March 2020 in Precious Metals, by Stephen Cochran

Welcome to SurvivalBlog’s Precious Metals Month in Review, where we take a look at “the month that was” in precious metals. Each month, we cover gold’s performance, and the factors that affected gold prices.
I’d like to start this month’s column by just saying “Wow.”

What Did Gold Do in March?

Spot gold ended February on a down note, falling $58 to end at $1,585 an ounce. This wiped out most of gold’s gains for the month.
The second week of March saw gold prices get crushed, as investors sold anything and everything possible to meet margin calls on their stock holdings. Some in the media proclaimed that the week’s heavy selloff of gold “proved” that it was no longer a safe haven.
Those who remembered the global stock crash of 2008 – 2009 knew that gold was doing exactly what it was supposed to be doing – acting as “disaster insurance” for investors’ equity holdings. Those people who had bought gold beforehand fared much better than the lemmings who went all-in on equities at the market top.
Gold recovered from the selloff rather swiftly, although it took silver and the other metals longer to catch up. The virus-induced freeze on factories and heavy industries was especially bad news for platinum and palladium. Meanwhile, silver slumped to an 11-year low of $11.94 per troy ounce before rebounding.
To put the level of volatile trading into perspective: gold futures saw their largest-ever loss in a single day – down almost $75 on March 13 – followed by the biggest single-day gains on record, adding $83 on March 23 and another $93 on March 24.

By month’s end, the yellow metal had cooled off somewhat but still hovered just below $1,600 an ounce.

What Is Different About This Crash?

Experts are saying don’t make the same mistake the talking heads on the news are making. Look to 1929 instead of 2008 to see how the current crash may play out. The 2008 crash was caused by big banks gambling with other people’s money. It’s right there in the name: “The Global Financial Crisis.”

This time the cause of the crash came from an outside source, an infectious virus that shut down all economic activity. The meltdown in markets has happened far faster in 2020 than it did in the last crisis. At one point all of the stock market’s gains since President Trump was inaugurated three years ago were vaporized in a matter of weeks.

One reason stocks have gotten slaughtered is that investors are afraid that the virus epidemic will cause supply shocks that central banks can’t fix with rate cuts and stimulus. This may (finally) be the moment where everyone realizes that bailouts by the Fed cause more bad than good.

Factors Affecting Gold This Month

Most asset prices were in free fall in early March. Large funds and over-leveraged investors were forced to liquidate anything that caught a bid — including Treasury bonds and commodities. “Liquidity concerns” became pervasive buzzwords on Wall Street. In some cases the fire sale was made worse by algorithmic trading and automatic portfolio rebalancing.

Unemployment numbers in the United States came in far greater than expected. In one week, over 3 million Americans filed for jobless benefits. Hundreds of thousands of workers were unable to get their claims processed, as state unemployment agencies crack under the strain. With so many people being furloughed or laid off, and most “non-essential” businesses shuttered, commercial activity around the country ground to a halt.

The Fed unleashed a slew of alphabet-soup programs and “temporary” facilities to backstop financial markets. This stanched the bleeding in the stock market, but at the cost of a $5 trillion band-aid (and counting!). The scattershot of emergency measures dwarfs all previous quantitative easing (QE) efforts by central banks by a wide margin.

The initial reaction to the unprecedented money-printing was a weaker dollar. The USD nonetheless reaffirmed itself as the cleanest shirt in the stack of dirty laundry that is the world’s fiat currencies. Amid widespread volatility across sectors, King Dollar actually ended the month higher against its major currency peers, briefly touching a 3-year high along the way.

Crude oil plummeted to its lowest price in 18 years. The lack of energy demand, especially from grounded flights and idled manufacturing plants, was the primary culprit. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude sank as low as $20 per barrel, shedding more than two-thirds of its value from early January. President Trump sought to broker a deal in the emerging oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia.

On The Retail Front

The US Mint saw a big jump in gold and silver demand in March, compared to an abysmal February. The Mint’s stock of Silver Eagles was exhausted by March 11. A press release by the Mint noted that sales for the first eleven days of March was triple the number sold in February. (Only 650,000 Silver Eagles were sold in February.)

Once production was able to resume, stocks of new Silver Eagles were sold on an allocated basis (i.e. rationed).


Ounces of Gold Eagles:
February = 7,000
March = 142,000

Ounces of Gold Buffaloes:
February = 1,000
March = 47,500

Ounces of Silver Eagles:
February = 650,000
March = 4,832,500

Since the US Mint is required by law to only use gold mined in America for its gold coins, it did not see the shortages that other mints have encountered. This has not been the case in Canada, Australia and South Africa.

The US Mint was not the only government mint that was blindsided by the sudden demand for bullion caused by the global pandemic. All major mints ran out of gold coins in March. Bullion dealers could not replenish their stock, leading to long delays in filling customer orders.

The Perth Mint in Australia reported that they sold 22,921 ounces of gold and 605,634 ounces of silver in February. Their gold-backed ETF, known as PMGOLD, is popular in Asia. February inflows reflect the run on safe haven assets as the COVID-19 epidemic began taking over China.

The 12,700 oz worth of inflows into PMGOLD in February was a new record. Assets Under Management (AUM) rose to 150,480 ounces, with a value of $350 million Australian dollars. Both of these were also new records.

The global gold ETF scene, as reported by the World Gold Council, shows that a total of 84 and a half metric tons of gold were brought into the world’s gold ETFs in February. This brought world holdings to an all-time high of 3,033 metric tons. Gold ETFs in all major regions of the world saw inflows in February.

Market Buzz

Remember how we talked about new all-time highs in gold prices in several currencies last month? Credit Suisse is one of many big banks and fund managers calling for new all-time highs in gold, due to the coronavirus pandemic:

“Resistances above $1700/05 are eventually seen at $1734, the 78.6% retracement of the 2011/15 downmove, then the $1796/1803 corrective highs from 2011/12. Big picture, we still look for new record highs above $1921.”

One options trader went BIG on gold to start the month, dropping a cool $2 million that gold futures would rise above $1,742.20 by May 26, when the options expire.

The gold:silver ratio broke above 115:1 three separate times in March. It hit an all-time intraday high on March 16 of 123:1! Market watchers thought it was the End Times when it broke above 100:1 earlier in the month.
The two factors that contribute to a wide gold:silver spread are usually safe haven demand for gold at the same time an economic slowdown is depressing demand for industrial metals. We have certainly seen this in spades in March, with physical gold shortages at the same time that as good portion of the planet is in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking Ahead To Next Month

The coronavirus pandemic doesn’t look like it will be ending anytime soon. Factors that will specifically affect gold prices going forward will be:

1. The continued physical gold supply shock as mines and refiners remain closed;
2. The lack of available commercial flights to move gold internationally;
3. Whether or not the recent stock rally is a “bear trap” (aka sucker’s bet) or not.

Major bullion distributors are expecting increased demand when people begin receiving their $1,200 in “helicopter money,” especially in the silver market. This might not pan out, as more and more people burn through their savings after being laid off.

This column is presented for educational purposes only. It does not constitute investment advice.

– Steven Cochran of Gainesville Coins


  1. Called my PM dealer on Tuesday of this week nothing in stock, 12 week wait for silver 8 week wait for gold going to look in other direction now, real estate, would like to remove all money out of bank before they shut their doors!

    1. Monday the cars were 6 deep in each drive through lane at Chase Bank, today they were probably 12-15 deep in each lane, over flowing into a retail parking lot & there was a squad car on each each side of the lot “observing” this activity

      Crazy town!!

      Oh yeah, the line for the Starbucks drive thru was probably 20 cars deep
      I thought everyone was supposed to be cash poor?!

      Rock on

    2. Best leave your money in the bank, camp doubt. Real estate? Not a great time to buy, wait for prices to decline considerably. You seem to be in a panic, this is a bad time to make big decisions. Relax, the banks are not going to shut their doors.

    1. Yes. IMO, this is not really about any CoronaVirus. It is about a global economic collapse. If it was about the virus, they would have sent checks out only to those affected by the ‘social distancing’ and isolation to try to control the spread of the disease. The people who were laid off in schools, restaurants and other places, but NOT every citizen in the country. The virus, whether it is relatively minor ( ? ) like the yearly flu, or extremely deadly like in 1918) is being used for cover.
      What scares me is the way that the public is accepting “martial law without the name” and staying home, without the use of force. What will they demand next time ? Our guns ? Our food ?
      I think that the other shoe will be dropping SOON, and that shoe is the collapse of the dollar and our whole economy. It will be like the 1929 crash but much worse. Businesses- big corporations and Mom and Pop stores, retail and restaurant chains will suddenly close and not re-open. It could start any day.
      In other words, if you get a check from the government, spend it wisely.

      1. Not Generic Nathan. I most certainly agree. Don’t understand why life long welfare recipients nor retirees should get a check at working tax payers expense. My retirement check was the same this month as it was last month and will most likely be the same next month, so as far as income I won’t be affected by this virus, and neither will those that have lived on welfare for generations. Yes, give it to those that are affected by the government shut down of their jobs. Trekker Out

      1. I’ve always wanted to pan for gold, but there’s not much chance of that in south Florida. I’m on the wrong side of the state to dive for Spanish gold fleet treasure, too!

        I was at the Prepper expo at Prescott Valley, AZ a few years back, and a guy stopped by our table and said “I get my own gold!” He was panning the draws way up in the hills near town, and doing pretty good for himself (or so he said.)

        I wish everyone who thinks preppers are violent people could go to a meeting like that one I attended in Prescott Valley. You will find no friendlier, nicer people on the face of God’s green earth. Made me want to move up there, but the job opportunities were kinda sparse!

  2. Silver is now available, in quantity from major dealers if you are willing to pay $20-$24 per troy ounce depending on the product (almost double spot prices). Gold is also available. The dislocation between paper and physical prices wasn’t a complete surprise but the speed at which it occurred was. Once the initial panic is over premiums may fall a bit. As always the worst time to buy is during a panic. Those making incremental purchases over the past five years should be positioned well to profit by selling high. Those that waited too long to buy PMs as insurance may have another chance at lower market prices over the next several weeks. Don’t let those nagging thoughts about missing the boat on gold/silver prices force you into rash purchasing decisions. Nothing goes up in a straight line.

  3. Hello, Ani and Sblog readers,

    While reading the local evening news, I saw something of interest to share with you, in particular, Ani, so copied the link and headline. Then, as I was reading Sblog, I decided to add the article as well as the link, so I went back to Komo news again.
    Guess what? It was gone. Completely. I used the search bar multiple times, clicked and searched for 15 minutes to find what had just been on the front page, all for nothing but exasperation. They have weeks old articles posted but the recent one I want mysteriously disappeared. Then I did a google search with title…Got nothing! If I hadn’t already copied it, I would have thought I was seeing things. So, here you go. According to news, look what’s happening in Vermont.

    Target, Walmart, Costco ordered to stop in-person sales of nonessential items in Vermont
    by Kaylin Jorge, WZTV StaffWednesday, April 1st 2020

    Target, Walmart, Costco ordered to stop in-person sales of nonessential items (MGN Online){/p}

    MONTPELIER, Vt. (WZTV) – Big box retailers like Target, Walmart and Costco are being ordered to stop in-person sales of nonessential items in some areas.

    Vermont Gov. Phil Scott added this to his original executive order amid the coronavirus pandemic.

    Such nonessential items, as detailed by the state, include things like beauty supplies, arts and crafts, clothes, electronics and more.

    Rather, according to The Agency of Commerce and Community Development, these stores are being asked to stick to items like food, pharmacy and beverages.

    As of Tuesday, 32 states and the District of Columbia had implemented some form of stay-at-home order to enforce social distancing and help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

    Tennessee is under a “Safer at Home” order which encourages, but does not mandate, people to stay home.

    1. That is not good!! What right do they have to tell someone what they can and cannot buy?? Vermonters should be calling the Governor’s office and tell them that they are going way too far!! This reeks of full on communism and worse. Are we know entering into A USSA? We are. The whole world is. And it’s only going to get worse. And once people start rioting then the PTB will have an excuse to bring out the big guns…

      It is time to call your Governors and pray and repent and beg God for mercy for yourself and your loved ones. This isn’t going to end well… 🙁

  4. I am in California. (I know I know. . .) I do all of my Shopping in Nevada, as I am close to the border. Today, Steve Sisolak, the Governor of Nevada ordered all Non-essential residents to stay at home effective at Midnight. The Targets and Walmart’s and the local smaller food grocers are still open. During all of this my main concern is this: Does anyone think maybe the Government(s) is going to make a push for a cashless society? NOW would be the time to make this Evil move. Most Citizens are “Sheeple” and would go along. I work with several people who have second jobs as barbers, beauticians, wait staff, Bartenders, etc., these folks ALL rely on making tips, which basically funds their small purchases throughout the week. If we go to a cashless society, it would complicate the lives of these humble, hardworking folks. I PRAY that no one from Uncle Sugar gets any “great ideas”

    1. Cash will never go away. I’ve heard this fear of a “cashless society” so many times over the years, it makes my eyes spin. Even the manager of my local bank branch once told me cash is going away, she was *so* sure of it. I reminded her that cash is truly “king” each and every time we experience a natural disaster, the local power goes out for 24-48 hours (which happens every couple of years when a semi-truck hits a power pole and causes a cascade), or such. How many times have any of us driven up to a store or gas station, only to see a sign posted at the door stating that the AT&T line is temporarily down, and they can’t process any credit/debit purchases (so cash only, please)?

      Even now, electronic payments are preferred, and cash is discouraged at most vendors. But cash will always be around to some degree.

      At the end of my reminder to the bank manager, even she paused for a moment to think about it, and replied, “you know what…you’re right”.

      1. Just a thought Guesty. When ever my retirement check comes in, I usually get a good amount of cash and mostly in big bills, about three months ago I noticed that they were all the newer blue colored $100 bills, so I asked the teller if they were pulling all the old bills and she said not yet. So my conspiracy leaning mind makes me wonder if we won’t be seeing at push to void the old bills in the name of counterfeit protection, that would sure make those who hide there money under the mattress start digging out those old mold bills and putting them in the bank. Guess this is just some of my twisted thinking. Trekker Out

      2. A “cashless economy” would give rise immediately to a black market cash economy. No worries, friends, your cash will have a use, if you are able to find a place to spend it.

        However, beware the beast of inflation. The only cure I know for inflation (quoting JWR, here) is tangible, useful goods. Hmmm, I think I’ll pick up another shovel or two.

        Carry on in grace.

  5. That’s why I think this is the last birth pang before the rapture. Everything crashes, rapture hits and causes even more chaos, antichrist comes in looking like a savior with his new world order, and no true Christians to oppose him. Just like 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 states. The restrainer is the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. When He’s called up, we go with him, for He will not leave nor forsake us!

    If this is it, we have very little time left! Get yourself right with the Lord NOW!

  6. With all this money printing, and supply disruptions, forget gold, buy food, and useful materials if you have a business.

    They can print all the money they want, but they can not print food.

    In the Philippines we are at week 2 in a lockdown and food is running out. Canned goods supposed to run out this week.

    Very little food is arriving in Manila and all rice imports have stopped.

    Every small town has blocked the roads and stopped food from going to Manila.

    People are hungry now, starvation will begin soon.

    I do not know how this can continue.

  7. This blog is all about being prepared which, in my case, has made me a very calm person in troubled times like this. I was a bit taken back by some of the comments here. I guess just because reading JWR’s stuff doesn’t always mean you’re prepared.

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