In this exclusive interview with The Gold Report, 321gold.com founder Bob Moriarty provides abundant food for thought about the continuing U.S. financial debacle. Unlike many other observers, he foresees a short-term rally in the stock market but paints a bleak longer-term picture. He expects the ship of state to sink like the Titanic, with precious metals holdings and other “things” the only safety nets on board. Not one to whitewash his opinions, Bob seems to be right more often than not but also freely admits it when he makes mistakes. As he puts it, “When my theories don’t match the facts, I revise my theories.” We conducted the interview over a week ago and all of his predictions seem to be coming true. So far.
The Gold Report: When you talked to us in early August, you correctly predicted the market crashing in October. But we’ve also seen gold go since then. When do you think gold and the market will turn around?
Bob Moriarty: In terms of the Australian dollar, the British pound and the Canadian dollar, gold has been hitting new record highs, so gold still has its function as the security of last resort. We’ve had so much deleveraging, with giant hedge funds selling everything they could sell and the only thing left was gold. But the next move in gold is going to be a major move and it’s going to be up.
TGR: When do you see that happening?
BM: October is always a really disastrous month for the market, but I think we’ve seen the bottom in the general stock market, in gold and in gold shares.
TGR: Are you saying that we’re going to see physical gold, gold shares and the market all increase simultaneously?
TGR: Wow. At the same rate?
BM: I don’t think so. There’s been something like $3.2 trillion poured into the system. When people think back—I mean, this is an absolute disaster. We have taken the entire banking system, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG, out of the hands of the fools on Wall Street who were running them and handed control over to the fools in Washington. That’s the scariest thing I’ve ever heard. If Wall Street couldn’t run Fannie Mae, why does Washington, DC think it can?
TGR: Given that sentiment, why would you expect the stock market to increase?
BM: You constantly run from one extreme to another. You have extremes of emotion on both the bull side and the bear side. If you look back to 1929, there was a giant crash the end of October. The market recovered 50% of what it lost and then continued down through 1932. The market goes up and it goes down. From the gold and gold shares point of view, the decline is entirely artificial. There are probably 100 gold juniors selling for less than the cash they have on hand. They could close the doors and you’d make a profit.
TGR: One of the things we’re reading as part of the reason gold has fallen is that, amazingly enough, the U.S. dollar has actually been the currency of choice.
BM: It has been, but you have to understand why the dollar is going up. I’ll go back to my favorite figure—$596 trillion in derivatives. Maybe 9,000 hedge funds were operating in derivatives as if it was a giant casino and they were using Monopoly money. Once things turned south and interest rates started going up and mortgages started defaulting, they had to deleverage. This meant selling all of the positions they could and paying off the loans. But to do that, they need dollars.
So it’s entirely artificial. If you look at the rise in the dollar since September 27, it increased 12% or 13% in one month. Nobody can conduct business when the currency you use goes either up or down that much in a month’s time. That’s disastrous to business.
TGR: But it made a fairly rapid downturn earlier in the year. Is going back up now a correction?
BM: The correction is going to be that it will go back down, and I think it’s going to be a catastrophic decline. Barron’s had a piece recently talking about Taiwan now selling Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds and Treasury bonds. If that continues or if other countries start doing it, it will be catastrophic for the dollar. I think the U.S. is going to default entirely within the next nine to 10 months. Here’s the situation. The U.S. is bankrupt. As anybody who looks at our debts and obligations should be aware, sooner or later we’re going to have to declare bankruptcy.
TGR: Why wouldn’t we just print more money to pay our way out of it?
BM: If you go into a store and put down $100 bill and the guy says, “We don’t take $100 bills,” what do you do?
TGR: You pull out your credit card.
BM: What if he doesn’t take your credit card? Here’s the flaw and there’s some really scary things going on that nobody thinks about. The U.S. government incurred about $3.2 trillion worth of obligations in the last month and to my knowledge, not a single person asked the really simple question: “Where’s the money going to come from?” There are only three choices. You take it from the taxpayer in taxes and that’s not an alternative. Or you borrow it from the Chinese and that’s not an alternative. Or you print it—but you can only print it as long as people are willing to accept it. The Middle East has already started to talk about not wanting to use the U.S. dollar anymore in currency transactions. It’s too dangerous. So we’re a lot closer to a default than anybody in government wants to admit.
TGR: If we default, what’s the impact on the worldwide market?
BM: Strangely enough, the worldwide market’s going to be fine. The U.S. can become a third-world nation. Everybody acts as if U.S. consumers are the only consumers in the world. Well, the Chinese can consume and the Japanese can consume and the Europeans can consume. For the last 60 years, since Bretton Woods, we in the U.S. have been able to consume by writing checks that we had no intention whatsoever of paying and the rest of the world has woken up to the fact that they’re paying for our excess. We’re waging a $3 trillion war in Iraq; we don’t pay for it; the rest of the world does. We borrowed every cent. And will never pay it back.
TGR: If the U.S. defaults, though, and so many of our bonds are held offshore, those then become illiquid or worth nothing. Wouldn’t that have an impact on the worldwide economy?
BM: Yes, but it will be a temporary thing. If your brother-in-law is a crack addict, doesn’t have a job and his home goes into foreclosure, it’s bad. But it happens. Businesses go bankrupt and countries go bankrupt. Essentially, Iceland went bankrupt a few weeks ago.
TGR: And some of the South American countries have waived their debt entirely.
BM: Argentina did it in 2002. They’re on the verge of doing it again. Believe it or not, Switzerland and Kuwait are on the verge of going bankrupt. It is really bizarre. And it all goes back to derivatives being totally out of control and everyone believing that it was $596 trillion worth of value when, in fact, it was a giant shell game.
TGR: Given your prediction, how does that jibe with the stock market increasing? Are we going to rise through the next nine months until we go bankrupt or what?
BM: Yes. Bonds are paper assets, nothing but a promise of payment. Stocks are not paper assets; when you own a stock, you own a real percentage of a company that hopefully is doing something productive. Inflation is not prices increasing, which is what we’ve been led to believe for many years. Inflation is actually an increase in the money supply. When you start increasing money supply the way the U.S. government has over the last month, it results in higher prices for real goods. So you can have this situation where the stock market is increasing in nominal terms but could actually be losing in real terms. Governments always have two different ways to destroy their currency. They can do it through deflation, which is what we’re going through right now, or they can do it through inflation. The government’s doing their best to inflate the dollar and it will go into hyper-inflation. That is just bizarre to me. A $3.2 trillion increase in money supply in a month. That’s a lot.
You have to deal with a real currency under real rules and real management and provide real products to people who really intend to pay for them. When you get away from that, you create maladjustments or "mal-investments." There was an enormous investment in U.S. real estate because real interest rates were actually negative. You could borrow 100% of the value of a home. Everybody in the system encouraged people to do this, so they did it. Then instead of getting rid of some of that mal-investment, the U.S. government comes in and says, “We’ll take the very worst cases of management, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and AIG, and reward them for doing stupid things.” Well, that doesn’t make any sense; it just makes it worse. Everybody on Wall Street’s still going to be getting their Christmas bonus this year, but now it’s courtesy of the American taxpayer.
TGR: If you have anything left in your portfolio, how do you begin to prepare for the scenario you’re laying out, a potential default by the U.S. government?
BM: You stay away from U.S. obligations entirely. A lot of people like Richard Russell (Dow Theory Letters) have recommended for years that in times of calamity you go for T-bills and gold. T-bills will be totally worthless someday. No fiat currency lasts forever. They’re not real. I’m suggesting that the financial chaos we’re in now is far worse than anybody can anticipate, even me. And a default by the U.S. government actually would be a good thing because then we could and sit down and say, “Okay, 1) what caused this in the first place? And 2) what do we need to prevent it from happening again?” The solution is quite simple. That’s to go back to a gold standard. But if you go back to a gold standard, you have to have much less government. That would be a really good thing.
TGR: Given that we’re already on a fiat currency and can print more, will our ship just go down with the presses rolling or will it extend itself longer—a slow sinking as opposed to diving straight to the bottom?
BM: There’s a really good chance of a catastrophic failure with some of the things that are happening in the Middle East now. There could be a catastrophic freeze-up of the banking system and they could just close the banks worldwide and say, “Okay, we’ll shut everything down for two weeks and sort it out.” There’s a lot of pressure from France and China to fix the problem. I find it very encouraging that people are calling for a new Bretton Woods because that is the solution, to go back and fix what Bretton Woods didn’t do correctly in the first place—and that was to provide an honest gold system.
TGR: Refresh us a bit on Bretton Woods.
BM: In 1944 representatives of the 44 free countries in the Allies sat down to establish some financial system for economic post-war rebuilding. They met in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. Their agreement tied the U.S. dollar to gold and all of their currencies to the dollar in fixed exchange rates. It made the dollar literally as good as gold, so all of the other currencies were as good as gold as long as the dollar was good. But then we started inflating the currency because we could. We also exported our inflation to other countries. And then the Vietnam War came along and in 1971 Richard Nixon told foreign governments they could no longer exchange dollars for gold. What they should have done at Bretton Woods was have everybody go to a gold currency and instead of issuing pesos or francs or reals or dollars, issue units in terms of grams of gold. That way, everybody’s one gram note would be a gram of gold and you would have had total interchangeability among currencies.
TGR: If we could have a do-over of Bretton Woods, is there currently even enough gold anywhere to be able to tie it the world’s currencies?
BM: Everybody makes the mistake of thinking that you need a lot of gold for a gold standard. The only thing gold does in a gold standard is give the currency discipline, but that’s why it’s so valuable. If you have discipline with the currency, you don’t have the kind of chaos we have today. Without discipline, you end up with $596 trillion worth of derivatives and nobody in either finance or government saying, “Hey, by the way, that’s a really bad idea.”
TGR: If it’s not tied to physical gold and we rely on people to show discipline, aren’t we setting ourselves up for the same thing happening again?
BM: No. I’m not saying you wouldn’t use gold. To restore confidence in the system, you have to use gold. But let me give you an idea of how out-of-control the system is today. If you took the 80 tons of gold that the U.S. supposedly has on deposit in Fort Knox and West Point, that would be $200 billion worth. We have created $3.2 trillion in paper money, 16 times as much, in just the last month. That means it might take a gold price of $50,000 to $250,000 an ounce to actually clear the system, but we do have to clear the system. We have to go back to honest money. If you’ve ever played poker, and somebody sits down and pulls out a Sears credit card, he’ll bet on every card because he isn’t playing with real money.
TGR: And that’s effectively what’s been going on. So you’re saying you see a rally coming in the Dow, which strangely enough we’re hearing from other people, too, but it’s a short-term rally.
BM: We’re not going to go to new highs. The problem with variable-value currencies is the value of the currency changes every day. The Dow won’t go to new highs in real dollar terms. It will go higher just because it’s way oversold right now in terms of gold and gold stocks. Historically they are the cheapest they’ve ever been. Gold stocks are trading at the same value that they would trade if gold was $200 today. There’s one particular silver stock I know that’s selling for 20 cents on the dollar.
TGR: Who’s that?
BM: Silver Bear Resources Inc. (SBR:TSX). It closed at 20 cents today. It has a market cap of $7.6 million and $32.6 million in the bank. It’s selling at 430% over market cap. I’ve got Triex Minerals at 338% of market cap, International Nickel at 331% of and Uravan Minerals, 300%. These are just unbelievable. Back in 2001, a few stocks—maybe 10 or 20 stocks—sold for less than the cash they had on hand, but now 100 of them selling for less than cash on hand. The value of these stocks is not based on their economic value, but on the fact that everybody’s dumping them like crazy. Look at ATW Gold Corp. (TSX.V:ATW). They have two mines and two mills in Australia, are going into production in March and will produce 50,000 to 100,000 ounces a year and you can buy the gold for about $3 an ounce. That’s nuts.
TGR: So you recommend investors get real gold. Do you like ETFs at this point?
BM: Actually, I’m anti-ETF, whether gold or silver. The financial situation is so dangerous that it’s no longer an issue of market risk, nor of whether they have the physical metal. It’s an issue of counterparty risk; that’s the danger today. Is the institution issuing the ETF going to exist if gold goes up $100 a day? Physical gold in hand, not in the safety deposit box, not where governments can get their hands on it, is an insurance policy. It’s still working today even though gold is cheap. Resource stocks and physical holdings are what you want as we head into hyper-inflation.
TGR: Would you avoid even the Central Fund of Canada (CEF:AMEX)?
BM: No, the CEF is brilliant. I do like that and that is not an ETF. There’s no counterparty risk there that doesn’t exist with any stock. I would even recommend investors have shares in multiple brokerage companies because it’s entirely possible for one of them (like Lehman Brothers) to go bankrupt. You might still have the assets; you just can’t touch them for six months or a year.
TGR: When do you see gold climbing? You say it’s at the bottom now, so it could go any day.
BM: I believe so. It’s going to surprise everybody because it’s been hammered so much, but it’s totally artificial. The price of gold has nothing to do with supply and demand. It’s been hammered by the hedge funds closing their positions and buying dollars to pay off their loans. As soon as the hedge funds let up in their buying, the dollar will tank and gold will go up. A lot of money sitting on the sidelines is looking for a safe place to go. When people start understanding you can buy $100 million worth of mining company for $50 million, they will start doing that.
TGR: So that’s the specific catalyst. It’s not that the hedge funds will stop buying, but will stop selling.
BM: Correct. I think they will do that. The last couple of trading days in October tend to be very positive, so it looks as if we sneaked through the worst of it. If we’re not at the bottom yet, we’re very close to it.
TGR: Some are speculating that the downtrend will continue through the fourth quarter as people readjust for 2008 results.
BM: The reason there are horse races is everybody has opinions. I’m not giving you fact. I didn’t walk down a mountain with it. It isn’t carved on tablets. It’s my opinion and I could be wrong and I’ve been wrong in the past. Just not very wrong. And not very often.
TGR: Would you care to comment on a few of our sponsors? How about Animas Resources (TSX.V:ANI)?
BM: Animas has an entire mining district in Mexico, a very important mining district, and will be releasing assay results any day now. The stock is a third of what it was a month ago and the company’s twice as good as it was a month ago. They will recover. I was encouraging them a year ago was to accelerate plans for getting into production and given today’s environment, I’m sure they’re thinking about that.
TGR: How about Miranda Gold Corp. (TSX.V:MAD)?
BM: I was out there two weeks ago. Miranda Gold is in a very big district in the Cortez Trend in Nevada. If they were a pure exploration company, I would be leery, but they’re not. They use the JV model, so they don’t spend their own money. They have JVs with five or six different major companies who spend the money, so Miranda has the ability to have a piece of the big find, but they’re not spending their money. And they have $9 million in cash and a market cap of $6 million. I told them, “Look, guys, you actually are not using your money wisely. Sitting in Canadian dollar T-bills is dangerous. You need to start buying up some of the juniors that are good plays and you need to start buying your own stock.” But you can buy dollar bills from Miranda for 66 cents.
TGR: How about Rare Element Resources (TSX.V:RES)?
BM: Rare Element’s an interesting situation. Somebody I know who is the expert in rare elements says there are two plays there. An alkaline gold deposit is being drilled by Newmont, who’s the major partner—and again, Rare Element is not spending its own money; Newmont is spending the money. And Rare Element is drilling a rare element deposit that could be economic, with the emphasis on the “could be.”
TGR: When will they know?
BM: Soon, very soon. Rare elements is really a spooky area; the chemistry, the mineralogy—just all kinds of issues. It’s a very difficult field. Even though the demand for rare earths is going through the roof, just because you’ve got a deposit doesn’t mean you have an economic deposit. I can’t say it’s economic, but they’re bringing in the guy I think knows more about rare elements than anyone else in the world, and he will be able to say whether it’s economic. Rare Element is another company that’s real good, well cashed up, and has Newmont spending the money.
TGR: How about Pediment Exploration Ltd. (TSX.V:PEZ) (PEZFF:OTCBB)?
BM: Pediment has three or four really good projects. They’ve got a deposit in the Baja that is absolutely a production story and I’ve been beating on Gary (Freeman) to get this damn thing in production. I think they have about $18 or $20 million in cash, so they’re very well cashed-up. They have another deposit up in the Sonora district, a mine and a mill that I think will be getting into production, too.
TGR: Do they also use the JV model?
BM: They do on some of the projects. They have JVs on two or three deposits that we don’t hear that much about but that have significant potential The project down in the Baja they’re doing strictly themselves, and also the project at La Colorada, although they might use contract miners to put it into production.
TGR: Any comments on First Majestic Silver Corp. (TSX:FR) (PK SHEET:FRMSF)?
BM: One of the best-run, soon-to-be mid-tier silver companies in Mexico and I happen to really like silver and I happen to really like Mexico. First Majestic is a great company.
TGR: One of the companies coming across our radar screen a lot just because people are following it is Great Panther Resources (TSX.V:GPR).
BM: Great Panther. I love them. I was the first newsletter writer to visit the project; I saw it literally as Bob Archer was negotiating for it. They are another good, soon-to-be mid-tier silver producer. They have two or three producing projects there now. They’re increasing their resources, well cashed-up, excellent management, and the same thing’s true of Endeavor Silver.
TGR: What about Evolving Gold Corp. (TSX.V:EVG) (OTCBB:EVOGF)?
BM: Interesting situation. They will be coming out with assays in the next week or two on an alkaline deposit up in Wyoming. It’s a diatreme, which is a fairly predictable volcanic structure and they’ve already had some excellent drill results. If the new drill results confirm the old drill results, they probably have a pretty good size deposit. Alkaline systems like Cripple Creek in Colorado tend to be very big.
Evolving Gold went out and got financed a year ago based on a theory that they had an extension of the Getchell Trend and the Carlin Trend in Nevada. They really over-promoted it, but they did get cashed-up and they brought some new management in. The new management said the problem there in Nevada is that they are very deep and expensive holes. One hole out of 20 actually hits something, but when it hits something, it’s a monster deposit. They decided they would be better off with a JV model on that.
TGR: Do they have a joint venture partner in mind?
BM: Actually, they put the Nevada project on the back burner. They’re doing some drilling, but the deep drilling—sometimes 3,000 or 4,000 feet—is very difficult from a technical point of view and very expensive. They have drilled some holes this year and are still waiting for results, but I would far rather see that as part of a JV.
TGR: When we talked a few months ago, looking forward to see what sectors would emerge or survive, you indicated energy and focused specifically on oil. What do you think today, and where do renewables and alternative energy fit in?
BM: Alternative energy is viable. I had mentioned oil only because our entire system is based around oil. Like natural resources or gold or silver or metals, any energy investment should be safe for the future. Peak oil is very real and the Chinese are expanding like crazy and using more energy all the time. Natural gas is good, coal is good, nuclear is good. Renewables, unfortunately, are a 3% solution. Wind power’s another 3% solution. It’s never going to be anything but a 3% solution. Guys like Boone Pickens can spend millions encouraging people to invest in wind power, but our current infrastructure will not support it. It’s not just a question of investing in the wind power; you have to invest in the infrastructure as well and nobody ever wants to talk about that.
TGR: Where’s a comfortable range for oil?
BM: Somewhere in the $80 to $110 range. But that will be increasing because peak oil, in fact, is real. Oil production peaked in May of 2005 and peak oil also means peak food.
TGR: So you’d say this is a time to hunker down.
BM: It is time to hunker down, but I would like to say there are some very encouraging things. The Fourth Turning, written about 10 years ago, actually forecast this chaos that’s coming. And the fellow’s point of the book was that better times are coming. You go to absolutely insane extremes—which I think everybody can agree we have—and then you go back to sanity. Even during the depression, families came closer together because they had time for each other. They may have not had money to do things they were doing before, but it did bring the families closer together. Money is the journey; not the destination.
Bob Moriarty and his wife, Barb, launched 321gold.com as a private website seven years ago, when they were convinced gold and silver were at a bottom and wanted to help others understand what they needed to know about investing in resource stocks. Since then, they’ve introduced a second resource site, 321energy.com. Bob travels to dozens of mining projects a year. He was one of the first analysts to write about NovaGold, Northern Dynasty, Silver Standard, Running Fox and YGC Resources, among others. Prior to his Internet career, Bob was a Marine F-4B pilot at the age of 20 and a veteran of over 820 missions in Viet Nam. Becoming a Captain in the Marines at 22, he was one of the most highly decorated pilots in the war.
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