Something strange is going on: at the same time that central banks are injecting $100 billion each month in electronic money to crush volatility and ramp markets, a similar amount in hard physical currency and precious metals is literally disappearing.
Take gold: as we reported last week, it was none other than Goldman Sachs which recently laid out the case for gold, saying “gold’s strategic case still strong.” One reason for this is that the same central banks that are “full tilt” printing cash, they have also been splurging on gold, and as a result of “geopolitical uncertainty” there has been a record surge in gold demand by central banks themselves. As Goldman notes, “CBs globally have been buying gold at a very strong pace” and “2019 looks to be a record year for CB gold purchases with our target of 750 tonnes combined purchases likely to be met.”
But it was another, even more bizarre discovery by Goldman, that caught our eye: according to the bank there has been a whopping 1,200 tons, or $57 billion, of “unexplained” gold flows in just the 3 years.
As Goldman’s Mikhail Sprogis writes, “rising political risk – together with negative European rates – may be an important reason behind the large share of unaccounted gold investment over the past several years. Exhibit 17 shows cumulative unexplained gold demand based on World Gold Council (post 2010) and GFMS (pre 2010) balances data. It surged since 2016. Similar dynamics can be seen when we look at implied vaulted gold stocks built in the UK and Switzerland, which is calculated as implied cumulative total net imports minus transparent ETF gold stocks.”
And another remarkable observation, or rather lack thereof: “One can see that since the end of 2016 the implied build in non-transparent gold investment has been much larger than the build in visible gold ETFs (see Exhibit 18). This is consistent with reports that vault demand globally is surging. Political risks, in our view, help explain this because if an individual is trying to minimize the risks of sanctions or wealth taxes, then buying physical gold bars and storing them in a vault, where it is more difficult for governments to reach them,