Briefly: in our opinion, full (300% of the regular position size) speculative short positions in mining stocks are justified from the risk/reward point of view at the moment of publishing this Alert.
After Monday’s (Feb. 22) supposedly “groundbreaking” rally, the situation in gold developed in tune with what I wrote yesterday. The rally stopped, and miners’ decline indicated that it was a counter-trend move.
Despite Monday’s (quite sharp for a daily move) upswing, the breakdown below the neck level of the broad head-and-shoulders remains intact. It wasn’t invalidated. In fact, based on Monday’s rally and yesterday’s (Feb. 23) decline, it was verified. One of the trading guidelines is to wait for the verification of the breakdown below the H&S pattern before entering a position.
What about gold stocks ratio with other stocks?
It’s exactly the same thing. The breakdown below the rising long-term support line remains intact. The recent upswing was just a quick comeback to the broken line that didn’t take it above it. Conversely, the HUI to S&P 500 ratio declined once again.
Consequently, bearish implications of the breakdowns remain up-to-date.
Silver just went through a triangle-vertex-based reversal, and it seems to have indeed triggered a reversal.
After moving slightly above Monday’s intraday high, silver moved back down in yesterday’s trading. This means that my comments from yesterday on the above chart remain up-to-date:
The move lower is not yet super significant, but given the reversal point, it could just be the beginning. Remember the triangle-vertex-based reversal at the beginning of the year? Back then, practically nobody wanted to believe that silver and the precious metals market was topping at that time. It was the truth, though. Gold and mining stocks were never higher since that time and the same thing would have most likely happened to silver if it wasn’t the #silversqueeze popularity that gave it its most recent boost.
Now, there’s also another triangle-vertex-based-reversal in a few days, and since these reversals tend to work on a near-to basis, silver might top any day now, even if it hasn’t topped earlier today.
The same goes for my comments on gold and the USD Index, as gold is practically right where it was 24 hours ago:
The move higher in gold was notable, but nothing game changing. The last time gold moved above the declining short-term resistance line, was when it actually topped. The invalidation of the breakdown marked the start of another very short-term decline. The small decline in today’s overnight trading might be the very beginning of this invalidation that leads to another slide.
The USD Index moved higher only slightly, but enough to confirm that the recent move lower was just a verification of the breakout.
As I wrote yesterday, based on the obvious similarity to early 2018, the verification of the breakdown is likely the final step before a major rally in the USDX. This will likely translate into lower precious metals and mining stock prices, especially if the general stock market declines as well.
Having said that, let’s consider the more fundamental side of things.
Swimming Against the Current
After trading lower for six consecutive days, gold managed to muster a three-day winning streak. However, with the waves chopping and the ripple gaining steam, every swim higher requires more energy and yield’s decelerating results.
For weeks, I’ve been warning that a declining copper/U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield ratio signaled a further downside for gold. And with the ratio declining by 2.88% last week, gold suffered a 2.51% drawdown.
Please see below:
Over the long-term, the ratio is a reliable predictor of the yellow metal’s future direction. And even though the weekly reading (3.04) hit its lowest level since May 2020, it still has plenty of room to move lower.
For context, I wrote previously:
To explain the chart above, the red line depicts the price of gold over the last ~21 years, while the green line depicts the copper/U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield ratio. As you can see, the two have a tight relationship: when the copper/U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield ratio is rising (meaning that copper prices are rising at a faster pace than the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield), it usually results in higher gold prices. Conversely, when the copper/U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield ratio is falling (meaning that the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield is rising at a faster pace than copper prices), it usually results in lower gold prices.
As the star of the ratio’s show, the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield has risen by more than 47% year-to-date (YTD) and the benchmark has surged by more than 163% since its August trough.
Please see below:
On Jan. 15, I warned that the U.S. Federal Reserve (FED) had painted itself into a corner. With inflation running hot and Chairman Jerome Powell ignoring the obvious, I wrote that Powell’s own polices (and their impact on real and financial assets) actually eliminate his ability to determine when interest rates rise.
As a result, the central bank had two options:
- If they let yields rise, the cost of borrowing rises, the cost of equity rises and the U.S. dollar is supported (all leading to shifts in the bond and stock markets and destroying the halcyon environment they worked so hard to create).
- To stop yields from rising, the U.S. Federal Reserve (FED) has to increase its asset purchases (and buy more bonds in the open market). However, the added liquidity should have the same net-effect because it increases inflation expectations (which I mentioned yesterday, is a precursor to higher interest rates).
Opening door #2, Powell’s deny-and-suppress strategy is now playing out in real time. On Feb. 23 – testifying before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee – the FED Chairman told lawmakers that inflation isn’t an issue.
“We’ve been living in a world for a quarter of a century where the pressures were disinflationary,” he said.... “The economy is a long way from our employment and inflation goals.”
And whether he’s unaware or simply ill-informed, commodity prices are surging. Since the New Year, oil and lumber prices have risen by more than 24%, while corn and copper prices are up by more than 14%.
Please see below:
In addition, relative to finished goods, the entire basket of inputs is sounding the alarm.
To explain the chart above, the blue line is an index of the price businesses receive for their finished goods. Similarly, the green line is an index of the price businesses pay for raw materials. As you can see, the cost of doing business is rising at a torrent pace.
More importantly though, Powell’s assertion that inflation is an urban legend has been met with eye rolls from the bond market. To repeat what I wrote above: Powell’s own policies (and their impact on real and financial assets) actually eliminate his ability to determine when interest rates rise.
Case in point: the U.S. 10-year to 2-year government bond spread is now at its highest level since January 2017.
Please see below:
To explain the significance, the figure is calculated by subtracting the U.S. 2-Year Treasury yield from the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield. When the green line is rising, it means that the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield is increasing at a faster pace than the U.S. 2-Year Treasury yield. Conversely, when the green line is falling, it means that the U.S. 2-Year Treasury yield is increasing at a faster pace than the U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield.
And why does all of this matter?
Because the above visual is evidence that Powell has lost control of the bond market.
At the front-end of the curve, Powell can control the 2-year yield by decreasing the FED’s overnight lending rate (which was cut to zero at the outset of the coronavirus crisis). However, far from being monolithic, the 5-, 10-, and 30-year yields have the ability to chart their own paths.
And their current message to the Chairman? “We aren’t buying what you’re selling.” As such, the yield curve is likely to continue its steepening stampede.
Circling back to gold, all of the above supports a continued decline of the copper/U.S. 10-Year Treasury yield ratio. With yields essentially released from captivity, even copper’s 8.02% weekly surge wasn’t enough to buck the trend.
As a result, gold’s recent strength is likely a mirage. The yellow metal continues to bounce in fits and starts, thus, it’s only a matter of time before the downtrend continues. Furthermore, with the USD Index still sitting on the sidelines, a resurgent greenback would add even more concrete to gold’s wall of worry.
And speaking of gold’s wall of worry, the sentiment surrounding it is far from being negative.
Figure 12 - Source: Investing.com
The above chart shows the sentiment of Investing.com’s members. 64% of them are bullish on gold. As you can see above, there are also other popular markets listed: the S&P 500, Dow Jones, DAX, EUR/USD, GBP/USD, USD Index, and Crude oil. The sentiment for gold is the most bullish of all of them. Yes, the general stock market is climbing to new all-time highs every day now, and yet, people are even more bullish on gold than they are on stocks.
When gold slides, the sentiment is likely to get more bearish and particularly high “bearish” readings – say, over 80% would likely indicate a good buying opportunity. Naturally, this is not the only factor that one should be paying attention to.
The bottom line? As it stands today, being long the precious metals offers a poor risk-reward proposition. However, in time (perhaps over the next several months), the dynamic will reverse, and the precious metals market will shine once again.
Silver Futures’ Expiration
I replied to a question about the silver futures expiration and its potential impact in yesterday’s “Letters to the Editor” section, but since the contracts expire tomorrow, I thought that it would be useful to quote it also today:
Q: Some people talk about getting our stops run in a flash price move, driven by the upcoming silver future expiration with expected delivery failures. Does an onslaught of revanchist amateurs add up to “force majeure”?
A: We don’t have stops for the positions in mining stocks, and we don’t have any positions in silver. Since the nearest expiration date is on Feb. 25, and the last day of delivery of physical silver is on Feb 26, it seems that you mean these takes as the possible days when something big could happen.
I view this as very unlikely, although a temporary spike top based on the perceived bullishness might indeed take place.
Figure 13 - Source: ycharts.com
On the above chart you can see the open interest of silver futures – in other words, how many silver futures contracts there are active. The current value is by all means normal. One could say that the data is one week old, but it doesn’t really matter, as its already after the moment when silver got the public’s interest.
As the number of contracts is normal, I’d say that the reaction to the expiration is likely to be normal – meaning either small or nonexistent. As above, we could see some very short-term buying because of the “hype” surrounding the futures expiration, but nothing more than that. I don’t think that the short positions in mining stocks would be affected to any significant degree. In fact, it could be one of the “buy the rumor, sell the fact” type of events. Of course, the above is just my opinion.
Overview of the Upcoming Part of the Decline
- I expect the initial bottom to form with gold falling to roughly $1,700, and I expect the GDX ETF to decline to about $31 - $32 at that time. I then plan to exit the short positions in the miners and I will consider long positions in the miners at that time – in order to benefit from the likely rebound.
- I expect the above-mentioned decline to take another 1 – 7 weeks to materialize and I expect the rebound to take place during 1-3 weeks.
- After the rebound (perhaps to $33 - $34 in the GDX), I plan to get back in with the short position in the mining stocks.
- Then, after miners slide once again in a meaningful and volatile way, but silver doesn’t (and it just declines moderately), I plan to switch from short positions in miners to short positions in silver (this could take another 1-4 weeks to materialize). I plan to exit those short positions when gold shows substantial strength relative to the USD Index, while the latter is still rallying. This might take place with gold close to $1,500 and the entire decline (from above $1,700 to about $1,500) would be likely to take place within 1-10 weeks and I would expect silver to fall hardest in the final part of the move. This moment (when gold performs very strongly against the rallying USD and miners are strong relative to gold – after gold has already declined substantially) is likely to be the best entry point for long-term investments in my view. This might happen with gold close to $1,500, but it’s too early to say with certainty at this time.
- Consequently, the entire decline could take between 3 and 20 weeks, while the initial part of the decline (to $1,700 in gold) is likely to take between 1 and 7 weeks.
- If gold declines even below $1,500 (say, to ~$1350 or so), then it could take another 10 weeks or so for it to bottom, but this is not what I view as a very likely outcome.
- As a confirmation for the above, I will use the (upcoming or perhaps we have already seen it?) top in the general stock market as the starting point for the three-month countdown. The reason is that after the 1929 top, gold miners declined for about three months after the general stock market started to slide. We also saw some confirmations of this theory based on the analogy to 2008. All in all, the precious metals sector would be likely to bottom about three months after the general stock market tops .
- The above is based on the information available today and it might change in the following days/weeks.
To summarize, the PMs’ short-term downswing has likely just begun, as miners broke below the neck level of their almost-yearly head-and-shoulders formation. We saw a small invalidation, but we don’t trust its bullish implications – we just saw something similar that failed to ignite a lasting rally and the USD’s decline seems to be a normal, post-breakout pullback.
In addition, because we’re likely entering the “winter” part of the Kondratiev cycle (just like in 1929 and then the 1930s), the outlook for the precious metals’ sector remains particularly bearish during the very first part of the cycle, when cash is king.
Silver’s strength seems bullish at first sight, but taking a closer look at this move, and comparing it with previous cases (when silver got so much attention) and with miners’ weakness, provides us with bearish implications for the medium term.
The confirmed breakout in the USD Index is yet another confirmation of the bearish outlook for the precious metals market.
Naturally, everyone's trading is their responsibility. But in our opinion, if there ever was a time to either enter a short position in the miners or increase its size if it was not already sizable, it's now. We made money on the March decline, and on the March rebound, with another massive slide already underway.
After the sell-off (that takes gold to about $1,500), we expect the precious metals to rally significantly. The final part of the decline might take as little as 1-5 weeks, so it's important to stay alert to any changes.
Most importantly, please stay healthy and safe. We made a lot of money on the March decline and the subsequent rebound (its initial part) price moves (and we'll likely earn much more in the following weeks and months), but you have to be healthy to enjoy the results.
As always, we'll keep you - our subscribers - informed.
Trading capital (supplementary part of the portfolio; our opinion): Full speculative short positions (300% of the full position) in mining stocks is justified from the risk to reward point of view with the following binding exit profit-take price levels:
Senior mining stocks (price levels for the GDX ETF): binding profit-take exit price: $31.22; stop-loss: none (the volatility is too big to justify a stop-loss order in case of this particular trade); binding profit-take level for the DUST ETF: $24.88; stop-loss for the DUST ETF: none (the volatility is too big to justify a SL order in case of this particular trade)
Junior mining stocks (price levels for the GDXJ ETF): binding profit-take exit price: $42.72; stop-loss: none (the volatility is too big to justify a stop-loss order in case of this particular trade); binding profit-take level for the JDST ETF: $14.19; stop-loss for the JDST ETF: none (the volatility is too big to justify a SL order in case of this particular trade)
For-your-information targets (our opinion; we continue to think that mining stocks are the preferred way of taking advantage of the upcoming price move, but if for whatever reason one wants / has to use silver or gold for this trade, we are providing the details anyway. In our view, silver has greater potential than gold does):
Silver futures downside profit-take exit price: unclear at this time - initially, it might be a good idea to exit, when gold moves to $1,703.
Gold futures downside profit-take exit price: $1,703
Symbols to be on a lookout for in case of possible future transactions (leveraged and non-leveraged):
Gold: GLD (non-leveraged, regular), UGL (2x leverage, regular), GLL (2x leverage, inverse)
Silver: SLV (non-leveraged, regular), AGQ (2x leverage, regular), ZSL (2x leverage, inverse)
Senior mining stocks: GDX (non-leveraged, regular), NUGT (2x leverage, regular), DUST (2x leverage, inverse)
Junior mining stocks: GDXJ (non-leveraged, regular), JNUG (2x leverage, regular), JDST (2x leverage, inverse)
Long-term capital (core part of the portfolio; our opinion): No positions (in other words: cash
Insurance capital (core part of the portfolio; our opinion): Full position
Whether you already subscribed or not, we encourage you to find out how to make the most of our alerts and read our replies to the most common alert-and-gold-trading-related-questions.
Please note that we describe the situation for the day that the alert is posted in the trading section. In other words, if we are writing about a speculative position, it means that it is up-to-date on the day it was posted. We are also featuring the initial target prices to decide whether keeping a position on a given day is in tune with your approach (some moves are too small for medium-term traders, and some might appear too big for day-traders).
Additionally, you might want to read why our stop-loss orders are usually relatively far from the current price.
Please note that a full position doesn't mean using all of the capital for a given trade. You will find details on our thoughts on gold portfolio structuring in the Key Insights section on our website.
As a reminder - "initial target price" means exactly that - an "initial" one. It's not a price level at which we suggest closing positions. If this becomes the case (like it did in the previous trade), we will refer to these levels as levels of exit orders (exactly as we've done previously). Stop-loss levels, however, are naturally not "initial", but something that, in our opinion, might be entered as an order.
Since it is impossible to synchronize target prices and stop-loss levels for all the ETFs and ETNs with the main markets that we provide these levels for (gold, silver and mining stocks - the GDX ETF), the stop-loss levels and target prices for other ETNs and ETF (among other: UGL, GLL, AGQ, ZSL, NUGT, DUST, JNUG, JDST) are provided as supplementary, and not as "final". This means that if a stop-loss or a target level is reached for any of the "additional instruments" (GLL for instance), but not for the "main instrument" (gold in this case), we will view positions in both gold and GLL as still open and the stop-loss for GLL would have to be moved lower. On the other hand, if gold moves to a stop-loss level but GLL doesn't, then we will view both positions (in gold and GLL) as closed. In other words, since it's not possible to be 100% certain that each related instrument moves to a given level when the underlying instrument does, we can't provide levels that would be binding. The levels that we do provide are our best estimate of the levels that will correspond to the levels in the underlying assets, but it will be the underlying assets that one will need to focus on regarding the signs pointing to closing a given position or keeping it open. We might adjust the levels in the "additional instruments" without adjusting the levels in the "main instruments", which will simply mean that we have improved our estimation of these levels, not that we changed our outlook on the markets. We are already working on a tool that would update these levels daily for the most popular ETFs, ETNs and individual mining stocks.
Our preferred ways to invest in and to trade gold along with the reasoning can be found in the how to buy gold section. Furthermore, our preferred ETFs and ETNs can be found in our Gold & Silver ETF Ranking.
As a reminder, Gold & Silver Trading Alerts are posted before or on each trading day (we usually post them before the opening bell, but we don't promise doing that each day). If there's anything urgent, we will send you an additional small alert before posting the main one.
Przemyslaw Radomski, CFA