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LAWRIE WILLIAMS: Gold: Holmes and Turk sing its praises as it contemplates $1,300 again

Specialist themed conferences are, to say the least, competitive events and never more so than in London this week which saw three such events in the mining sector all taking place at the same time – Mines and Money London, 121 Mining Investment London and MineAfrica London.  Indeed it has been the success of the former in delivering a global mining sector audience to the UK’s capital and financial centre which has spawned the latter two events.  Indeed the organisers of the 121 event are a breakaway from the Mines and Money events team that was so successful in making that conference such a draw when it was organised initially by Mining Journal, and subsequently by Mining Journal in collaboration with Hong Kong headquartered Beacon Events. 

Nowadays Mines and Money London has expanded to run over four days and perhaps has the disadvantage of being more of an amorphous event, although it still pulls in a decent number of registrants and is thus by far the largest of these London mining conferences, but is possibly losing out on the first two days to its more focused competitors, which is a shame as it did this year have a spectacular line-up of speakers.  On its first day in particular where the main conference section had a gold focus, and a subsidiary conference on African mining investment, one might have expected it to have bigger audiences for key speakers than it managed to achieve – indeed the probable conference winner on the first day was the excellently organised 121 event which concentrated largely on junior miner presentations interspersed with some very interesting, and well-chosen, panel discussions.  The 121 events have generated a very positive following with mining-focused events in London (two), Hong Kong (two), Cape Town and now New York, and are looking at Singapore as another possible venue for the future.  It is also now moving into oil and gas and technology for other focused events.

What is perhaps the biggest shame is that Mines and Money has felt the need to go head to head with the smaller events on the Monday before the accompanying exhibition section, which runs on the Tuesday and Wednesday, opens.  Its Gold and Africa focuses on the first day look to have been a knee-jerk competitive reaction to the other two smaller conferences, but the result was that audiences for the keynote conference presentations, particularly on Day 1, suffered accordingly.  The writer was only able to attend the later sessions being out of London for the first half of the day, but was able to take in keynote addresses from Frank Holmes and James Turk late in the day – two speakers who would normally attract big audiences, but the conference room for both presentations was at only about 20% capacity – and even that may well have been a generous assessment.

Both presentations were certainly worthy of bigger audiences.  Holmes focused on the ‘Quants’ – described by Investopedia as funds involving the use of computer algorithms and programs based on simple or complex mathematical models to identify and thus in a position to capitalise on available trading opportunities – and some of the tools they can utilise to gain this edge on the markets. He also contended that the relatively small audience was probably a sign that gold was not as attractive to the investor at the moment which was probably a time to buy again.

Turk focused on gold as money, a role it has encompassed which has stood the test of time and his considered opinion that gold remains in a bull market.  Both speakers are definite card carrying gold supporters.

Both also touched on the rise in bitcoin, but although both would seem to be bitcoin supporters too, which this writer is not, neither thought that bitcoin was a competitor with gold as a long term store of wealth.  It would seem to be too volatile whereas gold, despite much media suggestion that it is a volatile investment is actually no more volatile in its price movements than the S&P 500!

As I write gold is again battling to move up through $1,300 yet again, but is still being held below that level, while bitcoin has indeed breached $10,000 – an incredible performance year to date from around $1,000 at the beginning of the year.  For a product which has zero intrinsic value it has to be seen as in bubble territory, but like all bubbles it could well rise far more before the bubble bursts.  Those who have hitched their wagon to bitcoin this year have indeed done well – but will their euphoria last?  Who knows?  Some predict that there’s virtually no limit to its upwards progress, but others are more sceptical.  At some stage the bubble will pop – but when?

If gold is a bellwether for confidence in fiat currencies, how much more so is bitcoin?  It may be only a matter of time before governments find a way to tax it and regulate it which could mark the end of the bitcoin bull market and could precipitate it crashing down whence it came.  Gold remains the true wealth insurance policy – and one which you can still cash in at the end of its term unlike traditional insurance which is a direct cost,  or pass on to one’s heirs.

29 Nov 2017

About the author

Lawrence Williams

Lawrence (Lawrie) Williams is a well known London-based writer and commentator on financial and political subjects, but specialising in precious metals news and commentary. He is a qualified and experienced mining engineer having graduated in mining engineering from The Royal School of Mines, a constituent college of Imperial College, London – recently described as the World’s No. 2 University (after MIT).

e: lawrie.williams@sharpspixley.com

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