In a week in which the gold price is trading in the $1,335-per-ounce range, all eyes in the gold industry are focused on Denver.
That is the site of the annual Denver Gold Forum, the most prestigious event centered around the world's largest gold mining companies. The event was held from Sept. 22-25 this year.
What sets this event apart from other events is the participation of nearly all the CEOs of the large gold mining firms along with major gold analysts and institutional investors.
Despite the drop in gold prices so far this year, attendance at the Forum usually falls when gold prices are down, but organizers expected the number of attendees to match or exceed last year's. This indicates that interest in the sector is still quite high.
Gold Price Drop Drives Global Buying Frenzy
The recent gold price drop caused some major losses in the paper gold market, but it's triggered a gold rush for physical buyers.
Ever since the precious metal got clobbered in a two-day period by heavy short selling in the futures market, there has been an unprecedented frenzy around the globe for the actual physical metal, in the form of bullion, jewelry, bars and coins.
In fact, the U.S. Mint announced Tuesday it had suspended sales of its one-tenth ounce American Eagle gold bullion coins for the first time since November 2009, as demand depleted the government's inventory.
The gold bears must be scratching their heads...
Jim Rogers' Prediction on Gold Prices Was Only Half of the Story
In October, legendary Quantum Fund manager Jim Rogers made a prediction about gold prices that left many gold bugs shaking their head.
Although Rogers admitted he wasn't going to be selling his hard assets, he predicted further consolidation and a near-term correction in the metals markets.
Predicting this short-term downturn, Rogers cautioned that gold had been on the rise for twelve consecutive years, a streak that was unparalleled. That was then.
This week, his prediction rang true as gold and silver prices took another huge hit. In the aftermath, gold prices are now down approximately 30% since reaching an all-time high in August 2011.
Why Are Gold Prices Down?
Gold and to a lesser extent silver got hammered pretty hard today (Friday) - leading many of our investors to write in and ask why gold prices are down so much this week.
Gold closed Friday at its lowest level since July 2011. In the last two days, gold was off about $70 and silver off about $1.60 at their worst points.
So what's going on?
Well, in the search for answers I can see a few reasons.
It started Tuesday, when UBS cut its average gold price forecast for 2013 to $1,740 from $1,900. UBS cited risks the U.S. Federal Reserve would end its current QE sooner than expected, a move into equities, low inflation, improving economic growth, and a stronger U.S. dollar.
Then Wednesday, the leaked Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting minutes showed that several members believe the costs of the $85 billion monthly bond purchases outweigh the benefits. We're being led to believe that "many participants" think improving unemployment could justify slowing up on bond-buying "at some point over the next several meetings."
Remember that these are not minutes where members' comments are actually written down word-for-word (like they ought to), these are carefully crafted statements to influence opinion. The Fed is known to try to "manage expectations, so it wants it to look like bond-buying will end sooner than later.
But I, for one, don't buy it.
Goldman Sachs Is Manipulating Gold Prices Right Before Your Eyes
Goldman set the table by predicting a turn in gold prices back in December 2012, which no doubt contributed to the precious metal's 5% decline in the first two months of the year.
At the end of February, Goldman issued a research report that said the big Wall Street bank had soured on the yellow metal, and dropped its three-month target for gold prices from $1,825 an ounce to $1,615, its six-month forecast from $1,805 to $1,600, and its one-year outlook from $1,800 to $1,550.
Then, just yesterday (Wednesday), Goldman doubled down on its negative outlook for gold prices.
The bank's new targets for gold prices are $1,530 in three months, $1,490 in six months and $1,390 in one year.
The double whammy - two downgrades in two months - had its intended effect, as gold prices fell 2%, to $1,558.80, after Goldman released its report. It was the biggest single-day percentage drop for gold in nearly six months.
"If you've ever suspected gold prices are being manipulated, you're not alone - and you're right, they are," said Money Morning Chief Investment Strategist Keith Fitz-Gerald.
The proof is right in front of us.
In Gold, Not Cyprus, We Trust
Global investors had to muster the courage to keep calm as news of Cyprus' proposed partial theft of all bank deposits took Wall Street by surprise, closed the country's banks and drove the gold prices higher.
The thoughtless idea was intended to capture a portion of the $31 billion in bank assets held by Russians. According to the Financial Times, Cyprus has developed a "well-earned reputation for being a haven for dirty money from Russia."
Although Cyprus' government came to its senses and blocked the proposed seizure, the damage has been done. To many people around the world, raising income taxes may be one thing, but changing the rules to steal hard-earned savings from all citizens rattles their confidence. What Adrian Ash of BullionVault says is "most amazing" about this situation is that "small savers are no longer sacred."
It's remarkable to see the response from Cypriots, as they protested in the streets, with "NO" stamped on their palms, demanding the government take its hands off their money. It's refreshing to see their pushback to sanity.
How did this tiny island make it into the European Union (EU) in the first place? The Financial Times gave an insightful background:
"Many EU leaders had been deeply reluctant to admit Cyprus into the union in 2004, without a peace settlement that reunified the island. But Greece had threatened to veto the entire enlargement of the EU - blocking Poland, the Czech Republic and the rest - unless Cyprus was admitted. Reluctantly, EU leaders succumbed to this act of blackmail."
When It Comes to Gold, Stick to the Facts
Gold dipped below $1,600 last week, falling to a six-month low, much to the chagrin of gold investors.
I find the timing of the correction peculiar, given the G20 Finance Ministers Meeting taking place over the weekend. There's been a growing debate over Japan's move to devalue its currency to stimulate growth, with reaction from the G-7 leaders stating that "domestic economic policies must not be used to target currencies," reports Reuters.
While the G-7 tried to legitimize the currency debasement with this statement, in reality, investors seem to be able to see through to the real motivations.
The main reason the mainstream media gave for the correction in the yellow metal is hedge funds' selling of gold late last year. According to quarterly filings, Hedge Fund Manager George Soros sold half of his holdings in the SPDR Gold Trust ETF (GLD) in the fourth quarter of 2012.
Gold Prices: The Yellow Metal's Still a Great Long-Term Investment
There are a lot of moving parts to the gold story so let's start with the biggest takeaway: Gold prices are facing only a temporary setback.
Longer-term, as the U.S. Federal Reserve and other central banks begin to wind down quantitative easing and, more importantly, begin to ease interest rates back up to more "normal" levels, inflation should begin to kick in and drive gold up to new highs, making the yellow metal a great long-term investment.
First, though, let's tease apart the various factors that currently are driving the price of gold lower.
Gold Prices Will Ride Higher on this New Investment from China
You see, currently China's gold investors have few opportunities to play rising gold prices, which they want to do increasingly to hedge against risk and inflation. Most buy gold bars and notes to bet on higher gold prices.
But they will soon have more options.
The China Securities Regulatory Commission on Jan. 25 announced the country's rising gold demand required diversified investment instruments. It announced provisional guidelines for gold exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which have been prepared for launch over the past few years and will be made available soon.
The CSRC said that the gold ETFs would be invested in the spot contract traded on the Shanghai Gold Exchange and up to 10% on other products.
In the future, the funds could be opened up to futures contracts.
"Later on, we will further open up the market and quicken the steps to integrate into the international market," Xie Duo of People's Bank of China said. "We should actively create conditions for the gold market to become integrated with the international gold market."
Here's how this news is bullish for gold prices.