Who’s going to buy gold?

in Gold by

“It gets dug out of the ground in Africa, or someplace. Then we melt it down, dig another hole, bury it again and pay people to stand around guarding it. It has no utility. Anyone watching from Mars would be scratching their head.”  – Warren Buffett

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Gold is one of those weird assets where nobody knows what it is really worth. You cannot run discounted cash flow analysis to value it – it has no cash flows. It is an asset where perception and reality are deeply intertwined.

Investors buying the gold ETF (GLD) are influencing the price of gold which is fair for the most part as otherwise they’d be buying the real thing. Though of course the ease of buying GLD creates a slightly higher artificial demand, but still it is fair game.  The violent sell off in GLD will drive the prices of gold down dramatically unless a real buyer steps in (like another government sick of owning the US debt for instance) and the gold price could get cut in half overnight. Suddenly perception of not being a store of value will create a reality of gold not being a store of value. The gold game will be over.

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Vitaliy N. Katsenelson, CFA, is Chief Investment Officer at Investment Management Associates in Denver, Colo. He is the author of Active Value Investing (Wiley) and The Little Book of Sideways Markets (Wiley). His books were translated into eight languages. Forbes Magazine called him "The new Benjamin Graham".

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