Citizens urged to put 3% to 5% of their net worth in precious metals
Two years ago, on August 21, China’s government allowed its citizens to invest in an entirely new asset. It allowed them to invest in Hong Kong-listed stocks.
Hong Kong is a special region of China. It’s one of the most dynamic, capitalistic places on Earth. The move from the government was a move toward “investment freedom” for the Chinese people.
On that day, Hong Kong’s benchmark stock index rose 8.74%. Over the next two and a half months, it skyrocketed from 11,000 to over 20,000. It was a chapter in a story that you should get used to over the coming years: When the Chinese decide to invest in something, it causes giant ripples across the world.
This sort of situation is starting to happen again: This time it’s happening in precious metals, especially silver.
The Chinese have a centuries-old affinity with silver. It began in the 1500s with the explosion of trade with Mexico via the Spanish galleons. These sailing ships were the super-tankers of their age. They made one voyage per year, carrying tea, silks, and spices from Asia to Mexico. The ships returned to Asia with gold and silver. After the Chinese threw off imperial rule in 1912, the country used silver money. Today, the Chinese word for “bank” means, “silver movement.”
And now that China is becoming one of the richest, most dynamic capitalistic countries on Earth, this story is about to take a modern twist. The Chinese want silver again.
Thanks to a decade of wealth accumulated by regular Chinese citizens, there is plenty of cash to chase good investments. As the famed global investor Jim Rogers points out, these people are the best capitalists in the world. They are great savers. Chinese people want their money to work for them… so they invest.
I recently watched a China Central Television piece on gold investing. According to the program, there are some 400 million households in China, with an average ownership of about 0.1 ounces of gold. The average gold ownership in most emerging countries works out to about one ounce per household. The Chinese are beginning to make up that gap. From 2006 to 2007, domestic demand for gold rose 60% to around 700,000 ounces. Experts continue to urge citizens to put 3% to 5% of their net worth in precious metals.
Chinese government statistics show the average urban Chinese household has about $1,300 in disposable income to invest. While that doesn’t seem like much, when you add up all those households, there’s about $36 billion that could move into the next big investment opportunity – precious metals.
The government is now actively encouraging its citizens to buy gold and silver. They recently unveiled silver bullion for investing (you can see the video here). The premise is that gold was 50 times more expensive than silver in 2007, but is now 70 times more expensive.
The government is promoting silver bullion as an investment for regular citizens. And remember, a bunch of Chinese students laughed at U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner this year when he claimed the dollar was safe. The Chinese know the value of real assets – real money like gold and silver.
What does this mean for silver prices? It’s impossible to say. But here’s a little math that interests me. According to the Silver Institute, demand for silver in 2008 (for industry, jewelry, and investing) was 832 million ounces. At today’s price, that’s an $11.5 billion market, or about 1/3 the capital available in China alone.
The most important thing to understand about this situation is the Chinese people become freer every time the government loosens up a restriction. These people couldn’t legally buy silver bars before. Now, they can. They’re becoming richer, and they will continue to do so for decades.
Add this to a world already waking up to the grand currency debasement you have a recipe for the continuation of the big bull market in silver and other precious metals.