Florian Siegfried, head of precious metals and mining investments with Zurich-based AgaNola, says there are small signs—fewer equities participating in the recent rally, greater spreads in the high-yield market—that the sentiment toward gold is changing. But we will have to wait to see if a trend forms. In the meantime, Siegfried believes all-paper mergers and acquisitions will gain pace, with a focus on companies that are making money at current gold prices, while still trading at multiyear lows. In this interview with The Gold Report, Siegfried suggests playing it safe with some small producers and tiny developers.
The Gold Report: When we talked in the summer, gold had found a floor at around $1,280/ounce ($1,280/oz). Where is the new floor?
Florian Siegfried: With a floor of $1,280/oz in August, the question was will it hold or not. Obviously, it did not. There could be even more downward pressure. The support level could be around $1,070/oz, especially given that the U.S. dollar has more upside. It could take a couple of months before we clear out the weak hands here.
TGR: What's going to bring upward pressure to gold prices in 2015?
FS: We need to see a change in sentiment in the overall markets. In September, equities were going up and the high-yield market was running wild. That was followed by a mini-panic in both equities and the high-yield market in October. Then we had a springboard rally in the equities, which was really substantial, but the high-yield market stopped reaching new highs.
There is a divergence happening now. Not all equities are participating in the uptrend, and there are rising spreads in the yield market. Things are not as robust as they were, which could also support the gold price at these levels. It doesn't confirm a trend yet, but gold is basically an investment that you want to have when liquidity is seeking a safe harbor. There are some small signs in the market that the sentiment is changing.
TGR: In late October, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen announced the end of quantitative easing (QE). Did the gold price react the way you thought it would? Could it have been worse?
FS: The Fed officially announced the end of QE, but when we look into the Treasury International Capital (TIC) report, there is a large sovereign entity in Belgium that has become the third-largest holder of U.S. Treasury securities after China and Japan. We don't know who the buyer is, but obviously Russia is dumping Treasury bonds, and with current oil prices the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has much less capital to recycle into U.S. Treasuries.
It's puzzling to know how ending QE is going to work. Officially, it worked: the dollar went up and gold tanked. The problem is that the Fed is tapering into economic weakness. As a result, my suspicion is that the zero interest rate policy is going to stay, and we will see yet another round of QE. One of these days gold will react to this central-planning recklessness. So far, the market has perceived the Fed's move as a rising-dollar scenario, probably a rising interest rate scenario, too, but I don't see interest rates rising any time soon.
TGR: What's a realistic trading range for gold in 2015?
FS: In a really bearish scenario gold could hit $970/oz. I would say that's the floor. We could see some more downward pressure before the end of the year, but it's difficult to make predictions because basically every market is somehow manipulated and managed. I wouldn't be surprised to see gold at $1,400–1,500/oz in 2015 but if central banks step in and keep pushing equities higher, as they did this year, then $970/oz is more likely. But when this price-fixing scheme comes to an end, there will be some kind of a reversion to the mean for all asset prices.
TGR: In August, you talked about the continued rotation out of broad market equities into precious metals. Would you suggest that the process has stalled?
FS: We had a severe break in equities in October but the rebound has been impressive. That rebound has pushed money back into equity markets and has taken some air out of precious metals. Gold is down in U.S. dollars, but in most other currencies, it's up. In Swiss francs, euros and yen, gold is up year-to-date. Should deflationary pressure mount, I think we could see a continued rotation out of the equity and high yield markets into liquidity, namely short-term government bonds and gold. I think this process has not stalled.
TGR: Do you expect mergers and acquisitions (M&A) to be a major theme in the gold space in 2015?
FS: Yes, definitely. We just saw a "stink bid" from New Gold Inc. for Bayfield Ventures Corp., and the merger between Scorpio Mining Corp. and U.S. Gold and Silver Corp. in an all-paper deal. I think two types of deals will dominate M&A over the next while. First, midtier producers will buy cheaply valued advanced exploration or development companies at roughly a 50% premium in all-share deals. These deals will not be material to the larger companies—they are essentially buying optionality for their project portfolio, which is smart. This is the time to do so.
The other kind of transaction will be mergers among equals, mostly as acts of desperation. How else will these companies get to the critical mass that excites more shareholders? I doubt most of these deals will create value over time because there will be little operational synergies among these companies.