Hide it in your house and/or use a home safe

Indoor storage is practical for smaller quantities. You can probably think of dozens of places in your home where no one would think to look. Avoid any place obvious, such as a jewelry box or cookie jar. The disadvantage of this method is exposure to, as my friend can tell you, theft, along with fire, flood, and other natural disasters.

Consider using a safe, ideally one secured to the floor. As one dealer said, “A safe can be brought in on a two-wheeler and taken out on a two-wheeler, if it hasn’t been attached to a building or at least hidden.” I’ve heard good things about Liberty safes, and they have a replacement guarantee. For obvious reasons, my friend is now gun-shy about using a safe with a key lock.

If you use a floor safe, locations for it include the garage, under a refrigerator, or anywhere you can place something over it. Another option might be under the floor of a storage or garden shed; you can both install and access it without being seen, day or night. We recommend installing it yourself, and some of the kits make it easier than you it might expect. We wouldn’t hire a contractor.

Before you buy a safe, however, I recommend reading this article from a veteran bullion collector: How Safe Are Safes? (If you can’t log in because you’re not a BIG GOLD subscriber, why not try it today risk-free for only $79 per year? Details here.)

Leave the right trail

However you store your gold, let exactly one person know the details. It needs to be someone in whose honesty and discretion you have complete confidence. It will be that person’s job to access the gold if you are incapacitated or die. If you are using a safe deposit box, his or her name should be included in the box registration, and they should know where to go to get the key.

Tell one person, but only one. No one else should know. This is especially important if you’re using home storage. You don’t want to come home someday to find your house turned upside down because someone heard you’re living in a treasure chest. Even worse would be to come home and find a looter waiting to have a chat with you. My friend kept quiet about his gold, but admitted some family knew about it. That’s all it took.

There’s just no other way to say it: Keep quiet about your gold.

Unless you’ve reached a point in life where you are depending on your children for help with your affairs, a child is not a good choice as your gold storage confidant. Kids talk, and you don’t know whom they might tell or how far the story might travel.

But you do need to tell someone, regardless of your storage method. I heard of an old miner who – no kidding – left a treasure map for his kids, to help them figure out where he’d hidden his gold. But someone else found the map – and his kids never got their inheritance. And what if the kids had received the map but weren’t very good treasure hunters? I’ve read similar stories about descendants who knew that gold had been left for them but had no idea where it was.

What if more than one person already knows you have gold? Review your home storage methods to be absolutely sure they are adequate, or use one of the other methods.

So what’s the best place to store your physical gold? Well, your choices boil down to three: store your gold in a safe deposit box, bury it, or hide it indoors. Each method has pluses and minuses, but probably the best method is a combination of them all. In other words, diversify your storage locations. My friend could’ve been wiped out if the robber hadn’t been trying to be sneaky.

Last, don’t let this scare you off from buying bullion. It’s still the asset that offers the best monetary protection for the foreseeable future. Not owning it may leave you feeling robbed when you go to use your paper dollars and find they won’t buy you as much as you thought. That’s not a theft you can prevent – unless you own gold.

[Today it is more important than ever to allocate some of your portfolio to gold and silver. Right now China, Russia and other countries are plotting to dump the U.S. dollar – and they have started to hoard gold in never-before-seen amounts. Don’t wait until it’s too late to jump on the runaway gold train… watch this free video for more information.]

Ed. note: I am a Big Gold subscriber and affiliate.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Details About India and China's Plans to Stockpile Crude Oil

Energy expert Matt Badiali writes in DailyWealth that plans out of China and India to create strategic oil reserves of their own could put a floor under the price of oil for years to come:
China and India are faced with the same dilemma the U.S. faced in 1973. Neither country has enough petroleum to keep its citizens rolling for long. Both are exposed to a dangerous, economy-killing oil shock. And both are starting to build and fill strategic petroleum reserves of their own. They have no choice but to buy oil like crazy at these levels.

China has about 102 million barrels already in reserve. It plans to add another 168 million barrels of storage starting this year. It will finish its planned 500 million barrel reserve – equal to three months of imports – by 2020. To hit that mark, China will need about 122,000 extra barrels of oil per day.

India has just 9.8 million barrels of crude oil stashed so far. It plans to put 40 million barrels into a strategic storage by next year. That will amount to 80,000 extra barrels of oil purchased per day.

So China and India together need to buy about 200,000 extra barrels per day. That would consume an additional 1.1% of world exports. And remember, Libya's oil used to account for 5% of world exports. This oil could be offline for years.
Full article - DailyWealth: How China and India Are Set to Slam the Price of Crude Oil

Wow - those are pretty big numbers.  Of course they could be in jeopardy if/when China and India go bust, but who knows when that could be - in the meantime, this stockpiling should continue.
crude oil price chart march 2011
It is a full-on BULL MARKET in the black goo!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Where to Find Contango Charts for Oil and Other Commodities

Our friends over at Hard Assets Investor have just released a new segment called The Contango Report, which charts contango curves and breaks down roll over costs for the energy, metal, grain, and soft complexes.  

Here's a sample for WTI Crude Oil:

Click to enlarge.

CONTANGO WATCH: The WTI Crude Oil forward curve shifted significantly: The front-end features much smaller contango, and the back half is now in backwardation.

ROLL COSTS: In turn, the annualized cost to roll the front-month WTIs fell to 13 percent, or, in other words, close to 1 percent on a monthly basis. These costs are more in line with what we've seen over the last 52 weeks (right-hand-side chart).

BOTTOM LINE: Humpbacked Contango

You can read the full Contango Report at Hard Assets Investor.

Monday, March 07, 2011

How - and Why - Chinese Wage Inflation May Trigger a Global Epidemic

Ask anyone who remembers the 1970's - there's no inflation like wage inflation, which has a nasty habit of perpetuating across the economy at large.

With Chinese leaders about to convene for some chalk talk around their next five year plan - and raising wages near the top of their agenda - what does this mean for inflation globally?  Our pal Sy Harding weighs in...


China: The 800-Pound Inflation Gorilla

Being Street Smart

Sy HardingSy Harding

March 7, 2011

When it comes to the growing global worries about inflation, it looks like it will be ‘As goes China so goes the world’.

China is the 2nd largest economy in the world, and rapidly gaining on the U.S. Among other statistics, it’s the world’s largest importer of copper, steel, cotton, and soybeans, and the world’s largest exporter of goods - to say nothing of being the world’s largest owner of U.S. debt.

Inflation fears have been circling the globe in recent months, with many blaming the U.S. Fed’s additional round of ‘quantitative easing’, launched last fall to give the U.S. economy another  boost.

However, the fears began in China a year ago. China launched a massive $585 billion economic-stimulus plan in the depths of the financial crisis two years ago. In relation to the size of its economy at the time it was considerably larger even than the huge stimulus plan launched in the U.S. All that easy money chasing a limited supply of goods, properties, and investments surged China’s economy and stock market into bubbles.

The problems began coming home to roost last year. After surging up with the rest of the world’s stock markets in the first half of 2009, the Chinese stock market rolled over into a bear market, in which it lost 33% of its value in its plunge to its low last July.

The easy money remained in the system, China’s economy continued to boom, and speculation shifted from its stock market to its real estate sector (sound familiar?).

Concern about its overheated economy and soaring real estate prices finally prompted China to begin reversing its easy money policies a year ago. It began by raising the capital reserves its banks had to hold, in effect removing money from the financial system, and increasing the size of down-payments required to purchase real estate. When those efforts had no effect on the soaring economy, real estate speculation, or inflationary pressures, the Chinese central bank began raising interest rates. And as the problems persisted, it has become increasingly aggressive, with multiple hikes in interest rates and increases in bank reserve requirements, the most recent taking place last week.

The global spike-up in food and oil prices has not helped for sure. But China’s inflation problems are not confined to real estate and commodity prices, either.

China is in the stage of its economic development where it needs, and wants, to increase domestic demand for its products, and move away from dependence on exports. To achieve that goal, wages and salaries must rise to move more of the population into the middle class.

Already the minimum wage in China’s major cities and ports has been raised an average of ten percent. Meanwhile, China’s National People’s Congress is meeting this weekend to establish China’s next ‘Five-Year Plan’. An important feature of the plan is reportedly endorsement of higher wages and salaries.

Wage-price inflation is the worst kind of inflation because it feeds on itself. As wages rise, companies have to increase the prices of their products. As prices rise further, workers demand still higher wages, and a difficult to stop inflationary spiral can get underway, as took place globally in the 1970’s.

With China being the world’s largest exporter, a potential wage-price spiral has serious implications for the rest of the world.

For example, in November mainland China’s inflation problems spilled over into Hong Kong, where the Consumer Price Index rose 0.5%, an annualized rate of 6%, the fastest monthly increase since mid-2008.

Last month Li & Fung Ltd., headquartered in Hong Kong, the largest supplier of products to Wal-Mart, predicted that the price of Chinese and Hong Kong exports will increase as much as 15% this year. The second-largest retailer in Britain, Next Plc, said it expects higher labor costs in China will result in an 8% increase in its prices in the first half of this year.

Rising inflation has already become a significant problem in important global economies outside of China, including Hong Kong, India, Brazil, and emerging markets like South Korea, Indonesia, and Singapore. And their stock markets topped out in November and are down 10% to 17%, on concerns about the rising interest rates and tighter monetary policies that have already begun, required to combat the inflationary pressures.

Similar inflationary pressures have not yet arrived in the U.S. and Europe, and the consensus opinion has therefore been that interest rates in the U.S. and Europe can remain at record lows at least until the end of this year, if not well into 2012.

But the chief of the European Central Bank shocked analysts on Thursday by saying that inflation pressures have indeed become worrisome, and the ECB could raise interest rates across the 17-nation Eurozone as soon as its next meeting in April.

That does leave U.S. Fed Chairman Bernanke as about the only global central banker who does not acknowledge that what began a year ago in China is circling the globe, with the pressure pushing it from China increasing not subsiding.

That complacency is not likely to last much longer - or it will be too late.

Meanwhile, another reminder: Gold is the historical hedge against inflation.

Sy Harding is editor of the Street Smart Report, and the free market blog,

This article was originally published on our sister site,

Friday, March 04, 2011

Marc Faber's Thoughts on When QE3 (and QE4, QE5, etc) Will Take Place

Marc Faber gave a stellar 30+ minute interview for The McAlvany Weekly Commentary.  You can read the transcript here, and listen to it here.

Of the many interesting (and unique) points Faber made, one that stuck out was his claim that 80% of the US budget is basically untouchable:
David: What measures might the Fed and the Treasury employ to defend the bond market as it is so critical to the financing of our deficits and our way of life in America?

Marc: I think they do not necessarily want to support the bond market, because the debt issuance is so huge, they almost have to monetize part of the debt.  I have read Treasury reports in 2010 by Tim Geithner saying the U.S. government debt increased by more than 2 trillion dollars during that period of time.  The deficit, in my opinion, mathematically, cannot come down, because 80% of the budget is mandatory expenditures, in other words, you cannot cut them.  Legally, they have to be met.

Of the remaining 20%, you can cut a little bit, but not that much, because then services collapse.  In my view, the fiscal deficit of the U.S. will stay around 1½ trillion dollars for as far as the eye can see, and maybe even go to 2, or 2½ trillion dollars, and then the interest expenditures on the debt go up.  So actually, over time, in my view, unless taxes are increased significantly, and spending is cut significantly, not by a little bit here, a little bit there, the budget will never again be balanced, and that will then necessitate, in time, QE-III, QE-IV, and QE-V.  Taxes cannot be increased dramatically, because if you increase them very substantially, we will go straight back into a recession.
Let's say it all together in our best Faber voice: "Mr. Bernanke is a money printer!"

How to Allocate Your Portfolio in These Inflationary Times

If you're concerned about inflation - (and I don't know why you would be, it's not like trillions of dollars have been printed or anything...) - you've probably given some thought as to how you should allocate the assets in your investing portfolio.  After all, the best investors know that portfolio allocation is THE most important element when it comes to investing - if you get the big picture wrong, you're not going to make that up with individual stock or asset picking heroics.

Expert investor and guest author David Galland weighs in today with his recommendations on asset allocation in these crazy times...


Gold Stocks in a Failing Fiat Currency

By David Galland, Managing Director, Casey Research

As the U.S. dollar takes a nosedive and precious metals gain more and more attention from individual investors, the number of questions and concerns is increasing as well. The following reader email addressed to Casey Research is representative of so many inquiries that we decided to provide an in-depth response that may prove instructional to others as well.

I have been agonizing about getting metal after dumping paper metal I held and was reading the Daily Dispatch looking for investment clues. I was pondering the ratios of thirds that you mentioned in a recent Dispatch and the pursuing of metal stocks when an issue occurred to me that was not mentioned.

On the one hand, you discuss the dollar trap of investors running from one currency to another, away from the dollar and back to it. I fear that the dollar is doomed as are other fiat currencies, and time is getting short. So the question that came to mind is, what happens if one is invested in metal stocks or any vehicle that is denominated in a fiat currency, and that currency goes bust, blotto?

What value does that investment retain? Does it become a total loss? Redefined into the currency of the locality that operations are in? Converted into some other New World Order monetary unit, SDR's or nationalization of any regional assets by the locals? Is this impossible to plan for?

I realize I am probably speculating on a subject that can only be determined by psychics and crystal balls, or those with a sixth sense on the subject, but it is an issue I have not heard anyone ponder, except those who only beat the drum for physical metals.

If I allocate away from physical into speculative investments denominated in fiat in the ratios you suggest, it might provide an additional boost if one’s timing is impeccable. But weighing that against being trapped in a depreciating currency unit, along with the possibility of physical metal becoming unobtainium, it does not seem to be a prudent decision.

I would appreciate a further explanation for your ratios, and does the ratio vary with total personal asset amount? Is your ratio determined by finances or politics?


Here at Casey Research, our current rule of thumb suggests a portfolio allocation of approximately one-third in precious metals and related investments; one-third in cash (spread among several currencies), and one-third in “other” – namely deep-value stocks, energy, emerging market investments, etc. These ratios are meant entirely as a general guideline, as everyone’s circumstances will be different.

The concept is that the one-third dedicated to a mix of physical precious metals and stocks (the mix determined by risk tolerance) will offer you “insurance” against further currency debasement as well as some very attractive upside potential… with the amount of the upside determined by the amount of risk you are willing to take on.

Which is to say, with the true Mania Phase of the precious metals markets still ahead of us, the micro-cap junior resource explorers still hold the potential for explosive profits. But they require being able to hang in there through periods of extreme volatility. Moving down the risk/reward scale, the larger producers will provide very handsome upside, but without the risk of being “trapped” in a thinly traded junior. And finally, for the precious metals component of the portfolio, the amount you hold in physical metals should be viewed as a core holding of “good” money.

The one-third dedicated to cash reduces overall volatility and gives you ammo to jump on new opportunities. By spreading the money across a number of better-managed currencies, as well as your native currency for general expenses and liquidity, your currency portfolio can preserve value better than a “red or black” bet on a single currency such as the U.S. dollar or euro.

Our subscribers have done well with the “resource” currencies of the Canadian dollar and the Norwegian krone. In time, as the purchasing power of the fiat currencies begin to decline, we’ll be looking to reduce this segment of the portfolio.

The final one-third is something of a catch-all, where we opportunistically follow some key themes such as energy, food, inverse interest rates, foreign real estate, and so forth.

Again, that particular allocation is necessarily general – with some focusing more heavily on the precious metals, others on the cash component, and others on more traditional stocks.

Now, as to the part of Chet’s question dealing with “what happens if one is invested in metal stocks or any vehicle that is denominated in a fiat currency, and that currency goes bust, blotto?”

To answer that, I adroitly hand the baton over to Terry Coxon, one of our Casey economists and editors.

Here’s Terry…

Not to worry. You may be confusing “denominated in” with “quoted in.” 
Every bond and every CD is denominated in a particular currency, which means that what it promises to pay you is a certain number of units of the currency. A U.S. Treasury bond, for example, promises you a certain number of U.S. dollars. An investment’s denomination is part of the investment’s character. 
In most cases, an investment is quoted in a particular currency. Prices of U.S. Treasury bonds, to use the same example, are customarily quoted in U.S. dollars. But that is only a matter of customary practice. You could, if you found it convenient, quote the price of a U.S. Treasury bond in Swiss francs. For all I know, there are people in Zurich who do just that. 
That’s the difference between denominated in and quoted in. The denomination is inherent in the investment. The currency used for price quotes is a matter of convention and can change.
By convention, stocks trading in New York are quoted in U.S. dollars, stocks trading in London are quoted in pence, and stocks trading in Tokyo are quoted in yen. Notably, some stocks are quoted in more than one currency, such as Canadian stocks that trade both in Canada and in the U.S. – a demonstration that the currency used for quoting a stock’s price is a matter of choice and not something inherent in the investment. 
So in what currency is a common stock denominated? No currency at all. A share of common stock doesn’t promise to pay you a certain number of units of a particular currency. Instead, it promises to pay you a pro-rata portion of whatever money or other property the company distributes as a dividend. If all paper currencies lose all value, successful gold mining companies will still own their properties and can still operate profitably. But when they pay dividends, they won’t be paying out dollars or any other paper currency. They will be paying out whatever has replaced the paper currencies – perhaps gold itself. 
Carefully chosen gold stocks won’t evaporate when paper currencies do. They will rise in value.
And no one chooses gold stocks more carefully than BIG GOLD editor Jeff Clark. Picked for asset protection as well as outstanding profit potential, his medium- to large-cap gold and silver producers are generating steady returns of 56.8%... 46%... even 187.9% for subscribers. And right now, if you give it a try, you can kill two resource birds with one stone: Pay just $79 per year for BIG GOLD, plus receive 12 monthly issues of Casey’s Energy Opportunities FREE. More here.

Ed. note: I am a Big Gold subscriber and affiliate.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Why Jim Chanos' Current Short Bet is Wildly Bullish for Natural Gas

Jim Chanos' short of ExxonMobil is indicative of the bullish fundamentals that lie ahead for natural gas, according to Frank Curzio...because Exxon needs to replace its reserves somehow:
And just last month, he (Chanos) discussed his bearish stance on ExxonMobil: "ExxonMobil will not be able to replace its reserves."

You see, ExxonMobil isn't the only one having trouble replacing reserves. Almost every large-cap integrated oil company from Royal Dutch Shell to Chevron is in the same boat. After all, it's getting more difficult to find large amounts of oil these days.

That's why these oil companies are spending billions of dollars on natural gas assets in some of the most prominent shale areas across the U.S
Source: DailyWealth

With the Natty in the tank, but forming a strong base (and just above the cost of production to boot), this could be an interesting speculation from here.  The potential downside is limited, and the upside could be a 2x or 3x in fairly short order, as Curzio points out.

natural gas price chart outlook march 2011
Now that's some cheap Natty. (Source:

But if you're inclined to pick up some exposure to natural gas, DO NOT go long natural gas ETF UNG.  In the same DailyWealth piece, Brian Hunt referred to UNG as "The World's Worst ETF" - ready why here.

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