The Metal Ratios Are An Ominous Sign For US Inflation Trends

The gold/silver ratio recently took out 2009 highs and the gold/copper ratio is at its highest level since 2009. This is a negative signal that US inflation, using CPI, could be headed for another leg lower. Since 2008, the gold/silver ratio has had a -73% correlation to the year-over-year change in US CPI (with a 2-quarter forward lag for the gold/silver ratio) . So as the gold/silver ratio increases, the year-over-year change in the CPI tends to fall.

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A similar relationship exists between the gold/copper ratio and US CPI. Over the past 20-years, the year-over-year change in US CPI has a -58% correlation to the gold/copper ratio (lagged forward one quarter).  The current level of the gold/copper ratio suggests that the year-over-year change in CPI could fall below 0%.

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And all of this needs to be understood in the context that deflation remains a major fear in the stock and bond market. This fear can been visualized through the correlation between stocks and bonds. The four-year rolling correlation between US stocks and 10-year treasury yields has fallen from the all-time historic high seen from 2013-2015, however, it is still higher than at any other time going back to 1875 excluding the 2012- current period. When stocks and bonds are negatively correlated, as they were from 1967-1997, the dominant fear in the market is inflation. Since inflation erodes the real return of bonds while stocks can pass on some of that inflation as nominal top-line growth, stock prices and bond yields tend to move in opposite directions. However, when deflation is the dominant fear, as it has been since tech bubble, stock prices and bond yields tend to move more in tandem.

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