ETFs and gold speculation

By Felix Salmon
October 8, 2009
Izabella Kaminska has an interesting take on the record-high gold price, via Bedlam Asset Management: essentially, it's rising because the big gold ETFs, like GLD, are so incredibly easy to buy and to speculate with. Gold is now something that individuals can easily trade in and out of daily -- goldbugs are no longer just hold-it-until-you-die inflation hawks and eschatologically-inclined survivalists.

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Izabella Kaminska has an interesting take on the record-high gold price, via Bedlam Asset Management: essentially, it’s rising because the big gold ETFs, like GLD, are so incredibly easy to buy and to speculate with. Gold is now something that individuals can easily trade in and out of daily — goldbugs are no longer just hold-it-until-you-die inflation hawks and eschatologically-inclined survivalists.

The implication, according to Bedlam, is that the whole swathes of ETF-linked commodities risk being dumped en masse, if and when the current wave of momentum fizzles out:

One or more of the smaller exotics will expire. Little notice will initially be taken. After a couple more, especially if in different sectors, there will be a rush to dump them all. The good and the bad will be forced sellers alike to meet redemptions. This will lead to an avalanche of physical gold, live hogs and cocoa being heavily sold into often thin markets, causing sharp price declines.

Remember: insofar as gold is being held by speculators, it isn’t safe. And GLD alone has more than $30 billion invested in it, much of that on margin. Where would gold be if even a fraction of that sum got sold at once? I don’t like to think.

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