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What Is the Gold-Oil Ratio Telling Us?

December 18, 2014


Based on historical gold-oil ratios, oil appears extraordinarily cheap right now.

One way to establish if a commodity or asset is relatively expensive or inexpensive is to price it in something other than a fiat currency--for example, gold. Gold goes up and down in value relative to other commodities and fiat currencies, so it is itself a volatile yardstick. Nonetheless, it provides a useful measure of the relative value of gold and whatever is being measured in gold--in this case, oil.

The prices listed are approximate, i.e. rounded to averages in the time frame listed. Of the various measures of oil, I am using WTIC.

According to SRSrocco REPORT, the average gold-oil ratio in the period 2000-2014 is 12. That is, on average, one ounce of gold bought about 12 barrels of oil.

For historical context, in 1976, following the first oil-shock in 1973, oil was $12.80/barrel and gold was around $124, for a ratio of 9.7.

In 1986, the average price of gold was around $368 while oil fell to $14/barrel, for a ratio of 26.3.

At gold's peak above $1,800/ounce in 2011, oil was around $90/brl, for a ratio of 20.

At oil's peak above $140/barrel in 2008, gold was around $950/ounce, for a ratio of 6.8.

As a rule of thumb, oil is relatively expensive (and gold is relatively inexpensive) when the ratio is below 9, and oil is relatively inexpensive (and gold is relatively expensive) when the ratio is above 20.

When oil fell below $55/barrel a few days ago, the ratio reached 22. By historical standards, oil is cheap.

Here is a listing of various highs and lows in gold and oil:

Oil priced in gold: how many barrels of oil can be purchased with one ounce of gold?

2000: Oil $30/brl, gold $275
Ratio: 9.2

2006: Oil $70/brl, gold $600
Ratio: 8.6

2008: Oil $140/brl (at the peak), gold $950
Ratio: 6.8

2011: Oil $90/brl, gold $1,800 (at the peak)
(note that oil traded above $100/brl earlier in 2011, but at gold's peak was around $90/brl)
Ratio: 20.0

2014 (1st quarter): Oil $105/brl, gold $1,300
Ratio: 12.3

2014 (current): Oil $55/brl, gold $1,200
Ratio: 21.8

Here is a chart of gold from 2012 to the present:

Here is a chart of oil (WTIC) from 2012 to the present:

And here is a chart of the gold-oil ratio from 2012 to the present:

While the gold-oil ratio exceeded 25 three decades ago, in the era of rising demand from the emerging markets of China, India and other nations, the ratio has only touched 20 when gold was trading above $1,800/ounce.

Based on historical gold-oil ratios, oil appears extraordinarily cheap right now. Could oil fall further? Of course. Could gold go up or down? Of course. There are a great many factors that influence the ratio, which is simply a short-hand method of measuring the relative value of two important commodities.








Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy (Kindle, $9.95)(print, $17.76)
go to Kindle edition
Are you like me?
Ever since my first summer job decades ago, I've been chasing financial security. Not win-the-lottery, Bill Gates riches (although it would be nice!), but simply a feeling of financial control. I want my financial worries to if not disappear at least be manageable and comprehensible.

And like most of you, the way I've moved toward my goal has always hinged not just on having a job but a career.

You don't have to be a financial blogger to know that "having a job" and "having a career" do not mean the same thing today as they did when I first started swinging a hammer for a paycheck.

Even the basic concept "getting a job" has changed so radically that jobs--getting and keeping them, and the perceived lack of them--is the number one financial topic among friends, family and for that matter, complete strangers.

So I sat down and wrote this book: Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy.

It details everything I've verified about employment and the economy, and lays out an action plan to get you employed.

I am proud of this book. It is the culmination of both my practical work experiences and my financial analysis, and it is a useful, practical, and clarifying read.

Test-drive the first section and see for yourself.     Kindle, $9.95     print, $17.76

"I want to thank you for creating your book Get a Job, Build a Real Career and Defy a Bewildering Economy. It is rare to find a person with a mind like yours, who can take a holistic systems view of things without being captured by specific perspectives or agendas. Your contribution to humanity is much appreciated."
Laura Y.

Gordon Long and I discuss The New Nature of Work: Jobs, Occupations & Careers (25 minutes, YouTube)


HUGE GIANT BIG FAT DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site should be construed as investment advice or guidance. It is not intended as investment advice or guidance, nor is it offered as such.... (read more)

WHY EMAIL TO THIS SITE IS READ BUT MAY NOT BE ACKNOWLEDGED: Regrettably, I am so sorely pressed for time and energy that I am unable to respond to the vast majority of emails. Please know I read all emails, but I can only devote a very limited number of hours to this blog and all correspondence....



This Month's entries:

What Is the Gold-Oil Ratio Telling Us?
December 18, 2014

Here's What's Wrong with Corporate America--and the U.S. Economy
December 17, 2014

The Great Generic Drug Rip-Off
December 16, 2014

What Choice Do We Have?
December 15, 2014

The Financialized-Oil Dominoes Are Toppling
December 12, 2014

Central Banks' 2% Plan to Impoverish You
December 11, 2014

Central Banks Have Failed Because They Can't Push Wages Higher
December 10, 2014

Central Banks Create Deflation, Not Inflation
December 9, 2014

We've Habituated to a Rigged, Fraudulent Market
December 8, 2014

The Only Two Charts You Need to Understand the S&P 500
December 5, 2014

The Oil-Drenched Black Swan, Part 4: The Head-Fake Disruption Ahead
December 4, 2014

The Oil-Drenched Black Swan, Part 3: Multiple Risks, Multiple Unknowns
December 3, 2014

The Oil-Drenched Black Swan, Part 2: The Financialization of Oil
December 2, 2014

The Oil-Drenched Black Swan, Part 1
December 1, 2014


November 2014 entries

October 2014 entries

September 2014 entries

August 2014 entries

July 2014 entries

June 2014 entries

May 2014 entries

April 2014 entries

March 2014 entries

February 2014 entries

January 2014 entries


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SPECIAL APPEAL TO READERS OF OFTWOMINDS from longtime correspondent Cheryl A.:

I don't recall exactly how I discovered Of Two Minds in late 2005, but it is hard to express how grateful I am that I did. As a result of the insight I have gained from the information Charles has shared over these past 9 years, I have been able to navigate this turbulent period much more successfully than most of my acquaintances. I'm sure that those of you who visit OTM with any regularity have similarly benefitted in numerous ways.

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10/20/14 P.S. Over a year ago, Charles wrote about the coming rise in the dollar, a story that is just now gaining traction in the mainstream media. He was also early to recognize that the price of oil was going to fall. For readers who want foresight into where we are headed, these are further examples of why Charles deserves your support.

Thank you, Cheryl, for this vote of confidence. I can only promise that I will continue to do my best.


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Extra-Special Bonus Aphorisms:


"There is no security on this earth; there is only opportunity."
(Douglas MacArthur)

"We are what we repeatedly do." (Aristotle)

"Do the thing and you shall have the power." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

"Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction." (E.F. Schumacher, via Tom R.)

"He who will not risk cannot win." (John Paul Jones)

"When we drink coffee, ideas march in like the army." (Honore de Balzac)

"Progress is not possible without deviation." (Frank Zappa, via Richard Metzger)

"Victory favors those who take pains." (amat victoria curam)

"The man who has a garden and a library has everything." (Cicero, via Lee Bentley)

"A healthy homecooked family meal and a home garden are revolutionary acts." CHS

"Do you know what amazes me more than anything else? The impotence of force to organize anything." (Napoleon Bonaparte)

"The way of the Tao is reversal" Or "Reversal is the movement of Tao." (Lao Tzu)

"Chance favours the prepared mind." (Louis Pasteur)

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." (Winston Churchill)

"Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasures." (Rumi)

"The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love and something to hope for." Joseph Addison (via Susan J.)

"The object of life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." (Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, via Wayne H.)

"Passive absorption of marketing-dominated media is the primary activity on the plantation of the mind, and that of course is the goal of the colonial overlords: distraction, passivity, confusion, divide and conquer, and the old stand-by, financial desperation." (CHS)

"While we can always buy back into a trending market, we cannot go back in time and recover a profit lost to greed or complacency." (CHS)

"Whatever remains unconscious emerges later as fate." (Carl Jung)

"Any sufficiently advanced cartel's actions are indistinguishable from magic." (CHS)

"We have no leadership, just cronies and puppets." (CHS)

"The secret sauce in an investment isn't the upside, it's the viability between people who choose to share your dream in business or in life." (Eric P.)

"The ultimate goals of making money are balance and independence from money." (An Chu)

"Central planning perfects the power of threats to bypass the system's defenses." (CHS)

"Independence requires independence of thought, habit and action." (CHS)

"Certainty has another advantage: it's more persuasive than hedged hesitancy." (CHS)

"That which is cheap and abundant will be squandered until it is no longer cheap or abundant." (CHS) (3/5/2014)

"The prime directive of any bureaucracy is to eliminate all accountability." (CHS)

"In a world besotted with the artifice of consumerism, what matters is not what can be commodified and bought but what can't be commodified and bought." (CHS)

"The Mobile Creative credo: trust the network, not the corporation or the state." (CHS)

"The Smith Market Uncertainty Principle: The more precisely we can determine the likelihood of a trend change, the less precisely we can determine the timing of the trend change--and vice versa." (June 20, 2014)

"Smith's Law of Conservation of Risk: Every sustained action has more than one consequence. Some consequences will appear positive for a time before revealing their destructive nature. Some consequences will be intended, some will not. Some will be foreseeable, some will not. Some will be controllable, some will not. Those that are unforeseen and uncontrollable will trigger waves of other unforeseen and uncontrollable consequences." (July 8, 2014)(thanks to Lew G. for retitling the idea.)

"The truth at any cost lowers all other costs." (Robert David Steele)

"Liberation isn't profitable, and more's the pity." (CHS, 11/29/2014)

"There is no difference between the path of repeated failure and the path that eventual leads to uncommon success." (CHS, 12/5/2014)

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    My "definition" of success:

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    3. Were I to meet the living Jesus or Buddha at day's end, would I feel ashamed of my conduct during the day, or could I meet his gaze with the inner knowledge that I emulated his teachings to the very best of my ability?


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