Probing for a Bottom in Gold

Thanks to last week’s Armageddon type crash in gold prices, implied volatilities on options in the SPDR Gold Trust Shares (GLD) have rocketed to five-year highs. This is in sharp contrast to equity index option implieds, which are just a few percent above six year lows. Therefore, the deep in the money option strategy in the (GLD) is now vastly superior to alternatives found in the S&P 500 (SPY) and the Russell 2000 (IWM).

This means that it is possible to strap on a call spread in (GLD) that is miles in the money with extremely low risk, and still earn a decent four-week return. That is the case with the SPDR Gold Trust Shares May, 2013 $125-$130 call spread. The (GLD) has to drop a further $8.11, or $81 in underlying gold terms over the next 19 trading days for you to lose money.

Coming on top of the previous $200 collapse in gold, a mathematician would describe this as a six standard deviation event. That is another way of saying that moves like this occur only once every 2,000 years. This is a probability that I am more than happy to bet against. Also, redemption in ETF (GLD) hit $2 billion last week, the largest on record, and has probably peaked.

I spent the weekend talking to my consulting clients at the central banks of China and Singapore. Although they are not allowed to disclose their exact plans in advance, using the standard code words they made it clear to me that they would be major buyers of the barbarous relic at $1,250 and below.

You can bet that at least a dozen other emerging market central banks will be joining them there. $1,250 in gold was a major upside breakout level on the way up that should provide solid support on the way down. That is why I am going with such a hefty 20% weighting. I am also taking a big bite of (GLD) because there are so few attractive risk/reward propositions in other asset classes at these lofty levels.

You have to go back nearly three and a half years to find new buyers with a cost basis lower than $1,250. That means we have probably flushed out all of the weak, short and medium term owners of gold with the recent melt down, and there is probably not much selling left to be seen.

There is also a ton of technical support that kicks in at the $1,250-$1,300 range. The bull market in gold ignited in 2001 at $255/ounce. A 38.2% Fibonacci retracement from the $1,920 peak takes us back to $1,286. Focusing on a shorter time frame, a 50% drop from the most recent run that started at $750 in 2008 hits at $1,302. When you get this much technical congestion around the same price levels, they tend to hold.

This could be the trade that keeps on giving. If we really are putting in a long-term bottom for the yellow metal over $1,250, it could take several months for the cement to dry. That means we could strap on a new position every month, possibly until the end of the year. It will be like having a rich uncle that writes you a check every four weeks, much like shorting the Japanese yen was last year.

Gold is not dead, it is just resting. All of the long-term arguments in favor of gold still hold true. Those include, the desire of emerging market central banks to own a higher percentage of their reserves in gold, rising emerging market standards of living, the return of double digit inflation during a global economic boom in the 2020’s, and the preference of global central banks to print money until then. It also makes a nice Christmas present. So at some point, the barbarous relic should take another run at its old inflation adjusted high of $2,300 an ounce.

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