Now here we are in the middle of January, and 1 USD goes for 65 rubles. Have any lessons been learned? Have Russians turned into hard money enthusiasts? Unfortunately, US dollars and euros (and even flatscreen TVs) are still seen as better hedges against chaos than gold.
What about all those articles about the Russian central bank buying gold? Actually, very few Russians are meaningfully aware of these purchases. It hasn’t influenced people’s financial decisions yet… although it should—the Bank of Russia bought 171 tonnes of gold last year, more than any other central bank in the world.
Meanwhile, as I write, a Russian language website is teeming with ads offering to sell those appliances bought for 40,000 rubles in December just for 32,000 rubles!
Does this mean there won’t be a gold bull market in Russia? I think it would be a mistake to draw that conclusion, and here’s why…
First, there was an upsurge in gold and silver sales at the end of 2014. Some local sources said coin sales grew by 50%, some by 100%. Our sales volume also definitely picked up in December compared to last fall, but April 2013 was much more active in terms of volume and interest. Keep in mind that all of this is from a very low base.
The most promising sign is that regional bulk buyers reappeared after a long absence—these guys come in with cash and buy 50, 100, or 150 ounces of gold at a time. They are mostly provincial businessmen looking to “deep freeze” their savings for the long term, always taking the newest and cheapest one-ounce gold coins. The concept of precious metals ownership is slowly seeping into psychological makeup of Russian business people.
A major financial event or a sudden spike in the USD gold price will serve as the real catalyst for a gold stampede. The loss of trust in Western currencies for economic or political reasons may stir Russians to action, too.
Second, gold ownership is just one wholesome habit in what I call “personal fiscal hygiene.” Russia in many ways runs far ahead of the developed world in terms of debt prudence and anti-welfare mentality. Here are just two examples in support of this:
Mortgage debt. Russians also buy real estate on credit, but the size of the market is miniscule. There is about $51 billion in residential mortgage debt outstanding in a country of 144 million people, of which only 3.5% is in currencies other than the ruble. This is pocket change compared to the US—yet you should hear all the anti-debt rhetoric in the local media.
Unemployment benefits. Here’s a headline for you: “Level of Unemployment in Moscow Will Rise to 0.5% by 2017.” And this is from 0.35% (25,100 people) who are officially unemployed here today. There are about 13 million residents in Moscow, and the real rate of unemployment or underemployment is way higher than that.
The highest level of benefits here is about $78 per month, and that’s really for former top managers. You can count on benefits for about three months, and they will literally hound you with seminars, job fairs, and check-ins. Just to put this number in perspective… the cheapest apartment here costs $50,000 to $60,000, and it would be just a hole in the wall. As a result, Russians simply don’t register with the unemployment office; they try get along on their own.
The majority of Russians have a savings-oriented mentality, so gold would fit rather snugly into their financial frame of reference.
It’s time for Russians, Americans, and everyone else to wake up, face up to the dangers of statist debauchery, and prepare ourselves for the hard times to come!
Source Casey Research
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